BY: Jordan Mamone
Man of the Cloth: The Gospel According to Pen Rollings
To put it bluntly, Loincloth is the most amazing fucking metal -band in existence right now. They exploit the most powerful and substantial components of their chosen genre while strenuously avoiding any cartoonish excesses or clichés. The group's blindingly proficient, all-instrumental distillation of rapid-fire doom-riffs, logic-defying time changes and destructo-prog beats leaves no room for such common distractions as corny solos, hackneyed Viking vocals or lyrics full of study-hall angst. Every one of their catastrophic downstrokes, thrilling kick-pedal volleys and quick cymbal bashes exhibits a refreshing purity, conviction and lack of posturing. Loincloth's fully formed wallop is all the more remarkable considering that their only studio output consists of a four-song CDR demo, parts of which wound up on John Reis' Swami Sound System Vol. 1 label sampler and as a single on Southern Lord Records.
The long-distance quartet-its members reside in Richmond, Raleigh and the rural Virginia mountains-features several familiar faces. In the late '80s and early '90s, extraordinary drummer Steve Shelton and bassist Cary Rowells comprised the rhythm section of Confessor (and subsequently, Fly Machine), whose odd, acrobatic chug freaked out the era's shaggy-hair-and-pentagram kids. World traveler Tannon Penland (the Kenmores, Köszönöm) is Loincloth's "guitar left," while the inimitable Pen Rollings, who during the previous two decades guided such knotty, post-hardcore champs as Honor Role, Butterglove and Breadwinner, manhandles "guitar right." Here's what the latter had to say over a soundtrack of beery swigs and King Crimson licks:
It's been about 10 years since you've made a record. What have you been doing since the end of Breadwinner?
Breadwinner was a unique experience for me. I was playing with two people that were really fucking killer. The drummer [Chris Farmer] quit. We tried to find a new drummer and we did. He kicked, but it just wasn't right. That's when I was still playing guitar; that's what [instrument] spoke to me at the time and that's what speaks to me again. When it wasn't working out, I had to back off. As a kind of respite from it, I jumped into the drum role for a band called Ladyfinger. It was cool, but it wasn't the same at all. Hitting that note with the pick in your hand, and having it play through a wall of amps while you look over at [Breadwinner] bassist Bobby Donne is hard to match. To this day, that's hard to match. When the drumming thing pissed itself out, I just sold all my shit.
Drum shit or guitar shit?
All my shit. I was like, "Fuck it, I just don't really wanna play music anymore. I'm not driven anymore to create. It's just not very important to me." I was just working and being honest and playing my life out. Paying my bills and existing and having wonderful friends around me. I was not even contemplating playing music at all. And it was like that up until me and Tannon from Loincloth sat stupidly in a bar and pretended that we were gonna be a band with Steve Shelton. Up until then, I never imagined that I'd play guitar again. It was me and Tannon sitting in a bar joking, "We're gonna start a band called Loincloth, and Steve Shelton's our fucking drummer!" Tannon's one of the best guitar players in the entire world and he's my buddy, one of my best friends, if not my best friend. He was on top of the game-probably more so than anybody in town-as far as understanding metal and fucking freaked-out shit. I'd known him for years and we always played together. He had been in Prague for years. When he left, I cried. Then he came back and he moved to Milwaukee, and we talked on the phone and joked that we were gonna see Manowar, who were playing in Chicago. Manowar is probably the most absurd, shitty metal band in the world. I said, "I'll meet you in Chicago and I'll bring you home [to Richmond] for two weeks, so you can see your parents." This was probably in 2000 or something. I drove out there, and on the 13-hour drive home, we spoke romantically about what we theoretically missed about punk rock and about the whole idea of underground metal and how it's all been ruined and commodified. It's bullshit; complete rust and pollution has taken it over. We made a pact then that we were gonna start a band. We came into Richmond with two minutes to spare for Halloween. He ended up staying for longer, and I got him a job. Then, probably in about February, Steve called and said, "Am I in a band with you?" And I said, "Um, I guess you are." And he said, "What's the name?" And by the tone of his voice, you could tell he knew what the name was. And we said, "Well, it's Loincloth." And he was like, "Really?" and we said, "Yeah, you're in a band called Loincloth, dude." At the time Steve hated the name, but I think he really understands the power of it now. When he called back, it was like, "Oh my God! I guess we gotta fucking do it! We've got the chance to do this!" To me, this was just magnificent. It's infinite. It was like, "Let's fuck some shit up and let's hope that Steve doesn't give a shit about anything expect creating good music." And he turned out to be 100% behind us. It's like having the hottest girlfriend at the prom. In my mind, there is no drummer in the entire fucking world that can do what this man does. It was happenstance. Then my friend found a guitar in a dumpster. He gave it to me, and it cost $80 to make it into a [functioning] guitar. My other friend called me up and said, "Look, I'll sell you a Mesa/Boogie half stack for $400." And I got my tax return for $400. It all kind of happened. I was like, "Yeah, do it. Play music again." How could you not play music if you could be in a band with Steve Shelton? I just bullied him into it. But the bottom line is: I'm playing in a band with Steve Shelton. Fuck, yeah.
Wasn't Bobby Donne supposed to play bass back when Loincloth was still a joke?
He's one of the absolute best bass players I've ever played with. That man is a goddamn genius. I think that Bobby digs the metal structure and the metal voice, but I don't think it's what he wanted to do at the time. I think he can stand aside from it and say, "Yes, I respect that." But I don't think he wanted to embrace the quote-unquote complexity.
How did you pull in Cary?
Cary played with Steve for a long time in Confessor. After they were broken up, Steve and Cary were playing in a four-piece called Fly Machine. For whatever reason, that stopped. Then Ivan [Colon], who was the guitarist in Confessor, passed away. The remaining members of Confessor got together to raise some money for his family, and they decided to keep going. They're still playing together now, and we're doing what we're doing now. We're on the same team, but we're doing two different things. It all works out. Steve has been very generous with his time. He's a brilliant person and a wonderful guy. He understands the whole agenda of this music: that we're just trying to really create the metal record that we want to hear. And it's all about sharing our music at a reasonable price. The way Loincloth operates is that I burn these CDs on my computer, sitting next to my ashtray. We sell them for $4 post-paid. One thing we will never do is rip off anybody. Our whole motivation is to be able to give our music to friends and to share it with people we don't know, at a reasonable price. Four songs for $4. If someone has enough interest to get in touch with you, don't rip people off, don't fuck them over.
Was Tannon into black metal when he was in Norway?
No, he thinks it's all bullshit. We all do.
That's refreshing. Certain types of indie boys seem to follow it like it was pro wrestling.
That's why we have a song called "Church Burntings." The night the concept of Loincloth started-as we drove on the way back from Chicago-we were, comic book-wise, looking at [convicted murderer] Count Grishnackh [aka Burzum] and saying, "Wow, that's freaked out." But after 13 hours, it's not freaked out anymore. It seems like bullshit, and that guy's a fucking jerk.
Black metal is the new goth.
Yeah! And goth always sucked, too! Whatever these little pansy-asses did-burn churches, kill people-their hate and all that bullshit blows over in the wind. That's why we called our track "Church Burntings." The night we got back to Richmond, the name we thought up for our record was At War with Norway: For All Your Burnt Churches, What Have You Learned? Nothing. We went to a church that night. We threw matches at it going, "We're gonna burn you! Look at us, we're from Norway! We're so heavy!" Even at that point, when the band was a fucking joke, we already knew we were heavier than that bullshit. Loincloth fucking kicks Burzum and all that black metal bullshit's ass because we're not pretending anything. We're not joking around and being all fucking angry. Our music is joyous. Our music is true and real and very, very exciting to us. That makes it eternal.
Honor Role was not a metal band. Breadwinner and Butterglove were metallic, but maybe a little too arty. Loincloth, on the other hand, is most assuredly full-on metal. How did you arrive at this point after playing the more indie rock-ish stuff?
Loincloth is the sum of its parts. We're playing with probably the best metal rhythm section in the world. Removing ourselves from that, Honor Role did what we did, and it was very organic and real. As we saw and were inspired by things, we made them part of our fabric. And for me, Voivod, King Diamond and Mekong Delta were a part of that. They really spoke to me. And Tannon was always the young metal dude standing on the side of the road, waiting for a ride. He was very influential in showing that stuff to me. Also, during Honor Role, I was always down in Raleigh, hanging with Corrosion [of Conformity].
But it wasn't bullshit. At that point, they were really, truly brutal as fuck.
And it was actually enjoyable, as opposed to something like Suicidal Tendencies or D.R.I.
That's a big part of my metal heritage. The Corrosion guys would say, "Hey, we're going to Baltimore to open for Slayer on the Haunting the Chapel tour. Do you wanna ride with us?" And I'd say "Fuck, yeah." They'd stop in Richmond, get some fries, and we'd head on up. And we'd hang out with Slayer. Next time, Corrosion would play a show with Metallica, and we'd go meet Metallica on the Ride the Lightning tour. The energy of that underground circuit was cool. I don't discount Honor Role's energy at all; it was cool, too. But our language only had so many words. From there, with Butterglove and Breadwinner, I went in another direction and my brothers in music went there with me. I think that in this musical climate right now, we all need to just sit down in front of an amp stack, with a guitar, and stare at it. And we need to think, "What can I do to shake some shit up within myself?" Enough said. If you can't do that, don't pollute the circulatory system of the independent music industry with some patronizing bullshit. Turn up, fucking rock out and fuck some shit up. I really think that physicality and truth and honesty and passion and vision are essential in the music underground right now.
That's all very much lacking in underground music right now.
Totally. Fuck making a living. I've had shitty jobs for years. My music is not my job. My music's my garden. It's something I can share, something I don't have to count pennies for or bank on pennies coming in for. It's just goddamn fucking music.
How has your guitar playing changed?
Remember that I stopped for like 10 years. Now, I try to be a nice counterpart to one of my best friends in the world, who also plays guitar in a manner that I completely revere and respect. I try to sit back and have his back. My tone has more bass because I sold all my amps. Now I have a Boogie and I have more bass to my sound. It's nothing pre-planned. But my guitar playing and my passion for playing is the result of playing with Tannon. Our overall tuning is hugely low. It gets really wobbly with the strings. Some of our tracks are in that drop D thing that Limp Bizkit uses, I guess. And I think Tannon has always played in like drop C or something.
How do you write the songs? The riffs seem to chase the drums.
We come up with a riff and we drive three hours and we have about three-to-six hours [of rehearsal] to make some meat of it. Basically, the unique way Steve plays inspires us to find little pockets and dovetails within our riffs. And we just double it up or drop out or do things just to fuck some shit up and freak it out. Then we start to tie it together. It just becomes what it becomes. It's very honest music. It's not hard to play. It's not math. It's not calculated on any level.
Will your future material utilize the kind of weird, scratchy leads that you played in Breadwinner or Honor Role?
There are a couple songs that we're working on that have places for that kinda stuff. We'll see what happens. I do think that there's gonna be some cacophony in us. I do think that we're gonna create something that is, down the line, a lot smarter than we think we are right now. It's gonna be very convoluted and mean and sharp and fucked-up. But when you play noisy stuff, it has to be there for real. There has to be a catalyst for it. Right now, we're still looking at baby pictures of this band. Right now, we're very fetal. When we finally start to grow and have shoes and stuff, shit's gonna get very freaky. And I'll owe it all to Shelton and Cary. Me and Tannon are in such a lucky position to be able to throw our ideas against that kind of a sounding board. They're very smart individuals. They're very metal, yet they revere the idea of organic music.
Any plans to play out or make an LP or tour?
All of the above. But right now, we're just trying to write some more songs that are as innocent and unaffected as the ones on the demo.
Were you born in Richmond?
Was Honor Role your first band?
My first band was called the Donors, with John Morand, who produced most of the records I play on. We covered punk-rock songs. He's the man who opened my mind when I was a youngster, in '79 or something like that. I went to see Devo, and the next night, I went to see Atlanta Rhythm Section. I went to see every concert; I didn't know any better. Devo really changed my mind about all that. I felt gypped that I bought an Atlanta Rhythm Section ticket. I saw John at the Devo concert. And I went up to him in high school and I said, "Hey." I was a freshman, he was a senior. He was in a prog rock band that had their own tracks. And we went to his house, and his uncle was an independent record buyer. He had the "Anarchy [in the U.K.]" single on his wall, he had Residents posters on his wall, he had Devo posters. He had every single, every album. And we would hang out in his basement after school. He would be like, "Look through our records and put on anything you wanna hear. Listen to it. Have fun." And it changed my life. John Morand had my back before I got into the big city and figured out what punk rock was. It was about being honest, it was about being true to yourself, it was about being passionate about something. It was about nothing else.
You had remarked that being gay reminds you of early punk rock. How? Why?
I grew up gay. I knew I was gay. Everybody who grew up gay knew that they were gay the whole time. When you invest yourself in a community that's supposedly so free-thinking, you start to realize that you're still not comfortable enough to tell people that you're gay. You realize the faults and the falsities of that community, that they're not as open as you think they are. If they were, you would feel comfortable. I think that the punk rock community and the gay community are different now, obviously. But the gay community reflects the punk-rock community before all this commodification happened. That commodification will happen to the gay community in time. But right now, we're in a place where people think gay people are different and are freaks. It's like when people thought that anyone who was into punk-rock music, regardless of what they looked like, were violent or freaks or whatever. America right now thinks that homos are sexual predators and all that.
Maybe it's because I'm in New York, but I think that gay culture has already been commodified. You've got Will and Grace and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy on TV. Being gay is more accepted now, but only if it reinforces clichés. If you're a homosexual, you're expected to have good taste, you're supposed to listen to dance music, and you're supposed to wax your back and wear tight t-shirts.
Exactly. You are the queer eye for the straight guy.
You're not supposed to be this beer-drinking guy who plays guitar in a metal band.
Totally. Goddamn, there are plenty of free-thinking, rowdy motherfuckers that are homos. But the bottom line is that over half of them don't want to be associated with the mundane existence that is being a homo in whatever city they live in. The majority of out gay culture tends to be the stereotypical, fucking '70s disco-laden, kinda weird, snap-your-fingers-I'm-gay, girly type of bullshit. There are plenty of people out there that don't even come anywhere near that stereotype. And I happen to be one of them. Personally, all I'm trying to say is: yes, I'm a fucking homo. And I'm a goddamn motherfucker of a metal guitar player with my metal brother, who's not a fucking homo. Nobody else in the band's a fucking homo. And this 25% gay band will kick anybody's ass! I fucking mean it. That goes for any fucking face-painting, drag-queen, black-metal band. Honestly, if you really had to find something "gay" in music right now, you should look to these drag queens that play black metal. I don't look in the mirror and put makeup on before I go onstage. I don't figure out how my mascara's hitting up against the fucking toner on my face. I think that's very important. In the metal community, there's this big anti-gay thing, but the majority of the popular metal bands are basically drag queens. You wanna be all heavy and fucking burn churches in Norway, with your cute, dainty makeup? Why don't you spend a humid summer in Richmond, Virginia, with that makeup on? It'll drip off your face. These guys all sit around in the winter. Winter is very brutal, but you can wear leather and cover yourself up. You have a humid summer; what do you do? You get naked. That's the best you can do. You can't wear all those furs and those leather chaps and eye makeup. I'd love to see Mayhem, dressed the way they do in their comfortable Norwegian woods, standing on the street corner here in Richmond, Virginia, in August. I'd like to see how long they last and see how heavy they think they are.
I've been all over Scandinavia. It's a pretty comfortable place. I don't know how those guys amass so much angst from maintaining one of the highest standards of living in the world.
They're upset because somebody built a church on their land. I guess all young, rebellious cultures have to be mad about something. If you're in a place where there's nothing to be mad about, paint yourself up like a drag queen and burn churches down.
I'd like to see how they'd fare in one of Richmond's less savory neighborhoods.
Sure. With their swords and their chalices. I'd like to see how long they'd live, just three blocks from my house. Come over here and try to burn a church down in a bad neighborhood and see what you get, with your sword and your chalice. Though it's not like I can do anything about it because all of those fucking guys could probably kick my ass. Big fucking deal. My ass has been kicked before. But I'm just saying, "Stop acting like you're Thor. You're not even Xena!"
So the Donors led to Honor Role?
The Donors broke up. John graduated. The bass player, who was John's younger brother, Matt, and I slowly evolved into what Honor Role was [in 1983]. It was me and Matt Morand hanging out in high school, trying to write some tracks, realizing that we generally hated everybody around us and that they all hated us. Matt went to college, so we got another bass player. [Drummer] Steve [Schick] moved here from Indianapolis, and then we recorded [the 1984 seven-inch EP] It Bled Like a Stuck Pig, the punk-rock record. It was cool but I was a fucking idiot; I couldn't sing. But it was punk rock. God bless it.
There's a huge change between that first and second single.
The first single was still us growing up. Then [vocalist] Bob [Schick], Steve's older brother, moved here from Indianapolis. Bob sang backup on our punk-rock single. Grant [Willeford], the bass player, went to college. Bob's roommate, Jeremy [Bunn], was a bass player. So we said, "Y'all wanna play?" I sucked as a singer; I knew that. They stepped up to the plate, and Honor Role just organically moved along. We got totally slow. But even when we were punk rock, there were a lot of songs that weren't on our first seven-inch that were a whole different take on things. Then Chip [Jones] moved in on bass. Chip, Bob and Steve were all in a punk-rock band in their hometown in Indiana.
Scattered, smothered or battered? Honor Role made perfect sense and we created music that, to this day, I still like. I don't like the mixes sometimes. We were just kids. John Morand was a kid working in an eight-track studio at the time. We were like, "Wow, what's that? A digital reverb?" We went crazy with it.
The production is insane but the songs stand up. I love that stuff, man.
I do, too! I think it's great. I'll stand by that. I was fucking 19. We were children when we did that. [In late 1987] Steve quit, then [drummer] Seth [Harris] joined and we did the  Craig Olive single and [the second album] Rictus [in 1989]. During Rictus, I started playing in Butterglove. I think that Honor Role wasn't quite seeing eye to eye anymore. I don't think it was anything personal. A lot of it was just petty bullshit on my part. But Honor Role just wasn't breathing anymore. It was time to stop it and move on. I think we all moved on very unashamedly. I don't think anybody did anything dicky.
You're pretty much all still friendly.
Totally. I think Bob is a majestic, awesome person. I think he's a fantastic lyricist. He can put things into words that a lot of people on this planet wish they could put into words. I was very lucky to be in a band with him. Realistically, that was my last band that involved lyrics. Bob was majestic with his choice of words, and I think he spoke to a lot of people. I love him to this day. And that's not bullshit. Bob's married. He has children. I do think Bob will play music again. I think he's just waiting for the right opportunity to share his voice with us again. I'll see him tomorrow, probably.
How many Honor Role reunions have there been?
We just did that one weekend [in 1993] when my friend Wayne [Taylor] ran for mayor of Raleigh. We played once in Richmond to raise some money for him, and then we did one show in Raleigh.
How did Butterglove segue into Breadwinner?
Seth, the drummer from Honor Role and Butterglove, just didn't wanna do it anymore.
What happened to the other people involved?
[Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist] Rebby [Sharp] lives up in the mountains now, and I don't know what's up with [bassist] Sean [Harris]. In a way, it was wonderful when Butterglove ended because Seth was so honest about it. I realized that I still wanted to play. I knew [Breadwinner's] Chris Farmer from seeing him play drums around town. I made one of the smartest moves I have ever made in my life by asking a friend to ask Bobby Donne if he would like to play bass with me. I didn't know him that well. That was over 10 years ago, and Bobby Donne is still one of the top five people I know in my life. He has a very clam demeanor and he understands that you're supposed to do what you fucking do, without bullshit. He understands that you have to be real about it and not fancy it up. Bobby and Chris were a little younger than I was. We ended up playing together and we were fascinated by the idea of what we were doing. But we ended up getting criticized for being too thought-out.
But it wasn't like that. Maybe you just got a bad name because of all of the sterile, quote-unquote math-rock that followed in Breadwinner's wake. You could just as easily blame that on Steve Albini. A lot of really awful bands also watered down what he accomplished.
Or Slint! You wanna hate Slint? I mean goddamn, they ruined music!
That's a very good example.
They were perfect. They were great, but they ruined music. They ruined indie rock.
On a grander scale, you could hate Zeppelin for the same reason.
Totally, but I'm thinking indie rock. I'm thinking of our heritage and the people we are. If any band ruined anything, it was fucking Slint. My friends and I have this game: if you had a time machine, which band would you go back and kill to stop all the band music [that followed]? Slint comes up a lot. Everybody who mentions it says, "I love Slint, but...""
I was just gonna say those exact same words!
Yeah! Slint was awesome! Slint kicked. When [Brian McMahan] goes, "And I'm sorry/And I miss you" [on Spiderland's "Good Morning, Captain"], that's heavy! That shit was fucking heavy! But did it ruin indie music? Yes! I can't think of a good example of who it created, but Slint's a good one to kill. You should kill them because they're so influential.
Ladyfinger didn't last very long.
We were just beer-drinking party people. I was playing drums. We had Ron [Demmick] on guitar, Elisa [Nader] on bass and Sean from Butterglove singing. Then this guy Patrick [Kennedy] sang, and then we became instrumental. We were just doofuses. We opened for Rocket from the Crypt, up at Maxwell's, in Hoboken. The place was sold out. It was New Year's Eve or something. It was a kids' show. After every song we finished, it was complete silence except for Tannon and my friend Greg. The only thing we heard when we finished a song was both of those guys, cackling hysterically. Everybody else in this sold-out room was hating us and weren't even acknowledging us with a clap.
It was wonderful. It was pure silence, except for laughter. And when we finished the set, a kid came up to me and said, "Hey man, can I get your set list?" I went and got him our set list. And I handed it to him, and he threw it at me and he said, "Hahahahaha! What are you, crazy? You sucked!" And I was like, "Yeah, all right, cool! Indie rock!"
A fine way to spend New Year's Eve.
The squares have taken over. But goddamn, we kicked that night.
Blame it on Slint.
Fuck Slint! But I love Slint, I really do. I think that Spiderland is an album that you could throw in my crematorium with me. It's one of those records. It's a brilliant statement and a majestic step away from the mundane things of that time. But goddamn, if I had a time machine, I might go kill them.
Independent music has changed considerably since Honor Role, since Ladyfinger, even. Do you perceive less of a sense of community now?
I'm pretty outside of it now, but I firmly believe that it's changed a lot. I read interviews with people that I respect, and they say the same thing. I think that now people create music thinking that it's gonna get them something, even on the smallest level. I know some punk-rock kids that I hang out with and they're like, "Well, we're gonna do this and we're gonna do that." And they probably will.
They've got it all figured out, and it's all mapped out for them. They know exactly how they're gonna sound and look before they've even played a gig. It's so self-conscious. Even the smallest bands all seem to have publicists and booking agents now. There are no real outsiders left.
Yeah, and you've gotta throw in the guy with the dreads. You've gotta have somebody with dreads in the picture. That's the way it works now. God bless them all, if you believe in God. If you don't, turn the cross upside down and let them all be crucified upside down with smiles on their faces. In a way, I'm all about saying "fuck you" to these kids and their bullshit, and I hope they all fucking get into van wrecks. And I mean that. I hope all these goddamn careerist little pricks of punk rockers and indie thinkers wreck into each other in a communal area, where no one else gets hurt except for them. I think they're desecrating something. A lot of fucking people-not me, I had nothing to do with it-paved that road for them. And they're just exploiting it and dancing around, and I hope they wreck. The last thing in the world you could do is desecrate something like that. It's really uncool.
Why has that purity been lost?
I dunno. Nirvana? Capitalism? Careerism? Huge [mosh] pits in crowds. Even if you're Tori Amos, you get a pit. When it becomes that simple to satiate people, you're gonna get all the fucking retards and short busses coming in to exploit it. And that's what has really changed things. People realize how fucking easy it is to hat-trick people and to make people think they're being independent and to make people think that they're doing something interesting and to make people think that they're actually traversing a terrain that has never been traversed before. People really, truly exploit that, and I hope they fucking wreck. I don't want them to die, but goddamn, I'd love to see them rolling around in wheelchairs.
But you still seem to like bands from Richmond.
As long as I've been aware of an underground community in Richmond, there has always been one or another driving force within it that has been unforsakeable and cool, whether it's Labradford or the Rah Brahs or the Orthotonics or Sordid Doctrine. There are so many bands that have happened here, and they'll continue to happen here because nobody here gives a fuck. People here generally know better than to give a shit. Musically, when they create, I don't think that anybody in Richmond acknowledges anywhere other than here. I don't think that music here is based on the idea that there is something better. They're just driven to create something cool. There really has not been one year where there hasn't been at least one Richmond band that kicked ass.
Do you still listen to indie stuff now, or do you just listen to metal?
Basically just metal. The one thing that I love about metal that I don't like about independent music is that metal still has something going on where everybody is trying to fuck some shit up. You can find some band called Vomitorium or whatever, and you can still put on their record and find at least 15 seconds that make you say, "What the fuck is Vomitorium doing right there?" You don't get that with indie rock. With indie rock, what you get is like Midol or tampons or CVS. You get something so terrible, something so - I don't know how to say it.
Yeah, mundane. But I used that word before. I'm trying to be more majestic here. You get something that is very high-trafficked. It will never be imitated by anyone at all. You listen to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or something, and you're like, "Goddamn, this is a fucking joke. This is the band that started punk rock because people sat in the audience and said, "This sucks, and I wanna start making my own music.'" You know what I mean? The White Stripes, the Strokes, all that kinda bullshit is the shit that, when I was a kid, made me say, "Fuck that! I wanna start my own band." All these critics are jumping through hoops for all these bands that are playing this crap. I spent some time with that Yeah Yeah Yeahs record, and nobody would pay attention to them if that chick in the band didn't put on fishnet armbands or whatever she puts on.
Those moves have all been copped. It's nth-generation fashion rock. Like a copy of a copy. A really bad Xerox.
Dressing up and dancing around and hoping that their song will get picked up for a Volvo commercial. But you know, when you grow up with something that really meant so much to you and you watch children desecrate it, you get a little bitchy about it. But, if you're talking about math rock and all that shit, you can also get bitchy from listening to people like me bitching about how they didn't get what they wanted. There are so many weird, reverent, historical interviews with people that missed the boat. Somehow, nothing fucking happens for them. In a way, it's the same thing that's happening right now in this interview: you're talking to some old fuck that's played music that hardly anybody noticed when it was happening. Some people think it's cool; and it was cool. But these people in these interviews are kinda vaguely bitter, but also a little Hollywood-style glamorous. And it's so fucking lame to watch all these old bands be so what-if about everything. When you read it, you're like, "What the fuck? Did you play your music for yourself or not? And if you played your music for yourself, how could you ever, ever fucking feel discounted? If you play for yourself and kick yourself in the ass, it's all good. Don't you remember how you just did what you did and a few people actually fucking cared? And isn't that enough? Isn't it enough that one person wrote you and liked your fucking music? Stop bitching about success! Why don't you bitch about the right things? Why don't you bitch about the same things that you would have bitched about back when you pretended to give a shit? Why don't you bitch about the fact that fucking assholes run things instead of bitching about missing your chance to sell out?" It was a weird time back then. Now it's all glorified through rose-colored glasses. I don't wanna be a part of that bullshit, either. Honor Role did exactly what we wanted to do. What we ended up becoming made perfect sense. That's all the success we wanted. All we wanted was gas money to get to the next show, and we'd hope somebody would let us sleep on their floor. We just wanted to sell a couple singles. We weren't decadent. That's what we got, and we were happy with it. We made approximately $57 in royalties each from being in Honor Role. I consider that an immense success.
The important thing is that you made records that you can still stand by.
Right. And that they mean something to the people who took to them. It astounds me that [Rocket from the Crypt's] John Reis finds me to be any sort of influence on him. It astounds me. He's a smokestack of a guitar player. He's in a league of his own, and I've read interviews where he speaks reverently of me.
That's how people should measure their success.
For me, it's also how I measure my own personal embarrassment! It's like, "Wow, John. Stop! You kick ass and you will always smoke."
Speaking of smoking, do you prefer drinking beer or smoking weed when you play?
Weed. Because I can count when I smoke. Beer I can only handle to a point; if I get too fucked up, I become clumsy. Weed is the one. Honor Role wasn't a weed band. Butterglove definitely was. Breadwinner wasn't, except for me. I was the weed guy. You need to create an environment that you're comfortable in. You need to be able to throw down under any circumstances you may put yourself in, i.e. weed or beer. It's very important for my personal well-being that there are kids out there who fucking throw down some good shit, so that I can have some music to buy at the store. Because I don't ever wanna have to go to the store and buy something that's crap. I want people to create music that's fucked-up and challenging and unabashed and unselfish. Something that's very, very organic, something that speaks one very simple language that says, "I have to play this music. If I don't play this music, I am going to be very uptight." There will always be those people out there. Let's hope that we hear from them. When I look back at my musical heritage, I just think it's very important for people not to be afraid of creating, sharing and really, truly not worrying about what anyone else fucking thinks about it. Hopefully any of the kids that do that and miss the fucking bandwagon aren't gonna do an interview 10 years later and talk about how they felt left out. Because if they do, they can blow my fucking dead dog's dick. I'm speaking out my ass right now, but goddamn, I really mean everything I'm saying.
Pen with one of the Village People.....
PEN ROLLINGS DISCOGRAPHY
It Bled Like a Stuck Pig 7" EP (Eskimo) 1984
"Judgement Day" 7" (Eskimo) 1985
"Purgatory" 7" (Eskimo/No Core) 1986
The Pretty Song LP (Eskimo/No Core) 1986
Craig Olive 7" (Homestead) 1988
Rictus LP/CS (Homestead) 1989
Album CD (Merge) 1997 [compiles everything but the first EP and one song from Rictus]
"Sleep Thirsty" live [mistitled "Nordic Lumberjack"] on The Pre-Moon Syndrome, Post Summer (of Noise) Celebration Week LP (Sun Dog Propaganda) 1989
The Lunchbox Drama 7" (Shakedown) 1993
The John Morand Session CD (Speed Kills) 1997 [includes the songs from the 7"]
"Tourette's" + 2 7" (Merge) 1990
"" + 2 7" (Merge) 1991
Supplementary Cig 7" (Merge) 1994
Burner CD (Merge) 1994 [compiles all three singles]
"Yard" live on Rows of Teeth CD (Merge) 1994
"1 Trick Pony" on Dixie Flatline (Wilson Interrupt Mix) CD (Radioactive Rat) 1994
demo CDR (no label) 2002 [includes the songs from both releases listed below]
"New Jersey" 7" (Southern Lord) 2003
"Noise International" on Swami Sound System Vol. 1 LP/CD (Swami) 2003