The early days of the Makers were decidedly violent; fistfights and flying bottles were regular occurrences at Makers shows. This is the band that, while playing a gig in Austin, called Texas small and said that all Texans are faggots, resulting in a riot.
Such aggressive instincts, coupled with the Makers' equally primal talent for '60s-style, stripped-down, snarling garage punk, made the Spokane, Washington, outfit the unwitting leader of a garage movement centered in the garage of Estrus Records owner Dave Crider's home in Bellingham, Washington.
But that's the past. These days the Makers are on their fifth full-length LP, Psychopathia Sexualis. The band honed its crass stylistics to a fine edge on its last recording, Hunger; Psychopathia is pointed in a different direction. Filled with soul, longing and passion, the recording is a monument to the Makers' maturity as a band, to their ability to reexamine and diversify once a pinnacle has been reached. The requisite flailing and wailing is present, but manifests itself in a hip-thrusting, drooling explosion at the point where lust, rage, art and style intersect. In contrast, softly textured ballads and a spoken-word track (by Michael and Don Maker's older brother, Vic Mostly) temper the maniacal patches of Psychopathia.
Because the band has deigned to bless the Valley with its presence on Thursday, August 6, Revolver rang up Michael, ultrasuave vocalist and co-producer of the new recording, to glean insight into the rock 'n' roll anomaly that is the Makers.
Revolver: Tell me about the transition between Hunger and Psychopathia; there's definitely a palpable difference.
Michael Maker: It seems to me it's a little more soulful. Every album pretty much is just a reflection of how we're feeling at that time. Our albums before were what we were feeling that minute, and we'd get it down on tape as fast as we could. Our latest album, we spent a little more time with it. Not a whole lot--we spent like four days in the studio as opposed to two. There's a little more personal feel to it, more than just like the energy level turned way up. We didn't really decide to do that; it just kinda happened, y'know. We spent more time and put more thought into each song.
I like this album a lot, but I like Hunger, too. For me, it's a success if we successfully put down the passion of that moment. Hunger, for that year, sums up that year for us; that's how we were. Psychopathia is how we are now; we're still, like, discovering new things and wanting to always see new places and hear new music. We've in no way found our niche; we're still moving, and I never wanna stop. I want our next album to be different, y'know.
R: The Makers are synonymous with the whole garage-rock scene in the Northwest, but this record really pushes the boundaries of that genre. Was that intentional?
MM: We've been trying to get away from that for a long time, 'cause I think the whole scene has kinda been bullshit for a long time. I kinda feel responsible for a lot of it. When we came out, us and bands like us, we defined the whole genre, and now, it's almost like our responsibility to step up and out and move on. It's just a matter of doing what we feel like now, fuck any formula, don't get caught up in what you know. Take some chances, go where you've never been, do what you don't know.
For us, it was getting to the point where if we just kept releasing albums like Hunger over and over again, we would make a lot of the purists and hard-core fans happy; they would like to hear that, but that's not what we would like to do. A lot of our good fans understand: "They don't wanna get caught up, stuck in a rut; they just wanna keep doing new things and making new music themselves." There's so much friction you get in a scene like this; it's real fascist, y'know. You either stick with the guidelines or you're fucked, they don't wantcha. If you can successfully diversify yourself, or change, or do anything that you feel, then you're lucky.
That's how it should be, especially in independent music--you should do what you want.
R: The violent aspect of the Makers has faded into the past. Is rock 'n' roll as dangerous and exciting to you now?
MM: Oh yeah, it's definitely dangerous and exciting, but in a lot of different ways. When we just started it was dangerous 'cause people didn't like the way we looked and they'd throw bottles at us and it was physically dangerous, getting in fights and all that. That's obvious danger, y'know; now the danger to me is just making the music itself.
Making music is only as important as you think it is. Some people in some bands are cranking out the same fuckin' diarrhea every day. It's good for them, but I can't imagine them taking it seriously--they're just doin' the formula. For me, I'm lookin' at it from a different perspective nowadays. Nowadays, just recording to me is exciting, and coming up with new ideas for songs and just writing songs. There's a lot of danger in that, just as far as yourself, just trying to accomplish more. And touring is always exciting.
R: Give me a synopsis of the Makers' philosophy.
MM: It's always kinda been, fuck everybody. We grew up in a shitty neighborhood, and we were only friends with each other. For our entire lives we've never been, like, the chosen ones; we were always the dirty kids in school and got treated like shit, and I got expelled from high school. I can go on and on about how we didn't fit in growing up. So our attitudes have always been to do the opposite of everybody else and always try to find new things and new ideas. Dig around in the bookstores and the record stores and find the best books and best music. It's almost always the case that the stuff nobody's listening to right now is the best stuff; that's how it always works for us. You're always safe when you're contrary to the masses. It seems like that's always the best way to go; that's how we've always lived, and it seems to work.
Nowadays we're pretty popular, and I think it's because we somehow tapped into the group of people that are like us, that don't fit in, that aren't necessarily like all white, privileged, well-to-do kids--kids that grew up in a fucked-up way. I think there's a lot of people out there that don't have their own music.
When you turn on the fuckin' radio or MTV or something, that's not music for me, y'know; it's music for people that I don't even know. I don't know what kind of person can make that music and what kind of person can listen to that music and have it feel like it's touching or deep. To me it might as well be made by aliens, 'cause I don't understand it, I don't get it. I couldn't afford to make that music. It's music made by privileged people for other privileged people. There's so many people that are not spoken for, that don't get their own music.
R: So you're like the soul music of the underprivileged?
MM: I think so; I think there definitely are a lot of underprivileged people that need music that's touching and soulful that they can just dance to, without feeling alienated.
R: So given the chance, the Makers wouldn't hop to a major and get on radio playlists and do arena tours?
MM: Only if we didn't have to change anything; I like the way we're goin' right now. But that's just the way it is; supposedly, if you wanna be on a major label, you have to play their game, but you know, we're just not like that. I just wouldn't mind having money.
It's kinda tough, y'know, not having any money to do anything. It's basically like, pay the rent, buy food, and then you're done. It would be nice to have money to make the record you wanna make, or buy a tour van, or something like that. Not like we'd go out and buy a Corvette or something; we're not by any means, like, fuckers. If I say we wish we had money, it just means we wanna be able to pay the bills. I wish the guys in the band didn't have to work shitty jobs. You hate to see your friends doing that kind of thing, and you hate yourself doing that kind of thing; it wears away at you. It's frustrating when we see bands putting out total bullshit albums that we think are terrible, and a lot of other people probably do, and they don't even have to work, they haven't worked for years, and they're still putting out shit albums.
Contact Brendan Kelley at his online address: [email protected]
The Makers are scheduled to perform on Thursday, August 6, at Hollywood Alley in Mesa. Call for showtime.