Sunday, May 11, 2008

Interview with Chris Dodge (Spazz, Despise You, Slap A Ham )

Interview orginally by Jes of Neutral Words.

Thanks Neutral Words

How did Spazz actually form? I’m not just talking about how you guys all got to know each other, rather, I’m meaning how did you guys come up with the sound you made so popular? Sure, there was grindcore and hardcore but you guys were distinctly different... What ingredients did you put together to come up with your sound?

No idea. We didn’t plan on doing anything specific. We just made music that sounded good to us. All bands are about (or should be about) taking music you like & making it your own. Honestly, the lyrics were mostly an afterthought, which is why a lot of them are so cryptic and are mostly inside-jokes based on our friends or things that happened to us. Probably using a lot of underground pop culture references (Hong Kong movies, skating, tagging, hip hop) unintentionally helped us gain popularity.

Hey, to start off, is there anything you’re especially interested in promoting? Anything you’re working on, or something you think deserves attention?

Thanks for asking. I kinda went on hiatus for a while, but doing a lot more lately. Currently, I’m writing some new songs with Burn Your Bridges (working on a 7 inch for 625), practicing with Despise You to play some live shows in Cali this year, and recording & releasing electronic noise with Bacteria Cult.

Spazz is kind of known for its use of various samples in your songs as well as the pop culture types of imagery. Would you say you guys were kind of trying to mock pop culture in using that type of imagery, or was it just for fun?

It was all for fun. Basically whatever amused us.

Putting aside music for a second, how’s life been? It has been a while since Slap-A-Ham ended, but have you been able to relax a bit more or have you been busy being involved with jobs/family/other projects?

I think I just got burnt out on the scene for a while, and after going into serious debt from running the label, I decided I really wanted to work for The Man & bring home a regular paycheck. I spend way more time than I want to working for someone else, but at least at the end of the day I know I can pay my bills. When I was running the label, I wasn’t living month-to-month, I was living week-to-week.

My favorite Spazz song by far is Sword of the Lord. Just out of my own curiosity, do you remember what that song is about specifically? Do you have a favorite?

I think we were on tour & watching some talk show... I think it was Jerry Springer... and some Jesus fanatic mentioned something about using the sword of the lord. We knew on the spot it had to be a song title. My favorite song is probably Crocket.

So, tell us about the record collection... It must be huge. Anything you’re especially proud of?

Well, over recent years I’ve sold a lot of the more impressive things in my collection. I’ve been buying punk records since about 82, so just about everything you can think of, I’ve probably owned at one time or another. But after having countless thousands of records, CDs, & cassettes, it became so overwhelming, I couldn’t even keep my collection in the house. It had to be kept in boxes, which is pointless. If it’s sitting in a box, why bother owning it. And in recent years, I stopped being collector. Now I’m the opposite, I don’t really like to own anything. So, when I have time, I sell off bits of my collection. That said, I still have certain things I have a hard time parting with, like the Teen Idles 7 inch.

Any future plans for Spazz, or is that dead and buried?

No plans. We’ll probably never play again. We all keep in touch regarding reissuing some old releases & stuff, but that’s about it.

Ok, Ancient Chinese Secret is amazing, and has got to do some more music... What’s the story with ACS? Any plans in that regard?

Nothing will ever happen for ACS again. Another band nobody cared about, but I’m glad you’re one of 3 people who liked it.

In an interview with you that I read out of Crass Menagerie, you said “I made a lot of bad business decisions over the years, but I have an artistic temperament and not a business temperament. And since I was doing the label for artistic and not business reasons, I reckon that would make sense.” I’d say within the music scene, a lot of decisions aren’t made based on what may make money or what’s good for business. In almost all cases, bands aren’t making money and are usually playing in small, cramped venues with bad sound. What do you think draws people to get involved, when on the surface it looks almost like a waste of time?

Obviously, it’s love for the music, the scene, the chance for anyone to be actively involved if they want to. At least, that’s what it was for me.

Any plans for another Super Sabado Gigante / Fiesta Grande type fest that you know of?

I think Six Weeks is going to do another Super Sabado type show sometime again. I have no interest in reviving Fiesta Grande. I started doing the shows to give the bands on the label a place to play, because at the time, very few people liked that type of music. Obviously, that’s changed, so it served its purpose.

Were/are you trying to achieve some common goal with Legion of Doom, Stikky, Spazz, Bacteria Cult, EWBT, ACS and now Burn Your Bridges?

Just having fun, making music I enjoy that hopefully appeals to others as well.

How’d the idea for East West Blast Test come about? Any plans for upcoming releases with them? What is working with Dave Witte like and how does he manage his time, being in almost every band to exist?

Dave & I talked about collaborating for years but never had the time or money to fly out to either coast & work on something in person, so one day I just told him to go into a studio & record drums & I’d write songs to whatever he sent me. Pretty fun because neither of us knows what the other will do in advance. Dave is awesome. He’s a truly great person, a great friend, and one of the most amazing drummers I’ve ever seen. He quit his day job several years ago to pursue music full time & has been quite successful. I’m sure Dave is up for another release, but we haven’t talked about it.

What got you interested in doing something like Bacteria Cult and (forgive me, I’m not up to speed on the inner workings of this type of music) what exactly do you do?

I’ve liked noise for a long time. I put out a few noise releases under the name Jesus Philbin. Bacteria Cult is a collaboration between me & two friends, Jay from Circuit Wound & Kevin from Watch Me Burn/Fetus Eaters. It’s basically sound exploration, creating soundscapes with a wide variety of electronics. I enjoy taking sounds & manipulating them to the point that they’re unrecognizable.

Just looking at your Myspace page, you receive messages like “OMG OMG OMG. I fuckin love you. come back and play one last show. I fuck love you sooo much. omg you have no clue and SAPZZ.ahhh. fuckin love them. ahhh its you...omg. I love spazz.dannggg come to Fontana and play one last show for meee”. Obviously, the internet has helped your bands - as well as others - become raised to a sort of underground “cult of personality” status. How do you think the internet has contributed to the growth of various remote underground scenes, such as powerviolence/fastcore/grindcore, which were at one time very obscure but are now much more popular? Do you think the internet has helped, or hurt the genuinity/sincerity of the music scene, being that a lot of people, now, get involved just to be cool?

No matter what, there will always be someone trying to get involved to be cool. No one has any control over that. And frankly, it doesn’t matter. The internet & MySpace are pretty great in my opinion. It used to be incredibly difficult to find out about new bands, let alone get their music, in the early days of hardcore. While it’s easy to argue that this newer quick accessibility can homogenize the scene, I think the greater purpose served is that you can find new music & like-minded individuals more easily. It’s a tremendous tool for communication. Distributing music

Were the Old Joe Clarks the only band on Raging Woody? Did Raging Woody put out anything else and is any of that stuff still available?

The Old Joe Clarks was a folksy country band that I really loved. Mike from OJC was the infamous banjo player on a few Spazz songs (like Spudboy). Anyhow, I thought they were too great not to have a record out, so I put one out for them & created Raging Woody as a side label to keep them separate from the Slap A Ham bands. It was a failure, of course. Nobody wanted it. A few people liked it, emphasis on few. I think I sold about 100 of 500. A lot of them ended up in the garbage a few years ago.

Again, referring to your interview in Crass Menagerie, referring to bands you turned down to be on the Slap-A-Ham label, you said ?It’s stuff I turned down for my own reasons even though I knew it would probably sell but I didn’t think Slap A Ham was the right home for it for one reason or another Despite that, are there bands you turned down or could have released that you legitimately regret not releasing?

No. But there are bands I released that I regret releasing. That’s all I’ll say.

Anything else your involved in that we should look out for from you, be it music or otherwise?

I think I summed that up in the first question.

So, you’ve started writing reviews for Short, Fast + Loud again. What made you decide to start back up? Is this a signal that you may be interested in looking at bands and possibly getting back into the record businesses, via 625, Slap-A-Ham, or otherwise?

I have zero interest in starting a label again. I love writing, I love new music, I love playing music, and I’m looking forward to having my music come out on other labels, other than my own.

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