Interview with At The Drive-In: With an Updated Introduction by Matthew Hart By Todd Taylor

Sep 25, 2012

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I saw At The Drive-In several times in 1996. They were fantastic. Energetic, interesting, intense. They definitely pulled from different pools. They had a softer side, but weren’t patently emo. They rocked, but weren’t “hard.” I also found it appealing that they came from smaller towns—El Paso and environs—and that they weren’t another L.A. band scraping for a cheap compliment. For several shows, there were about ten, fifteen people in attendance. They opened up for Nardwuar in Costa Mesa at one show. ATDI performed with everything they had, even when they were sick or tour-exhausted.
Hats off to Blaze James, who saw their talent and offered to put out their first full-length, Acrobatic Tenement. At the time, Blaze and I worked together at Flipside, so I got the inside scoop on their shows. Over the next three years, I saw the ATDI space shuttle being made. The band toured relentlessly. Every time they came through L.A., exponentially more and more people showed up. I distinctly remember being jammed inside a small Silverlake clothing store and being floored again at how tight Jim, Omar, Tony, and Cedric had become from all the touring.
And then it went nuts.
At this particular show at the Troubadour, I was unnerved—and I was just an involved observer—at how much attention ATDI “instantly” received. What seemed like a choreographed light show were actually photographers taking endless shots for the duration of their show. The place was an unhinged, sweaty mass. The band’s seams were beginning to show.
From the first demo tape, through the final version of Acrobatic Tenement, I appreciate the duality of ATDI: spacey, yet grounded. Arty, yet driving. Experimental, yet melodic. ATDI brought to mind one of my favorite—and durable—bands: Rites Of Spring. I’m having a hard time reconciling that this interview was conducted thirteen years ago.
This interview originally appeared in Flipside #120, Sept./Oct. 1999 and my best guess is that this interview was conducted on May 24, 1999

            –Todd Taylor
The Ouija board-loving members of At the Drive-In would appreciate that thirteen years have passed since this interview took place in 1999. ATDI’s next two albums, In/Casino/Out and Relationship of Command earned them widespread acclaim. However, the band decided to throw in the towel in 2001, citing mental and physical exhaustion. The band members never ruled out the possibility of a return. They all pursued other projects the same year they disbanded: Jim, Tony, and Paul formed Sparta; Cedric and Omar started Mars Volta. ATDI’s reunion in April 2012 at Coachella was a welcome surprise after an eleven-year hiatus.
In 2001, Cedric and Omar were still in a dub-reggae band called De Facto with Jeremy Ward, Jim’s cousin. Jeremy’s death in 2003 from a heroin overdose was a tragic wakeup call for Cedric and Omar to reflect on their own struggles with addiction. They both kicked their habits and acquired healthy lifestyles and work ethics. The energy from their newfound sobriety spawned a prolific musical output. Omar alone has released twenty-three solo albums—with another on the way. In 2006 Omar started the El Grupo Nuevo De Omar Rodriguez Lopez with notable drummer Zach Hill of Hella. Omar also became involved in films, eventually writing, scoring, producing, directing, and starring in his semi-autobiographical movie, The Sentimental Engine Slayer, in 2010. Cedric won a Grammy in 2009 for Best Hard Rock Performance for the song, “Wax Simulacra.” Mars Volta released its sixth album, Noctourniquet this March.
In 2002, Jim started an alt-country band with Paul called Sleepercar. The band didn’t record an album until 2008. In between those years Jim, Tony, and Paul released three albums with Sparta. They’re currently touring with Sparta and recording new material.
Paul is running the Beauty Bar in Portland, a venue that offers manicures and special guest DJs (Cedric served as DJ at the opening). Tony has the most to fall back on out of the five, with a degree in chemistry and a minor in mathematics from the University of Texas at El Paso. He still drums full-time for Sparta. Jim opened a bar in 2011 called Bowie Feathers above the venue TrickyFalls in El Paso. Cedric started a new project called Anywhere with Mike Watt and released a self-titled debut in March. Omar has been producing and playing bass with the L.A. band, Le Butcherettes, which also played at ATDI’s comeback show at Coachella.
At the Drive-In is hitting the festival circuit this summer. Starting in July, they’ll be heading to Spain, Japan, and Australia, and then coming back stateside for Lollapalooza in August followed by a trip across the pond to Leeds later in the month.
            –Matthew Hart, 2012

Please show me where you put your batteries.

Omar: What?

Cedric: Let’s see, how can I put this? If you don’t put food in right before, that’s where the batteries go. So it works better that way, you know what I mean?

Jim: I’m glad someone caught onto that.

Paul: I don’t get it.

Todd: I’ll elaborate. You guys are very energetic. Many bands aren’t energetic, especially in the genre of which you’ve been lumped into. Emo. How would you say you get that energy? Where do you put your batteries?

Paul: I guess being in the van.

Cedric: We feed off of each other. Big domino reaction.

Jim: I was trying to explain it to someone the other day and I was telling them that the bands that we all used to play with away from each other, there would be one guy in the band doing what we all do together. So now that we’ve all found each other, it’s gotten more intense than when we were in our other bands where there’d be Omar doing what he does and three guys standing there, and now that we’re all together, it keeps building on itself.

Omar: Kinetic energy, if you will.

Todd: Or maybe like a little snowball rolling down hill and making a big snowball.

All: There you go.

Todd: Continuing the battery line of questions—how do you keep going after awhile? Sometimes I have to drag my ass just to go out and see a band and hold a beer in my hand. How many shows, on average, do you do per year?

Jim: I think a lot less than people would think.

Todd: How many would that be?

Jim: I would think about fifty a year.

Cedric: No way.

Omar: We just did thirty-nine just in Europe alone.

Todd: So, Jim, you’re a math major?

Jim: Let’s say a hundred a year. Is that okay?

Omar: You can’t add.

Tony: About six months a year is what it approximates to. We get breaks and I think we do it because we rely on those thirty minutes to do it and I think we stay around and just talk to each other and not do much else before stage, except now we play frisbee.

Jim: We’re pretty lazy other than that.

Todd: Lyrics. Are they intentionally vague?

Cedric: Some of the time, yeah. Sometimes it makes for good camouflage, you know. Instead of saying like “I walked down the street, this is what I said...”

Paul: “...He called me a friend and he stabbed me in the back.”

Cedric: I guess, sometimes it pushes people to read between the lines a little more.

Todd: Okay, I’ve been looking between the lines quite a bit and I have no fucking clue what you’re talking about half the time. Why is the title of the album IN/Casino/Out and how does that apply to a satellite dish on the album art?

Cedric: I think, unconsciously—the way that the whole thing works out and the way the songs are and the way they’re placed together—to me, it means IN/Casino/Out. It’s like this story line. It means the big gamble, the big struggle.

Jim: I think we put stuff together and find the meaning later.

Omar: It’s just a bunch of ideas that we all like.

Cedric: IN/Casino/Out is something I just wrote down and then we were like, “All right.”

Omar: And Paul had the idea about satellite dishes or whatnot.

Cedric: We put satellite dishes on and we were like, “Oh, that seems like it could be a message.”

Todd: So what’s the last thing that you discovered in your own song after you wrote it?

Cedric: For “Shaking Hand Incision”—it’s one of those things where the lyrics are open to interpretation. A lot of them are scribblings that I’ve put down, as far as the one’s I’ve written. Tony’s written some words and so has Jim, but with “Shaking Hand Incision,” this kid was asking me at a show, “What’s that song about?” and I told him, “When I wrote it, I’d just come from the hospital and gone through some surgery, and it’s loosely based around that.” And to him, it was this thing about abortion. And when I think about the lyrics now, it hits it dead on. I didn’t even intentionally do it that way; it was so weird.

Paul: It changed his life.

Cedric: Yeah, for him, it changed his life.

Jim: He said that he had been sleeping around a lot and not really thinking heavily about his decisions, and after he listened to that song, it made him think about what he was doing and he totally changed the way he was living and thanked us for it.

Todd: Damn.

Jim: It’s actually on our website. We never got a chance to talk to him after the initial time we saw him.

Cedric: I think he hit it dead on. It wasn’t even in that direction at all. It’s cool that it works out like that.

Todd: Do you make words up?

Cedric: Uhh, no.

Todd: What’s “ayuchuco”?

Cedric: There’s two meanings to that. One of them I don’t know and the other one is “corner of the dead.” It’s this place in Peru and it was way back, a long time ago, that the Indians and the native people would just fucking hack people up there. It was a really bad part. I got it from this book about a terrorist organization called The Shining Path Liberation Front. That’s where they would mostly hang out and stuff and that’s where they picked up the debauchery. It started again there, too. It’s like they picked it up from their ancestors but they did it for different reasons. But it’s pretty gruesome, the shit that would go on there, whether it would be in the villages, cutting off the heads of dogs, trying to be like Mao Tse-tung, and putting them in the villages, like “Welcome to Ayuchuco” with a bunch of dead dog heads. If you’re a foreigner, be careful. That’s where I got that word from. It had a heavy meaning for me so I thought it fit with the song okay.

Todd: What’s the difference between you the musician and you the person? Do you see any distinctions between the two?

Omar: Mine’s really simple. Music-wise, I’d like to be really, really serious.  A lot of bands have joke songs or whatever and they kind of fuck around with it. I’d like to be serious with it. And as a person, I’m completely the opposite. You can’t really get that much serious time with me. It’s mostly jokes.

Cedric: As far as I am, I’m really hyper all of the time—whether it’s my girlfriend telling me to shut up and that I should save it for tour—that’s the way I am all around. But musically, the same thing—I try to be a little more serious and focused as far as that goes. I think the live show compared to just listening to it would be a lot different, but sometimes I’m a little bit too hyper for my own good. 

Paul: I just try to focus my anger on my drum playing and take it out on stage—and whatever sadness I have for that night, or whatever, and when I’m off stage, aside from the band, with friends, I’m a lot more talkative, a lot more open, and a little bit happier than when I’m playing.

Paul: I’m just like on stage—the way it is—and off stage; I’m totally shy.

Cedric: If you can’t tell.

Jim:  There’s really no difference for me. I’m almost kind of bummed out about it right now. I’m trying to think about it. I was telling my girlfriend before I left for this tour, “I need to get a fucking hobby” because we do it so much now and so intensely, it’s almost like a job and I used to know the difference between...

Todd: Jim At the Drive-In and Jim whatever your last name is.

Jim: Yeah. I’m not sure any more so I’m going to start playing golf more. I really am because I used to play golf in high school and I’m going to pick it up again because I need a hobby. Me and Paul, on the course.

Todd: What are your thoughts about being in a band that has so many expansive possibilities? You’re mentioned by a lot of people. You haven’t yet given up any of your creative integrity. Aside from Jim’s math, you’re touring like mad. You’re meeting more and more people. What are you really happy about and what are you apprehensive about?

Cedric: I would just be apprehensive about what people want us to do and how they want to market us—if they want to contort my ideas into something a little more digestible for mass consumption and shit like that. But we’re not going to change much, I don’t think. And if we do, it’s...

Omar: our own volition if we change. It’s not because somebody else is ramming ideas down our throats.

Jim: We plan on never doing the same record twice, so, obviously, it’s going to change. No matter what label it’s on, we’re going to be happy with it or it’s not going to come out. And I think the other thing is we’ve always said there’s not a whole lot of stuff we’d say “no” to but we’re not going to change to get there. If people want to play us on the radio, that’s fine, but radio’s got to come to a point where they’re comfortable playing us. We don’t want At the Drive-In to be on the radio. If people want to play it, that’s fine, but that’s not our goal.

Todd: I feel the same way. If two million people wanted to buy Flipside tomorrow, I’d do everything in my power to distribute it, unchanged.

Cedric: You don’t want to change your formula because that’s what got you your fans in the first place.

Jim: I think there’s a lot of ego saying that you’re only around for a specific purpose, whether it’s to be famous or to not be famous.  For us to say that, that’s probably coming out wrong, do you know what I’m saying? —to say, “fuck major labels and fuck major radio and fuck MTV and fuck all that.” Unless you’ve done all that, you don’t know that you don’t like it. It’s just something I approached a long time ago—saying I’ll try a lot of different stuff as long as it’s something I’m comfortable with and I don’t want to be a snob. I don’t only want to go to emo shows. I don’t want to only play punk bars or only play rock bars or only play anything. We’ve played basements and we’ve played the Whisky and we’ll continue to do stuff like that.

Cedric: Whatever opportunities we have, we’ll play ball. It’s our ball game. We made up the rules. It’s our hoop.

Todd: Quiet guy, did growing up and forming in El Paso make you more determined or focused?

Paul: I don’t think it has really anything to do with us being a certain way or anything. I think we are just the way we are. We would have been the same way, I think, everywhere, if we lived somewhere else.

Todd: Do you think you may have clawed and scratched and practiced more when you knew that you didn’t have any easy avenues to play in or have a support system?

Paul: For me, I never thought, “Wow, I’m going to so we can get big,” or whatever. I just wanted to play and wanted to have fun and play with my friends, so I never really thought about it like that.

Jim: I think, to a certain degree, we honed our skills by playing our asses off all over the States for nobody for a long fucking time, so I think to some degree, yeah. 

Todd: How many times have you guys toured the United States?

Jim: Sometimes twice a tour, so, god, five or six times.

Todd: How long have you guys been a band?

Cedric: Since ‘94 and with this lineup, since ‘97.

Jim: So, two years. The Flipside record was recorded in ’96, but everything before that was trying to figure out how to do it to the best of our abilities.

Omar: That was our first U.S. tour when we met up with Blaze and Flipside—in ‘95.

Todd: Tell me the best thing about the person sitting to your right.

Omar: Is there something?

Jim: I think out of all the people I know, Omar can make me laugh the fastest and cry the fastest. And when I say cry, I mean to be there for me to unload on. I’m actually getting choked up. He’s one of the best guys I know in the whole world. Fucking awesome listener.

Cedric: For me, Tony’s like a backbone. For awhile, Jim had a lot of the responsibility and stuff like that, and so when he wasn’t in the band, I tried to get shit together and ptttwwttt  [stuck out tongue noises]. Ain’t gonna happen. I think I’m only good for a couple of the responsibilities and it’s not really that much. So I appreciate a lot of the hard work that he does and there’s a lot of red tape and shit I don’t want to deal with and he does. He does it really well, as far as things that keep everything together during tour and the band in general. Backbone.

Tony: To me, Paul’s almost like a brother in the sense of music—I played with him—this is our third band together and when I get sad about things, he keeps me going about music. He always thinks of what’s next and how good the next opportunity’s going to be, whichever way it’s going to take us. He always reminds me how fun it is to play music.

Paul: Jim I’ve known the least of all these guys, but we have a lot of stuff in common that’s cool, like I’m a total geek. We have stuff in common that these guys won’t talk about.

Jim: We like to talk about GPSs and laptops and cell phones.

Cedric: Airplanes.

Todd: Why the name At The Drive-In? Why not On A Park Bench? 

Cedric: It just clicked. Personally, I was thinking of this one title from a Bad Brains song
called “At the Movies,” and it kind of switched from that when we’re singing that Poison song, you know. We tell people, “Yeah, we got it from a Poison song,” but it’s not like, “You know, there’s this great song by Poison, and man, you should hear it, and let’s take this.” We were humming it out, singing along, and “You know what, that’s kind of cool. Let’s just keep it.”

Jim: It’s not specific to a genre. We don’t want to be specific to anything. We have to command the rest of our records to do different stuff and if we were On A Park Bench With A Kleenex Box, we’d be stuck in the same fucking genre...

Omar: Or like the Fuck Yous or the Fuck Your Moms. It’s one of those names that people either totally dig it or think it’s shit. It’s one of those cool things where there’s no in-between part.

Todd: What’s the last think that Howard Zinn taught you?

Tony: The first thing I read from that book The People’s History of the United States is
probably the most important thing that I didn’t know—and I felt pretty dumb for not knowing because Omar had probably known for years—and that was what Christopher Columbus did to the Indians; how he came and how he wasn’t some sort of savior. He killed, slaughtered, and tormented. That’s probably the most important thing that I learned from him.

Cedric: Sounds like my dad. “When Thanksgiving comes along, don’t celebrate that in school, tell them that Mexican people have always been here,” and I said that in class and everyone was laughing at me. I was, “Okay, I guess my dad’s wrong.”

Todd: Have you ever had any fortune cookies that have come true?

Omar: I have, but just because they’re so fucking vague. It’s like bullshit, you know. That shit, “If you live to be past three years old, you’re going to have all types of shit happen to you.”

Cedric: “Travel and see much money.” And then you lose it in the end.

Omar: Positive energy. You never open one that says, “Your good friend in the fuckin’ band is going to die of cancer...”

Todd: “...and you’re fucked...”

Omar: You never open those, so everything else is ambiguous and usually positive.

Todd: Have you guys begun to get the trappings of the “rock star” audience? Any panties, boob flashes, drug excess, or spandex?

Cedric: Fuck no.

Todd: Any barrettes?

Jim: No.

Todd: Any sweaters?

Jim: No.

Cedric: Sweaters?

Todd: Emo.

Omar: People seem to be really respectful. I was thinking about that the other day.

Cedric: A handful of people have asked for autographs and stuff and one of the weirder comments is, “Just in case you get famous.” And I’m thinking, “What are they going to try to do? Sell it or something?” That’s so weird.

Jim: I don’t think we promote that sort of shit. So if you don’t promote it, people feel a lot less comfortable doing it. Like, we don’t go out and go, “What’s up, you bunch of fucking pussies. Yeah, woo, rock’n’roll.”

Omar: “For all you chicks here, later on tonight...”

Jim: We’re not a mack band. We don’t do drugs on stage. Occasionally, we’ll have beer on stage. That’s what we we’re talking about earlier, with the whole PC thing. As far as music goes, that’s all we’re there for. We’re just here for the music, nothing else.

Todd: Any bribes to play a song?

Jim: They’ve threatened.

Omar: Not bribery, but in one sense, we played this one place in Germany and they asked, “Can you play this one song?” And we said, “We can’t.” It’s the one with the piano on it in IN/Casino/Out. And they brought out this case. They had rented a keyboard and it had a little note saying “This is our favorite song. All of us got together—all the people who cooked, all the people who worked here.” You can’t say no. 

Jim: We played it and it sucked.

Omar: Because we never practice it.

Cedric: We weren’t so good at it.

Omar: So, to a certain degree, you could call that bribery but it was more like flattery. It was really nice.

Jim: We’ll take bribes, though.

Omar: Just for the record, we’ll take money.

Todd: Do you have any hypothesis why so many emo fans are beginning to look like Star Trek’s Romulans wearing sweaters? It’s new to me.

Jim: This guy [pointing to Cinco, their roadie] has a whole fucking theory about it. He and Duncan from By The Grace Of God made this whole list of Star Trek figures associated with what genre of emo and stuff. I don’t know. I think it’s people looking for something different.

Cedric: It’s a combination, I think, of everybody takes bits and pieces of style from way back when. And that, to me, it’s just completely the biggest rip off, if you want to call it, of mod. They all look like John Entwisle. They look like the Beatles and they’re trying to mix it in with a couple wrinkles of their own.

Jim: I think there’s a combination of glam rock going on with it now, too. There’s the big poof.

Omar: Or the unwashed.

Jim: Where it’s slicked down and then the big hair-sprayed poof.

Todd: What’s the most ludicrous promise that someone has made to or for you and actually kept it. Any surprises?

Cedric: Maybe going to Europe.

Omar: Because we’ve been let down before.

Cedric: Exactly. There was the time where we worked with Offtime Records and that was promised to us. We were really looking forward to it. He’s like, “We’ll do this, we’ll do that, we’ll take you to Europe, picture disk, blah, blah, blah...” 

Todd: Did the guy even take you to McDonald’s?

Jim: No.

Omar: Actually, he did. But we paid for our meals. Actually, did we pay for his? I think he might have said, “I don’t think I have my wallet on me, dude.”

Cedric: “But I do have the pen.” (to sign the contract) And now, working with Bob at Fearless and knowing Blaze and Blaze knowing Dolf (of Trust fanzine) in Germany and stuff, it just clicked together. It wasn’t like they promised it, but it was like, “Hey, we can do it,” not like, “We’re going to try and if it happens, it happens.” It was, “It’s going to happen.”

Omar: Actually, they would be the best example. They did everything they said they were going to do.

Tony: Blaze just called and said, “Do you want to go to Europe?” And I was all, “When?” “In March,” and it was September of ‘98 and I was all, “That’s a long time from now. You always wait ‘til a few weeks and make sure that it’s going to happen.” He said, “Well, Dolf said it’s going to happen so I know it’s going to happen.” And we got it. That’s how Dolf works. Efficient.

Todd: Have you either knocked somebody out accidentally playing or knocked yourself or another member out when you played?

Jim: Yeah. We’ll go person by person. Okay, I think I’ve passed out while playing. Our first big U.S. tour, I passed out in Santa Cruz at the Red Room. Three songs into it; passed out cold. Don’t know why. Just passed out. Probably dehydrated. And at the Whisky, I nailed Paul in the head with my headstock and split his fucking head open.

Paul: Well, the skin.

Jim: The scar’s gone. I’ve hit myself and cut more forehead open with the headstock.
I broke my guitar on him, on Paul, which was a total accident.

Cedric: And the kids were like, “Yeah, do that again!”

Jim: I jumped through this door. We were playing this room. We were playing at a house party in Las Cruces and there were too many people to be inside, so they went outside and we played inside through a glass sliding door. At one point, I jumped through the door to scream and I didn’t think about the momentum of the guitar and it just slid out and just nailed a girl right in the face. I felt horrible. I cut her cheek open. It was pretty bad.

Omar: With the exception of Tony, I think I’ve nailed everyone. I’ve hit Paul, I’ve hit Jim—I stepped on this dude’s neck...

Jim: He jumped off my neck.

Omar: ...I’ve hit myself an indefinite number of times. I’m usually pretty good. I don’t hit people, but three nights ago, two nights in a row, I hit—this girl was sitting on the side of the stage and I went bink. I nailed her right in the fucking head. I always go and apologize.

Jim: We warn people, though. We always ask for room because people tend to cluster when you play.

Todd: Because you guys have predatory paths when you play. 

Jim: We know where we’re going to be and I constantly have to ask people to move over and over again.

Todd: It’s like a mine field. Stay beyond the tape and you’ll be fine.

Jim: Yeah. I don’t want to hinder what we do and I also don’t want to hurt somebody.

Cedric: I jumped on Omar’s shoulders once and he had me for a little bit and I just fell into the drums and I tried to grab a cymbal to break my fall and I just bounced off my knee and I said, “No more guys, I’m sorry. I broke my knee.” It was okay the next day with a little bit of ice, but oh it was fucking scary.

Jim: The guitar player who played on the first two 7”s was on the tour and the same night that he fell on the drums, he threw a chair and hit him.

Cedric: It was a mistake.

Jim: It was a total accident. We were playing for four people and we just let it go that night.

Omar: Same thing with him. I think he’s nailed everybody. Maybe including the drummer at some point.

Paul: Tony’s been hit by the microphone.

Cedric: There used to be times where I’d kick these guys and I kicked him from behind and got his fucking jewels really good.

Jim: I turned just as he kicked, and it slid right up my leg and I was out for the song. I was on the ground just rolling around...

Jim: In Germany, I got taken into the crowd.

Cedric: They were jumping on his fret board, on his head.

Jim: You see, there was this real small girl who had cooked for us and we were playing “Napoleon Solo,” which is such a slow song. And they went off on the first heavy part, and I was staring right at her and I saw them hit her back and her head snapped back and I was like, “What the fuck?” So when it mellowed down again, I said, “You guys gotta be careful.” “No hitting,” doing the universal sign for hitting. So those girls scooted over and I was standing between the crowd and the girls, thinking, “I’m in the band, they won’t take me in.” The last thing I remember was my feet in the air and the girl who was traveling with us—she was taking photographs of the tour—she didn’t get the picture in time, but there was a guy kicking my head and there were people actually standing on my fretboard.

Omar: We were watching it, thinking, “Wow, that looks cool.”

Cedric: I didn’t know how to stop it. I was thinking, “Oh my god, people are on his head.”

Omar: That’s the reaction. Totally. I stopped playing, but I didn’t help him. “Wow, they’re jumping on his head.” And that’s the problem with TV; you’re desensitized. “That can’t be real.”

Tony: That part was the part I kept playing.

Todd: A little bit of a soundtrack to the carnage.

Jim: I was really upset. I threw off my guitar and threw a temper tantrum and said, “Fuck you. We’re not playing any more. You can’t do this anymore. This isn’t ‘78. This isn’t going to happen.”

Cedric: They apologized.

Jim: They felt really bad.

Cedric: The same bunch of kids came to the out to the next show and they were like, “Okay, we’re not going do that.” Totally tame.

Todd: Had oven mitts and band-friendly protective gear on, the whole nine yards. Okay, is there anything you’d like to share that doesn’t usually come up in your standard interview?

Jim: I’m a super technical freak. I’m trying to compile a guitar fanzine that’s just all about guitars. I interviewed Ian from Fugazi. That’s what I’m really into. Kids last night asked me a lot of questions... and then insulted what I said. 

Todd: Is there any low-number production guitar manufacturers in America that you know of?

Jim: Not really. I’m not an expert on it. I know some small companies but they’re called boutique companies. What they do is cater to really rich people. There’s no DIY. It’s too complicated, it’s too hard.

Cedric: There should be.

Jim: There should be, but to create one guitar costs $1,000. So. No. Not really. The best thing in the world is just used guitar stores. That’s the shit. They’re cheap. They’re great. They have character. You don’t need a fancy new thing. 

Cedric: That’s how you got ahold of fucking Steve Jones’ guitar to play on the record.

Todd: Really?

Jim: On the newest EP, one of the songs—I don’t know the name of it because I don’t ever know the names of our songs—it’s dun unt, dun unt, dun unt...

Cedric: “300 Megahertz.”

Jim: That one. Well, anyways, the guy that I work for at a guitar shop had bought Steve Jones’ guitar, so he brought it down and let me play it on one song. It’s going to be a cool little piece of history. I’m pretty stoked about it.

Todd: Paul, have you thought of a topic yet?

Paul: No, because nobody ever asks me questions.

Jim: He usually doesn’t do interviews.

Cedric: It’s because he’s so quiet.

Paul: But that’s what I was going to say. Yeah, either they’re intimidated or, like, I don’t know what it is.

Todd: So you bully people, is that it?

Paul: No, no, no. Nobody comes up and talks to me.

Todd: You’re just the quiet one.

Paul: I’ve always been that way.

Omar: Some people think he’s mean. People will come up and ask me, “So what’s up with that guy?”

Todd: “Is he ‘luded out?”

Omar: He’s the most shyest. I always tell a friend of mine, “Go fucking push him,” because he won’t do shit.

Todd: So do you feel the target growing on your head right now?

Paul: I always feel the target. Every day.

Cedric: It’s great. This interview is going to be the most he’s ever talked in his life.

Todd: “He is not mute, contrary to popular belief”... If you could live in a book, a cartoon, a TV show, or a Broadway musical, what character would you be and why?

Omar: Fuck, man.

Cedric: I would want to be General Ursus from Planet of the Apes: Part Two just because you get to say that fucking awesome line, “The only good human is a dead one,” and wage war on fucking humans. That’s why.

Jim: I think like an Andy Griffith or some sort of character—this is just a good guy...

Todd: Wise and benign.

Jim: Just like a nice, old guy. When I’m old, I just want to have a belly and sit on a porch and drink a fucking beer and be nice, you know. That’s about it. That’s all I really want to do. I don’t want to be a badass or anything, just a chilled old guy.

Tony: I’d be Batman from the cartoon series because he’s so mysterious and a lot of depth to him, I think. 

Paul: I don’t think I’d want to be anybody from television or anything, but I’d like to be in the cartoon “Dungeons and Dragons,” ‘cause you could always be there but you could always come back to the real... so you’re never trapped somewhere.

Omar: I have no idea.

Cedric: He’d like to be Mowgli from Jungle Book.

Todd: Have you guys learned any valuable touring advice?

Jim: I know the best advice we’ve ever heard, and we don’t have the space for it, but a clothes dryer. Fugazi tours with a little clothes dryer and it’s the smartest fucking thing because they were telling us—when we were playing with them in Des Moines—it was about twenty degrees outside. We had all of our shirts hanging on the doors of the van and we have to drive around. We don’t pull the shirts in until they’re dry and Brendan was telling us, “Just buy a clothes dryer. It’s like $150.” 

Cedric: And you put it on a 2” x 4” with casters on it to roll it around. I thought, “What is that, a stage prop?”

Jim: It’s like $200, tops, and you rinse out your shirts after you play, wash them out, put them in the dryer, then they’re not clean, but they’re dry and they don’t stink. That’s the best fucking advice I’ve ever heard.

Cedric: That’s your uniform for the next day. I don’t even know why I pack half the clothes I pack. I wear this same fucking thing, every tour.

Todd: So Jim, why are you out of uniform? [He’s the only one not dressed in black.]

Jim: I was just saying that. I have the least amount of black clothes.

Paul: I didn’t even notice.

Todd: You guys are going to be the wait staff next door after your show. Hidden clause in your contract... What bands would you like to have next to your interview in Flipside?

Cedric: Björk. That would be cool. She has a lot of early history that’s not just techno.

Todd: She was in a punk band, if I’m not mistaken.

Jim: She put out a record when she was five.

Cedric: I think she had something to do with Crass records, even, as well.

Todd: Has your naïveté worn away? From previous interviews, you openly and unabashedly said you were naive. How has that changed or has it changed?

Omar: I think we’re a lot more coarse, a lot more jaded, and we hate having people rocking out. [laughter]

Jim: There’s a lot of towns I don’t like. It has nothing to do with people. You get worn down.

Cedric: We came from El Paso, where we met five or six bands that toured, you know, and we went out and tried it ourselves. And, yeah, we were fucking dumb. We signed stupid contracts. We gave shit away that we shouldn’t have, but we fucking learned.

Omar: If anything, now, we’re more efficient. We know how to go on tour and get along with each other better, do what we need to do, and organize everything better. It’s a lot tighter.

Todd: Knowing what to pay attention to and what to ignore.

Cedric: Don’t get involved in the whole “major labels are bad, and independents are better,” because we’ve been fucked by indies and vampires are out there.

Jim: They’re everywhere. There’s good people and bad people.

Tony: I think we’re still naive to a certain extent because we love people in general. We trust people. If people open up just a little bit, we just say, “That person is great.”

Cedric: And then you hear something else.

Tony: And some of them have screwed us in the end.

Jim: I don’t really see it changing for us, though. The people that I know in this band, I think we’re all fucking nice dudes and we’re probably going to give people a lot of chances. It took a while to have a few guys that we won’t hang out with anymore. Other than that, we always hang out after the shows. We always talk to people, so I don’t think we’ll ever get jaded on that. We like hanging out.

Cedric: We don’t necessarily hang out and drink afterwards, we’ll hang out and talk.

Todd: What have you thought most about today?

Paul: I don’t know.

Todd: Paul, what do you think about?

Paul: Nothing, really. Just... I don’t know. There’s so many things.

Todd: Do you think in rhythms or colors or something?

Paul: No. I don’t think about playing until we’re going to play. Just like regular stuff or whatever.

Tony: All the business things that Blaze and I have been compressing in our minds and trying to figure out for the last few days. That’s pretty much it.

Jim: And that’s why we love him because we don’t have to do it... I was thinking how a Texas team kicked the shit out of the LA Lakers.

Cedric: I’ve been stressing about moving to L.A. Getting everyone’s input of where we should live.

Todd: Yeah, it’s so small. Just walk around for a bit. You’ll find a place... What excites you in your day to day life? Why aren’t you just mad, angry people?

Omar: What do you mean? We’re not?

Jim: I never have been too angry. I’m pretty easily entertained. I think most of us are pretty easily entertained, which kind of keeps it going.

Omar: Good people excite me. People you meet that you hit it off with and they have a great sense of humor and they have their beliefs or whatever, but they don’t just stick to one thing, and they just kind of hang out. You know, all the cliché stuff: music, films, books, just simple shit like that—looking at you, your glasses.

Cedric: I think about music a lot. I think about it too much. I get headaches when I go to sleep, whether it be ideas for this or whatever, you know.

Todd: Any last words?

Paul: I’m not as dumb as I sound on tape.



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