It’s a balmy summer evening on the streets of Dublin as your faithful correspondent swaps sunshine for strobe lights. The room is unassuming, intimate, and wouldn’t look too out of place in closing out an episode of the recent Twin Peaks revival. Nor would tonight’s hosts, for that matter.
Killing time as the motions of stagecraft are carried out before my eyes, I wonder just what awaits in the depths below. In a relatively short space of time, New Jersey natives theOGM and Eaddy have amassed quite the cult following. A furious distillation of industrial crunch, violent individual expression, hip hop undertones, punk spirit, and even a hint of pop panache for good measure; Ho99o9 pack quite the eclectic punch.
Throw in a raucous live show that takes in circle pits and broken glass along with general chaos and you get the idea. Debut offering proper United States Of Ho99o9 manages to capture a great deal of the above as it burrows beneath the surface, into the murk, facing death, decay, and desolation head-on. It’s never anything less than a compelling listen, the clash of styles and focused determination marking it out as one of the stronger statements in a troubled year.
Down a level and face to face, the pair prove good company, immediately complimenting my choice of footwear - checkerboard Vans with gum soles, if you must know - and kicking back before they turn the upstairs room upside down a few hours later.
DiS: What did you set out to achieve with United States Of Ho99o9?
Eaddy: To get our voice heard. Everyone has an opinion on what’s going on in 2017, and this was an introduction to ourselves outside of what’s going on in the world; stories of what we’ve been through, what our friends have been through, how we live our lives, whether we want to go out and protest or go out at night, have a drink and party, smoke some weed, rage at a show, or just telling somebody "fuck you".
theOGM: [laughs] Basically.
Given the turmoil in the world right now, is it the perfect time to put out an album like this?
theOGM: It’s crazy, because we had the content before all of this happened, but it was the perfect time to release it. There’s just so much turmoil around the world and in our country in particular, where we’ve gone through this change of leader, and whether it’s a good person or a bad person, it’s still change, it still affects people in many ways. Personally, it’s probably helped me to be stronger, to be more aware of my platform and my surroundings, and what I want from this, where I want to be tomorrow. Not even 10 years from now, because I have no idea where I’ll be, just tomorrow. Live for now.
If I could throw one of the questions from the record back at you - do you believe in angels, demons, gods, and the supernatural?
Eaddy: I used to. My parents used to drag me to church when I was young, but when you’re a kid in church you’re just looking at the time like, "When am I going to get the fuck out of here?" I didn’t really dig too deep into religion as a child, it was just something I was made to do. I went to a Catholic school my whole life, right up until I went to college, but I only did a year-and-a-half of college, so pretty much my whole life was Catholic school. We’d go to church every Friday as part of religion class, and just like with my parents I was doing it to get a grade, because I had to do it. I took a more spiritual step when I started listening to Bad Brains. But, there are some evil motherfuckers in this world.
Eaddy: There are some positive people in this world, and there is some weird shit going on in the universe. There’s some crazy shit out in the world.
Before you heard Bad Brains, could you imagine doing what you do today?
Eaddy: Nope. Bad Brains was the start of my whole life, my second life, the second chapter when you find yourself as a kid. When you’re growing up, you listen to things, you dress like whatever, but when I started listening to Bad Brains it was like an atomic bomb exploded in my head - "this is what I need to be".
How did that go down at home, given the Catholic upbringing?
Eaddy: My mom’s a baptist, and they were cool with whatever I listened to and how I dressed. It was school that enforced the Catholic thing. Schools in my neighbourhood at the time were too fuckin’ rough and my parents didn’t want me to go to public school, so they sent me 30 minutes across town to Catholic school.
theOGM: My mom was hardcore religious. My father wasn’t. He was super chill and into music. He played bass, had a regular nine-to-five and he’d come home, play his music, drink his booze, chill vibes. My mom was super hardcore, a Seventh-day Adventist - they go to church on Saturdays. Growing up as a kid, you go to school Monday through Friday and then Saturday mornings, that’s when all the fire cartoons come on. X-Men, Spider-Man, Transformers… all the dope shit come on Saturday morning and I’m in church! I’m missing out on all that shit. It's like he said; I’m there in church trying to figure out when this shit is over. We would leave the house from nine in the morning and don’t get back until two in the afternoon. That’s crazy as a kid, your only time to have fun is Saturday and Sunday.
But yeah, my mom is hardcore. She is not into the way I dress, my hair, the music… nothing! Smoking weed, that’s like heroin to her. Eventually, I decided that it wasn’t for me. I’d talk to my pops and be like "Hey, you don’t go to church, what’s that about?", and he said that he believed in God but didn’t feel the need to go to church to prove his faith. I thought, "I’m down for that! How can I do that?", and I remember waking up one morning and telling her that I wasn’t going to go.
Eaddy: How old were you?
theOGM: I was like 13 or 14. I just straight told her - I’m not going, I’m not feeling this. She nearly killed me! She nearly killed me that morning, but because she had to get to church she promised to take care of me when she got back. She took my sister and I stood my ground and I never went back. Crazy enough, I did end up going to church with my homies years later when I was 18, 19, 20. My friends were heavy into Christianity and I wanted to revisit it, give it a second chance in a nondenominational church where I can dress like I am now and not be judged. If we walked into my mom’s church now looking like this? Tattoos looking like this?! They’d be like; "Y’all motherfuckers are the devil", straight up. But... what is the devil?
One of my favourite moments on United States Of Ho99o9 is when you introduce busy spoken-word interludes, one of which takes place inside of a moving car.
Eaddy: We were doing a shoot, and we were doing an interview while we had a long drive back...
theOGM: I record random conversations on my phone, even if it’s in an Uber, sometimes I think, "Woah, this is an interesting conversation, I’m gonna record it!", and maybe it sounds cool enough to use as a skit. On that occasion, we were just talking shit with a friend and it happened to work out.
I think that might make you a journalist.
In that moment, I felt like I was in the car with you. In terms of production, you worked with Dave Sitek, and there’s quite a lot of styles and genres going on throughout…
theOGM: We make a lot of music, so it was just a matter of, okay, what songs are going to be cohesive and tell this story properly? As well as the record goes together, some of it really doesn’t go together, and that’s the beauty of it, too. Sometimes, painters set off to paint a very specific thing and while they’re working on it, a new idea hits. With Dave, when you listen to what he makes with TV On The Radio and then what he makes with us, it’s totally different shit. He comes from a gritty punk rock background. He just gets it.
He has good pop sensibilities in his locker, too. I don’t know how you guys would feel about that particular label, but I feel there’s an element of pop to what you create.
theOGM: Well, that was one of the challenges. You asked earlier about what we wanted to achieve with the record - that was a challenge. Before we realised very experimental sketches, whereas these songs with Dave are still hard, abrasive, and aggressive, but there’s some sort of catchiness to them. Our challenge was to make an album that no matter how hard and abrasive it is, you can still remember choruses and lyrics in that catchy kind of way. You want people to be like, "Yeah, that’s that riff!"
Eaddy: Just about every Pantera song off their second album, as soon as you hear the riff, you know where it’s going.
At the risk of asking a clichéd question, I am curious as to what scares you.
Eaddy: The only thing that scares me is spending years in jail. I don’t want to go to jail.
theOGM: That, and losing my penis.
Eaddy: If my dick was ever cut off, I would commit suicide.
theOGM: Losing my penis scares me, getting any sort of disease, any sort of cancerous virus, anything like that. But then at the same time, as much as that scares me, it’s kind of like a mirror in how we’re all going to somehow, one day, evaporate, so it’s kind of beautiful in that sense, too.
Is there a sense of taking power back in leaning into the subject of death so heavily on the record?
theOGM: Yeah. People are very, "Oh my god no let’s not talk about death", it’s so taboo. But it’s reality. It’s going to happen either way, and you just accept life and you accept what it is. You just live. You can’t live in fear.
Eaddy: Plus, we like the darkness.
theOGM: The fear of losing my penis, though, that’s real.
United States Of Ho99o9 is out now via Caroline / Toys Have Power. For more information about the band, including their upcoming UK & European headline tour, please visit their official website.