"CLOVEN HOOVES ACROSS BARREN WOODS
ANGULAR DROVES OF ANIMALS
FROZEN IN WASTE
CRIPPLED AND PLACED IN ROWS OF EIGHT
THE SNOW WILL MELT AND THE ARTIFACTS OF RITUAL WILL BE DISCOVERED
SEEDS AND STEMS
BOTTLES AND CANS
STUDDED BRACELETS AND DIAGRAMS"
TB: First things first - who are the members of Wiccans and what do they do?
PG: Adam Cahoon does vocals, Harpal Assi plays bass, Gregory Rutherford plays drums, Daniel Zeigler plays guitar, and I also play guitar.
TB: Let's connect the dots on the Denton family tree here - what other bands was everyone in or are they currently in - and how did you guys come together?
PG: Adam plays bass in Mass Sterilization, used to play guitar in Koji Kondo, and up until recently played drums in Orange Coax. Harpal plays drums in Silver Shampoo, and bass in VIDEO. Gregory plays drums in VIDEO, Bad Sports, High Tension Wires, Mind Spiders, and just started playing with Wax Museums over the summer when Jason moved to New York. He also plays guitar in Silver Shampoo and a new band called Cats in Heat, which just played their first show last week. Daniel plays in Teenage Cool Kids, Mass Sterilization, and a new hardcore band called Jah Breaker. I play bass in Wax Museums and guitar in VIDEO. Andrew, who plays on the 7" and played with us up till this summer is in Teenage Cool Kids and Fergus & Geronimo.
We all kind of came together slowly over the years. I met Andrew when we first came to college at UNT. I met Daniel not too long after at some show at J&J's Pizza. I met Harpal when he came to a show at my old house, and I think I met Gregory when he played at that same house. I met Adam a few years ago in Fort Worth (where he lived until semi-recently).
Before Wiccans, I'd tried to start a band at least once or twice with everyone involved, this is the first time it ever really worked out. Andrew and I had been trying to start a hardcore band since we first met in 2004, we finally got the ball rolling in early 2009. Harpal and Gregory immediately came to mind, and they're still the most solid rhythm section I can think of. We got Adam to do vocals because he really wanted to be in a hardcore band, but we (including Adam) were really unsure of how it was going to turn out, since he'd never really done vocals. I think he was definitely the best person we could have gotten to do it.
We kind of have a running joke about trying to figure out the most bands who could tour with the fewest people. Wax Museums, Bad Sports, VIDEO, Wiccans, and Silver Shampoo would only be 7 people.
TB: Are you all natives of Denton?
PG: The interesting thing is that NONE of the guys in this circle of bands, with the exception of Jason (Kelly, from Wax Museums/Pumpers/Fergus & Geronimo), are actually from Denton. A couple of us are from various suburbs of Dallas-Fort Worth, and some from further out. I went to high school with TV's Daniel (Wax Museums/Bad Sports/VIDEO/High Tension Wires/Mind Spiders/Pumpers) in East Texas, I've known him for almost ten years.
TB: Are all of you guys still in school? What are you studying?
PG: Daniel and Harpal have already graduated with college degrees. Daniel has one in Rehabilitation and works a job doing that in Ft. Worth. Harpal's degree is in Finance but I think he hates it so he works at Starbucks. Gregory and I are in college at UNT, he's studying Behavior Analysis and I'm doing Anthropology with minors in Spanish and Linguistics. I took like five years off of school and then came back with a real passion for learning, it's been a great experience.
TB: I always think of Denton bands as more powerpop/garage oriented - is there a larger hardcore scene there at all? And while were at it, is it mandatory for everyone in Denton to be in a band? It seems like such a huge scene for a smaller sized city...
PG: There is/has been a hardcore scene here. There are a lot more hardcore bands in Dallas and Fort Worth, but there have always been at least a few in Denton. Unfortunately most of them pop up and die out pretty quickly for one reason or another. ANS is probably the most notable hardcore band with strong Denton ties, they all lived here for a little bit, now Andy still lives here but the rest of them live across the country.
Almost everyone I know here is in a band. There's a huge variety of music here, not just punk, garage and hardcore, even though those are the bands we all play in and dig the most. The funny thing is that all these scenes are pretty similarly inbred; it's pretty rare that anyone who is in a band is only in one.
TB: What USHC bands in particular are a big influence for you guys? Obviously Wiccans are very indebted to the "Midwest sound", but you guys remind me of YDI more than a bit too...
PG: Most of our shared interests are the pretty obvious ones. For a couple of years I was really involved in new records, and then I went through a little time where not much that was new was doing anything for me, so I found myself revisiting a lot of records that I hadn't listened to in a long time. A lot of Die Kreuzen, Necros, Zero Boys, as far as Midwest stuff goes, and always a healthy dose of Poison Idea. "Feel the Darkness" is a big influence for all of us, I think, as far as where we want to go with Wiccans; we want to do something that works as hardcore but also something that works as something different, I guess just as a heavy "rock" band, if you will. I try to make a conscious effort to avoid listening to hardcore before I sit down to write a Wiccans song, I try to take some totally unrelated idea and work it into a hardcore song.
TB: Who writes the lyrics?
PG: Adam writes all of them. I love his lyrics; at first I was a little worried that we might get lumped into the whole "mysterious guy" thing, because his lyrics are pretty out there. Luckily, I don't think we have, which is good because all the weirdness that comes through those lyrics are genuine expressions of the weird way Adam thinks. He's a super interesting guy, and I think he writes super interesting words.
TB: So this is the first time Adam has done vox for a band? He's got such a great delivery, did he just sound like that right off the bat? I'm quite enamored with his vocal performance, as you already know...How long can he keep bellowing for until his voice gets destroyed? It's so fucking over the top it's great, but it's got to shred his pipes quick...
PG: Yeah. He's done backups before, but this is his first time as a lead singer, definitely the first time in a hardcore band. His delivery has been pretty great since day one, but it'd definitely improved since we started. His endurance directly depends on how often we play. Since we all play in so many bands, every band goes through a month of no playing at all, at least every once in a while. I think we all, especially Adam, are a little sore after a first-in-a-while kind of practice. Usually a couple of days after one of those practices his voice is already in top shape. I honestly don't know how he does it.
AC: The only other band that I sang in was a redneck metal band in high school, for lack of a better description. Before this I played drums in a No Wave band. Over the top, I guess, is what I go for. I like the idea of the blown out power violence vocals done in another style of punk. YDI, Poison Idea and Negative Approach were starting points.
TB: I agree, Adam's lyrics are top notch. They could definitely be construed as "Mysterious Guy", but at least you guys don't sound like a Youth Attack band. Not enough reverb! I actually think that with the art on the 7" and Adam's monster delivery they sort of have a more hesher vibe, like some sort of teenage devil worship/apocalyptic dirtweed metal thing?
AC: Thanks, haha! I actually like alot of reverb on my European and Japanese crustier types of punk, never really listened to too much Youth Attack stuff, although it at least appears to be more interesting than alot of modern hardcore from a distance. I love sci-fi and fantasy imagery, so whenever I get a chance I like to slip it in! Lyrically the songs could range from a pseudo straight-edge anthem to songs about getting trashed, to sci-fi ("Endgame" is based on the post-apocalyptic B-movie genre) to serious topics. I don't want to limit what I could write about as long as it doesnt stray from the overall feel.
TB: Tell us about the inspiration behind the song "Teenage Cults"...
AC: It's loosely based on high school, when I was pretty isolated so I got into metal, drugs and trailerpark culture. So you pretty much hit the nail on the head with the hesher vibe. A lot of young kids get into things like that and think they're part of an extreme subculture, when really they're just a bunch of dorks getting high in the woods pretending to be spooky. Maybe the "mysterious hardcore" guys are attempting this type of thing through reading Sotos and learning about Vienna Actionists, but really most are just pubescent geeks on message boards. I have no idea, some people can't make fun of themselves or take a joke. I've done a lot of things that were pretty embarrassing, so I could relate in that way. That's what that song's kind of about.
TB: Whose concept was the artwork for the single? And what does "It's time to come out of the broom closet" mean?
PG: Andrew did the art for that record. I'm really glad he did, it's the best thing I could think of for it. I think the speech bubble is just meant to be a joke about coming out as a teenage hesher witch or warlock or whatever.
TB: Tell us about the full length you've recorded. Where and with who did you do it? Any plans for a release yet?
PG: We did the record ourselves. We were actually planning on doing a four or five song tape for tour, and we got set up to knock that out in an afternoon. We recorded a few songs and only one of them was as good as we wanted it to be, so we went back out to give it another try, and ended up recording everything we have that's not on the 7".
It was recorded at Adam's house in a shed behind his yard. We did it all digitally, which is something all of us are usually pretty against. It worked out really well for this. All the main instrument tracks are live, and we did guitar overdubs and vocals afterwards. Finished it in just under a week, amidst finals and work. Luckily a particularly disagreeable neighbor didn't complain.
TB: Have you guys played out frequently yet? Was the Midwest tour the first shows youve done outside of Texas?
PG: We've played quite a bit, but in phases. When Andrew was playing with us he was pretty busy with Teenage Cool Kids and Fergus & Geronimo, which kind of took priority. We went through periods when we played a few shows, and then wouldn't play for a few months. We've been playing pretty much monthly since Daniel joined, and played a couple more shows in October when the record came out. This tour is the first time we've played anywhere other than Dallas/Ft. Worth and Austin. We're pretty excited for it, I think Wiccans will be a fun band to take on the road. Our free time was pretty limited so we're only doing the one week, we hope to do some more dates during the summer. I think we're going to do our first Wax Museums tour in a couple of years this summer too.
TB: Well the LP stuff sounds great. I didn't get any song titles or anything though...what are some of the topics you approach the new songs?
AC: Well, I've been reading the Dune series for the past couple of years on and off again, so there's a couple of songs that use themes from that. I also collect books by Harlan Ellison and Wilhelm Reich, so theres a lot of that in there too. I write a lot of personal stuff as well, but I'll let people interpret that in their own way when they read the lyric sheet. I just sit down last minute usually and write most of the lyrics at once with only a vague idea of what I want each song to be about. It's really creepy to see what comes out subconsciously and how well it ties together with the theme of the song. Most of our practices I'm just shouting and learning how I want it to sound rhythmically.
TB: So do you have plans for the recording aside from the tour tape? Will it stay intact as an LP or will there be some singles taken from it?
PG: We really want to keep it intact as an LP. I guess we'd consider breaking it into singles if we don't get an offer to put it out as an LP, but I feel like it all ended up working really well together. It's too good and too cohesive of an accident to be split up, unless it's totally necessary.
TB: Since Payton mentioned Wax Museums, I'll slip in a question: What is the status of the band at this point? Didn't Paul move to California? What's the word on the new LP?
PG: The Wax Museums is officially an active band, but only as active as having a member in Oakland will allow. When he was here in August we wrote two new songs and recorded the rest of what we had before he moved. We did it with Mark Ryan from Marked Men/Mind Spiders at his house in Ft. Worth. It was the best recording experience I've ever had. It was really cool to have someone not in the band who really knows what he's doing take care of the technical end of things. I think it really freed us all up to pay more attention to what we were doing on our instruments. That being said, it's still as stupid as ever. The LP should be out in early 2011, and we have some plans to play SXSW this year.
TB: Tell me about the store (Midway Mart) on the cover of the "Denton Denton USA" LP...is that the place you guys all hang out in front of a la Suburbia and skate and drink Big Gulps?
PG: Almost! That store unfortunately doesn't sell slurpees or fountain drinks, and I think all of us are terrible at skateboarding. That store does have an incredible beer selection and, as a result of that, is kind of a centerpiece of Denton punk life. If you don't know what's going on on a particular night, there's at least a 75% chance you can pick up your beer there and you'll run into someone you know who can tell you about where a show or party or something is. The guy who runs it is super friendly, too. Although I think once he refused to sell Craig from Terrible Twos beer...