I guess everyone should be familiar with this band so I gonna skip the introduction. The band got new album out, called Beast From The East, via WTF Records. I talked with them just after it came out but it took about two months for my lazy ass to post the interview. My apologies! Anyway, here it is. I just gonna say the album is dope, the review coming soon!Having been around for a while already, do you remember what was it that made you start the band in the first place? And has your attitude changed since then?
Well, I wasn’t in CHEECH from the beginning. I joined as a 2nd guitar player in 2001.To keep it short, CHEECH started in 1996, when Brad and Dave were still in high school. Then they went on hiatus for a bit, restarted around ’99. I joined in ’01. I was playing in a pretty progressive styled hardcore/metal band at the time. It was really cool, but I also wanted to play something fast and easy. Just to have a good time and not have to think so much. When I was asked to join CHEECH I thought it was a good way to play fast punk style HC songs and just rock out. Twelve years later and I still feel the same way, but the songs got a little bit more technical along the way. Now I think we sound more like my old metal band than we do old CHEECH. I guess you could call that a change in attitude.
There are a lot of bands that come and go over night. To what do you credit your longevity?
Just having a good time and the music evolving. If you’re not having fun then what’s the point? But we’ve been lucky. We like writing tunes. We like playing shows. We like hanging out. I’m always stoked for CHEECH practice.
I’ve already heard the new record Beast From The East and it’s dope. It has your signature sound, but there are also new elements to it. With a couple albums under your belt already, did you have some clear aim of what you wanted to come out with at the end, or was it more about letting it all evolve naturally?
It was a natural evolution, but we knew we wanted to try some different things. When we were writing our EP, PAGAN, it felt like a stylistic shift. We’ve always branched out into different aspects of punk, rock, and metal, but it felt like we were starting to explore each of those avenues a little further. When Kevin joined the band on 2nd guitar right before PAGAN was released, he had a ton of riff ideas and brought a different perspective to the band. He was a couple years younger and was into a bunch of bands we didn’t listen to, and he didn’t know a lot of the older bands that we listened to. Harry had been playing bass in a cover band and was learning some Zappa tunes and old David Bowie and stuff, so that naturally creeped into some songs. So we had this weird cross-pollination of musical influences going back and forth as we were writing these new tunes. We agreed pretty early on that we would try pretty much any idea we had and see if it worked. As a result the songs on Beast From The East are pretty varied while still sounding like a CHEECH album.
How do you feel about the album now when it’s out?
I am 100% confident that it’s the best recording we’ve ever done. That’s all I wanted out of the project, out of any project really. It was definitely hard work getting there, and it’s funny to think so much time, effort, and stress goes into 40 minutes of sound, but that’s what we do. I just hope people play it loud.
Does feedback from listeners affect the way you feel about an album once you’ve released it?
It goes both ways. If someone listens to Beast From The East and likes it, then that validates it. A stamp of approval. As a band, it’s always cool to know that someone appreciates what you’re creating. But if someone dogs it, then you just say that they don’t know what they’re talking about and brush it off and don’t let it bother you. I learned long ago that you can’t please everyone and CHEECH isn’t everyone’s cup of coffee, but the people that get it and are into it, that’s the “high five” at the end of the day.
The album seems to be more serious in terms of lyrics compared to your previous releases. There’s a lot of talk about current economy and politics. Songs like Death Of The Middle Class or Old Glory paint a rather bleak picture of today’s America. How do things look like from your perspective?
America is awesome, but awful things happened in the course of the country’s history and continue to occur on both foreign and domestic soil. “Old Glory” is like a US history timeline where as “Death of the Middle Class” is a more current commentary. Nobody’s perfect though. I like it here. As for seriousness, CHEECH will always carry some thread of black comedy through it, but on Beast From The East it’s more subtle. There’s maybe more inside jokes and straight-faced sarcasm this time around, but when we listen to the songs we laugh a lot.
What’s your outlook on the future? How do you feel the situation will evolve in the future when it comes to jobs, cost of living, education etc.?
Brad screams it out on the first song of the album, “Realize the nightmares subside, when everyone dies.” Pessimism at its finest.
You’re not a type of band that holds their opinion to their selves. Has it ever landed you in any trouble because of some things you said or did?
I know some people are turned off by our point of view and our inclusion of less serious topics. It used to bother us, but now it’s pretty expected.
Another thing about this album is it’s your debut album on the WTF Records. How did you hook up with that label?
When our 2nd album Keep Your Pimp Hand Strong was released in 2004, we got some good European distro from our label NGS. That label folded, so we released our 3rd album Ante Up ourselves. I got in contact with a bunch of Euro distros to get the new CD out in their webstores. WTF was a distro I stumbled upon through a Google search of who was selling Pimp Hand. So I emailed Tim about selling Ante Up. Then when PAGAN came out I did the same thing. In 2011 we demoed some of the material that would make up Beast From The East and I sent the songs to Tim WTF to see if he’d be into actually releasing the new album instead of just distroing it. He dug the tunes and wanted to put it out.
How much of an influence was the Boston hardcore scene on your music? What’s the hardcore scene like out there in Boston at the moment?
We were all lucky enough to come of age in a time when Boston and also Providence, RI were having a lot of hardcore shows. Since Connecticut and New York are only a few hours away, tons of CT and NYHC bands were coming through both cities too. Then you had the New Hampshire kids coming south to go to shows, and they started setting up DIY gigs in Chinese restaurants and Church halls. So we were personally influenced by a lot of different bands from a lot of scenes, and even more so now, which is why CHEECH has a hybrid sound.
Boston has always been known for its strong straight edge scene with bands like Ten Yard Fight or Slapshot, but at the same time there have always been bands like Blood For Blood, Death Before Dishonor or Cheech representing the party side of the game. How do these worlds come together and is there any animosity involved?
I can’t speak for any of those other bands, but we don’t have any animosity. Obviously CHEECH isn’t straight edge, but we have straight edge fans. On the flipside, not everyone who drinks beer is a CHEECH fan. It all comes down to the tunes.
What are some of the things you’d change about hardcore in its current state?
I don’t know if I’d change anything, but there are things I miss. One thing I always dug, that you don’t see much of anymore, are compilations. Sure there are a few here and there, but it just isn’t the same where you get a download code, and can find a band through the web and listen to other tunes they have online. There was something so cool about only having 1 or 2 songs by a band along with some shitty black and white photo. You’d have to really dig to find more material, and a lot of the time it was a boombox rehearsal tape recording, because it was so expensive to get into a recording studio. I’m glad I caught the tail end of that era.
So if you could punch anybody in the face and get away with it, who would it be?
The list is long, but distinguished.
On Keep Your Pimp Hand Strong there’s a hilarious skit about kids getting too excited about some stupid dance moves they invented at hardcore shows. So what’s a type of reaction you’re most happy to get from kids during your show?
We’re cool with whatever. Dance if you wanna dance, or stand there and nod your head. The Johnny Jockcore thing was more about a kid showing off his dance moves in line at a carnival. There’s a time and a place, and it isn’t on the playground or on YouTube vids of spin kicks in mom’s bedroom.
What is Cheech’s beer of choice?
We used to always have a 30 rack of PBR or something cheap at band practices. Sometimes two. Now we seem to steer towards craft beer. Higher alcohol content but also higher price. Less after effects. We don’t discriminate though. CHEECH loves all beer.
When it’s all said and done what do you want Cheech to be remembered for the most?
I just want people to dig the tunes. That’s why I play in a band, because I love to play guitar. I was playing guitar before I discovered hardcore, but when I did that’s pretty much the only style I’ve wanted to play since. Some kids from Japan came up to me at a show the other night and bought 4 t-shirts and 5 CDs. They said they were living in the US now, but were fans of CHEECH from when they lived in Japan. That’s fucking nuts. To think that people who live in places that I may never visit are jamming out to the noise we create in a basement on the other side of the planet…that blows my fucking mind.