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Sam: What was it
like going from a major label to putting out your own
release and then back to a major label again?
Neil: "It was a pain in the ass...
to be blunt, I mean we did those things by our own
decision, we weren't forced to do any of those things.
'Pure Rock Fury', at the time we started recording it,
we were funding it ourselves, and we were kind of,
basically just going into alot of debt. When Atlantic
heard it they expressed interest in it, so that was
kind of an easy way for them to assume that debt and
not have us be responsible for it. It wasn't a very fun
way to make a record, you know, kind of going into the
hole. As typical of major labels they did the minimal
amount of work for it, and then when nothing happened
with it they threw their hands up in the air. So we
parted ways with them, and we're actually in the process
of doing the same thing, funding another record by
ourselves. But this time I think the climate is much
better for getting your own albums out there. I think
there are more distribution companies and whatnot that
are willing to just kind of work one album at a time
with an artist and you don't have to do the classic
record deal for lack of a better word. And there's
alot more freedom, you don't have to worry about some
A&R rep listening for a hook, you know, or something
along those lines."
Sam: From what I've heard the
record industry isn't too encouraging to bands
Neil: "Well, it's not only that,
it's like they are dinosaurs and I think in this day and
age, how can they expect to charge $16.99 for a cd that
a kid can burn for free? I mean, I do it, and I think
they are failing to recognize the changing nature of
the medium. Nowadays it's much more lucrative to put
your own record out, even though, let's say instead of
selling 100,000 let's say you only sell 25, but of
those 25 you're actually making money off of it. 100,000
records doesn't mean anything when you're signed to
Columbia or Atlantic. You've gotta sell...
Sam: You've got to pay them every
penny that you've already spent
Neil: "Yeah, you're not going to
really be seeing significant money until you get close
to a million records or something like that, or half a
million and we're not selling that many records by any
stretch of the imagination."
Sam: Not many bands are...Do you
think "Jam Room" helped get the new deal?
Neil: "No, well...'Jam Room', at
that point we had done 'Elephant Riders' with Columbia
and we were ready to do another record because it had
been like a year and a half. We were tired of those
songs and wanted to do another record and Columbia
wasn't expressing any interest in funding another
record. So we just said forget it, lets just start
recording it ourselves. And they dropped us, which
was great because that's their breach of contract.
So it doesn't mean we owe them any money or anything
Sam: That's a good way to get out
of it actually
Neil: "I've seen bands that get
all bummed out when they get dropped by a label and
consider it some kind of death nail. It can really
work to your advantage, you just use them for all their
money and their distribution. And now you can put out
your own record having gained that exposure thru them
and it's almost like you've used them in a way. That's
the way we look at it, instead of feeling like we're
powerless against these, you know monsters. You've
gotta put a positive spin on it somewhere."
Sam: I couldn't believe it when
they dropped C.O.C, they sold albums pretty consistently
Neil: "But those labels, with the
amount of money that they deal with, they have to have
bands that sell millions of records. You know, like
your Mariah Careys and your pop stars and all these
things. There are some exceptions to the rule with
heavy bands, like Metallica for example, or even Linkin
Parks and whatnot, but those are few and far between.
Most bands are lucky to sell 50,000 records, I mean,
that's good. But they don't understand, they make
50,000 free cassettes to give away, major labels."
Sam: A gold album used to be a huge
thing, now it's just like oh that's not enough.
Neil: "Yeah, a gold album really
doesn't mean...well, it's cool, it's nice artwork to
put on your wall. But in this day and age it really
doesn't mean a whole lot."
Sam: How did you guys land a spot
on the John Coltrane tribute cd?
Neil: "Well, basically what happened
is, the guy who put it together, he lives in Germany,
contacted us. He asked us if we'd be willing to do it
and we said yes. Actually J.P. plays on it 3 times,
there's Clutch, and then Bakerton Group does a song,
which is everybody except myself, and then he also
played with Wino and Joe from Fugazi, they did a song.
It was fun to do, it was pretty challenging."
Sam: I can imagine...
Neil: "You could only do so much,
I mean there was no point in trying to do it note for
note because no one can really do that. You just kinda
have to do it as best you can with that poor skills you
have in comparison with John Coltrane."
Sam: Why did you guys decide to
do a live album at this time?
Neil: "Well, 'Pure Rock Fury' has
been out for awhile, and we weren't in a position to
do another studio record. We had been recording while
on the road with System Of A Down and we've always
wanted to put out a live record. Once again, not to
dwell on major labels, but they're not interested in
that. So, we just did it for the sake of doing it,
people have been swapping our live cds for years and
years and years and I think that's a wonderful thing,
and I think it's very healthy. So we figure we'll put
out some recordings of some of the songs and you know,
get 'um out there because there are alot of people who
aren't involved in the tape trading thing, that don't
know it exists. So maybe seeing it in a mom and pop
store, will turn them onto it, to the live music, which
in alot of ways is very different from the studio."
Sam: What was it like doing the
Neil: "It was cool, it was very
flattering to have been asked to participate in it.
When I was asked originally I didn't really know that
much about it, I'd heard of it. I spoke to Henry Rollins
and said look, I'm interested in doing it, but I want
to do it for the right reasons, I mean don't want to
do it just to jump on the bandwagon, even though that's
very tempting to do. He was kind enough to actually
send me 'Paradise Lost I and II', I checked that out
and in alot of ways I was kind of like a giddy school
kid. That's the first like, punk band I got into, I was
13 when I heard Black Flag for the first time. That
would open up the door to everything else since then.
So to be asked to sing on a Black Flag-esque record
was pretty awesome. His band plays it amazingly, and
they're very difficult, the music whole feel of music
is pretty alien, like the guitar work in Black Flag.
And he does a great job of it. So I was pretty stoked."
Sam: Did you get to pick what song
Neil: "No, I wasn't about to...
you know, beggars can't be choosers you know? Send me
anything and I'll do it...I was pleased."
Sam: Where do you draw inspiration
for your lyrics 'cause there's some really weird shit,
especially on the first album
Neil: "Well, I think #1 I try to
be a good listener, I'm always eavesdropping onto things.
Either when it's reading it, or listening to it and
then jotting it down in a notebook, and taking something
out of context and then trying to build a story around
it or maybe just sort of a vibe around it. Sometimes
I have writer's block that lasts for months and months
and months, and then one week I'll get it all out. God
knows what reason, that's just the way it works. I
just try to write stuff that if you read it on paper
alone, it can kinda stand on itself, instead of having
just kind of vague lyrics about emotions. That doesn't
really...'cause I'm not that emotional of a person I
Sam: That's been done to death
Neil: "Yeah, I always find the
emotional lyrics are fine for lounge music, but there's
so much melodrama out there. I'm not really interested
in how hurt someone has been because they broke up with
their girlfriend. I'd rather hear a good story, and I
think the good stories are the ones that last the
longest. Like Led Zeppelin's 'Immigrant Song', I mean
that in some ways is a story, it'll always be there
because you can listen to it over and over again. But
if it were a song about, once again I'm so broken
hearted...it lacks kinda staying power in the long,
long term I guess."