LH: How’s the tour been going – the generic question?
Chris: It’s been really good.
Hannah: Yeah, it’s been really good. We’ve been out for nearly seven weeks. We started up in Iceland, and played a couple of shows in Reykjavik. Then we met up with Pascal in France, and had a lot of really fun shows in France. Should I keep telling you all the countries that we went to? Okay, we went from France to Italy, then to Greece and then we went back to Italy for a couple of days. Austria, Czech Republic, Germany and then Denmark, and then Sweden, Norway, then back to Denmark, Holland and the we went to England, then Ireland, and back to England.
H: Oh and Wales. And now we’re back obviously in London, in England, woh!
LH: I was wondering how it was going now with three of you now? Because it obviously changes the dynamic not least in how you travel places. I mean you could take buses or hitch before as two.
C: Ideally I’m don’t think we would hitch hike that often on tour, not that it’s that hard, we’d always get to shows on time, but you would just spend a lot more time arranging travel and trying to travel. It means waking up at 8am every morning and getting onto the road, which is really exciting and really cool. But, it’s a lot more relaxing to have a car, despite that we’re having to pay for petrol, and having to deal with driving and parking. But I think overall it’s a lot more relaxing. And it’s a place just to put all our stuff even.
C: We’d hitch hike into some squat and then we’d want to walk around town, and we’d end up having to leave all of our stuff lying around wherever.
H: Or carry all of our stuff.
C: Or if the squat wasn’t open when we got there, if we got there a little early it just meant that we had to walk around the town all day carrying backpacks, and a guitar and the violin, and CDs. We’re able to bring a distro with us now, the Plan-It-X distro, which we weren’t able to do on the first tours. Because obviously we’re not going to fit hundreds of CDs into our backpack. And then backpack around with all our stuff. It’s a lot different to that.
I feel kind of bad because I feel we’re ruining a lot of people’s dreams about us. Going through Europe there’s been a lot of flyers saying things like, ‘Ghost Mice, crazy hitch hiking punk duo from Bloomington’. And everyone has this vision of us being some super romantic travelling duo.
H: But we did!
Pascal: And you have a French man now, so you’re still romantic.
C: We traded the hitch hiking romance for a bit of French influence.
LH: Which leads logically to the next question; how did you [Pascal] end up in Ghost Mice?
P: I don’t know. It’s complicated. I randomly bought a CD from a distro about four years ago. It was a Bananas CD, that was on Plan-It-X. I bought it because it was really cheap and I thought the cover was really funny.
C: How did you actually find Plan-It-X anyway? I never actually asked you that question. Was it just web page surfing?
P: Yeah. I put the address into a search engine when I had the CD.
C: But how did you actually get the record?
P: Oh, it was at a show, a Mirex show, at a squat about four years ago.
C: And someone had a Plan-It-X distro at a Mirex show four years ago in Paris?
P: Yes, it was some lesbians coming along to Mirex. But yes, anyway, the CD was really good. So I took a look at the Plan-It-X website. And I was like, ‘Oh, they have another bunch of Bananas CDs’, so I chose another one. And I wrote to Chris and he sent it back with a letter saying, ‘We’re going on tour in France in six months but we don’t know anyone in Paris. Can you help us set up a show?’ And it was my first time setting up a show, a DIY show. It went well. They came back a year after and 150 people showed up for that show. It was a really great show. Then three months after I went to Bloomington for the first time. Then about a year ago Chris asked me to join the band playing small instruments for a Plan-It-X tour they were doing.
C: Basically through a series of strange events I owed Pascal one big adventure. We were going to have a big adventure in Europe but then it all kind of fell apart. So, I owed him an adventure. And he really wanted to come to the US to be part of the Plan-It-X Fest tour with the bus, and 35 people on a school bus for 30 days. Then I knew there was noway for him to come along as a roadie, because we already had six people working on that tour and no-one else was allowed to bring other people. If you wanted to bring someone you had to make them part of your band – and a lot of people did. We added Pascal, and it worked out really great.
LH: Did you play small instruments before you joined the band or did you learn after?
P: I learned after joining the band. I’m a bass guitarist originally.
C: I basically told him there was no way he could do the tour unless it was with small instruments. And you bought a ukulele, or did you already have one?
P: I bought one.
C: So he bought a ukulele to learn for the band, and a friend had a concertina, which we thought would work well.
H: Now I realise… I thought Pascal had a mandolin, but it’s not is it?
P: No I don’t have a mandolin.
H: Even the one you’re playing right now?
C: No, it’s not really a mandolin.
H: I’ve been lying to everyone. I’m sorry. I thought it was mandolin.
C: I think that explains how [Pascal] joined the band.
LH: So it seems like lots of bands are doing acoustic punk or folk punk stuff at the moment and I was wondering why you thought that was?
C: Well, I think a lot of people have influenced people – obviously. So just like in Southampton last night they said that we were pretty much the first band that ever played acoustic there. And it was sort of the first time that they set up a house show when we played there. And since then, Jan who does shows there says he puts on almost one acoustic show on per month now. I think, and I’m not saying the we single handedly influenced people. Firstly I was influenced by our friend David Dondero. He came on tour with our electric band, the Devil is Electric, when we went on tour with This Bike is a Pipebomb. And we bought David Dondero along with us. And pretty much no-one played just acoustic guitar – obviously people did that sometimes at punk shows – but it seemed rare in 2000. It was May, 2000 that we went on tour, and pretty much every night he did better than both of our bands. And he was just a guy with a guitar. It was really inspirational. And a lot of people were coming up to him, we’d hear him talking to people after the show, and they’d be saying, ‘I play acoustically but I’d never dream of actually playing at a punk show. I think I’m just going to start playing!’ And then we’d go back to some of these towns and see some of these kids and I remember them from their other bands, but then we’d see them and they’d be playing acoustic this time. So I think that people like him had a much bigger influence than some other bands that normally get referred to as being the band that influenced everyone to play acoustically. I think it was just sort of a natural step. I think once people realised that you could play a show without having equipment, without having to have a PA, without having to have a venue, that wouldn’t be loud, and so you didn’t have to worry about getting in to trouble. I think it just opened up a whole new world of, ‘Oh, we can do shows at my house!’ That’s the good element of it. And you don’t need to find, if you live in a small town and you write songs, there are tons of songwriters who are just at home writing songs wishing they could find a drummer or a bass player for years. Now they’re just like, ‘Well, I think I’ll go play’ and I think that’s really cool. I think it’s just been a movement in general of a lot of people doing it.
We started as Ghost Mice just so that we could tour in Europe. We couldn’t really tour here. We talked about playing acoustic, and we tried that a few times and it was usually bad. We were just like, ‘This is weird’. But we basically just wanted to tour here, and we wanted to be able to hitch hike because we knew we wouldn’t be able to afford to rent a vehicle, or do anything. So that first tour we just saved up for tickets, and I brought $400 with me for 68 days, or something like that. $400 was all that we had between the two of us, so we were really counting on actually having the shows work out. Which they did.
H: But we had no idea.
C: So, we started playing acoustic out of necessity, so that we could tour lighter. And at US shows tons of times we would arrive and there would be no PA or the PA breaks after like five minutes, or the cops come. There’s just a million things that can go wrong at electric shows in the US.
H: You just end up thinking, ‘Oh I wish I could play acoustic right now’.
C: And someone would shout from the crowd, ‘Play acoustic!’ But if you’re just playing power chords and singing really loud, it doesn’t always work. And then you try to play a second acoustic guitar as a bass and it just doesn’t sound good. I thought violin would be cool because it would be loud enough to hear notes and melodies through the songs.
P: That wasn’t romantic enough.
C: Yeah, it’s better now.
LH: How are the small, DIY punk shows doing in the States at the moment? There seemed to be a time when Clear Channel, and others, were attacking that scene, and closing down shows.
C: I’m not really sure that it ever really affected the small, the true DIY shows.
C: Like everybody talks about it. But you don’t know anyone that’s playing these shows. Or at least not in the mid-West in Bloomington or Indiana. I think it’s still… It wavers you know? Every town has its ups and downs. But overall I think it’s as good as it has ever been. If not better. A lot better in some places because people are maintaining stable venues, which is a good step in learning how to maintain a scene rather than just opening a club with one month’s rent and then seeing what happens. That happens a lot, and it still happens. Someone just opens a club and they have no idea how they’re going to maintain it. Or they’ll open a club without working out whether it’s legal. That works sometimes. We had this store called Secret Sailor Books in Bloomington. For two years we did shows right in the centre, the very dead centre of town, on the town square. Did shows that went on till midnight sometimes, with no permits, no nothing, and no problems. The cops came once because the door was open, and there was this really loud screamo band, and they just said, ‘Stop!’ So things like that work out. I think things are going pretty well. I wouldn’t say that the Clear Channel thing is a challenge. Though I think there is a bigger seperation, I think, between the big punk scene, the mainstream punk scene, and the DIY one. Its vast. There’ll be bands that we won’t even know and someone will ask us about, because a lot of those bands tour Europe, but they don’t tour on the same circuit in the US. And they’ll be bands that are really popular here, and people say, ‘Oh well you must know them, they’re from Indiana’.
H: ‘Nope, never heard of them. Sorry!’
C: ‘But you must have done, they’re a huge punk band’. And you’re like, ‘Oh really’. But its because they play these places that we would never go, and never play.
LH: I was actually going to ask about that, but I’ll save it for later. I was going to ask, and now Pascal is in the band I’m not sure how appropriate the question is, how much of a product of the Midwest, or Bloomington, you think the band is?
C: Well, I think there’s obviously an influence. I’ve lived there for 12 years now.
H: And I’ve lived there for ten years. But I’m trying to think if its had an impact.
C: You mean like we’re country music because we come from Indiana?
LH: Sort of. I mean, do you think you’d play the music you do if you came from New York, or Greensboro or somewhere like that?
H: Maybe not. I’m sure its had an influence because I do definitely identify with the part of Bloomington where I live. And I’m sure it’s influenced me, but I’m not sure if I can pin point that or not. (laughs)
C: There’s not really a lot of other acoustic, folky music around there. I don’t know; I would say that its influenced us more as people than as musicians.
H: Yeah probably.
LH: Do you think being from a small town gave you space to experiment and develop in different ways? Thinking of small towns in this country whenever there’s a gig all the kids go to the event…
C: Well Bloomington basically function like a big city, but it’s really just a small town. Like Pascal said the first time he came there he was amazed because there were way more DIY shows in Bloomington than there ever were in Paris. Basically Bloomington has everything that a big city would have in the US, but its a really small town. So the shows are a little bit the same as they are in big cities; a little bit jaded. There’s definitely not one gigantic, young, local scene that comes out to every show. On a Friday night there’s normally ten choices of entertainment, and it’s so small that you can get to any of them, and they’re all cheap. I don’t know, it’s spread really thin. So there’s definitely not tons of local support. I mean there’s support, but its not like the small towns that you can get, and there are towns like that a lot in the Midwest. You know where a local band plays and 100 kids come to every show, go crazy, and knows all the words, and buys their demo tape.
H: It’s definitely not like that in Bloomington.
C: If anything I would say that we nurtured our current sound, and the idea of experimenting, from touring so much. Even developing the idea of playing acoustic was so that we could play more shows. Basically to make ourselves more survivable on the DIY touring circuit with minimal donations for gas usually at US shows. There might be a hundred kids and we’ll get $25 out of donation. People don’t really seem to understand the maths, so it gets good to be versatile. Now we can play in towns that didn’t even have a scene before because they didn’t have a venue, because maybe five years ago the venue got closed down. But there’s still kids into punk, and they don’t know what to do. But now we can go there and play. I would say just the DIY scene as a whole was what influenced our sound, like the small basement show network in the US. We’re playing for our friends and being able to play slightly more accessible, and be easier to book.
LH: Where did the idea for the Plan-It-X Fest come from?
H: Which one? The initial one or…
C: It’s definitely not an annual thing, though I know it sometimes seems like that.
LH: Ah, I thought it was an annual thing.
C: This [2006's Fest] is the third one.
H: The first one was because it was the ten year anniversary of Plan-It-X.
C: No, that was the bus tour. The first one I think was mostly just me and my friend Cathy. I remember saying, ‘I know fests are always a bad idea, but imagine if we have all the Plan-It-X bands play one big show’, then we just started talking about it and it got really exciting thinking, ‘Man, I bet a lot of kids would come’. And I got really excited about it, and somehow started to do it, with the intent not to make it like another boring music fest. It worked really well. We had 32 bands over two days. Made $6,000 for a local charity, and there were no problems whatsoever, and everyone who was there said it was like their best experience. I think it was because we tried to make it different, and just the bands playing made it different because the bands were all hanging out with everyone, and most of the bands knew most of the people there, even though there was 600 kids there. But you could pretty much recognise faces all over, ‘Oh it’s you guys; hey!’
H: It was pretty exciting.
C: And if it wasn’t just the kids that were at your shows, it was the kids that did your shows in other towns, or bands that you did shows for, or the promoters and the bands were all in the crowd were talking to each other. So it was basically like a giant family meeting. And then right after that one we went on tour, and I read an article about the Warped tour and Bad Religion justifying playing a show that has a marines recruiting table at it, and then saying the generic, horrible, argument that I have never agreed with, which is that you have to make some compromises to get your message out to more people. It’s complete bullshit. That’s something that I always take a stance on. You know, more people does not get your message out better, especially not more people with tainted images like the marines recruiting booth there. And they just tried to justify it, and basically threw away their years and years of what I consider to be good political songs, you know? That was just really depressing. That was the first time that I heard there were actually armed forces recruiting things at Warped Tour, and that it wasn’t destroyed everyday. You know if they set it up, and the punks destroyed it everyday, that would be something. If it was, ‘Oh yeah, their stand gets destroyed everyday. The bands normally say something about it then everyone goes and destroys it, but the marines keep coming back’. That would be interesting at least. But it just pissed me off so bad. The original plan that got botched right away, because it was ridiculous, was to actually follow the Warped Tour in our bus.
C: And to do $5 or $10 shows everywhere in the same towns but at a DIY space and actually campaigning outside the Warped Tour to get people to not go there, and to explain why and tell them, ‘Hey, there’s a real punk scene, and you guys can be a member of it and not just a spectator of this fake punk scene’. Because there the kids are spectators; they’re paying $5 for bottled water. And once you go in you can’t get out, so you have to buy your food and drink in there. There’s fucking army recruitment tables, it’s just total bullshit. So our dream was to go with it and offer an alternative to it. And then we looked at their drives – because we waited until they posted their dates – but their drives, because they could afford to, were going from Denver, Colorado to Chicago or something, which is, you know, a 28 hour drive. We weren’t going to do that! That’s ridiculous. So we changed our dates around and made it more reasonable. But the idea was to show that we could do a traveling tour, with a lot of bands and make it completely different than that kind of bullshit. And it pretty much worked. We played all the shows, and all the bands played, and we made some money for benefits. So basically these ideas just pop up. I swore I wasn’t going to do one this year but then I thought of the idea of the summer-camp style thing. Basically my dream with this one is that since everyone is going to be in town that little bit longer they’ll have more time to hang out and get to know each other and make friends. And since you’re taking classes with people you’re going to be spending a few hours a day in a small, more intimate, setting with strangers and learning something together, and hopefully doing some hands on work together. And hopefully by the end of the fest, like every night, basically the music is just at night time, and is just a side thing. You go to classes, you hang out, you learn stuff and then if you want to you can go to the punk show at night. Hopefully by the end at the punk shows at night people will be hanging out with their buddies that they made like in school!
LH: It seems like a really nice idea. We tried to do something similar in London about two years ago, but it didn’t really work, so I hope it does for you guys.
C: We’re not really sure if it will work either. We never know if any of these are going to work, and I think I’m getting a little cocky, I think, because the first two actually worked. This one could be a disaster. But so many people are excited. As soon as we posted teachers started volunteering, and there’s a really wide spectrum of classes, with teachers coming from all over the place. A lot of local people were interested in helping. A lot of local people did some really cool stuff, and wrote really long proposals of what they wanted to teach without even being asked to.
H: Its been really cool, yeah.
C: I think it’s going to be good. I think people are supporting it. So if all the kids will make it on time to their classes it will be good.
H: (laughs) That might be hard.
LH: So has it been going every year for the past three years?
C: Yeah, this will be the third.
LH: Wasn’t there the CrimethInc convergence at one of the earlier ones? How did that work out?
C: It was kind of messy. Basically, some CrimethInc people wrote me and asked me about it, and I said, ‘Yeah, sounds cool, I’d love to combine the things’. And it would also further the idea… because you know there’s a big separation because a lot of people in the US scene don’t like the ‘CrimethInc’ kids because they tend to attract a bunch of undesirable traveling punks who have knives and dogs, are drunk all the time, you know. And come to your town and are like, ‘Where’s the Barnes and Noble we’re going to steal some shit!’ And then they go out and create kind of a bad image for your local punk scene. And they might do something that might get security to crack down, you know? Some of them are responsible, but some of them are so amazingly un-responsible that they just create a bad image for the whole scene.
H: Yeah, I think there’s just a few people who wreck it.
C: It wasn’t organised basically because neither party talked to each other, and we were on tour on the bus and it wasn’t a concern because we were being told that it was being worked out. But basically no-one on their side did any co-ordinating, and no-one on our side did any either. They wanted to have a march against this horrible Interstate against the I-69 that they’re building through Bloomington. They’re ripping up farm land and doing really horrible stuff like that. We supported the idea of having a protest and a march, but they wanted to do it after the show, and most of the people in town and on the tour were against that because we didn’t want it to be a direct link. It was kind of this feeling that they were exploiting our crowd, and trying to soak up this energy of a lot of young kids, and young kids who had never done protesting, and would probably just get arrested, and their parents might get really upset, which might just turn them off the whole underground scene. Besides the fact that a midnight march wouldn’t have that much of an impact.
H: A midnight march in a small town: that’s not going to do anything.
C: There’s no traffic, and there’s no-one to see them. So we took a stance and said, ‘We don’t want there to be a march’. They took a stance saying, ‘Well we’re going to do it anyway’. That caused a lot of tension. Actually I personally was like, ‘Okay, well that’s their right to do whatever they’re going to do. I don’t agree with it, but I’ve already made that clear”. But then some people got really bent out of shape, on both sides, over it. And it became this big argument basically.
H: There was also some stuff that happened as well before we got back into town. I don’t even know who it was, but out of town kids, spray-painting on the library.
C: Just really dumb stuff, like spray-painting on the public library, which is a really awesome place.
H: And just really stupid graffiti as well, which just makes it hard for us who live in our town.
C: Stuff like, ‘Kill a cop’, with a circle ‘A’.
H: It’s like, ‘Come on!’
C: It insults graffiti artists! We have good graffiti, and people make stencils, and if they write something, they write something semi-intelligent usually. Obviously, anarchy is cool. I wouldn’t say that killing a cop is cool, but I can understand where they’re going with it, but it’s not intelligent, it’s not interesting and it just makes graffiti artists look bad. They did a lot of that stuff. Then other local kids were getting stopped by the cops because they matched the description of people who were stealing or breaking things. I think the town just got really insulted. Even more than the people on the bus, because we were gone when it happened. And they kept saying, ‘Oh you Plan-It-X kids, fuck you!’ And I was like, ‘No you actually mean Bloomington kids, because not everyone from Bloomington is a Plan-It-X person. Actually it’s only me if you want to get technical’. There’s some of the bands but they consider themselves as separate from the record label. So we had to keep explaining that to people. I think people just felt a little bit invaded that these out of town kids came and started fucking up their town. You know, our town doesn’t really need to get fucked up. Our town doesn’t really need to get fucked up because it’s a nice town and the local businesses and the downtown area supports the punks and the scene. We’ve never had problems.
H: Yeah, so many of our friends are involved in the community, and are doing all of these amazing city projects like our local bookstore, our local free food centre. And it’s all on our level.
C: Basically there’s no-one in Bloomington who says, ‘Oh, no those are the punks’ its more like, [in a positive voice] ‘Oh, hey its the punks! Its those guys who run this or that’. You know we have shows in our downtown park without a permit and no-one calls the cops. In general the music scene and punk scene is pretty accepted. I can see kids coming from out of town and they’re like, ‘Oh we’re in a small Indiana town, we’ve got to set ‘em straight’, you know?
H: But they wouldn’t know about our projects.
C: And a lot of towns are are. You could go to a town and it might deserve to get fucked up but Bloomington really doesn’t deserve to get fucked up. So there were problems I think.
H: The whole thing, I think, was a big misunderstanding between a few people doing stupid stuff.
C: Mostly I just spent the time trying to clarify the point that there were no Plan-It-X kids and there were no CrimethInc kids. We’re all in the same punk scene except for a few irresponsible people that fucked it up. Because a lot of kids were there for both. People kept discussing it saying, ‘I came for both, I didn’t know there was a problem. I didn’t know you guys were enemies’. ‘We’re not enemies; and it’s good that you came for both things. I hope that you’re having a good time’. There was a of confusion, and misunderstanding. I think it’s pretty much all worked out now having talked to a lot of people about it. Hopefully anyway.
LH: So is that why you have the threat on the Plan-It-X Fest site saying that you’ll run anybody out of town who fucks shit up?
C: Yeah, we’ve done that every year.
LH: Have you run anyone out of town yet?
C: No, not yet.
H: There’s always this year though.
C: The first year we had absolutely no problems. Basically because I feel kind of responsible since it is my record label and I am basically inviting hundreds and hundreds of kids to town. So I feel some sort of responsibility towards getting the kids to behave. Obviously I want everyone to do whatever they want, and be free. But at least, just by writing that, people might think about it. Because you might not even think. You might think, ‘Oh its Indiana, lets fuck it up, lets break some windows’. But maybe after reading that you might be like, ‘Oh, maybe we shouldn’t do that because people actually live, and it’s a real town with real people.’
H: Right. Just be respectful is all.
C: We’ve only ever gotten one negative response from this one kid. I got a postcard, I think it was the first piece of hate mail that I got. And it basically said, ‘Hey, welcome to our town, please come to Bloomington. We will tell you where and where not to take a piss. Don’t bring a dog, sorry if you like pets, we hate pets’. And it was just this real sarcastic thing. It wasn’t even signed, which I thought was really weak. At least like a nickname or something so that we could talk about it. But nothing. It was ridiculous. I remember there were a lot of kids peeing right on the side of the club. And I think that it might have been one of the kids that was peeing on the side of the club. And I think one of the bands, maybe somebody from This Bike Is a Pipebomb yelled at someone, ‘Hey, don’t piss on the side of the club’. It was right at the front, this alcove, and people had been pissing there all night just creating this huge puddle of piss.
P: He was French. That’s what we do in France.
C: Yes, it could have been some French kids. So I think it’s one of these kids that got yelled at to stop pissing on the side of the club.
LH: That’s interesting what you said about the CrimethInc and punk scenes being quite sepearted. Because I always got the impression that the anarchist scene and punk scene was much closer mashed in the States than it is over here.
C: I would say that there’s just a hundred different scenes in the US, basically. I would almost say that we’re part of the Plan-It-X scene. Its become isolated a little bit because people say ‘Plan-It-X’ bands, and other bands are referred to in reviews as, ‘Sounding like Plan-It-X bands’. I’ve seen, ‘They have a Plan-It-X attitude’ I’ve seen before. Which I don’t know what that means since we have serious solo song-writers, we have sloppy pop-punk bands that sing about video games. I don’t know what the sound is, except I guess that the common theme is kind of nerdy, you know? (laughs) I like to refer to it as the nerd scene. Basically kids in like red hooded sweatshirts, with a couple of home made patches on them. And you see a lot of home made t-shirts and patches. There’s not much black, there’s not many crust [trousers]. It still crosses over sometimes you know, but in general it’s still coloured hooded sweatshirts, home-made stuff, a shoulder bag with a bunch of pens on it. But I would say even that the anarchist scene, or the serious activist scene, is even separate from the CrimethInc scene. Then you have the traveller punk scene, which are just kids always traveling around. I don’t know there are just a lot of different scenes.
H: But, there are a lot of people… the people all come to the shows.
C: It’s just not super tight.
H: I don’t know. The whole scene thing really confuses me, because I don’t know. There are kids who like different things but we all have similar ideas and goals.
C: Yeah, I was just saying that it wasn’t part of the same scene. I mean how many crust bands do you know the names of, how many do you listen to? And then you start asking the crusts kids about the person playing acoustic in Tampa and they’ll be like, ‘Who?!’, ‘Oh you know he does all the shows down there’. Its just a different network.
H: I guess so.
C: We’ve just been hanging out with our friends from Buffalo, IObject. And they’re a more straightforward punk and hardcore band. And our talk about the punk scene was totally random and different. Like they were saying, ‘Yeah, if you’re from the US now no-one likes you. Everyone’s listening to foreign bands’. And I said, ‘What?! It’s exactly the opposite’. Then I realised, ‘Oh wait a minute, it’s because you guys are hardcore and we’re acoustic folk or whatever’. Its a whole different world. And everyone likes each other, and go to the same show, but you just don’t know. There’s just a separation I think. It’s rare to meet kids who listen to like Plan-It-X and lots of hardcore bands. It happens, it’s just not super common.
LH: I’m one of them.
C: See, there’s one. I don’t know. It seems stupid to talk about scenes and who’s in what scene.
LH: It’s a weird form of identification.
C: But CrimethInc basically had this explosion where it got really huge and then got a little bit self-righteous I think, which turned a lot of people off of it. And just like these young kids coming in saying, ‘Why didn’t you steal that, you should have stole that, why would you pay for anything ever?’ And the Evasion book, which stormed up a lot of bad press for CrimethInc, especially his statement, ‘Homelessness: if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right.’ I think that was probably the worse statement related to CrimethInc. for what doomed them to actually be disliked by some many people because any intelligent, somewhat PC punk, would know that that’s a bad statement. Especially coming from a middle-class white kid. Most of the people that are homeless aren’t doing it by choice and have no alternative, and can’t just ‘go back’. Because no matter what we do we can ‘go back’, back to the real world. Even if it just means getting a job, and getting an apartment. That’s easy if you don’t have a criminal record and you’re white. You just show up and say, ‘Oh, I’ve been down on my luck, I’ve been homeless for five years. Can you give me a job?’ And you clean up real nice and you’re going to get hired in one day if you go out looking for a job. But you know a 40 year old black guy doing the same thing in the US would have no chance if he’s been homeless for a few years.
H: Right, and some of the homeless folks are people who got kicked out of mental institutions. Because in the United States all the mental institutions have been closed down. Like back in the 80s they just shut down these spaces and kicked people out. That’s what a lot of the homeless population have; you know people with different mental disorders. And how can you tell someone like that, ‘Oh yeah just get over your psychosis disorder and have fun’. Because all those people end up either in jail or further disadvantaged. It’s just a horrible statement.
C: That statement just doomed CrimethInc I think. The book tour came to Bloomington once, and there was this tour where they were saying, ‘Dare us!’, and it was, ‘Dare us to do something or break into something’. And so all the kids at Secret Sailor [Bloomington bookstore] thought about it, and the dare they decided was to break into John Mellencamp’s house, he’s our local resident 1980s popstar. I don’t know if you know John Cougar Mellencamp but he’s huge in Bloomington.
H: He’s famous in the US. He’s got videos on MTV and stuff.
C: He was really big in the 80s. He’s not so popular now. But he’s very Indiana. He sings about being born in a small town. He had a few 80s big hits. So anyway they said, ‘We dare you to break in there.’ And they eventually said, ‘No, no that sounds too hard. Something else’. So one of our friends had been in a fraternity house when he had gone to the university of Bloomington. And they take a picture every year of the whole house and hang it up. So he’s like, ‘I want to erase my memory of myself from that house so I want you guys to go to the house and steal that picture back from me.’ And they said, ‘Okay’ but they didn’t do that.
LH: You’ll have to repeat what you just said.
C: Off the record I like CrimethInc. I like the literature, and the bands that are involved with it. They have a lot of good ideas and they do inspire kids to get interested. And I think depending on what stage you’re in in like learning about the world it can be a really, really useful to bump into CrimethInc literature. But it’s easy if you’re already involved in the scene for a while, and you go through their list of, ‘How many hours have you spent in front of a screen?’ and you’re like, ‘Oh not that much’; ‘How many hours do you spend sitting in traffic?’, ‘Well, not really any’. So it’s a little different depending on where you’re at when you first discover it in your life.
LH: Moving on, what are your thoughts on HeartAttack finishing? In terms of the fact that a lot of people seem to have stopped reading zines, or seeing zines as being important. I was wondering whether you thought that was true?
C: And you’re asking about HeartAttack?
LH: Yeah, because they just published their last issue.
C: Oh, I didn’t know that. I had heard rumours about it, and then I kept getting them in the mail so I was like, ‘Oh, maybe they’re going to keep doing it.’
LH: No, they stopped on issue 50.
C: I don’t know. I guess people are reading [fewer] zines, just because there’s so much internet stuff happening. It seemed like it was really hard to get people to actually buy a zine. I remember when Maximum Rock N Roll was really important, and Bloomington there was one bookstore that stocked Maximum Rock N Roll. Now there’s Boxcar books, which has lots of punk zines, so there’s two. But before really you just went to this one local bookshop and they had Maximum Rock N Roll. And I remember me and Sam, who founded Plan-It-X with me, were always really excited when we found out it was time for the new issue. And you would get it, and look through it and read the ads mostly just to see what other bands were doing. Then you’d read the reviews and see what new records were out. And that was the source for finding out about new releases. It was really exciting.
H: Yeah, I remember those days.
C: It seems kind of sad, I don’t think I’ve been out and bought one in a while now. But travelling a lot you figure out stuff too. But I liked their vibe. They had a pretty good vibe about knowing what was actually, currently going on in the touring band punk scene, which is the one that I have the most interest in. I think that’s just dying down now. I don’t think there are many kids [buying MRR] in their small town. They’re surfing the internet instead now, probably.
H: See, I’m not sure.
C: I never hear any kids talking about Maximum Rock N Roll anymore. I even talk to young kids now and you say something about Maximum Rock N Roll and they don’t know what you’re talking about.
C: Yeah. They’re like, ‘Oh what’s that’ or they laugh because the name’s funny. Like I did the first time that I heard it.
H: Really? See, I haven’t had any conversation like that.
C: Yeah, because I’ll be mentioning like, ‘Oh yeah like the MRR review’, and they’ll be like, ‘What?’ And I’ll be like, ‘You know the review in Maximum Rock N Roll’ and they’re like, ‘Oh, I’ve never read it’. ‘You haven’t?’ I’m still in the frame of mind that people still at least look at the new MRR whenever it comes out and knows the funny reviews, you know? Just thinking about somehow a really bad reviewer got hold of the third [This Bike is a] Pipebomb album and said, ‘They really took the Against Me! thing and ran with it’, which is just really funny because obviously they’ve been around for eleven years and they don’t sound anything like Against Me! They weren’t influenced by them at all, except maybe to be influenced to not play like them.
H: But that’s too bad about HeartAttack.
C: It does seem that zines are in danger.
H: I wonder because I think there’s still a lot of people still making zines.
C: I think personal zines will always… I think if a zine keeps it really personal flair I think it will last because then its really literature, and not news. You’re not going to find that as easily on the internet, and you can’t get the craftiness or the art of the zine. The craftiness and art is the think that I think can really keep zines going.
P: Yeah. I don’t really read big zines, like Maximum Rock N Roll anymore. I’m just not interested in reviews anymore, just like I’m not interested by reviews for movies or for anything.
C: I like reviews.
P: Because its funny, or what?
C: Well, because I like to see my friend’s reviews and see what people think about them. But it’s nice when its right on and you can go, ‘Oh, wow they understand what they’re doing’. Or its just a way to work out if I like a band or not. Sometimes you can tell by a bad review that you would like a band. Like, ‘This band is so sloppy, and they sing off-key, and it sounds like they ate tons of candy before they recorded’. Well actually that sounds kind of cool. I like reading movie reviews too. (laughs) I just read reviews. I read more movie reviews than I see movies. I read two or three reviews of movie and I feel like I’ve really learned the movie.
P: I never read a review before going to a movie.
H: I really enjoy reading a personal zine by my friend. I think it’s really exciting to get their zine. I’m not super excited by reviews, I’m just like, ‘Ah, well it’s just one person’s opinion’. But then I like reading people’s columns, you know?
C: It’s good if you have columns. Because then you have the personal touch and then the band part of it too.
H: It’s always nice; our friend Greg does columns for Slug and Lettuce and its nice to see what our friend is thinking.
C: Yeah I read Phil [Chokeword]’s column however often Last Hours comes out. It’s nice because we just saw him in Southampton, and I feel like we’ve kept in touch because I’ve been reading his column. And when I’m reading it I can hear his tone of voice in my head, and it’s just really nice.
H: I hope it improves.
C: It’s sad to see HeartAttack go, obviously. We were hanging out with Dave when Fracture was ending, too. When we came across on our first tour they were doing their last issue of Fracture, and just explaining that they weren’t going to do it anymore, and it felt sad.
H: It’s always hard to see something go that’s been around for so long. I hope people continue [making zines]. Because I’m not really part of the internet generation, so in my mind I still think of people being excited about doing zines. I don’t know, but I don’t know if it’s changing to be a bit different.
LH: Have you found with Plan-It-X and Ghost Mice that you’ve had to do much more publicity online and stuff to have people find out about stuff?
C: We have a really good, ‘we don’t really care’ attitude on the publicity front. It works out pretty well. We don’t really have to do anything and hope that it works. I always put the tour dates up on the Plan-It-X webpage. That helps a lot. So many kids come to shows who would never have known. They come from other towns to a nearby town, and they wouldn’t have necessarily have seen fliers in their town. That really helps, and I guess that’s online publicity, which we didn’t really do before.
H: I think that helps.
C: We never run ads anymore, just because there’s too many releases now to even advertise and too many bands on tour. I always want to run more ads. I always mean to. But then most zines, the ad prices just seem to go up every issue and there’s no real explanation each time. Are they increasing print size or improving quality. That’s one thing that I always liked about MRR is that the whole time of me running ads with them, over like ten years, they went up $5 for the small ads. It’s really affordable and that’s really cool. But we’ve never done much publicity, besides sending lots of things out for review, and doing interviews. We’re not really trying that hard. We’ve never been too into pushing our band, we’ve never been writing ourselves up on message boards or anything. There is apparently a Myspace that someone set up for Ghost Mice, but we have nothing to do with it.
H: Yeah we have nothing to do with it.
C: When I get around to it, I’m going to try and get them to take it off of there because I don’t realy want to be a part of a Fox Media owned company.