Interview: Horrible Earth
A note of apology to Horrible Earth: this interview was intended to be posted soon after Berserker Fest, but was overlooked in the mad dash to make Northwest Terror Fest happen. My bad guys. All’s well that ends well, though: it’s out today while the editor in-chief crawls his way out of a mountain of unanswered emails. Cheers. – Ed.
Despite making some of the angriest music at this year’s Berserker festival, Horrible Earth are a great bunch of guys. Based out of Boston, the group embrace a low-fi, low-budget aesthetic with an earnest sincerity that comes across as endearing and genuine rather than exclusive and pretentious. Their sophomore release Typical Human Behavior came out last year on Destructive Fungus Records. Bassist Alex Lynch, vocalist Steve Millionis, and drummer Tim Morse (ex-Grief/Anal Cunt/Cutsaw/etc…) sat down with Invisible Oranges to talk about dive bars, the cassette revival, and how grindcore has influenced everybody else.
Have you had a chance to play this far from home much?
Steve Millionis: This is as far as we’ve been.
Alex Lynch: Last year we did No Pulse No Problem at New Dodge Lounge, that was our big trip. And then we did Toronto, Canada.
Tim Morse: Toronto. We’re going there tomorrow. It’s our second time.
Any thoughts about traveling out here for your show tonight?
Lynch: It’s great, we’re excited to be out here in the midwest, and we’re playing with ridiculously good bands.
Millionis: The bands who influenced us!
Lynch: I saw Eyehategod when I was 21, and now we’re here with them! It’s great.
Morse: Negative Approach. Playing with Negative Approach is pretty fuckin good.
Lynch: The really cool thing, too, is that the guy who put this together does this. Like, back when I was 14 and I started playing, that’s what I thought the community was gonna be like. It’s good stuff and it’s really great to see that actually exists out there.
Morse: I like the lineup. I like that it’s not a grindfest, y’know? With two days of blast beats. There’s a lot of great music, it’s awesome.
It’s interesting that you’re putting forth this attitude because it reflects a feeling of unity I’ve been getting from this whole festival. We’ve spent the last 30 years subdividing metal into tiny little niches, maybe it’s time to blur the lines a bit.
Millionis: It feels so good. It lets us get to meet a lot of different bands and we can geek out with them. Because as different as all these bands are, all of us own a Slayer record. Everyone knows “Raining Blood”. What’s cooler than that?
Morse: I’ve spent too much time in angry bands with antisocial people. Getting out here is great.
So you prefer the “fun club” side?
Morse: I don’t have time to be doing something that’s making me frown or whatever.
A lot of your flyers are for shows in Rhode Island; a lot of recurring venues, a lot of recurring bands. Tell me about playing out there.
Lynch: We’ve made friends in the area, and we help each other out. If they come up to Boston, we try to get them a gig, and they get us down to Rhode Island. It’s a 45 minute drive, so it’s a good place to play.
Millionis: We love Providence.
Any particular venues? What are your favorite kinds of places to play?
Lynch: We love the News Cafe. It’s like the oldest continuously licensed place in Pawtucket…
Morse: I don’t like playing grindcore at big festivals. I don’t like playing this type of music in good-looking clubs; I like a dump. I like a small shithole.
Millionis: We like small shitholes with really good PA’s
Morse: We played Now That’s Class last night and that place… it’s a hole in the wall but it’s got the best fuckin sound. I don’t find this type of music… I mean, I’ve played this type of music in beg venues and I always get… pissed off. It’s supposed to be…
Millionis: I think what he’s trying to say is it’s supposed to be more intimate and stripped-down.
Morse: Yeah, like a hardcore show; it’s supposed to be in your face.
Lynch: We like to be close to people.
I also believe that the best grindcore bands can transport you from wherever they’re playing at to a sweaty, smelly living room or basement somewhere with a sea of unwashed punks swaying back and forth.
Lynch: Yeah, we’re close
Millionis: We’re working on the staph infections, but they’ll be included
Lynch: Yes, free staph for everybody!
That said, and with your band booked to play here… what do you think it says about the state of grindcore these days?
Lynch: This is like huge. This is a really big venue with some really big names, and for a band like us to play here…
Morse: I think grindcore is on the up right now. I think it’s only going up. I think real, old-style grindcore is coming back.
Millionis: And it’s getting more recognition as more new kids are starting to discover it.
Morse: I think it’s definitely coming back. I mean, it never really went away…
Millionis: A lot of newer bands are influenced by old-school grindcore, even if they don’t want to think of it that way. I think a lot of people get turned off by grindcore like “oh it’s so much noise!” but I think that really a lot of people took a subconscious influence from it that they might not be willing to admit or are even afraid to label themselves like that…
Lynch: Things like the one or two minute songs is like a perfect vehicle, especially for heavy metal, for delivering a ton of riffs, get your message across, and don’t belabour the point with excessive soloing, just get it there.
Millionis: Be done with it!
Morse: [In regards to LAW commencing their set below] I have no problem with this drummer…
Lynch: That’s also one of the reasons we play out in Rhode Island so much… the idea of playing grindcore in Boston? Not a lot of folks book. They’re just like “ehhhh… no; we’ll pass.”
Morse: They’ll get the big acts. They’ll get the money makers, but… Well, I dunno, there is a sorta scene for grindcore in Boston, but it’s not much.
Millionis: It’s good enough for me!
Morse: It is good enough. I think true, and I hate to say it this way, but I think “true” old-school grind is coming back and I really mean that cro magnon fuckin Scum Napalm Death is coming back. It’s that great combination; that kind who went “I love Celtic Frost and I love Minor Threat” and brought them together and it’s fuckin great.
Millionis: It’s an acquired taste…
It’s almost like the line has shifted even farther into the extreme stuff; like “anti-music”, I mean, everybody loved that Gnaw Their Tongues record last year. And that’s even harder to listen to than most grind bands.
Lynch: Yeah, I can’t do it.
Morse: What exactly is “anti-music”? Are we talking like Throbbing Gristle? Or like powerviolence?
There’s a rejection of usual aesthetics and song-structure in favor of noise that’s supposed to make you feel weird.
Morse: Oh, so what I started on! The textbook for grind. What I started.
Millionis: No, it’s not like that, like the one our friends Zack and Dylan are in?
Morse: Oh! Oh, I get it. Yeah.
Millionis: But some of this stuff is like 40 minutes of just BLAAAAAAAH and there’s a guy up there with a tape deck and you’re like: “is this a DJ set right now?”
Morse: I saw Massan in Japan and he did that. All electronics and just a microphone. He played three minutes. Destroyed everything; it was perfect. Set, done, out. I played with MRSA the next day… over 70 minutes of just painful nauseous sound and it was at a point where you just wanted to “NO! Stop that, you can’t do that anymore.” That stuff is good and bad. I think you can make a 90 minute record of that, but you could also make an 8 minute record of that.
How do you feel about the cassette revival?
Morse: I fuckin love it.
Lynch: It’s weird. I got rid of my tape deck and now I can’t listen to half of my new favorite bands because it’s on cassette!
Lynch: I think it would be kinda cool if mixtapes came back, and we started trading them again, like in the past, but… I’d like it more if tape decks were easier to access.
It’s interesting for someone like me who came into metal in the late 90’s/early 00’s; the “tape trading days” were something everybody talked about, but it was alien to me and my friends; we had all gotten rid of our walkmans by then.
Millionis: The yellow block!
Morse: I still have my tape-traded copy of Slaughter of the Innocent by Repulsion. It’s got Old Lady Drivers on it, their first demo was like, fuck, man. I pull that old box out, it’s got dust all over it.
So you guys have been talking about a 7” coming out.
Lynch: We’re working on coming out with that. We had to tell the record company to hold off because we’re doing this and then Toronto, so we gotta do the hard work and all that. It’s coming out on Bloody Scythe Records with Psycho from Boston.
I’ve seen them on a number of your show flyers.
Millionis: They’ve been around forever. They’re super super great dudes.
Morse: They’re pushing 40 years now. They started as a straight hardcore punk band.
Millionis: And they simply do not give a fuck where they play or who they play with, they’re just the consummate good guys.
How do you find people to do splits with?
Millionis: Ask ‘em!
Morse: We ask them, they ask us.
Do you hear about it word-of-mouth like that?
Morse: Yeah, yeah.
Lynch: Yeah, like “hey, wanna do a record? Yeah, cool!”
Is there anybody out there you would like to do something with but haven’t been able to yet?
Lynch: We could name a hundred bands.
Morse: We could work with anybody.
Millionis: [Grinning at Morse] No escape.
Morse: No escape! No, no that’s fine, at least he didn’t ask if I was gay…
Lynch: Hey, what happens in the van, man. Sometimes ya get lonely…
There are some changing attitudes about that right now, and extreme metal in particular is under the magnifying lens, as it were, for people trying to root out certain kinds of extremism. I mean, Antifa has shut down a few metal shows here in North America in the last year. So how do you feel about making this kind of “deliberate fuck-you” kind of music in this social climate?
Lynch: I think that this political climate and our writing are very dystopian… Steve, do you wanna answer this one? He does all the lyrics.
Millionis: I have no idea what you’re talking about, man.
Lynch: By speaking your mind about what’s happening politically, whether you’re on one side or the other, it’s important to get that voice out. And that’s kinda what metal does, generally. It’s about looking at something and going “wow, that’s terrible, but they’ve got a good point.”
Millionis: Nazis suck. We’re not into any of that stuff. But we also don’t really follow what’s going on in black metal.
Lynch: I feel like grindcore can be a political venue, but we just try to…
Millionis: We just like to point that everything fucking sucks.
Lynch: Exactly. And if you think you’re some kind of special person? You’re in this with all of us. We’re in it together.
Millionis: We’re all fucked. That’s what we’re saying.
No one gets saved on your sinking ship?
Morse: Fuck it, let’s pull the plug.