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Scissorfight | Mantrapping For Sport and Profit | Ironlung | interview | stoner | rock | Lollipop
Mantrapping For Sport and Profit (Tortuga)
An interview with singer Ironlung
by Scott Hefflon
How do you skate the line between being intelligent and worldly and, well, dangerous?
There's a fine line between clever and stupid. You do whatcha do, ya know?
For example, I hear you popped your shoulder out during a show and just kept on going...
That's happened twice now. Both times right at the beginning of the show. I get out there, raise my arms, and one of 'em pops out. In Rochester, NY, I did the whole set with my arm hanging a few inches out of its socket cuz I couldn't get it back in.
I've broken bones but never that... Does it hurt?
It kills when it's out. The other time, we were in Burlington, VT and I walked over to the side of the stage and the singer from Suicide Contest saw me pointing at my shoulder and he jammed it back in for me.
I keep getting Lethal Weapon images...
Yeah, I have to keep running into walls to get it back in.
So no real pointers or warnings "to the kids" about living on the edge?
We're all about having a good time, but you gotta learn to walk that fine line. As long as you're not hurtin' anyone... Self-preservation skills are very, very important. The survivalist ethic is about gettin' through.
What year'd you start in?
1994, I think.
Right on. Same with Lollipop, I think. Your first record was with Wonderdrug, right?
Yeah, we did two records with them, Guaranteed Kill and Balls Deep were on Wonderdrug. Since then, we've done New Hampshire, the Piscataqua EP, and the new one, Mantrapping for Sport and Profit, for Tortuga.
I never got the EP, but I've heard about it. It's not considered a rarity, is it?
No, it's pretty much out there... But there are only two originals and the rest are covers, but they're good covers if you're into punk rock. We do The Dwarves' "Fuck 'em All," Dead Kennedys' "Too Drunk to Fuck," and GG Allin's "Drink Fight & Fuck"...
Yeah, I heard you play that one at yer record release party at The Middle East. I almost always like GG's songs when played by anyone but him. GG on CD (or DVD) just seems really unnecessary...
There's a great scene in Hated where GG comes out on stage and right off the bat punches someone in the face... (laughing) I just love that scene... We used to sit around and listen to live GG albums when the band first got together. Our guitarist played in a band that played with GG. And he's from the Granite State, after all...
You know The Queers and The Tunnel Rats and all them?
Yeah, they're all from New Hampshire. I used to live in Portsmouth. It's got a very touristy seaport kind of old New England thing going on... But at the time we were there, there were a lot of bands and we had friends in bands in the area... I used to work in a restaurant with Al Barr from the Bruisers, now the singer for Dropkick Murphys...
Small world... But this area, in a nicely underground way, has often been ripe with dirty hard rock bands... Roadsaw, Quinataine Americana, even Stompbox were metalized shit-kickin' dirt rock.
There used to be a lot of bands in Portsmouth... But the Elvis Room closed, so now when we go back, we play outside of town. We used to rehearse there, and I used to drive up every weekend...
Where were you living?
In Boston. We used to practice in this old warehouse, in a meat locker, so you couldn't stand up all the way... Then I moved up there, and that's where we were from. That's where our first shows were. For the first few years, that was it. We just did it to have fun and play music, so that seemed as good a place as any to do it.
You guys never really struck me as snobby scenester elitist fuckers...
We just did it to have an outlet.
What was going on on a national scale that inspired you? For instance, when did you first hear Clutch's Transnational... [Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes & Undeniable Truths]?
At the time, I was listening to a lot of Kyuss' Sky Valley. But basically, we saw what we were doing as playing really low-tuned punk rock. We just had a different style of vocals. But we weren't really looking around to see what other people were doing at the time. We were trying to encompass the music we'd grown up listening to, old Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, Fear, and bands like Zeppelin and AC/DC.
So you really come from more of a punk background than a, well, a metal background?
Yeah, totally. Do you consider what we do metal?
Walked into that one... Well, I'd say it's between stoner rock (minus the psychedelic wankery) and dirty, stompy metal (Helmet, lo-tech White Zombie), seeing as punk is now almost exclusively the Bad Religion/Descendents poppier side of things, and destructive "hardcore punk" like Black Flag, Iggy, and GG, uh, doesn't really exist anymore. Well, aside from that awful, test-marketed nü metal crap, and I don't wanna talk about that shit...
I was blessed with the ability to not know how to sing, and not know that I didn't know... So I just went out there, stared, and growled cuz that's what I knew...
Tell me about the single, "New Hampshire's Alright if You Like Fighting." Obviously, it's a tip...
Yeah, to the Fear song, "New York's Alright if You Like Saxophones." The title at least...
In content, I think it's more like the Tunnel Rats' adaptation of a different Fear song which they made into "I Love Living in New Hampshire"...
That and Elton John's "Saturday Night's Alright for Fightin'." The singer from Suicide Contest lived up in Laconia, and he sent me a postcard from Weir's Beach, and it said "Endicott State park is a nice place to swim in the summer time." He'd crossed out "swim" and written in "fight." That was very much our sense of humor, so that's how it started.
The list of places and events, rattled off in a White Zombie "Black Sunshine"-esque monster truck pull announcer voice over a celebratory guitar swagger, are those all places you've done some bare-knucklin'?
Well, we've had a few... But it's more a celebration of a certain form of communication... But all those places are definitely places we've lived or hung out or at least been to. So it's kind of an insider thing...
I definitely see you guys, much like Dropkick Murphys, as a band of the people and for the people. They do the working class punk thing, and you do the working class rock thing...
Yeah, man, music for the people...
Except that, as your bio states, you really don't do it for the people, or "for the kids, man" as so many love to claim.
Well... "from the people," maybe...
Speaking of your love for people, where'd ya get "Mantrapping for Sport and Profit?"
Ragnar Benson writers survivalist guides, and most are considered controversial or "fringe" literature because they're about making your own flamethrowers or gun-running for sport and profit, and one's about mantrapping, the most dangerous game. They're survival guides for "the citizen defender." Some of them you can get through amazom.com. I saw him interviewed on a 20/20-type thing about freedom of speech, and it showed him blasting away with flamethrowers and stuff.
So are you guys actually into survivalist stuff, or just the idea that someone out there is?
I like underground, subversive culture. There's something anarchistic and very punk rock about it. Especially in a time that's so materialistic, and punk rock isn't very punk rock anymore, any attempt to...
Keep it dangerous?
Exactly. A little reminder. Danger. It's missing most of the time...
What about Ted Nugent?
When we go on tour, we always listen to the Nuge.
You don't wear a loincloth, and that's a good thing...
He's definitely got a gung-ho attitude toward rock'n'roll. We used to cover "Cat Scratch Fever."
I was a big fan of "Wango Tango" and "Wang Dang Sweet Poontang."
I like "Free For All." Those songs are classic old rock, but it's not like I have all his records and follow his ideology. I heard he shot some guy from an extreme distance with his bow and arrow and got away with it cuz the guy was on his property...
Him and Hunter S., gonzo fuckers I'd never wanna cross.
I gave Hunter Thompson a high-five. It seemed more significant than getting an autograph like everyone else in the crowd.
I worry about the kids - even though they don't know enough to be worried themselves - cuz who are their rebel icons? Blink 182, The Offspring? Where's their My War, Raw Power, Great Gonzos, or even their Shout at the Devil?
Shout at the Devil was a great album. We're in a commodified culture right now. Everything is test-marketed, fabricated, and massively hyped. It's indicative of the times, I think.
Nothing wrong with packaging... Shit, Shout at the Devil was sure a bundle of hype, as was Appetite for Destruction...
Never Mind the Bullocks, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Straight Outta Compton... Yeah, but people are still out there getting' crazy...
They're just not doing it to the latest rock band, cuz that's Creed. The Northeast has some good hard-rockin' shit-kicker bands, but unfortunately we're known for the "designer imposters" like Powerman 5000, Godsmack, Staind...
That's right. All those bands broke out at about the same time...
Yeah, like a rash. And I don't feel they represent this area. Scissorfight sound like sprawling New Hampshire, and probably Western Mass and Connecticut too, though I don't go there much. But I lived in New Hampshire...
Where in New Hampshire?
Exeter for a month, then Hampton Beach for a couple summers when, like Temple of the Dog, Alice and Chains, and Soundgarden were the thing. Live Free or Die, state liquor stores, no car insurance on the car I bought with a buddy off a biker for $100, back roads, the tunes loud, the keg in the back making the shocks bounce like a motherfucker when I went over bumps... That's the sound of Scissorfight.
I hear you had a novel kind of audition when you joined the band.
I showed up thinking it was going to be an audition. I'd never sung for a band before. They took one look at me and said I was gonna do it, before they'd even heard me.
Were you already doing the American Studies thing?
No, that's only been for the last few years. In fact, I'm almost done. I'm just writing my Master's thesis now. It's called "The Deprogramming of America: Case Studies and the Cultural History of LSD." I think it played a significant role in American culture.
While I like the rebel/outlaw aspect and the breaking of traditional inhibitions, I always kinda wonder if it really helped... I mean, are we really any brighter, any more in touch with, um, stuff? We followed the White Rabbit and that lead us to what? Limp Bizkit? Where'd we go wrong?
I think LSD made a huge impact on youth culture. But in a Ying-Yang way: We got LSD, but we also got the A-bomb. And LSD, in a collective sense, helped break down some of the very hypocritical, traditional American values. It opened people up, and let others know there was an opening up possibility, and people began to see though, that there were things that were more important. It caused a re-evaluation...
The stuff that I'm writing about is mostly like the situation with Ken Kesey, who was involved as a subject in LSD experiments the CIA did at Stanford, while he was working in the wards at a hospital, often under the influence of LSD, and he wrote a book called One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. [Read Tom Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. If you've ever gotten high (on anything): Read the book. If you've ever been a part of band culture (in any way): Read the book. If you've ever had a close circle of friends and, ya know, gone on road trips and had parties and stayed up all night talking about what really matters (not that you remember specifics in the morning): Read the book. If you have a pulse: Read the book.]
My thesis is about how LSD altered the thinking and the output of people, especially artists and their approach to their art. R. Crumb, for example, said that after he took LSD, it had a huge impact on his art.
How's your interest in American Studies affect the lyrics of the band?
It doesn't, necessarily. It's worked its way in, inevitably, but it's not intentional. There's plenty of anarchist sentiment and, from the LSD studies, an absurdist humor that pokes fun at how ridiculous we are as a society. But mostly, the band's about having fun, ya know? It's primal. Just get out there and do it. Whatever your "it" is. It's a no-shitter: It's rock and roll.