Off Minor screamo
Interviews

Revisiting the iconic work of screamo legends OFF MINOR – an interview with Steve Roche

Borne from the ashes of one of the most innovative and essential screamo bands, SAETIA, came an exciting sound of Jamie Behar, Matt Smith, and Steven Roche, three musicians that tok a bold step into even more exciting territory of the iconic genre. OFF MINOR created their own, exploratory mixed style evolution, conducted through an exciting mixture of influences. The band elevated and reshaped one of the heavy music’s most exciting genres, and today, in conjuction with the fresh, remixed version of ‘Innominate’ released by the one and only Zegema Beach Records, we’re absolutely stoked to give you our in-depth interview with Steven Roche (OFF MINOR, SAETIA, Permanent Hearing Damage Studio in Philadelphia, PA, Working Through Rust, who just released their new EP Words About the End)! Steve sat down with us and gave his thoughts on the new reissue, looked back on the late 90s / early 00s hardcore scene and shared his perspective on many topics, including the last OFF MINOR tour in Europe, the evolution of screamo, newer bands worth a check, and a lot more!

The new reissue of Innominate is out now via Zegema Beach Records (US, Canada/International), with only a handful of copies still available.

Off Minor were an American post-hardcore band from New York City, formed in 1999. The jazzy screamo band formed by Jamie Behar and Steve Roche after the breakup of Saetia, whose other ex-members formed Hot Cross. Off Minor parted their ways in 2008. 

“Perhaps the biggest honor ever bestowed on Zegema Beach Records, the remixed version of ‘Innominate’ by the legendary jazzy screamo band OFF MINOR. Remixed by drummer/vocalist Steve Roach at Permanent Hearing Damage earlier this year, the eight songs sound better than ever.” – comments Dave from Zegema Beach Records. 

“Whether it’s the bassy instrumental banger “Devil Ether”, the chaotic cornerstone “In SL” or epic closer “Family Circus”, every track on this album is exemplary and now even further refined.”

Hey there Steve! Thanks so much for joining us here on IDIOTEQ. Great to see you ”back”, at least with this new re-release on one of our absolute favorite screamo labels on the planet. Please give us your thoughts on this cooperation, how it came about and how you’re happy with the results.

Admittedly, I haven’t stopped playing in bands since I was a teenager. Just they seem to garner less attention as time goes on – which is fair, punk is mostly a young person’s game! Well, I think I maybe got connected with David through my long time friend, Tom Schlatter. We spoke some years ago and we finally met in the summer of 2019 when one of my bands, None But Equals, played Zegema Beach fest in Vancouver. I honestly do not remember how it came up, but I have always been unhappy with how Innominate came out initially and have been playing around with a remix for years. Granted, the recording is very flawed, but I think it sounds a bit better now. Somewhere along the way, David volunteered to release it as a short run of cassettes – something we are all comfortable with. We don’t want anyone pressing a ton of records to have them sit in a basement somewhere. I think this one serves and hopefully subsequent reissues will serve to inform us whether or not a larger re-release project would make any sense. David has been great with this and super helpful. None of us have any serious layout/design skills, so he was able to put it together with the few original pieces/pictures I had kicking around

Whose idea was to run it with such a dope lineup on vinyl colors and cassette tape packaging?

That is all David! He definitely asked me if I approved before going ahead, but I think they look fantastic and he deserves all the credit for that.

Being a great fan of physical formats, I believe it brings a whole different experience and life to it. What’s your take on the evolution of streaming and its impact on the listening experience? Speaking of which, will the new version of ”Innominate” be available on Spotify, along with the rest of the band’s catalogue?

I like physical formats as well, but as someone who has done several record labels over the years and sadly threw away hundred of records and CDs in the process, they make me nervous as I don’t want to put more pieces of plastic in the world that won’t be enjoyed. As for Spotify, I hate it as a platform because they are so awful to artists, but I also recognize that it is how many people listen to music, so I’m not opposed to putting our music up there – I believe David has already done so with this one, actually.

OFF MINOR

I do recognize that streaming is a double edged sword. it gives everyone so much access to everything and that is amazing and incredible. I would have killed for that kind of access when I was discovering all of this music. there are unfortunate things to this as well – if you don’t have to work to find these things, you tend to not appreciate them as much and move on quicker. I think this was made most apparent to me in the early 2000s when the politics of the DIY hardcore scene seemed to not be something with as much of a presense anymore. And I lay the bulk of that to streaming/downloading.

Give us some tech details on the remix proces you did at Permanent Hearing Damage earlier this year.

It was honestly an ongoing project for years. As I have gotten better at recording and mixing, I have messed with this record over the years in fits and starts. I just finally brought it over the finish line this time around. It’s funny because I was so green as a recording engineer when I did this – I think I had only graduated to a 16 track machine a few years earlier. My tape machine was in horrible shape – there was not a lot of high end to speak of on the raw tracks. Some things sounded okay, but most did not. Most shocking was learning that the bottom snare mic had cut out in many places and for some entire songs! This is something you would easily notice on digital recording, but on a tape machine with VU meters, is very easy to miss. I tried to not go too overboard with processing and using samples and things, but some are on there for sure. It needed an awful lot of help. Hell, I even thought of simply re-recording the drum tracks! I ultimately decided not to, but it would have saved me a lot of time, I think.

Revisiting it, did you feel nostalgic?

Not overly. The recording of this record was such a blur. I was booking a ton of tours for foreign bands at the time and trying to coordinate/book our own tours around this. I think I finished this recording just before this band from Brighton, UK called Cat on Form came over. And there was a huge hurry to get the record done in time for the tour with Amanda Woodward from France, who we were joining for a few weeks before heading alone to Australia and New Zealand and then the UK and Europe afterwards. I think we ultimately got the US copies with only a few days left of the US dates. I feel like so many things in my life involve lots of split second timing. This one just didn’t work out so well!

Why did you take a step back from this project and called it a day in 2008?

Quite simply, we were not getting along anymore to the point that it was no longer fun to do. It took me a long time to come to terms with that – probably longer than it should have, but that band was so important to me. I literally poured my life into it for a full decade and it bankrupted me. I loved that band like I haven’t loved a band before or since. It was special to me and I am truly honored that I got to do so much with it – travel so extensively and met so many amazing people and see so many amazing things and places.

Your works, especially releases from Saetia and Off Minor, have been described as legendary, iconic, and essential. How does that resonate with you? How does it feel to be a part of such a celebrated part of hardcore (r)evolution?

That is absolutely flattering and amazing. I’m very proud of a lot of what I did back then and am truly humbled that people sometimes born after we were even playing shows care about something that happened so long ago on such a small scale. I don’t honestly look at it as any different to the little scenes within the punk/hardcore scene before or since we were a part of it. It’s all effectively the same. People adding their perspectives and twists to this kind of music will happen as long as humans are here and making music. It’s easy for me to look back and say how much I wish I could have been in DC in 1981 or New York in 1991 or all these other times and places. This will go on in perpetuity. I told David that he will likely be on some kid’s podcast talking about the late 2010s and the early 2020s in another 15-20 years. I have already done so much more than I could have ever imagined when I was first discovering this music. I do truly appreciate the ride it has taken me on.

OFF MINOR

How do you look back at late 90s / early 00s era of emotional hardcore and the rise of screamo back then?

I honestly don’t look at it as separate from DIY punk/hardcore. It was and still is one and the same to me. I was volunteering at ABC No Rio on weekends, even booking shows there for a few years and running a radio show. We had crust bands, tough guy bands, drunken mohawk punks, all different genres. Granted, they rarely played shows together, but it did happen. To me, it was great and special, but I bet anyone involved now as I was then thinks and feels the same way about their scene and community. You truly get back what you put into it. There are still a lot of records from that time that hold up well to me and I still listen to them often.

What was your early perspective on Saetia’s work in the late 90s?

I don’t think I even thought of us as doing anything special. It was just a bunch of people I knew from college and I was just excited to be out on the road. Ever since I read Get in the Van early in high school, i dreamed of going on the road and playing shows. I don’t think anyone even then thought we were particularly noteworthy. Hell, Mountain had our LPs on clearance for a long while.
10. What gravitated you to Seatia and how did you end up recording with the band on ”Eronel”?

I’ll spare you the long diatribe, but initially I joined as a temporary member in the summer of 1998 to fill in on a tour. the permanent bassist never came, so i stayed on. I ended up playing through most of the band’s touring life and on our last 7″ – I actually recorded it and even wrote some parts in there.

Off Minor

Local scene wise and from today’s perspective, how would you comment on the evolution of both NYC and Philly post hardcore communities? How has the scene evolved over the years in your opinion?

I feel especially unqualified to speak on NYC as I haven’t lived there in almost 20 years now. But even with Philly, I have some connections to it, sure, but I’m an old man in punk years. Much of my familiarity is the bands I record and the bands I play with when I get to play shows. Philly is still a very cheap town, comparatively. There is a lot happening here, generally, in terms of music and art. I mean, gone are the days of $200 rent, but show houses are still plentiful and consistent. As to the evolution, the only thing I will say is that it seems that the politics have sort of come back a bit – something I welcome! There seems to be more of an effort to be inclusive – something that wasn’t even a conscious effort way back when. Granted, we still have a long way to go, but I feel as though I’m seeing more women and non-binary people in bands and more consciousness around bills not being 100% cis white dudes. As I said, still a ways to go, but I think these increasingly diverse environments are creating some new and unique takes on punk and music, generally. This is the path to keeping the community vibrant and relevant.

What newer bands would you recommend to our readers?

I’m biased, but I think Massa Nera are really something special.

They’re a very thoughtful, young (compared to me, at least) band and they are really pushing the boundaries on what makes an emo/hardcore/screamo/whateveryouwannacallit band. Great song writing and at times challenging.

I really enjoy Solarized, HIRS, and Closer as well. I recognize this is rather Philly focused, but this is what I know.

Off Minor
Ok, so lastly, let’s close it off with a couple of quick and maybe a bit tongue-in-cheek questions, ok? :)

Sure thing!

What are some of your most interesting or weirdest recollections of your final European tour with OFF MINOR in 2008?

The whole thing was such a crazy blur – we had already been touring for 6 weeks when we landed in Europe. We were not getting along so well already, but we still managed to have some amazing times. We had a truly wonderful time in Palma de Mallorca; ate like kings in Italy and our shows in Poland were truly special – we had never been there before. We did stay at a squat in Krakow that, upon entering, we were told they had lost their pet spider and if it bit us, we had to tell them because we could die if we were allergic.. Jamie, who is very afraid of spiders, immediately announced he would be sleeping in the van and turned right around. The rest of us did our best to sleep while nervously reacting to any noise or motion we felt. They ultimately woke us around 7am when they found the spider in someone’s shoe..

Is your life anywhere near as extreme as your music?

Ha. not at all. I do train at a boxing gym frequently, but otherwise, I just hang out with my dog and my partner. I have a horrible sweet tooth and I’ve been vegan almost 20 years now, so I bake things a lot. I obsess over snare drums and microphones and hope to return to travelling in the coming months.

Lyrics wise, what would you write about if you were about to pen out a new engaging punk record in 2021?

Wow. so much, but most of these have been written about since before punk existed: police violence and the movement to abolish them; rising fascism; environmental destruction; systemic racism; America’s refusal to acknowledge many hard truths about itself; our monstrous healthcare system.

You’ve been putting out work steadily for years now. Where do you find the energy and what do you do to recharge?

Lots of sugary baked goods? constant coffee intake? I do relax quite a bit – my dog has truly helped me do that (dude is the love of my life!). But biking and boxing typically keep me in some semblance of shape physically and now that I’m not a broke 25 year old, I can afford some luxuries here and there.

What does that future of DIY and independent music look like in your opinion? Does this continuing rise of technology, also in music, concern or worry you?

I think it means a level playing field, actually. I mean, it has its drawbacks, certainly, but everyone having a lot of access is great. I do fear Spotify, etc becoming some kind of gatekeepers, but when you still have Bandcamp, I’m not so worried. also, as much as it is a bummer than people can’t really make a living playing music anymore, it does guarantee that people make it mostly because they want to.

What is today’s equivalent Level Plane Records?

I’m not sure, honestly. Did someone rip a bunch of bands off and repress things without telling them?

If Saetia were to continue as a band, would OFF MINOR be its natural continuation?

I honestly don’t think so. obviously, as Jamie was the principal songwriter for both, there are some similarities, but Off Minor being a 3 piece vs Saetia as a 5 piece means it is a lot more stripped down and it gives the bass a lot more room in the mix. the musicianship got kicked up a notch for sure.

Awesome! Thanks so much Steve! Thanks again for your time. Please give us your final words and take care. All the best!

My pleasure. As for final words:

𝐺𝑜 𝑣𝑒𝑔𝑎𝑛 𝑎𝑛𝑑 𝑓𝑖𝑔ℎ𝑡 𝑓𝑎𝑠𝑐𝑖𝑠𝑚! 𝐾𝑒𝑒𝑝 𝑚𝑎𝑘𝑖𝑛𝑔 𝑚𝑢𝑠𝑖𝑐!


As Saetia began to come to an end in 1999 (though officially broke up in 2000), three of its members had begun rehearsing as a new band. These three were Jamie Behar (guitar in Saetia, guitar/vocals in Off Minor), Steve Roche (bass in Saetia, drums/vocals in Off Minor) , and Matt Smith (bass at Saetia’s last performance as well as in Off Minor). After Saetia ended, Off Minor took off as their main project. Smith only lasted for a short while before joining Hot Cross as their bassist, the band that also formed upon the demise of Saetia that included Billy Werner on vocals and Greg Drudy on drums. In addition to Behar, those were the only other two members of Saetia to last throughout its entire existence.

With their three-piece solidified, they proceeded to release some of the best music of their decade. From right out of the gate, their first song on their first release, “Problematic Courtship” establishes them as a force to be reckoned with, and only continued to prove that. From the rest of the songs on that EP, to their next handful of splits, all throughout three full-lengths, Off Minor made themselves known as one of the best emo/screamo/hardcore bands ever to exist. They perfected irregular timings, off-kilter rhythms, technically intricate clean passages, and then exploding into an all-out catharsis of distortion and alternating screams. This is some of the most tight and impressive musicianship that can still be referred to as “chaotic”. And of course, the best kind of bands are always the paradoxical ones.

Off Minor have been inactive since 2008, though their legacy is still going strong. They’ve been insanely influential, and it’s almost guaranteed that any “screamo” band going strong today is a massive fan of them. They put out some amazing music that I can’t help but be in awe of, and I’m positive a lot of people share in that sentiment. – SophiesFloorboard

“Combining both traits in the same way Saetia did, Off Minor represents the true emo scene; a difficult blend of elegance and brutality that put together forms something truly amazing.

Overall Innominate is a solid album that is emotional charged and instrumentally elegant. If Saetia were to continue as a band I”m sure something like this album would”ve been released sometime in their history and I”m glad to see that Off Minor continues to carry the torch Saetia lit when they began playing in 1997. Perhaps the only flaw of this release is the length, due to the fact that it leaves the listener feeling like more should come. Innominate is a nearly flawless album besides the few minor issues it has and that is why I give it a 4.5/5” – SputnikMusic

Find more screamo and post hardore inspirations on our Emo Punk Spotify Playlsit:

POST HARDCORE / EMO PUNK // IDIOTEQ.com Spotify Playlist

Revisiting the iconic work of screamo legends OFF MINOR – an interview with Steve Roche
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