Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hellmouth interview with Bassist: Jeff. April 18, 2010.

Vista: Hey. I might as well start this off with the typical, generic fanzine question. Ha!  What's the current line-up & who does what?
Jeff: First off…thanks for the interview!  The lineup has been the same since the first day of the band.  It’s Jay on vocals, Justin on drums, Alex on guitar and I play bass.

Vista: Can you give us a brief history of Hellmouth? Year started, ex-members, music released so far....The whole deal.

Jeff: The band got together in early 2008.  We played our first show and released our “Demo ‘08” CD in May of that year.  Soon after that, we got an offer to be on Ferret.  The whole thing was out of the blue and sort of strange to us since we sound nothing like any of their other bands.  Carl and the people at Ferret just liked our music and wanted to put out a record.  They were super cool.  We accepted the offer and started recording “Destroy Everything. Worship Nothing.”  It was released January of 2009.

Vista: One thing I really wanted to ask you about is the record label you guys are on. I see that you're on the Ferret Record label. Are you now with Good Fight Records or still on Ferret ? I heard that Ferret was bought up by some major label or something? I was just wondering what label Hellmouth is officially on?

Jeff: Good Fight is Carl’s new label.  Apparently Warner Brothers now owns Ferret and our first release!  I’m sure the suit and tie guys at WB are really big fans of our record.  We’re not associated with Ferret or WB at all now.  As we speak we’re looking at different options for releasing our second record, which may include recording for Good Fight.

Vista: I know that you guys were in another band called Suicide Machines. Why did that band come to an end & how did you guys transition into Hellmouth?

Jeff: Jay was the only one in Suicide Machines.  The Machines were a hard-working band that did a lot of records and toured the world for a long time.  They just kind of came to an end.  Jay and I played in a band called Left in Ruin which was very Sabbath influenced.  One day he told me he had some fast songs he wanted to try, but they wouldn’t fit in with what L.I.R. sounded like.  I thought the songs were good and we immediately got Justin and Alex to try out the material.  They liked it and we’ve been going strong ever since.  I think the four of us feel the most comfortable playing what we do in this band as compared to all  the other ones we’ve been in previously.

Vista: What are some lyrical topics that you guys touch on? Are there some themes or concepts to your most recent release, "Destroy Everything, Worship Nothing"? Also, speaking of the title, what are some of you thoughts behind that title?

Jeff: A lot of our lyrics are based on our serious dislike for the human race and peoples’ inhumanity within the context of religion, government, society and personal issues.  Our views are strong…god doesn’t exist, most government equals corruption, the afterlife is a lie, big business can sometime ruin people,etc..  Humans are selfish, corrupt, unforgiving, violent and sheep. There's no doubt in our mind that if everyone were wiped out and the whole world started over again that the Earth would be a better place. For me personally, “D.E.W.N.” is a way of trying to live my life.  No, it doesn’t mean I literally go around “destroying” everything that bothers me, but it represents not being controlled by the stuff that makes life shitty and gets in the way of the things that are good.  Plus, I think it’s a really good  title!

Vista: Where did the name, "Hellmouth" come from? I was looking up some information, on the computer, of your band & "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" popped up? Is there some type of connection between this T.V. show & Hellmouth, the band?

Jeff: I came up with the name.  I thought it sounded cool and was a good representation of the music we were doing.  A “hellmouth” is actually a fictitious gate to hell that eats the souls of the damned.  It was depicted heavily in religious art.  Honestly, I didn’t even associate with the show until some kid made a Buffy-based comment to us.  I think it was something on PunkNews like “Ohh…Spike needs to save Buffy from the Hellmouth!”  Right there is said, “Oh shit.”  Yes, I used to watch the show a long time ago.  I felt stupid for not even thinking about it!

Vista: I was checking out the artwork for the, "Destroy Everything, Worship Nothing" & the first thing that popped into my mind was...This looks like it was done by the guy who did a lot of metal bands artwork, I think his name was Ed Repka? He did artwork for the band, Death & also Megadeth. It's very metal...Which I think is awesome. So, my question is, who did the artwork. Also, I see that there are religious & political overtones in it. What were some ideas behind it & was this artwork done by the bands direction or was it some artwork that caught your eye & fit into what you guys were doing?

Vista: The cover was drawn and painted by Andrei Bouzikov.  He’s done amazing covers for a bunch of bands including Municipal Waste.  I’m sure he would take the Repka reference as a compliment because Repka’s art is legendary.  The basic idea behind the cover was impending doom is coming, and you don’t know why, and you can’t do anything about it.  We wanted to have a picture of what it might be like if people knew they’re lives were ending and they have no control over it.  There’s no god to help and people are just scrambling and are functioning on instinct.  We told Andrei the idea and he captured it perfectly.  I love that fucking painting!  He just finished our new cover too.

Vista: What are your thoughts on the current hardcore scene? Is it full of shit? Ha! I mean, in your opinion, what are some thoughts on what is good with the scene & on the flip-side...What's the shits?

Jeff: Seriously, it’s really difficult to tell.  I think it depends where you go.  There are good bands everywhere, but cities like Cleveland and Indy have scenes that are thriving, where others are minimal or nonexistent.  The life or death of a scene goes in cycles with high and low points at various times.  Detroit is finally on an upswing musically.  There seems to be more people supporting bands and getting involved in making things happen.

Vista: You guys have been in the hardcore scene for a long time. Throughout this time, I'm sure you've seen a bunch of ridiculous trends come & go. Some of my favorite B.S. moments...Guys in girl pants & guy-liner makeup. Another is bands that have guitar noodlers & have the famous, "scream/sing/scream" formula that flat out sucks! Thoughts?

Jeff: Yeah, there’s been some stupid things we’ve all seen throughout the years in the punk, metal and hardcore scene.  We’ve probably been guilty of some of them ourselves!  We’re all too old to care what anyone looks like.  If you’re sincere and are supportive of bands or a scene, then you’re cool with us.  On the other hand, we’re not as tolerant with a lot of bands.  We don’t care if you’re talented, or are even that good, but if you play with heart and integrity, we’re fans.  I can tell you 100% that we can’t stand any band that uses Auto-Tune, heavy bands that have somebody “playing” a Mac Computer, or bands that ask people to fucking pray with them on stage.  That being said, I’m sure for every one band we can’t stand there’s 1000 bands and kids who hate our guts and hate what we do even more.

Vista: As a band, where are you guys pulling influences from, musically?

Jeff: Everywhere.  You can never have too many influences or inspirations.  I’m not going to name bands ‘cause we’d be here forever.  Musically, between the four of us, we listen to every type of music out there.  The van rides are usually interesting because someone’s always being exposed to something new.  People limit themselves.  They think to play a certain type of music you can only listen to that type of music.  People deny their true influences all the time to make themselves more “punk” or “metal” or whatever.  It’s stupid…like what you want to like.

Vista: I had read on your Myspace site that you guys were asking people what "cover song" you guys should play. My question is...What cover song {if any} do you guys currently play live? Also, through the years, what other cover songs has Hellmouth done? Also, along those lines, did Suicide Machines do cover songs, if so, what ones?

Jeff: Cover songs are a lot of fun.  We have so many in mind to play.  Live, we’ve done “Hard Times” by Cro-Mags, “Bloodstains” by Agent Orange and “Evil” by The 4 Skins.  In the future there will be a split covers record with our Cleveland brothers Wreak Havoc, but that’s way off in the future.  I think the Machines used to cover “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” by R.E.M, “I Don’t Wanna Hear It” by Minor Threat and I think they did that “Never Promised You A Rose Garden” song.

Vista: Tell us about the Detroit hardcore scene & specifically, about where you guys are from? I'm wondering, how's the hardcore scene in your area?  Clubs that put on shows, any bands to be on the lookout for & any fanzines out there?

Jeff: Like I said, the music scene, at least the one we’re involved in, is turning around a bit.  The ‘old’ people are in bands that are better than the ones they were in previously.  There’s a bunch of new bands forming all the time.  Peoples’ attitudes are getting better and you’re starting to see a little bit of unity and camaraderie amongst bands.  Some of my faves right now are Year Of The Pig, UDI, Fireworks, Writhing, Beast In The Field, Nightbringer, We Are The Union, xTyrantx, H8 Inc., The A-Gang, and Voice Of Anger.

Vista: What was your first introduction to the hardcore/punk scene? I'm wondering, how old were you when you got into the scene, first bands that really caught your attention & first hardcore show you attended?

Jeff: I was into heavy music early on, mostly metal or hard rock bands like Kiss, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Motley Crue.  By the time I was 15 or so I was totally addicted to thrash, punk, speed metal, crossover and hardcore.  My first real hardcore show was 7 Seconds and it changed my life.  To this day I remember the energy, the fear and the craziness of the show.  I also remember how “real” the show felt.  No rock-star stage show or bullshit mentality…and I liked it.

Vista: Outside of playing music, what are some interests & hobbies? Do you guys work or go to school or is the band a full-on situation? Also, are you guys at least able to pay bills while doing the band?

Jeff: Hellmouth is definitely a part time thing.  We do it because we like it.  There’s no money made in Hellmouth.  Anything we make from shows or off from selling merch goes right back into the band either for recording, to make different shirts, stickers, buttons, and to fix fucking vans so we can get places! We all have jobs and our own personal things we like.  The one thing we all do together is fight training.  I’m a certified Krav Maga instructor so I train the rest of the guys.  They love to punch shit!

Vista: I'll ask, because I have no clue...Has Hellmouth done any type of touring, in
America & Canada? Also, have you guys been to Europe & what countries have you been to ? If so, what are some differences between America & Europe? You always hear the Europe is way more into hardcore & they actually stick with it, pass the age of 22. Any thoughts?

Jeff: Because the band isn’t full time, we haven’t done any extensive touring.  We’ve done long weekends out in cities south of us and on the east coast.  Our trip to Toronto to play with Negative Approach resulted in us being stranded and hour from the boarder at 3:30 in the morning with a blown transmission.  That was fun. As for differences in the continents, I know that American kids have an ability to change their minds from day to day about what they like musically.  I really don’t see this as a bad thing.  Bands should work to keep their audience through good songwriting and live shows.  Anyone who rests on their past accomplishments deserves to be told to “fuck off.”  I like the fact that if a kid doesn’t like what we’re doing, as compared to what we did before, that he’ll tell us we suck now.  I appreciate that kind of honesty.

Vista: Tell us about the writing process for the band. Who are the main "writers" musically, and who handles the lyrics? Do you guys have some type of formula for writing, such as music first, then lyrics or vice versa?

Jeff: We all take a part in song writing, whether it’s coming up with a whole song or the arrangement.  The great thing about this band is there is zero bullshit.  We all respect each other and we’re friends so if someone writes something crappy, we’re able to say that without anyone getting mad.  We’re also able to make suggestions without repercussion because we know all we’re trying to do is make the song as good as possible.  A lot of bands can’t do that.  That’s why so many break up.  Jay takes care of all the lyrics.  Most times it’s music first, lyrics follow, but that’s not always the case.

Vista: Speaking of music, is there any new music coming out soon?

Jeff: Well, we’re waiting for a split 7” to be released.  It’s with Explode & Make Up from Chicago.  Each band will have a new original song and one cover song.  That’s coming out on Underground Comminique any time now.  There will also be a 4 way split 7” coming out with Embrace The Kill, Mouth Sewn Shut and In Defense.  That will have one new song also.  We’ll be going in this summer to record a new full length.

Vista: What are your thoughts on the entire world just snagging music off the internet? Is it just, "how it is"? Does it make you want to kill some little dip-shit computer nerd who just randomly puts your music on a website for the hell of it? I've spoken to some friends who believe music, in the near future will JUST be available a sterile, shitty download. How does a band, such as yourselves, get by? Is it all about the merchandise {shirts, hoodies, etc.}?

Jeff: I can’t see the industry making the physical formats extinct.  Vinyl is the biggest it’s been in 15 years.  As for the downloading issue, we’re not a band that really needs got “get by” since we’re not doing this for a living, but I can see how other bands could definitely be affected by this.  Seriously, though, it’s more the record companies that feel the hit than the bands.  If a band wants to earn a living from their music, most of them do it by touring and through merchandise.  I can’t say I’m for illegal downloading but I’m not going to sit here and say I haven’t done it myself.  Huge record companies have been ripping off the public since their inception.  Maybe they’re getting what they deserve.  It’s the smaller labels that get hurt.  Go steal all you want from Sony, Warner Brothers and all those labels, but leave the independents alone. As for my band, I guess I would rather have somebody listening to us in whatever way they can rather than not listening at all.  What people don’t realize is that music has been “stolen” since personal recording devices were created.  I don’t remember hearing in the 80s how cassettes were killing the industry.  Getting something off the internet is no different than when a friend made you a tape of a new record.  Hell, that’s how the thrash metal scene in the 80s got huge….through tape trading.  I love how Metallica forgot about that.

Vista: What bands are you really into, that people might be surprised to hear you say ? I mean, your band is called, Hellmouth! You guys are heavy as, well....Hell! But, what band/group/performer are you all about, that makes you cringe to admit? I, myself have been known to drive on freeways & locally blasting the shit out of, Cannibal Corpse, Slayer, Merauder, etc...Then when no one is looking {or listening}...I will throw in Third Eye Blind & pretend I can hit those friggin' high notes! Now that I've lost all my street cred, what about you!!?? Ha!

Jeff: Yeah…our “punk cards’ are gonna be revoked too after answering this!  Most of the music we listen to really is in the aggressive realm, but anyone who says they listen to nothing but the heaviest, fastest, most punk and hardcore shit in the world 24/7 is a big fucking liar.  That doesn’t make you tough, extreme or hard…it makes you stupid.  We all have things we listen to that people would look at us funny for.  If you flip through my Ipod you’ll actually find some Neil Diamond, Shakira, Gin Blossoms and John Denver.  I know Jay buys every new Justin Timberlake album when it comes out.  Alex is into chick pop singers and bebop jazz.  Justin loves a good techno song.  Fuck it…nobody should give a damn about impressing anyone else with their musical tastes.  A good song is a good song.

Vista: To date, what has been your biggest accomplishment with Hellmouth? On the flip-side...The biggest letdown or disappointment?

Jeff: This band has been a positive thing for all of us.  We expected NOTHING out of this except to play music we like with friends.  We got to put out a record, we’ve gotten to play in front of  kids that like what we do and have met a ton of cool new people.  The really great thing is we’ve shared the stage with people who were influences.  Justin calls it the “American Hardcore” list,  referring to the book and the movie.  We’ve gotten to play with Agnostic Front, Dr. Know, MDC, Cro-Mags, Negative Approach, The Dwarves, and coming up later this year, The Meatmen, Violent Apathy and D.R.I..  We’ve also gotten to play with bands we like such as Marduk, Trash Talk, Mayhem and Victims.  There’s nothing else, and no money that can replace those experiences. Other than vans stranding us constantly, there haven’t been any letdowns at all.

Vista: If you could give some advice to a young band starting out, what would that be? Would it be, just go to college & steer clear of the hardcore scene!?? Ha!

Jeff: There’s never anything wrong with education or entering the world of work.  But, if you really want to do this, you have to put yourself out there 100%.  Don’t wait for someone to come find you.  There are a million fucking bands out there that all want the same thing.  Don’t wait for somebody to give it to you….go get it!  Read “Get In The Van” and start working for what you want.

Vista: What's in the near future for Hellmouth? As of this interview {spring/2010}....What are some future plans, tours, shows, music releases?

Jeff: We have some out of town shows at the end of the summer with the Meatmen and Negative Approach.  That’s gonna be out of control!  A couple 7”s will be out soon.  We’re going to record in a few months and hope to have the record out by October.  We have a lot of things for fans of the band that we’re going to put into action in the future.  I’m not going to tell what they are right now, but it’s going to be really fucking cool.  We have dedicated people into us, so we’re going to create some special and unique things for them.

Vista: Jeff, thanks a lot for taking the time to do this interview. Best of luck with everything with the band. Is there anything else you'd like to say? What's the best way to get in touch with you guys?

Jeff: Any booking inquiries can go to 666hellmouth@gmail.  Anyone else can message us through the Myspace.  We’re pretty good about answering people.  By the end of summer there will probably be an official Hellmouth website.  Thanks again for the interview.  Keep it evil and keep thrashing!

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