Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Interview: Aaron Chrietzberg

(Looking at my watch) ...wasn't the First Step LP supposed to come out on Livewire Records, um, two YEARS ago? What's the hold up?

The record WASN’T supposed to be out 2 years ago. We didn’t start recording it until Jan of 2005. We broke up for a short while (from May 2003-Jan 2004). Before we broke up, we demoed about 4-5 songs in DC for what we would have eventually made an LP. Livewire Records was going through a bit of a push then, and announced that we were working on an LP. It was true – but then we broke up for 8 months or so. But one of the songs from the session wound up on the 2nd Livewire Sampler as an outro track. It was pretty cool considering we were broken up – a little bit of a “goodbye” to the band.

Then once we got back together, we did a more serious demo with about 6 songs – with vocals. It was titled the “What We Know” demo. Of course we were writing these songs for an LP, so Livewire announced things like “TFS working on an LP”. So there was talk about our LP coming out, and we talked about it in a few interviews, but really it wasn’t supposed to be out at that time.

That said, we finished the recording in May of 2005 – and you are asking me this question in December! Basically, in June the decision was made that we needed to have the LP released on another label. That process (moving a previously recorded LP from one label to another) was pretty difficult and had a lot of aspects which needed to be ironed out. To make a long story short; we recently finalized the shift to a new record label, and by the time this interview is printed we will have announced it.

The truth is – yes that we have been working on this record for a while; it is supposed to come out when it’s ready!

The album was produced by Walter Schreiffels. How exactly did he produce your sound on the record? What would I hear on the album that is Walter's input as a producer?

You may or may not know from your time in a band that when you are writing songs for a band, you eventually come up with your own “formula” or “recipe” for how you do your songs. You know, like your “influences”, your “ideas” how it all works. We really found a formula that we were very satisfied with on “Open Hearts and Clear Minds”, but we didn’t want to do the same thing twice. We were realizing that while we were still into the same stuff, we were also changing as people and wanted to try new things. When we were writing, some of the songs were either too different for us, or too much “the same old thing”. We really didn’t want to do the same thing twice, so we decided we wanted to get someone to produce us. It might not add much to “HC mythology”, but really all a producer does is kind of add some of their special ingredients (ideas) to your already good recipe. Basically for the months that we worked with him, it was like Wally was a “5th member of the band”. We talked on the phone all the time, schemed stuff up, joked around, talked about HC and music in general, and jammed out together. So it was like we had that additional point of view which gave us a lot more to work with as far as the songs were concerned.

The writing sessions were basically like this: we would jam out a few songs we had and then he would say “show me a new song you guys are working on”. We’d play it, and he would listen. Then we would discuss the song. Maybe we would say “hmm we need a different ‘MOSH’”, or maybe we should play a certain part a little faster. Then we would play the song very slowly and without distortion, and then see what we all thought. But really it was like having another member of the band. He might be like “dude I was listening to Negative Approach last night or Bl’ast! And I was thinking we should try a part like in this one song!”

We came up with some really neat ideas that way, like the mosh in “No Way To Live”. Walter was like “we should have a mosh like Bl’ast!”, we tried it, and it was killer, but it didn’t sound like TFS to us. So we played it a lot of different ways, and we came up with a really cool idea. Izzy can play some really neat Dub beats from his Dominican background! So we kept the Greg Bacon bass line as this really heavy mosh – but made the beat VERY different from the average predictable mosh part with a bit of a Dub style.

The other important part Walter played was in the recording. From the very beginning, he had a specific vision of how he wanted to hear our band. So we came up with a different tone for the guitar and bass, and the mix over all. We wanted more of a bass and guitar tone similar to MINOR THREAT than “Open Hearts”, which had more of a “Youth of Today and GB”. But that tone also had a bit of a Black Sabbath aspect too.

What is it with Hardcore kids and Jiu Jitsu? If it gets any bigger in this scene, Jiu Jitsu Monthly will start interviewing hardcore bands. It will be like the new Thrasher.

Well, I no longer practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but I did for a few years. I was never really any good though. Jiu Jitsu is pretty intense, man. I would say a good night on the mat can be just as intense (probably more) than a great show. It’s kind of like you, this other guy (usually bigger than me!) and my wits and skill and I had to beat him, or at least not let him beat me. I liked it because I consider it more realistic than other martial arts I had practiced, and it really changed the way I think about fighting and problem solving. But I am really not too good at it!

Rain on the Parade had a song called "The First Step." Any link? I wrote the lyrics on a sauce stained Taco Bell napkin on my way to the studio. I think I still have it smashed into one of my journals somewhere.

No! I really liked ROTP a lot though. But I remember after we had been around for a few months, one of our friends (I THINK Keith Harper) was like teasing us “hey man! You guys got your name from ROTP!”

What's the one place you always look forward to playing?

Hmmm because we have played there several times, I am going to say Southern California. If we are playing there, it means we are going to be spending times with friends like SPL Greg Bacon, and Larry “ENVY” Ransom. We will be hanging in the sun, getting good foods, and the kids out there have always been good to us.

We haven’t played there more than once, but I REALLY want to play Lintfabriek in Europe again!

What's the one place you could care less if you ever drove through again, let alone play the dump?

Hmmm… I mean have played some crummy shows before, but usually I don’t pay it much mind. I usually have a good enough time just being able to crank up the amp and play my songs with the guys, if kids sing along that’s great. But I am sure Stephen can remember some show or something where I am like “This fucking sucks, fuck these kids”, but it’s not coming to mind right now.

What's the dollar amount on your edge? What would it cost for me to get you drunk? Everyone has a price!

Ok – I am not trying to give you a hard headed answer here, but I won’t do that for money. A few years ago I formally became a Buddhist layperson, and one of the vows that I took was to “not take intoxicants”. Keeping things short and to the point, I took that vow in the presence of my Guru, and if I were to break it – the Karmic result for me would be MUCH more intense than if I didn’t take the vow. Because I have made a commitment to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha and to all beings – I won’t break that vow. However, if a gun was to someone’s head unless I drink, I would do it, and take all the negative karma and hope that it would benefit beings. But the result wouldn’t be as bad as if I was like “fuck it man I don’t care any more”.

(For the record, if I once again had my edge to sell for whatever price to be named, I would sell it for the equivalent of the Gross National Product of the People’s Republic of China. With the money, I would build a nuclear arsenal, menace my neighbors with it, and force Glenn Danzig to reunite with the Misfits. Oh, and end world hunger, save puppies, and all that shit. --Ronny)

What happened with Triple Threat?

Well about a year ago I left Triple Threat on good terms, and it was something we all agreed to. When TT started, we knew we were all “older” HC kids with grown up type situations. (wives, kids, work, etc), but we really weren’t sure how things would turn out. While I am youngest of the band, I lived 2-3 hours away from everyone else, and I was also very committed to THE FIRST STEP as well as being involved in the Buddhist Community and various other things. Eventually, it started to become stressful for me to be stay involved. The other guys could practice more regularly than me. It was hard for them that I wasn’t always around, and hard for me that I couldn’t be there when I wanted to be for important decisions. Also around the same time, I was going through some “musical changes”, and I was realizing it just wasn’t “me”. The best way I could describe it to another HC kid was comparing it to “Lyle Preslar and Brian Baker playing for Samhain”, and it being their “dance with the devil.” It’s a great band, but it just wasn’t me – and I couldn’t do it easily after a while.

If we had done the band together, what would we have settle on for a name? What would the name of our first record be? Who would've been our rythm section? How long would it have been until a Jiu Jitsu vs. Shaq Fu style throwdown in the practice space led to the premature break-up of the band?

Hmmm – I really wanted to do that man! I was thinking, you, me, Pete Russo and some other kid living in DC, playing some really simple but smart HC like “Committed For Life” era 7 Seconds! But of course we couldn’t find a drummer or anyone else to do it! I am still up for it. But if I remember, the proposed name was “Barebones Hardcore” – but I think that name is better suited for the webpage!

Do you find that having a bass player named "Dump" hurts the image of the band at all? It's not exactly "Craig Ahead" or "Jesse Standhard."

Well TECHNICALLY, Chris Niehls isn’t our official bassist, but he is my boy so I am gonna come to his defense on this! The name “Dump” came about by no fault of his own. We were on a TFS road trip and had crashed at Steve’s apartment for the night. Some of us (Myself, Izzy, Klint and Tru Pray) couldn’t sleep and were clowning around and just talking. Chris started talking about girls – and before any of us knew it, Tru and Klint were clowning him FULL FORCE and the rest really can’t be safely printed in an interview. By the end of the weekend that was his little nickname. He was the new kid and he took it in stride, but I wasn’t gonna let him get treated too bad, and he didn’t take it that way. For the record – NO ONE IN TFS calls him that, and it won’t show up on a record. But I might crack a smile if I hear someone call him that! But for the record – I will say that NILES is one of my favorite HC kids these days. He’s always down to hangout, talk, supporting bands, and singing along; just a really cool kid. He is really funny too, just a character.

Anyways – I also should just take a moment and explain the TFS bass situation. In the last year or so, we have had a number of friends play bass for us. When we got back together – we were pretty bassless! We got to know Greg Bacon from a few short tours with his old band STAND AND FIGHT, so we asked him to help us out for few shows with OUR TURN. Since we had toured before, and he is such a sick bassist – he fit in incredibly! Of course there was only ONE problem, Greg Bacon lives on the west coast of the United States, and TFS resides scattered throughout the Eastern Coast of the United States! Bass-ically (pun uncontrollably intended!) Greg plays with us when ever the opportunity arises. For example, if we are playing with one of his many sick bands or if we are touring the Western Coast of the United States. All kidding aside, he is a really stand up guy, a great musician, and has been extremely patient and generous to TFS and I want to take a moment to recognize that! He did a great job on our LP.

We have also played with Chris and Marcus from DAMAGE CONTROL. We just play with whoever makes sense and is willing and able to help us out. While you might not always see Chris or Greg onstage, I definitely consider them to be members of THE FIRST STEP.

You purchased Porcell's Les Paul -- the same Les Paul that wrote Can't Close My Eyes, Break Down the Walls, We're Not In This Alone, The Project X EP, New York Crew, and Bringing It Down, and also played The Shutdown show at CBGB's. Have you gained any super powers since you started letting it hang off your shoulder?

Yeah – a few years ago when the Livewire Board was a smaller scene, there was a post about guitars and all that. Porcell had posted some responses to kid’s questions and I ended up emailing him some specific guitar related questions. After a series of emails he mentioned that he was actually considering selling the guitar. It originally belonged to Alex Brown, who played it on the Project X EP, as well as Gorilla Biscuits “Start Today”. Then Porcell played it some later Judge stuff and all the Shelter stuff. I can’t remember whether he said he played it on “Disengage” or not. But I don’t think he had it when he was recording the earlier stuff like Can’t Close My Eyes, Break Down The Walls, etc.

I was already looking to buying a new Les Paul for myself, and it was definitely interested in possibly buying that guitar! So Porcell got us on an Albany show on a weekend date that we had open, and he let me try it out. I was immediately really into it. It really has that “Porcell” sound when you play HC on it! It has really good feedback and sustain because the wood is so heavy. It’s a little heavy to play live though. But anyways, Porcell made me agree that if I ever want to sell the guitar, it could only be to another kid who was equally as serious about Straight Edge as he and I “so that it stayed in the family!”

Something else kind of neat about it; when we were first practicing with Walter he picked it up, played it for about 10 minutes or so, and was like “dude, I KNOW this guitar… I have played it before somewhere!” and I was like “Eh, probably dude!...” and told him about it. He was really stoked on it! Kind of like this guitar that has been passed from one HC kid to the next, to the next…

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