The band recently signed to Alternative Tentacles and that story, and a few others can all be found below.
Ahoj, from the sunny Czech Republic! I'm coming to you live internationally (because I was too slow to submit this puppy before I took off) to bring you the interview I conducted with the glorious rock trio (and sometimes four-piece) Akimbo. As some of you may know from the show reviews, I had a chance to ride along with Akimbo for a couple of days, and this was the product of that. Enjoy all of the "ums" and "uhs" because I decided to go hi-fidelity and write the transcript from exactly what I heard. Pay close attention to how much of an idiot I sound like because I didn't write my questions out word for word. Also, take note of how I managed to end the interview the worst way possible.
Could you guys explain “Live to Crush?”
Jon: Oh Man.
J: It was originally on a sticker. I think Nat just pulled it out of his ass when he was designing a sticker.
Well we got lucky and opened for the Melvins on tour in Pittsburg and Jello happened to be there doing a couple of shows with them to promote the new album together. And he saw us and he liked it, and he asked us to open for them in Seattle when the album came out and he was there, then he asked us to be on the label.N: Yeah, I just thought of it one day. Oh no it was…I had an image of a hand, like, doing the Boston claw, you know? Like the “ya-ha!” (makes hand gesture) and I thought about what to write underneath it. I didn’t want to just have our name to be boring, you know? So, I thought of Live to Crush.
How did you guys get hooked up with Seventh Rule records, where does that come into play?
N: We got in a fight with Scott Flaster. Not like a fight fight but a verbal disagreement at the Fireside Bowl in Chicago when we were supposed to open for the Blood Brothers and it was a package tour and he wanted us to play first instead of underneath them and have a local band play first, er whatever, second I guess. Then he came back another time and he asked us to be on his label.
Cool. Is the Alternative Tentacles thing under wraps? Could we talk about that?
J: Sure, go for it.
Okay. How did Alternative Tentacles come about?
J: Well we got lucky and opened for the Melvins on tour in Pittsburg and Jello happened to be there doing a couple of shows with them to promote the new album together. And he saw us and he liked it, and he asked us to open for them in Seattle when the album came out and he was there, then he asked us to be on the label.
Sweet. Explain how your lineup works for touring and how that’s going.
J: Well now we’ve got Pat in the band. That’s how the lineup works. Basically we have a guitar player who isn’t here, who usually can’t be here on tour. He’s just got a lot of commitments at home. So when we’re at home and we’re writing songs we’re a four piece, and when we’re on the road we’re usually a three piece sometimes a four piece. It’s pretty much whatever his schedule can permit.
So how did you get hooked up with the Akimbo crew for this tour?
Patrick: A phone call. A lucky phone call pretty much. I mean, we kind of grew up in the same town, and back in the day played some shows together. I’ve been a big fan, so uh, yeah, Jon gave me a call and I was happy to oblige.
Awesome. How long has Akimbo been together as a band, total.
N: Seven years October 31ist.
J: Yeah, almost seven years now. We’ve had… I think Pat’s our eleventh member. Tenth or eleventh. I know it’s in double digits now so it’s starting to get really silly.
So, as per original lineup, who’s been here the entire time?
J: Me and Nat.
Awesome. The, uh, of course, the obvious question. Influences. Can’t have an interview without it.
N: Like, growing up listening to punk, going through my parent’s records. Classic rock kind of stuff. Going to high school and seeing shows, like Karp, (Murder City) Devils, Botch, other hardcore bands that came through Seattle. Just, learning that way, I guess.
P: John McLaughlin is my sole guitar influence (makes guitar noises and hand gestures in a John McLaughlin style).
How do you guys feel about playing a show in Seattle, as per other cities on tour?
J: Seattle can be really hit or miss for us. Sometimes people will come out, sometimes they don’t. A lot of it will depend on who we are sharing a lineup with and how many shows we’re playing that month. Um, yeah, I don’t know. I’ve got mixed feelings on Seattle.
N: Pretty oversaturated with bands. It just goes with the territory.
J: I feel we’re pretty well respected in the town, but as far as like people coming to see us…a lot of clubs think we’re at a point where we can headline, and we’re really not because people don’t come to see us on a regular basis.
P: So we’re a good like third place.
N: Yeah. Someday, we’ll be up there.
When you guys are out on tour, what is the turnout usually like?
J: Depends on if there’s finals or not.
N: Or holidays, or floods, hurricanes, tornados. It’s pretty good though. I mean, this is our fifth US tour?
N: So it’s totally, we can see the results of that.
P: The east coast was really good to us. Especially the Northeast. Good turnout. Good bands. It was cool.
J: It kind of depends on, I dunno. We don’t’ really have a hype machine behind us so the whole time we’ve been touring we’ve been seeing more and more people coming to shows. Which is really good because it sort of like shows that all this work that we’re putting into this band is actually paying off and people are coming out. But at the same time, it’s not this instant popularity thing. You know, we’re still building fan base and still kind of struggling. Working our way up,. It’s a mixed blessing I think.
Uh, got any good tour stories?
N: We hit a deer in Texas, that was awesome. Burke got a Mag Light to the head in Boston. Uh, tornados. I saw a brutal fight, er, not a fight really, two cops beat the crap out of some dude in Worcester, MA. That was pretty interesting.
P: Saw a Blazer, was it a Blazer? On fire? On the way to Savannah?
P: Just like engulfed in flames. Like the Fire Department was a guy in jeans and a t-shirt and a fire extinguisher. It was really weird.
J: One time in Santa Barbara a couple of tours ago, Nat and a guy from The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower, who we were touring with, went to a party. Some other people stayed back at the house who were going to stay up went to sleep. And his name was Willy. Nat and Willy got very very lost on the way back, very very drunk, because they left before everybody else, and they basically wandered the streets of Santa Barbara until about six in the morning. To which point I woke up to Nat pounding on the door and screaming.
N: We were about ready to crawl under a car and sleep there cuddled up because it was so cold, and we were so drunk, and we were so tired.
J: Yeah, and they had been drinking their beer so they didn’t have to carry it. SO basically they were both entirely loaded. I don’t think Nat realized how raucous he was being so, I was the only one who had the decency enough to get up and unlock the door.
N: Thank you so much Jon.
J: Nat rewarded me by screaming, “Jon, where are your keys!?” And I said, “they’re in my pants.” And my pants are on the floor. Nat is drunk so he assumes my pants are on my body. SO he picks up my sleeping bag and proceeds to pull it off my body as I’m trying to sleep.
N: Sorry Jon. (laughs)
J: It’s okay, and then I yelled at him, and he got the keys, and passed out in the van.
All right, switching gears here, with the last two albums that were released, Elephantine and City of the Stars, there is ah, noticeably themes that kind of reoccur, definitely in City of the Stars, the whole Tycho Brahe thing. Coming along with the cover, and then Uranaburg as the last song, and uh in Elephantine, there’s a chunk of three songs that are about, uh, what really was it sharks?
We don’t’ really have a hype machine behind us so the whole time we’ve been touring we’ve been seeing more and more people coming to shows. Which is really good because it sort of like shows that all this work that we’re putting into this band is actually paying off and people are coming out.
J: Sharks that eat whales.
And uh, so can you just talk about how that comes into play, if that’s like a preconceived notion that you sit down and want to write multiple songs about the subject or if that just kind of, things just work out.
J: Yeah, I dunno, I like really epic stuff. And uh, I dunno, I like things that are sort of big and make people, or make me dwell on a subject in my own mind and think about it a whole lot. And that’s one of them, prehistoric sharks. And it just kind of blows me away that they were that big. I dunno, I just thought it was worthy of a trilogy of songs. So pretty much complete dorkdom that motivated that. And for City of the Stars, sort of the thematic stuff from that, it all came from…I didn’t have a notebook to write down my lyrics with, and I was writing down my lyrics while working at a video store, and the only notebook I could find without having to buy one was my old astronomy notebook. And I was…kind of had writer’s block, and was watching movies, and stuff at work, and I was flipping through the notebook. I stumbled across some notes I had taken in astronomy class about Tycho Brahe, and I kind of got really excited, like “Oh my God, this guy’s, this fucking weirdo.”
J: So it spawned the lyrics of Uranaburg and I started researching it a little bit more and came up with the idea for the cover.
For uh, speaking of City of the Stars, the opening track “Circle of Hair” has a line at the end of it: “We’re going to take your white stripes and paint them black” and um, it also talks about haircuts and stuff. When I first saw the title I was thinking some sort of Wiccan ritual with uh, a circle of actual hair. But I was uh…
N: That just gave me an idea for a fucking video man.
Tell me a little bit about what spawned that. It kind of seems to me to be a bit about this frustration with the music industry, and, so just talk about that for a little bit.
J: yeah, it’s kind of touched on the whole garage rock revival fad that’s going on in mainstream music, it’s kind of, I dunno. The line “I going to take your white stripes and paint them black is not meant to be directly pointed at the White Stripes themselves, but it’s sort of more saying that the White Stripes were trying to do this thing, and “paint it black” which is the Rolling Stones, who kind of did it right, you know? And all these bands are kind of a stupid mockery of bands that were doing it right in the first place. And I don’t think any of them really capture the soul or the sound, or the feeling that those originally bands had and it seems like a really big money making ploy to me and it really bums me out.
And all these bands are kind of a stupid mockery of bands that were doing it right in the first place.If you listen to the three major releases you guys have put out, Harshing your mellow, Elephantine, City of Stars, it seems like the first albums have more of a punk feel while city of stars kind of explored different kind of I guess, tempos, while “the sorceress” has sort of that blues shuffled swing feel to it, um, is that like a conscious effort to try to try to get more, kind of experimental, kind of metal sound influence, or is that just something that’s happened and you haven’t even realized it?
N: There’s not really a conscious…anything in Akimbo. Like, it’s just we all come to the table equally and uh, hopefully equally, and uh, write what we like. There’s no orchestration going on, there’s no agenda and I think that just had to do with where we were as people and what we were listening to at the time. And who we were being influenced by, and that took us in the direction that went in. That was also the first record that we wrote with two guitar players, so, that made a big difference, I thought.
For this upcoming Alternative Tentacles release, what’s kind of been going on for that, how’s that song writing process been going? I’ve heard a couple of newer songs played live the last two nights and I uh, thought they were amazing, blew me away of course…
J: Thank you.
…fan boy gushing, blah blah blah. Um, but uh, how’s that come about, how’s that stuff working. Well, I guess one of the questions, are you writing while you’re on the road still?
J: It’s coming along really well, actually we have got seven songs mostly ready to go, some of them are still kind of getting wrapped up. Yeah, well it’s going really well. What we kind of have right now is sort of like the basic Akimbo rock songs, and what we’d like to focus on when we get home is sort of like, doing some more interesting stuff… not to say what we’re doing isn’t interesting but…
N: Embellishments on what we have.
J: Yes, some songs to kind of break up the tempo and the tone of the album so it’s not just constant, like Harshing Your Mellow is. It’s just like (snaps his fingers) one rock song right after another. Whereas, like you know on City of the Stars we had songs like "High and Fighting” and “Afraid of Mountains" sort of like placed to sort of like break up the uh…barrage of rock, if you will.
P: It’s awesome. Basically is seems like, we get in the practice space, there’s like a riff of a full song, and we just jam it out until it works. And I’ve got to admit that there are a couple of songs like, “what the fuck,” but after a couple hours it’s like “ah yeah, it totally works, it’s totally fine.”
Awesome, so um, I just want to say thank you to everybody for letting me come out in the van and I just wanna give you guys one last chance to give some shout outs to whatever, to give "Thank Yous" that will go on record.
N: Fucking Lords rule. We’re on tour with Lords right now, doing five days before we go home and they’re fantastic, everyone should go out and see them. Big Business is amazing also. Doomsday 1999 out of Seattle, Herbie Doe (sp?), The Sword from Austin Texas fucking shred.
J: Nat’s got the bands covered. I want to once again – I’ve done it a million times – but to thank Dopamine Records and Seventh Rule Records for continually supporting us, um, yeah. They’ve just been wonderful, awesome, and really good, and also one thing: Jello Biafra, for asking us to do an album on his label. We are very humbled by his offer.
P: Yeah I mean, just shout out to everybody who let us sleep on their floors, couches, basically everybody we’ve met has been really cool.
J: Yeah, everyone who’s helped us out on tour. We’ve been doing a lot of touring, and some people have actually worked really hard to make sure that we have a good place to play or that people are coming to shows…
P: And feeding us…
J: Putting sandwiches in their fridge for us when we arrive at their house…Jason Gainer!
P: Oh, Birmingham, yeah.
J: So yeah, I hope nobody thinks that we don’t’ appreciate that.
Alright, thanks a lot for this.