|THE ARCHIVE ORGAN INTERVIEW... SNAPCASE - AUTUMN 2002 HOME|
challenging conventional thought and opening the floodgates to positive
self-realization, Snapcase have promoted free thinking through communication
and the unrelenting quest for change for over a decade now. As one of the
most influential bands within the U.S hardcore scene, Snapcase have been
on a dedicated mission to combine intellectual theory with aggressive music.
Since their inception in 1991 Snapcase have consistently evolved, as opposed
to sticking to a fixed musical formula. Their focus has always been on
prioritizing artistic integrity. The new album "End Transmission" is an
intense, artistic, cathartic and progressive hardcore punk rock musical
Throughout Snapcase's pragmatic career they have been revered as one of the most innovative, intelligent and inspirational bands. From their first release on Victory, a 7" single titled "Comatose" (1991), to the scene transforming "Lookinglasself" (1993), the revolutionary "Progression Through Unlearning" (1997) and their millennial document, "Designs for Automotion"(2000), they have continually been involved in affecting the direction of underground music - "End Transmission" is the latest chapter. The album tells the tale of their cerebral, conceptual vision of a futuristic society. Snapcase have built a reputation for composing lyrics exploring themes of self-determination, affirmation and personal challenge. With complex guitar lines, harmonic distortion and relentless rhythms, they create the soundscape of sonic explosion that made them one of hardcore's greatest bands. Snapcase spent well over a year focusing all of their creative energy on "End Transmission", with long hours spent in their Buffalo, NY studio and then the solitude of Salad Days Studios with producer Brian McTernan. Jon Salemi and Frank Vicario's tumultuous guitar hooks and sharp dissonances lull you into a labyrinth of deceptively calculated tempo shifts, while Daryl Taberski's menacingly powerful vocals shoot out their ever provocative lyrics. Snapcase continue to focus on their "hardcore" roots while continuing to deliver their trademark take-no-prisoners live show.
One day, when the sun was out and the edge was straight Shaari Sue needed answers to questions so she jumped on the 23 Routemaster bus and took herself over to a cheap hotel in Paddington for thatís where the man called Daryl Taberski who happened to have answers to some of the questions and who happened to be the Snapcase front man was to be foundÖÖÖ
So what are SNAPCASE up to?
Well, we just recorded a new album, which is why Iíve been flown over here to Europe to do interviews. We played festivals throughout summer and we just got done with a three week Canadian tour. Weíre here doing some press for the new album and hope to be back in the UK playing live in November.
Good, because I see on the message board on your website that people are quite anxious for news of a UK tour.
Wow, thatís great. Yeah, weíre not sure yet which bands weíre going to play with but the tour is all coming together now. Weíll probably bring a band with us but I also hope we have a U.K. band or two along. I hear thereís a healthy scene building up over here again.
What about the new album - do you want to tell us about it seeing as youíve flown all this way to talk?
Well, itís called ĎEnd Transmission,í and itís quite different from our other releases, it still maintains that Snapcase sound thoughÖ..
Can you expand on that?
Well for those who are familiar with our previous records, this one maintains the same energy and identity, but at the same time itís a little darker and Iíd say it has some songs that are a lot slower and a lot more atmospheric. Some of the songs are more rocking though - Itís strange because at the same time itís both heavier and softer than our other albums, itís heavier, itís more aggressive yet softer. There are two kinds of songs on this new album: there are songs that are dark and aggressive, there are others that are atmospheric and slow. The songs that are heavier are a little bit more rockiní than our last album, but the slower ones are definitely the slowest most laidback weíve ever done. Itís our fourth album and we didnít want to repeat ourselves. We felt that we were too safe with our last album. This time we wanted to create an album that was unique not only in terms of Snapcase but in terms of Hardcore.
Is that because youíve reached some kind of conclusion with the last album? I mean when you first start off in a band you aim for a certain point and a certain sound. You could possibly argue that you got to that with the last album. Snapcase have firmly established a sound and an identity. Have you reached a place where itís time to change things to challenge yourselves
Yeah, sure, but not only for our own self-interest but for fans of the band as well. Plus I think there were elements to our sound that were missing in the past and that we wanted to have on this album. We wanted to push the envelope a bit further. The last album was a bit too safe, I think.
Did you think that at the time or in hindsight?
Uhm, no. I remember at the time, working on that album (Designs for Automotion) and having some things like... for instance, we borrowed some analogue keyboards, and some 70ís guitar pedals and we took them in to the studio. I remember coming up with stuff and the drummer at the time saying: ďoh, thatís just too weird for us!Ē and we weíre kind of unhappy and a little uncomfortable and I think we weíre a little afraid to really touch it, we just werenít all in agreement Ė it was uncomfortable On this album we were all in agreement and we all felt comfortable, this time it felt right..
Was that because you had a change in personnel?
No, I guess that was a bit confusing. The same drummer that played on and recorded the last album, played on this new one too. Since then that drummer left the band, in fact, he played his last show with us a couple days ago in Canada.
Was that sad? Or was that a good thing?
Yea, it was very sad because he had been with us for about eight years and our set, even with the new material was really tight with him. We were so happy with the way our live set came together. So to get it Ďthereí with the new drummer is going to be a bit of a challenge, I think our old drummer had just had enough of it all
Where do you find the inspiration to keep playing and touring then? I imagine it must get a little bit boring after a while, especially if you feel like you are being too safe.
Well Snapcase was never a band that had a grand scheme or a high expectation of success. We basically started out just wanting to write music and play live in our local town, and we just wanted to have lots of energy in our music. Weíve always taken small steps in terms of our success - every year and every album has been a couple more steps. Weíve never taken a giant leap, itís been a gradual climb. The climb has been nice, itís kept us well-grounded, weíve never lost our heads over stardom or anything like that. Also, making albums that are different from each other is a big thing, weíre excited about playing this new stuff. We just finished that tour of Canada and that was so great - we looked forward so much to the new songs every single night. I mean they do stand out in the set and it gives the live set a whole new face for us. It brings something to it that was missing, it keeps us and it freshÖ.
Do you feel restricted by the whole ĎHardcoreí label?
Well, you know, weíve always been considered a hardcore band and we did come out of the hardcore scene but weíve never limited ourselves to the hardcore sound or style. A lot of people actually say to us: ďoh well you know, you guys are hardcore, but when I think of your music, I think itís more than that.Ē
There are a lot of positive things associated with the so-called hardcore scene. But in a way it seems very restrictive and itís almost like there are an invisible set of rules imposedÖ Is that why you were afraid to take on things like the analogue keyboards , is that why you puled back on Designs For Automotion ?
At that time we were. But the funny thing is that we donít even use the keyboards in the standard way. We use them more for background and segue ways. Itís not like we turned into a keyboard band or anything...Weíve always hated categorizing ourselves, itís so limiting. I mean, everyone in the band is straight-edge, but itís never been a big part of our message. We never come right out and say ďOh! weíre straight-edge and you must be as well!Ē or ďBe vegetarian!Ē We just happen to believe in those things ourselves, itís just our chosen life style. I mean we do have things to say, we definitely have messages but we just donít want to be restrictive or restricted.
Do you also not want to be that obvious about it? I mean, you can go listen to lyrics and interpret it in so many ways...
Music to me is an art form. I mean I know it must sound stupid to say that, but in this day and age, listening to the radio and listening to so many bands - thereís just not a lot of art behind a lot of the music. There are so many bands that are just following a formula.
Do you think then, a Ďmessageí or a Ďpoliticí stance has a place in music?
Yea, but it still has to remain an art form, It still has to be open to interpretation. It has to be presented in a way that different people can see it in different ways. There are valid arguments for having bands that are obvious about their politics - I mean take the Dead Kennedys, a band who did things in a very artsy way, you could say that their message was their art. I was actually talking about labels a bit earlier today. Somehow Rush came up. They are very popular where I come from (Buffalo, NY, a border city to Canada). I mean Rush are popular all over the world - just bigger some places than others. So, Iíve heard them on the radio and Iíve heard them through other people playing them to me but Iíve never gotten into Rush, and because they were a Ďprogressive rockí band I decided, as a kid, that I didnít like Ďprogressive rockí - that was wrong of me. In any genre of music there are bands that are good and bands that arenít. Iím just on the look out for good bandsÖ
Canít there be an advantage to categorisation though? I mean sometimes it allows people to take notice of a band that perhaps they wouldnít have other wise.
That may be so, but the real problem is when things get categorized and then they get more popular and then the major labels start signing all the bands within the category and it gets all saturated and watered-down and unchallenging. At the moment in the US, a lot of melodic bands that have a hard edge to them are getting signed. In the past six months alone, so many bands have jumped from the independent hardcore labels to the majors. It gets boring, it becomes safe and it sucks. I mean, for example, take Rage Against the Machine, at one point they were super unique, but now there are hundreds of bands doing that rap-metal thing in such a watered down way. It makes Rage seem less special.
So who are the bands that are exciting you now then?
I like the most recent Trail of the Dead album. I like both the At the Drive-In offshoots (the Mars Volta and Sparta), I always like Fugazi. Modest Mouse I like a lot.
Do you get lost in your own music when you are on tour or recording? Do you get cut off from finding out about new bands?
No, not really, I mean right now there are so many ways to find out about new music. With the proliferation of magazines and the internet itís quite easy to find out about non-mainstream music. I donít know, I mean, Iíve always been interested in underground music, itís never been difficult for me to find them. I just seek out certain record labels and zines and avoid the major publications and mainstream radio.
I want to go back to something you said before: You said that one for the reasons you carry on with the band is your desire to create art through music. Are there any other reasons?
One of the things I love about being in the band is the live performance. To me, hardcore is about being a live band and having that relationship with the audience, that moment when the band and the audience are one and the same. You can just feel the energy bouncing back and forth. Itís so not about us being up there on the stage and them having to be Ďdown thereí watching us. For me itís about going out and taking the challenge to motivate other people. Hopefully when they leave our show they feel all hot and sweaty, they feel like theyíve been involved.
Are you saying that you feel some sort of responsibility to your audience?
Yeah, there is a sense of responsibility about the music. To me, thatís all about the kind of message that we can bring. I can see the art behind certain groups that might be more negative or violent or angered, Iím just not comfortable with that for Snapcase. I take on the responsibility of trying to be more enlightening, creating more awareness for people, first and foremost about themselves and then about external situations. The reason we try not to be too directly political as a band is because a lot of time people donít know themselves very well and they try to join a political movement just to get a sense of identity. The reason we try not to say that you should be straight-edge or vegetarian like we are is because weíve seen so many people become straight edge for just a year or two and then give up because they did it for the wrong reasons in the first place Ė if you do it for the wrong reasons it doesnít really last, donít become straight-edge just because your favourite band is. I see so many people who donít know themselves, they just do it because it makes them feel cool or different.
So what, in your view, are the correct reasons for becoming straight edge or vegetarian then?
You need to be firmly grounded in who you are as a unique person. I think that goes hand in hand with bands that are directly political. You need to go slowly and find out about things a little bit at a time. It is after all, a lifestyle choice and you need to make sure itís the correct lifestyle for you. Not everyone needs to be that way to be good and kind. I mean some people actually become straight edge so they can have something to fight with other people about. Thatís exactly what we donít want to happen.
Is Snapcase something that you see yourself doing for the rest of your life or is this something that is just a hallmark of a certain period of your life?
Itís definitely just something thatís part of a certain period of my life. Itís already gone way beyond what I ever ever expected. Basically it started without any expectations. It started with ďwouldnít it be fun if we got a band together to just play music while we go to school...Ē to ďthese songs are pretty good, letís make a demoĒ to making another demo and actually having people liking it and telling us to submit it record companies to try and get them to record a single with us to ďhey, weíre actually going to have a CD coming out!Ē to ďoh wow! We just got offered a tour of Europe, we should totally do it!Ē It just kept rolling like that. We never had a clear idea of where it was going. And now, we have to be full time to keep this going or weíll fall backwards. It always gets a little harder to keep going up. I mean, I donít know. We arenít the type of band to just sit down and try to write a hit single...
Would you object to having a hit single?
I donít know. I guess you canít know till youíre there. Weíve been on tour with bands that have had hit singles and who donít have as large a fan base as those that havenít had one, it just doesnít seem that important
I know that NOFX are desperately trying to keep MTV from playing their videos because they donít want to have that kind of exposure or explosion Ė they worry it will change or ruin their current lifestyle.
Absolutely. We are a successful underground band, but there are underground bands that are far bigger than us. I donít know though. We enjoy being approachable as a band. I think some of us would have a VERY hard time being famous.
Going back to what you just said a minute ago, if you donít intend on being in this band for the rest of your life - what other avenues do you plan to explore and where do you see yourself being in the later years?
I donít know, most recently Iíve been getting into photography. Being on stage... I donít want to say itís like an alter-ego or anything, but being on stage for me is so different from the rest of my life - itís so chaotic and kind of fast moving, controlled but at the same time totally out of control. At home Iím very like relaxed, I go on walks with my dog, go swimming and play Frisbee with the dog. I take walks with my wife... I like a very slow-paced lifestyle when Iím not on the road. Iím kind of an old man already in that sense. I can see myself just hanging out in some cabin reading a book when Iím seventy. But who knows? When Iím seventy I may still want to prove that Iím still young by doing all sorts of crazy things. Iím a skateboarder now, I skate vert ramps. I donít think Iíll be doing that much longer unless the technology progresses enough to save my knees...
So, my standard question that you get to answer too: What is Freedom?
Freedom huh? Well, I think that has to be right down to the root of knowing who you are and you can live in the most free country in the world and not be free unless youíre comfortable with yourself. I think freedom is just about being comfortable with who you are and not having to try too hard and not to have to out up a front. I think itís pretty impossible for anyone to be completely comfortable with them selves, but the more comfortable you are, the freer you are.
Finally, for people who donít know much about Snapcase, which three songs would you say are most vital for them to hear?
Well, musically, the trademark Snapcase song at this point in our career would be ďCabooseĒ the first track off Progression Through Unlearning. Lyrically, ďAmbitionĒ now off our last album. But the new album, to me, just expresses our band being at itís most creative and fearless - really I canít just pick one song, you just have to listen to the new album End Transmission to get what weíre all about now.
And that was thatÖ..