MISERY (Official Site / Facebook) have been a mainstay of the crust-punk scene for over 20 years. Formed in the late 80's they brought a sound to US punk that borrowed from bands like the ENGLISH DOGS, AMEBIX and AXEGRINDER pushing US punk to extremes it had not really explored before.
My introduction to the band was the 'Born Fed Slaughtered' 7" that I traded a NOFX 7" for in about 1991. Recently the band has released what can be called their best album ( read the ThrashHead review here) entitled 'From Where the Sun Never Shines'. To celebrate this epic slab of apocalyptic crust I knew I had to get an interview with the band to share with everyone in the ThrashHead universe. Enjoy!
ThrashHead: Why, when, how did MISERY form?
MISERY: The forming of the band was kind of a long complicated story that started in Minneapolis in 1986. The band actually didn't form as Misery until 1987. The reason we started out was because we saw a big void in the Mpls music scene and thought that we could put something together that had a whole lot more meaning behind it than what most of the so called "PUNK" bands were doing around this city. There were a few that were mixing some politics into their stuff at that time, but we were going for something a little more extreme and thought provoking. Not to mention that the sounds that we were making at that point in time were something that no one around here was doing. It was kind of the beginning of a whole new Mpls sound, one that most of the locals didn't want any part of or just plain didn't understand. We in some sort of odd way planted a seed here that seemed to grow far beyond any of our expectations.
ThrashHead: What was the scene like in Minneapolis at the time? Was it anything of the punk mecca that it became?
MISERY: Back in the 80's Minneapolis had a fucking incredibly large population of the punk sort. When bands like GBH came to town, the shows were sold out and some of the biggest parties that you could ever imagine. Looked a lot like one of those postcards you saw as a kid and just thought to yourself, Fucking cool mom, I want to be one of those people. In the late 80's, when we started putting Misery together, The Anarchist Gathering came to town bringing a fuckload of folks from all over. It in a way helped to build the conduit that connected a lot of like minded people and in the end, increased the population of politically minded underground punks in this city as a lot of people started relocating here from around the country. These were pre internet times and connecting with people was pretty much a shot in the dark, so the gathering really fertilized the tree of change that was growing here.
In the 90's there were so many bands forming here and so many touring bands dropping in that it was nothing short of Chaos. But oddly enough, in that time of chaos is when it really began to become more organized. The Back Room @ Book Store was doing shows, a lot of people were starting to get nice basement spaces for shows and soon spaces dedicated to underground punk shows were put together. A lot of people in Mpls busted their asses putting this whole thing together and they still do today. Havoc, PE and Extreme Noise Records are some of the long standing examples of that. Back then it was hard for bands like us to get a show in an established club/bar, so everyone got together and made our own places.
It's still happening today besides the fact that there are now Punk owned and operated bars/clubs, there are still many house shows and a few spaces that do some of the best shows. So many bands come and go now days that it is almost impossible to keep up with what is going on.
ThrashHead: How has the scene in Minneapolis changed over the years?
MISERY: It has grown and matured into something to be proud of.
ThrashHead: Is it still a mecca for all things punk or have things died down a little?
MISERY: Things have definitely not died down, it is a pretty strong burning fire that seems to keep gathering fuel from the younger folks that keep it burning strong. There are so many bands and shows now that it is really hard to keep track of it all.
ThrashHead: What or who were MISERY's early influences?
MISERY: Our surroundings had the most influence on us, as they still do. As far as musical influences go. Back when we started, not unlike today, you could be sitting for a drink with us and hear everything from the Bangles, MEEBEES and Tommy James, to Crass, Conflict and Motley Crue mixed in with some old Delta Blues, Broken Bones, GBH and Marley. We, as a band have so many different musical tastes that I don't think you could really nail it down. Probably just DEVO.
ThrashHead: As the band formed and started to establish itself what topics or issues were important to the band? How important are these same issues to the band today?
MISERY: We never have really sat down together and said, " Hey, let's write a song about this or that" or " we as a band stand for this or that". We've always had the same symbol of anarchy, peace, and autonomy. although we are not a real anarchist band, anarchy couldn't work in the world as it is today, but with the other two ideologies included, it would. As far as the subject matter in our lyrics goes, we have stayed on the same track from day one. To sum up where most of our lyrics come from are 2 simple questions. What The Fuck Are We Doing This For? and What The Fuck Is Wrong With Us? we and us meaning the human race. All political, social and personal issues are easily included when it comes down to that.
ThrashHead: What was your personal introduction to punk? What about it attracted you to it?
MISERY: As we only do interviews as a whole, this question is a bit hard to answer. Maybe Punk is what that guy from Men At Works' eye was looking at. Not knowing what that was is what may have attracted us to this world. Maybe that is better left unknown. Who Fucking knows.
ThrashHead: Considering these were the pre-internet days how did MISERY get it's name out there? How did you network with like-minded bands/people across the country and even the globe?
MISERY: Back before this cyber networking thing came about, there was a fuckload of letter writing going on. Playing shows in different towns and word of mouth is how we ended up meeting a lot of like-minded people. When Book You Own Fucking Life came out it was the new address book for bands like ours, very helpful and made it much easier to find places to play in other cities.
ThrashHead: At what point did Al decide to leave the band?
MISERY: Not too long after we returned from our first trip to the east coast, 1988.
ThrashHead: What were Al's reasons for leaving?
MISERY: Just a lot of personal things going on in his life at that time and he basically just needed to get away from everything he'd known for far too long. Not unlike most people, he was searching for something else in life.
ThrashHead: Did he already have the Nausea gig lined-up?
MISERY: Nothing solid when he left Misery, but it was in the works and it worked out wonderfully for all of us. We, as a band, didn't miss a beat as what we were set on doing what we were doing, and he went on to do some of the most amazing things one could do. We certainly felt bad about the parting, but after so many years it just seems that that is what should have happened. Fuck, he was the biggest Nausea fan in the world and having the chance to join, perfect. Much better than what Ripper did to Judas Priest. Ha
ThrashHead: You recently did a show with him again; what was that like?
MISERY: Rumors are so funny. We have been working with him on a recording project and it's been more fun than you could believe. More time is spent telling stories of the old times than anything, but we are making some progress and it's coming along pretty well. It may be a record in time.
ThrashHead: I believe other than Al leaving, the band has kept the same line-up since the late 80's...Is that correct? That is very uncommon. How have you been able to pull that off?
MISERY: Yes that is true, we have had the same members since then. We are people that just seem to get along very well and love writing and playing together. It seems that a lot of bands don't have a connection like we do. Maybe Guns n Roses and Van Halen, but that's pretty much it.
ThrashHead: Mankind has almost always perceived that it is on the cusp of disaster and imminent doom as part of our belief that we live on the edge of time. Do you think that this truer today?
MISERY: Humans are a very arrogant species and sometimes it seems that the disaster is our existence, but like a mutating virus, we will continue to exist as all life forms seem to be designed to survive. As far as being doomed goes, That just seems to be people acting like they know what is really going on when no one really does. Maybe the fear of the unknown or the fear of the end of the only thing we know holds more power than anything we know in this life we have. That fear itself is timeless.
ThrashHead: Are we really closer to global annihilation?
MISERY: Not really sure if we are any closer than we have always been. Growing up during the cold war years it was implanted in us that we were just waiting for the sirens to sound and that would be the beginning of the end. That has yet to happen and now with the newest threat called terrorism, which is basically religious fundamentalism; we are facing a whole new chapter in human foolishness and arrogance. It's amazing how destructive mankind can be, can't we just look around at the beautiful world that we have and treat it and all of the living beings with the respect they deserve? Guess that is a bit too hard for most.
ThrashHead: Why after 20+ years do you think there is such a strong interest in MISERY?
MISERY: We don't think there has ever been a strong interest in Misery, but by sticking with it and saying the same things we have been saying for so many years, it may show that we are and we not growing up to go away. We have never been a band that has written songs to sell or to become more popular from nor are we entertainers that put on some circuslike show that will blow your mind. Maybe we still have attention from people because we are the no bullshit real people, something that people like us can relate to.
ThrashHead: You have a world-wide following with very limited touring. How have you been able to cross such spans?
MISERY: When you think about it, it's a pretty small world. The underground punk world has a very great power of networking and communicating. Unlike the music in the mainstream, this shit is not crammed up every ones asses, punks search for music and bands that say what they would say and sound like what they want to hear. In the underground, people search for bands, bands don't really search for people. Sure you have to put it out there for people to find with the help of labels/ distros but those are the places people will be looking for it. We could never call it a following or fanbase because it's more like just gathering more friends in the end. Fuck do we have some great friends.
ThrashHead: The new LP was several year process. Can you describe how the writing and recording for the new LP came together?
MISERY: In the beginning we really were not planning on using that stuff for a release, but after laying a few songs down in our basement studio we decided that that was the only way it would work and it seemed to sound much more like us than anything we've done in any studio, so we moved forward with it. The writing process was kind of a cluster fuck as we all work on odd schedules so most of it was done by a couple of members and the others added their tracks when they could get the time. A pretty long drawn out process. After about a million hours of mixing and what not it became what it is. Pure, basement DIY recordings of us. Just the way it is supposed to be.
ThrashHead: What is your favorite song on the new album and why?
MISERY: Because we wrote them all ( besides the Covers) and put our everything into the whole project it would be hard to answer that.
ThrashHead: What are some of the bands in Minneapolis that people should be looking out for?
MISERY: There are so many great bands from here right now that a list would be hard to put together, but to name a few.. War//Plague are really good band and In Defence are probably one of the best bands to see live as they are true entertainers, in the same class as D4. It's really hard to keep up with all of the bands around here.
ThrashHead: How has punk shaped your life aside from the music? What does it mean to you in your daily life?
MISERY: It has helped us to see through a lot of the bullshit in this world. It kind of gives you the go ahead to speak out when dealing with the racist, sexist, homophobic assholes that seem to be around every corner.
ThrashHead: Is punk rock the Fountain of Youth?
MISERY: Did Ponce de León have a mohawk? Some of the life styles associated with punk rock are the exact opposite, but then again there is always Charlie Harper, maybe he would be a better man to ask about that.
ThrashHead: What were the last couple of records you bought? Which one is your favorite and why?
MISERY: Arctic Flowers, Murderess, Police Bastard/ War//Plague split, Sonic Mass, Frustration, Morne. They all kick ass!
ThrashHead: In closing what do want people know about you and / or MISERY?
MISERY: We more than appreciate the interest that some people have in us as a band, it means a lot to us ,without you we would just be doing this for ourselves.