an interview w/ Rival Schools (Walter Schreifels & Sammy Siegler) (the long lost part 2)
Walter Schreifels @ Knitting Factory – BV-CMJ 2008 (more by Zach Dilgard)
Last CMJ, Rival Schools played their first public NYC reunion show at Knitting Factory. It was part of a day-long and free BrooklynVegan party. Right before that happened we interviewed Rival Schools members Walter Schreifels and Sammy Siegler, but only ever posted half of it (“part 1″). As sometimes happens around here, time went on, and the interview got older and older… and then I remembered we had it today. What reminded me was the show that the new Walter Schreifels Band will be playing at Music Hall of Williamsburg this evening (@7:30pm). What better time then to finally post the never-before-seen conclusion? (not to mention it’s as relevant now as it was last year) (and better late than never?).
Rival Schools have now been back together for over a year, and though they promised a new album, so far it looks like the newest one will be a solo LP coming out by Walter himself (video preview at the end of the post). He’ll play some of those new songs, along with lots of classics, at Music Hall tonight (right after an opening set by Think About Life).
Check it out…
Youth of Today. Sammy, how were those reunion shows? What do you think are the chances of seeing more of those come around?
Sammy: I don’t think we would do Youth of Today again… When that came about, it was the one-off show and then we did a little jaunt in Europe and there were a lot of young kids who never got to see us before. For me, it was really fun to play those old songs but to also hang out with Ray & Porcell. In retrospect, it was a bummer that Walter didn’t do it, but it was definitely fun. As far as reunions go, some things are best left as memories.
Walter, were you asked to participate in that?
Walter: I was asked to do it, but at the time I didn’t want to. I felt like… It’s kinda of along the same lines as like the Gorilla Biscuits type thing. I just wasn’t into, I just felt like it wasn’t a necessary element, and it wasn’t like something that I had to. I was busy doing other things. Gorilla Biscuits was more like my baby, and there was just more circumstances with us together.
Sammy in Side by Side
Do you keep in contact with any of those guys?
Walter: I do, but not that much. I mean Sam obviously, Porcell once in a blue moon, and Ray once in a blue moon, but I mean l love those guys and I’m a big fan of them.
So Walter…Walking Concert… what’s the current status of that band?
Walter: Walking Concert has always been more of a Badly Drawn Boy or…
Like a solo vehicle?
Walter: Right. And after the Walking Concert record I tried to focus my energy into a solo record, which is what I have been focusing on mostly.
So going back to Quicksand… I’ve heard the band’s name thrown around, as well as your old tour mates Deftones, in relation to some of the early stages of metalgaze… that kind of metal meets shoegaze subgenre. I know just by reading about your listening habits back then that you guys were really into a lot of My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Lush, Slowdive…
Walter: It was happening at the same time.
Yeah. So I guess my question is, do you pay attention to any of these modern “metalgaze-y” bands?
Walter: Over the years, I definitely picked up on people name-dropping My Bloody Valentine… you know people outside of the indie rock world in bands that you think are metal bands. When we were doing Quicksand, I felt like I could just jump on that bandwagon completely, but we kinda had this other thing going on so we brought those elements into what we were doing. I mean there was bands like The Swirlies from Boston and a band from Philly that I really liked… The Lilys. But there’s bands that took that My Bloody Valentine thing closer at the time and really really went for it and I think did something interesting with it. But as far as metal, yeah mixing metal and that shoegaze stuff, I pretty much invented that, I think.
Walter: I don’t know who else was doing it at the time! I mean the stuff was happening, the single came out, I brought it home and I started ripping it off immediately!
Walter: If there was someone else at the time I’d like to meet ’em. We probably would have already met and have had a lot to talk about. I’m not saying I did it the best or anything.
Walter with Rival Schools at The Knitting Factory (Chris La Putt)
Sammy: My outside perspective… as a fan… It’s like you’re also dealing with four different personalities that musically come from such interesting places.
Sammy: Like Tom was like a fucking metalhead.
Walter: Like serious metal.
Sammy: … and Allan has his own style, which was definitely into metal…
… and Sergio’s got his own…
Walter: This kind of Egyptian style.
Sammy: You know, Allan and Sergio had like a real Zeppelin thing and also hip-hop rhythm section vibe, which just had a sound…
Walter: …but it was definitely interesting that having all of those different sounds creates the chemistry of the band and definitely Rival Schools has that as well.
Sammy: We were talking about the Deftones the other day and just those guys too, we’ve toured with them a bunch and you know, they just have their own sound, and obviously with a lot of bands you just get lucky when you have that chemistry where it’s just like “oh shit,” this guy play’s like this, this guy play’s like that, and it happens to work out.
Walter: I kinda regret that we didn’t listen to more music in the van in Europe because just thinking of that time, or even in like the hardcore times, we were all listening to the same fucking records, all of us, and we were really really focused on the same music… so our references and palette were so close. And in Quicksand, the only time that shit got like that was when the shoegazer thing came out. That was the only time that we all, well not Allan so much, but the other three of us were like “we all love this.” We really all agreed on it. And then after that it was always like well “I’m into this” “he’s into that” “you’re into that.”
(Sammy looks at Walter)
Walter: That was good. Which is actually kinda the same thing… we all speak the same language.
Sammy: In terms of Semi-Pro, we can all communicate.
Walter: Everybody love everybody.
What else did you guys see recently?
Sammy: Well Rambo III or was it Rambo IV? The last one.
Walter: We didn’t even really get all the way through it
The end was great.
Sammy: Fuck, we need to watch that again.
Walter: I loved the completely necessary graphicness of it.
Walter: Like it wasn’t enough to have them just raid a village, you had to see them have a babies head like blown off .
Sammy: It wasn’t enough to choke the dude out, you had to choke the guy out and then pull his fucking jimmy out and throw it in front of the chick. “Let’s go!”
Walter: I’m not here to imagine, I’m here for you to show me the story…You know what I mean?
Walter, congratulations… I know you recently had a baby girl.
Walter: Yes, that’s why I don’t see too many movies.
Exactly. You don’t see movies after that. My friend just had one too. So do you think that “Walter the father” has changed your outlook on songwriting?
Walter: I mean in the sense that I’m kind of coming up with more funny songs to sing to her. Also, I’m thinking about how I can apply… could I write a song that could be construed as something else so it wouldn’t be like “Oh great, Walter’s giving us fucking baby songs. Keep it to yourself dude!”
Walter: You know what I mean? How can I somehow take my feelings about her and turn that into a song that’s not self-indulgent. You know what it does? It makes my music more important to me, because I really have to make the time for it you know? Whereas before I had my baby it was like “I’ll do it whenever I feel like it”. I’ll pick up my guitar and do it. Now, I need to schedule a time to do it and I have to maybe be more precious with it because it’s a time away from her. So it has to be something that’s important and good to me.
Do you feel like that maybe stifles your creativity? Like if you have these hours set aside, spontaneity disappears…
Walter: In a way, I haven’t been in it long enough to experience that, but I could stifle my creativity my own way. (Laughing) I don’t need a baby to do it. I’ve been stifled for other reasons. So for me so far it’s made me feel like when I work on my music, I really gotta concentrate because it’s just that much more precious. If I’m not being productive in that world then I should be doing something else that’s gonna be helping my baby’s life.
Sammy: It’s good news for me. It’s good news for all of us. He’s more focused. Everybody works differently musically and creatively, but it’s nice to have a little kick in the ass sometimes. Because you know what? The reality is life that is short, and there is only a small amount of time that you can do this, but it’s easy to forget that. So you just get focused on doing it.
Walter: Yeah you have to schedule it. When you have a baby it just puts a mirror up to you a little bit more so you’re like “alright, was that cool?” If you’re gonna go do this, you wanna get it done you know?
Sammy: It’s like that Warzone song.
Walter: Which one?
Sammy: “In The Mirror”
Walter: (laughs) It’s totally true! One day when she’s old enough I’m gonna play her the Warzone song and I can say “baby, this is the kinda shit I was thinking about when you were little.”
Sammy: “It’s too bad we had to go through so much shit, Luke!” (impersonation of screaming)
Walter: You know your uncle Luke [ed: Abbey]? That’s who that is.
My friend and I recently had a discussion about the Reagan era, and how it gave way to so many excellent aggressive genres of music and bands, not to mention the accompanying art…. Reagan in mohawks and such. That said, considering our current times, do you see the new Rival Schools stuff coming out heavier, or do you think that the songs are coming out a little more pensive and thoughtful because of having the baby?
Walter: To say that the Reagan era created this whole kind of angry music that might be true, from a journalist or sociologist standpoint, but I don’t think you sit around and go “I’m really mad at Bush now, I’m gonna write a heavy song that really reflects my feelings about this kind of thing.” I know I don’t want to do anything artificial, and I wouldn’t wanna do something where I’m just trying to be heavy. I think you have to feel that. But I certainly wouldn’t wanna place any limitations on the music and wouldn’t be afraid to do something heavy, if that’s what I felt like doing. So I think going into Rival School stuff, I know that we’re gonna do something good when it’s all said and done. I have complete confidence in that. So whether it’s heavy and good, or melodic and good, or soft and good, or whatever that is, it’s gonna have some sort of integrity to the people playing in it, and have the freedom to do it. I don’t feel pressure to be like we have to appeal to this demographic.
Walter with Gaahl & King Ov Hell (ex-Gorgoroth)
So what are you guys listening to?
Walter: Boris is pretty cool. I can’t say I am a connoisseur of them, but every time it’s on I’m like this is pretty fucking cool.
Walter: I am listening to a lot of german stuff lately like Golden Zitrone and Blumefeld. Fugazi, lots of Fugazi lately.
Fugazi? The old staples huh.
Walter: I just haven’t listened to them in a long time and my buddy gave me a bunch of their records on a computer. Those guys just wrote the book. They’re gods.
Have you ever checked out The Evens?
Walter: I have one of The Evens‘ records and I listened to it for a little while and thought it was really good but the computer that I had it on got stolen so I just lost touch with that stuff. I need to go back and check it out that whole catalog. Its cool how what Ian [ed: MacKaye of Fugazi, Minor Threat, The Evens] does is always doing something different but in a sense this song is “Guilty Of Being White” fifteen times removed. I can still hear Minor Threat in what he’s doing.
Sammy: I think that you kind of hear the hardcore in Ian and same with Walter, even when he does his acoustic stuff, you hear the hardcore in that. So even with Rival Schools, we pull from like this heavy shit that our roots are in.
I think that even if you didn’t even hear the stuff you were doing, it would be associated in that kind of way.
Sammy: Right. I think it is kind of what we’re made up of in a way. In our DNA.
Walter: For better or for worse.
Sammy: It just has that energy usually.
Walter: It funny because in some ways hardcore has kind of ruined us because in the back of our heads we want the audience to mosh.
Sammy: We’re awful at festivals because people just stand there and stare at you. 60,000 people staring at you.
Walter: I mean people move their heads and that’s good to because you can feel people are having a good time. But deep down, we know what it feels like to have people crawling over us and under us and having a great time.
So let me get this straight. So next time that you play an acoustic show, Walter, and you walk out on stage with your Martin [ed: a brand of guitar], you want people moshing?
Walter: In a way, I kind of would love that. I mean, I don’t like the violence at all… but from the perspective of being on stage and seeing it all happen, it’s a very powerful thing to be like “OK, I just played a chord and now all of a sudden a room full of people is just hitting each other”. It’s a pretty hard thing to get over.
Do you guys keep up with modern hardcore or punk?
Walter: When I worked with this band a few years ago called The First Step, they kind of brought me up to date with the straight edge movement and it’s continuation. It’s really neat how the straight edge thing will always exist… I mean there will always be ska, there will always be punks, there will always be skins, and there will always be straight edge. As far as modern hardcore… hmm, I really like Fucked Up.
Walter: I’m not into things like punk really… like Rancid punk, California-style…NOFX. I like something more related to Negative Approach… like real hardcore… Minor Threat. In that world, I don’t like melodic hardcore, ironically.
That is definitely ironic, because a lot of people think GB is pretty melodic…
Walter: Gorilla Biscuits were associated with melodic hardcore but there really is no melody. I guess that I like that more purist sound but doing something more interesting with it.
Walter: Yeah I guess so. Just keeping it experimental and keeping it interesting
Sammy: Dillinger Escape Plan was doing something interesting for a while…
Walter: It’s a hard thing to progress with, because it has a formula and if you stray from that formula you aren’t doing it anymore. There’s a lot of stuff I wasn’t ever into too. Like Prog-hardcore. Weird time signatures, never really liked that stuff too much.
Walter: Not really my thing. Modern hardcore stuff, I am just not that familiar with it.
Walter & Sammy, A candid from the interview.
Sammy: I think I got into hip hop around the time that I got into hardcore and punk… around 1986-88 or so. It felt like it had a similar feeling, specifically the first Boogie Down Productions record, the first Eric B & Rakim, Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest record… they all kind of came out at the same time and I was hooked. It was very DIY and people were kind of doing stuff in their houses, putting on shows and it felt like a really community based thing… a lot like hardcore was at the time. Even into the 90s with Brand Nubian, Black Sheep, Cypress Hill…
De La [Soul] and all that…
Sammy: Yeah. Even later on with Wu-Tang… their stuff is great too. They create like a community feeling where you feel like you’re part of something which kind of plays into the whole hardcore movement, but yeah. There’s also a lot of mediocre stuff out there too but.. even like the Southern bounce type stuff I like a lot… Outkast and early Goodie Mob.
Last question guys… I know I have been bugging the ever-living shit out of you about reunions… mostly because, obviously, you guys have both been involved in some really high profile ones. That said, let’s flip that question around. Strictly from a fan’s perspective, who would you like to see reform for a show or do another record?
Sammy: Well I recently got a chance to see Cro-Mags..
The one with John Joseph? [ed: Officially known as Cro-Mags (Jam)]
Sammy: Yeah and they were so fucking tight and… I mean, I was up on the side of the stage and… I got chills again. It was so great.
Walter: Fugazi is definitely a band I would love to see again… I don’t know what they are up to know, but that would be one reunion that would incredible…. Hmmm…. maybe the Ocean’s 11 crew could get back together?
Thats a good idea! Maybe they could add another member and call it Ocean’s Twelve?
Walter: Wow, just keep on adding numbers! That sounds like a great idea!
Thanks Walter and Sammy… especially for being so patient! Look for Part 3 in 2010 (just kidding). Read Part 1 HERE. See Walter TONIGHT (10/20).
7:00 Think About Life
7:40 The Walter Schreifels Band
8:45 Nathaniel Rateliff & The Wheel
9:30 Laura Marling
10:15 The Antlers
& comedy by Dave Hill between sets