Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bison BC interview, plus Rickshaw Gig and Skinny article

Apropos of Bison BC's upcoming album, Dark Ages, and their February 19th show at the Rickshaw, I caught up with Dan And and James Farwell - or Gnarwell, or Guitarwell, or whatever you well please - for the new issue of The Skinny; I haven't seen it yet, but I also have pieces in it on Chris Walter and Nomeansno, and gather there will be a fun little update on former Cobalt proprieter wendythirteen. It should be findable at hip coffee shops, live music venues, and record and CD stores, mostly around East Van, in the next few days.

Not in the current Bison article - actually an outtake from my previous thing on them - was the question, posed to both Dan and James, of influences. Both immediately mentioned Black Flag, whom James admired for the "crudely political" quality of their songs, which "draw young people to the real base things that were going on - ie., power struggle, living on the fringes of society, fuckin’ cops, the government, mental illness - things like this that later possibly evolve into a more heady political ideal." Other influences on James included "The Descendents who taught me everything I know about girls. And there’s Bad Brains, as well, and Bad Religion," though he would later joke about their tendency to use the same chords over and over again - "which I’m totally fine with," he added, "because I love those three or four chords; you can put them in any shape or form and I will always love them."

Bison's music is anything but three-chord thrash. Though they have moments of sheer joyous guitar interplay - where, heavy and dark as their music can be, their absolute love of what they are doing radiates out through each hot lick - there's often a halting, chugging, jerking quality to their music, alongside a capacity to shift unpredictably, that puts me in mind of The Melvins. Dan And is pleased with the comparison. "I love the Melvins," he tells me. "The Melvins were such a bizarre band to come out of the Seattle scene, or whatever the hell you want to call it, in that they were so experimental and heavy and sludgy and all over the place. I’ve heard people make that kind of comparison before, and that’s, like, the most flattering thing in the world to hear... I would love to be able to write a seven minute song like Soundgarden, kind of head-bobbin’ ‘yeah, cool, groovy metal’ - but I can’t really do that. I just don’t know how to write like that, I get bored really fast, and I think James is the same way. We’re kind of, like, really picky people, and when we’re playing something - unless it has a hypnotic quality on us, we’re like - ‘okay, this part’s way too long, let’s take it in a totally different direction. Though we will have some long repetitive parts, too. It depends on how it grabs us."

And continues, "The punk that I grew up on was, like - Black Flag, Born Against, Rorschach, and I listened to a lot of crusty political punk. And I loved old Metallica, Sepultura, Slayer - that kind of stuff. But there was a lot of crossover too, bands that were kind of punk and kind of metal, like COC. Even Rorschach was pretty metal for that time..." He and James have considerable overlap in tastes.
James, Masa, and Brad by Femke Van Delft, not to be reused without permission

James tells me that there is "no medieval reference at all" to the title of the upcoming disc. He'd wanted to actually call it New Dark Ages, but the idea was vetoed, perhaps because of the similarity to the Subhumans' New Dark Age Parade. (Subhumans fans are advised to watch this space in the next while and to keep their ears to the wind - things are stirring, and I don't just mean an upcoming gig). The meaning is literal - Farwell is worried about what he sees as an ongoing collapse of our society in favour of something much more Darwinistic. He has more to say on that in the Skinny interview...

With the release of Bison's previous album, Quiet Earth, on Metal Blade, and the widespread positive reception of that album, I wanted to ask if “success,” such as it is, had changed anything for the band. “When it first kind of happened, I’m sure some people were weirded out,” Dan acknowledges. “But once they talked to you they realized that it changed absolutely nothing, for us - besides that our buddy doesn’t have to go into debt for our record to come out, y’know. I’ll be at the bar sometimes and people will be, like, ‘I can’t believe you’re just hanging out here.’ ‘What the fuck do you think I do?’ Like, ‘Oh, you still have to work a dayjob?’ Yeah! What the fuck...”
Dan And by Femke Van Delft, not to be reused without permission

The concern about the corrupting influence of money, which so often seems to have something to do with mediocre rock albums, is a reasonable one, though, James admits, "because once you start making money, your work ethic goes to hell. And that’s just a natural human thing - you get fuckin’ lazy. You know? I think bands that are on the road and eating shit that can still handle it and still find that real base enjoyment of getting into a van and travelling around and playing music for not much money, getting by, y’know - I think that sometimes makes the difference between why musicians are musicians. I never became a musician to make money. I became a musician because I was like - 'ah, fuck - Greg Ginn can’t fuckin’ play guitar, so *I* can play guitar! I’m just gonna play noise shit, and it sounds awesome - it sounds rad!' So it’s inspiring, right. I dunno..."

We pause. "Really, if you want to make money, especially in this city, become a politician or a real estate agent," he continues. "Don’t start a fuckin’ metal band, man, or a punk band, or whatever we are. It’s not money. It’s a lot of hard work and sitting in a van with the same dudes that you love and you don’t want to strangle.”
Bison will be not wanting to strangle each other for some weeks, as they commence their spring tour. If you're not from Vancouver and haven't seen these guys, check their Myspace for dates. If you're from Vancouver, and like creative metal/punk, performed with passion and enthusiasm, it is well worth braving the crowds to come out to The Rickshaw on Friday.

...Assuming there are tickets left.

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