Published Sep 21, 2010From hero-imitating newbies to geezers resuscitating what should rest in peace, so many bands are jumping on the crossover bandwagon lately that it's about to collapse. Thankfully, self-proclaimed "Texas all-scar thrash" outfit Pasadena Napalm Division (P.N.D.) offer this sickly scene a severe shot of aggressive, adrenaline-fuelled antibodies. Featuring members of legendary genre luminaries D.R.I., Dead Horse and Verbal Abuse/Fang, the quintet take their loaded deck of experience, shuffle things up and unleash an assault crossover hasn't felt since, well, D.R.I., Dead Horse and Verbal Abuse. At that, while this eponymous effort successfully endeavours to cut an independent swath, due to the calibre and distinctiveness of the creators, Pasadena Napalm Division harbour intimations of their predecessors. Kurt Brecht's inimitable tin ear vocal delivery gives the album a wonderful Four of a Kind slant, spurred on by the raspy guitars, abrasive drums and understatedly complex and expedient structures of Peaceful Death and Pretty Flowers. The result is a rousing, episodic union of formative hardcore's pace with thrash's crunch, creating a distinctive amalgamation aimed straight at our nostalgic hearts. Dizzyingly explosive, deftly tongue-in-cheek and dazzlingly executed, Pasadena Napalm Division aren't just a new page in the book of crossover; they're a tome.
D.R.I. and Dead Horse are an unusual pairing. Did you have to tweak anything to fit together?
Brecht: Not really. Vocally, they trusted me to lead them in the right direction; otherwise, they wouldn't have wanted me in the band. They wanted me to bring something to it and I thought I had it. Since D.R.I. haven't come out with anything for a while, I brought songs sitting around ― some old, some new and some almost last minute before the studio ― and it worked. I've never jammed with anybody other than D.R.I. before; they were my first band. There were no other bands before that, so it was interesting to jump into it, professional as they are. They made it easy and it works out pretty good.
You've never played with anyone else?
I did that one thing ["Silent Spring"] with Dave Grohl [for] Probot. P.N.D. play that live 'cause we figured nobody else does. They figured early on they don't want to play Dead Horse songs and because of that, they said it's better we don't play any D.R.I. songs either. I said we should do the Probot song. I did that song, but Grohl and I didn't get together or anything. He sent me the song, I wrote the lyrics, went to the studio and sang it over his music. Since I did that and it was easy, I figured this would work too.
It's great you don't cover your others bands; it makes P.N.D. stand on their merits.
I tell you, it was hard not do that because of the fact that I think every show we've played is headlining. It started out from the get-go like that, just like with D.R.I.; you're waiting to play all night, then when you do, you're ready to party, but everyone else is beat. For P.N.D. to headline, it was hard when we had 30 minutes of music, but we did it anyway. People started complaining: "Are you going to keep playing the same seven songs?" We had to write some more, so now we have 14 or 15. That's still only 45 minutes or so. We do have some new ones and our bass player, Bubba [Dennis], played guitar for Verbal Abuse, so he's got a catalogue of songs. Some are extremely catchy, but not our style; it'll mix in and we'll make 'em complicated. He has an almost pop punk hardcore style.
P.N.D. have an inherent hardcore/thrash mentality with passion that hasn't been around for a long time.
Yeah, it's just crossover/thrash/metal/punk ― whatever. It is similar to D.R.I., I guess. Whatever people label us, but P.N.D. have two guitars. I don't think it's that's much different from D.R.I. ― not a whole different genre of music ― just something along the same lines, isn't it?
Yeah, but a lot of that comparison comes from your unique vocal style.
I can't sing ― that's it. I just talk and scream.
Sure, but there are metal bands that can sing that don't have songs people remember for 30 years.
That's true; I found my own little niche and I'm sticking to it!
You've made quite an impact with these 15 minutes.
Thanks. We do have some more songs ready to go though. This was just supposed to be a demo, but we recorded for free at a friend's studio, then got a pro to mix and master it for us. We were like, "Man, this is better than just a demo!" It was pretty good quality, even though it wasn't a super-fancy studio.
It sounds like you were surprised with how well it turned out, but some of the best albums are recorded in sub-standard conditions.
Yeah, that's for sure; I know what you're talking about. We didn't put out some of the songs here though. We're saving them for the next release and we've got other songs recorded that we're finishing vocals on.
What about the Ramones mentality: an hour-and-a-half of music in 45 minutes?
Yeah! D.R.I. play for almost two hours. That's a lot of songs.
How exactly did members of D.R.I. meet up with members of Dead Horse to form P.N.D.?
Well, those guys are from Texas and D.R.I. started in Texas, though we moved away. I came back even when D.R.I. continued to tour; we all moved around the country and got together for shows. When Spike [Cassidy, guitarist] got sick [from cancer in 2006], he had to take a couple of years off. Those guys from Dead Horse heard that I was back in town. I'd just gotten a job working as a manager of a strip club while I was waiting for Spike to recover. They said, "C'mon over and check out our songs; we'd like you to sing on it." We got together, started jamming and it clicked. We recorded the songs, played live and started travelling a bit.
Things really did start rolling quickly.
It was pretty great, in that we didn't have to start from ground zero like D.R.I. did. [Back] then, we were happy to get a six-pack of beer and a couple of friends in ― that's how we started. It was a long time before we started making any money. Luckily, with P.N.D. and the history of the members, we started out doing well from the get-go. We did sit on this for a while, but got tired of waiting. Then Abyss came along and said they'd like to put it out so we went for it.
Since those guys came to you, when you heard the music, did you feel it naturally suited your vocal style?
One song already had vocals, with the guitar player/singer, so I copied him with my style. The other ones, he had some words but I didn't like 'em, so I changed them.
Do you support each band when playing with the other?
For sure. When D.R.I. play a show, I sell or pass out P.N.D. music and wear the shirt, get the word out ― brand recognition. Now that D.R.I. are coming around again, people are saying they bought the P.N.D. album, so it works on some level.
You have some interesting songs; I'm not surprised people dig it, spelling out the lyrics and whatnot.
Yup, there's that one, "Okra," too; it's tongue-in-cheek. We did that one, 'cause now with Facebook and MySpace, you're able to interact with your fans so quickly. Where it used to be that when someone sent you a letter, you'd get it and write back or whatever. Somebody sent us a message and said we "had to write a song about it. Nobody sings songs about okra." At practice, they told me about it and in 20 seconds we wrote the song. The way these guys write is way different than D.R.I. Not just the spontaneity, but the guitarist starts playing a riff and I don't know if he's playing some other band's song or what. Then the drummer comes in and I think, "Oh, they're just messing with an old Dead Horse song." But it's them writing a song. All of a sudden, we have two new riffs and I got to get to work writing lyrics. We don't sit down to write; it just happens.
It's a natural progression then?
Right. Three of those guys were in Dead Horse, so they're used to writing in that fashion.
Do you have any expectations for P.N.D., given that D.R.I. are still your main gig? Do the other guys?
Every band have the same dream: to put out a demo and then somebody hears it, throwing a ton of cash in your hand saying, "We want to put your album out and make you big stars." With D.R.I., our original goal was to start our own record label, like Black Flag did with SST, Minor Threat and Dischord, Dead Kennedys and Alternative Tentacles. That was our goal: the Do-It-Yourself mentality, but it would be nice if Abyss does well selling this and puts out more music. The world is way more open to us than a new band just starting out.
You are a couple of steps ahead.
Way ahead. I know 'cause I started from the beginning with D.R.I., I remember how brutal it was; I didn't want to do that all over again. Luckily, we didn't have to. When we first started, the guys said nobody has our sound. I was like, "Okay, that doesn't mean people are going to like it; it just means you sound different." People seem to like it though. (Abyss)