A Wilhelm Scream: I Scream, You Scream
It’s been a while, but beloved punk rockers A Wilhelm Scream are on their back to Australia’s shores. With their first headlining tour since 2008 fast approaching, we caught up with frontman Nuno Pereira to discuss the release of their latest album Partycrasher, self-producing records, the Internet’s ever-increasing role in music, and good ol’ Massachusetts punk rock.
Your album Career Suicide is widely considered to be your strongest record, and one of the best punk albums of the noughties. Was this high level of expectation part of the reason Partycrasher took so long to come about?
I don’t think so. We were just taking our time and touring a bunch, which I think had more to do with it. We tour relentlessly after each record, not just Career Suicide. We were just on this whirlwind tour that never seemed to end. In that regard, we didn’t have much time at home to really sit down and lay down a lot of new tracks. We weren’t necessarily in a huge rush to do it either. We didn’t have any contractual obligations, so we didn’t feel any pressure in that regard. We just let it happen organically, or lazily if you will. Even if the last record had been considered a flop or a pile of shit, we probably would have still taken our time for the next one.
I guess the big question now is are you working on new material?
We are. Trevor [Reilly, guitar] and I have had a few conversations about it – we just finished up a couple runs with Pennywise, Anti-Flag and Teenage Bottlerocket – and we were discussing maybe having some time after this upcoming tour to get into the studio and bounce some ideas off of each other, along with setting up a more regimented practice schedule, which is a luxury we haven’t been afforded in the last few years. That should be fun. We also do things the way we’ve done it for years: coming up with stuff on our own then bringing it to each other to see if it’s good enough and worth pursuing, and writing songs at our leisure.
You’ve worked with some big name producers such as Bill Stevenson and Mark Bayle. What was that like? What did they bring to your sound when recording and mixing with them? Would you say they helped your band evolve musically?
If you’re a band that’s counting on engineers or producers to evolve your band, then your band will probably never ever evolve – at least not in the way I would want to. We go into the studio, be it the Blasting Room or a friend’s place, with the same work ethic and excitement as when we go into any studio. Working with Bill Stevenson [Descendents, Black Flag, The Blasting Room co-founder], you can ask any guys and any number of bands that have been through there, working with Bill is amazing. It’s scary, it’s hilarious, and it’s a lot of things. He will let you know if a part needs a little bit of work, but we never went into the studio with songs that were incomplete or things that we thought were half-arsed. We always practised very hard and demoed things to death. It’s an absolute luxury and absolute honour to work with people on Mark and Bill’s level. To answer your question, I don’t think they really evolved our band, but the records they worked on certainly sound really good. So they’ve got that going for them; we’ve got that going for us!
You guys self-produced Partycrasher and own your own studio. How did the decision to do this come about? Is this something you’ve wanted to do since the beginning?
I think it kind of happens that way, yeah. Going back to your last question, Bill Stevenson and those guys founded the Blasting Room so they’d have somewhere they could record themselves, so they wouldn’t have to go to other people. I think as an audio engineer, it’s a really obvious step. If you’re going to be making records your whole life you’d want to have a place to do it and call your own, a place where you can learn that aspect of songwriting. It’s like buying the car instead of renting it every time you need to go to the grocery store. Eventually you’ll do it enough that you want to get good at it yourself, you’ll want to have something that you can be proud of, not only musically but also as far as gear and studio equipment goes. Although, I’m not the studio guy – Mike [Supina, guitar] and Trevor are the studio guys when it comes to the band. Having their skill set on guitar is one thing, but having their skill set in the studio is a whole other. They’re both really well appreciated.
Is producing albums for other bands something you’ve also considered doing? Are you possibly moving towards it, much like Bill Stevenson has?
I know Trevor already does that, and our other guitarist Mike has been called in to help edit drums and record other bands as well right alongside Trevor. In that regard, they’ve not only been doing it now but they’ve been doing it for years. So that ball is already rolling down the hill, so to speak. For me, personally, I’m more focused on starting my family and making sure my son doesn’t fall off everything he climbs, and other boring home-type stuff. But as far as the music goes, those guys are well on their way to becoming very accomplished producers and audio engineers in their own right. I’m sure in the coming years you’ll hear a lot about Trevor’s studio and Mike’s incredible ear for music.
Where do you channel the intensity of your music from?
From your heart, from your head, from your experiences, from your environment. Different songs evoke a laundry list of different emotions, really. Whether it’s feeling alone or that you can never be alone, these kinds of feelings occur in everyone, every day, no matter how old you are. Whether you listen to punk music or hip hop, or maybe you don’t even listen to music, these emotions are universal truths that everyone deals with differently. For an artist or musician, you take that emotion and manipulate it into either a passion for painting or lyrics or something. Not to leave it out, but the live aspect of performing sometimes helps breathe energy you didn’t know about. For months and months after you write a song you’re sitting around with your friends or even by yourself with no listeners, so to speak. Once you get out there and scream in someone’s face and see what their reaction is you get a whole new meaning, a whole new understanding, for what the passion is, for what the motivation is.
Could you tell us a bit about the Massachusetts punk scene? I feel like it gets overlooked when people discuss punk in North America, even though it’s produced some big names like Converge and Bane.
Those bands are amazing. Massachusetts, whether you’re talking about the Boston scene specifically or the smaller sub-scenes, there’s always been punk and hardcore for as long as I can remember. Once you got past the typical rock and stuff like that, it was always there below the surface. There have always been local bands playing every weekend, punk bands, rock bands, alternative bands, hippie bands. It’s been fun; there’s always something to see. It’s not always the greatest music in the world though, don’t get me wrong [laughs]. There are plenty of other states that produce musically successful bands, but I like Massachusetts for what it is. It’s hard to make it out of here, and get any semblance of greatest, if you will. I hate to use that word, but it’s hard, y’know? I remember going to Bane shows while still in high school and thinking, “Man, these guys couldn’t get any bigger than they are right now. They’re the absolute kings of hardcore, not only in Massachusetts but in the whole United States.” Here we are all these years later still seeing the same kind of thing. Same with Converge; they’re a phenomenal band and hopefully they continue to tour and make Massachusetts proud with their amazing energy and live shows. I’m happy to have been included within the same breath as those two bands. But it’s not because we sat back, we fought for what little attention we got.
What’s your take on online streaming services such as Spotify and Bandcamp? Do you think these services are where the music industry is headed, or more a fad of the now?
I don’t know, I think those kinds of things aren’t mutually exclusive. The older tactile vinyl, CD and tape will never be phased out – if it was going to be phased out it would have happened ages ago. I think Bandcamp is great. Off the top of my head I can think of two bands, one from here in Massachusetts called Blind Mice and another from Ontario, Canada called The Dirty Nil. One band I know because we drink in the same bars and stuff, but the other one I’ve never met but own all of their music because of Bandcamp. I can go on there and donate $5 or $10, and some bands do an honour system where you pay whatever you can afford. I think that’s great; it puts music in people’s hands, which is the main objective. I also like to see bands touring and opening up other revenue streams instead of sitting back and going, “Go buy my shit. You’ll never see me play, but go buy my shit because we look cool or because we’re hip right now.” But those kinds of bands will get weeded out. Things like vinyl will always be around. Those things aren’t mutually exclusive, but it’s a good indication of where music is going. But at the same time, true musicians and true fans will always embrace those different types of media, whether it’s on their phone or on a CD.
As a band that’s jumped around between labels throughout your career, do you think independently releasing music online could be a more lucrative strategy to get your music out?
I think it’s great, but it’s expensive to press vinyl. If you can get on a label, even if it’s just for one record, like we did with Paper + Plastick to do that EP and No Idea doing a couple single releases and a full-length. Those guys are absolutely killing it, making some real quality products and let us use whatever artist we wanted for inlays and stuff, which is a huge thing for me. Having said that, if there is no label involved you can do whatever the fuck you want. But they’re the guys who have a guy who has a printing press that can facilitate an order of a 1,000 or 5,000 records a lot easier than I can from my cellphone while sitting in my living room. I don’t have those connections and those means to get the ball rolling. Maybe some bands can swing it. I’m sure there’s some way to make a lot a of money from doing it, but as soon you start thinking about how much money you can make or trying to make more money, you begin to lose a little bit of what’s left within the soul of punk rock and rock’n’roll in general.
A Wilhelm Scream Tour Dates
Sat Apr 25th – Riot @ Enigma Bar, Adelaide (18+)
Tix: At the door
Sun Apr 26th – Crowbar, Brisbane (18+)
Mon Apr 27th – Newtown Social Club, Sydney (18+) SOLD OUT
Wed Apr 29th – Newtown Social Club, Sydney (18+)
Thu Apr 30th – The Evelyn Hotel, Fitzroy (18+)
Fri May 1st – The Evelyn Hotel, Fitzroy (18+) SOLD OUT
Sat May 2nd – The Brisbane Hotel, Hobart (18+)