Having been a fan for almost a decade and having corresponded with mastermind Trevor Vaughan for half of that time, I only saw Wound Man live for the first time this past September. The gig was held at a taqueria in New Bedford, the official home of MA Glory. With support from otherwise-headliners Tossed Aside and Peace Test, the densely packed event was destined to be a riot, with sound and skulls bouncing off the terracotta and Talavera.
To truly experience the profundity of Wound Man’s brilliance, one should be shoulder to shoulder in a crowd crush with equally sweaty and snarling enthusiasts, moving involuntarily, as if on a ship weathering a storm. Here, instead of drumming on the steering wheel or pumping iron, one can experience the liver-level energy glow of music that is vicious in a truly animal sense. Vaughan’s writing, for Wound Man especially, manages to shoot straight to the lizard brain, hitting the listener’s psyche and instigating an irrepressible fight response. This is music to fuck up your mailman to.
In around ten years of recording, Wound Man has secured a place among the all-time greats of powerviolence and hardcore, drawing more comparisons to the first generation genre-progenitors like Crossed Out and No Comment than to its contemporaries, and it has everything to do with the timeless and time-distorting qualities of Vaughan’s compositions. Having been a fixture in New England hardcore for the subgenre’s formative years, and never shying away from creative risks, Wound Man’s Trevor Vaughan manages to write songs that, release after release, become definitive testaments to the vitality of hardcore as an art form.
Four years after releasing a split with Regional Justice Center, a MITB/CAPCAS of its era that will, no doubt, be listed among the greatest splits in hardcore history for the rest of time, Wound Man’s Human Outline shows a band whose songwriting has matured. Knowing their legacy is secure, that no one can threaten the place they have carved out for themselves in the powerviolence pantheon, the all-star lineup that makes up Wound Man sounds effortless and passionate while playing a batch of songs that have been workshopped for years.
What sets Human Outline apart from so many contemporary hardcore releases is the confidence to play with tempos in a real and intentional way. While the fast-slow-fast trope is definitive in modern powerviolence, Wound Man gives these songs room to breathe fire with Infest and Despise You and to spew smoke with Eyehategod sludge and Candlemass doom sections that bend the walls. Instead of just slowing down the fast parts or just speeding up the slow parts, Wound Man is thoughtful about just how much venom can be wrung from tonally monstrous notes, about how to induce cardiac arrhythmia with counter-intuitive drum patterns, and about how best to effect a feeling of vengeful catharsis in the listener.
These songs have been marinated in a thick molasses of blood, bile, and bone marrow for years. They are ugly, they are misanthropic, and they are, above all, real. Beyond being the strongest hardcore powerviolence release in modern memory, the dedication, sincerity, and raw talent on Human Outline is a new textbook in angry music that will provide course material for new punks for generations.
Trevor Vaughan talked with Cvlt Nation about Human Outline.
For many of your projects for the last few years, you have been the sole musician responsible for all instruments, but for Human Outline, you work with Dean Forsythe, Jake Murphy, and Justin DeTore, along with having Jensen Ward and Nolan Cambra contribute some vocals. How is the writing/recording process different when you’re working alone vs. working with others?
It’s not much different really, I’m still the big man in charge, so I boss everyone around and get what I want. It probably sucks for them.
Though you’ve released a handful of critically-acclaimed splits and EPs in the meantime, this is Wound Man’s first LP since 2016’s Perimeter. Do you feel any pressure about this sophomore LP? How do you approach putting a longer album together?
Actually, Jensen hit me up to work on a new Wound Man LP years ago and of course I said yes right away. The problem was I didn’t feel I could write a new WM record at the time. I was working on other projects and just didn’t have it in me. I had a couple riffs but I didn’t want to force write just because I was asked. I think the record would’ve really shit the bed if I had. So we waited until the time was right and I finally felt it again. Hopefully the wait paid off.
This is your first Iron Lung release since 2018’s Prehistory. What has it been like to collaborate with Jensen Ward?
He’s an imbecile. I love the guy. Obviously super passionate about everything he releases but I don’t have to tell you that. It’s nice to know the homie putting out your music cares about it just as much as you do.
While your musical projects cover a lot of ground, from boom bap to cottagecore, the closest project to Wound Man stylistically is Internal, which has received a lot of attention for its brilliant releases since the start of quarantine. When writing songs, how do you know when you’re writing an Internal song vs. a Wound Man song?
Well, most of Internal’s releases were written drums first, riffs second. I didn’t do that for the Internal 7” Primal State. That one was a classic approach of actually sitting down and riffing/demo’ing, much like Wound Man. With WM, we go one step further, and I demo the tracks a few times and make revisions, while taking song structure opinions from DFJ and the boys. That extra element of “care” is what sets the bands apart, for me.
A significant portion of Wound Man lyrics focus on human nature, evolution/devolution, and extinction, topics that are more relevant now than ever. Is that intentional, and are those themes further explored on Human Outline? If so, how, and what are other areas you’re exploring?
Man, I used to be so shit at lyrics. Actually I still am, but I figure if I go ambiguous enough, it’ll make me sound cooler. And that’s exactly what I did on Human Outline. Lyrically it’s my best work. You nailed the themes. Just add a dash of hatred and depression and that’s WM.
Jaw Bone Session was actually a promo for the LP even though it was released ages ago. Another revisited track “drifter” from one of the first WM demos, always felt like our strongest song live and we really wanted to have a definite version of it on this record.
Speaking of evolution, how does Human Outline build on what Wound Man has done before?
I feel like Human Outline is more focused. A little more broken-in. And actually I approached the tone of the record differently than all the other Wound Man recordings as well. We wanted it to sound a little brighter and more “classic hardcore.”
Hardcore and powerviolence are more popular than they have been for a long time. Why do you think that is? What do you love about hardcore and powerviolence right now? What should change?
Yea it seems so. Probably due to the internet right? I mean there’s TikTok’s and memes etc about hc/pv shit and, once you can ingest these addictive little nuggets of comedy or art, it seems really easy for people to get into it.
What I love about hardcore: really, it’s the riffs for me. Loud and hard, it’s always hit me in the chest when it does hit. As far as what should change I think we should have a system where old people get fucking booted out (I’d get that boot as well) like literally anyone with a receding hairline should get their asses beat by 16 year olds at shows. And we would all retire to shitty “back in the day” festivals where we belong.
What should people know about Wound Man? About Human Outline?
We mean business. This record wasn’t written in jest. It’s hard music for dumbasses.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Thank you Ev for this interview. MA Glory, NBHC
Human Outline was recorded and mixed at The Meat Market by Trevor Vaughan.
Album art is by Dean Forsythe. Photos are by Return to the Pit.