DS Exclusive Interview: Rob Lind (Ramallah, Sinners & Saints) is back and has a whole lot to say

Many of you have heard the music of Rob Lind (Ramallah, Sinners & Saints, Blood For Blood), but the world has not heard from him for nearly a decade, as he withdrew from the scene to sort out his personal demons.  Now, Rob Lind is back, with a Ramallah/Sinners & Saints split EP and at least one show scheduled, and he wants to tell you where he’s been.

You can check out the first part Rob’s first U.S. interview in 8 years below, and stay tuned for Part 2, in which Rob will delve more into songwriting, the bands, and his creative process.

Rob’s hiatus will officially end when he takes the stage with Sinners & Saints on May 29th at the Middle East in Cambridge, MA with  The Old Edison, Nick and the Adversaries, and Death & Taxes.

Dying Scene (Gina-Skidz):  Let’s start with the basics.  What’ve you been up to the past few years?  

Like most of my brothers and sisters down here at the subsistence-level of the American Dream, I’ve mostly just been surviving  Just trying to get by.  I can’t believe it but it’s actually coming up on a fucking decade since I went all Siddartha and walked away from my previous life and music to play the aesthete and get a handle on my own lunacy.  I wrote a windy, wordy history of the last 8 years which’ll be included in the liners notes of the Ramallah/ Sinners & Saints split which is about to come out.  I’m sure it’ll help a few people conquer insomnia, haha.

Long story short: the first 4 years or so of my 8 year long hiatus were about saving my fucking life and sanity.

For the past few years specifically, I’ve been consumed with getting new music out.  That and getting some of the writing I’ve been doing over the years into some final form fit for release.  Those are the only things that truly matter to me right now.

Why did you come back?

I love playing live but I can live without it (though it’s ironic that from a purely musical/ performance perspective I am better at it since I came back than when I was touring like a maniac with Ramallah before my exile).  And I’d already had my 19th mid-life crisis/ nervous breakdown by my mid-twenties so I am definitely not trying to recapture the past or relive some “glory days” like so many of my aging hardcore and punk rock brethren seem to be doing.  Recording and releasing new material is the only fucking reason I came back.

The main problem is that I am fucking penniless and have been for like the 20 years.  Even as I type my responses to these interview questions my bank account is overdrawn.  I suppose the fact that I finally even have a bank account shows some forward momentum.  I never had one before 4 or 5 years ago.  Between my perennial destitution and the leftover detritus of prior contracts, old legal entanglements and outstanding debts, plus the terrible reputation I’ve acquired as a unhinged mental-case within the industry due to a career of erratic and destructive behavior… it has been a fucking ordeal getting to this point.

The last time I saw you was at the Bridge Nine Records event a couple of years ago, where you played some new songs and read from your book.  At that event, you talked about having been clean for about a year (if I remember correctly).  How are you doing?  What do you do to keep away from the drug culture?  

Actually at the time of that Bridge 9 acoustic-show/spoken-word thingy, I’d been clean for about 6 or 7 years.  I’ve now been clean for about 8 years or so.  Mostly.  Though I haven’t had so much as a sip of alcohol since January 1st of 2007, I have slipped a few times over the past 8 years with the dope.  Just to be clear: in addict-speak, a “slip” is a single, isolated use of drugs or alcohol.  Like a moment of weakness (or temporary insanity).  A “slip” is different than a “run”.  A “run” is a period of full-blown, terminal use complete with all the usual fun and excitement such as withdrawals, DT’s, selling the neighbor’s TV, robbing drug dealers, having guns shoved in your face, getting arrested and shit like that.  For the last 8 years or so I’ve been very fortunate to have left that shit behind me.  I’m not smug about it though.  I know from bitter personal experience that it can all come back like a storm in an instant.  It’s happened to me before.  It’s what led to my little sabbatical.

Back in 2005 when I went out to Detroit to do Ramallah full-time, I’d been abstinent from drugs for at least a year and a half at that point.  I wasn’t genuinely clean the way I am now: I was still drinking episodically and I certainly wasn’t in any treatment for the mental problems. Regardless, at the time I went out there I hadn’t done any dope for the previous 18 months or so.  And I stayed drug-free for the bulk of my time there (I even quit drinking halfway through the last summer I was out there).  But about 2 months before that final european tour in November-December of 2006, I finally let my guard down and got high.

And that’s what I’m talking about when I say the storm can re-descend in an instant.  I knew I was taking a chance by getting jammed up but I wasn’t planning on becoming a stark-raving dope-fiend again.  I didn’t say to myself “Fuck it. I think I’ll be a full-blown junkie again.  I’m tired of all this freedom… I could go for a nice bout of grinding slavery right about now.”  I only wanted to get blasted for that one night. But things don’t always go to plan, ha.  Good intentions and all that.

The problem was that unbeknownst to me, the junk in Detroit at that time was incredibly strong (and may still be for all I know).  Like CRAZY strong.  Straight up FIRE.  Even then I still thought I’d be alright.  It usually takes a little longer to become physically dependent.  At worst I figured I might feel a little shitty and edgy for a few days.  I did the last of it at about midnight that Sunday night and got up for work the next morning to go chop down trees. Normally it takes about 24 hours for heavy withdrawals to set in.  I was already sick as a fucking dog by 10am the next morning.  I couldn’t fucking believe it.  I didn’t even expect to have a physical habit at that point, never mind one so bad that I was falling apart less than 12 hours after the last blast.  It was one of the darkest days of [my] life and that’s saying something.  I thought I’d left the nightmare behind.  Not only was it back, but now the one defense I’d had against it, the one thing that had helped me get me through it in the past (that medication) was now not only NOT working, it’d made it worse.  As bad it was, I initially planned on powering through it.  It’s not like this was some new scene for me.  Sure, the fact that I’d picked up a habit was a shock and it’d been long time since I’d gone through this shit.  But I figured I just had to take my medicine (bad analogy, haha).  I fucked up.  I dug my grave, now I’d have to lie in it.  Right? But about 24 hours in I knew I couldn’t take it.  Dope sickness is NOT like a hang-over. With dope sickness, it gets exponentially worse with every minute that passes for the first 3 or 4 days.  And even after 4 or 5 days, it doesn’t get better… it just plateaus for a while (at least for me anyway… some people start to feel a little better after the first 3 or 4 days).  By about 30 hours all noble notions of righteousness and justice were gone.  Any rah-rah talk of “taking my medicine” and “lying in the grave I’d dug” were out the fucking window.  I was so sick I was actually scared.  If it was this bad before even the halfway point of acceleration, I couldn’t even imagine what shape I’d be in at the 4 or 5 day mark. I broke down and called my connection around 10am that next day.  And that was that.  I was strung out from there on in and throughout that final Ramallah european tour December 2006.

This was the chronology of events that led up to my dropping of the face of the earth for so long.  When I got back to Boston after that final european tour, I walked away from music and everything else for the next 4 solid years (I’ve only started socializing and doing music again over the last 3 or 4 years).  I spent those 4 or 5 years learning how to live clean and learning how to live with my bipolar disorder and sundry other psychiatric diagnoses. I offer these experiences for anyone who might be in a similar situation.  Plus you asked, haha.

How’s the book coming?  When will it be released?

Just like love, the writing seems to come in spurts.  Brief, intense spasms that are extremely pleasurable while they last but which leave me feeling kind of awkward, uncertain and a bit embarrassed once they are done.  It has been going very well, especially the past 6 months or so.  I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was in my early teens.  My problem is that until very recently I wrote prose the way I write music: I only do it when the mood takes me and I stop as soon it dissipates.  Lately I have been getting around to finishing it.  For that I have to thank my soul brothers Pboy and Jarrod.  They are both professional writers who I admire and dear friends who have helped me focus.  One way or the other my first real foray into the written word will coincide with the next Ramallah full length.  My brother asked me to refrain from getting into specific details and plans at this point, but they will be coming out concurrently, like a package for those interested in both.  As soon as the new releases are finally out, there will be news about all this crap.

What prompted you to write a book?  

Like I said I’ve been writing on and off since I was about 12 or 13.  The reasons why I do it are somewhat murky.  Like music I guess I do it because I get something out of it.  I certainly feel COMPELLED to do both and have for as long I can remember.  I suppose I would like to make some of sense out of the sound and fury of my own life.  A tale told by an idiot, right?   A better question might be “Never mind WHY you are writing a book.  I wanna know where you get the clanging brass balls to PRESUME anyone wants to read it or that it’s worth anybody’s time reading it”.  It’s certainly a question I’ve asked myself from time to time.

I can’t remember ever asking myself such a question with music and I certainly haven’t since I decided to come back. But then again there is absolutely NOTHING going in music right now that blows my wig back and there hasn’t been for a long time. There’s a certain twinge, a gut reaction that I look for when listening to music (or when I observe any kind of art for that matter). That gut twinge doesn’t even necessarily mean that I like it, it just means that it’s touched something in me emotionally, it’s dug a hook into me. I haven’t felt it for a long time from any form of music really, never mind down at the heavy-end of rock n’ roll where I mostly reside. These days it seems to be nothing but an exercise in sub-genre refinement and militantly adhering to the aesthetics of the sub-genre you’ve identified yourself with and taken on as a label for your band’s style. “No, no, we’re a Melodic Neo-Pagan Screamo Deathcore band… not a Neo-Pagan Melodic Screamo Deathmetal band. It’s plain as day. Get it straight dammit!” Those stickers on the cover of albums these days sum it all up. That “For Fans Of/ Sounds Like:…*fill in the name of established bands*” sticker. It’s like everyone is trying to tread in the footsteps of someone else. I realize that sticker is mostly a label tool to establish associations and sell records (I’m sure it’s on some of my own records somewhere). But I’ve seen SELF-releases with that fucking sticker on it. I’ve seen it on personal websites. That means the band is choosing to use it and not the label.

And lyrically? Fucking forget it. All aggressive-music seems to be fantasy based these days, one way or the other. It’s either LITERAL fantasy, like in the case of black metal bands and other extreme metal bands shrieking about vampires and the devil and war and death and a bunch of other shit that either doesn’t exist or which has nothing to do with their fucking lives. I don’t have an inherent problem with a fantasy element per se. That Dungeons & Dragons crap has always been a part of metal to some extent (I think it was Led Zep and Sabbath who started it). It’s a form of escapism I guess… and I certainly can’t fault anyone for trying to escape from reality from time to time!  But some dead-serious, 113 pound, 40 year old virgin with his face painted like a panda in spiked armor waving a fucking battle axe? Yeah right… take a valium Mr Death And Destruction. Get some sleep, you’ve had a hard day.  Take any one of those nimrods in their battle-armor and with their morning star in hand, and drop them off up the street from where I grew up and see what happens. If they’re lucky, they MIGHT make it out of the projects alive… but they’ll be hobbling cuz it’s hard to walk with a morning star sticking halfway up one’s ass.

On the ‘Core side of the fence, there’s a much more insidious type of fantasy going on. Because it’s presented as reality. It’s presented as sincere. It comes in the form of a contrived presentation: chest-thumping and fronting with a bullshit, self-aggrandizing image… like hardcore and metalcore bands presenting themselves as gangsters and mafiosos and gun-slingers and shit. Even more disheartening than the gangster lyrics is the somewhat recent adoption of the visual cliches and imagery of the rap-STAR. Look, I can handle lyrics about violence and the street. The fact is there have always been gangs and violent people in the hardcore scene and some of them are in bands. A lot of the people in the hardcore scene come from incredibly traumatic personal experience… and very hard lives can breed some very hard guys.  So I can handle some reflection of that in the lyrics and the values of some of the bands. It’s a reality for a lot of folks. I myself have written lyrics about violence. It was a part of my environment growing up in the projects and it was an almost DAILY part of my life and the lives of the people I cared about once I became involved in the hardcore scene.  What disgusts me is this adoption of Hollywood caricatures and pop-culture rules and regulations. That shit is nothing but a product to be sold. The minute you accept that shit as your standard, you’re no longer saying what YOU want to say, you’re saying what The Script demands of you. You’re obeying The Rules. You’re conforming to a fucking illusion.  I just don’t understand it. That’s like the definition of pretense. The very thing that attracted me to music, and especially punk and hardcore and metal, was the ability to say exactly what I want to say. Further it’s a forum where I can say all the things I otherwise CAN’T say elsewhere in my life (not without getting beat up all the time… or maybe thrown in a cell on a military base in Cuba next to a guy named Khalid).  Why the fuck would I forfeit such delicious freedom for the sake of pandering to the lowest, most vapid illusions and delusions of The Herd?  If that kind of shit floats your boat, then this should be an especially exciting time to be alive. Cuz posturing and image manufacturing are all I see. Knock yourself out. But none of it has anything to do with what I do or why I do it.  When it comes to reading other people’s writing however and literature in general, I don’t have the same burnt-out, disinterested reaction or attitude. There’s limitless shit out there that melts my butter.

I just read a book by that female swordfish captain that captained the sister ship of the Andrea Gail (the swordfish boat which went down in that monster storm on the 90’s that the book The Perfect Storm was about).  Prior to reading that book I had no particular interest in commercial fishing, and the book is about nothing but (I’m always curious about anything new to me but I had no burning desire to learn about fishing ha).  Nothing especially amazing, heroic or dramatic happens in the book. It’s just a book about the minute-to-minute daily life of the people that commercially fish the Grand Banks. And I found every page, the whole thing, completely fucking fascinating. It was a window into an experience, a window into another lifestyle, which I would otherwise never get. I read it in about 4 hours straight.  I come from punk rock so I guess I look for the same in music and I don’t often find it (truth I mean… not songs about sword-fishing). I don’t want to fucking hear who you want other people to think you are. I don’t want to hear who you WISH you were. I don’t want to hear what you wish your experiences were. I don’t want to hear what you think I want to hear. I want to hear who you really are. I want to hear what you’re experiences have really been and what you really make of them. Tell me what you really think and feel.

Maybe that’s why I’m apprehensive about putting my writing out there… the bar seems higher and I’m a lazy fuck hahaha. I swear though, I’m actually a better writer than I am a musician (which I realize isn’t saying much either way, ha).

What other creative outlets are you into?

I draw sometimes.  I am pretty bad at it by even the most generous and subjective standards.  I sometimes take the basic images or at least the basic ideas to a professional artist and let them do the real job. That’s how the Blood for Blood skull came about.  Years before BFB ever used it as a logo, I was covered in crude skull-with-blood-teardrop tattoos which were the early prototypes for the BFB logo (which Sean did the final version of for Livin’ In Exile).

For a while I was making crude images out of my own blood.  I still do that from to time.  I remember the first time I showed someone one of the blood images, the person said “I have a suggestion.  Don’t show these to anyone.  And don’t tell anyone that you do this”.  I was a bit taken aback.  I mean it’s not like I’m making statues out of my own poop… yet.  Hmmmm… Honestly there WAS a reason and rationale for doing the damn things, however personal and however strange and tenuous it may seem to someone else.  I can explain… When one is shooting drugs, you obviously bleed a lot.  And you have to wipe the bottom of the spoon when you’re done or you will get ashes and scorch marks all over the place.  I would use a paper towel for such operations.  And I noticed something. I noticed that the blood-blots and ash smears looked really primal and expressive sometimes… like Rorschach blots or Jungian archetypes or some shit.  They often looked kind of beautiful.   And they looked deliberate.  I remember thinking on multiple occasions “Jesus.  That would make a humdinger of an album cover” or “Man… that would make a cool t-shirt”.  So I saved some of the more eye-pleasing examples. Years later when I was totally clean and free of drugs, I was cleaning out an old back-pack from my drug days and I stumbled across a plastic grocery bag full of old, used needles which I didn’t know was there (I thought I’d thrown all that shit away years earlier but I must have missed this little bag of precious memories).  I almost fucking fell apart.  The blood roared in my ears and my pulse went shooting up in my neck.  My whole body tightened up.  I was up on the balls of my feet and breathing like I was having a panic attack.  I was clenching my hands so fucking hard I left fingernail marks in the palms of my hands for days.  Just writing about it is making my chest constrict.  I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to shoot up as much as I did at that moment.  So I rushed to throw the bag away or take it in the back yard and burn it with a can of gasoline.  I had to wipe this threat out of existence.  I had to fucking obliterate it.  But then I stopped myself and said “Are you gonna let this fucking… trash… have such power over you?”.  I sat down and thought about it.  I needed to find something at least semi-positive to do with these things that used to be instruments of self-destruction exclusively.  It was a matter of changing their association and their use.  Then I remembered those oddly compelling blood-blot images from back in the day.  So I cleaned a few needles and started making “art” with them.  The story behind them is probably a lot better than any of the actual images.

That concludes Part 1 of our 2-part interview with Rob Lind.  Stay tuned next week for Part 2, in which Rob goes into detail on the recent Sinners & Saints split EP with Ramallah, his creative process, and what comes next.

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