Pageninetynine look back on “Document #7″
Richmond’s Pageninetynine evokes memories of awkward teenage years and being in awful hardcore bands. My own introduction to Pageninetynine, when a friend recommended their album Document #8, was a game changer. They were a gateway band, leading to screamo mainstays like Combatwoundedveteran and Orchid. Pageninetynine’s musical onslaught not only relieved my woes, but showed me how much depth can be found in mind-numbing dissonance.
Originally active from 1997 to 2003, Pageninetynine was particularly influential in the development of the screamo subgenre, a sect of hardcore punk famous for its emotional, politically-motivated nature and dissonant compositions. They were known for their intense live shows (never employing less than six members), massive musical presence, and the all-out cathartic nature of their music. From their vast catalog, their 2001 album, Document #7 went largely overlooked, left in the shadow of their follow-up, the well-received Document #8.
Compared to other installments in the “Document” series which defined their career, Document #7‘s dismal nature briefly punctuated Pageninetynine’s evolution before their return to mania. It was more patient and verbose with its movements, while still exuding the feeling of release which defined their discography. Document #7 is a pummeling trip into discordance which ebbs and flows like waves hitting a sinking ship. Though previous releases evoked a more direct presence, Document #7‘s polarizing shifts from slow to frantic leave behind a deeper feeling of introspection. With a more fine-tuned focus of their orchestral tendencies, Pageninetynine created an even-paced emotional journey with Document #7.
The Document #7 re-release lands on August 11th. Digital preorders are now available here, with physical pre-order links and a street date to follow. Listen to the legendary addition to the screamo genre canon on Invisible Oranges, and read an interview with guitarist Mike Taylor below.
Document #7 had a different feel compared to some of the other releases. It felt more dismal at times, while remaining defined, dynamic, and musical within its viscera. In retrospect, how do you feel about that embodiment of Pageninetynine?
I personally have always loved that album. It was definitely very different for us at the time, slowing the songs down, using a lot of pretty chords and making the songs a bit lengthier. I also feel the songs on that record were very indicative of the times for us. We were on one of our longer after tour breaks and didn’t see each for a bit. During that time we thought — or I should say I thought — it might be easier to just write all the material with just Johnny and me. I was a bit/a lot of a control freak in those days and wrote almost everything and felt like this would be a more productive way for the songs to get finished. So Johnny and I wrote all those songs together at practices with just the two of us, Chris would come and guide us along as well. In retrospect, I think it’s a neat record with a lot of ideas going on. Listening back to it, there’s a lot I still very much like and feel like we could have even gone in a cool direction with some of those songs on that record. These days I much prefer collaborative efforts with creative output, but I can still hear a lot of inspiration and vision with Document #7. Document #7 was also supposed to be a three-band split with Love Lost But Not Forgotten and The Hareste (on Happy Couples Never Last) and, I think, musically, Johnny and I both had a deep affinity and love for Leonard Cohen. That’s when I tried my best to use pretty chords. I can hear some Three Mile Pilot chords in there as well. A lot of burning candles, wearing robes, and incense! Ha! I know. Absurd.
What does Document #7 mean to you today?
Pageninetynine as a whole is a box with a nice lil’ ribbon wrapped around it; I think of that time in my life as one big chunk. It’s hard to pull certain meaning out of particular records. That band just represents complete focus and hard work. A time of total inspiration and pure vision. That record is special to me because, at that particular time, we had a whole mess of splits that were suppose to come out and a bunch of touring to do, and we just got it all done. And at the end of the day, we accidentally ended up writing a bizarre Frankenstein of a record that I’m very fond of to this day.
What have been some of your biggest influences before, during, and after Pageninetynine?
I’m obsessed with music and have been collecting since I was at least 13 years old, so I like a lot of stuff!! Leading into Pageninetynine, I was and still am a huge Born Against fan. Stuff like Jesus Lizard, Dazzling Killmen, Rorschach, Dead Guy, Ink and Dagger, Behead the Prophet NLSL, Mukilteo Fairies, and Neurosis for the early days. During the heyday of playing, I’d say a lot of bands we were playing with or saw a bunch influenced us a ton! Bands like Orchid, Jeromes Dream, Enemy Soil, Pig Destroyer, Majority Rule, My Lai, Reversal of Man, The Locust, and just all sorts of stuff like that back then, as well as Sunny Day Real Estate Reunions, Leonard Cohen, Three Mile Pilot, and then towards the end we were into some Sonic Youth, Unwound, Cursive… too much to name!
Were there any non-musical works of art which influenced Document #7? Are there any films or pieces of visual art worth mentioning?
Growing up in Sterling, Virginia, had a big influence on us. Probably the biggest, strange small town in between DC and the mountains. The suburbs. Each other, friends, family. You know, every single thing we’ve ever done has had an influence on us. We created our whole environment back then, we were clueless as to what DIY bands did when we started or what that even was or that it even existed. Just started setting up shows in our basement and going further and further out. I can’t really say much film had a heavy influence on the band, I’m sure some visual art had a lot to do with the art my brother would come up with, or even books maybe?
Document #7‘s cover appears to be fairly distinguished from other Pageninetynine releases, but still fits the general aesthetic. Can you tell us more about the art itself?
Document #7 is the only record in which I did the art — 95% of all Pageninetynine art has always been my brother, but we had so many records coming out at this time that I asked if he’d let me do one. I really wanted to do something with the pink and black look. Something like the Ramones’ Rocket to Russia, or Missing Persons. Something 1980’s and punk. I wanted it to stand out like a sore thumb with all the punk/hardcore at the time. We even put the CD in a pink jewel case hoping it would stand out and not look like the usual stuff from the time. Nikki Kelce did the neat lil’ skeleton drawing!
Are there any memorable tour stories from that era, or in general that you would care to share?
Ha! Oh yes, most certainly. Anyone who knows Pageninetynine knows that you could write an entire book collecting tour stories. I’ll leave that as a mystery. Too many to name. Good and bad.
Pageninetynine was entrenched in DIY ethics, is there anything you took away from your time spent in that specific era of the DIY community?
Yes, I strongly believe in DIY and I still do. I’ve made friends for life doing things this way. So many of my friends still do so many amazing things. Own record stores, do textiles, roast coffee, run labels, run tea shops, run studios, make chocolate, illustrate, write books, screen print, weld, do tattooing, book tours, teach music, and much more. These people make me proud and found a way to turn DIY into something that would last for themselves. It’s inspiring. Those ethics will always be there for every generation in some way, shape or form.
Is there any new music that you’ve been enjoying lately? What about anything from your past which you feel has stood the test of time?
There’s tons of music I’m always jamming! I can’t listen to music enough. As far as anything new? The new Mazzy Star/Hope Sandoval albums are always amazing. My brother plays in a great band called Big Hush! I’m into a lot of the bands we’re playing these shows with! Multi-cult, Wildhoney, Post Pink, Portrayal of Guilt, Kindling, Big No, Slow Mass, Future Terror. Leonard Cohen’s last album before he passed is amazing. Anything from my past that’s stood the test of time? I still look back on a lot of stuff I’ve done and I’m proud of all the hard work. Still dig some Pageninetynine albums, love my band Pygmy Lush and all the albums we’ve done. You’d have to ask someone else what they think. Madonna’s first album stands the test of time, I can tell you that!
This is the first time that Document #7 will be officially available digitally; I was curious about any commentary you might have concerning technological advances in music. How does it differ for you as an artist today versus almost twenty years ago? Is there anything from the pre-internet era that you miss?
A lot of things have changed and a lot of things are different. Some stuff I don’t like and some stuff I do like. I miss the more human aspect of those phone bills you’d have to rack up calling promoters to make sure everything was cool. In those days we even sent letters back and forth to arrange shows. But I don’t wanna be an old fart about it. Kids can be cool and kids can suck, but the simple premise remains the same: get into a van and play, play, play, and play some more.
The news of the Majority Rule tour has definitely made the rounds at this point, what prompted the impetus of this tour? How does it feel to be playing as Pageninetynine again?
Well, to be honest, my old friend Katy Otto got the ball rolling. She hit me up telling me she just had a good conversation with one of our band mates and it sparked the idea of doing a Pageninetynine reunion to raise some good money for good causes and stick it to today’s current political climate and current administration. This spoke to me, and a bunch of us right off the bat, and we got really excited about it. It wasn’t real for me until Majority Rule said they’d do it. I knew they needed to be there to do this, I kinda felt like we wouldn’t be doing this again if it wasn’t for them playing. Those three fine gentleman and that band move me sincerely. I’m not sure how it feels yet, we practice this weekend. I’ll let ya know then!
The proceeds from this tour are being donated to multiple causes, including the arts and LGBT aid, including Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project, Casa Ruby, 901 Arts, Juntos, New Sanctuary Movement NYC, New York Legal Assistance Group, and Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Action Coalition. What inspired this decision and how did you choose the groups, does the band have anything else planned after these shows?
Again, Katy Otto has helped us tremendously in the efforts to figure out certain groups. Matt Michel, Katy, and I had all agreed and liked the idea of benefitting smaller grassroots organizations in the cities we were to play that would be the best we could do. This money would go a longer way with these smaller, less funded organizations. We wouldn’t be doing these shows if they weren’t benefits. This has been the main motivating factor for me. This is the best I feel I can do to make a small impact and help out where I can. I’m a musician, so I’ll make music.
Pageninetynine doesn’t have an official social media page. Donate to one of the many charities which the tour with Majority Rule supports, instead.