En samtale med Tom Klimchuck

Intervju med Tom Klimchuck (Pro-Pain), 28. februar 2002.

Pro-Pain er et amerikansk hardcore-bandbasert i Florida. Bandet er definitivt en av veteranene i genren. Bortsett fra debutskiva fra 1992 har bandet bestått av fire medlemmer. De har vært med p å sette standarden for hardcore siden 1992. Pro-Pain legger listen høyt når det gjelder både enkelhet, hardhet og ikke minst tekster. Gutta i Pro-Pain satser på den gamle Lou Reed-formelen (gitar,bass og trommer...that is it!) og leverer knallhard, men enkel og "pure" hardcore.

Pro-Pain er befriende fri for pretensiøst selvskryt, stormannskgalskap og annet som ofte vederfares celebriteter. Bandet tillegger sine (ofte samfunnskritiske) tekster stor betydning og går ikke av veien for å servere tekster som nåværende president Busk Jr. definitivt ikke vil har som førstevalg på mp3-spilleren sin (OK, tvilsomt om han har mp3-spiller, men...). På ti år har de servert åtte knallsterke skiver og, mot sedvane, gått mot et tyngre og hardere musikalsk uttrykk. Deres siste anstrengelse, Shreds of Dignity, er så langt det råeste de har begått. Dette er ikke bare min, dog kvalifiserte, synsing, men kommer også fra bandets gitarist Tom Klimchuck himself...

Kort sagt er Pro-Pain ekte vare innen klassisk hardcore og krysser aldri grensen over til mer post-moderne Limp Bizkit-style Rapcore. Til slutt en liten anekdote for å sette det hele i perspektiv: Lesere i dag klager over at det er kjedelig å lese Ibsen, fordi det bare står klisjeer der. Skjønner? Pro-Pain spiller "klassisk" hardcore, men dette må ikke forveksles med klisjeer nettopp fordi det ikke er klisjeer for band som har vært med fra starten og utviklet genren gjennom ti år. Nyt...

Intervju:

I’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time. I think it’s been six years since I last talked to you guys. You were playing a venue called Betong in Oslo. I remember it quite well because I went backstage with you guys and had a few beers with Gary in the tour bus...

- ...(laughs) Yeah, we try to been consistent in that in every show.

I have just picked up a copy of your latest effort Shreds of Dignity, and I must say you keep on getting more aggressive on each record.

- I think it was some sort of reaction against the hugeness of the new metal trend right now. It has been so popular now for a couple of years, and it seems to be so saturated with bands that are doing some kind of mid-paste hip-hop grooves with really heavy guitars, and kind of whiny vocals. In order for us to distinguish ourselves from all of that, we needed to re-establish ourselves at the foundation, and make sure we did not stray very far from what we were in our inception. And as it turned out, we even took it a bit further. Looking back at it, this is much heavier than any thing else that we have put out. So, I think it really was an effort to distinguish ourselves from the new metal trend.

And you have done it beautifully, I might add. I’ve been a fan of Pro-Pain since I first picked up your Foul Taste album back in 1995 - I think it was. And you have been around for ten years, and that is quite a stretch for a hardcore band.

- Yeah, the average hardcore bands have trouble making it past their second record, if they even get that far. It takes a certain awareness and interest in the music and knowledge of how the music-industry operates. We have always been interested in that, from the very beginning of this band. I think that goes hand in hand with keeping the fans satisfied. If you are able to do both those things, you can remain a band for… like the Rolling Stones...

Yeah, imagine that, a Pro-Pain 25 years reunion.

- (laughs) Well, I guess nothing would surprise me at this point.

I think it is interesting, because you produce much your own material and has not got any major label backing as far as I know.

- I guess we never've gone for any major label interest, only because you most definitely would have to sacrifice a certain creative control, and if that were taken away I do not think Pro-Pain would be the same. And I do not think the members would really been very interested in doing it.

Exactly, because I have read some interviews with Gary (bassist and co-founder of the band), and he stressed that point very hard, that Pro-Pain were all about doing your own thing and being yourselves.

- Right! It would be nice to have the money that comes with it, though. (Laughs) You can kind of look at this band as our baby and say; are we really going to put a price tag on this and tarnish it? After ten years of doing it independently, would we really want to do that? I cannot imagine us going that way.

On some of your records it says something like “produced in Tom's basement”…

- (laughs) Yeah, there is not much room for huge studios and their $2000 a day expensive gear. We prefer to take our gear and move it into whatever house or building we can find, and do the record ourselves.

Let us talk about your latest effort the. I think it is brilliant, and you really got the riffs down this time.

- The writing process was a little unique this time. In the past we always approached a record, keeping in mind a certain balance that we wanted to maintain. In the writing process, if we have three or four songs that are upbeat, faster songs, we would probably spend the next stretch of writing focusing on something maybe mid-paste or slower, just so that the record has a nice balance to it. So, that there is a little something, for everyone’s particular taste. This time we didn’t really hinder ourselves by that type of thinking. We really just came out and wrote whatever came out, and we really liked. As it turned out, it tended to be really heavy fast stuff. It is interesting, because it almost comes out as a sort of fantasy record for us, in that we get to indulge ourselves a little bit more.

There is one track that especially intrigues me, the last track on the record, the “Kill or Be Killed” track. When I listen all through the song, and after about three minutes of silence, something funny happens?

- Well, there is no rational explanation for it. But I guess I could shed some light on it. It is a song called The Vomit. "The Vomit” is the nickname for our stagemanager/ guitartech. Mostly because of his drinking habits. It is a long and disgusting story that I am not going to get into. But, we were in Cleveland where he lives, doing a couple of shows, and after the show we went to his place at an after-hours party. It was probably five or six in the morning when I picked up a guitar and started playing that little thing, and the rest of the band kind of chimed inn singing the vomit. We have thought about using it as an intro to the show, or a thing like that. And one day in the writing process I couldn’t come up with anything good for the band, I took a couple of hours and recorded that little thing, never thinking it would make it to the record.

I am glad it did, it makes for a good humorous point. But, turning to a more serious side, I have obviously been through your older records for this interview, and you seem to take your lyrics very seriously. On this album you have song titles such as Shreds of Dignity, Justice Must Be Done, and on your earlier records there are titles like Political Suicide, Iraqnophobia and Make War (Not Love). Because of this I tend to think of you as having a political message?

- Yes and no. The lyrics are extremely important to us. Certainly, we are political aware. That has always been a very important thing for us. Bringing that into our music is just to keep our music as honest as we can. They are interesting issues to us, and I think that is what hardcore is about.

Exactly, in an earlier interview Gary stated that Pro-Pain always strives to reach higher lyrical standards.

- Yeah, there is so much out there. Your ears are filled with nonsense. What really bothers me personally is hearing about something like a dude being raped as a child, or things like that. Who the hell wants to hear things like that? If you are in a conversation, you don’t want to talk about something that makes everyone uncomfortable. You want something that people can relate to, and want to relate to and is relevant. It is so narcissistic to put out music like that. To think that everyone is so interested in you. Everyone is interested in themselves and the world around them, not in you. (Laughs).

That is quite a political statement, though?

- Yeah, I guess that one of the things that really bug me about current music. That kind of stuff drives me crazy.

On a different note, any chance of a Scandinavian tour?

- We have tried to incorporate Scandinavia in our upcoming tour of Europe, unfortunately we couldn’t make it on this schedule. So what we are hoping for is to come back in the festival season in the summer. No word as of yet, but we should know pretty soon.

I had to ask you know. I haven’t seen you live for six years so…

- It is something we made as issue of with our booking agents and promotors. Because we wanted to get up there a long time and there is no telling what kind of response we could have. I think it is safe to say we will be back relatively soon. I won’t be another six years, I can promise you that. (Laughs).

I hope not, six years would be too long.

- I may have grandkids by then (laughs)

I also got some questions about the Truth Hurts - album. That struck me as quite a controversial album, the artwork especially.

- Yeah, you weren’t alone apparently. Roadrunner Records had the same feeling. Boy, did that backfire on them. They decided that nobody would want to see artwork like that, and took it upon themselves to change the cover and the booklet, without really discussing it with the band. That move inevitably led to the end of our working relationship with Roadrunner. But a couple of weeks after the release, they were flooded with requests for the original artwork. People seemed to see it as a package and wanted the original artwork. It is still, probably, our top selling record in Europe.

That seems kind of strange to me, because Roadrunner hasn’t seemed scared of putting out controversial material before or after this?

- I don’t know, maybe it was because all the pictures were real? Maybe that’s what freaked them out.

I think you got a point there, because the pictures being real, it comes to close to reality.

- Yeah, you know the TRUTH HURTS! To not get that is beyond me (laughs).

The F.O.A.D track, what is behind the letters?

- It stands for Fuck Off And Die! And that pretty much summarises the lyrical content so… (Laughs).

OK, I probably shouldn’t have asked that question!

- No No, that’s ok, people need to hear it! (Laughs)

All right then, you tour Europe quite often and it seems to me that you prefer the smaller club-scene to the larger arena type venues?

- It is a strange environment playing the big venues. You are so separated from the crowd, and that always makes me nervous, being put on a pedestal like that. I prefer to hang out and meet everyone and have some conversations.

That strikes me as strange; I would think it was the other way around, people would feel more comfortable with the distance, and not having the crowd to close?

- I would hate to think of my days as hiding in the tour bus, popping out doing a show, then running back into the tour bus again. That doesn’t sound like any fun at all.

I think most hard-core fans enjoy the intimacy of a club as well.

- Yeah, every time I see a band in a huge venue, I think I would prefer to see them in a small venue, and find out what they really sound like.

Exactly, the small venue theme seems to me to kind of go with the hardcore territory?

- Right, right, it would be a little contradictory to play a show in a huge venue where you are going to make a million dollars that night, and then complain about your financial status. (Laughs)

Exactly, it goes with the whole honest bit of it, which is kind of a point to you. Gary once stated that being yourselves and doing your thing is the main thing, and I think you have gotten the same message across tonight.

- I hope so, because it definitely is important to a band, and it is an important thing to me personally. Not that I am the ultimate example of a human being, but I think that if people were more honest with themselves and others, the world would be a better place in general, and people would find themselves in better situations.

A fine point, because you have been through different line-up changes?

- Yeah, it is a very rare event that a band will have the same line-up from beginning to end. I think that bands that are able to do that, are bands that encounter immediate huge success. Bands like Metallica, Pantera. They have been able to keep the same line-up, because it was a huge success “right of the bat”, and they didn’t have to struggle for a long time to make the band work. Financial difficulties always lead people to make different decisions. It is the kind of thing where a band can either go through a line-up change or they could quit. Gary and I certainly weren’t going to let Pro-Pain end. You find other people to replace those who aren’t into doing it anymore, and hope to make improvements with each change. There are always people saying, “You have line-up changes, that suck”. Yes, it sucks, but would you rather us hang it up and not do it anymore? Line-up changes are like life. You loose old friends, and you gain new friends.

But, I think, despite your line-up changes, you have maintained a consistency throughout your records.

- You know, I think it the focus of the band has remained the same. Different members will bring their own flare to it, but the foundation of the band is the same. That is what counts for the consistency of the records.

You and Gary write most of the music, as I understand it?

- Well, the two guitar players and Gary collectively writes the music. Gary is responsible for the vocals and lyrics completely himself.

If I may ask, where do you see yourselves in five, ten years? Will Pro-Pain still exist in ten years?

- I don’t see why not? You know, if you asked me five years ago, I would perhaps say the same thing. Things are going all right and hopefully they will continue to go all right.

Yes, I have numbers here saying you have sold around 600 000 copies worldwide. That cannot be bad for a hardcore band with practically no press?

- Right, and no money behind us. I think it stems a lot from the touring schedule we have kept. That was responsible for a lot of our promotion. We just keep working and working, putting out records year after year, and eventually the numbers will add up. The numbers are still rising; hopefully we will reach a million soon…

Do you have any side projects going?

- The other guitarist Eric Klinger, he always has a side project going on. The drummer (Eric Matthews) will usually fill in for drummers here and there. As far as me and Gary goes, we never really entertained any such ideas. Not to say we won’t. It is just that nothing has caught our interest. We are interested in doing some production, though. It would be a good thing for to do for us. We are certainly knowledgeable enough to know what to do and what not to do. And if we could help a younger band out, that would be a good thing for us.


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