Battleship are a group of nice, angry men from
Oakland, CA. They specialize in an intense form of
stripped down rock music that toes the lines of
rhythmic post-punk, furious hardcore, and ear-gouging
noise rock. Their debut release, the one-sided LP
'Presents Princess' (on Bitch Tardwell's Raw Deluxe),
made quite a splash in the underground, with its
casual mastery of the aforementioned. But they're
still rock and roll enough to cover Crime and get away
with it. (More about Crime below).
Despite having just completed a month-long trek across
Europe with heavy n' weird Indiana dudes, Racebannon,
Battleship had come back to the States and immediately
embarked on a week of East Coast dates with Brooklyn
homeboys, Pterodactyl (including a sweat-soaked
shocker of a July 4th show w/ Parts and Labor,
Japanther, Matt and Kim, Pterodactyl, and more).
Although they were flying home the day after this
interview, they still weren't done. Ten West Coast
dates with Pterodactyl were to follow before they
could rest their weary heads. Hopefully, some of you
out there caught these shows, as Battleship is first
and foremost a live band. They grant you a special
form of self-flagellating catharsis, as evidenced by
the title of their new 7" EP, "To Give, Not a Gift,"
on Double Negative. A new LP, 'Heart's Addendum,'
should be out by the end of the year, and maybe
they'll even get to their other super-secret projects. (Ed: 'Hearts Addendum' is available now on CD via the On On Switch label. LP version is forthcoming on Thee Raw Deluxe.)
When the band arrives at my loft, Aleks and Drew are
clutching their ever-present cans of Sparks (it's 4
PM). When they played Cleveland last year, these dudes
stayed up all night fueled only by Sparks and
conversation, not sleeping until after playing in
Pittsburgh the following night. Drew asks if I'm
hungry, and before I can answer, he pulls a 30 pack of
White Castle sliders out of his bag. "We got these at
about 10 (AM), so they should be just about perfect
now. They've been steaming in the bag." Thus, the
interview begins with a discussion of fast food. This
leads to a debate on the merits of various styles of
California burritos, which culminates in Aleks'
passionate take on said subject: "In San Diego, if you
order a chicken burrito, they're not gonna put beans
and rice on that shit. They're not gonna waste your
time with lettuce. You get a chicken burrito. The
chicken is simmered with spices and onions, it is
amazingly flavorful. If you want beans and rice, you
get the beans and rice burrito. I enjoy a San
Francisco burrito, the Mission burritos are great.
But, in my opinion, a San Diego burrito is the best
burrito on the face of the earth." So, there you have
ALEKS - vox
BEAN - bass
DANIEL - guitar
DREW - traps
TB douche - EEK
TB: How was Europe?
DREW: Well, the tour started out very drunkenly. In
Germany, they give you as many beers as you'd like,
but the rest of the countries weren't like that.
DANIEL: Especially in England.
DREW: No drink tickets, no free drinks. So, the tour
got more sober as it progressed.
ALEKS: Yeah, the route we had was less and less free
drinks until we got to England where there was none.
TB: So you could put together some sort of 'Book Your
Own Fucking Life' based on free drinks.
ALEKS: We were unbelievably sober by the time we got
DREW: Actually, very believably sober.
TB: So, you guys have been away from home for how
DREW: I actually did the math the other night. When we
get home we will have been gone for 6 weeks and 5
TB: How did you hook up with Racebannon?
DANIEL: We got hooked up through mutual friends, (LA
spazzcore collective) The Mae Shi.
DREW: The guys in Racebannon are super-nice. We
traveled in the same van together.
TB: Did you have a driver?
DREW: No, but we were opening for Against Me! in
Hamburg, which was really weird, but awesome. It was a
sold-out show at a really organized squat.
ALEKS: Yeah, Against Me! had 40 people on the guest
list. I tried to get one person in and they said they
couldn't do it. But it was OK, I guess, cuz no one
would've been there if they weren't playing.
DREW: We pull up to the venue and a college
acquaintance of Aleks', Mike, is standing there. I
thought it was like his best friend and he was here to
reunite with Aleks. Turns out, he was just a casual
friend and he hitch-hiked to Hamburg to see the show.
But he ended up coming with us for the whole tour. He
now has a job working for our booker driving bands
around actually. He was very hobo at first. Midway
through the tour, his friends back in the US sold his
Vespa and guitar, so all of a sudden he had money and
was buying his food instead of stealing it. One of the
guys in Racebannon, Brad, was broke as shit. On the
ferry from England to France, Brad comes up and was
stoked on some food he had table-dived. Hobo Mike
looks at him and says, "I've been out-hoboed." So he
ran up to get some remaining table scraps, but they
were all gone. But he did a learn a valuable lesson.
TB: What other ridiculous shit happened?
DREW: In a town outside Utrecht (Hurvengurven?) we
played a show where there was a "Mosh Off." All the
other bands were very serious punk rock bands or
whatever, but the band that played for the Moshfest
were called Dominator. I think they are a legitimate
band, but for this they only played mosh classics,
like 'Firestorm' and Slayer.
TB: So how was the mosh-off?
DREW: It was kinda disappointing. Wait, who won?
BEAN: The guy in the swimsuit.
DREW: Oh yeah, he had a onesie.
BEAN: They weren't really moshing even.
DREW: In Edinburgh, Scotland though, they had these
guys who we were told about, and they didn't
disappoint. They formed a human pyramid while
Racebannon played. Each additional minute after the
pyramid, they had a different move. Like simultaneous
rowing and human battering ram. They would cue each
other and do their moves.
TB: Let's talk about how many times people have
punned on the name Battleship.
DANIEL: Actually, not as much as I would have
ALEKS: Just bad writers and editors for bad zines.
(glares menacingly at me)
DREW: We were in The Netherlands and this woman is
standing at the merch table and she says to me,
"Battleship is a game, no?" And I say, "Yeah." And she
says, "Explain it to me." So I get out a piece of
paper and draw a grid and explain the whole game in
broken pidgin English. So, after she gets the idea,
she looks at me and says, "OK, I know the rules. Why
are you selling t-shirts for it?" She thought that we
were so stoked about the game that we were selling
t-shirts to promote the game.
TB: Drew, after Joe (formerly and currently of the
Gris Gris) left, how did you hook up with these guys?
DREW: I'd seen them twice and they were my favorite
Bay Area band to see. I'd been in San Francisco for
about a year. I didn't know anyone, but I was dying to
get in a band. I saw them at The Golden Bowl in
Oakland, and Joe was playing drums and there was a
really long song at the end and these three guys were
going crazy and Joe was just kinda hanging out back
there, looking really bored. So, I was really drunk
and I came up to Bean...
BEAN: That was the first time I met you.
DREW: Yeah, so I'm like, "Seriously, if you ever want
a drummer who actually likes your music, you should
definitely give me a call." And I was very surprised
when they did.
TB: Speaking of the Gris Gris, you recorded the new
LP with Greg Ashley, correct?
TB: Feel free to say something bad about Greg.
ALEKS: He's a jerk.
BEAN: A total fucking jerk.
DREW: You know how they call him a "psych prodigy?"
Well, he's actually 76 years old.
BEAN: That's actually Greg Ashley's kid that goes on
tour. Greg Ashley's an old man who taught his kid how
to play all his songs.
TB: Where did you record it?
BEAN: We recorded at The Stork Club in Oakland which
is a place we play.
DREW: It was really nice to do it at a place that
wasn't a studio, and also cuz they have refrigerators
full of beer.
DANIEL: It was all done in two days, pretty much.
TB: So, is this an actual full-length?
TB: Who's putting it out?
ALEKS: It's five minutes longer than the last one.
It's 25 minutes.
BEAN: 25 minutes is epic for Battleship.
TB: How many songs?
DREW: We call 'em "tracks," cuz we're in the biz.
BEAN: We call 'em "cuts" when we're on record.
DREW: Yeah, just like they call slices of pizza in
BEAN:: On-On Switch is putting out the CD, and
hopefully Raw Deluxe is gonna do the vinyl.
TB: How does the local Bay Area scene react to you
guys? You seem to straddle the fence between the
punker side of things and, for lack of a better term,
the "arty" world. For instance, Weasel Watler has
mastered your records. Are you too "hardcore" for the
noise people, and vice versa?
DREW: There's been a few shows where it's a relief to
have a band with, y'know, drums and singing.
BEAN: I will say this: A friend of mine had been on
tour and he was talking to a friend of his and his
friend was asking, "What are you doing tonight?" And
she said, bear in mind that my friend is a noise
artist, she said "Oh, well, it's kind of
embarrassing. I'm going to this punk show. A band
called Battleship. But they're really good!" Like she
had to justify going to the show cuz it wasn't noise
TB: So you're that band. There's always a band like
ALEKS: I don't think we'll ever develop a really
strong fan base because we tend to...
DREW: ...never live up to anyone's expectations. For
instance, in Europe, on the flyers, we were getting
really weird comparisons, like 'The Rapture meets
blank.' We did have one that said 'Black Flag meets
The Birthday Party,' which is cool, but they're
writing checks that Battleship cannot cash.
TB: But is that any different than America?
BEAN: No, not really.
ALEKS: We all have different influences in the band
and we all have strong opinions about music, but I
think the thing that unites us, musically, is that we
all have eclectic musical tastes. We may not all agree
on what we like, but we all like a variety of things,
which makes playing music with these guys enjoyable.
DREW: It's the first band I've ever been in where the
singer is involved with the music songwriting, which
is actually really nice.
ALEKS: I like the group approach to songwriting, but
it does make us less productive than a lot of other
DANIEL: Which is why, for this record, we set aside
some time to only write songs. To not play shows.
DREW: Yeah, we took a couple months.
DANIEL: It's just like touring, you set aside time to
play this chunk of shows.
BEAN: Yeah, the trick is not to play shows. Because
when you are playing a lot of shows, you have to
practice for the shows, and that's less time to write.
ALEKS: When you get asked to play shows and you tell
them that you're not playing shows so you can write
some songs, people are like, "Fuckin prima donna, what
do you mean you're writing songs?"
TB: Then they'll bitch: "Man, I'm so sick of hearing
those guys playing the same songs." You just can't
win...OK, tell me about Crime and what may or may not
happen with said band.
BEAN: You're blowing up our spot.
ALEKS: What I can tell you is that Hank Rank has the
most amazing house I've ever been to. He occasionally
throws these huge parties in downtown San Francisco.
From the outside, you'd never even think anyone lives
in these buildings. You walk through the garage and
there's a giant practice room for bands. The next
floor is some kind of weird museum full of random
shit. The third floor is like a wonderworld of Willy
Wonka-esque proportions for the kids. The next floor
up is a huge costume workshop, then there's his office
which has stuffed two-headed goats and shit. In the
middle of the room is James Brown's desk. It's a
marble semi-circle with JB engraved in it. He has
James Brown's desk!
DREW: There's only one person in the world who has
James Brown's desk, and it ain't James Brown!
ALEKS: Then there's a bridge to another building where
there's a hot tub on the roof. It's ridiculous. I've
only been to one party there, but it was amazing.
DREW: He's sucking dicks like a madman trying to get
back in there...
Battleship on line:
Battleship on MySpace
Interview by Erick Hughes
Pics provided by Icki