Leftover Crack's second LP, Fuck World Trade, is one of those rare records that is both timely and timeless. When it was released in 2004, it commented directly on the 9/11 tragedy and the War on Terrorism. But now, 14 years removed from the tragedy depicted on the cover, the record doesn't seem anchored to a specific time or place, but rather, seems to be a commentary on global power structures as a whole (shorthand -- mega-rich guys cause war for profit).
But despite the album's bleak overtones, the band was able to slip in ghoulish humor between the horrors. The band, quite deftly, abutted N.W.A. references against commentary on privately run prisons, songs about getting wasted were snapped next to the timeless tale of getting kicked out of the house by your parents. And of course, the entire concept of a satanic, crust-influenced, crack smoking band is pretty hilarious (and clever).
Because Fat Wreck Chords just re-released the album, Punknews' John Gentile and Ricky Frankel spoke to LoC frontman Scott Sturgeon about Fuck World Trade's significance, tacos and the upcoming LP.
When you say Fuck World Trade, how absolute are you in that statement? Is it a total condemnation of world trade? Or, Is it a invitation to ponder how large-scale world trade has hurt people in poorer countries?
World trade has been affecting poorer, less militarized countries and communities negatively since agriculture changed the way that human societies evolved around 10,000 years ago. Itâ€™s created loftier ambitions for the cruel and powerful and has helped spread war, disease and slavery to every corner of the earth. Whatâ€™s not to ponder?
When the cover of Fuck World Trade was released, it was controversial to say the least. Some people thought it was a Crass-like demonstration of the horrors of big business. Some people thought it was tabloid-esque. With ten years to reflect, what does the cover say to you now?
I still believe that the people on the cover were at the very least privy to knowledge that could have prevented what we know as 9/11 and beyond that they were probably responsible in a much more direct way than most Americans would like to believe. What the cover says to me now is that these fuckers got away with murder and profited heavily from it. At any rate, 9/11 probably brings a smile to all three of their faces in private reflection.
Well, then, do you really think 9/11 was an inside job?
There are so many ways to define an inside job in a conspiracy as large as 9/11. Itâ€™s basically impossible for the events to have unfolded as they did without involvement of people in the U.S. government. At best, the government lied about what happened. People and institutions are being protected to this day Iâ€™m sure.
Fuck World Trade featured some wonderful ballads and introspective songs. How had you grown as a person between Mediocre Generica and FWT?
At the time of finishing Mediocre Generica, we had our album art and record title censored by our label, Epitaph Records. I had to start making the album art from scratch which took a while and then when that was done our release date kept getting pushed further and further into the future. The ironic thing is that the original title of Mediocre Generica was Shoot the Kids at School. In the wake of the Columbine murders, we were forced to change it and after all of the scandal dodging from the record label, our album was released on September 11, 2001.
And by the time we were working on Fuck World Trade we had also gone through a pretty brutal hostage type situation with Epitaph Records/Hellcat Records who clearly did not want to have anything to do with us. I can only imagine what would have happened if our record was scheduled for release the following week. It may never have been released.
Anyhow, we were young and time dragged on really slowly. Nobody at the label would return our calls and we eventually had to just show up to try and get acknowledgment that we could leave our contract and make another record which we had trouble obtaining for quite a while. All of the other labels that we talked to were afraid of Epitaph's lawyers, so we started financing FWT ourselves. I suppose that all of this extra time gave us the ability to write more intricate songs and I definitely read a lot of books and researched my subjects before writing lyrics.
I think â€œSoon Weâ€™ll Be Deadâ€ is an absolutely marvelous, perfect song. It is both beautiful and dread-inducing. Would you tell us a little bit about the lyrical concept behind that song?
I wrote that song when I was in Choking Victim. I was a teenager squatting in NYC and the people I was hanging out with were always playing, and in retrospect, overplaying Tom Waits and The Pogues. â€œSoon Weâ€™ll Be Deadâ€ was my version of their drinking ballads, just from a drug addicted, depressed, homeless perspective. Jack Terricloth [who also sings on the track] is a truly unique human. Beyond musicianship, heâ€™s a great artist and it was great having him, Franz, Peter and Lucky make the song sound the way that I had imagined.
â€œSoon Weâ€™ll Be Deadâ€ has the lyrics, â€œSoon weâ€™ll be deadâ€¦ it ainâ€™t a big thing.â€ Scott, did you really feel that way?
Please, call me Sturg or Stz, my mom calls me Scott. And yes, I was a very emotional and mixed-up kid. I still am really. I found out only a few years ago that Iâ€™m bipolar. I can quite easily fall into a kind of despair and depression that has me consider suicide as an option.
How are you dealing with the bipolar issue now?
I try to eat healthy and exercise. I cut out a lot of destructive habits from my life and I try really hard to get enough sleep to keep me sane. A lot of people are bipolar that really have no idea about it. Whether they are extremely productive and have the ability to manage a lot of tasks and information without necessarily seeming â€œcrazyâ€ or they spend a lot of time with depression. The main thing is that itâ€™s a lot more common than most people think and easily manageable with the right resources. I definitely suggest checking out The Icarus Project, which was co-founded by Choking Victimâ€™s original bass player Sascha Scatter.
Along the lines of the bipolar issue, a great many fantastic artists don't fall within the normal range of "acceptable mental health:" Lee â€œScratchâ€ Perry, George Clinton, Darby Crash. Do you fear that dealing with those issues may cost you some artistic prowess, or, is that concept a complete misnomer? In other words, does great art require great pain?
Well, the guys on your list have done a lot of drugs. I wouldnâ€™t say that they act outside of the realm of â€œacceptable mental healthâ€ when it comes to being enshrouded in a perpetual fog of weed smoke like Lee, a crack addict like George, or just plain silly fucking wasted on whatever like Darby. I donâ€™t think these people are whom I would choose as examples of great artists that struggle with mental illness.
My list would include folks like Daniel Johnston, Wesley Willis and perhaps Kurt Cobain, despite his drug use. I donâ€™t believe that great art requires great pain. Though pain can inform experience which can surly inform great art. There is no scientific formula and neither great art nor great pain are quantifiable, so, this is all theoretical.
I do believe that you can destroy anybodyâ€™s artistic drive, passion and output by prescribing them most of the psych meds that this country shoves down everybodyâ€™s throat with such shear disregard for safety and more abstract concerns like artistic output and passion for life. My point is that there are alternatives to dealing with your mental problems that donâ€™t involve self-medication with street drugs and alcohol or the more insidious nature of the pharmaceutical industry.
FWT has its fair share of negative topics. Is it possible to pull some hope out of songs like â€œRock the 40ozâ€ and â€œLife is Pain?â€ Or, are they meant to be just total darkness?
Fuck, if I could only write a song that could be described as â€œtotal darknessâ€ that would be amazing. Both of those songs are fun to me. They both have a sense of humor if you get where Iâ€™m coming from. Iâ€™m working on our first full-length since FWT and youâ€™ve really made me realize that I have not been lyrically bringing the darkness as much as I could beâ€¦ I might have to work harder at it as this project approaches completion.
Please tell us what it was like recording with Blag Dahlia on â€œThe Christ.â€
Can I just say that Blagâ€™s a lurker? He was around and I thought heâ€™d like the song. Heâ€™s a really smart guy. Fucking knocked it out of the park in one takeâ€¦ Heâ€™s also very young and all of the chicas say â€œ!que lindo!â€ when heâ€™s around…
I believe that you are at least part Jewish, ethnically. LoC songs often deal with religious concepts or use religious imagery. How has being Jewish informed your beliefs?
In my experience growing up in New York City in a reform Jewish family really helped me realize at an early age that I was an Atheist. It helped that my mom wasnâ€™t jamming religion down my throat as she was a former hippie. I did go to Sunday school at a temple and learned all about the old testament, but the teachers and rabbi werenâ€™t really trying to get me on any team. We had a female rabbi, actually, and that doesnâ€™t strike me as very common. I suppose that I already knew that all of the prominent Christian ideas about heaven and hell and the devil weâ€™re totally ridiculous fairy tales and it didnâ€™t take long for me to find the holes in the old testament as well.
Youâ€™re known for taking extended trips to Mexico and South America. What do you do when you visit there?
Besides destabilizing foreign governments? I swim in the ocean and watch magnificent sunsets. I also have not met a taco that I had any reservations about engaging in some sort of flirtation with.
How far along is the new LOC album?
The end is in sight. Weâ€™re pretty much done with half of the 18 songs that weâ€™re recording and we only need 13 for the record. Itâ€™s been several years in the works, but Iâ€™m plugging away in the studio all this month and next. We should be done by the spring and weâ€™ll probably try to release it this fall.
Thanks for the interview, Sturg. Any last comments?
Iâ€™m about to board a plane bound for Southern California. I have no emergency contact. If I donâ€™t make it, please make sure that the world reads this Punknews interview. I was here, dammit! I existed! I answered these questions instead of contacting friends and loved ones! Goodbye everybody! Worldâ€¦ You were cruel, but you were the only one I had…