The Kidcrash Interview Part 1
by Nick Greer
February 17th 2008 | 28 Comments
I recently (7 months ago) had the opportunity to sit down with The Kidcrash’s drummer, Buster Ross. We chatted about his band’s recent release, Jokes, and the hideousness of oxy and writing songs that are just nine minutes of tempo changes and fills. This interview is an unabridged, Kinbotean epic and acts as an annotated commentary to the four-canto, epic poem that is Jokes. Below is just Part 1 of the conversation.
Sputnikmusic: What's your name, age, and role in The Kidcrash? How about the other band members?
Buster Ross: My name is Buster Ross, I have about five middle names, and a second last name. My name appears a lot of different ways in a lot of different places. When I get my groceries or pulled over I usually am referred to as Mr. Buster; no complaints, it saved me from the DEA once, they had the wrong guy... I'm 22 and I have played the drums the entire time (the same lineup since the start) in Kidcrash (a.k.a. The Kidcrash, Sometimes Sleeping, Pete of Sake, Encyclopedia Brown), this being our 8th year. I got a Mickey Mouse drumset at 2 and kind of just couldn't stop from then on. John Gee is 23, plays guitar and does vocals as much as he can. John really picked up guitar seriously on the first day we practiced together. He has never taken a lesson and it says a lot about his character. He is the only one of us who isn't in college, but he is so bright, rational, and intuitive he doesn't belong there. He might not know theory but I've watched him memorize an entire Tupac chart book with ease in a week. He plays by ear from the heart. He listens to so much music and has such a good ear that he may not know a scale but he knows what he wants to play when we dig for new parts he has no problem finding the parts he hears in his head as we write. As a sidenote, he is the most generous, loyal, and honest person I have ever known. He slaves all year to save up for tour while we are in school, and then come tour, he gives endlessly. Even though we all rely on our parents for help, we end up spending his hard earned money on our beer, and well, so many unexpected things. But it's not financial generosity. I can't think of one time in our entire friendship where I have ever been frustrated with John, and a lot of people we play with pick up on this. He is just the most selfless guy that is completely dedicated to playing music because it is the only thing that he wants to do for the rest of his life. On tour, the two of us sleep very little and we usually are up talking about how lucky we are to be amongst best friends traveling, doing the one thing we love, meeting new friends, and revisiting old ones every night, all of who are such amazing people and the only reason we are able to do what we are doing. The guitarists switch in the panning throughout the album so it’s hard to always tell what John is playing, but he's the one who can't stop noodling.
Kevin Brouse is 23, plays bass and is the king of vicious and endearing humor. While we all love jokes, Kevin simply can't be serious. John and me both are on the same page when it comes to how we handle Kevin in the van. He is the funniest person on earth, but he is fucking mean. We've found it's best to stay on his good side and keep his laser like 'burn' focused on anyone but us. We all have become masters of discovering each others’ insecurities and exploiting the hell out of them for entertainment. It's healthy, it makes us calloused about the things that could really hurt and it’s an amazing cure for cabin fever. Kevin is also an idiot savant when it comes to heady things, Gameboy DS, movies, goofing, and snacks. In fact Kevin's mom used to buy snacks just for me in high school and it wasn't that uncommon for me to get so "inebriated" and eat so many pretzel sticks from the bottomless jug that I would end up puking, getting more "inebriated," and snacking more. He is the king of the snack jam. He and I are best friends to the extreme. We love and hate each other so much, but we both have been there for each other so much that we could never not be friends.
Alex Gaziano is 21, plays guitar and does the majority of our vocals and writes our lyrics. Alex is the frontman. We used to joke that our band should be called Alex and his friends. But over the last years he has been the backbone of our bands progress. He has booked our last two tours all by himself. He organized all of the record labels involved in our recent releases. He has recorded and mixed everything. He chose our mastering guy. A lot of the time he writes a ton of parts for guitar and he has a basic idea for a structure of a song to make out of them. He is setting up our European tour in the Spring. He keeps us from spending band money on beer and cigarettes. He made our set at the Fest 6 in Gainesville this month happen and arranged all of our tickets. He consistently checks our email and myspace and never fails to return a single message. He ships all the orders we get. He took care of laying out all of the art, screening shirts, and making our last demo. He generally is in charge of making sure that we all have our shit together. At times the 3 of us butt heads with Alex because he is just too damn responsible (like when we insisted going to Tijuana at 5 AM was the best time on tour this summer). Other times he gets nervous that the 3 of us might do or say something that could turn people off from our band. He is sort of the final word on decisions. We usually feel majority rule would be more appropriate, but his heart is in the right place and we always compromise. It's funny, but the youngest ends up being the mama of the band.
SM: You just released Jokes. How did you go about writing for this album? How did you go about producing?
BR: Before getting into Jokes, I'm going to work backwards a little bit from the writing leading up to it... Releasing Jokes has been a two-year process (maybe 2 1/2 by now). We toured supporting a 3-song E. P.,I Haven't Had A Date In 4 Years, Goldie Hahn, Goldie Hahn, Goldie Hahn..., named after an insane notebook our friend Noah (his band is Keyboard on Asian Man Records). Goldie Hahn was actually written 100s of times all over the notebook: amazing. After everything we went through with New Ruins, we finally got to write and record new songs. Erik at Lujo Records wasn't happy to know we weren't playing songs off New Ruins about a year after it's release but we kind of said, "eh, okay." But we were lying and went right on playing the new songs we actually really liked. We began writing the songs for the E.P. in our hometown Santa Fe, NM and finished writing them in Olympia, WA: where me and Alex were attending school and John and Kevin had decided to move.
I think the songs from the E.P. captured our frustration about everything we had thought New Ruins might have been. Having been broken in by a click track while recording with Ed Rose (The Get Up Kids, Appleseed Cast, The Casket Lottery) we chose to record the songs to a click track. Alex Rose recorded the E.P. for us; he has always been an amazing guy and he made it possible for us to be able to afford to record out of pocket despite the massive hit we took financially on New Ruins. In the past Alex Rose had recorded "The Kidcrash E.P", our first semi-official 8-song release, and all of us being from New Mexico we had played lots of shows together and he knew the sound we were looking for. Alex Rose was working with Matt Bayles (Minus the Bear) as an assistant engineer at his new studio and had learned an incredible amount by the time we got into the studio with him again (Alex Rose toured as the sound guy for Minus The Bear until he replaced Matt Bayles in the band a few years ago). Unlike New Ruins, we weren't pushed into drum doctoring, vocal tuning, part slashing by a producer, or rushed to mix. None of those things were the fault of Ed Rose, timing just seemed to leave us with no choice, and we really were not prepared to record a studio album that produced on such a small budget. We tracked the album rather quickly, and Alex Gaziano's sister put together really neat handmade sleeves. The vocals on the E.P. reflected our dissatisfaction with the vocals on New Ruins; Alex was pushed for three days straight unable to sing in a range that Ed Rose was satisfied with, the push for perfection wore out his voice, and washed out unique attributes of some of his vocal “short-comings.” On the E.P., shouting replaced all of the singing. The songs still held on to an idea of structure that Ed Rose had only further encouraged us to pursue. The original demos of the songs from New Ruins featured a ton more parts and the tempo fluctuated up to 120bpm throughout each song on average. Constant time shifts were not realistically capable of being mapped out to a click. Every drum stroke had to be in the same spot with the same velocity and dead tight on the click. 10 hours a day, 3 days straight wore me out, and it was a huge pain recording on a set I had never played on. I ended up stripping down all of my parts, and choosing one tempo per song just to make sure we wouldn't waste all of our 10 days just on drums. The tempo stream lining killed so many parts on New Ruins. So when we recorded the E.P. we wrote the songs to a click, and I was prepared when we went in to track and the songs were recorded with the feel we intended for them from the beginning.
We toured with Goldie Hahn and got back to Olympia knowing things were falling apart. Relationship issues for John and Kevin had them wondering what they were doing waiting on Alex and I in Olympia. As usual, sick of our tour set, we got into our practice space, a 10-foot room in a storage complex in Olympia and we started playing. I think we all started to feel the magic those first days. The first song we wrote left us feeling like a new door was opening and a whole new progression for our sound had just laid itself out in front of us. The song “A Conduit Rather Than A Vault “ (there is a typo on Jokes, see “Aconduit”) was the first song we wrote. In the second loud part from the beginning there is a hi-hat fill (ba-ba ba-ba.....ba-ba tomroll). That was the moment for me at least, where I knew we had finally really begun to find our own sound that we had been tip-toeing all around for years. We got so excited we just kept writing. We had about a 30-minute instrumental song we could play without any instrument ever really stopping. It was around this point that we all agreed click tracks just didn't give the songs room to ebb and flow. We did a few live recordings and felt confident, and before we knew it, we had written demo 06 and soon after Denovali Records released for us. We recorded it in the same little moldy dingy crammed roomed with a light bulb hanging in the middle while it constantly flooded right outside the door. At this point, Alex had been sitting over the shoulder of Alex Rose and reading up and investing in recording equipment to the point that we could finally record ourselves. No space heater could keep our hands warm but we managed. After we had recorded, Alex went in one day and just yelled on all the songs and later on he played it for us. And like that the instrumental songs no longer were. The lyrics to the demo ended up getting written more after recording than before, a constraint that made the lyrics different than any of our prior releases. Our friend Mike did the artwork and Alex made the first hundred or so copies. In the end, Alex handmade all of the copies and burnt all the CDs, and between tour and the support of German sales we sold about 500 copies of the demo (honestly more copies than we sold of New Ruins which we spent well over $10,000 of our own money recording and never saw as much as a penny). The demo featured the songs divided into 4 or 5 songs, in the liner notes the first lyric of every song was bolded implying the title, and on our myspace the song names were listed as strings of numbers (which a few people figured out were our phone numbers, openly inviting people to call us).
During the year while the album was mixed and put together John and Kevin moved back to Santa Fe where they knew they would be happier. That summer we toured supporting the demo with our friends from Mexico City: Arse Moreira, hometown genius: Keyboard and the sickest Miami bands: Coffin Dancer and Consular, and the 30505 (305 and 505 are our area codes) was formed. We played with so many awesome bands on that tour and by the time we got home we were ready to record again. Before we left for that tour during the few weeks or so we reunited to practice in Olympia we wrote “Ron Ghousley's Fucked Up Dream” (which wasn't titled until Ron Ghousley told us the song reminded him of a fucked up dream). If you ever meet Ron Ghousley somewhere around Virginia Beach, we really want to get a hold of him. We gave him a ride for a couple hours and he blew our minds and we really miss him. When we were back in Santa Fe practicing during the break in the tour we unexpectedly wrote “Parrots Just Don't Understand” in about 30 minutes (the current record for our band). When we got back from tour we had a last show coming up before we took another school-year hiatus and we managed to write “Turtlelephant.”
So this is when we recorded Jokes. After touring demo 06, which keep in mind wasn't just recorded live, but recorded live with all of the equipment in a ten by ten foot room, we were ready to record a full length. Demo 06 had already created an idea of how we were going to separate the 35 minutes of music into songs, so we just went through the songs and acknowledged what had and had not worked on tour. As a drummer, whenever I really learn my parts more and more, I start to speed them up, start making it a little trickier; it's not a great habit, but it's what makes Jokes, Jokes. The songs are not really re-written or structured too much; they are just faster, tighter, and recorded and tracked in separate rooms and not all at once. My mom was out of town so we used my living room. By this point Alex had all the mics, a Pro-Tools 02 rig, and know-how to feel confident doing all of the recording himself. I had just been taken to Guitar Center by my mother who told me that I had earned the drumset I really needed and she had to give me what I needed even if she couldn't afford it. I went crazy and got a set so extensive and metal that I returned a ton of it within a week. So I used my brand new DW kit to record all the drums, no click track, and laid down my tracks along with a scratch track as the base of the record first. “Kissed By A Roach On The Grave” is a 2 guitar interlude that John went in and recorded by himself one day when he was tracking his guitar. Alex helped Kevin track bass in no time. Alex was able to work on his guitar tracks at home. John was now able to track his guitar by himself and take his time refining his parts. John tracked backup vocals before Alex and I returned to Olympia that Fall. Alex finished vocals and mixing over the next few months in his bedroom and then sent them off to Josh Bonati for mastering. It was amazing. We always knew Denovali was behind us, but then Ape Must Not Kill Ape and Pure Pain Sugar both offered to put the record out for us. Me and Alex were pulling our hair out blown away that we would ever have to be making a decision like that. So we didn't. We just couldn't. We loved all the labels and begged them to co-release Jokes on vinyl, and they were incredibly considerate; especially when we received an offer that suddenly Steve from INIT Records could afford to put out the CD version of Jokes, but wanted exclusivity in the release of the CD. Once again our friend Mike did the artwork. It's been saved for me to frame and keep up in my room and me and John have been talking about getting a part of the artwork tattooed and maybe having our tattoos interlock to make a bigger piece of the artwork. I wanted to put Mike's descr1ption of the artwork in the liner notes but it never happened. He told me he got the kind of "inebriated" where you just can't handle anything and he ran to the library, put on Jokes, and just drew most of it right then, trying not to stop and deal with how much he was freaking out. The way the images hide so many images truly showcases the magic of my favorite of his styles, Mike's 'heady psychosis' style. I've been trying to find a publisher for his sketchbook for a few years. A few tours ago when he came with us he drew every night while we played. His body of work is enormous, and I recall being out of my head one night and taking his sketchbook with me to paint a 50 foot note about love that I had written in it on a path at my school. I didn't have enough paint and I just ended up painting a ton of heart exclamation points. Mike noticed I didn't return with it. In fact I left blue paint trail from the scene of the crime to his sketchbook, which we somehow recovered. I would have died. His portfolio is incredible. Mike also did the artwork for our 5" split record with Arse Moreira. He is an amazing guy and would happily contribute artwork to anyone in need, it’s a kind gesture to pay him, but he is an artist and understands. You can reach him by email@example.com. Alex's sister who has been tremendously helpful laid the artwork out so it fits on cassette, vinyl, and cd all in unique ways. The tape version of Jokes is available on Where's The Deerhead Cassettes in Canada. So the songs on Jokes span 2 years, and by the time we toured in support of it this summer, half of our set was the 3 new songs we have written over the last year for splits with Arse Moreira, Coffin Dancer, and L'antietam.
SM: What's your favorite track, interlude, single measure, or single beat from Jokes?
We fought a lot on this tour over playing “Ron[ Ghousley]'s Fucked Up Dream.” I didn't play drums for the 8 months leading up to the tour other than writing and recording the songs for splits (maybe 5% of the time we were apart). I slowly became addicted to oxycontin during the break and when Kevin visited he got the impression that things were far more out of control then they were. But I'm grateful for it because it would only have been a matter of time before it actually would have become bad. Our families are tight nit enough that word spread to my dad that I was shooting heroin and skipping my music classes, which wasn't true, but didn't change the fact that I was in denial about my growing dependency. I got completely clean and slowly fixed my relationship with my dad. I slipped, like everyone does struggling with that bullshit, and 3 months later I had relapsed. Unable to sleep from ecstasy and cocaine all night I did something very uncharacteristic of myself and called the counseling center at my school. They referred me to a crisis line which I thought was stupid, but ended up calling. That day I took it all on again. And that time I stayed clean. A month after, my best friend, and an extremely close friend of our band died of a heroin overdose his first time shooting. We were starting a record label together, and since I have continued putting out records and I am trying to raise money for research being done on an alternative heroin addiction treatment using the psychedelic Ibogaine in Vancouver, Canada since the research is illegal in the U.S. (www.maps.org/ibogaine)
As a result of not practicing and destroying my muscular system I started developing tendonitis. There wasn't enough time to rebuild the strength I needed to play 55 shows in 57 days with only 1 1/2 weeks to practice before tour. So I bitched all the time about the pain of my muscles ripping from the bone. House shows don’t really have the buckets of ice my doctors recommended and I lost my pills in the messy van all the time. Being manic, I hate sleeping when I'm having the time of my life, so my muscles were devastated. Everyone always wanted to play Ron's, or as I re-titled it, “Death March.” It is probably our favorite because it's one of the last songs we wrote on Jokes, and unlike the other pair of songs that are new from Jokes, we had a lot of time to write it. I love the fills and fills and fills. But the truth is I'm so sloppy that all of the drum parts on Jokes only represent 85-90% of the parts I settled on while playing the songs on tour, and they don't really represent what makes the fills in that song my favorite. I always would get pissed off when everyone thought I was being a pussy or letting them down for not wanting to play fills for 9 minutes straight so we compromised and I think we all dug playing A Conduit sometimes. Last tour we were playing our 40-minute set all the way through without even stopping (DON'T ABUSE PAINKILLERS). Alex's favorite on tour was definitely “Turtlelephant.” But I think we all can agree that “Kissed By A Roach On The Grave” is our favorite. With a cup of coffee and a pack of cigarettes and a guitar strap John could walk around forever noodling like that and somewhere deep in my brain it’s just branded as the sweetest lullaby. It’s nice to get a break from the dynamic back and forth and just have a song that is mellow all the way through. We have all been extremely influenced by bands that are nothing but pretty, but it doesn't really show since we refuse to stay still within a song.
Check back this coming Thursday for the second half of the interview (posted <a href="http://www.sputnikmusic.com/feature.php?id=4617">here</a>). We'll be discussing The Kidcrash's favorite bands, biggest influences, and the future of The Kidcrash.
(Photography courtesy of Andrew Weiss)
|Great article to launch the new section Nick|
|Buster talked so much. This is epic and wtf only the first half. A lot of good stuff here, though, especially that last question.|
Great work, Nick.
|this makes me want to try to get into the album|
|Nice work. Can't wait for the 2nd part. |
|yes, we need more of these|
|fuck yes excellent interview|
|really good interview, this has me really excited for some things to come.|
|This is great stuff, very interesting and I can't wait for more articles to come. The part about a 30 minute instrumental sounds insane, looking forward to the 2nd part.|
|This band is pretty phenomenal. |
Great interview, it's refreshing. Buster comes acrosse like a nice guy.
|Booom good to see this up. Next part should be sweet.|
|Seriously, can we stipulate that interviewees answer the question in less than 1 essay?|
|Brilliant interview. Really good to see a band going into real depth about their art.|
|Someone should interview Toby Driver tbh. This guy really just rambled so much. I guess for megafans of the band this was interesting but I could barely get through it.|
|finally this got up. really interesting articles and the pictures are cool.|
|Well, a Toby Driver interview is in the works.|
|Awesome, awesome, awesome work. Very thorough and professional.|
|Buster is a crazy person.|
|Wicked stuff, this is a good read, awesome pictures too.|
Can't wait to read that Toby Driver interview too.
|Interview is more detailed than your reviews. Great read. I can't believe there's going to be a second part.|
|Amazing interview, very in depth. Thanks for posting it unedited. Can't wait for episode 2.|
|I haven't read it, but it looks awesome.|
|Great interview, stoked for the rest.|
Buster is crazy, but so fun to talk to, and he's not joking about John and Alex.
Two of the nicest guys around.
|This is still such a good read, Kidcrash are so so good|
|yea new users pay attention to the sidebar to the right we used to have mp3 streaming on band pages p legit right also kidcrash k/|