What makes for a great interview? For Yours Truly I know I’ve got something special when I’m alone in front of my computer, transcribing the conversation and find myself unable to stop cracking up. Oh, and when someone passes out on the barroom floor après interview doesn’t hurt the cause either. Okay, maybe these standards just hold true for me because I’m clinically insane... In any case, all this and more occurred when 'LFR' caught up with killer NYC punks BLACKOUT SHOPPERS.
Let’s set the scene of this interview: the foursome, their "chauffer," and I are sitting in some NYC restaurant/bar one late April evening just shooing the shit, waiting for the lovely Joyce, the "beer wench," to bring us our poison of choice. (Poor, dear Joyce...). But then, once the tape recorder starts rolling, it’s all business - albeit psychotic - as bassist Blackout Matt puts on his obligatory ski mask. It’s not like this conversation will be seen by anyone. Still, the man has to get into full BLACKOUT SHOPPERS mode. The other fellows - vocalist Seth Amphetamines, guitarist Mike Moosehead, and drummer Joey Methadone - were just as entertaining. Ooh, and they mentioned they’d be recording a full-length this year (having previously released the manic, four-song EP "Smash & Grab"). Sweet!
I SHOULD’VE BROUGHT MY CAMERA. I WANTED TO ASK WHY THE MASK?
MATT: Well, it started as a tribute, an homage to HeWhoCannotBeNamed of THE DWARVES. DWARVES being one of my favorite bands. And of course HeWhoCannotBeNamed being a great - not just punk rock icon but rock 'n' roll icon in my opinion. One of the best stage personalities you’ll ever see. So it was my homage [to him]. Our very first show I wore a ski mask for three songs, took it off, and our friend Dave Wasted from THE CYCLONES came up to me and said, "It was great, but you can't take off the mask. You gotta wear it the whole time or don’t wear it at all." So since then I’ve always worn a mask, and at this point I’ve invested too much into it to not do it anymore.
I REMEMBER ONE OF YOUR SHOWS AT TRASH BAR(BROOLYN), YOU HAD A PIG MASK THAT WAS PRETTY COOL.
MATT: I experiment will all different kinds of masks. The ski mask was better because it has the highest visibility and the most functionality and is the most comfortable, and you can just put a spare one in your back pocket easily. Yeah, I have a variety of them but lately I've been just sorta sticking with the traditional ski mask. I initially purchased the pig mask after I was arrested for the first time for taping our fliers on light posts. I'm not really a police-hating leftist or anything like that, although I think I'm somewhat critical and distrusting of all authority, but after being arrested for such a silly thing I voiced my displeasure by wearing the pig mask with a police hat.
SETH: He had a wolf for a while.
MATT: The big bad wolf mask.
JOEY: The Satan mask is my favorite.
MATT: That's very formfitting, but very uncomfortable. All the plastic ones are very uncomfortable and hard to breathe through and see through. This is much more breathable and I can see much better. And I can drink through it [Laughter as he takes a sip to exhibit drinkability factor].
I'LL PUT IN PARENTHESES 'USES THE STRAW'...[LAUGHTER] WAIT, DO YOU GUYS EVER PLAY ON HALLOWEEN? DO YOU GO UNMASKED ON HALLOWEEN?!
MATT: No, I don't know if BLACKOUT SHOPPERS ever played a show on Halloween.
JOEY: We did a MISFITS cover band on Halloween. And he wore the same devil mask for that. But I don't think BLACKOUT SHOPPERS ever played a Halloween show.
SETH: Actually we have not.
JOEY: I'd like to stick with the MISFITS cover band for Halloween. Definitely.
ANYTHING FROM "EARTH A.D.?"
JOEY: Uhhh...No. I don't think we play anything from "Earth A.D."
MATT: The MISFITS cover band is called GREEN HELL, although we never actually play Green Hell.
SETH: Or anything from that album. And we never will.
MATT: We always say we should learn that song but we never get around to it.
SETH: Also, I always thought[about us] that I love that I've seen the DWARVES and I love the band and Matt's doing the homage[with the ski mask]. But I also think it kinda goes with if you wanna loosely connect it to BLACKOUT SHOPPERS, you can do that.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN?
SETH: If you wanted to take the band literally, like, alright it's just a group of bandits. I dunno. You can take it or leave it.
[LAUGHTER] WE'RE AT THIS HIGH SOCIETY RESTAURANT[WELL MAYBE NOT] I LOVE IT.
SETH: Actually we gotta do the BLUES BROTHERS thing...
WOW EVERBODY ELSE IN HERE IS JUST IGNORING US. THAT'S GREAT.
[Joyce comes by to get us more drinks. She takes issue with Mat's headgear, saying something along the lines of "I'm not comfortable with that."]
MATT: Oh, sorry we're doing an interview here. This is our band. Please don't be alarmed.
WHEN DID YOU ALL ACTUALLY GET TOGETHER?
MATT: We started in early-2004 and had our first show in July of 2004. Thanks to LADY UNLUCK.
SETH: And IT'S (JUST) BLOOD BABY, actually.
JOEY: I was in another band and the band broke up. I was playing in BLACKOUT SHOPPERS and my other band at the time and the band broke up that day.
SETH: It was the record release party for that other band. [Laughter]
JOEY: The guitar player and the bass player owed each other money so they were fighting over who is gonna pay who, they both said "fuck you" and left each other. So I'm standing there and thought, let me call Matt and see if this band wants to play. I think we were only together two weeks? Three weeks?
SETH: You had played three practices with us.
JOEY: And LADY UNLUCK booked a show with us[IT'S JUST BLOOD] and the MIDNIGHT CREEPS and overall I think it turned out pretty well.
MATT: And MONSTER SQUAD and CROPKNOX.
JOEY: That show is still up on our website.
OH, THAT SHOW WASN'T AT CB'S, WAS IT?
SETH: It was.
JOEY: Yeah, our first show was at CB's on a Friday night.
SETH: We played for all of 15 minutes. We played all the songs we knew, including a cover. We did two covers.
YEAH, CROPKNOX. DAMN I THINK I WAS AT THAT SHOW.[LAUGHTER]
SETH: We were the first band on.
JOEY: It was a good time.
SETH: It just goes down in history there. I got in the band because we had another guitar player before Mike, this guy Bruce[aka Richard Move]. He was in an Alternative Tentacles band called BUZZKILL from back in the '90s, and my old band DAISYCUTTER used to play with his band in the early/mid-'90s. I started hanging out with him at this bar and we both had been wanting to start a band together and just never got around to it. And one day he called me up because he had answered Matt's ad for this band. Bruce actually played a few shows with us before he ended up leaving and Mike joined. Mike's also been in several bands.
I WANTED TO KNOW WHO CAME UP WITH THE RAUNCHY TAGLINE?["THE BAND THAT FUCKED YOUR MOTHER"]
MATT: That was me. I really jut wanted something raunchy and smart-alecky I guess and that seemed to fit.
THEN ALSO YOU [JOEY] HAD A HAND IN THE [NY SHITTY PUNK ROCK] COMPILATION...
JOEY: Me and Shun from THE STACKERS were working on the compilation. We came up with the idea on New Year's Eve of 2004, so it's been a year-and-a-half in the making and it took a lot of time and work to get all the bands to get their shit together. Twenty bands, so yeah we finally got it done.
SETH: I think it's a good cross section of the fact that punk is still going on in NYC. I actually think it went through a period where it was like there were a couple of bands that stood out, but I don't think it's as good as it is now.
JOEY: There are bands and a lot of them were unrepresented, even from themselves and we just wanted to make it more of a sense of unity - that there is still unity in NYC punk rock. And no one else wanted to get off their asses and do it themselves, so if two knuckleheads like me and Shun can do it than anyone can. It is possible, it just takes some effort.
SETH: So you gotta want to do it.
JOEY: And there is unity between the bands. These bands, they're in some way or another interconnected with each other. Either friendship-wise or...
SETH: We all get on each other's shows, especially if someone's having a big bill or something like that. Like that MURPHY'S LAW show we played, where we're like oh we're really tight with WORLD WAR IX, let's get them on. And that FREEZE show we ended u p getting, automatically we're like we want local bands and we ended up getting HYMEN HOLOCAUST. We love those dudes. But that's how it works, we get asked to be on shows too. That NIHILISTICS show[at Trash Bar], WWIX got us on.
SETH: Yeah, SHINING PATH. We got asked to do it and that was actually the first time we played with WWIX.
JOEY: The bottom line is: you support your scene and the scene will support you. And it's a simple equation that's been around since the beginning of punk rock and it's as simple as that.
BUT ALSO, YOU GUYS PUT KIND OF A NEW SONG ON THAT[COMPLILATION].
SETH: [Laughs] We have a lot of stuff to be recorded. But we've got a couple of compilations we're gonna be doing. We're hopefully gonna be doing a split with WWIX. We're supposed to also be on this Terramoto Records thing with THE QUEERS, THE BASICKS, ELECTRIC FRANKENSTEIN, DWARVES and others. THE BASICKS have Terramoto Records. They're putting together a huge compilation. The song on that hasn't been recorded yet. We try to put all of our stuff online - I mean, MySpace has been good for us in terms of connecting with other bands, getting people to listen to our music. I also think we have a really great website. Mike is a great webmaster - you can download all of our music for free all the time. The new song [from the compilation] is up there. Hopefully we'll keep that tradition going. We have live music. That first show at CB's actually ended up coming out so well we just put it up on the site. Anyone can download it. I mean, we have CDs, it's nice to have. But everything on those is on our website.
I WANTED TO KNOW IF YOU GUYS HAVE PLAYED OUT OF STATE, ROAD TRIPS?
SETH: We've been to Baltimore, we've been to Philly, Jersey, and we've had a couple of stops in Mass. - Boston and this place just outside of Providence.
DID YOU PLAY WITH MIDNIGHT CREEPS THERE?
SETH: No. We would've loved to play with them again.
MATT: We haven't played with them since our first show but we know a band up in the Boston area really well called SUZUKI SMITH.
SETH: And not that we got THE FREEZE to come down here, hopefully we'll get something good up there if we want it.
MATT: We definitely like traveling as much as we can. It's difficult to organize, but we've always had a good time when we've gone out.
SETH: In August we got asked to go up to Toronto, but I don't know what's gonna happen with that.
YOU GUYS SHOULD PLAY LONG ISLAND. [LAUGHS]
SETH: We have some fans in Long Island.
JOEY: We played on show at Almost Home [in West Islip]. I grew up out there, so as much time I can spend off Long Island...
SETH: Maybe we'd have to get TWO MAN [ADVANTAGE] to play with us.
MATT: We have too many fans who want us to play LI for us not to. So we'll definitely be playing more shows out there.
THAT WOULD BE GREAT IF YOU PLAYED WITH TWO MAN
SETH: LAST CALL BRAWL also want us to play out there.
THOSE ARE GOOD GUYS
SETH: Bring the family! [Laughs]
MATT: The one show we played out in LI, Joe's brother came to see us.
SETH: That was nice.
JOEY: He liked the TWISTED SISTER song, actually.
ALL: "I Wanna Rock."
SETH: We actually started out just playing cover tunes. Matt had a good cache of original songs that he wanted to play, but when I first started coming in it was like, "Hey, do you know these cover tunes?" I'm like, "Yeah, I know 'em." So as the band evolved, we always had this thing where we're all gonna just continually suggest cover tunes.
JOEY: When I joined the band, me and Matt were emailing each other. I said, "I'll only play with you if you know at least five MISFITS songs.
SETH: We're like, "Yeah, we do."
JOEY: And I'm like, "Alright, I'll come and play."
SETH: We've all suggested different songs. We've actually done a DESCENDENTS song too.
ARE MISFITS A UNIFYING BAND FOR YOU GUYS?
SETH: How can't they be?
MATT: All kinds of punk bands really - MISFITS being one of them.
SETH: BLACK FLAG, RAMONES.
JOEY: Even in the metal spectrum, me and Mike, we have a huge metal background. ANTHRAX, SLAYER, IRON MAIDEN, and all that good stuff from the '80s. And it comes out in the music and I love that. Gotta have a little metal edge in there 'cause that's what I grew up listening to. I know Mike did too.
A LITTLE ACCEPT?
SETH: [Udo Dirkschneider(!) voiced] "Get your balls to the wall!"
JOEY: "Balls to the wall!" [Madness ensues, inevitably].
ACCEPT TRIBUTE. [LAUGHTER]
SETH: Yeah, we're working on that....Everything except ACCEPT.
OH! THAT'S NO GOOD
SETH: We do the classic [punk] stuff, I mean we're all unified by BLACK FLAG.
JOEY: DEAD KENNEDYS, S.O.D.
SETH: I convinced these guys to do FANG 'cause they're one of my favorites. We actually got to play with them. I was all over Sammy. That was a wonderful show. It was quite an experience. I was like, I can't believe we're fucking playing with them. We do one of their songs, we do RAMONES, we do S.O.D., BLACK FLAG, several MISFITS songs, DEAD KENNEDYS...I like to think we just hearken back to THAT. If anyone thinks, oh we're ripping off all these old bands, you know, thank you!
WELL, I LIKE WHEN BANDS GO BACK
JOEY: Roots. It's like what we all grew up on and listened to. That's all I still listen to.
SETH: It's all stuff that still has feeling and energy.
JOEY: That's all I care about and that's all I wanna play.
MATT: The songs we cover are songs that have stood the test of time.
SETH: We don't wanna bust out something where everybody's gonna go, "huh?"
YOU BRING YOUR OWN THING TO IT, BUT STILL KEEP IT ROOTED IN THE OLD STUFF.
SETH: I love that every show we do we are gonna do a cover tune of some kind. Yeah, people are starting to know our songs and it's nice when people are up front screaming our stuff. But you can't always expect that. You bust out things that people know. And especially if it's some younger kids or maybe they've only heard a couple of BLACK FLAG songs or only know some the newer MISFITS stuff...
SETH: Yeah, lest we not...But like the DEAD KENNEDYS song we do. I can't wait to bust that out.
WHICH SONG? CAN YOU REVEAL?
SETH: "Moral Majority." To me, personally, one of my first punk bands I ever heard was DKs, the 'In God We Trust, Inc.' EP. That just blew the back of my head open. I was barely 16; I was forever changed. That and also seeing BAD BRAINS for the first time [in '86]. BAD BRAINS and DR. KNOW. So I love we decided to do that [DKs song]. We were considering 'Police Truck.'
MATT: We considered that, but definitely the 'In God We Trust' album.
YOU GUYS SHOULD HAVE DONE "WE'VE GOT A BIGGER PROBLEM NOW." A LITTLE LOUNGE MUSIC.
SETH: "Happy hour is now enforced by law."
IF I MAY, SO MANY BANDS IT SEEMS TAKE THEMSELVES TOO SERIOUSLY...AND IT KINDA MAKES ME SICK. YOU CAN TELL YOU GUYS ARE HAVING FUN WITH THE MUSIC. YOUR LIVE SHOWS...
SETH: No one's taken a swing at me yet, so...[Laughs]
MATT: Can you really look at us and take us very seriously? [Uncontrolled laughter] That's one thing I'm not afraid of with this band: being taken too seriously.
JOEY: As long as you remember what you're doing, why you're doing it.
SETH: Remember, we're a fuckin' band; we're not trying to change the world.
JOEY: You're playing punk rock songs and you're having fun.
SETH: Sometimes you get 10 dollars to do it.
MATT: If we're lucky we get 10 dollars to do it.
JOEY: And there are times we don't, you're right.
ANY CLOSING WORDS? ANYTHING PHILOSOPHICAL...
JOEY: If I can repeat myself and say once again: support your scene and the scene will support you. I think that's the most important thing I can say.
SETH: We love your mom.
NO, I THINK IT'S RAUNCHIER THAN THAT.
MATT: We're going to fuck your mother, but don't take it personally. [Laughter]