Sunday, October 30, 2005

Hate To Say You Threw It All Away!
A couple of weeks ago Dead Stop put out their third release entitled Live For Nothing and again, just like the Done With You release show, Belgium’s Lintfabriek got packed to celebrate this event and, just like the Done With You release show, it was one of the best shows most of those present have ever seen. A couple of days before that very release show I did this brief interview with Axeman Michiel about Live For Nothing and the current US tour:
You just put out a new record, Live For Nothing. Wasn’t it hard to write a follow-up to the incredibly received Done With You album? I assume you wanted to write a record that was as good as Done With You, and if possible even better. In my opinion you succeeded in meeting those terms, but do you think it was worth taking that risk? Were you confident enough that what you had written was good enough, or did you, at first, have some doubts about the new material? Do you think Dead Stop has outdone themselves?

I think it was definitely worth taking the risk. When we released Done With You we didn’t have any plans for the future, we just played a lot of shows and all of a sudden we started to write new stuff again. We wrote a couple of songs for some compilations and we had a good feeling about the new stuff, so we started working on other new songs. It all came in a really natural spontaneous way. There was no real pressure or anything. Of course we didn’t want to write a second Done With You LP, but the basic ingredients were the same. We’re still Dead Stop and we’re not going to try to sound completely different. Over the years we just became better musicians and we all learned how to write a decent Dead Stop song, so writing new songs was a lot fun. In my opinion the songs are typical Dead Stop songs only a little bit different and better. The vibe is more negative, more aggressive and that’s what we really wanted to create. We added some new influences to our sound and I think we succeeded in writing a good follow up to Done With You without rewriting that LP. We definitely haven’t outdone ourselves, because I think we could have made it better than it is now. I wanted to add some more details to some songs but sometimes you got to make compromises. But really, writing Live For Nothing wasn’t that hard a task, it just came natural and we’re satisfied with the result.

A graveyard, tombstones, a raven, black frames… The whole record’s lay-out theme and title seem to be about death. Is the death of Dead Stop inevitable? Is the whole thing coming to its end or is Dead Stop not quite done with us? Will you let the Dead Stop flame burn out or just let it fade away?

Of course the death of Dead Stop is inevitable. We don’t want to drag this band down. When the time is right we have to move on to new things and create something new. It’s not good to rehash things over and over again, so yeah someday Dead Stop will come to an end. When we feel that the vibe and the energy is gone or not as it used to be we will quit. I think that’s the best you can do as a band or as a musician. Why drag things down when you can create so much more, different, music? At the moment we feel that Live For Nothing is the last Dead Stop album ever. We feel that we wrote every song we had to write and we don’t want to write a new album just to release something or please an audience. But that’s what we said after Done With You as well. In ten, five, or even two years I’d rather have people think about Dead Stop as an awesome band than about the band being the one that just played one too many shows and ended up being a shadow of what they once were.

On your 7” you had a dead businessman, on your full-length you had the rotting corpse of that businessman and now you have a 12” with his grave. Is this a full circle?

We always had songs dealing with things like people who live their lives but not really living it. I have a hard time with people who just waste their lives away, not doing anything constructive or adventurous. You know the typical birth-school-work-death scheme…it’s not for me. It scares the hell out of me. It’s not that I don’t want to settle down or anything, it’s just that I don’t want to become a boring loser who has his house and goes to work everyday and sits in his sofa every Sunday. I don’t want to live that life. For me, hardcore punk is about living your live, about having fun and explore the world. I’m thankful that hardcore taught me that lesson. And that’s something I will carry on with me for the rest of my days, no matter what music I’m into. So it’s one of the main themes in our lyrics. It’s kind of funny that, without any real intention, the artwork for Live For Nothing deals with that kind of feeling again. There wasn’t like a plan to have three covers with that certain metaphoric symbolism, it just happened. The artwork of the Live For Nothing LP symbolises death without having really lived life to the fullest, plus for me personally it also stands for the current state of the hardcore scene. It always has its ups and downs and it always has to die out before it can rise again. It happened in the 80’s, in the 90’s and I think it’s happening again, in Europe at least, whether we like it or not. When people start complaining about stupid things such as bands having too much “success” or when some idiots look down on kids because they’re having fun, you know there’s something wrong with hardcore’s state. And I think that’s the way we’re heading right now. The kids are getting spoiled and start taking everything for granted. The only advice I can give to the kids is: don’t get caught into that trap, don’t start whining and bitching over every little thing, be thankful that the scene we have these days is so good and be happy that you can see bands like Justice, Restless Youth and Rise And Fall play every week. On the bright side I still see enough positive things in hardcore as well. New bands keep coming up and new kids keep coming to shows, that is great.

Live For Nothing is out in the US on Havoc Records, Done With You was put out by Deranged Records. Why did you change labels for your northern American press?

There was no particular reason for that change, we agreed to do a one record deal with Deranged and we were happy he gave us the opportunity to release Done With You in north America, but we wanted to try something new. As soon as we heard Havoc was interested we wanted to work with them. I only hear great things about that label and they release some good stuff, so we’re really satisfied with that choice.

Complete Control Records already put out its fifth release, the fifth, let’s be honest, European hardcore classic in a row. Michiel, as being one of the main men behind Complete Control Records, it’s been quite something since CCR 001, hasn’t it? How do you feel these days about Complete Control Records and its Declaration Of Principles? Do you think you held on to the principles you set out to live up to or do you think you (and possible the other involved with Complete Control Records) have had to make compromises one way or another along the DIY road? Did you come across any obstacles you hadn’t foreseen when you decided to start releasing records yourself?

Well, it all went pretty fast. It’s been a year and a half since the first CCR release and now we just released CCR 005. It’s been crazy. I’m really proud of the stuff we released so far, the first Justice 7” still is amazing and the Restless Youth 7” is one of the best hardcore punk releases ever. The great thing about those two bands is that you can hear them evolve. When you listen to the Justice EP and you compare it to the new LP it’s awesome to hear what they’ve become. The same with Restless Youth, their new stuff is going to be even better than their 7”. I don’t think the world can handle that kind of music. Raw hardcore punk as it was meant to be, totally crazy. I think it’s cool that the three Complete Control bands are doing their own thing. We don’t sound the same, but we share the same ideas and love for hardcore punk and music in general.
Of course things have changed since the beginning and we’re still remodelling the label every day. When we started out we didn’t have any distribution or anything so we worked with the people from Reflections Records and they helped us along the way. Nowadays we’re handling our own distribution and we’re still working hard everyday to improve things. But this is kind of hard at times as all of us are working real full-time jobs next to our daily Complete Control hours.
I think we succeeded pretty well in holding on to our principles. Every band still has to put in own time, money and energy. That’s how it is. The idea of the bands having complete control is still one of the most important principles, we still feel that a band’s record has to be made with the band’s blood sweat and tears, not only the music, but the whole nine yards concerning the release of a record. I’m not into labels putting out sloppy releases. Every release we do has to look good and has to be of a certain quality, that’s the Complete Control requirement and guarantee. That’s why we make gatefold LPs, digipack CDs, etc. We want to add something extra to the product. And I think that’s only possible when you have complete control over your own stuff.

When I examine the lay-out of Live For Nothing two bands come to mind: Tragedy and Void. Are those two bands also heavy influences to what Dead Stop stands for? Or is the whole thing rather a coincidence?

Musicwise those bands are of no influence at all, but you can say that their artwork kinda influenced us. The Void side of the split with The Faith is by far one of the best looking things ever. As a historian I am totally into that Middle Ages stuff. The Tragedy link is somehow coincidental because Restless Joseph did the lay-out and we had no idea what it would look like. We’re totally satisfied with the result and it’s a good representation of our music. As our music became a little bit darker and depressed, the lay-out perfectly fits the music. As far as those two bands being an influence on what Dead Stop stands for, I can say that we have a lot in common with those two bands. Void was one of the early hardcore bands who added crazy stuff to their music, they weren’t afraid to add some weird influences to their songs without losing the essence of a good hardcore punk song. They totally did their own thing which is great. Both bands are great hardcore bands with a good punk vibe.

‘Fuck that progress we regress!’ sings Lino perhaps a little bit naïve in Dead Stop, the song, but whether you like it or not when listening to Live For Nothing I do hear a band that has progressed. A band that has progressed between the 7” and LP and between the LP and this 12”. I also hear some non-hardcore influences in some of the songs, am I right?

Of course we progressed, as we became better musicians, but that song Dead Stop was written in a time when hardcore was almost non-existent and all we had was metal bands or rock bands who thought they were hardcore bands. What people tried to sell as hardcore was just plain metal, which is ok, but don’t call it hardcore. Call it whatever you want but like I said so many times before, you can’t claim to be playing jazz music when you are actually playing rock ‘n roll? So why can a metal band claim to be hardcore in any way? We founded Dead Stop as a reaction against all those trends. We wanted people to realise that you still could write a good hardcore song with only three chords. And we still believe that today. For example when you listen to the new song Walk The Line, which is maybe the simplest Dead Stop song ever, you hear a hardcore song with three chords and it lasts only 40 seconds. But I think it’s one of the best and hardest songs we ever wrote.
Of course you do progress in a way and it’s good to throw in some other influences, but without losing the essence of the hardcore song. We also progressed in our song writing, which is a logical step when you play for that long together in a band. We certainly have some non-hardcore influences, but it’s necessary to try something different. It just makes the music more interesting. That’s what all the great hardcore bands in history did, going from SSD and the Bad Brains to Underdog and Rest In Pieces. They all did something special and tried different things, but without losing the essence and remaining a hardcore band. We definitely progressed but not without losing the hardcore vibe. I still can’t write decent leads and Gert still isn’t able to play drum solos for twenty minutes, but that hasn’t got anything to do with hardcore. Even if I could play leads like Joe Satriani I wouldn’t play them. Hardcore music to me still is about raw, honest and simple music. Music that everyone can play, that’s what punk and hardcore was about, music for everyone and played by everyone. If I want to progress as a musician I’ll play in a different band. Dead Stop is a hardcore punk band and will always stay a hardcore punk band.

On the Live For Nothing insert I noticed that the final track Letting Go was recorded by Lino instead of by Patrick Delabie a.k.a. Europe’s Don Fury, Steve Albini and Lou Giordano. What happened? Did Lino quit his job as a waiter to replace Patrick? Did Dead Stop end up having beef with Patrick over the last song and did he leave the studio or something?

None of that happened. When we were recording that song we still didn’t know how we wanted it to sound, when we hit the studio that song still wasn’t finished, so we asked Patrick’s opinion and we changed the song a bit. So we started rehearsing that song in the studio while Patrick went out for diner. He gave some instructions to Lino how to record and that’s how it happened. We recorded that song in two takes without really rehearsing it. That song is born out of a jam-session and we had no idea what it would sound like. Lino did a good job and pushed it to reach our highest potential.

Tell me the story about when Lino walked back into the studio finding you with you guitar on your lap sliding over its strings making weird noises to put over one of your songs and Pat Delabie smashing effect buttons on the control panel like a madman. Sounds like the two of you were caught red-handed pulling some Dillinger Escape Plan shit to Dead Stop. Or am I looking at the wrong picture here? What would have happened if Lino hadn’t walked in at that moment and the two of you would have had your way?

It all happened during the recording of that song Letting Go. I wanted to add some special effects to get the most out of that song. I wanted to create something that would get the best out of the song and use it to its maximum potential, so the music would connect to the lyrics best. I wanted to add a slide guitar because it gives you that great woolly, spacey effect. When it comes down to adding special effects Patrick gets kinda enthusiastic and starts to experiment with lots of things. I think he did too much dope in his days plus he’s a big Butthole Surfers fan so that’s why he’s into that freaky stuff. The whole situation was kinda hilarious, because Patrick was pushing some effects and I was playing the slide guitar with my eyes shut, completely overwhelmed by the moment and then all of a sudden Lino walks in and is really pissed off, because he thinks we’re totally messing that song up. The thing is that he could only hear the experimental guitar noises outside the studio. Inside the studio we heard the regular music as well, but Lino was standing outside so I can understand his reaction. When Lino hadn’t walked in there would have been a harmonica in that song. I still find it a pity that we didn’t get to do that, but maybe that would have been a bit too Western.

You are going to tour some part of the US and Canada again in a few weeks, 12 months after your first US tour. I guess you are stoked to go over there again. Do you have different expectations than last time? What do you hope will be better than last time?

Last time we didn’t expect anything at all and got a great tour with awesome reactions, so I guess it’s normal that we have some expectations now. So far the shows look really promising and I can’t wait to go again. I’m stoked to say the least. However I still don’t have too many expectations, I expect the least and we’ll see what happens. I know last year a lot of people were surprised by us and we got some really good feedback, so I hope things will be even better than last year. I actually hope we get the chance to play as many good shows as last year. Last year the Richmond, St Louis, Canada and Boston shows were really good. We basically play the same cities as last year, plus some extra shows. So I guess it can’t go wrong and we’re really anxious to go again and see all the cool people again we met last year.

Thank you.

You too, thanks for the opportunity to talk about our new record. Look out for it, it’s out now on Complete Control Records in Europe and Havoc Records in North America. Like I said already we’re looking forward to go the States next week and meet new people, bands and visit new places. Thanks for the interest… Fuck that progress, we regress.
So, tonight Dead Stop are playing a Halloween show in Washington DC, home of George W. Bush, Dave Byrd and the Bad Brains, and last night they rocked New Jersey. Steven Tuffin sent Larry Edge a text message asking how the show went and he got an answer that said something like that the show was pretty good, despite being jet-legged, that they had seen a couple of new movies on the plane and that they all missed him a lot already. This sounds like a good start for the tour to me and my bet is that the shows will only get better. So if you’re in doubt about traveling to that Dead Stop show in the state next to you, I’m telling you from over here: you’ll regret this forever. So, get in touch with that chick on MySpace that lives near the venue to crash after the show and perhaps you have a great time twice that night.

Here are the dates for the Dead Stop 2005 US tour, some are incorrect, but I have forgotten which ones exactly, I believe the show in Atlanta got cancelled and the show in Kansas City got relocated to a place close-by and is now a show together with The Regulations. Other than that these dates should be correct:
30 October 2005: The U-Turn, Washington DC
31 October 2005: Nanci Raygun, Richmond, VA
01 November 2005: Seabreeze Lounge, Daytona Beach, FL
02 November 2005: Day Off, this date was supposed to be the Atlanta show
03 November 2005: Ramp Riders, St Louis, MO
04 November 2005: Haunted Kitchen, Lawrence, KS (I think this is the updated KS show)
05 November 2005: TC Underground, Minneapolis, MN
06 November 2005: Day Off
07 November 2005: Pulaski Park District Building, Chicago, IL
08 November 2005: Refuge Skate Shop, Dearborn, MI
09 November 2005: Adrift Skate Park, Toronto, ON
10 November 2005: Caf L'Inco, Montreal, QC
11 November 2005: Regeneration, Boston, MA
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