Thursday, May 03, 2007
I was very excited when it was announced that Harlot's sophomore record 'This Is The Second Death,' was coming out in the summer last year. So much so I hatched a grandiose plan to have their interview as the lead one for my then (pipedream) webzine. Well why let a good interview go to waste, and seeing as I have finally got this shit going, I thought I'd share this lengthy but really interesting interview with mainmain Jeff (drum god).
1) Firstly, would you please give some background on how Harlots came into being and what the goal was to do with this musical endeavor?
The initial ideas and songs for Harlots started coming together in December of 2002. Once Eric Dunn had joined the band as a guitar player in early 2003, that’s when the band really started to coming together. The goal was and is still to play music that satisfies us. We want to play music that is going to continue to make us better musicians, and also something we'd like to listen to. We keep topping ourselves because we are always pushing ourselves to be better musicians and write better songs.
2) It seems to me that Harlots is quite a demanding project, is this why you’ve had so many people come in and then leave the band?
Harlots is a demanding project, but it's what I love to do so I don't look at it like that. Eric and I have stuck with this band for almost 4 years, and we've had to replace vocalist after vocalist and bass player after bass player until we came upon Christian Fillippo about 2 years ago, and Josh Dillon just joined in December. This is probably the most solid the lineup has ever been.
About the ex members of this band, I'm not going to hold back. Most of them are still my friends, most of them just weren't serious about playing in a band. They thought it was something cool to do and didn't realize that you actually have to work for this(or just didn't feel like working), and that’s how it is for almost every other band that is trying to make a living playing. There are however other reasons members have to leave. Our bass player before Josh, Kenny Jones, toured with us in the summer of 2004 as a second guitarist, then toured with us in the summer of 2005 as a bassist. Kenny was 15 when he joined our band.
We knew that we were going to have to tour a lot more than Kenny would be able to due to him being in high school, so we got Josh. Josh plays guitar in Mugger, which Kenny plays drums for, so we're all still great friends. Another example would be Ben S. Jacob, who joined as a bass player the same time Christian joined to sing. Ben is a musical genius in his own regard, and a great guy and really worked for this band. After so long, we had some musical disagreements that we thought were getting in the way of finishing "This is the Second Death".
Ben is still a good friend of ours and now plays in a band called Basilica. On the other hand, our original bassist Joel Wright, and our vocalist before Christian, Alex McIntosh, both quit the band a week before "The Woman You Saw.." came out, and really fucked up touring for us. Both of those kids were my best friends growing up. We were really, really lucky that Christian and Ben were willing to drop almost everything and join our band. We had literally practiced with them once before they played their first show with us.
3) You have just released a new album, are you pleased with the outcome, certainly to my ears there is a marked quality in the sound, whereas your debut sounded more muffled (although this didnt detract from the power of the record) this time around you sound fuller and therefore more powerful, how do you feel this affected the songs?
Well "This is the Second Death" was recorded almost the exact same way as "The Woman You Saw...", the only difference would be that Steve Austin of Today is the Day mastered it. Eric has mixed both of our records, and mastered "The Woman You Saw...". "The Woman You Saw..." is the first record that Eric ever mixed, and we were both 17 when we started recording that record. It's really funny how that turned into a full length. Eric calls me up one day like "Hey my friend Nick can do alright recordings, we should do a demo with him". So we go and record, and in the meantime we're having a ton of lineup problems. About a month or 2 later Eric calls me up saying "Hey come over I got this demo to sound pretty good, come and check it out." We were having quite a bit of vocalist problems on that record, so me being the drummer, wrote all the lyrics and recorded vocals on it with the intentions of having somebody else redo the vocals, and everyone just kept flaking. "This is the Second Death" was recorded by the same dude, Nick Brough, and Eric mixed it. Whats really funny is that the guitar and drum tracks for "This is the Second Death" were recorded a week before "The Woman You Saw.." came out.
But to answer your question, I think "This is the Second Death" is a lot more focused than "The Woman You Saw...". Eric and I were both still really young during the writing process for both records. You can only be so focused when your 17 and 18. Now we're both 20, and we're still babies compared to all the dudes we're playing shows with, but we are definitely a lot more mature players. I am 100% happy with both records and I love the way Will Goodyears artwork compliments the sound.
4) Are you relived that This Is The Second Death, is finally out now? What hindered its release?
YES! A lot of things hindered it's release. First things first, when we first recorded it, Christian and Ben Jacob has just joined the band. So it took some time for Christian to write lyrics and get his voice up to par. This is the first band that Christian had ever sang for. I had mentioned a musical disagreement with us and Ben. Well what that boils down to is his bass tracks didn't fit the music the way that we thought they should. He has a very different way of approaching music from Eric and I. By that time I had joined Today is the Day, and while I was up there I asked Steve to master the record. It worked out really well because I got to sit next to Steve while he was mastering it, and he cut us a pretty good deal.
Now, the real problems were with Lovelost Records. When we had first agreed to do this record with them, everything seemed cool. We saw the success with his former bands Black Dahlia Murder, Into the Moat, and Through the Eyes of the Dead. He paid for the mastering and the artwork. Gave us a release date for November of 2005. So it ended up not meeting that release date. We were touring a lot then, in support of a record we didn't fucking have! Lovelost would promise us CD's each time we went on tour, then we wouldn't have them. There was one instance where he said "the CD's went to press today" which was the first day on our tour. So then I would try to call him to get updates, and no answer, no calls back.
Then he says "the pressing plant shut down in the middle of pressing the record and I can't get my money back" and says that his phone was shut off. So then we worked it out with our previous label Feeling Faint, that they would co release the record. Lovelost would pay for the pressing and it would get distribution through Lumberjack(Lovelost is exclusive through Lumberjack), and Feeling Faint would take care of getting it pressed and take care of all promotion, so basically all Kevin had to do was 30 minutes of work and sit on his ass and let the record come out. Well, after a month of waiting we said fuck it and went with Corrosive. The whole time, what it was is that Kevin was in Police Academy and didn't have time to run a label. We never signed a contract with Lovelost, and now he is asking us to pay him back for the artwork and mastering.
I'm probably going to get in some shit for saying all that about Lovelost. Haha.
5) Did you encounter great label interest when searching for a new deal and how does your new label Corrosive compare with those youve worked with before?
We had talked to Metal Blade, Prosthetic, Lifeforce, Translation Loss, Tribunal and Codebreaker. Corrosive Recordings just seemed like the best option. Eric at Corrosive was just like "I really want to work with you guys," right away, where everyone else was kinda iffy. That was the same deal with Feeling Faint, and Lovelost. They wanted to work with us and showed us that they wanted to. I believe that the label being as passionate about your music as you are is a really important thing. As far as comparing Corrosive with Lovelost, thats obvious. Comparing Corrosive with Feeling Faint... I think Corrosive is run more professionally, and I don\'t mean to talk shit on Feeling Faint, we are still great friends with them.
Eric from Corrosive just has a really really strong backround in music, having worked at radio stations, recording studios, worked for Hydrahead, roadied for The Red Chord and Unearth, and now working at Lumberjack Distrobution and the company that presses his CD\'s. With Feeling Faint, Andrew and Frankie have both roadied for us, Andrew was actually still in high school when we signed with them, he would skip class and talk to me on the phone.\n We were Feeling Faint\'s first release. I feel bad for Feeling Faint, because we are still the only band that has toured for a release on their label which has made it hard for them financially. I definately do see Feeling Faint turning into a really good label, especially with the Sleep Terror disc coming out. Corrosive has a had a decent amount of luck with how much The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza tour. Touring is 100% essential for bands like us. Oh and by the way, Eric from Corrosive lives about an hour North of me, so if I ever need to go up and kick his ass it won't be to terribly difficult, haha!
6) Who writes for Harlots and what is the process like when you are composing your music?
Eric and I write all of the music. We write songs in all kinds of different ways. Some newer material was written on drums before guitar was put to it. Some was written by Eric, Josh, and myself jamming. A lot of the more ambient stuff Eric did completely on his own. Typically, Eric and I write most of it together. There have been other pieces of music that I wrote on guitar, and the really early stuff was written by me and Joel.
Lyrically, Christian writes most of it on his own, but I still help out where I can.
7) Aside from the chaotic assault of your more aggressive material, there are the more introspective pieces throughout your 2 records. Do you plan to integrate with greater prominence the two sides to your sound in the future?
Definately man! It definately has changed from what it used to be like, you'll have to wait and see.
8) Leading on from the previous question, Id like to talk about your influences (musically). I dont remember where I read it (so correct me if Im wrong here) but a piece described you being as influenced as much as by Sigur Ros and Don Caballero as you are Cryptopsy and Discordance Axis, would you say that these are accurate? Personally, I feel that in your more introspective moments, they are dreamier and more akin to Mono, Godspeed You Black Emperor and Mogwai then Don Caballero.
Don Caballero's drumming was a huge influence on my drumming. I'm not really that familiar with Mono, and I definately used to be a fan of Godspeed You Black Emperor. To be honest, I think that a lot of that type of music is just too slow for my tastes. I play with a lot of energy, and I like music with a lot of energy. I know Eric is a fan of Mono. His band Kenoma, who just released a split cd with Mouth of the Architect, is right up that alley. Kenoma is an outlet for Eric to play like that because I'm not really into playing like that anymore. Like in the previous question, our lighter side has changed quite a bit. It's a lot more upbeat. I don't really know how to describe it, but I'm 150% more into what we're doing now.
A lot of those influences were mentioned when we were a younger band. I think now we influence each other\n to play the way we play. I write something on drums, so it pushes Eric to play up to par with what I have on drums. Eric writes something on guitar, it pushes me to play up to par with his riffs. We definately influence ourselves within the band more than any outside influences now, which I think is essential to having your own sound. Eric and I have inspired each other lot on guitar too(I played guitar before I ever touched a drumset). Earlier on, a lot of the ideas were spawned from guitar riffs I had, the tuning we used was something that I was fooling around with, etc. Eric is a much more natural guitar player than I am, and he took what I was doing on guitar and made it way better, so that definately influences me to try to keep up with him on guitar. I think it works the same way with Josh. Josh and Eric have been friends for a really long time. About everything Josh knows on guitar, he learned from Eric. So when Josh joined the band, there was no real down time.\n Thats the same way it was when Kenny was in the band too. Those two kids picked up our songs like it was nothing, when we have tried out other musicians who it takes a fucking month to get one song down.
9) Seeing as your music is quite abstract, what reactions do you gain when playing live? Do kids dance or stand swaying with their jaws rooted to the floor?
It differs every night. I love seeing kids tear shit up to us. We play with a lot of energy and I like to see that reaction out of kids. Some nights everyone will just stare at us, and I get done playing and thinking "man those kids hated us", then they come and talk to us and tell us we\'re the best thing they\'ve ever seen. And some nights, kids fucking hate us. Its really hard to say. We\'ll play with all pop punk bands and do really well, and then we\'ll do it again and do horrible. We\'ll play with all hardcore bands that sound like Sick of it All or something, and do horrible, and then other nights\n the crowd will love us. We\'ll play with all Christian bands and kids will absolutely hate us, we\'ve even been banned from Christian venues, and what blows my mind is that we have so many fucking bible references, but then those kids will eat up a band like Remembering Never, who is blatantly against God. Kids are fucking weird.
I think what it boils down to is that we're a band that plays music, and we definately try to push as many limits as we can with what we have. Kids that are there for music will love us, and granted sometimes it's a little too much for kids at first, but they still will respect us. Kids that are there for scene politics alot of times don't like us because we are there to play music for everyone, and we don't try to appeal to one small group. Which is what I thought hardcore was about anyways, oh well.
10) Do you think Harlots could have manifested 10 years ago or do you think that now the music climate is more geared too bands like yourselves that are overtly willing to push boundaries?
I think the music climate has always been open to bands who push boundaries. I think if this were 10 years ago, we would probably sound a little different, but look at bands like Today is the Day, Human Remains, Don Caballero, Sick of it All, Slayer, fucking Metallica, Death, Cynic, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Van Halen, etc. Everyone of those bands pushed the boundaries for what you could do musically and what would be accepted. They took chances that a lot of other musicians wouldn't take and now they are all legendary in their own right because of that.
11) Finally, what are your future plans for Harlots?
Touring, touring, touring, finishing up a new record for Corrosive, and touring. Look for us on the road in the U.S. with Veil of Maya, and Lye By Mistake later this year. Thank you for the interview.
Harlots are a great band. They are working on a new full length which should be out this year, if you havent heard them, then rectify that now - www.myspace.com/harlots.
If you want music, then those stores carry their cds,