Back from hiatus after a lengthy break, the metalcore band Painmask are champions of the Upstate, NY metal and hardcore underground. This band has been writing great songs, doing it live and going to E-Town shows since a lot of new school heroes were in diapers. Painmask still represent with a Life Of Agony/Biohazard influenced wall of mosh sound no matter what the climate changes in the scene. That said, Painmask are not just a 90’s throwback band. They were doing it back then in the first place!
A lot of regions have classic bands that weren’t as well known but who real bands/peers in the scene all know and love. Not everyone knows Section 8 from Albany/Troy, NY or Sam Black Church from Boston but they were very influential. Painmask is kinda like that for the Hudson Valley, a band who slug it out and represent, have collaborated with All Out War, toured with Mastodon and released great records but deserve way more props.
I talked with Painmask singer Jay Avery about what makes heavy music so important to the band, their history and reunion, the new album (some label like I Scream needs to scoop these guys up), and looking at the funny side of life even while being tough guys.
To read the interview click HERE.
Morgan Y. Evans: For those who don’t know, Jay, we go way back and you are an old friend. I have to shake my head trying to explain to newcomers all the history, all the shows and all the struggles over the years for the sake of the art and to make heavy music with meaning. I really admire that Painmask is still alive in 2012 and a powerful entity. In your own words could you try and distill a brief history of the band?
Jay Avery: Yeah, man. I think when we first met was back in like 98, when I was playing guitar for Beneath The Remains (BTR) and you were singing for Fuse. We played a show together at the Rhinecliff Hotel in Upstate NY. A lot of fun times were had at that place.
MYE: Now that place is totally changed and a super posh hotel but it used to have a hooker upstairs and a collapsing roof! I still have scars on my back from rolling in glass on the floor there years ago. Crazy! Anyway…
JA: Okay, well you asked for it. So just prior to the spawn of Painmask was a band called Incision. Original Painmask members Carl Carlew (bass), Tim Panic (guitar), Billy Wilson (drums). Along with myself (guitar), all took turns batting around the vocals, played a few local shows up and down the Hudson Valley and distributed a lot of… wait for it… four track cassette demos with this band back in ’97.
JA: We also had some national exposure with Incision playing at the Chance in Poughkeepsie with Testament. At that show we played with and I met the guys in BTR. Having musical differences, I signed on with BTR on guitar for a year and put out their first EP. “Quest of the Lost Souls” (RPP). During this time they changed the name to Painmask, replaced me with Mike Bernard (guitar) and Ray Negron (vocals) followed by Sean Kennedy replacing Tim on guitar and recorded the first demo “Death Knows No Color”. Shortly after I rejoined the group on vocals. After many lineup changes sometime in 2000 just prior to signing with Innerstrength records, we released some promos entitled “We Live the Lies” which were rough mixes off of the yet to be released full-length “Are You Prepared to Meet the Truth” (Innnerstrength). The signing brought us worldwide distribution and our first US tour in the summer of 2001 in support of Dying Fetus, along with Mastodon and Hoods. We played a few shows in 2002 and then Painmask took an extended hiatus. After many side projects Carl and I began to write new material and audition drummers. But it wasn’t until we found local legend Dave Tetreault that the reunion seemed possible. Then once Sean rejoined on guitar it was on. February of 2010 we played the reunion show in our hometown of Kingston New York. After the overwhelming response, and the demand to keep going we recorded and released a four song EP, while continuing to crush shows and write for the new full length.
MYE: What are your feelings listening back to the music you have made over the years, whether “Are You Prepared To Meet The Truth?” or your 2011 EP or whatever? What songs stand out to you as having been personally really meaningful?
JA: What really drives me insane is that kids are making better demos with a $.99 app on their iPhone’s in between reality show commercials, then what took us weeks and thousands of dollars years ago. But I still love listening back to how we’ve evolved musically over the years, but stayed true to our DIY hardcore approach and yet not compromising the metal. One of our new songs “Never Again” I hold close to my heart. It’s about a single dads struggle to win custody of his daughter after falsely being accused of abuse.
MYE: People that know Painmask know you guys are like a family. Can you describe your relationship with the other guys in the band and try and convey what it means to play music with them? It is admirable that with line-up changes and many years passing that a core of Painmask has survived in the underground for so long.
JA: We’ve been doing this so long together as a team, that it just seems to come natural now. Everyone wears different hats at different times. We’re definitely like a family through thick and thin. We’ve seen the best of times and been there for each other through the worst. We all come from big supportive families with lots of siblings, and they’ve come out in droves at times, as well as our loyal friends and fans! Whether it’s been a reunion show a benefit or a balloon animal festival, we’ve always had that solid base to build up from.
MYE: Let’s talk about Painmask today. What is the band currently up to, whether music you are bumping, your own recording plans with the band or whatever?
JA: Well we’ve cutdown to only performing a few shows per month right now, just to keep our chops up. Because we’re really focusing on writing to record this new album. But in the meantime we’re all very involved in music both local scenes and nationally we’ve been to a few of the Biohazard reunions, Blood for Blood. The recent E-town reunions at Starland in NJ really blew my mind. The unity and sing-alongs in the pit were simply amazing. Reminded me of the old Life of Agony shows. (peep my vids of show at Catskilljavery on You Tube). Sean’s checked out Manowar and Black Label Society. Carl’s been out to see Hanson and Anthrax a few times this past year. Dave performs in plays and does session work for other bands when he’s not playing with Star Wars action figures.
MYE: What is your favorite song to play live, or does it change? Does the band always agree on song themes?
JA: Yes, for me it changes. But the crowd seems to always love the sing-alongs. Lately we’ve been having a lot of fun with our new song “one5nation”. There’s a video of this one posted on our Facebook page. I pressed record on my iPhone and handed it to the crowd, so they dictated the video. “Anthium” is always a crowd pleaser because ,”We Will Not Let This Scene Die”. Oh, and we pretty much just all agree on Sean’s themes (hence the guns).
MYE: Jay, we have been going to shows since Hatebreed was opening for bands that have long since broken up! Can you share some of your favorite old school metal and hardcore memories from the Hudson Valley underground?
JA: With pleasure… It’s interesting that you should mention Hatebreed. Just recently I tweeted Jamey Jasta a picture of an old ticket stub I came across. It was December of ’98 at the Chance in Poughkeepsie, New York. Hatebreed was opening up for Earth Crisis, along with One King Down and Candiria. I saw V.O.D there when you couldn’t fit another person in the building. Overcast. Always had a blast at the Gwar shows. Back then we had a huge local scene with many impressive bands like Unbalanced, Implicate, Slipfist, Dissolve, Bludgeon, Elevate, Salted Wounds, Malamor, Gizmachi, just to name a few. I miss the All Out War shows at the old Newburgh skate parks. Seeing Fury of Five fight there way out of the building, Candiria without a bass player, Inner Dam, State of Alarm. I could go on on and on.
MYE: Can you tell everyone a little about your interesting background with High Times and your comedic aspirations? You are one funny muthafucka!
JA: Well, back in the early 90’s the infamous Kyle Kushman and I adopted each other and spent a lot of time together. We had growing expectations and fought for freedom, marched side-by-side in the first pot parades of NYC. We helped spread medicine to the sick and less fortunate, most of which have moved west. This was back before California passed prop 215, allowing qualified patients and caregivers to possess 8 ounces of dried medicine. Back then anonymity was key and I penned under the name Dr. Calyx. We became family with the underground at the forefront of the movement and the magazine. Now Kyle’s a master grower educating at Oaksterdam University for sometime. And he has a huge seminar on April 1 at the Arizona Medical Marijuana Certification Center, which I’m hoping to attend. Still brothers, still fighting for the greater good of humankind. About the comedic thing. I guess I’ve always been a huge comedy fan since I could remember. Maybe it was my alcoholic father forgetting my name and bumming $10 off of me on my birthday, or his girlfriend driving his truck into our kitchen at 3 a.m. in a drugged rage. Early on I learned how to turn dysfunction into LOLs. I’ll do just about anything to make animals laugh, and quite often I’m misinterpreted. I’ve been known to host an open mic here and there. And you might just catch me spewing stand up under the monicker Catskilljay. And if ya’s wanna laugh you can follow @Catskilljay on da twitta (Boston accent).
MYE: How long do you perceive you would like to keep Painmask going? Also, is it worth explaining to the ignorant what One-Five means?
JA: I see Painmask moving forward as long as the guys can keep putting up with me and my ability to make a crowd feel incredibly uncomfortable. The One-5 thing has taken many forms over the years. but to get the original concept you’d have to contact Scotty (mac) Waters, one time Guitar player, one time tour drummer for the band. He can be found tent side playing his djembe (African hand drum) for belly dancers at renaissance gatherings in the summer months.
MYE: What have been some personal milestones for the band whether opening for a national or overcoming an obstacle or just helping out a good cause? You guys are down to play wherever as long as it is cool and I really admire that attitude.
JA: I’ll never forget six flats in two weeks on tour. Playing the World Series of Metal in Cleveland with Mushroomhead and Pro Pain. Meeting up with Diecast in St.Paul, MN. We’ve made dreams come true sharing the stage with some of our hero’s and influences, bands like Biohazard, Madball or God Forbid, as well as having great reception performing with more commercial acts such as Saving Abel, Cold or Kittie. Had a ball supporting The Independence. We have and will play many benefits and local shows to come. And thank you.
MYE: Lastly, what surprises you about music these days? This can be a good or a bad thing?
JA: Well, every style and genre seems to be crossing over in the recent years. Although I’m not fond of the trends, I get a real chuckle when I see pants worn around the knees, or dudes wearing skinny jeans. We’re living in some amazing times right now. This whole exponential technology thing, social nitwitting, and Gogurts make life real easy.
MYE: Gorguts? (laughing)
JA: Bands don’t even need record labels anymore with the help of iTunes, Spotify and hundreds of other aids. Just don’t fall to far behind because tomorrow the next best thing comes out.