Sunday, January 17, 2016
A Ripple Conversation with Hornss
When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphanies since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears. What have been your musical epiphany moments?
Mike: In order from 5 years old to 18 years old: KISS, The Ramones, Butthole Surfers, Dinosaur Jr, the Melvins.Cat Stevens’ soundtrack for Harold and Maude was the greatest.
Nick: KISS was a huge deal for me as a kid, then Motley Crue’s first album I played the shit out of along with Iron Maiden and Ozzy’s first two albums. Right around the same time I got really into punk, bands like Black Flag and Flipper I really loved as well as the Ramones. When I was 17 I found a used copy of the first Radio Birdman album, I didn't know who they were but they looked really cool on the cover so I bought that and listened to it for the next 20 years!
Bil: Yeah, the first time I saw photos of DEVO in the 70’s, that really freaked me out and blew me away. I had to sneak a lot of my music as a kid, because my parents were weird born again Pentecostal Christians. Blank Generation by Richard Hell and The Voidoids, The first B-52’s record, The Let Them Eat Jellybeans comp. Trout Mask Replica affected me a lot, Black Flag’s Damaged, for sure.
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
Mike: Usually the riff, but sometimes there’s something I want to write about lyrically. Most of my songs, I just start off singing nonsense to come up with the phrasing, then work some real lyrics into that.
Nick: the riff comes first then if it's good enough i'll jam it out with Bil for a few weeks and if Mike likes it then he usually adds something to it and makes it better. Then after playing it live for a couple years with no real lyrics I'll write something out the night before recording it.
Who has influenced you the most?
Mike: GG Allin and Lloyd Kaufman,
Nick: as far as bass playing goes it's got to be Scott Reeder, he's amazing and original. Lyrically I'd have to say comic books and art inspire more than other bands.
Bil: Drumbo and Robert Williams from The Magic Band, Dan Peters from Mudhoney, John Bonham (of course), Robert Wyatt (Soft Machine), Nick Mason, Mitch Mitchell, Bozzio, Yoshida from Ruins.
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
Mike: Films, books, dreams, and life
Nick: that's the hard part. I'm lazy by nature and I like to spend a lot of time at bars. But, Mike writes a lot and to have any of my songs on the albums I have to do the work, so I guess I'm motivated by Mike.
We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music
Mike: Nick and I are from the desert, so playing down there in the 80s and 90s was a totally different trip than playing in a big city. I really liked San Francisco though, ‘cause when we came here music and film was all about creativity, not industry like it is in L.A. for the most part. Even though things are drastically changing around here, the music still seems pretty organic which I like.
Nick: Growing up in Indio, Ca. in the early 80's I was pretty isolated so the things I did to be creative were pretty unorthodox. We had a instrument store so I could go in at a young age and experiment with all that neat stuff and when my Mom bought me a guitar I just spent my summer fucking around with it and riding BMX bikes around town. So I guess the isolation has a lot to do with my creativity.
Bil: Yeah, I guess the band’s hometown is SF, although I live in the East Bay. We like to drink in dark bars and our rehearsal space is in the Tenderloin. The fog, the rain, the lame $$$ shit that is getting people kicked out of their homes, the positives and the negatives in our daily lives all play a part in our sound.
Where'd the band name come from?
Mike: A long list of even worse band names! We found out there was a one-man black metal band from Chile called Horns, so we added another “s”.
Bil: Nick wanted us to be called Pope Hammer… that was pretty rad.
You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
Mike: I’d love to do an Italian Giallo. Around 14 years ago I wrote and recorded a bunch of horror-disco songs for a fictional cannibal film that I called “Mike Desert’s Cannibal Opus”. And no one is ever going to hear it…
Mike: The Baker Street Muse by Jethro Tull because there’s already a story in the 16 minute song to pad out there…plus midgets and prostitutes to write about too!
Nick: Beat on the Brat by the Ramones. Because how hilarious would a 1,000 word essay be on a one minute song?
Bil: haha Nick!
What is your musical intention? What are you trying to express or get your audience to feel?
Mike: I write songs because I like it ̶ it’s fun…I don’t think I’ll ever stop. Our friend heard our new record
̶ he’s known us for ages ̶ and said “I'm drunk and you still make great music for drinking, so thank you for that!”which is about as big a reason to keep writing music as I can think of.
Bil: Well, we were pretty drunk when we recorded this new one, so that makes perfect sense!
Nick: i constantly pick up my guitar and fuck around but not to make a song. writing a song is hard and takes a lot of work. but when I write a song I want it to have a vibe and be as good or better than Mike’s.
Bil: Even though most of our shit is pretty loud and blown out, we are very aware of vibe… actually, loud and blown out IS part of the vibe! But yeah, we’ll work on something for a while until it has the right feel, which is usually in regard to how the drum parts swing.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments? Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?
Mike: Well a couple months ago we played this club, and our projector fell and crashed to the ground after one song and someone took off with it. We played the same club a couple weeks later and Bil left his laptop on the sidewalk and it got stolen. If we go back, Nick’s gonna lose something I know it! We don’t take ourselves very seriously and are always having a pretty good time. I think if there were any Spinal Tap moments I can’t remember, we’d have a good laugh about it. Sometimes I get nervous before we play, but once I’m onstage I’m just getting into the loud music behind me and having a lot of fun.pretending I’m Woody Weatherman on the Animosity tour or something
Nick: My most recent one was when we opened a show for a big doom band but I was so excited I drank too much tequila and said a bunch of stupid shit in the mic and also did a power slide across the stage, not very doomy!
What makes a great song?
Mike: That’s tough…I guess it should be memorable in some way, either because it’s super hooky or really interesting. Or maybe it just puts you in a certain headspace. I listen to most kinds of music to one extent or another, and usually put something on to enhance a mood or change a mood. If a song can do that, then it’s a winner.
Nick: if you love it then it's a great song.
Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
Mike: My mom still has it, it was called “True Rocker” from when I was in 5th grade. I remember one I wrote in High School called “Last House on the Left” because our old band ended up using part of it for our song of the same name.
Nick: I think it was called Burning Cell and was pretty high school corny. I was listening to alot of Black Flag and Flipper and was super awkward so of course I wrote a song about it.
Bil: I used to record myself when I was a kid making up songs where I’d sing and emulate the guitars and all of that. The first one I remember was called “The Leopard”... “The lepppahd, you don’t know where he’s going. The leppaahd, that spotted little thief. He comes in the wind and prowls in the niiiight, you never know when he’s gonna striiiike. Oooooh woooo ooooh woooooo…. ooooh wooooo wooooo woooo!” Hahaha! It almost sounded like a Dio song or something!
What piece of your music are particularly proud of?
Mike: I like Arzach a lot. I don’t think I performed it well enough, but that would be the one I’d like to hear a better singer and guitar player take on. I think the first 5 songs on our new record kick ass… not that I don’t like the other ones, but when I hear those 5 in a row I’m 100% happy with them which never happens when I hear our recordings. Nick’s tune “Manzanita” which is 3rd on the record is also my favorite HORNSS song.
Nick: I'm feeling pretty good about this new one, I'm excited for people to hear it. I think the whole album is super weird.
I really dig St. Genevieve and Old Ghosts on this new album.
Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
Mike: Grant Hart from Husker Du is still writing great songs…Robert Pollard from Guided by Voices has written a thousand great songs... I really dug the new Blood Farmers record, Dave is a great guitar player and songwriter. I still buy every new Motorhead record... Bil just played me Nightslug who sounded killer. The new OOIOO lp is amazing, I like Aldebaran a lot and Arctic Flowers, Chris Black from Dawnbringer is a killer songwriter...our old desert bud Brant Bjork is still writing killer songs..I can’t name every local band we dig, but our old studiomates Cardinal Wyrm are awesome. I’m always hearing something great. I didn’t buy as many records in 2015 as I did in previous years, but I try to check out new stuff as much as I can. Of course all the Ripple and STB bands too!
Nick: I think High on Fire is hands down the best metal band going these days, no doubt in my mind.
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
Mike: Usually vinyl for anything heavy and for old jazz records. Most old punk and psych reissues I get the CD. It depends really, if I have cds of a band, I’ll just keeping buying them on cd to keep the music all in one place. I don’t buy much digital, maybe it’s cause I’m old, ‘cause everyone seems to be buying digital stuff. I like having the art.
Nick: Vinyl. I've never stopped buying vinyl. I also like cassettes a lot.
Bil: It’s always going to be vinyl for me, but I am not opposed to other formats. I don’t hang out at home very much lately, so I’m happy to have digital options!
Whiskey or beer? And defend your choice
Mike: Manhattans are my drink of choice, but I love beer. I started home brewing beer and cider recently. I like to mix my drinking up though - liver confusion! I’ll drink anything but Rolling Rock and Fernet.
Bil: Mike also hates Tecate.
Nick: Tequila with a soda back because too much beer makes me fat!
Bil: I love good whiskey, but beer is my choice. I drink a lot of it. Gimme an Orval!
We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
Mike: you can lose yourself in Amoeba, then if you want to cut through the crap and get to business, there’s Aquarius. For old soul and rare 45s, Rookies. Old Jazz and psyche, try Groove Merchant, if they’re open and you wanna dig a lot there’s Jack’s Record Cellar where Roy Loney from the Flamin’ Groovies works. Punk rock and local bands -Thrillhouse. Recycled Records has some cool stuff…there’s more, go to ‘em all!
Nick: San Francisco has a pretty good record store selection. Of course there's Amoeba but we also have Aquarius, 1234 Go! and Thrillhouse has all the new and used punk rock you'll need.
Bil: My hometown, I guess is St. Petersburg, Florida… did you mean the band’s hometown? Anyway, some great record stores down in that area, including Microgroove, Plant Retro, Daddy Kool and my favorite, Bananas. A lot of good thrift stores, too, especially if you are into weird exotica and “space age” stuff.
What's next for the band? Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
Mike: Keep on choogling!
Nick: we're excited about this new album getting out there to as many people as we can, I'd love to play a bunch of cities we've never played here in the States and also get back to Europe! We've begun to write some new songs for an EP we are recording at Brant Bjork’s studio in Joshua Tree so that will be really fun.
Bil: Yeah!!! We’ll be looking at the Pacific Northwest, The East Coast and hopefully the deep South too!
Waveriders, come on out and have some beers and tequilas with us when we are in your neighborhood! Thanks for the interview, Ripple!