Monday, February 9, 2009

Interview With: HARPOON

“It's just fast, aggressive, energetic music. You just have to feel the vibes and then decide if you're down with it or not.”

Kim Kelly for Hails & Horns Magazine

Meet Harpoon. Harpoon hail from Chicago, IL, play violently abrasive grind/thrash, feature members of 7000 Dying Rats, and voted for Obama. They love the shit out of Megadeth, the Jesus Lizard and the Smiths, but their one sheet recommends them to fans of Pig Destroyer, Carcass, and, simply, “face-melting.” They’re insane live, named their new record after a skateboarding move, and boast one of the best tshirt designs I’ve ever seen. Interested yet? You should be. Harpoon sound like the bastard child of Napalm Death and Tragedy being roughed up by a gang of back-alley abortionists – menacing, blood-thirsty, and just a tad unbalanced – and they’re coming for you.

The band was started in 2007 by Dean Costello and Toney Vast-Binder (7000 Dying Rats) after previous projects (Gun Kata, Crazy Stallion, an earlier incarnation of Harpoon) went bottom up. In January of 2007, Dean approached Toney about starting a drum machine project; by May, they’d already recorded a nine-song demo with Sanford Parker, gotten Scott Hull to produce it, and planned to head out East for a summer tour. Fast forward a few months, and they’ve already added another member (DJ on bass) and finished another record - their debut LP, “Double Gnarly/Triple Suicide,” which is due out next month on Interloper Records.

DJ: When I was on tour this summer with Lair of the Minotaur, Toney brought burned CDs for Jamie, my partner in Interloper, and I, to a Chicago show I was playing. Jamie and I both immediately dug the songs. We had been looking for a band whose record we would be excited about putting out, and felt Harpoon was that band. We went to see them play a show and asked them if they'd be into doing a record with us. They were. Little did I know, I'd be joining the band in 3 months.

Toney: Before DJ joined the band; we would essentially have conversations via email about how the songs for Double Gnarly/Triple Suicide would sound. Dean would come up with a first draft of guitar parts and drum programming and then send me a rough cut. We would then talk about changes that should be made. After we felt like we had a keeper, I would write some lyrics. A couple songs on our demo were never played live before we did a take in the studio.

Dean: Toney is right on and I would like to add that, as stated earlier, the band started at the end of Crazy Stallion, so a few of the last Stallion songs became Harpoon songs. That was nice to get a little jump-start into 2007. At that point I would just try to come up with song ideas and I would play them with Adam Inverted (drummer of Stallion) on drums and me on guitar. He is a wonderful rock and roller so he would help me with the arrangements and transitions and all that. At that point I would program the song on drum machine (only after Adam programmed "Frogs, Boils, Locusts..." to give me a drum machine how-to lesson), record it with guitar and drum machine on my computer, email it to Toney, lurk Hotmail, and await further instructions.

KK: Who came up with the band name – why “Harpoon?”

Toney: I had started a two-piece; drum & bass project by the same name that was supposed to sound like a cross between Ruins & Godheadsilo. While I loved the name, the band never really caught the gear I was looking for. So when Dean approached me about this project, I suggested we use it. I mean, “poon,” right?

KK: Your sound is a ferocious blend of extreme metal influences, especially balls-out thrash and brutal grindcore. How would you describe Harpoon to someone that had never heard your music before?

: We (heart) Megadeth, The Jesus Lizard, & The Smiths.
Dean: I would just say it's just fast, aggressive, energetic music. You just have to feel the vibes and then decide if you're down with it or not.

KK: What sort of subjects do you touch upon in your lyrics, and what is the meaning behind the album title?
Toney: Lyrically, it’s all over the place: hapless union leaders, inept bee handlers, persecution complex sufferers…you name it, it’s in there.
Dean: The meaning of the album title is the name given to the most aggressive skateboarding move of all time, invented in summer of 2005 in Dekalb, Il at The Batcave.
Dekalb has some other great inventions such as barbed wire, and Cindy Crawford, but it is also home to some sad inventions such as Monsanto GMO corn, although I doubt that was actually invented in the Dekalb area.

KK: What songs on the new record are you most excited to play live?
Dean: Throngs is pretty cool. It's inspired by The Muzzler.
DJ: Lefty, just because I'm proud of myself when I play it right.

KK: What will you guys be doing to promote this record – do you have any plans to tour, either in the US or overseas?
Toney: Free hand jobs…and, of course, touring. We hope to get to Europe. We heard they totally love hand jobs over there.

KK: Several of Harpoon’s members pull double-duty in other bands – what other projects are you guys involved in, and how do you manage to balance them all?
Toney: I am currently working on a project with most of the guys from Hewhocorrupts, which promises to contain only figurative nudity.
Dean: I, personally, have no other side projects and much free time.
DJ: I'm playing guitar in a new band with a bunch of guys from other Chicago bands. We haven't decided on a name yet, so I can't tell it to you. Toney and I are both involved in 7000 Dying Rats, although that band is rarely active.

KK: I’ve gotta give you mad props for the baby seal T-shirt design – awesome on so many levels. You even used what I think of as “the Bathory font!”. Who does your artwork?
Toney: Nice eye! Yes, that shirt is a nod to Bathory. Glad you caught that. Vince Williams put that design together for us. Vince and I were in 7000 Dying Rats together for a brief period of time. He is now in a totally killer band from Detroit called Year Of The Pig.

KK: You guys hail from Chicago, where I was lucky enough to catch you onstage at Kuma’s Doom Fest. The Chi-town scene seems like more of a family than anything – from what I saw, it’s very tight-knit and supportive, and the bands themselves are killer! What is it about Chicago that breeds so much high-quality heavy metal? Is it the cold weather (‘cause goddamn was there a lot of it!) or what?
Toney: Not sure what it is, but you are correct. There is not a lot of ego, but because everyone is so good, it forces you to up the song-writing ante. Plus, everyone is kind of doing their own thing and not trying to cop each other’s sound. On any given week you can go see Lord Mantis, Plague Bringer, Minsk, Lair of the Minotaur, (Lone) Wolf and Cub, The Atlas Moth, Hewhocorrupts, or Sweet Cobra. All those bands are great, but they are also unique and that’s important for a healthy scene. It really is a good time to be playing metal in Chicago. As for the Doom Fest, Alex from Kuma’s and Steve from The Atlas Moth did an awesome job pulling that event together. Two days of excellent Chicago metal, not to mention some of the bands they were able to lure in from out of town. Samothrace (from Kansas) and Kongh (from Sweden) blew my mind. Both of those bands were absolutely strange and totally heavy.
Dean: Yeah, Toney is right. There are many different bands in Chicago and many of them are awesome. It's cool when the people you actually know can be pretty inspirational.
DJ: I think, for once, there are groups of people who like each other and respect each other. People are friends, and hang out and do non-music related things, as well as support each other’s bands. Unlike what happens in a traditional scene, though, pushing the boundaries, and experimentation are looked at as good things.

KK: Can you name a few bands – Chicago-based or otherwise – that you feel deserve some more attention?
Toney: More attention needs to be paid to The Muzzler. We have done a couple short tours with those guys and not only are the most solid dudes in the world, but they also will seriously fuck you up. Someone needs to put their record out now. Also, MZRCDXVL from Dekalb, IL. Their live shows are what most bands wish they could pull off. They are punishing…pure and simple.
Dean: Yes, definitely MZR and The Muzzler are really great bands. There is a band called Eyes that are local that are very unique and awesome. Also if you really want to hear something cool you should just go all out and check out The Oracles.

KK: What upcoming records are you most looking forward to in 2009?

Toney: I am hoping that this is the year for Joey Chestnut to finally take down Kobayashi at Nathan’s Famous. I also want to see someone crush Strom Thurmond’s record for the longest senate filibuster. The guy was piece of shit and doesn’t deserve that distinction.

Dean: I'm hoping that Obama will break the record for biggest swing in world approval rating for a country due to a transition in leadership. Maybe we can stop being stupid??

*I'll never know if they misunderstood the question or were simply fucking with me. Either way, well-played, guys!

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