The incendiary, political hardcore band From Ashes Rise formed about seven years ago in Nashville. After releasing two LPs, signing with Jade Tree last year, and with all members now residing in Portland, OR, they’re once again taking the band seriously as a full-time commitment. Happily, FAR doesn’t have members living on opposite coasts anymore, which in the past made for a rather "dysfunctional" situation.
I got the lowdown from guitarist John Wilkerson while his band-/housemates were jamming in the basement (possibly rehearsing material off their new, intensely angry album NIGHTMARES).
SKRATCH: I was at the Discharge show, and someone had a No Parade [FAR side project] shirt. You recorded a Discharge song. Which one?
JOHN: I think a long time ago we did "A Hell on Earth". It’s funny about the Discharge thing still sort of being a band [...] It’s a band we all took to heart, especially the lyrics. They were all anti-war, and when we recorded [their song], it was [during] the second wave of bombings in Iraq under Clinton—and now it’s the same thing again, so it’s sort of strange they’re coming back playing. I don’t know how good they’d beæif they WERE good. It’s cool to see a No Parade shirt and what [a big influence] that band would become on us and other bands [...] I didn’t have an opportunity to see them when I would want to. They were awful in the late ’80s! So now it’s just like a different band. [But] I’m sure those guys are going to make good money.
SKRATCH: What was the impetus for forming the band to just play music or to spread your ideas?
JOHN: Basically, everybody in FAR grew up in the southern part of the U.S. Brad and I grew up in Mississippi. There [were few] people that were into do-it-yourself hardcore. To meet people was really hard. One time I went to a show, met Brad, and we became friends, and then he moved to Tennessee. I was bored here, so I moved there. I guess it started like: everybody loved music and wanted to play. Our lyrics in the beginning were definitely political, but personal. Then the more we grew, the more we were all into anarchism and reading books and trying to become more intelligent and tell people about what we think. It’s basically gone from personal to political to more mad as hell at everything. It became more of a voice. People would come up and talk to us about our lyricsækids saying they used our lyrics in some high school class as an example of prose or poetry, and that’s amazing. We started out of sheer boredom; and nobody else was doing it where we were from. There was Cop-Out, who were inspiring us, and then His Hero Is Gone, who became friends of ours [...] but there wasn’t shit in the southern U.S. at the time we started. [...] Our lyrics on the new record focus mostly on war, because it’s such an atrocity—and the only voice, the catharsis we have, is to sing about it. And that’s something people can never sing about enough because it’s constantly going on. As we’re talking on the phone, there are people getting bombed to death or God only knows. We don’t have any idea what’s going on. We forget about conflicts in the Middle East other than what’s on our TVs, [...] other parts of the world where government money’s going into killing people.
SKRATCH: Right and we don’t know ANYTHING. We’re kept in the dark.
JOHN: I couldn’t even begin to talk intellectually about things that are going on, because most of it is [filtered] out. There’s so much gatekeeping of information [...] It’s amazing that we’ve gotten to the point where we can keep people so dumb. I think Vietnam taught everybody a lesson. There were so many uprisings, people seeing babies being blown to bits, women running with their children on fire—that [for] the next war we learned. So now they’ve just set a great precedent about how to keep people from knowing. That kind of stuff keeps us going and just pisses us off more. Just know there’s a voice, and there’s still people that care.
SKRATCH: Your lyrics, they’re rather bleak, but they expose society’s ills. Do you see them as being positive, as well?
JOHN: Yeah, I think as a band we’re all extremely happy people, and we enjoy our friends, we enjoy being part of what we have and knowing that what we have won’t last forever, whether it be our band or our lives. But we are also mad as hell about stuff—injustices against our friends, our families, people that we have no idea who they are, just for a right to be able to live. And it’s just…[our lyrics] are bleak, in the sense that I think there’s still enough pop songs on major radio that will completely bury [the truth]. Even if every underground band sang about anti-war and stuff like that, there’s still enough fodder that you would never know. But we’re all good people and happy people, and we love life. It’s just that people get fucked over so much that it makes us mad—and [music] is our way to deal with it.
SKRATCH: What do you want people to come away with after hearing your music?
JOHN: To know it’s about four people who enjoy what they’re doing and try to make a difference on a personal level. And that if people can’t play music or can’t create music, they can listen to us and feel like they’re part of it. That’s the thing: when we play live and people see us, it makes them want to sing and be a part of it. It’s touched them in a way that they feel they want to scream, too. That’s basically what I want people to do: to hear what we have to say. If people don’t like it, then that’s fine; but if it makes them want to scream and want to be pissed off and want to be part of FAR, that’s the ultimate goal. All I’ve ever wanted is just for people to understand and to feel that there are still people who want to give people a voice and interact and share it.
SKRATCH: How would you say your sound has changed from record to record?
JOHN: It’s definitely gotten less metal, in some ways. There’s no double bass anymore. It’s definitely got more rock and a little bit more on songwriting and structure and stuff like that. So [...] in ways it’s stayed the same stylistically, but certain elements have left. And I’d definitely say the more metal element is fading—but it’s still there. The average person [would have] no idea what the style of hardcore we play. They’d probably be like, "Oh, this is heavy metal," and I’m like, "No, it’s not heavy metal." But I’m sure you could play it for your average person and they’d be, "Yeah, I like Metallica!" or something. [...]
SKRATCH: How do you describe your sound? It’s just like socio-politically-aware hardcore punk.
JOHN: [Laughs] That’s probably about as good…Punk-metal? I don’t know. The guy who records us, he was like, "You guys are just, like, punk-metal"—and, well, that’s better than "metal-tinged hardcore." I guess it’s just four people playing what we think hardcore sounds like. There are people in this town who think we’re way too emo, but we’re like, "We’re not emo at all." Whatever. We definitely don’t sound like Discharge. But I guess it’s hardcore, gloomy hardcore. I’m not sure! [Laughs]
SKRATCH: What’s with all the bands with the words "from" and "ashes" in their names?
JOHN: Oh, man, I don’t know! From Autumn to Ashes happened like two years after we got together, and they’re huge now. It’s so weird, because I remember seeing…I think at the time they were just this really small kind of emo band, and we’re like, "What is going on?" Whenever we came up with [our name], I don’t think anybody had any idea. I mean, "From Ashes Rise," it’s just a fragment. And then all of a sudden From Autumn to Ashes. I wish those guys the best of luck, but damn if they didn’t try to steal our name!
Check www.jadetree.com for details about FAR’s U.S. tour from November 14 to December 14, when they’ll be hitting most major cities in support of NIGHTMARES. Contact FAR at firstname.lastname@example.org.