Virginia’s hellishly talented grind trio Drugs Of Faith may have one of the best names in rock, but until now they haven’t had a proper full length debut. Bad ass demos, EPs and splits notwithstanding, it was high time to release CORRODED on Selfmadegod Records. The album was recorded at Developing Nations in Baltimore with Kevin Bernsten at the helm, and mastered by Scott Hull of Pig Destroyer/Agoraphobic Nosebleed, plus features a guest contribution from Pig Destroyer’s JR Hayes on a cover of His Hero Is Gone’s “Hinges” anthem.
“It’s not that there is a theme to the record but it is sort of, without being cheesy, that our discourse is being corroded,” says “The Grindfather” Richard Johnson (Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Enemy Soil) about the pulverizing and clanging debut. I have to love a band like Drugs Of Faith, Unsane or even Motorhead who can create such a holy racket with just three members. National Public Radio’s All Songs Considered blog hosted the premiere of ”Hidden Costs,” the fourth track from the album here, and maybe that is what led to the recent battle to cut funding to NPR and PBS. Seriously, this band is not pulling any punches but still have an intellectual side that is as razor sharp as their riffing.
To read the Metal Riot interview with Richard (discussing CORRODED, Cloves, The X-Files, The Tea Party and more) click here.
Morgan Y. Evans: How does it feel to finally have a full length for this project? You’re probably sick of people saying that! I’ve been excited waiting for it. What took so long?
Richard Johnson: Thanks. I appreciate that. You’re the first to give us a “what took so long”.
MYE: Really? Well, I really liked the band name when I first heard of the project and followed you as it developed. Can you talk about the growth of the band?
RJ: Sure. We’re really excited about CORRODED. It’s been a long time coming, like you said. The band name I can’t take credit for. That was the drummer of the band Triac who came up with it. We had a band meeting and it got rejected. Then when I started this band with the guy from City Of Caterpillar I stole it (laughing).
MYE: Right on. It of course reminds me of religion as the “opiate of the masses”.
RJ: Of course. I thought it sounded really cool.
MYE: I was thinking before this interview about the current political climate surrounding the recent Gabrielle Gifford’s shooting and how we sometimes live in these little shells until the bubble breaks. I don’t know if you feel like talking about any stuff like that today?
RJ: Sure. As much as you’d like. I mean, I could write a song about that. But as far as the development of the project, did you mean the record or the band?
MYE: What made you feel you had the body of material you wanted to finally call it your debut?
RJ: Well, we basically didn’t quit writing until we had enough music. We wanted 30 minutes, which as I understand it is an industry standard minimum. We’d put out a mini-album which was 15 minutes long and we didn’t feel it was long enough to be considered an album.
MYE: More than an EP, but…
RJ: Exactly. We did a split with Antigama and some songs on THIS COMP KILLS FASCISTS Volume 2. Some demos. We were gonna do some splits that didn’t work out. We kept going. You know how, not just with music, but when you’re working on a deadline it’s something you can push up against? That’s backfired on us a few times, but this time it worked out very well. Our bass player Taryn moved to China so she could teach English as a second language.
MYE: Yeah, I just heard that yesterday.
RJ: Yeah. So, we wanted to finish recording the record while she was here so she could play on it.
MYE: Document that era.
RJ: Exactly. We managed to do that and we’re happy about it. There wasn’t any concept or theme. It was that when we had enough songs we stopped writing. I don’t mean it to sound like it was thrown together.
MYE: Well if it was you can’t tell.
RJ: (laughing) Thank you. I was taking stock of the record recently and I guess I was concerned that there wasn’t enough grind on the record. We’re writing songs as they come out. If we write a song and it’s a rock song, fine. Let it be, If we’re writing something really aggressive that’s fine. But the record I wanted to have a good balance. Maybe towards the end I wanted to pull out some more blast beats so it won’t lean too far one way or the other.
MYE: There’s a lot of really cool half time stuff, slower sections that almost reminded me of some of my favorite old AmRep stuff like Hammerhead.
MYE: Yeah, their song “Double Negative”. You both have this cool abrasive but still kind of hinting at melodic gnarly distortion going on, even though it is brittle. I loved the changes of tempo.
RJ: Thank you. It’s not like we’re consciously throwing curveballs. It’s more something akin to thinking about what would be the standard thing to do and then not doing that. Not to be like George on Seinfeld and, “I’m gonna do the opposite.”
MYE: (laughing) More of a challenge to yourselves?
RJ: Actually, I hadn’t thought about it that way. More so when you’re sitting there you wouldn’t say,”Oh, there’s a blast coming. I saw that coming”.
MYE: Over time being active in the underground subculture, what has made it stay such a fresh thing for you over the years? Is it talking about society or the freedom of creating? You’ve also done the excellent DISPOSABLE UNDERGROUND zine for a long time.
RJ: Well, I went through a stage with my zine where I was getting really bitter. The reviews were getting really harsh. Everything that was coming out sounded like a 7th rate Suffocation or Cannibal Corpse clone. Then somewhere in the nineties everything started to suck. Albert (Mudrian) documented this in CHOOSING DEATH. But…I’ve tried to change my attitude and trash things I feel deserve it but try to give more constructive criticism instead of saying it sucks and having that be the end of it. So, changing gears a little bit, I hadn’t been doing the same thing since I started playing music, if you want to call it seriously, when I got my first band in ’91. So, I wanted to do things that were slightly different and that helped. Think every band had blasts in them to varying degrees. And there were some other things where I was playing bass here or there that were different. With Drugs Of Faith, our early stuff wasn’t just political. There were descriptions about relationships. Not “you left me and I feel terrible” kind of things. But more observation type things, making a sort of commentary on what was going on right then, if that’s any different than y’know…being emo about it or something. But we’ve gotten much more political which is fine because there is a lot to talk about. I like that I can talk about something personal that is going on, like the financial crisis, or whatever. It’s plugging opinion into it but not just on a general statement like “Vivisection must end” or something. Just wanting to put a little more into it than that. Not to disparage that form, because that’s a very…you were talking about dynamics before and there’s one end of the spectrum that is very direct. We try to be a bit more vague about it so it will be more open to interpretation.
MYE: Almost a poetic commentary on current events?
RJ: Yeah, I’ve heard criticism of political bands where whatever song they are singing is stuck in that time period of the event they were singing about, but that’s fine.
MYE: I see both sides of it. I liked it when old Public Enemy records were very current events oriented to their time or when Lamb Of God was (laughing) writing every other song about why George Bush sucked. That was cool.
RJ: Oh, sure. And we’ve got some of that too, even though he’s not around now.
MYE: There has been a discussion since the Gifford’s shooting about toning down political rhetoric and of course that is not going to last, but I agree that things get ridiculous sometimes. You have to have freedom of speech but you don’t want people putting targets on politician’s faces on web sites either, though then again I love all the 80’s hardcore anti-Reagan fliers, some of which were pretty unsubtle! It’d be nice for every one to be peaceful but it’d be nicer if whether vitriolic or civil we could still exchange and consider ideas better even when people disagree.
RJ: Yeah, I didn’t see the website with the targets. I saw SarahPac. It had the map with the crosshairs. I think about this the same way we defend our lyrics and movies and books we’re into. I like the way Trey Azagthoth put it, actually. I interviewed Morbid Angel once for my zine and he said,”If something’s gonna offend somebody else they are gonna get set off regardless of whatever it is that does that to them. If it wasn’t this it was gonna be that.”
MYE: Not necessarily a video game or whatever.
RJ: Right, they were gonna do that anyway. It’s like what you were saying about freedom of speech. If a politician can’t say what they want then what’s gonna stop them from saying Slayer can’t anymore? They already tried that! They did it with Ozzy and Priest, you know?
MYE: It’s that grey area where you wonder if the debate is all a plan to move everything towards more censorship, not that I wanna sound like I am defending Palin.
RJ: It’d be great if people on the right would discuss things like an adult and not make references to “we’ve got to take care of this” in a way that I’m going to suggest but not actually coming out and saying it. Let’s put it that way. I doubt Sarah Palin was trying to get anybody killed but she’s really into firearms so that’s how she referred to it. I read a book called ANYTHING FOR A VOTE and it describes campaigns from the beginning. The shit people would do was completely insane to smear the other side or use force to physically keep people from not being able to vote.
MYE: Like in GANGS OF NEW YORK, man.
RJ: Of course that went on in the 60’s and earlier also. The struggle for voting rights, but it’d been going on a long time. But this observation about how there is so much hate these says, it’s nothing new. It’s a cycle that happens whenever there is high unemployment. You look at what is right around the corner and say,”Oh, it’s because a Latino is taking my job” instead of looking at our foreign or domestic policy affecting our economy. People are aware of that to a certain extent but they also will blame whoever is in office at the time.
MYE: Well, they want a figurehead, not that our leaders don’t play a role, as Bush certainly did in running up the deficit with the wars.
RJ: That’s sort of what’s going on with the tea party movement and actually my dad runs a local tea party cell. His though, they are very careful to not put out anything that is Obama hatred just for the sake of it, which I think is really good. They just sort of focus on what the government is doing.
MYE: That is good. I understand people getting upset about business taxes, but you have to have some regulation or things get too Enron (I always say that) or there is a disparity that even the most die hard Libertarian would have to eventually face has nothing to do with a fair and competitive market. That’s people’s fiscal beliefs, but when we cross certain lines it’s very unproductive.
RJ: Right, to be as racist as they wanna be. It’s people pissed off because we have a black president and what they perceived to be a liberal, which makes it even worse. It’s ignorant. Obama’s a centrist. They call him a socialist and it’s silly. All you have to do is look what he’s doing and you can see very clearly that he’s a capitalist. It’s like the blind rage in the general tea party movement, not all of them. It’s not that people aren’t paying attention and having a hunger for information, but that it is where they get their information. They’ve consumed it.
MYE: And it is in a lot of people’s interest to keep it that way.
RJ: That’s right.
MYE: I appreciate your thoughts on that. Back to the record, I love the “Grayed Out” video. I like the way it is reactions to the band playing, focusing on the playing without a fake story. It gives a good vibe of the band energy.
RJ: Lots of times there’s a plot inserted into videos by a director that has nothing to do with the plot! There’s a few effects but mostly it’s the same kind of feel so it is real time.
MYE: It’s not a cheesy performance vide like on MTV…not that they even play videos anymore.
MYE: You made it focused on the craft of being a musician. I also liked that howling scream in “Checkers” that sounded like someone was dying. Did you consume too much hot sauce or something?! That scream is awesome.
RJ: Well, you gotta put some roars in there…and that’s one of them.
MYE: Could you talk at all after that?
RJ: I had a hard time with this one cuz I had way too much coffee and it ended up effecting the golden pipes (laughing). I did end up straining my voice for a few days but I didn’t do any permanent damage.
MYE: Do you smoke cigarettes?
RJ: No. I used to smoke cloves before the got banned in the States.
MYE: They got banned? Now that you mention it I don’t remember seeing any…hippies smoke those in awhile.
RJ: (laughing) If you go to a smoke shop, you know…(laughing) the guy’s in smoke shops are big on legislation because they wont let the smoke shops sell what they want, and they’ve got a point there. But Congress decided it was a favored cigarette and that meant they would sell to kids. They’d get corrupted.
MYE: I dunno…I used to take a lot of acid and chain smoke cloves listening to Skinny Puppy when I was an early teen. My lungs should have collapsed.
RJ: (laughing) I’ll give you some trivia about cloves then. Remember the X-Files “smoking man”? He didn’t smoke so he’d always smoke cloves during a shoot. I read it in an X-Files book ‘cuz I‘m…a geek.
MYE: A lot of the vocals on your record are tangible, which I liked. You had a cool balance.
RJ: I do try to enunciate. I care about that. I hope that people grab a couple of the lyrics. It’s fun. I remember the first time I played a show and someone yelled the lyric back at me. I was so psyched. I was a guy who was so straight edge that he didn’t wanna get a marker to have the ink chemicals go in his skin. He had white garden gloves and drew X’s on them! The guy was really cool. This was back in Enemy Soil days. It was really cool.