Owned By Thieves
The boom-and-bust cycles of capitalism are not some sort of aberration in an otherwise healthy system. They are an integral and inherent part of the larger social and economic crisis. As the downturns become longer and more severe, economic growth can only be regained after more and more capital is destroyed or drastically debased, a process that causes untold dehumanizing misery. And then the cycle begins again. This process is driven purely by profit motive in a fundamentally chaotic system that becomes ever more unstable.
Video footage from Cities: Why They Grow (public domain from The Prelinger Archive).
Owned By Thieves
Studio time booked
We’ll start recording our new record on September 25 at Blast House Studios. After the basic tracks at Blast House, we’ll be doing overdubs, vocals, and mixing at The House For Wayward Boys.
Songs to be recorded:
- Victory Will Defeat You
- Kabuki Snuff Theater
- She Who Struggles
- Pillar of Cloud, Pillar of Fire
- Or Does It Explode?
Interview at Extreme Underground
We answered some questions for John Larsen from Extreme Underground recently.
For those that have never heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit about the band?
We are political band from Madison WI influenced equally by the grinding noise rock of the 90s (think Amphetamine Reptile and Touch & Go Records )and more recent post-metal (think Isis or Neurosis). We focus on dynamics, repetition, and the dismantling of capitalism.
You released an album in November, how would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recording?
Shades of light and dark. For every ugly and thunderous moment, there is a delicate and quiet moment. Above all there is an overwhelming sense of anger and longing.
What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the music?
All the lyrics on the record were based on The Communist Manifesto:commodity fetishism, boom-and-bust cycles, cultural distractions, democracy, class warfare, and patriotism. The next record leans heavily on the themes presented in Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine.
I know that the band name came from the 4th chapter of Howard Zinn’s A People’s History Of the United States. What was the decision behind naming your band after the 4th chapter of that book?
It has a nice ring to it, tautologically speaking, but the book in general
and that chapter in particular encapsulate much of what we are angry about and fighting against.
What are some of the best shows that the band has played so far and also how would you describe your stage performance?
Spastic. M. Guy and Russell flail like possessed mannequins while JB appears to have eight appendages. Jason stoically looks on bemused. Any show where at least one person loses their mind is a great one, but a recent packed, sweaty show at the Mag Bar in Louisville was pretty amazing.
Do you have any touring or show plans for the future?
We tour extensively in the Midwest from our home base in Madison, primarily on weekends. When interest warrants, we’ll be doing the coasts at some point.
The new album came out on Phratry Records, can you tell us a little bit more about this label?
Phratry means brotherhood in Greek and that perfectly sums up Jerry’s approach to the label. It’s a community of like minded bands, artists, and individuals who all pitch in to help each other and get the music heard. We met Jerry touring with our old band when we played in Cincinnati and as like-minded souls, we kept in touch. He is very supportive and understands what we’re trying to do.
On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your music by fans of noise rock?
Great response. It’s funny though because the things people hear really break down along age lines rather than geographically. Older people hear a lot of AmRep noiserock while younger listeners tend to focus on the post-rock and post-metal elements.
Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
We’re almost done writing our next record and the over arching change seems to be that the songs are getting more complex. A lot of this has to do with our new drummer JB who is a huge mathrock fan from way back. Another interesting development has been the addition of trumpet. M Guy has been pulling double duty on bass and trumpet and lending some of the longer songs a melancholic and orchestral quality. There’s still plenty of noise, feedback, and screaming too.
What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
M. Guy and Russell have been listening to a lot of post-black-metal lately. JB listens to a lot of 90s math and indie rock while Jason listens to weirdo pop. We all listen to a lot of the bands that we’ve met playing shows over the last couple of years, like The Paver, Buildings, The Rutabega, and Mad Anthony…
What are some of your non musical interests?
Art, cooking, film… you know normal people stuff.
Before we wrap up this interview do you have any final words or thoughts?
While many people dismiss our political stance as contrived or, at the very least, preaching to the converted, we’re just trying to move the meter a bit on people’s attitudes. At a minimum, we try to make people realize that voting Democrat is not going to change a goddamn thing. The”two-party” system is a lie.
The American Dream Is A Lie
Audio from the Phratry Records release, “Let It Come From Whom It May” (2013). Filmed by friends and fans at The High Noon Saloon, Madison WI, September 2013.
Astute viewers will notice certain discrepancies in the drumming audio vs. video… Ben Aldis performed the drums on the record, Jonathan Brown performed the song live, and gives it his own twist. So sue us!
Chicago, Cincinnati, Louisville
"The individuality of the body is that of a flame… of a form rather than of a bit of substance." — Norbert Weiner
5/15/2014: Chicago, Quenchers
Quenchers was fun last night, if heavily marred by the injury to Jim from Hungry Man. Was looking forward to seeing them again. Got doored on his bike. Best wishes from the Tyranny collective, get well soon… I just hope it’s not another instance of the Chicago curse. Every time we come to that town either we damage equipment or people, seems like.
Ate tater tot pizza, though. That part was rad. And I’ve still got Post Honeymoon's fuzzy bass synth lines funking around my head. Writing papers for school all remote-style, testing out my cardboard n' electrical tape keyboard/phone mount. The trees are almost in full green. Hard not to see everyone hunched over their steering wheels as a cancer on the earth.
5/16/2014: Newport KY (Cincy), Southgate Revival
Today we ride on towards Cincinnati, buoyed by Kuma’s burgers.
As we stroll around the side of the old church building that is Southgate House Revival, we don’t really have any clue. Once entering the front bar area, we open the door into the cathedral proper and realize this is a real serious venue. Huge place, awesome towering stained glass on the walls. Overwhelming.
There’s some dude playing trumpet and electric violin with his band in the bar as our “main stage” show happens, and prog metal bands playing upstairs. There are plenty of people out to support the Phratry collective, but the cathedral still feels cavernous.
Adam Nice opened up with acoustic guitar intricacies, fluid like rivers. Lovely stuff. Hot For Alice continued to build things with some full-throated indie pop. After that, we were up.
Playing trumpet into a giant church is quite an experience. We thrashed around the huge stage as best we could, echoes be damned, and poured our hearts into tearing everything down with sound. Felt good. Like being inside the cave that everything comes from.
After us, Comprador lit up a weird and excellent combination of shoegazer reverb with mathy rhythms and soaring guitar noodling. And to close out the night: Knife the Symphony with their new bassist, wrecking things and filling the church’s ribs with noise fury.
To close out the night: chili, the local tradition. Pie and ice cream for me. Boom.
5/17/2014: Louisville, Mag Bar
Last night I dreamed about running an all ages art space and venue. A sign from above, perhaps?
Jerry treated us to breakfast after spoiling us with a hotel. The diner place had half their stupid names on the menu either trademarked or registered for trademark, so I got to learn what exactly the difference is. Jerry decided he was going to try to trademark “eat a dick” and get royalties anytime someone used it. [The band is already working on an initial royalty check for him.]
We wandered through Covington and got some records. (Me: Low and Jawbox. Jason: Patsy Cline for his mom. Russell: Nation of Ulysses, and Alarms and Controls.)
Now we got to Louisville so early, I can sit in the sun and type this up since the arcade games at the venue are all busted up and beer does not seem too distracting.
The rest of this day will get transcribed in the van, exhausted on the way home, but right now I am feeling like an overcharged battery. Tingling, ready.
So, having that long to wait might not be the best thing for energy levels. I wandered to a park, read HCI papers for class, and wrote. As the sun set, JB and I walked through the historic old Louisville mansion district. Amazing architecture and overblown places to live: overconsumption collapsing in on itself.
Mag Bar was a pretty great place for a show. Waxeater ripped through their noisy, confident rock.
We opened with Kabuki Snuff Theater, tearing straight ahead at first to ease people into our weirdness. Trumpet and the new one went great. The energy was there, despite our dying minds.
Hometown heroes Trophy Wives brought the loud after we finished, stacks twice as high. The last half of their set got tighter and more dynamic, ramping up into a catchy pummeling.
Thanks for having us, Louisville. We shall be back soon.
Now for the long return. Unwound up in shuffle on the stereo, sunny blue roads. Corn fields just starting to green between the dried stalks.
I think the jalapeño plant Christine gave us is going to survive the trip, despite clumsy in-van watering. We might even still have sunlight left at home when we get back, with time to plant physical seedlings and metaphorical roots. — M. Guy
The four curving blades
pushing this propeller.
is holding the rest back.
Break the encrusted rust,
lower out of your
and place yourselves
in new forms
into the ocean.
She Who Struggles live at the Mouse Trap, Eau Claire WI, 12 April 2014.
Super packed, sweaty, and enthusiastic show.
3/28/2014: Dubuque IA, Eronel
A discussion of how polytheism changes culturally into monotheism guides us out of the rolling hills of Dubuque into the flatland.
Last night was fun; our friends in Bereft lit up Eronel with their tasty pastiche of blackened emotion. They keep getting tighter, and the slow passages grabbed me by the ribcage; suffocating in the best way.
It was our first time playing “Victory Will Defeat You” in Iowa, and it felt good. Nobody believes it’s fifteen minutes long, it’s such a congealed beast of ebb and graceful flow now. Psyched to record and write more; we’re buzzing with ideas in the van. (It’s certainly strange riding without JB, though, since they’re driving separately. He’s become such a necessary part of our dynamic over the last year.)
After we blasted people out of the room, leaving only the entrained and hypnotized friends, I felt drained but lit from within. Spent some time trying to convince the Young Indian guys how great they were at the Soundless release last week — except for Ryan, who doesn’t need any ego boost. (That guy is exactly as cool as he thinks he is.)
Dredge played last with piles of speakers and giant drum racks. Intricate math and spacey sections fenceposted with huge angular technical structures of riffage. They solidified through the set and became a machine, locking it in to the stones around us, by the end.
Some very enthusiastic people down from Chicago heard us for the first time. Later, one woman told me that our music would be perfect for a Nike ad thing her cousin was working on (?!?). Unlikely, to say the least. Had to laugh at the idea, though.
I was distracted by the drunken idiots unable to hold themselves to any accountable standard of standing up and being tolerably human. We had “One Man Mosh Pit” griding on women and pushing everyone, thinking he was hilarious. Breaking glasses and causing trouble. His friends tried to rein him in, to no effect. I guess what bothers me is that most music I enjoy is about examining and playing with awareness, and alcohol-soaked bars are the only way to get that stuff out there. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-alcohol or straight-edging it here, I’m just a militant moderationist. Can’t we do better? Does there always have to be a handful of over-the-top drunk people?
Anyway, it was way more of a fun time than I just made it sound like by complaining. Many many thanks to Drew, Ryan, and the rest of the Eronel crew. And special thanks to Brett and Lisa for letting us stay in their lovely home and feeding us; also spinning all the great records and beer until late into the night.
Running cattle flee
Imaginary flash floods
Deal in whispers
3/29/2014: Lincoln NE, Vega
Survivalist Magazine headline at a Iowa gas station: “Bug Out by Boat!”
My head is mealy mush as the sun sets towards the end of a long, brown drive through Nebraska and Iowa. Last night went so well, it’s one of those shows that could go to our heads if we let it.
We walked into the shiny space at Vega in Lincoln a bit bewildered. Freshly built, big money, but apparently tailored toward the underground music scene. Huge black marble floor, stage with fresh carpet, fancy lights. We met some of the activists that Russell reached out to, and the merch table got a bit more educational. Very nice.
Powers went on first, laying down some very precise songs with interesting edges of noise, huge bass lines, and trading off vocals. During their set, apparently the Wisconsin sportsball team advanced to the Fantastic Four or whatever, so when Russell announced we were from Madison, a somewhat confused and drunken “WOOO!” went up from sportsball fans.
Our set flickered to life like slow flames and built into crashing noise. Like usual, we drove a good chunk of people out the door, but a bunch of folks stayed. My duct tape glasses technique failed on Apostasy as we wrapped up the set, sweated through.
Halfwit closed out the show, jagged guitars slicing different tones out of dense air, bouyed by a bombastic rhythm section. Saber, the bassist, had some particularly groovy stage moves.
We crashed out at a no-joke super nice hotel thanks to JB and Karen, and toasted an amazing night. Both sound guys (yes, two sound engineers… whaaat) and the owner of the place bought LPs. So many people dug it that we actually sold every record we brought. That’s absurd. It may be the nicest place and friendliest reception we ever get in a new town. Much gratitude flowing back at those lovely Lincoln people!
In the morning, I sat in the quiet hum of the hotel, reading, listening to the giant American flag whip in the gusty winds outside the window. The science fiction made me think about all the ways we change the world around us, illusory or not, and how we make decisions as a group, for better or worse.
Onward. — M. Guy
Blink the past away, boy;
dig your toes into elevated crush
at the edges of the light, outside,
the strangers you don’t understand.
Black bubble force in sway.
Let the throb through your knees,
force the smoke out of throats.
Your throat, pointed not that them;
not at them, but
somewhere in you,
Wausau, Minneapolis, Eau Claire
1/23/2014: “Playing the Slinty note”
Waking up to hospitable coffee with a side of back problems for some of us, we find ourselves with the story in progress at Bill’s Bar. My old friend, who used to be known as Wild Bill in college, owns a bar up outside of Merrill, which seems sort of inevitable in retrospect. He let us sleep there after playing Wausau… great folks around, kind of a return to olden times. Makes me think back to when I was a skinny, introverted nerd in high school, instead of a… heywaitaminute. Some things don’t change.
People are starting to come in off their “sleds” (for the non-northerners, that would be what you colloquially call snowmobiles) as we wake up, coming in to grab some chili. They seem amused to see us there. We get delicious food (mmm potato soup) to rejuvenate from last night’s punishment at the Polack Inn, cooked by long-suffering northwoods bartender Doreen.
"Time to start a company making hammocks, we’ll call it Abrahammocks…"
We climb in the van and cut over back down 39 right by the unnamed fast food establishment that tortured me through high school. Seems like forever ago. Watching white on white roll by and sketching colors on it in my daydreams. Stopped in at Jerry’s Music to replace sticks and picks. I snapped a 1mm vinyl bass pick for the first time ever, on our last song last night. The set was powerful and the sound was crisp like the ten below winds coming in through the cracks to detune guitars. Once we really started tearing, it didn’t matter that the room started empty. Enough people came out in the cold that our attention and theirs fused. (Let’s just ignore the clumsy fact that in my lurching around off-stage during the first song, I partially knocked down a precariously balanced shelf of PA stuff and had to be saved by one of the dudes from Poney…)
After, Poney played to their hometown crowd, and they keep getting tighter and weirder. Ben kept announcing he only had one song left in his sticks, and then another, and then another. Guitar histrionics, gang vocals, and drums pivoting on a dime. Catchy, strange bass lines to make your head nod in confusion.
Thanks to Ben and Poney and Frank and the Polack Inn for havin’ us. Now we ride off the edge of the world in a dusting of snow, Jason in severe back pain so bad we have to ask if we should call it off and head home instead. But he says it won’t get any better there… so onward.
1/24/2014: “How do you get Dick out of Richard?”
I spent the van rides puttering with phone games, and digging my way through a great biography of Kurt Gödel. Thinking about the ways we understand the world and nerding out. Justificationism versus fallibilism. Mathematical realism.
Abstractions aside, Jason’s back was so bad he had to rock out sitting down last night at Cause in Minneapolis. It was a cool spot, friendly folks, really bad-ass art on the walls. There were a bunch of things I wanted to take with me, but had to settle for just appreciating ‘em.
We played first and tried to mesmerize our way out of a distant, numb zone. Before the show it felt like bees in a vacuum buzzed silently inside every solid surface around me. Everyone’s voices sounded like transformer hum, or maybe that was the echo in my mind from troubleshooting Jason’s creepy pedalboard buzz problem. Turned out, throwing an AC adapter into a snowy street does not make it rock more. I blame zipper failure.
Was surprised to see Low Forms was a two piece after hearing their Soundcloud; their big garage rock sound got people jumping around after we beat them into the floor or made them hide in the back.
American Cream set up next. Hypnotic krautrock riffing, jazzy sax and drums wrapping around synth looping and glitching, building into something that sounded unreal and alien, like Circle with late period Coltrane pulsing in sheets on top. I closed my eyes and swayed into supreme hypnosis. Not for everybody, but definitely for me.
Drunk Drivers closed the night with some catchy tunes, but I was so exhausted I just couldn’t handle all the big rock endings. Had to sit down. Probably how lots of people feel about our wall of noise sections.
We closed out the night deciding to live it up at a hotel, which was a genius maneuver. Showers are nice after you sweat through a collared shirt, you know. No offense intended to the lovely floor of Bill’s Bar, but sleeping in a bed is kinda great too.
1/25/2014: Cheetos and milk. Lost voice, lost tongue.
We spent a good chunk of the last day of the mini-tour puttering around Minneapolis since Eau Claire is so close. Hit a few record stores, Treehouse and Extreme Noise; Russell snags Coltrane + Ellington and Age of Quarrel. I find Tropics and Meridians, Lowercase - Kill the Lights for $3 (!), and after agonizing, decide to grab the Rodan retrospective.
It was a fun surprise when we stopped at Twin Town Guitars and found AJ, who we’d met last night at the show, rocking our shirt behind the counter. Great store; I fixated on the entirely ridiculous rolling hills of glass cases filled with pedals. They had some of everything to drool over, from the standard EH and MXR and Boss lines to wacky boutique crafters I’d never heard of. As we hung there, still felt pretty bad for Jason as he leaned on his side on some stools, trying to not die from back pain still.
Humming on clean roads under a blue sky for a brief drive, pushed by some Sweep the Leg Johnny. Feel revitalized after JB’s recommendation of Campus Pizza for lunch. Charged up to finish this joint in style.
When we roll into Eau Claire we hang out with some of Jason’s family over dinner at a Mexican place and later at a wine bar near the venue. Jason tells hilarious, disgusting stories from the USoT European tour. I don’t feel like drinking, and I sit there hoping nobody thinks it’s too weird that I’m drinking water and smelling extremely out of place. Wine bars are not my scene.
We head back to see Low Forms open the show, bouncing their garage-pop songs out. Getting ready for our set, I remember that last night in Minneapolis, I snapped my nerdstrap into mostly irreparable pieces. Oh well. It was on its last ear-legs anyway. The options now are to tear out some hair by taping my glasses on, or choose not to rock as hard as humanly possible. We all know what the answer is there, so I revert to my duct-tape-around-the-head technique, wincing in anticipation.
When we finish our set, my hands are shaking the worst they ever have. My fretting hand usually doesn’t get this intense, it’s my picking hand that grips too tight, but now both my hands have squeezed the essence out of things and I have to collapse at the merch table for a while. Worn down and dying, yet healed by the catharsis. I think people can tell we left some emotional residue on the stage. I can barely hold my pen to take my usual dorky notes.
Talking to folks, we get the usual really strange comparisons; Godflesh? Mastodon? Someone compares Russell to Lindsay Buckingham? And one dude tells me we sounded like Explosions in the Sky crossed with Sebadoh. I’m confused but I nod my head and say thanks. People in Eau Claire dug us quite a bit; converting some new friends. Have to send huge thanks to Brent and House of Rock and Jono and Greg and the rest of Drunk Drivers and such for hosting us!
As the Drunk Drivers rock the end of their set, I step out into the snowy street, stone cold sober still and honestly a bit stressed about driving. I kick the snow around, trying to assess if we should head back now, or crash and have to wake up early. Screw it. I push for heading back, and drive through the blizzard because it’s fluffy enough to blow off the road, mostly. I grip the steering wheel until I get little marks in my fingers, fueled by soda, sugar, adrenaline from the show, and awful energy drinks. The scariest part of the trip is actually the idiots on the beltline when we get all the way back home to Madison.
Winter has been defeated, this time. I haven’t gotten much sleep the past few days, but I still only catch a few hours; now I have the itch to write even though I feel some evil virus creeping down my throat.
So thanks for everything, people of rock. Now I can remember it. We will return soon. — M. Guy
Indianapolis, Kansas City
Saturday is bright melting snow and we roll on to Kansas City through sparse forests to the sounds of Red Sparowes.
Yesterday was Saraswati’s reunion show. Hellish snow on the roads had us all a bit on edge, and I especially don’t like being in a metal box hurtling through space and time when the roads are covered in sludge. We rolled in to the Melody Inn in Indianapolis, assaulted by chatterboxes and “hillbilly happy hour.” I was not feeling it, retreating inwards. One of those times where I’m just antsy to play, to scream out, and purge some of the inner poison that’s built up.
Openers Harley Poe kept up some Violent Femmes energy and it was nice of them to have us on their bill… but it took forever and a day for them to clear the stage. Was grumpy. Felt better once we were set up, but yet again, tiny stage means less space for antics and really getting into it. We blasted into an aggro one-two punch of Kabuki into K-Hole, and when the second jab was flying I felt good and it didn’t matter when most of the crowd left. I just hope we didn’t alienate any of Saraswati’s fans.
Saliva flying, opening jaws to bite at the black hole inside us and radiate it outward as cleansing fury. Only the real noise people were left, and we built our slower towers and I trumpeted at the lights. Music as therapy. Felt much more human again, after.
Saraswati played next for loyal, decade-old followers. They sounded like they never stopped and looked like they were having so much fun. I realized I had seen them once before, long ago, with Russell’s old band before I knew him, back when Union South used to have weird and awesome shows in the cafeteria. They have those weird chiming guitar overtones that mix with the vocals and make it sound like backup singers are hidden in the cymbals. I love that alchemic reaction.
Afterwards, ate way too much food and woke up in the morning with Matt’s giant lovable malamute Gromit towering over me, snuffling in curiosity. Many thanks go out to Matt and all the other folks who house and support us on the road. Can’t say thanks enough.
So now through gray cables and sleeting semis we ride!
Walking into the upstairs in Kansas City on Saturday, the old wood floor looks like it’s taken hundreds of years worth of a beating. We haul most stuff up the flights of worn stone stairs because the elevator is a sketchy situation.
Lots of old and new friends, great atmosphere and such. We’re early, so I put a few bucks into the half-broken Tommy pinball machine.
I was trying to describe how Coward affects me after their set, because it’s weird. Some of their complex, all-instrumental songs sound like one of those bands that covers chiptunes, but their version of the sound is orchestral almost, with that driving beat and actual emotion. Basically, they rocked faces in an intricate, subtle, and frenetic fashion. Friendly dudes to boot.
New Tongues played second, pedalboards stocked with strangeness and samples between songs. Noise rock, but with strange tinges of blurry colors. Like furious psychedelia. As a lazy and weak bass player, I can’t imagine hauling that old SVT around to get that tone. Thing is heavier than 16 bowling balls, I carried it 10 feet from the elevator and almost lost an arm.
We were told we’d have to cut down to 30 minutes, but once things were clicking it didn’t seem to matter so we did the whole thing. I don’t honestly know how much time passes when we’re playing, so if we’re ever jerks and take too long, someone should say something. There was space to thrash around, a small but very appreciative crowd, and it sounded great where I was bouncing around. I’m told a party bus stopped in with a bunch of Christmas revelers on a scavenger hunt in the middle of our set, but to be honest, I didn’t see a single one of them while I was flailing around like a live cable in a puddle. By the time we got to Victory Will Defeat You at the end, I was banging my head too hard and losing the beat slightly. I didn’t even care any more. Carried away in the catharsis.
We stopped on our “liar”, exhausted and sweaty, and tried to get out of the way as fast as possible for Bummer, a trio of local kids. (I think I can say “kids” legitimately, because they were half my age… right? Is that how getting old works?). They set up quick and burst into some insanely heavy noise rock, like they’d been listening to old AmRep stuff but thought it wasn’t intense enough. Near the end of their set they blasted into Seasick by the good ol’ Jesus Lizard and the crowd shouted along. I CAN’T SWIM. If they manage to stay together through all the youth and whatnot, they are a serious force to be reckoned with.
Crashed with Nathan from Coward, whose hospitality was unending and included some of the tastiest rye I have ever used to set my mouth on fire. Worked great as a replacement pillow since I forgot mine. THANKS NATHAN and thank you Kansas City!
Returning home, I feel like gnarled driftwood that’s been propped up as a post to mend a fence. We’re all pretty exhausted from the driving, but happy returning; it feels like we put our best rock out there. The blue sky pushes us from behind. If I am a fence, who knows what I’m keeping in or out.
END TRANSMISSION — M. Guy