The Warlocks

The Warlocks

Monday, 30 October 2006

The Warlocks have been generally typified by two characteristics: a lot of band members and a psychedelic sound. It’s almost as if they’re consistently approached as the twisted Brady Bunch of psychedelia. However, on their newest release Surgery, psychedelia blends into shoegaze and pop as the band’s range extends from catchy yet dark anthems like “Come Save Us” to the addictive, spaced out drone of “Thursday’s Radiation.”

Talking with drummers Jason Anchondo and Bob Mustachio is like talking to a pair of bizarre twins; the two tend to finish each other’s sentences, throw in sarcastic jabs or just speak at the same time. Over too many cigarettes and half a bagel, we discuss the working process of the Warlocks, the band’s progression and dirty looks thrown by the dueling drummers.

When I interviewed [Warlocks’ frontman] Bobby several years ago, he said the band was like a dysfunctional family. However, I see you guys around and it seems more like a strange family…but not entirely dysfunctional.

Jason Anchondo: I think it got a little more functional; it used to be pretty dysfunctional.

Bob Mustachio: With seven people, somebody’s going to be in some fucked up vibe pretty much all the time.

JA: I just treat it like I’m married to six other people, that’s just how it is and you have to give everybody space and be respectful. I mean, you’re going to be traveling together in the same bus or worse, the same van. I think we get along better now.

BM: I think we have a really solid group of people now.

JA: Plus, we’ve had a couple years off of really heavy touring, so it’s nice for our heads to be back in order and not be overworked, overwhelmed and stressed out. Although, I mean, I love being on the road, that’s my favorite part, but if you’re on it too much, you go insane and lose your fucking mind.

So how does the songwriting process start out?

JA: Bobby writes all the stuff at home, pretty much everything.

BM: He does sketches on his four track.

JA: His little drum machine. He brings it to the studio and we add our own touches. We do the core first then the fine-tuning comes later. We’ll start playing and see if we’re all into it, if it’s not 100%, we won’t do it.

In regards to yourselves as drummers, outside of whatever music influences you have, what has inspired both of you individually?

JA: My grandfather. He raised me since I was born. I grew up in this old biker family; we’re talking like from the 30s. I was on a motorcycle before I was ever in a car at four years old. I remember crazy, fucking stories where my grandfather’s brother had me on the gas tank of this Triumph and was outrunning the cops because they were trying to pull him over because I was too small to be on a bike. My grandfather and my uncles were like my total non-music related influence. They were good, down to earth people. They weren’t into drugs but they partied their asses off. A bunch of beatniks, man.

BM: Hmm…my non-music related influences…

JA: The computer.

BM: No…early video games were personality-forming sort of things for me. I got really sick when I was seven and I almost died, it fucked up my relationship with my parents, in a way they treated me really weird so that had a big influence on how I came up…and Atari, man, Atari…

JA: The Atari 2600.

BM: That’s right…I don’t know…non-music…my dad is a musician, my mom’s dad taught me how to play drums, my brother is a bass player. I started playing in a band with my dad and my brother when I was eight. So, I’ve always been surrounded by music, which is great.

You know, it’s weird, a lot of people take lessons as a kid but don’t stick with it when they get older. I wonder what compels some people to keep going and pursue that life.

JA: It’s weird…my mom and her cousins were all guitar players. My grandfather and grandmother had my mom playing guitar when she was seven, learning from this classical/Flamenco guitar teacher in Pico Rivera. When I was a kid, my mom was always in her room playing guitar and I would sit there, put boxes up and just beat on the boxes with pencils. But I didn’t start playing drums until I was twenty-six or something like that. I started late.

So, before you were a musician, what were you doing?

JA: Ugh, I don’t know. Nothing really. I worked at a record shop and I’d buy music. So I decided to play drums and kind of taught myself how to play. I stopped playing for a year then right after 9/11, I joined up with the Warlocks. I had never left California and the first show I ever did was in New York opening for BRMC and I thought, “This is a trip.” I was so interested in the country. Bobby couldn’t believe I had never been out of state. I had been to Vegas and Arizona but that’s not like seeing the country, especially Vegas, that’s like going to Disneyland.

Yeah, touring is an interesting introduction to the country. Each state seems like a different environment.

JA: I loved everything about the States. When [I was first] touring the States, I couldn’t wait to go to Europe. When we went to England, I was really blown away because there’s so much music that came out of that one little country. When we went to London, Manchester and Glasgow, I was blown away. I would just go to record shops and spend every fucking dollar I had on vinyl and would come back home with crates of stuff. Then we went to [continental] Europe and I missed touring the States. There’s something more organic about touring the states.

BM: Well, everything’s more familiar, that’s for sure. It’s a culture shock. England’s not so bad because everyone speaks English and you can read everything but the first time I traveled to Europe it freaked me out.

What’s interesting to me about the fact that you seem to love touring the U.S. so much is that I would think that your sound, maybe until recently, would appeal more to British audiences.

JA: I think that’s how it was. When we first to England, it was bigger there although we’ve been touring the States for so long that we have accumulated a pretty large audience here. Then again, mostly in major cities, in the Midwest the radio stations only play so much and…

BM: I like our fans; I think they’re all relatively intelligent.

JA: Yeah, they are. They’re really cool.

BM: I like their knowledge of rock.

JA: I will say that most of the people that are into our music or BRMC or BJM, the people I’ve talked to at least, really know their shit. They’re so in tune with their stuff. I’ll have [fans] say, “Check out this band,” hand me a CD and I’ll be blown away.

Well, I think there’s a certain kind of person who’s going to like your kind of sound.

BM: Yeah, I don’t think anyone’s going to like our band that isn’t into Spacemen 3 or something like that.

Right, these are people who know Spiritualized, Jesus and Mary Chain and other bands. These probably aren’t the same kind of people listening to pop music, unless it’s ironic. On the same token, people who listen to pop music…how are they going to find the Warlocks? I think it’s the kind of music that appeals to people who make music their life.

JA: I think it appeals to people who like taking chances when they buy records.

BM: Yeah.

JA: The kind of people who go to the shop and read up on a band.

BM: I know I love finding bands. If I didn’t know about this band and I found out about it, I’d be so into it.

JA: That’s how it used to be, back in high school, kids used to seek out bands…

BM: …as opposed to just turning on the radio…

JA: …and then they’d start getting pissed off when other people would find out about “their” band because it was “their” personal thing. It was like, “Aw man, now they’re gonna get huge and it’s going to fucking suck.”

I remember feeling that way in high school when Radiohead began to blow up. It’s strange because there’s this inclination to “guard” certain bands, but on the same token, bands need to make money.

BM: Yeah, I think we’re in the best spot because we’d rather avoid the lowest common denominator.

So how is airplay, are you guys on the radio?

BM: My parents say they’ve heard us…

JA: I hear we’re on the radio but the weird thing is I don’t listen to the radio at all; I mean, I just have my computer. I have my turntables, I mostly buy records.

What do you think about the argument of playing shows that sound exactly like the album versus changing the sound?

JA: To me, I think a band should sound as good or better than the record when performing. I’ve seen bands where the record sounds kick ass and then I’ve watched them play and it’s shit. That’s rare though. I think it’s best to give them everything.

BM: I think there are always a few songs on our records that are studio trickery, like the song “The Tangent” on the new record…

JA: But you just go and make it different live…

BM: Yeah, it does sound totally different live. We produce a pretty big sound. Aside from that, the whole record was recorded with all seven of us live. Barring a bad P.A. or sound guy, I think we do well live.

In regards to the drumming, it’s both of you playing the same parts consistently, right?

JA: On jams we switch it up a bit, but we do the same things pretty much.

BM: We go for the simple, precise…

JA: …wall of a sound.

BM: A lot of people, drummers especially, will make comments to me that they don’t get it but it’s just that there’s a thickness to it. If we played different parts at the same time it wouldn’t suit the music…

JA: …and it would sound like a machine gun. I’ve seen other bands like the Dirt Bombs [that] do exactly the same thing we do, exactly. It’s really fucking cool. It’s not like I get to watch us. It’s really a trip when you’re standing in front of a band with two drummers doing exactly the same thing, it’s pretty scary!

And you stay in time?

JA: To me, it’s pretty easy.

BM: It’s a challenge for me to do it that way actually, it’s hard. We get crazy. We’ll get mad if somebody hits a cymbal out of place. We’ll give each other these looks, it’s funny. We call each other on our shit all the time, it’s good.

JA: We get really pissed!

BM: Playing like this really forces you to focus on certain aspects of your playing. You really have to focus on your meter and your timing, especially recording. There’s me, Jason and a click track.

JA: That gets a little tricky and then there’s Bobby, Corey, JC, Jenny and Laura and everyone’s playing at the same time.

BM: I’m really sensitive to being on the click. The first minor milliseconds off the click scrambles my brain and I want to start over.

JA: It’s good to lay yourself back a little bit. Maybe be a little bit behind or on top but if you go forward, past the click…then you’ve got to do it over.

Have you been working on new songs yet?

BM: Yeah actually…

JA: We always work on new stuff.

BM: I think everything works backward to me. We start working on new songs as we begin practicing right before we go on each tour! It’s cool though. I like it.

JA: It’s funny, I’m just used to it. Years ago, we used to just go out and if you wanted to hear the new record…well, you should have been there for the last tour because now we’re already playing the record that’s not even out yet! Now, we play the record that’s out and not any new stuff so you just have to wait.

Do you have any side projects?

JA: We jam out with friends just to keep us on track. Especially for us, you can’t exactly play drums in the house every day and it’s too expensive to rent out a studio to play.

BM: Any chance I get I’ll play drums. Not now obviously because we’re practicing four days a week.

JA: We’re doing a lot of stuff, trying to do a lot of older stuff…

BM: Stuff that I was a fan of before I was in the band.

JA: I think it’s nice the way albums fit in together like a puzzle; you can hear how all the songs interlock.

One last thing, L.A. seems to have a pretty solid scene and community right now, what do you think about music here?

JA: I think there’s more camaraderie now, before there wasn’t. It’s getting better and there are a lot more good bands. I think when Three of Clubs was around, that’s when it started opening up a lot more because you could go on Thursday nights and it was free and you could see all kinds of bands…I saw the Secret Machines, Elliott Smith, BRMC…

I’ll tell you this; I noticed the big transition of more bands popping up here when they had the [dot com boom] in San Francisco. All those artists and all those bands moved down here because it got too expensive. Now, all the prices in Silverlake and Echo Park have gone up…however, I think it made the community stronger.

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