Q: LET'S START FROM THE BEGINNING. YOU ARE, STRANGELY STILL, REFERENCED AS BEING A 'FORMER MEMBER OF KILLSADIE' -- BUT OF COURSE THIS WAS NOT YOUR FIRST EVER BAND. WILL YOU TALK ON BANDS PRE-KILL SADIE? WAS GUITAR YOUR FIRST INSTRUMENT? HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED PLAYING? WERE THERE SPECIFIC INFLUENCES THAT MADE YOU WANT TO PLAY GUITAR?
A: Well, I started playing guitar when I was around 10 years old or so. When I was young I started getting into music like Alice Cooper, KISS, shock rock sort of things. I loved the theatrics of those musicians. I didn't understand a word of their message, if you can call it that, but I loved the show. My brother and a few friends decided we were going to start a band and each be a like a our own KISS member. I think my friends had decided I was going to be the bass player. I talked my mother into getting an instrument as a gift and the guitar was cheaper than a bass so that's what I got. I took something like 2 or 3 lessons. Learned how to tune the thing and the shape of a power chord and one KISS riff. I decided it wasn't for me.
A year or so later, like a lot of kids of my age, heavy metal sort of morphed into punk rock and skate boarding. I had realized once I got over the tremendous speed of the music that the music itself was something I could wrap my mind around. You could play 2 chords and you have a perfectly acceptable punk rock song as long as you meant it and played it fast. Of course The Ramones were a big inspiration for that but also The Cramps and soon Dead Kennedys and Minor Threat. Pretty soon a huge range of things you could loosely call "punk". From things like Butthole Surfers to Rites Of Spring to Nomeansno and other bands that musically were all over the place. We'd pretty much get any record from anyone we saw reviewed or advertised in the punk zines of the time or whoever a band we liked thanked in liner notes.
My brother in the meantime had also convinced my parents to get him a cheap little drum set. He had an almost immediate understanding of the drum set and how to play a beat. So, we made a band. I can't recall what we named all of them but there was one called Suicide Machine (before the ska band), another called Ugly Waifs, but we had several bands all throughout high school ranging in all kinds of styles of music that could fit under the punk rock umbrella. After my parents divorced we moved near the University of Minnesota into a small little house and practiced in the living room and started to host shows. We started meeting all kinds of punk kids and weirdos from all the Twin Cities area and going to shows or having people over to play music at our house. After doing that all through our teens my brother and I sort of decided we were going to take a break from music while we were becoming young adults. After leaving home and going on my own we really had no place to play music anymore and I got more into poetry, visual art and more into skate boarding.
After a year or two off from music some friends of ours talked about doing a sort of ridiculous punk band where we could just do whatever we felt like doing. These guys didn't know that my brother and I could actually play and at our first practice were sort of blown away by that fact. So we started this dumb thing that we sometimes called Shampoop, sometimes called The Eye Talians. Most people called us Shampoop. All the songs were just idiotic and sometimes in-jokes about what we thought 12 year punk kids would write songs about. Hating your girlfriend or a child actor being jealous of the monkey that he gets cast in a movie with or BMX bike riders. We never took it seriously but started to get offers for bigger and bigger shows and even did some regional touring. By the time we decided the joke had run it's course we had been playing places like the First Ave mainroom.
After that my brother and I decided we wanted to do a more serious band again and after a couple quickly failed things we eventually got Killsadie together. That was the first band where we recorded in real recording studios, went on tour for weeks if not months at a time, had real merchandise. I think I was 22 or 23 when we started that. I already felt old at the time and I had wasted time doing other things other than music and doing a joke band. Looking back I'm glad how it all worked out though.
Q: FROM KILL SADIE, YOU WENT TO THE HIDDEN CHORD (AM I SPACING BANDS BETWEEN?), A DECIDEDLY LESS HARDCORE ORIENTED BAND. WHAT WERE YOU LISTENING TO AROUND THESE TIMES? WHAT INFLUENCED THE CHANGE IN SOUND/FEEL/AESTHETIC? WHAT WERE YOUR INFLUENCES AND GOALS FOR THE HIDDEN CHORD?
A: We started Hidden Chord while I was still in Killsadie, somewhere around '98. It was clear the rest of Killsadie was going to move to the west coast and I wasn't so I started a side project to have something to keep doing when they moved. Of course I didn't want to do another thing that sounded like Killsadie, just to continue that at home while they were going to be carrying on out west. I was going through a big 60's rock and pop phase at the time and the other guitar player (from Hidden Chord) Brian and I had been hanging out quite a bit. We talked about how it would be cool to combine some of the 60's garage rock and psyche stuff we were into with some of the more art punk and post punk things we had in common; Mission Of Burma, Wire, The Fall. That's how that came about. Hidden Chord sort of changed sounds every recording we made because of an inherent attention deficit that is built into a lot of 20 somethings.
I really don't know what goals we had as a band other than to just do what we liked and felt like doing. We did a lot of strange things with the band on and off stage. Strange sort of performance art things. Came up with alternate versions of the band once or a different aesthetic once in a while, all to throw people off. We never took it too serious as far as trying to "make it" or whatever. Other guys in the band had school or careers outside of the band so we could never commit to it as much as maybe I would have liked. That's part of the reason it eventually stopped.
Q: FROM THERE, THINGS GET KIND OF MURKY FOR ME. ASKELETON, SATELLITE VOICES, ETC? WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SHARE ABOUT THESE BANDS/TIMES/EXPERIENCES?
A: Yeah, Askeleton started toward the end of Hidden Chord. The last Hidden Chord EP we had used Pro Tools for the first time and I started to learn the thing and started creating my own music on the side. Weird little songs that would have never worked for Hidden Chord. This became Askeleton. Started just me, an old iMac, an acoustic guitar and a lot of Casio keyboards I had been thrifting. After a while that became a full time thing. A band formed around it. A revolving band of people that I knew from a lot of different bands in Minneapolis and Saint Paul at the time. Askeleton put out 4 albums and 4 EP from 2002 till 2012ish. It's still technically going because at it's core it's just lonely ole me but I haven't done anything with it for some time. It's nice knowing that I can bust out some new Askeleton music anytime I want though.
In that time I also played guitar and keyboard in a band called Ela with a good friend of mine. I recorded their first record and they asked me join after we finished the recording to make up for some of the sound in a live setting that was now lacking after how sort of huge we got that record to sound. We recorded an EP and one more full length before that disbanded.
Another band I did within that time was called Satellite Voices with some friends that I had talked to about forming another Askeleton live band. I sort of ditched the idea of another Askeleton thing and we decided to start something new. The idea was to do something darker and a little more new wave and dance influenced. We did one proper record with that band and then started to have line up issues. We squeezed out a few singles after the full length and just gave up on it after too many line up changes.
Q: WHICH BRINGS US UP TO DELETER, YOUR CURRENT BAND. TALK TO ME ABOUT THE FORMATION OF THIS BAND, YOUR DESIRES FOR IT, AND HOW THOSE ARE BEING MET. IS THIS THE MOST SATISFYING BAND YOU'VE PLAYED IN?
A: Deleter started when my good friend and Satellite Voices bandmate Travis moved back to Minnesota from Ireland via Oakland. He was going into a new phase of his life and I was as well. We missed playing music together and decided to do something new musically were we could take out some aggression as well as write songs without over thinking it. I had been doing some recording work with a then friend of a friend, Josh, on some sessions of solo projects for people. We got on quite well and I really liked his style of drumming and outlook on music and life in general. Travis and I asked if he would be interested in doing this new band with us. The three of us played a few times and just clicked right away. Travis and Josh have an amazing unspoken musical connection. They just lock in together and are able to bring a sort of complexity to the simple ideas we come up with without sounding flashy or pretentious. So, after those first few practices I sort of thought I didn't want to take on all the guitar duties myself and we thought about who we could add to fill out what we had started and along came this kid Zach who's an extremely talented musician. He also just locked in right away. Zach is a pretty well trained musician in the classic sense. He knows theory, studied jazz and all that and had struggled in the past with being able to lock down to an idea and go with it but when he joined what we ended up calling Deleter I feel it freed him up to just explore what he was adding to the band and also let go of some of the rigidness that formally trained musicians can get looped into.
We rehearsed for a couple months and wrote about a dozen songs or so in a matter of those couple months and recorded them pretty quickly. The idea being to not put too much thought into anything we do musically and embrace almost anything we create and see as a valid form of expression. In Satellite Voices, that band got into this thing where we ended up overanalyzing everything and going over little parts over and over again and that became frustrating to me as someone that just likes to have a creative outlet. So Travis and I sort of subconsciously decided we weren't going to get into that same trap with this new band. Anyway, we released that first big batch of songs as a bunch of singles and b-sides over the matter of a few months. Releasing a new single and b-side every week online for free till they were all out there. Then collected them all online as a sort of album, but not in a classic sense.
We write, obviously, quickly with this band so before we knew it we had another huge batch of songs and decided we would put out another EP worth of stuff and then start writing for a full length. I think we got to about 20 or more songs when Zach told us he had decided he wanted to move away from Minneapolis. We decided we would continue as a band and find a new guitar player but before Zach left we would take some of our favorite songs that we had come up with so far for the full length and record them as a set of EPs. Those are the songs that went onto the Komposition and Zweite Komposition EPs that you put out.
Within that time we asked our now guitar player Jordan to join the band and help us flesh out the remaining songs we had written for the LP and write some new songs to help fill out the rest of the record. I had met Jordan when he played bass on some recordings for Dan Mariska that I had produced and I was immediately impressed with his style of playing and natural musicality. I later recorded a project for Jordan where he played guitar and bass. I knew I really would like to play music with this kid at some point so when it came to finding a new guitar player he was the first one I thought of. He fits really well into what we already had going on and brings a really cool new element of tightness and also at the same time improvisation to the band. So, we worked out songs for the LP and recorded them and that's where we are now.
I think the most satisfying thing about being in this band is that it's the most dynamic musical project I've done. Not in a music sense but more emotionally. It's the first time I've felt free in a band setting to kind of go with any idea and it's excepted democratically. Everyone's ideas are for the most part always accepted and there's no pressure to have a certain sound or feel or presentation to the music. I have that with Askeleton of course but that's all sort of my thing and Deleter seems very much like our thing. Everyone carries equal weight, or at least it seems like that way to me. That's very refreshing in a band setting. We choose how we want to do whatever we do together and don't over think it. We all get excited about each others ideas and like spending time together. I always look forward to practice and shows and recordings. Nothing we do seems like any work. It's all for the sake of creating something together. It may be the first time since playing in bands with my brother in high school I've felt that way.
Q: WHAT WOULD MAKE YOU QUIT PLAYING MUSIC? ARE THERE TIMES YOU'VE CONSIDERED?
A: Well, Like I said before I did take a break for a little while right after high school but as I feel right now I don't think I would ever stop playing music. Or at least always having my hands dirty in some musical project. I've realized lately that for me life is about creating things and music is my favorite way of creating and if I didn't have that I'm sure I'd find another way of filling that need but music feels the most powerful to me.
Q: AS WELL AS BANDS, YOU'VE BEEN INVOLVED IN MUSIC IN VARIOUS OTHER FIELDS THROUGH DOING LIVE SOUND, RECORDING, MIXING, ETC. WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THESE LINES OF WORK? DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A PROFESSIONAL IN ANY OF THESE FIELDS AT THIS POINT? IS IT HOW YOU MAKE YOUR LIVING?
A: I have always been interested in all aspects of the art that surrounds music. All the things that go into making a record. Album layouts and visual artwork. Recording of the records. Mastering. Sequencing. I've gotten into making film and video now as well. I got a four track tape machine in my teens and recorded all the bands I did then as well as all of my friends bands. Mostly for economic reasons. The more I grew to know about music and making records the more I wanted to gain the knowledge of how to do those things better. People have asked me before if it's a control thing and I have always said it's more of a punk rock thing. Doing it yourself. Maybe that is a power thing but it's not power for powers sake or having power over others, it's power over ones own life and creativity.
I've paid bills with money I've made by recordings so I guess you could call that professional.
Q: YOU AND I ARE BOTH 'OLDER' GUYS, CERTAINLY AT LEAST IN THE FIELD OF INDEPENDENT MUSIC. WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO KEEP CREATING MUSIC RELEASED IN SMALL PRESSINGS, BANDS THAT PLAY IN BASEMENTS AND COFFEE SHOPS, ETC? HOW MUCH DOES MONEY/FAME/NOTORIETY AFFECT YOUR INTEREST IN PLAYING MUSIC?
A: Creativity inspires me. Expression. I really do believe one of the things that makes humans human is expression and creativity. I've never cared about making money for what I create. I would do it anyway. When I work for others on their creative endeavors I try to keep my fee as cheap as I can so money isn't much of a factor in the process. So that doesn't dangle a sense of anxiety over what should be a hopefully if not fun at least a satisfying creative experience. I hate money. I hate capitalism. I think it's really a system that inherently destroys expression. Makes canaries in the coal mines out of artists. There is so little value put on creative people and expression for the sake of expressing true feeling in capitalism. So many treat it as a privilege to be an artist when I feel it's a basic human right and duty. So money, fame and notoriety don't interest me whatsoever.
Q: YOU WERE MARRIED AT A FAIRLY YOUNG AGE, AND DIVORCED NOT SO LONG AFTER. CAN YOU EXPAND ON THIS A BIT? HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR MARRIAGE AFFECTED YOUR OPINIONS/VIEWS ON MARRIAGE, ON LOVE, ON RELATIONSHIPS?
A: I wasn't married that young by western standards. 28ish I think. We were together for about 7 years prior to getting married and it was almost an after thought to get married, I think. At least in my mind. It ended after only a year though. I really had denied connecting to a lot of my feelings in my 20s. The only thing I really knew I wanted to do was play music and tour, which is about all I did. It was really hard for me to maintain a relationship and be a full time touring musician for me at the time. Her and I argued about finances a lot. I just wasn't willing to commit to what I thought, or maybe we both thought needed to be done to have a happy marriage. I was emotionally distant to put it lightly. Very depressed looking back. When she finally confronted me with her feelings about the whole situation it was just too late. We both had just checked out. I was pretty depressed and sad for a time but was soon able to use the experience to grow a lot emotionally. I realized I couldn't be a one sided person and that it was okay for me to balance love with another person and love of my art and to use both to become a better person. Of course I'm still learning a lot of lessons in life and love but that was a huge tipping point and something I will always recognize as an important time in my life and the experience change me for the better. I've been a lot more honest with myself, my friends and in relationships since then and strive to keep growing every day since realizing that I needed to change something within myself to feel like a better person.
People always ask other people that have been married before if they would ever do it again and expect people to say no but obviously people do marry again. I have mixed feelings about it. The idea that there is some sort of legal contract that binds people together pretty much just financially seems ridiculous to me. The idea that a couple would get a tax break or whatever because some system says the are a couple seems archaic, but I do understand that is needed for some couples just to survive in a capitalist system. On another hand I understand people wanting to feel their relationship is more than just calling someone your boyfriend/girlfriend/whatever, people wanting a partnership and someone they feel is like a part of them. During the religious and state debate over same sex marriage the past few years it's made me think a lot of a fair solution to people wanting all the same "rights". I started to think that maybe all marriages should be outlawed and be replaced with legal partnerships, or some people call civil unions, for anyone that wants one, granting all the rights that now come with what we have been calling marriage. If some catholic wants to "get married" at their church, fine, you're "married" but if you don't go get your civil papers it doesn't mean shit except in your church. Basically anyone can call their partnership anything they want but in the eyes of the system any couple, gay or straight or whatever is seen as the same under the law. It's just a bunch of words. The whole old idea of marriage and the horse trading needs to go. Some people argue that civil unions for some reason are different than marriage and having civil unions for some takes away something from some people and gives it to the church. The way I see it is if you take the legal part away from the church and they are relegated to whatever they wanna call it, it leaves more in the hands of everyone. Nothing is stopping anyone from calling their relationship whatever they want but legally everyone is the same. Maybe that's a long winded way of saying I'm not sure how I feel about it.
Now saying that, I think you and I have talked about this before; the idea of a partner in life. Since my divorce, a long time ago now, I have had many other relationships, some really good and ended not in any real bad way, just different times in our lives or different goals, and a few pretty terribly. Though with the terrible ones I feel like I had my head in the right place but the other person, for whatever reason or the other, just couldn't carry on. A lot of times because of their own issues or mental health problems that they haven't dealt with and I had already come to terms with these things. All in all I have learned things from all my relationships, romantic and otherwise. But I have realized after letting myself be alone and even lonely at times in between relationships that I am okay with being alone, but I've honestly realized that I do really want to have a partner in my life. Maybe even a family of some sort or another in my life someday. I guess I would be okay if those things never happen but it's a goal I would like to share with someone someday.
Q: IN WHATEVER WAY YOU'RE COMFORTABLE DISCUSSING IT, YOU WERE FAIRLY INVOLVED IN STREET ART AT A YOUNGER AGE, CORRECT? AM I RIGHT IN REMEMBERING YOU GOT BUSTED AT ONE POINT AND SUFFERED WEIRD LEGAL REPERCUSSIONS? WHY IS (OR ISN'T) STREET ART IMPORTANT?
A: Yes. I was active when I was younger and still am into, although not active, in street art. Graffiti, stenciling, public art, wheat pasting, stickers, etc. In a way, I really like the idea of all of that being the last free forms of artwork we have left. Free as in it's public and the freedom in creating it. Since it's not legal it can kind of act in whatever form it likes and can take whatever shape it wants. There's something also really appealing to me about the anonymity of most street art. It's just there. It just shows up one morning. You don't need it explained to you and a lot of times the artist doesn't necessarily need you to understand it.
I was arrested for it and spent time in jail and had to pay a rather large fine. The authorities really wanted to make an example of me to try and curb the growing popularity of street art in the Twin Cities back in the 90s. I don't think it worked. One of my only gripes with the graffiti scene then and now is the rules put on it by the scene itself. There were so many rules, 'you can't do this' or 'you need to do it this way or it's not graffiti'. That's not what it meant to me. I was drawn to the freedom of it the same way I was drawn to punk rock. Though, I guess like punk rock, people always seem to feel the need to force some kind of conformity onto other people.
Q: TELL ME ABOUT SOME OF THE ABSOLUTE WORST SHOWS YOU'VE EVER PLAYED. LEAST FAVORITE CITIES? LEAST FAVORITE VENUES?
A: I have no idea really. There's been so many awesome and totally shitty shows and places I've played on tour since 1996. I remember during the 2004 election Askeleton played a college on election day in what would be the major contested district in Ohio that ended up deciding the election. We stayed up late at a motel that night watching the returns until we couldn't stay awake anymore and woke up the next morning to the news that Bush had won and it was all down to votes basically in the town that we were staying in. As we drove out of town that morning a bunch of us just held middle fingers out the window of the van. Ohio isn't my favorite state.
Q: WHAT MAKES FOR A 'PERFECT' SHOW? WHAT MAKES FOR A 'PERFECT' RECORD?
A: Nothing is perfect to me. Calling something perfect is like setting up some expectation that you may never reach.
Q: YOU AND I HAVE HAD NUMEROUS POLITICAL DISCUSSIONS OVER THE YEARS, ESPECIALLY LATELY. WOULD YOU CARE TO SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE CURRENT STATE OF POLITICS IN THE U.S./THE WORLD? DO YOU HAVE STRONG FEELINGS OR LEANINGS TOWARDS THE NEXT U.S. PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION?
A: I've always been a bit of a political junkie. I think having two very liberal/progressive and politically active parents may have helped with that, along with getting into a lot of radically politically charged punk rock when I was young. I've always thought that government is making decisions for the population every day that affects us greatly and we should really be paying a lot of attention to what our elected and not elected leaders do to or for us. I believe strongly in democracy. I think the idea of having a government that is made up of it's people, elite, common, everyone, is a great idea but I do feel American democracy is a pretty big sham. The way that capitalism works in our system is pretty clearly shown to leave out a large chunk of our society from participating and those with more money can easily not only pick our leaders but decide what we get to vote on in the first place. It seems crazy to me that with technology today we aren't allow to vote on almost every governmental decision. You hear so much from politicians about wasteful spending and all that bullshit but they encourage wasteful spending all the time if that spending helps the right people. Bloated military budgets or money sifted to specific economies. We should be able in this day and age to cut out so many political and bureaucratic middlemen with direct democracy. There are so many positions of power that we have no control over. Police that patrol our neighborhoods are hired not elected. It terrifies me that some could-be nut case with a gun and that much power is allowed to enforce laws that we have decided to live by without the expressed authority to enforce those laws by the people onto which the laws apply.
I love watching the whole political process go down though, on just about every level but really at the highest levels, like for U.S. president, I don't have much feeling for it other than sort of a voyeuristic thing. I believe it's much more important to pay attention and to participate in local elections.That's what hits us first. Who the president is or isn't clearly does have an impact on the world and us personally but people feel so powerless in a lot of ways when it comes to electing that person. All the major parties are so bought and sold and it's so damn obvious that it's become a joke to almost everyone. I heard Ian MacKaye once say that he votes for the major party candidate for president that is least likely to take us to war. Which sounds pretty good until you look at this day and age and realize ALL the major party candidates for president will lead us to war. Even Bernie Sanders has said that he would continue the drone program and a lot of the same things that have been happening since Bush Jr has been in office. Of course that particular candidate is not really a major party guy and is sort of gaming the system to run as a Democrat to get on ballots for all 50 states and the territories, but even hearing the lefts new guy say he would do even a fraction of the same war games makes me sick. You and I, being from a somewhat left leaning state, living in a somewhat progressive town are privileged enough where we don't have to vote for the lessor of evils a lot of the time. If Clinton becomes the person with the D next to her name and say someone like Ted Cruz becomes the guy with R next to his name on the ballot I know I can vote for say the Green Party's candidate for president and there's no way in this current system we have now and the district we live in Cruz would win. We can vote our conscience and not worry about it but I really do feel for the people who live places where there really is only kind of two choices and they both are far from ideal. That seems like a fucked up system to me.
Q: WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPIEST? WHAT MAKES YOU MOST UNHAPPY? ARE YOU AT PEACE WITH THE BALANCE OF BOTH IN YOUR LIFE?
A: Art makes me happy. All kinds, in all ways. Even if it's something I don't personally enjoy, just the fact that someone created something, anything at all, makes me happy. Like I said before, I think it's the thing that makes humans most human. Expression of emotion is vital to me. Hell, expression of anything, emotionally or not, is vital. Family lately has been a thing that has also brought me great joy. Maybe because I'm getting older now, but I have had a lot of crazy things happen with my family the past year or two and it's really made me appreciate my little immediate family. They are really intelligent and caring and emotional people and I'm very happy that I share DNA with them.
A lot of things make me unhappy. I guess what makes me the most unhappy is the confines and constructs people put on each other. Seeing people forcing an idea of how one person thinks life should be unto another makes me sad.
I couldn't tell you if I'm satisfied with the balance of good and bad in my life. Life goes up and down and there is no controlling that to a major extent. Of course things can feel really heavy at times and it can be hard to remember the things that make you happy and that you will most likely have those things again. It's hard to see light in the darkness or whatever the saying it. I always remember something Joseph Campbell said. I think he was paraphrasing the Buddha: “suddenly you’re ripped into being alive. And life is pain, and life is suffering, and life is horror, but my god you’re alive and it's spectacular.”