Sam Williams (Pseudo Heroes, Down By Law) and John Stabb (Government Issue, the Factory Incident) recently took some time out to pick each other's brain. What follows is a rather unconventional interview which highlights the Pseudo Heroes' new CD called "Prison of Small Perception."
"On Prison of Small Perception, our new album on Go-Kart Records, we called upon several of our heroes from the past and present underground music scenes to lend their unique talents to PSEUDO HEROES songs. These vocalists were culled from various genres that we adore, including punk, hardcore, death metal, etc.
John Stabb from the undeniably classic hardcore / punk band GOVERNMENT ISSUE sings the CD's first "guest" song which is called "Bad Show." The title is self explanatory. He kicked ass on the song, kicks ass in all his musical projects (including his most current, "the Factory Incident"), and he's a kick-ass human being. Read our conversation below and see for yourself!" -Sam
Sam: Have you ever had a "Bad Show" before? I have, and I'm usually in a horrible mood afterwards. Does it affect your mood dramatically? Or do you just quickly blow it off?
Stabb: Is this a trick question? I've had plenty of bad shows before in my musical lifetime, brother. Let's see... there have been shows like the one with twelve Italian "Manson youth" on speed using my head as a soccer ball, or the other one where some assbag (who confused me for Johnny Rotten) spat in my face, gigs where Nazi skins started a fight inside, got thrown out, and were waiting for my band outside. Then there's the bad show that I've felt there's absolutely no way I can make an impact on the audience and I'll take it out on myself later. It definitely affects my mood afterwards. I'm the kind of person who punishes himself by thinking about it, sometimes for days. But if you're on the road and constantly playing, it's easy to move on, that is, given that the next gig is a better one. But in the long run, it's all an endless learning experience. A musician needs to have their share of "bad shows." It's all about paying your dues.
Sam: I agree, and I've learned not to take it too seriously, myself. My main problem used to be related to poor playing live. I remember during my first Down by Law tour opening for All, I had a huge self esteem problem. I think I became suicidal after several of those shows due to my playing badly. However, I learned that everyone fucks up on stage and it's all about how you handle it. If you scowl and get pissed, you're letting everyone else know whereas they probably wouldn't have noticed or cared. Plus you become self-conscious and are more liable to play badly as you lose your confidence. It just doesn't matter as much as the energy of the set. Now the definition of "bad show" has transformed into a turnout of less than 10 people who are very indifferent to music in general. Anyway, getting mistaken for Johnny Rotten is actually pretty cool! On a scale of 1 to 10, how much does the song "Bad Show" remind you of an old G.I. song?
Stabb: I'd say it's about a 5 on the G.I. scale. It reminds me of something during the "Boycott Stabb" era of the band. But, in some ways "Bad Show" is as good (if not better) than anything off of that album.
Sam: Yeah, that sounds about right. I attempted to make all of the music completely different than that of the former bands of the guest singers, but I think your song, as well as Jerry A's (Poison Idea), come the closest to sounding like your respective bands. However, I'm not one bit disappointed because everything turned out so phenomenal. When you sent back the song with vocals, I was blown away (and still am!) I just couldn't resist making "Bad Show" a tad G.I. sounding because the band, especially Tom Lyle as a guitarist, was so hugely influential to me.
Sam: Prison of Small Perception is based around the concept of open-mindedness in underground music. In the "post-punk" era that I grew up with, bands like G.I., Dag Nasty, and All were really doing their own things. It seems like the melodic nature of those great bands has left a huge influence in today's music. However, the pioneering spirit seems to have dissipated. Looking at fliers from old shows, I see bands like Black Flag playing with the Minutemen, or Verbal Assault playing with the Doughboys. I don't think such varied bills could exist today, at least not successfully. Underground music was a place for diversity, and now I feel that it's not. Have you noticed that as well?
Stabb: Who hasn't noticed that? There's definitely not the same urgent feeling or rush in what's called punk today that there was in the 1980s. In the beginning, the music, the people making it and the fans participating were dangerous. There was this feeling at a show that was so intense, and the bands usually played like it was their last show on earth. If you didn't come out of a gig with bruises and drenched in sweat, it wasn't worth going. Later, it became less dangerous to be at a punk show and bands started getting more melodic, but that intensity still remained. A lot of the SST bills were incredibly varied. In the case of a hard-ass primal scream such as Black Flag playing with a really funky jazz explosion like the Minutemen or a tight poppy-punk group like the Descendents, it was cool. But if Flag played with noodling instrumental jammers like (Greg Ginn's) Gone, a juvenile metal joke, or Nig Heist or whatever awful roadie band they threw together, that was lame. I dug playing with different sounding groups on tour. The trouble is that most promoters want to put similar sounding bands together so the audience won't bum out and leave. G.I. once played with a Residents-like band in England called "Jackdaw with Crowbar". They used weird projections on the wall & played in these beekeeper type masks. That was so cool! They sounded absolutely nothing like us or anyone else that evening. It was such a relief from playing with really fast hardcore or punk groups. That truly became very old fast. It's very hard to find diversity in a gig these days, and that really is a shame. It would be nice to see it come back, but I wouldn't bet on it.
Sam: Do you ever have problems with peoples' perception of you as a hardcore punker when you have projects that are far removed from that scene, like Factory Incident? Or do you think the fact that Government Issue ended up progressing into such a different direction towards the end that people accept other things you do more readily?
Stabb: I'm not crazy as being labeled or pegged in any way. I like to keep people guessing. I'm just John Schroeder and my stage-name has remained "Stabb" for certain projects. The Factory Incident is the first band I've been in where I've wanted to use my real name. Initially, I didn't want our debut CD to have "Stabb" as a selling point or for people to focus on my past efforts. It's like when Ian wanted to just be another part of a unit and not have everyone base his new band on his past bands. I still like a lot of old eighties era punk but I lean more towards the music called "post-punk" in the last five years. Again, I hate labels but I sometimes can't help using them myself. F.I. has been quite fortunate to have so many old G.I. fans sincerely dig what we're doing. It still blows mind that people are accepting me in a much different band. It's really nice. Towards the end I think G.I. progressed monumentally. The music and the performances were both still aggressive and worthwhile. But when you do anything for nine years, somewhere down the line you're going to learn your instrument a lot better. For me, the last years of G.I. were the best songwriting / performance years. And our most caring fans (the ones that stuck it out with us through the "metal" period... oops!) progressed right along with us.
Sam: A much more subtle reason for the change in direction on our new album (our first album was purely power pop/punk), is to prove to some people that I'm not just some musical lightweight. I remember when we were in South America I was buying some old metal stuff and it really blew people's minds because DBL is known for being a very melodic band. Also, when I buy GG records, people are in disbelief. They think all I listen to is Big Drill Car and the Doughboys or something. I guess it all ties in with the concept of listening to more than one kind of music, something so many people have lost sight of.
Stabb: You've had somewhat of a reputation for being a twisted puppy (not necessarily a bad thing) when it comes to tours. Does this annoy your band mates or entertain them? I used to drive G.I. crazy on the road with pranks. One day while J. was sleeping, I poured water near the side of his arm. He sometimes drooled in his sleep. So, when he woke up I said "dude, you're a drooling machine!" Pete went along with it saying "damn, J., you drooled a lot!" J. was like "whoa, no way" and laughed at his own embarrassment. I'm not getting into how much torture I put Tom Lyle through.
Sam: HA! Excellent. Well, luckily the other guys in DBL appreciate my strange sense of humor. In fact, I think that's partially how I landed the gig in the first place. When you're sitting in a van for 6 to 10 hours per day, you gotta do something to pass the time. I like to get befuddled reactions. Though my humor can be quite dark and offensive, I can always judge where my friends' "lines" are, and I'm always careful not to cross those lines. So I can't say that any of my jokes have offended any of my friends (although I do remember one instance where Angry John was begging me to finish one of my more fucked-up tales about an orphan girl while Dave was begging me to stop because it was so disturbing). However, if there happened to be an innocent passer-by that caught wind, I'm sure they would be shocked and possibly angered. Who would you have least guessed that you would appear on the same record with if I had asked you a few years ago... Kam Lee from the death metal bands Death and Massacre, or Lee Dorrian from Napalm Death? And does it surprise you that a guy from Napalm Death is a big fan of Government Issue?
Stabb: Well, great balls of fire and a whole lot of Satan goin' on! I'd have to say both! About the closest I ever got to those two groups was when G.I. did a Pentagram cover called "Day of Reckoning." The singer was cool about it, but once he heard our version, he didn't dig it at all. Also, the fact that Lee digs my old punk band is pretty cool. G.I. stayed with some members of Napalm Death on the English leg of our European tour. Really nice f'n guys. I can't recall if Lee was hanging around at that time. It's really awesome to be an album with so many different bands from the day. Talk about diversity in a musical university!