Tag Archives: Video

Check It Out: Signals Midwest “Alchemy Hour” Video

I have had the pleasure of getting to know the dudes in Cleveland’s Signals Midwest for years now, so there is no reason why I would not be stoked on sharing their new music video for “Alchemy Hour”, a track off their latest release, At This Age.

Filmed by their pal Tommy Calderon, the video follows the band during their Fall 2016 tour.  Do not worry if you have noticed JR and Loren missing in some clips and Josh Voland as well as Ryan Williamson filling in when JR and Loren could not make some of the tour.  Just thought I should disclose that.  JV is good dude btw and carries leftovers with extreme pride.

At This Age was one of my top releases in 2016 and if you have not made yourself privy to it, you really should change that.

Check it out:

 

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!

Album Review: Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings

Beach SlangJames Alex as been through a lot of shit in a short amount of time with his band Beach Slang, both good and bad.

The pressure of being 1/4 of Beach Slang (now 1/3) almost had him call it quits earlier this year, but thanks to a fan who caught him after a show that night before he disappeared, he reconsidered.

Let’s face it, being in your 40s and having your band blow up the way Beach Slang did in such a short amount of time can not be easy.  For what it is worth, I am glad Alex did not throw the towel in yet.

With that said, Beach Slang just released their followup to 2015’s The Things We Do To Find People Who Feel Like Us.  The band actually wrote most of this sophomore release while touring.  That right there is dedication if you ask me.

A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, on Polyvinyl Records, is incredible.  It’s an encompass of Jawbreaker and The Replacements with plentyof held back angst and passion to produce an album worthy of multiple listens.

“Play it loud, play it fast.  Play me something that will always last” starts off on “Future Mixtape for the Arts Kids.”  This track is a perpetual anthem for anyone who uses music as a crutch to get through life.

“Atom Bomb” followed with plenty of fuzz and rock to keep anyone who listens entertained.  This fast-paced track may have clocked in at less than 2 minutes long, but its effects lasted much longer.  “Spin the Dial” was full of hooks and solos with Alex laying out some lyrics that sounded more personal.

“Punks In a Disco Bar” was perfectly contained in that the band sounded so together yet not overly produced.  This was one of the first singles off the new release and it’s no wonder why they chose it, the song rules.

“You’re my favorite weirdo” is sang during “Wasted Daze of Youth”, a love track of sorts that seemingly repeated many phrases I have said out loud when I felt smitten.  The hopeless swooning and the confessions combined lyrically was the best thing about this song.

The complementing “The Perfect High” focused on the best correlation between two individuals while carrying a 90s musical feel.  I really enjoyed this track a lot, especially the bass line throughout.  I almost felt like a teen again listening to this track.

Album closer “Warpaint” was an inciting jam that slowly built up a credence with Alex ending the track “don’t be afraid to want to be alive.”  These are the kinds of songs I clung on to as a lost juvenile – songs that made me feel better about my situation  Hell, there are some days I can still use the encouragement.

I’ve heard some banter recently from folk based on the album’s title alone that maybe Alex has been writing music that he is a little too old for, but I have to disagree.  He is writing for the all-ages fan who is looking for a release with a comparable ideal.  Alex is the voice for many and Beach Slang certainly carries the talent to do so.  The band has proven this on A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings and I’m positive the fans will confirm this.

My only complaint with this album is that it is only 29 minutes long and the selfish me wanted to hear double that.  I won’t lie, this is the best album I have listened to so far this year.

Beach Slang is playing the Grog Shop next month in Cleveland with Bleached.  This is a show to NOT miss.

Bleached Slang Tour 2016

Watch This: NOFX – “Six Years On Dope”

NOFX dropped a new track today and it is bad ass.  Check out the lyric video below:

“Six Years on Dope” is a new track off of First Ditch Effort which drops this October.  The song reflects years of substance abuse by the band and really is not meant to be taken in comical form.

NOFX

To say I am excited about their new album is an understatement.