In the old days, most of punk bands used to pay their dues on the road, touring, putting out their records, writing zines, and whatnot, and nowadays, artists that want to be heard better have a banging Facebook, Instagram and YouTube channel and be on top of their social media and Google search results. Fortunately, there are a unch of bands that keep the DIY spirit and core hardcore punk ethics alive. Boston’s CHEECH is one of them and we’re pleased to give you our new interview, in which we talked about their new EP “Old Friends”, running a band for 20 years, confronting passion with everyday obligations and responsibilities, and more.
“Olf Friends” 7” by CHEECH is available now via WTF Records. The record includes 8 thrash infused hardcore tracks designed to get you whipped up into a frenzy. Listen below and learn more about the record through our interview below.
Boston’s CHEECH returns for another round of thrash-infused hardcore. While other bands retread their well-worn musical paths, CHEECH pushes their own boundaries on OLD FRIENDS. Fast, old-school hardcore is melded with Maiden-esque guitar licks while melodic basslines underscore a blues-based solo. Two-step drum breaks build to sing-a-long choruses. And there’s more than one big breakdown slipped in somewhere. All this, while spitting their sarcastic lyrical take on subjects ranging from social media, to scene politics, and cult films. Also included is a cover of Bulldog Courage’s “Old Friends Die Hard,” a heartfelt send-off to two members of BDC that recently passed away. Plus four unused cuts from CHEECH’s last LP Beast From The East finally see the light of day. CHEECH is back in 2017, and they are pissed off!
Hi Josh! What’s up buddy? Thanks for circling back and joining us on IDIOTEQ once again. How have you been since our first interview in 2013?
It’s been pretty busy man. Since we released Beast From the East in 2013 CHEECH has played a bunch of shows and wrote a batch of new tunes. Personally we’ve all changed jobs, dealt with personal problems, there have been health issues, deaths of friends and family, divorces, kids, and all the other things that go along with this thing we call life. So yeah, it’s been hectic to say the least.
20 years of hardcore is no joke. How did you celebrate the anniversary last year?
We played a show with a bunch of our friends of course! Well, technically it was a show, but really it was a party. We had a lot of fun. Beers, and sing-a-longs galore. We had our boys in WORDS OF TRUTH, BARFIGHT CHAMPS, TAXI DRIVER, and REASON TO FIGHT join us. Everyone should check those bands out. They are all awesome and we were lucky to have them celebrate with us. 20 years is no joke with anything, but definitely it’s hard to keep a band going that long, and we hope it can continue for even longer.
So what’s the key and the secret to such longevity?
Well, I can’t speak for the other guys, but for me it is keeping it fun, but challenging. If you listen to CHEECH’s first LP, A Day Late and a Dollar Short (2004) and then you listen to our newer material, it sounds like a different band. I think we stretch ourselves musically, so it never gets boring. Plus we keep a sense of humor in there, so that keeps it fun. We play shows, but due to a myriad of circumstances, we don’t really tour, and that also helps us not get burnt out. CHEECH is our haven and escape from our day-to-day lives, if it was more like a job, I don’t know if we would’ve made it this long.
The new EP is a one hell of a listen and it’s really great to hear you guys in good shape. How do you feel about the final edit?
We are very happy with the final product, for a few reasons. The first three songs “War of 84,” “Outta Time,” and “Jumped the Shark” are newer songs, and I think we really stepped our game in the song structure, the playing, and tracking of those tunes. “Old Friends Die Hard” is a cover, originally done by BULLDOG COURAGE. Their singer Shane and guitarist Justin both passed away a couple years ago, and they were good friends of ours…in fact our drummer Dave recorded their first demo in our old house. We played lots of shows with them and crashed on each other’s couches, so when they both passed, about 6 weeks apart from each other, it was a real blow. We knew we had to pay tribute to them with their own song; it just seemed fitting. I hope they would be proud of the final product. The last four songs, “Battle of Hastings,” Paralyzed,” “Jerk Alert,” and “Choking on Your Teeth,” are old songs that we had tracked for Beast From The East. That LP was originally going to be a double record, but we changed our minds in the studio to keep it just one (long) album, haha. So we had some songs we never finished. It was nice to polish those up and get them out as well. I always liked when you’d get B-sides and bonus cuts at the end of CDs, it’s just fun shit.
Are there some more tracks locked in the vault, ready to be unlocked on a new full length sometime soon? :)
Haha, well yes, there’s 4 or 5 other tunes that we tracked but never did the vocals, but nothing that will be finished/released. We didn’t finish them for a reason, it was mostly filler stuff that we weren’t in love with. Maybe you’ll see some riffs reused later on down the line in other songs. But we do have a new full length we are working on for the end of 2017. It’s looking like 9 new tunes, an instrumental and a re-recorded version of an older CHEECH cut.
Ok, so back to the EP, were there certain issues you tried to lock inside your lyrics on this record?
Not “issues” per se, but we definitely come up with themes and working titles for songs as we write them. Sometimes those original themes stick, and sometimes they change completely. “War of 84” was originally called “White Bronco” and was going to be about the OJ Simpson murders, but we couldn’t make lyrics fit the music, so it changed to a Big Brother/Social Media theme. “Outta Time” was going to be about an old 80s movie called Flight of the Navigator, but it ended up becoming a bunch of references to 1980’s time travel movies, but in a certain context, it’s about not wasting time, because sooner or later, time runs out. “Jumped the Shark” is a reference to an old Happy Days episode, and is typically used for TV shows and other media that have worn out their welcome or become silly. We used it as a metaphor for people that have grown-up and become out of touch with their younger selves. We just want to skewer a certain subject matter, while making ourselves laugh a little bit and hopefully not repeat ourselves, which gets harder and harder with each album.
Are you playing some shows to celebrate the ‘Old Friends’?
CHEECH is on a little hiatus from shows right now. A couple of the guys are dealing with some health stuff that they need to recuperate from. If you ain’t got your health, you ain’t got nuthin. Plus, we want to finish the new album. We have all the drums and some guitars finished, so tackling the rest of the LP is gonna take priority throughout the rest of the summer. We obviously love playing shows, but if we’re doing that, there’s not a lot of time to record, mix, master, do the artwork, etc. So you have to pick your poison. Old Friends is kind of our stop-gap to tide folks over until we can get back at it. When CHEECH gets back on stage we want it to be at full strength with a BUNCH of new shit to really bang some heads.
Awesome. Will you eventually book some European shows? How do you like the idea of taking CHEECH overseas?
We would love to go over to Europe. I hate to say it, but it is all about the time and money. Synchronizing our five different schedules with work and other outside commitments is difficult. But if we could make the scheduling work and financially it’s feasible then absolutely, sign us up. Our hope is that after we finish the new full length we might be able to look at some of those opportunities. Since our label, WTF Records, is based out of Europe, it makes total sense for us to play over there, we just haven’t been able to align all the necessary pieces of the puzzle yet.
Speaking of shows, just to wrap it up before we sign off, how thriving is your scene these days? How do you feel it’s evolved throughout the last 2 decades?
The “scene” is always fluctuating. There are a ton of great bands in the area right now, but not as many attendees on average as there were back in the 1990s. Big shows with big headliners still do well, but local stuff could use an overall attendance bump. I can’t really point fingers though; I have two small kids now, so I don’t get out as much as I used to, and I know a lot of other people that are in the same boat. Or they need to work nights/weekends. Plus there are so many things out there for kids to do nowadays, and that dilutes the pool of potential showgoers. But the people that do make it out to shows often are the most passionate kids, not just hangers-on. I do think that the overall appreciation for aggressive music is at a fairly high-watermark, so that is a bonus.
Do you miss going out more often and attending gigs heavily?
Yes of course. You have to sacrifice a lot when you start a family, but I don’t regret it. I’m just happy I can keep doing CHEECH. I know many, many people who quit bands once they have kids. If anything, it has just made me more focused. I can’t waste time and fuck around like I have all the time in the world. I have to use my time wisely, and that helps me write better songs, or organize artwork, or book shows more effectively. Plus I know when my kids are a little older I will be able to bring them to shows and introduce them to a whole new world of music, art, and culture. And that’s something I really look forward to.
Apart from hardcore and heavy music, what other forms of art feed your creative soul?
Well I play in a rock ’n’ roll band too. Rock music is what first turned me on to playing guitar when I was 10 or so years old. I also do graphic design as a day job, so that keeps me creative.
I’m big on history, so I love old paintings and architecture. The Old World stuff is fascinating. It was here long before us and will be here long after we are gone. It makes you feel pretty small and appreciative of the things that you have.
Having said that and considering the rapid evolution of various technologies, what does future hold for the human race? Where do you see the world in 100 years?
I see some form of mass devastation happening soon. CHEECH talks about it in songs like “Everyone Dies,” “Beast From The East,” and “Expect to Get Hit.” Be it meteor, monster, or man we are long overdue for a reckoning. When I look at the USA right now it feels like the beginning of a zombie film. People are in a frenzy, the President is a stereotypical 1980s movie corporate villain, technology is taking over. Art imitates life imitates art.
On that note, any worthy horror movies or books you recently watched or read?
I haven’t been watching many movies lately. I prefer the longform stories of Netflix or cable TV right now. Fear the Walking Dead has been stepping it up this season and might be getting more exciting than the original Walking Dead. Though not really horror, the first season of Westworld was awesome too.
For books I’ve been trying to get through A Song of Ice and Fire that Game of Thrones is based on, but those are dense tomes man, haha. Not sure if I’m gonna finish it!
A lot of my free time nowadays I spend learning about guitars and gear. Watching demos, or learning how to setup or re-wire something. I try to do as much of my own work as possible, and I own like 12 guitars now, so I have a lot of stuff to do.
Working on a djent / progressive / deathcore project? ;)
Nah, just some raw, old school rock ’n’ roll man.
Alright Josh. Thanks so much for your time. It’s been a pleasure to bring you to IDIOTEQ and discuss your work once again. Feel free to drop your final words, share some recommendations, give some shoutouts, and take care buddy!
Thanks Karol. It’s been fun. CHEECH appreciates the support. Check out the Old Friends EP and watch out for a bangin’ new CHEECH full length end of 2017 thru WTF Records!
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