MIKE NEIDER, CLIFFORD DINSMORE, DAVE COOPER AND WILLIAM DUVALL WITH BL’AST! | PHOTO: COURTESY OF SOUTHERN LORD
So unless you’ve been living under a rock, not peeping DCXX or have little to no connection to hardcore news on the internet, you probably have heard at this point that BL’AST! dug up an unreleased recording of the “It’s In My Blood” record, with a second guitarist and had it re-mixed by Dave Grohl, to be released on Southern Lord.
Well the record is out now and it’s titled, “BLOOD!” and I ordered myself a copy and let me assure you, it’s fuckin’ incredible. Being a huge BL’AST! fan, to hear a fresh, new version and mix of a record that I already loved, is pretty damn cool. I’ve only had the recording for a few days and I’ve already listened to it about six times. Dave Grohl gave this recording the treatment it deserved and we can now all be the beneficiaries of it.
This interview was done by our friend and DCXX contributor, Tony Rettman. More of this interview will be featured soon on Diffuser, but in the meantime, you can check out some other cool articles that Tony has written for them at: wdiffuser.fm/author/tonyrettman. -Tim DCXX
So what’s the story with these tapes? I read somewhere that Mike found them in a storage locker or something?
Basically, the drummer for Bl’ast!, Bill Torgerson had them in a storage unit for years. I’m not sure if he was aware that he even had them, but one of the original guitar players for Bl’ast! Steve Stevenson found the tapes while going through Bill’s storage unit. We were originally talking to Greg Anderson from Southern Lord about doing a re-issue thing with remastered versions of our original records and then we found these tapes. We talked to Dave Grohl about it and he was like “Holy crap! Let’s remix this one hundred percent!”
We sent them down to Dave and they put them on the reel to reel machine and they started to flake off when they tried to play them. It was looking like the project was completely off and then they did the process of baking the tapes and they came back to life. When Lou the engineer down at 606 put those tapes on the reel to reel machine and looked at the date and it was 26 years to that day that we recorded that stuff. That was kind of funny.
What time frame are the ‘Blood’ sessions from?
It’s all basically the same songs from ‘It’s In My Blood’. It’s just a different version of what became that record. William was in the band right around the time period before ‘It’s In my Blood’. Mike had decided he didn’t want to have two guitar players and wanted to take a different approach where he was gating the sound to make it sound like we had two guitar players.
Was there any idea at that time frame that these sessions were going to be released at all?
I don’t totally remember. Like ‘Power of Expression’, we recorded that album twice. I think the only record that we went right in and recorded was ‘Take the Manic Ride’. For the most part, we always did a couple different recordings before the actual record was released.
Why did you go in multiple times to record songs? Were you just trying to get a feel for them in the studio?
I can’t really remember what the actual method was for that back then. When I listen to that first version of ‘Power of Expression’ it sounds really weird but I think both versions are pretty good. I think it had more to do with the label being motivated to put it out.
CLIFFORD, MIKE, DAVE AND WILLIAM | PHOTO: COURTESY OF SOUTHERN LORD
I was always curious about the ‘Power of Expression’ in regards to who exactly put that out; Greenworld or Wishingwell?
We were actually on Greenworld Records. The guy who got us signed to Greenworld Records was a guy name Jack Carigan who was D.I.s’ manager at the time. The Wishingwell thing, we never really had any real association with them other than Pat being a friend of ours and saying something like “I’m starting this coalition sort of thing.” He wasn’t really approaching Wishingwell as a label at that time. All of a sudden, the logo ended up on our record and it was really vague thing. He never physically ever put any money into any of our recordings. Greenworld was the one manufacturing and distributing the records.
The main reason I was always confused was there were the Bl’ast! shirts with the Wishingwell logo on them.
Those shirts are total collectors items now and I think they’re total collectors items now because there’s a story that goes around that Courtney Dubar showed up unannounced at one of our shows and just started selling those shirts. Someone came up to our bass player Dave and was like “Hey, can I get one of those Bl’ast! shirts?” and Dave was like “What Bl’ast! shirts?!” All of a sudden he went up to the merch table and took the whole stack of shirts and walked away.
How did William joining the band happen?
When Steve left the band, he had received a letter from William. I guess William had written a letter to us, Black Flag, Bad Brains and C.O.C. that read something like “If you ever need a guitar player, let me know.” Steve showed it to us and we talked to the guys from C.O.C. about it and they knew William and they were like “That guy’s ripping. He’d fit right in.” Before we knew it, he was on his way out. It was his first time away from home.
These were the punk rock days, so he wasn’t living in luxury. We made a room out of sheets in the living room for him. I think it was pretty taxing on him. There was the culture shock of Santa Cruz; it was an out of the ordinary place for back then. The whole agro surf culture and everything. I think he was a little home sick and we probably should have been more sympathetic to that situation.
How long did he last in the band?
It was a pretty good run. It’s funny, I’ve been trying to figure it out in my head as well. He was in there at our peak time period. It was a real productive time period. We had signed to SST and we were excited about making that record happen. We were playing a lot of great shows with Slayer, Bad Brains and a lot of great bands. He was there at a pretty rad time but the shortage of funds and being so far away from home was too stressful a situation for him.
What about the signing to SST? How did that come about?
It was really odd to us. We were under the impression due to Henry’s whole trip that Black Flag hated us. Chuck Dukowski started showing up to our shows a lot and standing right in the front row. There’d be some manic pit situation going on and there’s Chuck! He’s right there with this real intense look on his face staring right at us. I remember thinking “Is he here to kill us? Does he have a gun?”
There was never any thought in my mind that we would be signed to SST, but he was the one that wanted us on the label. He told us “We’d be stoked to put out your next record.” He told us that he had to clear it with Greg and Mugger. The way that actually happened was we were playing in Santa Barbara with Bad Brains and Gone and we brought a ghetto blaster and we played a tape for Greg. It was literally a ghetto blaster recorded instrumental version of the song ‘It’s In My Blood’. We played it for him in the van and he was like “Yeah, this is cool!” Then all of a sudden we were on SST.
Once you signed to them, were you all fully immersed in the world of SST?
It was just such a bitchin’ place to be at the time. We were playing shows with C.O.C, D.R.I, Cro-Mags, G.B.H and The Exploited but then being on SST, all of a sudden we’re playing with Firehose and Slovenly, all these really eclectic bands. We got to play with St. Vitus which was awesome. We would be playing these insane Hardcore shows and then we’d play an SST showcase. Sometimes we stood out like a sore thumb at those SST shows but I think it was a great experience because it was a totally different world to be in.
MIKE, CLIFFORD DAVE, BILL AND WILLIAM WITH BL’AST! | PHOTO: COURTESY OF SOUTHERN LORD
You mentioned Henry having an issue with you guys. All I know is that entry in ‘Get in the Van’ where he busts on you guys. Other than that little blurb there, did he actually give you guys shit to your faces?
He never said anything to me. I used to hang out with him quite a bit. When I was 16, I would go to any Flag show in a 100 mile radius of me. I’d show up there and most of the time stay wherever they stayed. I thought it was kind of weird that he targeted us. There were so many bands that sounded exactly the same in punk in that time period. The fact that we were branching out and starting with this really outrageous dynamic starting point; I thought he’d be more understanding of us.
When Bl’ast! first appeared, the thing that got him more than anything I guess was the way our equipment was set up. The drums, the guitar rigs were just like Black Flag. Steve would actually go around and write down the settings on Greg’s amp! I think the difference between the ‘Power of Expression’ era and the ‘It’s In My Blood’ era is Steve wrote a lot of incredible songs, but they had a very basic formula. The recipe was Black Flag and SS Decontrol and he worked it in a really awesome, crushing way. But then, when he left the band, things started to evolve in a different way. We really went in our own direction and that’s when it became all about making the weirdest music possible for that time period for Hardcore guys.
Did you catch any flak from any of the Hardcore bands from Southern California when you signed to SST?
We didn’t give a shit because at that point in time SST had St. Vitus, Descendents, Bad Brains, and Sonic Youth. There were all of these unbelievable bands on that label from all walks of music and we were happy to be a part of it.
The only reason I asked that was when I was in high school, I interviewed that band Chain of Strength and they told me one of their songs was about Bl’ast!; about how you betrayed Hardcore or something. I was just curious if they actually ever said anything to you.
If they did, I didn’t acknowledge it. Have fun being Straight Edge, you know? We’re going to do our own thing.
MIKE AND CLIFFORD BL’ASTING! IT | PHOTO: COURTESY OF SOUTHERN LORD
I’m guessing Bl’ast! played a few times with Scream.
Oh yeah! We played with Scream when we were M.A.D. We met those guys just as we formed as a band. We met at a radio interview at KPFK. It was M.A.D and Scream at the radio station. It took a while to break the ice with them but we started talking to them. They were on tour with Government Issue at the time. We mentioned to them “Hey man, we live in Santa Cruz. If you want to come down and hang out and go to the beach, feel free.”
A few days later, we were coming back from surfing and there was a van in the driveway with a trailer, and then there they were! And the rest is total history because they would come back every chance they got when they were on tour. They would stay at this guy Steve Ilse’s house; he’s the drummer in the band I’m in now, Dusted Angel. His parents, Sherry and Bob, they were so awesome and accommodating. They looked forward to Scream coming out every year and camping out.
So how did it come about for Dave Grohl to re-mix this stuff?
We were trying to think who we could get to do this in a rad way and his name was the first name that came up. We figured he was too busy but he was like “Hell yeah! Let’s do it!” So we brought it to his 606 Studios. It was such a great place to be. It’s an awesome studio and Lou the engineer is just incredible. Brad Boatright was there and Scott Hill from Fu Manchu and Greg Anderson was there. We would go out to the car and listen to on his car stereo and bring it back in. It was a great crew of people to work with. There were a lot of ears and a lot of opinions.
Is there any chance of Bl’ast! doing any shows after ‘Blood’ comes out?
I think there is. It all depends how everything goes. Hopefully, I would like to think so. You never know. It’s hard to say.
Only time will tell?