"Dude! Comics! Yes!": a split interview with Ryan Rockwell of Mixtapes and Nick Woods of Direct Hit!
In November of 2010, Kind of Like Records released a split 7” featuring Cincinnati’s Mixtapes and Milwaukee’s Direct Hit! Each band contributed one new song, and a cover of the other band’s new song. It was rad, and it’s unrelenting radness inspired the interview you’re about to read.
Since both bands played the same songs on the 7”, both bands were asked the exact same questions for this interview. Said questions were written under the influence of heavy caffeine binges and copious amounts of Batman: the Animated Series. The band members who answered said questions were Ryan Rockwell of Mixtapes and Nick Woods of Direct Hit!, and they answered with vigour!
Q: Let’s begin at the beginning. Who does what, and how long have your respective bands been together?
RR: Well we started writing about a year and some change ago, we played our first show in March of 2010, and right now Maura and Ryan sing and play guitar, my man 2 gun suga duga plays bass, and Kamal hits things!
NW: “Direct Hit” has technically been a band since 2007, but the group didn’t really have a steady lineup until the end of last year. Originally, it was just me, and my friends Brian and Jackson. But since around September or October of 2009, it’s been me on guitar and mic, Danny Walkowiak on drums, Robbie Schroeder on bass, and Mike Esser on guitar. We had a keyboard player for most of this past year too, but she quit a couple months ago, and before that, I think the band had three different bass players, and four different drummers… Says a lot about what a bunch of dickheads we are I guess. We’ve gotten a lot better since we first started though, I think, and everyone has brought their own perspective to the kind of music we play, and the attitude we carry ourselves with.
Q: Since this interview is about the Mixtapes/Direct Hit! split, on which both bands play one of their songs, and also cover the other band’s song, this is a split interview, with both bands being asked the exact same questions. When you first heard that idea, what was your gut response, honestly?
RR: I thought it was cool! I already liked Direct Hit’s music and we had separately talked about doing something together beforehand anyways! So when a label came and said I want to do a split with you guys, on pretty vinyl, it was perfect.
NW: The idea about the split? I was pumped as fuck. I had heard Mixtapes before when Death To False Hope posted DH#4 on their site, and I liked their music a lot. I still do. The interplay between Ryan and Maura’s voices is awesome. I haven’t heard that kind of thing in front of that kind of sound much before. But then again, I also listen to a lot of Top 40 and old hardcore, where it’s either a robot singing to me, or a bunch of dudes. Point being, I was really excited to have my band’s name next to theirs. Most bands blow; Mixtapes definitely don’t.
Q: How did you come to be involved in the split? Tell us the story. Our readers love stories!
RR: Lisa got my number from Scotty at Death To False Hope Records, and said she likes our songs a lot and wanted to do the split. There’s not much of a good story, but if you want a good story I’ll tell you one, just text me.
NW: I’m sure there’s another side to it from Lisa, but as far as I can tell, I sent her a link to our stuff on accident right after DH#3 came out. That was really when things started coming together for us in terms of how I wanted the band to sound, so I was in this mode of talking my shit up to anyone who wouldn’t punch me in the face for mentioning it. I’m pretty sure Twitter was involved somehow. Anyway, I think she heard our stuff that way at first, but I had no idea that anyone was into it at all. I figured I was just being a pest. But when DH#4 came out, Scotty from Death To False Hope Records sent us a note, asking if he could post the songs on his site for free download, where I think Lisa noticed it again, and it was a few weeks after that that she sent us a note saying she wanted to help us out with a split 7” record. None of my old bands had gotten to put any of our music on vinyl, so I was psyched out of my mind about that. But it was even more awesome when she mentioned that the other band on it was gonna be Mixtapes.
Q: And what’s your favourite thing about the other band? I mean, you must be pretty into them, to cover their song and let them near one of yours.
RR: I love Direct Hit’s energy, and for all that weed they smoke they stay energetic. They are fun to watch and the songs are just damn good!
NW: I think it’s two things. One, like I said before, the way Ryan and Maura arrange their vocal parts is really interesting for me. Maura’s got this totally delicate, kind of soft-spoken way of doing her parts, and Ryan’s voice is the exact opposite, just totally loud and atonal and nasally. For most bands, it’s usually one or the other. The fact that Mixtapes put both together makes their songs a lot more interesting from tune to tune, and gives them a lot more dynamic range than most other groups.
The second is that I just think Mixtapes is a really good band. They can actually play their parts, together, in tune, and in time. They know how to write high-energy pop music. I think if you’re a band like Monotonix or something, where the intensity of the performance is more interesting than what you’re playing, you can get away with just making noise. But it’s really rare for us in a day and age where anyone can make a great-sounding record for $100 and book a tour through MySpace that we actually get to be involved with another group that can actually play together, and write songs that you’ll remember 10 minutes later. Most bands I’ve met want to either party or get famous. We’re really fortunate to be on a record with a band like Mixtapes who actually gives a shit about the music part - I think that’s getting more and more rare.
Q: I came up with the split interview idea whilst watching the two-part Two Face origin story episodes of Batman: The Animated Series, which is kind of apt, because I live sweat… is mostly about punk rock, but a little bit about comics too! Who are your favourite Batman villains? Give reasons if you can.
RR: I’d say Scarecrow, and I don’t mean this pussified version of scarecrow some kids have come to know today. I mean the scarecrow who fucks with Batman’s head and takes him to a different world and just does crazy and scary shit to Batman. He is definitely the most terrifying villain. I’d say scarecrow followed by the Riddler!
NW: Dude! Comics! Yes!
I haven’t read Batman all that much, but I fucking LOVE The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke. The Killing Joke more probably. So I’ll just go with the Joker as my favorite Batman villain, since he’s the focus of that book. I started reading comics when I was 10 or 11, but then I got into playing guitar, and stopped for a long time. I had always read them when I was a kid for the blood and guts and sex and stuff like that, so when my brother bought me a copy of Watchmen a few years ago, it was really cool to see that comics could be about a lot more than that. The Killing Joke was one of those for me especially… I read it right after Watchmen because I wanted to get into everything that Alan Moore had done. The idea that the Joker was actually this really psychologically complex, paranoid, freaked-out guy hooked me. In a way, it’s kind of ruined superhero comics for me, because I always find myself questioning the motives of all the characters now, which is fucking ridiculous when you’re just trying to get through the first issue of Blackest Night or something. I guess that’s why I like the Joker though… He’s always got this motivation to show everyone they’re all just as fucking crazy as he is, and they just don’t know it. I think that’s a totally awesome revelation to come about in a comic book, especially from a villain.
Q: Apart from your esteemed split-mates, who are your favourite two DIY/independent bands operating right now?
RR: That’s a really hard question, if we are talking punk rock bands I’d say Dear Landlord and Banner Pilot. They write great tunes and we have had the pleasure of sharing stages and being buddies with them. The Dopamines also write some great songs but they are assholes.
Outside of the punx world I still love They Might Be Giants. They have been doing their own thing forever and I love almost every album they have put out, and I’ve been rocking a lot of the new Jesse Malin album. I love it.
NW: Two groups: Masked Intruder, and Devon Kay & The Solutions. Neither of them have material out yet, but they will soon, and you’ll shit yourself when you hear it.
Q: Which band, in your opinion, recorded the best second album of all time?
RR: These questions are hard. All of them are the kind where I will write an answer then later second guess it, but just for the first thing that comes to my head when I saw that I would say either Weezer Pinkerton or Counting Crows Recovering The Satellites. I think they both did exactly what you wouldn’t expect for a second album that follows a hugely successful first album, and I think they both rule. I like the Counting Crows album better though and I don’t even care what any of you have to say about it.
NW: Pinkerton, by Weezer. I’m sure you get that a lot. Also, just for the record, Weezer is an absolutely fucking terrible, awful, joke of a band now that needs to break up as badly as Metallica does so they quit fucking ruining the great memories that I still have of them. That being said, Pinkerton is without question, I think, Weezer’s best album, even though they wrote some pretty classic tunes before that. Can someone please explain to me how to make drums sound like that? Please? That whole album sounds totally raw, and totally gigantic at the same time - Just four dudes thrashing their instruments. You can seriously FEEL the angst coming off of Rivers Cuomo, and it’s a totally self-aware angst, making it all the worse. I always felt like I could tell he knew all of the songs were total emoey bummers, but if he didn’t let them out he’d kill himself, so he made up for the emo by yelling a lot more, and making everyone else in the band hit their shit a lot harder. That tension carries throughout the whole album. All of my favorite records are like that - The ones that sound like something bad is going to happen if you turn them off. But most bands pull out those kinds of stops either on their debut, or their last record - Weezer’s the only group I know of that did it on the second one.
Q: Can you name three sequels that are better than the originals?
RR: Of course I can, the Land Before Time 2, 3 and 4. If that doesn’t count I like Die Hard 3 better than one, not by a whole lot because one is so good, but 3 is probably my favorite movie, 2 isn’t that good but I let it pass. So since technically 3 is a sequel to the second one then that for sure is.
NW: 28 Weeks Later, The Dark Knight, and Jackass 2. 28 Weeks Later has the best opening scene in a zombie movie of all time. The Dark Knight was the best movie in 2008. And Jackass 2 is better than Jackass just because it’s a lot grosser, more violent and more intense. I always felt like those dudes really upped the coke intake with that one.
Q: Are these ‘two’ themed questions getting silly yet?
RR: Not really, I am enjoying them so far, WHY AREN’T THERE MORE?!
NW: Hell no! If you keep asking good questions, you can use the word “two” all you want.
Q: What’s next for you, as a band, and as individuals?
RR: Well we just released our new EP/7 inch called A Short Collection Of Short Songs, so please go get it! www.animalstylerecords.com After you get the split, then this month we are recording another split and working on our full length, and have a lot of cool shows coming up. As people we just pretty much party.
NW: I try not to think about it too much. I’m having a lot of fun now, and I’ll ruin it by worrying about what’s gonna happen down the line. As far as stuff that I know is gonna happen. We have a split 7” coming out on glow-in-the-dark vinyl with our friends from Delaware, Tit Patrol, that should be released sometime this spring. We start recording our full-length album in a few weeks, which is going to have the 10 best songs from DH#1-#5 on it. We don’t have a label for that one yet though, so we’re not sure when it’s gonna come out. And we’ll be on tour for a little bit this summer, probably in the northeast U.S.
As far as personal stuff… I’m a grad student, Danny’s an EMT, Robbie works construction, and Mike runs a pizza shop. We’re all busy. Really wish this whole “rock band” thing would pay enough so that we could quit. None of us are holding our breaths though.
Q: Lisa at Kind of Like Records is pretty awesome, don’t ya reckon? She sent us the record for free, so we think she’s awesome! What was your experience of working with her and the label?
RR: Every day I tried to make her experience as difficult as I possibly could, and I would think of new and exciting ways to do that every day!
NW: Hell yeah she’s awesome! I’ve got nothing but great things to say about Lisa. She made getting this record out really easy, and she did so at great personal expense. Fuck lucrative, it’s not even CHEAP to put out a release, especially from a band like ours that not many people cared about at the time. She’s done a lot to let people know we exist.
Q: Where can our readers find out more about all of you and what you do?
RR: I suppose our MySpace or Facebook, but really just listen to our songs or come watch us, it gets REAL personal.
NW: You can download free music from us at http://directhit.bandcamp.com, and find us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/directhitband. We have a MySpace page too, but that site sucks. Don’t go there.
Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
RR: I enjoy the television shows Prison Break and Sons Of Anarchy immensely. I’m real stoked on Portal 2. I drink a lot of diet pop, or soda, depending on what you call it.
NW: Ryan Rockwell likes ICP.
(Photos were robbed off the band’s own MySpace and Facebook pages. If you were the photographer for either, have a word at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll remove your work/pop a credit up for ya, - Andy)