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31 Knots

Interview von: Matthias Rauch mit Joe Haege, am: 06.11.2004 ]

Es gibt sie noch. Die sträflich unterbewerteten Bands. Sei es weil sie vielleicht auf dem falschen beziehungsweise nicht gerade angesagten Label sind, ihre Musik nicht gerade momentanen Trends und Hypes hinterherläuft oder gar unzeitgemäß ist oder gar weil sie ihrer Zeit ein kleines Stückchen voraus sind. All dies trifft auf 31 Knots aus Portland, Oregon zu. Nicht erst die kürzlich erschienene EP zeugt von der musikalischen und künstlerischen Qualität der Band, sondern auch schon die beiden Full-Length Releases waren alles andere als beiläufige Unterhaltung. Komplex, vielschichtig, musikalisch versiert und dennoch ohne nerviges Muckergebaren zeigt sich die Band mit ihrem eigenwilligen und deshalb umso interessanteren Stil aus Post-Irgendwas, Punk, Prog und Indiecharme. Wir sprachen mit Mastermind Joe über Portland, Progrock und den neuen Alleingang.


Musicscan: Please give me a brief overview of what happened during your last album “It Was High Time To Escape” and the new EP “The Curse Of The Longest Day”.

31 Knots: We did a lot of touring and became more of a band than we ever were before. With Jay Pellicci on drums it finally feels like a band should be. We are all friends outside of playing together and we also respect each other a lot as musicians. I was also able to bring songs to the band that were very streamlined and simple and I knew that he would do his best to add to the song and not just make himself look like a good drummer.

Musicscan: What is it with the long album titles by the way?

31 Knots: There is no real reason. I have to admit, there is a trend in American culture to have one word names or abbreviations for many things. I also think it is a global trend of culture to cut everything down to some nuemonic brevity. I really love articulating things and I love the imagery of elaborate titles. I think it captures a little more profundity.

Musicscan: What impact die Joe leaving and Jay joining have on the band? Does the band chemistry or the entire band feel different to you personally?

31 Knots: Joe K. leaving was a very good thing for everyone. Personally, Jay W. and I had a different mentality than Joe when in regards to writing music. Pellicci was perfect for us! WeÂ’re friends and it makes such a difference.

Musicscan: What have your experiences been while on tour in Europe? Do you think that music or rock bands in particular are treated differently in Europe?

31 Knots: Bands absolutely get treated differently in Europe. There is much more respect, it seems, that itÂ’s art and not just some teenagers rebelling against their parents. I think there is much more understanding within European culture about what it means to be an artist. It seems to be understood that itÂ’s not something that just happens, like taking a job with a company.

Musicscan: How did you get in touch with Own Records? Is the EP going to come out on 54 40 or Fight in the US? Is it just a licensing kind of deal?

31 Knots: Our old publicist worked with Own and suggested them to us. We were looking for a European label because our last tour was somewhat difficult with our label being in the U.S. As for our US release, it is still undetermined. We have had a hard time getting much recognition in the states. The U.S. is at a point of music being solely about commerce and nothing else. They all want “the next big thing”. We will be the next big thing on a cold day in Hell.

Musicscan: Joe, what is the reason that you prefer to write all the songs on your own instead of working as a group on the songs as in the past? It seems like especially Jay Winebrenner always used to have a strong impact as far as songwriting was concerned.

31 Knots: ThatÂ’s a great question. Partly, itÂ’s out of necessity. With Pellicci living in San Francisco (about ten hours away, $200 by plane) it became difficult to have conventional practices. Now when we practice it is more so to do just thatÂ…practice for a show. I will admit that I am constantly writing and I always have a vision for the songs I write. But Jay W. always has a very crucial role in what songs we put towards 31knots. I would say that I usually write about twice as many songs than we end up playing. I usually play them for Jay and see what his initial reaction is. For Jay this works very well because his approach to music has changed a lot. He and I were going in different directions for a while and I think it became very important for him to develop another angle to his creativity. It has helped 31knots tremendously. Of course, I love the music he makes, so I am in turn inspired to find a way to utilize what he does on his own within 31Knots. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. However, it has been the main way that we have reconnected in our vision of what 31Knots should be. With that being established, I really feel our next record will be amazing for us. I also wanted to mention that the EP was used as a tool to employ some simpler approaches to our music. I am really fascinated with how we can hide all of the technical ongoings in the music and create something that is simply the power of the feelings evoked.

Musicscan: Your music is equally as complex as your lyrics. They might seem a bit cryptic to some people so I was wondering if there is something like a red thread running through the songs, not only musically but also lyrically.

31 Knots: I am often surprised when people find my lyrics complex. I love all sorts of lyrics and I think I have often felt that I am not as talented a singer if I were to try and sing very simple lines. There is a theme to what I write. What that is IÂ’m not exactly sure. I like to make off-handed metaphors and allegories for humanity, science, myself. I really never try to be complex or confusing. I simply go off my intuition of feeling as IÂ’m conveying something through what and how IÂ’m singing. I want to connect with people, but I want to do it in a way that feels unique to me.

Musicscan: Of course, musicians hate to categorize their music, which I am not asking you to do at this point, but would you say there are certain musical and artistic roots that are also reflected in your music? What bands did you grow up with that are still important to you today?

31 Knots: Wow. That is the best wording of that question IÂ’ve ever witnessed! Well, in high school the Minutemen, Fugazi, Living Colour, Dinosaur Jr had the most impact, though. Then in college I began listening to classical and jazz a lot. I became obsessed with the Russian composer Scriabin and the jazz sax player Eric Dolphy. They really had huge impacts on me. Oh, and then I found prog rock about 5 years ago. That was pretty cool to stumble upon.

Musicscan: Why do you think there is such a vital and prolific music and art scene in Portland that seems to be anchored very much in a DIY aesthetic? What are some other facts that you enjoy about living in Portland and the Northwest in general?

31 Knots: Well, it is very DIY here because there is no music industry here, and itÂ’s a small affordable city. Not being a center for commerce does amazing things for culture sometimes. However, it also has an adverse effect. Many bands or artists can be forever trapped in Portland and never get recognition elsewhere. As for the Northwest, I have been here ten years now and I love it. Sometimes I think of moving to New York, but then I think I would rather move to Berlin or Belgium. I really loved what I saw of Europe.

Musicscan: How do you experience the political climate in the US at the moment? Are you a band that also expresses political opinions on stage?

31 Knots: I think most bands that were apolitical five years ago are now very vocal about their beliefs. Most people and bands I know are very anti-Bush. It has been horrible having him as our president. In Europe and Japan I usually apologize on behalf of George BushÂ’s stupidity.

Musicscan: How does the band function with Jay Pellicci living in San Francisco? Do you only rehearse before going on tour or into the studio?

31 Knots: Yes. It is frustrating at times, but it usually works out ok. We try to have him come up once or twice just to work on new songs, but that somehow ends up being connected to a tour.

Musicscan: When did you first get in touch with music and how as your relationship to music changed over the years? When did you realize that music was what you wanted to pursue in life?

31 Knots: I was probably 13 when music became very important to me. However, my brothers and I were always very into music. My older brother played a huge part in getting me into underground rock music, like Dinosaur Jr and the Dead Milkmen. We used to make fake bands with our friends, and we would just sing and play a snare drum. I would also “improvise” on the out of tune piano before going to middle school. I remember deciding which college I was going to attend and having a very powerful feeling that I had no real desire to do anything but work on music. Every day during and after school I focussed on writing songs. Then in college I dropped out because I couldn’t stand focussing on anything else.

Musicscan: I assume the band does not pay the bills yet. How do you make ends meet and what are some other passions in your life besides music and art?

31 Knots: The band is definitely not paying the bills yet. Currently I have five jobs that pay the bills. I donÂ’t really need that many but I want to try and eliminate some of my debt. I bartend at three different places, I wait tables at a sushi restaurant and I do the publicity for an all age venue. Jay W. is a bartender at an Italian restaurant and Jay P. is a recording engineer. As for other interests, I have very few. I like girls quite a bit. IÂ’ve been single for six months and that has been very strange, but productive. Since then I have started a new project called A Very Dead Horse, which is just me playing pseudo classical piano, but very loud. I will be releasing a record on Marriage Records in winter Â’05.

Musicscan: What can we expect from 31 Knots in the near future?

31 Knots: We will start recording our full length entitled “Talk Like Blood” in January and hopefully have it finished by March. Then we will tour more. I think we really want to start having a very intense live show. More than before. We shall see.

Musicscan: Three favorite records, books and movies?

31 Knots: Books: The Corrections; Confederates in the Attic; The Invisible Cities.
Records: Jay-Z : The Black Album; Nina Simone: The Best Of; Chopin: All of his Nocturnes.
Movies: Fahrenheit 9/11; Kill Bill; Breathless.

  31 Knots
  Own Records