Rats in the Wall
by Interviews

Brad Logan's guitar sounds like a goddam Harley-Davidson. When he plays it, it lets out this low, heavy, muscular rumble that sounds like heat tearing through a tail pipe. In the past, he's used his singular sound to drive bands like F-Minus and Leftover Crack forward with its powerful, textured rmmm-rmmm-rmmm. Now, he's using his trademark guitar (and trademark bark) in his new band, Rats in the Wall. Meanwhile, the band is fronted by the berserk Eva Hall of Gather. She shrieks like banshee and could probably tear you face off. One minute she's speaking in a hushed whisper and the next she's blowing out ear drums. Damn!

They just released their new album, Dead End and it slays. The band snaps at oppressive economic systems, salutes Edward Snowden and cover Zounds -- all to a storming, berserk musical backdrop.

Because the band has just released their debut LP, features editor John Gentile spoke to them about the band’s genesis, negativity and hangin’ out with a drunk Nick Cave.

The new Rats in the Wall record has a few very negative lyrics, like "The reality is that most of us will never get out/ Born with nothing, that’s how will die, no doubt." Is Rats in the Wall a fundamentally negative band? Logan: Well, I don’t plan to make a record positive or negative. I write down what’s in front of me. Some of the lyrics may be negative, but as a person, I actually try to be positive. I try to not get sucked into negative thinking which can be crippling.

Hall: I'm pretty friendly and tend to be happy most of the time. But politically, I have very little hope for the world, which, I guess can be considered negative. That realization sometimes bums me the fuck out and I tend to feel like, "Nothing matters, so why try?" But it only gets me down because of how much I love everything that is being destroyed. So, I see myself as being full of compassion and love, but because of the state of the environment and this civilization that is crushing us all, I can be pretty fucking angry a lot of the time.

That quote is from "Circular Existence," a song which you wrote, Eva. Hall: Well, we all have such different views on things and we joke about how the only thing we can all agree on in the end is that "everything is fucked and we're all screwed." So, I guess you can say that even though we tend to be pretty positive individuals, our music is pretty pessimistic. It's our outlet for those deep down feelings each of us have that ultimately the world is fucked and there's really nothing that can be done to effectively fix the damage that has been done. That particular song is addressing class and how statistically, the vast majority of us who are born poor -- who won't receive any substantial inheritance, who aren't born into an accumulation of wealth that has been built throughout generations -- will most likely die poor, no matter how long and hard we work.

I really like the new album. It seems to have almost a blues-rock essence to it. Logan: Well, I do love classic rock. Do you think those influences come through?

I do! I loved F-minus, but F-minus was very hardcore, very Crack! Crack! Crack! Crack! This has more of a fundamentally blues-based melody, which is my favorite kind of punk rock. Logan: I was totally unconscious of that. We wanted to do different stuff than what we had done in previous bands. I am aware that some of this stuff may be F-minus like. Maybe that’s just my default for playing in loud bands. That’s cool that you’re hearing things that I’m not necessarily aware of. I’m not sure how interested I am in playing rock, though I do listen to it. I was always more into the art side of things, like The Fall or The Birthday party. I went through a big phase of listening to European stuff, like Bauhaus, and experimental stuff like Chrome or Thurston Moore solo albums or Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed. It’s just noise.

The band actually came together somewhat serendipitously, I believe. Hall: Brad and I met at the grocery store where I work. I think I was wearing some band shirt and he commented on it, so I knew he was down. It came up that I had been in bands before, and one day he asked if I wanted to start a band! That's when he told me some of the bands he used to be in. I was hesitant because I destroyed my vocal cords in my last band, Gather, which was constant growly, screamy vocals, and I suck at guitar. But, he insisted that I don't have to scream anymore, and that it's ok to suck at guitar in a punk band. Ha! So I gave it a shot!

F-Minus and Leftover Crack are pretty respected bands. Are you concerned about playing into, or playing against, people’s expectations for Rats in the Wall? Hall: I'm not really sure what kinds of kids will be into our music or lyrics, so I don't really think about that too much. Brad writes some lyrics, too, but I don't even know what they are or what they mean since he sings them. Ha!

Well then, Brad, let’s address that. You wrote and sing the song "Cut The Line." Do you feel that we’ve given up too much privacy in the name of convenience? Logan: My general feeling is that I just expect that we’re always being monitored, anyways. The Snowden revelations and anything prior to that -- well, it wasn’t surprising to me. Of course we’re being monitored. If you’re going to engage in subversive activities, if you’re not smart enough to take the necessary methods to go about it in a way that’s harder to track, you’ve got a real problem. In that case, maybe you should go about it by word-of-mouth, or the old standby of writing a letter because it’s too easy to be monitored otherwise. But, it’s not that I care either, really. I’m an open book. I haven’t had anybody knock on my door yet, which is kind of surprising to me.

But, do I think we’ve given away too much privacy? Honestly, it comes with the territory. If you want a free web setup, it’s prone to that. Why do you think it’s free?

Now Brad, bear with me. I think, fundamentally, you are a nice person, correct? Logan: I try to be, yes.

Yet, your delivery and lyrics are mean and nasty. But, if we look at Hall and Oates, and I’m a Hall and Oates fan by the way, their music is gentle and soothing, but Daryl Hall is not a nice guy. He’s really, really angry! Why do the nice guys make the angry music, and the angry guys make nice music? Logan: You know, it kind of makes sense. Perhaps that’s where I try to channel those feelings -- feeling like I feel like I’m going to explode. The aggression. Maybe it’s where I channel the shit that all of us go through on a daily basis. I do think that fundamentally people are capable of being "good" or at least decent human beings. But, it takes practice or focus. I don’t know if it comes naturally.

For me, specifically, I think sometimes I internalize things. I try to take it out in non-destructive ways. Maybe it comes out in music. I feel it’s a non-destructive thing. You can compose this song and pass it on and maybe someone else will get some joy out of it.

In fact, you sort of do that exact thing on the new album. You cover one of my favorite anarcho bands, Zounds! Hall: I love Zounds! I love that they're an anarcho band, but also catchy and even dance-y sometimes. So, I thought they would be fun to cover. When I first joined the band, Brad said they might be one of the musical influences for Rats in the Wall. We didn't really go in that direction after all, but I wanted to be sure to at least cover them on our recording.

Do people ever get the wrong idea about you as a person after hearing your music? Logan: Yeah! All the time. Not so much here, but in places like Europe or the UK. For instance, I was playing in England and these super drunk, super aggressive dudes were coming up to me and saying things like [mimicking a drunk] "I can really relate, man!" Super macho guys. I was like, "Man, I’m putting out the wrong message here!" I don’t feel like I’m that kind of guy. If anything, I think I’m meek.

It hasn’t happened in a while because I don’t tour as much as I used too. I keep a low profile now. It’s like you’re saying abut Hall and Oates -- who you think the songwriter is can be often different than who you think they are. That’s why I try not to meet my heroes -- songwriters. Sometimes they turn out to be not-so-cool people.

Who has been cool? Logan: I’ve met a lot of people -- granted you’re only seeing a very small slice of the person and you can’t judge them on a five-minute interaction. There have been days where people come up to me and I try to treat them as I would like to be treated. Keith Morris is a prince of a man. He’s the fuckin’ man. I’ve known him since I was 16 or 17, and he’s a salt of the Earth kind of guy.

I did meet Nick Cave a few times. He was interesting because he was different every time I met him. One time, he was completely aloof to the point of being non-responsive. I was like, "Hey man, can you sign my Birthday Party album? I really admire your stuff!" And there was just no response at all! He was like in a catatonic state!

But then, another time, he was like really drunk and intimidating. He’s six-foot-five. I was like, "Oh no! He’s going to kick my ass!" Then, another time, he was really gentlemanly, polite, a great sense of humor. That was pretty interesting an awesome. I’ve been a fan of him since I was a kid.

In a way, those three separate versions of Nick Cave are exactly how I’d hope Nick Cave to be. Logan: I wouldn’t want him to be any other way. I threw it together in retrospective and it was perfect the way it all fit together.

Anarcho and hardcore punk has a long history of dual male/female vocals. Crass, Nausea and even F-Minus did that very well. Why is the dual male/female dynamic so powerful? Hall: I just like when there are women involved in punk and hardcore, period. In a scene that tends to be male-dominated, it makes me happy when other genders get out there and make this their scene, too. When dudes are supportive of that, that makes me happy. So I like having male/female vocals, especially on our songs about gender and misogyny, because it shows that this isn't just a women's issue or just a women's struggle, but that everyone needs to be on board if we're going to meaningfully fight for equality.

Logan: I definitely have a thing for bands that mix it up a bit so it’s not the same thing every song. Look at Leftover Crack -- it’s the same way with multiple singers. Nausea is one of the best examples for me the type of songwriting and mix of sensitivity with just metal. They’re a really, really exceptional band. I also really like Crass and how they would have guest singers and just tale the whole album, like on Penis Envy.

We actually talked about that for Rats in the Wall. Like how Jello did it with DOA or how the Melvins did it with Jello. You have a record where the drummer sings every song -- things that are unpredictable. Certainly, I never had aspirations to be a singer. I don’t really think I’m the best singer there is. There really was just no one else around town that would do it that wasn’t already in a band.

-Are you hoping to make Rats in the Wall a full-time band? Logan: I’d definitely like it to be a full time band. We have tons of ideas and we want to put out lots of recordings. The touring, I think, won’t be extensive because it’s hard to tour these days. There isn’t a whole lot of money for it. So, we can do chunks of things. We’re going to try to get to the east coast in the fall for about two weeks. We have to break it up into little sections, instead of going out for six to eight weeks. Everyone has jobs. We could make that happen, hypothetically. We’re not chained to our jobs. But, I do find that bands tend to get along better when they aren’t confined to small spaces for extended periods of time.

Hall: We are planning to tour the east coast mid-October through early November with Leftover Crack. We just released Dead End which has eight new tracks, as well as our six old demo songs, so now we want to jump right into writing new stuff! I'm excited.

Brad, you said that you don’t think that you’re the best singer. But, I think you’re the best at being brad Logan. I don’t think anyone makes music like you. Don’t you think that you’re the best at doing that which you do? Eva, don’t you think that you’re the best at doing that which it is that you do? Logan: I never think of it like that. I don’t listen to recordings after they’re done. I’ll listen to it for the initial couple of weeks after the record is done,and then it goes back in the stack and never gets listened to again. It sounds like my own stuff doesn’t live up to what I hear in my head. I only hear what’s lacking. Case in point, working with Eva, she can just nail stuff with the utmost lyrics. "I wrote the lyrics last night. Here’s the lyrics." She doesn’t second guess herself and I admire that. It’s not me.

Hall: I do get a little self-conscious when writing lyrics because once it's recorded and printed, it's final and your thoughts are just out there for people to criticize or whatever.

Logan: I never thought of myself as unique. I try to work with people with personality over ability. Personality trumps ability every time. With Eva, it was a needle in the haystack -- boom. I’ve always been very picky. I’m always in bands with people that I like as people first, as opposed to people who I like as musicians first.

Now Brad, what I find interesting about you is that you are always surrounded by smart, strong, good looking women. The women in your band fit those categories. So does your wife. Brad, how do you work that magic? Logan: That’s funny that you should say that. It’s not a conscious thing. I grew up with sisters. I had no brothers. I never had a shortage of women as close personal friends in my life. I was always shy around girls as a kid as to dating. But, being around girls in general, I was never uncomfortable with it. There are more women in my family than men.

A lot of young men involved in punk rock are socially awkward. They don’t know how to talk to the ladies. Brad, let’s say a young dude sees a lady that catches his eye. What;’s the first thing that he should say to her? Logan: "Hi."