InterviewsJune 23, 200524,413 views

Glassjaw / Head Automatica interview

By Drew Ailes

For anyone who's unaware, what was your original intent behind forming Head Automatica?

Okay, so I played in bands since I was 12, and then Glassjaw become my life, every ounce of it. I kinda weened a little from listening heavy music as much as I did when I was really young. I wanted to play music that I grew up listening to, that my dad exposed me to, and shit that I found myself listening to every day and shit I had grown up on. You know, you want to play other music after a while. It was not in any way an insult to Glassjaw, because I love everything I did with Glassjaw, and I'm going to love everything I'm going to do with Glassjaw. It's just another part of me. I don't know what you eat, but you don't want to eat Italian every day. You know? It's not too hard to understand. I just wanted to play other music, just do the sort of...I don't know what you want to call it, everyone calls it something different...

Yeah, I had no idea how to come at you with how to describe what you're playing.

I've heard everything. I've heard pop band, power pop band, punk rock band, electronic rock band, cock-rock...I don't even know, but to do another thing was inevitable it was going to happen with me. I write so much, it just had to eventually come out.

You mentioned bands you were exposed to you when you were younger. What sort of bands have had an impact on your writing?

My dad just listened to a lot of pop bands. He was a huge fan of songwriters and pop music, especially Brit-pop bands like Squeeze, Graham Parker and The Rumor, Rockpile...just tons of new-wave and old British rock bands, and the Beatles. So growing up listening to Paul McCartney and bands like Squeeze kind of shaped the way I approach melody and the whole concept of writing it.

How does the songwriting process work as opposed to before, when you were in Glassjaw?

Glassjaw really was like...Beck would write a part, and then come and show me it. Or I'd write a part and show it to him. And then one of us would always have another part to stick with it and we would just build until it became a song, and then I'd sing over it. That's just how me and him would do it. Whereas in this band, I'll write a song, or a bunch of them, and I'll come to the band with them and we'll jam it out and structure it. That's how it is, that's actually how it goes.

How did you end up working with Dan The Automator, and were you always a fan of his?

Yeah, I was a fan. When I was young I'd listen to his shit. I guess when I knew I was finally going to get to do a record of my own, he was one of the people I was thinking of asking because of what he had done with Gorillaz with a lot of his production, he'd be able a rock band. Or uh, you know, a pseudo-rock record, or a dance-oriented rock record. There are things I definitely would've changed about the record and about the production of it. In hindsight, there's a million things about it, but, I think it's fabulous nonetheless.

I also wanted to ask as far as your live band, how you went about recruiting people. I actually didn't know you had Jarvis from American Nightmare working with you, right?

Yeah, he's standing next to me right now.

I'm a huge American Nightmare fan.

Oh, nice. I'll tell him. Hey, he says he's a huge American Nightmare fan.

Jarvis: Thanks, brother!

So yeah, how did you go about grabbing those people?

When I realized I was going to actually have to make a band and have people play, and take it on the road, the first person that I started it with was Larry, my drummer from Glassjaw at the time. And then I decided to ask Jarvis, because he's a huge fan of British pop music, he understands pop music, and he was just into playing with me and we became close friends when American Nightmare and Glassjaw toured years ago. So he was into it. And then on guitar is Craig Bonich — he's a kid I grew up with, he lived a few blocks from me growing up. I've known him since I was ten years old, he's one of my best friends. He's a younger dude, he grew up with us and skated with us growing up. He's a fucking amazing guitar player. On keys, we have a kid named Jesse Nelson. He's the newest member. He's from Arizona, and he recently moved to New York. He's become one of us, full time.

Do you have any new material written for Head Automatica?

We have about 40 songs, and at this point, about 30 of them recorded. On the tour right now, we're playing tons of new ones. We're playing the entire record, then we're playing six new ones every night at least. So the live show's definitely worth it. We're doing a 20 song set as much as possible and getting all the new shit ready so when we finally go back to the studio and cut the album, it's going to be fucking... bionic.

Is that all your writing or did you collaborate with the other guys?

It was mine. I guess in this band, I sing, occasionally play guitar, and I guess I'm the song-idea guy. A lot of times people don't really realize the seriousness of choosing your band. You're only as strong as your band. A DJ is only as good as the records that he slings. You're only as powerful as your fucking band is. So it's not just that....I like the music and the band, it's that this band executes these songs, and this band helps me structure and get these songs to be perfect. The shit's in my head, but they execute it.

Who handled the recording for the new material?

We do, we do. We do it at our studio, Vipen Studios, on Long Island in New York. We'll just go in and live cut like, ten songs for a session. We did ten songs a day for three sessions. After this headlining tour we're on right now, we'll probably go in and do another ten.

This is the tour with I Am The Avalanche, The Fury, Nightmare of You, and DJ Krazy Glue?


What do you think you'd be doing right now if you weren't in a band right now and collaborating with so many other artists?

If I wasn't in a band, I would've finished college. I was going to school for illustration and graphic design and whatnot, so that would've been what I would be doing at this point...which, you know, as much as I enjoy it, it's not quite...parallel to — to be quite honest, this is all I do and all I'll ever do. Hold on one second, I'm sorry.

[Just then, I hear some sort of conversation taking place in the background.]

Store Clerk: Yeah, that one's an 8.

It's huge! It's even bigger!

Store Clerk: [indecipherable]

Is it really?

Store Clerk: Yeah! It's an 8.

It's so huge. Can I try a 7?

Store Clerk: Yeah! I'll have that right now.

Thanks, thank you.

[Daryl returns]

I'm sorry.

What are you doing? Trying on shoes?

Yeah man, I'm so sorry.

No, it's no problem. I'd rather be talking to someone who's actually doing something, as opposed to vegetating around in their apartment or something.

Oh man, I'm fucking out and about. We're all high as hell and we're running through this...crazy mall in fucking Detroit right now, buying crazy shit.

How is Detroit? Everyone hears the horror stories of that place...

Detroit is a terrifying city, man. But at the same time, every time I'd come here with Glassjaw, the shows would be insanely huge. And now we came in Head Automatica, and last night it was huge. The crowd was unbelievable. It's amazing, dude. I love Detroit, I love it.

Speaking of Glassjaw shows, you guys are supposed to do some shows this fall, right?

Yeah, we're doing 19 shows with The Used this fall. No, not this fall. August.

How did the decision to go on with The Used come about?

You know, we always said it had to be at the right time at the right place for us to play, because we've taken two and half years off. The situation just seemed right. It made sense. We keep it in the family like that, it's cool. The Used are good friends of mine. It all made sense. It made sense for me to take five minutes off from Head Automatica, and it for Beck to take time off for his business life.

Is it the old line-up from Glassjaw?

No, it's our old bass player from 2000, Manny, on bass, and our old drummer before Larry, Durijah.

Where is the tour going?

The tour is going...I don't know? I imagine it's the whole U.S.

Is there anyone else going out on that tour other than The Used?

I don't know. We're not involved in the planning. It's kind of their tour, we just said we'd do it.

Any idea of what the set looks like? What you'll be playing?

We'll probably be playing....I don't know, I don't know yet. I don't want to give it away. It'll be good. There's definitely going to be some new shit played, too.

Are you planning on recording again with Glassjaw?

I dont see why not. Eventually we'll do something.

Could you tell me a little about Shoot Frank, and how you ended up with El-P and Cage?

They're good friends of mine. Cage is one of my best friend. We all live in New York, we all live close to each other...we're constantly hanging. Through that, we started just jamming and making music together. So we kind of decided: lets do this project, lets have this be some crazy shit, and lets start by putting our first song, which is called "Shoot Frank" on the first Cage album.

I read that you guys had been listening to a lot of Nirvana, Public Image LTD, and Sonic Youth. Is that what you're going for? Those are some the most...exciting...they're some of my favorite bands.

That's really what we're going for. Some of the stuff is definitely trippy and shit, and has some beats, but that's definitely what we've been listening to. As far as when we're together, we're definitely vibing on that. We're definitely listening to a lot of old Nirvana.

Are you planning on going on the road with that band?

I mean, we still have to record and get shit together. I don't know when the recording's going to happen. We all want to do it as soon as we can. I guess whenever there's a break in all of our schedules when we can actually do the recording, then we'll make it happen. Then from there, we'll figure out if we can get it on the road. It's in the planning. Me, Cage, and Larry, the drummer...a couple of us have rehearsed numerous times. So I have the framework for a lot of the songs ready, so far. We'll see what happens.

You've got so many things you're involved in. I heard a rumor you were doing a band with people from Thursday, Kiss It Goodbye, and The Number 12 Looks Like You. Is that just a rumor, or is that actually going to...

No, that's true. That's true. Me and Jeff are definitely doing it. It's going to be heavy. It's going to be very heavy. It's going to be amazing. I know it will be. Jeff's schedule is obviously busy, and mine is too. It's going to be brutal. It's going to be grindy.

What kind of grind? I'm a huge metalhead, so...

Yeah, me too. Me too. Well, you'll see when it happens. We're kind of keeping it quiet until then.

Someone wanted me to ask about Geometry and if that's ever getting off the ground?

I haven't spoken to those guys in so long. I really wish I have. I wish I kept in touch with them more than I have. I would love to have the Geometry record happen. I remember we did a lot of shit, recorded a lot of songs...there was a record pretty much done. And it was supposed to come out, but I don't think it ever actually did, yet. I haven't spoken to those guys in a while, and I don't even have possession of any of those recordings. But it was a great time, it was a great time in my life four or five years ago. I do wish we could play some more shows. But then again, Geometry only played in New York City, so we never really got to take it on the road as a band like we should've.

I just heard the This Is Hell EP, and I wondered how you ended up on that, as well as your work on the new Every Time I Die album.

This Is Hell, first I'll tell you. The singer, Travis, his brother is the guitar player for The Movielife and now is the guitar player and singer for Nightmare of You. Nightmare of You are my good friends. I've known Travis and his brother Brandon since they were little kids. So, Travis, I guess, is a younger dude who grew up listening to my music and he's a friend of mine, and wanted me to help him out. So I figured "fuck yeah, dude," especially when he told me what song it was. Getting to sing on that cover fucking blew my mind. The Every Time I Die shit...I've been friends with those dudes for years from playing in Glassjaw and seeing them in Buffalo. A good friend of mine, who's best friends with those cats, and he just has a lot of ties....and um, they just asked me randomly. I said I would absolutely do it. I was honored to be on their record. It's amazing. It sounds like if Motorhead and The Black Crowes ran at each other at full speed. It's the sickest shit.

I heard you were going to release Head Automatica demos on the Internet soon?

Yeah, we're going to release some shit on the Internet, soon. You know, if you haven't put something out in a while, it acts as a good mid-area halfway between records. I want to have something out so that people can see the natural progression from record to record, and so that we're giving cats something. We had to cancel a couple of tours because of my health, and I feel like I don't want to let anyone down. I want to give those guys back something.


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