- Interviews - "Winning is Losing (is Winning), Kill the Hippies
- Now and Forever"
Kill the Hippies; no introduction necessary, but let's grab a part thereof from the second Neoteric Punk/Wave Declaration (in its drafting stages as we speak, still unreleased) to set the stage a bit. Its a documentation of my first Kill The Hippies experience:
...and in the beginning there was KILL THE HIPPIES. Kent, in the northeast provinces of the Ohio Empire. December, Nineteen Ninety Seven. Dangerous times. Dangerous people. I'm armed with a Panasonic hand-held tape recorder. I press play and hope for the best possible results. Not a good weapon in these uncharted waters. Waters that are full of mythical creatures turned reality. Land-Ho.
And now, in the year 2001, I relive the moment over and over. The Moment when... The moment when the Neoteric Punk/Wave FIRST reared its ugly "head." Head as in leaders. Head as in CHARGE. Sound the charge! The results were very positive. I have captured the very first time I seen Kill The Hippies on tape, that I have now transferred to CD-R because its the new millennium and people are doing shit like that now. Convenience WILL be the death of me. I embrace the convenient and inconvenient as BROTHERS as FRIENDS. As BLOOD.
"Its been a Long journey down this Punk-Rock Road" Morte proclaims and pauses momentarily before finishing; "but I'm glad you' all've been in the wagon with us. Thus begins the set"
He was wrong. My journey was just beginning. Thus began The Neoteric Punk/Wave.
They blast into "The Stranger". Me, I was the stranger! Sharpened knives that cut through plasma; cut right thru me! Separate the now from the then from the beginning to the past. Rebirthed. Renewed. Baptized but yet still blinded. You see, It was then at that very fucking moment Kill The Hippies made Rock and Roll obsolete!
Standing there. In the crowd. Protecting a tape recorder that I was hoping would provide me some sort of documentation of the night... Our friendships are formed and set fast. Concrete with the force of stainless space shuttle steel. I had not even known them for 12 hours when Morte dedicates "Rockin' in Tokyo" to me. You can hear me scream out, "You rock My fucking world" when they finish. I realized that Kill The Hippies were so good the term punk rock actually DIDN'T DO IT for this phenomenal band. They deserved a better word! New Wave? Close but damn. They deserve better! There might be confusion with such a term as 'new wave'.
On this night, the first time I witnessed the best band ever, I did not capture the moment. Did not proclaim the moment. Not until several years later. Until The Crimson Sweet entered the fray.... but all this is essentially OLD news. This is The Second Draft of The Neoteric Punk Wave. Not to be mistaken or used lightly. Fight for your rights. You have no rights.
Kill The Hippies played in a basement in Cincinnati in June of 2001. This interview takes place on the following day, after their show, after our personal nightcap of Miller High Life and LaRosas spaghetti, after awakening the next day and enjoying another regional cuisine; Skyline Chili. This interview also takes place on the eve of their Western Tour.
= Morte Treehorn vocals and guitar
BG: Alright, what I wanna talk about first is how you (Morte and Envy) came to playing with each other....musically!
MT: Uh, Oh man! [Momentary Reflective Pause]
PP:You were in a band called Ball Peen Gidgit.
MT: Yeah. I was in a band called Ball Peen Gidgit. We had knew each other from previously and I hadnt seen Envy in a couple of years and [to Envy] what were you doing?
PP: I was traipsing around the country on my feet.
MT: We ran into each other, and I was going to school in Kent at the time.... We ran into each other in the English Building. I'm probably getting too verbose... Um...
BG: Just go on!
MT: OK [laughter] We ran into each other and started hanging out. She showed up at a lot of Ball Peen Gidgit shows and I tried writing a couple of songs with those guys that they didnt like and I really liked... Envy seemed interested in learning how to play bass so... We were originally; the name didnt come until later... But originally we were just going to play one note songs with different patterns and just try to annoy people as much as we could. Everyone had bands that were pretty intricate at the time.
BG: And you wanted to take a simplistic approach?
MT: Yeah. We just ended up writing songs. Within two weeks Envy was writing guitar lines and stuff like that.
BG: How did you settle with the name Kill The Hippies?
MT: It was going to be called... The real poser story about that is we were going to be called Kill The Flowers and then I remember when I was in school; I never heard The Deadbeats at all but, like, in High School someone cut out some punk lyrics from Spin Magazine and gave it to me and lyrics from kill The Hippies by The Deadbeats, looked pretty cool... It wasnt until, like, three years ago I actually heard the song.
BG: So is there a connection between the name and Kent? You know where the hippies got killed? Was that intentional? Like We're Kill The Hippies! Is that about the Kent State Massacre? Well, you know what? IT FITS!
MT: Yeah. Well, I mean that's kinda why we stuck with it. [to Envy] Am I talking too much?
PP: [Laughter] No, it's OK. We lived in this place we refereed to as Tillyville which was two houses side by side that were rented from this lady named Tilly [laughter]. The house next door was all rented by a bunch of hippies who lived in there. Kids would pull up and get their weed and leave their car running... Sometimes if we didnt have anyone to play drums we would go over and ask someone who would be sitting in the attic smoking weed and ask them to come over and play drums.
MT: They never could play drums real good.
PP: It turned into, like, a Grateful Dead drums thing actually.
BG: That coincides with my next question. Why do you suppose you had such a wide variety of drummers?
MT: Because we're total dicks and people can't deal with us! [laughter]
PP: They all move to Cleveland with girlfriends or get married or move to Cleveland and start.... The Lion Tamer is already from Cleveland so he can't move back.
MT: Hes sick of Cleveland.
BG: So instead of moving to Cleveland he moved from Cleveland! You think The Lion Tamer is the winner here?
MT & PP: I think so.
LT: I'm not going to move for at least another.... long time [laughter]!
BG: OK Tamer, Whats your take on playing drums for Kill The Hippies? You were a fan before you joined the band. Are you still a "fan"?
LT: It's weird because I will listen to the CD and stuff... It's a pretty sweet experience being able to be a fan and also partake...
BG: Last night you werent too pleased with your performance. Were you looking at the band set seeing it as a fan and you got a lil bit frustrated or was it...
LT: I was frustrated last night because my Bass drum head broke. Sometimes I freakout when I drink and last night just so happened to be one of those nights.[laughter]
BG: The show you played at 344 Warner Street was interesting because the original plan was you got off work at 4 PM, you were driving down here to play, then you were going to drive back to Kent the same night, and you'd just be down here for less hours than it would take you to drive down here and back. What makes it worth it? Is playing one show in a basement in Cincinnati worth nearly 10 hours driving time?
Kill The Hippies: Yeah!
MT: I don't live here [Cincinnati]. So I don't know everything about everybody and stuff in-between people in the scene, but everytime I've been down here it's been a lot of fun.
LT: It seems people are more into doing stuff. Instead of the same three townies coming to The Mantis, which is fun sometimes, but I would rather go somewhere else and have a bunch of people I don't know doing stuff.
PP: The more often you can do something like what we did the more often you get to come down to places like Cincinnati.
BG: So it's not because you got paid $300 or anything like that?
BG: How much money did you get paid for playing last night?
MT: Thirty-five dollars.
BG: Will that make your gas back?
PP: Actually yeah, the Blue Tuna rules on gas because it hardly moves. [everyone laughs]
LT: Were giving the Blue Tuna a taste test for our [west coast] tour... getting it ready.
MT: We gotta spread the disease!
BG: Alright, Uh.... I was talking with someone who said that your new CD Spasms in The New Age is basically a CD full of songs about hating work. Do you hate work SOOO much that it would be a prevalent theme in your music?
MT: [laughter] I have to keep a Zen like trance to go to work for 40 hours a week. I hate being employed. I have no work ethic towards it at all...
PP: I'm the same way.
LT: I'm suppose to be at work right now! [laughter]
PP: I think if we actually had work ethic.... A lot of it is our fault. If we had work ethics, and could actually make ourselves go to work, and make money, and do it ALL ourselves, and it would be in our own hands... In a lot of ways we've been lazy, and not doing things for ourselves, and that's probably one of the biggest problems we have.
MT: I'm interested... I personally love getting and putting out 7"s that have a personal touch to them and at the same time I'm also really interested in writing new songs and getting another full length out and maybe putting it on a label that has some distribution power or somethin like that... I would be into that. At the same time I still wouldnt mind if anyone wants to put out a 7" for a 300 run and that's it; and, like, smear dog shit on the cover or whatever! I would be into that too!
BG: So you guys are keeping your options open... Like, if you were to encounter someone who wanted to put Spasms in The New Age out on LP... Would you?
PP: We wanted it that way in the first place.
MT: That was the original plan; CD and LP... At least that's how I would like to see it.
BG: But that LP plan fell through?
MT: Yeah. It sounds really good and I picture it in my head on vinyl, and you just know that the low end and everything like that would be a lot better instead of that CD sizzle.
BG: So are you, like, kinda frustrated about your CD a little bit? Like its not getting out there enough?
PP: I'm very frustrated because I want everyone to hear it... We're about to go out west and spend a month out there and I'm worried we're not going to have any CDs to take with us. There're places that want them now so they could play it for people and get people all geared up for the show.
BG: You think this CD might wake you guys up and force you to take more control over your music?
PP: I definitely think we should. I don't know about these guys [motions to Morte and The L. Tamer] think, but I mean, it is a lot of work at the same time. We have to get ourselves...
MT: The hard part is to get the initial thousand bucks to press something.
BG: It seems like when you get money, something will happen.
PP: Even the CD that we finally got back wasnt exactly right... I don't know if you listened to it and noticed how it runs for an extra five minutes at the end then stops... There's supposed to be a song there.
BG: Oh really? Whats the secret song?
MT: "I Wanna Fuck You Up the Ass"... We're going to go ahead and give it... Um, There's some kids from Akron putting out a comp, we're going to give it to them. Theyre making a tape comp so it will find a nice home.
BG: Now I wanna talk about some songs. I've written down some of my favorite ones so that we could just talk about them, you know, rap if you will. First is "Lets Start a Riot." What's behind that song?
MT: We wrote that... Um, that just... I think Ken Picklesheimer was the one who came up with that guitar line. It's just one chord going up and down and...
BG: You guys ever start a riot?
MT: No [laughter]. Actually I think I was stoned when I wrote those lyrics [laughter].
PP: The music doesnt exactly inspire a riot... it's so funny.
BG: What do you think Tamer?
LT: I love that song.
BG: A "fans perspective"?
LT: I dunno... I don't think it makes me wanna start a riot. Just dance sorta... makes me Get on my dance [laughter].
BG: Now we have "Last Gate." This song kinda opens things up at the very end of your CD. Like "What's next?"
MT: That's about choosing to lose.
BG: Is that important to you? Losing?
MT: [Laughter] Well Mr. Freud...
BG: Do you try to lose?
MT: Um... I don't know. Maybe I do, like, throw the wrench in my own gears a lot in someways, but I really am happier than a lot of people who keep all their bolts tight so...
BG: Would you say "winning" is for "losers."
MT: Yeah! I mean depending on what cost. Like, getting to the top of Mt. Everest would be really cool; I would consider that winning.... Your really going for the gold there... Um, becoming a cop and shooting a kid that's running away from you and making more money than me because that's what you can do are... I mean, that's an extreme case... Or being a boss at a Dairy Mart with two kids and a house; I mean you got more than I have BUT you know... that's still an extreme case...[laughter] Um, you know, in that case I think you're a loser!
BG: But you are a "winner" because you are a "loser." Do you personally feel like your better than winners?
MT: Yeah. I mean I can hear people laughing behind my back, like, when you go before a judge or something like that and you try to explain to them that, like, one hundred bucks is a lot to come up with and they laugh at you. Things like that, stupid things like having a blown tire, ruins your whole week. I mean yeah, I feel like I am losing... Big time... but then again, next thing you know your neighbor shows up with a six pack...
LT: Or you get a free tattoo of a boat on your arm!
MT: Yeah! You're almost thirty years old, you run downtown spray painting your nickname on the front of the Art building; THEN YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR "WINNING!"
BG: How many of you when you were in , like, in school and were picked last for, like, school events like kickball and stuff?
PP: That's me.
MT: That's me!!!
LT: I was like... third to last I think.
BG: Do you think it adds character to be a loser?
PP: Yeah, definitely! It has to!
BG: I think it does too.
MT: I think it gives you the idea for a non-.... I was talking to Jimmy at the Mantis one time about living a non-competitive lifestyle, and like, someone asked us some question about something being better than something else and Jimmy was just like- I forget what it was... I forget what the situation was but he just mentioned, "I live a non-competitive lifestyle, I don't have to prove anything."
BG: That kinda brings up another song "We're the Number Ones." That's kinda about the same thing isnt it?
MT: Yeah. The most cheesy thing in America you see is We're Number One. It's so robotic in a way. I love seeing people with sweatshirts that say #1 and they look like, you know, they let whoever decides what lower middle-class people can wear at K-Mart... They just decreed that they should wear that shirt!
BG: I seen a shirt at Wallgreens that said I want to be a Millionaire.
MT: [laughter] That's great!
BG: They also had one that said Wassup!
MT: [laughter] Sam Waltons just laughing in his grave at people. First we will ruin their little town, then we will make them dress like clowns.
BG: "Sterile Needles" really hit me on yer CD.... It seems real different. Its almost like, just like, avant-garde, kinda bluesy in a way, you know? What's the story behind that song? Did you write that one Envy?
PP: I don't think I knew what was going on at the time probably. Actually, that song was really hard for us to play for a long time. It sounds really simplistic but we have timing problems... I wouldnt say I was "directly" involved in much of anything.
BG: What do you mean by saying "Sterile Needles" in the chorus?
MT: Oh, I don't know...At the time Im like.... I think I read an article about, like, some people, like, in different places trying to hand out sterile needles to people in the inner city.... Not really sure. Its kind of a confusing, ambiguous statement. I apparently wrote that song after I got my first Crass CD [laughter]. I just wanted to have something with a cool "mod-y" bass line. It's just about when you go to really horrible suburbs and just how everything is like, Chem-Lawned out and all that... "Sterile"... This is the first time it's ever made sense in my brain I guess. The needles you're giving junkies are going to put something that might kill them in their arm, but its a "safer way."
BG: You can also look at it like a Sterile needle is only sterile once.
BG: After you use it once, it's "dirty." Envy, you wrote "Learn to Kill" right? And you sing it... Do you usually sing the songs you write?
PP: Yeah. Tend too, yeah. Except the song "Prostitution" I stole off of Morte. He was at work and I decided I wanted to sing the song because I had a bad day at work. I had an idea so I just kinda sang the lyrics, when he got home I said "Here! I have a song!"
BG: What's the meaning being "Learn to Kill"?
PP: Ummm. It directly mentions my parents in general...
BG: Did they teach you to kill?
PP: Yeah. In their own little way, yes. This may be kinda cheesy, but when I was growing up everyone was having a really rough time. My Dad tried and tried and my Mom just, you know, shed find other ways to make things more miserable than they could be if you just let them go. I don't mean any ill-will towards anybody when I sing it...
BG: Do you each feel like your songs are therapeutic in a way? Like when you playem and singem and listen to them... Do you each feel like your getting something out and letting something out before it all bottles up and you explode?
MT: In the right situations. Sometimes it just all depends on what the situation is. Sometimes it's just doing it by row, and if the show sucks, if you don't like it, if you just can't get into it, then it's just like "robotic." Sometimes you just really... Sometimes it just moves you I guess. I dunno. Not all the time, but in the right situation, yeah.
BG: What do you think Envy?
PP: I dunno. Sometimes, depending on where you play. You can be singing your heart out or whatever and everybodys outside, or, you know, not paying attention, sometimes you feel like your saying these things and it's just like, pointless to say them...not to preach and all but sometimes it's wasted.
MT: Playing the actual songs is more like a, I dunno...Showing our will to power or whatever; it is if anything else... Writing the songs, it's just like trying to write the lyrics themselves is more like "letting it out" and like, after that it's just trying to have fun with it. So... I guess the hardest part is making it. Then after that it's all smother.
BG: What do you think Tamer?
LT: I don't personally have any songs I have written.
BG: Do you ever fell better playing them?
LT: Oh hell yeah! Sometimes I let my aggressions out a little bit too strongly [laughter]! Alot of times, if I am having a bad day I can play a show and it feels pretty good.
BG: What's your favorite song that you play?
LT: Obviously the most therapeutic song is "Render Me."
MT: It's about selling yourself to a dog food plant where they can chop you up and use all your parts or whatever they need.
BG: Tamer, do you think you will be writing some songs?
LT: I have written lyrics before. I have a big folder. I just get embarrassed at some of the stuff I write.
MT: You wrote those one lyrics we're going to use: "These are people I see on TV/These are people that mean nothing to me."
LT: Oh yeah [laughter]! I don't know where that's from....
BG: So next up for you guys is a seven inch from Hotsauce Records outta Florida. When is that going to be out?
MT: He is on tour with a couple of bands right now, and I think he is going to get back sometime in July. Hes already gotten the plates made and all that, he just didnt want to, like, leave a bunch of records in his hot Florida apartment while he was on tour.
PP: He didnt want them to be shipped there, dropped off, and left there to get warped.
BG: Think you will get them before you go on tour?
PP: Ummm... I don't know. We're playing down there so best case is that we will pick them up while we're there of course. It's the end of the tour so... I know he is going to try.
MT: I'm not going to count on it and get pissed off or disappointed, I'm just glad he is doing it. He is a real nice guy. He is going to hand screen-print the covers so it's going to be real cool.
BG: That's the first seven inch with The Lion Tamer on it!
LT: I'm really excited.
PP: There was supposed to be a picture on it... There's a Bob Side of songs with Bob on Drums and a Lion Tamer Side with songs he plays drums on...and there was suppose to be a picture of Bob handing a torch to The Lion Tamer.
LT: I thought it would be cool to have a drumstick on fire like a torch, passing it to me, but we never did that.
MT: It would be good as a poster on the inside!
BG: Do you feel like there is a lot of pressure on you Tamer? Me and you, we're both been fans of Kill The Hippies, but now YOU ARE in Kill The Hippies!
LT: I was kinda overwhelmed when... I remember when Morte called me and asked me. When he called me I got off the phone and I was like, "I can't do that!!!!"
MT: He was originally drumming for The Sweaty Weapons. He had a really solid 4/4 beat...
LT: The first Sweaty Weapons line-up was me, you, Kenny and Dawn.
MT: Yeah. I was just thinking when you were playing that you could write plenty of really cool songs on just a solid beat. You sound like the drummer from The Zeros.
BG: When Bob decided to leave the band, was The Lion Tamer the logical choice?
MT: Uh... [laughter] We could have went out and got some dude with a 15 piece set or something that could play Rush, but, like, yeah... I think the Tamer fit in good because I had a lot of fun with him in the short period of The Sweaty Weapons we were in and I had been friends with his older brother for years.
BG: So this tour is probably your most extensive yet.
PP: This time is pretty much ALL unfamiliar territory.
BG: Lion Tamer, is this the first time you'll be doing something like this?
LT: Well, I've been out west, but never with a band.
BG: Are you scared sort of? Just from following The Gobo yesterday, The Blue Tuna don't seem too strong...
MT: It's not the strongest van...it was three hundred dollars though!
PP: We got it at a time when really we needed it. Our old van completely crapped out on us in West Virginia on our way to play a show in North Carolina.... We found this shitty, slow van for $300 and we were able to, within 14 or 15 hours loose a van, buy a van; unpack and load up and go! We still got to play our show, so I think that was pretty damn good.
MT: We've got a lot of synchronicity that sort of follows us around for some reason too. For some reason shit falls in our hands... Like, we usually get what we need when we need it. We owe our landlord about seven months rent and for some reason we havent been evicted.
PP: Though the past four or five years...
MT: So maybe by not asking for too much we just get by.
BG: Do each of you find that no matter how hard you try or how hard you don't try things always seem to equal out?
PP: Yeah, definitely!
BG: You think that's a Midwest thing? Do you find stuff breaking on you, like for no reason, like you will sit down in a chair and all of a sudden it will break? You lean against a bar or something and it breaks? You don't get mad about it because you learn to just let it break!
LT: Like last night, my entire drumset?
BG: Exactly! It's a concept I came up with called The Big Mess in the Midwest... No matter how hard you try, some people, some stuff like that's going to happen! Like you got frustrated that your glasses broke.
LT: I have weird reactions to things breaking and things not going my way. Sometimes I just freakout, which I displayed proudly last night.
MT: I was thinking about it last night.... If I broke my glasses last night I could still drive. If you lose your glasses....
LT: I can't live [laughter]! If I don't have my glasses at night or while I am drumming it's a nightmare.
MT: That would be a big paranoia for me...
LT: I have had nightmares about not having my glasses and being stuck somewhere.
BG: So what's the future hold? What's your plans over the next couple years? Another full-length? Greater control over your releases?
MT & PP: Yeah...
BG: Try to develop a better work ethic about the band?
MT: About the band, I dunno about going to work [laughter]. If I got to save up for something to help out; that's my plan...and keep writing songs!
PP: We're going to have to get another practice space because practicing at our house is no longer possible.... Practice. Put stuff out. Play shows...
MT: Keeping on supporting other bands in other places... Share the same mental ideas... Desecrate war veterans graves...
BG: Do you have anything you want to say to anyone who reads this?
MT: What I said earlier, I hope no one thinks I'm against needle exchange programs. I think theyre great, but you can use it as a real nice, sick metaphor!
BG: Envy.... Last words?
PP: There are no last words [laughter]. I can't have last words!
BG: Kinda like The Calvary? You never say Goodbye? Just Until We Meet Again?
MT: Or like that tattoo I was going to get: "No Tears for a Sailor's Grave."
[Everyone has a Momentary Reflective Pause, then, one by one, erupts into laughter]
The Lion Tamer left Kill The Hippies upon returning from their Western Tour. He decided that even though touring was great and playing in KTH was a dream come true, he needed to spend the next couple of years focusing on college. The Lion Tamer, also known as "Mike" is also an accomplished artist and photographer and has had his work displayed in several different Galleries around Kent, Ohio. When I asked Morte if his departure was on good terms, Morte said, "Yeah! No hard feelings, we see each other pretty often. In fact, today we hooked up and went dumpster diving."
Mike was replaced by a fellow named Chris who Morte knew from his side project, bad 70s metal band, Zcreemin Hott. Chris, who sat-in on the Kent band, The Viles, has aspirations to tour and record with KTH and at the time of this writing is already playing shows with Morte and Envy.
Kill The Hippies can be contacted at:
Last time I had a conversation with them, Their first 7", "Will Not Overstimulate" had seen a repress of some sorts, and copies of "Shit Covered Hits" ($4 each) were readily available. Ask the band or e-mail Kenny on Broadway because he still has copies leftover from his Rock Action Days...
A version of their debut CD, Spasms In The New Age ended up being available during their tour and the by time you read this, the seven inch record on Hotsauce Records should be out too.... E-mail them for a price on each, or, at the very least, send $10 for the CD or $4 for the 7".
KTH also have t-shirts available, I know of two designs. One features a skull and crossbones saying Kill The Hippies on the front with Arrr on the back, or the near infamous "Big Dick" design featuring a Dirk Diggler size penis on the front with Kill The Hippies written on the bottom. Once again, e-mail them for a price, or, at the very least, send $8 per shirt. Believe it or not but KTH are of the caliber that if you send them a penny too much for something they got, they will send you whatever you got, plus the penny back.
Before I leave I strongly urge you to check out Kill The Hippies if the chance ever comes your way. I can sum up the past eleven years with a handful of bands and records that totally changed my perception of punk-rock. Kill the Hippies are and continue to be one of them....
Interview and Pictures by Shawn Abnoxious.
© blankgeneration.com 2003