Thursday, May 21, 2015

Piss Test

                                                                             (Photo by Rita Gonsalves)

     Piss Test is a tried and true punk band, for better or for worse. They’ve got 2 EP’s and an LP in their cache which consists of short, bratty bursts of agitation and frustration mixed with a hearty dose of wit and sarcasm, enough so that when they’re done with you, it’s hard to tell which end is up. They’re music is also peppered with their irreverent sense of humor, which much like the Angry Samoans is one large blazing middle finger in your face. Piss Test sing about what they think about you, your stupid friends and that ridiculous life you actually call an earthly existence. They don’t care if you agree or if you get it or not, these are not their concerns.  Their music is so loud and in your face you can’t get a thought in edgewise and even if you could there’d be no one there to listen. To me, this is Piss Test: love ‘em for it, hate ‘em for it, they don’t care. 

Interview by J Castro

Let’s start out by telling us who is currently in the band and what everyone does in Piss Test:
PISS TEST: Zach plays guitar and sings, Rodrigo plays drums, Samantha plays bass and sings.

How did you all meet and decide to play music together?
SAMANTHA: Zach and I are both from Denver. I had a raging teenage crush on him before he moved to Portland and my persistence worked out. I moved to Portland almost eight years ago and we met Rodrigo when he joined the band Therapists. He really impressed us. I did not play music before this band.

ZACH:  Despite the fact that Samantha and I are a couple, it was Rodrigo’s idea to have her play bass. I asked him to start a band after he quit Therapists. He claimed he was done playing drums, which was utterly unacceptable.

RODRIGO:  I'm glad didn't stop drumming. I seriously wanted to quit, and play bass.

Your band is currently based in Portland, OR. With so many other great bands out there at the moment, is it tough playing shows with so much else going on? I know here in Phoenix sometimes there are two or three good shows and as a fan, sometimes it’s hard to choose.
SAMANTHA: People go to a lot of shows. Our last show competed with Bad Brains at a huge venue, Fred & Toody Cole of Dead Moon at a fancy venue and members of Autistic Youth playing in an indie rock band on a boat and was still decently attended.

ZACH: Most of the good bands in Portland barely play.

RODRIGO: There are so many rad bands here in Portland. At first I think it was tough, but now I think we are starting to have a following here.

People have reviewed your records and compared Piss Test’s sound so early ‘80’s hardcore and bands on the Killed by Death compilations. How would you describe your sound to someone that’s never heard your band?
ZACH: Recent reviews keep saying we sound like Boston’s The Proletariat, so I guess we sound like The Proletariat. We were going for more of a Blood Stains Across Texas meets 100 Flowers vibe.

RODRIGO: I can't think of anything we sound like.

I was watching this old interview with Henry Rollins and he was saying how much he hates Bruce Springsteen because he doesn’t offer any solutions to some of the things he sings about, he just whines about them; things like poverty, social inequality etc. Do you agree with this at all? Do you think bands should offer more solutions to the things they talk about in their lyrics?
SAMANTHA: Nothing that Henry Rollins says matters. Bruce Springsteen is The Boss. Giving “solutions” or suggestions for how to live life is a major mistake that Minor Threat made. We hope to never be like that.

ZACH: Henry Rollins has never solved anything!

RODRIGO: What did Henry Rollins offer? Is he even playing music? Who cares? 

ZACH: One of the things I love about Bruce Springsteen records like Nebraska is that they are lyrically a collection of short stories. None of the characters in Piss Test songs are autobiographical. We write about addicts, aging skate bros, suicidal teenage girls, etc. You can shed light on social issues by writing about individuals.     

Piss Test’s song lyrics seem to be all over the place in terms of subject matter. Can you remember the most bizarre person or event that inspired a song? Have you ever written songs lyrics that you regret for whatever reason?
ZACH: “Necrophilia, It’s Halal” was inspired by a supposed fatwa issued by Moroccan, Iman Zamzami declaring necrophilia, well, Halal. There were reports claiming the translation to be sensationalized, but that is completely irrelevant as far as song writing is concerned. Never regret anything, especially song lyrics.

SAMANTHA: In “Nazis” we name drop the tax preparation software Turbotax. I think that is weird.

ZACH: I stand by the lyrics.

Sometimes I hear a song and its lyrics or guitar riff are so great I think to myself, man I wish I would have written that! Have you ever felt that way about a song or lyric that strikes a similar chord (no corn ball pun intended) with you?
ZACH: All the time. If you don’t feel that way about other people’s music, you shouldn’t be trying to write music.

SAMANTHA: Nick Lowe, “Rollers Show,” The Next, “Cheap Rewards,” the entire Adolescents blue album and Boys Next Door “Somebody’s Watching Me,” “Death of Innocence” by Legal Weapon and a couple of hits by the Go-Go’s…

I was listening to your song “Everybody” from your 2014 LP Biggest Band in Europe (Johnny Cat Records/Taken By Surprise) and it got me wondering; do you feel people in bands put too much pressure on themselves to write and/or perform? Do you think that may be why so much popular rock n’ roll music lacks key ingredients like spontaneity and recklessness that made it great in the past?
SAMANTHA:  The song isn’t pressure as much as delusions of grandeur. Some bands don’t work hard enough to write or perform, which is why there are so many sloppy, shitty, and boring bands.

ZACH: “Everybody” wasn’t inspired by bands who were trying too hard; it was inspired by bands who were posing too hard.

RODRIGO: I like to think that the best performing bands are having fun. Great music shouldn't be forced. Bands that sport their best fashion and hair styles before the music suck ass.

Where can people go or log on to listen to your music and buy your records?
ZACH: The internet

RODRIGO: Portland

SAMANTHA: and the coolest of cool record stores

What does the rest of 2015 have in store for the mighty Piss Test?
ZACH: More of the same shit

RODRIGO: Hopefully touring more

So What

(Photo by Joshua Cobos)

     People often whine and moan about social media, ridiculously enough on social media itself! “Why do people put so many pictures of their kids or their meals, selfies galore, what have you.” I’ll admit I’m guilty of that groaning sometimes myself. However one great thing about social media is that it’s a fantastic way to discover great music from all around the world. Well, the internet Gods were kind enough to reveal the band So What unto me recently and for that I will be eternally grateful. I saw them on a flyer on Facebook playing with some other bands I really like so I decided to see what they were all about. I read their bio describing their sound and then listened to their fantastic debut EP that came out last year and I was hooked like a Largemouth Bass. This band is the real deal, no embellishments, no exaggerations or wishful thinking here. Their sound is precisely what they say it is: Junkshop Glam / Bubblegum /Proto-punk insanity!”          

Interview by J Castro

Let’s start with telling me who’s currently in So What and what everyone does in the band:
JASON: Myself, Jason Duncan: vocals/lead guitar, Rob Green: drums/vocals, Jeff Glave: guitar/vocals, and Omar Perez: bass guitar.

How did you guys all meet and decide to play music together?
JASON: I’ve been friends with Rob since I was a kid and we played together a long time ago. Jeff, I’ve known since the late 90s, when we were in different bands playing on the same bills. Omar, I met through DJing at clubs, but I had known of him for many years. So What started in the spring of 2013 with Robbie, who was replaced by Jeff, and myself playing guitars together in his living room while on long lunch breaks. Rob and Omar joined a few months later, after Robbie and I had written some songs. Robbie moved to South Korea in 2014 and Jeff seamlessly joined us.

In your bands bio, it seems like you pretty much laid out the plans for So What’s sound. Was this in fact the case or did the music take a direction of its own once you guys got together and started playing?
JASON: I knew what I wanted the band to sound like before we ever played a single note. Luckily, I found three other friends willing to go along with my idea. I just wanted a group that was a mix of The Equals, Jook, pre-disco Giorgio Moroder, with a sprinkling of the bubblegum genius of Joey Levine and one-hit or no-hit wonder glam groups. Another big influence was the Junkshop Glam compilations like Boobs, Glitterbest, Velvet Tinmine, and Glitter From The Litter Bin compiled by my friend Phil King. I cannot stress enough how great these comps are. They are basically to glam what the Nuggets compilation is to garage and psych. A sort of a Rosetta Stone to a nearly forgotten genre. My obsession with The Equals is well-known and I’m currently writing the first ever biography on them. To me, they are the best band ever. No contest.

You use the term “Hard Gum” to describe your music. I’ve actually heard this only once before. Can you tell me a little about this genre and are there any other bands around now that you would also classify as Hard Gum?
JASON: I honestly can’t think of any other band that currently sounds similar to us. Luckily we don’t have just one style of song, which is a trap that too many bands fall into. We have at least three or four! I came up with the term because I couldn’t think of any other way to describe us. I just thought of us as heavier bubblegum music: fuzzy guitars in place of the acoustics that are on so many bubblegum hits but still retaining tried and true songwriting techniques and catchy choruses, plus louder, more pounding drums.

 (Photo by Joshua Cobos)

I was reading an interview with Kim Shattuck from the Muffs and she said that she stays away from politics in her lyrics because she feels nothing dates a song more.  Do you agree with this statement and are there any subjects you guys try to steer clear from in your lyrics? 
JASON: I very much agree. Most of our songs are about people I know or are character studies. The putdown song is also one that seems to come easily. The Stones have a million of those: “Stupid Girl,” “Under My Thumb,” “Out Of Time,” etc. I have no desire to incorporate politics into our songs. Music for me is escapism and expression.

And speaking of lyrics; tell me a bit about the song “Creeper Joe,” the B-Side of your EP that came out last year on Grazer Records. Is this song inspired by true events or a real person that wouldn’t take no for an answer?
JASON: That was Robbie’s song. It’s basically about a real-life lecherous creep that everyone has seen in a bar sooner or later. There is no shortage of people like that. It’s the kind of guy who harasses a woman after she has obviously shown that she’s not interested.

When you guys are playing a show, what sorts of things distract or annoy you most that audience members seem to always do? 
JASON: I don’t really take any notice of what the crowd is doing while we’re playing. I play my guitar, sing, and look straight out over their heads to the back of the room. I will mumble a sentence or two between starting the next batch of songs. 

So What is currently based in Oakland, CA. Is it tough being in a band there and playing shows with so many other great bands in the area or does it actually make things easier?
JASON: If we lived somewhere like Pennsylvania we would probably have a basement in someone’s house where we could practice for free with unlimited time which would be nice. Currently, we have a room in a giant warehouse rehearsal complex we split with 3 or 4 other groups and scheduling can sometimes be a drag. Clubs in San Francisco are closing left and right due to rent hikes. For every club that closes in San Francisco, a new one seems to pop up in Oakland. Even Berkeley has some new spots opening soon. We never run out of great local bands to play with though: Dancer, Slick!, Big Tits, Apache, Cocktails, Bad Vibes, etc. I just wish all of us could devote more time to music and less time to hustling enough money to survive in the increasingly expensive Bay Area.

Where are the best places to go to or log on to get your records?

What does the rest of 2015 look like for So What?
JASON: We are nearly finished with our debut LP which will be called “Hard Gum.” We’re hoping to tour Europe late this year or early next year. After Europe, we’ll start working on a Japanese tour.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Baby Shakes

     Baby Shakes is a four-piece band from the big bad city of New York. The grime and grit of urban life has not yet had any sort of cynical effect on the group’s music though.  The band’s vocals are laid on sweet as molasses accompanied with harmonies that are golden as spring daffodils. Baby Shakes music is also packed with high danceable energy that they shoot out in two to three minute concentrated blasts consisting of influences ranging from the glory days of Phil Spector and Motown to the highly energetic punk and glam of the mid to late ‘70’s. All of these ingredients are then simmered and stirred into a remedy that’s a sure cure for the curmudgeon soul. 
Interview by J Castro

Let’s start out with some introductions, who’s all currently in the band and what does everyone do in it?
Mary on lead vocals/rhythm guitar (Telecaster)
Judy on lead guitar/back-up vocals (Rickenbacker 620 fireglo)
Claudia on bass/back-up vocals (Rickenbacker bass)
Ryan on drums, drums, drums

On your band’s bio it says you ladies are from Seattle to Atlanta to New York City.  Why did you move around so much, did you move to where the music has taken you or were there other factors in play?
Mary is from Seattle and Judy from Atlanta- we’ve lived in NY for many years. Claudia and Ryan are originally from Queens, NY. The 3 girls moved down to Atlanta for a year to record our first full length; The First One.

What band or musician inspired you to want to pick up and play an instrument?
Claudia: My Uncle Louie gave me a Ramones record.
Judy: Chron Gen, External Menace, The Boys… definitely The Ejected
Mary: My older brothers played music when I was younger so that definitely inspired me to pick up a guitar. Other than that, bands like Ramones, Clash also inspired me to play.

Baby Shakes recently had the opportunity to play a couple of shows with Irish punk legends Protex!  How did that go, were you fans of the band prior to the show?
Baby Shakes: Collectively Protex is one of our favorite bands. We’re big fans of Good Vibrations Records and the Northern Irish punk/powerpop scene. On our last European tour we actually covered “I Can Only Dream.” Protex were amazing live! They’re the coolest guys ever and we had a blast! We actually had so much fun that we may be combining forces for a short tour of Ireland later this year (wink).

Can you tell be about the worst show you remember playing?  Maybe not necessarily because you played badly or anything but maybe because you felt out of place on a bill or the crowd was acting up?
Baby Shakes: Well our first show was at Mars Bar (a notorious NY dive bar with a sorted history), our drummer at the time had to use an upside-down ice bucket as a floor tom. Then the cops shut us down after 4 songs. It was good fun and we miss that bar, it’s been replaced by a luxury condo. Another memorable time we were asked to play a benefit for Question Mark and the Mysterians after the singer’s apartment burned down and he lost everything. Genesis P-Orridge, singer of Psychic TV tried to kick us off the stage because the show was running behind; meanwhile Paul Shaffer was in the front watching us and giving us the thumbs up, pretty hilarious.

I was reading this interview with Nick Cave and he said that out of all art forms, music has the power to change a person’s mood the fastest. What do you think?
Baby Shakes: That’s pretty accurate. When we hear Taylor Swift it makes us want to set things on fire but then you put on Slade or the Beatles and that makes us happy.

When you play a show, what do you hope to convey to your audience? What feelings or sentiments do you hope people walk away with after seeing you play live?
Baby Shakes: We just want people to have fun during our set and we want to put them in a good mood when they hear our songs. I guess playing live we want to be taken seriously as musicians. When we show up sometimes and people see that we're three girls with guitars they usually don't expect much and think it's a joke so we always try our best to blow away the skeptics and prove them wrong. We also want people to bring us tequila shots on stage. Always!!

What’s the single best piece of advice that anyone’s ever given you?
Baby Shakes: Stay free

Now we’ve come to the lightening round portion of the interview!  Feel free to answer as much or as little as you’d like!

     1 What’s the first concert you attended without your parents?
Claudia: Vice Squad or Menace @CBGBs
Judy: I’m tempted to lie but I think it was some shit like Smashing Pumpkins, yikes.
Mary: Hmm very first concert without parents? I don’t remember probably some shitty battle of the bands at a school.

     2 What’s the first band T-shirt that you can remember owning/wearing?
Claudia: My uncle bought me an Ozzy Osbourne T-shirt from his comeback concert. I got sent home from school that day because it said “retirement sucks" on the back.
Judy: Operation Ivy
Mary: Sex Pistols, I got it in 6th grade and still wear it ha, ha.

3 What’s the first record you bought with your own money?
Claudia: The Cars
Judy: Angry Samoans
Mary: The Stooges

4 What’s the first band poster that you put up on your childhood bedroom wall?  
Baby Shakes: New Kids on the Block or maybe Menudo or Madonna.

What’s coming up in the near future for Baby Shakes, any new records or tours?
Baby Shakes: We just came out with a new 45 titled She’s a Star (limited to Italian/Japanese pressing with 2 different covers) and our second full-length titled Starry Eyes will be out in July. We’re opening for Slaughter & the Dogs in Philly on July 4. We’re also touring Ireland and Europe/Scandinavia in late-Summer and then Japan in early 2016.

Links to follow Baby Shakes hijinks:



     Fashionism is based in Vancouver, British Columbia and recently debuted unto the world with a three song EP on Hosehead Records earlier this year that was very well received here at the Audio Ammunition sub aquatic chateau. The band successfully combines some of the wonderful attributes of a few rock sub genres that particularly tickle our fancy: the loud guitar hooks of glam, the melodies of power pop, and the explosive energy of punk rock are all equally and brilliantly woven throughout Fashionism’s song structure. The band consists of veteran musicians from such bands as New Town Animals, The Jolts, and The Tranzmitors, but when these four particular entities come together they create a sound that’s enjoyably fresh yet pleasantly familiar. Fashionism pushes all the right buttons and presses new ones you didn’t even know you had!    

Interview by J Castro

Let’s start off by telling us who is all in the band, what instruments you all play in the band AND some of the other groups you’ve been in or currently in other than Fashionism:
Jacuzzi Fluzzi: I'm Jacuzzi Fluzzi and I play guitar and I sing heavenly background vocals. Jeffery sings all the lead vocals and is the band tailor. JR plucks the bass with her fingers like a real musician and sings quiet background vocals and Sweet Kokomo is the minister of partying and plays drums. We're all VERY old so we've played in lots of bands, but some of the good ones are Tranzmitors and New Town Animals. Those bands all suck in comparison, though. Obviously.

How did you all meet and decide to get a band together?
Jacuzzi Fluzzi:  Jeff and I live a stone’s throw away from each other and had talked in the past a lot about whether or not we were going to go into politics as running mates or get a band together. We opted for the road with less money and chose a name that firmly put an end to any of us pursuing a political career. Thank god. Jeff filled in the blanks with some old band mates of his and we ended up with some really fantastic people.

Paul Collins wanted to be with one back in 1979 and according to your song: “Where Have All the Rock n’ Roll Girls Gone” they’re becoming scarce in Vancouver. What is the allure of a rock n’ roll girl and what’s your theory on why they’re a dying breed?  
Jacuzzi Fluzzi: We lament the fact that there aren't a lot of people that are into actual subculture. That really identify with it. There used to be so many youth cultures and most of them have been assimilated. But I do think Vancouver is getting better, actually. At least I hope so. There are so many great bands and cool scenes within punk here right now especially. It seems like things are getting pretty creative. There are still rock n’ roll girls out there, but I don't think that it's a genuine possibility to bond with a babe over a Magazine LP in Vancouver, you know? Perhaps we're getting old and grumpy, but when we play that song live it sure seems to make the girls in the room prove that they're still around. Maybe it's a challenge.

Photo by Nicole Dumas

You describe your sound as “Bubblegum glam of the early 70’s played by people who like late 70’s UK punk.” I think that description is pretty spot on. Is this the sound you were going for when first starting out or did it just kind of naturally flow into that direction?
Jacuzzi Fluzzi: We initially wanted to play full-on glam rock but it quickly turned into us realizing that we were poisoned by our record collections and decades of listening to Sex Pistols and Clash LPs. We couldn't sugar it up the way it was needed to really do the genre properly so we just stopped thinking about it. We decided it was better to just take the songs that we were writing as I guess power pop/first-wave punk songs but try to think of them with the big production that would have been used on Slade or Mud records.

What sorts of things typically inspire your song lyrics?  I was reading an interview with Kim Shattuck of the Muffs and she said she stays away from politics in her lyrics because she feels nothing dates a song faster. Are there any subjects that you purposefully stay away from?
Jacuzzi Fluzzi: I have perhaps the biggest crush on Kim Shattuck possible so I'd like to agree in case she sees this, but I do think rock n’ roll is political. I hate politics, though. We don't have any real political agenda at all. I still don't think anything is off the table as far as writing goes. Jeffery is a History major. It comes out in his writing, but mostly manifests as goofy and tongue-in-cheek more than some dumb rallying cry.

Looking at pictures of you guys, your album artwork, and even your buttons and posters; you definitely have a distinct “look,” hence your band name I would guess.  Do you think more bands should start taking a little more interest in this sort of thing instead of just shuffling up on stage in t-shirts, shorts and torn up canvas shoes? 
Jacuzzi Fluzzi: Y'know, fashion is fun. It's a lot of fun to play dress-up and look goofy and sharp and scummy and whatever else. I love the “don't care” (and possibly can't afford to care) look of bands like Fifteen and I also think The Jam look fuckin' smart! It's how you wear it. Just own it and don't pose. I did see one band locally here that sticks out in my mind but I can't remember what they were called. The guitar player looked like he crawled out of bed and grabbed his reverb pedal on the way to the show. He was wearing a full red sweat suit and dumb toque and he looked like an asshole. I hated him and his stupid band and I decided that if you're going to suck (and they did suck) that you at least should put some effort into what you're wearing. He certainly paid no attention to his songwriting. At least if you look great and play like you actually want to, you'll be entertaining to some degree...

And speaking of which, you just released your debut 7” on Hosehead Records. Can you tell me a bit about it and how you hooked up with the fine folks at Hosehead?
Jacuzzi Fluzzi:  Patrick from Hosehead came out to our first show and said he'd do anything to put a record out for us, which is an offer you can't refuse. Stupidly, all we asked for was for him to put out a record for us. He's got some cool bands on his label too so it's a nice fit.

With vinyl record sales being on the rise since 2006 and now cassettes making a comeback, do you think there will ever be a time when tapes and records out sell digital MP3’s or do you think this whole vinyl comeback thing is simply a fad? 
Jacuzzi Fluzzi: I work in a record store – tapes still sell terribly. Records are selling well and have for years. Punk and underground cultures have floated vinyl as a mandatory format for years. It's not going anywhere; it may ebb and flow as the mainstream realizes there is a sellable format for new releases, but the underground has always kept it alive. Lookout Records in the ‘90s was HUGE, and it was one of the worst eras for records coming out on vinyl. Nearly their entire catalog came out on vinyl and they weren't small pressings, either. I don't pay attention to MP3s.

Expanding a bit more on the previous question: do you think people will realize what they’re missing from actually holding a record in their hand: album artwork, band photos, liner notes etc.?
Jacuzzi Fluzzi: Well, I hope so – it's part of the whole package of a record. There is thought and aesthetic there and not just in the songs. I don't like talking about stupid things like “branding” or some other industry garbage but I suppose it is true to a point. The artwork and attention to detail are really special to me. Nearly everything we've done has been by hand, stamping all of our sleeves, pressing our own pins, numbering and stamping our posters and silk screening/spray painting our first line of T-shirts. I think that's valuable and I hope that when someone buys something from us they see the value in that as well.

What’s the plan of attack for Fashionism in 2015: any tours or new releases? 
Jacuzzi Fluzzi: We have a new single coming out on Zaxxon Records out of Montreal and we have a bunch more songs recorded as well. Get in touch as they're all doozies. We are planning some Stateside shows and some Western Canada stuff, and hope to make it out east, but right now we're writing and recording for more releases.

Links to follow Fashionism hijinks: