It´s hard, really hard, when at times you have to look at your own mothers sweet eyes and see her chin shaking, as she is almoust crying and saying "I have worked for all my life...its so hard. I gave so much but now its hard to even have food on the table". And then I too cry alone in my room. I cry to cleanse myself so I can make it to the next day. And in that same room where I bare my soul, is where the core of my strenght lies. When its hard, I can hear the lyrics to a song by Modern Life Is War in my head
We're not pretty and we're not rich / We're gonna hafta fucking work for it. That's exactly how I feel at times. And sometimes I too, like Martin, think that they oughta feel my pain! Yeah. I think they oughta wear my scars! But because of this band I dont have to walk in to a room where the people who treat us like numbers are at and lay my vengeance upon them. Instead, I can just hear those word´s echoying in my head..
Jeffrey can lyrically paint pictures that are equal to movies like Indian Runner & Rumble Fish. He has the soul of a searching one. The music as a whole has a Film Noir/Bruce Springsteen from Darkness.../ Nebraska era aura, but its more dark and chaotic. If Bruce Springsteen would have born at Marshalltown in the 1980's and lived on a steady diet of HC punk, he would have made music like this. The passion and atmosphere in it is reminiscent, and in par, of all the romanticised stories about great HC bands that you have read.
Now with their final tour closing in, lets talk to Jeffrey and see why he write's what he does.
Pyrrhus Darwin Castello: Ok. Why will Modern Life Is War end it's journey?
Jeffrey: I think overall we just felt like we had done what we needed to do with this band. I think Midnight in America is our strongest record and we were able to be a full time touring band for quite a long time. We were always going somewhere with this band from day one and at one point we just didn't really know where we were headed or why and we just kind of knew. There were lots of factors but I guess it just comes down to the fact that we all individually knew it was time.
How do you feel about it?
I feel really good about it. I'm really proud of the records we made and the things we accomplished. I'm excited for what's to come in my life which is kind of an open book. I love the other six guys that have played in this band with me and I just like the fact that we maintained control of the band through all the crazy shit. We never let it belong to anyone but us and all decisions were ours. Including the one to pull the plug.
Relating to that. What I have found out when I have done interviews with tattoo artists, that it is really fucking HARD to get a band to do a interview! Even if I talk to a tattoo artist who in tattoo scene would be the equivalent someone like Metallica, they still handle there own things. But with bands I get like some fucking codes that I have to keep in my email when contacting them and then maybe I can get to the point where I ask the manager about it etc. Just ridiculous and quite frankly, laughable. Any comments?
With the red tape stuff it's kinda silly but I can understand it because I am guessing that a popular band would get at least triple the amount of interview requests than a popular tattoo artist. Not to mention that a lot of band members, like myself and my whole band has consistently had to work between tours or while writing records just to eat and pay the rent. Most tattoo artists I know aren't struggling money wise. This week I have worked 60 hours, I am booking our last tour, doing interviews and helping soundproof our practice space. I feel like my life has been hectic since we started this band and there have definitely been times where I have been impossible to get ahold of for interview purposes. The work has got to come before talking about the work!!
What are some misconceptions that people seem to have about you just because you are in a band?
One thing I really hate is when someone doesn't like my band that they assume they would also not like me as a person or wouldn't have anything in common with me. I try to at least give everyone a chance, to not assume things about any person until I have actually spent some time with them or had a conversation.
Do you think when people think that a artist is an asshole its infact the music industry which can make them seem like that?
I don't know about that. Anytime you stick your neck out, put yourself or your art out there to be judged, you take a certain risk and have to deal with the negative and positive aspects of that.
Do you think that because the band was around for relatively short time, it can become more than life. A story?
Stories come from life quite often. I feel like six years is a pretty long amount of time. And that's six years of releasing records and touring.
What kept you going to tour after tour, knowing that you all will be broke, sleeping in peoples floors, endless hours in the van...?
For all the bad things about tour there are way more aspects that are fun and satisfying. Sitting in a van with friends and looking out at the country and listening to tunes isn't exactly torture! It was just fun to meet all kinds of different people and find new spots to skateboard. And of course that 30 minutes every night where I get to scream and be a maniac.
How did you get ready to play a gig? Take some beers, zone out in your headphones, talk to people?
Just depends on the night. Sometimes I really like to skate before we play just to find that right place in my head. I definitely like to have a couple beers or a couple whiskey shots...but I did that every night for a while so I had to back off and go on stage dead sober a bunch of nights because I didn't want that to be something I had to do before getting on stage. Sometimes I like to just be in the crowd and talk to people and shit. Then I know what the vibe is in the crowd and so I'm not trying to communicate with something that I don't understand. In the last couple years I have been making pre-show mixes and give it to the soundman to put on when the band before us is done just so I don't have to listen to shitty music before we go on. Some favorite pre-show jams are: The Clash - Straight to Hell, Charles Sheffield - It's your voodoo working, Lee Perry - Black Panta, Blasters - Marie Marie, Cresa Watson - Alpine Winter, Pogues - Dirty Old Town, CCR - Fortunate Son, Duane Eddy - Rebel Rouser. I am into crowd psychology to a certain extent. You can tell a difference of the mood in the room according to what's playing over the P.A. Rebel Rouser really loosens people up and lowers inhibitions and makes everyone come up front and be open. Alpine Winter is definitely a great song to build a little bit of tension and atmosphere. Even people who aren't consciously listening are often visibly affected by it. That's why I can respect a good DJ. One who knows how to read a room full of people and know where to take the mood and tempo and when to step back and went to be the conductor. It's an art. I hate DJs when they are just playing songs with no rhyme or reason.
Interesting. Don Anderson who is the guitarist in the band Agalloch had this to say when talking about responsibility that musicians have when it comes to the message and such in their music.
The way our culture is today, music is much more prevalent as an art form than painting, or some other medium of high art. One of the strongest aspects of fascism was the heavy martial drumming during their rallies and events. It locked the listener into a mindset, into a pattern that made the individual kind of blend into the majority, doing away with divergent philosophies, at least on the surface.
What is your idea behind your music and do you go that deep into the structure of your music?
I don't think it is a conscious thing. I think there is something that is not quite right about the way Modern Life Is War sounds. We weren't purely anything. Different ideas and emotions and identities were always playing tug of war. It seemed to take on a mind of it's own along the way. No one in the band could really control what we sounded like or the image or identity of our band. The sound was always ugly and imperfect. I think those are the qualities that made some people love us and some people not understand how anyone could love us! This shit frustrated me to no end basically the whole six years, but I think that's what made our band something different.
If considering that with more "fame" the more shit you have to deal with, or maybe better yet, don't. When do you think you would loose the drive to do what you do?
I don't really pay that any mind. I'm not worried about becoming famous because the place where my interests lie isn't where the big money or the big fame is at. All the substance and satisfaction is in the work. A lot of the after-affects of that are just things you have to deal with.
How did you let out steam when touring, other than playing?
Skateboarding and getting drunk and listening to my favorite records! Sometimes I really also need alone time and I just walk off and find someplace to sit by myself. It really fucks with me when I am constantly surrounded by people and it can make me feel like I am not a real person.
I personally really like to be by myself. I love walking alone when its getting darker with just my headphones on and thinking about questions for interviews. Some people I guess are afraid to be alone with their thought’s and really to go deep into your own being. For you, what is the best mood for writing and such?
Total isolation. When I sit down to write all the material is in my head, just need some time to sort it out. Gotta be dead sober and I usually ingest tons of coffee and do real long hours. Away from the house is best. All night diners.
How has traveling opened your views?
The main thing is that it made me realize the things that are unique about where I come from. Some good and some bad. Traveling can give you a little more objective view of your own home. I wish I could travel to a third world country or some more remote places... Hopefully someday I will get the chance.
What gigs are the ones that stand out in all these year's?
Playing CBGB's will Kill Your Idols. Playing in the FUK Garage in Iowa with Annihilation Time. Playing Gilman Street with Trash Talk and Trap Them. Playing with Black Cross and Against Me in a hall in Louisville. Playing London with William Elliot Whitmore, Converge and Red Sparrows. Playing with Sioux City Pete and the Beggars. Playing with Brooks Strause. Playing with Old Scratch Revival Singers. Playing with Beat Strings. Playing the Ink Spot in Jackson, Mississippi. All shows at Crewtonz in Brooklyn. Our show at 538 Johnson in Brooklyn. I could go on for days.
About gigs. What do you think of all the people who want to get there names on the quest list? I personally pay to get in even if I have handed out flyers and stuff for the band. Just because they need the money. And if considering the ”ideals” in HC and other so called counter-culture genres, I think it is ironic that people start to behave just like the ones around all these mega big bands do. How they ”know people” and shit. I don't see the unity aspect in that.
I never really thought about it. I don't mind hooking someone up on the guestlist if I owe them a favor or just cause most of my friends are always scrambling for a buck in the game of life and every little bit helps. It's not like it's a VIP pass or something.
Has there been times on tour when you have been literally scared?
Yeah, one time in Detroit some dudes were in the process of mugging me and I just kind of slipped away and ran my ass off back to the venue. The first twenty or thirty steps I was fully expecting to have a blunt object smashed into the back of my head. There have been some scary situations for sure. I always keep in mind that I am in a lot of places that I don't necessarily belong. I try to maintain some level of respect and humbleness in those situations.
How did the Detroit situation get to that point?
I guess I just walked to a corner store alone that I shouldn't have.
Ok. This is maybe a good time to hand out some info for other touring bands so they don't get fucked up. Can you say what places are the ones in each town that you shouldn’t go to?
I have no advice. Tour is like a choose your own adventure book. Going out and getting into trouble can be good for you. And sometimes trouble finds you.
How much different are bands that get started in little towns than the ones from places like New York, Los Angeles, Washington and so on?
In a lot of cases they aren't very different. I think the thing is that the best bands in my opinion are often informed by their surroundings and sing about them to some extent.
Do you think its important for a artists to listen to different kind of music, so you can make something that can capture people in many levels?
In all the interviews I've got recently I have said this. There are only two kinds of music: good and bad. Everyone has hang ups and wants their record collection to be their image. It's not about capturing people on many levels. It's just about fully enjoying listening to music and making music.
To me there is a strong romantic side in MLIW's music. And to me Witness is similar to Bruce Springsteen album Born To Run. He makes the world seem like a play and ads a little mystery to the everyday stories. And besides Born To Run there are similarities to Nebraska with its stark portrayal of reality that has a glimmer of hope in there, that can be seen after accepting certain things. Do you think your music has the same aura because you want to make reality into a magical and mysterious thing?
There is definitely such a thing as overthinking it when it comes to creating something. there are some records, songs, artists or bands that I get really really fucking into to the point that it's all I think about days on end. But when it comes to sitting down and writing I think things you have lived and internalized come out. You can't force it. You can't decide on your idealogy and target and what you are trying to do and hit the nail on the head. A record like Quadrophenia is fucking unbeleivable. I've listened to it alone start to finish singing every word hundreds of times. Or listening to the spoken word part that Jim Carroll does in "Junkie Man". Things like that somehow change the way you see yourself and your life and the world and influence your work. But I try not to think about it too much or attempt to be calculated about it. So in other words... I don't know and I am sidestepping this question.
In the lyrics for MLIW you flirt with skinhead ideology and read a lot of books about the subject. Is it a ideology that is taken seriously, or just another subject for lyrics?
It's just always been a fascination for me. I was at a show when I was in high school and did a stage dive and accidentally kicked this giant dude and he was ready to beat my ass and some skinheads at the show kinda stuck up for me and so that's how it started me really looking into it. I knew they were somehow tied to the subculture that I was into but didn't know how. I started reading up on the history and really developed a love for skinhead reggae and some Oi!/streetpunk bands. In comparison to being a punk or a hardcore kid, it is still a rebellious thing to do. That was the youth cult that underwent the craziest thing when it was co-opted by racists and fascists and dragged through shit by the media. Yet so many still cling to it's traditions. If you are a skinhead you chance having your ass kicked every time you walk down the street alone and chances are your classmates, coworkers and parents think you are a Nazi. In that way, it makes great material for lyrics to aggressive music. So I guess I take it seriously even though I am not a skinhead and never have been and never will be. It's an easy thing to relate to since my dad has always been a union factory worker. Easier than understanding David Bowie and dressing up like a transsexual alien... You know what I mean?
I think I do. It's more relevant to peoples life's. There is a quote from Crimethincs text, titled Your politics are boring as fuck, that says it well
No more time should be wasted debating over issues that will be irrelevant when we must go to work again the next day.
Yeah, well I don't know the context or exactly what they are trying to say. I think that's one of the saddest things about life. Is when you really care about something and have lots of thoughts and ideas on it, but the hoops you have to jump through to live wear you out and take up your time to the extent that thoughts and ideas never materialize into any kind of action.
I couldn't agree more! At this point of my life im doing practical training in a museum. People like me here, they say I do my job really well, I treat people with respect, but that isn't enough because everything is about bureaucracy. I would have to have a degree to get a paying job even thou I can do it now. To me thats just fucking stupid. No wonder some people just sit at home and get drunk…
Yeah, it's very discouraging. That's why I wrote Night Shift at the Potato Factory. The words are pretty simple, but it's just so common for people to be frustrated with that sort of thing. What really saddens me is to see workers who are 100% loyal to a company who would dump them on their ass in a minute if thats what it took to increase profits. The town my parents grew up in..Newton, IA..where I still have a lot of family. There was a company there called Maytag who employed most of the town including a bunch of people in my family. It had been there for decades and it needed all those dedicated hard workers and they needed the jobs. They just up and left and dumped everyone just a few years ago. That's the way most business is run so it's up to the individual to realize that and make decisions accordingly.
Two questions spawned from your answer. First is. You had a photographer called Maxim Ryazansky in tours with you. Can you tell about the guy? How did you get to know him, why did he take the band as part of his Forever Outsider documentation etc.
Max was actually the first person to get back to me and book us a show on our first tour. So he booked our first New Jersey show and we've developed a friendship with him since then. He was born in Lithuania and now lives in Brooklyn. He's one of the most brutally honest people I've ever met. I think he's a great photographer and has strong ideas behind his work. He never seems to let his own agenda dictate the photographs he takes or which ones he shows to the world and I really admire that about him. He went on tour with us but wasn't just a photographer. He would drive the van when john was tired, sell merch and a lot more. I don't know why he chose us to be a part of Forever Outsiders. I'm just glad that he did.
And the second one was. How much has the working class and its struggles had a affect on you making music and in general of what type of music you listen to?
I think it was listening to lyrics that first made me consciously aware of socio-economic classes and made me look at the people in my town and what was going on. And then eventually made it's way into my lyrics.
I really listen to all kinds of music. Folk, Blues, Country, Soul, Jazz, Funk, Reggae, Rock and Roll, Hip Hop, punk, hardcore. The only kind of music I really don't care for is metal which might surprise some MLIW fans. And I even dig certain bands like Black Sabbath and Motorhead. Some music drives reality home for me and some music is escapism. I am a student of music and am obsessed with knowing where things came from. Starting with punk I just started tracing everything back. I feel like I have much more of a grasp on my own personal tastes than I did when this band started. It's weird being in a very specific type of band and being on tour and getting into Lee Scratch Perry or or Woody Guthrie or Patsy Cline or Leadbelly or Jackie Wilson or Gene Vincent or Eric B and Rakim and then getting on stage and playing to kids who's whole world is this hardcore scene. I never really felt that I had outgrown it and still don't feel that way, but I started to see it in context of the whole world of music that I am now into and sometimes it felt strange.
Is there a special meaning to D.E.A.D.R.A.M.O.N.E.S.?
It cracks me up how everyone has been trying to read some deep shit into this song for the last couple years! I love the Ramones. They were the original kick ass American punk rock band. They were dying. We were touring. I wrote a dumb song about it. It was a little tounge in cheek I guess cause we came along so late and we are from Iowa and we could just never be in the same league as the Ramones. I had the idea for the song about touring and how the Ramones were dying and I just did it for the fuck of it. I do like the song though. It's pretty realistic lyrics about touring and I just like anything that has to do with the Ramones! With the lyrics for Witness I was just like... fuck it. I am going to sing about all the shit I am into however weird and specific it may be and if everyone into our first two records don't like it then fuck 'em. I was really surprised that people didn't just absolutely hate it and make fun of me for it.
I think it fit really well in the middle of the album. Kinda gave you a little breather even if it was a fast song. What did the rest of the band think about the idea at the time?
The guys were always cool about whatever I wanted to do lyrically. They were always very supportive and just let me go go go. They are very creatively open awesome guys.
Do you have strong political views? Are you a Anarchist, Communist, Right Wing, Left Wing, Democrat...?
Nah, I'm just a kid from Middle America. I am always skeptical of politicians and the media. I definitely had phases when i was younger of trying to get really into certain political ideologies but now I just try to use common sense and debate each issue inside my own head to determine what I think is right. Manic Street Preachers have a song called "Freedom of Speech won't feed my children" and I think that sums up that big grey area between what is right and what will work. Most people are just trying to lead simple little lives in a very complex and difficult world.
I agree. What do you think about the current election?
I do really like Barack Obama. He is young, gifted and black just like the song. After our 8 year run with that babbling monkey in office... Just hearing someone who is a good orator seems to good to be true. He seems to be an outsider to the rich white guy Washington old-boys network and thats what we need. I think of the president primarily as a symbolic thing. If we elect a young black man from the Midwest maybe it is symbolic that we are ready to make education and health care a priority and consider other things besides war for foreign policies. If America elects a guy like John McCain that could be symbolic that things are just going to get worse and I think we are in a desperate situation as it is.
Speaking of politics. HC music scene can, and is, filled with politics of some sorts. What are the things that make you feel proud or ashamed to be part of this scene?
I don't even want to talk about this really. It just seems like a waste of time. I am pro-Deathcycle and anti-the bridge 9 board.
Anything special you would like to talk about? How has this week been for you. What have you done?
I worked 62 hours this week at my current job at an antique auction house. Mostly loading and unloading trailers full of antique furniture... Very exhausting. Other than that I have been doing interviews and working on planning for the tour. On Wednesday night I went to Des Moines to skateboard. Since they have an indoor spot.
What can people expect from the upcoming tour? When will it start etc?
It's March 28th to April 26th. You can expect us to show up and play hard. Humble beginnings, humble ends. There will be no reunion shows or reunion tours. We are getting offers to play all over the world and they will all get turned down. March 26th in Marshalltown will be the last Modern Life is War show ever.
You mentioned interviews. What type of interviews you think are good ones when you are being interviewed yourself?
This is a good one. I just hate it when it's boring questions or every question has something to do with the hardcore scene.
What about what type of interviews you love reading?
My favorite music interviews are in Wax Poetics Magazine and my favorite skateboarding interviews are in Juice Magazine. I just like conversational interviews where the interviewer gets involved a little more than just one line questions and on to the next. I like to dig people's lives and philosophies rather than just talking about specific concrete current things.
Which artist would you like to get to interview and what would you ask them?
I don't know if I really want to interview anyone. I get what I want from people through their work for the most part. I have been really open throughout this band, but sometimes I think I should have kept my mouth shut and just let the records and shows speak for themselves. Too late for that now! haha
About skate boarding. How did you get into it and what keeps you interested in it?
I got into skateboarding when i was like 7 years old and it just never got old for me. I've never really been into it in the way some people are. I don't know who hardly any of the pros are. I haven't heard of a lot of the new companies. I rarely see new skate videos. It's always been kind of a solitary thing for me. Skating a curb on a Saturday night by myself has always been a good time. It's something I can do that can make my mind stop thinking 100 thoughts at once. Almost like meditation. It's individual, non-competitive, aggressive and creative. And there are so many possibilities depending on the way I feel. You can do very aggressive tricks where you make sudden moves or you can just bomb hills and cruise around and go with the flow.
There is a show on MTV now about this pro skater kid. "Life of Ryan". I don't think that kid knows what skateboarding is even if he can do all the tricks in the world. Skateboarding is like music in a lot of ways. There are deep roots and the pioneers often sacrifice their bodies and livelihood for the love of it and for the cause and then lots of little sissies parade in after the work is done and this foundation is built and then make lots of money and become famous without even understanding it or having a reverence for the pioneers and the roots.
Those things are more important to me than anything else. I don't care if I am good or successful at music or skateboarding because I am a punk rocker and a skateboarder. I love learning about those traditions and being a part of them in my own way. Through all the ups and downs of the music industry and the skateboard industry...there is a tradition of people who didn't give a fuck about the industry and weren't going to cater to it and water down their art to get in with the right crowd or become rich...and without those people the bottom would have fallen out at many different points. But they are always there. Underground. Keeping the spirit alive.
Well said. When I look at breakdancers (and its not like I know a lot about it) I look at their attitude and not how athletic they are. You see all these people who have a backgrounds in capoeira or fucking ninjutsu and some shit, doing triple backflips etc. But to me that’s not breakdancing. Because it doesn't have that ”fuck you” attitude. Would I be close if I said that people like Duane Peter’s are the ones that you respect in skateboarding?
Yeah I have a lot of respect for Duane Peters. I've been going to see the US Bombs whenever they come through Iowa since I was like 16. Jay Adams, Tony Alva, Hosoi, Caballero, Gonz... I have respect for the masters. Some of the newer dudes rip too though. I just think it's fucking unbeleivable that those originators are still flying out of concrete pools. You know how scary that shit is? The amount of broken bones they've endured and healed up and dropped in again? That's true passion. I have a respect for all skaters who know whats up and are dedicated. Young and old and even the less coordinated ones like myself.
These are lyrics from one of your songs They scream 'til it hurts. They can't sleep. I want to be one of them. We try. We bleed. Endless. Broken. White. Lines That in mind, how much are the lyrics a self fulfilling prophecy? Do, or did you in MLIW, make songs about how you live, or do you live like you do, so you can write about the things that you write?
I'm confused by this question. But I had a deep fascination with a certain type of person and a certain type of life. I felt like a little kid just dreaming about those things and then at some point I realized I my life had become that dream. That probably doesn't make any sense. It's just all in the journey and the journey will never end for me.
What I meant was this: Mike Ness said in a interview that it takes so long for him to make a new record because he has to actually live in between them. So do you go out and search for the things you could, or would like to write about, or are you just along for the ride?
Well I think that I am just always on the lookout. I always write things down. Whether it's quoting someone or just a thought or something a billboard says. Just anything. I keep little records of the things that stick out to me and then you can often find patterns that develop and you can use that to determine subject matter and then the specific things that you wrote down to make the actual substance of the song and to get specific. I think you have just as good of a chance of having a profound thought at your job as you do going on a pilgrimage to India or something like that. But I also think it's easy to get into a mental rut that it's hard to get out of. That's really the biggest challenge: constantly finding new perspective and new inspiration. Staying out of those ruts or knowing how to get out of them when you get in. I am definitely at the point right now where I need to do some living and work on lots of different things before I would be ready to put something out there again.
I think that is also true. That no matter where you are you can have great ideas. It seems that people use that sometimes as an excuse of sorts. Like they couldn't get inspired because they haven't been to Egypt, or been on a rickety boat in middle of the amazon. I haven't been anywhere like that put I still can be creative. Its all about the mind set you have. And I think that why people say that is that modern western society urges people to live to the max and out do each other. Or you arent shit otherwise. I used to be like that and I felt like SHIT. Of course now I realize that it isn't true, but sadly many people believe it.
I think living hard and trying to do as much as you can isn't necessarily a bad thing. It just really depends on your motivation and what you are trying to attain. I've heard from a few different people that America is the only country well people EXPECT happiness and feel that they DESERVE it. Maybe it goes back to manifest destiny and slaughtering Indians. It doesn't seem right that happiness should be the goal. Maybe some things should come before the quest for happiness.
Do you mean that the journey is as important as the goal?
Yes. And usually it's goals that make you go on the journey. The Clash has a line that sums it up...
Face front you got the future
shining like a piece of gold
But I swear as we get closer
It look more like a lump of coal.
You said earlier that "I think living hard and trying to do as much as you can isn't necessarily a bad thing". I think that to many young kids work in itself seems like fucking retarded thing to do. Granted, I also used to have that mentality when I was 18-20. But as I have gotten older (im 25now) I see that it can be a good thing. It gives you something to do, new friends and most importantly, you start to appreciate things and value other peoples opinions. You aren't as narrow minded anymore. The "leftist kid who think's that all who don't share your opinions are fucking evil and misguided". How do you see this?
I think work is good for the soul. It's just finding the type of work that you love and are passionate about and fits your talents. I went to Dachau and saw "Arbeit macht frei" on the gates and always think about the relationship between work and freedom. I can't imagine that having lots of money and nothing to do but spend it could be very fun or satisfying. It's probably about as miserable as living in poverty. The job I have right now is just a job to me. I want to eventually find a way to make a living using my talents and the things I am passionate about but it is very difficult. And I learned with Modern Life Is War that placing the burden of making a living on something that you love can sometimes make it feel like something you are obligated to do. And if things don't work out I would rather spend 40 hours a week doing something that I don't enjoy rather than turning things I love into obligations.
You latest and final album is called Midnight in America and its cover has a H.P. Lovecraft feel to it. Why is that?
I'm not really familiar with HP Lovecraft. The art was done by Darius Qojak who is a friend of ours from Iowa. It's the cornskull and it represents Iowa and rebellion and the inevitability of death. He just opened a tattoo shop in Tama, Iowa called Electric Tattoo.
You have tattoos yourself also. How many and what got you interested on them?
I've always liked the way tattoos looked. Even shitty faded ones on old military guys. The first one I got was inside my lip and it says "soul" then my second one I got on my forearm and it's a smiling Mexican day of the dead sugar skull and his head is being smashed in by an anvil and it says "grace under pressure". I guess I have seven tattoos now. They all have meaning to me in some way. But I have nothing against just getting tattoos for the fuck of it. I am into traditional American style tattoos work with some kind of a twist to it so it's not just a sailor jerry tattoo that a million people have. Darius is doing a big "Made in Marshalltown" on my chest right now.
Do you have anymore plans for future tattoos? Maybe a full backpiece?
Yeah, I'm gonna get a picture of Tyler (MLIW drummer) sitting on a toilet on my back. Neck to crack. He's gonna be reading the paper and smoking a cigarette.
I have to point out that in a way some of your comment's (not that last one!) seem Buddhist…
I've never known a Buddhist. I think they have the right idea about a lot of things.
The songs Stagger Lee and Motorcycle Boy Reigns from MIA album have kinda flipped parts with each other. Stagger Lee is more a dreamlike story, with lyrics portraying Staggers every move, like in a book. But Motorcycle boy is more of a forward in your face HC song, that doesn't really much explain things and its based on a movie. Feel´s like it should be the other way around because Stagger is based on a real person. How do you see this?
Nah, Man. You got it all wrong. Stagger Lee was a real man named Lee Sheldon but has become folklore and no one knows the facts or what happened exactly. He has become part of the fabric of American culture. The Motorcycle Boy is my Dad, Tom Eaton and all the lyrics are for him and about him. He raced motorcycles in his youth and I grew up in a motorcycle shop that my Grandpa owned. Didn't you read the liner notes or lyrics? C'mon brother... Do your research before you go throwing down these heavy opinions on us!
Fuck. I was positive that the Motorcycle Boy was from the movie Rumble Fish! And when it comes to the lyrics I just thought you were obsessive towards him... But, on the subject of your Dad. What does he think about you making music?
My old man has always been supportive. He's a guy who has always had a lot of hobbies and he goes about anything he gets interested in with this huge intensity. And I get that from him. Even though maybe he doesn't entirely understand the band or my lyrics I think that I am making him proud just by working so hard and accomplishing so much.
If today you would write the song Hair Raising Accounts Of Restless Ghosts (A.K.A. Hell Is For Heroes Part II) again, would you say
See, I'm just a factory worker's son from a railroad town.
And yeah, I can feel the steel mills rust.
Or would the line be different?
It would be the same. That's one thing that I will always come back to that will remain constant. I want to remain humble. I am a kid from a good family in a Midwestern town. I will do lots of things in my life but it's just all building on that I think. It's like the foundation of a house..and i want to keep that strong so I don't fall down.
Is there a strong labor movement presence or anything like that in your town?
No, not really. Lennox (makes heaters and air conditioners) where my dad works is unionized. Fishers (makes valves) used to employ a ton of people but that number has dwindled a lot. And when I was really young the Meat Packing plant was a big employer and was unionized..but then they closed down the factory for a couple of years and opened up under a new name to break the union and starting bringing workers from Mexico. Now we have a pretty huge Mexican population. From what I understand there was actually a sign at the Mexico/US border that said something to the effect of "come to Marshalltown, Iowa for work". I can count how many times I've heard that Mexicans have "ruined" this town. But from what I have experienced they are mostly hardworking family oriented people who just want a job so they can support their family and live a decent life.
What kinda vibe do they bring to the local music scene and what type of scene is there in your town generally?
As I've seen thus far, there hasn't really been any Mexican kids at shows. They would definitely be welcomed if they showed up. But for the most part that whole culture seems to be listening to their own traditional music which I respect and think is really cool. It's cool to have a car driving by with Latin rhythms and blasting brass instruments here in middle America. The scene here is pretty much just a music scene. It's never been predominately one kind of music. There's no music venue here and it's not a big town so it's all DIY and just everyone sharing resources.
How does it make you feel when kids look you as a role model or say that you helped them trough tough times?
Well I have had a lot of kids say that our band or my words specifically have helped them...but I think most of them that really have spent time with my words and have a strong understanding of them know that I'm not a role model and not trying to be and that we're on the same level. It makes me feel good of course. I feel so much better about my life when I know there really are a lot of other people that have the same feelings. We will be connected through this forever even if we never know each others names and that is a really nice thing to think about and know.
Have you met your own personal ”heroes” and what were they like?
My heroes are just my dad and my Grandpa. They are good honest hardworking guys. My grandpa has been gone a while now.
What will you be doing now? New band? Maybe write a book?
I have been thinking about it a lot but haven't really made up my mind on anything yet. This definitely won't be my last band but I am in no rush. I want to buy an acoustic guitar and learn to play. I have been playing harmonica when I drive around in my car. I want to get a big canvas and paint since I've never really done that. I have skateboarded since I was a little kid and I want to devote more time to that now that I am off the road. I want to build a launch ramp. I am always writing so someday I might try to put some writing out into the world in some form. Right now it's just nice to feel like there are endless possibilities and no real pressure or expectations. I collect all kinds of records and want to learn how to DJ. I really want to travel as a anonymous person instead of coming into a town or a city and being in a band and playing a show. So many things I want to do... So little time, so little money.
Care to show us some of your new writings?
Nope. I'm gonna take a little break before I put anything else out there into the world.
What are the things that you will be telling to your grandchildren about your time in MLIW?
Who knows? I don't even have children yet. My perspective will have changed quite a lot by then I'm sure. I hope I will encourage them to go out and see the world and do interesting things even though I will be so protective of them!
Lets end this on a series of fun questions. I will say 3 albums, 3 books & 3 movies that I love, then you all say what might be good and similar.
Bruce Springsteen: Nebraska
The Who - Quadrophenia
Poison Idea: Feel the Darkness
Tragedy - S/T
Tom Waits: Alice
Brooks Strause: The Misanthrope and His Doubtful Faith
Albert Camus: Stranger
Henry Rollins: Get in the Van
John Joseph: Life of a CroMagnon
Mihail Bulgakov: Master and Margarita
You have out-read me here!
You should definetly check it out. The pace in his writing can change in a instant and it is related to what the characters are doing. If they shout, he seems to be shouting at you too! Weird!
Sounds cool, I'll check this out.
Francis Ford Coppola: Rumble Fish
Penelope Spheeris: Suburbia
Terrence Malick: Badlands
Fucking amazing movie. Its from the director of The Thin Red Line, New World etc. Movie version Bruce Springsteen's song Nebraska. With a dash of Born to Run and sociological LSD trip thrown into the mix.
Richard Kelly: Donnie Darko
Jim Jarmusch - Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
Cool. That was just for my own curiosity. In your blog (http://manictimes.blogspot.com) there is good info about your own favorites when it comes to books, music and movies,so im not going to ask just that. Just tell what are the things that you ARENT in anyway influenced by even if people think you are.
Just check the blog!
And finally. Is the status quo destroying the minds of our children and how can we stop that?
I don't know. This world has gone crazy. Keep your loved ones close and do what you think is right.