"This whole interview is just going to be us trying to figure out how an assembly line works"
I am at the house of Mark Glick, the founder of Anxiety Machine records, along with all the members of the hardcore band Gay Kiss. Together we are packing copies of their soon to be released LP. Record and insert go into the jacket, jacket into the poly bag, bagged product into a boxes that will be taken on their upcoming tour. Everyone has an assigned task, and while there is some initial confusion, work eventually moves at a steady pace.
The LP we are packing, Fault, was recorded this summer under the kind of eccentric circumstances that the band seems to thrive in. Most of the recording was done at bassist Jirix-Mie "Jay" Paz's (absolutely not to be confused with Jalipaz Nelson of the Audioconfusion studio) home, with the comforts of air conditioning, waffles, and freshly picked figs. However the vocal tracks were recorded in the bathroom of the band's practice space for the sake of "challenging" vocalist Roger Calamaio.
"I taped stuff on the wall to taunt him," says guitarist Mitch James
"Like a very recent deep wound," Calamaio explains. "Shit that had just happened."
"Psychological torture," says Paz.
"They kept on berating me through the headphones," Calamaio continues. "And it was pitch black because if you turned the light on, it would turn the fan on and it would pick it up on the mic."
"I'm pretty sure that wouldn't have been a big deal, but at the time I made sure to tell them," Jay says.
"Roger comes out," James recalls, "like, half naked and totally sweaty and has all these scars on him because he was driven insane. It was kind of like that movie Altered States."
The band didn't let up tormenting the vocalist when it came time to name the record, either.
"I had to fight tooth and nail -- barbarically -- to keep this record from being called Blud Sugah Sexxx Magik," Calamaio says.
"We have this thing," James explains, "where each person gets a veto. We call it the 'Danny DeVeto.' You can use it and it overrides the whole band. Roger used his Danny DeVeto on that, so next album, I want to call it Blud Sugah Sexxx Magik."
"Essentially, if we're still a band in a year, I'm completely fucked," says Calamaio.
Like the record, the band's upcoming tour of the East Coast is also founded upon uncertainty, vulnerability, and potentially bad decisions.
"We were personally asked by a friend of ours who then didn't come through," drummer Daniel Schurgin says, reasoning out why they decided to book an East Coast tour that will involve everyone, in some way or another, heading from Phoenix to D.C. with no shows in between.
"I had a good portion of it planned out already, so I was like, 'fuck it.' People appreciate us out there,"Calamaio says.
"I don't think I've shipped many records out to where you guys are playing," says Glick in regards to the previous Gay Kiss 7", Dumpster Rules, which was also released on his Anxiety Machine label.
Aside from the initial setbacks that also included a failed attempt by one of the members to book a show in Pennsylvania through OKCupid, the band has still managed to line up an itinerary of fitting shows including a western Massachusetts show put on by a member of Ampere and a show in Brooklyn put on by the record label Katorga Works.
"We're not playing with crabcore bands this time!" Paz says.
No matter what the circumstances are, tour still offers the band a respite from the banality of the everyday.
"There's this thing that happens to me on tour sometimes," Paz explains, "where I forget what day of the week it is, the date of the month. It's one of my favorite feelings when I am sitting in the van and I think 'Wait, is it Tuesday or Wednesday? Is it the 19th or the 22nd?'"
"There's something to be said when you see people in totally different states coming out in force to your shows," Calamaio adds.
It's a similar story to a lot of other hardcore bands: The idea of angry music being cathartic but also redemptive in the face of all of society's pressures. But with mysterious and gritty aesthetics being so played out in today's hardcore scene, it might be easy to doubt the sincerity of Gay Kiss's perceived weirdness. My instructions for this are simple: don't. The lead singer is prone to head injuries while performing that he sometimes has no recollection of. The drummer is known for concocting internet pranks which may or may include a Kickstarter to rent out a Disney themed cruise entirely for himself to do some "soul-searching" under the tagline "I really need this." Everyone in the band is on some kind of medication or another.
They make the kind of music that normal people can't play. Not something that sounds like Keith Morris cheekily singing "I'm about to have a nervous breakdown," but more like an actual nervous breakdown. They may not really need a solo Disney cruise, but they could use all the support they can get for the upcoming release show for the record they have packed copy by copy in assembly line-like fashion.
So, if you are lamenting the lack of weird hardcore bands like Die Kreuzen and My War-era Black Flag in this day and age, cut it out and check out Gay Kiss.
Gay Kiss is scheduled to perform tonight at Meat Market Garment Factory in Tempe.