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February 7, 2008

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VINYL FILE: INTERVIEW WITH ANDY NELSON OF PAINT IT BLACK

THE VINYL FILE SPOTLIGHT Paint It Black

So what do you do when you're not playing in bands?

I book shows with R5 in Philly and I do independent freelance design. Lately it's been me cooped up in my house and leaving to work a show or do a show. It allows me to take time off to tour, but lately I have been really bored. I should just go get a job for something to do. It's funny, I never thought I would be in the position where I am so bored I would want to work.

How is life in Philadelphia in general?

It is very cold and dreary. It gets the brunt of the worst weather on either side of the country. In the summer you have 8 months of the most horrible, hot, humid, sweaty weather and in the winter it's the coldest, windiest place that you can imagine. It makes people angry and expands the idea of what a hostile place it is. It's a hostile and violent city to begin with, and with the cold and heat on top it people are completely insane. But I love Philadelphia, it is where I am from and I have lived here my entire life. I spend time on the West coast and I like LA and San Francisco, but as far as the East coast goes, it is really affordable and there is a lot of crazy stuff that happens in the art world. I think we have one of the best independent music scenes of anywhere I have been in the entire world, I consider myself lucky in that respect.

Following a brief discussion about Fredericton, New Brunswick and Fugazi's show there in 1998, helping to breath more life into the city's music scene.

Fugazi is a band that I miss dearly in that regard. They were a shining example. No bands nowadays prove that you can do things like that, DIY. They were a band that did everything right and by the nature of existing did a lot. It's like people talking about Black Flag in the '80s. They go through Delaware in the '80s and now there's a punk scene. Like the Ramones playing LA in. I think it's really easy to live as a consumer, which is ironic because we are going to talk about consuming vinyl, but you start living as a consumer and not a producer, but it is always better if it comes in the form of an incredible band. Sometimes you just need that little push, "you can do this too." That happened to me when I was a youngin, I went from a kid who casually bought records and went to shows to being like "fuck yeah, I have to get into this."

I had a chance to see Paint it Black for the first time at the Fest this year, that was a crazy show.
We had such an amazing show at the fest. The house show is the kind of example where two or three years ago we wouldn't have done it, but now it's like fuck it, lets go play a house. We always seem to get into these situations where we play after Municipal Waste, which is the hardest thing to do. We ended up playing after them in Manchester, England. We're friends with them, I've known them forever, so it was great to be 4,000 miles from home and hanging out. But they refuse to play last. And I am like, "You realize that you are the band that gets the craziest reaction of any band." They did it at the Fest too, what shit luck, but those shows were great, Gainesville is inspiring. We've never played there outside of the Fest, but I believe that it is a great place for punk only because the people that I know there, like the Hot Water Music guys and No Idea guys, but I'm sure with The Fest that you get a bunch of people that come in from far away and make it more exciting than it is normally.

What are you looking forward to with Paint it Black now?

It's weird, obviously I am completely excited about it and half of what I do all day is in preparation of the coming year of shows. It's strange because we took a different approach in terms of this record and the release of it. We did a weekend of release shows in Philly and months and months ago, in the summer, we sat down with Jade Tree and talked about the idea of release dates in 2007/08 and how they are nothing, meaningless. My major problem with downloading music is not a financial one. A lot of bands get in this position where they are counting the dollars they should be making. Personally, I don't give a fuck about that. For me it is about the experience of it and the shared camaraderie it can bring. My main beef with it is the way people experience music nowadays is so weird. You download a record for free weeks before it is available in the store. You might listen to the first couple songs of it on your shitty little laptop speakers while you MSN someone and you move onto the next thing that you download for free the next day. All of us in Paint it Black download music to a certain degree. But I also spend every dollar I make on records. We're not holier than thou and won’t hate on anyone for downloading the record, but you put years of effort into making the record and that's the attention it gets. We wanted to really create or curate a more organic experience, the way it was when we were kids. You go to this great show, see a band, hear the songs, pick up the new record and listen to it on the way home in the car - that's the first time you hear it, sitting by the stereo. That's the whole idea of behind it.

Basically the record has been out since the beginning of January, and we succeeded with not letting it leak until then. The only way you could get it was from us handing it to you. I think people are slowly hearing, it's not like in years past where it is building up to one date. We are pushing it in a long-term fashion. I think it's exciting - we put a lot of time and effort into this record. The people that have heard it so far seem to get it. The response so far has been great. It will be on vinyl, the preferred format, soon and the CD comes out pretty soon, too.

People who went to your record release shows got a free 7” – Goliath. What was the idea behind doing that?

I am really into and have always been into collecting records. Ever since I was in high school I have been into Japanese hardcore and punk, but I don't know about bands in America doing it, but in Japan I know a lot of bands had gig-only records that you can buy at shows or one show. I always thought that was a cool idea because it forced people to come talk to you at a show, even if it is just coming up to say ?°»Hello, I would like to get this record.’ Nowadays I think it is really easy to sit behind your computer all day and Paypal people and have records show up. There is no connection there.

We have never done a 7" before, we’ve just been a band that has made albums. We decided after the third album we were just going to do 7"s. that's what is on the horizon for us. But we had this idea to do a limited gig-only 7" and the idea came together to also give the CD to everybody. We had the songs left over from the recording sessions and we all like the songs, but in sequencing the record we couldn't find a place for it, I am really anal in making sure the record feels tight. So it was one of those things where we just shot the shit and we just did it. I have to give some props. The idea of the vinyl and the clear sides came from Look Back and Laugh. They put out a record last year that was a one sided 12" that has a screened b-side and is the craziest thing, it is wild looking, so fucking cool. Ours doesn't look that cool, but it was an idea where we wouldn’t have to make covers or anything, just put lyrics on it. It would be something that was extra special for kids who came to the show. The other motive for me was that if you are a kid who can’t make it to the show, it also encourages you to communicate with other punks and trade records. Some of my oldest friends in punk have been people that I have traded records with and those are my friends forever, so we want to encourage people to do that. I think it worked a little bit, some have been on Ebay, there's always bad apples.

Ebay is a strange beast. I hate resorting to it, but I always find stuff that I couldn’t otherwise get my hands on.

I am definitely am on Ebay a lot and bought lots of things on Ebay and have paid lots of money for records. Although I will say the most I have ever paid for a record was very recently, not on Ebay, and to me one of the greatest records of all time, SSD's Get it Away 12" I paid $75 for a mint copy. One of my friends had it for sale and I bought it. You see people paying extreme amounts of money for a record that just came out that isn't rare, or there are 90 colors of this vinyl and they have to have all of them. To me there is a big difference between paying $75 for an SSD record because it is historic or classic and a piece of history, like people who want to buy Minor Threat or people who buy the mail-order only cover of some hardcore record and they have to have it right away and pay $150 for it. I’m not hating on it, but it's kind of weird that people will spend that kind of money on multiple copies of the same record but not use that money to support other bands. I was talking to someone the other day about how it is so weird that nowadays all the great records that have come out are accessible for free online, you don't have to pay for them. They don't sell as many copies but you have people spending all their money buying really hard to find records that just came out. I think it's just a natural thing that has just happened, but it is disappointing that there are certain bands that are so great and are still only going to just sell a few thousand albums on tour when there are people paying $70 for an album on Ebay. A lot of kids don't even think, ?°»Oh why don't I just support the label?’ In the past if I was into certain labels and certain bands I would just write to the label and ask if I could trade or buy it. Half the time it worked out, half the time it didn’t. If you do a DIY label you will be excited that somebody is that into it and you will want to help them out. I see a lot of kids that just get into that mindset, that you can’t buy anything for a regular price.

What do you have planned for The New Lexicon as far as vinyl goes?

We always had to fight about vinyl with Jade Tree in the past to get what we wanted. Not in terms of money, but they have a typical way of pressing their vinyl. They would press 2000 and do 100 on this color, 1000 on that color and be done with it. That's not how I approach things, I am 26 years old and I still order a record right away so I can get the mail order color. For the first one we just picked two colors that would be compliment the layout and made one that would be a limited mail-order color an the other just be the regular cover. That record came out in 2003 and it has cooled down now, but at the time bands were putting out 9000 versions of every record and I was so disgusted by it because you would have this band selling 1,000 7"s but it would be on 5 colors to 200 people. It’s a weird line because I am into records but I am not into commercializing punk and hardcore, so it was a calculated move to just do one color.

With Jade Tree, for whatever reason, it was really hard for them to move more than a certain number of LPs. At some point you sell 2000 and that's it, you don't sell anymore. There is a certain ceiling on it. I think with CVA there is 1500 with 200 on clear blue and the rest are on solid blue. With Paradise they pressed even less. Our friend Tim Goth did the artwork. We decided to do a couple of cool things. We wanted to do a layout for the LP that was different than the CD because you have more room. Also because he is an artist for this local art space called space 1026, he did a lot of screened posters for our shows He had said that he wanted to do some screened covers of the artwork and we thought that was awesome. It was personal, someone’s hands have touched every copy. They are all numbered, I think I numbered them all and personally touched every one. I think we did a couple hundred of those and they were for mail order. They sold out, just like CVA, right away and they didn't repress them, which I thought was weird. I would rather listen to a record on vinyl than on CD. Then they ended up pressing some for a European tour. We begged them because we didn't have any for Europe, we wanted to give something to the Euro kids so they pressed a couple hundred with screened covers for the tour. Then there is the spray painted stencil that I made by myself. I had this stencil of our logo that I brought on our first tour. Whenever we played a show I went and spray painted our logo. I actually got us banned at the Black Cat in Washington for a while. Evidently, I sprayed their back ally and they were really upset about that. But we recently have been allowed to play there again, which is great. I took yellow poster board and hot pink spray paint and made 25 of them, a nod to the sex pistols with the yellow background and pink writing, which is an awesome cover. Its weird because our vinyl discography is not complicated because its’ a combination of Jade Tree not having much of a vinyl focus and by nature of them not pressing that many and us not having to do much crazy stuff. Also, Jade Tree sells a lot of vinyl in stores and you can't really do weird spray painted things and ship them off, but for the new record we have a lot of cool thing planned.

With Paradise they pressed so little which was just crazy. We sell so many more record compared to CDs. It was strange because it was so much better than the last one and every show we'd go to people would be like, pfff, you don't have vinyl?

For The New Lexicon it's funny, ever since pre-orders went up, a lot of people have been asking me what color they are going to be and how many there are. We are doing three colors total. One for us for the release show or something that you can only get from us at shows or whatever for a limited time and an alternate cover that we are planning. I have to call Rivalry and get a reminder about what the colors are. It dawned on me that it's insane that I don't know this, I am the anal retentive nerd in the band. It's going to be on a nice heavyweight vinyl. I am looking forward to seeing it, they are still being printed up. It should be is definitely something worth looking forward to.

Rivalry is awesome, Jade Tree encouraged us to find a label, they just don't have the interest to do vinyl nowadays so they encouraged us to seek someone out who would do it. Dan and I have both been fans of Rivalry and the guys that do it for a while and they were into doing cool stuff for the record. They are rad to work with and the other thing is that I really wanted to press is for the vinyl to come with free MP3s of the record, a modern approach to it. When I see a record in a shop that says free download I am more opt to pick it up. I heard that some labels, like Saddle Creek, have this business plan where they are not going to do CDs at all anymore, just records with downloads.

Right, that’s something like what G7 Welcoming Committee is doing in Canada, just offering high quality MP3s and getting rid of CDs all together.

I read that too, I thought it was strange. I understand it, just in terms of a business structure it is total freedom You can do what you want and create the art you chose and it can succeed on whatever level based on whether people like it or not. It's always a struggle when you are a band at any level, you make a decision based on how things are going to financially affect you, either what tour you take or how you press your record. I think the idea of digital only is cool and I respect it, but I don't know. You should see my room, it is just records everywhere. I can't imagine being into music and not having them. With us it is always important to have the lyrics, have a tangible thing to listen to, play it in your stereo. I think that's another thing about MP3s. I don't think people pay as much attention to a song. When you put a record on a turntable and drop a needle, you sot and listen. I sit and I look at the lyrics and the artwork. I don't know, it's weird that we live in an age where the closest you get to that is iTunes.

If you have anything you'd like to see featured on Vinyl File, email ben (at) punknews (dot) org.

PUBLICATION
Punknews

AUTHOR
Ben Conoley

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http://www.punknews.org