Heyyyooo, KLYAM (Chris and Glen) had a quality, fireside chat (spiritually) with SKIMASK drummer (Z). Topics included the band’s roots, their upcoming LP Cute Mutant to be released on Sophomore Lounge/Infinity Cat/100% Breakfast, the importance of house/DIY Shows in the music community, their tour with JEFF the Brotherhood, Iggy Pop (the crazy political figure), and a number of other wacky, off the wall topics. Just read the damn thing below! Make sure you send the little ones to bed first though. Tuck em’ in real tight, cause America’s worst nightmare SKIMASK is ready to play.
KLYAM: When did you guys meet and how did ya get started as SKIMASK?
(Z): We met working at a bar in Boston that is now defunct, another cool spot in the city swallowed up by the yuppies. We were flirting with the idea of starting a band since we listened to good music and liked each other. I went ahead and booked us a show to ensure that we would actually start a band, practice, play shows and not just talk about it. We had a month to come up with what we wanted to do and write songs. It was pretty natural once we got started.
KLYAM: SKIMASK has one of the more unconventional set-ups instrumentally speaking. How did you guys decide on this set-up? We haven’t seen any other bands with a similar look/sound. You are able to have that punk rock and roll sound without having a guitar.
(Z): A while back our “mouth-bassist” did a one man show where he played drums and hummed into a microphone hooked up to electronics – similar to the minimal set up he has now. I saw this and was blown away. Somehow I convinced him to let me play drums and coming from a punk background of playing in hardcore bands, our two sounds just merged. With the profit growing up on DC hard-core, and never having been in a band before he added this vocal rawness. He would expel these Ian Svenonius-esque lyrics with such raw energy. Adding stage banter and insults to the live show just added to the aesthetic. The lack of guitar was more of an accident then a planned out idea. It simply worked without guitars, so we stuck with that sound. “No strings attached.”
KLYAM: Any key inspirations or influences on SKIMASK?
(Z): JEFF the Brotherhood, Chain and the Gang, Fat History Month, and the Boston/Allston scene in general. If kids can make amazing music, put on house shows, continue doing what they love while working shit jobs and still be able to survive in this expensive city. That is inspiring.
KLYAM: How has your sound evolved over the past few years?
(Z): Not sure if our sound evolved much since we started. We just try and keep it simple. Primitive, and add a small amount of catchiness to the nonsense.
KLYAM: You guys play a prominent role in the Boston underground. What are your thoughts on the local music scene and, in your experience, how far has it come and where do you see it going? Do you think Boston is on its way to receiving wider recognition nationally?
(Z): For the last three/four years it’s been on the up n up. But, as of late, the scene now is in a bit of a lull with Gay Gardens and Whitehaus shutting down. Every September new kids move into show houses and new neighbors move in next door. Some neighbors are cool, but others just don’t dig loud parties or shows on Monday- Thursday nights. Some kids running the houses only do shows a few times a week keeping it on the low. For the houses that host lots of touring bands and have lots of shows each week, the neighbors call the cops with noise complaints, the cops find out what your up to and that’s the end of your house. There will always be more houses popping up that have shows and more warehouse spots.
As for Boston gaining some wide recognition nationally, that is debatable. If you talk to any national touring band that has come through Gay Gardens or Whitehaus chances are they will tell you Boston always has the best shows. If you ask a touring band that are “bigger” or more “popular” that play House of Blues or the Royale or even Brighton Music Hall, you’ll get the opposite reaction. These venues are stale and therefore it’s hard for people to let loose and have a good time at these venues therefore resulting in a boring audience for the touring band. Boring audience usually equals boring show. Unfortunately in my opinion Boston has traditionally been a city of boring show goers. Also this city can be very corny when it comes to its music publications that are seen nationally. This makes Boston come off to the nation as corny. Again, this is just my opinion.
KLYAM: NOW NOW NOW – let’s talk about Cute Mutant. Congrats! Can you tell us about the recording process/recording length/studio/etc?
(Z): The recording process was the best time. Doug Demay recorded us at his home studio in Cambridge. We recorded in the isolation room in the basement which is separate from the foundation of the house making it totally sound and vibration proof. This room is also where Exusamwa practices which is a trip if you think about the music that they create in there. It was very comfortable, shoes off, stress free and Doug is pretty much the coolest guy on earth. He bought us food every night even though we put him through hell. We were only in the studio for a weekend, then went back for a few mixing sessions. All in all the process didn’t take long and we are so thankful that Doug was involved every step of the way. Big thanks to him.
KLYAM: Cute Mutant is being released on Infinity Cat and Sophomore Lounge, what’s the scoop on this? Both labels have intimidating catalogs. What’s it mean to you to be associated with these labels? Infinity Cat is a high profile national label. A lot of the bands on the label tour incessantly, is this something Kids across America can expect of SKIMASK?(Z): Well Sophomore Lounge Records put out our first release, which was a 200 run split 12″ EP with a band from Chicago called Geffika. They were a natural choice to go through again. Infinity Cat Recordings, on the other hand, was a bit harder to get on board. Like you said, they mostly put out bands that tour extensively and relentlessly so for them to put us out (a band that doesn’t tour much that is relatively unknown beyond boston) I think it was a big decision for them to make. They’ve heard the record and though it’s a stretch from what they normally put out, they’re a small enough label that they can still take chances on things they feel strongly about. Jake Orall, head of Infinity Cat, is a friend of ours and a huge fan of Fat Day (an epic, groundbreaking band that Doug Demay was in). He has seen us numerous times and has faith in what we do and what were about. We are so grateful that they are a part of this release. 100% Breakfast is also helping to put this out which we are psyched to be on. This is the label that Doug runs and that Fat Day and Exusamwa are on. To be on labels with such great rosters is mind bending to me. We feel privileged to be working with everyone.
KLYAM: You guys have toured the East Coast with JEFF the Brotherhood, how was that experience?
(Z): It was a real trip. JTB are the greatest dudes. They take unknown bands on tour with them because they like them, not because they’ll bring out more people as most bands do. Playing the Bowery Ballroom was insane. Watching JTB from the back was insane; just a couple years earlier I was in the crowd watching them play the same stage. Crazy. They are sweet, kind and we are forever grateful to them for giving us that opportunity. I just wish we could do more with them. Forever my favorite.
KLYAM: Alrighty to lighten shit up, what was the lil Prof$t Mohamed like on the playground?
(Z): God, I don’t think I wanna know. Probably someone who was always doing fun and crazy shit, but that I would have been too intimidated to do stuff with.
KLYAM: Not to promote violence, but if you had to get into a physical altercation with a political figure past or present, who would it be?
(Z): Iggy Pop. He’s a crazy person and would probably fight to the death.
KLYAM: Your music is known to incite some crazy fuckin dancing…do you see SKIMASK having its own associated dance?
(Z): Yeah, it’s called, “Do the crusher” (see The Cramps).
KLYAM: Lastly, anything or anybody you want to plug?
(Z): Every Allston band we’ve played with, too big to list. Every touring band that plays house shows or warehouse spots or secret venues. Everybody who comes to these shows for the music more than to just party and who DONATES to touring bands. And lastly Doug Demay because I know he likes seeing his name over and over again. Just kidding Doug!
Keep your eyes open for SKIMASK around Boston and beyond! The new LP is called Cute Mutant and it will be released November 27 on Sophomore Lounge Records, Infinity Cat Recordings, and 100% Breakfast. If you want a quick fix, watch this video here