An interview with LA’s noisepunks HEALTH


HEALTH live at the El Rey, 01/15/08

I had the pleasure to interview LA’s noisemasters HEALTH before their opening slot with Dan Deacon a few months back (I posted my review of Dan Deacon’s set HERE and my review of HEALTH’s self titled debut HERE). I waited to post the interview because the site I did the interview for, Airraid had yet to launch and I didn’t want to jump the gun. It had been a few years since I’d done a face to face interview, and yet my first with 4 dudes at once, but the whole thing went down smoothly. By the end BJ, the drummer, shared his sweet potato fries with me while chatting after the interview ended…quite nice guys all around.

Above is a live photo from the show. I just got the film back this week, so as I scan the rest in I’ll post them up.

The review finally got posted to Airraid a little while ago and except for the fact that they cut the interview in half and added a stupid final question. The full interview is pretty sold and I’m happy with the way it came out.

HEALTH Interview
The El Rey, Los Angeles California
1/15/08

AR: Thanks for taking the time to do the interview. Could you all introduce yourselves?

John: I’m John, I play bass and noise stuff.

Jupiter: I’m Jupiter, I play guitar, percussion and some other things.

Jake: I’m Jake, I play guitar and sing.

BJ: I’m BJ and I play drums.

AR: Is this your first show playing at the El Rey

All: YES!

John: Our first show ever at a venue this big.

AR: What’s the next largest venue you’ve played at?

John: It was probably, um…

BJ: Reggie’s Live in Chicago

All laugh.

BJ: That was like six or seven hundred capacity, but there was like 35 people there.

John: So, we have played a venue this big.

AR: But, this is the biggest in the hometown?

John: Yeah.

AR: How did the two shows with Dan Deacon come about?

Jake: He asked us to play.

John: We played a couple of shows with him before. We played at a really small venue in LA, right when the album came out and started to blow up. It was him opening up for us at a local show and it was just fucking overwhelmed with people…

BJ:…there for him.

John: Yeah,

Jake: We played again with him in London, and that was a really fun show. Then we played a show that he set up, but didn’t play at in Baltimore. So he asked us to play when he came out here.

AR: You’ve got a lot of tour coming up. The tour with Crystal Castles with a bunch of solo dates before and after…Tell me a little about the tours.

John: The reason why there’s a lot of stuff before and after (the leg of the tour with Crystal Castles) is we have to tour out to Toronto and then meet up with CC and then tour back home.

Jake: We just figured we’d do the whole tour from where they started and then we’re going to end up there and just reverse.

John: And then we’re flying to Europe after that. We’ve been wanting to do Europe for real for a long time, before this we’ve only done the UK.

BJ: It’s unprecedented for us, we’ve only done a 40 day tour before this and now we’re looking at 67 days with Crystal Castles.

Jake: 67 days, 5 days at home and then we leave for Europe for 7 weeks.

John: The whole tour is like 5 months.

AR: So, you’re pretty much booked for the year..

All laugh.

BJ: The year is already a blur.

Jake: Yeah, because after the tour we come home and write a record, so we’re pretty much done with ’08.

AR: Besides Crystal Castles, who on this tour are you really looking forward to playing with?

John: THE DEAC!

All laugh.

John: We’re really stoked, we’re going to be playing with a lot of amazing Baltimore bands…like Check Yo’ Ponytail

Jake: Videohippos!

John: Who are one of our favorites period.

Jake: We played once with Ponytail, it was a weird show at SXSW and we’re bros with Videohippos, so we love playing shows with them.

Jupiter: Daniel Francis Doyle too. We stayed with him during the last tour.

Everyone almost kinda begins chanting “Daniel Francis Doyle” for a second.

John: He’s amazing.

Everyone laughs.

AR: Are you doing SXSW this year?

Jake: We’re hitting it on the Crystal Castles tour, but it’s only going to be for 2 days, last year we were there for 5 or 6 days. It was awesome.

AR: To everyone just discovering you, when did you guys get together?

John: We’ve been together since 2005, but we didn’t start playing shows till very late 2005. We’ve done a lot of touring, but they’ve been really small D.I.Ys so most people haven’t seen us yet.

AR: When did you first official release come out?

BJ: Our first release came out on our first tour, which was about…

John: Which was almost like our third show.

BJ: We did about 3 or 4 shows, went on tour and then released a split 7”. Our first proper release was our album…

John: Which came out in September ’07.

AR: And the first pressing of your LP sold out?

John: They kinda went crazy and did a bunch of pressings, so I don’t know what has sold what, or if it’s sold out.

Jake: If we sell out of our copies, then it’s like “we’re sold out” (Laughs) So, if they want to get from somewhere else they have to get it from a distro or a record store and we don’t know what’s going on with that.

AR: How’s the response to your record been?

John: Pretty fuckin’ sweet. (Laughs) People have been really cool, really kind. We’ve gotten a lot of really weird reviews when it came out, but people seem to be generally stoked.

Jupiter: Some people think it blows.

BJ: But, nobody has written “Shit sandwich” yet.

Everyone laughs.

Jake: As far as you can gauge an album coming out these days, we’re not judging it by sales, but people really seem to be happy with it. We’re happy with people’s responses.

AR: In listening to your album, I’m curious how vocals play a role. It seems almost like they function like in Sigur Ros, not that there’s really any way to compare you two, but do they work more structurally than lyrically?

Jupiter gets up and leaves.

John: Jupiter is out…

AR: I guess he didn’t like that question…

Jake: Let the record show that Jupiter has left the table. I think he hates me…No, he just wants his gardenburger. (Laughs) The most succinct answer to that is that, yeah the vocals do function more instrumentally. When we first started recording stranger songs, it was really hard to figure out how to make vocals work for those songs. We didn’t want to be a crazy band that has screamy Devo-y vocals, I can’t do that anyway. So, we just kinda figured out a way, almost humming along or however you want to look at it.

AR: How did the remix of Crimewave by Crystal Castles come about?

John: Myspace. We asked them.

AR: Ok.

Everyone laughs.

Jake: It was a long, long time ago. We just asked them, and then they blew the fuck up after.

BJ: We snuck in there.

John: It was actually one of the earliest remixes they did, it just didn’t come out till very recently.

AR: You’ve let a lot of people remix your songs, why so many?

John: Well, it started small, I figured I’d ask a lot because I figured they’d say no, but they all said yes. Some people asked to do them and it kept going. I don’t know why there’s so many, but yeah, it’s a lot.

Jake: Remix album.

John: Yeah, the original plan was a remix album, which we ditched. So, we were trying to limit them so they could fit on an album or a CD, but now it’s just a lot of tracks beause most Djs are digital now anyway.

AR: What other bands would you say are influential on your sound?

John: We have a lot of influences…we’re really into X-Models.

Jake: Animal Collective.

John: Yeah, Animal Collective in a lot of ways. The Locust in a few ways. Most of our musical cues are based on what we grew up listening to, a lot of classic rock.

BJ: One thing we all agree on is Sabbath and Zeppelin. We’re trying to figure out how to make a heavy, rockin’ band with a new sort of sound.

John: We really got into bands that were doing stuff that was new, bands that were aggressive and exciting.

AR: How do you feel about how the world is moving away from physical releases to digital?

BJ: It’s a big question.

John: For recordings, it’s just the first thing to go because it’s easiest…but everything will be moving from physical to digital.

Jupiter: We wrote an album that to be listened to as an album, but that just doesn’t make sense anymore because people listen to individual songs and the concept of Side A to Side B is just dated.

BJ: I think there’s always going to be a certain amount of people that need and crave the physical, so which is why vinyl is selling like crazy, I’d imagine. And the sound, there’s something about that sound, we don’t want to loose it. As long as people show up in concert that’s our main concern.

Jake: As far as what Jupiter was saying, as far as the album was written to be an album and I struggle with this as far as MP3 players go or having an iPod is it really just does change your relationship with the music. It’s something we talk about a lot. We kinda geek out about how if Sgt. Pepper sold 2,000,000 copies in the first month it was released and every single person who bought that record had to put that record on their turntable and sit and listen to it, it kinda depletes certain levels of reverence you’d have for music not to do that. It was sort of predicted by the Walkman, (how music became) more and more like an accessory to your life. You put one thing on and you change the iPod before it finishes the song. You can’t fight it.

AR: Similar to how the internet and myspace break down the barriers between fan and band….

Jake: You can’t be cool anymore.

Everyone laughs.

Jake: When you loose the mystery, it really fucks everything up for you.

John: But that’s just the nature of everything, I think everything will get around, get cheaper, and people will get desensitized…that will just be the next phase to just happen to everything and and everything will be free.

BJ: As long as you’re still a mystery to yourself, then everything’s ok.

Jake: I was going to be this brooding rock star, just shoot heroin and be all depressed, but I knew that people would be commenting on my myspace and they’d have photos of me…

Everyone laughs.

AR: Who would you say your favorite contemporary artists are?

John: Really big fans of the Deac. Really big fans of Crystal Castles, obviously. Really love Videohippos.

Jake: Abe Vigoda.

John: We really like The Dirty Projectors. We really like anything Kyle H. Matheson does. We’re big fans of Captain Ahab, he’s local.

Jake: Hella. All the ‘Italians Are Better’ stuff.

John: We’re super obsessed with the Glass Candy/Chromatics. That’s probably my favorite thing going on right now.

AR: Do you have any non-musical influences you can talk about?

BJ: Dave Chapelle.

Jake: Triangles?

Everyone laughs.

John: We are really into Dave Chapelle.

BJ: He’s probably my #1 role model.

John: Yeah, Mitch Hedberg, Chris Rock. Paul Mooney is my new boy.

Jake: Dave Chapelle & Niche.

Everyone laughs.

AR: Is Health a full time job for you guys?

Laughter

BJ: It’s a full time preoccupation.

John: Definitely full time, we’re gone for a fuckin’ long time.

Jake: It’s going to become more full time soon. I guess it’s that we’re leaving for this long and I’m broke.

BJ: I still have a job.

Jake: This next touring block, we’re giving up our apartments. It’s like, to the point where we would ever hope to be at as a band, any illusions you would have about the all money you would make…it’s just amazing to be able to hope to support yourself enough to just live while you’re traveling. So, we’re pretty excited about that.

AR: And once this tour is done?

Jake: When we get done with the tour, we just want to write and record as soon as possible.

John: It takes us a lot of time to write songs, so we plan just to be working when we get back.

AR: Thanks for taking the time out for the interview…