Useless I.D. Breaks Through – Again.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

It's funny just how provincial and arrogant North Americans can be when it comes to music. Much of the rest of the world seems to be much more open-minded when it comes to accepting music that didn't necessarily come out of their proverbial back yard. While Canadians have always been very receptive to music from the States, the UK and Europe, even they tend to miss a lot of what's happening abroad and breaking into the continent as a whole is reasonably difficult for foreign band's to accomplish. Part of that might have to do with arrogance (because there are so many bands on domestic soil, it's easy to assume that we have the market cornered), and part of it may have to do with the fact that, no matter how much it seems to have shrunk with the advent of the internet, the world is still a very big place and some words travel slower than others. Part of it may have to do with a lack of exposure too; even if a foreign band has toured throughout North America, because a limited number of people may have been in attendance at the shows and the group in question may only come through only once every couple of years compared with the two or three times a year that a domestic act may appear, it's difficult to really get a good foothold in the public consciousness.

Take, for example, the work and efforts that Israeli punk band Useless I.D. has put in since forming in 1994. In the last sixteen years, Useless I.D. has released seven full-length albums, eight EPs and contributed material to at least seven compilation albums [including Rock Against Bush Volume 2 in 2008 –ed], yet still they're working incredibly hard to establish themselves on North American soil.

Some bands would get incredibly frustrated by that sort of ignorance to their ambition but, in talking to Useless I.D. guitarist Ishay Berger, it becomes clear that the band is un-phased by the slow growing of the band's North American presence; in fact they relish the work that they have to put in to leave a mark. The key in the case of Useless I.D. has been to set modest goals for themselves every time they pass through North America; play the hell out of every show and make sure to touch a couple of people along the way. Over time the numbers of people touched (and so, paying attention) begins to add up and now, while the band tours in support of their newest full-length release, The Lost Broken Bones, they've begun to enjoy the fruits of their hard work and tenacity. According to guitarist Ishay Berger, they see familiar faces at each show of course, but an increasing number of new and different ones have been appearing too at each stop thy make on their tour; that's how the band knows they're really beginning to make an impact. That's how they know they're breaking through and that is the best feeling in the world; that's what pushes them to work even harder.

Bill Adams vs. Ishay Berger, guitarist for Useless I.D.

[Useless I.D. was traveling through Arkansas at the time of interview, the phone was passed to guitarist Ishay Berger by the band's road manager –ed]

IB: Hello interviewer!

BA: Hi Ishay, how are you? It's Bill Adams calling from Ground Control.

IB: Hey – good to hear form you. How're you doing?

BA: Pretty well. How are you enjoying the Southern states?

IB: The further south we go, the warmer and nicer it gets. We're having a good time.

BA: That's good. I'm not gonna lie, I don't envy you. I'd be scared out of my wits down there.

IB: Well, we've been touring a lot in the southern states, so I guess we're pretty fucking lucky to not know how dangerous it is [laughing].

BA: I guess it's one of those things where, if you're not a loudmouth, you don't have to worry about a bunch of loudmouths picking on you. Unfortunately, I am indeed a loudmouth.

IB: Well, you know, we're always in a safe area: we're either in the van or at a punk show so we never really hang out where the danger is. You can smell a bit of it when we stop at gas stations, but that's all. Other than our drummer smoking next to the gas pump, I don't usually feel a lot of danger.

BA: I can understand why you'd get a little apprehensive about that. I did want to say congratulations on The Lost Broken Bones – I know it's a little late in coming because the album's been out for about eighteen months, but congratulations just the same.

IB: Yeah, it's been out for about a year and a half, but thank you.

BA: I only just heard it, so I wanted to say congratulations; it's a fantastic record.

IB: Oh, well thank you so much. I do think it's our best so far. All bands say that, but we'll get better. We bought guitar tuners for this one, learned some minor chords… nah, I'm joking.

BA: So how has the record been received on this tour so far?

IB: Uhm, well, we've been playing a mix of the past three albums because you never know who's in the audience and who knows what from which albums. I think whenever we come to the States more than anywhere else in particular, people always ask to hear the older stuff that we've done on compilations and things so I guess we get mixed opinions; some people just know to old stuff and some people only know the new. It's been good overall though, I think.

BA: I would think it's good when you hear that people do know the older material too so they've obviously been listening for a while.

IB: Yeah – a lot of bands that we get to play with are very excited to be playing with us; some of them didn't really follow along and didn't know we were still around so they're always really interested and excited to see that we're still going and we have a bunch of albums they might not have seen or heard before. It's great – we have our own little legacy going on.

BA: Did you every think you'd be in the position to say you had a legacy?

IB: No, I can't believe I just did say it actually [both laughing]. It's the 'interview' me saying it, not the 'real' me.

BA: Oh I see how it is, there's a completely different side to you.

IB: Naw, not really.

BA: So tell me about how this album's coming out. It did come out in 2008, but it has also been getting sprinkled out in different markets since then.

IB: Yeah – for three albums, we had one label taking care of all the territories and, for this one, we had about five or six different labels doing it; we had one in the US and Canada, a Japanese label, a European label and another in Israel. It's all the same album really, but it's exciting for us; we got green vinyl in the US, and a different sort of CD in Europe and they're all different. Whoever is collecting this stuff, we have five different albums from this album.

BA: How are the set lists working out then on this tour? I assume they're concentrating on The Lost Broken Bones, but do they go into the back-catalogue a bit too?

IB: Oh yeah. We play stuff from the last three albums or so. We don't do much from before that because our sets aren't long enough; we don't play hour-and-a-half sets and trying to cram more into what we do have would just be way too much. We don't play hour and a half sets away from home, so it's just too much. Back home, we would incorporate some of the twelve-year-old songs – we could pull that off in Tel Aviv – but normally on tour, we just try to do the stuff that is more recent and represents well.

BA: I was going to ask about that too. At home, you're a staple, but a lot of people are still discovering you in North America – right?

IB: Of course – but even with the addition of the fans that have known us for fifteen years, there's always a good percentage of new fans at any shows we play, no matter where we are. A good example of that is what happens in Japan; which is our second or third home [chuckling]. We still see people that come out who have been coming out since we first went there fifteen years ago – except they're adults now [laughing]. They love the old stuff, but they also appreciate the new stuff. There's a little of both everywhere we go.

BA: Okay, now, looking around online, I got a little confused; have you got a new record coming out in the reasonably near future?

IB: We don't have it ready and it's going to take a little while yet, but we do have songs written that are going to go on the next album. We're still going to write some more so we have a bigger selection of songs for the next one though. Before that, we're going to do some more touring; we're going to Japan and we'll probably come back to the US before we record the next album. The whole thing's not written yet but we're talking about it, there are a bunch of songs on my iPod at the moment that will probably end up on the next album. They're awesome too – I cannot wait to get back to work on it.



Useless I.D. – "Blood Pressure" – The Lost Broken Bones


The Lost Broken Bones
is out now on Suburban Home Records. Buy it here on Amazon .

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