Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Battletorn interview

This interview was done with the guys from Battletorn and I believe submitted to Maximumrocknroll, who didn't like it for some reason. Oh darn. It's a good read though, so you can now read about it here. A bit on the long side, so I'll post half now and half later. I suppose it would be a convenient place to mention that the CD version of "Terminal Dawn" with remastered "Burn Fast" tracks will be out soon... limited to 500 like the LP version at that.



How do you get your music to reach a wide audience, without compromising your DIY roots? How do you push yourself without being a whore? It's It's a difficult situation that most talented underground band finds themselves in at some point. It's rough out there you're hell-bent on doing things DIY: putting your music out there, wanting it to be heard, not having the money or the means to reach as many people as you'd like. Then one day, a subsidiary of a major label comes along looking in the gutter for a band to polish up enough to become the next big thing. Dirty and disruptive has become not only marketable, but lucrative, and when names are being dropped and contracts are being waved, it's easy to get lost in the hype and glamor of the music scene in Brooklyn.

Good thing the dudes in Battletorn have short attention spans.

Battletorn is a two man thrash-punk assault from Brooklyn, NY. They're notorious for their "attack" approach to playing live; jumping onto other bands' equipment, ripping through a blistering 10 minute set, and jumping offstage again before the audience knows what's hit 'em. They joke about this "gypsy" approach to shows, and about how they play "caveman music," but their chidings are not apologetic or self-deprecating. The guys in Battletorn exhibit an unmistakable pride in their unpolished aesthetic and dirty DIY roots.

And well they should, for it was this DIY pride that carried them through the aforementioned slimy label situation to stay true to their DIY roots. After releasing an album on the trendy, super-hyped Megablade label (a subsidiary of a Troubleman Unlimited, who in turn is owned by a major), Battletorn began to get caught up in a scene that, thanks to the surge in hipster popularity of crossover bands like Municipal Waste, is decidedly less than true.

Battletorn, then a three-piece, underwent a sort of catharsis as a result of being engulfed by the Megablade scene. Omid and William, the musicians who now comprise the two-man thrash attack Battletorn, make it clear that departing from the raw and unrefined in favor of gaining exposure is a compromise they are not willing to make again. The guys in Battletorn see it this way: for every album sold to someone who's just in it for the scene points, some fundamental element of truth is lost. The struggle to stray true in a scene that rewards posing and posturing hasn't been easy, but then again, they don't really have a choice in the matter. They've been around too long to pander to "flavor of the week" fans. They no longer have the patience...or the attention span.

Given how much we talk about staying true in metal, Omid's Manowar business card seems like the right place to begin…

Mary: So how did you get that Manowar business card?

Omid: It's pretty fucking cool! I think it came from the show at L'Amours. They played there before it closed.

William: The Blizzard Beast came. Er…what was that other band that played?

Omid: Satyricon?

William: Immortal? Slipknot? Yeah, it was a good show.

Omid: It was a good show. There was a lot of, like…baby oil and metal. Metal and baby oil. Plenty of lubrication.

William: The singer said that he'd rather hang out with this dude than with the dude's girlfriend, because he knew he was a true brother of metal. (laughter) The whole audience just started, like, clapping and going, "METTTAAALLL!!" (raises his fist in the air, much laughter)

Omid: yeah, that was awesome, man. And then he poured a beer all over himself. There was a lot of beer-pouring.

Mary: Why is it that you haven't had much "industry" exposure? Is that intentional?

Omid: I guess. I mean, I feel like it's the kind of thing that could be helpful to have some stuff out there, like I wish Troubleman did a little more. Well I guess I shouldn't start naming names.

William: Go ahead, slam everybody on tape, dude. Those guys at Circus did nothing for us.

Omid: Yeah, I wish Hit Parader gave us more coverage. (laughter)…but anyway, so I got this Manowar business card…I think it could be helpful, you know, press is cool, but we didn't really scout it out or anything. Dan's just trying to get the name out, and you know, do a little bit of… information-spreading or whatever.

Mary: Is that a reason that you left Troubleman?

Omid: We were just this small part of like this huge "let's just take all this shit and throw it at the wall and see what sticks". I liked the fact that they did the first single and they made 300 copies of it, it was cool, but when they're making 2,000 CDs and they don't put anything behind it, and then of course only 500 or 700 are going to sell. I mean, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that people aren't going to buy something that's just out there. There has to be a little bit of legwork done for people to know its there and buy it. I don't want them sitting in a warehouse somewhere. I want people to have that music. I took a lot of the copies back and I gave them away. I'll give them away before I'll let them rot in a warehouse. This isn't a business for me, I don't want money, I've got a job, I'm not trying to make money off of this, we get by. That's kind of why we switched labels, now the setup is a little more intimate.

Mary: Did you see Troubleman giving that push to other bands on the roster?

William: I thought it was more of a word of mouth thing. I think most Troubleman bands are like that, if you like one band you probably like another other band on it, but the whole Megablade thing was kind of like an offshoot that didn't really fit with that label. There's so many indie bands on Troubleman, and then on Megablade has these really heavy, slow bands…and we were like a fast band and I think the novelty kind of wore off for them kind of fast. So we just decided to kind of stick with what we've been doing.

Omid: Can I just say they're cool guys and we really appreciated them? (laughter) I mean, they are really nice people.

Mary: How did the whole Troubleman thing transpire?

Omid: Well, they just came up to us and asked us if they could put out a record. There was other labels that asked us if they could put out a record, too.

Mary: So the labels approached you? How did you get the exposure to be approached in the first place?

Omid: Playing two shows a week for the first…oh, I don't know, 9 months to a year. Playing anywhere and everywhere, that's pretty much it, just putting ourselves out there. There were other labels that approached us but we had another member at the time and she was really into Troubleman. This label Mad At The World asked us right off the bat if they could put out a record and she didn't seem that into it. I thought it was a great label because they're a hardcore label.

William: Matador approached us. They didn't have anything left, and then I guess they picked up Early Man.

Omid: It's totally true. The first email we got from a label was from Matador, asking for a demo and we never sent it to them.

William: We didn't have one.

Omid: We never followed up on it.

Mary: Going with the hardcore thing, back before Battletorn was Battletorn, you had hardcore in mind when you first started out?

William: Yeah, we wanted to be an avalanche of hardcore.

Mary: What happened before you guys met that took you in the direction of wanting to start a straight up hardcore band?

Omid: Well, it was our friend Sean's idea, he said, "let's start a band with three guitars" and so we were going to play with them, but then…we just played with each other. (laughter)

Omid: We didn't invite anyone else into the sandbox, except for Beverly… and then we just went back to… playing with each other.

William: Yeah, we just really like playing with each other. (more laughter)

Omid: No, it's totally true man! We're two men who like to play with each other. What's wrong with that?

At this point, the food arrives: plates heaped with steaming piles of ribs, slathered in smokey-sweet barbecue sauce. The interview is paused for a moment, and when the tape cuts back in, it goes straight to Omid's voice saying:

Omid: (evidently about Matador) They just jumped on whatever bandwagon, there is, you know? We would have probably gotten money and yeah, they would have done something behind it, but it would have been totally false.

William: We would have had to go on tour with Early Man, you know?

Mary: When you say "false" like that…what experiences prior to forming Battletorn shaped what your definition of "true" is? How did you get to the place where Battletorn was the band you wanted to be?

Omid: I'm going to put this piece of beef in my mouth and let William answer that.

William: Well, I played in a lot of bands in Virginia and D.C. that were hardcore, and punk, but they never really went anywhere.

Mary: What did you mean by "went anywhere"?

William: Uh…No one liked us or came to our shows. (laughter) And then coming up here when Battletorn first started out, we were not exactly true… we were playing a lot of shows that were, uh…

Omid (interrupting him) That doesn't mean that we're not true! What do you mean? We were true!

William: Well, we were getting swallowed into a scene that wasn't really true.

Omid: Well just because the scene isn't true doesn't mean that we're not true.

William: That's…well, true. (laughter) But we didn't let falseness prevail. Death to falseness.

Omid: Personally I think truth is the scene itself, you know? I'm old enough and William's old enough to have seen so many fucking trends come and go and people think that they're into this and into that. Really, we were around in the first wave of total fucking posers, and we saw in junior high school when kids were wearing Iron Maiden t-shirts that they bought at the mall, I mean, that was everybody was wearing, you know? Preppies wore polo shirts and, and whether or not they were really into it or if they were borderline, everybody else wore Maiden shirts, that's just what they wore. They never even heard the music….and now that's all happening again. I don't think that's why we started Battletorn, but there's definitely something to it there. I always preach about truth. I think truth is important. I think doing it yourself, as a band, and doing what you want to do is important.

Mary: "Death to false metal" says the man with the Manowar card.

Omid: Death to false everything. Just do your own thing and it doesn't matter if it's not cool or if people don't like it. There are so many trend hoppers and people jumping on band wagons. Especially in New York, that's like the capital of poserdom.

Mary: How has environment affected outcome here? How has New York made you guys what you are?

Omid: I don't know that it has. I think we were pretty set when we got here. I mean, I just wanted to play, and we've been in bands before, not in New York…

William: I just happen to live up here, man…

Mary: I know you played with Enemy Soil…

Omid: I played with them on that split with Corrupted. We were supposed to do other recordings, but I was living the 'hard life', so that wasn't the most prolific band. I mean, going to the studio wasn't really a priority. When we recorded one time, I remember, the drummer didn't even show up, that guy that's in Pig Destroyer now. He had to go take some girl to the doctor, we were in King from Deceased's basement and I was like, totally hung over, it was Saturday morning, Rich Johnson was in a really bad mood and so we just taught King the songs and we recorded them in his laundry room. That was my first exposure to playing that music. But as far as how we play goes, I think William's a lot more talented a musician than I am, I just play what I can and it just sort of flows. That's it. We did it on our own, write some riffs. William writes a lot of the guitar riffs too, he's really a guitarist who happened to become a drummer.

Mary: Then what is the falseness you were talking about before, especially in New York? What did you mean by that?

Omid: I mean, when you look around, there are just so many fucking people, just fronting that they're…..I mean, metal is definitely the flavor of the month right now, but it's not just metal. It's a thousand things that people get into for a minute, but the thing with metal is the most offensive to me.

William: Yeah, it's the one I feel the strongest about. There's that whole, kind of like a thrash revival right now that can be frustrating, I'm not going to name names, but…

Omid (laughing): Can't you hear the frustration in his voice? Can't you hear, it, how frustrated? He's so angry! (laughter)

William: You know, it becomes the flavor of the week. People who didn't listen to it back then, or… there are some cases where people are just discovering it and think it's great, but there are people who know they didn't take it seriously when it was first out there, and now they're playing in bands like that.

Omid: I don't think people can get into something like that. I mean, it's not like you can't get into something and be truly dedicated to it, but you can sense people that just seem like a lot of it was very transparent. I grew up very dedicated to heavy metal and hardcore music, and to see people take it lightly.

William: It's funny to see a bunch of people with Suicidal baseball hats and bandannas and acid wash jeans and big high tops now.

Mary: Do you guys see a lot of that at your shows in NYC? The transparent people?

William: We did for awhile.

Mary: What was that all about? Why did it stop?

William: (laughs) Well, they were just the flavor of the week scene. I think they thought it would be cool, and after hearing us, realized that, no, we don't like this, but it's cool for us to be here. So they went back to dope or blow or whatever they do, like joined a disco or something.

Omid: I think a lot of those people might have been attracted by our other lineup, too. Our singer was friends with a lot of sort of DJ-scene people.

Mary: What were the preconceptions people formed of Battletorn when you had a female singer?

William: Some people said we sounded like some band we've never heard of.

Omid: The Cums.

William: We've never heard them but I guess people thought we sounded like them.

Omid: That was Troubleman, they wrote that on our press release. Our label as people in general were pretty cool, they were around and into the music. I don't want to talk about that now. We've got a label now that's all hardcore with people who are putting out hardcore music and they're cool. We appreciate what Troubleman did, I don't have anything bad to say about them.

William: Nope.


A little while ago, Hugo interviewed me for his blog Lifers Montreal which he does with his boy Tremblay. If you're interested in anything I have to say, you can find it here: LIFERSMONTREAL. They have a lot of cool stuff up there, make sure to head over there every now and again.