Red Animal War from the US toured were almost constantly on tour this year, in Europe as well as in the United States. Apart from that their record label Deep Elm released a split EP including them and their label mates Slowride and finally Red Animal War's second full length "Black Phantom Crusades". Reason enough to do this interview with Justin (voice, guitar, piano).
Hey Justin how are you at the moment and do you have any special message to start this interview off?
Hello, I'm Justin. I'm in Florida at the moment visiting family for the holidays. We walked on the beach and ate good food. I'm doing fine. My special message is to listen to Led Zeppelin's "Over the Hills and Far Away" while doing interviews.
What are the latest news in Red Animal War? Are you still on tour in the US or are you taking a break right now?
We embark on a US tour next week that will take us across the mid-west and down the East coast and back to Texas. We get to play with Kimone in Boston and Sand Which Is in Baltimore, so we're excited about seeing friends.
I really like your latest record "Black Phantom Crusades" a lot, but let's talk about that one a little bit later. You were on tour in Europe earlier this year, right? How did you like this tour and with which bands did you play? How many people came to see you play each night?
We toured the entire month of April in Europe. We loved it. Losone played with us almost every night, and they're super people. We are releasing a split 7" with them soon. Other bands we liked on tour include but are not limited to: Flowshot, Cat On Form, Endearment, Yapphet Kotto and Sunshine. The number of people differed from show to show, but it was great every night. Even if there were only a handful of people there, they were excited and thankful. We love that.
Was that the first European tour for you guys or have you been here before? If so, was this tour different from previous ones in your eyes and how?
That was our first European tour and definitely not the last. The great thing about this particular tour was the hospitality and respect we got in each city. Jane in Fulda, Germany had a huge flyer for the show in the window of her little white car. She loaded and unloaded the PA equipment herself (while we weren't looking or we would have helped!) and let us sleep at her place. This is just one example of kindness we received on a nightly basis.
Which countries did you travel during this tour? Which one did you like best and why? What were/are the differences between all the countries you saw in your opinion?
We travelled to Germany, UK, CR, France, Holland for a few hours, and a few other countries I can't recall right now. I loved them all the same. Differences are hard to see in the short time we're there, but some places are greener than others. Germany has the most beautiful green hills in the world (After seeing “The Lord of the Rings” I guess that must be New Zealand – Stefan).
Speaking of your latest releases: Deep Elm put out lots of new music from Red Animal War this year, starting with the split EP with Slowride and then your second full length "Black phantom crusades". Were all those songs (those from the split as well as the album tracks) recorded during one session or did you first record the EP songs and then the album ones?
The split was recorded in the summer of 2001. “Black Phantom Crusades” was recorded in the spring of 2002.
Who came up with the idea for the split EP? You, the guys in Slowride or Deep Elm? Do you like the way the EP turned out?
We spoke to Slowride about doing something together a long time ago. John approached us later and it was very coincidental. We were excited. Slowride are not only a great band but good friends of ours that we really look up to. They tour like machines and let us practice in their space.
When you look at the cover/layout of the EP, there's this whole concept of the assassination of Kennedy. Why did you choose this topic for the EP or who came up with it? Does this particular event interest you personally? I have the impression the more years have passed since the assassination, the more people are interested in it, would you agree?
I like reading about the assassination because it seems so obvious there was a cover-up. It happened in Dallas, so John created the artwork with all this in mind. It's fucked up how many things can be right in front our face but we choose to ignore them.
You recorded the EP as well as "Black Phantom Crusades" with Ed Rose, the guy almost all Deep Elm bands work with. What makes him so special for you to record with him, or is it a contractual obligation for you to create records with him ;-)
We always choose where we go, but John really thought Ed could do a good job with our music. He was right. The songs we've recorded with Ed worked so well because his style fits with those songs. I think it was a stretch for both of us, but it worked out in a great way.
As I said before, I like "Black Phantom Crusades" a lot. I think this album really sounds mature and you found you own identity. Don't get me wrong, of course you had your own identity before, but in my eyes on "Black phantom crusades" it's obvious that you progressed a lot. Would you agree?
I think we because more cohesive. Brian didn't write "Breaking In An Angel” with us. He was there from the writing stage for “Black Phantom Crusades” and that has a great deal to do with the change in sound.
How would you describe the development of the band since the days when you recorded "Breaking in an angel"?
I don't the think the change has been as drastic as people tell us, but then again children grow up in front of their parents and the ones who really see the difference are the out of town aunts and uncles. I just think our music is getting better. Our next record is going to be as much of a deviation as our second, but not by any intentional means. We don't throw many songs out. What you hear is an honest progression.
On the album you used some rather untypical instruments, like a xylophone or a saxophone. Especially the latter mentioned one is still a very unusual instrument for a band playing your kind of music, but in my opinion it fits perfectly to your sound. Who came up with the idea of using a saxophone?
Dave Laird is a friend of mine and he said he'd play something for us on our record and we were very into the idea. Matt just came up with the idea in the studio to use the xylophone. He did it on a whim. It seems like everyone has something to say about it, which is awesome because it was such a quick idea. I love how Ed mixed it in one speaker for the first run and then mixed it both speakers for the second. It sounds like it's taking over.
Who played the saxophone and could you imagine using this instrument as a steady instrument on future records?
Dave actually bought two tickets with his own money and flew from Dallas to Kansas just to record his part. He had a seat and so did his saxophones. I would love to have a sax live someday, but that entails recruiting another member, which is impossible at the moment.
There's this sample on the song "Mouse", where does that come from? If I am right it's not from a movie, but it sounds more like a political speech? And what about the sample at the beginning of the song "Jambalaya"?
Check out the documentaries "Salesman" and "American Movie".
There's also this song on the album called "Gattaca" that lyrically is a clear reference to the movie of the same name. What can you tell me about this special song: The booklet says that it was written back in 1997 by Bastian? Is that a band some of you played in before Red Animal War or who/what is it? Do you like this movie?
This is a song written by my friend Daniel who did the scratching under the CD for “Black Phantom Crusades”. We wrote “Gattaca” on a fall day in 1997 in Dustin's garage. I remember learning the song I and looking out the little windows of the garage door and seeing gold leaves falling from their branches. All I did was write the bass line. Daniel did everything else. I love the song. I like the movie.
What do you think about genetic technology in general? I know that one could talk for hours about this topic, but would you rather say it's something good or something dangerous?
It's good as long as we aren't infringing on human rights. That opens a can of worms, doesn't it? I'm not real sure, but if my girlfriend was dying and the only thing that could save her was the creation of her clone and removal of the clone's liver then I'm all for it.
It seems like you are on tour a lot, so when do you write new songs and how do you avoid getting on each others nerves?
I write music and/or lyrics daily. We don't hang out constantly so we don't get on each others nerves. None of us has really bad gas so that saves us.
I guess we're at the end of this interview. Did you like it and do you have anything to add? Thanks for taking the time answering my questions!
Read the paper, watch the news, read books, talk to your grandparents, but think for yourself.