INTERVIEW: Black Halos
All Out RAWK! (Sub Pop)
By: Alex Steininger
Sub Pop's loud, obnoxious rock 'n' roll act The Black Halos, one of the few bands preserving the history of Sub Pop's rock legacy, speak about their disappointment with Sub Pop, their unpredictable live shows, what the rock is all about, and their next record.
IMWT: Sometimes rock bands like yourself get pigeonholed as one trick ponies, bands that can only one type of song - fast, furious, drenched-in-sweat rock. What do you have to say to people who make these accusations about the Black Halos?
Black Halos: Well I think that there ARE a lot of bands like that playing the kind of music that we play. It's real easy to get caught up in the hook-less world of riff-rock, but I think if you listen to either one of our albums you'll see there's more to us than that. We write songs and we always try to push ourselves to have some variety in what we do.
IMWT: Do you see the band as always doing the shin-splitting rock with loads of guitars or do you foresee the and expanding, using acoustic guitars, strings, and falling prey to what others call a more "mature" sound?
Black Halos: Well we try not to put any boundaries on what we'll try, but the "mature sound" thing is usually a cop-out for having no ideas left. It's such a cliche to pull out the acoustic guitars and computerized symphony orchestra on your 2nd or 3rd album. I have no problem with that stuff if it's used as a compliment to songs and ideas that are already there, but too often it's just window dressing on shitty ideas. Besides, our next album is gonna be a rock opera double concept album, hahaha!
IMWT: You have put out two full-lengths on Sub Pop. How do you think each album is similar and how do you think each album stands out from each other?
Black Halos: Well I think the second album is WAY more indicative of how the band sounds live. We had a little more time to do that record and I'm a lot more proud of it. The first album is a good indication of where we were at at the time, although because we recorded and mixed it in 6 days it didn't really come out how I would have liked. But I'm proud of 'em both.
IMWT: Sub Pop's been long known for their rock, but has moved away from the rock at times during its history. Do you feel you help keep it to its rock guns?
Black Halos: We constantly beat our heads against the wall trying to get them to stick to their rock guns but I think those days are coming to an end at Sub Pop to be honest. They had some great rock bands about a year ago and they blew it. Oh well, maybe they can re-sign Mudhoney, haha!
IMWT: Violent Years is your latest full-length. Once again, it1s a powerhouse rock album. When you went in to record it, what was the band's mindset?
Black Halos: We went into a fancy-schmancy studio and recorded it as live as possible. All of the bed tracks were done live off the floor in 2 days to capture more of the live energy that can go missing in a lot of records. We wanted to make sure that there was nothing stale about the record so we kept a lot of takes that weren't perfect if they had the right energy. No computers, no bullshit, just good raw takes!
IMWT: How does the band go about writing songs? Get drunk, jam away, and then put words to music, or does someone come in with a riff - or a skeleton song - and build it from there?
Black Halos: It's generally Billy and me that do the bulk of it. I write the music, he writes the lyrics and then we fine-tune the melodies together. The arrangements come together in rehearsal where everyone throws in their ideas and we shape things into the songs that you all know and love!
IMWT: Is there anything on the Violent Years you're overly proud of, something you never thought you'd be able to accomplish on record but pulled off this time around?
Black Halos: Well, I'm just happy to have made a cool, varied rock 'n' roll record that doesn't bow down to a lot of the cliches of the genre. The next record is where we'll try to pull out the strings and children's gospel choir so we'll have to wait and see what kind of a mess that turns into.
IMWT: Anything that you're uncomfortable or unhappy with on Violent Years?
Black Halos: Weak PR!
IMWT: How does your live show compare to the record?
Black Halos: More sweat and blood. I'm generally more drunk on stage than I was in the studio and we play everything too fast. There's also the chance of being snotted on by Billy at the live show which isn't gonna happen when you listen to the LP.
IMWT: If someone were to hear your record and not enjoy it but would love your live show, what would you tell them to get out to the live show?
Black Halos: Billy might take off his pants/leave his pants on.
IMWT: On the flip side, if you had a bad night and the show wasn't that well, but you think someone would love your album, what would you tell them to give the album a chance?
Black Halos: Billy won't take off his pants.
IMWT: What can we expect in 2002 from the Black Halos?
Black Halos: A new album, more touring. Followed by a bunch of touring which will come right before we tour a whole bunch. I'll end the year outrageously wealthy and alienate all of my friends and colleagues. No interviews! No photos! I'll become a reclusive enigma like Michael Jackson or Axl Rose!
IMWT: What will your next album sound like? Is there an E.T.A. on it?
Black Halos: Hopefully next summer. We're just starting to write it now so who knows how it's gonna sound?! I'm pretty sure we'll stick with our groundbreaking guitar/bass/drums/vocals loud rock sound though!