The Rip Snap Meow Interview: Book of Kills
By Dave Brandt
You're approaching middle age, you're married, have a couple of young kids, and you're a teacher...why punk rock? And why now?
Well...it's not really a case of 'now.' I mean, I've been playing music since I was 12 years old. When my parents gave me my first guitar. It was a Sears Silvertone. Wish I still had it. Anyway, I've been in and out of bands since I was fifteen. I've played with both Dusty and Brian before...as long ago as 1987 with Brian. I always hoped I'd get another chance to play with Brian. He's an awesome technician but he also has a really emotional side to his playing too. And Dusty's a really inventive and powerful drummer and knows so much about every side of music. Sometimes I just stand there during a song and watch them play. And George our guitarist...he really has a unique style of playing. He does really fresh things and doesn't just go for the cliches. As for why punk rock? That's what comes out of my head. I don't really think of it according to labels like "punk rock". It just is.
How do you manage to reconcile all those responsibilities with being in a band?
It's really hard. I'm also handling trying to come up with gigs and all that shit that has nothing to do with music but that you have to do and that's the most time consuming thing you can imagine. I'd like to find someone who could us out. Someone who loves our music and will work her or his ass off for us. But yeah...it's tough balancing all those roles. My family has been very understanding. My kids love music. My being is a band is no big deal with them. It doesn't really affect my teaching. But a day job just affects how much energy and time you can put towards the band. It'd be nice to just make music all the time.
How are people reacting to your being in a group?
I thought there'd be a lot of snickering and criticism, but it's really strange how behind this thing people are. I mean I'm sure there are some boring old farts out there who aren't too pleased with what I'm doing, but if they're out there, they're too chicken shit to say so to my face. People are really supportive and almost excited about it. It's almost like a community thing. Everybody that comes to see the band on a regular basis is almost part of the band. Does that mean we're a cult? I don't know. I think I'd like to be part of a cult.
Do you ever wish Book of Kills would become your full time job?
Oh, hell yeah. Who wouldn't like to make a living doing the thing they love to do most?
Well, maybe second most. I think all the guys in the band have it in the back of their minds that we could go places with this band, whatever that means.
Who has influenced you to make the music you are making?
I can't really speak for the other guys as far as influences go. So many bands have influenced me. You can go all the way back to the Beatles. John Lennon has probably been as big an influence on me musically as anyone. That playfulness he had with so much of his music...and yet it always seemed like a life or death thing with him, too. He wasn't a great musician per se, just a brilliant songwriter and singer. Also, the Sex Pistols, but everybody names them these days, don't they? Definitely Husker Du. The Pixies. Probably Patti Smith is the one who led me into punk. Her first album, Horses, changed my life. I'd never heard anything like it. She rearranged a lot of people's heads with that record. I'd like to do a Patti Smith song with Book of Kills, just as a sort of way of honoring her. (EDITOR'S NOTE: How about "Babelogue/Rock and Roll Nigger"?)
What's in the immediate future for the band?
We're in the process of trying to get a 7" together. We need to do a little work on the recordings still. It's like $400 just to put out 300 copies of a single. I want to make sure the three songs we put on that record are as good as we can get them within our limited means. We're also trying to scare up as many gigs as we can. I think we're playing in NYC in the not distant future. Also, D.C. and Philadelphia. We want to concentrate on the East Coast right now I guess. It'd be great if we could do some serious touring this summer, but I just don't know if I can get it all put together myself. "Book Your Own Fucking Life" is gonna help, believe me. It's tough making contacts and setting up gigs in other cities but we're making some headway. There are a lot of good people out there who want to help you play in their city. I'm finding more and more people who'll put the band up for the night and give them something to eat and so on.
You recorded the songs for the single on a four track cassette recorder, didn't you?
Yes. We couldn't afford to go into a real studio and record some songs and then put them on a seven inch. So we borrowed a friend's four track and a little mixer and a few mics and just did what we could to get the sound down. So at least we cut out the studio expenses. It made me realize that anybody can do this if they just try. To tell you the truth, I think it's a shame a band has to even worry about putting out a record. We should all be able to put our music on cassettes and just trade them back and forth. Everybody has a cassette player and just about anybody can afford to go out and buy some cassettes and a couple cheap mics or whatever. To me, putting out a record is sort of a vain thing.
What's the most rewarding thing about being in this band?
Playing live is the best thing. The energy that flows back and forth between the crowd and the band...it's like this living thing that grows in front of your eyes while you play. And it gets to the point where there is no separation between the band and the audience because everybody's the band. It's great. I like to practice too believe it or not...especially when we're working out a new song. I just wish our schedules allowed us more time to work on our music...
What's the most frustrating thing?
For me it's not being able to set up shows on a regular basis. But I suppose if you're not playing you can at least be working on putting together new material. I think if new bands get caught up in playing too many live shows initially you start practicing not to develop musically as a group but just to be able to put together a decent length show.
Any thoughts on the state of education today?
I don't think I can talk about education without spouting a bunch of cliches that don't really mean shit to anybody. I just try to make kids feel like their lives are worth something. And I want them to be good writers. A good writer is a good thinker. We don't have too many good thinkers in America anymore.
Just that when we're on as a band...when we're really clicking live...I don't think many bands can hang with us. So if you're reading this and you'd like to see a great live show and have a lot of fun, help us set up a gig near you! We guarantee we'll tear the place down!
The "backing members" of Book of Kills are Dustin Bugg, who plays drums, George Finch, who plays guitar, and Brian Temples who play the bass guitar and sings some. I interviewed all three simultaneously in the small hours of 20 January. What appears below is a highly edited and slightly paraphrased interview.
Tell me a little bit about your previous project, Time Being.
Dusty: To compare it to what I'm doing now, the direction was more pop oriented serious rock. I wanted to stray away from the pop element, take the experimental element and add a heavier edge. I wanted to move towards the technical art-rock side, but what we started to progress to was a more pop side, which turned me off. But there were things beyond my control, so it seems, and I got left behind - which is okay because BOK is where it's at right now.
Can you confirm or deny the rumor that you were involved with a project called Jizm Crane?
Brian: No, I can't deny it. I was in it.
George: Wait a minute! I thought you told me before that you weren't in Jizm Crane!
Brian: No...no...no...I was never in Jizm Crane!
Who would you list as your top five influences as far as guitar soloing goes?
George: Jimmy Page. Eddie Van Halen is a guitarist I used to listen to a lot, though I was never able to copy his style. David Gilmour is a really big influence. The cat from Rush...Alan Lifeson, I really like his style. Lately, I really like Duane Dennison of Jesus Lizard. On a tie with him would be the guy from the Pixies...Joey Santiago. He does some really neat stuff...I've never heard a guitarist do what he does.
With Jim being older, do you see him as a father figure, older brother, just one of the guys or what?
Brian: I think he's just a crazy old man.
Dusty: I'd have to say he's a frustrated crazy old man!
Brian: I would have to say that he's a fairly brilliant man. I'm hip on his style of...everything.
Dusty: Oh, he's way brilliant. He started the ball rolling. If it wasn't for Jim, we wouldn't be in half the mess we're in. Jim is the man that takes care of the business. I've always looked up to him as someone who has the situation under control.
Brian: He actually sees a light towards getting things accomplished. He sees a way to do it, which is hard to do yourself sometimes, to really make yourself believe that you might possibly do something with your life.
George: I've often thought and pondered about relations between yourself and persons older than you. It's interesting because I don't consider Jim older than I am.
Dusty: It's like the older you get...you learn shit. That's one thing, but you get wiser and your mindset changes. We realize that and respect people who haven't strayed into middle America.
George: Knowing Jim makes me think that I could strike up similar relations with other people his age.
Are there any communication problems?
Unanimously: None at all.
Dusty: Everyone is open about the emotional side. It's unusual. Jim will let you know if he's depressed, if he's down, so we have no reason to not be open. There's no other way around it.
George: Yeah, you know...they're kind of a problem.
Brian: They're pretty neat.
Dusty: So far, I have not been hit on by any girls with this band.
What about Vicky?
Brian: That was an accident, dude.
Finally, if Book of Kills were by some twist of fate asked to perform at the Bob Dole inauguration gala in 1997 and could only play one song, what would it be?
Brian: I would make it "Killing Time Again."
George: Make it "Killing Time Again". We'd write one.
Brian: Or make it "Fucking Dole Again."
Dusty: Maybe "Fat Woman Lying in the Street." I don't know...
Anything else? (Pause) 5...4...3...2...
George: NEWT GINGRICH IS MAKING A CONTRACT WITH THE DEVIL!