Teddie Taylor interviews Sex Prisoner
Tucson, Arizona’s Sex Prisoner take the abrasiveness of the Sonoran and convert it into a sweltering sound as short-lived as the sunset on the desert horizon. In 2016, their brilliantly cacophonous Tannhäuser Gate became an immediate staple in any powerviolence/hardcore collector’s vinyl library; the quartet have honed their sound into something dense, unhinged and cathartic. Having played with a list of bands that ranges from metal neighbors Gatecreeper to hardcore brethren Iron Reagan, Sex Prisoner indulge both the most metal and the most punk of audiences. Before unleashing a 15-minute barrage of noise onto Austin Terror Fest, they left their beers behind to talk about Weekend Nachos, weightlifting and Blade Runner.
What were your first introductions to hardcore/powerviolence/etc.?
Kyle Kennedy: My cousin showed me. He introduced me to hardcore and punk. I guess I kind of knew about punk from the mainstream, like Blink-182 and stuff like that, but he showed me more real punk. Bands like Youth of Today, Anal Cunt…
Oh, that’s good for however old you were at the time! [Laughs]
Kyle: I was probably ten. [Laughs] Yeah, I just had an interest in it and continued to research. I just genuinely liked it so I continued to do it and here I am now in Austin, Texas about to scream into a microphone to a bunch of strangers!
Matt Underwood: I’d probably say I found out about the more generic 80s hardcore bands like Minor Threat and Bad Brains just by association from friends wearing their shirts and wondering what that was in middle school.
Kevin Kennedy: And I’m the same as him (Kyle). We’re brothers. Our cousin showed me.
Kyle: He might have been 8 when he learned about Anal Cunt. [Laughs]
Kevin: He took us to a throwdown or a Terror show when I was like 10 or 11. That was kind of eye opening for myself. I can’t speak for you, but yeah, that’s probably when I really got into it and started enjoying it.
Kyle: I started going to shows when I was like 12. I was hanging out with some girls who took me to this shitty punk show in Tucson and I liked it. It was a bunch of weirdos having a good time.
Chase Mason from Gatecreeper was on your latest album (Tannhäuser Gate). Do the metal and punk scenes in Arizona overlap a lot?
Kyle: Yeah, I’d say so. Especially in Tucson. We’re a mid-sized city, probably smaller than Austin. People who are into hardcore, our paths cross more frequently than, say, if you were in LA or New York. You know a lot of people with a lot of different preferences and styles of music that they play. A lot of people in Tucson are diverse in music taste, so, yeah, shows tend to be pretty diverse.
How did you guys end up with A389?
Matt: The Bash, right? He invited us out.
Kyle: Yeah, he (Domenic Romeo) somehow heard our band and really liked us and invited us out to play a fest.
Matt: He really liked Weekend Nachos, because he always brought them, and then John from Weekend Nachos put out our 7”. I think by association Dom found out about it and invited us to his 10 year bash.
Kyle: After that, he pressed us to do the LP that we have. We weren’t actually going to do an LP. We’re kind of lazy. [Laughs]
Matt: That’s what he wanted, though.
Kyle: Yeah, he was like, I want you guys to do an LP. It was like, Uh, alright. So, we did an LP and actually he didn’t end up putting it out because he downsized.
Do any of you guys have side projects?
Kevin: Kyle. He just recorded this industrial metal crazy shit.
Kyle: Yeah, I have an industrial metal LP that I just recorded. It’s called Realize. It sounds like Godflesh.
Kevin: It sounds insane.
Matt: I’m in a space-rock band called Hikikomori. Just like 90s revival kind of stuff. Gilbert’s actually in the band too. We both play guitar and sing.
And then you (Kevin) just have this? [Laughs]
Kevin: This is me, yeah.
Kyle: Kevin lifts weights…
Kevin: I lift weights. I used to play drums back in the day, but gave that up to play football. And then I got kicked off the football team…
Kyle: Which is why Kevin’s in the band in the first place.
Kevin: This is why I’m here. No musical talent and that’s why I do vocals.
Kyle: He’s just aggravated. He’s just aggressive on stage.
Still mad because you got kicked off the football team? [Laughs]
Kevin: The varsity football team…
What do you hope people come away with at your shows?
Kyle: We want people to come out and have a good time.
Kevin: Just to have fun. That’s all it is. Let loose and hang out with friends. That’s why we do it ourselves.
Kyle: It’s a hobby for us. This is a creative outlet for us. We like expressing ourselves with this band and playing shows is fun, so if people want to come to shows and have fun too, that’s perfect. It’s just a way to express ourselves.
Kevin: Yeah, we don’t have any, like, underlying political message. We want you to have fun. We’re having fun. Let’s all be friends. There’s nothing to it. You guys like the same style of music…
Kyle: Short, fast aggressive, loud… Just an intense 10 minutes of a set.
Kevin: Swallow your aggressions for 10 minutes and then we’ll go drink beers afterwards.
Kyle: Now we’re all fucked up and now let’s drink some IPA and howl at the moon.
Matt: It’s impulsive, you know?
Kyle: Abrasive, impulsive, raw, aggressive: I guess those are adjectives that we try to convey on stage. In terms of audience takeaway, just drinkin’ beer, howlin’ at the moon. WHOOP WHOOP!
Kevin: Don’t put that in there. Do not put that shit.
I’m going to put in an audio clip of that exact noise.
Kyle: That’s the party whoop. Put in the party whoop.
With the end of Weekend Nachos and…isn’t ACxDC done…? Do you think the vacancy in the scene affects you guys?
Matt: I mean, we’ll miss playing with them but I don’t think so.
Kyle: Kind of the end of an era, but not really. I think there are a lot of great powerviolence bands that came before them and are defunct and the genre of music still carried on. Kids will still like it. It’s opportunity. They’ll progress the music and continue to play it. Music in that vein and attitude, it’ll carry on. It’s just an opportunity for kids to come up and do their own thing.
Tannhäuser Gate was released last year, but have you already started working on something else?
Kevin: We already recorded a split with HAYMAKER that Deep Six is going to put out. That should be out very shortly–in the next month or two. Beyond that, we’ve talked about doing numerous splits with other bands, but I don’t know if we’ve announced them yet.
Kyle: Yeah, we haven’t announced it but we have a couple splits lined up. We’ll probably record two or three songs. It’ll be stupid. They’ll be dumb songs. [Laughs] People will like them though. They’ll be like, Yeah, I want to put on combat boots and headwalk. Those types of songs.
Kevin: Nothing like an LP or anything.
What are some new releases that you guys have been listening to?
Matt: We’re sitting next to Genocide Pact over there – their LP came out before ours, but they’re also in D.O.C. (Disciples of Christ). They put out a 7” on Iron Lung and it rips. Really good, fast grindcore.
Kevin: I’ve been listening to Harley Flanagan’s Cro-Mags. Great record. It’s a fantastic record. Super ignorant. I’ve been listening to that a lot lately. A lot of Ringworm, too.
Gilbert: Hi guys.
Kyle: Give her a “cult” record that you like. State one.
Kyle: Within the last three years.
Gilbert: Pretty much anything from Shit. I listen to Shit a lot. I love that band.
Kyle: Godflesh reunited and came out with an LP in 2014. I liked that one.
Gilbert: That record Cigarette Burns from White Wards, as well, is really great.
Matt: Iron Lung hardcore stuff is awesome.
Kevin: Blink-182. I liked California. That’s what it’s called right?
Gilbert: Saves the Day. Get Up Kids.
Kyle: No! Those aren’t new. Let’s see… Juicy J – Stay Trippy. That was 2014?
Kevin: That’s a good record. Freddy Gibbs – Cocaine Piñata.
Last serious question: Since your record’s name comes from Blade Runner, what do you think about the reboot?
Kyle: I don’t think it’s necessary, but I’m curious to see that they do with the story. I’m going to watch it.
Gilbert: Same, I think it could rock.
Kyle: I like the director who’s doing it. He did Sicario which is a badass movie. It could be a good movie. It could be entertaining, but the story itself…eh… I thought the way it ended was so perfect.