The Explosion are one of the hardest working bands you will ever see or hear. They are a dedicated punk rock with their own record label Tarantulas Records in the USA who have released bands such as The Distillers and The Bronx amongst others. With their first full length stint touring the UK to promote their brand new record Black Tape, we thought it was essential to hook up with the band for a quick chat before they played the Hammersmith Palais with drummer Andrew Black and Bass player Damian Genuardi who are both skaters. This is what went down…
Howdy fellas, have some home made cake..
Damian: Hi Zac, hey is there anything in this cake we should know about before we eat this and go on stage?!
Nope, it’s clean as a whistle, packed with Belgium chocolate, cranberries, pecan nuts and brandy!
D: Ah, perfect, lets eat then!
OK, so we are here at the Hammersmith Palais and you guys are about to open up for New Found Glory and Hot Water Music, how long have you guys been on the road now?
D: About a week now, it’s cool. Europe is great, no one has cell phones, time goes by so quickly, but we are playing here with a bunch of different bands over 7 weeks and that always makes the time fly ..
A: The drives are so short as well, so we are able to go out to the bars and make friends and get drunk!
Lets talk about you guys. The Explosion has been together a while right?
D: Yeah, since 1998. It was just a thing that we started just for kicks. The singer Matt had never been in a band before, I was in a hardcore band called “In My Eyes” on Revelation Records, and we were kind of a weekend warrior band in Boston, playing shows and stuff and myself and Matt used to go out to parties together like best friends do and he was always saying to me that he wanted to do a band called The Explosion, before we even had a band or band members! Things just happened and we picked up Andrew in 2001.
A: I was in a band called “Best Mistake” and another called “Good Clean Fun” for a while and I actually met Damian through In My Eyes so it was cool, very natural and the band had been going a while and I thought they were cool. They called me up one day and wanted me to join up and go on tour with Sick Of It All, so I was like, fuck it, I”m coming!
You guys are now on Virgin Records, what other labels have you guys released records for?
D: We were primarily on Jade Tree and Revelation wrenched an EP out of us as kind of a legal obligation thing since my former band was on Rev, then we started Tarantulas Records that was our own thing and then when Virgin came along it kind of a surprise to us all, and Jade Tree realised that they could not hold us back and let us go.
A: It was hard as we all lived in different places at the time, spread out between New York, Boston, Washington DC etc.
There was a bit of a buzz from the US record industry on the band at that time right?
D: Yeah, the record industry is so ridiculous over there. Everybody else wants to take you out for dinner and do whatever it takes to sign you, hang out with you etc. We had some amazing meals!
What was the most classic phrase or moment that went down in that period?
D: Haha! One time they took us to the Chelsea Piers in Manhattan and we all played Golf, Bowling and stuff, it was funny. We would order tonnes of drinks and booze it up!
A: People would be so overly nice, like, “you want that, oh we will buy it for you”! Funny times!
So what about the hook up with Tarantulas Records, has your deal allowed you to continue what you had set up?
D: Yes, Virgin has no connection with distribution or whatever, it’s cool. Some major labels are so careless about vinyl sales and it’s not a profit making thing you know so we have the opportunity to release vinyl on our label for records that come out on majors, so its nice to be able to make something textual that you can hold, something that is fucking awesome looking, and we can do our own artwork that they didn’t want put on their major label release, so it’s cool.
I hear Damian that you are the arty person in the band responsible for all artistic input for the band?
D: Yeah, I have art background and have always been interested in music sleeve art and graphics, skateboard graphics. I have always thought it’s important to have a package that looks good aesthetically and I think a lot of that has been lost with the introduction of downloading and burning CD’s.those silver CD’s look uninteresting. I like the gatefold art thing on vinyl. It’s like skating. Every company or label has an image, they make their companies unique and people buy into it because they appreciate the art that goes into it. Look at Toy Machine with Ed Templeton or Stereo Skateboards, everyone has their own image and I”m into that. So many record labels need that identity to.
So you guys have come from the skate scene in the US then?
D: Yeah, Matt and I skated from when we were back in high school. We used to skate this place we called “The O“. It was an abandoned office building and we would skate behind it, skate the parking curbs. I had my crew and he had his friends and one day he mooned at me and we were best friends after that! Haha!
A: I grew up in Maryland, about 20 minutes outside of Washington DC, so I would go down to Freedom Plaza and Pepe Martinez was always there, it was cool. You could go to skate spots and then see other kids at punk rock shows in the evening or we would go check out a Hip Hop show or whatever, there was a bond between the two scenes.
D: Yeah, even in Philly at the time in the 90’s you would have skateboarders that would hang out with graffiti kids, who hung out with hardcore kids who would hang out with rock kids..
A: There was a kid called Roger Gastman* back then, who just put out the Mike Giant book and I used to work for him whilst he ran a magazine and way before I worked for him I met him at hardcore shows, and then kids who skated knew him from this huge disco den archive pad. People hook up everywhere through skateboarding.
D: That whole East Coast scene is so hooked up.
So what were your first ever boards you rode?
A: I had a Natas; I think in 1987, with the kitten spilling milk out of the triangle, I loved that board!
D: I had Danny Sergeant H-Street board.
So, where are hanging these days then, in Boston?
D: The band started there, apart from Matt, and he would come stay with us and write for 5 days at a time, so he has been in Brooklyn for a while, and now we are all in New York.
Do you get much time to skate whilst touring?
A: Not in Europe, but we usually have them in the trailer in the States. Early on the Social Distortion tour at night I would go skate just after we would get wrecked i n bars and it would not hurt as much, but these days you have to think about your hands as you can appreciate that without them, we can’t play!
D: Our manager Rama and I went skating in Portland Maine on a tour, and we were skating this jersey barrier doing grinds and he was trying to boardslide it. He went up to slide, his board shot off and he ended up with hotdog fingers! That was 2 or 3 months ago and his fingers are still wasted!
How is your hand now Damian? No skateboard injury there today huh? Haha!
D: Haha, well, er, no. It happened at Liverpool show. Actually it was the first time I have ever knocked someone out in one punch!
OK you gnarlers, let’s skip that conversation and talk about this new album Black Tape that is out on March 28th, how long did it take to put together?
D: We signed our deal, then we went on tour with AFI, then we did demos for a few months and it took a while to find a producer that we were comfortable with and spent about 2 and a half months in Idaho recording it.
A: Yeah, we were in the middle of nowhere, about 30 minutes away from a gas station to get a beer, it was far out in the middle of nowhere!
What producer did you end up working with?
A: A guy named Jason Carmer who had done The Donnas “Spend the Nightâ?” record. He said us that he wanted to make a good sounding rock record and we spoke to other producers who would tell us something on the lines of “once you follow our 10 step formulas of how to write songs“.haha! Jason had none of that so we found a perfect partner as we really like the way the record has been recorded. The producer and the engineer are used to spending a lot of time on records, something that we were not used to really.
D: Yeah, we have never really spent that much time in a studio, we are not used to doing it that way, as all the other releases were done so quickly, but it’s not as if we spent 2 and a half months like playing every day, we had a lot of downtime. We only ended up with 3 extra songs that did not go on the album. Jason was rad and kind of comes from the same background as us from the DC scene, the Dischord years and was in a band called “Double 0“, “Meatmen” and others….did you ever see that book “Banned in DC“? He was in that loads.
Yeah, that is a great book, I love it. So you guys are big Dischord fans then?
D: Yeah, Rites of Spring, Gray Matter, all those bands man.
So how different are the shows here in the UK compared to back home?
A: The difference is massive, it’s great here, and it’s cool to be here in the UK for more than one day as it’s the first time we have done that, we did not see the country last time we were over.
D: UK kids seem mental. Birmingham was amazing! The kids have probably not heard of us before and they were going nuts! Back home it’s a lot of fun as people are more familiar with the music but the Garage gig in London the other night was awesome, it was packed out and the crowd was going mad, it was a good way to be welcomed to the UK that is for sure!
Have you noticed that kids are more drunk here due to the age restrictions being different?
D: Yeah, but it’s cool though as back home you see more fights, here they are more laid back, maybe cos they are wasted! It’s weird!
Tell me about your video, it has skateboarding in it and someone connected with skate videos is responsible for shooting it, is this right?
D: Yeah, it was Wynn Ko. He is a friend of friends, the way we like to keep it. We we had gone down the route of hooking up with other video directors who had done Good Charlotte videos and other bands and they were coming up with all of these ideas we just were not into. We tried to shoot a video and did a full 10 hour day and it failed, it was bad. Thankfully Virgin listened to us and they let us shoot a video with our friend John LaCriox who shot film for 411VM and is a partner with Shepard Fairey in a popular culture mag called Swindle. He knew Wynn, so they teamed up and we got it going.
A: The vibe was cool, they understood what we wanted, they understand our culture. Our friend Smith is the skater. There is a part in the video where he skates dirt which was great, he works with AFI, and when he is not working he is out skating, getting drunk, doing barrel rolls and shit, he is great.
Are you going out on the Warped tour this summer?
D: Yeah, we are for a month, we are really stoked on it. We did it a couple of years ago, as it will be good to do it again with bands like The Transplants, My Chemical Romance, maybe Strike Anywhere and others.
I hear on the vine of grapes that there could be some Explosion shoes out there in the future..
A: Yeah, just before we left the States, it came up in conversation. Vans are interested which would be rad as the Slayer ones are kick ass! I fell asleep that night just picturing that Explosion shoe!
When you are on the road, what do you guys listen to, what are essential?
A: The i-POD comes in handy..I guess “1981 A Year in 7’s” from Dischord, Slayer – Decade of Aggression, Fugazi – 13 Songs, and Lungfish – Pass & Stowe.
D: My i-tunes is maxed out, I like making compilations for people. Sandinista by The Clash, early Manic Street Preachers like New Art Riot on Damaged Goods cos I think it sounds like Gray Matter! Haha! David Bowie, T-Rex, Buzzcocks, The Jam, and lately I have been listening to some Studio One Reggae stuff to chill out to in the van.
And on that chilled note, it is time to wrap this interview up as you have to be on stage in 10 minutes. Anything you wanna say to finish this?
D: Yeah, big thanks to all the people who have stuck by us in the UK, especially those who were there in 2001 when we were last here. We have been pretty lazy getting back over here! Sorry about that! Haha!
A: Yeah, all of those people who have come to see us on this tour and also a big thanks to you for hooking us up Zac, oh and by the way, the cake was delicious!
You are welcome fellas.
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