Category Archives: Rock

BHP Best of 2016

It’s that time of the year again folks.  Time to sit here and type out a list of bands that have impressed me one way or another.  I am not keeping to a set number as it would take me forever to narrow it down.

A sincere thanks to everyone who’s ever visited this site – seriously.  I know I tend to say that around the time I do my best of lists, but I really mean it.  I almost called it quits  earlier this year and reconsidered at the last minute.

This blog is very personal to me and even if more people find it while Googling how to fix their headphones, it is still fun to do.  If I can turn someone on to a new band just by one post, then my job is done.

With that said, I plan on sticking around for a while.

I am sure I will add a few more as they come to me in the next couple of weeks (as I always do [up to 3 edits now]), but for now, here’s the list of the albums that really caught my attention in 2016:

[EDIT:  The year is not over yet and I needed to throw in just a couple more…]


Chandeli’ers – Breaker
-This was the album that hit me in the right way.  It was fun across the board and sounded like the Clash meets Elvis Costello.  What more could you ask for?


Run The Jewels – RTJ3
-This album was not supposed to drop until 3 weeks into the new year, but El-P and Killer Mike decided to drop it on Christmas day for all to enjoy.  I can not stop listening to it.  I know I am not the only one either.

MakeWar "Developing A Theory Of Integrity"
MakeWar – Developing a Theory of Integrity
-Hands down one of my favorite surprise releases of the year.  This punk rock band has thrown together an album I will be listening to over and over for years to come.

joe-mcmahon
Joe McMahon – Another Life
-This is another one of my favorite albums this year.  McMahon shared with the world an outstanding collection of tunes that everyone needs to check out.  His solo material is a lot different from his Smoke or Fire days and that is not a bad thing at all.

Bob Mould
Bob Mould – Patch the Sky
-Mould recorded a masterpiece with Patch the Sky.  If you have not had the chance to listen to this album, you are missing out.  This album is perfect to listen to any day.

Jonathan Richman
Jonathan Richman – Ishkode! Ishkode!
-I am kicking myself for not putting this on my list initially.  Richman is one of the most prolific songwriters out there and put out quite the release.  I loved how song his songs were fun at times while others were just complex and reached across borders.  He really showcased his musical abilities on this release.  This guy has been writing music for longer than I have been alive and still is able to put out quality albums.

Dinosaur Jr.
Dinosaur Jr. – Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not
-I have been a fan of this band for over 25 years now, so it only makes sense that this release made my list.  Oh, it also kicks so much ass.  Lou Barlow singing on it made it that much better.

All Dinosaurs
All Dinosaurs – Total Dissatisfaction
-Where do I even start with this one?  It’s like listening to the Bronx, but better, and from Cleveland.  I love this album so much that I literally just bought the LP from their bandcamp page.  No lie.

Useless ID
Useless ID – State is Burning
-This band will always be one of my favorites and this release continued to keep me a fan.  With a much more harder approach, they really killed it on this one.  I also adored the nod to the late Brandon Carlisle of Teenage Bottlerocket.

pulley
Pulley – No Change in the Weather 
This band was a huge favorite of mine in the late 90s and I thought they were done in the mid-2000s, but low and behold, they came back with an album that seemingly continued where they left off without missing a beat.  “Sometimes” is such a great track.

Beach Slang
Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
-James Alex (and former crew) have created a timeless album for music fans of all ages.  Catchy yet poignant, the album has been on a weekly rotation to my ears since the album dropped.  It may clock in at around 30 minutes, but it is a hell of a ride from start to finish.

Worship This! - Mint
Worship This! – Mint
-So what if these guys are my pals, their sophomore release blew me away.  I can not say enough good things about this album.  It is poppy, punky, and addictive.  More people need to check this album out as these Akron/Cleveland boys really know how to make sweet jams.  They are the next big thing in my mind and I love them all dearly.


Descendents – Hypercaffium Spazzinate 
-Having one of my all time favorite bands release something new in 2016 was pretty rad.  Having one of my all time favorite bands stick to their sound from start to finish and have no indication of slowing down made it that much better.

Nothing
Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow
-I never thought I would like shoegazing.  To be honest, I really never knew what shoegaze was until I heard this album and I am still not quite sure.  Indie rock and neo-psychadelica mixed with plenty of distortion and emotion made for an album that I could not get out of my head for weeks.  That’s a good thing.

Mean Jeans
Mean Jeans – Tight New Dimension 
-Mean Jeans are probably one of the most underrated bands out there right now.  This album further proved that.  A modern-day Ramones-like banger.  I loved it.


Bouncing Souls – Simplicity 
-The Souls are like a fine cheese or wine to me.  With age, this band seems to just get better.  Their latest release was just full of punk rock fun.  When I started singing along to the first song during my first listen, I knew I was going to love this album and play it over and over.

Blink 182 - California
Blink 182 – California
-I can’t help it, I got sucked in to the new Blink and I know why…  Matt Skiba.  He was the perfect addition to reinvent this band.

The Avalanches
The Avalanches – Wildflower
-16 years after their debut, The Avalanches came back with an all new release that very well probably took all 16 years to create.  I know some of my pals were not digging this release fully, but I adored it.  It probably helps that the likes of Danny Brown and Biz Marke helped make this album what it is.

Arms Aloft
Arms Aloft – What a Time to be Barely Alive
This is the one album I really need to do a proper review on, but I keep getting sidetracked.  I listen to it all of the time and it is freaking amazing.  Punk rock from the 80s perfectly blended with punk rock from the mid 2000s is one way I can describe these fellows.  The music is infections, the lyrics are fun, and from what I hear the band is pretty cool too.  This kind of sounds like a review, but it is not.  This is just me telling y’all that this album was impressive.

Signals Midwest
Signals Midwest – At This Age
-This is their third release and probably their most tied together, mature material I have heard them create.  They have pushed their limits from a one time local band and are more or less prepping themselves for what’s next to come.  I am proud of these dudes.

Arilss Nancy
Arliss Nancy – Greater Divides
-This band really should be at Lucero levels by now.  They are exceptional at what they do and it can be heard throughout their latest release.

har-mar-superstar
Har Mar Superstar – Best Summer Ever
-Har Mar continues to put out incredible material with each release.  This man is so talented that he drops albums that cover various genres and avoids any and all gimmicky sounds.

NOFX
NOFX – First Ditch Effort
-After all this band has been though, it only makes sense that they dropped a more personal album.  It took me a couple of listens to truly appreciate.  Don’t worry, it’s still crass at times as well as hilarious, but man, that Tony Sly tribute song will put tears in your eyes.

Harvey Pekar
Harvey Pekar – The Astral We
-This Cleveland hardcore band is just that…  This album was insane yet intelligent, and I loved every moment of it.

the-falcon-gather-up-the-chaps
The Falcon – Gather Up the Chaps
-I love that Dave Hause was on this album.  I love that he had to play ska riffs knowing how much he hates ska because Brendan Kelly decided it was a good idea.  This album was far from serious and a good time all around.

NOTE: I promise you, Red Scare did not pay me for putting so many albums on this list.  They just had a hell of a year with releases…  Toby, I take plastic btw.

I wanted to throw a couple of EPs on here as well:

Jonathan Richman
Jonathan Richman & Tommy Larkins – That’s All We Need at Our Party
Blue Arrow Records and the creative vinyl masters Wax Merge teamed up to put out an insane variant of this 7″.  I was lucky enough to score #100 out of 100.  It’s a thing of beauty plus the tunes on it kick ass.  I love me some Jonathan Richman.  I am sure there are a few left, so snag one if you can.

Throw Shade
Throw Shade – Self-Titled
-I have talented friends who make beautiful music.  This EP is absolute proof.


Nine Inch Nails – Not the Actual Events
-I really did not know what to expect from Reznor and crew with this EP seeing how I just lost interest in their material for the last 10 years.  Man, was I pleasantly surprised.  This EP brought me back to 90s NIN and I can not wait for their full-length to drop in 2017.

bracket
Bracket – The Last Page
-At just over 70 minutes, this is one long-ass song and it’s amazing.  The track keeps it together for the listener and takes them on a punk rock voyage.  My first listed was distracted thanks to my paying gig, but my second listen with headphones on was incredible.

Finally, I know this is a best of list, but it would not be right if I did not make mention of this:

RIP Dag House…
Dag HouseIt goes without saying, sometimes you find yourself in the right situations by chance.  Thanks to an amazing batch of pals who kept Dag House going for years.  Not everyone gets to experience basement shows, and some of that could be by choice, but goddamn, if you are a music fan, basement shows are the best shows.  Dag House threw together a hell of a rager for their last show, and I was happy to be a part of it.  Thanks for the memories Dag.

2016 was a crazy year.  If you’ve made it this far in my post, thanks for sticking around and being so rad.  It is people like you and the bands above that keep me doing what I do.  Be well.

Book Review: NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories

NOFXI distinctively remember the first time I heard NOFX in the 90s.

I was a friend’s house who told me there was a band I had to hear and before asking who, he immediately played NOFX for me.  The very second that music hit my ears, I turned into a fan.

I loved their crass style and catchy songs to the point I went out that same day and bought a handful of NOFX cassettes where I proceeded to memorize all of the songs.  I would listen to I Heard They Suck Live daily and even unsuccessfully looked for a pair of NOFX shorts as seen on White Trash, Two Heebs, and Bean album cover.

In 1996, I got to see NOFX for the first time live at a Warped Tour that was held on a gravel parking lot.  There is so much to this story I do not care to get into, but it was pretty much the day that I knew I would be a fan forever.

Last Spring, NOFX released a tell all (and  mean tell all) autobiography titled NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories.  With help from Jeff Alulis, the band all took turns telling stories of how they all came to be without holding back anything.

Chapter one started with a confession of the drinking of urine.  From there, the autobiography was everything  expected from to hear from the boys, but there was so much more that I was not ready for including the personal hardships, the suicides, and especially the murders that were revealed.

I loved how the book was split into various chapters by previous and current members.  Sometimes the chapters complimented one another’s recollections, while others were random for a moment and then touched back on something else said.  Where they were not exactly in chronological order, they followed suit enough where I never was trying to connect the dots.  It was almost like I was just hanging out with everyone in a room listening to random stories.

The content was funny, serious, and scary as hell at times.  Where a lot of the band spoke on the good times being in NOFX and touring the world, a lot was spent talking about severe drug abuse and the insane adventures they were involved in.  Reading various memories from original members and current members really encompassed all angles on the story of NOFX.

I loved reading about the bands they saw as kids and the bands they toured with.  Hearing them talk about Rancid and the Offspring signing to major labels while they held their own was interesting.  I was shocked to even learn that NOFX almost signed to a major label but collectively changed their minds and did things their way.

Of course the part where they all talked about playing at Eric Melvin’s aunt and uncle’s house in Aurora, OH stuck with me.  I grew up next to that city and wished to hell I could have seen them play outside in a suburban neighborhood.  Truth is, I was probably a bit too young then, but the best part about this story is that I actually became friend’s with Melvin’s cousin.  She introduced me to his parents once (if you’re reading this, hi Suzanne!)

Reading about Smelly’s heroin addiction and how he eventually overcame it was just intense.  At first, his stories were humorous and chaotic, but soon became almost uncomfortable to read, especially the ones he told as a full blown junkie who hit rock bottom.  One of his stores that had me laughing out loud though was about a stolen van and a kid who turned out to be Billie Joe Armstrong.  When the pieces came together a few chapters later, I lost it.

Fat Mike kept things unfiltered and entertaining.  I know more about his sex life now than I ever cared to, but I made sure I read all of it.  I was mostly surprised to read that he was not the biggest embarrassment early on (sans his singing).  It is crazy to have finished this book knowing that shortly after its release, he decided to chill out on things and go for treatment all because of his pal Tony Sly.  Fat Mike say seem like an a-hole on stage, but he is a family man and a loyal friend.  I really enjoyed reading his story from start to finish.

El Hefe had me cracking up many times with his stories, mostly when he first started the band, but the one thing in the book that I will never forget was the photo he shared with himself and Tori Amos.  If you read the book, I am hoping you know exactly what I am talking about.  I also appreciated learning how he grew up and became the man he is today.

The fact that the band members dropped their own moments of truth to one another in print for the first time just made this book so much more real to me.  Kept promises were broken and made public because they needed to heard and the autobiography was the perfect place to release.  The admissions clearly would open up healed wounds, but were probably never meant to be hidden forever.

Reading how they went from learning about punk rock at an adolescent age to becoming one of the most prolific bands in the punk rock community and beyond was just perfect.  Sadly, the road they traveled for 30 years to get there was not a smooth ride and not easy to read at times.  I especially appreciated not only learning about NOFX, but also other avenues by the band including Smelly’s motocross company, Melvin’s coffee shop, and El Hefe’s hot mess of a nightclub.

You really don’t need to be a fan of NOFX or punk rock for that matter to enjoy this book.  Their stories in this book will suck you in and Jeff Alulis did a great job putting it into print.

Granted it took me a little longer to finish this book than I wanted to, I will tell you that I read almost half of it in just two nights as I could not put it down.  I can honestly say I finished the last chapter with a smile on my face and even a bigger appreciation for the band who I’ve been a fan of now for over 20 years.

If you are just looking for a group of dudes telling you true stories from a punk rock, drug fueled life, NOFX: The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories is a must read.  For the record, you will learn about the bathtub and it is a little nastier than you might think.

 

Album Review: Mike Watt – “Ring Spiel” Tour ’95

"ring spiel" tour '95It seems like 1995 was forever ago.  I was fresh out of high school and naive to the world.  There were no smart phones with cameras on them, no Facebook statuses, and people actually talked to one another in the same room.  Times were different that’s for sure, and the music scene back then was amazing.

When I heard that Legacy Recordings and Mike Watt decided to release a live show from 1995, I told myself that I just had to check it out.  Having been a young fan of Watt in Minutemen and fIREHOSE in the 90s, I became a bigger fan of him in ’95 when he released Ball-hog or Tugboat?, his debut solo album full of special guests including J. Mascis, Adam Horovitz, Dave Grohl, and Henry Rollins just to name a few.  Hell, I still have the double LP promo that Mike from Disc Den gave me when he heard how much I loved the album.

In support of that new release, Watt hit the road with Hovercraft and the barely known then Foo Fighters (lead by Grohl who apparently was touring for the first time since Kurt Cobain’s death).  He formed quite the impressive backing band for this tour to accompany him consisting of Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam), Dave Grohl (Nirvana / Foo Fighters), Pat Smear (the Germs), and William Goldsmith (Sunny Day Real Estate / Foo Fighters).  This was a once in a lifetime tour and can finally be heard on “ring spiel” tour ’95.

[Side note: I actually caught Watt live in the summer of ’95 when he opened up for Primus at Nautica in Cleveland.  I do not recall him having any of the heavy-hitting musicians as his backup band there, but I still have a scar on my left thumb due to someone’s Dr. Martins making contact to a barrier with my thumb in the way.  Concert war wounds are the best.]

Recorded live at The Metro in Chicago on May 6th, 1995, Watt’s live show was beyond amazing to listen to and brought me back 20 years to my youth.  One could only imagine being at the Metro in person seeing the energy that came from Watt and his special crew taking turns playing behind the legendary bassist.

Having never heard about this live show before, it was insane to hear Watt start the set off with a Daniel Johnston cover of “Walking The Cow”.  As someone who has found appreciation in Johnson material over the last 10 years, I know I probably would have been clueless about this track had I seen it played in front of me at this show.

It only made sense for Watt to play his rendition of Chip and Tony Kinman’s (Rank & File) “Big Train” seeing how it was the first single off of Ball-Hog.  At first, the crowd really did not seem into it, but that soon changed.

“Against the 70s” was a straight up jam with Watt and Vedder singing hard.  Perhaps more toned down on Vedder’s part over the studio version, I actually liked this live version better.

“Drove Up from Pedro” deserves to be heard especially if you were too young too have seen a show in the 90s.  This track alone brought back so many memories and it was all in thanks to the crowd.  They absorbed the sounds when needed, and then just belted out their approval.

After playing fIREHOSE’s “Makin’ the Freeway”, Watt took a moment to ask the crown to chill out on the crowdsurfing by saying: “You like those people rolling all over your heads?  Why don’t we give it a break.”  Classic.

“Forever…One Reporter’s Opinion” had Pat Smear offering vocals alongside Watt.  The song was just nuts and you could feel the venue explode at the end.

The cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s “The Red and The Black” was one of the best songs I heard on this set.  I loved his take on the song , especially the ending.

Another excellent cover was of a Madonna song, “Secret Garden”.  The best part was that just hearing Smear sing.  Was this a joke?  I think only the performers will know.  Regardless of their intentions, it was a fun listen.

fIREHOSE’s “Powerful Hankerin'” ended the show with just Watt on stage doing what he does best.  The solo playing was perfect for closing out an amazing show.  The crowd approved and so did this listener the moment after a humbled Watt said thank you and left the stage.

If you were a kid of the 90s who hit up all the cool underground shows, this album really deserves to be in your collection.  If you are someone who just likes to listen to live rock and roll, it doesn’t get any better than this.  I just with there was a full video to accompany this performance.

At least there is this:

As I was trying to search for more info on Watt’s ’95 tour, I found an online journal called “Clam Blow” Tour.  There was a pretty cool read from Watt and band mates in Cleveland.  They talked about playing Repeat The Beat Records in Brooklyn, OH.  How I missed that back then, I will never know.  Apparently CBS was even there covering the performance.  Read the entries from 7/28 and 7/29.

“ring spiel” tour ‘ 95 is available online on CD and LP as well as at your favorite local music shop.  It’s also on digital music streaming sites like Apple and Spotify.

Album Review: MakeWar – Developing a Theory of Integrity

MakeWar "Developing A Theory Of Integrity"I admit, I do not get to crank out reviews like I used to.  If I had it my way, I would quit my paying gig and do this full time, but the truth of the matter is that I do this for fun and not profit and I have bills to pay.  20-year-old me would kick my ass right now for even mentioning that.  I sound like grandpa punk again…

I’ve been trying to find some time to write about one of my favorite albums of 2016 for the past month now.  I am seriously stoked to have found some time tonight to do so.  With that said, here we go.

Developing a Theory of Integrity by Brooklyn’s MakeWar immediately jumped to the top of my favorite albums the moment I heard the first song.  I cannot get enough of this album and have been listening to it almost daily since it dropped on Red Scare Industries in September.

Side note: Not even two days after I heard the album, I learned that they were playing the final Dag House show in Cleveland (RIP DAG).  As luck would have it, I had a free night and I booked it over to that historical home to see MakeWar do their thing in the basement and got to act like a fanboy afterwards who was short $1 when trying to buy their debut self-titled LP out of their van while they were literally trying to back out of the driveway to make a long ass drive to Omaha.  Thanks Jose, I will pay you back that $1 next time you roll through town.

Originally an acoustic act called Sad and French, MakeWar took their songs to a new dynamic and turned themselves into a full fletched punk rock band that carries so many likable qualities from catchy hooks to relatable lyrical content.  Don’t get me wrong, Sad and French were absolutely amazing, but plugging in the guitars and turning up those amps have MakeWar way more exciting to listen to.

As previously mentioned, opening track “Matador Pool Party” blew me away.  There was so much going on with this track from the group singing to the Rancid/Face To Face reminiscing bass playing, brutal drumming, and lyrical content that just brought it all together perfectly.

“Ode” was just that, an ode to living life with booze in hand in NYC.  I loved the line “fuck not drinking for a week” as I’ve said that in my heyday when having a rough week of celebrating but refused to give it up.  I also loved the random thought process throughout the song that really could pertain to any city.  This is about as real as a song gets with spirits raised high.

“DTFH” was another standout track that begged to be sung along to.  Ironically this track reminded me in a sense of more upbeat Iron Chic who used to be on DTFH records.  “Don’t Panic” resembled Taking Back Sunday’s earlier years in a good way.

“On Feelings” might have been the most emotional track on the album but not in a cowering sense.  This track just make me happy for some reason and brought back some memories of great hangouts with great pals.  “Sallie” was another amazing song on this album.  I feel like I keep saying that, but it is true.  There were a lot of songs of this album that caught my attention including this one that referenced the paying back of those stupid ass student loans.

“Distractions” was more technical like Strung Out.  I really loved the change up of musical style on this track which clearly was the heaviest.  “Dust” ended the album in a completely different style full of dismay and sorrow, but damn it was beautiful.

I can not say enough good things about MakeWar.  If you are reading this, you need to at least check out the video for “Ode” below so you can see what got me so excited.  If you dig like I do, snag the album.  You will not be disappointed.

Visit MakeWar on Facebook and check them out live if you can.

Interview: Yotam Ben Horin of Useless ID

Quick note to start things off: If you haven’t heard of Useless ID and have appreciation for punk rock, I can honestly say you are missing out on an amazing band and should check them out now.

I’ve been a fan of these guys for a long time now.  They are one of the hardest working bands out there that most people probably have not heard about.  If one or two people find this blog and turn into Useless ID fans, then my job is done.

With that said, let’s continue…

I’m happy to say I got to interview someone who I truly admire as a musician.  Apologies in advance for the long read, but the outcome of this interview was great and I did not want to cut anything out of it.

Yotam Ben Horin fronts Useless ID and to say he is a busy man is an understatement.  He’s fronted the Israeli punk band for 20 years now, toured the US solo for what seemed like most of last year, and seemingly is always doing something either with his band or solo.

Useless ID dropped State is Burning earlier this year on Fat Wreck Chords and it is easily one of my favorite releases of 2016.  Granted there is no proper review of it (yet) on this here ol’ site, I will tell you I listen to it often.

Yotam was cool enough to take some time out of his busy day to chat with me about the new Useless ID album among other things.  Check it out:


yotam4

BHP: First up, I can not tell you how excited I am to hear you are coming back to the states with Useless ID to tour with NOFX. How stoked are you for this tour?

YBH:  For us it’s crazy.  When Useless ID started out, NOFX were one of the key influences to our sound.  There was Green Day and Offspring slowly rising and I liked both at the time, but the good stuff to me was finding NOFX in Thrasher magazine, they just didn’t play by any rules. We played many shows with NOFX throughout our career and they always treated us like family, always having a great time and now this tour. We are stoked as hell and can’t wait!

If I recall correctly, you spent some time in the states a little while back and played tons of solo shows in support of your solo album. Seemed like you were here for a while.  How did that whole tour work out for you?

Well, basically I reached a breaking point in life where I got lost in rent, taxes, and pretty much dug myself into a ditch playing bass for this production in Israel.

yotam1I started hating music altogether cause it became a job so I decided I need a break from life. We celebrated a 20 year anniversary show with Useless ID and I flew to the U.S 3 days later for the next 6 months. I didn’t really have a plan to go solo, I just needed a break to kind of figure out who I am and what I want to do. During this time, I bought a car and booked a few shows in the LA area.  I met a few people and then got an offer to open for the Ataris, so I did that for a few weeks.  From there, I got offered to play bass for Sic Waiting and opened a string of west coast shows as well and that lead to a tour with this French solo artist Forest Pooky.  I let life kind of write itself and didn’t bother interfering and that eventually lead to the recording of the unplanned second solo record “California Sounds” since I’ve been performing with all these new songs that really started taking shape.

That’s insane.  I had no idea it was more than just a tour for you.  Going back home had to be nice after that, but seeing how Useless ID dropped a new release earlier this year, sounds like you and the band did not rest at all.

I had a few songs scattered around that I let the guys hear but not an album’s worth of material, so with my break it gave us time apart and time to draw new inspirations which worked out for the best cause when I returned in June, it was full on writing the new record.  Ishay also brought some songs in so it changed things up.  We had around 50 songs to choose from, we all collectively liked the 15 that made the cut so it worked out great.

It’s been four years  between albums.  Was there any reason for a delay in releases?

We don’t want to release an album every two years cause we have to, we did that in the early days, we were younger, not that I’m against it.  As a writer, I usually like doing other things before I dive back into a new Useless ID record like a solo album or a trip somewhere or have a certain change happen to me.  I don’t like sticking to the same subject either, so if I’m writing about my deteriorating relationship (Symptoms), I wouldn’t want the next record to be about that again so certain time needs to pass and certain changes need to happen.  Honestly, now with the new drummer Corey in the fold, there is a sudden urgency in our sound and live show so I have a feeling the next one should be written sooner than planned.

useless-idI can certainly appreciate that.  So, tell me about your new album State is Burning.  It’s so much harder sounding than the previous release Symptoms. What prompted the change back to your punk rock roots?

We did a European tour in the summer of 2013 and by the first day we were walking in Italy somewhere and Ishay randomly says to me “Our next record should be shorter songs like Frenzal Rhomb or something.” We all love Frenzal Rhomb and it made total sense to me.  We put out Symptoms but ended up playing like 2-3 songs off of it at shows so something was clearly not working with these tunes live. As a studio album, I think it’s great, but not my favorite of ours.  I started thinking maybe I should go back and listen to all those records that got me into this in the first place like NOFX, No Use, Propagandhi, Bad Religion, Pennywise etc.  I was getting a vision for it, in a way, “write the record that you as a 15-year-old fan would want to hear.”  Since I’ve been writing from an artists perspective on “Symptoms” and “Broken Bones”, I wrote from a Fat Wreck fan [perspective] on “State” and it’s my favorite Useless ID record.

That’s awesome.  I really do dig this new one a lot.  “Borrowed Time” was one that stood out to me.  Are there any tracks on the new release you dig more than the rest?

I love “Land of idiocracy.”  I heard it like a zillion times before it was released cause it pretty much sums up all of my frustration living in Israel. I really like “Closer to the edge” as well since it’s my “departure from work life” anthem.

I think “Genetic” is one of the best songs I’ve ever written and it all came to me in 5 minutes while I was out for a run on the beach before a Useless ID rehearsal.  We worked on it the same day and that was that.

yotam2So, tell me just a little about yourself. I’m just curious how you have gotten to where you are today.

From a very young age, I always had a very strong personality about what I want[ed] to do, so when I picked up the guitar at 13, that was it for me,  I knew from that point that I want[ed] to be in a band so when I met the Useless Id guys in ’95 who already existed, I knew that I must join these guys and be on the road.  My first tour with Useless ID was in 1997, I was 18.  I had already played two shows with them in 1996, but I had another year of high school which I dropped out of anyways.  I don’t like getting too comfortable with anything and sometimes it backfires cause I feel as if life is not moving anymore and I like to keep things interesting, create as much as I can, music, art, poetry any figure of self expression appeals to me, and I can’t do without it.  I can lock myself up for weeks watching 80’s movies or something from my past just to trigger a feeling and then the songs come out.

I am sure you are asked this a lot, but what is the punk scene like in Israel?  How is the scene viewed there?

The scene always had its ups and downs.  In 1996, me and a group of friends started this short lived movement in Israel called “Haifa City Hardcore”.  We booked shows, put out tapes, and tried to create a scene but it didn’t really take off.  Then in the early 2000s, I felt like there was some sort of a punk revival – in terms of Israel it’s still pretty small – but the scene was kind of dead in the 90s as far as punk goes.

I can happily say Useless ID was the first punk band from Israel that just took off to the U.S with only one planned show in Gilman St. and learned the ropes through being there and seeing how it’s done.  Nowadays, many Israeli punk bands are touring all over the place cause it’s much easier to book a tour so that’s improved for sure.  I’ve been punk since I moved to Israel in 1993.  I was lame cause I only knew Nirvana, Sex Pistols and Pixies who are considered close to punk and not really punk, so when a year later I discovered all the other stuff through a skateboarding friend [like] Minor Threat, DRI, Black Flag, I knew I found my sound and wondered why I hadn’t till now. I liked the fact that it was underground and hard to find.  

As for the genre, people frown upon this genre cause they listen to middle eastern music, which is by far the worst form of music, and exists only in Israel.  Extremely shitty lyrics with assholes and other dickheads making it and getting famous cause the majority are made up of morons… It’s so shit.

Sounds like recent American hip-hop music, but worse.  I know Israel is a lot different from the states in terms of adversary, but I only know so much about their culture.  I’m just curious, what are some of the major differences in terms of the punk scene from Israel and the US?

I think the biggest thing is that no punk band could live off of their music in Israel.  It doesn’t matter how good you are or how hard you try, the scene is just way too small to accept it as they do in the US where great bands like Descendents or Against Me! can actually make a living playing shows and releasing records, that’s amazing. For any artist, the biggest reward is to be able to live off your art.

So true.  What do you like about current American culture?

Well I grew up in New York in the 80s, so that whole era really speaks in volumes to me and always has.  That sense of naiveté in everything from WWF, John Hughes movies, [and] pop music.  These are the kind[s] of things that can make me choke up like the theme song from the sitcom “Learning the Ropes”.  I like the possibilities in the US.  You can just come out of nowhere with a guitar and if there’s enough passion there, anything is possible.  Having Joey Cape produce a record with me, that would never happen had I stayed in Israel minding my own business.

What don’t you like?

I guess like any other culture the majority decides, getting someone like Donald Trump so far in as a candidate is crazy but that just proves that anything being possible in the U.S. can backfire badly.

I do not even want to thank about that.  So, has Useless ID ever come close to calling it quits over the past 2 decades?  Care to talk about some of the challenges faced?

We have been around for 21 years now so there were obviously some breaking points along the way, but something kept us together and it wasn’t the fear of breaking up. We just love our band, we care too much about the music we do and we don’t want to play these tunes with other people.  There’s a certain energy going on between the four of us cause we come from similar musical backgrounds, but at the same time, we are so different as people and all opinionated.  I think that’s what [makes] a band like The Beatles or The Ramones the greatest band in the world.  The different characters; everyone in the band brought something else to the table.  We’ve obviously had some fallouts in the past but the band is at a very good place right now.  We’re promoting our best record to date and the shows have all been crazy fun.

YotamTell me, what does it feel like to play your heart out in front of all of your fans?

We just did a short run of Russia and Japan and all four shows were packed and great!  I told this to one of the guys last night – in Japan I don’t really feel like I’m playing a show, I’m more like floating on cloud 9 for an hour.  When you have a room packed with people who know every word you wrote and just lose their shit when you play its like an [out-of]-body experience.  You just lose sense of time and life all of a sudden has a different pace.

How did this upcoming tour with NOFX happen?  I know you are stoked about it.

We were just about done with the mixes of “State is Burning” at The Blasting Room and decided to send it to Fat Mike.  By the next day, Mike told me how much he loved the record and would be honored to put it out, so I knew he liked it and eventually we got a mail from Kent Jamieson asking us to do this upcoming tour.  

We are stoked as hell!  Doing all these shows alone in the US for the past two years, I promised many fans that I’d be back with Useless ID soon enough and here we are and PEARS are with us too so that’s extra fun, those guys are nuts!

PEARS are so good.  Stoked for you all to be back on tour in the states.  Might as well ask, what do you do to pass the time while on tour?

I read a lot, take pictures, write in my journal.  If I’m in the U.S., I film a lot of footage and edit them into funny short 5 minute movies called “DRIVER”.  It’s my alter ego in the U.S.  I grow out a beard, wear a trucker cap, a flannel and pretty much turn myself into a Chuck Ragan lookalike. During the long drives, I listen to a lot of music, stuff I don’t know. The drives are good for that.  I find time to exercise, go for a run or workout to stay in shape and not completely lose it.

I need to find some DRIVER clips.  That sounds amazing.  You are very active on social media.  Obviously we did not have this 20 years ago.  How important is it to you to be able to connect to your fans globally thanks to social media?

It’s very important.  That’s the cool thing with Facebook.   For example, I use it mostly for musical purposes less about writing my opinions on politics or what I just ate or who had a baby.  I try to put something there every day whether a picture of where I’m at, a live video playing songs for the people at home, and saying hi to friends all over the world.  My mission overall, besides making music, is to show people that there is an alternative even if it’s hard and a struggle, it’s all possible.  Once you focus your energy into something you really, really love and believe there’s no room for failure and if you do fail, it’s just an obstacle, you get back up and try again.  I receive many mails about people telling me how I inspired them to drop everything and hit the road or form a bluegrass band or go solo, anything.  It means the world to me seeing that.

That’s just perfect,  Wow.  Now that Useless ID has dropped something, when can we expect more solo material from you?

I have an album in Hebrew coming out soon which I wrote in 2013 and recorded in 2014 -before my U.S disappearing- and just finished mastering it a few weeks ago.  Other than that, I’ve been writing alot for my upcoming “One Week Record” which Joey Cape will be producing this coming November.  He really pushed me to write better songs and I’m still writing for it.

I love Cape’s One Week Record project.  I can not wait to hear that when it comes out.  What about the next Useless ID album, any plans on the next release?

As I mentioned before, it’s probably good to tour “State Is Burning” some more before we decide to write the next one, I have a feeling it’s going to be great. I really want us to continue doing the faster stuff for the next one but you never know which direction it’ll go.

Finally, what’s next for Yotam?

As for me, I took up Muay-Thai Kickboxing for the past 4 months and I’m loving it and what it’s adding to my self-confidence, so I’m thinking of doing a month of training in Thailand, hopefully start lining up some solo tours afterwards once my One Week record is out.  {I have] got a few musician friends in mind I really want to tour with for sure. I  have ideas for a few books I want to write so I’m going to try to jump into that for a while and see how it goes.  What else?  There’s a Useless ID movie in the works so were gathering a lot of footage for that at the moment. That’s me, always looking forward to the next exciting thing!

Sheesh man.  You are really keeping busy.  I’ll let you go so you can get back to all of that.  Thank you Sir!


Now here I am sitting here wondering what the hell I am doing with my life while he is kickboxing and traveling the world and even making movies.  I can always just live vicariously through him.  Someone needs to keep updating this site!

BTW – Proud father moment.  I just realized my kiddo is in a Useless ID video:

I really need to thank the band for adding my little dude into their video.

Check out State is Burning below and if you dig it, head over to Fat Wreck and grab a copy.

Useless ID is touring with NOFX and PEARs this November.  Check them out if you can!

11/02/16 – Portland, OR – Crystal Ballroom
11/03/16 – Seattle, WA – Showbox SoDo
11/04/16 – Vancouver, BC Canada – Commodore Ballroom
11/05/16 – Vancouver, BC Canada – Commodore Ballroom
11/07/16 – Edmonton, AB Canada – Union Hall
11/08/16 – Edmonton, AB Canada – Union Hall
11/09/16 – Calgary, AB Canada – MacEwan Hall
11/11/16 – Winnipeg, MB Canada – Burton Cummings Theatre
11/12/16 – Minneapolis, MN – Cabooze on the West Bank
11/13/16 – Milwaukee, WI – The Rave
11/14/16 – Cleveland, OH – House of Blues
11/16/16 – Omaha, NE – Sokol Auditorium
11/17/16 – Lawrence, KS – Liberty Hall
11/18/16 – Dallas, TX – Gas Monkey Live!