Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Risk Interview

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Raw, blisteringly fast, slow, lumbering, manic and Pissed. Risk are as equally influenced by the weight of the groove as they are the short, sharp shock. Think Twelve Hour Turn and Struggle being crushed under the massive tectonic shift that is created when the Melvins flex their muscles. Risk are a violently chaotic Hardcore band from the deep recesses of Brooklyn. They have been around since 2009, so far releasing a demo and a full length LP. Maybe it is because of where they live that their music has taken on such a feeling of foreboding darkness. Through their compositions, they seem to be conveying the very real human emotions that are hopelessness and desperation as well as their interpretation of mankind's frail understanding of how those emotions effect each and every one of us. Sadness exists all around us, in every facet of life. Poverty, aggression and the constant threat of global annihilation keep people frightened and bitter, afraid to grasp the light that shines from all angles. Addressing the issue is not difficult, just take a look around once in a while. Smile at your neighbors more often, pet more dogs, hike that damned hill on your day off, breathe... It is up to us as a struggling species to spread the word of love and compassion for every single living thing, including ourselves. We can accomplish anything together. It is up to us to turn the tide. So, here is an interview with this Amazing band from Brooklyn. They chose to answer my questions collectively. Get Stoked!!!

1. Tell me who you are. Who plays what?
Our friend Matt played drums for the first two years. He did all the drums on the LP.

2. How did you guys meet? How long has the band been a band?
We first started playing together in September 2009. At the time Sean and Bryan were living in a pretty ragged (punk?) apartment in Brooklyn with a few other people. We decided to get a band together based on a shared love of stoner metal and screamy hardcore. Bryan had been jamming with Matt for a few months prior to moving into that spot, so it just made sense to keep going with that. We met Jay through another of our roommates at the time, and he joined up with us in December. We had a good run for a while, but eventually Matt decided that he wanted to do other things musically. Sean had been playing with Malav in another short-lived band, so we asked him to join in on drums this past summer. Nice.

3. I know most of you have pretty extensive histories in other, rather well known bands. Has that helped or detracted from what you are trying to do with Risk? Any issues pertaining to a “featuring former members of” sort of thing?
We’ve all been involved in the hardcore scene to one degree or another for a long time now, but what people have done previously hasn’t really affected this band. Jay was in Sometimes Walking, Sometimes Running, The Scent of Human History, and United States, so that’s really our claim to fame…dubious though it may be. It’s not really something we focus on as far as RISK is concerned though. Our other band experiences have definitely shaped the kinds of directions we want to go in now, but it’s more about the ways we each bring something different to the music we make together.

4. You guys are based in Brooklyn, right?
For sure.

5. How is the music community in your borough? Do you feel as if each borough in NY tries to take care and work with each other, or have you found each area to be insular? Is that good or bad?
NYC in general has a great music scene; there’s always a ton of stuff going on, and a lot of great bands come out of this area, though it does seem that Brooklyn boasts more than any other borough in terms of bands, show spaces, etc. That said, we’re not sure that “community” would be the word to describe things here. The NYC hardcore scene feels very fractured. Its not really the size or scale of the scene or anything, it’s more like there are a thousand and one niche scenes and there isn’t too much interest in crossing over or booking shows with a range of styles. Yeah, NYC is big enough to “support” all these different scenes, but so many of them seem to be formed based on style rather than content. At least that’s been our experience. There are definite pockets of “community” here and there, but they don’t feel very connected to one another, and we haven’t found anything that feels cohesive in any real sense. But we also come out of 90s punk and hardcore scenes that were more politically conscious and more DIY oriented, which mean there were a ton more punks who were organized. So “support” meant something very different, more substantive than whether we get paid, and “community” meant more than who you happened to be friends with. But that doesn’t mean that these things aren’t out there; that they don’t exist whatsoever. We just haven’t found them. NYC is just so fucking big, and so much is happening that who knows…?

6. Bar shows vs. all-ages shows in NY? Too many of one, not enough of the other? Any notable spaces in your city that you would like to talk about in either category? How has ABC No Rio been doing? Any other all-ages  spaces that you love?
There are a ton of cool venues these days! St. Vitus, The Acheron, Death By Audio, to name a few. Most of the venues we’ve played have been bars, but DIY spaces rule the scene! There are a ton of underground spaces kicking around Brooklyn (too many to map!). We’d prefer to play all-ages DIY shows whenever possible, but that is where we grew up and that’s where we feel the most meaningful encounters can happen. Speaking of…ABC is still kicking. They’re planning on closing the space at some point in order to revamp the whole building, and we think that’s supposed to be sometime this year…but they’ve been saying that for a while now soooo…

7. I am a total sucker for hand screened LP sleeves and lyric sheets. I love the way your album turned out visually. It looks like a lot of work went into putting it together. Strictly art-work wise, can you give me some insight into the production process? Who did what? How long did it take?
We recorded the album in Nov. 2010 with Phil Douglas from Latterman/Iron Chic, and decided that we wanted to self-release it as an LP. When we were visualizing the artwork and cover design, we wanted to include an image that had meant something to us as a band, even if just as a private kind of joke. The chandelier that’s pictured had been hanging in the basement that we practiced in at the time, and we had always dragged it along to shows as mood lighting or whatever. It became kind of a “good luck” symbol for us after a while. Anyway, we used an image of it as the cover because of that. Most of the band has roots in the 90’s DIY hardcore scene, which was very oriented towards handmade covers for albums and screen-printed stuff, etc. As a band, we really wanted to touch on that with this LP, so our design for the covers and insert incorporates all of those kinds of influences. Jay did most of the work for the cover and insert, and he screen-prints all of the covers by hand, so it’s pretty labor intensive…at least for him (sucker…ha!).

8. Any bands from NY that are blowing your minds right now? Any bands that you have played with from elsewhere that you have been overly impressed with?
There are so many good bands in NYC and the surrounding area…it’s kind of overwhelming. Right now we’ve been loving what Hull is doing, and Tombs and Crazy Spirit. Fellow Project and Iron Chic from Long Island. Ashes Forever, who have been really supportive of us as far as putting us on shows. We played a house show last spring with Why the Wires from Ithaca, NY and they were amazing!

9. Lyrically, you guys seem to center around the personally political. Who writes the bulk of the lyrics?
It started out with all of us contributing lyrics here and there, but at this point Jay writes the majority of the lyrics, with Bryan taking songs here and there.

10. Pertaining to the lyrics, they seem to lean more towards the cryptic side of things. Was that something you tried to do intentionally from the onset or did it just happen organically when the band started writing songs together?
That’s just Jay’s style. He likes to keep things open to interpretation and to let the listeners form their own conclusions. Bryan’s lyrics are more overtly political, but still leave a lot open to interpretation. The point is not the lead people into interpretation but let them form their own ideas about things.

11. What do you all do for a living? Do your jobs ever get in the way of the band either  personally or ideologically?
First off, fuck work; personally and ideologically. OK…so, Jay and Bryan both work in the service industry, Sean is a social worker, and Malav is a student and adjunct professor at City University of New York. At this point none of our “real” jobs are getting in the way of things, but it’s been an issue in the past as far as our availability to accept the shows we’re offered. It might make touring harder to do, but not impossible. It always sucks when you have to turn shit down because ya gotta work. FUCK WORK!!! Its funny, one or more of us will usually be coming to practice or a show straight from work, but no matter how tired of work we are, its always really energizing to jump around and play loud music. That’s why we do it. Certainly not to quit our day (and night) jobs.

12. Any touring plans in the near (or far) future?
Ha! Yeah, many many “plans”, but nothing we’ve really followed through with yet. We’d love to tour at some point though. How big is your couch?

13. When I listen to the record, it elicits a wide range of feelings and emotions from me. I hear bits and pieces of all my favorite sounds busting forth from my speakers. Can you talk a little about the bands that influence you most to make the music that you do?
As a band we’re all really influenced by the 90’s punk and hardcore scene. Like all the stuff that came out on Ebullition, Gravity, and Dischord, and later on with labels like Level-plane and Clean Plate. Tragedy/His Hero Is Gone, Unwound, Hot Water Music, Four Hundred Years, Refused, Yaphet Kotto, City of Caterpillar, Envy, One Eyed God Prophecy…all that. It all ends up in there at some point!

14. Tell me a little about the song writing process? How long did it take to complete the full length?
We try to keep the writing process as organic as it can be. What we mean is that someone will come in with a riff or two and we’ll jam on it until we have a finished song. That way every band member’s influences and artistic input are channeled as evenly as possible. Occasionally someone does come in with a finished song in and of itself. It’s cool when that happens, but it’s rare at this point. As a band, we’d much rather let the writing process flow naturally during practice than just learn specific parts that someone wrote for us.

15. Thank you so much for taking time out to answer these questions. Would you like to add anything else before we part ways?
FUCK WORK!!! For serious. Listen to Born Against. Eat a sandwich. Organize!

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