Zero Boys at The Bishop 3/10/10 + Paul Mahern Interview

Originally published on The Live Buzz, 20 March, 2010

Zero Boys and Medusa 3-10-10 (5 of 6)

Well I finally had some time to sit down and write after Pit Stop and spring break, so here is what I did last week! Day 5 of the Pit Stop Music Marathon featured Slam Dunk, Medusa, and Zero Boys. I talked with the Zero Boys lead singer Paul Mahern before the concert, then witnessed the insanity myself.

So you guys have played shows on and off for a few years, like you played Dudefest in Indianapolis this summer. What’s it like playing shows again with songs you’ve had for almost 30 years?

It’s a lot of fun, it’s funny and odd, playing old songs, but it’s really great to see people responding to them the way that they do. I don’t really feel like those songs are coming from me anymore, but a lot of people that come to those shows own those songs as much as we do.

What kind of material do you guys play? Is it all from Vicious Circle or do you do covers?

Well tonight were playing and we will open the show with five new songs, songs that will eventually be on our new record that will come out sometime next year, if not the end of this year. And then we will probably play Vicious Circle in its entirety, and then we’ll probably end with a couple of covers or something. We can pretty much play everything off of Vicious Circle, but we’ve been playing new material as well.

I was looking at pictures from some of your recent shows and it seems like you have a nice mix of younger and older fans. Why do you think your music translates so well to the younger people today?

Well the music comes from [garbled] maybe 18 when we recorded and wrote those songs and it was a very youthful record. So when people are listening to Vicious Circle, it’s a record that’s really aimed at that teenage energy and then the older fans, the people who remember the record when they came out. So it’s not uncommon to see parents and see children at our shows.

Do you keep up with punk music now? What are some of your favorite bands today?

I don’t keep up that much with punk music right now. Every once in a while something will come across my desk that I think will do it. I’m a real classic punk fan. I’m a huge fan of the [Sex] Pistols, The Clash, The Damned and the Ramones and bands that had great melodic songs. Real serious song writing chops and it wasn’t just about aggression or attitude, but it was how you can take a Sex Pistols song and break it down in a different way and see that it’s a really well put-together song, and I’m not saying that there aren’t bands that are doing that now. You know I’m a huge Rancid fan, I think that they make great records and they make it in that tradition that it’s not a punk record, it just happens to be a record full of great songs. So I’m really open to finding more stuff like that. I’m not into metal. I’m not into like ’85-’86 American hardcore, where it’s just fast and screamy. I’m not personally a Black Flag fan. I am a Misfits fan. The Misfits were an amazing band with amazing songs and a great singer. Black Flag was great for a while, but when Henry joined the band it was a great experience, it’s just not something I would listen to.

You guys were a lot poppier in terms of sound than a lot of bands around. Did you get a lot of flak when you played with the hardcore bands?

Yeah I think the people didn’t really get it. We were pretty isolated and we were punk fans and we grew up in the Midwest on rock radio in the ‘70s, and so we have a lot of melodic elements in what were doing and I think that we played with bands who were more hardcore bands and they threw us to the side because we had songs with melody.

It seems that the musicianship on Vicious Circle is above a lot of punk music at the time. For example, I love the solo on “Drug Free Youth.” Did you guys ever feel restricted by the punk scene?

No, not at all. I think that first of all just talking about the musicianship on that record, I was maybe 17, 18 years old when that record was made but everyone else was in their 20s and they had all been in other bands since they were in their early teens. [David] “Tufty” [Clough] had played in funk bands and Terry [Howe] had been writing songs and putting out records since he was 13 years old. [Mark] Cutsinger had been in New York and worked with producers out there. So they were all very serious musicians, so it’s kind of a neat trick because you have a young singer who doesn’t really have the chops and doesn’t really know what he’s doing but he has a lot of attitude. He’s got these guys backing him who can really play their asses off. And as far as being restricted the thing that was great about the early American hardcore scene or the late American punk scene was that landscape of the Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Hüsker Dü, The Minutemen, Circle Jerks, all these bands had their own take on it. It wasn’t until the second wave of bands until they kind of started sounding the same. As long as it was fast and aggressive we felt like we could do whatever we wanted. We never expected that we would make any money because even the biggest bands, the Dead Kennedys were probably the biggest selling band, and they all had day jobs. So we weren’t trying to make money, we weren’t trying to do anything but have a good time so when you’re in that space you’re only doing what you want to do, so no I don’t feel like we ever felt constricted.

What are you producing now?

Well I’ve been doing a lot of Mellencamp work. I just worked on this last record which was made in a very minimal way in several remote locations. We did part of it at Sun Studios and part of it in a church in Savannah, [Georgia] all with one microphone and onto a tape machine that was from 1955. I do a lot of mixing for independent records and that’s constantly busy work.

How did the reissues on Secretly Canadian come about since they’re not really a punk label?

Yeah, it was interesting. We all live here in the same town and see each other from time to time. Chris [Swanson] just approached me one day and said, hey we’d like to do this. I think that the reason they wanted to do it was because of the Indiana perspective, and they really liked that record, and they were really excited about being able to release stuff that hadn’t been properly released. There were a lot of punk distributors and mail order systems that they were not yet dealing with, so they had to put in some extra work to properly promote this record and get in through the right distribution channels, but they were able to give us a kind of press that we never would have gotten on a punk label. So we got reviewed in magazines in England and stuff that had it come out on any other label we wouldn’t have gotten those reviews. I think it made people see the record in a different light.

I actually heard that you’re into yoga now, how did you get into that?

I started doing yoga probably about 10 years ago and then got really serious with my yoga practice probably about 7 years ago and its just great. I got into it as stress relief from my job and then I’ve just kinda gotten deeper into meditation and yoga. It’s just a way of life and I feel like it keeps me feeling vital and young and flexible and my mind clear.

How do you think the punk part and the yoga part of your life coexist with each other?

Well yoga just really about connecting with the highest aspect of yourself, so if I were not naturally into aggressive punk rock music, if it wasn’t really my calling and I started doing yoga, then maybe I would have stopped listening to it. But yoga doesn’t change you, it just makes you more who you are and its about connecting with who you really are, and in the end I just love fast, melodic, aggressive music. Yoga hasn’t changed my sense of humor, I still think the same things are funny. I like the same kind of music, I just have more life force. I get up earlier in the morning and I have more energy, but I think a lot of people associate yoga with a new age mentality and new age music and that’s not what its about. It’s just about being who you are at the highest levels. For instance, the kind of yoga I do is called Kundalini yoga, and its really about transforming life force and utilizing all the energy that’s coming in from that universal consciousness. When I think about Kundalini yoga and Kundalini energy, I think about The Stooges and Iggy Pop and how he’s just that livewire, that ball of energy, that intensity, and that’s the same feeling that I get from yoga.

I read somewhere that you thought Chuck D [from Public Enemy] was one of your favorite producers. Just talking about yoga, I’m wondering how you have much wider interests than say, Henry Rollins, or someone who hasn’t really branched out from punk. How do you think that happened? I know a lot of people who were into the punk scene wouldn’t really listen to hip hop.

Well, that’s not the case with Henry Rollins. He’s a huge Public Enemy fan. I’m not into all hip hop music. I’m into It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back. It’s one of the top five records ever made. It reinvents how a record is made, and those are the records that are not even playing in the same game as most records. And so that’s what appeals to me about it. It’s not the style, it’s where it’s coming from and the messages that it’s carrying. I’ve always been into whatever I’m into. Everybody has their own taste and my taste did not follow a particular line. I don’t consider myself a punk, I don’t consider myself a hip hop fan, I consider myself a person that has a certain taste that happens to think certain things are interesting. I’ve never been a follower of any particular fashion or any particular scene.

I read in old Maximum Rock’n’Roll interview that you stayed in the Midwest because you said the scene felt real and because there was a closeness among the people who went to shows. Do you think that the Midwest realness still exists?

Yeah, I think so. I think about that in every aspect of life. There’s something that appeals to me about seeing the same people over and over again, and working on my relationships with the people around me, and being able to go deep into the relationships with the people around me. I think that traveling is great, and I think people moving to different places is great. There’s something about having long-term relationships with people where you can keep growing and keep mirroring for each other that feels really real for me in this lifetime.

Except for me wrongly accusing Henry Rollins, the interview went great. The show was even better. I got to The Bishop during Medusa‘s set, which was heavy and full of doom. Just as I leaned in to remark to fellow Livebuzzer Katie how I thought it was odd that singer Scott Van Buren still had his shirt on, he tossed it aside.

Zero Boys and Medusa 3-10-10 (1 of 6)

This was my second time seeing Medusa, and this time was even better than the first. I bought En Raga Sül a while back, and I’m not sure if it’s metal or punk or hardcore, but it doesn’t matter, it rocks.

I was in the front row to see the Zero Boys, which it turns out, wasn’t the best place for a photographer to be. As promised, the set started out with some new songs, which didn’t quite have the intensity of the old ones, but were still good in their own respect.

Zero Boys and Medusa 3-10-10 (4 of 6)

As soon as they started playing “Vicious Circle” the room exploded and everybody went insane behind me. I was pushed and pulled, beer was spilled, and luckily I escaped with little damage to my camera. Surviving a mosh pit is much easier without expensive equipment. The old songs were great and everybody was going insane and crowd-surfing as they played the entire album. Here’s “Hightime” –

They finished the set with some covers, including Pink Floyd’s “Arnold Layne,” which was on the weirder side of choices for punk covers. They may be getting old, but they still bring it.

Bonus video! Zero Boys playing “Forced Entry” –

-David Ray

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~ by masterodisaster on March 20, 2010.

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