DOTDR: Hey Nick, I’m glad you enjoyed the review…the LP is killer!!! So for starters tell me a bit about the history of the band and where you are now.
Nick: thanks. Very happy that you like the LP. In brief, the band formed in the early 2000s by Lee Altomare and Bill Groody. I joined in 2004. We went through several bass players until Jimmy Aly came along in 2007. We went through even more drummers until Joe Branciforte came along in 2009. In 2010 Lee passed away after complications from eye surgery, so needless to say that knocked the wind out of our sails. But we picked ourselves up, for him just as much as for ourselves, and kept it going. Jimmy switched to guitar, and figured out he could split the signal in his guitar and feed one of those signals into a bass amp, dropping it down to mimic the sound of a bass. So except for the sudden loss of our great friend Lee, the line-up has been very stable.
DOTDR: Bummer about the loss but I’m glad you stayed with it. Aside from the powerful sound of each song I also managed to read the lyrics and was amazed at the writing (I tend to look through an albums entirety once I get my hands on it). Are they actually meant to be like spoken word poems? They read like a horror/crimescene description and some amount of true crime confession but abstracted and love it, but what did you want the lyrics to be about and how did you choose them?
NICK: Thanks so much. I’m the same way when it comes to records. I’ve always had prurient fascinations and morbid interests in addition to social anxiety and paranoia, and find that the most satisfyingly potent outlet for them is in writing and screaming. The lyrics emerge from stream-of-conscious musing, emotional turmoil brought on by not getting who or what you want, and extreme cultures as catharsis. I started listening to music at the height of the “alternative” boom in the mainstream (listening to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness as I type this), where the music was catchy but also had a morosely existential quality to the attitude and lyrics… it felt like it was okay to be a nihilistic outsider, so I still carry that mentality with me, even though it’s now status poison.
I feel like our music is a composite of everything we love about underground metal/punk/noise etc., so in that respect the lyrics are a collage of every kind of writing I like. You mentioned true crime confessions and crime scene descriptions already (reading list: the Shoemaker by Flora Rheta Schreiber, the Limits of Sanity by Larry Still, Lustmord: the Writings and Artifacts of Murderers). I’ve been fascinated by crime and serial killers since I was about 10… right around the time the serial killer trading cards came out. I’m interested in the psychology of these individuals, how they view themselves and the world and I find that sometimes it crosses over with my own views… though I have no intention of killing. I adore experimental/ transgressive literature more than most anything, the kind that combines visceral terror and hardcore sex in poetic fashions (reading list: Tomb for 500,000 Soldiers and Eden, Eden, Eden by Pierre Guyotat, Cows by Matthew Stokoe, the Eyes by Jesus Aldapuerta).
I choose the lyrics after the music is written. I write all the time, so I always have stuff to pull from. I’ve only tried once to write lyrics to the music, and it was embarrassing. I get a feel for the song and find words that seem appropriate. As for the particular lyrics on Desired Level of Unease;
MARBLE HUSK: lyrics came about right before our first west coast tour in early 2010. I hadn’t been on the computer for about a month, and killed the time by watching the Biography Channel and reading about Herman Nitsch. A special on Richard Speck and images from Nitsch’s Aktions swirled in my head and these lyrics came out of the drain. The opening lyric “this is not a message of hope or reassurance” was actually from Jimmy Carter of all people. We’re not a political band, but I thought it was funny that a president said that.
STIRRUPS: the first lyrics I wrote after Lee had passed away. All the hurt, anxiety, confusion, bitterness, and other tragic-comic ballyhoo. I think a Lady Gaga interview was on the TV during one of my sleepless nights, so that’s where the opening lines about not knowing “horror, disease, or revenge” came from.
ATROCITY CONDUIT: the second lyrics I wrote after Lee died. More uncertainty… more that needed to be said.
GASH LADDER: written after a nasty fight with loved ones. Was listening to a lot of Bloodyminded at the time of writing this, so I think some of that viciousness might be there…or not.
GARBAGE ISLAND TECTONIC SHIFT: trash fetishist fight song. Achieving emotional and spiritual clarity through group masturbation in a junkyard. Karim Hussain (writer director of films Subconscious Cruelty, Vision Stains) did a promo for a film called Filthy about people who are sexually aroused by rolling around in garbage. Harmony Korine jacked the idea for Trash Humpers.
RABID BATS: what happens when sexual frustrations are left to simmer. “Rabid Bats” is a nick-name I made up for a room full of sexually aroused women (hint; wet vaginas). There’s this hilarious book I just read called the Gas (Charles Platt) that sort of has the same idea this song has; when you repress your reptilian desires, they’ll eventually become impossible to control. See also the comic book series Crossed and the pornography of Belladonna.
THE INVALIDIST: a composite of lyrics from 2009. classic “girl did me wrong” angst. One of the many songs I’ve written about this one girl. That’s all this particular individual is good for; angry grindcore songs. Don’t know why I bother… it’s not like she cares enough to listen to my band, let alone read what I write… but maybe that’s the appeal; the relief of getting this off my chest with the safety of no one knowing. Except now they know. Whoops.
DOTDR: SHIT Nick, now you got me wound up and excited with all of those subjects you just threw out there!!!! As per the alternative boom…my favorites are still: AIC-Dirt,Facelift, Jar of Flies, Pearl Jam-Ten (fuck anyone who didn’t get the seriously political and brilliantly emotional lyrics), all of Soundgarden up to and including Superunknown, anything Butthole Surfers, and Smashing Pumpkins-Siamese Dream. Everything changed for me though when I first heard stuff like exodus, Testament,etc. Most of the 90’s for me were a mixture of death rock/ real goth/industrial after ’96 then back to metal in the 2000’s fully.
NICK: yeah I’m with you on all that. Not too big on Pearl Jam, but I dug all the other stuff you mentioned. Billy is really into a lot of that, especially Soundgarden. eventually that burned itself out, and I sought out heavier things.. that led into discovering underground metal. In the late 90s the bands that got me into that were Neurosis, Eyehategod, Soilent Green, Brutal Truth. It just exploded from there. I was into a few death metal and black metal bands big time, but I really loved the weird metallic hardcore bands like Starkweather, Rorschach, Human Remains, Integrity, Bloodlet, Unruh, Cattlepress… I still listen to all that kind of stuff regularly.
There’s this sick band from France called Kickback that is in that vein. Their last two records are unreal. I loved those bands because they were heavy and all that but were also genuine outsiders in their presentation and aesthetics, even in their own genre. That really had an impact on me. I also like a lot of the post-punk, no-wave, death rock, and noise rock that took place between the first wave of Punk in the late 70s and the Alt-Boom of ’92. shit like Laughing Hyenas, Jesus Lizard, early Melvins, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Naked City, Boredoms, Big Black, Swans, Brainbombs, and on the goth side Christian Death, Fields of the Nephelim… I could go on forever.
DOTDR: Big Black!!!! I love that stuff, Shellac is pretty good too, but not quite as essential as BB though. Steve Albini really had something great there!!!! For goth/death rock stuff Christian Death, Sex Gang Children, Alien Sex Fiend, Fad Gadget really did it for me.
NICK: his post-Big Black band Rapeman was cool. Anyone into Godflesh or Minitsry or that whole era of 90s industrial metal needs Big Black – Songs About Fucking in their collection. I love a lot of that 90s industrial metal (Skin Chamber, Dead World, Spine Wrench). Swans pre-Children of God is also a must. That style of heavy industrial seems to be coming back in a new way with bands like Sewer Goddess, Author and Punisher, Circle of Animals… I love the bleakness of that sort of stuff.
DOTDR: Yeah, the Play it again Sam/Wax Trax was an addiction of mine alongside Skinny Puppy, Frontline Assembly, and a billion others as well. I do LOVE Sewer Goddess, Spine Wrench, Diseased Oblivion, the heavy industrial stuff was sadly missed on my end as well.
In terms of out similar interests, the serial killer stuff for me was a weird fear that I had growing up, I showed early signs of a sadistic personality disorder, but somehow I managed by sheer luck to go the other way, or at least keep fighting to stay there. Sometimes though, I have to fantasize while angry about vengeance to vent my frustrations and those images can be pretty nauseating, it does make me lift more and run faster-longer during my workouts.
Serial Killers are interesting because I understand them to a certain extent as well, minus the sexual thing though, it’s the anger and adrenaline rush, the psychological toll that you can take on a person (that, as I know first hand, can be worse than death because you have to live with it every second, especially when you close your eyes it'll creep up on you the most). How these people become what they do…is it nature or nurture or both? Why am I fairly well adjusted and successful as opposed to them but we had similar urges?
The Biography channel is great!!!! I don’t have it, but through Netflix I’ve been watching several great series: Most Evil (so good that I bought it), Disappeared (fascinating look at real unsolved cases of missing people), Forensic Files (own it too, the Serial Killer one is great because it goes through the forensics used to catch ones that we never hear about as they are recent and less gruesome, but just as interesting from the psych. stand point), and Deadly Women. I seem to spend my “watching time” on true crime more so than films these days.
NICK: books and the Bio channel are the best place to go for true crime. Films never seem to get the real stories right. There was a good movie recently called Dear Mr. Gacy that was an adaptation of the fantastic book the Last Victim. There are great serial killer films, but the ones that are fiction seem to always be better than ones based on real killers. Like Maniac is invariably a better film than Ed Gein. Although Van Bebber’s Manson Family is fucking brilliant.
I’m pretty nihilistic about almost everything, but one thing I do believe in is Chaos. You can psycho-analyze these people and their acts, and there may be some truth to the notion of upbringing molding these individuals into what they become, but then you have to look at people who come from a similar if not worse environment who flourish, and others who come from good backgrounds who do unspeakable things. Some people do make a choice, others can’t help themselves.
DOTDR: Absolutely!!! Maybe it’s the science/math nerd in me, but the universe really does tend towards chaos, aka entropy, and humans are very much prone to this. It’s not to say that there isn’t direct cause and effect or some sort of fate, but ultimately fate changes with every passing increment of time and we are open to take any path. Nothing is ever set, it's our reactions to things that continually change our courses.
Maniac is great!!!!!!! I really didn’t care for the biographical Deranged (1974), but Psycho will always reign supreme in my mind (and not just for the Ed Gein theme).
I also just added Trash Humpers to my Queue!!! That sounds like a John Waters film in a way. I love that guy and have most of his stuff form Mondo Trasho on VHS, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble (my favorite), and even Multiple Maniacs DVD transfer I bought from some cult film place online over ten years ago.
NICK: Well Korine is sort of the waifish hipster version of John Waters. His films are entertaining, though, and I think the first black metal and noise I ever heard was in Gummo. I gotta like a dude who put TWO of the most fucked up Bethlehem songs ever on his film soundtrack, especially in 1997 when no one outside of this subterranean non-culture knew of the existence of such music.
I worship at the altar of John Waters. I have a Pink Flamingos t-shirt that I wear a lot. He’s definitely one of my favorite minds; an intelligent, genuinely funny guy with a blend of artful and perverse tastes. He spoken word shows and books are fantastic. The dude just has an incredible talent for appreciation of the grotesque and absurd.
DOTDR: Same here, I have his books, saw his live stuff, AND even have an autographed copy of a mag cover from the 70’s of him French inhaling!!! I need to frame it!!!! In fact Defecation on the Divine is a take off on the dog shit eating scene at the end of PF, fused with the idea of perverting things that are considered sacred or simply culturally admired. Hell, in some countries public farting could land you a jail sentence and/or beating, so who’s to say what’s “sacred” let alone “normal”.
NICK: it’s amazing to me that the guy who filmed an overweight transvestite eating dogshit now has a hit Broadway musical of one of his films. But that’s what great about him; he never changed who he was or what his interests were, yet somehow he managed to find incredible success. I guess it’s the “spoonful of sugar” theory. He’s so likeable and personable and speaks with such joy that you sort of just come over to his world of human monstrosities. Maybe I’ll learn that someday.
DOTDR: If you're looking for some great serial killer books then I highly recommend you get Serial Killers The Method and Madness of Monsters by Peter Vronsky!!!! I got this one for X-mas some years back and read the entire thing in two days and it’s about 1.5-2 inches thick. Vronsky was a freelance documentary/video journalist who ran into the Times Square Torso Ripper and Chikatilo before they were caught even!!! It’s such an animated read!!!!
NICK: I’ll look into that one. I’ll read anything that you’ll find on an FBI Watch List. Someday I’d like to start an FBI Watch List Book Club. We could read the latest Peter Sotos yarn while sipping tea and touching ourselves.
DOTDR: That'd be great actually. I’ve always wanted to find and talk to people who actually have weird perversions like feces and such. I used to work on my junior college campus before transferring to UCSD as a teaching assistant for chemistry and my boss at the time told me some wild story. She went to UNLV in the 80’s to get a masters in business, she’d spent most of her career up to that point working in banks and was working at one of the major ones in Vegas and going to classes at night.
She said that every Monday the line to get in the bank would be wrapped around the block before they opened and was mostly prostitutes and “entertainer/escorts” depositing wads of large bills into their accounts. One day one of them felt compelled to tell my boss during the deposit about something interesting that happened to her friend that week/end. Apparently Engelbert Humperdink has a fetish that creeps the women out so the hotels have to mask him as a client and the prices he will pay are ridiculous as a result, but he HAS to have it. It turns out that he has a large glass table and pays the girl to shit on the table and rub herself in it, completely naked, while he jerks off lying directly underneath.
NICK: That sounds like something he’d be into. I mean I don’t know much about him, but I’m never surprised when you find out some big star is really a degenerate libertine. It makes them a lot more interesting, and it puts a new spin on their body of work. The silent film star Clara Bow was into bestiality and incest. A more recent example would be Mel Gibson. You and I remember him being hailed as “the sexiest man alive”, but today he’ll best be remembered as this verbally cruel sadist who makes these fetishitistically violent films that are supposed to be testaments to his spirituality, which makes them even more lurid and insane. It’s the duality of L.A. in corporeal form; the glamour and material wealth layered over a city teeming with violence and sex.
DOTDR: The whole Humperdink scandal actually sent a panic wave through the adult entertainers in the city/county for some time too. Just the smell of someone taking a shit makes my vomit reflex kick in.
NICK: It just seems so messy. It doesn’t really bother me that much, as long as I don’t have to clean it up. They don’t show that part in scat porn; the clean up. It’s just *plop* then fade to the next scene. Like cumming on a girl’s face in real life is no where near as hot as in the movies. In the movie, her eyes are wide open, she flicking her tongue, begging, lapping it up etc. in real life her eyes and mouth are clamped shut, like she’s bracing the pus-launch of a lanced abscess. Then you have to find a towel, clean her off… just kills the moment.
DOTDR: Yeah, it's definitely an aversion of mine. I once worked at a local healthfood store chain my first year in college and had to clean up after some old lady with dementia wandered into our womens bathroom, dropped her diaper and shit all over the place. Being the only girl on the closing shift I was stuck cleaning it and I almost cleaned out a weeks worth of digestion doing so, I CAN'T handle the smell.
Anyway, speaking of banned books and oddity novels.I recently took an art class my graduating term and came up with the idea of carrying a camera with me to take pictures of peoples plumber cracks. I see peoples cracks all the time and it’s seriously nasty!!! I thought it’d be great to enlarge all of the images of just the butt and pants (to avoid legal issues) and present it as a wall covering or “installation piece” titled “Crack is Whack” or “Smile…Your on Candid Camera”, maybe it'd be a good book too?
NICK: That would make a nice coffee table book. I think calling it just “Smile” would be more mysterious and artsy. Some girl that was friends with Joe said she wanted to take pictures of our feet during one of our shows. That’s what she did; took pictures of musicians’ feet. I think she said she just did PJ Harvey. I don’t think she came out to our show, but then again no one does *rimshot*.
DOTDR: Feet are nasty!!! I’ve gotten the whole foot fetish thing and also can’t stand people wearing flip-flops, but to actually take pictures of peoples feet seems a bit odd even for my tastes.
NICK: I’m an ass man, myself. Ass and beauty marks.
DOTDR: That's really funny as a friend of mine, Adam, also has an ass fetish!!!! He likes 'em big and heart shaped.
Anyway, I have to force myself to cut this off here or we both will go on forever and it will never post. Is there anything you’d like to add in closing?
NICK: Sorry we got off the rails here, but interviews where the band talks about nothing but themselves are boring anyway. THE COMMUNION’s latest LP A Desired Level of Unease is available now from Prison Tatt Records (http://www.prisontatt.com). At the end of September we’ll be playing a showcase for the label @ the Meatlocker in New Jersey. Earlier this year we also released a split 3 inch CDR w/ GECK through the label Petite Soles (there’s feet again) (http://petitesoles.blogspot.com/). Fair warning; the 3inch is a complete noisecore release on our part. We recently slapped together a CDR sampler of material from recent releases (and one cover tune) called Pornography. Satan. Abuse, and we’ll be doing a little sprint of East Coast dates in mid-October. We’re looking to hit the recording studio towards the end of the year to put several new songs to tape, one of them hopefully being our first tried-and-true attempt at a doom song. Next year we’re planning to hit the road a couple of times and maybe get a new record out. And last but not least we have a few splits in the works; a tape with industrial noise act Winters in Osaka and another big one that can’t be announced just yet. Be sure to hit us up on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/THE-COMMUNION/109389099107127) , bandcamp (http://thecommunion.bandcamp.com/) , big cartel (http://thecommunion.bigcartel.com/), and tumblr (http://rosestemcatheter.tumblr.com/) for constant updates on shows, releases, and so forth.
DOTDR: It’s been a fucking hoot doing this with you!!! You gave me too much info in the start that I just had get in on it all.
NICK: You too, Janet. Thanks for the interest. Keep this site going!
DOTDR: I will by dogongoddamnedest to keep it running.