On September 15th, the Network will release their latest CD, Bishop Kent Manning. This release was produced by Kurt Ballou at Godcity Studios and is named after a short story written by the bands guitarist Kevin Howley. As one would expect from The Network, this CD is packed to the gills with brutal, aggressive punk/metal that is sure to please fans of the band and of the extreme music genre. I recently spoke with guitarist Pete Marr and vocalist Mike Mcgee about the new CD and the process behind its creation.
If you could jam with any famous musician, dead or alive, from any century, who would it be and why?
Pete: Well in all honesty I’m a fucking hack of a “musician” so who ever it was I’d feel bad they had to witness the obscurity of what I’ve been classifying as me playing guitar. I would like to say Phil Ochs but really that would be pointless. I would just imagine him looking over with utter disgust saying something like “really? That’s what you’re going to play over this.” In all honesty, I would probably pass up any opportunity to play with anyone with actual talent in fear of embarrassment. I would rather just play with the other four hacks of musicians that make up The Network. At least we all equally suck and cannot really bitch about it to each other. In the rare case that sarcasm is not translated through text, I would pick Slayer (they are a “famous” band right?). Of course assuming, I could play worth a dam. And yes, I am aware that would be musicians, plural. Fuck you, semantics.
Give us some insight into the album lyrically. This is a super pissed off sounding record?
Pete: The entire album is based of the short story written by the other guitarist, Kevin Howley. Dare I say a concept album? Just the writing of that makes my ears cringe. Since when did hippie punks start writing concept albums? If you are so inclined, you can read the story here (www.thenetworkmusic.com/press). But the movie version goes like this… televangelist on his deathbed reconsiders the existence of God and questions his methods of deception. We used the short story as a jumping off point with each song capturing different facets of the main character, Bishop Kent Manning. Yes, pretentious dumb hippy punks!
Mike: I had a blast writing lyrics to Bishop. Kevin had previously written the story and we decided to use that as our concept. I took the songs and made them into moments of the story themselves, rather than just narrating a plot from start to finish like some weirdo fantasy metal. I also used as many double meanings as possible to add my own personal disapproval of organized religion. There was a bit of collaborating with Kev and Pete at moments when I hit a dead end and they really helped, adding new perspectives and colorful wording. It is supposed to sound pissed and urgent, and we all collaborated on the overall phrasing to do just that. I’m really proud of how it all turned out.
Playing such visceral music in a recording studio must be vastly different than at one of your chaotic live shows. How did the recording process go for this release?
Pete: Yeah I think all bands stress about this. It is always hard to capture a “live” sound while in the studio. The obvious reason being there is not a crowd to be brave for. It is usually just the guy pushing buttons and maybe another band member there to make sure you are not hacking through the song too much. For this recording, it was myself and the other guitar player doing scratch tracks while we tracked the drums. Then whoever felt most comfortable with the guitar parts went in, did their tracks, followed by the other guitar then bass and finally vocals. I think that is pretty standard. I know the vocalist wanted to start tracking vocals early on during the same time as the drum tracking but logistically it just seemed to be too much going on so we opted to wait till everything else was tracked. Really, it is the worst for the vocalist; they do a lot sitting and usually feel the most time constraint pressures, although for this recording, time never really was an issue. We ended up finishing a few days earlier then expected which was nice and allowed for some extra mixing time. From start to finish we spent a week tracking and two days mixing everything.
Mike: The recording was difficult for me, as I was pretty sick the entire time we were in the studio. I had originally intended to go into the studio with both guns blazing and start recording vocals over scratch tracks as soon as I could, meaning that I’d have tons of time at the end to fine tune, experiment and basically just take my time. Kurt was into that idea and set up a mic for me right away but when it was time for me to start laying it down it became very apparent that I did not sound anything like myself and was actually hurting myself. I have sung sick many times before and I hate it. I just had to wait it out. I had placed serious pressure on myself not to disappoint the guys and I was really disappointed in the timing of me getting sick. I basically just got so pissed at the situation that when I did record, it added to the level of aggression and the sound of desperation in my voice because, well, I was REALLY angry. I listen to it now and think,’ that part hurt’ or I remember wanting to give up right there’. Kurt talked me through it very well, as I was doing take after take (after take after take…).
You worked with Kurt Ballou, a very well known well respected producer. How did you get in touch with him and what was it like working with him?
Pete: Myself and the other guitar player visited godcity last summer, sat in on a friend’s band session and got a feel for the place. After that, I sent Kurt an email just seeing what his schedule was like. He responded and we booked some time. That simple, we asked and he told. It was definitely a comfortable feeling working Kurt.
Mike: I basically spent my entire adult life listening to albums that he’s recorded and I’ve had friends visit godcity in the past. I was excited to see what how we would sound after witnessing his progression throughout the years. I also think he has had a great streak of recording phenomenal albums recently, like Genghis Tron, Trap Them, Young Widows and Transistor Transistor, etc, and making them sound just that much better. As far as working with Kurt, he is as professional as they come. His personality is great, like an old acquaintance that you can sit down and just shoot the shit with about shows and local stuff or whatever. He is also very patient and reassuring in the studio. Like I said, I was sick and he got me through it. His dog is also pretty fun and street-walking gigolos and the homeless surround his studio, and we all had a laugh at their respective misfortunes.
Now that your brand new CD, Bishop Kent Manning is complete how do you feel about it and are you satisfied with the outcome?
Pete: We finally got the sound we were searching for. We have always had a hard time capturing our sound. Not sure what it was but the noisy all out not giving a fuck live performance never really made its way into a recording till now.
Mike: The first time I let Ryan from Trap Them listen to Bishop after I got into my hot hands so he could hear his lovely life mate screaming her lungs out, he listened to the whole thing from start to finish and said ‘this is exactly the album I wanted to hear from you guys’. I agree. I am very satisfied with the outcome and since the recording process have had many other reasons to be excited, from seeing the progression of the album artwork, vinyl artwork, talking about promoting the thing, and then the inevitable release date and how people will perceive it. So far, anyone that has heard it says that I slays and that they love it. Even some of those basement-dwellers from Lamb Goat that are not too quick to dole out the compliments have been saying things. How they’ve heard it already is anyone’s guess, we’ve all kept a tight grip on this album.
How quick are you in the studio? Can you usually knock things out in a couple takes?
Pete: Yeah, really if you can’t do it in a few takes, what’s the point?
When you are on the road for a while I am sure you see and experience many different things you might not even have known existed. Are there any stories that stand out in your mind as being exceptionally strange or odd?
Mike: I had no idea that you could just walk into a zoo/animal refuge in Australia where one could pet and feed wild animal like kangaroos, wallabies, koalas and shit. Like, just fucking hanging out with these guys. No lawsuits, I mean, hey, there’s a sign posted and if you fuck with them and they kick your ass, then you probably deserved it. The dingo’s were fenced-in though. I also realize that no matter what country we’re in, we always find someway to make fun of it’s’ inhabitants the entire time that we’re guests. Great ambassadors, we are not.
– Wawa and Sheetz both rule
– Don’t buy drugs in Jacksonville
– Detroit/Indianapolis/Baltimore/most of Florida, scary
– You’ll have to pay us giant sums of money to get us back to Corpus Christi, TX ever again
– California should be three states
– Some people actually like living in WV, and I need to learn to respect that
– $25 tattoos can be found in San Antonio at a shop called ‘No Regrets’
– The east coast has shitty Mexican food and New England really got dicked out of all the cool fast food spots
Lastly, if you manage to be stuck in a van with me for a month, expect to hear me say ‘I’ve been here before’ every time we pull into a random gas station or venue, or if we’re on some weird road in the middle of nowhere or some small town in Europe. I’ve fucking already been there, man.
What is the toughest lesson you ever learned in the studio and on the stage?
Mike: In the studio: When singing into a mic by yourself, make sure that you have headphones and turn them up LOUD. That way it is like you are doing it live. On stage: Don’t talk so much, just rock. No dead air between songs. I don’t thank many people or give speeches. I am not trying to keep it posi. I’ve also learned to stay the fuck out of Pete’s way.
What does the future hold for you guys as a band?
Pete: Do drugs, die!
Mike: Our future is to keep playing music, keep touring the country and seeing the world, just going places that always seemed impossible to me years ago. We’re very picky about whom we tour with, so you probably won’t see us on a lot of goofy package tours, but who knows. I’d love to go out on a tour with bands we don’t necessarily fit in with and tell everyone that paid to see us exactly what I think of their awful taste and lack of originality, every single night. Fuck them all. [ END ]