Monday, April 6, 2009

Unpublished 9 Shocks Terror interview 4/6/02

Here's an interview I did with 9 Shocks Terror in April of 2002. MRR had set up two dates at Gilman Street for their 20th anniversary, in which 9 Shocks headlined the second night. They also played at Burnt Ramen that weekend (my 24th birthday show, incidentally), did a string of dates elsewhere in California, and then came back to the East Bay for a backyard show at the old Cruevo house in West Oakland's Dogtown area. That's where the interview took place, and while this interview turned out to not be up to the standards that I prefer out of interviews, it could have been a lot worse. Enjoy!

I clearly remember the first time I heard 9 Shocks Terror. It was in June of 2000, and I was housesitting for Greg Brainoil and taking the time to root through his record collection, looking for stuff to record for myself. While going through seven-inches, I came across the Devoid of Faith/9 Shocks Terror split EP. Remembering a great interview that they'd had in the pages of Suburban Voice, I put their side of the record on and was instantly blown away by "Adjust Me," which was a perfect example of what this band is capable of doing. High-pitched screamed vocals over breakneck-paced instrumentalization that brought to mind the very best of early Japanese hardcore. Later that night, I went to a show and picked up a copy of the Mobile Terror Unit EP, and began telling everyone I knew about this band that managed to become one of my new all-time favorites just based off of two records. I searched for a copy of their first full-length, Zen and the Art of Beating Your Ass to no avail, but when a friend of mine went to Southern California and scored one of his own, I got a dub of it and my enthusiasm for 9 Shocks Terror soared. So when I found out that they were actually coming out here to play a show for Maximumrocknroll and their twentieth anniversary, the shit hit the fan as far as I was concerned. Susan and I had already decided that we wanted to interview them, although I was planning on doing something through the mail instead. But since in-person interviews are generally better, we tried to get the job done at their show at Burnt Ramen Studios to no avail. The tape that we had was completely dysfunctional. So we decided to go all the way to San Jose for a second attempt. Instead, 9 Shocks had broken down in the Northwest and wouldn't have been able to make it. So it was up to me to venture into West Oakland for a backyard party that they were playing, since Susan had to work that day. I managed to get the interview done after the party was over. Members of the band were walking in and out of the conversation, and at times it was pretty difficult to make any sense out of what was going on, but here it is nonetheless. April 6, 2002 was the date, and yours truly was fielding the questions.

LOKI: So who all is in the band, for the sake of transcription?
Steve Pfeffer, vocals; Kevin Joworsky, bass; Jim Konya, drums; Tony Erba, bass. (I think Tony may have had a little bit too much to drink or something, since he plays bass and Kevin plays guitar.)
LOKI: How are you enjoying your "all expenses paid" trip to the West Coast, courtesy of Maximumrocknroll?
That's courtesy of me, actually. MRR didn't pay jack fuckin' dill rod. I paid for it all on my credit card. Actually, they helped out a little bit, but they're getting paid back, so you know... But we're enjoying it, all expenses paid or no expenses paid. It's great to be here in fuckin' beautiful California.
LOKI: Are the punks here in the Bay Area everything you were expecting?
Oh yeah, it's great. It's a hell of a lot better than...not that I had negative connotations or anything, but I thought it'd be more like...just fuckin' drunken scumbag fuckin' retards. But everyone's got their shit together in Oakland. It really has a strong community feeling which I really, really envy. It's really cool; I love Urban Guerrilla Zine, and P.U.N.K, which I've seen for years. It's a really strong scene when a bunch of kids show up for a backyard show like this, with a hundred and fifty strong, it's awesome.

LOKI: What other bands have you been in besides 9 Shocks Terror? Even the bands we've never heard of.
Steve was in the Mormons, who put out a single that's still floating around and is well regarded. Kevin was in a band called Cripple Kid, which was more Husker Du-ish stuff. He was also in the Mormons. Jim the drummer was in about eight million fuckin' death metal bands, among which was Nunslaughter, Schnauzer, Spawn of Satan... all kinds of crazy fuckin' underground DIY death metal bands. I've been in Face Value, H-100s, Gordon Solie Motherfuckers, 9 Shocks Terror, and I'm also in another band called Stepsister, who does MC5 and Stooges-type stuff.
LOKI: What happened to your drummer Wedge?
Wedge got married and got stuck in a job where he can't travel or tour, so unfortunately he's just kinda domesticized to the point where he can't go out anymore.
LOKI: Because I've noticed that you guys have gone through your fair share of lineup changes, which had me wondering "What's wrong with those people? Are they just not Slaves to the Rock or something?"
Yeah, Wedge was solid for many, many years, so it was surprising that his life took a change or turn like that. But we wish him well, we wish he was still in the band, but there's nothing we can do. I'm gonna keep playing forever, I mean I'm not gonna stop and neither is Steve. Kevin's on board and it ain't goin' nowhere.

LOKI: What do you think of the renewed interest in '80s hardcore that's taken place over the past few years?
I've got no problem with it. It's a hell of a lot better than '90s hardcore or 2000 hardcore!
LOKI: What's the scene like in Cleveland, as opposed to other places you've been to? What are some of the lesser-known bands that we should be watching out for?
It was really strong in '94, '95, '96. But we lost our venue called Speakin' Tongues, so it's kinda hard to foster a community of bands when there's really no place to play and no place to hang out for people to make contact with each other and exchange ideas and start jamming with one another. Without a central hub of activity, it's almost impossible to start bands. At the moment, Allergic to Whores, who are on Sound Pollution, the Final Plan, who are on various straight edge labels. That features an ex-member of 9 Shocks and Gordon Solie Motherfuckers named Mike Jocham. I'm trying to think of who else as far as hardcore bands are from our area...
STEVE: I think that's about it.
KEVIN: It's sort of like a dismal scene up there.
TONY: It's big on the rock-type stuff, but for what we're doing it's not...
KEVIN: It's not widely accepted...
STEVE: We definitely play more shows out of town than in the Cleveland area.
LOKI: Are you guys active in the scene besides playing in the band?
I'm sexually active. (Giggles) Sure, Steve does a radio show, I play in my other band, trying to keep it as DIY as possible. Jim's in eight million death metal bands. The scene's my life, it's dictated every job I've ever held, every relationship I've ever had, and every place I've ever been. It's always "can I get off to go on tour?"

LOKI: Have you ever had any run-ins with the "infamous" One Life Crew?
I've known those fuckin' guys for years. They're just a bunch of fat harmless rich Jewish kids. Tall drinks of water, they ain't nothin'!

LOKI: You guys are admittedly a bit older than most punks actively going to shows on a regular basis, and so on and so forth. What is it about the punk rock scene that keeps you involved, especially on such a DIY level?
Steve and Kevin aren't really that old, they're in their early to mid-twenties. It's just me and the drummer, and Wedge was an old motorcat. I just love the music; I love the community, the lifestyle and the ethics. I like the outrageousness of it. Rock 'n' roll's safe, even punk rock is safe, but any time you can get a bunch of assholes together in a room and just let it all hang out, that's not gonna happen anywhere else but punk rock and the DIY underground. That's what keeps me going.

LOKI: What happened between you guys and Devour Records, leading up to the recent repress of your first LP?
Oh, Devour...he got deported to Japan, couldn't keep the LP in press, couldn't give us a straight answer on can we get it back, kids couldn't get the record. It was just a bad scene, there was no communication. We tried to do the right thing, and it didn't seem like he wanted to do the right thing by us, so we had to go the other route. Now it's widely available at a cheap price and it's got better artwork as well.
LOKI: Are people under the misconception that Paying Ohmage is your first album or anything?
No, they know that there's this lost Japanese album floating around. Of course, it's not lost anymore. People seem to know, it's just getting their hands on it... (Jimmy from Gordon Solie Motherfuckers walks up.)
JIMMY: Silvertooth knows that fuckin' Steve is after his ass!
STEVE: Goldtooth, Goldtooth! I was about to smash a fucking bottle in his face.
TONY: I was about to paste his ass myself!
KEVIN: He got in Steve's face; he was fucking with Jim when me and Jim were trying to fucking...
TONY: He got a little aggressive with me, and I was just like "Don't gamble boy, 'cause you're gonna fucking lose." I would have stuffed his ass in that dog shit real quick. (Ladies and gentlemen, I believe that this "Goldtooth" that everyone is referring to is none other than Mike Matusio, current front man for Nigel Peppercock. Earlier in the afternoon, young Matusio was drunk and staggering around to the point where it prompted someone to say that most people are that wasted by the end of the night, as opposed to the beginning. Needless to say, I don't think he made any new friends at this party in particular.)

LOKI: How have you liked the shows that you guys have played here so far?
Awesome, awesome!
STEVE: They're really some of the best shows that we've ever played.
LOKI: Any one in particular?
Seattle was amazing.
STEVE: Yeah, Seattle was great.
TONY: This show was kickass.
STEVE: Gilman was great, Oakland was fucking awesome. When we played with the Grabbies...
INTRUSIVE BYSTANDER: Fuck you! (I have a feeling that this guy's in the band, since Steve is speaking directly to him.)
STEVE: was one of the worst shows we've ever played, because the Grabbies are the most godawful, fattest, sloppiest group of bastard idiots that I've ever seen!
JIMMY: They're a bunch of fucking fags!
STEVE: They are, they're a-holes, they're HUGE a-holes.
JIMMY: Their bass player's a fucking pop punk fag! (Naturally, Jimmy was playing bass for the Grabbies at this time.)
KEVIN: Hey, I'M a pop punk fag!

LOKI: What's the song "Make Your Point" about?
I don't know. The problem I have is that I can't write a single song about one particular topic, so there will be songs where there's one line about one thing and the next line is about how I want to fuck my next door neighbor or something. So the only part of "Make Your Point" that I can think about that actually exists is that there's a record store that I lived across the street from, and I wanted to murder the kid that worked there because he, you know, started some trouble.
KEVIN: You know, that really doesn't make any sense!
TONY: It's a real stream of consciousness thing...
KEVIN: ...which really doesn't happen too often in hardcore!
STEVE: Really, the way I just explained it, that's just seventy-five percent of it. So I should explain this part: there was a gentleman who lived across the street from me when I was six years old, and his name was Donkey Kong. (Lots of laughs) He had pink shoelaces and leather wristbands, a very disturbing young gentleman. The only thing is that his father...
INTRUSIVE BYSTANDER: Is this the guy with the seven kids that were always dressed in...
STEVE: No, no, that was his father. And his father was a bastard, because he'd come over to my house when I was asleep and he'd wake me up and say "Steve, your mom made biscuits for everyone in the neighborhood." So I'd wake up, and there's no fuckin' biscuits! I hate that guy!
LOKI: What was that story you were trying to tell earlier...
Oh no, not that one, we can only tell that story when we're sitting cross-legged in the lotus position, going "oooohhhhmmmm..." I mean, we are in San Francisco. Peace, dope, fucking in the streets! Beautiful people of San Francisco!
KEVIN: Uh, we're in Chicago, man.
TONY: Shit, you're right! I thought we were in Boise!

LOKI: What's the most memorable show you've ever played, either with 9 Shocks or without?
Personally, I would say the Michigan Fest in 2000. There were about fifteen hundred kids there, and I think we were one of maybe two bands that anyone even danced for. There were walls of death going on, there were circle pits, it was great.
TONY: Oh, there's so many. Greenville, North Carolina; who can forget or dispute the genius...
KEVIN: Bushes being uprooted and thrown at us! That was beautiful.
TONY: There's so many shows
KEVIN: Seattle was fuckin' awesome, just a couple days ago.
TONY: Gainesville was fuckin' sweet.

LOKI: You guys do have a reputation for being a pretty crazy and chaotic live band. What fuels you to fuck shit up like that?
We don't fuck anything up...
LOKI: Is it you guys, or the audience?
It's the audience.
KEVIN: It's both.
TONY: When we play, we turn the knobs to eleven and say "motherfucker" and "get down" a bunch of times, and it's off to the races with these kids.
KEVIN: I personally don't understand why you would be in a hardcore band and not have that mentality where everything is turned to eleven and we're gonna fuck everything up and destroy everything. Why would you be in a punk band if you didn't want to do that? To me, that's the whole reason for doing that. I mean, if you play that fast and that loud, why in the fuck wouldn't you want to break everything in the place and destroy everything? Why in hell else would you be in a hardcore band?
(Tony gets up to help finish loading out equipment.)
LOKI: I just can't stand going to shows and seeing bands where you might as well be at home listening to their records.
I know! If you're at a punk rock or hardcore show, why are you gonna stand there with your arms folded, watch the band play, and nod your head? If you're gonna play something that fast, that loud, that extreme, then why in the fuck would you not go completely out of control?

LOKI: If you guys were stuck on a desert island, what five records would you want to have with you?
Which five records? Shit...
KEVIN: Steve, you should go first, because when I answer this, it's not going to have any continuity with the band that I'm in at all.
STEVE: Okay, I'd want to have Mission of Burma's Versus, and hopefully the Wipers boxed set...
KEVIN: Well, no, because that's not one record.
STEVE: But it's a boxed set, a comp! Okay, it doesn't count. As far as I'm concerned, from a musical standpoint, what we sound like, what I would pick is going to have nothing to do with what we sound like.
KEVIN: Okay, here we go: Mission of Burma's Versus, Green Day's Dookie (a few chuckles over this one), Husker Du's New Day Rising...
STEVE: You're a bastard, Kevin.
KEVIN: The Jackson Five's The Ultimate Anthology, and I got one more. I gotta make this good. Shit, I'm too drunk to think of what I'd want to listen to.
(Suddenly Steve gets up and walks off, leaving us with just Kevin to finish things off.)

LOKI: So we're now down to just you. Do you have any last words or final comments?
All I'm gonna say is that I'm probably the last guy you should probably be interviewing, because I'm like the least into hardcore out of anyone in the band. Not that I'm going to knock hardcore or say that it sucks, but I had a period of my life where I was all about Minor Threat and whatnot. I'm too lazy to dig, and if you want to get into that kind of music, you have to have some kind of work ethic into digging deep into music, and I just don't have that. I like it and it's all good, but I'm probably the last guy that you should be asking that question. And I'm sorry that you've ended up interviewing me, because I'm the last guy that you should be interviewing, but it's fun and I just enjoy playing really loud, fast, and extreme rock 'n' roll music to people that like to spray shaving cream into my face.


seeingandhearing said...

aw, jake, you totally brought me back with this post. those shows were so much fucking fun. did you see them play at my house? probably the best show i ever had there. so rad. chloe

Jake said...

Hi Chloe! No, actually, I didn't see them play at your house. I don't remember why, but I'm going to guess that being too broke for public transit had something to do with it. Doh.

Daniel said...

Destroy Cleveland!!!!