Fucked Up's Mike Haliechuk has returned from a journey- physical and meta-physical. The guitarist and mastermind behind the band recently ventured to Nepal in a sort of pilgrimage. Meanwhile, he has indulged in psychedelics and explored the inner-working of the human mind. The band's new record, Year of the Snake, out this Friday via Tankcrimes, dwells on these topics, amidst a trippy, sorta Pink Floydian mindscape.
So, to dig into this mysterious slab, Editor John Gentile spoke to Haliechuk about the new record, drugs, and the guitarist's view of himself. Check it out below.
The new record is very trippy and seems to be deeply introspective. What’s going in with your life? I was just trying to shed some light on some cool out there stuff and ideas. The song is about journey I had taken over the past couple of years.
Do you mean a literal journey or a meta-physical journey? It’s kind of the same thing. I was exploring stuff on both sides of that. I don’t know how to phrase it- it’s the concept of exploring ideas in themselves.
Do you feel as though people don’t get what you are doing? I can get along with some people. I don’t get close to people. It’s not in a negative sense. I’m just a reserved person. I don’t have problems with people. People are just sort of irrelevant to me or my life.
Why is that? I’m a guy at the back. I get people. I get what they are about. But, for the most part. I’m not interested. I have hung out with people in the past. Not too much now.
Do you get along with your parents? Sure.
What do they do? My dad was a journalist and my mom was an ESL teacher.
Are they supportive of you? Yeah, they were always very supportive. It’s tough because Fucked Up is on one hand, we are respected regarded for a lot of people. But, at the same time, it’s hard for people to appreciate it because we are a loud punk band. I think maybe we’re easier to appreciate on paper. My parents and a lot of my friends think that our band is “good,” but it’s not something they will pull out to listen to.
Do you think Fucked Up is a good band and doing something interesting? Oh, yeah. I wouldn’t have spent this much time with the band if I didn’t think it was a cool thing. It’s our expression on one hand, but we always do it because it has to “come out.” Fucked Up has always been very conscious of legacies and how legacies work. We come from a continuum and we have always been very careful of hoe we are perceived once we are no longer a band.
You’ve mentioned the concept of punk. What is “punk” to you? When you get into terms that are so broad, it’s not something you have to definite in a concise sentence. For some people, it’s a type of music. For some people, it’s an identity. For some people it’s a set of values by which you can live your life. As a person, punk means one thing to me and as a musician , it means something else. As a musician, it just means you have an aggressive sound and a loud singer and you have loud guitar music and the rest is up to you.
I remember when you put out Year of the Rat. On the Fucked Up blog, you put “half way to half way,” and I said to myself, “there’s no way they’ll make it to twelve zodiacs. No way!” But, now you are fairly close to making it. Do you think you’ll make it to all twelve records?
Yes. It’s one principal of why we haven’t broken up yet. We’ve passed the Rubicon. Fucked Up should have broken up in like 2003, and we missed the boat on breaking up. Now, it’s too late to not finish this. It wouldn’t make sense/
Does that mean after you finish the Zodiacs you will break up? Ha ha! I don’t know. We’ve done eight, and that has taken ten years. Considering the time we were a band before we released the first one, you do the math, we will be done when the band is almost twenty years old. What’s the point of breaking up when you’ve been a band for almost twenty years?
Do you feel as though Fucked Up is in a new era where there are no rules? Well, when you inside a band, you always feel as though you are in that period. It’s one thing to see a trajectory from the outside, but when you are in it, it is different. If you asked me ten years ago, I would say “we are in our most interesting phase.” I would answer the same way now. Fucked Up is just an expression of what I am interested in at that time. We have been perpetual and we did not settle on a sound. We sounded strange in the first place. We never had chance to repeat ourselves.
We’ve only had one or two set backs. When Glass Boys came out, it was not really well received. If you are looking at it as the whole thing, this is the period after that and the band is a side concern for most of our lives. It’s a weird record. The record after that is weirder. We did an album that will come out next year. Every record is interesting.
Looking at the picture disc of Snake, there is a real acid-trip vibe. Is there a psychedelic element to this recording? Yeah, there certainly is. The song is about a psychedelic experience. The artist, Fred Tomaselli, I was drawn to his pieces because his images are sort of what you see in your head- the imagery and the iconography set against a glowing background. That’s like the aesthetic of a psychedelic experience. It made sense that we were able to license a piece of him and that was a big “get” for me.
I’m paraphrasing, but on a recent Henry Rollins podcast, he talks about the first time he did acid and he said it was the first time that he realized the capabilities of the human mind. Do you do psychedelics and did you experience that notion? I do and it depends on the own state of your head normally. Everybody has read the literature about how it affects your head, but it’s different for everybody.
One of my favorite bands is World/Inferno friendship Society. The lead singer basically says that he doesn’t like to talk about drugs too much because that’s not really the defining factor of him or his art. Do you agree with that? Well, sure… but it’s like a personal thing. I’m in a band and I do interviews., but it doesn’t make every single thing a discussion or a public thing. We put this song out as our foot into he discussion. This is where we wanted to weigh in. Damian has become a big advocate for marijuana. That’s cool, but everybody has a different relationship to what they are taking and how they want to discuss. I think people might ask you very personal questions to learn about what makes you tick and to help understand your art, which is layered. But, maybe you don’t like discussing yourself too much, and your art reveals exactly the amount of information that you want it to reveal. Sort of like that. We don’t want to explain how the sausage is made. We wrote the songs about a drug- but when you tae it apart, the whole thing is broad enough that people can relate to it with their own experience. If I come out of interviews, saying it does this and that- but if someone takes something from it, I don’t want to be like this is what it means. The idea is, this is the universe, but once you are here you can do your own thing.