Gaslight Anthem's first two full-length albums and one EP have garnered praise and adulation from nearly all corners and critics. This summer they're busy headlining tours in the US, as well as playing a handful of festivals. Rob Inderrieden had the chance to sit down with drummer Benny Horrowitz at the Southside Festival in Southern Germany and talk about the whirlwind that has been their career, what he simply can't live without and what fans can expect from them in the future.
Rob Inderrieden: What were your thoughts about todayâs set and the festival atmosphere in general?
Benny Horrowitz: Festivals are always funny. Weâre just starting to get used to playing these things, you know what I mean. Itâs not really our scene. But itâs cool. Sharing the stage with some great bands, Anti Flag, Nine Inch Nails, but itâs always hit or miss. Today was a good one. We played well. Lot of kids watching us. A lot of kids seemed to know it. I was pretty excited about today.
Even with the rain and horrible weather - fantastic set.
Weâre definitely a band that feeds off of if the kids are into it, it makes us more into it and gives us more energy. So sometimes itâs daunting. Itâs weird. A lot of times youâre playing at noon in the middle of an open fieldâ¦ and it sounds like your playing at noon in the middle of an open field. A lot of times we find weâre the most aggressive and punk band on the bill, for some reason theyâre letting us play these things. Weâre a little out of place and so itâs all an adjustment. Itâs definitely not the same. I donât really love the separation with the kids. Itâs like two different worlds between the artist backstage area, where you see a lot of dog shit with other bands. Itâs when I really learned what dudes that consider themselves rock stars actually act like. I mean total fucking tool bags. But thereâs a cool element too. You get a sunny day and sometimes you get a cool vibe with the crowd and everyoneâs having a good time. So thereâs ups and downs. The food is usually real good. That might be the biggest upside for me. Three good and square and hot meals a day.
So it is hard to sometimes connect with the audience - when you have that separation?
It definitely is. But honestly it shouldnât matter. If there are six kids watching you and their eyes are on you and theyâre there to see you - those six kids should get the same shit that a thousand kids should get. Thatâs like - one of my mantras for playing and touring is something I read in Rollinâs Get in the Van. There was one show in particular - there were two or three kids in the audience and Rollins was fucking around with the show and he didnât really take it seriously. Iâm not sure who in the band, but somebody straight up threw him into the wall and yelled in his face "I donât give a fuck how many people are here -- they get everything. I donât care if itâs one!" And thatâs true man. We actually just had that experience - we played this festival in the south of France and we opened one of the stages and they started us right against this huge French band that we didnât know but the kids knew and we were playing to literally 30-40 people on this gigantic stage and there was one kid up front who knew our shit and was obviously there to see us and the whole time I am watching this kid and in my mind Iâm like "Iâm playing for this kid. Straight up." Itâs obvious that itâs his first time to see us and he came to see us. Fuck it. Heâs going to get what 2,000 Germans are gonna get at this place. Sometimes itâs hard to maintain - but itâs something I always try to do.
I think that says a lot about you guys as artists and as a band.
Luckily for us - I donât see a separation between myself and the kids that come to see us. And I hope that lasts as long as I play music - because in essence - there isnât a difference. I play music and they do something else, Iâm not fucking curing cancer or anything. I need them to do what I do. And if you lose focus of that - thatâs when people really lose themselves in this thing.
Right now - your job is playing music, what are some other odd jobs you used to have?
Oh man, I actually tried to count recently and from the time I was 14 to 22 or 23 - I had over 20 jobs. My whole mantra was - "itâs a fucking minimum wage job and if it gets annoying and someone starts giving you shit, just quit and get another one. " Itâs that easy. I worked at a packaging store, I was a deli man, a short-order grill guy, pizza delivery, bagel baker, worked at video store, I worked with kids, 2 years in after school programs and 2 years in summer camp. I actually really dug that. And eventually started working at The Daily Targum (Rutgers/New Brunswick Newspaper) - in production. I eventually went on salary there and it became my full time job and I eventually quit that to do Gaslight full-time.
So whatâs itâs like to know this is your full-time job now?
In a way - itâs always what I wanted to do. And I tended to never take anything else to seriously - because this was always the goal. At first, I quit my job because of the touring and I just couldnât work a job where someone expected me to be there. But Iâm still homeless. Me and Alex are still homeless, you know what I mean. As far as money and sustaining yourself, that shit is just starting to happen. Where I might be able to get a place within the next few months or something. Itâs been interesting. The last few months have been a trip. Itâs weird. But itâs everything I want to do. The fact that itâs actually happening is fucking crazy. Itâs the best thing ever. I feel really, really lucky.
What does the future hold for you guys?
Weâre doing this until late July. We get home in July - going to Chicago for Lollapalooza and last week of August doing Reading and Leeds again. So weâll have a couple weeks at home in August. In September we start a headlining tour in the states with Murder by Death, Loved Ones and a bunch of others (Frank Turner, Jesse Malin) weâre doing that until October. And then weâre home and we have the winter blocked out to stay at home and try and write. Just too stay together and weâre gonna record the beginning of next year.
Thoughts and views on signing with a major?
The opportunity has been presenting itself since Sink or Swim. Weâve sat down with majors and had diner with them and talked with them. We havenât in the last year because we told our manager to tell them "Thanks but no thanks for now." We sort of found out early what itâs all about and the state that major labels are in right now - itâs kinda like jumping onto a sinking ship. We are doing the next record with Side One - we decided that a long time ago. Those guys have been awesome for us. We gotten to this point with them and this is a point we never thought we would get to, so thereâs no problem or anything to look forward to. Weâre more than happy with it. Weâre more than happy that we can actually honor a contract that weâve signed. At this point we really donât have much of an interest at all. But thatâs not to say that it couldnât happen. Weâve never said that we would never do it. We always want certain things to dictate our career and thatâs not one of them. But if thatâs something we need at some point, maybe weâll do it, but itâs just not necessary right now. I personally have a lot of thoughts about it. It would take a lot to get me to sign to a major label. If I sign to a major label Iâd want to be set for the rest of my life. And that would be the reason I would need a major label.
Can you give us a time frame for next album?
Loosely Iâd say late spring, early summerâ¦ but a lot of things can happen.
How would you describe the creative process used to create your sound and how everyone adds in their own unique tastes and talents?
I think the reason it was allowed to happen is thereâs always been an understanding that "they are your parts, as long as they sound good". Nobody tells anyone else what to play. Usually the idea and stem of the song will come from one of Brianâs ideas - so his influence is strong from the get go. But we all respect each others space - and I think thatâs how you can get everyoneâs influences to come out. We typically donât go into a song saying, "I want it to be this kind of song or this kind of song". We basically base it off a riff or a melody and the stuff that happens is we play what we think sounds good. And what we think sounds good, obviously is going to stem from our influences.
Does it bother you at all that people continue to tell you, you remind them of The Boss and make Bruce Springsteen comparisons?
You gotta earn that shit. Weâve been a band for four years and if we keep going and writing songs, eventually people will see us for us and not have to compare us to anyone else. I can honestly tell you that Iâm tired of the Bruce Springsteen question, because itâs in every fucking interview. And people are now prefacing - it with "I know you must be getting this a lotâ¦ butâ¦"
No worries. Itâs an easy comparison to make. Brian is a Bruce fan. There is obviously part of his music that comes into ours a little bit and you canât deny that. But thereâs about 100 other bands that are in it too that people donât bother to consider. I mean heâs Jersey. Heâs a working class guy. Personally what I take from the Bruce comparison the most, is to me, heâs like an everyday guy. Heâs a huge rock star, famous and rich. But from everything I know about the guy, heâs totally human, totally gracious. I knew a guy that was a carpenter at his property and during Christmas he got a bottle of Patron and an invite to some Christmas party for him and his family. And Iâm like, if youâre gonna make money and aspire to be like someone, thatâs pretty fucking cool. So thatâs where my appreciation for Bruce comes in. Iâve never been a huge fan. I honestly didnât know that Bruce Springsteen had anything that he wrote that wasnât in the '80s until I meet Bryan. Itâs not how I grew up, itâs not what I was raised on. My Mom was a classic rocker. We didnât really have any of that stuff. But if there is someone to be compared to - heâs not a bad person at all to be compared to. Itâs the Killers ones that piss me off. Iâve seen that a couple times and that makes me mad. Those guys are a bunch of fucking corndicks.
The Killers? Really? I donât see that connection at all.
Thereâs a couple songs on Samâs Town where I guess I can see something, just because they are song oriented. But just the way those guys present themselves and their whole vibe and all that shit, has got nothing to do with us. So when I hear that Iâm like "Fuck! The Killers? I hate that band! Just stop."
So whatâs in your cd player right now?
BH: Iâve really grown fond of Jack White stuff recently. Not as much the White Stripes, I really like the Raconteurs records he did. I think those are awesome. I really like the newest Radiohead record, the one they released themselves. Iâm still listening to the new Ninja Gun record, probably close to every other day. It kills me. I love that record. The newest Off With Their Heads record I like quite a bit. Minus the Bear put out that acoustic record which I dig. The new Isis is out - I dig the new Isis. And then the classics.
And what are your classics, your indispensables?
Itâs always Zeppelin. I always think about indispensable, as when party shuffle is on I wonât pass it over. Ever. Itâ always Zeppelin. I love Nas. Especially older Nas. Iâm a bit of an old New York hip-hop junkie. I dig a lot of that shit. You can even hear it in Gaslight sometimes. Sometimes a little hip hop will just show up, and that's just from my 16 to 19 - crooked fitted Yankees hat days. (laughs)
Desert Island scenario? The best of the best in movies, books and albums . What do you bring?
Iâd need a little bit of everything to stay happy. Definitely need a Led Zeppelin record. Maybe Iâd cheat and go with double BBC sessions record so I can get all my Zeppelin in one shot there. What would be the punk record? Manâ¦ so hard. Iâd need one good punk and one good hardcore. Just off the top of my head - Iâd say Descendents Somery and Botch We are the Romans. Movies - we need something funny so Iâd take Anchorman. I can watch that show over and over and over again. Then Iâd take True Romance - great movie. And then something deep, to make me think. What would be my thinking movie? Maybe a classic. I watch a lot of films, so this is tough for me, manâ¦ maybe come back to it. Books. The best book Iâve read for the last couple years is Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides, that book fucking blows me away. I could read it over and over again. I would take something funny. Something that cracks me up. Iâd take the old authoritative Calvin and Hobbes book, just for a good laugh. I love Calvin and Hobbes. And something to make me angry too. Something to get me going. it. Maybe People's History of the United States. That book will kill you too.
Where do you want to be in 10 years?
I Recently gained a whole new perspective on that. A few months back we were touring with Social Distortion. We parked at the club the night before and Motley Crue was there. We got on the guest list and we got to see them which was fun - but they travel in 4 buses, 6 trucks, some gigantic stage thing, Tommy Lee with a headset coming out and hyping the crowd with all his corn ball stuff. And weâre just sitting there and like I got through 6, 7 songs, a couple of the classics and then Iâm like "Iâm done. This is fucking corny." And than the next day I see Social Distortion roll up in 2 buses - 1 for the crew and I think Mike has his family out with him. 1 truck with gear. Totally modest. Iâm mean its nice stuff, but really modest and they out drew Motley Crue by like a 1000 people. To me thatâs the way to do your career. Thatâs the way where you can have a life, provide for a family if you want to have one - which I do, thatâs something weâre all thinking about, weâre all getting older, Brianâs been married for five years, Iâm 28, Alex is 27. Getting a place and having a family is something weâre all starting to think about. And if this is going to be our career - it would be cool to be awarded that kind of luck. To be able to sustain that kind of life through music. But we have no aspirations to be a fucking arena rock band or the biggest band in the world. I think we would hate it in that situation. We have a hard time dealing with some of the stuff thatâs already coming with this. So I canât imagine what it would be like with that. So 10 years from now - I want to be Social Distortion. (laughs).