Saturday, November 27, 2004

Ladies & Gentlemen This Is Bullshit

Matt Parish (Ho-Ag) vs Ryan Walsh (Stairs) - The Interview

Two Obscure Boston Musicians Jabber Away For An Hour Or So

Matt Parish (Ho-Ag)

Ryan Walsh (Stairs)


RW: How's it going?

MP: It's going okay, I just had an hour and a half
lunch meeting with Joel Roston on Boston Commons
eating sandwiches from Falafel King. We ridiculed
passerby and watched young activist confront
a man driving a truck around with various wooden
signs attached declaring "Militant Islam Evil,"
"Homosexuality is a Sin" and "Kerry is Unfit."

RW: That reminds of a sign I saw last week while
walking the Freedom Trail. I had friends in from out
of town and they wanted to walk the trail so off we
went. There was a guy in front of the state house
with a giant banner that read "Stop Gay Marriage" and
he had a little boom box with some music playing.
Ironically, the music was very very gay. Here's a
little known fact about the Freedom Trail. If you
walk it backwards you become British.

MP: That's funny, I would have thought that if you
walked it backwards, you'd end up losing all free
will. And the ironic thing is that of course you had
no free will in the first place, you'd just spent the
past two hours following a thin red line through
various twists and turns, never leaving its dogmatic
trajectory through a city tempting you at every moment
to stray for a bit and check out maybe some weird sound
you heard coming from behind a fence across the street
from Paul Revere's house or to go talk to that attractive
person calling your name from the tenth story window on
Park St. No, just stick to the path, right? This is no trail that
leads to Freedom! So we have learned that my initial premise
is completely wrong and the British joke was by far simpler
and made more sense.

Back to the anti-Homos van, of course he was playing
excessively gay music as well.

RW: That's something I found shocking. My adherence
to the red line. It's not like you need to walk
directly on it but I found if I strayed too far from
it I felt uneasy. I remember getting to the site of
the Boston Massacre and feeling let down by the low
number of deaths that occured. "That's not a
massacre" I thought outloud. I immediately felt like
a desensitized pompous American. So, in a way, The
Freedom Trail, for all it's easy-to-swallow tourism
infotainment nuggets revealed some interesting
things, to me, about being an American.

MP: Yes, well, on to other things--Trevor Dunn is
playing bass (in a duo with a harp player) tonight at
the Zeitgeist. Too bad the Stairs like to practice
so much . . . How efficient do you think Stairs prac-
tices are? I'd give Ho-Ag a 60 rating.

RW: We're usually very on task. Not that it's like
school or work. I think you just need to
instinctively know if free form wankery is going to
lead to something or not. If it's not then cut the
crap and work on the songs. If the mood is right then
keep noodling because you'll probably come up with
something good. A drunk practice where you play loud
and sloppy can be just as productive as a sober
examination of the set.

MP: If that's how you want to look at it, that's
fine. Ho-Ag usually begins a practice with ten minutes of
trying to fix someone's amp or guitar. Then a trip to the
convenience store for Gatorade. Then we will play all the
songs we know how to play. thena;slkf ew.....well I just went
downstairs and ate some free ice cream bars that my
work has been giving away today, along with free snack food
all week to appease those of us working during the
DNC. I tell you here and now: the DNC is the best thing to
happen to my economy in ages. Back to Ho-Ag practice,
though: comment. The kid from the Stairs
usually tells us what to do.

RW: Ah, that's a good segue into Eric. We share a
drummer. Sort of. How did this all start?

MP: Well, we have no drummer. We can't even get along
with each other, much less an outsider. Therefore, no
one wants to be our drummer. The ones who do are not
right for us. Luckily, Eric is the best drummer I've
ever played with and conveniently already has his
drums set up in our practice space. Plus, he likes the way
Ho-Ag music sounds, even if playing in the band yields
him no more chicks than playing in the Stairs
(probably less). He is a fine fellow, though, and amazingly
can play right in line with both bands and sound
pretty natural, even though the drum parts are like
absolutely nothing alike. How did all this start with
Eric and the Stairs? The first I ever heard of him
was in 1999 when you recorded the first Mr. Pistol thing
on the Tascam and you were like "There's this guy I
knew from high school playing drums with us now" and I was
all jealous of it. That's how I relate to all my friends'
bands--I'm either very jealous of whatever creative
success they're having or I'm very suspicious of them for not
seeming to have been doing a sufficient amount of work
lately, like we made some pact to always be working on
new stuff and now they're breaking it up or something.

RW: I've know Eric since preschool. We both got
kicked of the National Honor Society on the same day
in high school and formed a shitty cover band. I was
awful and he was amazing. That ended after 1 show.
Two and 1/2 years later I showed up at his doorstep
with a 4 track recorder and we've been working pretty
closely since.

Once in 7th grade my friend Anthony offered Eric $10
to drink a concotion of his creation and Eric gave it
a shot. It had eggs, tomato juice, vinegar, pepper,
butter, chocolate powder, olives...this awful drink
they cooked up for Eric. And he got about 3/4ths of
the way through it and threw up. I waltzed in the
door, drank the last gulp, and was awarded the ten
dollars. Eric was horrified. I think he had a chance
to make $5 by eating some leaves off a tree. Which he
did. That was a lot of money for us. You could buy a
pack of Upper Decks or an "Image" glossy cover comic
book with that kind of money. So my impression of our
working relationship is that he's just waiting for the
proper time to get back at me for that incident.

MP: $5 could have probably bought you 2 Image comics,
like Maxx and maybe some Spawn. I think Maxx was the
only good one, looking back on it all. But that's what
is awesome about Eric--he's a doer not a talker,
although he talks, too. Like "I don't think this part is any
good," that kind of thing.

There's no one in Ho-Ag that I've known since
preschool, although I met Tyler for the first time in 5th grade
and the first time we ever hung out was probably in 6th or
7th grade watching MST3K and stuff. But there is a kid
from my neighborhood who used to fall asleep and talk in
his sleep during sleepovers and get ridiculed in that
state. But wasn't there always a kid like that? Now that I
think about it, it's probably just like Ouija boards--whenever a
bunch of kids are sleeping around, there's at least one person
who can't resist acting like they're sleepwalking and stuff,
admitting to crushes on other kids' older sisters' etc..,
What would sleepovers be without that?

RW: Probably very much like going to bed any other
night except that your friends would be in the room
with you. I used to sleepover one friend's house and
his brother would hire us to do illegal things like
remove stop signs he disapproved of. We would always
be payed in Dominator pizzas. Remember those things?
Large, rectangles of tastless pizza. Have you ever
seen a ghost Matt?

MP: The only ghost I've ever seen is the one in the
bathroom when you turn the lights off and look in the
mirror and say Bloody Mary over and over. Some
thought it was Satan, some thought it was Bloody Mary,
my one friend thought it was an Indian ghost coming back for
revenge against the people living on his land and
misappro- priating his image for high school sports apparel.

Other than that, I don't think so. I'm in a band
called Krap Ghos', but that's only the musical ghost.
Why, have you seen ghosts?

RW: I'll tell you later. Do you like writing songs?
What do you like to write about? How do you write
songs? Do you enjoy any beverages during the
songwriting process?

MP: Fine, tell me later, I can keep things off the
record if you can.

I like to write about all sorts of things, but mostly
people escaping death through either extraordinary
physical achievements or mental cunning. That pervades
a good amount of Ho-Ag lyrical material, although recent
songs have taken a turn toward the battle of man versus both
nature, machines and fate. Ho-Ag is quite like a high
school English class in that regard. I have problems
writing about specific things, which you're really good at.
You can pinpoint things and write a quick verse about
some tiny aspect of someone's life, or even just some
quick line that can suggest a whole story.

I feel like when I get going, things just build up on top
each other and maybe don't suggest anything too vivid
by themselves but if you kind of force them together,
you might start to see a shadow of whatever kernel i was
starting out with. That's kind of the goal, anyway.
I try and understate things, skirt around whatever the main
idea of the song is, which is funny because, musically, Ho-Ag
is about as overstated as you can get, I feel like.

As far as the actual mechanics of writing songs goes,
I have yet to find a regular method to doing anything. The
best thing I've found so far is to just have a little tape
recorder around and kind of make it a goal to sketch one or two
things out on an acoustic guitar as often as possible--little
riffs, chord progressions and singing over them, whatever--
and then go over it all once it gets filled up, just to
scavange whatever I can out of it. I like starting with big
full chord progressions and stripping them down to a sparse
bass line and minimal guitar stuff that just barely hints at
that progression. I've done that successfully: twice I think.
Otherwise, I pretty much deal almost solely in rhythms and
abrasive-sounding harmonies. Ho-Ag stuff is super concentrated
in rhythm first and foremost and usually the melodies are like
the very last things to even get thought about in songs. I think
being in a band where your music is so much about the vocal melody
would be terrifying, how do you do that?

RW: Well, for starters, I'm required to, by law, per
order of the judge who demanded the creation of this
band that I'm in. For Real Answer: That's the aspect
of music I've been most attracted to since I became an
active "music listener" and so that's what I've tried
to emulate since then. I think if the thing that got
me off most about music, when I was little, had been
wicked wild guitar solos then that would have been
what I practiced and copied and eventually tried to
write on my own. I was the only kid who listened to
Weird Al Yankovic for the melodies (totally unaware
that they were available in versions not about eating
too much or too many people on a public bus). So when
it came down to finding some angsty music to kind of
provide the soundtrack to my own lame mini-rebellion I
found stuff like Faith No More records which, even
though they're loud and better known for other
dynamics, are full of amazing melodies.

So, when I'm writing songs for the band it's very rare
that I concentrate on anything but lyric and melody
(and a basic chord progression to hang it on). All of
the dynamics and shifts don't come around until I
bring it to the band. That's what that Hierarchy Of
Hoaxes disc I made last summer was all about. Forcing
me to create and execute full arrangements by myself.
But I'd rather do it with the band because a)they're
better at it and b)it's more fun that way.

And lastly, sure, I'll tell you now that I believe I
have seen a ghost.

MP: That's good that you saw a ghost, where was it?

Also--that's interesting that it starts out with what
you liked about music as a kid, because the first music I
really liked as a kid was rap, like Run DMC and stuff
from Breakin' and even like Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff,
De La Soul, Public Enemy-stuff that generally has no melody
whatsoever except for like a horn sample or something.
When I started liking punk stuff, it was really the less melodic
and shout-along type stuff that I was into--Black Flag and
Dead Kennedys (who hide most of their melody in the guitar lines I
guess), Minor Threat, etc.., Faith No More was probably the
main thing that got me interested in weird, big commanding
melodies, too--which is weird because that's obviously not what
they're so known for.

Back to your beverages thing--I mostly down tons of
coffee (always) or tea (wintertime) during writing alone.
Especially when writing lyrics, I take a lot of things from
books and magazines and need lots of caffeine to stay focused
while hunting through things trying to find connections.

I always picture someone being able to look at the
words to a song and being able to find all the sources
for all the different lines. We've been writing a lot of
stuff together lately, though, and that usually is fueled by
Gatorade for some weird reason.

RW: It's summertime, Gatorade can be very refreshing.
Well, at this point I think we should round this up
with some rapid & succint one sentence questions.
What's your favorite album to play right before going
to visit a loved one in jail?

MP: Rain Dogs. What's your favorite live bootleg

RW: Faith No More live at Modjeska Theater where the
fight between the bouncers, band, and fans breaks out.
Roddy Bottum's got quite an uppercut. What's the
worst part about not having the Pony Express anymore
in this country?

MP: The worst part about that is, I guess, that our
mail smells like mail room workers' hands instead of
hay now. Why do you regret never joining the Merchant

RW: The Generous pay and the fact that they would've
let me bring my guitar. What can you keep in a

MP: I know from experience that I can keep candy bars
in a drawer. Also, photos of friends and enemies.
What's your favorite brand of pencil?

RW: Dixon Ticonderoga. Tried & True. How many
members of Ho-Ag does it take to screw in a light

MP: One to screw in the light bulb, one to wait for
the first one to leave and redo it without telling them,
and one to check email to see if anyone replied to the
latest drummer wanted ads. Stairs?

RW: One to get a grant to buy the lightbulb, one to go
lightbulb installation school, and one to accidentally drop it.
Luckily, the fourth Stair tape records the whole thing and it's
worth sitting in the dark for.


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