Yeah‚ the music lends itself to that more. In Comets‚ there's a lot of parts where even if we start playing it wrong or there's a fuck-up or whatever‚ or even if you're just like too sweaty or it's dark in the club and you can't see your fretboard‚ you can just sort of start beating on your guitar‚ and it'll still creates… You just get over toward Utrillo [Kushner] and just beat on the downbeat with him. And sometimes it just feels like that‚ where we're just trying to smash into something. In Comets‚ we all come from a punk rock background. Every single one of us‚ I think‚ started playing electric guitar because we heard some punk band or some indie band or whatever. Mostly in those days it was early punk coming up from the Berkley scene. And some of it was pop punk like Green Day or whatever. We're talking while they still had 15 people in the club. And some of it was still these bands that had a harder edge. Some of them had a faster edge or hardcore edge. But‚ whatever the case‚ they were all playing those three chords that they learned from the Ramones or whoever. And I think that we all saw that and went‚ "Oh‚ fucking… OK‚ we can make this happen."
And so‚ coming from that background‚ you never quite lose that instinct that you learned from those bands‚ and that you saw of like‚ hey‚ if something starts to go wrong with the music onstage‚ just start sort of going for it. Get in there‚ start smashing stuff up. And that's a classic thing‚ the classic Who or whatever. It started from them as a punk rock thing‚ and it's like you play the song as well as you can‚ as high energy as you can‚ and if your gear starts fucking up or you start fucking up‚ too bad‚ whatever. You kinda go into violence‚ and you start smashing up the guitars and smashing everything up‚ and turning it into by nook or by crook you're gonna make this show the best they've ever seen‚ you know?
And it could be the worst you've ever played‚ but by the end if you're amp's on fire‚ the drums are kicked over‚ everybody's on a pile on the floor‚ nobody gives a fuck if you played it right or not.They love that shit. I mean‚ I don't know how many times Comets played an awful show‚ but we'd get into some terrible K-hole of jamming or something that we couldn't get out of. We couldn't get out of the bridge and get to back to the other part‚ and we're like "Fuck‚ 10 minutes later we still can't get out of this fucking jam." And you can't make a big enough signal to get out of it because all things are starting to fly‚ you know? Guitars are coming off and‚ like‚ it's humiliating. You see it in everybody's eyes: you're locked in‚ you can't get out of it‚ everybody's starting to get humiliated‚ you know? And fearful and feel like a caged animal on the stage. You're trying to do some magnificent jam‚ and you're feeling so cornered‚ you know? And‚ man‚ the audience‚ every time that would happen to us we felt this kind of collective humiliation that we got into this K-hole that we couldn't get out of. We ruined a song and ruined half a set‚ couldn't get back into it… They love that shit. They can see the fear in our eyes‚ you know?
Yeah‚ well‚ you know‚ it's more real than a lot of bands put out there sometimes.
Yeah‚ they're just like lurking and they're fucking caged animals out there. We don't know what's happening. Now they're dangerous and shit.
So that happens with Comets. I went way off the subject‚ but we all come from that background. Not everybody comes from that background in Howlin Rain. I think that they would take that philosophy to heart‚ but not necessarily. Like‚ for some of those guys‚ there's a few people in the band that would be like‚ "Oh‚ no‚ if you start to go south‚ just play a little harder and try to get the feeling right. You can get through it." There's something to be said about playing a song beautifully onstage. You know‚ I like to hear a beautiful song onstage. It's not necessarily my deepest philosophy. Mine is‚ if things start to go south‚ just start shooting everybody on the plane‚ you know? If it starts to go a little bad or whatever‚ just light it on fire. If we don't get it‚ nobody does.
And just straight-up. We're playing at lower volumes. There's more going on onstage quite a bit of the time. There's less chaos‚ and there is more melodic intricacy that we have to account for.
So have you not yet had a moment in Howlin Rain where it's completely fallen apart then?
Oh‚ yeah‚ terrible moments. I mean‚ everybody does.
Yeah‚ man.
I mean‚ why do you think Steely Dan stopped playing live in the '70s? Because they were perfectionists and their shit was so intricate‚ and in the studio they had complete control‚ but on the stage‚ you don't know if the monitor is going to be good or if you can even get monitors. If you can't hear yourself singing‚ you could be singing out of key. Then you're singing harmonies‚ but you're out of key; you're playing guitar-monies‚ but you can't hear each other‚ so one of you is playing a half step down the whole thing‚ and it sounds awful. I'm sure that those Dan guys probably went back and listened to a few shows that were bad like that‚ and they were like‚ "Shit‚ that's it!" You know‚ once again‚ guys that didn't go south and then decide to smash it‚ destroy the theater‚ you know? So we don't have quite that same out because of the way we've already structured the arrangement. If we played really poorly with our guitar harmonies or something like that‚ it just sounds bad. It sounds terrible.
So is it harder work then?
In a way‚ yeah. Believe it or not‚ it's a lot harder for me to sing for Howlin Rain than it is for Comet. The cacophony is so loud for me most of the time with Comet that I can just step back from the mic and I can hardly hear myself sing most of the time.
Well‚ I didn't want to say that‚ but it's a lot easier to understand what you're saying actually [laughs] in Howlin Rain‚ because in Comets‚ everything just sort of comes together so loud sometimes.
Yeah. For sure. And‚ you know‚ that's true. That's probably another reason that I started Howlin Rain -- I wanted to do some more work with my voice.
Yeah. Well‚ it's a fucking amazing voice‚ so you should.
Thanks‚ man. And no matter what realm we got Comets into‚ even with the voice off the Echoplex and stuff like that‚ I felt like‚ well‚ it's still probably not the type of music that lends itself well to really exploring so many intricacies of the voice as an instrument. I get to explore the more experimental… just wild side‚ lots of screaming…
So touring‚ live shows‚ is that sort of what you live for?
Not necessarily. Touring‚ although it's kind of starting to consume my life‚ is not… I'm not necessarily super stoked being on the road‚ like "I could do this forever." I'm married‚ and when I tour my wife is back here working‚ waiting for me to come back‚ so she's gotta deal with an empty house half of every month‚ or more. So that doesn't necessarily equate to being wonderful‚ you know? It would probably be a little more fun if I was 22 and single and just lived for the open road experiences. Not to take the glow off of it‚ but here I am nine years later or whatever‚ still touring the same circuit‚ kind of like‚ "Oh‚ here we are in Baltimore again‚" and you're like‚ "God damn that fuckin'..." you know‚ you look over and there's a fuckin' McDonalds bag that's got food in it; that piece of trash has been in the corner of the dressing room for the last seven years‚ and it's like‚ here I am again. It's like‚ that's not really a good feeling. Once you get onstage… I mean‚ touring is very Spinal Tap without any of the glorious moments. [laughter] But getting to see people and friends in different cities‚ and getting to go to Melbourne‚ Australia‚ and see a friend or something… or London and walk into a pub and be like‚ "Oh‚ shit‚ here's eight of my friends that I love." And a lot of it's from doing this. This is great‚ you know? And stepping onstage and playing all over the world is really the payoff. But it's just a shame that at our level‚ or probably at any level‚ it's a 14-hour day and there's your 45 minutes.