Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Red Chord/108 interview with Drummer: Mike Justian. June 17, 2010.

Vista: Hey Mike. The first question that I wanted to ask you is, what was your first exposure to the Hardcore/Metalcore scene? How old were you & what bands first grabbed your attention? Also, what was your first Hardcore show that you attended?
Mike: I was first introduced to hardcore when I was 12. A friend of mine at the time,whom was much older than me,was a skinhead.He exposed me to Slapshot, Sick Of It All and Sheer Terror.I felt this intense energy to be a part of it,so I went to a show at famed punk club The Rat to see Life Of Agony and local heroes Reason Enough, I was 13.

Vista: How old were you when you first started playing drums? Did you have any formal training and/or did you play an instrument in school at all? For the first few year of playing...How many hours per day did you practice & besides performing live and band practices...In your free time, do you still "practice" per day while not on tour, recording, etc.? Also, do you play any other instruments?

Mike: I started to play on laundry baskets as a child of 6 years age. My dad would go off to play gigs with his blues band at night and I would turn the living room into a "night club" and play my laundry baskets with wooden soup spoons. I never took lessons,which I'm still conflicted about.I never bothered to have a regimented discipline for practicing the instrument and to this day,I simply play when I feel inspired. As of the past couple of years, Ive been developing a lot of my own material,in which I write the music/lyrics and play all of the instruments. I can navigate my way around the guitar and bass and actually played guitar for Backstabbers Inc.Right now, I'm trying to teach myself to sing and play piano.

Vista: Can you give us a brief history of, The Red Chord? Year started, ex-members & I know you had left the band in 2004 & rejoined. Why did you leave the band at that time?

Mike: I was playing for a band called Hassan-I-Sabbah at the time, but had a friendship with Guy. When the drummer of his band Ictus switched to guitar, they needed a fill in drummer and I was happy to oblige. After a few good shows, I decided to continue playing for them if the band agreed to become more serious,which led to a couple of line up changes, a new name and a more technical direction, thus THE RED CHORD was born in 2000. In 2003, I left the band because I was noticing that my friendships with the members of the band started to diminish, coupled with the fact that I was given the opportunity to work with a more active band.

Vista: Officially...How many bands have you played as a member or as a "fill-in" & what years were those?

Mike: Here is where people seem to be most confused about me.I have officially been a member of these bands:

The Fall Of Leningrad('98-'99)
Backstabbers Inc('99-'00)
The Red Chord('00-'03)
The Red Chord('10-....)

The various bands/musicians I have collaborated with and/or filled in for throughout the span of my touring career are:  Shai Hulud, Trap Them, Earth Crisis, Backstabbers Inc, The Red Chord, Steve Brodski, Kurt Ballou.

Vista: As a drummer, who are some direct influences to your style of playing? And is there a some drummers in whatever genre, that you feel a really underrated in your opinion?

Mike: Hmm, I don't have any direct influences,but I love Tony Williams, Billy Cobham and of coarse, John Bonham. I think that one of the great understated drummers is without question John Stanier from Helmet,Battles.

Vista: Speaking just for yourself, what has been the biggest accomplishment while performing with, The Red Chord?

Mike: Getting through a set, haha.

If your were to give some advice to a young person just starting out, playing drums...What would that be?

Mike: Don't think, just play.

Vista: Do you prefer touring to studio or vise-versa? What are some of your thoughts on each? On this subject, do you like doing tours for months on end or is it a complete pain in the ass!


Mike: I enjoy the challenges and small victories of both.The challenge of playing live, is to perform the songs in succession as best as you possibly can under any conditions,while putting on a show at the same time.The challenge of recording, is to track a song as best as you can,knowing that it is going to immortalize you to some extent.There is something very gratifying about playing your music to a receptive audience and doing a good show,just as there's something gratifying about tracking a song and hearing it come to fruition as a fully realized piece of music. I like touring abroad much more than in the states but I dont at all enjoy the marathon tours.I do like to be very active as a touring musician and still want to be on the road at least half of the year, but certainly that does not mean that I want to be on tour for 6 months in a row.

Vista: Speaking of touring, what are your three essential must have items while out on the road!?

Mike: Good,nourishing vegetarian food, ipod, a somewhat comfortable place to sleep.

Vista: Since I'm on the touring-tip. What country has the crappiest food!? There has gotta be a few {dozen?}...Just pick one country that comes to mind?

Mike: England, without question or hesitation. Their national dish is curry, which should give some indication as to how bad English food is. Most of the food I've eaten in Northern Italy is pretty bad too, the pizzas taste like the cardboard that they're served in.

Vista: Looking back to the beginning of your time with, The Red Chord, what were some very first initial goals...Maybe not "goals" so to speak...but were there any thoughts to touring, recording & bigger record labels or was it just to play out just on the weekends, record a demo/cd etc.? Also, when you guys first started, did kids at shows not know what the hell was going on while you played!?

Mike: I think that being serious was one of my only provisions upon starting the band with Guy and Kevin.I would not and could not make time to be in the band if it wasn't serious on some capacity.I think that The Red Chord became fairly popular early on because it was such a unique marriage of technical prowess with bludgeoning intensity.

Vista: I've heard people refer to The Red Chord as "pioneers" in the Death-core style. What are your thoughts on that? Also, is that a compliment or does it make you feel like a old dude!? Ha!

Mike: The occasional morsel of respect that I receive is appreciated, but I otherwise have no opinion of death core other than that some of these bands just seem to be stealing from the thieves.And no,being a "pioneer" doesn't make me feel old, being old makes me feel old.

Vista: I'll ask cause I have zero clue...Where did the name, "The Red Chord" come from? Does it have any meaning to the band at all or is it just a name that you KNEW that I, with a xerox copied fanzine would ask one day!? Ha!

Mike: Its from a short play I believe, about a schizophrenic guy that slits the neck of his bride, then turns to her and inquires "My dear, what is that red cord around your neck".

Vista: I wanted to speak a little bit about 108. How were your approached to be involved with them & are you an "official" member of the band?
Mike: I did a record with them as a fill in drummer,then I did a couple of short tours as a fill in drummer. I enjoyed the music we created, but above anything else, I have a deep respect for Vic, Triv and Ras that developed into a friendship.Its an honor to be a member of the band,but an even greater honor to be their friend. 108 is not a terribly active band, but I will do anything that I can on a creative level as a member.

Vista: Have you performed live with 108? If so, how many shows to this point {summer2010} have you done with 108? Also, what was the writing process for the album {18.61} you recorded with 108?

Mike: I've done maybe 2 weeks worth of shows with 108 since 2009. The writing process consisted of Vic doing some demos of material. Then Triv and I did some pre-production at my modest home studio. We then tracked drums and bass together,and 2 days later Vic and Ras arrived to record guitars and vocals.

Vista: From your perspective, how was the recording process for the new 108 album? Also, wasn't the album suppose to be an e.p.? I had heard that a lot of the songs were actually written & recorded over one weekend? Thoughts?

Mike: It was a bit of a stressful session, because it was originally supposed to be an ep that morphed into an lp, but the allotment of time for pre-production and recording was the same. Inevitably, there were time constraints because we now had twice as many songs to finish writing and to record, plus it was tracked to 2 inch tape, so we had to go in and nail each song within a couple of takes, without overdubs. Overall,I'm very happy with the album and it was a fun and healthy collaborative process.

Vista: Playing drums for The Red Chord is a big contrast compared to 108. Was it difficult to transition from playing the way you do in The Red Chord as opposed to 108?

Mike: Ummm, well since I left The Red Chord in 2003, I hadn't played a blast beat since 2010 when I started to tour with them again.Suffice to say, I'm still re-learning a lot with The Red Chord.Its very fast and technical music, which is much more demanding physically and musically. However, I have a historically strong connection to hardcore punk, but I've always considered myself a rock drummer.With 108, something that remains unique about the band is their fusion of punk and post-hardcore,with a penchant for bombastic rock grooves. I often hear Quicksand, Helmet and Fugazi influence in 108, so there is a very strong pocket that their sound has become synonymous with. That pocket,coupled with the strong bond that I have with Triv as a playing companion, are where you will hear some of my best playing

Vista: Were you socked or surprised that Rob quit 108, what seemed to be very abruptly? Also, as of tis interview, what is the status of 108 & do you plan on being in both bands?

Mike: I was certainly taken aback by Ras's departure, but I cant say that I was shocked. I think that with how difficult it has been for 18.61 to be released, along with his growing responsibilities toward his domestic situation, he just grew tired. I think that there's also been some evidence that Ras is no longer profoundly enveloped in Krishna consciousness, which perhaps burdened him to sing songs about the subject. What upset me a bit with Ras's departure,was that a slight bickering match ensued over the internet about the fate of 108. To me, Vic and Triv, 108 is a spiritual entity that can and will continue to exist,regardless of who is singing the song or playing the instrument. The concepts and ideologies expressed in 108's music is beyond music, it's beyond band members and certainly its beyond the superficial connotations of a band making songs and playing gigs.

Vista: What was your first introduction to music...As a young kid? I ask this a lot just because I get so many varied answers. I don't mean Hardcore or Metalcore. Just the first vivid memory of music in general?

Mike: My first memory of music,was when I was maybe 4 or 5 years old,living on the 3rd floor of a run down tenement building. My dad put on a kiss record and I remember looking at the album cover, hearing the music and being terrified that these guys were going to crash through the wall and abduct me.I also have a memory of the first time I heard "The Rocker" by Thin Lizzy, in which I imagined that the guy singing (Phil Lynot) was some psychotic clown.

Vista: Best metal band to ever walk the earth? Just one band/album?

Mike: Black Sabbath-Black Sabbath

Vista: If you're on a ship & it sinks & you swim to an island & get your Ipod soaked & ONLY five albums are able to play on the damn thing...Besides wanting to be rescued...What Five albums are you hoping play? Oh, your headphones {ear buds, whatever} DIDN'T sink with the ship, they were in your back pocket  & somehow miraculously work!

Mike: Impossible to answer,but I'll try...

Kings of Convenience-Riot On An Empty Street
Talk Talk-Laughing Stock
Free-Molten Gold:anthology vol 1
Sigur Ros-Agaetis Byrjun
Tears For Fears-Tears Roll Down

Vista: Michael, thanks a lot for taking the time to do this interview. Is there anything else you's like to say?

Mike: Thanks for the interest.You can find me at, and Also, search for my ambient project called Saail on facebook and hit the "like" botton. Support TAYE drums,MEINL cymbals,VIC FIRTH sticks,AQUARIAN heads and check out their websites.

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