At The Drive-In

 

 

 

What happens when you mix a small spark and gasoline? It erupts in a blaze, consuming everything in its path. This sums up At the Drive-In on so many levels. Their live set is the biggest surge of energy you'll find anywhere. Not only that, but listening to ATDI on record is like listening to an explosion of creativity caught directly on tape. And to say that their word of mouth popularity is spreading like wild fire doesn't even begin to tell the story of how they are burning up the country with their genius. Will and Richard had the esteemed honor of sitting down with Cedric (vocals) and Omar (guitar) for a little chat on August 19, 2000 in Pittsburgh, PA and here is how it went down:

L&I: Have the new songs been going over well live?

Cedric: Yeah, I think some people are into it. I think some people want to study it first, which isn't normal with me. But actually, it's kind of cooler when people are studying it because they're not beating each other up over it.

Omar: Yeah! It's cool that they're listening to it and not like, "Grrryeah!! Fuck all of you!!" (Laughs)

When you were writing for "Relationship of Command" did you have any kind of goals, like to change the sound at all?

C: No. We had planned to do a little more electronic stuff but we didn't have the time to fuck around with all our new toys we got, so we just kind of rushed through it.

O: It's more like a rock record.

C: Yeah, there are occasional instances where we experimented like on Vaya, but it's just a straight rock record.

More like In/Casino/Out?

C: Yeah, exactly. It's very Casino in that sort of way. There's still drum machine stuff on there; like one song is mainly drum machine then the chorus is real drums. And there's some piano and keyboard thrown in.

How long did it take you to record it? Did it take you a month?

C: It took two months, actually, to record it. And then to write it, it took like six weeks time; like a pre-production type deal. Two songs were written in the studio, like day by day we fucked with shit there. The last song on the album and a song called "Enfilade" were written in the studio.

 

Did you write a lot of it on the road?

C: One of them we wrote in Germany when we got stuck---

Do the places on the road help inspire the writing process?

C: Totally, we were in the eastern part of Germany, in Dresden. The guy had left us there all night. He said, "Yeah you can play if you want." Then he locked up the club, and we had all our equipment on. We just developed it from there.

When you recorded In/Casino/Out, it was live. Did you do the new one like that?

C: We did a lot of it live then we overdubbed a lot of stuff to it. On "Casino" there aren't a lot of overdubs because we were like, short on time, in a low-budget studio, and all that stuff. So on this one everything is initially a live track and caught live because we were all in the same room, and that included Ross [Robinson], who was the producer.

Did the producer have any influence on you?

O: Not on the sound.

C: Not on the sound, he pretty much just brought out what we do live more. He wanted us to do what we do live. In essence he just recorded that.

Yeah, it sounds like the old sound but with a lot more energy.

O: Yeah, that's Ross.

When you all record do you do the same stuff you do live, like jump around?

C: Yeah, we do. When we recorded Casino we couldn't really do that 'cause we were all separated into different rooms. But on this one, we were all in the same room, and Ross really wanted us to do our live thing so the recording would reflect that.

Are you guys playing on Conan O'Brien?

C: Yeah. We're going on Conan on the thirty-first of October.

How did that come about?

C: Um... we really don't know! (Laughing)

Yeah, we just heard about it and we were like, "What the fuck?! That's awesome!" Do you know what you're going to play yet?

C: We're not decided yet.

Are you going to do the same stuff, like the normal live kind of set?

C: Yeah.

O: Yeah, we're not compromising.

C: Totally. We're pretty inspired by The Who and you know, stuff like that that have come across on television, like Fear...

(Will & Cedric in tandem): On Saturday Night Live!

C: Exactly. Bands just being themselves.

O: I mean, we're not out to please anybody.

C: We are going to do what we do, you know?

You've been playing some big shows lately, like with Rage Against the Machine and the Foo Fighters. Which do you prefer, the smaller shows or bigger ones?

C: Smaller ones.

O: Smaller ones with a good sound system and...

C: Good sized stage. Nothing too lavish. I mean this [Club Laga in Pittsburgh, PA] is pretty big but it's still pretty intimate. I was talking to somebody and he said it didn't sound good, it sounded too "rock stadium." And it's like, "It's a good system, man." He OBVIOUSLY didn't know what he was talking about... But those other shows are necessary. I've said it time and time again; they're necessary to pull in those kids that just watch TV and they don't know a damn thing about...to them, the quote unquote "scene" ...I mean they don"t even know what that is. We're used to being the fucking scene!

When the Rhyme and Reason tour resumes are you still going to play on it?

C: Definitely.

O: And we"ll still be playing our own shows.

Yeah. I saw the thing on your message board about how people were accusing you of selling out.

C: Those kids that are griping... they know better! They know that we do this, like all year long. I wouldn't go pay fifty bucks, either; I would wait until they played some small club, you know?

 

O: And any of them know that last year when we toured with Rage, we had played the same cities a couple weeks before, the exact same cities. So it's not like they didn't have a chance to see us for like five or ten dollars just a couple weeks before.

Were you at all nervous when you played the big shows? Or do you not worry about it?

C: It was a little nerve-wracking. It's just like the first day of high school with those audiences. It's tough; really hard, but necessary. Maybe some of our friends overseas disagree with us. Maybe some of our friends close to the band disagree with that, but you know I think it's a necessary thing to do. But it is hard. It's very hard. But that's what punk is.

O: You've got to challenge yourself, you know? We always use the phrase...we were just talking with someone about this the other night..."preaching to the converted." You can go play to five hundred people who know who you are and love your songs, but there's no challenge there. As opposed to going to play to a bunch of people who are flipping you off. And then there's two people who get it.

Are you going to put any more movies on your site?

C: Yeah, lot's more. We fuck around a lot with that shit.

You should pursue an acting career.

(Everyone laughs)

I love the Obsession one.

O: You know the fucked up thing? There was this one kid in Spain who thought one of them was real, like the rock star one where I'm wearing a scarf. He's all, (In a European accent)"So in America, do people really treat you like that?" I'm like, "It's a fucking joke, man!"

I just wanted to know who does the great Christopher Walken impression on your answering machine on the webpage?

O: Jim. That was really funny.

C: We were watching The Funeral and what was it, The Suicide Kings?

O: And then that bad one, The Prophecy came on.

C: So we were on a Christopher Walken kick forever. He's a bad ass.

On the albums you use more English words in the titles, but on the EP's the titles are more Spanish, like Vaya and El Gran Orgo. Do you all do that intentionally?

C: Um, it's kind of been a conscious effort. Totally.

O: Half and half, you know?

C: That's our roots showing through. Yeah, it was definitely a conscious effort.

If you all were still together when you're sixty, if you still play like you do now, how many hips would you go through in a month?

C: Yeah, we'd need a fucking, uh...

O: We'd need a freaking osteoporosis concession stand. (Laughing)

C: We'd need like Being John Malkovich. We'd need to jump into other people's bodies. I don't think our bodies will be able to take it at that age at all.

How long do you plan on doing this?

C: As long as I can. I'm having fun.

Do you all still have a really good time together?

O: Yeah. If we didn't we wouldn't be together. We're not the type of band that's gonna stay together and hate each other and keep playing music. There's no point.

C: We're not trying to milk it. We're just trying to uh...I just want to have fun for as long as I can.

 

Where do you all get a lot of your inspiration for your lyrics? Like there's a lot of space stuff...

C: Some of the stuff from "Casino" is from Event Horizon.

Oh really?

C: Yeah. You know, Twilight Zone episodes. I'm a big fan of Dr. Who, from England, you know, which is like a total geek show. He's just like a time traveler guy, and they had those police call bots. I like stuff like that.

My dad loves that show.

C: (Laughs) And in El Paso. Some the song titles for the old songs are street names in El Paso or some writers from El Paso. Some Boroughs in there, you know, stuff like that.

Like "Napoleon Solo" is from...

C: U.N.C.L.E. Yeah, the title doesn't fit in with the song, but that's where the title comes from. "Napoleon Solo" is the name of the man from U.N.C.L.E.

What's that song about?

C: It's about two friends of ours that passed away in a really bad car crash. It was on March 23rd and we were on our way from Austin to New Orleans. They were road tripping and their friend fell asleep at the wheel, and they got shot out of the truck and passed away. They were seventeen years old. One of the bands tonight that's playing, The Rhythm of Black Lines, two of them used to play with a band that I used to play with those two girls. We got the call in New Orleans as we were about to play on stage.

Oh really?

C: Yeah, right about to play. Jim wasn't in the band back then so he called to let us know. It was like...we had played three songs and we couldn't play the rest of the set. There was a heckler in the crowd, which...it was a really weird show. Which to me was like New Orleans was like the armpit. It was not a good show. We were really far away from home. That's what it's about. It's just commemorating their lives.

 

Make sure you check out At the Drive-In's new album, Relationship of Command, on Grand Royal Records.

Special thanks to Trevor Silmser and Paul Drake for setting this interview up.

Pictures By Richard Bond

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