Grind Summit – Chris Dodge from Infest and SIEGE drummer/lyricist Robert Williams discuss forthcoming shows
By now you’ve probably heard – Boston’s proto-grind pioneers SIEGE are returning to the stage with a run of what are sure to be sold-out performances, this first one with LA powerviolence legends INFEST and politi-punk stalwarts Dropdead in Providence this July. Lunglust vocalist and lifelong fan of both bands, Jeffrey J. Sykes, sat down with SIEGE drummer/lyricist Robert Williams and Infest guitarist Chris Dodge to get the tipoff before the pending explosion.
Jeff Sykes: Chris, how do you feel about performing on the same bill with SIEGE, and Robert, how do you feel about playing a show with Infest?
Chris Dodge: I typically don’t like to speak on behalf of the band, but without hesitation I can say this is a big deal for all of us. We were all heavily influenced by Siege since the demo circulated in the ‘80s. In a time when hardcore bands were slowly losing their edge, Siege was one of the few that still pushed the envelope, creating music that was faster and more aggressive. The demo was a landmark even at that time, but then when the tracks on the Cleanse The Bacteria compilation hit the streets, the bar had been raised even higher. The fact that just a small handful of recorded output could have such staying power speaks volumes. As a straight up fan, I’m as excited to see this band now more than ever.
Rob Williams: Infest is one of those bands as a fan I would’ve made a road trip to see if this shit weren’t happening. Anyone who knows this music knows Joe is the man. I was first turned on to their records by Bob from Deep6, who sent me a package of vinyl in the mail, and I’m always pumped to hear bands who have stuck with the true traditions of this music – savage destruction of their instruments along with a challenging but positive message of social consciousness.
What material or songs are each of you guys most excited about bringing to live audiences?
CD: All of it. We get folks coming out who remember the band from the ‘80s, as well as a whole new crowd of young kids, and they all seem equally as excited. You’ve got 40 and 50 year olds stage diving and singing along right next to 16 year olds. It’s awesome to see it span generations. If it was just the same self-proclaimed “old guys” coming out to each show, it would seem more like a weird nostalgia show and we probably wouldn’t be playing any more.
RW: Well, the addition of a 2nd guitarist (Chris Leamy of Brain Famine, Japanese Torture Comedy Hour) has significantly raised the caliber of this assault, and added a whole dimension to how we’re interpreting the catalog live. (SIEGE guitarist/co-songwriter) Kurt Habelt is able to open up and play a bit more lead guitar, and it’s really broadened the power. But personally, to play ‘Grim Reaper’ live with saxophone again has been the most amazing part for me. It feels as if I’ve been waiting for that moment of freedom of that chaotic noise part at the ending of the piece for all of my post-SIEGE musical life, and to be actually be sharing it again has been…explosively cathartic.
So what circumstances or behind-the-scenes events led to the decision for each of these bands to return to the stage?
RW: A miraculous convergence, really; Habelt’s wrist injury from when he got handcuffed by cops got better, and all of the guys in this lineup, it seems to me, were sick of seeing a significant percentage of their musician friends die or become fucking drug addicts. The posthumous worship of insensitive-joke-grind-band bullshit some of our peers had plummeted to had become like a broken record to me, also. The destination is to do, and say, something serious, really – isn’t it? But most of all – the fans’ mounting attention reached critical mass and it’s been, like, sweeping the performers into the wave of the truth of the magnitude of their love for this musical movement.
CD: It was organic; not planned at all. I was playing with Matt and Bob in a band called Low Threat Profile. In 2012, we needed a vocalist, and Joe was just moving back to SoCal from AZ. The plan was for Joe to be in LTP. To get warmed up, those guys ran through a couple Infest songs. It felt right, so they tried it out a few more times. Then they asked me to join. We practiced for about 7 months before doing the first show, because we wanted to be sure it was solid. Actually, after a rough practice or two early on, those guys talked about pulling the plug, but it eventually gelled and we got to a point where we felt confident about the set. The first show was Jan 2013 at The Echo in Los Angeles and it’s been full speed ahead since then.
What’s been the best live show or the best part of your favorite live show from this recent phase?
CD: They’ve all been good for different reasons. I’m not trying to “suck up” to the Nor’Easterners by saying this, but the Boston show at Hardcore Stadium last summer was hands down one of the best. So much energy, so much controlled mayhem, all positive. I’ve played in a lot of bands and these shows are by far some of my favorites I’ve ever played. I’m damn lucky to be part of it.
RW: Y’know what? I’m going to have to go with that show as well. Sitting in with Dropdead at MDF was just ideal; they are a skull crushing, political machine. But in Boston during one of the opening bands I saw some kid do an olympic swan-dive off a PA cab which was set on top of this wobbly little table, and it was positively fucking beautiful.
Additional SIEGE dates in NYC are soon to be announced, and INFEST continue their musical death march across the US. – J.S.