|Fucked Up in Seattle (All Cat Rose photos)|
It was a sight to behold.
Damian Abraham squinted his eyes as he pressed his mini butane blowtorch and carefully aimed it at his marijuana pipe. As the blue-gold-red stream of fire hit its target, the Fucked Up singer's eyes lit up and a satisfied smile formed on his face.
Bassist Sandy Miranda lifted her head up from her laptop, glanced over at Abraham's red-hot show and grinned. She turned to me and drummer Jonah Falco and noted that the colorful spectacle looked cool, as the faint smell of pot filled the air backstage at Barboza in Seattle before Friday night's gig.
About an hour later, Abraham might as well have had that torch in his hand while raging like cannabis ablaze to Fucked Up's wall-of-sound onslaught that leveled the sold-out crowd. If one of Fucked Up's faves Jerry A from Poison Idea was in the house, he probably would have coaxed Abraham into trying some fire breathing with that torch.
So the Toronto, Ontario punk band was in town for two shows to showcase its brain-gouging "Hidden World" LP in its entirety. The 13 songs clock in at 72:33, kicking off with "Crusades" and crushing everything in its path from there. "Carried Out to the Sea" is a standout track and the three-pronged guitar attack of Ben Cook, Mike Haliechuk and Josh Zucker nailed that one and the rest live on Friday.
I caught up with them for a spell to discuss what that album meant to them when it was released in 2006 and how it connects with them now.
The band’s latest 12-inch in the Zodiac series — “Year of the Snake” — will be released this week on Tankcrimes.
-- What's the significance of that album and why now? How does it feel to be doing these tunes?
Damian: If feels weird to be doing it certainly 10 years on looking back on it. At one point, when 'Crusades' was written, it was meant to be 'Crusades' and 'Cascades.' We were gonna have two albums and those were gonna be the final things we were gonna put out. I just never thought, given that the self destruction of the band was sewn into its DNA, to be looking back on that song and that whole record 10 years later just feels completely surreal.
Jonah: For me, playing it 10 years later is like trying to go back in time with your body. The reason I say that is that I helped write some of the music on 'Hidden World' and was there for all the practices, crafting those songs and in the studio, but I didn't know how to play drums the way I know how to play drums now. And having to go back to things that you write as an inexperienced person and decisions you make and conclusions you come to as an inexperienced performer, it's kind of hard to recreate. It's really hard to play these songs, actually, as a person that 'knows what they're doing.' So 10 years later, it's kind of a challenge to codify all the loose information into something that translates to the way we are as a band now. It's a good challenge.
Damian: It's always kind of dishonest when a band goes back to their original sound years after the fact because it has to be disingenuous because you do evolve as a musician, as a player. Even me, with my lack of all musical ability, looking back on these songs now, I'm like, 'Oh, it's weird to see where I thought that should be placed in the song' or that phrasing that I tried there. It's almost like a naive brilliance that I think every band kinda has, and that's why no band is ever the same or arguably as good as on their first record.
-- What about the songs themselves as far as lyric-wise? Do you find when you go back to these songs, you get maybe a different meaning out of it that you didn't originally intend or something that went on in the world that sticks with it now?
Damian: Yeah, definitely. I think that anyone who plays in a punk band, looking at the world in 2017 is kinda like, 'I told you so.' And a lot of rap artists, too. And metal artists, too. And regular artists. I think at the same time, I'm shocked at how undated some of the lyrics I wrote were. I think one of the good things about the way Mike and I both decided to write really early on is that the songs aren't really tied to a moment. We're writing about things larger than us and also writing about things that ... beyond the first couple songs we were writing. The early, early stuff was very tied to times and places in our lives, but as we were going on, especially by the time 'Hidden World' came around, we were writing about religion or writing about our relationship to nature or our relationship to religion. I think the only thing that does shine through is some of the drug references, and given how inexperienced Mike and I were with drugs then versus now. Where we are in some cases -- not mine -- psychedelic warriors.
-- (They've been playing the 'Hidden World' album on short tours for the last six months...)
Jonah: The first taste of this was when we were opening for the Descendents, which was also a really cool way to sort of ease into doing this whole 10-year shtick 'cause obviously, 10 years ago we were different people, and 10 years before that we were all finding out about the Descendents or really learning about what had happened in punk and what was still happening in punk. Being in their shadow every night and starting to play our old material was a really good warmup. For me anyway, it helped bridge the gap between being jaded and old and being a bit mystified by the horrible reality of what you've done... 'I have to do this again, oh, no!'
--- It's a good album to revisit? Do you find yourself thinking back about the time that you guys wrote it and where you were and where you are now? Has it been a growth process?
Jonah: When I think about where I was when these songs were written, I usually find myself sort of cringing or muttering something to myself, and I'm so much more comfortable as a player and a person now so it's really nice to sort of like conquer those insecurities. Definitely thinking back of being in the studio and getting upset about tuning or structures or have something that's supposed to happen-- it all seems really petty and really see the bigger picture now with these songs. It's not only that, obviously, time helps you evaluate things, but I do appreciate being able to draw back in on myself and everybody else.
-- It is a good gauge of time just to even think about it. For me, I work for a newspaper, so if I was to look back on stories that I wrote 10 years ago, I could probably say, 'Well, I'm much better doing this now than I was then,' and maybe back then there was something that went on in your life that you thought about.
Damian: I have no memories of 'Chemistry of Common Life' recording it whatsoever, and haziest memories of 'David Comes to Life' and pretty good memories of 'Glass Boys,' but I have very very vivid memories of 'Hidden World.' I can remember talking to Jade Tree at the time, and they were like, 'How much is it gonna cost you to make it...well the first two (songs) went really well, so probably wrap up after tomorrow, so I don't know, maybe $2,000,' and then it was like $10,000 at the end or something. I can remember, Jonah mentions the tuning, like it was a minor thing, but it nearly derailed the whole recording. I remember Owen Pallett coming in and doing his (violin) parts, I remember every detail of this record really stands out, and I think it was because it was our first (LP). Doing a seven-inch was something we knew we could do, but never an LP. (Editor's note: Fucked Up had tons of releases -- seven- and 12-inchers and more -- to its name prior to the LP.) The way we undertook this LP and taking the time, it was five years into the band. We wanted it to be this epic thing and we recorded at a studio that was well out of our reach at that point and we were like really swinging for the fences with it. All of it stands out now, it's amazing looking back on it, how ambitious we were.
Sandy: Well, it's been fun going back and playing these songs, that like Jonah said, we were writing when we were first getting to know our instruments really. So since then, I've developed my lines a lot and it's been fun to go back and dust those lines off and bring 'em out and rock on.
Damian: I love her bassing.
Sandy: I'm a better bass player now, but my stamina is not where it used to be. Since we haven't been playing so much, physically I'm just more tired than I used to be, sweating a bit extra hard. I enjoy going back and thinking of how things were and how there are now. The songs are really fun to play, 'cause they're fast.
Give dust to life, give life to dust,
Alloyed in a void, I am torn, I am born,
Ruderal roots tulleric shoots in cahoots
Making life out of death chthonic breath meristem,
Jubilee, I am free, so I rise from debris,
Other seeds who are weak need a spur so I speak,
Every word like a burr, so hoist my voice and rejoice,
Just a spark from the dark ignites a thousand to march
So we embark on a drive to split from the stem,
Divide out of the clade, a parade to invade,
Glory to grow as part of a whole,
We are roots, we are soil, we are leaves, we are souls
Broad canopy from the tree, a decree,
Blazon to the world we were born to press on,
Blank the sky with our kind, make the branches align,
Sing the spores to the throng, fill the fields with our song,
We are bright in our blight, full of poison and pomp,
Molded as one, we will outshine the sun,
Spread like vines as we climb, knots that can’t be undone,
The crusade has begun, turn the many to one,
Let the blind be led by the dumb
The Philistines arrive at the gates
Let the brave lie down on their swords
The devoted unleash their wrath
One ant is no ant, no branch is a tree,
Just a part of a plant I gave up to be free,
Rejoice in the life that I gave to a wave,
Of likes that will die and behave all the same,
To populate the terrain until all that remains,
Is our kind of one mind, evolved and refined,
Fall from the crown, I will rot on the ground,
Left by the march that moves on as the sound,
From their step fades, alone, for a purpose I’m placed
Born again in new roots that will rise from my waste
Not proud of it
Not proud of it
I’ve wasted a lifetime
Not proud of it
We died, then we’re born again.