Friday, June 24, 2016

Interview with Anthony Begnal of CHESTY MALONE AND THE SLICE ‘EM UPS by Dave Wolff

Interview with Anthony Begnal of CHESTY MALONE AND THE SLICE ‘EM UPS

You recently told me you’re working on a new full length to be released in the next few months. Is there anything you want to share about it while it’s in development?
Jaqueline Blownaparte and I realized that 2016 marks 10 years of Chesty Malone (10 years of eroding society's moral fiber) so we decided we should do something to mark the occasion and that's how our new album, lovingly entitled "We're Still Dead" was born. Since we hadn't played a show in a while we didn't have any active band members besides ourselves so we decided to ask our friend Chris OP Moore to play drums on it. We were extremely excited when he said he'd do it and shortly after that we reached out to longtime friend and former bass player Üruk Brutal and he too accepted the challenge. As far as I'm concerned Chris is one of the originators of the form of Hardcore drumming with his work in Negative Approach so I was very happy to be jamming with him. Plus he's just a great guy to play music with. And Üruk, well Üruk's Üruk. I've been playing music with him off and on since 2002 so we get along pretty well in that area. The songs came together fairly easily and as they say, in a very organic manor. Jackie would text me song titles and I'd start writing music or I'd give her a title and she'd run with it. It's ten loving songs that continue our long standing motif of how much we love humanity and society in general. It sounds like us but different. We actually let a few more influences creep in this time besides old hardcore and thrash metal and blood.

How long has it been since the band performed? We lost several clubs in NYC and Long Island but some still remain and new clubs have appeared since. Where have you played most often while active in the club circuit?
The last show we played as of now was May 29th, 2015 at Lucky 13 Saloon in Brooklyn. You can check out the poster for the show here. Probably historically Lucky 13 is the place we've played the most times here in New York. We've also played Bowery Electric, Webster Hall, CBGB and we used to play Trash Bar too before they closed. In terms of Long Island, we've played Sinclair's in West Babylon a few times. Good scene out there. We've played at a ton of places here. We will be doing some shows this Fall for sure.

For a time Long Island seemed to be inundated with tribute bands and there were fewer original bands as a result. But its always been a hotbed of activity for underground bands and I’ve noticed there have been more punk and metal shows lately. When playing LI did you notice sizable turnouts?
Well yeah, as I said, they’ve got a pretty healthy scene going on out there. Our buddy Howie Fightback has been booking shows there for a good while now. In particular he does the Long Island Punk Rock BBQ every year, you should check it out. Funnily enough given what you said in your question, we once had to go on before a Hardcore tribute band when we opened for the Casualties at Sinclair’s hahaha! But also to answer your question the crowd was going off for all the bands from start to finish.

What is your opinion of tribute bands? Are they worthwhile for people who missed the bands they pay tribute to or do they leave less room for original bands?
I mean, if that’s your thing, knock your socks off and enjoy, what do I care? I never saw it as a substitute for missing the originals, it’s just entertainment while you’re getting drunk and trying to scam on chicks. Am I wrong? On the other hand, cover bands tend to actually get paid so whatever.

How many bands have you and Üruk played in together and how well do you know each other’s musicianship?
We were in one band together before Chesty Malone. He's one of the few guys I've played music with where I've never had to tell him what he should play. I guess it's because he gets where I'm coming from with my songs. He also wrote the music for two of the songs off of Torture Rock.

What was the band you and Üruk were involved in before Chesty Malone? Did this band perform often or release any material that would still be available today?
There is only Chesty Malone, no other bands matter hahaha!

How well does Chris Moore’s experience as a drummer complement the band?
He's just a great all around intuitive musician. He doesn't just play drums, he sings and plays guitar and bass as well and he and I just kind of speak the same musical language. For instance, when we were jamming one of the new songs he asked me what the feel of the song was and I said, “Discharge meets the Misfits at a Stooges show.” and he just said, “OK.” and played exactly what I had in my head. As I said, we're really happy he played on the album, we're not sure yet if he'll play any shows with us, we'll see.

What other genres did you draw upon besides hardcore and thrash? Where did they most fit the formula that had fueled your sound since the beginning?
You can probably hear some Stooges influence on a couple tunes and we wrote a song entirely in Spanish called “El Matador” (which translates literally to The Killer). That one was mostly influenced by the mariachi combos I sometimes hear on the subway. I also added in a few sort of strange guitar chords in some of the songs, like the Hendrix jazz chord and a chord I invented that I call the Greg Ginn chord. I'm sure I didn't really invent it but I've definitely never heard it before. I was also influenced by cheer leader chants on one song and some classic 70s disco. I even threw in some hot blues licks in a song or two. One song kind of sounds like AC/DC meets the Stooges and they go to a DRI show. There are a couple tunes that are sort of Cramps-y or even rockabilly-ish. But of course we have some hardcore thrash blasts on there too. I don't know, whatever strikes my fancy when I'm writing songs. It's still Chesty Malone for sure.

Do you imagine the fusion of all those musical styles will give Chesty Malone a unique sound that people will recognize as your own?
We’ve always had our own unique sound so I’m pretty sure everyone will always recognize it’s us no matter what. Our sound is rooted in the music we love but it’s always sounded like us. Nobody does exactly what do, we’re the motherfucking Slice ‘em Ups!

What rockabilly bands do you like and recommend to the readers?
Are the Cramps considered rockabilly? Johnny Burnette and the Rock ’n Roll Trio is some great classic stuff also. Gene Vincent? Shit, I don’t know, I’m not a rockabilly guy, I just like what I like.

Are there classic or contemporary horror movies that helped influence your lyrics for the new full length? Is there anything you have watched lately?
Nah, we don't really do the songs about horror movies shtick. I guess we have once or twice but really when we do that we just borrow a line or two, we don't actually write songs about movies. We sometimes borrow lines from classic horror and sci-fi books too. And not just horror either, we once borrowed a line from a Norman Mailer book. Remember books kids? Good stuff. I haven't seen a new horror flick that I've liked in years. He Never Died (starring Henry Rollins) is good, if that's considered a horror flick. Some lines from the song “I Look lIke Hell” from the new album were actually inspired by a Dolly Parton Bio pic we watched last year. Some of that was a little horrifying I guess.

Which books and movies have you quoted from in your songs? What changes for the worse has the horror industry taken of late, aside from too many remakes of classic movies (some are good, others not so good)?
It’s not really quoting from, mostly it’s just like getting inspiration for ideas. Sometimes maybe we will take a part of a line or something too, I suppose, but we don’t use it the same way it was written. For instance, Harry Harrison’s Deathworld is a pretty great sci-fi book about a homicidal planet where the plant and animal life basically team up to get rid of the humans that are on it. I got some ideas for Midnight Madhouse from that but the words that Jackie ended up writing have nothing to do with that concept at all. That song ended up being about being imprisoned wrongfully (or not) in a loony bin and it was actually inspired by a story arc from Melrose Place. Then of course classics like Dracula and Frankenstein and even some Stephen King are always inspiring us. Movies in general just suck now, at least they hold little to no interest for me. I try all the time. I check out new movies and I can’t get through more than 15 minutes to half an hour usually. I mean, look at the Road Warrior or Mad Max and put them next to that rancid pile of crap Fury Road. Need I say more?

What about classic horror does the band find inspirational? What characters do you relate to besides Dracula and Frankenstein?
I personally relate to the frozen Jack at the end of the Shining. That’s me in this putrid modern society that we’ve got going on: dying alone, cut off from everybody and everything hahahah! Except I actually love my wife and kids so what the hell do I know anyway? Getting back to your original question, classic horror used to actually scare people, that’s what I find inspirational.

When it comes to Stephen King, are you more inspired by his short fiction or his longer novels?
Well I do most of my reading on the shitter so I guess I’d say the longer novels because they take longer to read, thus giving me more time away the hated modern world that I’ve already mentioned.

What was the last horror movie you really liked, that you could watch repeatedly without getting tired of it? If you were a movie producer, what would you do to change the horror industry for the better?
Well, like I already said, He Never Died was actually really good. Interesting take on an old biblical tale and it’s always good to see Henry Rollins doing his thing. I’ve watched it three times since getting the DVD. I don’t think it’s possible to change anything about the movie industry in general for the better at this point. I guess if I was a producer making movies I’d start with a good story (not a re-make) and go from there, and not use CGI. I’m not really sure it’s even possible to truly scare or shock people anymore, it’s all been seen and done over and over, but somehow people seem to still be scared of us. It’s just something that comes natural for us Slice ‘em Ups I suppose.

What effects would you use in place of CGI, and what sort of a story would you construct for your first movie? Do you think a movie you make would be the kind people would want to see?
Anything besides CGI, how about raw dough and corn syrup with red food coloring for starters? Weird question since I don’t actually make movies nor do I aspire to hahaha! I’m a guitar player and a visual artist, not a movie maker. I suppose if for some reason I ever did make a movie it would probably appeal to other sick and twisted individuals but not the masses.

Many people think that playing this style of music is an adolescent fantasy and expect people to “grow” out of it, despite that many bands have made careers out of it and grown on their own terms. You are not only married to someone with similar tastes but you play in a band together. How do you negotiate your married and personal lives?
Wasn't it Lemmy who said "if you think you're too old to rock n' roll then you are”? I'm not the kind of guy who cares what other people think about me, not even kind of. Like I said we've been doing this band for ten years now so you could say it's part of our married life and our personal lives. You go to work and get paid, you come home and do what you want. That’s how you negotiate life.

How does the title “We’re Still Dead” fit the new album? Was this the first title or did other suggestions come before it?
“We’re Still Dead” was always going to be the title of this album. Even before we had the song written. Jackie told me that should be the title and I agreed. We had t-shirts that had “See them now while they’re still dead!” written on the back a few years ago, which was a take off of a Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers tagline (“See them now while they’re still alive!”) and the chorus in our world famous song “Zombie Relief Fund” goes, “Zombie Relief Fund-give while they’re still dead!” so it’s just kind of one of our things. Plus it’s our comeback album so we’re letting you know.

Where was the new album recorded? Is the band working with a producer or did you decide to produce it independently?
It was recorded at Horizon Sound in South Brooklyn by Johnny Young and you could say we produced it ourselves. It’s going to be mastered by Tom Lyle from Government Issue, which is another thing we’re pretty excited about.

Were your previous full lengths recorded at Horizon Sound with Johnny Young or have you recorded elsewhere previously?
No, we used to record at Wild Arctic in Queens with Shawn Kimon but they closed down and moved to New Hampshire so that’s a little inconvenient for us. Horizon is right in our neighborhood and Johnny’s a good guy so it just worked.

How did you hook up with Tom Lyle to master We’re Still Dead? Have you been friends with him for a long time? Does Lyle have a history of mastering albums prior to working with you?
We're Facebook friends. I'm a huge fan of his old band Government Issue (RIP John Stabb) and I knew he'd done some production and mastering work in the past so we just asked him to do it and he said yes.

Do you prefer producing your releases independently to working with a producer? How does this benefit the band?
We’ve only ever worked with a producer once (for the “Destroy All Humans” digital EP). Really I think a good solid engineer is all we need since we already know what we want to sound like. We like to record in a pretty old school fashion with me, the bass player and the drummer all in the same room playing together, then we add stuff on top of that. We always know exactly what we want it to sound like and what the accompanying visuals should be so an outside voice would probably just get in the way. If Tom G Warrior ever wanted to produce us we’d be totally down with that, so Tom, if you’re reading this get in touch! Ooohhh, heeeeyy!

When I interviewed you last you were designing artwork for your site. Any new projects underway at present?
My main project right now is this album. I painted the front and back covers and I’m putting together all the inserts and everything. Wait’ll you see it! And of course I’m always working on various art projects, get ahold of me if you want anything done. I also recently did artwork for albums by the Würst and Wasted Talent, amongst many others.

I recently saw The Würst perform at Tompkins Square Park but haven’t seen Wasted Talent yet. Did both these bands approach you to design artwork for them?
Well yeah, I didn’t approach them! Actually Wasted Talent is an old band that I’d done artwork for when I was a teenager so that was a pretty natural thing for me to do their album anthology artwork. I put together their album cover and insert using a lot of my old artwork and various interviews and reviews that they had done.

You have designed some new shirts for the band and plugged them on sale this past year. Are any still available?
Currently we have the large Chesty logo with the pile of skulls on the bottom still available. Right now we only have XL and 2X though. Get in touch if anybody wants ‘em! We sell them for $15 postpaid. That’s another thing that we always do that comes from our punk and Hardcore roots, we keep our merch prices as low as possible. We also include stickers, buttons and whatnot for free with every order.

Close to the end of 2015 you were plugging the second issue of your comic series Life Is Wonderful. I have also noticed it has received positive feedback from the press. How many copies do you still have and will there be a third installment?
Thanks for noticing! The 1st issue is completely sold out but I do have a few copies of issue 2 still available. Again, get in touch if anybody is interested in getting a copy. I’m not sure if there will be an issue #3 at this point. I contribute artwork to NY Waste magazine so I’ll probably at least have individual episodes in there from time to time. It’s a shitload of work to not only create the content for a whole comic book but to also put it out yourself and promote and sell it so we’ll see what happens. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all about working hard and getting things done but sometimes I just want to hang out with my family and drink the occasional cold adult beverage so I need to budget my time.

This past January you had a series Great Moments In Punk History debut at How did this arrangement come about?
The fine gents who run Über Rock have exquisite taste in both music and visual art so they asked me if I wanted to have my paintings run as a monthly feature on their site. It seemed like a perfect fit to me so I of course said yes and it’s going to run at the beginning of every month ’til the end of 2016. I like that a wider audience of people get to see the paintings, especially since I’ve sold all but three out of 15 of them at this point.

When We’re Still Dead is released do you plan to film a promotional video for one of the songs? Will you be working with the same people you did Zombie Relief Fund and your other videos with?
We definitely plan to yes. We’ll have to see what we end up doing. We’ve been talking about doing a video for the song “Fun Things to do During Robberies” so hopefully that happens. There’s all sorts of visual ideas we could do for that one. We did most of the planning and creative side of all of our videos so we’ll continue down that path for sure.

In our last interview you mentioned recording the song “All Women Are Insane” for a Mentors tribute album. Are there any new tribute compilations the band is interested in appearing on?
None that I know of but we’re always open for these sorts of things. Like I told you before, we were asked to be on that comp, we didn’t approach them so if anyone reading this is doing a cool tribute album and you want us on it, get in touch! If anyone’s planning on doing a Bee Gees tribute album we’re so fucking in (not kidding)!

How extensively do you plan to promote We’re Still Dead upon its release? Is it exclusively coming out on physical CD or do you also plan to stream it online?
As extensively as humanly possibly on a completely nonexistent budget! We’re going to play some shows and hopefully get people to know that the album’s coming out. We want to do an extra special 10th anniversary show in September for one thing. And this interview of course. It’s going to be out on vinyl, not CD. CDs are dead. It will also be available for download for those that are into that sort of thing. We’ve been talking to a couple labels about putting it out so if anything works out in that arena they’d presumably help in promoting it too.

Would the band ever consider releasing a live DVD at some point, either filmed at one show or compiled from more than one?
We’ve talked about it but much like CDs, I don’t think anyone really buys DVDs anymore. What we wanted to do was combine older fan filmed footage of us with a show we would film specifically for the purpose of releasing on DVD and also have all of our videos on there. I think that’d be pretty cool but again, that format appears to be dead. Unless of course someone wants to pay for us to do that, then fuck yeah, we’re all about it! You have to remember that this band has with few exceptions been 100% self funded and DIY so we can’t just do whatever we want all the time.

-Dave Wolff

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