Thursday, June 30, 2011

Music Reviews: About The Mess - "Give Me The Mic, I'm Drunk Already: Live At Double Door 6/3/11"

Every town has a local underground music scene. Be it rock, metal, country, hip hop or punk, a band will sprout up everyday. And Chicago is no different. And a lot of the time there is one or two bands that MAKE that scene shine. Give our little scene hope that something good will come out of our town. Maybe be the next big thing.

Then there are the bands that take so much, musically, from those one or two big local bands, that they lose their own identity in the process. We've all seen it happen a million times. But every few years a new band comes out of the shadows and just makes it all worth while again. A band that's head and shoulders above the rest. Well, that time is now in Chicago! And that band is About The Mess!

Formed earlier this year by four 30-something musicians who have been kicking around trying to find their place without sounding like everyone else. And with their 4 song live debut EP, "Give Me The Mic, I'm Drunk Already" recorded at Double Door in Chicago, they show that you can get up there, be yourself and make something special happen.

The band is tight on songs like album opener "Ahab" and "Fourteen". The music is well written and well versed. They don't sound like a new band either. ATM sound like they've been playing for years, which will surprise you when you find out this was only the bands 4th show together! Singer/guitarist Joe Mizzi has a vocal styling and sound all his own. Mizzi and guitarist Mike Carlson have a twin guitar attack that complement each others playing without trying to outdo one another. And the rhythm section of bassist Jack Dee and drummer Mark "Gus" Gustafson bring it all home with solid timing.

The bands cover of "The Letter" (available as a free bonus track only if you purchase the whole EP on iTunes) by Alex Chilton's old band the Box Tops is just fantastic. They take an already great song and modernize it with heavy guitars and a kick ass back beat that would make the late Chilton proud.

This is a band with nothing to prove, but everything to gain. They have a no nonsense style and attitude that is sorely missing from the Chicago punk scene. They don't care if they become the next Green Day. They don't wanna be a fashion statement. They play great music! Plain and simple. If you let the music do the talking, people WILL listen! And this reporter is all ears.

4 ½ / 5 Stars

About The Mess will be playing the following shows.

Tonight (6/30) at The Elbo Room (2871 N. Lincoln Ave Chicago) with Reason One, Victor Shores and Tiny Moving Part.

Friday, July 22 at Cobra Lounge (235 N. Ashland Ave. Chicago) with The Infected.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New Naked Raygun 7" Pre-Order Info

The new Naked Raygun 7" is now available for pre-sale at the Riot Fest music store HERE. This is the third 7" in the Raygun series. Pressed on orange vinyl, there is a limited amount of records pressed. When they're gone, they're gone. So act now! Priced at $9.98, it seems a bit steep. But once this sells out, it'll be priceless. After all, this is a band who has only released 2 singles thus far in 12 years. This will be a must have for any and all Raygun fans.

Interview With Marc "The Kid" Orrell From The Black Pacific Formerly Of Dropkick Murphys

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Marc. I understand you've been a busy guy lately. You're in The Black Pacific with former Pennywise singer Jim Lindberg. And have some tour dates coming up on the Warped Tour as well as some festival dates in Europe. How have the shows been going so far?

Marc Orrell: The shows have been going great. Jim, Gavin and Alan are all super talented so it's not hard for us to win the crowd.

Warped tour should be a blast, we've gotta lot of friends on there this year so I imagine I won't be sober much. Larry And His Flask, The Aggrolites, Street Dogs, Sum 41, Veara, and many new friends to make. Can't wait!

CM: How did you get involved in The Black Pacific?

MO: My friend, Joe Sib from Side One Dummy records hooked me up with them. I went and jammed with them one evening and we just seemed to click.

CM: How is this band different musically, from your past bands?

MO: Not much. It's not like I switched to a flamenco band. It's punk rock. Pretty similar. Just different hearts playing.

CM: Does the band have an album out yet? Or are you guy's still in the writing stages?

MO: We do. It's self titled. I joined the band a month or so before it was released so I am not on it. But we are always writing and plan to put out another in the future. We're a new band and everyone is really talented so I'm excited to see where it takes us. Especially since the band has evolved with new members since the previous self titled album.

CM: The bands based out of the South Bay, Los Angeles, but you're originally from Boston. Is LA your new home? Or do you still reside in the Boston area?

MO: I live in Hollywood (HoHo bro). I moved here about two and a half years ago from Worcester, MA. I love it here. So much to do, so many friends, beautiful weather. Los Angeles is my new home.

CM: You're a pretty young guy. And you've been touring for over 10 years now with various bands. How old where you when you first picked up a guitar?

MO: I played drums first actually at the age of 11. It's a great instrument to start with. I call it "The Dum Dum Instument" (no offense to any drummers). You don't have to try and find the shapes where to place you fingers. Just grove and use your heart to find you're rhythm.

A year later, I saw a bass with an amp at a yard sale. I begged and pleaded with my mother to buy it for me and she caved. I'm so lucky I had her. She put up with a lot of my shit. When you have both of those instruments your basement turns into a practice space and people leave their gear around for the next practice. So I picked up my buddies guitar and started jamming away with it. I'd pick anything up with strings and make up annoying songs that would go on for hours. I would do the same thing in music stores too. My mom would drop me off at a music store and leave me there for a few hours. She knew I wasn't going to leave so she felt it was a safe place for me. Then my brother eventually gave me his guitar. What a good older brother, huh? We would fight over it. "He never plays it!!!", I would scream to my mom. "It's mine! Go play the drums!", my brother would shout at me. Eventually he gave it to me and that was my first guitar.

CM: Who are some of your musical influences? Who really made you wanna pick up the guitar and play in a band?

MO: Jeez, too many. I saw Marty McFly in "Back to the Future" as a kid and always wanted to do that. So Chuck Berry was always one of them. AC/DC, The Ramones, Rolling Stones, STP, Green Day, Rancid, Tom Petty, Weezer. Right now I'm loving Ryan Adams and the Cardinals, LCD Soundsystem and Sleigh Bells.

CM: Besides The Black Pacific, are there any other projects you're currently involved in?

MO: I'm always writing so I hope to have something out a bit of the road. Still working the kinks out of starting a new band.

CM: With all the touring you've done in your years, and having seen so many places and smiling faces, do you still enjoy being on the road? Or are there times where you wish you could just sit back and relax without having to tour as much as you have over the years?

MO: I haven't done that much touring lately but I do remember back in the Dropkick days I would get a bit home sick on the road. But you have to ignore that voice in your head and realize how lucky you are.

CM: Is there any websites where fans can get in touch with you, or any of your current projects? A place where we can get up to date news on music releases, tour dates and merch?

MO: Either or if myspace is still alive you can hear a few tunes I've messed around with and posted awhile ago on .

CM: I wanna thank you again for talking with Critical Mass, Marc. Such a pleasure on my end to talk with you and find out what you're up to. I hope we get to see you and The Black Pacific in Chicago real soon! All the best to you and the band! Take care.

MO: Right on my man! I hope to see you sometime down the road too. Take it easy man!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

About The Mess Set To Realease Their Debut EP

Chicago's own About The Mess are all set to take the country by storm with the release of their debut studio EP "Anthem Of Imperfection". The new EP is the first release on Label Unknown Records, also based out of Chicago. About The Mess are taking pre-orders now, and the info is as follows...

Releasing a limited edition 500 7" Vinyl EP's on Label Unknown ( Pre-order is $4.99 for the Vinyl, which includes a digital download of the album. The physical releases will be shipped out around 8/12/2011. Digital will be delivered on 7/19/2011.

Digital pre-order is $3.99. The full album will be delivered on 7/19/2011.

With either of the above, you receive an immediate download of "Janie."

To get either the Vinyl or digital, go to

I suggest you all get a copy of this before it sells out. These guy's are gonna be HUGE, mark my words!

You can stream the EP in it's entirety HERE. So, check it out!

The Critical Mass family want to wish About The Mess and Label Unknown Records the very best! And a hearty congratulations on both of their debuts. I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot more from both the band and the label in the future. Keep an eye out...and as always, support your local underground scene, indie labels and record stores.

New Copyrights Single Now Available

The new digi-single "Crutches" from The Copyrights is now available on iTunes. The single features 4 new songs recorded around the same time as the soon to be released album "North Sentinel Island" which comes out in August. No word yet on a 7" vinyl release. You can purchase the new tracks HERE.

Interview With Justin Schwier From Underground Communique Records

 Editors Note: Being from Chicago and having so much love and respect for our underground music scene, it's my pleasure to give you the following interview with Justin from Underground Communique Records. We need to support, not only our underground scene, but also the labels and fine folks at these labels like Justin who make it all happen. 

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Justin. Can you give us a little history on how you got Underground Communique started?
Justin Schwier: No Problem at all, thanks for the opportunity. I started the label about 7 years ago. I had previously ran another label called Government Music that lost steam when I was laid off from my job in 2001…but even when that one folded, I knew I wanted to do a label again. So I got back on my feet financially and a few years later, found out that Mexican Cheerleader needed a label to put out their second album, I had co-released their debut album with Hewhocorrupts, Inc. in the Gov’t Music days, so that was the impetus to get the new one off the ground.

CM: Over the years UC has released albums by The Methadones, Four Star Alarm, Explode And Make Up and, as mentioned, Mexican Cheerleader. Any new releases coming up?
JS: Yes, I’m hovering around 50 releases now, which is kind of mind blowing. There’s always something in the works, but currently I’m waiting for the Suicide Machines/Rudiments “Skank For Brains” 2xLP re-issue, last few Ska Is Dead Subscription Series 7”s, the new Capital LP, the Vacation Bible School LP, finalizing the Methadones “Not Economically Viable” re-issue, that one’s LONG overdue.

  Later this summer I’ll also have out a 7” from Olehole, the Cutman LP who are a great band from Gainesville, a CD for a band from New Zealand called the Outsiders that are touring the US in the fall, I’ve been talking with Fid from the Measure (sa) about doing something for their last show at the Fest in Gainesville this October, but nothing is set in stone on that. I’ll also be distributing the Black Sheep Band’s 12” EP. They’re a revolving cast super-group put together by James Toland from the Black Sheep Restaurant, their record is SO good!

 Tonight is the release show for a limited CD-r Discography for an old Chicago Hardcore band called Roundhouse at their reunion show at the Bottom Lounge’s Volcano Room Bar.
CM: With all the releases you've had so far, is there one that really makes you proud? One that's made it all worth while?

JS: I say this a lot, I know it’s a cliché, but they’re my babies, I love them all and can never decide when asked this question. Certainly a few of them have been landmarks: the two J Church 7”s I got to put out, the Pegboy Tribute Comp that was supposed to originally come out on Government Music (but took 6 years to finally get done), the Black Cross LP because they came to me and asked if I was interested, the Methadones stuff is near and dear to my heart, the Shot Baker records, the O Pioneers releases, the Capital records, I could go on and on and on, and it would eventually turn into little stories about every single release…I put a lot of time and effort into everything so I care deeply about all of them.

 I’m a put your money where your mouth is kind of guy, so I try to give every release as much effort as possible to make it worth my time and for the bands to hopefully realize that I’m not letting them down and trying to push them to the best of my abilities. I end up having a lot of nights where I’m up until 2 am furiously sending emails or working on ads and artwork and fliers and packing mail orders. I’m still learning, every release I try to learn from my mistakes and get better at doing this.

CM: Are there any bands that are signed exclusively to UC?

JS: Not really. There are a few bands I’ve done the majority of their releases, but I don’t do record contracts. I’ve had to make up informal contracts with some bands in the past, but in general I just do handshake deals. Only in rare instances have I ever done a record for a band I don’t know the people in person. So far that’s worked well for me.

CM: What was the very first UC release? And is it still in print?

JS: Yes, the first release was the Mexican Cheerleader “Kings and Kings’ Hoots” CD. Those guys are musical geniuses as far as I’m concerned, and one of the funniest and best live bands I’ve ever seen play.

CM: I know record stores are few and far between. But do you distribute any of your releases to local mom and pop record stores like Record Breakers or Reckless Records?

JS: I try to, Reckless and Bucket O’ Blood both carry all of my releases, and Record Breakers carries a few of them. Beyond that, I email other stores with release announcements, but don’t really get any feedback. I also tried to get away from consignment a few years back as a few stores went under and some stock was never recovered, and then with consignment goes keeping up with the invoice forms and tracking people down to get paid, it is a headache.

Ideally I’d love for all the local stores to carry my releases, but I can’t force them to buy records to stock in their store, so I’ll just keep emailing them updates and hope one day they’ll get in touch to carry a record or two.

CM: Are there any new bands out there that you really like? Anyone you wanna work with in the future?

JS: Oh yeah! Brett from the Copyrights has another band called the Heat Tape who are amazing. He just sent me 4 new songs to check out for a possible 7”-their new songs are incredible. I love Night Birds from New Jersey. Vee Dee and Population are great; they both have new releases on BLVD Records. Manipulation and Chicago Thrash Ensemble are both great local hardcore bands. Black God is the new incarnation of Black Cross, their 7” rules. Bridge & Tunnel are consistently great, Office of Future Plans from Maryland/DC, their EP is wonderful.

 Any of the above, eventually I’m still supposed to do a split 7” with the Arrivals and a newer band called Ghostknife from Austin, who feature Ben and Chris from J Church and Mike from Riverboat Gamblers singing and playing guitar, they’re great, but haven’t finished their recordings yet…and I’ve been wanting to do anything for the Arrivals for at least a decade, so that’ll be a dream. There’s almost always some new band to be excited about, my biggest problem is I get too excited about too much and over-commit to releases, which is where I’m at right now.

CM: Any big plans for the second half of 2011 for UC?

JS: Well, just to get all these releases out, that’s an ambitious enough of a goal. It’ll be a lot of work, but with all that’s planned it will be a great year.

CM: How can bands get in touch with you and the label? Is there a website you want to plug?

JS: You can get in touch via e-mail, check out the label website and the constantly growing distro here.

CM: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Justin. It's always great to see local indie labels releasing great music by great bands. Best of luck to you in the future. Thanks again.
JS: Thanks for the interview!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Interview with Joe Mizzi From About The Mess

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Joe. You sing and play guitar in About The Mess. And I KNOW you say that the bands history isn't interesting...but I'm gonna ask anyway. Can you give us a little history on the band and how you got started?

Joe Mizzi: Well Mike came up with the whole "not interesting" bio on Facebook, but I do agree that in your 30s, forming a band, especially when you've been in more than a handful, doesn't always have the youthful luster it once did, and the details are harder to retain for reasons that may or may not involve alcohol. On top of that, I don't know much, since I was the last guy in. What I do now is... Mark and Mike have known each other since they were kids, hadn't seen each other in a while, ran into each other at Blues Fest, got things started. Mark brought Jack in on bass. He and Jack were in some straight-edge band when they were like 14 and just starting to grow pubes... let's just say the straight edge thing may not have been working for them. Myself, I had moved here from Detroit about 5 years ago now, and hadn't gotten involved in the scene around here because I was focusing on actually being able to pay my bills for once in my life. But, I decided I wanted to try something again because I had a lot of pent up stuff that I'm hoping makes for a few good tunes. Instead of going with the usual suspects of finding people I knew, I hit up craigslist to see if I could get something totally new going. Found these dudes, we met, fell in love, got passed the awkward silences, drank beers, shared some ass-out hugs, and the rest is history. We've all become fast friends, and even though we definitely have our disagreements from time to time, that's a lot of what this band is about... dealing with shit.

CM: I heard the bands song "Story To Tell", and I gotta tell ya in all honesty, that was a GREAT song! Is that song gonna be on an upcoming release?

JM: Thanks so much for that! That song was one of my early attempts at much more mature song writing than I had done in the past. When we started talking about a lyrical direction for this band, that song became somewhat of a stepping stone to everything we are trying to do now. We aren't kids anymore, so writing songs about fantasizing about girls in our class and the supposed oppression of my parents or my boss doesn't make much sense anymore, not that it ever did in the first place. I also wasn't interested in doing the whole political thing for a number of reasons including 1) that the scene has been flooded with political bands since the Bush years, and 2) the issues that are most important to me today, like gay rights, women's rights, and civil liberties, would be disengenious for me to address since I'm a straight-white-male fortunate enough to have a job in this economy, and don't actually have to deal with the oppressions I'd be rallying against. Though we do have a great idea for a video for our song "Janie" that might flip one of those on it's head if we can ever get it done. So what were we going to write about? I looked at the four of us in the band and thought, here we are, all 30 years old, a bit world weary now, and we've definitely made our fair share of mistakes and have to live with them, and have been for a while now. Myself, as much of a straight-white-male as I may be, can't stand the idea of becoming part of the moral-majority that bridges any political spectrum that looks down upon and attempts to hide peoples supposed imperfections instead of accepting, and embracing peoples humanity. Example, everyone and their mother has sexual fantasies, granted, some are far more perverse than others, but some people actually play them out. However, what happens when someone does actually play one out and it gets out in the open? Miraculously everyone else suddenly doesn't have these fantasies, and the person who actually did get tied up wearing assless chaps, hanging from one of those swings, with nipple clamps on and a ball gag in his/her mouth, and has his/her butthole fingered by some guy(s) and/or girl(s) is villanized for it, and dragged through the ringer for committing no crime, and simply being a horny, and consensual human. So yeah, on that note... the underlying topic of a song might change, but that is the perspective the lyrics are coming from, assless chaps and ball gags... ok, but really from the perspective that it's ok to have made real mistakes, but you have to deal with the consequences, but also, that some things that the moral-majority considers mistakes, aren't mistakes at all, and are part of your humanity, and you should embrace it, and embrace others for it.

The recording you heard was recorded by our very own Jack Duffy. We needed something to get a few shows, so we put that track out. However, we rerecorded it for our upcoming EP "Anthem of Imperfection" at Million Yen studios with my friend Jeff Dean (who is in some AMAZING bands including Noise by Numbers and All Eyes West, check them out!).

CM: Are you the principle song writer for the band? Or is it a group effort?

JM: The underlying music has been a collaborative effort, but all the lyrics have been mine so far, not that that won't change in the future. We actually have a great dynamic in that regard. It definitely mixes things up, and the process isn't entirely the same for every song. Some songs the riffs all come first, and I layer melodies and lyrics over them, other ones, I bring melodies and their underlying chord progressions to the table, and then we play with it from there. It's actually a lot of fun writing in this band because there is very little "no, don't do that" that happens in a ton of bands, and more of a "let's at least try it, and see what we can do with it" attitude.

CM: Who are some of your musical influences?

JM: What most people don't expect that meet me through the bands I've been in, is that I am a "classically" trained violinist. I started playing when I was 8, got pretty good at it, got myself into music school, ultimately graduated from Michigan State with a degree in Music Composition. Classical music pretty much consumed my life until I was about 13 years old, and then I started to hear bands like Nirvana, Green Day, Offspring, etc. through friends at school. As the classic story of most punks go, you hear it once, and suddenly you want more, and want to find all the underground stuff. So even though I was spending my practice time playing Beethoven and Mozart violin sonatas, throughout high school I started listening to a lot of punk music, discovering stuff on Lookout, Fat Wreck, Epitaph, etc. Then finding local bands to listen to. Around this time, I started picking up my Dad's guitar and translating all my violin playing knowledge to the guitar.  It was made even more fun and exciting by the fact that my parents definitely weren't all for it, and definitely didn't want me playing the guitar.  Even though my dad plays guitar, and used to listen to a lot of rock n' roll (one time later I borrowed his car, turned it on, and Sex Bomb by Tom Jones was blaring through the CD player... awkward! now he listens to country music, the kind that really sucks), and my mom loves the oldies and Motown (also very influential to me), they were deathly afraid of me doing so, probably because they knew I wouldn't be able to put it down once I started, and would get myself into all sorts of hairy situations that I can only assume most parents of their generation wouldn't be too excited about hearing their kid having been in.
Then came the biggest influences in my guitar/singing life, bands that played at the local Livonia, MI clubs Pharoh's and Token Lounge. Bands like Slo-Poke, Suburban Delinquents, Suicide Machines, Mustard Plug, etc. Those were really my formative years. Then came the whole "Chicago" scene, which I first came across through the Slapstick record, and then I saw Alkaline Trio at some tiny little show in Downtown Detroit, then the Lawrence Arms have really made an impact on me. As I got older, bands like Hot Water Music became very influential, and I still seek out new music and love Nothington, The Loved Ones, The Reaganomics, The Holy Mess, and a bunch more. The rest of the band has really gotten me into those Off With Their Heads guys... I saw them at the Riot Fest afterparty show at Exit last year, and they were awesome.

CM: Besides being in ATM, you also have a pretty rich musical history yourself, obviously. You were in Common Rider at one point. What was it like being in a band with Jesse Michaels? 6) Did you do any touring with CR or record any music with the band?

JM: It's pobably best to give the entire story to this since there may be some context that won't be understood otherwise, especially since I've never publicly addressed Common Rider before, so this might be a bit long, and for that I apologize. Ending up playing with Common Rider was all about degrees of separation. Over the spring/summer of 2002, my friend Kevin Sierzega, who was singing for the Teen Idols at the time, a band Phil (Hill) was also in, called me up and asked if I wanted to go do some backing vocals down at Sonic Iguana, Mass's studio, for the new Common Rider record. I was 22 at the time, and what was I going to say, no? So along with a slew of other musicians, I recorded backing vocals on some tracks, most recognizably in "One Ton." And that was the catalyst for playing guitar in the band.

Whenever you meet someone for the first time that you idolized for a significant period of your youth, you have a well formed idea of them in your head that is never representative of who that person actually is. Jesse (Michaels) was no longer the young lad of his Operation Ivy days, he was a grown man now, as was everyone else in the band but me. He was much more reserved than I expected, and the contrast between Midwest and West Coast individuals was never more apparent in my life. All that aside, it came up that they needed another guitarist for their upcoming tour dates, and half jokingly I tossed it out to him that I'd join up, never really thinking anything would come of it. A few months went by, my band Ten Ninety started to fall apart, and I got in touch with Jesse again, and boom, a few weeks later, what do you know, I was off to Indiana to rehearse with the whole band. And then we were on the road. It all happened very, very fast, and as exciting as it all was, I was completely unprepared for what I was getting myself into. 

We did about three months of touring, most of it on the Plea For Peace/Take Action tour, playing with bands I never dreamed I'd be sharing a stage with like Bouncing Souls, Lawrence Arms, Jimmy Eat World, the list goes on. So there I was in my early 20s, when your life is still completely in front of you, and everyone else in the band was in their 30s now. To say the least, there were some tense moments, mostly due to the fact that I was in lala land, and they were in their grumpy-early-30-something-what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-with-my-life phase that I completely get now. Here we were eating crappy food, drinking crappy beer, smoking the cheapest cigarettes we could get our hands on, and driving 10 hours a day no matter what the weather is like... they knew it was hard going in, I had no clue, and had to learn the fast and hard way. There was stress, and disagreements, but ultimately  understanding, and broader world view, and all that good stuff. It was a dream come true, but also a lesson on how hard a touring musician's life can be, especially when you are barely making enough to get from show to show. In the end, I owe a lot of who I am today, both musically and personally, to Jesse, the rest of the dudes in that band, and the friends I made on that tour.

CM: I know ATM is a somewhat new band. But are there any big plans for the rest of 2011? Any big gigs in the works?

JM: We are VERY new. We have only played four shows so far, and through the kindness of our amazing friends, and some great people we have already met along the way, we have had a good run at those four shows. Also, my, and now our, friend Jeff Dean was kind enough to record our upcoming EP at Million Yen studios. That EP will be coming out very soon, we should have more details on it within the next few days as to timing, and where to get it. If you want to come see us do our thing and hang out with us and drink some beers at one of our favorite spots, come to Cobra Lounge on Friday, July 22nd, we are playing with The Infected, and another band that has not been announced yet so far as I know. The Infected are awesomely more heavier than us, and have been very good friends to us the past couple months.

CM: Is there a website where fans can get in touch with the band, get news on upcoming gigs, releases and merch?

JM: Right now, the best places to go are Bandcamp where you can download some live tracks from our Double Door show a few weeks ago, and Facebook where you can see us posting a whole lot of pictures of monkeys and bananas, and a bunch of video clips to make your workday go by a little nicer. You can also find me on twitter (@themizzi), Mike (@mykeybone), and Gus (@superimportant). Jack insists he does not understand twitter.

CM: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Joe. I'm looking forward to checking you guy's out live and hearing new music in the near future. Thanks again. 

JM: Thanks! Anyone who makes it all the way through my rambling gets a high five and a gold star!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

From The Vaults: Interview With John Haggerty Of Pegboy/formerly of Naked Raygun

                                                                  Photo: Julie Loebbaka

Critical Mass: You've been a big part of the Chicago scene for more than 25 years. How has the scene changed since 1984?

John Haggerty: "Everything has changed, for better or worse. This city is almost unrecognizable compared to what it was 25 years ago. The scene was very small and everybody knew each other back then. It seems to be larger and more diverse now."

CM: Musicians cite you as being a huge influence on them. Who influenced you as a musician?

JH: "I am very flattered any time I am cited as a positive influence. That's what it is all about for me. When I first picked up the guitar, there was no such thing as punk rock so I gravitated towards blues and blues-derived rock. Johnny Winter, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Thin Lizzy to name a few."

CM: When Pegboy formed in 1990, it was almost like a super-group. You came from Naked Raygun, your brother Joe, from Bloodsport and the Effigies and Larry Damore and Steve Saylors from Bhopal Stiffs. What was the initial reaction from people when they came to see you play live? Were expectations high?

JH: "We were well received right from the beginning, fortunately. I think we were hoping that our prior experience would allow us to skip square one and go on to square two. In that sense, I think expectations were slightly elevated."

CM: The band's gone through a few bass players since forming. Do you feel you have a solid line up now with Skinny Mike Thompson in the band?

JH: "I think Skinny is in for the long haul, whatever that may bring."

CM: It's been a while since the band's last release. Is there any new material in the works?

JH: "Sorry, still no new material. We have been working on and off on new material for quite some time but haven't come up with anything great. We won't put out anything we think is less than great. There would be no point in doing that."

CM: You recently played with Jake Burns from Stiff Little Fingers in Nefarious Fat Cats. What was it like playing with Jake?

JH: "Playing with Jake Burns is a blast. We used to cover "Suspect Device" back in the Raygun days. Now when I play "Suspect Device," I look to my right and it's Jake Burns himself singing it! Quite a thrill for me. I look forward to playing with him for a long time to come."

CM: Looking back at your time in Naked Raygun, did you realize then how much of an influence the band had, not only in the Chicago scene, but in the punk scene in general?

JH: "We had no idea back then that we would make such an impact. We had high hopes of course, but basically, we were doing it to have fun and maybe sell a few records."

CM: People remember a lot of things about a Raygun show. From the crowd interaction to the Free Shit! What do you remember most about those shows? Any fond memories?

JH: "People seem to remember me chainsawing a raw turkey one Thanksgiving show at Metro. That was pretty funny. Bits of turkey flesh flying everywhere. Stage divers wiping out on blobs of animal fat. Those were the days, eh?"

CM: When you look back at all the music you've contributed to the Chicago punk scene, what are you most proud of?

JH: "I don't think there is any one thing that I can say I am most proud of. I am most happy just to be considered a part of the Chicago punk program."

CM: Is there a website where people can get in touch with Pegboy? Maybe find out about upcoming shows and possible releases?

JH: "Yeah, we have a Facebook and a MySpace page."

CM: John, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass. It's been an honor on my part. I hope we get to see more of you and Pegboy in the coming months! Thanks again.

JH: "Thank you, Chris. It was my pleasure."

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

From The Vaults: Interview With Ken Fitzner From The Bollweevils

Critical Mass: The Bollweevils have been a big part of the Chicago punk scene for about the last 20 years. How did you guys get started?

Ken Fitzner: "Bob, our bass player, and I started really getting into punk at the same time. We would go see Naked Raygun. It was such an intense experience, I think it just almost forced us to want to form a band. We met Daryl there. Initially, we thought his friend Paul would make the better singer; turns out it was Daryl. We always battled the front, which meant we had to get the wall of death from the skins, but we held our own. We originally had a drummer, Joe; he played our first two shows with us. The first one was at a place called Club Stodola on the north side. Bob was singing at that point. Then I sent a letter with a tape to Naked Raygun. I had forgot to include a phone number. I just wanted to let them know that I loved the band. One day, I got a letter back asking us if we wanted to play with them at the Metro. It was the Metro's 9th anniversary show. We opened the show. The next night, Pearl Jam played in the same slot we had. After that show, Joe quit, we found Brian and figured out that the only way we could play shows was if we set them up ourselves. The rest is history."

CM: I had the chance to see the band live a couple times since your return to the stage and it felt like you never left! What was it like getting back up there and playing those classic songs after so may years away?

KF: "I'll speak for the band first; we have always been the type of band that didn't need a lot of practice. I think we might practice once or twice before a show, so it easy to get back up there. Once we are on stage, it is amazing most of the time. Our new drummer, Pete, is so amazing, it makes it. I can get tired of playing the old songs, but when the crowd gets into it, it makes it worth it."

CM: With the release of the "Weevillive In Color" DV, and seeing some old footage, I was wondering how much more footage is in the vaults and will that footage ever see the light of day?

KF: "We have a lot; some of it is good, some not. I'd love to YouTube it. We'll see how embarrassed we want to get."

CM: I know Naked Raygun was a big influence on the band. But what are your personal musical influences?

KF: "I could not live without AC/DC, The Smiths, Government Issue, Bad Religion, Steve Earle, Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, The Cult, Dag Nasty, Minor Threat, Old 97s, Glucifer and Foreigner. Kinda an eclectic mix, I also love ragtime jazz; mostly anything with a huge guitar."

: As documented in the Weevilive album that was recorded at The Metro on the "Heavyweights" tour, Daryl said the band would never play there again. What was it like actually playing Metro again after that fiasco? (Memo: Security at Metro was roughing up friends of the band and members of the audience, almost causing a riot to break out).

KF: "Ha. Well, interesting story; our first show was with Daryl at the Metro with Raygun. It was fun, we had seen may shows there already. Then when we were part of the Underdog Collective, Ben Weasel came to a meeting and told us about the Metro fucking bands over and how security beat on kids. We signed an open letter stating we would not play there. After a while, as we got more popular, Marc Ruvalo of No Empathy was able to negotiate a deal for punk bands; $5 door, no merchandise cut, no gate around the stage, etc. We decided that it would make sense for us to try it. We have always been pretty independent as far as how we do business. I think that used to get under the skin of some "scenesters", I think it still pisses some people off. Then the infamous 4th of July show. All along, we knew something was different, by the time we played, the crowd was into it. Funny thing is, nothing the crowd did was any different than what they had done at any show. The security got a little out of hand, we were pissed off and Daryl's famous quote, "We're The Bollweevils, we're never playing here the fuck again."
We had had a number of great shows there. I guess time heals all wounds. I remember talking to the guitarist of Pennywise (Fletcher) and him telling me that they told him, "they didn't want another Bollweevils show." It was Big Black banned before us so it was a nice torch to carry. When we did our "comeback" show, it was a benefit. It was at the Metro, we said yes. Funny thing is that most of the people in bands that signed the letter have played there with other bands. In fact, some have worked at the Metro. In some ways, I think we played a small part in making it "OK" for a punk band to play there."

CM: I know that Dr. Strange Records isn't doing a lot anymore as far as releases go. Is there any plans to have the old albums re-released? Specifically the out of print "Stick Your Neck Out" and "Heavyweight" albums?

KF: "All our albums are available online, iTunes, Napster, etc. I would love to strike a deal with a small label to get some of it back on LP or CD, I'm just not sure if a label would be interested."

CM: At the end of the "Heavyweights" album, there's about 10 minutes of recorded conversation. Anyone who owns the album will know what I'm talking about. I gotta ask you, was any of that filmed? That was some funny stuff!

KF: "Most of that was recorded on a hand-held tape player our drummer Brian had. We went to Missoula, MT to play a festival show for $100 and got payed with a check that bounced. We drove out on a Friday, played on Saturday, drove home Sunday. Needless to say, we were slaphappy."

CM: After The Bollweevils split up, you formed The Feds and released an amazing album, "Chicago Bureau" as well as the "Classified" 7". Do you think fans embraced your new band as much as The Bollweevils?

KF: "I don't think we were around long enough for the fans to catch on, although until the new Bollweevils stuff, it is the best-sounding stuff and best songwriting I've done."

CM: Any plans for a Feds reunion gig with The Bollweevils?

KF: "Um, Louie the drummer, who I love, lives in LA, who knows where Mark Piss is these days, maybe in a gutter, so no - probably no reunion, although we have talked about The Bollweevils covering a song."

CM: You guys have hinted about a show coming up in the summer and a new single. Is there gonna be a new full length in the works? Possibly a tour?

KF: "I think we want to release singles ala "Singles Going Steady" (Buzzcocks). We have quite a few things written. Touring would be fun, except we all have jobs and families, so unless it works for everyone, I'm not sure."

CM: How can fans get in touch with you and the band? Is there a website you want to plug where we can get news on up coming shows, releases, tour info and merch?

KF: "We have a Facebook and MySpace page. You can e-mail me at I would be remiss if I didn't mention my band after the Feds: Callaghan; probably the most fun band I was ever in. The challenge for you will be to find our releases."

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Interview With Jon Weiner Of The Dopamines

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Jon. The band's been on the road lately, and are heading back out to the East coast in August. How many tours has the band done so far?

Jon Weiner: Shit, I've never taken the time to count, but well over a dozen by now. Not as many as some bands, but more than most! Our most recent one with Less Than Jake was pretty rad.

CM: Any plans for a cross country, or possibly overseas tour?

JW: We did a really long cross country tour 3-4 years ago, and we did Europe almost two years ago. I would love to do both of those tours again, while also including the UK. We loved playing in Canada, too. However, as of right now we have no plans to do any extensive touring. Jobs, real life, wives etc have been catching up with us. It's more or less always been a struggle financially for us to get out on the road. We're playing Hawaii in July, pretty crazy excited for that.

CM: Can you give us a little history on the band? How did you guy's get started?

JW: We turn 5 this year! we started in 2006. We wanted to start a party Ramones style band. Jon Lewis was in a band called the Black Tie Bombers that had more or less just ended, and it ended up getting serious and turning into the Dopamines. We were all in a bunch of bands together. This one just kinda stuck I guess. The songs got slightly more serious and we layed down a full length with Matt Yonker. Michael (drummer) ended up joining the band afterwards.

CM: What are some of the bands musical influences?

JW: We were super influenced by current pop-punk when we started. Ergs, Copyrights, TBR. I think as we've "matured" as a band there are a lot more influences that we have pulled from all over the place. In my head I always wanted to be the perfect hybrid of Pinhead Gunpowder and Dillinger Four, probably the two most important punk bands to me. We just recorded a Guided By Voices song. I dunno, we're all over the place. We've all got different tastes. I like the Stones, Jon Lewis likes the Beatles. Shit like that.

CM: Outside of your home town of 
Cincinnati what are some of your favorite cities to play?

JW: Chicago is probably our second home. We have so many friends there and the shows are always amazing. We also love playing in Baltimore, Minneapolis, and NYC. Belgium was the most fun show we had in Europe. Kids were crazy. Montreal and Toronto were also some of the cooler shows we've ever played. People are still stoked about punk in Canada.

CM: The bands last album "
Expect The Worst" came out in July of last year. Is there a new album in the works?

JW: We just recorded 12 songs. It may or may not end up being a full length. Probably just an EP and some 7" stuff. I'm really excited about the songs though. I also think it's the best sounding (production wise) stuff we've ever done. 

CM: You guy's are playing Insubordination Fest again this year. 
What's is like to play with so many amazing bands? 

JW: That's always the most fun weekend of the year for us. It's more or less with all of our friends. We always have too much fun.

CM: Besides Insub Fest and the shows in August, are there any other big plans for the rest of 2011?

JW: We're playing Best Friends Day in Richmond, Indianapolis July 9th for a big breast cancer benefit, Hawaii in July, and the Fest in October. As of right now nothing big is confirmed, but we are throwing around some cool ideas.

CM: Is there a website that you guy's would like to plug? Where fans can get tour dates, news and merch?

JW: That has our shows, news, and a store!

CM: Thanks again for talking with Critical Mass, Jon. I'm looking forward to seeing you in Chicago again. Thanks again man.

JW: Thank you!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Interview With Mike McColgan From Street Dogs

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Mike. It's been close to a year now since the last Street Dogs album was released. Has the band started kicking around new songs yet? Or are you guy's enjoying a much deserved break at the moment?

Mike McColgan: We have tours set up for the US, Europe, Austrailia and Japan.The idea of taking a break is a distant dream! We have been touring around the world since 2004 and with our most recent self titled release we have touring scheduled everywhere.The reception to the self titled record has been huge.

CM: It's been almost 10 years now since Street Dogs formed. Can you give us a little history on how you got the band going?

MM: The band got going with some friends just looking to have fun in 2002 and from there we just got interest and opportunities that we never ever anticipated. We have been able to record five albums and tour all over the world. It all started in the city of Boston and we all consider Boston to be the Street Dogs home.

CM: So many of your songs focus on the blue collar workers and fighting for the union workers rights. This is obviously a subject that's near and dear to you. Did you grow up in a household with union working family members?

MM: I grew up in a union household and around a union family. My neighborhood growing up was a union neighborhood. Clearly that rubbed off and fundamentally and in accordance with human rights and democracy I just really feel workers should be able to bargain with their employer.

CM: What are some of your personal musical influences? And how do you infuse those influences with the blue collar worker of today mentality?

MM: I like a bunch of different artists and different genres of music. Some of the artists I think that have influenced me are Bob Dylan, Billy Bragg, AC/DC, U2, The Clash, The Ramones and Stiff Little Fingers.

CM: Fans may remember you as the original frontman for Dropkick Murphys. You were on the early 7" records as well as the "Boys On The Docks" EP and "Do Or Die" album. Why did you leave the band after such powerful releases?

MM: I left the group to pursue a position as a Boston Firefighter and I had that job for four years and the guys in DKM were very supportive of that decision. I guess ultimately I missed music too much and hence here we are today, five albums in with yet another Warped Tour run staring Street Dogs down. Life is good and we are grateful.

CM: I'm guessing you're still somewhat close with your former DKM band members. You actually had Ken Casey and Al Barr sing with you on "Stand Up" from the Street Dogs debut album "Savin Hill". Any plans for a DKM/Street Dogs tour?

MM: Yes, Street Dogs and DKM are very close. Since our earliest days DKM has been very supportive of us and "Stand Up" is just one example of that. Also a DKM/Street Dogs tour is inevitable and will happen.

CM: I have a copy of Street Dogs original demo. Some of those songs from that demo made it onto "Savin Hill". Are there any plans to release the other tracks like "Locked And Loaded" or "Mystery Box" later on?

MM: A release of our demo down the line will happen. Probably as part of a retrospective release.

CM: Are there any plans for any festival shows for Street Dogs this year?

MM: Right now there are some US and European festivals in the works for SD.

CM: Is there a website where fans can get up to date news on new releases, shows and merch?

MM: Our Facebook page is the best place to go

CM: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass, Mike. I'm really looking forward to hearing some new songs and seeing the band live in Chicago again. All the best to you and the band. Thanks again.

MM: We will be in Chicago on Warped Tour and on some very,very special shows in the near future.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Interview With Mexican Cheerleader

Critical Mass: Thanks for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass guys. Mexican Cheerleader has been around for a number of years and has contributed a lot to the Chicago music scene. Can you give us a little history on the band? How did you guys get together?

Andy: Apocalypse Hoboken and Oblivion. It’s like two red-headed stepchildren finding each other.  And then Karl's I’ve known as part of Lynyrd’s Innards since, well, Ice Cube went solo, I guess.  When musicians become friends, and then certain people you’re playing with can’t keep their heads on straight, it only makes sense that it’s less of a hassle to play with friends.  It was an inevitable marriage.

Karl: I saw MC several times back in the Mascara Snake days, and told Pete that if she ever quit for any reason, I would like a shot at joining the band, since they were so great. Then she quit, and I was given the chance to audition. I’m still waiting to find out whether or not I’ve been accepted.

Scott: Gabba gabba we accept you, we accept you, one of us.

Pete:  I honestly can’t remember anything except Scott and I eating t-bone steaks at an IHOP with our bare hands. A few weeks later, we were playing a show together, that was July of 1999.

CM: It's been a few months since "Genghis Puss" came out. Can we expect anymore new material in the near future?

Andy: It just came out, no?  I suppose we’ll record again soon, but it’ll be more Physical Graffiti than Please Please Me.  No.  Wait.  Reverse that….

Karl: It’s going to be like if every song on Zen Arcade was The Baby Song.

CM: What are some of the bands musical influences? And do you bring those influences to the table when it comes time to write new songs?

Karl: When I get the “what do you guys sound like?” question from well-meaning but ultimately disinterested people I meet at parties, I shorthand the band as Cheap Purple for the mix of classic pop hooks and dirtbag rock. Every now and again, we throw in DRI’s Dealing With It for shits and giggles.

Pete: You say Cheap Purple, I say T. Mex.

CM: Has the band been able to tour outside of the Chicagoland area in the past? And are there any plans for a possible tour in the near future?

Andy: We’ve played where we were invited; places that are within a day’s drive like Cleveland or Indiana.  Did we ever actually play in Denver?  Anyhow, we’ve never pursued a tour and unless someone demands our services, we’ll likely stay a Chicago phenomenon.

Scott: Ooooof.

Pete: We’ll likely stay Chicago Phantoms.

Karl: The romance of the road loses its luster in direct proportion to increasing age. The idea of laying my sleeping bag down next to the cat box is even less appealing now than it used to be. If we could get Bruce Dickinson to fly us to other cities to play, I’d totally be down with that plan, if only so I could go golfing with Nicko McBrain.

Scott: With the exception of the golf thing I’m totally down with the Karl's touring plan, Bruce Bruce has always been a big hero of mine.

CM: I remember years ago, you guys played the Fireside quite often. Now that the shows there are few and far between where are some of your favorite places to play?

Karl: I like Beat Kitchen, and the Bottom Lounge is great if you’re opening up for someone who can get people to show up.

Scott: I love the Prodigal Son and Cabaret Metro.  Nitecaps was an educational experience for all.

Pete: Dumpsterland and the Bog Theater.

CM: Are there any local bands you really enjoy doing shows with?

Andy: 97-Shiki and the Arrivals come to mind.  Umm…..

Karl: The Brokedowns are fun to hang out with and a good band, to boot. Nobs and Stoves.

Scott: Pretty much what they said.

Pete: There’s too many I wish we could have played with. Most of have already broken up.

CM: Are there any big plans for the band for the second half of 2011? Any big gigs coming up that you can confirm?

Karl: We’re playing Pitchfork, performing Anthrax’s Among the Living from start to finish. This will be the first that anyone else in the band has heard about it, though.

Scott: We’ve discussed playing Helmet’s “Strap It On” in its entirety, if that plan comes to fruition we will be gods, locally.

Pete: I’d like to play my kid’s birthday party, so I can completely embarrass him and make it all about myself.

CM: Is there a website where fans can get up to date news on shows, releases and merch? Or anything else you wanna plug?

Andy: We still have and that dusty ol’ MySpace page, right?

CM: Thanks again for taking the time to talk with Critical Mass guys. I'm looking forward to seeing you again. Thanks again.

Scott: Thank you.

Pete:  I honestly can’t remember anything except Scott and I eating t-bone steaks at an IHOP with our bare hands....