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Arab On Radar

Arab On Radar

Current Skin Graft records residents Arab on Radar are in my opinion, one of the best bands around at the moment. I simply cannot get enough of their disturbed recordings, and their live show is compelling and incredible to watch. This is an e mail interview conducted with guitarist Jeff at the start of September 2002, almost a month after the OOPS US tour with The Locust and Lightning Bolt finished, which also included acts such as Blood Brothers, Erase Errata, Get Hustle, Cattle Decapitation, Mr Quintron, Hella and Rah Bras joining on at different points. Nothing much else to say except that you should buy their records and try to see them live at least twice, or else you’re worthless.

If you looked at the Locust interview, you will notice some similarities in the questions I asked. Well if you read the text above, again, you will get an explanation as to why I did this.

So for those who may be unaware of Arab on Radar, could you give a brief introduction as to where you are from, who is in the band, what they do, and what you have achieved so far in terms of releases and tours etc.?

OK, we have been together for about 7 years… We, meaning Arab On Radar, and that includes myself Jeff Schneider, I play guitar, Stephen Mattos who plays the other guitar, Craig Kurek who plays drums, Eric Paul who sings… We have four full length records out, two of which have Andrea Fiset who formerly played bass in this band. We have progressed in a very natural way over the years and I personally view our recordings as a continuum of sorts… all interrelated and driving at the same points. We have done many tours, I am not sure exactly how many US tours maybe 12, we have played in almost every state and we have been to Europe twice… the UK once. It has been a great time and hopefully will continue to be.

How far does Arab on Radar go in terms of taking up your time? Do you all have full time jobs? Or do you have to work your jobs around the band or vice versa?

Arab On Radar is my life right now… it consumes my whole being, from money to relationships, housing, schooling, all variables which are effected by being in this band… at times we joke about being in a 70’s style open marriage, between the four of us… I assure you it is by default since I would have selected some more attractive (and female preferably) members to wed had it not been for the musical aspect… it is a marriage af talent. We do work jobs but they are very limited… part-time jobs… I personally must play a show a month (minimum) to pay my rent so the band has it’s purpose in regards to money also… it is a job, one I love… I don’t feel comfortable saying it is simply a hobby anymore. Our “normal” jobs revolve around the happenings of the band and we quit jobs to do things like tours or recordings. We get lucky in that regard, we are gamblers.

It’s hard to put this in a way which doesn’t sound too exclusive or lame, but do you think you fit into a ‘scene’ at all? Do you even like that word? Or who do you see as your say, peers? And your favourite bands in general?

I question those who use the word “scene” in the way I think you are describing. Anyone who really gets what we are bring to present knows we are not really in a “scene” we don’t have the materials to do it. The folks who commonly do use this word while talking about music commonly want to sell their “scene”, thus excluding those who are not in that “scene” and Arab On Radar is an all inclusive band in spirit… We will and have played with all kinds of bands. I think mostly “scenes” are all about self-preservation. Ask Fugazi or Le Tigre, they will tell (and sell) you all there is to know about a “scene”. My favourite bands are not in any particular scene. They are indeed part of an ongoing continuum of good, raw, interesting, risk-taking music which has and will always exist in some form… and “scenesters” will never understand or be able to appreciate that. I feel 100% comfortable with that, it is natural, functional, and the way it is…

I am interested in how you came to construct the Arab on Radar “sound”. How do you feel your sound has changed since you first started? Because I find that a lot of your earlier material is a bit more “straight up” compared to the stuff you’re doing now, and more in line with bands like Six Finger Satell ite and a lot of that Chicago post/whatever rock stuff. Not to say that you’re current material isn’t like that, but it isn’t really totally identical to much else that has come before you, or anything that is around at the moment. Do you have any new ideas, or unexplored areas to conquer for the next record?

I think we create it by just doing it – over and over and over and over. Our template for “what to do?” was very much derived from the 90’s, Six Finger Satellite, the Butthole Surfers, the Chicago stuff, yes… We enjoyed that while it was around… We started there… but what has morphed out of this material is much more unique. I think there are periods (in a musical progression) where if you are going to be serious about playing original music you first flood your system with what you think is good, only then can you purge the shit out, and keep what you like about what you chose to dissect for information and influence. Once this basic foundation is built you can then progress… I think that point right there is when most bands often listen to their own music for the first time… Some bands never get there they simply wallow in the mud of building material and make money in it and work in it. Others built level one and never dare go higher… (e.g. Fugazi, who up until their last release was most definitely stuck in the lobby! I praise them for venturing further) Arab On Radar has built quite a higher structure and you can hear that from “Queen Hygiene II” (our first full length record) up to our last 7” “Running For Asthma”… there are veins of continuity (which we love) and also some real risks we took in the records and space they represent between those points.

How was the recent OOPS tour? Was it a success? How do you feel about pretty odd and off the wall bands such as yourselves, the Locust, Erase Errata, Lightning Bolt, Hella, Flying Luttenbachers and Get Hustle being able to participate in and construct what has seemingly been one of the most talked about tours for ages? Any highlights, lowlights?

Oops was amazing, honourable, intense, scary, meaningful and most important the best tour Arab On Radar has ever been a part of, hands down. Oops was a success on many levels… It was a bonifide happening, it upped the stakes on many levels. I do not think people will forget that tour too easily. I feel awkward because it may have hurt some bands because many bands are touring on quite a weak show, weak music and generally boring package all together. I hope Oops makes them work harder. It kicked ass in that aspect… I was turned on to some really interesting music and I feel that many people who witnessed Oops feel the same way. It opened some minds. I feel that as undocumented (unfortunately) as it was it will be historically relevant. There will be more Oops tours in the future and I feel this first one was amazing. The bands, all, were awesome in their own right. It actually is beyond words… I can say I felt some very strong emotions watching all these wonderful, intelligent, talented people perform… It was a feeling of true pride. Every time a band came on to the tour they had to sort of prove themselves, which all did with ease because it was a very supportive peer group. Every time a band left it was profoundly sad, and had a feeling of pure admiration and honour again I must say. We had many a great night, just living on the road for a bit amongst real people who care about something… that is rare. The party aspect was quite intense… I’ll just leave it at that…

In a way this leads on from the previous question, but how “marketable” do you think bands like yourselves and Lightning Bolt and the Locust will become?

I can’t really say… I hope they get whatever they want… and I hope they keep it real. I usually associate “marketable” with giving the market what it wants, I feel that the bands mentioned are making the market come to them much more… which is good. I think everyone should listen to those bands, the spirit of music would be that much better for doing so.

Can you honestly see this whole “weird rock” thing getting any bigger than it is already?

Yes, it will get bigger, Oops was in part a drive to expose bands who are “weird” or what have you… I feel like “weird” is where it is at in these “weird” times we live in. I must say that these bands are no more “weird” to me than when I first heard Led Zeppelin or the Stooges though… so, it is all relative, and whatever the descriptive term is, I feel these bands are what new music should be.

Certainly with bands like Liars and Erase Errata getting a real buzz going about them over here, and the Locust stepping up to release on slightly bigger independent labels like Ipecac and Anti, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before people start digging deeper into the roots of this area of music. Would you agree?

Arab On Radar by Virgil Porter

OK, the Liars… I don’t know… I think the popularity of the Liars is 95% from money being spent to promote the Liars… the talent of that band lies in their publisher’s pen. I feel at times that the Liars as hyped as they are were a mistake. The band sounds to me like Jesus Lizard (Down-era). I think someone thought they were the next Strokes… and typically when something like the Strokes arise (from big money gambling and a very un-alternative musical environment) the peckers who peck around are always just signing up anything that looks like it could ride the train and keep the kids into the initial (The Strokes) hype formula… This said, I think they are just in limbo but their heart musically seems to be in a very out-dated music style, which I personally enjoy at times, but the masses will not. So, God bless them, enjoy it while it lasts… I like them as people and have faith that they may write some original music that would blow people away in the future. Their pride depends on it…

Erase Errata on the other hand played some amazing shows and worked their way into a desirable position hype-wise. I think that is great because they deliver what that “scene” wants…(yes, the post-riot-grrl-neu-feminism-whateverthefuck scene) Although, I have read a few interviews with them and realise they are not 100% down with the “scene” and I feel that their music is bigger than that, I am guessing they do too. I think the hype for Erase Errata should be “wow, they kicked my ass artistically, musically” unfortunately it is more like “wow, those grrrrls are so great at whatever they are doing, lets talk about Simone De Bouvier or Sylvia Plath with them.” Barf! Another pigeonhole and another mistake… but I suppose any hype is good hype… I can buy that. Erase Errata is one of my favorite bands ever, and are the nicest of nice people.

Our goal for the next record is to get it sounding irresistible to ourselves first and foremost. The thing about Anti and all these bigger labels is simply money I think, and the bands you mention deserve more money simply so they can continue to do what they do. I have seen bands try to broaden their audience through bigger labels and I think that is unlikely for these bands… these bands are there for those who are capable of getting into it… and the majority of folks aren’t. If the aim is to fool them into liking it (a la Jane’s Addiction, Devo) or something, then that is different… I mean if anyone wants to hire Arab On Radar for a commercial or a movie or any other out of context thing… we will do it… hopefully then our music could be heard by the herd… it is a paradox really. Those who like us are there, and we like them for it… We will always keep it raw for them, because that is what we do.

To get onto a less complex matter, what have been the last 3 great bands you’ve seen, the last 3 great records you’ve heard, and 3 great bands you think that we should know about and go and see!

Get Hustle, The Locust, Lightning Bolt
Hella’s – “Hold Your Horse Is”
Olneyville Sound System’s – “What Is True, What Is False”
“Dynamite With a Laser Beam”, the Queen Cover album put out by 3ONEG… this record is great… I like Glass Candy’s song and of course the Weasel Walter track of Bohemian Rhapsody. I listen to too much music to mention it all here, but these records are worth seeking out and buying in my opinion…

What is next for Arab on Radar?

Arab On Rad ar must write a new record. We are currently working on that in Johnston, Rhode Island… stop by and see us if you are ever in that area of the world (god bless you if you are! it is small)

Will you be making a trip back to Europe?

Yes, I think in the Spring we will be back… possibly sooner if any label like what we have to offer with the new demos we are creating… we may come over to play for some people. We are looking for some new doors to open, hopefully in Europe.

Out of interest, how do you find Europe as a place to stay?

I love it. I am 100% in agreement with Henry Miller about the facts of America (a la “Tropic Of Capricorn”), and the pleasures of Europe. I wish to live abroad someday, it is a goal in my life. Hail Sweden!

Anything else you’d like to add?

No not really, simply thanks for the interview, you are very cool.

Interview with the Locust >>

website: www.arabonradar.com
Live photo by Virgil Porter