Monday, January 24, 2011

Bitter Pill: Ryan Wilson/ Thought Crusade

How is singing a creative outlet for you? Both in terms of writing and singing live.

I think that doing anything that allows you to voice yourself is a creative outlet. Sometimes it is hard to explain what you are trying to get out without providing emphasis on the subject matter. I think a lot of criteria people come up with nowadays are just words to fill the void. Creative songwriting is what i look for when i go to a show. The music is usually cool but if there is strong subject matter, then that is usually what sets that band apart from everyone else. You really gotta have both strong music and strong views/subject matter to make a mark.

How have you approached writing lyrics and singing for Thought Crusade differently than you did in the past?

With TC, i wanted to get it all out on the table. Nothing or no one to hold myself or the band back from what we wanted to do. If i want to write a song about religion brainwashing our youth, then i will. If i wanna write a song about our economical crisis, then i will. To be honest, that is really my main focus, singing. Not just getting up there and screaming. Actually taking the time to figure out "how this verse can be sung and what we can do with my voice to make the music catch".

How do you view balance in life as related to the song "The Tightrope"? Have you found it easier or harder at different points in your life?

I am not going to go on about, "how my life has been such a struggle", because a lot of us can look that life that way. Life is what you make of it. That song can mean something to one person, but totally mean something to someone else. It's all about how its perceived. I have stayed on the path for quite a while but have been shook a few times. The key is balance. If you have it, then you can afford to be shaken at times.

The song "Bleak Reality" seems to look at the future with a good deal of uncertainty while not wanting to accept the pain that comes with that feeling. What sort experience did you have that made you want to write about this?

I am not sure where my life is going to take me. I mean, there is 80% chance i can tell you how my week will probably pan out, but there have been times in my life where i couldn't determine that. There have been times where i could have lost everything i have and thought "how the hell did i make it through that with out losing something?" It's more less saying that life is a gamble. I had no idea where i was going to go or what I was going to do when i got out of high school. I didn't think i would go to or graduate college, have a career, or even have a girlfriend. But i did and I continue to think what the future still holds. In this day and age you cannot be too sure on anything. The world is very different from the way it was 15 years ago. I didn't think we would ever have a tragic situation like 9/11 or even think that we would have a black president. But it did and we do and that is life.

Can you explain the line in "Pay Your Dues" that says "fighting a war you'll never win signifying that we all live in sin"? To whom is this song speaking?

This is pretty much a song about pe

ople that try to put vices on our freedom. You have the right to think or believe what ever you want and so do i. I don't need so

meone persuading me to join their causes to benefit their well being. We all have our own choices and a lot of people just get fall blind to actually living life. They don't earn their stripe

s to gain any sort of respect. I normally don't like to subject people out, but this more less a shot at the peace punks that have no idea what they are talking about. They train hop, and travel, and then try to pan handle me for change. This is a luxury. A vacation. You are 21 and homeless already. I have way more respect to the 40+ homeless dude then you, any day of the week.

When writing lyrics do you feel like you react to situations around you or do you have an idea in your mind of something you want to communicate?

It's a combination of both. I elaborate on something without making it too biased. I really want it to be something for everyone but sometimes that is very difficult thing to do. I guess you can't make everyone happy as i explained above. I guess i just more or less depend on common sense to help me out with a lot of the lyrics. I focus on a subject or memory or what ever comes to mind and throw in my two cents. If it is a more relevant subject that everyone can get something from, then i like to look at from an outsiders point of view. Writing is hard, especially when you are trying to create something different from what everyone else is trying to do. 90% of the time common sense is my aide to writing lyrics.

What or whom have been some of your influences thus far lyrically and/or ideologically?

lyrically, a lot of the regulars in our scene, Ian McKay really knew how put things together and make it sound good. I like people that you can understand and that are clear. I am not saying i don't like the grit that comes along with punk and hardcore but i really like to know what they are saying without a lyric sheet hahaha. Rollins is very clear in his speech and gets the point across very well. Jerry Lang is pretty good too. ideaelogically? Probably my dad. Definitely someone who has been around to see enough shit go down in the world.

Songs like "Bitter Pill" and "All Talk" have a very blunt tone that and a similar sentiment that seems to carry from one song into the next. Did you feel like there were somethings you really needed to get off your chest when writing these lyrics that just couldn't be said with a degree of empathy but instead needed the harshness with which they were delivered?

Yes. At that time there was a subject that was the driving force behind those songs. I really don't want to get into it but the lyrics were written for reason and for a listener or fan, i am sure they might be able to relate to points in their life were they have been pissed off one way or another.

Is there a certain idea or topic that you are looking to address in one of the new songs?

We are more less going for traditional tones with writing. Going back to the grit of the demo and really staying true to the sound. With IOW, there was more of faster drive in the songs. But with this newer material, we want to revisit the foundation on how this band really evolved and why we did it.

What is it that you want to accomplish with Thought Crusade? What is it that you hope people walk away feeling or thinking?

All i want people to think, is that we are real. We are not pretending to write songs that pertain to our normal lives. We live this stuff. I am serious. We are not fucking around. This is real talk through and through. Sure we may have some fun, but that is outside, off the stage, and in our personal space. I don't care about going to Europe or Antarctica, or Asia. If we go then we go. If we don't then we don't. If you wanna see us play, come to Chicago. If you want to us to play a gig, then contact us and we will work something out. We are men of reason. That is all i can really say. ;)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Someday We Will All Be Free: Phil Hiotis/Sacred Love

Sacred Love is a very new band, having formed less than a year ago. You've managed to get a band started, write music and record two records in less than a year. How did Sacred Love get together and what was it like transitioning from guitar to vocals?

Sacred Love was started with my desire to start a hardcore band. I wasn't too thrilled with the trends of hardcore, but instead of becoming jaded on the scene, I decided to start a band. I feel that is the best course of action if you don't see what all the hubub is about x band that is getting a bunch of hype. I only knew two things going in; 1. I wanted to sing, and 2. I want everyone in the band to love hardcore as much as I do. I recruited Pat and Daniel from my previous band to join forces and had this idea of making a band that sounded like Warzone. It's funny, because before we even had a set lineup, I booked our first show on January 10th 2010. Whether we were ready or not, we were going to play this show. Around October or November, I had a 45-50 minute phone conversation with my good friend Mitch Olshansky. He was the guitarist of Brick, who had recently gone on hiatus. We had a long talk about the current state of hardcore, straight edge, and just plain deep life lessons. I told him about Sacred Love - what sound we were going for - and admitted to him if I had it my way, I would go for a band that sounds like the Bad Brains. He agreed that he would also like to do a groovy Bad Brains inspired band. It was then I asked him to join Sacred Love and do exactly that. I wanted the band to be a straight edge band; but, I like Mitch way more than I would like being in a straight edge band! He said he'd let me know. I got a text from him 10 minutes afterwards saying he was down

to do it. We got Ev a little later. I was talking to him on Gmail chat, and he was asking me about Sacred Love, since Mindset was playing our first show. He proceeded to ask me if we had a bassist, which we didn't, and went into a little speech saying how he just started playing and would really love to play bass in a band. He went on tell me how he w

ould totally understand if he was not skilled enough to join, and we could tell him if he sucked; however, I retorted with only, "Dude, do you have equipment? Then you're in." I can honestly say I couldn't pick a better set of individuals to be in a band with. We all are committed. We all love hardcore. It's fucking great. Transitioning from guitar to vocals was pretty cool. Singing is definitely way harder than playing guitar, but it's also way more awesome. I have a lot to say and a lot to get off my chest, so it really helps me out. I wasn't getting my creative outlet out on guitar like I get it out when I write lyrics.

The new EP, Dividing Lines, begins with a haunting sound clip before kicking into "What's Left of This World", setting the tone for the record. What exactly is the message behind the sound clip and how does it relate to the lyrical content of the record?

It's a newsclip from an incident that happened in Athens, Greece, when protesters burned a bank down, killing four people. It's just an example of the fact that rioting without a sense of intelligence makes you no better than the corrupt politicians you are rising against. How are you going to protest high taxes and go on to destroy private property, which you will later be taxed for in order to repair? It just doesn't make sense. I was pretty adamant about having it in because it sets the first two songs off very well. The idea of destroying just to destroy, with no real thought out purpose, really bothers me, and having it come from my people - from my culture that did so much for the better of man and government - just really brought to my attention of how much in trouble we are as a people. It's just one example in a list of many botches that the Greek riots have caused. Last year, when a cop killed a 15 year old boy, the citizens went to riot and protest because of it. Normally, I would agree with this action; however, the went on to destory much of the city, including the felled boy's family's restaurant. What the fuck is that? It's rioting for the sake of rioting - suburban families having the golden spoon ripped from their mouth and destroys the entire dinner table because of it. Having that happen, and living in a country and culture where it's the complete opposite, yet leaves the familiar feeling of shame - where the majority of people accept what the government tells them witho

ut challenging it in fear of the knowledge that the person you think you voted in really doesn't give a shit about you - really inspired me to make my own voice heard on the subject.

Your parents are Greek immigrants and you yourself have lived in Greece and speak the language. As someone who can potentially define themselves as both and observer and a participant in Greek history, how has the recent turmoil in Greece affected you? How do you define your role in Greek history and culture?

It fucking kills me. It seriously hurts me to see this part of me, because it is part of me no matter how much I try to distance myself from it, that was responsible for so much good has now spiraled into this: a joke. Greece, right now, is a joke. When I look at 5th Century BC Greece, and see all the good literature, great political ideas, and great minds that came out, I am only left with a great sense of shame and a nagging bat of irony hitting me over the head. In fact, the only people the irony seems to be lost on are the Greek people themselves. Just on a personal level, it really hurts me. I'm not going to be a factor in Greek history or culture. I am an American. I live here. I don't plan on moving to Greece. I can't even see myself visiting there because I'm so disgusted with it. I only hope that the pendulum swings the other way and the Greek people and government better themselves sometime in my life time.

Explain the ideas presented in the song Dividing Lines. What inspired you to name the record after this track?

I wrote Dividing Lines on a small local issue, and wrote in broader terms so that more people could possibly relate. I wrote it on how lame I think it is that the Baltimore and DC scene don't help each other out, and just talk shit about each other. There was definitely a time where I considered myself on a side in this particular argument; however, I grew out of that, looked around, and saw that everyone else is still drinking from a sippy cup. Bottom line, if you judge someone solely on where they're from, without even getting to know them, you are a fucking idiot. It's a real shame that in the hardcore scene there has to be elitism and ignorance that divides us up. It's a real shame someone "can't learn to see me a brotha instead of two distant strangers," to quote 2pac. No one is better than anyone else. Doesn't matter if you're the hardest motherfucker from Baltimore or you're from DC and you love to remind people that it's where it all began, you are still a sweaty asshole in a basement at the end of the day. I took this local issue, and just put it on more relative terms. I feel this is a world issue. The idea that no one is born as a better person than another is an idea I feel strongly about. I hate seeing classism and elitism in any form, whether it is in the hardcore scene or the real world.I wanted to go with Dividing Lines for the name of the record after Ev described the album art he was trying to do for it. It just seemed very fitting.

On the Sacred Love demo your lyrics had a much less urgent tone. One could argue that they were less aware, both socially and personally, than the lyrics of the EP which deal with broader and deeper issues. Where the demo largly explored personal relationships, the EP seems to deal with your relationship with the greater good and questions about your role in society and society in general. What would you consider the general theme of each record, and what prompted this shift? How would you describe your growth as a lyricist?

The demo lyrics were just a starting point. I never sang in a band before, so that was my first try at writing lyrics. Luckily I have two members who were/are frontmen, so they offered me good advice. Really, I always wanted to write about broader issues; however, the time I wrote the demo lyrics, I was in my own little world. I was struggling with school, relationships, love, all that personal stuff, so that's what I wrote about. I'm going to write about what I'm feeling regardless of expectation. That might mean I write someone personal, it might mean I write something cultured and worldly, but I'm going to be true to myself first and foremost. How can I yell these words on stage if I don't really believe every word? I shifted focus on the EP because I was extremely pissed off about what was happening in Greece, as well as the other topics I covered, but I also was a bit more confident in my writing abilities. I felt more confident in myself to write about a broader topic or something that wasn't personal. I'm use to writing. I write a lot for school, so with the Dividing Lines EP, I stopped pulling punches and just did what I wanted to do. When I write lyrics, I write them very quickly and try not to work on the too long, because my own pessimism about my writing would take over, and we would never finish another song. I write the lyrics usually when the band is writing the song, fit it in, make a few changes, and just trust in the emotion and mind frame that I was in at the time.

How has your college education, a topic that frequently appears in your lyrics, influenced or inspired your writing style? As an English major, has any literature or poetry specifically inspired your lyrics?

If there's anything I feel hopeless about, it's college. I feel very pessimistic about my chances of living a comfortable life without having to continually go back to Graduate's college, etc. That isn't something I would like to do; so usually when I wrote about college life, it has the tone of hopelessness. Literature is the driving force for my inspiration. I stole a line from Du Fu, a Chinese poet, in Mirage. I read as a job and I read for leisure as well, so it influences me in more ways that I could probably know.

WH2 deals with the idea of the equality of love. How do you think our generation will be remembered in regards to homophobia and gay rights? I think our generation will be the one that makes gay rights a reality. If you look at any poll or any study, the overwhelming majority of people in our age group are for gay marriage. It's pretty much a waiting game at this point. The string pullers now have their heels dug in on this issue, and there is really nothing to be done but wait for them to step aside. It's a generational thing. I can't imagine what it's going to be like for that older generation in the future. How will they deal with my children asking them, "What were you thinking? How did it feel to prevent basic human rights." It's the same questions I would ask adults who were against civil rights for blacks. I'm really interested in how they will fit in the world when their service is done and they are no longer any use to anyone. I think homophobia is something that will never truly leave. It's going to be like racism; there will always be a small undertone. At the same time, I think we should focus now more on gay rights then the ignorant language we say sometimes. I study language on the regular, and at the end of the day, words are words - people put the meaning behind them. When people's mentality change, so will the language. If we take away the homophobia that comes with saying someone is gay or a faggot, you'll see those words used less and less; until we find a new minority to focus our nation's hate on.

The closing track on Dividing Lines, Mirage, seems to be an introspective and retrospective description of fading youth. Do you feel as though your youth has somehow been cut short? How are you dealing with the inevitable and sometimes difficult transition between college student and college


I actually don't feel like my youth is cut short. I'm very lucky in that I'm able to enjoy an extended youth, almost. I have friends my age who have serious real world concerns, and I'm not quite at that point yet. I'm dealing with the transition into the real world as best I can. I plan on just taking the best possible steps I can to live a comfortable life. I have options. I have a good life. I come from a good home who are willing to help me out as much as they can. They don't exactly support Sacred Love, but they support me through school and give me the best possible options in order to succeed, and I'm extremely thankful for that. But the real world is waiting for me. That fact that I'm probably not going to have a job that challenges me or stimulates me is a reality. The line "I'll live in die in four years time, reincarnate to wait in unemployment lines" pretty much sums up how I see my college experience going. I'm not a strong student, so I need to bust my ass studying in order to test well; however, will that secure me a job when I get out? It's pretty laughable when I think about it - laughable and pretty depressing. I eventually plan on going back to school, and becoming a teacher or a councilor, so I can feel that I've actually helped someone. I want that more than anything else in life.

What do you think is the biggest problem facing the youth of the world?

A lack of a source for information. If you ask me, we are in a dark age of thought. We live in a place that is so corrupt, they don't even TRY to hide it. But people look past it, because the burden of knowledge is too much. I believe that society and government are two different entities, and they are meant to balance each other out. Government exists in order to keep society in check, but society is also suppose to keep the government in check. Does that happen today in America? With Fox News and all the other propaganda news networks disguising itself as fact, what chance do we have? It's obvious that the top 1% run this country. Your safety, your well being, does not matter when it comes to having money put in their pocket. We're being sold off piece by piece for the highest bidder. Whether it's your health insurance, right to not be illegally tapped, right to not have your citizenship questioned, they'll take it all away if the price is right. When someone tries to regulate it, we have to hear shit like your grandparents are going to be euthanized, and the WORST part about it is people fucking buy it. People BELIEVE this. Why? I'll never understand it. It might be some inherent fear of change. I don't know. If we had an unbiased non-privatized American news network, this wouldn't be an issue. Instead, we have Bill O'Reily and Keith Olbermann performing mental masterbation as they pick on each other like five year olds. We have networks that don't provide any useful information. They keep you in a state of stupor until you just give into the agenda of the deep pocketed rich guy who's paying them.

Is this world worth saving?

Yes, absolutely. I'm not a misanthropist. I have the utmost faith in humanity. I have the utmost faith that we can take charge of our oppressors and return things to equality. Some people argue that our Presidents have been chosen far ahead of time, and there's absolutely no hope of finding hope or change in American politics; but I don't buy completely into it. I think people's hands are tied so tight that they're frightened to make a change. But if you look at human history, there has always been a fight back against the oppressors. Will I see it in my life time? Not sure. Like I said, I think we're in the middle of a Dark Age. Will I see the Age of Enlightenment? I'd like that; but I wouldn't feel

unfulfilled if I didn't. I have faith that one day, even if I'm not around, the scales will be even and we will take back control.

Photos by Andy Norton

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

VICTORY LAP: Chris Martin/Hostage Calm

When you sit down to write lyrics what do want to accomplish with your words?

It’s not always the same. It usually depends on how I feel, how much time I have set aside, etc. But typically, I want to articulate something that is otherwise difficult for me to express outside o

f music. With the instrumentation, the lyrics, and the melodies all working together, we have a real opportunity to express something that I simply cannot convey as powerfully or with such emotional depth with words alone. I want our words to say something, but I want them to make the instrumental music itself say something more as well. Sometimes we write the lyrics first, sometimes last, but we always want the lyrics and the music to put forward something that articulates and releases what we constantly feel is bottled up inside of us. And we don’t leave the lyrics as just the solo responsibility of the singer; we involve other members in the process of creating and revising the lyrics as well.

The song "Rebel Fatigues" seems to address the ide

a of "cliche revolution" which disappears quickly while the problems persist. What does that term "revolution" mean to you?

Revolution is definitely a term that I think gets thrown around in the punk scene quite a bit, with little regard for what a revolution actually entails. I think that a lot of people fall in love with the political account of revolutions from leaders across the world: such-and-such revolution was glorious or what have you. But often (if not usually) in a revolution, lots of people die. And sadly, they often die for nothing because the revolution fails to take power or it just recreates the same problems as before. The song tried to portray the revolution through the eyes of a rural subsistence farmer who sees power change through multiple revolutions throughout her or his lifetime. This new revolution looks just like the last, and this poor worker remains helpless as the country goes through turmoil and the people pay the high price of regime change. This is the untold story of much of the world, and I wanted to tell this story for millions of powerless people who’ve been exploited or died in vain throughout history. I’m not saying that all revolutions are bad; there is a time when revolution is the only way forward and sometimes it works out well. But so many people use the term revolution in such a meaningless or misunderstood way that I feel overlooks the tragic stories of people who forfeited everything they had for nothing. Maybe it’s just that we welcome the idea of a revolution because it becomes so comfortable to believe that things can just be successfully turned on their head overnight and we don’t have to really change something about ourselves.

What inspired the song "Affidavit"?

My family’s separation, divorce and a decade of court battles that drove my family into financial hardship and pitted everyone against everyone. I used to think that I escaped those times unscathed, and that it only really scarred other people in my family. But while I was lucky to get through all that as well as I did, I’ve recently come to realize how much the divorce distorted my perception of love and love’s endurance through hard times. My Mom and Dad both loved me, more than anything. But I watched them lose control of love as if it were inevitable. They entered with all the best intentions, yet found themselves everywhere they never wanted to be. The song just deals with how the experience damaged my ability to understand, experience and trust in love the way other people appear to.

When you look at the concept our society has of what it means to be a man, woman, black, white etc. do you feel there is some way to change this need to define? Is it something on a personal/individual level or more of a governmental/law based one?

I think we get caught up in trying to narrowly categorize people and make them fit into certain rigid groups. Thankfully the punk/hardcore scene recognizes people as individuals, and through embracing individual creativity, perhaps the punk scene is at work breaking down barriers. I definitely agree that structural problems exist, and changing laws can potentially help if we’re talking about somewhere where the law favors one “group” over another (for example, heterosexual marriages over homosexual). But whether the problem is solved through government or elsewhere, the power starts with you.

What do you want for Hostage Calm as a band?

I want us to write meaningful and innovative material that says all the things about our lives that we might otherwise struggle to realize or articulate in any other way outside of music.

In what ways do current events or past events effect or influence the way you write about topics and the topics you address?

They always affect what we write, but rarely do we use one hot button issue as the sole topic of a certain song. That practice gets very cheesy and worn out in a hurry. We follow the news and study history in an effort to learn and understand such a confusing world. Including our ideas on the past, present and future in our lyrics just reflects how we currently feel.

You write that the first line of the chorus in "Ballot/Stones" came from a sign protesting the California proposition to ban gay marriage. Can you explain what you take away from that statement?

Proposition 8 allowed people the opportunity to vote in affirmation on something as hateful as the following lines:

“Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.”

That sentence makes me want to throw up! But this passed the democratic process! I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked. The movement that sprung up in opposition to gay marriage was so vile, and took the form of every other notorious anti-civil rights group who now find themselves on the dark pages of history. I think that voting on this measure, and on other gay marriage bills, has targeted a group and made an unequivocal statement that certain relationships are inferior and that ALL people do not have the right to choose. These people voted on a matter that they had no right to regulate in the first place, and that is whether or not their neighbors’ love is valid. The whole thing amounts to a stoning of a bunch of people who should have the same rights as anyone else.

"Young Professionals" seems to almost be a warning against the complacency that comes with a more comfortable situation in life. Is this essentially what you were trying to get across?

Warning is probably a good way of putting it. I was neither condemning nor praising the “young professional” in the song, but just trying to paint the picture of some twenty-four year-old person desperately trying to find success, love and direction. You see people like this coming out of work wearing a suit that fits on their body, but it sort of wears them. They are troubled, just like myself. And I constantly felt like that their reality was creeping up on me. Here I am at twenty-two, and I’m watching my teenage anxieties collide with this new, unsure maturity and it’s difficult. There’s nothing wrong with being a young professional, we just wanted to illustrate the torment of entering your twenties and not knowing how you to feel.

Can you explain the choice of the title "Whither on the Vine?"

So much human potential—be it creative, economic, ideational, whatever—lies dormant across the world due to mere circumstance, and this title referenced this enormous human potential that just withers on the vine, never fully ripening or seeing its full growth. I wrote that song about a village in Guatemala that had been evacuated to build a military base. Following the seizure of these people’s lands, the government then carried out numerous raids and disappearances across the countryside. A group I was with had been doing some renovations to a public library/education center called the Centro Explorativo, and it was there that I heard this story. I decided to model this song off of the situation during the Guatemalan Civil War, while also keeping it broad so that people could see how it related to a lot of places across the world in parallel scenarios.

Many Hostage Calm songs have a very social/political vibe to them but a song like "Victory Lap" seems to be a much more personal song. Why were the ideas presented in this song important for you to touch on?

Well, firstly our songs are always personal, and I don’t see being personal and socially conscious as mutually exclusive. In fact, social and political issues are very personal for us. We may not write each song in the first person, or fill it with trite, melodramatic stuff, but if you look at the song closely it’s always about something deeper that means something important to us. As for “Victory Lap,” it’s basically about the struggle between being far away on tour and being ho

me. Touring has its winners and losers for any band. While we’re going around the world having a blast, we miss certain people at home. Those people have to go on without us and keep up with the daily grind as we’re away having the time of our life. I felt this was important to touch on because this struggle between home and away has always played a big role in our lives, and it deserved some space on the record for sure.

Do you ever have trouble taking that leap of faith and opening up yourself and writing about very personal ideas?

No, and I’m not quite sure why. Maybe it’s because the music I’ve always listened to wasn’t afraid to reveal something about itself. I’m not a terribly public person, and am rather quiet in most social situations. But when it comes to music, I’ve always felt all right saying anything that I feel, without any sort of reservations.

Growing up in a smaller town like Wallingford, CT do find that the experience you had with music, bands and now with growing up is similar or different to the experiences of people from much different areas?

Definitely, I think where you grow up shapes you. Luckily I was close to a lot of shows when I was younger. Whether it was Wallingford, Meriden, Cromwell, or any of a bunch of other central CT towns, shows were ALWAYS happening and they were always readily available. I wonder if I ever would have been involved with punk music if I had been born somewhere where shows didn’t happen, or in a big city where there would have been other things for me to get involved with that could have led me down a different path.

What is it that you are missing that "the days have been stealing"?

When I was up at college, I constantly felt like I never got my fill of anything. I did the band, and I did some things that I thought were meaningful, but I never really felt happy. I always felt stressed. I felt like I was giving everything I had to give, and then when I would look for happiness where I expected it, I found something less. The days seemed to be taking everything from me, but not really giving me that much fulfillment. I was giving “the days” so much energy and focus, but felt like I wasn’t really getting much in return.

In "Gaslighting" you talk about "only under the shadow of our flag can you be human". How do you look at being American in a country ripe with so much hypocricy? When you look at modern life in America do you feel hopeful or more pessimistic?

There’s definitely a great deal of hope, because we will always have the ability to change whatever problems exist (note: there are MANY). I have never felt unconditionally proud to be an American. The U.S. has had many proud moments (Civil Rights movement, the enormous creativity within the US, etc.), but many shameful and often unspoken ones (genocide against the Native Americans, the scapegoating of immigrants). I feel that in popular American culture, everyone is so afraid to be ashamed of something America has done. They will “never apologize for America.” The hubris that drives someone to think that like is foreign to me. It’s the same sort of pompous attitude we carried with the war in Iraq while we constantly discussed AMERICAN interests and AMERICAN lives and AMERICAN dollars, instead of the death toll and interests of the people who we were “liberating.” We get too caught up with being American and not enough with being human.

Hostage Calm as a band does not seem to slide into that hateful, narrow sighted mindset that can easily come with awareness of all the suffering and pain in our world. How have you and the rest of the band been able to do this?

We know that we have an opportunity to speak and to change minds, and that’s what drives us forward. We love playing music, and even though the outside world can be discouraging, we can’t let that destroy what we can build together. No contribution has ever been made to anything of value by just packing it in and saying it’s not worth trying. We could give up and let the world change us, but we’d rather c

hange the world.

Check the LYRICS section for lyrics to the new Hostage Calm record!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

FOCUS ON THE LIGHT: Packo/True Colors

Which lyrics you have written do you feel most proud of?

As far as personal songs it's"My Heartbeat" and "The Way to Myself". Those are tributes to my girlfriend and my beautiful daughter. After all we have been through right now we are living our life perfectly. Really complete. Those are two of the most important lyrics i ever wrote on a personal level. They were also my two favorites to write because they were really easy. Normally, i need a lot of time to write lyrics but with those songs they just seemed to come out of the pen. It was perfect. But as for other songs that have more of a message i would say "Focus on the Light". The message in this song is one of the most simple to express and one of the easie to learn. You see people getting older in life and getting busy with themselves and really into those four walls for us we just try to see behind those walls. That is what "Focus on the Light" is really about. Those are really important lyrics for me.

You seem to be going through a bit of a change in life, a good change. You have a house with your girlfriend, a wonderful daughter etc. How do you balance that hardcore kid side of personality with your newer more adult reality? Many people can't seem to find this balance and go to the extreme one way or another.

First of all our daughter, Arwen, was a really easy kid so we don't have any problems with her sleeping and stuff like that. But to get back to your question being a hardcore kid and being aware of all the things that happened in the past was always important to me. What i got out of the messages and the music just contributed to the positive ways of living right now. I don't freak out. I listen to music, i go to work, i come home and i have great time with my daughter and girlfriend watching movies, talking, laughing, everything. I don't have to find a balance it's just real easy step for me to take. I think being a hardcore kid made me the dad and the person i am today.

That's great way to look at it. It's one of those things so many of us ask ourselves "how do i continue on in life and still stay this vital, creative person that i am?"

For me, it's really easy. I can enjoy going to a show. But also be real down to earth. It just makes sense. All the things i've said, that i've screamed before i was the father i am today have all made for the perfect life for me now. I guess i never thought about it that way. I think i am just an easy person. I try to enjoy life as best i can and my girlfriend and my daughter are really perfect in that picture.

One of the new songs off the "Consider it Done" EP is called "Alone". How does that feeling of being alone fit in with everything you are talking about here?

When i talk about feeling alone i am not talking about sitting in my room feeling depressed. An example would be going on tour. I have such great times with my friends but i have to be at work on Monday. When i get back i have to get back in my normal life. But it's not easy cause you have all these ideas of living free, doing what you want, going wherever you want to go. I am really a person who likes to do the things that i want to do. But it's hard when you have to work and pay your bills and sometimes you feel alone like you can't be the person you really are. My girlfriend and i have talked about this many times. About just leaving it all behind, traveling with Arwen and building up a new life somewhere else. But on the other hand, that's just a dream for now.

What motivated you to sit down and write the song "Human Touch"?

The songs "Up to Us" and "Human Touch" are very similar topics. But "Human Touch" is about how we just work 9-5 everyday but so many people are not aware of what goes on around them and just seem not to care anymore. So many horrible things happen everyday to kids, to people. As long as they get their money to pay their bills they are happy. It's hard for us to see and a little bit shameful too when you realize what this world is coming to. I don't think people have that touch with the world anymore. The pressure is so high when people have to go to work everyday. Everything, even morals and standards seem to fade away.

I have gotten the sense from you and from the other guys in True Colors that "The Way to Myself" is a song that people have really connected with. The feeling of gratitude that it express is really powerful. What initially inspired you to write these lyrics and whom were they about?

Yeah that's true man a lot of people have taken that song to me something for them. That's really cool that they can get something out of it. For me when i wrote that song it was because there was a time that i drifted away from hardcore a bit. I'm not ashamed of it. I just didn't get that feeling anymore that we really could make a change at that point in my life. Then i met my girlfriend and she didn't change me but she opened my eyes to the simple lesson in life that if you want to do something you can do it. I am very grateful for that cause it was such a simple lesson but one i had forgotten at the time. I just opened my eyes again. I started a band and I started writing lyrics. With that song i just wanted to say thank you to her.

When you showed her the lyrics what was her reaction?

I wanted to surprise her with it but whenever i give her a present or anything i can't just keep it to myself, i have to tell her. But she was really surprised and so grateful. It's a great feeling to know she gets emotional with songs like "The Way to Myself" and "My Heartbeat".

The lyrics to " Focus on the Light" are very simple and profound but many bands have written songs that have a that similar message of "don't give up". When you went to write this song how did you go about it differently?

When i would go to showsand hear people complaining about the most ridiculous stuff like "the record I wanted to order is sold out" or" the limited press of that record is sold out or that they have to go home at 10 o'clock. Like i said before this is such an easy message but for so many people it's so hard to understand. So to me, it's like instead of whining, instead of complaining try to do something with you life. Look to the left, look to the right and see that there are so many beautiful things in this world. Just walk around and get out from behind your computer or off your couch and learn about life by talking to people. With hardcore kids, just stop complaining about how bad a band is or how shitty a new record is listen to a good record instead! Instead of complaining or feeling down just focus on the light and in the end you will see that life can always make sense.

Out of the new songs off the "Consider It Done" EP is there one that you really feel passionate about?

I was pretty excited to write this last record but if i had to choose just one it would be the song "Consider It Done". I put so many emotions into it and so many things that i felt and all the things i have been through all these years in True Colors i tried to put into those lyrics. All the things that i learned, saw, was disappointed about and all the things i felt positive about. I was so happy with how it all worked out with that song. The feeling i get when i listen to that song is really amazing.

One of the first things i noticed about your voice when i heard the True Colors demo was that you were very intense, very angry. Which i liked cause it reminded me of Ray Cappo! When i got the chance to meet you and hang out it became clear that you are not some sort of overly angry, crazy type person. When you are singing or writing lyrics, what is the place anger has in all that?

For me, hardcore is showing your anger in a positive way. That's what i am trying to do with True Colors. Like you said, i am not an angry dude or a hard dude I am just a normal person living his life. When I am writing my lyrics i am writing them about things i see in this world and some of those things do make me really angry but i don't go out on the street and shout at people or get frustrated. Anger has a place in my life and i think i am probably angry every day cause there is alway one thing or another that makes me upset or even sad. But i am trying to put it in the right place in my life. When i am angry i just listen to a good hardcore song or just a good song cause i think music in general really helps.

You guys are playing your last show on May 22nd in Antwerp. When it's all said and done what are you going to miss most about True Colors?

I think i am going to miss everything. We were four different kids who don't really have anything in common. I didn't know Wim before the band. I knew Peers from his other bands back in the day. I didn't know who Dunk was i just knew he played on the Justice demo. We never fought. We always had great times together. I can't express how much i am going to miss driving to show with those guys cause we never really cared about the

distance or the time. We just had a great time. So yeah, I am going to miss everything: recording, practice, shows but the most would be tours man. That's something special. I did tour with my other band (Building) but touring with True Colors was totally something new for me. We did all those tours with Justice and had the best of times then did tours with a bunch of other American and European bands, then we went to the States and now we are going to Russia. I am really grateful for that and everything people did for us. That is something that really made me believe hardcore. It's just so crazy that a band that not many people know can tour the world and people will help them. That is probably the coolest thing about hardcore: if you are really into a thing you can do anything. You can start a label, a fanzine or a band and you can really achieve something by spreading a message and having people all over the world listen. It's pretty amazing.

How have you seen the other guys in True Colors grow from the beginning of the band until now?

Dunk and Peers were a bit older like me so they already worked and had their own lives. They already were people that they are. But the best thing for me was being with Hinkey (Wim) cause he was just a young kid when we started and he just learned everything with True Colors. He was 17 when we started and he is 24 now and he just went through so many things. Watching him become the grown up he is today is pretty cool man. I guess in the end though we all grew towards each other more and more. We will be great friends after True Colors

How have you seen yourself grow since the being of True Colors?

When we started True Colors I was a bit afraid of going on stage, practicing, writing lyrics, trying new things. It was really difficult for me in the beginning. I was afraid of expressing myself and getting really personal and really writing personal lyrics. That was probably the biggest difference. Being more confident and able to write personal lyrics was probably, for me, the best part of being in a hardcore band. I had never done that before. Of course becoming a father changed me alot. It was made me a little more down to earth, a bit quieter and not always having the big mouth that i had before.

What is something you really hope people take away from your lyrics and from True Colors?

I hope people always remember our live shows. Playing live for us and hearing those songs we rehearsed for so long was probably the best part for us. I always hoped people would not see us as just a typical youth crew band. I never wanted to be a typical band or a youth crew band either. I just wanted to play hardcore that i loved. I hope people see us as a hardcore band that really had something to say and remember us as a band that was about focusing on the positive things in life. I hope they see us as a band that tried to make a change and i hope we did.

Monday, April 26, 2010


With your lyrics did you sit down and let your feelings kind of spill out or did you say "i want to express this but sort of philosophize about my feelings too?

I had a really hard time writing lyrics. I knew from the start the things I wanted to talk about but I had a really tough time translating those thoughts into words. I think that I did a little of both as far as letting feelings spill out and the latter. I would try to just write thoughts out, write lines down and so forth and then try to bring them together to make them consistent.

How is the role of a singer different for you than playing bass?

The role of the singer is definitely different then playing bass. I had been playing bass in bands for close to 10 years and I had grown pretty comfortable with it. I feel like with bass, guitar or drums you have something to kind of hide behind, and I don’t mean that in a negative way. It’s just that you have this instrument that is physically in front of you and covers you and with singing there is none of that. You have a microphone and the rest is out there for the world to see. On top of that you’re the mouthpiece so when the music stops its just you speaking or standing there while the rest of the band tunes. It’s a very new thing for me and definitely taking time to get use to.

What made your want to sing for a band?

There are actually a couple of things that made me want to sing for a band or just do something like Praise. I remember being 15 or 16 and getting the Automatic-Crossing Kill Creek record. A friend told me that Matt Wieder had written and recorded everything but drums. I know Brian Baker had done similar stuff for Dag Nasty as far as writing all the music and a lot of the lyrics. Anyways I always thought it was a cool thing because the end product is almost a direct representation of you. If something comes out that you don’t like in the song there is no one to blame but yourself. The initial songs I wrote for Praise were for another band but when that band broke up I decided that those songs would be used for Praise and I would attempt to do what I had wanted to do for such a long time. Initially I was just going to have my friend play drums and do the rest of the record but fortunately it has turned into something much more special. I was introduced to four dudes who share the same ideas and ideals as me and they took the songs I had written and really brought them to life. The second reason I wanted to sing for a band was because I felt like I had a lot of stuff inside of me that I wanted to say. Sure a lot of the things I want to sing about have been said before but think it should be said again and again until people start to listen.

Was there one instance where you said "i really have to sing for a band"?

I don’t think there was ever one instance that I said “I really have to sing for a band.” Its something I always wanted to do but was unsure if I would be capable of writing lyrics and actually having the voice to do it.

The song "Caught in a Cycle" is pretty honest. You talk about feeling trapped, like nothing works and unable to help yourself. Was there one specific thing that inspired you to write this song?

Caught In a Cycle is about depression and mood disorders. Everyone deals with mood swings or depression in one way or another. Some have it worse then others and some know how to deal with it better. Then you have some people who have actual chemical imbalances in their body who just cant deal with it. Since I was 14 I’ve dealt with depression been on and off anti-depressants and so forth. I’ve seen therapists and doctors and just heard the same things over and over again. It is a never ending cycle, I get depressed cant get out of the house, cant get motivated, don’t want to talk to anyone or be around anyone and so on (I know these are things that most people go through at times but I am talking about lasting day after day, month after month and year after year.) It just never goes away. It is definitely not a song asking for sympathy or pity that’s not something I am searching for. Depression is something Ive dealt with for a long time and writing this song was another attempt at dealing with is in a positive manner. You’ll have these doctors telling you that you need to be on medication is the only answer. So you get put on the meds and often feel like a zombie. I ask myself is it better to be off the meds and do nothing with my life or be on the meds and walk around like a zombie. Which one is really living?

"I am searching and searching for something to help but who can help me when i can't help myself?" Explain your thinking around this line about yourself and people as a whole.

I tell myself on a daily basis that I am in control of my life, my emotions, and my moods. If there is something I am unhappy with I have the power to change it. That line pretty much stems from that mindset. How I can I expect someone else to help me if I cant even do it on my own?

What would you say to someone who is feeling trapped/caught etc?

I think it depends on the person. I definitely think talking about it with friends and family helps. Letting it all bottle up inside is just going to hurt you in the long run. I say explore all your options and let the ones around you know what is going on, as hard as that may be.

Has writing this song helped in any way?

I suppose it has helped me. It’s a little weird having this stuff out in the open for anyone to read, criticize and analyze but I think its good for me and much healthier then holding it all in.

What was the inspiration behind the song "I Believe"?

I think that the lyrics to “I Believe” are pretty self-explanatory. The inspiration behind the song is me getting upset when I feel like the things I do in life, that I feel could bring some sort of positive change to the world around, are really doing nothing. I am definitely not as active in my community as I should be but I think that I do stuff in life at in attempt to make the world around me a better place. Writing this song was pretty much a reminder to myself that no matter how small the action is, if it affects one person in a positive manner, you have made a change.

You have always been a guy real opposed to violence and this expresses that feeling. Was there one event that made you say "i need to sing about this and not something else"?

To be honest the song "Peace is the Solution" was originally supposed to be a song about war but I ended up making it very broad and general so it can be applied to violence on any level. There wasn’t one event that made me want to sing about it. I just think the topic of peace is something that will never get old, and people always should be thinking about.

Do you see violence or willingness to fight as a growing problem around you?

I would like to think that most human beings are compassionate and don’t want to hurt the ones around them but unfortunately the stuff I see on news or often at shows does not reflect that thought. Much more can be solved by using your voice and talking something out rather then throwing a fist. Again this stuff has been said so many times before, I know I am not saying anything new, its just time that people start to listen.

Can you explain why you wanted to write the song Healing?

I wrote the majority of this song on the sixth anniversary of my brother’s death. There is really no easy way of dealing with death and the pain doesn’t really ever go away and I personally don’t think I have ever really dealt with it and accepted the fact that he is never coming back. Writing this song was my first attempt at actually dealing with the loss of my brother so that’s why I wrote it. The majority of the song is directed to my father because I think he often believes it was his fault, but there are lines in the song that are definitely for my mother and sister as well. I think all of us wish we could have done more to help my brother but in the end he made his choices and we couldn’t do anything about it.

Was it a hard song to write? Why was it important for you to let him know you don't blame him?

As I said earlier I’ve never really dealt with my brothers death, so yes this was an extremely hard song to write but I feel like it has definitely helped me with the process of dealing with our loss. I don’t really talk to my family about my brother because it makes me really uncomfortable. So writing this song was kind of important for my father and the rest of my family because its gives them an idea of what’s going on in my head. The fact that I am talking so openly about the whole situation is a sign that I am growing and dealing with it because a year ago there is no way I would be willing to air out my life like this for anyone to read.

Have you showed him these lyrics?

Yes I showed him the lyrics and I think he really liked them. I think he sometimes took me not talking about my brother with him as a sign that I was upset with him or blamed him for what happened. So like I said it was a way for him to know how I was feeling.

How do you think you can heal someone's pain? I mean that in the larger sense...

I really don’t think there is one simple way to heal someone’s pain other then just being there for the ones you care about. Listening to them and supporting them in anyway you possibly can. When I say “I wish I could heal your pain” in the song I am saying that there was one simple solution to make all that pain go away but the fact of the matter there isn’t. It takes years to even begin to heal from the loss of a loved one and I just wish I could do something to help begin that healing process.

For PRAISE lyrics see lyrics page above

For more info on PRAISE: