On February 19, 2002, Milemarker’s third album, Frigid Forms Sell JT1069 CD will be re-released by Jade Tree. Originally release by Lovitt Records in 2000, this album is the one that solidified the full scope of the group’s potential. Milemarker is currently on tour with International Noise Conspiracy, supporting their fourth and latest release, Anaesthetic.
michael: With whom am I communicating with and what it is it you do in the band?
Al: My name is Al Burian and I play bass, keyboard, sing, make conversation, and handle most of the bad vibing for the band.
michael: How would you describe your music to your relatives at Thanksgiving? What about to a kid in the scene?
Al: Recently my aunt came to one of our shows and asked me afterwards how I would describe our music. I sort of stuttered and fumbled. She said, “Well, your mother told me that it’s the blues.” I shrugged and said, “Well, I suppose by some, uh, very broad definition maybe, yes.” “So that’s what they call blues these days,” she muttered, shaking her head. For kids in the scene I’d probably say something like aggressive dark-wave influenced technical post-emo. They’d nod knowingly, pretending that that meant something.
michael: How do you approach your live shows?
Al: Generally pretend we’ve swallowed cyanide pills and have half an hour to live.
michael: For people in the dark, would you by chance be willing to recant some of your more memorable live show stories for us?
Al: Do you want me to recant or recount? Recount would mean “retell” and “recant” would mean “apologize for.” The only show I feel really bad about occurred in Providence, Rhode Island. I breathed a plume of fire and set my band mate Roby Newton and several audience members on fire. I was banned from pyrotechnics after that.
michael: Doh! I hope you didn’t take that the wrong way. I didn’t intend to say “recant,” but rather “recount.”
Al: NO, I thought it was funny, I like the idea of recanting for shows better than the idea of recounting shows. I don’t know how ground-breaking we are, really, but we (especially in the early days) tried to experiment and do different stuff, including pyrotechnics, light shows, playing with samples, synching our show up to computer projections….. Roby has set herself on fire a few times, I’ve received occasional fairly bloody head injuries (I actually have a sizable scab on my forehead as I type this, a result of Dave’s guitar hitting me in the face). We’ve gotten more conservative with our live show in the last couple of years (meaning, we have concentrated more on just playing music) , I think mainly because we didn’t want to be known as a gimmick band. But I think we are definitely all into experimentation and I hope we will continue to push ourselves to try new things.
michael: Do you ever get stuck in a rut of trying to out do your previous performances?
Al: Not really. As soon as we feel like we’ve done something as well as we’re going to do it we do something else. For instance, in the case of the aforementioned Providence show, I felt I had maimed and injured people as spectacularly as possible and that it was time to move on to new victories.
michael: To what extent, if any, are you concerned when people just don’t understand what you are doing live?
Al: Not overly. I would hope that people can sense honesty on some level and I would hope that a certain sincerity of intention comes across to people who are looking to pick up on that. For those who have no interest in honesty, well, it’s probably all for the best to alienate them.
michael: What do you consider the strengths and weaknesses of your band? What are some things you’d like to improve on in the future or do differently the next time you do an album?
Al: It’s really difficult to say exactly, because we are all pretty self-critical and could probably go on and on about the weaknesses of our band to a degree of specificity which you would either find extremely uncomfortable or extremely boring. I would say, in some broad sense, that the greatest strength and simultaneous weakness of our band is that we’re all extremely sketchy, in a way which allows us to take profound and monumental creative, financial and physical risks on behalf of the band. The lengths to which the people in this band will go is a constant source of horror and amazement to me. As far as making records, the ability to constantly reinvent ourselves is the primary strength of our band in my opinion. We make a concerted effort not repeat ourselves and to continually change and evolve as a band. It’s hard for me to say what we would do differently on the next record because we have just finished the last one. My immediate impulse is to say, “everything,” because my general reaction to finishing something is to then want to head in the opposite direction. But being too close to the finished thing I can not yet define what the opposite would be.
michael: What is the story behind the artwork for the new album?
Al: Well, the title of the album, “Anaesthetic” is intended to have a double meaning, so that it can be read as “anesthetic,” i.e. a numbing narcotic or “an aesthetic.” The idea being to convey that aesthetic choices act to narcotize audiences. The placid pink color scheme and the Pegasus drawing are supposed to convey childishness and simplicity, also a sort of fantasy escapism. The lyrics and band information are hidden in the CD and LP packaging so that at first glance there is no information, as though all content has been erased from the package. The idea is to convey what a record might look like after they start putting Prozac in school lunches and lithium in the water supply . . . just one more pleasant distraction from wars and work weeks.
michael: What goals and aspirations do you have for the band? What do you hope to achieve?
Al: I wouldn’t say that there is a grand plan for where we want to end up or what we want to be. We take things step by step, try to make a better record or tour in new and strange lands, things like that. I hope we are learning to express our politics better, be that in lyrics or artwork or in the way we run our band. Being in a band can be an incredibly educational experience, whether you’re figuring out inter-personal relationships, economics, ethics, musicianship, art… Maybe it’s the liberal arts college background speaking, but for me it’s about that learning process, not about where we end up in the final result.
michael: Was there a pivotal album you heard when growing up that made you want to be a musician or was it more of a gradual realization?
Al: For me it was less of a specific album and more of the general discovery of punk rock. It was easy to learn the bass lines to Suicidal Tendencies or Minor Threat songs, and suddenly I realized that I could actually feasibly do this thing which I found really moving and powerful. It was like somebody pointing out to you one day that you have super powers. But how I got from there to writing eight minute symphonic technical emo dark wave songs, I do not know.
michael: What is your stand on file sharing and mp3s?
Al: My personal view on the subject is that every second that you spend in front of a computer increases your risk of cancer and that just having a stereo and some vinyl LPs is a lot better for your health.
Milemarker’s merchandise is now up in the form of the amazing Pegasus shirts, buttons, and stickers. Order now for maximum enjoyment!
Milemarker’s Anaesthetic LP/CD (JT1061) released today. Their fourth record will simply blow your mind. Get it now or be punished.
Why would anybody want to be a new wave artist? Not that new wave music is bad, mind you, it’s just that the idea is so terribly, terribly ironic. Look at it like this. New wave was a style twenty years ago that was designed by musicians who were setting out to design music that they thought would be the music… "of the future", only to be come so terribly cliched in style that anybody who plays it in the "future" is only making retro music.
No matter what some may say, Milemarker are not new wave. Though their new album, Anasthetic has the right instrumentation (heavy, dancy synthesizers, please) for a new-wave party, Milemarker are bearers of a spirit that is oh-so-much-more than the existing "lets dance and make music to pick up women" idea that seems to permeate a lot of this newly found musical style. "Anaesthetic" is a cloyingly political record. Burian publishes a zine, Burn Collector as well as writes a column for Punk Planet; he’s a man who is anti-capitalist in thought and mind. While I couldn’t tell you what the lyrics are to some of these songs, their content can be gleamed from their titles. "Shrink to Fit," "Lost the Thoughts But Kept The Skin," "Food For Worms," "The Installment Plan" are prime examples.
"Anaesthetic" is not an easy record to listen to. Despite the fact that the key elements are there for a pounding revival meeting of skinny ties and permed hair, resident mastermind Al Burian never leads the Milemarker crew down the primrose path to wreckless abandon. Why would he need to? That’s what bands like the Prima Donnas and the Faint are for, right? And unlike bands like Mocket or Long Hind Legs, who also attempted this mix of punk and new wave aesthetics, Milemarker has actually succeded in creating a record that actually mixes both styles together without looking like an awkward bastard-child. It’s a topsy-turvy ride as well. From the Brainiac-esque opener, "Shrink to Fit," the album quickly shifts gears to a song that sounds like Rush gone New Wave, "Food For Worms, " before switching gears for the next track, "A Quick Trip to the Clinic."
"Anaesthetic" is a very thick, dense record; it requires a heavy concentration for it to be experienced. Casual listening? I’m sure it’s possible, but come to this record casually, and you’ll easily be put off. "Anasthetic" demands the listenener’s full attention from its listeners, and has no apologies for you if you don’t get "it". Sure, just because there’s a synthesizer in the band doesn’t mean they want you to dance. Just because there’s a woman in the band doesn’t mean she’s gonna be singing sexy songs just for you. Just because they’re tagged new wave, doesn’t mean that they’re gonna sound like the new wave that you want/expect to hear. Great things should be expected from Milemarker; ‘Anaesthetic’ is your warning.
Milemarker’s 4th album, and their first for Jade Tree, Anaesthetic LP/CD (JT1061), is now available for pre-order. With this release, Jade Tree continues to include a free and unique sticker for each and every early bird order while our supplies last so act fast! There will be 300 stickers, and the vinyl will be pink (1000) and white (1000).
Milemarker has been hard at work at Salad Days studios perfecting their new album, Anaesthetic (JT1062). Brian McTernan is once again behind the controls making the band sound better than ever. Once the band completes their recording, they will play a few select dates before finally returning home and preparing for their appearance at this year’s More Than Music Fest and an upcoming Japanese tour in June. Their album is set for a September 18 release.
While some have written off Milemarker’s new sound as "too Siouxie and the Banshees," I contend that it’s pretty rad. The first effort from the band since they moved to Chicago and changed labels, Anaesthetic finds Milemarker shifting their focus from solely hardcore to some bizarre synthesis of hardcore and new wave. The album opening "Shrink To Fit" is a danceable, synth-laden track which showcases the band’s three vocalists-guitarist Dave Laney, bassist/keyboardist Al Burian and keyboardist Roby Newton.
Newton’s vocals don’t sound like other chick singers, blending a gut-deep ferocity with an expansive emotional and vocal range. The results are capable of making you want to attend a house of worship ("Food For Worms") or break shit ("Installment Plan"). In fact, Newton’s singing so overshadows that of her male counterparts that the one song featuring only Burian and Laney’s vocals, "The Fear Is Back In Town," is the only of the record’s seven tracks that falls flat. Despite this shortcoming, the expansive, more angular pop arrangements that fill Anaesthetic work to create a cohesive and engaging post-punk whole
Milemarker does not fake the funk — Anaesthetic is seven tracks of pure adrenalin funneled through a magnificent artistic vision that will leave your legs shaking and your ears begging for more. Milemarker succeeds on the strength of the music — which is not only rare in the post-hardcore world of whiny pop bands, but important because the packaging on the CD alone is enough to alienate a listener. First of all, these guys call themselves the Milemarker People’s Liberation Army or the Milemarker Entertaiment and Reprogramming Consulate — which if taken with a healthy dose of irony is funny, however judging by the heavy handed tendencies of their lyrics — this seems like a band without much irony in their diet. Secondly, the CD comes devoid of anything except a pink cardboard insert, no lyrics, no band information, and oh, no song titles either. Which is fine if you have a stereo that can read and display song titles or if you can log onto the web — where giant corporate sites like CDNow or Amazon display all the song titles — otherwise you’re out of luck.
Amazingly the music overcomes the packaging — “Shrink To Fit” is a short little ditty that kicks off the album and will make you want to move, relying on a synthesizer hook that will keep you off the wall without having to recall any bad eighties bands. Then “Food For Worms” comes crashing through with all the apocalyptic glory of Radiohead at their best. Vocalist Al Burian reaching operatic levels, carries this track as it builds and crashes and swirls around you leaving you breathless. The next five songs alternate between the shorter punchier jams — reminiscent of where Jawbox was heading at the end of their career, and the epic six or seven minute pieces that display the band’s wide breath of vision. Milemarker is amazingly efficient; not wasting a chord, bridge or melody, each song is well planned — carrying out the band’s vision with remarkable precision. The lyrics paint a picture of a cold corporate world, where everything and everyone is replaceable — another cog in a giant money making machine – with cloning (listen to “Ant Architect”) the latest method used to ensure the machine with an endless supply of workers.
With all their pretensions and the heaviness of their agenda, Milemarker could have easily fallen on their faces. Instead they deliver a devastatingly brilliant record. Critics are often too eager to brand a band innovative or falsely accuse them of forwarding music — Milemarker are guilty of both feats.
What exactly do you call Milemarker? New-wave? Hardcore? Industrial? Some odd, completely new hybrid of all of those forms of music? Probably the latter, because Milemarker are not easily defined.
Milemarker is probably the band for the new millennium, combining traditional rock and hardcore sounds with synthesizers and electronic hints. But don’t think this has been done before. The band plays fast, loud, biting music, only they throw in plenty of keyboards and electronic sounds to spice things up. And while they might not get quite as loud or screaming as some hardcore bands, the driving, sonic guitars and shouted vocals are an interesting contrast to the new-wave style keyboards.
Starting off with a very mechanized, synthesizer-driven intro, the band breaks right into “Frigid Forms Sell You Warmth,” definitely a hardcore track but not one quite as powerful and driving as some of Milemarker’s label-mates. Singer Al Burian gets up to screaming at several points, but he’s mostly shouting, and the band supplies back-up vocals. The song even breaks down and gets softer but not really melodic, and the keyboards kick in. The mechanized voices and sounds, more than just keyboards, are felt most on “Signal Froze,” which features vocals from Roby Newton, singing out “turn off the microwave and defrost the world.” This song’s almost danceable, with its synthesized beat and noises. On “Sex Jams One: Sexual Machinery,” Burian shouts out, “she looked at me with the biggest brown eyes, and she screamed to me do you want to fuck!” This one’s much more blasting and blaring rock, losing the keyboards. My favorite track is probably its sequal, “Sex Jams Two: Insect Incest,” which uses dual vocals and a disjointed, blaring guitar attack that brings back the best days of Jawbox. Burian screams out here repeatedly, “yeah, yeah, oh yeah!” But then the band brings back the keyboards and synthesized sound, as well as Newton’s vocals, singing sweetly but darkly on “Cryogenic Sleep.” “Industry For the Blind” has that Jawbox-style drum focus and dual-vocals but with a more hardcore sound, while “Tundra” is a sound all their own, with Burian and Newton singing together for a very dark, almost industrial feel. “Server Error” slows things down a bit, with the vocals distorted and a mechanical feel throughout this odd rock song. And the band ends with the slower “Platinum,” which goes from fast and blaring guitars to slower with more spoken vocals and a wash of synthesized noises beneath it all.
There is definitely a futuristic atmosphere on Frigid Forms Sell, as Milemarker incorporates not just electronic noises and beats but an electronic theme throughout the album. The contrast of driving guitar-focused hardcore and mechanized, keyboard-driven new-wave stylings make for something completely different, something that’s perfectly suited for the 21st century.