When Ensign played in
Schorndorf, Germany, on their tour with Grade, I decided to do an interview with
the four piece from the US because they’re really great. Although the evening
started not very promising (there existed no guest list on which my name was
written) everything turned out fine. Thanks to the tour manager of Ensign who
got us in the club and who arranged the interview with Tim, vocalist for Ensign,
who was a very nice guy.
After we joked around for
some time the interview started…
I heard there’s a new EP from Ensign on the way, is that on Nitro Records and what can you tell me about that EP?
Yeah, it’s on Nitro, it’s
a new EP that isn’t officially out yet, but we had pressed it up so we could
bring it to Europe. It’s got four new songs on it, two of them will be on the
new LP which is coming out in February and two that aren’t. There’s some
brand new sounding stuff on there, kinda like different stuff for us, there’s
a slightly more melodic song on it, and there’a a really really heavy song on
there. We kind of wrote these four songs and made sure we had different
representations of the new Ensign stuffon this EP. Basically we just an EP
together between the ‘Cast…” record and the new record so kids would have
something to get between the last record and this one coming out.
So will these two songs that you were talking about, the ones that are kind of different for you, be on the new full length?
Actually the two songs that
are the most different ones on the EP are also going on the LP. They will be
rerecorded so they’ll sound totally different, but they’re definitely going
on the LP.
So you didn’t record the songs for the EP and the songs for the album in one session?
We went into the studio and
recorded four songs to put them separately on this EP and when we get back in
October we’re gonna record the LP. Actually in the end of November we’re
gonna do the LP.
Do you have a title for that
Yeah, it’s called ‘The
price of progression.’
And where will you record the album, in the same studio(s) that you recorded your previous albums?
It’s the same place but
it’s a different producer. This guy Steve Evetts is the guy we’ve always
used to work with. Unfortunately he can’t work with us this time because
he’s got to do the new Sepultura record, so we got this guy Eric who taught
Steve how to do like mixing and stuff, so Eric’s doing the new record for us.
I hope it will sound just as good.
Will the Sick of it All guys
help you out on this record again?
Actually probably not this
time around because we’re both really busy like they’re just gonna release
their new record and they’re gonna be on tour a lot and we’re finishing our
record, so I mean we haven’t seen each other a lot this year because they’ve
been away and then we’ve been way. I’m hoping that when the records are out
I hope we maybe might go out and do the US with them.
Is this collaboration with Sick of it All mutual, like Lou Koller did backing vocals on your last record and are you going to do backings for them or did you do so in the past?
I sang on backups on almost
every Sick of it All album, I mean since like ‘Just look around’ I sang
backups, except for ‘Built to last’ which they recorded in California, but
everything else I had backups on.
I also heard that there’s a pretty new drummer in Ensign…
Yeah, he’s the guy who just
left, haha (the van, not the band – Stefan).
Why did Ryan Murphy leave the band?
Well, what did happen was
unfortunately for Ryan, he had a lot of messed up stuff happen at home, not his
home in Seattle but when he lived in New Jersey. A lot of stuff happened in his
personal life that really left like a bad taste in his mouth, you know what I
mean. He didn’t enjoy living on the East Coast anymore because of all the
messed up stuff that happened so he really wanted to move home to Seattle, and
so progressively as the tours went on, he just more and more wanted to go home
and then me and him started not to get along so well because I was really full
into the band and he was like thinking other things. Before the last European
tour we did he was like ‘This is gonna be my last tour’. So when we were in
Ireland we met John our new drummer who was driving us around and we asked him
if he wanted to come and try out to play for us and it kinda worked out.
Is he Irish?
Yeah, he’s from Belfast.
Is it true that the rest of you guys also has Irish origins?
Yeah, it’s pretty cool,
like to have an actual Irish guy in the band, we’re just like a bunch of
American Irish guys like running around like we’re from Ireland, but it was
really cool ‘cause last year was the first time ever we went to Ireland and it
was pretty exciting like to play shows over there. We’re going back at the end
of this tour, it ends up in Ireland. I’m pretty excited about it.
How many generations are between the US and Ireland for you?
great-grandparents came over from Ireland and everyone else is like a few
Did you meet any relatives while you were in Ireland?
No ‘cause they all live way
down south and we toured up north.
Quite a while ago you left Indecision Records and went to Nitro Records, why that change?
There are a lot of reasons
why changed labels. Most importantly I think the main reason why we left
Indecision was that we as a band started to grow, not that we were getting
really really big or anything, but as we started to tour more, like we toured
eight or nine months in one year, what would happen is we would have to take
some much Indecision resources and we would have been the one band that Dave (Dave’s
the guy who runs Indecision) would have to put all his money into and we felt
that instead of helping the label we were hurting the label because all his time
was spent with us. So we decided ‘Maybe we should leave the label’ and
hopefully his label can grow and he gets putting out more stuff which is what
happened when we left the label, he had five or six records to put out. I mean
Indecision is an amazing label, they’re a really great hardcore label, and
Dave never put out a bad record. It was a hard decision to make but I guess we
just felt that if we didn’t leave we could do more harm to Indecision, we
didn’t want that, so we just had to go.
Tobi: So Dexter Holland is your new boss?
Yeah, he’s my boss, haha.
You know, I’ve only ever met him like a couple of times. Honestly it’s his
label but he’s in the Offspring and that’s a full time job and that’s
where he can make all his money. He’s on tour like all year long, so there’s
a group of people who work at Nitro and actually run the label. You know,
everyone always thinks when you walk in there’s Dexter hanging out. I’ve met
him like three or four times and he’s really nice, he’s like ‘Hey, how is
it going?’, but it’s not like I call the label and he answers the phone.
He’s not ever really there so much, but it’s a core group of people who
actually run the label.
But does he still decide which band is on the label and which isn’t?
Yeah, he’s like ‘I want
to sign this band, I want to sign that band.’ I guess he has like the final
approval which band gets signed.
Did you ever fear that some fans could dislike that change, because there’s so much gossip in the hardcore scene I think, and people could say ‘Oh, they’re on the Offspring label, what a sellout’?
Originally I thought maybe
we’d get some shit from some kids, but the truth is we didn’t get any.
People never even said anything. A few kids said like ‘Oh man you guys sold
out’ and we were like ‘Why don’t you listen to our next record?’. That
was before ‘Cast the first stone’, and when you heard it then you can say we
sold out. But when the record came out no one could say that because it wasn’t
much different, it was heavier but it wasn’t much different than the first
record. It wasn’t that we signed to Nitro and we had like tourbusses, it’s
exactly the same than before. So no one really gave us any shit, and if they
gave we were just like ‘We didn’t make a mistake’. The people that might
have walked away from us never obviously liked the band.
I think often people think ‘Hey, that’s my band, you are not allowed listening to them.’
Yeah, that’s a problem with
a lot of hardcore kids, they’re like ‘That’s my band’ and if other kids
start liking them they’re like ‘I don’t like them anymore, that’s not my
band.’ There were times in my life when I was guilty of that, too. But now I
try not to be that way. If the band’s really good then I want as many people
to hear them as possible. Just ‘cause we’re in the hardcore scene, why
should we have all the good bands?
Another question that’s in that direction: I heard that H2O are on a major label right now, would you say that’s good or bad? Well I don’t see any problem with that in general, but lost of people seem to think ‘Well that’s not hardcore anymore’…
I think a band has to do what
a band thinks is right. Like H2O, I know these guys, and they made a decision
that they really needed to make to maintain being a band. Look at it this way:
Sick of it All was on a major label and I still consider them as a hardcore
band. In considered them as a hardcore band when they were on a major label. I
don’t think that for the most part major labels understand how to handle
hardcore and punk bands, but I’m not saying that if bands wanna try it
shouldn’t try. I know a lot of people don’t like them, but I think Blink 182
is a really funny melodic punk band. I think they’re really good, their songs
are really catchy, and a major label worked for them. They’re huge and on a
major label. But it might not work for all bands. I definitely wouldn’t work
for us. If Ensign was on a major label, they wouldn’t know what to do, and we
wouldn’t know what to do, but I don’t necessarily think it’s bad.
Well I think one of the main problems with major labels is that they don’t know how to work for a hardcore band. Just consider Jimmy Eat World, they’re such a great band, and when the were on a major label, their records were not available in Europe.
think that’s like the problem. Certain bands try it and it just doesn’t work,
but it may work for other bands. It all depends on the circumstances.
On an early 7” by Ensign, ‘Fall from grace’…
Obviously you’re not satisfied with that 7“?
No, I hate that 7”.
Why, because of the sound or the songs or whatever?
Yeah, the sound… You know,
when we recorded that 7” I was sick and you can hear that with my voice. And
we had a real bad experience recording it, the guy who ran the studio where we
recorded it was really an asshole. The songs on it, like the Insted cover, I
really like, but the sound sucks, haha.
You mentioned the Instead cover on that 7”, why did you choose ‘Wel’ll make the difference’ and Insted?
I don’t exactly know how we
chose Instead, we were just going through bands we wanted to cover, and we were
like ‘What about Insted?’ For me, you know when we picked that song, the
lyrics are so simple, it’s only like three lines repeated over and over again
but it’s so to the point of how I feel about hardcore and punk, it’s a very
basic ideology of this type of music, as a group of people we could actually
make a difference in the world. The song is very to the point, about what the
basis of the scene is about, a bunch of people who come together with the same
ideals and hopefully trying to fix some of the things that we see as wrong. But
most of that never happened because the hardcore kids seem to be too busy going
to the computer and talking shit about each other instead of actually observing
what’s really going on.
Is that also what your lyrics are about?
Yeah I mean there’s a
couple of songs. I really can’t stand the pettiness in the hardcore scene, I
can’t stand the fact that kids are more wrapped up in how they look and what
the coolest trend is and who sold out and who did this. For example, on this
tour, we played this festival the other day which was called an Animal Rights
festival. Bands were like Highscore and five or six others. I was really excited
to play this festival, ‘cause everyone’s supposed to talk about animal
rights and it’s really be cool, but when we got there no one talked about
animal rights, everyone was more interested in the distros and buying records
and talking about their hair, and this and that. I was really upset. When we
played everyone left. There was probably like 250 kids in the beginning and then
by the time when we were playing there were about 100 kids there and I was just
like ‘This is not what it’s supposed to be’ but that’s about the whole
basis why I got so frustrated with the hardcore scene, because it’s an animal
rights benefit, everyone should be like…if you’re there, you should be
concerned about it, and the bands should at least say something lie ‘Thanks
for coming to this animal rights benefit bal bla bla.’ That’s what we
believed. But no one said anything. I got really frustrated about it, there was
just no message to the festival.
Yeah, seems it was just a normal festival under the animal rights banner.
Yeah, it was just a reason
for kids to come and buy records, watch Highscore and then leave. But Highscore
is really good, haha.
Talking about your song ‘Pale horse’, you re-recorded it for the ‘Cast the first stone’ album. Why did you do that, is that a very special song for you?
That’s pretty much the
Ensign song. For me and Nate that’s the song that kind of like changed
everything for the band. When we wrote that song we realized which direction we
wanted to head and it was the first time that I really felt that I got the
lyrics right, like I said what I wanted to say and it came out exactly right.
And we felt that when we went to Nitro we knew that out records would reach more
kids and a lot of them would be hearing us for the first time, and we didn’t
want that song to get lost ‘cause it only was on the first 7”. So all the
new kids who can’t get the first 7” would never know about that song. So we
figured if we put out a new record we could keep the song as an important part
of the set and that’s kinda why we rerecorded it.
Is that also the last song on each show?
It used to be, but now it’s
like somewhere in the middle. Just to like cinfuse everybody, haha.
How about this tour, how do you like it?
In fact it’s the best tour
of Europe we’ve ever done. There’s been a lot of really fucked up stuff like
shows falling through and getting cancelled last minute and stuff, but the shows
we’ve played…we’ve been over here for like nineteen days, and out of those
about two shows have been bad and seventeen have been really good so I can’t
complain about that, it’s been really awesome. Last night we played this place
in Italy, we walked in and the place held like 2.000 people, the stage was like
8 feet high and we were just like ‘Oh fuck.’ But about 300 kids showed up.
It still looked strange, but you know, 300 kids is really good, and it was
really fun, you know, Fugazi played there and sold out 5.000 people. But I mean
this tour’s been really great.
And how is life on the road, I guess sometimes it’s really hard travelling around in a small van and stuff…
You know, sometimes it’s
just like counting the days, like five more weeks til we get home. Last night we
had to leave right after the show and our driver had like 15 hours to drive. 15
hours in this van is just like ‘Oh God’, but then you play an awesome show
and can see your friends and this is why we do it. I don’t necessarily miss
home, but I have a girlfriend to whom I’m getting married to next year and
that’s what I miss. In the US she sells merch for us and at the end of this
tour she’s fyling over, it’s not so bad, but that’s what I miss, I miss
people, if I could have my girlfriend with me all the time I would never have to
So when she’s flying over, will you try to see some places in Europe?
No, she’s gonna come in the
van and go to shows, she’ll be there for Ireland, we’ll have four days off,
so she’ll get to see stuff in Ireland. I’m hoping that whenever we have time
off…our driver’s from Prague, and I’m trying to bring her over to Prague
‘cause she’s never seen it, like the Czech Republic, just places I’d like
her to see and I that I think she would like, like Barcelona and all these
really nice places. It’s weid, you go there with eight of your friends, and we
were in Venice the other day, and it’s romantic, but it’s not romantic when
I’m with like eight other guys, haha. You know it’s romantic if I’d be
there with my girlfriend, and I’d like to bring her here someday, but I
don’t have the money, haha.
Maybe with the record record, haha.
Maybe I’ll rob a band,
Earlier on this interview you said that last year you were on tour for about eight or nine months, I guess when you’re on the road for such a long time you don’t have the time to have any other jobs apart from the band, right?
I work at a record label at
Oh yeah, the last Down by Law album came out on that label.
Yeah. I do all the layout
stuff for them. My boss is really cool. This is the first extensive tour since I
started working there. But last year we came home from like eight months of
touring and none of us had jobs. I live in New York City and it’s really
expensive, and I was like ‘Oh shit I’ve got to find a job.’ And I
couldn’t find one, and I was really scared because I was running out of money.
And then luckily my friend Greg who runs Go-Kart said ‘Come work for me.’ So
it’s really hard, you have to find someone who’s willing to understand that
you tour a lot but that when you’re there you want to work. You know, no one
in this band is lazy, no one wants to go home and just sit around. We’re all
people who need to be doing stuff, so even if we could I don’t think we would
like go home and not work. I think everyone would try to do something. You know,
going from touring to nothing is really boring.
And the layout work you’re doing for Go-Kart, did you go to a special school to learn these kind of things?
No, before Go-Kart I worked
for another label called Blackout, and the guy who runs Blackout (his name’s
Bill), he taught me all the basics of layout. I’m not the best, by far not the
best, but I learn a little more every day, so eventually I hope to be fairly
professional. It’s good because it’s like I graduated from school, and you
know, I’m older, I’m 30, so when I graduated from college computers still
weren’t as much of a priority as they’re now, you know. So I gained these
skills on my own, and that’s really important, because if you don’t really
know about computers you’re kinda lost these days, so I taught myself a lot
and I’m still learning more.
Ok, I guess that’s it…
Did you like it (I'm not surprised you did, haha, just kidding... - Stefan).
Oh yeah, one last questions, hopefully you play ‘Where did we go wrong’ tonight?
You’re not going to???
Oh no, I’m leaving, haha.
We only got to practice a
certain set, because we had to fill in a bassplayer on this tour, and he can
only learn a handful of songs. We only ever played that song once or twice,
it’s basically my fault because I always messed up the timing, so I didn’t
want to play it anymore, haha. You know at every show kids are like ‘Play this
song’ and we’re like ‘We can’t, sorry.’
That’s the interview, thanks to Tim for taking the time answering the questions, you rule, man!