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My interview with Death By Stereo, May 2000

September 1, 2010

I did this interview more than ten years ago for a zine that never got put out (story of my life) – and I can confidently say that I was a total dickhead when I was 17.  Er, who isn’t?  I asked some dumbass questions and I also seem to have confused Paul, who in turn thinks that I have both misunderstood the band and that I see hardcore as a very violent and female-unfriendly scene (London shows in the late 90s definitely were though, and that’s what I was seeing a lot of).  I didn’t misunderstand Death By Stereo or their lyrics, but to take the violence question – what I meant was ‘what violence do you see in the scene and what do you think about that aspect of hardcore and how to combat it?’  Seems I had trouble expressing what I meant back then!

I do, however, seem to have fabricated the bit about their lyrics describing a violent retaliation to society, which they don’t, especially compared to the bunch of Victory bands I was listening to at the time, but I always got this feeling of anger from their songs – I guess that’s down to the biting sarcasm though, looking back.

I did this after If Looks Could Kill, I’d Watch You Die came out, when DBS were a relatively unknown band on Indecision.  I loved that album – I was just emerging from my metal/toughguy phase, listening to GoodLife and Victory bands, to embrace more melodic stuff like Ignite (who I saw at Reading around that time) and 7 Seconds (yep, I hated them at first – so weird!). This interview was mainly with Paul Miner, who left the band in 2005 but I believe returned to record their latest album in 2009, Death Is My Only Friend.

Why did you choose the name ‘Death By Stereo’?

Paul: Basically, and I know that this sounds stupid, but it just sounded cool.  It kind of exemplified our love for eighties movies and punk rock.

Are you a big fan of The Lost Boys? Is your name somehow symbolic of hardcore kids that are ‘lost’ in society or something?

Paul: Yeah we were definitely big fans of the movie ‘The Lost Boys’, that and all other things eighties.  I don’t think that we really read into the name as much as you might think, with the lost in society idea, but we were definitely fans of the movie.

“Mankind will weather storms/Mankind will toss away the cords/To sow the seeds of our destruction” – what does this mean, and who the hell is Mark Kim?

Efrem said: Mark Kim is a great friend of mine, we talk and hang out all of the time.  We always get around to philosophizing and talking about life in general.  He always wants to write songs and lyrics with me, so one day he just said that quote, and I thought it was awesome, so I basically wrote the whole song around that quote.  The quote itself basically means that humans will eventually destroy themselves due to the destructive behavior that has become so typical in the world of today.

How did you all meet, and why has your music taken this particular direction?

Paul: Basically we were all from the same area, went to school together, and that kind of stuff.  We also played in bands that played with each other, so that’s pretty much how we met. As soon as the bands  that we were in fizzled, we joined the best parts of all of those bands.  (For anyone who cares, those bands wer Clint, Clean X and D-Cons.)  Although we now have a different drummer and guitar player, the situation was the same with them, as far as knowing them through ither bands that they were in.  The direction that we have gone in is a product of what we happened to be listening to at the time, and our past musical influences.

What are your views on vegetarianism/veganism and animal rights?

Paul: All of us are vegetarian, except for Tim, our drummer, and each of us have a different tilt on the whole subject, but I think that those of us that are vegetarian are not militant or outwardly hostile in any way.  I think that it’s a personal decision for each of us, and at least for me, it is a small thing that I can do to help out the world (as romanticized as that sounds).  I think that it is important to educate as many people as you can about the subject, but let them make the decision for themselves, because you’re certainly not going to change anyone’s mind by being obnoxious.  But it deserves to be said that Jim and I are probably the only ones who feel that strongly about it.

What about human rights? What’s more important to you, as individuals?

Paul: Obviously the injustice of racism, bigotry and any prejudices are evils in our society that unfortunately still exist.  And it is really difficult to prioritise living things, because that’s what most people that are the offenders of those injustices are doing.  So I don’t even want to approach that subject.

Your lyrics seem to describe a lot of violent retaliation to society’s problems? Has violence got any sort of place in hardcore?

Paul: Absolutely not!! Oh no, you have misinterpreted the lyrics: physical violence has no place in this world.  The last thing that we would want anyone to do is handle their problems with violence.  We are definitely a band that encourages free thought and when problems come to you, handle them by using your mind, not your fists (wow, that sounded so cliché).  But to reiterate, in no way do we support violence of any kind.  There is a lot of sarcasm in our songs, we try to have fun, and a byproduct might be a touch of misinterpretation, however I would hope that most people would realize that we are not those type of people.

Please please come to tour in England.  Will this ever happen?

Paul: Yes, I can assure you that we will be coming to England.  I can’t give you a time frame, but it will happen, hopefully sooner than later.  And now that we are on Epitaph and they have great European distribution, I think that the avenue to get over there will be much easier.

Why do think there aren’t more girls involved in hardcore?

Paul: My only response to that, is I think that there is a stigma that people, not just girls, attach to hardcore. And that is that it’s a macho tough guy thing, that people take out their aggression with, and there is no place for people that are unaggressive.  Obviously I think you are under a different impression, but I got in to hardcore for the community aspect of it. Everyone is friends, and it is a forum for expression and the exchange of ideas, whether you agree with them or not. Although, I think it has changed somewhat in the past few years, I think that there is till that element present, and it is a great reason for anyone to become involved with the music.

Do you skate, and if so, what was your first board?

Paul: I am not that big of a skater, but Dan, Jim and Efrem are.

Examples of good interviews were harder to come by back then, but since the advent of the internet, I’ve seen challenging questions and really insightful answers from bands, and I’m embarrassed at how crap my questions were.  You can tell how much of a skatepunk I was that I asked about his first board… I mean, what the fuck, teenage me?  It’s amazing that I didn’t ask Paul about his defining records of hardcore, what bands first got them all into hardcore, and such like, but what can I say – I was a little kid who was basically running around on my skateboard with my Strife jacket on, being obnoxious and listening to rather dodgy bands (Mainstrike, anyone?).

I would stand by my question about human vs. animal rights though – at the time this was something quite evident to me within my town’s scene: a bunch of sometime vegetarians that were incredibly flippant about their fellow humans.  Also, although I didn’t ask about it in this interview, I and all my friends were straight edge then, and I was constantly disgusted by the kind of people they were turning out to be.  Like being straight edge was so much more important that not being an absolute cunt to your friends.  Straight edge and vegetarianism are no substitute for being a nice person.  I have never seen such an amoral bunch of people – cheating on each other and talking shit behind each others’ backs, and they looked down so much on people who weren’t straight edge.

The other question I would stand by is about the lack of girls in hardcore: I was one of two girls in my hometown (population >81,000) who were involved in it and I don’t mind saying that the other one is now quite widely despised.  I hardly ever saw other girls at shows, there were maybe a few in Northampton and Leicester but they were so rare that everybody knew them. I can’t really remember how many girls I’d see at shows in London, because I was mainly concerned with dodging all those people dropkicking.

So there you go, a reflection of a band before they hit it massive, and a reflection of me as an adolescent. Fun!

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 9, 2010 10:25 pm

    Vic this is brilliant! It makes me want to write up Max’s diary from when he was 16… there are some classic lines in that bad boy such as “about six months ago, I decided that any form of drug is a bad thing for me. I gave up alcohol, nicotine (not that I smoke), THC, which at 16 you may wonder what I was doing drinking alcohol. If I put it this way, that getting drunk was generally what EVERYONE did from 12 years old onwards and it continues until retirement. I just decided that when I was drunk I was kidding myself that I was having a good time”. It’s bloody brilliant. I have to show it to you.

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