It takes courage not to conform to the expectations of others. What I immediately loved about this band, was the fact that they’re obviously capable of doing their thing and developing their work without goals, comparison to others, external standards and labeling their music. San Jose, California’s BURIED AT BIRTH play uncompromising extreme music, mostly centered around sounds you dig if you’re into grindcore, powerviolence and all kinds of blistering metallic heartfelt tunes. They have a couple of things released on Give Praise Records and a re-release of “Pestilent Hallucinations” due in a few weeks on Migraine Records – originally it was on J. Randall‘s Grindcore Karaoke.
I conducted this interview with BURIED AT BIRTH‘s drummer Ryan and vocalist Veronica a couple of weeks ago, just before their appearance at Punk is Dead Fest, which I also featured on IDIOTEQ (check it out at this location). Taste their sharp riffs and read our talk about skatin’, labeling bands, female-fronted bands, and of course the band’s legacy below!
Hey Ryan! Thanks for taking some time with me, checking out my site and all! So, the PUNK IS DEAD Fest is something that brought us together, aight? Tell me more about your appearance in the Lancaster and how you got engaged in this undertaking.
Hi Karol! Most definitely, man! It looks like you run a pretty tight ship over at IDIOTEQ.com!! Yes, Punk is Dead is what initially brought us together. You know, we had driven past the Lancaster freeway exit quite a few times en route to Los Angeles, but none of us were aware of the music scene out in the high desert. I’ve always known the area to be a sort of haven for off-road racing and endless motorcycle trails. Needless to say we were pretty stoked to have been invited to perform at the festival this year!
I think Zack has done a very thorough job with his creation of the bill – both days have excellent representation of punk, grind, PV, fastcore, doom/sludge, and d-beat bands! I just hope the bands don’t get heat stroke! Stay hydrated!! Hahaha
Both as a band and as an attendee, what other festivals do you have in the pipeline this year?
Hmmm, that’s a very good question. As a band, we don’t have any other big performances planned for 2013. There are a few shows here and there, but no big Fests. Do you know of any we should be looking at? haha Also, we are finishing up another record and thinking about an overseas tour, so that takes time. I’d love to get to Europe to participate in some of their open-air fests, Play Fast or Don’t, Obscene/Extreme, etc. Then again, Japan seems to be calling our name as well…
Speaking of pipelines, how is your skate scene over in the EU? We’ve tried to hit the skateparks in many of the towns we have visited.
Are you a skate fanatic?
Radical! I watched the first video and was stoked to hear Claus Grabke’s band doing the intro song. EIGHT DAYZ, I think that was their name. Also, the nose-grind at 3:15 was crazy. It looked like it could have been a k-grind… Yeah, I’ve been skateboarding for about 23 years. That being said, I grew up listening all of the old skate bands like JFA, AGRESSION, RKL, Bl’ast, DRUNK INJUNS, FACTION, etc. So, playing grind and power-violence came naturally since both music and skating are very physically violent, yet calculated and precise arts.
Out West, we have some pretty solid concrete parks: Lake Cunningham in San Jose, the new outdoor park in Fremont, CA. Van’s Combi-Bowl in Orange, CA. That’s not even scratching the surface though: the Interstate 5 corridor up through Oregon and Washington have, it seems, a radical free concrete park in most every town! I’ve spent a lot of time driving and skating up and down the coast!
What does skating do for you?
Skateboarding does a few things: It provides a form of artistic expression, it allows me to keep a healthy body and mind, but most importantly, it has given me a very unique outlook of the world. Skateboarding has its own subculture within the subculture just as music does. As a veteran rider, I feel very fortunate to have found it when I did. I think core skateboarders are able to see through the BS of our material world. They are usually unwavering in their resolve and are unwilling to “go with the flow”. Birdo’s Consolidated Skateboards is a prime example of this – his “Don’t Do it ” campaign is pure genius! The dudes at Anti-Hero are also on-point with this sentiment – they don’t care about being cool or playing by the rules – just 100% pure skateboarding. Tom at Weirdo is another great example of skateboarding for skateboarders – that guy lives, breathes, and eats skateboarding. He’s so dedicated that he poured a huge concrete pool in his backyard!! I will always support those guys!!
Because it is relatively inexpensive to “buy-in”, it opens the door to virtually everyone who is interested in participating. Do you see what I’m getting at? Our subculture is made up of all races, creeds, genders, ethnicities, religions, socioeconomic statuses, etc. I don’t see that in many of the “team-sports” like football, soccer, or baseball. Skateboarding, for me, has always been rough around the edges… and kind of dirty – just a big middle finger to society. Anyone can participate. Who cares? Just shred!!!
Oh man. I definitely see what you’re getting at.
How does powerviolence link to skatin’? What’s your view on this specific pairing?
Perfect segue, man! I think PV and punk and skateboarding are a match made in heaven! Both are aggressive, neither conform to the accepted rules of society, both are dirty and crusty, both require ingenuity; they force you think beyond the dominant paradigm. Hell man, I never learned to color within the lines – that was boring! Haha
When I started to ride, I first listened to SEX PISTOLS, then my dad turned me on to BLACK FLAG and SUICIDAL TENDENCIES – that was around 1983. As the music got more intense, so did my skating. I believe that music has a profound subconscious effect on who we are as an individual.
It’s the chicken or the egg – were bands like 97A, JFA, SPAZZ, BLACK FLAG, and MINOR THREAT musicians or skateboarders first? It’s tough to say, I think it’s just a natural progression – at least for the West Coast!
Do you mix hip hop . rap with it, too?
No, I’ve never been a great fan of rap/hip-hop. I have a small collection of old school records like ICE-T, DANA DANE, TOO SHORT, D-NICE, FU-SCHNICKS, KRS-ONE, etc., but to get pumped to go skate, or ride bikes/motorcycles, punk has always done it for me. Well, Deicide is a guaranteed win as well. Haha
What about other members of BURIED AT BIRTH? Are there more skatin’ maniacs in the pack?
Sheesh, I wish we all rode! Over the years, yes, we’ve had other members that skate, but currently, I’m the only one who still rides – it makes it kind of tough when we roll into a town and my first request is, “where’s the skatepark?” The other founder of BURIED AT BIRTH, Dave, used to skate a lot too. We’d jam for a while, then skate, jam some more, then have another skate session.
Speaking of the band, shoot me a short story of how you met and decided to launch this project.
Well, the short version is this: Dave and I had just finished another band, MANSON FAMILY FEUD. After we put that project to bed, we decided that there was still some steam left in us, so we hooked up with another cat named Nathan and BURIED AT BIRTH was born. Shortly after, Veronica joined as the full-time destroyer of vocal chords. We’ve always had problems with bass players, so our first few shows had a couple of different guys playing bass. Ryan Wasterlain played our first legit gig with COLISEUM and BURNING LOVE. James Cigler played bass for a few other shows: a local skate contest and a tattoo shop grand opening in Santa Cruz. Over the last few years, people have come and gone, but I consider the core members of BURIED AT BIRTH to be Veronica, Jerry, Donovan, and myself. Our goal was, and still is, to play some gnarly music that steps outside of the cookie cutter stamp of the genres that we associate closely with. We all listen to bands across the wide spectrum of “music”, so there are endless possibilities to push the envelope, so the speak. Even when a song is “done”, we’re still tweaking it and modifying parts. So much for the “once it’s recorded, it’s done” rule, huh?
How has your lineup changed over the course of BURIED AT BIRTH?
I think most of my favorite bands have employed the revolving door policy at some time or another. We’re no exception! At our ages, it’s tough to find people who want to play music – and it’s exponentially more difficult to find people who want to play this kind of music. Add another level of difficulty to the mix when you start thinking about touring seriously and spending time outside of your comfort zone… So, without further adieu, here is the history of our band:
Vocals: Veronica Mars
Drums: Ryan Fassler
Guitar: Jerry Lozano ( ex- David Taylor, Nathan Leuvano, Phil Hasha)
Bass: Donovan Kelley ( ex- Kyle Smith, Clayton Kemble, Ryan Clarke, Ryan Wasterlain, James Cigler, Mark Guerrero)
Why did you choose the name BURIED AT BIRTH and did it took a special meaning with the time if it hadn’t a special sense at the start?
Quite frankly, BURIED AT BIRTH was at the end of a long list of potential names. As is usually the case, we couldn’t all agree upon a suitable name, so in the end, the name BURIED was kind of the one that stuck. Icould tell you that it has some hidden meaning, but it really doesn’t. The longer that we’re around, the more it has grown on us though. It is a reference to the movie Zombie Holocaust. Nathan suggested it. It sounded cool to me since the context was that a woman buried her newborn child in the mire – literally in the wet mud at her feet. It doesn’t get much gnarlier than that!
Ok, let’s move on to your records, shall we? Tell me about Pestilent Hallucinations re-release project and how you decided to resurrect this outing.
Radical!! We self-released “Smashed in the face with a fist full of bricks” Around May of 2010, then promptly hit the road in support of the disc. While we were out on tour, J. Randall contacted us to ask if we’d be interested in releasing something on Grindcore Karaoke. That was a total no-brainer! We felt quite honored to be part of his label, so we compiled some tracks and mailed them to him. That record still gets a lot of mileage! We have a really great relationship with Adam at Migraine, so when he asked if we’d be interested in re-issuing it on vinyl, we were pumped! Since this will be the first time a couple of those tracks will be “officially” released, it was decided that 300 unit, yellow 7″ should commemorate it. We’re stoked to finally get those songs on wax!
What made the label so legendary?
Well, for those who aren’t aware, Grindcore Karaoke is an on-line digital only record label operated by J. Randall of AGORAPHOBIC NOSEBLEED. The label was/is his response to the collapse of many micro-labels and the some of the larger labels’ lack of willingness to gamble on smaller, unproven bands. Randall is a musical curator of sorts, always searching for new sounds, bands doing something different, or just something that he likes. There are hundreds of free to download, digital releases on it from many genres and subgenres. We were already way into a lot of the releases on there, so we were super stoked to get the invitation to be a part of it.
He’s the man, right? :)
How does it feel to hit the first anniversary of your self-titled 7 inch?
Oh man, it means that we’ve all gotten a year older! Hahaha Seriously, it’s rad that people are into our music to the point that we are able to continue to write, record, and perform our music. At the risk of sounding like a ninny, we definitely appreciate all of the love and support that our family, friends, and fans have given us during the course of the band! Hopefully you’ll be asking us how we’re feeling about the anniversary of our yet-to-be-named album!!
The cover for the record scared the shit out of me. Where did the cruel image come from? Was it adapted from elsewhere? :)
I’m not sure which album you’re referring to – Force/Quit or the self-titled 7″?
Oh, sorry, I mean the self-titled 7 inch.
Either way, our buddy Dan Gore at Masticis Humanis has done most of the art for our stuff. We feel like he genuinely understands the band and I think it really translates well in his artwork. We usually send him the songs and Veronica’s lyrics and let him run wild with them. He’s done art for those two records, a t-shirt, and the “Kill Yourself” man on our 2012 US tour poster.
I’m stoked that his art jarred you enough to be frightened! Hahah, he’ll get a kick out of that. Actually, Dan is a registered agent of Satan, so he spends 18 hours a day sketching demonic landscapes under the threat of dismemberment by a team of horses. Oh yeah, did I mention that he uses the blood of the infidels to fill his ink-pen?
[one_half last=”no”][/one_half][one_half last=”yes”][/one_half]
Wow, maybe I should interview him, too? :) I wonder what inspires him to come up with stuff like that.
By the way, what inspires you to make art?
That would be radical. I’m certain he’d enjoy the interview process!! I think Dan and Robert – the other half of Masticis are just like most of the musicians that I know: none of us really fit into the mold of society, so we end up living in Dan-land or Ryan-land, you know? Life is much more exciting and enjoyable when you are the ruler of the roost! I believe art: whether it’s skateboarding, making music, riding motocross, painting, sculpting, listening to music (critically) are very vital to the healthy soul. They are all powerful forms of escapism – and expression. Without the human experience, we’re doomed to be a cog in the machine of life; Work to live, not live to work! Personally, my inspiration comes in many forms… Primarily, I’m never really satisfied with the status quo. The mind/body/soul are all elastic and malleable, so why not stretch them to their maximum potential? Beyond that, I tend to work through my inner turmoil by abusing my drums. Yeah, my anger issues inspire me to play! Ha!
Do you ever have those moments when you just want to give up? Those moments when you’re feeling out of control, frustrated at the world, with lack of inspirations that can push you forward?
Every day man! I feel that in every aspect of my life. The trick is to identify early onset depression, then kill it. I’ll say that I’m utterly disgusted with humanity on the whole. There are clearly exceptions to the rule, but it seems to me that people are too quick to stab their brothers and sisters in the back in exchange for something trivial like status, power, material things, wealth, etc… Humans have been conditioned to operate at the mercy of their Superego – therein lies the problem. We’re killing ourselves for shit that doesn’t even matter. That being said, the same anger and frustration that is ultimately killing me is what drives us to create our art. Aside from the sphere of the band, we’ve individually gotten involved with organizations like Sea Shepherd and Farm Sanctuary. There is a lot of truth in the statement: “Either you’re a part of the problem or part of the solution”.
Back to your discography… You’ve worked with a couple of cool labels, that’s a fact. Who will be releasing your next record? And what is it exactly that you’re planning?
Sweet! Thank you for the compliment! All of the labels we’ve worked with have been extremely positive experiences, but Give Praise Records is by far our favorite! Paul has been a supporter of our band since our inception. Loyalty is a quality that certainly isn’t lost on us, so GP will be releasing the next installment of the Buried at Birth saga. Ha Ha! I don’t know if it’ll be another London Calling or Sandanista, but it’ll most definitely be unique. Maybe we’ll release a picture disc stuffed inside a pop-up sleeve / cover. Maybe the cover will do dual duty as a dust cover / stencil? I think THE BRONX did that already, though. An edible record would be awesome, but you’ll have to copy it before you eat it. In all seriousness, we’re on the fence whether to release another full-length – or a couple of 7″‘s. Grind can be somewhat stressful and grating on the ears once you hit the 15 minute mark, so it can really go either way. What do you think?
Yeah man, tough decision :) To be honest, I remember Thom Yorke’s mentions years ago and his prognosis on the future of music and the importance of EPs and shorter releases. It was beyond my understanding as I always took full lengths as the only proper package for music. For certain, my approach has changed over the years, and these freakin’ fast crazy times (Idioteque), plus tons of interesting stuff available, leave less and less time for contemplating music. All of this has lead me to looking for and focusing on singles and short releases. Sad, but true, huh? ;)
I certainly agree that, with all of the distractions in our current world, it’s increasingly more difficult for the artist to hold the viewer/consumer’s attention. In our “single-serving” society, it has become the norm to buy individual songs instead of complete albums, so right off the bat, we’ve got a problem. Some artists assemble their products as cohesive units; when they are dissected and broken into pieces, you lose the intended message/soul of the whole product. That said, I’m finding myself more put off by bands who buy into what popular culture dictates – I still spin old ILL REPUTE, SLAYER, Roger Miller and Merle Haggard records – I don’t think their music would translate well in an e.p. format. We’re heading down a very slippery slope: I hear what people want, but it doesn’t always align with how I’d like to proceed.
Alright So, whatever type you choose, will it be natty and smart as the previous one? :) I’m smiling, because I saw a review stating that your production is not dirty enough to be pure grindcore, ya know? Haha. What’s your take on that?
Hahahah. I had to look up the definition of “natty” – thank you for the compliment!! Oh man, this has a been the topic of many discussions. Some people bum out on our band because we don’t fit within the confines of what they think “grind” or “power-violence” should be. We don’t make music for other people – we make songs that we enjoy playing. So, I’m sure that the next record won’t meet with the approval of the “grind” elite. I’m smiling as I type this, because I’m reminded of some Fall Silent lyrics: “Fuck you scenesters, CD reviewers, violent dancers, EVERYONE”.
Without a doubt, they experienced the same thing we do. Yeah, that pretty much sums it up.
Ha, we never really sat down and said “let’s make grindcore record” or any other genre, in fact. We just started playing around with different sounds and ideas and the product just came out the way that it is. We get a fair amount of “your music isn’t really this genre or that genre”, which we pretty much reject out of hand. I’m not writing something for you to put in a tidy little box with a happy little label. What’s creative about that? We want to break the rules, make something uniquely ours, something that is new and exciting to us. I suppose it boils down to the fact that we’re writing things we like and that express how we feel (after all we have to play it again and again…shouldn’t we like it?), not something to align with the expectations of others. If someone likes it, and the sound or message resonates, obviously that’s killer. If not, who gives a shit? It’s not going to make us change it. It’s not like “Uh oh, not dirty enough for the critics! Better change!” I read this awesome anecdote once that said something to the effect that art is creating something for the sake of creating it, and marketing is creating something to satisfy consumers. We’re making art. It’s not dirty enough for you to call it grindcore? Then don’t.
I totally agree, guys! Everyone would be better off if things were just alphabetical in a store :) The content of my 4TB disc full of music appears in that order, too, and I really don’t care about tags. On the other hand, categorizing helps listeners find out artists with sort of a similar sound, and define a product somehow? In that context, if it initiates an interest, it’s not so bad, huh? What do you think?
I think genres serve a purpose – like you mention, if you like X, you may also like Y. I think that they become limiting when people define their tastes narrowly within them or when they don’t like a band or sound because they can’t find a genre that describes it precisely. But perhaps that is more of a commentary on where popular culture has landed versus a criticism of the existence of genres in and of themselves.
It seems that apart from genres and styles, you can also define a band depending on the individual and their sex. Do yo often get a tag of a “female-fronted” band? Hope you don’t mind me asking, cause I know you actually don’t take it as a useful description, but I’m curious. Lots of musicians and activists fight to increase women’s representation and participation in all kinds of music scenes. The domination of men makes it hard for some females to break through, so maybe it’s not so stupid to pinpoint it after all?
It does happen, although we don’t really encourage it. Ha – Ryan is pointing out to me that I just don’t like labels. I guess that is true. Very astute!
This is a thorny issue for me, but I don’t mind talking about it. I like that women are embracing more extreme musical styles. Diversity is a good thing. Male, female, trans, whatever you might be. Music is better with many perspectives and ideas, in my opinion. We should all encourage that, help with breaking down any gender based barriers that exist between musicians and their dreams of performing or being successful, in any small way that we can.
Do I want to encourage other women to pick up an instrument and join or form a band? Yes! Can knowing that a band has a woman in it help other women to find role models? Absolutely! However, I believe that by calling out a band as “female fronted” it does two things that I don’t particularly like. First, it signifies that this is a “special” characteristic in this space, which to me reinforces that its still very male dominated. When someone speaks about a band with a male vocalist, they never say that its “male fronted”, because that is the norm. Second, what about the other guys in the band? They aren’t women. Why should a band be defined by the gender of Every day man! I feel that in every aspect of my life. The trick is to identify early onset depression, then kill it. I’ll say that I’m utterly disgusted with humanity on the whole. There are clearly exceptions to the rule, but it seems to me that people are too quick to stab their brothers and sisters in the back in exchange for something trivial like status, power, material things, wealth, etc… Humans have been conditioned to operate at the mercy of their Superego – therein lies the problem. We’re killing ourselves for shit that doesn’t even matter. That being said, the same anger and frustration that is ultimately killing me is what drives us to create our art. Aside from the sphere of the band, we’ve individually gotten involved with organizations like Sea Shepherd and Farm Sanctuary. There is a lot of truth in the statement: “Either you’re a part of the proble/am or part of the solution”.one member? Often you can’t tell the gender of the vocalist even after listening to the band. So I also think it is a useless description in that sense.
On several occassions I have had people come up to me and say “I don’t normally like chick vocalists, but I like you”. I was like – how am I supposed to feel about that comment? Special? Grateful? Instead I feel a combination of anger and perhaps naive hopefulness. Anger because of being pre-judged because of my gender, but hopeful because maybe this person did/will challenge their paradigm. Regardless, I still look forward to a day when we just talk about whether the music is good – and not what the vocalist may or may not be packing in their underwear.
Alright, back to your new sta href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burning_Love_(band)” target=”_blank”strong/puff. It should have been out early this year, but the album is having a difficult birth, isn’t it?
Yes, it was supposed to be out months ago, but due to some unforseen circumstances, the date will be pushed back a little further. Hahah, for a while, it looked like our hobgoblin might have been stillborn. Now we understand that the machine technician was just unfamiliar with the ultrasound machine. Since the creature has been in the womb far longer than is normally acceptable, I’m a bit fearful as to how it’ll react when it sees daylight. My guess is that it’ll be exponentially angrier than our other children and that it’ll be placed in some form of quarantine. Who knows though? It might be fully formed and ready to play with others, but I highly doubt it.
Seriously, the new record is coming together very well! The tracks are heavier and darker than our previous material. V’s lyrics are just as caustic and biting as earlier songs, and the overall tone of the band has become much less forgiving of feigned compromise and mediocrity within the “scene” and our global environment. When have some jams recorded, I’ll be sure to slip you one or two for IDIOTEQ streaming!
Thanks! Spice me up with this hellish spice. What’s the timetable for it?
We’re thinking first half of 2014, schedules permitting.
Yeah, we started to write some new jams, but scrapped them and have started to create new songs. Weather permitting, they’ll be out by Summer of 2014.
I’ve heard you love touring and traveling thousands of miles throughout the States, is that right? :) How do you remember your 2012 Summer trek? Was it your first lengthy trek on the road?
A crazy, blur punctuated with some hilarious stories. There was literally never a dull moment. Between hauling ass from one city to the next to make load ins (some of those drives were insanely long – 18 hours plus a time change is probably a little closer than we would plan in the future…), unexpected mechanical issues (bus mirror falling off and trailing next to the bus at 85 mph was a little cagey) we did manage to enjoy a ton of great bands, visit many friends both old and new, see a few sites, and darken the door of many record shops across the US. It was hard to go back to “real life” after the whirlwind.
That was the longest tour of consecutive dates that Buried at Birth has done, yes. Prior to that, we completed a lot of trips up and down the Pacific Northwest, Southwestern U.S., and the Midwestern United States. I personally love getting in the van and heading out on the road! Every time that diesel engine starts, it’s a new adventure! Note – it’s funny that Veronica forgot about hot-swapping drivers at 80mph on the freeway!
Touring-wise, what are your plans for the coming months?
No touring planned immediately, as priority one is writing new material at the moment. Ideally, we would go out on the road after the new record is released.
Are there any special festivals or vanues you’d love to play? The Maryland Deathfest sounds perfect for you guys, you know? :)
We’re getting ready to play Zack’s Punk is Dead Fest pretty soon; that show will be one of the best in the West. We’re pretty excited to play alongside Bay Area PV originators GODSTOMPER. PRIMITIVE MAN and BLASTER MASTER will probably be crowd favorites as well.. Last year we played Within these Walls in Arizona – talk about a wild party! SICK OF IT ALL, INDECISION, and DROPDEAD all killed it!! MDF would be rad! Obscene Extreme for sure. As far as venues, yes, there are a few here and there in the states that we’d love to hit.
What are the chances that BURIED AT BIRTH will tour Europe this on the next year?
Not sure about the timing, but this is something that we have always talked about. Europe, Japan and Australia are all on the wish list for touring!
Besides this main band, are there any other projects in the pipelines that you’re particularly excited about? Any side-projects you do in your spare time?
No serious side-projects to speak of – we all have other stuff that occupies the “non-BURIED AT BIRTHh” hours of the day. I’ve always wanted to get a surf band going, so keep your toes on the nose and your ears to the Earth for that gem.
Ok guys. One last thing. I’m always looking for some good music. What’s been spinning in your music player recently?
Alright guys. It’s been a pleasure, seriously. Thanks so much for your precious time. Let’s keep in touch. Good luck with the new album and everything else. Thanks! :)
Thank you Karol! Thanks for the interview and all of your support! We’ll definitely keep in touch, man! Keep up the radical work with IDIOTEQ!!!
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