From Vol. 2, No. 4
The Mist Beets
1. As a musician, do you prefer recording or playing a live show? Do you enjoy listening to tapes of yourself playing live?
Neil Boshart (Silverstein): Playing live is my favourite thing— there isn’t anything like playing in front of a great audience and sweating and bleeding on them. I don’t really mind listening to live tapes of myself, because I can hear whether I make mistakes or not… which I don’t (ha ha ha).
Rob Labelle (American Devices): Recording is slightly less nerve-racking than playing live, so yeah I do prefer it. In both cases, though, you lose control of what you’re doing. Accessibility to computer recording programs should put the musician more in control. Rick has gone there a little bit, but on the whole we’re pretty backwards. As for live shows, we’re still plagued by the same things as 20 years ago: On est trop fort pour le système.
Rick Trembles (American Devices): I like both. They’re both vastly different. I only like it live when we’ve rehearsed a lot & it’s second nature so we can play comfortably & enjoy ourselves. But that is so incredibly rare these days because of everybody’s busy schedules. When we suffer from jam-deficiency & we’re not 100% spot on I have a lousy time worrying about glitches. The slightest live glitches get magnified in my head & taint the rest of the performance for me. I can’t stand being sloppy. Maybe it’s overcompensation for the fact that I don’t want to confirm anyone’s asinine rumours how we’re a bunch of loser fuckups. I want to perform the songs the way they were meant, exactly the way they were written. Various members have tried to convince me it’s no big deal; I make a fuss over nothing & nobody in the audience notices minute mistakes. But I do, & I think anything less than perfection creates subliminal annoyances audiences may not be able to quite put their finger on, but it’s there to create an allergic reaction. Recording is nice because you can’t afford to have a single glitch while playing & that’s the way it should always be. I like listening to tapes of improv jams when we’re hunting for riffs, or new songs as we’re developing them, but not live shows because I cringe over any mistakes, & it’s usually recorded badly, not necessarily how the audience heard it.
Rynus Beet (The Mist Beets): I prefer training chimpanzees to play on my albums while I sit in the back room masturbating to midget porn. I like to use robots in the live show because they resemble the actual band slightly more than the chimps do. I do not enjoy hearing live tapes because all I do is nit-pick the shit out of the performance. It makes me want to beat up my chimpanzees.
John (Starvin’ Hungry): Live show. Love interacting with an audience. By interaction, I don’t necessarily mean breaking down the audience/ performer barrier or any of that crap [but what about groupies? –Ed.]. Some of my favorite performances have been at poorly attended shows where the audience is barely responsive, if at all. I like the absoluteness of it. You get one chance, and that’s it. You fuck up then, you fucked up that moment of that particular show for all time. Also, live shows sometimes have fully stocked bars and attractive, interesting women drinking at them. Generally speaking, I would rather hammer nails into my own kneecaps than listen to a live performance of myself. Most live recordings that have been played back to me are recorded right off the soundboard. The resulting mix usually somehow manages to accentuate the worst aspects of the sound and performance. The one exception I can think of was a walkman cassette recording a good friend of mine did of a show with just my brother Glenn on drums and myself, in the back room of the Cameron House in Toronto. You can hear us real clearly, as well as the people talking at the table the recorder’s on. It’s got that Velvet’s live at Max’s Kansas City sound. It makes you feel like your there.
Glasseater: I prefer playing a live show. They’re definitely a lot more funner. Listening to live stuff is always good cuz you get to stand back and hear yourself and sorta critique your performance and what you need to improve, or what needs work
Darian (Freya): I prefer playing live just because to me that’s what it’s all about. I love recording too, but you can’t exert the same energy. I hate listening to my live recordings of myself though because I’m way too picky and I end up thinking I’m the worst musician ever. I avoid that at al costs.
NAW: I am very much a live artist and prefer to play live in front of a crowd anyday over sitting in a recording studio sifting through sounds, editing bits and pieces together into a new track. It’s tedious work; the end result is great, but not nearly as immediate as a live show is. I record all my live shows, all my rehearsals and 90 percent of everything I’m doing musically. It’s the equivalent to an artist and their sketch book, but for me, rather then a piece of paper it’s a digital hard disk, CDs and mini disks.
Chris Burns: I’m a very fortunate person. I get to make moosick with incredibly inspiring, talented, and creative individuals who are also a pleasure to be around. The most fun I’ve had in my life has been performing live with Nutsak and Crackpot. Both of these groups are, for the most part, rockin’ party bands whose modus operandi is to not only work themselves up into some sort of moosickal frenzy, but to (hopefully) fire the crowd up into a communal cathartic experience. It’s a give and take relationship wherein the audience gets enthused by our efforts (if all goes well) and the band gets energized, in turn, by the crowd’s enthusiastic (on a good night) response. This sort of atmosphere does not exist in a sterile studio environment. The Burns/ Caloia/ Heward Trio, on the other hand, lends itself much more to the isolation of a studio. A lot of what we do is quite quiet, and the spaces and silences are often as integral as the notes and noises. Doing that kinda shit in bars is not always such a great idea. Intrinsically unavoidable bar sounds such as telephones and cash registers ringing, glasses clinking, people chatting, and toilets flushing can end up being distracting for the players and, even more so, frustrating for the two people actually trying to listen
I do enjoy listening to tapes of myself playing live for a number of reasons. The prevailing one being that I am a practicing narcissist. Live shows tend to whiz by in a blur, for me, and I often find myself wondering what the hell just happened minutes after a performance. It is often a revelation to later listen to a tape. There are varying degrees of improvisation in every musical project I’m involved in and it helps to listen back and hear how effective (or ineffective) the experiments were. I also have a lot of laughs listening back to shows. I tend to find a lot of what my groups do to be quite comical, not only in the between song banter, but in the moosick, as well. I’m pretty serious about my obsession with playing moosick and wouldn’t want anyone to dismiss any of it as being merely a joke. However, my sensibilities find a large chunk of it to be ridiculously funny. I can’t take you seriously if you don’t have a sense of humour.
2. Ever feel “stage fright” in the studio, where the practice goes fine but as soon as the red light comes on, you can’t get a good take in? If so, have you ever figured out any tricks to get over it? Do you think it’s the same or different from getting stage fright on a stage?
Neil B.: I don’t get nervous for anything.
Rob L.: Doing a take in the studio, especially an overdub where the other members of the band are sitting back and watching can be more pressurizing than the scariest live show. A little voice starts talking in your head, saying “Now, you better not fuck this up,” distracting enough to fuck you up completely. The fright is somehow more internal than live show stage fright, where it’s you that is put on display. For me, all my actions slow down—like in an accident. Putting the guitar jack into the amplifier seems to take forever. “Hello, how’s everybody doing tonight? We’re the American Devices.” My own voice echoes around my head like it’s going down a long tube. Still haven’t found any trick to help these nerve quirks. Beer helps a little, but only in small doses. Pot is a definite no. Maybe Paxil?
Rick: Stage fright during recording comes more from knowing the clock is ticking & you can’t afford to do anymore retakes. You might have been the only one not to fuck up the last few takes, but still have to redo it because someone else fucked up, & then suddenly you find the tension so unbearable trying to get through what looks like might be finally a perfect take, that you fuck up out of the blue, almost like self-sabotage 2 seconds before the song is over. Kind of like when you’re speeding down a highway surrounded by 2 propane-filled 18-wheelers trying to fight the urge to involuntarily twitch the steering wheel & end up a flattened crust of charred road-kill toast in a ditch.
John: No. I look at the studio as a place where you actually get a second or third chance. You never get that in front of an audience, so why freak out? Sometimes you just can’t get it right, whether it’s 500 takes or one. Then maybe you have to pack it in and suck it up, but if it’s something you’ve done before, you might get it a day later. I think the best approach to the studio is, come as prepared as possible; but, once you’re there, just enjoy the privilege of being there and don’t waste precious time worrying whether you deserve to be there or not. After all, you’re bound to fail on some level. That’s the only way you get anywhere. Stage fright, on the other hand, is losing your shit in front of a group of people who are focusing their attention on you in the hope that you may impress and entertain them. There is nothing in the world quite like that, although some of life’s other humiliations may prepare you for it.
Glasseater: Sometimes it can happen I guess. Depending on how intimidating the producer/ engineer might be. But for the most part, it’s always best to just relax and it’ll and fall into place. Stage fright on stage is a bit different, cuz sometimes I get a little nervous when I’m on stage but once you hit that first note, it all goes away.
Darian: I’ve never really felt any “fright” in the studio, it’s more that you can overthink things. A lot of times instead of just playing my parts like I would in practice, I’m so concerned about getting a PERFECT take that I’ll get stuck in a rut. I just try to step back and relax, and play the stuff like I always do.
NAW: No, not really. I have a home recording studio so for me it’s not really an issue; if I have a good thing happening, I hit record and go from there. I have had what could be called the equivalent to writers block, but never recording studio stage fright.
Chris: I wouldn’t describe the anxieties I’ve experienced in the studio as “stage fright”. More like “wallet fright”. Nearly all of my recording sessions have been on such a scarce budget that it’s been very easy to start getting uptight about mistakes. The CD that Crackpot just released is full of fuck-ups, flat singing, and sometimes somewhat uninspired executions. I found myself saying “Screw it. Let’s move on. That’s rock and roll.” and rationalizing that that’s what we’re like live, anyways. If we had wads of cash, however, you can be damn sure we would have spent a lot more time tidying it up, or at least buying better drugs so as not to notice. Another thing that can be stifling in the studio, when on a limited budget, is the desire to experiment w/overdubs and other
studio wickety wacketies. I’m a big fan of albums that use the studio as a palette in which to add a whole slew of other colours to the material, without too much concern for being able to reproduce it live. After all, it’s a record, not a show, so why not exploit the difference? However, due to financial restrictions, I’ve found myself asking “do I really wanna waste who knows how much time and money while the engineer struggles to find just the right mic and reverb and delay effect to overdub a backwards recording of my tape of elephant farts?”.
As to tricks I’ve discovered to get over it, I find the method that works best for me is the same one I use to get over everything: accelerate the drinking to the point where you don’t really give a fuck about anything anymore. This can backfire, for obvious reasons, and is not recommended for any musicians who wish to do things with any degree of professionalism. In my experience, however, 95% of musicians are assholes and 99.9% of musicians who wish to approach things with any degree of professionalism are grade A assholes.
3. Do you think MP3s are eventually going to: A. Kill the major labels B. Kill all the labels C. Kill the ‘album’ format D. End up not being free anymore E. Be just another format that some people like and others don’t like.
Neil B.: I don’t really download music and I’m sure there are people like me out there that are doing the same. So I don’t think it’s gonna kill the music industry.
Rob L.: Probably E. The music industry is aghast that they’re not making as much money as they used to. But why should they be exempt from changes that have affected every other part of the economy? I used to work as a paste-up artist, an industry which became extinct almost overnight. How about milkmen delivering milk door-to-door? Where are they?
Rick: We are so off the radar I couldn’t care less about a single record label simply because no single record label ever could care less about us. However, there’s MP3s of my band available online for free out there & it hasn’t changed shit. If it’s free people think it must be crap. People think something must be wrong with it if it’s being given away.
Rynus B: MP3s will continue for some time but they will definitely be harder to swap. It will be great once Clear Channel can control everything… barf.
John: A. No. B. No. C. No. D. Probably. E. I thought they already are.
Glasseater: I think really soon they’re just not going to be free anymore. If you already start noticing there’s not that many file sharing programs out there where you can get stuff anymore, and it’s becoming scarce. Eventually they’ll start charging and eliminate free file sharing.
Darian: I think I’m gonna have to go with D. I think that in some ways MP3s have helped the industry, and hindered it. For lesser known bands on smaller labels, MP3s are only good because it helps people to discover your band. I think eventually the recording industry is going to find a way to outlaw file sharing, unless they are getting kicked back some cash.
NAW: I think E. I know some people who use them like others use CDs or records. I’ve released records on labels that only release MP3 versions of the albums, it’s no different then releasing a record on a label that only releases CDs or vinyl. If it gets airplay on radio, for example, and as long as it’s registered by SOCAN I still get my yearly check for the music. Sure, I don’t benefit from CD or vinyl sales because for the most part MP3s are free, but I think that will change in the future somehow, and if not, well, that’s OK as it just means there are more people out there who have access to my music. I mean, that is the point of me recording and putting my music out there, to speak to people, so if they pay for it or not it really doesn’t matter to me. However, if SOCAN wasn’t in place here in Canada, I think I would think very differently about all this. [SOCAN collects royalties from media airplay and redistributes it to registered artists-Ed.]
4. What’s the oldest music you own and-or like to listen to?
Neil B.: The Beatles. One of my favourite bands ever! They are just such great songwriters. John Lennon and George Harrison are 2 of my favourite musicians/ songwriters, I’m sure many people would agree with me.
Rob L.: Chris Burns and Friends doing the Beatles’ White Album, and Medieval Songs of the Troubadours.
Rick: Old cartoon soundtracks, especially the Fleisher Bros.
Rynus B: The Mist Beets like old music. Classical (Haydn, Wagner and such) and old blues like Robert Johnson. And Winger.
John: I expect the oldest would be some classical European stuff. Bach, or maybe classical Indian music. I don’t know enough of the history to know which predates which. I probably listen to what few records of Indian music I have more than the European stuff. I like Bach and Chopin, though. They’re heavy.
Glasseater: Classical music. I love listening to classical. Either that or oldies, songs from the 50s, 60s I like listening to.
Darian: Hmm… I really like a lot of old stuff. I have a huge collection of “oldies” like Motown, Merseybeat, mod stuff… but probably older than that is a lot of the jazz I have. Old, slick jazz is amazing, and nothing sounds better at night when you’re about to go sleep.
NAW: I’m assuming you mean oldest music in terms of age and not my oldest CD or record that I own. I would say that a lot of the traditional music from Bali, Africa, China and India that I listen to sometimes would have to be the oldest in terms of when it was written. As far as oldest music in terms of it being recorded, I would have to say all my Captain Beefheart, Can, Brian Eno, John Cage and Velvet Underground have to be the oldest recorded material that I own.
Chris: Sometimes, I like to bang two rocks together, dance around a fire, and howl at the moon. The first full length album I ever bought was Devo’s first, “Q: Are we not men? A: We are Devo”. I still like it. The oldest recording I own is probably some Louis Armstrong sessions from the twenties. I get a lot of pleasure from it, as well.
5. Which of the following things do you think are in our future: Flying cars; Jet packs; Cashless society; Everything happening on the Internet only (TV, radio, shopping, etc.); Everyone riding around on Segway Scooters; Bush being impeached.
Neil B.: I’d definitely love to see flying cars, hopefully they’ll run on water though, fossil fuels pollute too much.
Rob L.: Everything except Bush being impeached. What is that anyway? I picture a large, ripe peach being shoved up his butthole.
Rick: Cashless society (me being the cashlessest; I don’t foresee riches in my crystal ball), everything happening on the Internet, & everyone riding around on Segway Scooters (to annoy the hell out of me hogging both lanes on the bike paths like those fuckin rollerbladers I’m sure).
John: I don’t think any of that shit’s going to happen anytime soon. Anyway, the future, by the time it finally arrives, is always out of date.
Glasseater: Cashless society. The rest I probably won’t live to see if it ever does happen.
Darian: I think all those are possibilities, but a cashless society and internet ruling all are almost upon us now. But it would be pretty sweet if I could take a jet pack everywhere I went.
NAW: Cashless society and an Internet society are both very much things that can happen in our future… maybe not tomorrow but it’s coming fast down the pipe, so to speak. As for flying cars, jet packs, Segways and Bush being impeached, they are all nice ideas but let’s face it. The American people love Bush (why, I have no idea); Segways are just too costly and have recently been found to have a bug in the technology; and jetpacks and flying cars are just so 1950s sci fi that they just can’t ever happen. (I mean, what fun would it be to watch the Jetsons if these last two ever really happened?)
Chris: I don’t foresee flying cars, jet packs, everything happening on the internet, nor Bush being impeached, in my future. I’m already cashless and I don’t know what Segway Scooters are.
And now for some questions taken from interviews from other magazines:
6. Is it hard to escape today’s 24/7 business world?
Neil B.: Yep, by staying home and drinking your face off.
Rob L.: Yes, it is. And all that work is taking its toll on the Devices. Even Howard is getting a few grey hairs in his beard.
Rick: No, but it’s hard to escape the 24/7 artsy-fartsy world.
John: It is impossible to escape today’s 24/7 business world. It owns advertising space on the landscape of our dreams, for fuck’s sake. The only option is to totally embrace it by following Xavieria Hollander’s example and making your pleasure your business.
Glasseater: Not at all. You can always find isolation if you want to.
Darian: Yes. It can suck the life out of any good man. I’ve seen far too many bow down to the man.
NAW: Yes it is. Every day job I have had in my entire working life has revolved around this sick, sick method of economics. This “I needed this tomorrow” attitude needs to take a back seat, it’s slowly killing society as we know it. OK, well, it’s slowly killing me. Hahaha…
7. Can you offer any advice to business school graduates who are just starting out in their careers?
Neil B.: Keep a bottle of scotch in the bottom of your desk drawer.
Rob L.: Buy at a sixth of your selling price.
Rick: Invest in me. Take me on as an impossible nut to crack. Make me hip with the pods.
Rynus B: Buy high, sell low.
John: See above.
Glasseater: Shoot, I don’t know, I’m not a business major… Just don’t ever mix business with pleasure. Like the Mafia says, it’s never personal… always business.
Darian: Yeah, kill yourself now because your life is pretty much over anyways.
NAW: Yes, try to do good, think about the workers before your pocketbook.
Chris: Make as much money as you can, then become a patron/matron of the arts by blowing it all on investing in my moosickal endeavours. You won’t die rich, financially speaking, but you will be rich in spirit, in giggles, and in flatulence.
8. Considering the global power of the Halliburton name, are you satisfied with the brand awareness of the various divisions?
Neil B.: Say what?
Rob L.: Halli-who?
Rick: I had no idea Halle Berry & Tim Burton got married. He hasn’t made a decent movie in ages & Halle Burton’s way overrated.
Rynus B: Frankly, I’ve been quite unhappy with the Marketing Department for some time. Their failure with the Brand Awareness Program (BAP) has been extremely disappointing. I gave them explicit instructions for usage and implementation of the BAT and then I ordered them to finagle the angle of bagel, but all I got in response was an argle bargle foofer odd. I…Ack… Ack… (falls over dead)
John: Best fish I ever ate.
Darian: I’ve often thought that many have underestimated the global ferociousness of the Halliburton name. I think as far as the brand awareness goes, we’ve got nowhere to go but up, be it concerning the various divisions, or ANY division for the matter. Furthermore, we really should try to crack some new markets so that we can allow our brand some more breathing room.
NAW: No, I’m never satisfied ever!!! I want more, and I’m not budging until I get more.
Chris: I am not familiar with the Halliburton name, nor any of its various divisions. This satisfies me greatly.
9. Did you ever think, after all these years, that you would be remembered as being such a seminal figure in the Civil Rights Movement?
Neil B.: Remember me how? By the birthmark on my ass?
Rob L.: No, I wouldn’t have thought so.
Rick: I hate golf.
John: I don’t know. I always thought I only made about as much semen as the next guy.
Glasseater: Remembered as being such a seminal figure in the Civil Rights Movement? Nah, they’ll remember me as a dictator.
Darian: I didn’t think, I hoped. And I am honored that I am still recognized for all the things I did. Being a Civil Rights leader isn’t the easiest job. I had to travel city to city making speeches. And I often even had to write some of those speeches. Back then we didn’t have the Internet, so we couldn’t just cut and paste someone else’s speeches or ideas. That shit had to come from somewhere… But, you know, I cared so deeply about what I believed in, that it was easy…
NAW: no… I just do what ever it is that I do and if what I do or did has had any effect on these people the more power to them.
Chris: I always figured it would be for the Uncivilized Wrongs Inertia.
10. Briefly, what’s up with your band/ album/ tour/ life?
Neil B.: Shouldn’t you know that stuff already before you interview me… I thought they taught you that stuff in business school. (OK, OK, I do know—well, not about his life, but his band Silverstein has a new album out on Victory Records – see
www.victoryrecords.com for details.)
Rob L.: Briefly, nothing.
Rick: The AMERICAN DEVICES are gonna record a batch of new songs & play live this fall. My main preoccupation these days is getting my animated film GOOPY SPASMS completed & continuing my comic strip series MOTION PICTURE PURGATORY (published weekly in The Montreal Mirror since 1998).
Rynus B: The Mist Beets are touring hard and busy writing new material for their next album. We’re also quite busy re-training the chimpanzees to play the new material. That’s the longest part of the process. Visit us on the web, www.mistbeets.com to find out more on what we’re up to.
John: My band Starvin Hungry’s first album is being shipped off to California to be mastered in early October. It’s going to be called ‘Damnesty’. It should be out by early next year. Maybe sooner. We’re looking for distribution and promotion for it. Then we can take it out on the road. Right now, getting that together and designing the cover for it are the main focal points of my life. (As well as the usual playing shows, practicing, working a full-time and a part-time job, and acting/ dancing/ ranting like an idiot with a bottle in my hand/ mouth.) www.starvinhungry.com
Glasseater: We just released an album that came out Aug. 26 in stores everywhere. You can check out some mp3’s at www.mp3.com/glasseater. We’re going to be hitting the road soon with Sick Of It All, Avenged Sevenfold, the Unseen, and Western Waste, so keep an eye out and for more info and tour dates go to www.glasseater.com . Thanx!
Darian: Freya is doing great. We’re gearing up for some oversees stuff right now, and we’ve received so many great compliments on the record! We couldn’t be more stoked. Thank you to anybody who cares about what we’re trying to do. It means a lot.
NAW: Oh man, what a can of worms… OK, I’m in the middle of recording my follow-up to my first Noise Factory Records CD, which came out last year. This one should be out in early 2004 and will be accompanied by a companion vinyl EP for the DJ set. I’m also about to release material on compilations on Worthy Records and Complot Records some time before the end of this year. As well, I’m working on a number of collaberations with other artists in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax, to be released whenever they’re completed on whatever record label will take them. Not just joking, these are a series of more experimental studio works as opposed to my Noise Factory material, which I plan to take on the road touring. As for tours, I have dates in Guelph, Toronto, and Montreal this fall. And in the New Year there are plans for a European tour to coincide with the release of my new Noise Factory record. As for my life well Montreal still continues to treat me well there are no plans for me to pick up and move away just yet.
Chris: Crackpot is a mentally guitarded racket roll quartet that has just independently released its debut album. The Burns/ Caloia/ Heward Trio is a completely improvisational, avant-garde outfit that has a disc on the 4 CD Montreal Free box set, on No Type (I play brain damaged electric and 12 string acoustic guitars). Nutsak is a band that takes stabs at a wide range of styles and is quite possibly my favourite band in the whole wide world. It is also the most frustrating because our schedules are such that we can’t get it together to get all four of us in the same room, let alone record or do a show (Andre Asselin on bass, myself on guitar and vocals, Howard Chackowicz on drums and vocals, Sam Shalabi on guitar). On rare occasions, I perform solo, 12 string acoustic guitar and voice concerts under the moniker of “Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls.” I am a gig pig and frequently sit in with Montreal acts American Devices, Elizabeth Anka, HRSTA, Jordi Rosen, and pretty much anyone else who asks. I played my first gig in 1982, at age 15, with a group that was to evolve into Terminal Sunglasses. Since then, I’ve recorded or performed with eleventy five gwazillion bands including 1,2,3,Go!, Ant Farm, Cap’n Crunch and Let’s Do Lunch, Corpusse, Elephant Men on Assignment, Fearless Freep, godspeed! you black emperor, The Gruesomes, Menudo, Slaphappy 5, Sledgehead, U.I.C., and Mike Watt.