Interview with Terrence D.H. of Magstatic (former Sub Pop Band) (Magstatic e-mail address)
By: Jeb Branin
This is not my first interview with a member of Magstatic and with any luck it won't be my last. While everyone from major label executives to ex-members of the Dead Kennedys are trying to water down independent rock into something lacking any integrity whatsoever, a band like Magstatic reaffirms my faith in this music. Magstatic are pop, they are emo, they are rock 'n' roll, they are punk... but most importantly the are genuine, passionate and make the music they want not because of trends but in spite of them. Frontman Terrence D.H. has been melding pop infection, emotional expression and punk integrity ever since his days in Salt Lake City's seminal punk gods The Stench... long before that music was accepted by the mainstream and he continues to get better and better...
CM: The first question seems obvious. The latest CD "Wrist Rockets & Roller Coasters" is more stripped down and cranked up than anything Magstatic has done previously, especially the first few songs. Are you rediscovering your "angry young punk" angst?
D.H.: No I'm not pissed, I have been listening to a lot of my older punk records and I really wanted to do something a little different. I wanted this record to be louder and faster than the previous things we have done.
CM: Songs like "Wrist Rocket" and "Promise" are inevitably going to raise comparisons to your fist band The Stench. Does that annoy you? Would you rather leave the past behind?
D.H.: I'm totally proud of The Stench. To me these are songs that The Stench would be playing now. I have been playing with the idea of getting The Stench back together.
CM: Really? Are you thinking of being a fully functional band or just maybe doing a "reunion" gig or two?
D.H.: Well Joe is moving to Seattle pretty soon to become famous so Pat Stench may be doing some drumming duties, so there is The Stench (Laughs). We'll have to see what happens. Geoff Stench lives in park city sooooo...
CM: Then there are the last two songs on the CD... "Girl" seems to be a quirky nod to early 80s New Wave and "Comeback" might be some Kraftwerk worship... am I up in the night?
D.H.: They are certainly fun little ditties. Both "Girl" and "Comeback" were just funny ditties we wanted to include. Nothing more than that. I think they are both pretty funny.
CM: Your lyrics have always been, even in The Stench days, emotionally searing and personally expressive. In my mind they are as much your trademark as your voice. Do you ever feel, I don't know, vulnerable because your lyrics explore so deeply how you think and feel?
D.H.: I don't mean them to be so emotional it just what always happens when I write. I usually don't even have an idea of what I'm going to write about when I start a song it just kind of comes out. It's weird. Then it all comes together at the end and seems to make a statement of some sort of sense. I must be possessed.
CM: Your lyrics are usually pretty esoteric so I assume people have often misunderstood what you were trying to say. Does it bother you when that happens?
D.H.: At this point in my life I could care less what people think. I am disappointed in the American ways and people in my community. Every damn day cars are killing us. Noone walks anywhere anymore. Everyone's unhealthy and unhappy. Fat and sick. Wow this sounds awful. I love the mountains and the west desert otherwise I'd high tail it outta Dodge. Oh and Uinta beer.
CM: Your lyrics have also tied you in many people's minds to the emo scene. Do you feel like you fit in there?
D.H.: I'm not sure how I feel about it. When I listen to the "Emo Diaries" comp we did I don't think we sound anything like any other of the bands. We are somewhat emotional I guess and we really play from the heart. I guess that is where we fit in. We are not trying to be a part of that scene at all but I do love Rites Of Spring and I've heard they are the grandfathers of that sound so...
CM: I was able to catch the first ever Magstatic show a few years back. I don't know if you remember the gig but you were playing in a movie theatre and you said something that night that got me thinking... you said "It is really hard to play for you people when you are just sitting there watching us like we are a movie." It made me think about how much punk rock relies on the idea of community, everyone contributing, including the crowd. Is that something that you find appealing about the kind of music you play?
D.H.: I have been thinking about this a lot lately. The shows here in town have gotten worse. Everyone is so bored at the show. Everyone just stands there and stares. It sucks. You need to like spit fire or something to wake people up. Noone has fun any more. It's super frustrating for a band. It makes me wonder why we are still even doing it sometimes. I keep looking back to the days when the shows were a blast and everyone bounced around even if the band was sucking. It just makes it a lot more fun for everyone. There are way too many cool people in this town now. I swear I'm going to make this town pay. (Laughs)
CM: Of course, there is the flip side. I saw you in The Stench hardly able to play or sing because the crowd knew your music so well they would literally take over the stage and the mic. It seemed to me you started playing almost exclusively new songs at Stench gigs to maintain some control over the mic. True? Is that a down side?
D.H.: I love those days. I wish that still happened. The Stench played so many new songs just because we were so tired of playing the older ones. After awhile they just don't sound good any more.
CM: Did having the first Magstatic release come out on Sub Pop records give the band much exposure? Has it helped propel the band's "career"--for lack of a better word?
D.H.: Maybe a little but I think we are still a total nobody in the music world. Who buys 7'' anymore anyway? Except me? We are definitely not making a career out of it. I just had to do a radio spot for UTA (Editor's Note: Utah Transit Authority) for some extra cash. Talk about sell out.
CM: Now that you work in a studio and have so much control over the production and engineering of Magstatic do you feel like you are better able to express what they band is all about?
D.H.: It's all about money. It was a pain to record all the stuff myself but we did it for free. Hopefully next time we will be able to use someone that we trust. I think it's important to get some outside feedback. Otherwise I'm always turning up the guitars too loud (laughs).
CM: What about when you produce other people's music? Do you feel like you're expressing yourself artistically when you do that?
D.H.: Yea totally. I wish more people would ask me to do that. I think I'm quite good at it. Check out the new Erosion cd. It rocks.
CM: I'd like to shift gears to your new solo album "Yard Sale" for a minute... Why was now the right time to release a solo album? I know you've recorded enough material to release solo albums before but never have...
D.H.: The record company actually said it wasn't the right time. I just wanted to do it. It's not selling great but I kinda just did it for myself. I figured if I wait on it I may never put it out. I'm pretty happy about it and I had a hellufa time doing it. Sorry about all the synths. I kept listening to it and was like...humm I think I need a synth part here, maybe one here, hey this could use something wacky here. I've had quite a bit of complaints about those damn synth parts. I love them.
CM: Any significance to the fact you released "Yard Sale" with your own name and didn't use the Daisy Grey moniker?
D.H.: I should have put it out under The Stench so someone would buy it. I just figured no one would get the Daisy thing. It turned out kinda like my r?sum? .
CM: When I ask punk musicians what they savor most about being in a band I inevitably get a response about how "meeting people" and "making friends" is what they value most. I look at the fact you are still working with photographer Rick Egan after all these years and you used Brad Barker, another long time musician friend, to do the graphic design for "Yard Sale" and I wonder if the support of friends like that has a role in your continuing to play punk rock after a decade and a half?
D.H.: Sure. Brad and Rick both Rule and I'm totally addicted to music. I'm doing it a lot for myself also. I just need to do it. It makes me happy. I know its better than a lot of crap out there and I also know its not incredible but it has already paid off in tons of different ways for me. I'll probably have like 30 records out by the time I'm 40 (laughs).
CM: Any last thoughts?
D.H.: Thanks Jeb. It's people like you that keep me going.