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Poison The Well interview

By Alex
Wed, October 21, 2009 11:51 AM PT12,543 views

Poison The Well INTERVIEW


Longevity is certainly not a trait common to most hardcore bands. The majority of the genre's progenitors burned out quickly, leaving a few classic albums and a common blueprint for today's bands. And though Poison the Well's early career pattern seemed to make them a prime candidate for early burnout, they have managed to keep it together. After 11 years, multiple line-up changes, and no less than four different record labels, it's a wonder founding guitarist Ryan Primack has managed to keep his sanity. As I would discover in our lengthy conversation in the shade of the band's trailer during the early sets of the 10 for 10 show in Denver, what gets him through the day, show after show and tour after tour, is his unshakable love of music. And while Ryan could spend hours discussing his recent (and rather obscure) musical obsessions and his undying love of the Rush catalog, he first felt obligated to provide me with a list of some of his favorite Lambgoat comments.


I've heard "life flip," "van flip," "tour flip," "record flip," "career flip," "house flip," "funeral flip."

Yeah, that sounds about right.

First post, no care, funeral flip [laughs].

So, how's the 10 for 10 tour been so far?

It's been fun. We're a little bit of a sore thumb on the tour, but I kinda like being in that position.

There's at least a little bit of diversity with bands like Bane and Crime in Stereo.

Yeah, for sure. I mean [we are] just a sore thumb in that...

You guys don't have any jerseys with your merch?

No [laughs]. I wanted to make 'em, though. I wanted to make windbreakers.

More bands should bring back windbreakers.

I brought my Bane windbreaker on this tour, actually.

I think the last time I saw windbreakers with a band's merch was when the Warriors printed some three or four years ago.

Enterprising young children!

So, as a headliner on this tour, are you able to play a full set, or do you have to shorten it?

We play, like, 40 minutes. Who the hell wants to hear anyone scream for any longer than that anyway? And after 10 bands? Come on. After, like, six bands, people have gotta be ready to listen to, like, Pink Floyd or something.

You guys probably draw a different crowd than, say, Death Before Dishoner. I read at least one instance of there being a conflict on this tour. Has that been a common theme?

Knoxville? That had nothing to do with it – it was during the opening band, and it was just [a conflict with] security. The guy running the venue didn't want to have the show in the first place and basically the whole staff was itching to go. That doesn't sit well with people that prefer a more laid-back security approach.

Aside from Knoxville, would you say the tour has been a success?

Economically, it makes perfect sense.

My understanding is that bands don't usually get much of the door anyway.

Right. It's just cool because, you know, with all the normal summer festery, this is a different kind of thing. Everybody on the tour's broke, but everybody understands that everybody else is broke.

And you've always got merch. Have most venues been taking a cut on merch sales?

Yeah, the worst percentage was 25% in New York.

Where in New York?

Terminal 5 in Midtown. Big place. Corporate jobby.

That sucks.

Well, most of the promoters and venues are working at zero profit anyway, so I try not to be too hard on them. With this particular show, basically all of the promoters are running at a loss or breaking even at best.

So it's kind of lose-lose for everybody, then?

Yeah, but at the same time it's win-win. You get to set a precedent.

And I suppose the exposure doesn't hurt.

Yeah, that's true.

So, let's talk about the new album. There were some interesting changes this time around – you didn't go to Sweden, for instance.

No. We just wanted to work with somebody else. We did two record with [Eskil Lövström and Pelle Henricsson] and it was time to try something new.

And the original producer fell through?

J. Robbins, yeah – he had a family emergency. We decided it was just better for everybody if he [dealt] with that. It was an important situation for him. It was not a negative thing – it was a very positive thing between us. I would have loved to have worked with him.

Is there a chance it will still happen at some point down the line?

Yeah, I hope so. I'm a really big fan of all of his bands/recordings. Anything he touches is pretty much gold as far as I'm concerned.

It would be a really interesting…

Mash-up?

Sure, mash-up – that's a good word.

It's like Slayer and EPMD. How could you go right, but how could you go wrong?

Well, either way, the producer you guys went with seemed to do a pretty good job. The record sounds excellent.

Yeah, I like it. Definitely a more modern approach than the last two we made – especially the last one.

I'm curious to know more about the title "The Tropic Rot" – what ideas were you looking to explore with it?

It means something different to everybody. For me, it's commentary on [how] we come from a place that everyone thinks is vacation town, but it's actually a pretty depressing and stagnant place to live. Sleep, drink, fuck: that should be the state motto of Florida.

Tell me a little bit about the artwork.

It's all pictures from [vocalist] Jeff [Moreira]'s family's picture collection. Lyrically, the record is kind of negative. It's supposed to be the other side of that – the pictures are all things in happy times. Some of the pictures are actually from Cuba. It's a cool way to offset how pissed some of the record is.

This might be a better question for your label, but did this record on the whole end up being cheaper to make than your last one?

Oh yeah. I didn't mind it, though. I preferred the shorter recording. You just had to put your head down and get through it. My problem during recording is overdoing it. If you give me time, I will do something. That's usually a bad thing.

How long did the recording take?

Five and a half weeks.

Did you have it all written before entering the studio?

We had I'd say 80% of the music done, but we hadn't heard vocal one by the time we got to the studio. Jeff is a bit of an on-the-spot guy. We had heard little, teeny snippets, but nothing for real.

Having not heard them as part of the writing process, how do you think the vocals turned out?

I'm very happy with the way things came out. I work very differently, but I guess it's kind of good to have that sort of spontaneous thing happing.

It seems like his melodies are much more expansive this time around. They are a lot more diverse than on previous recordings.

He just kind of went for it, which is good. Sometimes when people [record] like that, it can turn out badly, but I think he has enough piss and vinegar to work it out.

Your songwriting has always seemed to push the boundaries of whatever genres are applied to you at the time, which is something that can't be said for a lot of bands on this tour – that is, most of them can be placed pretty neatly into one genre. If you had to categorize your music, what tag would you use?

I've never had an easy time doing that. Our other guitar player wrote some blog that said, like, "country-surf-vampire-going-to-prom" or some shit like that. Actually, it showed up on Lambgoat and…

The rest was history.

[Laughs] Yeah. But that was just his perspective. To me, it's just music. I mean, the attitude of us as people comes ultimately 100% from hardcore, but all the hardcore bands we truly love are the bands that are a little odd and a little left-of-center – trying to keep the idea that the whole point about being in a hardcore band is to not give a fuck about what anybody wants to you play, and to just play what you want to play. If people like it, they like it. If it's honest, that's all that's really supposed to matter.

It's been 10 years now since The Opposite of December was first released.

Yeah, 10 years since Opposite; 11 as a band.

How do you feel about its legacy?

The same way I felt about it when I was 19 or 20. It was what me and my friends were doing at the time and I really loved it. I still do. It's like a picture for me. It's an immediate time capsule. I regret nothing about it and I still really enjoy the songs. It's just that, for me to do something like that again, it would be an incredibly big lie.

I can't imagine it going over too well with fans or critics, either.

No, it would tank like crazy! I could put out the same record today and it would get "record flip, van flip, career flip, way to be 10 years too late." It's what I've always said when people ask me why we consistently keep trying to change. If I do the same thing, I might get away with it for one record and people would be stoked, but on the third record, they'd be like, "oh, wait – you guys don't do anything." I might as well take a chance and try to live a little dangerously.

Not everybody can be AC/DC.

Or the Stones or whatever. I don't want to know who would want to be like the Stones.

Since we're on the topic of The Opposite of Decemeber, I'm curious to know what kind of relationship you have with Trustkill Records. I recently interviewed Bleeding Through and they had some choice words for Trustkill President Josh Grabelle.

[Sighs] I know this is going on Lambgoat where they like to do the drama thing, but I don't want to talk about it. I've got nothing to say. I mean, if he can sleep at night, then he can sleep at night. All will be sorted out in the end. Comeuppance will come when it comes. I just don't think I need to drag anything through public air.

Are you still able to sell your two Trustkill-funded albums?

Yes, but they're not being pressed right now. What's left is left.

What if you wanted to re-release them? Could you obtain the rights to the recordings?

Working on it, but it's not going to be bogus. It's not going to be like, "hey, check me out – I'm trying to make money!" It's gonna be so that they're out there. There will be some different things about [the re-releases], but that's just because it's the 10-year anniversary. We'll do different things with it, but it's not going to be, like, a $26.99 bonus-special-double-re-release remixed by Ric Ocasek.

Ric Ocasek? Nice reference. To his credit, Rock for Light is a pretty phenomenal recording.

Yeah, that's why I always reference Ric Ocasek – 'cause nobody could ever believe he did a Bad Brains record!

Not a Cars fan?

I like The Cars as well.

What bands are on your radar right now?

The Ventures, man! A lot of surf music: Laika & the Cosmonauts, Man or Astro-man?, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, Gerry and the Pacemakers. Stuff like that. Also, Stax Records: always big for me. The whole Sam & Dave band – Duck Dunn, the bass player, and Steve Cropper. The backing dudes from Stax Records. Anything they play on I think is amazing. Their band had such a signature sound and such good forward movement. And then I've been listening to a lot of that band Breach.

There's a name I haven't heard in awhile.

Breach was fucking incredible. Also, in spirit of the tour, I dug out a lot of 90s records. I started listening to a lot of Acme Records. The Disembodied records again, seeing as we played with them the other day. They're old friends – we toured with Martyr [A.D.] a bunch in the late 90s and early 00s, so it was fun to dig those out again. They were playing and I looked at my friend and I was like, "take that, any band that thinks they're heavy!" The band was so ahead of their time.

How low were they tuning their guitars?

G#!

Since you mention Disembodied, how do you feel about all the band reunions that have been happening lately?

Oh, that whole Burning Fight [Festival] – there were so many bands on there I wanted to see! I did get a chance to see Mean Season and that was awesome. A couple summers ago, I got to see Leeway, which was a big thing for me because I'm obviously not old enough to have seen them in their heyday and I didn't live in the right area. To see Leeway – Eddie and A.J. and everything – was just … [pauses] god. And they opened with the intro from Born to Expire, "Rise and Fall." Heaviest hardcore band ever!

Have you been listening to any new releases?

I'm really stoked to hear the Every Time I Die record in its entirety. Other than that … [pauses] I'm really bad with current music. That Carrier record – I'm pretty into it. I think it's really cool.

Have you heard the new Coalesce?

Yeah! The recording quality gets to me a little bit, but the songwriting – it's cool seeing a band like show every rip-off band of theirs how it's done. That new Coalesce is really good. Ox, right?

Yes. There have been some rumors that they're going to release an EP with the same name later this year.

It's Coalesce, man – they're probably gonna put out a Genesis cover record next month!

Are there any other forthcoming releases you're anticipating?

A friend of mine turned me onto that band Cruel Hand recently – I hear they're doing a new record.

Anything outside the realm of hardcore?

I'm honestly obsessed with research right now. I've been trying to dig up a lot of older pop records. Like that Pointer Sisters record Break Out – the one with "Jump" and "Neutron Dance." The first side of that record is all hits. Every song is a hit. It's pretty awesome. Also, Level 42's World Machine is a really good English avant-garde jazzy pop record. Other than that, I've been trying to get into my Gentle Giant catalog – best vocal harmonies of the 70s prog rock scene. I think they're all pretty okay. It's the same as any Yes record – with the songs that are good, you're like, "what the hell, this is the best song ever!" With the songs that aren't, you're like, "eh." That's definitely true of the Yes catalog past Fragile.

You think so? I actually really enjoy Close to the Edge and Relayer.

I like those records, but there's a dud on all of them. Like, Tales from Topographic Oceans?

Well, that's a different story – that's Yes at their most self-indulgent.

And Drama? A couple of duds on that. Plus, there's no Jon Anderson on it. But it's the most fantastic guitar playing Steve Howe might have ever done. That song "Tempis Fugit" is out of hand. That was Steve Howe's last record, actually. After that, Jon Anderson came back and they did that 90125 record – the caca-pipi record.

Everything after that album is kind of…

Shit.

Yeah.

So, I have a Jimmy Buffett shirt to wear later. I'm a big Jimmy Buffett fan as well. I own every record on vinyl. Coconut Telegraph's my favorite. And Rush is my favorite band of all time. I've seen them the last seven times [they have toured] – from Roll the Bones on. Once for every record.

They're great live.

They play for three and a half hours! The first set's, like, 12 songs, the second set's 17, and then a five-song encore.

The Rush catalog seems to lend itself to discovering new albums and new songs all the time – there are so many different sounds and different eras. There was a time when I basically ignored anything after Moving Pictures.

That's usually everyone's defining line. Mine's Hold Your Fire. Presto I don't really like that much.

Power Windows and Hold Your Fire are a little too pop-oriented for me.

Oh, Hold Your Fire is one of my favorites. And that song "Manhattan Project?" And "Marathon?"

Yeah, but what about "The Big Money?"

That's the worst song ever. That's the worst song they ever wrote other than "I Think I'm Going Bald."

I like "I Think I'm Going Bald" – all of Caress of Steel, actually.

Yeah, "The Necromancer" is one of my favorite Rush songs. Wow, I'm gonna have to do all Rush soundcheck riffs. I can play, start to finish, every record until Signals. Every song. I'm an oddball for this scene.

How do you suppose you've made it 10 years with this band?

Complete and total lack of common sense. I have no regard for my future. I've chosen the path of living in the next 10 minutes. One day, it'll bite me in the ass, but until then, I don't care.

Unless, of course, hardcore becomes the next big thing and you are able to make millions of dollars playing music.

I wouldn't enjoy it. I would never want to be a pop star. So few bands can achieve a level of big-time success without losing their personalities. Rush is a perfect example, though – [they can] sell out arenas, but they don't have to placate anyone. They do whatever they want and they have such a loyal following that they'll sell a million records every time.

What, in your opinion, allows a band to build a following like that?

By being themselves – either it works or it doesn't. I would rather fail trying to do that than succeed building a fanbase out of a lie.


19 comments

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zero_x_potential_ 10/21/2009 12:15:27 PM

First post, no care, funeral flip


Mike_ 10/21/2009 12:32:25 PM

I think people do care, you cared enough to post. Funny enough I knew what the was ment by the title "tropic rot", you are 100% right. Great records everytime. A very honest review, probably one of the best as far as covering very good question all around. However why dodge the trustkill questions next time, who cares about trustkill.


metal_bob_ 10/21/2009 1:35:02 PM

Death Before Dishoner


thisheartscoma_ 10/21/2009 3:08:18 PM

The question about "hardcore becoming the next big thing" is ridiculous. Hardcore has been the big thing for the past 6 years and PTW was one of the first bands labeled "sellout" when the flood gates opened. They are good guys and a good band but they are on their decline and already hit their peak in 2004-2005. I guess the question just seems ironic considering they were the BMTH of their time. The band that 14 year old girls could get into.


hotslutswithtits_ 10/21/2009 3:26:30 PM

if you really lived with a total lack of common sense or care, you would have killed yourselves 10 yrs ago. Im not buying this shit. stop making records you f*cking gays.


Nowonmai_ 10/22/2009 12:27:11 AM

that was definitely the dude to interview good shit.


youraresceneasfuck_ 10/22/2009 10:28:41 AM

nice warriors hat, you f*cking gay. this band looks like a bunch of fashioncore gays.


threex_ 10/22/2009 2:55:17 PM

that's a Warbirds hat. not Warriors.


DaveClinch_ 10/22/2009 3:38:13 PM

Yeah, I think Ryan and I could talk about Rush for hours. Seems like a super dude.


youAREsceneasfuck_ 10/23/2009 10:27:06 AM

nice warriors hat, you f*cking gay. this band looks like a bunch of fashioncore gays. posted by youraresceneasf*ck (yasaf@gmail.com) on 10/22/2009 10:28:41 AM That is, as mentioned, a Warbirds hat. You monstrous gay.


Alaboma_ 10/23/2009 4:34:09 PM

"monstrous gay" haha, new goat phase of the week. As for the interview, meh. This band went down hill when the guy who worshiped Refused left. You Come Before You is such a solid record though, i listen to that probably once every other week. Past that, not much to like from these guys anymore. I did like I/III though...but the rest of that series was a burnout.


theoneironaut_ 10/24/2009 1:11:05 PM

i like his attitude and i respect that ptw never made the same record twice.


jedlololol_ 11/5/2009 1:11:54 PM

this band sucks i can't believe Heather Zoerner 112 River Ave Mishawaka, IN 46544-1572 (574) 259-1392 f*cked them


scenestealer_ 12/2/2009 9:08:47 PM

PTW is a great band whose concepts never come to a head. And all you loids that keep talking about "scenes" are just creating one yourself. You get a bunch of people that believe in "no scene metal" and you are just becoming what you hate. Grow up.


dirtydiana_ 12/4/2009 8:00:20 PM

Well Put scenestealer. PTW is still kickin ass.


dirtydiana_ 12/4/2009 8:00:20 PM

Well Put scenestealer. PTW is still kickin ass.


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