If you didn’t think to check, you would be forgiven for assuming that ever since the dark days of Bryan and Alanis, Ontario has only produced fey indie boys and girls, all sprouting from one band or another creating legions of side-projects, collabs and solo ventures. With little to no fanfare (until recently) though, one band has been kicking it old school and true throughout that time. That band is the NSFW, spam filter-bothering Fucked Up.
Comprising of a motley crue of devilishly deviant hardcore heroes with altar egos like Pink Eyes, 10,000 Marbles, Concentration Camp, Mustard Gas and Mr. Jo, they’ve built a reputation as staunchly D.I.Y. force since 2001, releasing a deluge of hard to find 7” singles until 2006’s debut album Hidden World. Always changing and always challenging, their music sways from anarcho-punk anthems made of vinegar and piss, to bloated prog-rock epics. As the 18-plus minutes of newly released single ‘Year Of The Pig’ (review) proves, there’s much mischief to be had yet, as the wider world wakes up to their particular charms.
DiS locks horns with drummer Jonah Falco, aka Mr. Jo, as the band embark on their largest shows to date, rattling the cages of Gallows, SSS and Set Your Goals fans around the UK.
This current tour sees you playing to bigger crowds than ever before. With that exposure and the potential opportunities that could spring from it, is there a danger of the band having to make certain compromises you might not have previously had to?
It’s a really different experience for us. This is the biggest tour we’ve ever done and Gallows are wildly popular so the shows are sold out. Outsider interests might have something in mind that may not necessarily gel with us but we’ve always been a fiercely independent band. I don’t think we’re doing anything or will do anything that will truly compromise us. Some people might say, “oh they’re not D.I.Y. anymore”, or “Fucked Up is over, they’re just an indie rock band now”. From a personal perspective, there hasn’t been a single thing that we’ve done that I’ve felt has been a compromise or been too reliant on anybody else’s opinion or input.
Do you still think of yourselves as a hardcore band?
I don’t think that any conceptions of what makes a hardcore or a punk band have that much of an effect on us anymore. After all this time we’re pretty sure of ourselves, regardless of the kind of music coming out of our amplifiers. So whether someone considers it hardcore or not, as far as we’re concerned we’re still a hardcore punk band. I fully understand and expect that other people aren’t gonna agree. And it would be silly of people to call some of the songs we’re doing now hardcore. That’s not to say that we don’t still feel most affiliated with and closest to the hardcore scene.
Punk rock and hardcore are such cloudy terms now though, each person’s definition is inevitably different.
Sure. Cloudy is a perfect word for it. You gotta realise how long it’s been since these terms were most valid. Those terms are mass collectors at this point and not necessarily the pointed signifiers they would have been in 1977 or 1982.
You guys were in the studio in January, what do you have in the pipeline?
We were in the studio for seven days straight working on a new record. It’s gonna be another full length, called The Chemistry Of Common Life.
How did the Chemistry sessions work out?
They were great actually, really efficient and we’re pleased with how things have turned out. The songs are more multi-directional and compositional but at the same time, we’re writing these two chord, syrupy punk songs. So it’s a lot more cohesive than Hidden World. This time we actually sat down and wrote a record, whereas Hidden World was more of combustion of ideas. This one is a lot more streamlined. The music will please and confuse at the same time.
That’s kind of the band’s modus operandi though, right?
Yeah pretty much. From day one, whether you’re confused because the recording you’re hearing is so bad or because you wonder why after 14 minutes you’re still listening to it.
Why did you decide to record another album so quickly after taking several years to get round to the first one?
The time since Hidden World hasn’t been as productive, at least in terms of our usual approach of leaving a trail of peppered singles here and there but we all felt the things that we did do between Hidden World and now were enough to bridge the gap. It just made more sense to do an LP than to spin our wheels. At this point it seems right to have another large block on our shoulders as opposed to diluting any momentum that we may have. We didn’t want to do more 7” singles just for the sake of it so we allowed ourselves to follow a more natural trajectory. The UK version of ‘Year Of The Pig’ is out on 12” though first, after the US version came out last year. It’s been edited into a more palatable, mini epic on the flip.
How did you set about the task of trimming it into this more ‘palatable’ version?
It was a pretty arbitrary. Someone came to us, said “Hey, we’ve got an edit”. We’re like, “Oh really, who did it?”, and they were all “Oh, some guy”. So they cut out the lengthy bits and tried to condense it, making it this distilled idea of what the song originally was. It’s like when you go to a restaurant and you want to eat everything on the menu so you just get the sampler platter to get a taste of everything. That’s what the edit feels like.
But is it as fulfilling as a full course?
Yeah, totally! You’re gonna leave with your belt open and feeling short of breath, no matter what.
You’re pretty happy with the edit, then?
Oh yeah, we are. Our brains operated on that whole song as this big, monolithic monster and we’re used to hearing it that way, so it was a bit of a shock to hear the edit at first but we all got used to it and even with the changes, it’s still our handy work. We’re glad it’s coming out with both versions. That sort of thing is right up our alley; variation and getting new parties involved. It makes it all the more fun for us to see where other people take our ideas.
There’s so much going on within the song, all 18-plus minutes of it, did you approach it with the intention of creating such a mammoth wigout? Oh yeah totally. That’s the great luxury of working with these ‘Year Of The…’’ songs. I guess in a way, ‘Looking For Gold’ was the first of them. ‘Year Of The Dog’ we tried to write something similar that wasn’t so indulgent but was just as long, imposing and large in scope. In order to top ourselves, for ‘Year Of The Pig’ we had to embrace new things, incorporating other musicians, new sounds and tempos. It must have been fun to make, that broad palette must have offered a lot of freedom? There was a certain freedom but none of us are particularly good at jamming. We can’t go into the studio and come up with stuff. We’re not that kind of band. The other irony of the freedom of it all is, the initial response from the first bunch of people we played it for was ‘this is pretty good but, it’s like, the same note for 25 minutes’. So perhaps there were more constraints than we even realised.
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How did you feel about the predictable ‘sell out’ accusations after putting out an album on Jade Tree?
Surprisingly it wasn’t as bad as we had worried. We were a tad concerned that Hidden World might be seen as shutting the door on a part of our history or that some people would think of that as a compromise of our place in independent music but it really wasn’t. Maybe we overrated what Jade Tree represented to people. Of course some people washed their hands of us. That’s fine but when it boils down to it, what we’re doing is still interesting and valid to us and others. So to all the critics who say we’re sell-outs or whatever, if that’s the conclusion they draw from our current associations that’s really not who we are. But we don’t lose any sleep over it.
It seems pretty lug-headed too just to base a band’s supposed validity or worth on cosmetic factors such as the label they release their music on.
That’s the thing, the music we’re making right now wouldn’t be much different if we were on Feral Ward or Warner Bros or whatever. Not to say that we’re on either. But I would love to do a record on Feral Ward.
What’s the story with the alleged lawsuit between you guys, Rolling Stone and Camel?
Oh, it’s not alleged, it’s happening. Camel took out an ad in Rolling Stone that was like this cartoon of the ‘Indie Rock Universe’ featuring a lot of different bands. But basically very few of the bands were contacted for permission. What with the direct association with a cigarette company, we understandably had a negative reaction to being included. So we were approached by a lawyer with the option for a class action lawsuit against RJ Reynolds and Rolling Stone and it’s currently being pursued. It’s in the developmental stages and I don’t how many details are cemented but it’s not a comfortable feeling. Especially when you find out about it third hand.
I say ‘alleged lawsuit’ because one of the other artists involved is Xiu Xiu and I’ve heard Jamie Stewart hires somebody to filter misinformation about himself on the web. That seemed like something that might appeal to Fucked Up too, to mess with people’s heads, no?
There are two answers to that. Yes of course, we’ve been doing that since day one and the other is…I don’t know what you’re talking about, haha.
You seem like a pretty web-savvy band all the same, with the regular upkeep of blog, Looking For Gold for example, how important is the’ net as a medium to Fucked Up?
It’s so prevalent, the debate is no longer about whether it’s a necessary evil or not, it’s just a part of how we all function now. Some people in the band have embraced that more than others. Mike [aka guitarist, 10,000 Marbles] does the blog, almost exclusively. It couldn’t be a better medium for him. That’s his way of projecting the band. The `net’s a very valuable tool, especially for a smaller band like us. The blog is of course band related but it’s not even necessarily constricted to that. It’s almost like a fanzine in disguise I guess.
Do you think the uprise in blogging might kill off the art of the `zine?
Well a good fanzine is hard to find these days. Some people still do them with record recommendations and reviews and whatever but a real fanzine used to be about fanatical, passionate writing covering something in depth of interest to you. I think the blog has robbed us of some of that. There are some great places online though where you will still find that passion, Gulture and Ugly Things for example. Whether it’s on the ‘net or in print though, it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other.
Did you read that article on the band in the New York Times in which the guy didn’t even mention your name?
Little things like that must make being lumbered with the apparent albatross of a name like Fucked Up, worth it?
At this point it kinda works for us and against us. Fucked Up as a name is a bit of a dinosaur. It’s a relic from a time when we though the band would end in six months. It still works for us, personally. What’s in a name, right? If Fucked Up was reliant on its name we would sound like Repulsion, or Godflesh or Bathtub Shitter. Fucked Up has always been more about content than surface.
25 Brighton Engine Rooms
26 Exeter Lemon Grove
27 Portsmouth Pyramids
28 Sheffield Corporation
29 London Astoria
1 Kingston Fighting Cocks