Interview with Blackout Shoppers
Embodying the grit and spirit of pure punk rock chaos, all four members of the NYC quartet Blackout Shoppers took some time out to answer questions via email regarding their formation, their new disc PASS OUT, and the state of the punk scene in NYC.
How did Blackout Shoppers form?
Seth Amphetamines: I think Matt has more to say on that but I guess officially in early 2004. I came in when my friend Bruce told me he was playing guitar in a hardcore punk band and I should come try out as singer. Bruce and I played shows together with our bands back in the early 90s and remained friends and had talked about getting a punk band together. We did a few shows with Bruce that year until he had to move out west, thatís when Moosehead came in and 5 years and 5 drummers later we're still at it.
The Beast: I'm new to the band, but this is the story I got... it all began in Las Vegas in 1977. The recent death of Elvis had dashed blackout matt's long dream of playing "in the ghetto" live on stage with the king. Gripped with sadness and low on cash, matt hit the road with a queen cover band known as Loser In The End. Just as things looked as if they couldn't get any worse, tragedy struck. Late one night after, yet another, stellar performance of "we are the champions" the band decided to drive overnight to the next town. Three hours into the trip they ran into an antelope on the highway. Blackout matt, the lone survivor, was able to claw his way through the gory wreckage to safety before the van exploded. Blackout matt awoke the next day in a hospital bed to find that his face had been horribly disfigured. Knowing that his days of glitter stretch pants and hair spray were over, matt took to wearing a ski mask and traveling the world. He led a simple nomadic life. He studied the local customs in cities across the globe. For money he would sell 10x9 watercolor paintings of clovers. This went on until 2004. It was that year that blackout matt fell asleep on a magic rock in Tibet. That night he had visions of riding around in a piece of shit blue van with three dirt bags playing rock and roll. When he awoke he noticed that he carved a strange symbol that resembled a shopping cart with a bomb inside. Taking this as a sign from the metal gods, blackout matt headed to NYC and started the Blackout ShoppersÖ.I don't know if this is true, but it's what they told me.
Blackout Matt: The Beast has it right, but the version weíve made public is that I became frustrated trying to find a punk band to join and through the power of Craigslist, found a few people who joined or knew others who joined Blackout Shoppers.
Mike Moosehead: I came into the band after Bruce, the first guitarist, left the band. I was playing in a Misfits cover band with Shoppers' drummer at the time, Joey, and he approached me asking if I'd like to check out the band. The rest is history.
How would you describe Blackout Shoppers to someone that never heard you before?
Seth Amphetamines: If you ever heard most American punk bands from the early to mid 80s then you know what we're about. Black Flag, Minor Threat, Negative Approach. Hard. Fast. In your face. No BS.
The Beast: I agree with Seth.
Blackout Matt: Good, old-timey hardcore punk. If Ian MacKaye and Keith Morris had a love child, it would probably sound like us.
Mike Moosehead: Good old-schoolíd hardcore punk music.
How does a Blackout Shoppers song get written?
Seth Amphetamines: Iím lyrics and often song title guy so on my end, usually matt and moose have been nailing some riffs down and when it gels with the drumming I will step in and have something. It usually sounds like something I know or have heard so I'll come up with how to attack it. Topic matter isnít all that strict, we range from drinking, fighting, and stealing to our love of certain fast food and general pissed off nature about things.
The Beast: I have no idea. I don't think we've written anything since Iíve been in the band. Iím pretty sure it involves moose doing some kind of ancient Mayan ritual that we're not allowed to see.
Blackout Matt: Usually either Moose or I will have a song idea fleshed out and weíll make minor changes along with the drummer. When Seth adds lyrics, he may suggest a change or two. There are a few songs that are a combination of riffs Moose and I couldnít fit into other songs.
Mike Moosehead: Usually Matt and I work out the music before bringing it to the rest of the band, then we work in the drums and finally, Seth comes in with some great lyrics.
Do you prefer the studio or live gigs and why?
Seth Amphetamines: What are we Steely Dan? Please. A band like us is all about live. Granted we do like our recordings but its not where we belong. On stage, in your face, with people who get it. Or donít. Thatís what it's all about. We are aging and have regular jobs, playing live is about as good as it gets.
The Beast: live. More energy.
Blackout Matt: I prefer live shows also. Thereís an immediate feedback from the audience, and the audience is what makes the show a real success or not.
Mike Moosehead: Definitely love playing the live gigs. You just can't get the same energy level in the studio.
When Iím not in Blackout Shoppers, IímÖ
Seth Amphetamines: Drunk...ok not as much anymore 'cause Iím a dad. I can also find you a good apartment in NYC.
The Beast: once a shopper...always a shopper.
Blackout Matt: Playing guitar in Beer Drinking Fools, which also features The Beast on drums and Mike Moosehead on bass. I like to go to a lot of shows that friendsí bands play. I sometimes do gay stuff like reading books and watching wrestling.
Mike Moosehead: I'm almost always doing something that has to do with music, whether playing, writing or listening to music. I've also been getting into doing guitar repair work.
What are some of the pros and cons of being a NYC band?
Seth Amphetamines: Pros...You have somewhere to play basically any night of the week and when you are out of town, it is kind of instant respect that you came from NYC to wherever to play. You also donít have a small handful of bands, or hardly any, that do what you do. In NY there are dozens so always someone good to play with too. Cons..NYers are fickle. Because you can go see a band any night of the week, even if they like you, its no guarantee they'll come see you again or stay or whatever. Somehow itís not as important, whereas in a small town or outside the city there is a sense of urgency and importance to go see local bands or one that you like. Also, most clubs here suck on so many levels. Promoters consider bands second or third on the scale and clubs just need bodies in the door, and if you are under 21 good luck. Go find a good DIY spot here. Yes there are a few but even for 18+ or 16+ which is the majority of our fans, just not many places supporting that, which is odd because CBs did it for years, so did Knitting Factory and Irving Plaza and the old Ritz and Rock Hotel.
The Beast: the best thing is getting to see all the other great NY bands play. The worst thing seems to be arranging transportation.
Blackout Matt: Iím not sure we could have put this band together anywhere else. New York, being so big, there is a much bigger chance of finding people who like the same music and want to play in a band. There is also a bigger audience for our music here and multiple venues to play. The drawbacks are that you may be competing with other good punk shows when you play, and since none of us owns our own car, traveling outside the city is tough. And there is a dearth of good all ageís venues in the city.
Mike Moosehead: Pros would have to be the fact that there are plenty of places to play and a good amount of bands to play with, many of whom we have become good friends with. I guess the cons would be the lack of all ages shows and also, because there are so many places to play, the crowds can be pretty thin sometimes. Competition between shows on the same day is pretty common.
Who are some of your influences? Any weíd be surprised by?
Seth Amphetamines: band-wise Iím going to say who I mentioned before, the greats of the early 80s hardcore punk scene. Me in particular, somewhere between David Yow (Jesus Lizard) and John Brannon (Negative Approach).
The Beast: Iíve been listening to a lot of Vorhees, Rash of Beatings, and Sonny Rollins.
Blackout Matt: In addition to the regular influences of punk and metal, I was a big fan of rap growing up in the 80s and early 90s. In high school you were as likely to find me listening to the Beastie Boys or Public Enemy as anything else. I eventually lost interest as rap began its sad decline toward the minstrel show it is today.
Mike Moosehead: Many of my influences are metal bands I listened to growing up like Metallica, Iron Maiden and Slayer, but I'm also very influences by early 80s punk bands like The Minutemen, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Descendents... There are probably too many bands to mention.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band?
Seth Amphetamines: keeping a drummer.... ok that and I guess being able to get out of NYC more to spread our love.
The Beast: Getting me to remember the Judge part at the end of "Condo Demolition".
Blackout Matt: Getting things scheduled is tough, as some of us are in other bands and have a lot of other stuff going on. That and transportation out of the city, Iíd say.
Mike Moosehead: I think Seth got that one right... Keeping a drummer.
Where are some of your favorite places to play?
Seth Amphetamines: I used to really like Siberia when it was around, such a crummy place overall but the punks loved it and we got away with a lot there. Even under 21s got in. but now Id say Otto's Shrunken Head, we miss Manitoba's. ABC no Rio was always a good time. Trash Bar is fun and of course The Riff in Port Jeff, we just wish it was closer but the kids out there just go apeshit when we play, when most bands play out there.
The Beast: Any type of all ages is usually cool.
Blackout Matt: Weíve played some of our best shows at Ottoís and Manitobaís in the city. We tend to better in smaller venues where itís easier for Seth to interact with the audience. And all ages shows are usually much better. The Riff (formerly Cafť Bada Bing) in Port Jefferson, Long Island is another favorite spot.
Whatís on tap for the next few months for you?
Seth Amphetamines: Probably going to record again with our newest drummer. Hopefully play bigger and better shows.
The Beast: Pabst.
Blackout Matt: We hope to get our van, Blue Betty, repaired and put into regular service. If this happens, we will be able to play more out of town shows. Weíre trying to plan a tour for next year.
Mike Moosehead: I hope we keep just playing out, write more songs and do some more recording... Just want to keep the momentum going.
Any final words?
Seth Amphetamines: Filibuster.
The Beast: BDF!
Blackout Matt: Live free or die.
Mike Moosehead: Nah.
Check out this furious foursome via their websites below.