Sunday, May 10, 2009

Interview: Death is Easy

DEATH IS EASY are from the Troy / Albany area. The band features the Krak Brothers with some local scene veterans cranking out some ferocious power violence inspired hardcore. The band played up here with METALIAN from Montreal on a small weekend tour to promote their split ep with each other. And in true co-operative fashion the bands shared equipment. This is an interview conducted down in Studio 3 on May 10th, 2009.

Introduce yourselves and tell us what you do in the band?
Jay (J): My name is Jay Krak and I sing vocals in DEATH IS EASY.
Dave (D): I’m Dave Stevenson and I’m the bass player with DEATH IS EASY.
Jared (Jr): I’m Jared Krak, Jay’s brother. I play drums in the band.
Mike (M): I’m Mike Robbins. I play guitar.
How long has DEATH IS EASY been together for?
J: About two years.
And how did the band form?
J: We were in a band called PERMANENT TRIP for a while with Nate Wilson and he ended up moving to New York City. We tried out another guitar player and after that I called up Nate and asked him if he knew any other musicians because me and Jared wanted to get another band going and he said “Actually Dave Stevenson from one of my earlier bands might be into it. I will look up his number.” We called him up one day. We had met him at a show before but I didn’t know who he was or anything. We got this number and he showed up. We got some beer and smoked a little and started writing some songs.
D: You called me up at my house. I called a couple of friends of mine and told them I got this call on my phone and they explained who you are and you explained that you knew Nate and were looking for a guitarist and I said “I play bass” and you said “that is good enough”. Then shortly after that I recruited this guy named Dave Boyce which didn’t pan out.
J: Yeah we had another guitar player in the band for the first year we did two demos with him and the split 7”. At that point it was August of last year when we asked Mike if he would join the band.
So I was having this conversation with Mike earlier about all these different bands that you guys were all in. Mike’s in a few bands. Maybe you guys could tell me about some other bands that you were previously in? PERMANENT TRIP was an awesome band. Up until last week, Mike was in seven bands. So what are some of the other bands you play in?
M: I was in a power violence band called FINAL FRIDAY until Monday. I am in a funk punk kind of MINUTEMEN thing called I WURDALACK with John Sullivan and Shawn Flince formerly in MURPHY’S LAW. I am in GIRLS OF PORN which is a psychedelic punk band, DAMNATION ALLEY which is a hardcore band. I play in a couple of noise acts now and again. And DEATH IS EASY.
What about you guys? Were you in any bands prior to PERMANENT TRIP?
J: We originally grew up around the Albany area and I was the oldest. I was born in ’78 so in 1988 I was ten and I didn’t have an older brother so I didn’t get to find out about hardcore. I was just listening to WHITE SNAKE and MOTLEY CRUE, JOE SATRIANI. Compared to what was going on at the time it was a bunch of crud, but my parents got divorced and me and Jared went up north to Plattsburgh and I met this kid Jay Ormsby at Stony Acres Trailer Park and he turned us on to a ton of old Boston punk. His friend Phil was really into skating in the 80’s and through ads and ordering he just had an amazing tape collection and records and showed the rest of us. We used to go out of town a lot to see shows in Burlington, Montreal, and eventually one day we were like why don’t we just start playing and doing shows here. Me and my brother have been doing this since 1996. We started playing together then. That band was called NUT SPONGE.
Jr: I think I was twelve when Jay first introduced me to … he had a WARZONE shirt and I had just got a WARZONE album and he made me learn all the lyrics to a song so I could sing along to it before I could wear his shirt. That was my first experience.
Like an incentive.
Jr: Yeah. But it was good because ever since then we have been playing in bands together. I think there have only been a couple of years where we weren’t because I moved down to Albany for a while and then eventually Jay moved down. Then we started PERMANENT TRIP.
And Dave, you were in INTENT before?
D: Oh yeah. That was the first band that I actually formed with Nate Wilson of DEVOID OF FAITH and Kevin O’Sullivan and this other guy named Steve Watts. I was with them for about a year and a half and we had some different issues going on. I guess my heart wasn’t into it as much and so they let me go. I did a bunch of other bands like an industrial band called FLESH HOOK, there was another one called POLICE CHURCH. I was in a couple of metal bands too like INTERNAL CRISIS which was a local Albany band. They played a couple of shows. I didn’t play any shows with them. I did a little project called SCALPEL INCISIONS and I am still in a metal band called EVIL EXISTENCE. Shortly after that I joined DEATH IS EASY and I am also involved in a couple of side projects.
Where does the name DEATH IS EASY come from ?
J: I made it up a few years ago. Sometimes everything just gets so overwhelming that death is easy but you wake up everyday and living is the hard part. You make the best of it. It’s the easy way out.
Living goes against the odds. What was the idea behind DEATH IS EASY when you were first started?
D: Hardcore punk.
Jr: Yeah it was pretty much straight up punk hardcore. Once mike joined the band he totally changed in a good way the direction of the band.
D: He added a little bit of a stoner rock feel to it.
M: It was all natural.
Jr: Yeah before that it was pretty straight forward and now there is added structure and fills to the music. It works a lot better.
Mike brings a lot of depth to the music. It’s a lot crazier in good ways. When I was watching you I was thinking of GONE. That’s not a good fit but they had that anger of later period BLACK FLAG where it was filtering through in their music. But I didn’t have the same adverse reaction when listening to you guys today that I had when I listened to GONE. And Jay, your vocals remind me so much of DEVOID OF FAITH. I am nervous to say that because you probably get referenced to that being from Albany.
J: We are big fans of that band. Them and MONSTER X. When we first got into punk and stuff in the 90’s we found out a good amount of stuff, but eventually we really found out about Gloom Records and MONSTER X and DEVOID OF FAITH and POLICE LINE. I had seen a lot of hardcore at clubs and stuff before that. I remember I was at QE2 and someone was passing out flyers and there was a Mexican wrestler on it and it said SPAZZ, DEVOID OF FAITH, MONSTER X, QUADILIACHA and JUDAS ISCARIOT. I went to the show and I had never seen a distro like that before. It was at a VFW and CHARLES BRONSON jumped on the show. It was an instant awakening. DEVOID OF FAITH was a great band.
So do you purposely try and sound like Jim?
J: No. If anything Louis Armstrong. They yell at me in the car for singing like him.
M: Oh he does.
That’s crazy and faster.
M: It is hardcore Louis Armstrong.
Okay well we have been talking a little bit about influences, who would you credit as being influences on the band?
D: A lot.
I am mostly interested in punk influences. Maybe if you could limit the band’s musical collection to five punk releases what would they be as a reflection of your sound? You got to work together on this.
J: NEUROSIS would be one. Pain Of Mind we have all listened to that a lot.
D: Oh yeah I remember when that album came out.
Jr: I listened to a lot of punk and hardcore growing up like New York City hardcore.
J: But for the sound ….
Well there is a bit of that in there. There is for lack of a better term a New York sound. Albany’s not that far from New York City and I figured there is a bit of an impression there.
J: Oh yeah like SHEER TERROR is there.
D: Some NEAGTIVE APPROACH. Our older stuff is more like that.
J: But what would you say for Mike’s psychedelic part.
M: SCRATCH ACID. I like that a lot.
Jr: It’s hard to think of influences.
D: We have so many.
M: MELVINS would definitely be there.
Jr: They came and actually played in Albany a couple of years ago.
Let me ask you this because you have got some recordings together and some of them are out have you gotten much feedback about them? What have people said about them? What do people describe you like? What do people say you sound like? Or even from shows what have people said?
Jr: NEAGTIVE APPROACH I have heard a bunch of times.
D: M.O.D. too.
I had forgotten about them.
Jr: They better than S.O.D.
Weren’t they a similar band?
D: Oh yeah well Billy Milano was in both.
That’s it. NEGATIVE APPROACH and M.O.D.? We can leave it at that.
Jr: What is the question again?
I am asking you what you have heard with people describing your sound.
M: I had somebody say BLACK SABBATH called and wanted their riff back.
D: Oh that was that one guy. He didn’t know what he was talking about.
Yeah I don’t get that one. Albany has produced a ton of great bands in the past. I was thinking of bands like LIFE’s BLOOD, MONSTER X, DEVOID OF FAITH, EUCHAREST, POLICE LINE, currently ACID REFLUX. There is so many generations of great punk bands that have come out of Albany. Can you give us a bit of a breakdown on what the current scene is like? Who are some of the bands you might play with at home.
J: There are a lot of local bands. ACID REFLUX, SECRET SERVICE. There are the INFIDELS which has got the drummer from the JURY in it. When JURY broke up there was two bands that formed. INFIDELS were one of them and the guitar player and the bass player started up a band called POINT BLANK. They are really great. They just went out to Cleveland last weekend.
I just got a recording of theirs. They just sent it to me in the mail last week.
J: Oh wow. There is NUCLEAR FAMILY. That 7” just came out on LOUDPUNK. That’s another good thing. Nate is an awesome person for doing Gloom all through the 90’s into the 2000's in the albany area. He still does stuff for his label IN nycbut Chris really started picking up in the last couple of years in albany. We started our own label too by putting out our 7”. Chis Lawrence is like an awesome guy. He books a lot of shows. He supports out of town bands. He has been putting out some good records and re-issuing some old stuff on LOUDPUNK. There was a band from Albany called the MISFITS in the early 80's. They had to change their name to the TRAGICS but they re-issued that. As far as other local bands go there is COUGHING FIT. They were originally called REPTAR. They were around for three years now. It is all these kids that were right out of high school. They were starting to play and at the time 9 SHOCKS TERROR played town and they were all gung ho on that. They got into RUDIMENTARY PENI and stuff like that. These kids are really tight and fast. Good hardcore. They are called COUGHING FIT now. MURDERERS ROW is a drinking bar band. That is Riley. He is a local legend but from the Troy side. His 80’s band was called CRANIAL ABUSE before that was DISPLACED AGGRESSION.
M: There is a great thrash band called LEGIT that have a 7” out on Loud Punk last year.
J: There are also some good places to play. There is a small local bar called Valentine’s. Chris Lawrence works there. There is a punk Monday every Monday. It’s either free and there is punk records being played or sometimes there will be bands from out of town and donations asked for. There is that place, Landing Zone and two basements in town that work together. Between the two bars and the two basements and there is a good variety of shows. We have been trying to get to doing three or four band shows. You know two locals and an out of town band where the locals help the out of town band out. It’s been going pretty good doing that lately.
And I imagine your proximity to New York City helps out. Hit Albany on the way out.
J: They are three hours south of us and Boston is three hours to the east of us. Syracuse is two hours the other way.
Jr: We get a lot of Western Mass bands.
Like OUT COLD and all those guys.
J: We played with OUT COLD last year at a basement in Albany. That was really amazing. They are such a good band.
I would love to see them. Their recordings are amazing.
J: They have a new band that people should check out too. It is one of the original OUT COLD members and Mikey Flynn who plays bass in OUT COLD now and the singer from LAST IN LINE, DJ. They are called PEACE CREEPS. That is definitely something to keep your eye out for.
Jr: There is another band from Western Mass that we played a bunch of shows with called DANGUR. They are real good. They have a psychedelic ANNHILIATION TIME fast punk rock.
J: Like B’LAST or something. There is definitely stuff worth checking out. Loud Punk is a great label. There is a good amount of bands in the underground.
Can you explain to me about Albany? I don’t know much about the area, but on your website it says Troy/Albany. I think you guys were talking to me about a river that splits the two.
J: The Hudson River.
Is it one scene split by a river kind of thing ?
J: It doesn’t really keep people apart, but ….
Jr: …there is a Troy scene.
M: It’s not so much punk. It’s tough guy hardcore. Troy-core.
Well maybe it’s better that there is a river.
J: Jared and I are Polish and our family is from across the river but a little ways down. There were some bands that came from that area like STRAIGHT JACKET and END OF LINE.
I wanted to ask you about recordings. The first thing I ever heard from you was a demo recorded in 2007. But I imagine you might have had another recording before that. Can you tell us about your first recording?
J: That was a five song demo. We recorded with Will Killingsworth. He was in ORCHID. He has a home studio. His place is called Dead Air Studios. It’s in Amherst and he does a great demo deal with bands. He’ll give you the twelve hours and at the end of the day you will walk out with a demo. We went to him. We recorded with him for PERMANENT TRIP too.
How long ago was that?
D: It was in 2007.
Then the second demo, where was that recorded?
Jr: That was recorded at North Sea.
J: It used to be Max Traxx and it has been around for a while in an industrial area in Albany. This guy Brett who used to play in FALKIRK and quite a few bands in the 90’s has been recording there. He recorded a lot of the Gloom bands.
Jr: On the second demo I also brought in my friend Ryan Slowey to help us record everything. He has helped us ever since. He used to play in a local band called CLITORTURE. He is a death metal guitarist guy. He has a good ear and knows what we should sound like. He has been there. He has played a bunch of shows.
J: The other thing is that he would help us out. We would record and stuff that we didn’t get finished up we would do at his apartment. I think we did all the vocals in his apartment.
Jr: A lot of times we would pay him in beer. Great guy.
So the next thing would have been the split with METALIAN.
J: Yes.
So was that a different recording?
J: Yes. In August.
Did all the songs from that recording go on to this single or is there other unreleased material?
Jr: A couple of songs didn’t make it on to the 7”. And we ended up re-recording it with Mike. It’s called “Carrion Shadow”.
Mike was telling me more recently that you did another recording. This is your fourth recording.
Jr: Yep.
Jared you did the recording.
Jr: It was part of my senior project at school. I graduated from College at St. Rose originally for Music Education but then I switched to Music Industry so I learned a lot about recording.
Which is kind of like Sound Engineering.
Jr: Yep. I brought in Ryan Slowey to help with whatever questions I had. It was nice to be able to record my own band. Not too many people get the opportunity to
So what do you have planned for that recording?
J: When we went out to Cleveland last time we played with a band called SHORT LIFE STRANGERS. We had a really goods time. They had a line up change and they added the drummer from CAUSTIC CHRIST and the singer from ANNHILATION TIME on guitar.
Those are some big names. Those are great bands right?
J: People just have to check it out because I will butcher it trying to explain their sound. It is a punk soul but with weird parts. It is really cool. We were going to do a weekend with them this summer. We will probably make a live demo recording with what we recorded here today.
That would be great if you would use this. How did the split come together with METALIAN? How did you come to know those guys?
J: I went up to Montreal for a weekend and we were there to see a show on Saturday night. But we were there early and we heard that there was something going on the Friday night at the Gates of Hell which is a DIY spot next door to where the Loud House used to be. We got there and there was a death metal band called BLUDGEON playing, METALIAN, and I think RAMMER played too. At the time I had been listening to a lot of the new wave of British heavy metal and to see a band like that was insane. A couple of weeks later TOXIC HOLOCAUST wasn’t on Relapse yet and Nate was doing a show for them and BLUDWOELF downstairs and they were looking for an extra band and I recommended METALIAN. From there we just started helping each other out. We go up there and play and hang out with them and they come down and play.
Jr: It started with them coming down and playing the show. It was a great show and they just partied all night. Since then we go up there and party all night. These guys party way harder than we do though. I’m out by three or four in the morning and they keep going.
They told me they were doing push ups at five in the morning.
M: Makes sense. They were lifting weights last night.
J: The other thing why we get along together good is when Jared and I grew up in Plattsburgh, that place is nowhere. These guys had the same thing. They grew up in Halifax which is way up there. They played in punk bands from there and moved to a big city. We moved back to Albany.
What are DEATH IS EASY’s plans for the next little while? You have a new recording. Are you going to play out more?
J: We should have some more weekends coming up this summer. Mike works at a silk screening store. Dave just got the axe as a janitor. He had been working there for eight years and he got the axe from the boss last week.
Jr: Speaking of the axe, we are going to be stopping playing at the end of September because Mike is going to be making I WURDALAK more full time and GIRLS OF PORN, which were bands he was already in. He agreed to play with us even though he was already in four or five bands.
That’s got to be crazy.
M: It got to be too much.
Jr: So if you see us on a bill this summer come out and see us because we won’t be around.
J: I know that after that me, Jared, and Dave want to keep going. I don’t think we will be called DEATH IS EASY. I think we are just going to jam for a while.
Jr: Me and Jay have been playing in bands together since I was thirteen. We are just going to keep doing stuff. Dave is an awesome bass player and we are all stoked about doing shows and stuff.
I find that if there is brothers in the band they somehow stay together. You can fight more often and still put up with more.
Jr: Get down to blows but then we will be fine fifteen minutes later.
You are able to work it out.
Jr: Yeah exactly.
Because you have been doing that all your life.
Jr: Because we are dumb Polish brothers who fight rather than talk.
J: One thing we have to apologize for is Dave brought the swine flu pandemic up here.
D: Don’t listen to them.
How can people get in touch with the band? What’s the best way to reach you guys?
J: Myspace. We know it is cheesy, but it is a free website.
Can you tell us what the website address is?

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