I recently exchanged a few emails with Hutch Harris, frontman of Portland, Oregon's The Thermals. Last year, the band released their third album for Sub Pop, the explosive and angry concept album, The Body, The Blood, The Machine.
It was an interesting experience to say the least, as Hutch furiously described his feelings about Hummer, Fugazi's Brendan Canty and describes the band's lost record.
The new record is much more political than anything you've done before. Did any one event inspire that?
A greedy, war-mongering U.S. government that exists only to serve the Christian Right and it's fanatical ideals, did anything particular inspire that? I'll give you two guesses and the first two don't count.
He used to kick the drums over and shout at us: 'I'M FUCKING BRENDAN CANTY! I WAS IN RITES OF SPRING, BITCH!'
So the Christian Right is your biggest concern?
My biggest concerns are getting paid, getting high, and getting laid, in that order. I hate the Right cause they want to take it all away from me! Why does organized religion have to cram it's views and rules down my fucking throat? Can't they just let the rest of us live?
You famously turned down Hummer and a rather substantial chunk of money. Was it about the idea of being in a commercial or the product specifically? Like, if it had been a Prius or something seen as more responsible, would that have been more appropriate?
Something more responsible, like the home suicide kits in the movie Children Of Men? We might do an ad for something like that.
How has the label been for you over the past few years
It's less how they've been for us over the years, more how much they've bent over for us over the years, which is not enough!
On that note, how much did they like the idea of putting out a record called "Fuckin' A?"
I have to say, the were good sports about releasing a record called "Fuckin' A", in spite of the fact that the title couldn't be mentioned on the radio or in print, for the most part. We couldn't have cared less! We gave no quarter and expected (and received) none in return.
What kind of reaction have you guys had to the Carson Daly show performance?
Most people just sit too close to the TV with their eyes glazed over, drooling. Remember the point of TV is to sedate you, not to get a reaction. Regardless, we love television and can't wait to get back on it.
Kathy and you have been performing together in many bands. Can you explain the dynamic between you two?
If I can be sincere for a moment, much to my own chagrin. Kathy and I have played together in bands for over ten years. We have an amazing creative and business relationship, and love each other as much as two people who aren't sleeping together can.
How was working with Brendan Canty? Was it intimidating to have him in the studio with you?
It was very intimidating. He used to kick the drums over and shout at us "WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?! YOU SUCK! DON"T YOU KNOW WHO THE FUCK YOU'RE WORKING WITH HERE?! I'M FUCKING BRENDAN CANTY! I WAS IN RITES OF SPRING, BITCH!" He drank about fourteen Red Bulls a day and was quite irritable.
You worked with Brendan on his Burn To Shine series before he recorded the album. What was that like?
He was a real sweetheart. We just saw him in DC, he came to our show. Brendan is the best! Kathy and I seriously love him to death. He brought major energy and enthusiasm, we couldn't have asked for more, but then we did, and he gave it to us!
This might be a better question for Kathy, but is the All Girl Summer Fun Band going to be doing anything together?
It might be a better question for Kathy, but I'm gonna answer it anyway. Kathy is going to be incredibly busy with The Thermals for the next ten years at least. She'll see if she'll be able to squeeze in any other side projects/semblance of a normal life in the small breaks we give ourselves.
Even though the Thermals is very much a punk sound, you seem to exist outside the normal "punk" scene and tour with and associate with much more of the "indie rock" side of things. Was this a concious decision?
We tread lightly around the word punk. Sometimes we call ourselves a punk band, sometimes we leave the word punk to people with mohawks and cheek piercings. We grew up using the term punk to describe bands with d.i.y. ethics, bands that didn't necessarily sound like The Exploited.
The Thermals seem to tour quite a bit, and you've also been pretty prolific in terms of recordings. What makes you get to the point where you can get off the road and into the studio? Or, if that doesn't make sense, what is the thing that tells you it's time to put out a record?
Nothing tells me when, I say when. I say I want make record then we make record. We've pretty much recorded a record every year for the past four years. One of these records is unreleased. It's called "We Sleep In A Holy Bed", it's a precursor to "The Body The Blood The Machine". I think we'll record another record later this year.
We grew up using the term punk to describe bands with d.i.y. ethics, bands that didn't necessarily sound like The Exploited.
Why is "We Sleep in a Holy Bed" unreleased?
It was recorded at Jackpot Studios in Portland, by Joanna Bolme, right before Jordan Hudson left The Thermals. (Joanna plays in Steve Malkmus's band The Jicks, and she recorded a lot of songs for Eliott Smith Smith and Bolme dated for years, and Smith was a co-owner of Jackpot Studios. Joanna and I used to play together in the band The Minders.)
Some song titles are "Welcome To The Planet", "We Fix You", "You Dissolve", and "Goodbye To Days". The theme is very similar to "The Body The Blood The Machine" - The Christian Right out to take over the U.S. Some of it is unfinished, but I hope to finish it in the next few years. Honestly, Kathy and I knew we could write a much better record, and we did. You're also not a real band until you have a "lost" record.
What are you guys listening to while touring?
Roger and Zapp, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Brian Eno, Pointer Sisters, Eddie Murphy, Full House Theme Song
What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
We are playing All Tommorrow's Parties in the UK in May, then opening for The Cribs for three weeks in June in the UK. July we'll do festivals in Denmark, France, Germany, Holland, and some other stuff too.