Quote ~ Unquote – Jacob Bannon of Converge

Posted in interview with tags , , on December 21, 2009 by sae

Scene Point Blank: There has been an immense amount of praise to the album, especially to the last two tracks on the album. Given the experimental nature of these songs when compared to the bulk of the Converge catalog, how satisfying is it to have them appreciated in such a positive manner?

Jacob Bannon: We experiment on every record. Every release that we’ve done since 1998 or 1999 has had some sort of stylistic departure, some sort of instrumentation that isn’t traditional band instrumentation in some way and this is an expansion on that idea. It’s not like we’re reinventing the wheel at all, we’re just refining our experimental approach. Heavy music and aggressive music doesn’t always have to be raging and thrashing. There needs to be a dynamic to give these things power. If you just race forward with a billion beats per minute, it’s going to sound like white noise after a while. So it’s nice to be able to allow an album to breath, to create an organic environment to it. Those kinds of songs are the way we’ve always done that. I don’t think we’d ever want to come out with an album that is all that. We just like to have diversity in each record to show versatility.

full interview at scenepointblank.com

Quote ~ Unquote – Kurt Ballou of Converge

Posted in interview with tags , on December 1, 2009 by sae

The whole hardcore genre really seems to have changed I’m sure since you guys first started. I know you keep producing a lot of great bands within that scene. How do you feel about today’s current status of hardcore?

Ballou: I think it’s better now than it was in the 90s. I think in the 90s that’s when hardcore went suburban and the metal influence came in a lot. Obviously there was a metallic influence in the late 80s with Cro-Mags, and Slapshot and Judge and Leeway and all these crossover bands such as Suicidal Tendencies. I think the suburban kids such as ourselves, we had that kind of hardcore influence from going to shows, but we were also the first generation that had MTV and Headbangers Ball. So we’d go to see Slapshot on the weekend or Bad Brains or whoever and come home and watch Headbangers Ball and see Slayer and Metallica. I think the 90s there was a lot of early attempts at fusing those things and a lot of it was really cheesy. A lot of that moshcore stuff that came out of the 90s was really bad. There’s always going to be bad music, there’s a lot of god awful terrible music now, there’s a lot of god awful terrible music from the 80s, but I think with time a lot of the bad stuff gets forgotten about and the good stuff gets remembered so I think certain time periods get revered more than others.

Then in the 90s you also had these hardcore kids from suburbia…. like in the Black Flag era there were a lot kids who had no other choice but to be hardcore kids. They’re urban kids, they’re runaways, they’re from broken homes, they’re people that are suffering and desperately needed an outlet. It had nothing to do with fashion or anything like that. There’s definitely some posturing going on, but it wasn’t a fashionable thing, it was dangerous and it’s just what these people were coming to do. That’s not to say affluence precludes any kind of suffering, but it’s a different kind of suffering that happens among suburban and upper middle class kids which is where hardcore starts to move in the 90s. So you have this new thing that starts to happen in the 90s called emocore, which is driven by people that don’t have such a dangerous life. It’s the classic suburban depression, kids who otherwise would have been into The Smiths or The Cure or even The Red House Painters and then started to form this more tempered music. When that term was coined, they were referring more to the D.C. scene, which is more like the intellectual side. There are a lot of politics in D.C. so you have a lot of politicians, lobbyists and other businesses in the area so you have a lot of intelligent people in the area who are having intelligent kids. So these kids are thinking more outwardly and more politically. So you have the Revolution Summer and the birth of Rites of Spring and later Fugazi and Moss Icon and these other kind of bands. All that stuff gets filtered of this kid who knows about hardcore and the metal they’re playing on MTV and the result is the 90s screamo, sweater vest, horn rimmed glasses sort of scene and so little of that stuff was any good. And between that stuff sucking really bad and that early metallic stuff sucking really bad I think it took a really long time to flush itself out and become it’s own thing than being a poorly played derivation of a lot of other things. Now that I think that evolution has happened it’s refined and it’s a higher caliber than it was in the 90s.

Another big difference in how the music has changed since when we started is the business. There’s this constant access to music that we didn’t have back then. It’s not really better or worse, it’s just different. We used to buy 7 inches and we used to take it and send it to your friend or your pen pal and you’d have to recycle your postage because there’s no email yet or downloading so local scenes would develop a lot stronger. Bands from Boston tended to sound like each other because bands wouldn’t go on tour very frequently so you’d end up playing with the same bands a lot and influencing each other more than bands across the country. So there’s this Boston sound, this L.A. sound, this New York sound. But then downloading and MySpace starts coming up and it dilutes the local scene identity and it makes music a lot more competitive in all genres of music. There’s so much out there and there’s so much access to it so only the music that requires the shortest attention span that people will pay attention to. So if something doesn’t have a great recording or a hook right away it’s really easy to dismiss it and move on to something else. It used to be like I would go to the record store and buy a few CDs or records or tapes and even if I don’t like it that much, I don’t have that much music in my collection so I spend a lot of time with each record and getting to know it and it might rub off on me and I get to understand it. That kind of thing doesn’t really happen anymore so it’s a really different environment. Touring has become the same way as the scene has grown and people are able to make money touring. Everything has become a lot more lowest common denominator with regards to the tours that you do and the music that you write because people are thinking about their careers more than about expressing themselves. The fans support that mentality through their buying practices.

full interview at punknews.org

Site Update

Posted in site news with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2009 by sae

I added some new links to the blogroll on the right hand side of the page, check em out.

The first is the blog B-Sides ‘R’ Us which contains downloads of a ton of music that you can’t buy.  Live bootlegs, leaked tracks, demos, out of print stuff and a ton of other rarities.  I recommend the sections for Thrice, Thursday, and The Mars Volta.

Then there is Issues Oriented.  A podcast by Ronen Kauffman that features interviews and a little bit of music ranging from punk to hardcore to indie to metal and beyond.  Make sure to give this podcast a listen.  Highlights are episodes 6 and 18 featuring the lovely Joanna Angel, as well as 19 with Efrem from Death By Stereo and 22 with Geoff Rickly from Thursday.

Finally, there is the fairly new blog Robotic Obscurites.  It’s run by the awesome people at Robotic Empire and features demos, b-sides and rarities from the bands they do releases for.  Never heard of Robotic Empire?  Go check them out here.  They sell countless amazing cds and record.  The best vinyl I find online I get from these guys.  Isis box set anyone?

That’s it for now.  I’ve got new songs of the week in progress as well as a very exciting interview.  Keep your eyes peeled.

Oh, and one last thing.  Anyone else get the aTelecine EP aVigillant Carpark?  Thoughts on this strange art piece?

Song of the Week – “(We Are)” by American Nightmare/Give Up the Ghost

Posted in song of the week with tags , , , , on February 16, 2009 by sae

Welcome to The Testing Ground’s very first Song of the Week review.  Even though it’s the Song of the Week, expect it to be more bi/tri monthly until I really get into the swing of things.  Without further ado, one of my favorites…

“(We Are)” by American Nightmare, later known as Give Up the Ghost, is one of the most amazing pieces of music I have discovered in the last two years. I started listening to American Nightmare in 2008, long after their 2004 breakup, but despite my late arrival, I am certainly glad I eventually made it to their party .

I won’t bore you with the details of my descent into their music, but I will say that the first times I heard Year One and Background Music I could not believe the musical gems I was unearthing. I got that feeling I get every time I discover music that will truly stick with me. My eyes get wide, I turn to whoever is next to me and I ask, “How the hell didn’t we already know about this?” The same thing happened the first time I heard Red Sparowes’s At the Soundless Dawn.

American Nightmare’s singer Wes Eisold sets the tone of this lonesome anthem about having given up and being absolutely set upon that decision with the first line of the song, “This is the soundtrack to saying goodbye.”

I’ve shown the lyrics of (We Are) to a lot of my friends who don’t listen to aggressive music. In general they’ve liked the lyrics, but have almost universally commented that these words are some of the most depressing writing they have ever read. I certainly cannot deny this, because Wes writes using very bleak imagery, but I believe my friends all miss something I feel in these words. What my friends miss, I hear in the delivery of the lyrics juxtaposed with the aggressive tone of the music. While the words alone sound tragic, when I hear this song, I am always filled with hope.

Something I love about American Nightmare is how their music creates this space where, for the moment, it is completely okay to say, “Fuck everything, I give up. The world sucks, life sucks, I’m drowning in emotional torment and everything is going to hell. I am angrier than I’ve ever been and it’s not going to get better.” While this attitude will get you nowhere, many of us have moments where we feel this way, though we know life is really not that bad. Just because we know it won’t get us anywhere does not mean we can simply push those feelings aside. You have to accept these emotions and work through them. and I find American Nightmare’s music to be one of the best places to work through these feelings, one of the best places to purge them.

“we are dropping coins/into dead payphones/to hear the sound of our voice/just to know we’re alone”

Continue reading

Brief News

Posted in news on February 8, 2009 by sae

So exciting news in the Isis world, as well as in the Pelican world

Isis has released the title, artwork and track listing of their new album.  You can read more about that here.  As well, if you head over to Aaron Turner’s blog you can see the artwork split into two different pieces, giving you a better understanding of how he composed it.

Pelican has signed to a new label, are working on a new EP (in my new home of Seattle) and have a string of new tour dates up.  Check that out here.

Eric Victorino (ex-Strata, Limousines) Interview

Posted in interview on January 30, 2009 by sae

Recently came across this interview with Eric Victorino, currently of the Limousines and formerly the singer of Strata from Confront Magazine.

Check it out

Guess Who’s Back?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 29, 2009 by sae

hello…hello?
testing, testing

Hello there ttg fans.  I know, it’s been a long time.  Life has been crazy.  I graduated college, left my life long home of the Bay Area and moved to Seattle.  It’s 2009 and it’s time to reaffirm life.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this site and about my need to write about music.  It’s time to make it happen more than ever before.  I’m going to start off with a song of the week column and see where it takes me.  I also noticed that the format of my site has for some reason reverted back to some very unappealing color schemes so I’ll have to work that out soon.  Anywho, I just wanted to check in.  Now I’m off to start writing.  Like Zach de la Rocha said

“it has to start somewhere
it has to start sometime
what better place than here
what better time than now
all hell can’t stop us now”

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