Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Lifetime of Gray Skies Part 3: Start With Subtraction

Erase these moments
Erase these wasted years
Sometimes I wish I could disappear
Sometimes I can't

"Our Lady of Assassins"
The Outer Dark

Photos courtesy of Scott Kinkade

    Short a drummer and second guitarist, Anodyne went through a "weird hiatus period for a couple of months" in 2001 that saw the band ultimately relocate to New York, guitarist and vocalist Mike Hill said. Once there, Hill and bassist Joshua Scott would recruit a phenomenal new drummer in Joel Stallings and usher in the band's most stable, focused and creative era.
    "Moving didn’t seem like a big deal to me; I was prepared," Scott said. "I was surprised when [previous drummer Ira] Bronson quit (which happened as we were loading out from the Enemymine show we had just played), but I knew we would find someone. Any confidence came from the fact that we had been playing in bands for a while, and I knew I could play in a band wherever we were. It was the normal state.  My concern was finding a job and a place to live. Luckily, Mike put me up until I did find a place."
    Once they settled into New York, Anodyne started the search for a second guitarist to take Ayal Naor's place. One of the prospects was Black Army Jacket's Andrew Orlando. The two bands had met and bonded at shows and Black Army Jacket drummer Dave Witte chipped in as a session drummer for Anodyne, so it seemed like a natural fit. Anodyne pressed Orlando into service when they played Hellfest in 2001.
    "I was very familiar with their music, loved the hell out of Quiet Wars, and the new material they had was so amazing. I was a big fan of it all," Orlando said. "We practiced a couple of times, and all I can say is that when it came for the day of the show, I felt completely overwhelmed. Listening to what Mike plays and then trying to actually play it are two completely different things. Mike is an amazing player on a very different level than me and it kind of showed. I was hanging on for dear life. But, it sounded noisy and chaotic and kind of cool."

    Ultimately, school and work commitments kept Orlando from joining Anodyne full time. However, in his eyes that was probably for the best.
    "I’m glad my contribution was a one-time thing," he said. "Anodyne at full throttle was always perfect as a trio."
    Anodyne abruptly ended their search for a second guitarist when one prospect bailed on the band without any notice the day they were booked to play two shows in Plattsburgh, N.Y.
    "I went to go pick him up and the dude just never came down," Hill said. "I said, 'Fuck it. Let's just play it as a three piece.' That was my introduction to playing guitar and singing in a three piece setup and never rehearsing and just going for it."
    "You should never cancel a show unless you’re shot or your mom dies," Scott said. "I don’t remember being too concerned about pulling it off; we were used to practicing as a three piece anyway. Mike was doing all the singing at this point, and I knew he could carry the guitar. The church basement we were scheduled to play flooded from burst pipes, so they moved the show to the food co-op. No sleep and frozen, we just went for it and it worked well."
    After soldiering through both shows, Anodyne remained a trio from that point on. Hill said he now had enough confidence in his playing and singing to front the band by himself.
    "Why even bother with a second guitar player?" Hill said. "We're comfortable. The three piece format worked really well. Some of my favorite bands are a three piece. Rush was a three piece. Husker Du was a three piece. So there's precedent. Firehose, Minutemen, all trios."
    Shorn to a trio, Anodyne in 2001 opened their most focused and creative period as a band, recording two EPs and a full length that year that would define the band's leaner, more pointed sound. It was still recognizably Anodyne, but the threesome were sharper, hungrier and playing with a chemistry and intensity they had not demonstrated before.
    Anodyne stormed back into the studio in 2001 to record the four song Red Was Her Favorite Color EP for Happy Couples Never Last Records with Witte sitting in for the session in place of Stallings, who hadn't had a chance to learn the material yet
    "At this point, Dave is one of my best friends," Hill said. "We met when Black Army Jacket, Isis, Anodyne did a lot of dates. We hit it off on that string  of dates. He was one of the most solid, right-on dudes I know."

    Recording Red Was Her Favorite Color was also Scott's introduction to Stallings. The bassist was still commuting between Boston and New York for rehearsals and hadn't yet met his new bandmate.
    "Mike’s studio hadn’t re-opened yet, so we went to Chris Peirce in New Brunswick, NJ," Scott said. "This was shortly after Hellfest, and before Joel had learned all the songs, so we used Witte on the recording. Joel came along to the recording, and this was the first time I met him."
    Though Stallings didn't have a chance to learn the Red Was Her Favorite Color songs, he made his Anodyne debut on that EP singing the cover of Charles Manson's "Look at Your Game Girl."
    "Joel is a very open to suggestion kind of guy," Hill said. "He succumbs to peer pressure. The suggestion for doing vocals came up. He used to sing in his bands in California."
    "Dave Witte was playing drums temporarily, until I was up to speed. I went along to the recording session to hang out," Stallings said. "I had done some vocals previously, but this was just an impromptu noise/spoken/artistic interpretation of the song. It was Mike and Josh’s concept. They suggested that I do the vocals. I was up for whatever."
    Though Hill recorded the bulk of Anodyne's music himself, Red Was Her Favorite Color and its follow up EP Berkowitz were recorded by Chris Pierce of Doc Hopper and Deadguy at his Electric Ladyland studio in New Jersey.
    "His studio is really homey," Hill said. "He's a hardcore kid like we were."
    Enlisting Pierce freed up Hill to relax and focus on his performance.
    "I'm not a really good recording engineer," Hill said. "I can track things, but I 'm not really the guy you want mixing your records. I have my ego in check enough to understand that where some people out there refuse to see that and the overall product suffers."
    Anodyne also recorded a cover of Throbbing Gristle's "Persuasion" during the Red Was Her Favorite Color session. The song, which wouldn't see the light of day until it was released on early EP collection The First Four Years, featured band friend and photographer Scott Kinkade on vocals while Witte notched the only guitar credit in his varied musical career to date.

    Kinkade would just "show up" wherever Anodyne happened to be playing or recording, Hill said. So when the band recorded "Persuasion," they put the microphone in his hands.
    "We're doing the recording session in Jersey and Scott's there. I don't even know how he got there," Hill said. "I knew Scott could play, could sing. I said, 'Fuck it.' Once again, trying to include your friends in what you were doing."
    "It was near the end of the session when I arrived, and the band wanted to do 'Persuasion' by Throbbing Gristle, but I don't think anyone wanted to do the vocals," Kinkade said. "They had a bull horn in the Anodyne van. I volunteered. I know I got the van keys from Mike and ran out to the van to bring the bull horn inside. I learned the song quickly. It was simple enough. They asked Witte to strap a guitar on his shoulder and create noise. It was funny to see David holding a guitar because he is a drummer, and it looked a bit foreign to him. We might have done the recording in one take and added guitar overdubs. I know I was excited and nervous. It was a lot of fun. Kind of like a trivia question now." 


    After Red Was Her Favorite Color, Stallings would take his place  behind the drums, cementing Anodyne's definitive lineup.
    Stallings, a transplanted California hardcore kid who had played in like-minded bands like Sharon Tate and Skinjob (which featured a pre-ASRA Monty Hukill), was introduced to Anodyne by New York show promoter Rich Hall.
    "[Hall] always had us in mind when shows came out," Hill said. "He was one of the first guys to book Anodyne when we just had a demo. He was  a fan, a friend. He went on the road a couple of times with us."
    Knowing Anodyne was between full time drummers, Hall recommended Stallings to the band.
    "I put up flyers at CBGBs: 'Drummer Available. Into Napalm Death, Man is the Bastard, etc.,'" Hall said. "Rich Hall called and hooked me up with Anodyne. I was not familiar with the band. I remember meeting up with Mike to try it out. We jammed some riffs and talked about similar interests. He said I had the spot if I wanted it."
    For Anodyne, it was love at first sight of Stallings' wardrobe.
    "To check each other out we rented a couple hours of practice space. Right away this dude's playing was top notch," Hill said. "I think he had a Dr. Know T-shirt on. This guy obviously felt cool. Dr. Know is not really a go-to name for someone who's a dilettante for hardcore music. His playing was right on the mark."
    The addition of Stallings reinvigorated Anodyne, driving the trio to the peak of their creativity as they reeled off two EPs and two full lengths that would come to define the band and its artistic legacy.
    "Joel brought precision and focus to the band," Scott said. "He is also really good at structuring parts, knowing how to fit songs together. We had common musical references with Joel, which made it easier to describe the kind of parts we were looking for. I think writing-wise, things definitely took off once we had Joel. He was fast as fuck and committed. Our first show was a fest in Bloomington, Ill., with Burn it Down and, maybe, Keelhaul. We drove straight out, played, and drove straight back.That cemented it; Joel was the guy. He was also fun to hang out with outside of the band."
    Playing with Anodyne forced Stallings to become more aggressive as a drummer, playing harder to be heard through the bass and drum racket. He also brought blast beats into Anodyne, opening up new musical avenues for the band to explore.
    "He's a master in that realm," Hill said. "Joel, his grind element, really pushed us songwriting-wise. We had another resource. Here's a guy who can play that. Let's explore that. That band Anodyne was about musical freedom, just doing whatever the hell we want to do. Let's explore it. Let's write faster, do more extreme shit like that."
    Stallings not only pushed Anodyne faster, but he also encouraged Hill and Scott to write in odd time signatures.
    "I tended to push for weird time signatures in the songwriting. We were all into it though, it wasn’t just me," Stallings said. "It was normal for me to suggest tweaking a 4/4 riff into 7/8, 5/4, etc., but a lot of the riffs were weird to start with. Mike and Josh wanted me to blast whenever possible, so I was free to throw in a blast beat wherever I wanted."


Anonymous said...

*clapping like a trained seal*

this shit is great, bro.


Unknown said...

I drank all of Anodynes beer in every city known to man.