Scott Williams, Justin Gray and Kevin Collins—three-fourths of Raleigh's Double Negative—and Cross Laws guitarist and Sorry State Records owner Daniel Lupton met at my apartment Sunday last week. Amid a few beers, some "off the record" trash talking and a YouTube'd trailer for John Rambo, a very, very loose interview occurred.
Independent: How does Raleigh's current punk scene compare to the '80s scene when you were doing it the first time around?
Scott Williams: It's like comparing hot dogs from Upton Sinclair's The Jungle to the hot dogs you buy at Snoopy's. Does that make any sense? There were more freaks then. You had to be into it to be into it. Now people flirt around on it, and that's cool. It's fun, but it's ridiculous to compare. It's like asking, "What's better, World War I or World War II?" Oh yeah, there are more cell phones. As long as there is a Wi-Fi at the show, we're streaming.
The Double Negative LP is already in its second press and the Cross Laws 7-inch sold out in 48 hours. Is that mostly attributed to the Internet?
Daniel Lupton: Yeah. Before the record sold out, we had only played six or seven out-of-town shows, and those were all a week before it even came out. The only reason people knew of us was because of YouTube videos, MySpace and my Web site. As far as running a label, my only complaint is that it makes it hard to sell CDs. Vinyl still sells the same. For instance, Rabies [a Sorry State band] really wanted to do a CD, so I pressed 1,000, which is the smallest amount you can press of CDs. I've sold maybe 250 of them, but I've sold more than 800 of their LPs. I don't really care about CDs anyway.
Williams: Basically, it's fucking awesome. I can't say anything other than that. Why not? Before, you'd put out a demo and send it off, and maybe two weeks or a month later someone might write you back. Today, I was talking about the band to people in other parts of the world.
There are a lot of current punk and hardcore bands trying to recreate what they hear from late '70s and early '80s recordings. How does that compare to your recording styles?
Williams: A lot of bands will listen to those old shitty-sounding recordings and say, "We've got to sound like that," but they don't realized that those old bands were actually trying to get the best recording they could. Before, people were at the whim of an engineer in a studio that hated the music they were playing. A lot of bands trying to recreate that era don't think about how those older bands were getting fucked into having a shitty sound. If they had a choice, they would have gotten a better recording. I think you should get the best sound you possibly can and do as much with it as you possibly can.
For our LP, we actually drove up to Minimum Wage studios in Richmond and spent our time on it. It was weird to go into a real studio and record, because, before that, it was all four-track stuff, but it was great. Brandon [Ferrell of No Way Records] paid for our entire process. He even factored weed into the recording costs.
Lupton: The recording process for us was simple. I bought a four-track. It came in the mail. I brought it to the practice space, and we recorded that day. I had never owned a four-track and didn't know how to work it or anything. I just read the manual and went from there. That was our demo. I basically stopped at Radio Shack on the way and bought two microphones. That was it. And, yeah, there are definitely bands that we love and wanted to sound like, but I never really played guitar before our band, so a lot of songs—especially the earlier ones—are just power chords moved around as fast as I could possibly go. That's all I could do. What came out is what we sounded like. No one ever said, "Could you write a riff more like that Poision Idea song?" It was like, "That's the riff you got." We just now got to the threshold where any other approach is even a consideration. Before, if I found two riffs that went together, it was a song. If I didn't, it was a 15-second song.
Justin Gray: Stylistically, the hardcore bands that I think are really good right now are doing stuff that couldn't exist without the time in between then and now, whether they realize it or not. There are a lot of fast bands, but they wouldn't sound like they sound like now without the '90s happening in between.
What bothers you about the current state of punk, locally or nationally?
Williams: It seems like a lot of people now are too used to these house party things where they collect just enough money for the out-of-town band. They don't realize that after a while, when there are tons of people at these shows and there is real money going down, local bands pretty much get fucked each time. I mean, we've got to pay practice-space rent, we've got to put gas in the car, and we've got to buy strings and drum heads. There are people that didn't even play that night walking home after the show with $300 or $400 dollars in their pockets. That's screwy in my book, and it always has been. When I was in bands in the past, we'd play local venues and open for an out-of-town band with way less people. We never ever got paid less than $80. Now how much do we make? Zero. I just feel like local bands are getting fucked. I mean, I'd love to eat a hamburger after the show.
Lupton: With the shows that I've done, I would say that literally no one gets paid. With house shows, people think they're doing their part by donating two bucks, but that isn't the case. There are so many bands that play house shows that should be playing clubs, too. It would be nice if Raleigh had its own Bull City Headquarters ... some place like that where they didn't take any money, or they just took 50 bucks and you could give all the rest to the bands and not worry about getting a ticket. That's my biggest fear. I don't want to put on a show with three out-of-town bands and have that be the night the house gets shut down and the bands don't get any money and it's my fault. That's my worst nightmare.