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20 April 2011

Interview: Preston Maddox of Bloody Knives AND the debut of a brand new Bloody Knives video!

For more reasons than one, you can consider the following to be a When The Sun Hits' 4/20 Special Edition piece. While they may or may not have been celebrating the holiday early during the following interview, Preston Maddox (of the Austin-based band Bloody Knives and owner of Killredrocket Records) and Amber Crain (Bloody Knives fan, radio DJ, and co-founder of this here blog) discuss a suspiciously wide range of seemingly random topics. So, be forewarned that amid the news about Bloody Knives, the debut of a brand new Bloody Knives' video, and lots of valuable info about Killredrocket Records and its bands, you will also get your fill of pertinent discussions such as: Billy Corgan's lameness level, their mutual and sometimes violent hatred of the CD format, rap music, Katie Couric, their takes on why the music industry is kinda fucking lame right now, Darth Vader, Stephen Hawking, crack cocaine is mentioned and yes, to top it all off, even Keanu Reeves makes an appearance. What can we say, the two were clearly given the gift of gab; there is no other explanation. Have fun kids! Just say no to drugs. Or whatever.

How did your record label, Killredrocket Records, get it’s start?
I started selling stuff to other people in high school, I guess my freshman year, selling tapes and shirts. My other friends bands didn't put out records, so I was just doing it for my bands. Which was awesome, we spent all the money on beer, weed, and Taco Bell. That was 1994.
Then I moved to Austin in 2003, and started setting up shows and finding other bands, and wanted to be able to showcase their music more publicly. I got into the compilations through this, mainly trying to promote shows. I'd put all the bands on a comp and try to get people out.
Sounds like you have a very DIY mindset. I bet $10 you were a punk kid! I know my own kind.
Yeah, 100% DIY. But I have had experience with a lot of the big timey bullshit, and that’s just what it is, bullshit. The only way to legitimately build something that people like is to do it yourself.
I really couldn't agree more. So the first release on KRR was...?
1995. The Popsicle Tape.
That was our punk band in 1995, we played alternapunk, and covered Rage Against the Machine and Tool. It was all originals on the tape and we sold a lot. We also had the "My Government Rapes Me" shirt...
It had a picture of a politician on the front, with money stuffed in his collar, and on the back it said: "My Government Rapes Me."
All our friends bought them and wore them to school the day of a show, and everyone got sent to the office and had to take them off, or turn them inside out. High school glory!! (laughs)
We promptly spent the money on vodka.
Anyway, we recorded the actual record at a friend’s house, on his ADAT machine in his home studio.

Bloody Knives. Tell Me I'm Wrong.
(Laughs) That is fucking classic. Do any of those shirts still exist?
Yeah, I don't own one though. I, unfortunately, do not own most of the things I’ve been involved in. Funny thing how that happens…But yeah, there are still some in existence.
I miss making cassette tapes. It was fun, and more personal. I would say that CDs have made music go to hell. Even though tapes sucked, too...
But they sounded cool. They were cooler than CDs. CDs are like instant trash. I feel compelled to throw them away and abuse them. (laughs)
I feel the same way about CDs! It’s like this weird hatred. They are so tacky looking and flimsy. I mean, tapes aren't like, classy looking by any stretch of the imagination, but there is a certain kitsch about them that makes them still charming.
Plus, I like the work that goes into listening to a tape or vinyl. It's more active.
Yeah, for sure.
Rather than skipping around with one easy button on a stupid CD player. It's like cheating.
Exactly. That’s their biggest fault.
I actually think CDs are nearly obsolete now. It’s all about the convenience and immediacy of the mp3, or the throwback nostalgia of vinyl. Hell, even the tape is making a comeback. There are some really cool tape-release-only record labels right now.
I know that labels exist for tapes, mainly underground noise bands first did that. But I don't know if they sell, because who has a tape player anymore? I still think they are awesome. But I prefer vinyl because the artist dictates the song order.
Tapes are like that too. CDs and mp3s not so much. But mp3s are so convenient, it’s going to be the way most music is heard these days, but they sound like shit.
(laughs) I do still have a tape player, nerd that I am. But my most preferred medium is, of course, vinyl. Mp3s cater to everyone's ADD mindsets. You can just listen to a shitload of stuff in a single hour, totally random or brand new stuff. People have no patience anymore. The information age and the internet have done a fucking number on the music business. Whether this is bad or good, not sure yet.
Yeah, I don’t know either. Also factoring in: the ease and affordability of recording technology. I’ve never heard so many shitty sounding records. People are without patience now.
Yeah, the idea of legitimate production or decent production is out the window for many people. It’s sad. People just shit records out left and right. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some who can do this and it's actually nearly always good. A special few. But mostly, no.
People don’t have the sense of a need to self censor. I think that’s going to be the next step in music. People are overburdened with things to hear. There has to be a reaction to that. Most bands are not good enough each shot out, mine included. No need to make people listen to your bullshit throwaway mistakes.
Some of these are lingering things from the previous music industry model. There is no use for b-side record anymore. They were invented as a cash cow for record labels. But who wants to hear, or has time to hear, the bad songs?
Unless the band is awesome.
True. I mean, really awesome bands generally have amazing/classic (to me) b- sides, but other than that, you're right.
Yeah, and those are the songs that were excluded, usually because they were too creative. Too out there to fit the pop mold. Like the whole Pisces Iscariot album by Smashing Pumpkins. But then, the stink of poor Billy Corgan's legacy!!! (laughs)
God. I was randomly watching some very early Pumpkins live footage a few weeks ago, and I was like: Fuck, they were so good. I can't believe this guy's ego is going to eclipse their collective talent.
I know…
They were loud as fuck, man!
It’s such a huge disappointment. They were awesome, but Corgan was like that the whole time. He gets blamed, but he also singlehandedly delivered their best shit.
That band got killed by cocaine. Billy Corgan shoving it up his nasty nose. And heroin. And their drummer…
Also, Corgan was such a dick to Iha. Iha was responsible for more than Corgan gave him credit for.
I saw this the other day and was simultaneously impressed, dismayed, and amused. Watch this, man.

Billy Corgan Guitar Solo. 1985.
(laughs) Holy fuck.
I know! Hilarious. But, at the same time, he clearly had real fucking talent too.
Man, I remember the days of practice and technique…those are long gone! Prince is the same way. He can play the fuck outta the guitar but never does it. Stay away from the coke and the people who tell you you’re cool. That totally fucked that dude up.
I didn't know Corgan did coke! I thought Iha was kicked OUT of the band by Corgan for doing drugs?? Hypocrite.
Yeah, he talks about how he did coke to “be creative" during the recording of Siamese Dream. All of them were on drugs, they were in a fucking rock band!!!
I didn't know that grinding your teeth, sweating profusely, looking sketchy and endless chatter = creativity. But it sounds sensible.
(laughs) It doesn’t. It has to do with insecurity, and needing to develop a false sense of self, I think. A confidence booster.
Whatever, Smashing Pumpkins are still awesome.
Worst drug ever. And yes, yes they are. I even thought Adore was kinda bad ass…You can make fun of me. It’s cool.
It was good. I wish the drummer had been on it. D’arcy was replaceable, but the other two were essential, regardless of their songwriting involvement.
Let's not even speak of D'arcy...(laughs)...crack is a hell of a drug, D'arcy.
Fuck yeah it is!!! But yeah, she got kicked out early. Poor D’arcy.
Why “Poor D'arcy”?
I thought she was hot when I was 14, mainly because I played bass too. I think all teenaged boys thought she was hot.
Around that time it seemed like there were lots of girls in bands like that. They were awesome. But give me Kim Gordon any day of the week, above all of them.
Yeah, PJ Harvey, Fiona Apple…don’t get me started on female musicians.
Kim Gordon is awesome. Girls in bands are still awesome! But it’s not the same as it was during the more sexist macho 80's. It meant more then, I think.
But poor D’arcy didn’t even get to play her parts on the record, even though she could, because Corgan was such a dick. He blamed it on his and Iha’s relationship falling apart, which I’m sure was shitty, but still. Corgan just snuck in the studio and gave everyone the fuck off, doing hers and Iha's parts.
Total bastard. Remember Zwan? Utter shite.
Yeah, that was terrible. That creepy smile video… dude fucked up.
Indeed. So it goes. So yeah, that was an epic tangent! I still want to talk a shitload about the label and etc!
I trust you, Barbara Walters of Shoegaze.
HEY. I see myself as more of an Anderson Cooper of shoegaze.
(laughs) Yeah, that is pretty good!!
As long as I'm not Katie Couric.
Nah, fuck no. But she is a horrible bitch, which I respect. To an extent. Like the way I would respect a snake.
Yes, I can see that…
So do I have to talk about my extensive knowledge of Smashing Pumpkins anymore? Because I don’t want to embarrass myself. I know its not "cool" to admit you loved their music back in the day.
Who cares if it's cool, it's TRUE. They were fucking badass! But yeah, we can move on.
Cool. Goodbye, Billy.
Yes, Farewell, Billy. Don’t forget – The world is a vampire.
Ok, so: do you run Killredrocket Records on your own, or do you have others helping you?
Most of it I do by myself. I put together the comps, book the shows, take stuff to the post office, etc. Sometimes I have other people help me with small stuff, but almost everything is handled in-house. Jake does the website and takes care of all of that. I joke about crediting the staff, but there is no staff!!!
There was this one time when a band was a dick to me while I was running sound for them, and then later they sent a thank you note to the label head. Which was me, of course. So I keep things separated, and that usually works well for me, because I can see how somebody treats people directly.
I don’t have anything else smart to say about that.
(laughs) Fair enough. Aside from your own band, naturally, who is your current favorite KRR band?
Ahh man, that’s really hard.
Well, for the comps.....probably Screen Vinyl Image, Burnt Ones and Me You Us Them. Those are three of my favorites. Oh, and We Are Hex! I have them all on vinyl. As for recent label releases, the new Between The City Are Stars is awesome.
All excellent choices. Screen Vinyl Image is so good. They all are, but I've respected SVI for quite a number of years now.
SVI is awesome. I don’t know why they aren’t more popular. The techno side of their music is what I like the most. And the trippy sound fx.
They are awesome live. The shoegaze comes out.
Agreed. Between The Cities Are Stars new one, Degausser, is definitely fucking awesome, as well.
Yeah, that new record is so trippy. It’s very washing and dirty and digital. Very repetitive and hypnotic. Like a big west coast record, but still loopish and not big rock, like Deftones.
It’s incredibly cool! I've been playing it a lot lately. So do you have your eye on the next band to bring into the fold, or is there one you wish you could?
Not really. Whirl, maybe. Me You Us Them already have a label. I’ve been asking them forever. Anyway, Whirl is an awesome shoegaze band from San Francisco. But mainly, people come to me and ask to be on the label. I usually don’t search them out. A lot of people want to do it themselves, and I don’t want to bother them.
What kind of sound are you looking for?
Unique sound. That’s it.
So no particular mood or aesthetic, you are just looking for truly unique bands that are awesome?
Well, it has to be at least dark, to a degree. I don’t do happy bands. Because when I listen to music like that I get real pissed off. Like, Mumford and Sons. So yeah, no hipsters. Fuck no. I also prefer bands that have some sort of pop aesthetic, to some extent. I’m not interested in music that is too experimental, or relies too much on the listener to engage it. I would rather hear a band that has elements of the most experimental music in a pop format, like Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation. Anything that sounds like it could have, at some time, be considered punk rock, throughout the history of punk. That’s probably the best definition of what I want in bands that I work with on things.
Yes, agreed. I like chaos and noise, but it has to be reigned in a bit. It needs a framework within which to move. Like a “pop format”, as you said.
Yeah, exactly. Something that at least considers the listener. I appreciate stuff like Phillip Glass and even listen to it, but I don’t work with it. It’s not modern enough to me. I love all kinds of music. The best musicians have a wide influence on art in general.
So you don't love this, I imagine?

REM. Shiny Happy People.
(laughs) Not my favorite REM song. However, I would argue that this song is predominately sad, because you know where it’s coming from. And the music is melancholy. And Fred Snieder is so fucking awesome!!! I’m confusing, I know.
What is your favorite REM song then? I'll answer if you do.
It’s a tie between “Fall on Me” and “Nightswimming”.
Dude. THOSE ARE MY TWO. Seriously.
No shit! They are the best ones, of course. Everybody usually likes the more popular stuff.
OK, let's not get trapped on a tangent talking about REM, because I can totally foresee that happening (although can I just say that the lyrics to “Nightswimming” are still amazing to me?)...
Agreed. Early REM lyrics were awesome.
So what will be the next release from KRR?
Boys Beware EP. Laserz. Buttermilk. Probably all at the same time. And the new Bloody Knives EP. So that’s four free records.
Ace line up! No vinyl pressed for any of it?
None of this is going on vinyl.
So all the free downloads then?
All free on the Killredrocketrecords bandcamp. But with the Bloody Knives release, there will be a physical package. Extra limited, like 20. The Knives’ music will be on both sides.
Boys Beware are doing a series of 4 EPs. At the end they will pick the best songs from each and make a vinyl release to sell for that.
I love that idea.
They added a female singer, too. A backing vocalist. It adds a lot of atmosphere.
I love how a lot of their songs sound like they could be 4 different ones, almost like movements.
Yeah, they do that. There is a lot of stuff going on, but they combine it nicely. The parts do segue into much different parts, but the connections all make sense. It’s kind of like Alice in Wonderland. Sort of.
What about the next Bloody Knives releases? How has your sound evolved this time around?
The next record is very heavy. Lots of chops and quick samples. It’s also written differently. We improvised the songs in a rehearsal spot in Brooklyn called Sweatshop when we were on tour, and then made songs from the improv jams. The lyrics are really harsh. It’s about getting wrapped up in bad shit and it eventually killing you. Not a happy record at all.
I'm curious to hear what will be MORE heavy than your existing stuff, which is pretty damn heavy already!
I thought Burn It All Down was a poppy record. This record is more glitchy and experimental. Its more experimental in the noise end. The drums are more varied and rockish. I’ve listened to a lot of glitchy music, and I wanted to make something that is microglitched. So I programmed little tiny changes in the loops.
I think there will be people that will be turned off by how heavy it is, and others who will like it more.
Can't wait to hear it. What has the newest member, Jim Moon, brought to the table, in terms of sound on the next record?
Jim is writing the segues between songs, which is cool, and he does alot of extra effects in the songs. So his part in the scheme is very ambigous, but very important.
Jim is kinda of like an electronic jazz musician. He takes the vibe of the music and creates music to it and with it. Samplers are his instrument. Buttons and knobs.
That's very cool.
We work kinda weird together, to other bands, but to us it makes sense. We all work separately and write the record first, then learn it, practice a little, and play. So we all have an area to be creative and not get in each other's way. I don't need to help Jake write drums, etc.
After years of being in bands, I got tired of having to work out songs at rehearsal. When I wrote dance/electro at home it was so much faster and I did better stuff. So with Bloody Knives, I wanted to make that the way we wrote. It's the same thing the MArs Volta does, pretty much. And Linkin Park!!
... and Miley Cyrus.
Plus all hip hop groups, pretty much.
Practice became this drunk party, which is awesome for a while, then it gets old.
Bet that's how Kanye does it, too.
It is!!! I was very influence by those dudes, when I worked at the record store, that sold screw music. I learned how all the H-Town rappers made it work. Smart dudes. Those guys made money!!! One guy writes the music, or a few producers. But the music is done when the rappers come in, and they have their parts to do. Then multi instrumentalists, those guys all did mix tapes, even when they hated each other.
So yeah, we are kinda rap group like.
Maybe you should release a Bloody Knives rap album next?
I don't market to that crowd and honestly, a lot of new rap is not good...yeah, it's gotten pretty bad. Very indie and mainstream. They need to make a leap as a genre. They need a Kurt Cobain of rap.
Ha! I guess Kanye doesn't fit that bill. Damn. I don' t think it's the best idea ever, by any means, but I'm twisted and totally want to hear BK rap now...

There will be a rapper on the remix record. The BK remix.
So I guess it wall happen... (laughs)
Do you know what the next BK release will be called?
Nice. Well, time is moving way too fast! a few more things: Do you have any specific goal for KRR records?
Keep putting out comps. Keep putting out good music for free. The best end result would be to create something that people trust for quality and that they can go to to get new good music. So that we can continue to create music that people like and they will get to listen to it, instead of getting missed with the rest of the stuff.
Is there any kind of philosophy you live by, when it comes to making and releasing records, as BK and/or as the label owner?
Only put out your best music. Don't bother people with needy promo emails. Never go corporate.
That sums that all up! (laughs) As if going corporate is an option anymore
That is indeed a good summation, yes. (laughs) One last ridiculous question, just for fun, because I'm a weirdo like that: You have to choose one of the next three people I name to provide vocals for a song on your next album. You MUST pick from only these three. For the record, I think all of these are amazing choices, each with their own merit.Your choices are:
Stephen Hawking.
Darth Vader.
Keanu Reeves.
well, Kanoooo is out.

What, you don't like Keanu's band, Dogstar?! I can't imagine why.
Like, I like that shitty wannabee actor's vanity project as much as I like Michael Cera's shitty indie band.
I've never really listened to them, honestly. But I can't imagine it being very good.
I just remember that Keanu used to follow Sonic Youth around all the time in the 90's and beg them to let him open for them. And I think they did a few times!
(laughs) Ok, so Darth or Hawking?
Darth Vader - through the vocoder.
I think that's essentially Stephen Hawking's voice, dude. (laughs) But ok, so you're going with Vader then, right?
Yeah, I guess I have to. Even though he may kill me. I want Vader to teach me how to choke people with my mind. That would be sweet.
Totally sweet.
And on that note, thanks for doing this and stuff! I'll see you in a few weeks man!
Yeah no problem, thank you!
Check out the brand new video, by Matt Spear, for Disappear!