Sunday, December 29, 2013

Interview with Jim Connolly from Soul Control, Fucking Invincible, etc.

 I’ve been following Jim Connolly’s bands for quite a while now, going back to like 06’ or 07’ when I first heard about Soul Control, a band I instantly loved. Starting out on Rivalry and then eventually signing to Bridge 9, they’re a band that has evolved quite a bit stylistically over the years, and while I’ll admit I prefer their first few releases to the last couple, they continue to write really interesting, challenging stuff.

The first time I guess I properly “met” Jim was this past summer when I booked his new band Fucking Invincible, who were touring with Loma Prieta. FI is a completely different beast from SC, and I was totally floored by their vicious attack of thrashy, grindy madness which periodically explodes into the sickest breakdown you’ve ever heard, pummels you with said mosh attack for a quick second, and then gets the hell out before you even realized what happened, leaving you windmill and spinkick-less.

At any rate, this past week my whole family was sick, so one night after having tended to hacking coughs, 102 + fevers, and general misery all day, when everyone finally went to sleep I sat down at the computer and said to myself, “I wonder if Jim would be down to answer some questions.” Answer he did, unleashing some of the most comical stories and interesting tidbits I’ve been able to capture thus far on the blog.

I’d say this is probably my favorite chat thus far, and I didn’t really have to do much, Jim just took the reins and went for it. That said, read on.  

First things first, talk a little bit about your childhood, adolescence, and your path into punk and hardcore.

I was born in 1978 in Worcester, MA. I was interested in music right from the get go. Both my mom and my grandmother had record players and a bunch of vinyl and I also had a little travel record player made for kids that could play 45's. So I'd listen to my mom and grandmother's random stuff. The two I loved the most were The Beatles "I am the Walrus/Hello-Goodbye" and The Big Bopper "Chantilly Lace/Purple People Eaters", both of which I still have to this day.

Then in 1984 I asked for my first tapes of my own which were Van Halen's “1984” and Culture Club, whichever one had ”Karma Chameleon” haha. As I got older I got heavy into guitar based stuff like AC/DC, Guns n Roses, etc.

As the early 90's hit and rock was getting really bad I found hip-hop for a couple of years until I hit high school in 1992 and started getting back into guitar stuff when I would landscape with my cousin. That finally leads to hardcore and punk.

I got on the wrong bus for a field trip and had to sit with a bunch of kids I didn't know. We ended up becoming friends and they were always talking about these shows they'd go to. So eventually in 94’ to get me to go with them they bought me a ticket to see Sam Black Church and Black Train Jack. They threw me in the pit, made me get up and stage dive and I was hooked. A couple weeks later we went to see Madball, which was obviously the dopest shit ever haha.

So being on the East Coast I imagine it was relatively easy to get submerged into things pretty quickly. What were some of the highlights of your early experiences going to shows....bands, venues, etc.? Also, Madball in the 90's (-:

Dude, Madball played somewhere in New England seemingly every weekend. It was the best.

I can only imagine. I mean, I saw them a half dozen times here in Michigan between 95 and 98, so I know out East must've been ridiculous. Orange 9mm too, band was always playing here, loved it.

Yeah, New England isn't that large of an area so within a couple hours you could see pretty much any touring band. Plus we had some great locals in MA in the 90's. Converge, Dive, Overcast, Bane was just starting up, Blood for Blood, 454 Big Block, so many bands. My favorite venues were in Providence, Babyhead and then The Met Cafe.

My favorite band instantly was Agnostic Front. So when they got back together in 1996 I went to a bunch of the shows on the first reunion run. The shows were insane.

I was at the 2nd Bane show. With them being from my town and Worcester having a thriving scene then, they literally played every weekend. They ended up being a huge part of my life.

Oh and about venues, CBGB's sucked. Just throwing that out there haha. I saw really good shows there but the actual place was a dump. I'm in the minority on that probably but whatever.

Man, that is so nuts. I'm glad you mentioned that because I'm actually in the middle of an interview with Bedard right now and one of the things I want to ask him about is their legacy. For me I've always considered them to be the quintessential hardcore band of our generation. What if anything, would you say their legacy is or what impact have they had on you specifically?

Bane IS the quintessential band of our generation.

Actually I was at the show where Dalbec realized he need Bedard to sing in Bane. It was a reunion for his old NYHC worship band called Backbone. Bedard got kicked in the face by a stage diver and was bleeding from his eye.

But right from the beginning they just took shit over. Each show just got wilder and wilder. Their first tour was opening for Saves the Day and by the time they got back it seemed like they were the biggest band. There's an amazing video that was on xMulletx of Bane playing “Superhero” in Worcester, you have to see it if you haven't. Biggest sing along ever and they hadn't even written “Can We Start Again” yet.

Yeah the first time they played here was "Michigan Fest" in 96 or 97 and they just blew the doors off completely. From there it seemed like every 3 to 6 months I was seeing them in either Detroit or Chicago, and like you said, they got more amazing every time it seemed.

Bedard was a great front man. Normally when a band would talk between songs you'd get bored and just wish they'd play another song but when he would speak, everyone would listen. Man, I'm going to have to break out all my old Bane VHS tapes now.

Real quick about those dudes. I don't see them as much anymore but I love those guys. Bedard taught me how to play poker and introduced me to the lost Burn demos, 2 things I am most grateful for. My first tour ever was with them and they treated us like gold. I rolled down to DC and did backups on “Give Blood” and have been all over the place with those guys. They were THE band of my most formative years and I'll always love that band. Ok, that's it on that haha.

When did you make the transition from living in Boston to moving to Providence? And at what point did you transition from observer (i.e. going to shows and whatnot) to participant (playing in bands, booking, etc.)?

My first band started in 96. Just with some friends from high school. We didn't play any shows. I bought guitar gear with landscaping money and joined a band without knowing how to play at all. So the first songs I learned were their songs, which were really bad haha.

I still can't read music but I have a good ear. I played along to the “Victim in Pain” album until I could play the whole thing and that's really all you need to be able to play hardcore in the beginning. My first real band pretty much only played in Worcester and had a ton of different members between 97 - 98 but it was fun.

We did a lot of AF, SOIA and Life of Agony covers haha.

Oh man Life of Agony. Never understood them back in the day, REALLY don't understand why kids are liking them again 9and the bands who are biting them).

Well, it’s because “River Runs Red” is one of the best records ever dude. Seriously, I love that record, always did. No one ripping them off is as good but I understand why they try.

The dudes that got me into hardcore mainly loved the NY stuff that's why all of my early days were spent latched onto those bands. Once I started going to shows that weren't that style we kind of stopped hanging out and I met new kids into newer stuff. 99/00' I met my best friend Seth and his friends and that's where my life took the major turn that led me to my current life.

I started hanging out in a different side of Worcester with those dudes and playing poker and stuff. Then I joined What Feeds the Fire in 2001 and moved to Providence a year later.

Oh damn, I didn't know you played in WFTF! I found a 7" of yours on EBay six months ago for like a dollar. I guess I better go listen to it, haha! So talk about that project, Sean from Verse was in it correct? How did that get started, and what were the highlights of that band?

I joined after they had recorded so don't listen hoping to hear my sweet, sweet riffs haha. I met the bassist Mark and his friend Matt at Posi Numbers. We hung out a bunch, we had all seen each other at shows but didn't know each other personally, being from different cities. So after Posi Numbers I started hanging out in Providence a lot. I was in an edge band at the time and we needed a drummer for a short 4 day tour and Sean played with us. He sang in WFTF and Verse but he's actually a real solid drummer as well.

We all got tight quick and our bands played together a few times before my band broke up. WFTF lost both guitarists around the same time and Sean asked me to join.

We practiced for a few months and then played a "comeback" show with Hatebreed, Bane and Poison the Well in Providence. WFTF was THE Providence band at the time and it was obviously a huge crowd because of the other bands. We got a wild response with a million stagedives. As soon as we got off stage Jamey Jasta asked us if we wanted to go on tour with them, PTW and Bane in a couple months and we obviously said yes. So that ended up being my first real tour.

It was the “Perseverance” record release tour. Full US, a little over a month long. There were 500-1000 kids a night. Bane got great reactions. None of us knew PTW but they got INSANE reactions and became really good friends of ours. Hatebreed sets were warzones in every city. Hell of a first tour.

It was crazy. Hatebreed had just signed to a major for that record. I did backups on that record actually, and because it was on a major we all had join the screen actors guild music division and got paid like $400 haha.

Holy shit. Alright, so give us some scoop, what's the Hatebreed studio experience look like?

Hatebreed in the studio was great. As much as we the listeners love those breakdowns, yo THEY loved those breakdowns even more. They would play the songs back and just laugh at how heavy it was. Sean spent an entire day just doing pickslides. They were at a studio that was on a ranch and part of the deal there is the people that live there take care of you, so at the end of the day we had a big family style, sit- down 5 course meal.

Oh my god. Okay, interview's a wrap haha.

Also on that tour they had a 2nd trailer that just had a bowflex in it. No joke. Jamey had just gone edge and was on a big health kick.

God damn.  So what happened to the band after that tour?

We did some more tours after that, quit our jobs and stuff. We signed to Deathwish and wrote a record but we broke up before we recorded it.

Damn. So is there a link to the lost WFTF floating around somewhere? Like the lost demos?

Nope! There's some live stuff but that's it. I've seen the live from CBGB’s set we did floating around on Soulseek.

How did you eventually hook up with the dudes that became the original Soul Control line up?

Well at that Posi Numbers I mentioned earlier, the Matt was Mattdude, the original singer of Soul Control and the original drummer was in WFTF with me. So I had known them both for 5-6 years when we started SC. To be honest I had been totally dropped out of hardcore for two years or so right before we started SC.
SC exists because of Bedard and Pat Flynn actually.

How did they get the ball rolling?

I had been going to mostly stoner rock and indie shows for a while, not really playing in bands and just working in Providence. I got up one morning and Bedard was asleep on my couch, him and my roommate Rich had been playing cards at the casino all night. Bane was playing later that night in Worcester and he asked me if I was gonna come up. He convinced me to go and I'm glad he did. I had forgotten how much I loved shows and ended up stagediving all night.

So after the set I'm sitting there sweating like a doofus and this kid comes up to me and says "Hey, you don't know me but my name is Pat and I just wanted to say WFTF was my favorite band and I just wanted to say thank you."

So we talked a bit and he mentioned he was in a band called Have Heart. I told him I'd check them out and he definitely didn't believe me, haha. But I found a song on MySpace and emailed him saying that I liked it.

So, we'll pause there and come back to that. At the same time those old friends of mine had been jamming in my basement for a while, "getting the old band back together." Matt was playing bass, Eric was playing guitar as was Anthony. My roommate Rich was on drums. They were writing the WORST songs haha.

So Rich went on tour for a while, he was in Reggie and the Full Effect at the time, and it was a pretty long tour.

So Matt asked me to help them write songs while he was gone. So I grabbed my guitar, Eric moved to bass and Anthony moved to drums. I wrote the song "Dive" which was on the demo and we knew instantly that we were a new band. Rich came home and found out he wasn't in the band and was real bummed.

Damn, the classic swoop-in!

We finished the demo songs pretty quick and played a song during a Verse set a month later. That show was with Have Heart. Pat loved the demo and Matt was already their roadie anyway so he asked us if we wanted to tour the next summer and we said yeah. The summer was 6 months away so we didn't think it was too real. Then we found out the power of Have Heart real quick. We did a Cali weekend with them, which was our 10th show, then did that summer tour with them.

Damn, so nuts how stuff just happens.

Yea, I got lucky a couple times huh? In our first year we did tours with Have Heart, Verse, and Go it Alone. Plus Europe with Blacklisted and Shipwreck. Wild first year.

So looking at the progression of SC, the early stuff with Matt and Anthony had the Burn/108 vibe with lyrics that sort of leaned in an Eastern philosophical/spiritual sort of direction, whereas the new stuff with Rory is a little more fuzzed out, and is quite different lyrically, vibe-wise, etc. It seems like Cycles and the 4 song 7" series sort of was the bridge between the o.g. line up and the current lineup. Describe the evolution of the band....obviously getting a new singer and new drummer changes stuff, but you and Eric have been consistent throughout....

Dude, Matt quit the band so many times haha. He literally quit on the 2nd day of that first tour we did and Pat convinced him to stick with it because Kyle had put a lot of money into the record, etc.

So we were always dealing with that and were prepared for one of the quittings to be real.

Funny story about that actually. It was in Syracuse and we're outside screaming at Matt, trying not to kill him because he’s holding up the whole show. Rory was at the show and asked his friend why the fuck SC wasn't playing and he said something like "I think their singer is crying in the van or something" and Rory's response was "Fuck that, tell them to get in here and I'll sing." We didn't even know him at the time but he told us that later after he was in the band. I think that's the coolest story.

Damn man, that's wild. Or wyld since it involves Rory, haha.

Yes, if it's in Rochester it must be Wyld, haha.

But, regardless of who was singing, “Cycles” was going to be “Cycles”. That record was written when Matt was still in the band. He had words to the songs and we even played “Flux” with Matt on the Euro tour.

We did the 4 singles just to get something out with Rory on them as quick as possible. We didn't want to slow down at all. We did 1 local show then flew to Texas to start a 2 week tour. We figured the quickest way to see if he'd work out was to get in the van.

“Cycles”, for us, was a natural progression. Demo was Burn. “Involution” was Quicksand. “Cycles” was post-hardcoreish. It was us trying to add in some Hum and Failure to go along with the Quicksand.

The demos sound a lot different than the finished product sounds. Jay Maas sped a lot of stuff up and with 2 weeks in the studio we kind of over-produced it because we had nothing else to do but tweak it.

Word. So enter Rory, obviously a great vocalist, a mad man in terms of stage presence, but aside from some touring to support "Cycles", there's been a couple more records but not much to speak of tour-wise besides the annual fest run. Is life just getting in the way or do you feel like you've done what you can do on the road with SC?

Actually after Cycles came out we played 150 shows. We toured a lot on that record. Like 3 full US tours and 2 Euro trips.

We got totally burnt out. We told B9 we weren't going to tour much and they totally understood.

Oh damn, I didn't realize you guys did that much on “Cycles”!

We all would work shitty jobs for a few weeks between tours and were broke. Luckily my wife was working and I had 2 other roommates so I could survive on the little I'd bring home from tour. But, I didn't want to keep living that way. I started to hate touring. We all did, we just had to sit down and tell each other we what we were all thinking.

So what's the status of SC now? New 7" every year or so, the Fest and a few east coast dates a year? Any chance us Midwesterners may ever get to mosh to "Like Spiders" again?

Well, we didn't release a record in 2013 which is only the 2nd time that's happened. We've been talking more and more about writing/recording again, we just have to make it happen. We might have Rory come down and then lock ourselves in the space for a weekend and write and record something all at once. Do everything ourselves.

We'll always play Fest as long as they'll let us. We're playing one of the Marathon reunion shows in February and I think we might do a weekend here and there this year. We only played 4 shows this past year, we'd like to top that in 2014. MI was really good to us when we played that Frat house. I think we played Refuge once as well. Maybe I'll just bring all my bands out there for the unveiling of the Robocop statue, haha.

You mentioned the influences on the first few records...Burn, Quicksand, Hum, Failure. What would you say were the main influences on "Get Out Now" and "Bore Core" and what do you see creeping into the mix on future SC ventures?

“Get Out Now” I don't really remember. We had been writing sporadically for a while and had a bunch of stuff but it all sounded different and not cohesive. Then B9 called us in for a meeting to see where we were at as a band. We told them we didn't have another LP in us but that if we whittled down all the stuff we had, we could record a 7" right away. They were down with that so we picked 5 songs and went and recorded them. It was a very disjointed process.

I think it was for "Get Out Now" you guys put out a pretty bizarre "press statement" haha. I assumed it was sort of you guys poking fun at how overly "professional" stuff is becoming these days within punk and hardcore. Am I on the right track or were you guys just trying to get people to scratch their heads?

The press release was written by Eric's brother Adam.

He's a writer and he tends to write in a rhythmic way where the words don't matter as much. It makes more sense when he explains it. But, Adam rules and I've known him even longer than I've known Eric so when the idea was brought up I was all for it.

“Bore Core” is our best record I think, but every band says that about their latest release. We were in a really good place, there was zero pressure and we just wrote whatever the hell we wanted. Eric actually wrote the best songs on that record and that got me really stoked. He always wrote his own parts and I've always considered bass the lead instrument in our band but for “Bore Core” he was straight ripping entire songs. It was a really good time writing and recording that one.

I remember Seth from B9 asking me "if I was sure we wanted to put BORE in the title" haha.

How those guys don't hate us by now I'll never understand. We must be really charming.

But yeah, we'll write again eventually. Like every SC release, it'll sound like whatever we want it to sound like. I'd like to do a really heavy record. Heavy and noisy, something Rory could just go bananas over.

Yeah I was wondering about the relationship with B9. I feel like they generally seek out and then promote the shit out of bands that are very "hype", I mean they're a business obviously so they have to sell records. At the same time, I feel like you guys have been very consciously cutting against the grain in that respect. Is there ever weariness on their part? It seems from the outside like they've given you guys free reign.

Well, we still got invited to the Christmas party so that's gotta be a good sign right? We got signed by Karl when he was still there, he was really into getting us to record “Cycles”. We never planned on doing an LP but he convinced us. But then right before it was set to come out he got a job at Epitaph and we've kind of always felt that B9 was just stuck with Karl's baby after that. They promoted “Cycles” hard though and we did our part and did a lot of touring. They were cool with the EP's but I'd assume at this point they don't really need a band like us around anymore. But who knows, I think our contract says we technically owe them 1-2 more LP’S haha.

And dude, if my vote counts, heavy and noisy!!!! That last Achilles record still makes me lose my shit. I email Hex every couple months hounding him about when that "new 7" they have" is coming out, haha.

Achilles is so good. They need to release that EP. Rory did his part and slowed down SC, Chris needs to pause Polar Bear Club for a damn minute and record that shit. They played 1 of the songs on a weekend they did 2 years ago. I bet the record would be sick.

Shifting gears a little bit, talk about the formation of Fucking Invincible, who obviously tread some very different sonic territory from SC and WFTF.

FI came together pretty easily. SC and Sweet Jesus both hardly ever play shows and I wanted to start something new, specifically to play shows.

I had been talking to Brian about doing a band that sounded like Hatchetface, an old Worcester area band. Brian is a fellow old guy and one of the few people outside of Worcester that even knew who that band was. Around the same time Alexis decided he wanted to scream in a band again and the vibe he wanted musically was similar to what we wanted to do so we grabbed Ryan because he's my go-to drummer and we wrote a couple songs the first practice. George, who's also in Sweet Jesus with me and is also old, joined by the 2nd practice I think.

SC was supposed to be on a RI compilation but couldn't get together to write so I mentioned I had a new band that had some songs and Brian from Atomic Action said sure. We went in and did the 2 comp songs and he really liked them. He said if we had any more stuff he'd put out a 7" for us. With all of our other bands being basically inactive we just went at it full-on and it's been our main band for the past year.

Man, well what a hell of a first year! That seems to be a running theme for you, haha. So what's next for FI, will we see an LP or is the short, "get in, get out", format of a 7" better suited to your style?

FI has been writing for a while now for an LP and a split that we hope will go though. If it doesn't we'll just tack the songs onto the LP. The goal was 20 songs; after dumping some duds we're at a solid 13 right now. Alexis is finally getting his shoulder surgery so we won't be able to tour much until Fall but once he's ready to go we're going to try and tour a bunch. Ryan has more vacation time this year so we'll try to hit all the major spots.

Yeah talk to me a little bit about Alexis's stage presence. When you guys played here over the summer I assumed he had just jacked himself up, thus the arm taped to the ribs, but then I've seen photos from other shows and it seems to be a running thing.

As for the arm-taping thing, Alexis has to do that or his arm falls out of the socket. He's up to 5 dislocations in the past year I think? The tendons are so stretched that the force of jumping and landing is enough to pop his arm out.

It fell out during an FI set and he ended up finishing the set laying on the floor screaming in pain. Then it happened during one of the Daughter's reunion shows and that one was the worst one by far. The top of his arm was all the way down above his elbow. It was brutal.

He kept putting off the surgery because of FI and Daughters stuff but he finally goes under the knife in Feb.

Glad to hear an FI LP is in the works. Do you guys plan to "shop it around" so to speak or will you stick with Atomic Action for it?

It will still be on Atomic Action. Brian rules and we like the way he does things.

Stylistically FI is way heavier/faster than any of your previous musical endeavors. As a musician how does it compare to write and play in FI as compared to your other projects?

FI is fun because everyone writes. Even Ryan, who cannot play guitar, has written 2-3 songs on drums and mouthing guitar noises at us. Because everyone has a hand in things, we don't have one specific sound, which is cool. We don't like to over think things, which is a nice break from my other bands. Plus it's fun to play fast again.

Would you say there are any new wrinkles to your sound that will be on the LP or you guys keeping it mostly short, fast, and like a sonic pile driver?

Sonic pile driver, I like that. Yea, I guess it sounds like that.

So what’s up with Sweet Jesus?. I know it's you, George, Flynn, who else? How did that come together and what was the spark that got that one going? I haven't followed that one as closely. I think there is a demo.....fill me in on what else you guys have recorded and what's coming up there.

Sweet Jesus technically started a long time ago. I think it was during Have Heart's last tour. Pat called all of us up that he wanted in this theoretical band that was in his head. It was probably about a year later when we finally jammed. We wrote a song at that practice and then didn't practice again for 10 months.

That's kind been how it's worked ever since. Very long breaks, write a song, don't talk for 4 months, repeat. We have 9 songs written, we just need to go record at some point. We've only been in the same room at the same time once this year and that was over the summer. Someday it will be Sweet Jesus' time.

So one of the hardest things for any scene seems to be able to keep up a reliable, consistent d.i.y. venue to have shows and foster a sense of community. It seems like in Providence you have such a spot in AS220, as it seems like every cool tour routing I see has a date there. Describe that spot and the role it plays in the independent scene in Providence.

As220 is the best venue in the world. Sometimes it's tough to find an open date because it's first come, first serve but it's always worth it. It's the perfect-sized room and it has great sound. There's a really good bar but it's in a separate room so the shows can always be all ages. They also have great food, whether you're vegan or not. So, it's basically the perfect spot. Whenever I book a show I try to get As220 first because I know the bands will appreciate everything the venue has to offer.

Aside from serving as a venue for shows, what else runs out of the space?

It's an art gallery and a community space. They also run a small theatre next door. As220 can be whatever you need it to be and they'll never judge you for it. Great people, great spot.

I always ask older heads this question so bear with me; but as a dude who has been involved now for pushing 20 years, what would you say have been the biggest changes in hardcore and punk over the last two decades?

Shit, you just made me realize that it actually has been 20 years. My first show was on my birthday in 94, so that's 3 months away.

Stewing in collective oldness with my interviewees, that's my job, haha.

I dunno, I think everything is pretty much the same, I'm just older.

When you look at the state of things heading into 2014, what things bum you out about our community, and what things still get you excited to write music, book shows, and jump in the van?

I just like playing music with my friends. That's what keeps me going. I don't have any reason to stop.

The same stuff bums me out…over the top hard moshers, racism/sexism/all the isms, bands that don't tune their fucking guitars, drummers that break down their drums on stage...see, plenty to be angry about.

No comments:

Post a Comment