“Blackened Punk”. Good blackened punk, informed by raw Japanese punk and hardcore. It is precious. Rare, mysteriously and thankfully not commonly attempted. And I like it that way. It just hits me in the right spot, but notable bands of the genre don’t spring up often. I found Devil Master on Youtube (ha) as a suggestion on the good ole side bar following the release of their first demo and became instantly obsessed. I tried to do some research on the group and couldn’t figure out anything about ’em for a couple years, aside from hailing from Philadelphia. I assumed that all mystery surrounding the project was intentional. Maybe it is just one guy in his bedroom, I hypothesized.
News of “Satan Spits on Children of Light” on Relapse Records broke and their veil was lifted. It turns out they are refreshingly unpretentious crew of six, not one dude in his bedroom taking himself too seriously. I had the pleasure of speaking with Devil Master the night of their record release show in their hometown of Philly. We piled into their borrowed tour van to have a little convo and I even had the audacity to bring up “Lord of Chaos”.
Hades Apparition – rhythm guitar HA
Darkest Prince – lead guitar DP
Disembody – vocals DY
Del – drums – DL
Spirit Mirror – bass SM
Dodder – keyboards DD
Upon the bands request, a small portion of the interview has been redacted because of some sensitive material and names mentioned. This makes the interview read as though it seemingly starts out of nowhere, but I didn’t want to edit out more than was necessary just to maintain a natural interview arc. I am sure you can deal.
JANE PAIN: What is it like being a punk band that is classified as a Black Metal band. Are there any political implications to this? Have you gotten any push back from people?
HA: All of us come from a traditional punk culture, essentially, and that is where our politics lay. It gives me excitement when people like that [sic: sketchy people] don’t like us, that is exactly what I am trying to do. I want that type of person to reject what we are doing. It empowers me even more when I see some sketchy NSBM guy upset by what we are doing.
DP: Black metal thinks it owns Satanism and Satanism is staunchly anti-conservatism. Satanism is about progress and rebellion. The sketchy connotations of black metal are a confused, stupid thing that I despise. People who rep that are idiots.
I am not saying that anything that you guys do isn’t deliberate and thoughtful, or could be so easily mistaken as sketchy but it could be, which is kinda where I am going with this. I like that you guys basically do what you want, and it doesn’t fit into people’s ideas of what black metal is and you’re just like, ‘you’re right’. But there is that risk of being accidentally lumped in with something that sucks.
All of that could potentially get weirder as you guys reach larger audiences who don’t know you guys personally or know much about what you stand for and tour through parts of the country where there is a heavier NSBM scene and overt racism is more prevalent. It is so easy to forget how different things are in New York City or Philly versus Kentucky until you are there and like… FUCK.
DD: As someone who gets starred at when I go down South because I really look Jewish… That stuff doesn’t bother me, and I don’t care. We’re stronger than them, always. Those people live in a cave…
DP: As someone who sort of identifies as Pagan too, I just think it’s unfortunate that there are these misconceptions and connotations but at the end of the day you just got to make your life easy. Whether or not you want to deal with the consequences, or how you feel about it. It’s unfortunate that you were not aware…
It was so disappointing and weird to find out that a lot of noise and black metal that I loved musically was fucked up or racist. It is weird trying to figure out where you draw your own line exploring certain themes or imagery even when it is the artists intention to sort of highlight how fucked up it is. I am not making an argument defending offensive or bigoted ideas or imagery at all. Just fucked up to be interested in “dark things” and wonder where you draw the line for yourself. Like, should I stop watching serial killer documentaries? What is okay and what isn’t, for me, personally. It is just weird that there is actually evil (in a bad way) shit and then there is cool shit that is interested in the actual evil shit. It can be weird to navigate at times. And certain ascetics etc are going to elicit certain reactions from people, even if they are mistaken about ones intentions.
DY: We were in a bar last week and the bartender was playing [sic] an NSBM band.
DP: I grew up in Ireland, and there is the same situation with loyalists. It’s fucking bullshit there, fuck those people.
It is really weird because the political landscape now is so scary. The notion of conservative nationalism isn’t that abstract to Americans anymore. It is right out in the mainstream, in politics, explicitly. It is not far away seeming, anymore. But I am wondering how far will people go? How many people will cling to totally Ludacris hateful ideology and actually be able to do something about it? Things keep getting worse and worse and I take shit more and more seriously.
DP-It’s not funny to wear a Burzum hoodie anymore…
This is true. Moving away from the sketchy… I first kind of got my first noise and metal records per recommendations at Hospital Productions when it was still a storefront, and because of that the label holds a particular importance to me. Before that everything that I liked was shaped by going into Double Decker in Allentown. These places are like sacred to me and I wonder how different my tastes would be if the people behind the counter were dismissive of me or even if they themselves just liked different stuff.
Relapse was another big store for me for a little while. When I was 19 I worked at a pastry shop on the corner and would nervously go browse at Relapse and occasionally buy a black metal CD on my break sometimes. Increasingly we are losing these brick and mortar stores in general, but especially record stores and book stores and these places are so important. We are losing the opportunity to connect with people in our development of our musical taste. Everything being always available makes things like finding a new band that you love feel much less special or exciting.
How does it feel to have lost Relapse as a physical store, but still carrying on its legacy by putting out your record with them. Is it significant?
HA: Relapse was a huge hub for all of us growing up. Even just the music that they were playing at the store… I remember walking in and hearing Bathory for the first time in my life, and Electric Wizard. I wasn’t going to find that stuff on the radio or even metal magazines at that point. Hearing it was huge. Going in there and looking at records, holding the physical entity. Learning about music in person is huge. Going to shows even when you don’t know the band. You become part of the community. I think it is really important to go to shows. The internet is phenomenal, and I do not take it for granted, I have definitely learned about a lot of stuff through it, but I think it is important to have a physical and social aspect to learning about stuff, in general.
DP- Relapse was where I got my first Bathory CD when I was 14.
HA- That is why we made our album art to look the way that it does. The idea of flicking through records in person. We wanted to make something that stood out. We grew up blind buying records. I mean, I still do that. Aesthetic is so important.
DP: How our art worked out is a very surreal story too that we could not be happier with… I found Erica’s art featured for a certain apocalyptic, militant Satanist cult online and became obsessed only to find on further investigation she had done art for Philly metal and punk bands. Her and her husband moved back to Philly briefly around then and we all agreed she would be perfect, being the most intense occultist I’ve ever met, but also just an amazing artist who could grasp our vibe immediately.
It’s been weird how as time goes on; I seem to know less and less people at shows even when I am really actively going to shows. I feel like a fucking old person talking about the “back in my day” kind of stuff but… I don’t think it is as common for people to just show up at the same venue every weekend no matter who is playing, and that was kinda just what me and my friends did when I was a teenager and in my early 20’s. People are a little too cool and too informed to that now, I think.
It used to be pretty much the same people at a venue every week. Even when someone wasn’t your friend, there was a kind of cast of characters and a feeling of camaraderie. Sometimes depending on who was playing, there would be more people there. If you didn’t show up people would actually notice.
I think this goes hand in hand with the disappearance of record stores and underground venues that harbored community. There is a shift in what we value. It is more important to have totally perfect curated tastes and a matching look and the best instagram stories than to actually be a part of something. But while there is less community on one hand there is a much more expansive one on the other. No one is really alone anymore. And that is cool, especially for marginalized people. But it is harder to make connections in person now a days, I think.
DY: People now can know about everything, so they can pick and choose.
HA: Years ago, in Philly, you would see the same people at everything. It was cool because there was no division between punk and metal most of the time. Everyone went to everything. That has drawn a huge influence on us as a band. We do not pander to a specific crowd; we like the idea of having people from all different places and scenes dig our stuff. We have had people come up to us after shows and in a semi-joking manner saying that goths love our music and stuff like that. Typically, goths don’t touch metal music.
There is also something very special about Philly, at least when I lived here. There was a lot of fluidity in music scenes, a lot of queer people chilling at punk shows, a lot more house shows and general freakiness. NYC sorta broke down the barrier between punk and noise a little bit but other cities are seemingly much more divided by genre. I found LA to be especially stratified, when I was living there.
HA: Since we haven’t done a lot of West Coast stuff but just in the considering of going out there, we feel like we have to plan for that sort of stuff. We would have to do a punk show and a metal show separately.
DP:Well Black Twilight Circle are important to mention because they do bandage things between punk and metal. But they are the only ones on the West Coast who I have noticed doing that.
DY: They are the coolest circle ever.
DP: That doesn’t exist anywhere else.
DY: Before the other day (‘Sabbat’s Lair’) we mostly just played metal shows in NYC. Saint Vitus.
SM: We played Gateway…
DY: That’s true. We played with Christian Death at Brooklyn Bazar, which was really weird.
TELL ME MORE.
DY: Well Christian Death set up their drums in the middle of the stage and would not move them, so everyone had to set up a separate set of drums and set up next to them. And they didn’t talk to us the whole night.
SM: It was almost like there was this whole sick show and then they played. I mean, it was 2018.
I am pretty much done with reunion tours and stuff like that, it’s always disappointing and weird, at least for the most part.
DP: Well they never stopped playing. It’s been going for forever.
DD: I’m bummed that Youth Of Today is playing tonight in NYC… One of the only good reunion bands that I have ever seen.
DD: Them and Cocksparrer.
Yeah Cocksparrer were tight. So were the Buzzcocks.
Well this kind of goes back to the whole Relapse thing and your decision to sign with them. Being on a bigger metal label can afford you certain opportunities that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Weird, big bills. Doing stuff like for Red Bull Music Academy or having a song on a TV show or something [ they start laughing at me]. I am dead ass, these things happen. Are you guys just down for the ride to see what you can do as a band or is there a limit or certain things that you know you do not want to do?
HA: We turned down a label before Relapse approached us because of certain sketchy things that they have done, so when Relapse approached us as a Philadelphia label… It was bewildering… but we did pick up on the fact that we were all down for the ride. We have already turned down certain opportunities. We are not doing everything that is thrown at us, but we are taking full advantage and pride in what we do.
DY: I feel like most things we have been offered mesh with the general thing we got going on and that is fortunate because I think that some of those opportunities may not have come up without the connection that Relapse has.
SM: On the other side they told us that they have bands that never play live or tour. They told us that we could take it as far as we wanted and push it or just not. They are flexible.
DP: They were genuinely interested in our band because of their interest in Japanese hardcore. Also, I play live bass with Integrity so I knew that we could trust them as a label, even though Integrity all joke that we are crust punks who would rather starve… Thankfully that connection helped us be more confident in our decision.
I was wondering how that Integrity/ Devil Master show came about when I saw you guys post about it.
DP: Integrity always considered me a punk. Relapse hit them up asking about Devil Master, much to their astonishment, joking that we are like crusties who wouldn’t want to do a record with a bar code (laugh).
DY: Also, despite what some people claim, we did not get picked up because of Integrity though we are grateful for everything theyve done for us.
I was going to ask if you guys ever played a show that was so off and bunk and insane that you felt like you should not have agreed to do it but we sorta touched on that, I guess…
DP: We were going to turn down a fest because of a venue’s sound guy and such a horrible experience that we had with them, but we found out the fest is elsewhere so that changes things…
DY: So, the answer to this question, for publishing purposes, yes.
SM: Not a lot of nightmares.
I feel like the new record is really musically diverse.
DY: It is funny you should say that because so many people make comments like ‘no variety’.
HA: A lot of comments saying that, and even reviews saying that the music isn’t that diverse but it’s great.
Well, I could see a bunch of stuff going on and some strong influences. I was wondering if you guys conjure music from unexpected resources, musically or not. I know from reading about you guys that some of you practice Satanism, for instance.
DD: Bolivian folk music.
HA: Aesthetically and musically, we are all big horror movie fans.
DP: We all have our own weird niche shit. Spirituality and things that we cannot put into words but help us communicate without saying things to each other.
SM: When we are playing live, we sometimes have nights where we feel like we all meet up.
DY: We can meet on this weird astral plane.
DP: When we started this, it was a collective effort and we sort of gave birth to an almost elemental spirit. When we keep the band going, we are feeding into it. We don’t even have to think about it anymore. It’s all natural. We have our obvious influences we just have our own sound now that we are just rolling with unconsciously.
I HAVE to ask… Have you guys seen the Lord of Chaos movie.
DP: I watched It the night before tour and I expected to hate it, but it gave me a different perspective on everything.
DY: I hope it is better than I think it is going to be.
DP: It’s pretty cheesy… as hell… but interesting. And we got paraphrased by revolver in saying that I only listen to Mayhem and Lords of Chaos. Wrong time to rep that, when it’s so cheesy. Obviously Norwegian Black Metal is an influence on all of us.
DY: I have listened to Deathcrush a million times but I am not going to brag about that.
I watched it the other day. I have watched the documentary and have read the book but that was a while ago and I think I… sort of bought into their desired mythology a bit more. Watching the movie- and at least the way that they shaded everything- I sort realized how much of everything that went on were a bunch of young ass dudes in a pissing contest and the root of a lot of the things that they did was simply to get attention, like flat out. They were all trying to outdo each other and get publicity. I was sitting there like, wow, would any of these churches have been set on fire if Instagram existed when this happened?
DP: Euronymous may have just been in actual shock after he found Dead and have have been egging the stuff on. A simple psychological explanation I never thought of. You think of these people as mythic people with no human emotion.
DY: But I am pretty sure that we, along with the movie Lords Of Chaos, will be tarred as having put the final nail in the coffin of Black Metal.
I got so genuinely middle school me mad when I first saw the trailer. I was in the theatre and just like literally felt my face get hot and my heart race. When I finally watched it, I was like girl, who the fuck cares.
DP: That’s how I felt when I first heard about it.
DY: Me too.
DP: 20-year-old me would have been like… Oh my fucking god…
I have a funny memory of when that horrible Germs biopic came out. The dude who played Darby Crash was going to be at a viewing so me and a buncha West Philly punks got PISSED drunk and went to the screening with the sole purpose of heckling him because we were so incensed. We went just to hate on that guy and were screaming at him. Why were we so mad? Pretty funny though. Also pretty fun.
I guess I will end by giving Arthur a shout out for his incredible work on recording the record. My old high school buddy. We became friends in science class because he wore an Iron Maiden shirt. Now he is an utter legend.
HA: There is a universal love for that guy. Anyone who you meet will have nothing but nice things to say about him. He is fantastic. His production is awesome. The direction he helped us take with it. The sound. It was everything we could have dreamed of.
DD: He’s the king.
DP: We were scheduled to record with him before we were approached by relapse. But everything just came so naturally.
Thank you to Darkest Prince, for his help getting everyone properly identified after the interview transcription.
My new band Safe Word released our first self titled EP. Written in the summer of 2018 in Los Angeles. Simple, raw and wrong. Drums, bass and me on vocals.
I was first introduced to Boyharsher through my best friend and bandmate Ciarra Black. She was putting together an impeccable comp for her new label No-Tech. When she told me she had stumbled across this band called Boy Harsher and thought they would be my new favorite band, I took serious heed. The girl knows me pretty well and she was damn straight. At this point, there need not be much on an introduction of the duo to most fans of dark minimal electronic music. The pair have sold out releases and shows around the world and were on the road supporting Soft Moon when I had a chance to sit down with them in an undisclosed location in Highland Park, Los Angeles .
I’ve fallen for the bands sinister sincerity. There is almost a sense that you are listening to something that you shouldn’t be, like this couple hailing from Northampton, Massachusetts never really intended for their music to fall on the publics ears. Their songs have a sense of urgent intimacy, like a kiss that is too hard. Their albums help me harness an adolescent desire to dance alone behind a closed door. My admiration for Boy Harsher was certainly cemented when I first had a chance to catch the band live at the Silent Barn. I was shooting a DIY fashion week event and they were providing the tunes. I had a chance to sit in the backyard with Jae and smoke ten thousand cigarettes and speak as though I had known her forever.
Our conversation came with ease and I decided to press play on my recorder right in the middle, the interview had begun by accident. We were talking about the weather and got on the topic of a band overseas co-opting their album artwork as their own. Once we got going it felt like I was the one being interviewed at times and we treaded some dangerous territory.
I experience this a lot with people repurposing my photos without asking. Sometimes it is chill if it is one of my friends or for a flyer or something but, how does it feel to have something taken from you that is so personal?
Jae: You’re already putting it out there, so you are already
stripping some of the intimacy out of it. Sometimes I feel super
guilty, because I did a lot of these videos without the intention of
putting them out there in the world as publicly as they are now. The
video that the album artwork [Your Body is Nothing] is from started as
a really small experimental project with my friend Adelin. I was like
‘can you just dance in this warehouse and let me film you?’
Gus: Album art is like an icon. We didn’t ask ‘do you want to become an icon?’.
Jae: Her image now represents something that is different than the
initial intention. She’s cool, a relaxed person, I know that she is
okay with it. But, there still is a weird guilt complex.
But is could tread some strange territory if it was a different person, or a different circumstance.
Gus: Do you feel that way about photography? Do you ever take a picture of a person and then the image becomes very popular and it gets used for something else?
Gus: Your art is also their body, or their image?
Yeah. The problem with being a photographer is that I try to think of every photo as a collaboration. Not so much at the moment, because my life is changing so much, but a lot of my photos are of people partying and wasted and taken at an intimate time and I was just their friend taking a photo, which people are so accustomed to now-a-days. When certain photos are repurposed I try to check in with people. Some friends have asked me to take photos down for different reasons. I most recently really wanted to make a tee shirt of a photo that I took a number of years ago of a couple that have long since broken up. I reached out to both of them to see if they were cool with it, and one of them was’t. I was super stoked on the tee shirt, people had asked me to put the photo on a tee shirt and I have mocked everything up and contacted a screen printer … I was disappointed and the image is out there in the world, but it was never intended to be used for a tee shirt when I asked the couple to pose. That changes a lot. I totally understood.
It’s weird being a photographer… There are cultures who think that a photo steals part of your soul, and I agree, but not always in a negative sense. I think photography is vampiric. Sometimes I also feel a little predatory.
Even when I see someone who I think looks cool on the street and I ask to take their picture and they consent… The person isn’t completely aware of why I took the photo or who I am or what my deal is. Sometimes it is something simple like really liking someones outfit. , or they look interesting or whatever. But once is a while I feel like my intentions are a bit twisted.
Jae: Like exploitative?
Exactly, and I don’t want to put those pictures out in the world. I am still compelled to take some photos that are like that, but I won’t post them or anything.
Jae: Do you know the black and white photographer “Weegee” [Arthur Fellig]? His whole thing was that he was a crime scene photographer…
Yeah! I watched a good documentary about him!
Jae: The way that he related to photography changed… He was
documenting really horrific, gory things and then he started taking
pictures of nightlife. He brought the same attitude from his crime
scene photos to his nightlife photos. Very straight forward, certainly
exploitative. The subject was not presented in a necessarily
I’ve defiantly gotten myself into some weird situations because I revel in being at the right place at the right time. I once found myself at a satanic ritual orgy… just so I could take some pictures of the experience just because I was invited.
Once I got there I felt bad because I just went to take pictures, which they consented to, but I thought I should at least take off my clothes. Anyway, it ended up being a very strange experience and I’ve never shown those pictures to anyone. I regretted it so badly afterwards for a bunch of reasons but the whole thing could have been avoided if I didn’t end up where I didn’t belong just to take some pictures. Just because I was at some noise show and there was a naked couple there and they invited me back to play at their apartment and I had my camera and they didn’t mind if I took their picture.
Next thing you know…
Jae: Wait… so they were naked at the noise show?
Yeah… It was a Crank Sturgeon show.
Jae: Wowa, where?
At this warehouse show in Brooklyn. So yeah. I was at the show and there was a naked woman who was restrained to the ceiling…
Gus: Were they part of the set?
Nope. Just people who were there and enjoying being naked and performing sexual acts in public and trying to recruit people to come back to their apartment. I initially approached the couple and asked if I could take a picture, and they were really into it. As the night progressed they had convinced a bunch of people back to their place. They mentioned that there would be an orgy, I could take my camera and that they had many bottles of liquor.
I was at the show with my friend Miles, who is a filmmaker and also intrigued by being in the wrong place at the right time and we went together with his girlfriend at the time to check it out… But I do remember that moment where I was completely naked and made eye contact with him, fully clothed and in horror… we were both wondering what the fuck was happening.
Gus: Did you get some good photos?
I got some really good photos.
Gus: I’m surprised I have never seen these photos.
They are in the vault for a lot of reasons. Aside from what we were talking about, that night ended up harboring some really terrible associations for me as well. The whole thing has such bad juju. Anyway, so aside from Boyharsher, do you guys have any other projects going on?
Gus: We made a couple of music videos this year. And Jae writes.
Jae: I used to write more. I used to work on really horrible indie
films. It is a lot more fulfilling to do this, even if it is really
challenging and sometimes feel like a total imposter. On films there
is a loaded sense of ego, everyone feels like they deserve to be
there… Whereas creative pursuits, like music, you have to be your own
cheerleader and make yourself believe that you deserve to be there.
I do miss working on films, but I want to work on my own films. Write
my own film and have it go into production. That would be the
Sooooo then you would move to LA right?
Jae: We always talk about moving to LA.
Gus: One reason to do that would be because of film, and to expand our
creative side. One of the things about music is that you get to be so
introverted and you can really do that wherever, but we are really
interested in exploring what else Boy Harsher could do or could offer.
Jae: Gus is kind of beating around the bush but Gus really wants to score, which I think would be perfect.
Would you want to compose your own videos or score for other directors and artists?
Gus: I’ve always been interested in standard composing for film but I
would be really interested in multimedia things too.
Jae: Installations would be amazing. To work with someone doing large scale installation pieces who is interested in adding a sonic element.
I wanted to just touch a bit more on your writing and lyric writing. In electronic music, lyrics and vocals tend to be less important and more about the way that words fit into a song more than what the song is saying. How do you approach your lyrics? Are they an extension of your prose or do you find them to be less personal?
Jae: When we first started I was trying to take prose that I had
written and cram it into an ambient structure. At the time, Boy
Harsher was mostly ambient. After you perform a bunch of times you
learn more about the vocal performance. Lyrics became more reliant on
delivery than on content. There are some songs that are a little more
heady than others. But, I think most of my songs are a study in
repetition, how I can perform a word more than the meaning of the
Are there any songs that are particularly intimate or closer to your prose?
Jae: Many songs that we don’t play live. Our live set is a very
dedicated – cultivated energy. Certain songs I remember writing and
then feeling so struck by them. There is a song called “A Realness”
that was written at a point where I didn’t know if we were going to
stay together, we were struggling to make this work. When I hear the
song that uncertainly, that feeling, it comes back.
And then there are some songs that are not that dedicated in terms of
Gus: We don’t have to expose those though.
Jae: The first couple of albums came out of a certain ‘chaos of us’
and now writing I’m in a more stable, but solemn place. My mother was
just diagnosed with alcoholic dementia. So when I write now, I write
about losing someone who is still alive, it’s tough. I can’t shake it.
Not sure if the songs will fly, just ’cause they are so sad.
But there is a need to get it out to some capacity, you are just
finding out how to do it and not break down every time that you play.
A big thing for the both of us is that we want the music to be
universal. I don’t need the person listening to be going through the
same thing, yet the experience of losing someone is already ubiquitous
it’s a connection. We are at the stage of trying to utilize the
intimacy or these sad things, but project it in a way that is global.
How has playing bigger shows effected your live performance? Has it
been an organic progression, or very difficult?
Jae: It’s tough. I think about the shows that we were doing last year,
like we’ll never top this. These really small zones where I could jump
into the audience, so ready, just a part of it. It felt like the peak
for me, important and relevant. Now we are playing stages and there is
usually a fucking barricade and the stage is huge. Granted, big spaces
sound amazing and have big systems, but for me it’s a challenge to
find that visceral connection with the audience. Our music, I think,
can smack people in the face – which is good, but I also want to be
there. I’m still figuring out how to interact physically with big
spaces. Gus hasn’t changed one bit, I don’t think. He does pretty much
does the same thing he has always done.
It must be so hard to be as intertwined as you guys are, as partners
and bandmates constantly on tour. Other than ‘ I love you’, what is
something that you feel that you don’t express to each other that you
don’t communicate as often as you would like to? Are there sentiments
that get lost?
Gus: We talk about this all of the time. It is definitely voicing
appreciation. When you are with someone all day there are little
things that Jae does that I rely on so much and I don’t say thank you
each time. We are always trying to find ways to communicate that we do
appreciate each other.
Jae: It’s appreciation, for sure. We spend so much time together that
I definitely take it for granted. I’m often manic and neurotic, I
don’t think there are a lot of people who can put up with me for so
many hours of the day. Even sleeping. Basically every hour.
Gus: Really good pitch here for Jae Matthews as a partner.
Jae: Yeah I think it is just voicing appreciation that we need to get better at.
When touring you take people’s strengths for granted. There is always one person who is better at making the business calls or managing navigation or driving. I tend to just float and when you are not saying “thank you” or acknowledging that it is work even if they are good at it. Roles just sort of develop and you begin to assume that someone will do something and become reliant on it. Just because someone is good at something doesn’t mean that it is not stressful. I don’t even drive and don’t even think about it.
Jae: I’m a micromanager, so I do all of that shit. I also can’t drive
as much as I used to be able to. I’ve noticed that Gus is doing all of
the driving and we’re doing a lot of nighttime, driving ahead. After a
show, late, we drive for a couple hours, through the mountains… I
would never be able to do that, so thank you for driving around scary
I get to travel a lot for someone who doesn’t have a driver license. I don’t even know how annoying that must be.
Jae: You’re just sitting in the back eating corn nuts.
Literally. The entire time. The new Cheddar Jalapeño ones are really good.
Jae: We just had the chile limon ones and they were really good.
I’m into them. This is a good time to open up the gummy bears. Speaking of snacks. So, touring. Shit happens. What is the biggest misadventure that you guys have come across on tour? They are usually funny in retrospect, but not at the time.
Jae: We were thinking about this the other day. There have been a lot
of little weird things, but there are enough of them that they lose
Gus: We were driving one time and a manhole cover flew off the road
and hit our car and ended up totaling our engine so we were stuck in
Charleston for days. Three days. We had to get a whole new engine.
Jae: That is more of a sad story though.
What did you guys do in Charleston?
Jae: We stayed on the outskirts. Off the highway. So no gumbo or
whatever. We had to walk down this highway strip to get food. It was
the pits. But an adventure.
I did get food poisoning in London, which is hilarious… We played a
Doc Marten showcase… Cheesy but funny… An early show, super easy, only
30 people could go and it was all done by 10pm. I was stoked, because
we could go and sleep! We weren’t sleeping at all on this tour. So I
eat this salad and go to bed and I am so happy: ate a salad, getting a
full nights sleep, the next day I would explore London and get some
I wake up at 4 AM feeling like there is a monster in me and projectile
vomit. I puked once an hour until noon. There was some pressure not to
cancel the show that night, because it was sold out, people were
looking forward. We get to the club, no one has ever heard of
Gatorade, but I get Powerade and proceed to puke blue into urinals,
because can never make it to a toilet. So I’m puking blue, rip a set
and then puke some more into urinals. That was our latest debacle.
Blue vomit and food poisoning from a salad. Just cruel. I guess it’s
I should start washing my vegetables.
Jae: Lettuce, dude. On this tour we have had a pretty easy tour because we are a support band – we are just riding the wave.
Gus: Nothing horrible has really happened.
Jae: Yeah, you hear of bands getting robbed or things that are scary
and would make you want to give up. Even though I bought my vocal rack
on craigslist for thirty bucks if someone stole it I wouldn’t want to
do this anymore. I wouldn’t be able to manage the feelings.
What physical object besides music gear do you feel the most attached to?
Jae: Do dogs count? I got a dog named Bear and he is my number one. He
is staying with Gus’s Mom but I am super scared that he is going to
get eaten by a bear or get hit by a car. I am just freaked out. But I
am more attached to Bear than anything else.
My Mom has my cat right now and it’s really hard. I know that he is being taken care of, but I can’t wait until I am in a place to have Calvin back. He needs to be a California cat. I have had him my entire adult life. He has been there with me through everything. I knew how much I loved him but I didn’t realize what a source of emotional support he was.
Jae: They are just there for you. They love you.
He is a really special, sensitive, loving and unique kitty.
Jae: When is he going to come out here?
I don’t know. I don’t even know how I would get him out here at this point.
Jae: And you plan to stay out here in LA?
I think for a while. It would be too difficult for me to go back to New York right now. I don’t feel strong enough to face it and additionally my entire sober life was constructed here… The people I have met, the meetings that I go to, my sponsor, the people I’ve called on the phone when I have had a hard time… They are all here in LA. So it is a double whammy. Going back to New York is going to be really, really fucking hard and then I wouldn’t be close to my recovery.
It sucks because I am so incredibly homesick. I miss my friends and family so much. If I had not relapsed, it might be a little different but because I did it’s not going to be the same. Everyone was rooting for me and I think we all thought that it was over. I don’t think anyone was prepared for it not to work. We all had high hopes.
I thought I understood addiction and I thought I had a grasp on what I had to do in recovery but I was only starting to scratch the surface.
Jae: When my Mom relapsed I was so pissed, just ready to abandon her.
I was like ‘fuck you, you clearly don’t care about me’. Talking to a
therapist helped me pump the breaks. To your supporters, you are
really battling a disease right now. With my Mom I internalized that
she was being malicious to me or she didn’t care about me or she was
chasing something else over me. The stakes with her are different,
drinking worsens her dementia. I totally understand what you are
saying and the feelings of knowing that you let someone down.
Mom and I are trying to reconcile. She knows that she let me down, but
I’m also trying to be strong and not trying to be a total bitch. It’s
her struggle and not necessarily mine.
It’s really difficult because I am not in contact with the person who is closest to me. She set a really hard boundary and I totally respect it despite it being so difficult. She was too intertwined in my recovery. She was the person who got me into my first rehab and she was the person who encouraged me to go to sober living and decided where I would go and encouraged me to go to California and stay. When I got on a plane to go to rehab in May I thought I would just be gone for a couple weeks, take care of my alcoholism and go back to New York and just be fixed and sober for the rest of my life and everything would be better. I think we both thought all of the bad stuff was over. She was so invested in my recovery. When I relapsed I felt like I had betrayed her and it took me a while to understand that I betrayed myself. I think we are learning how to ‘detach with love’.
But this recovery is mine. I decided I would go to treatment and where. I worked with music cares because I didn’t have the money. I think she is happy about that, but she needs some time. I hurt her and scared her.
In any case she is pretty much friends with all of my friends and we are not on normal speaking terms. I don’t know who fucks with me anymore, in general. I don’t feel like I could return to New York and go to shows or do anything normally and everything there is extremely loaded and I am not equipped to handle it right now. I am also not sure that a lot of the people that I would want to see would even want to see me right now. Maybe in a year.
Jae: That’s a mature way to handle it. Not to say that you are cured,
but you are accepting this more than a lot of people do, believe me.
My Mom is not on the level. She is just bummed because my feelings got
hurt. She is not bummed because she is an alcoholic and she needs to
get better. A doctor told her that her brain is failing and that she
needs to quit drinking – but it means nothing. It is amazing to hear
that readiness to accept that ‘recovery right now is for me’. It’s
It has to be, and that was an important shift in my perspective. I wanted to stop drinking because I wanted to consequences to stop but there was still a mourning. I wished so badly that drinking was still a tool that I could use to shut myself off. That is how I relapsed. I got to a point where I felt unable to bear life and I just went to my only coping mechanism because I didn’t know what else to reach for when I was that desperate for relief. It is difficult to explain that mindset and feeling to someone who isn’t an alcoholic. It defies all logic. It doesn’t matter how much you love people or what could happen if you drink.
Jae: Even though you know that it will fuck everything up, it is not
like it is part of the equation. But LA is such a cool place to do
this, man. Imagine going to a treatment center in cold ass upstate New
York or something…
The first treatment center I went to was in Michigan between a shooting range and a shit processing plant and was a hospital like environment. People with certain PTSD couldn’t go outside because the sound of the guns would set them off. It was life saving though, and a good program. I don’t think I would be alive if i hadn’t gone when I did.
Right now I live in a recovery house with only two other residents who are both in their sixties. It is cool. Homey, we all do chores and cook for each other and it is sweet. It is a huge lesson in getting sober now though. I protected my drinking for so long and hid so much from people. Right now I am looking the consequences of what I have in store if I continue to do that or relapse. What it looks like and feels like to drink for thirty more years. It’s an eye opener. I want to live a full life!
I was so depressed and anxious for so long and the only thing I could do about it was drink and so my life got so small and meaningless and fucked up and sad but for some reason I felt like I had this obligation to go on even though it would have been more logical to just kill myself.
When we were younger, my sister and I both made a pact to each other that we would never commit suicide. But every time that I drank it was a small death. A weird temporary death and also a trot towards death.
Jae: Suicidal tendencies
Yeah. The way that I drank was life deliberate self harm. Now I have the most stability that I have had in a year and I am starting to feel like if I stay sober that my life can get bigger again. It’s not like my life will get better because I am sober, like I thought that it would. But in order to have the possibility of having a bigger life, a prerequisite is staying sober. But I am a human being and shit happens, I just have to learn how to deal with it.
Jae: I was thinking the same thing with my Mom. I thought that because
she was sober, she was going to be my Mom again. I was putting so much
pressure on her situation. It is fascinating how AA and Al Anon have
the same message for each end of the spectrum. As the loved one of an
addict, you begin to act like an addict. You become obsessed with ‘the
cure’ and how you can control someone, but that’s not how it works.
Many people need distance from me right now. They realize that no matter how much they love me or do for me, they can not cure me. I will never be ‘cured’. I have to learn how to maintain and live with it. I think some people need to wait for me to be in a space that is healthy enough that they feel that it is safe to engage because they have been let down and feel betrayed on such a deep level because they did everything that she could for me. They need to know that talking to me won’t just randomly throw a grenade into their life.
Jae: Thanks for being so open, it’s fascinating to talk to you about this for sure.
I feel like I have to be for a lot of reasons, especially because my recovery was made so public because there was a gofundme to help get me into treatment. The fact that I got sober was really public. I felt sort of obligated to show people that I was doing it the first time. I was posting pictures of my chips and stuff like that. I am open but I am not doing things like that now because I don’t feel the need to prove myself in that way. But I am an open person and maybe the fact that I am so open could help someone one day. I think it helps me, anyway. I feel compelled to be open with my experience because I always have. My life has been so blown open and documented and I have had so many things about me revealed publicly including my bottom. There have been public consequences out of my control, so being open about doing better doesn’t bother me but I don’t feel like it is my position to prove anything or try and manipulate people or their opinions of me in any way.
Jae: People feel like they deserve communication or attention. I love
messages from fans, but I get some communication that is kinda scary.
I don’t know you and don’t know why you are acting like you know me
and deserve a reaction. Did that exist 40 years ago when people were
starting up a teeny little band? Probably not.
Gus: Teeny band…
Jae: We are teeny! Imagine what Rhianna has to deal with. It’s so
uncomfortable. I would say that generally our fans are very cool
people and I aways take joy in meeting / talking. Most are chill,
inquisitive and if I lived in that city I imagine that we could be
friends. Then there are weird outliers who do everything they can to
make me feel shaken.
It is so rude when people touch your gear, or heckle and don’t think that it’s a problem. It’s not that I ‘can’t take it’. They want to be part of the show and be noticed. I hate it when people are mad you didn’t play long enough or play the set that they wanted to see.
Jae: In Poland we had people physically pushing us back on stage
asking us to play longer when we played an hour set. When we told them
that was our set they told us to play the set again. It’s like, no! We
Gus: We are not Weird Al in the early 2000’s.
Think he had more of a mid 90’s peak. Ugh, he came into my job at Hauser and Wirth recently. He was trying to enter a sculpture. He was really weird.
Gus: He’s on tour right now.
So he is not at Hauser and Witrh trying to climb into a Mike Kelley sculpture right now?
Gus: Wait, wait wait. So he must deal with the most annoying people in the world but he in turn is more annoying than all of the annoying fans that he has?
He was legit bizarre. Like even the way that he moves his body is weird. And he was really incensed that I wouldn’t let him walk on art. He had a fucked up chaotic energy, seriously. I had to reprimand him for touching art and trying to stand on it and he was with who I think was his daughter and she looked like she wanted to kill herself. Because her Dad is Weird Al.
Gus: Well, he is a professional.
Maybe it was a character or something?
Gus: Maybe it was promo for his new album
If you could go back in time one year and give yourself a piece of advice that you would actually follow, what would that advice be?
Gus: I would maybe snip a couple tours. Tell myself I could play 60 less shows in 365 days. You’ll really appreciate it.
Jae: I love touring so I probably wouldn’t do that, but back then I was really scared…
Gus: Oh, bitcoin!
Jae: Oh yeah! Actually a year ago I went into the bank because I had a
teeny amount of savings and was like ‘I have been hearing about these
investments’ AKA Bitcoin and asked if they thought I should invest and
they told me not to because it was too risky. A month later Bitcoin
blew up and if I had dropped a thousand bucks I would have made like
20,000 or something, ugh.
Gus: But that was a joke weren’t you going to say something meaningful?
Jae: I still get nervous, but last year I was really scared to
perform. When you operate out of fear you prevent yourself from having
fun and really getting into the moment. I’ve learned that it’s not
because I am singing any better or dancing any better or whatever that
makes a show better. The best shows are the ones where we’re having
fun, not scared. We played at Echoplex this January. I was so fucking
freaked out, because the show was supposed to be small and it ended up
being in the bigger space and selling out and it felt like too much.
Then late in the game that night I was like ‘I have to have fun or I
am just going to be crying all night’ and it ended up being great!
(At Echoplex) We are up there playing and outta nowhere in the midst
of our first song, no sound. That place has such giant subs, the bass
knocked out the power cord. But, I was able to embrace the insanity
and I remember just laughing. How fucking crazy. Last year I wish I
was experiencing shows that way.
What if instead of one year ago, you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing as an 8-year-old child?
Gus: I was pretty caught up superficial things and trying to be cool
and I would have told myself to avoid that and not to grow up and
smoke so much pot. It’s not that cool.
Jae: At 8 I was very lost. My parents had just gotten divorced and it
was confusing. I was introverted. A quiet little dork. My high school
advice would be different. When we’re not touring, I pick up shifts
sometimes as a catering waitress and I work with high schoolers.
Strangely enough they always ask me for advice and I think ‘why would
you ask me for advice? I am a catering waitress, with you, a 16 year
High School is the last time in your life when there is no pressure and I wish I had taken that time to really cultivate my art. When you wait until College there is insane external shit clouding your judgement. It is not that I would have been some genius artist but I just wish that I had taken my art a little more seriously and learned to craft. Now everything feels fleeting and there isn’t enough time and I am stressed about family and jobs and work and if I did’t have that stuff in my life and didn’t have the insecurity that things were lame or stupid… In High School you are still into what you are creating. But instead of taking my art more seriously I just smoked too much weed.
Since you mentioned working as a waitress with teenagers and I am currently working at an ice cream shop with teenagers, what is the most shitty job you guys have ever had?
Gus: Mine was that I thought I was going to break into the service
industry, but it turns out I am way too awkward to do that and I can’t
multi task but I got a job as a bus boy at a really fancy steak house.
I would dump a whole stack of plates on millionaires and Chris Farley
every chance that I got. And I got fired.
Jae: I’ve worked on several films that brought me to the edge of
annihilation and desperation. I am tempted to say that the worst movie
I ever worked on was a (redacted) movie, because he is just mean. A
mean old man. And, I have worked on a lot of bad movies. That being
said, being out in Marfa was amazing. Amazing town. I’m glad I don’t
feel pressured to work on movies anymore.
Choose any image from my blog or instagram and order an 11 X 17 signed print with unique handwritten note for only $20 here