After spending the last couple of days trying to think of another grind band comparable to Captain Three Leg, I’ve once again been failed by the miserable porn-sponge I call a brain. Probably because C3L has zero interest in listeners’ expectations and have instead spent the past couple of decades doing whatever the hell they’ve felt like doing – whether it’s rabid blasts of noisecore, Hawkwind-esque space rock, proto-‘gorenoise,’ instrumental surf rock, or ferocious, idiosyncratic grind. If you spend even a few minutes dicking around on their impressive Bandcamp page, you’ll quickly figure out that – weirdly enough – they’re pretty fucking great at all of it. Even stranger, they’re arguably better now than they were 20 years ago – how many grind bands can you say THAT about? (Answer: none.)
As if that weren’t already enough, vocalist/guitarist/bassist Andy runs one of my favorite grind/noisecore labels ever, Mortville Records. What follows is a conversation we had while sitting in front of Andy’s fireplace, listening to classic Sockeye 78s, sipping Appletinis and wearing luxurious, matching Sete Star Sept bathrobes.
Captain Three Leg have been in existence for over 20 years now. What’s the biggest hassle when it comes to keeping a band going for so long?
Most of the time the band consists of just Brian and I, so I’d say it’s been dead easy keeping it going. With the exception of these last few months when we resumed playing out, we haven’t had to maintain a set of songs. We get together four or five times a year to write and record drum and bass tracks, then I spend the rest of the time fleshing it out, writing lyrics and mixing. Brian comes over to record his vocals when I’m ready for him, then we move onto the next thing when it’s done. It’s the best possible arrangement, I think. It seems to work for us, anyway.
You have an enormous number of releases available on the C3L Bandcamp page dating back to 1995. Throughout those releases, you guys never shy away from experimenting pretty drastically with your sound, going from noisecore to Hawkwind-esque space rock to goregrind to surfy instrumental rock, and covering a lot of bases in between. Did the idea of making extreme/abrupt changes in your sound ever make you guys nervous or second-guess yourselves, as far as how people familiar with C3L might react?
Maybe in the very beginning, but that didn’t last long. We decided early on that we just wanted to make music and didn’t care about fitting within the confines of a scene. The changes weren’t so abrupt at first, though. Even on our earliest noisecore material, at least half of each song was a musical set-up for the noise part. Those set-ups kept getting longer until the noise parts (sometimes) disappeared altogether.
It’s been musically liberating, but I’m sure it’s affected our fanbase somewhat. If we played live or were making any money doing this, we might have strayed less often, but maybe not. When I gave up on physical releases and didn’t have to worry about breaking even on releases, it opened even more doors for us. With literally nothing to lose at this point, we can do whatever. Something like “The Monkey and the Blue Jay” would never have happened without Bandcamp.
If you had to pick three or four of your favorite C3L releases, either due to the material or just nostalgia/good memories of the recording, what would they be? Least favorite C3L release?
I have a lot of great memories attached to the “Reunion” and “The Last C3L Tape” albums because they were so much fun to record. We had everything set up in my bedroom and would play for hours at a time, several days in a row, making things up and recording as we went. The results weren’t always great, but the process was very enjoyable. That might have been the most fun I’ve ever had making music.
“3516” was a more focused, more realized version of those sessions and it’s probably the best piece of music I’ve participated in. Our guitarist at the time, Cole, really brought the best out of Brian and I on that release.
“Coming Up Short” turned out really well, too. Better than I had hoped, in fact, but the recording process wasn’t much fun. We did it after recording our songs for the Wadge split and had completely run out of steam at that point. I’ve been threatening a follow-up for years, now, but we haven’t gotten around to doing so.
I’m pretty happy with our side of the Short Order split, too.
C3L is one of the very few bands where I look forward to reading your lyrics almost as much as hearing your new release. After so many releases, how do you manage to still find subjects to write about? Does it ever get tedious trying to find new shit to write lyrics about?
I have a note on my phone that I add to whenever ideas for lyrics come up. It’s usually small, everyday annoyances that I write about, so I add to it often. It’s getting harder to find subjects I haven’t already covered, but I usually have more ideas than songs I need to write for.
Sometimes I’ll try to write for a specific sample/intro I already have saved because it’s easier to do that than find a suitable sample to fit a certain song, but that doesn’t always work out. Lyric writing is easily my least favorite part of being in a band. We’ve farmed some of that out in recent years. Those releases Brian and I don’t sing on happened because we were too lazy to write lyrics.
You run an incredible label, MORTVILLE, which has one of my favorite Bandcamp pages in existence. If you could pick three of your favorite non-C3L releases you’ve done on MORTVILLE, what would they be?
It would be easier for me to pick three of my least favorite releases. I feel a connection with nearly all of my releases, so it’s impossible to choose favorites. It’s a cool thing to work with people whose music you love.
Have any bands you’ve dealt with for a MORTVILLE release turned out to be a total pain in the ass to work with?
I almost never work with people I don’t know on some personal level, so I’ve avoided a lot of bullshit. There have been a few troublesome instances, unfortunately. I was horrified to learn months after the Dahmer / Parade of the Lifeless split 7″ was released that the label I co-released it with never sent Dahmer their 100 artist copies. He, of course, claims to have sent them, but conveniently didn’t have tracking of any sort or more copies to send as a replacement. If this was an isolated incident with this guy, I might have believed him, but some sketchy shit went down soon after and I’ve since ceased all communications with him. Luckily, this fiasco didn’t soil my relationship with Dahmer as he believed I was innocent in all of this.
There was another incident where I was so excited to work with a band that I let them choose the band for the flipside. Other than sending me their material, I had no contact with them until the record was finished. Their vocalist emailed accusing me of ripping them off when he saw the record listed in another label’s distro list when he hadn’t received his artist copies yet. I had sent the ten distro copies airmail and his 100 artist copies surface rate, so there was a gap of a few weeks before he finally got his. He ended up apologizing once he had his copies in hand, but I’d be lying if I said the accusations didn’t soil me on their music somewhat.
Most recently, one of the bands C3L did a split with threatened litigation if I didn’t remove their tracks from our Bandcamp after I unfriended him on Facebook. It was easily the most ridiculous situation I’ve encountered in my 20+ years of doing this.
C3L has been playing live recently, doing instrumental/non-grind material – any future plans to do a grind/noisecore set live?
Lack of like-minded musicians in our area is preventing that from happening. It isn’t something I want to do unless we can do it properly. There’s a certain level of expectation people have with a band of our age and I wouldn’t want to half-ass it. With just Brian and I in the band, we’d need more people on board to pull it off. Nate and Andrew from Traffic Death would probably do it if we approached them about it, but they live 90 minutes away and rehearsing would be difficult.
Even then, if we could get our shit together, it would likely be a one off thing and too few people would be interested to make it worth the effort. Nobody in Iowa cares about this shit. I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.
What’s your least favorite aspect of the current grind/noisecore ‘scene’?
Format fetishism, people in their twenties, and bands with more shirt designs than recorded songs.
You are pretty well known for being strongly opinionated. Pick a band and talk shit about them: go!
Tying into my answer to the above question and without naming names, I’ll just state that I can’t figure out why certain bands find relative success with noisecore while better bands live in obscurity. There are bands with dozens of records on labels I respect and every one of them I’ve heard have been terrible. Like, fucking awful, zero-effort garbage. I’ve been listening to noisecore for going on 30 years now and felt like I had a pretty good idea of what good and bad noisecore was, but these bands with ever-growing discographies at other people’s expense have shown I haven’t the faintest idea. The numbers speak for themselves.
You could argue that constant touring and screening your logo on every possible surface for people to buy plays into it, but a band’s recorded output is all I take into consideration. It’s all that remains when the touring ends and the messenger bags have sold out. Your recordings outlive all of that other shit, so maybe put a little more effort into that.
On a more positive note, name a band that’s been around awhile that you think deserves more attention than they get.
I think Doug Long flies under the radar for a lot of people because he has no online presence, but I’m a big fan of his various projects and he’s been absolutely killing it these past few years. There’s zero hype surrounding his stuff, which is a shame, because they’re consistently good. Success hinges so much on image, networking and all of that other bullshit that has nothing to do with the actual music. He’s recording when he wants and is releasing stuff at a steady clip, so he’s successful in that sense and that’s all that matters. I think more people would be into his stuff if they were exposed to it.
Ok, here’s a series of brief, stupid questions:
Cassettes vs CDs:
The compact disc is the greatest, most practical, most durable format for music ever, boasting consistent playback and maximum portability. It should be the obvious choice for anyone that cares about music.
Sete Star Sept vs Foghat:
Foghat, without hesitation. Don’t fuck with Foghat, buddy.
Chili dogs vs burritos:
Chili dogs if I’m sitting down, burritos on the go.
Testament vs Heathen:
Fossil Fuel vs Sockeye:
I lived with my parents until I was 27, so they were exposed to all kinds of heinous noise while I was under their roof. Fossil Fuel were the only band they ever complained about. My stepfather hated it and would come into my room to let me know how much it annoyed him. That they evoked such an extreme reaction puts them slightly ahead of Sockeye for me, but I had the very same reaction to “Beefing Ting Ting” from a line cook when I worked as a dishwasher.
You’re trapped in an elevator with Will Rahmer with no hope of escape. Who’s gonna be eating who?
This question reminds me of the time I called Will in 1995 or so. His number was listed in an issue of “Book Your Own Fucking Life” for some reason, and I called him just to see if he would answer. To my surprise, he did, and it caught me completely off guard. I don’t remember what stupid questions I asked him, but he cut me off saying “Can we wrap this up? I’m in bed with my woman.” I hung up laughing really hard thinking about Will Rahmer with a hard-on.
Thanks for taking the time to answer this stupid interview! Please let us know about any upcoming C3L or Mortville releases.
On the horizon…
C3L / Vanishing Cities – split CD-R
C3L / Dysmorfic – split cassette
C3L / Zombie Hate Brigade – split CD-R
C3L / Slowdance – split 7″
C3L / Beelzebukkake – split
C3L / Guro – split
C3L / Traffic Death – split 7″
Denak – “Complete Studio Sessions”
Vomit Spawn – Discography