First off, I just wanted to congratulate you and the rest of the band on putting out such a dense fucking record. It really has it’s own style and sound, yet one can definitely see some influences shine forth from metal forefathers. When you guys had the initial discussion of forming this project, was there a specific sound or style you guys were looking to do? Or was it more of let’s get into the practice space, drink some beer and see what comes to form?
Joe: Thanks for the kind words about the record, and I’m glad you enjoy it. We started this band with the idea and sole purpose of not wasting any time, hitting the road ASAP and touring as much as possible. We collectively don’t see a point in being in a band unless you are touring and traveling as much as you can. We’re motherfucking Road Dogs. That’s where we feel most comfortable and what we like to do with our lives. So we spent time writing and making music, but instead of taking the time to develop the band and get working on recording and releasing music, like most bands do at the beginning, we spent a lot of days in our practice space writing with the purpose of getting a set of about 20 minutes and going out hard after that. Our first tour was with Portland/Seattle-based grind badasses Transient about 5 months after we started the band! Theories initially started with me and our first guitar player in the old Skarp/Book of Black Earth practice space, and we talked over who we thought would be good fit for the rest of the band. Our first choices for vocals and bass were Rick and Kusha, who have been in the band since the beginning and still are!! When we first started, I remember I had a few bands (I will leave unnamed) that I “totally wanted to use as inspiration at first to get our writing styles down.” I was dead set on these bands stylistically, but we ended up sounding absolutely nothing like them, haha.
I’ve always been a sucker for good band names and often tend to think that the name should at least encompass their vision and concept to a degree. That being said, the name “Theories” stands out from the usual metal/grind core band names these days. Was there a particular reason you guys went for this one, say over others?
Joe: Totally. I wanted the name of the band to be nondescript. I didn’t want to go with anything typical or “brutal” sounding. I also didn’t want the name to give away what we sound like at all. The name came from the fact that myself and most of the of the others dudes in Theories are super into conspiracy theories and government secrets – things of that nature – which obviously is where the name Theories came from.
In regards to the new album, the sound you managed to achieve from your kit is absolutely unreal. I’m not kidding you when I say it was the first thing I really picked up on during my initial listen to the new album. For all the drummer and technical nerds out there, care to run down what you’re drum kit is composed of?
Joe: Thanks and sure. On this recording I’m using a standard sized Tama Star Classic kit, 22 x 18 inch kick 3 rack toms (10, 12, 13) one floor tom (16) a Dunnet Custom Stainless Steel 14 x 5 1/2 inch Snare, Speed Cobra double kick pedals, for cymbals: my main hi hats are Zildjian 14 inch dark, my aux hi hats are Paiste 13 inch prototypes, Crashes are 17 and 18 inch Sabian AAX, Center China is a Zildjian Oriental 18 inch, stage right china is a Sabian Holy China 17 inch, Iuse 3 splashes, WuHan 6 inch, Zildjian 6inch and a Sabian B8 4 inch. I also used a zildjian ice bell and an alu-bell. I could talk all day about drums, but this interview is about Theories, so if you wanna know more I have a page on the sickdrummer.com web site y’all can visit.
With the recording and mixing aspect of the record, how important and valuable was to it to work with Derek Moore and Scott Hull to achieve not only your individual sound, but the album’s sound as a whole?
Joe: We worked with Derek Moree on our demo as well. Derek is a great engineer, very professional and easy to work with. I suggest him to anyone in the Seattle area! Working with Scott Hull was also great. He was our first choice in who we wanted to do the mix/master with. We didn’t know if he would be down, so we just sent him an email and were pretty stoked when he said yes. Scott has a way of dirtying up the records he works on in the perfect way. We’re a death grind band, our music is dirty and we feel that the production should be as well. I don’t mean dirty in the sense of sounding bad and ugly, but dirty in the sense that the music we write shouldn’t be polished or over produced. Scott is a master at taking tracks, adding a layer of filth to it but still keeping it so each instrument can be heard separately and well enough to know exactly what’s going on. We owe a lot to them for how the record turned out and we couldn’t have been happier with the results.
Signing to Metal Blade is a pretty lofty triumph for any band. They truly are home to some of the best underground metal bands out there and I really can’t think of any other label (outside of maybe Relapse) that can offer the support in which they can. How did this all come about for you guys? Has it really hit you guys yet that you’ll be label mates with some of the titans of extreme music?
Joe: It’s definitely an honor to be a part of the Metal Blade family. They have been around as long as I have been alive and have released some of the most important records in metal! We came to their attention through an email sent by Andy Rice and through our performance at Maryland Death Fest. Our name was on the flyer, and they checked us out because of that, and that started our initial dialogue. Working with them has been great. Everyone I have spoken with or had any business to attend to at the label has been super friendly and helpful, plus its awesome to have a relationship with a label of that size that (although they are a business) doesn’t treat you like employees. They’re all fans of metal and extreme music; they actually back us and like the music we play. I only have good things to say…. I don’t know what they would say about me if you asked them, though. When I get ideas about band-related stuff I get really excited and can’t think about anything else until I bring it up, which has led to many 4am text messages to Kelli and Vince at the label, which I’m sure drives them crazy.
I’m also going to make the inevitable comparison, but I saw that you were rocking an Assuck t-shirt in some of the album’s photos. Your style, from your raw speed, blast beats and fills, reminds me so much of Rob Proctor. That being said, how fucking good was Rob Proctor and does anyone really know what happened to him? I know he was in Crucible and Anthem Eighty-Eight for a while, but after that it’s like he just walked off into the sunset.
Joe: Rob Proctor was and still is to this day one of my drumming heroes. I started playing aggressive drums in my bedroom when I first moved to Seattle. Being taught by my old roommate Isaac Davis (Fall Of The Bastards, Superbad), he taught me how to play double kick and blast beats. Actually, the first real blast beat I played was along to the song “Salt Mines” off Misery Index by ASSUCK. I have no clue what Rob Proctor is doing now, probably what most drummers of our genre are doing. Sitting somewhere in pain due to all of the medical problems caused by this style of drumming!!
Grindcore has this ability to be both political and personal in terms of lyrical content. It’s always been the harsh, sped up rage against a dying, apathetic world. For a grind aficionado such as yourself, what does grindcore mean to you? Is it the love of playing the music, or is it an actual outlet for emotions? In addition to that, what were some of the records that really influenced your love of grindcore during your younger years?
Joe: It’s music, plain and simple. It has the ability to make you feel or not feel a certain way. I believe the politics behind it are specific band to band. And the records that got me into it? I’m in my 30s, I’m sure you can guess.
You also handle the business aspect of Theories, correct? Was this a role in the band that you wanted to handle, or was it more that you drew the short straw? Also, are there any lessons you’ve learned or advice that you can offer to those bands who are unfamiliar with what can be a rather shocking and brutal realization of how the underground music business can be?
Joe: Haha, no, I didn’t pick the short straw. It’s just something I’ve done with a majority of the bands I’ve played in. When I was younger and in my first few bands, I did it because I was really interested in the business side of making music, i.e. booking, releasing records, and everything that goes with it. You can be as underground and D.I.Y. as you want, but there is a shitload of business and responsibility that comes with being in a band of any size that plans on being active, touring, putting out records and having merchandise. I continued to be “that guy” with bands I played in and still do it with Theories. But the dudes in this band do a ton of work as well. This is the first band I’ve been in (note: I’m in no way talking shit about anyone in any of the other bands I’ve played in) where everyone in the band does their share of the “behind the scenes” work, mostly because everyone in Theories has wanted to and enjoys busting their asses as well. Rad dudes! Advice to anyone? I dunno, I feel kinda pompous giving “advice” so…. figure it out your damn self.
You’ve been at this whole thrashing in a band and spreading your virus across the US for some time. In terms of touring, is there any particular stretch of highway or state that you absolutely fear setting foot in? I always hated traveling through Ohio, just based on everything looking the same, but that’s me, I guess. Are there any local scenes that have blown your mind that might not get the spotlight in terms of national recognition due to their geographic location?
Joe: I had a terrifying experience in Paducah, Kentucky (an extremely church-run town), involving Baphomet on the back of my jacket, some “good ol’ boys” and some cops. Also, I always get nervous driving through that stretch in the southwest where there’s checkpoints, and crossing any borders always makes me sweat. As for local scenes that blow my mind…I’m always taken aback playing in smaller towns with underground punk/grind scenes. I love small town shows.
During our initial email correspondence, you mentioned that you’re also a bartender, which kinda stuck out to me, as I’ve been in the restaurant-bar business as well for about ten years. This question is going to be a little tricky, as we’re both on opposite ends of the United States, so our respective clientele and scene is a little different. There has been a push lately to raise the minimum wage for tip-based employees and in some cases, outright eliminating the entire process of tipping based on a “livable salary.” Out here in NYC, the minimum wage is being raised for tipped employees to $7.50 an hour by the end of the year. That being said, since you make part of your living off of tips, what are you thoughts on this issue? Should America join in with Europe and other countries and abandon the tip-based system? Also, and while this doesn’t really have to do with the last question, as a bartender, what is your least favorite cocktail to make? I’m going to take a wild guess and say Mojito, but you might surprise me on this one.
Joe: Haha, coincidentally, I have made a point to never work at a bar that has fresh mint. I have never made a mojito and I stand strongly that I will never have to. I mean, I have had to make way more time-consuming and irritating drinks, but something about the mojito…. it just makes me angry. As for the raised minimum wage, I’m torn on that. While I know that it’s helped the economy per city in the past when minimum wages are raised, it also directly affects small businesses in a way that makes it harder for them to stay open. I work for tips mostly, my checks are so small that they don’t really affect me too badly one way or another. That’s a topic that can take up a whole interview….
Thanks for the interview and for being an awesome guy, Joe!! Catch THEORIES on Facebook and live tonight in Seattle at the Decibel Magazine Tour show!