Thursday, July 03, 2008

The New Lexicon according to Dan Yemin

Yes, I should have posted this one ages ago. But I didn't. Still it's here now for you all to enjoy. A short interview by mail with one of hardcores' nicest and smartest Mr. Dan Yemin.

-New Lexicon is the first PIB record on three labels, why did you chose to release it on Reflections and Rivalry as well and why these labels?
We were really excited to have a label represent us in Europe, and who better to do the job than Reflections? Johan and Suzanne are already friends of ours, and I’ve been following their work since the days of Reflections Fanzine. They’re great people, & they’re also serious old-school punks, which is important to us, and I trust them to do a great job. It’s great to work with people that have similar histories and reference points as us. We’re really proud of this record and we want people to know about it. “New Lexicon” will definitely get the attention it deserves in Europe with Reflections promoting it. As far as vinyl goes, Jade Tree (our U.S. label) is no longer really committed to doing vinyl and keeping it in print, and we had the freedom to work with another label as far as vinyl goes. We chose Rivalry because I like a lot of the music they’ve been putting out lately. I met the guys who run the label a couple of years ago and was impressed with their taste and their work ethic.

-The record release shows were sold out and it seems to me that PIB is gaining quite a following during the years, do you notice that as well that more and more people get into the band.
It does seem that the longer we keep at this, the more attention we get. At first I think people had a difficult time appreciating us because we don’t fit neatly into a stereotyped genre of hardcore. It seemed as if a lot of the hardcore kids thought we were too melodic and didn’t have enough “brutal breakdowns,” and a lot of the punks thought we were too hardcore. I’ve been stuck in that position before with my previous bands, and I think that if you’re persistent, develop your own identity, and aren’t afraid to take risks, your band will earn loyalty with a larger group of people.

- New Lexicon was the first record without Dave on drums, with whom you have been in bands for a long time, is it different working on a new record without him. Did getting Jared in the band change the way songs evolve and the sound of PIB. If so in what way?
Of course, it’s a different experience writing and recording with a different person. We also have Josh in the band playing guitar, which makes a huge difference. We worked a lot harder and with considerably greater focus on this record. In the past we were unable to get people to commit enough time to really work on arranging songs creatively, and that was always really frustrating. This time around we spent so much time exploring dynamics and tightening up as a band and making sure we hadn’t taken any short cuts in the arranging process. It was really liberating and I felt that the band was so much better prepared when we got to the studio. This album was much more of a collaboration, as opposed to how we worked in the past, when I basically wrote and arranged everything and told everybody what to play. The drumming is also pretty insane. Jared came up with some amazing stuff.

-What exactly did Oktupus do on the record, who is he and why did you ask him to collaborate?
Oktopus is the person responsible for crafting the beats for the indie hip-hop powerhouse Dalek. He does all their production, mixing, and recording, and if you’ve never listened to them, you really need to. Their albums are on Ipecac, Mike Patton’s label, and they sound really dense and apocalyptic. The best way to describe their music is a combination of Public Enemy’s kinetics, Swans droning low-end, and My Bloody Valentine layering and texture. I just really wanted to bring a different perspective to the recording process, and Oktupus also has a history in Punk and hardcore as well. We thought it was appropriate for the songs to combine something familiar with something that involved taking more of a risk, so we recorded the basic tracks with J. Robbins at his studio in Baltimore, and then brought them to Oktopus’ studio for post-production and mixing. We know J. really well and have recorded with him before, but handing the music over to Oktopus was an act of faith, because we had no idea what would come out of it. He added layers of sounds and samples and atmosphere, and sub-filters as well, so that at certain points it sounds as if your speakers are straining to keep up with the bass frequencies. Almost everything he did was built out of samples of our source tracks, modulated and chopped and looped. There are also some found sounds and field recordings, again modified, distorted, filtered. Most hardcore records sound heavy because there are 6 guitar tracks on it. “New Lexicon” is heavy because the bass is in the forefront, and because there are layers of other sounds that are mixed in the background and that complement the guitar, bass, and drums.

-Is PIB your way of venting anger, cause there's a lot of frustration there in the lyrics? Does the band work as a catharsis?
There is an element of catharsis to my role in the band, and so there is an avenue for me to vent a lot of frustration, fear, regret, resentment, and anger. But more importantly, it’s a way for me to access hope. At the end of the day our music is about hope.

-Are there plans for a new eurotour and if so when and with which bands would you like to come over?
We will be over in Europe some time in the summer of 2008. My dream would be to play with Ceremony, from California, and Deny Everything from Germany. My dreams don’t come true that often unfortunately.

-How do you find the time to do PIB, Lifetime and be a psychologist. Do you still have time to spend with friends and family?
I feel like it’s a delicate act of balance sometimes. Family and friends come first, and then after that, my psychology practice and my bands are equally important in terms of time and commitment.

-Has signing the Fall Out Boy-label made you rich or was that deal as good as the deals you have with Jade Tree and not so spectacularly different and is Lifetime ever coming to Europe again?
We didn’t get any money from Decaydance or Fueled by Ramen. It’s the same deal as with Jade Tree. There was just a larger budget for recording and promotion. I can’t really say whether Lifetime will make it to Europe. Everyone in Lifetime except for myself has children at home, and its very difficult for some of us to take time off from work.

-Somewhere I read the main theme on Paradise was your divorce. Is there an undergoing theme on New Lexicon and if so what is it?
My divorce was one of the main themes on “Paradise” in addition to the illegal U.S. war in Iraq. This time around I’m exploring the idea of faith, and how it can be a source of transcendence but also a tool of oppression. I’m also looking at some of the same issues as on the first two records: my stroke, my divorce, the war, growing up without selling out, and just sort of asking the question, “how do I integrate these traumatic events into my life and my identity two years down the road?” I’ve become accustomed to having had a cerebral vascular accident at the age of 33 and feeling like my head is a ticking time bomb, and taking medication that puts me at risk for a whole series of other life-threatening problems, but sometimes I’m still so fucking scared that all I can do is get the fuck outside and run and scream and cry, and at those times I feel pretty crazy, and pretty fragile, but also relieved that I can feel everything so intensely. The same sort of thing happens with other experiences of loss, but its not as intense because they’re not such life-and-death issues. Also, the war and the political/economic situation here still gets me so angry that I feel like breaking things.

-The whole world is following the US elections, which candidate is your favourite and why.
I like Barak Obama, because he’s smart, and although he’s somewhat less experienced, he doesn’t have that same slippery air about him that the more seasoned politicians have. Clinton has a wealth of experience, but I don’t entirely trust her. Although any the fast-talking centrist snakes in the democratic party would be better than the best of the devils in the republican party.


Tyler said...

Cool interview man, I've always found Yemin to be one of the more sincere people involved in hardcore and punk.

Are you working on a zine, or was this part of a zine, or just a one off sort of thing?

xroldx said...

Thanks Tyler, I already did the interview for a zine I was going to do but that never happened now I will try and post at least one interview a week on this blog.

Tyler said...

That's awesome man, i look forward to reading them.

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