Dec 26, 2012, 01:54AM

This Is Not Some Sort of Poetry Music

An interview with members of Ohio rock unit Scarcity Of Tanks.

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If asked to explain Scarcity Of Tanks to someone with a taste for experimental American music who’d never heard the band, I would begin by talking about a particular Sonic Youth song, “In The Kingdom #19.” You know: the flailing, ripcord riffs, the spoken narrative courtesy of Lee Ranaldo, the glider-outta-control spree of the whole affair, but then also the nuanced theatrics of the whole thing. I would say something like: “Go listen to that song again. Now I’d like you to imagine a band building an ethos around the idea of a song like this, only without the schizophrenic rhythms, linear narrative, firecrackers being hurled into studio vocal booths. The lineup varies from album to album, and the front man has a decidedly black-comedic sense of humor, and he sings in a code that’s open to a variety of interpretations. Can you picture that? Are you down with it? Then Scarcity Of Tanks is for you, and you are now in my debt.”

From the doom funk of No Endowments to the lurching noise grooves of NZ Metals to how Sensational Grade’s A+ rock through to the just-released Ohio Captives, the SOT sound is in a constant state of metamorphosis while remaining recognizably definitive, an endless baseline-coastline of roiling, probing electric blues as expressive and depthless as a Francisco Goya painting—anchored by Matthew Wascovich’s impressionistic non-sequiturs, punch line/joke combinations that bring to mind Mitch Hedberg at his best. These guys should garner way more acclaim than they currently receive. Next year, they plan to issue three more albums via Wascovich’s Total Life Society Records; maybe that’ll help get the ball rolling.

I interviewed members of SOT over several months earlier this year.

SPLICE TODAY: How and when did Scarcity Of Tanks get its start, and what inspired the name?

MATTHEW WASCOVICH: I had been contemplating this idea of having a group like SOT for years. At first, the sound was completely improvised and primarily non-rock, sound-art but with a working class ethos, anti-authority, and non-academic kind of stuff. The group is fairly steady now with its line-ups. It’s not people just jumping in with me as it’s sometimes wrongly reported.

I really liked bands and artists such as The Stooges, Suicide, the electric eels (always lowercase), ONO, Kneecappers, Easter Monkeys, Sun City Girls, JFA, Big Boys, Dicks, The Ex, Saccharine Trust, Wipers, X-Blank-X, The Flying Luttenbachers, Dead Moon, Slovenly, Minutemen, The Dead C, Mirrors—no “The”; early 1970s band from Cleveland and were started by Andrew Klimeyk’s brother, Jamie Klimek—Bill Orcutt, Albert Ayler, Druid Perfume, Paul Flaherty, The Red Krayola, Porest, CRIME, Terminal Lovers, Cellular Chaos: intelligent, dark, honest, and aggressive music but not snobby in their approaches and aesthetics; an ugly beauty notion. I don't think so much about these groups when writing but I listen to music and read all the time. I am sure that it affects me. I’m really into rock music but I need to hear other kinds of music to stay excited about sound. I guess staying in one genre is cool on certain levels—the commitment to a certain way of doing things—but I need to listen to many types of music. Raymond, as you know, there is so much great music that’s been made and I’m glad that you are giving me space to mention stuff that I enjoy.

I was playing a lot of different sorts of music trying to figure things out. I was attempting to find my way. The idea to start Scarcity Of Tanks was actualized during the summer of 2004 and we played many local and out-of-town shows of various qualities right from the start. While this was going down for a few years, I focused in on what I wanted the group's sound to be, which then developed into the current version of the group.

SOT is a rock group. I don't want SOT to get watered down by trying to do too much in terms of different musical styles. This is why I say that we are a rock group with tendencies to do things beyond three-chord progressions and other traditional rock forms and techniques. We structure our songs as much as we like to and take it from there. It is a disciplined, experienced method and we are fairly critical of each other’s playing and ideas. There is importance placed on the vocals but that’s only one facet of the music. This is not some sort of poetry music as has been foisted on us. I usually have a fairly steady unit in Cleveland to practice with, but I still enlist people from other cities to do gigs and make albums. I must always move forward. Fortunately, the members of the group continue to get better and better, and we are able to meet my goals of making music that is vital.

The name, Scarcity Of Tanks, came from a poem. I can't quite remember the context of the piece but I thought it was an open-ended and intriguing name for a group. As the years go by, there seems to be an aptness to the name that is hard to pin down. Also, it looks better when the "O" is capped. 

ST: In terms of fiction and poetry, what authors and genres are you drawn to as a reader? There's a lot of abstract storytelling in your lyrics/vocal performance, where the meanings aren't necessarily exact but the energy and emotion are there to indicate that you're directing the listener somewhere.

MW: I read a fair amount of non-fiction and fiction but I’m not an intellectual. To name a few, I enjoy the prose of Michael DeCapite, Raymond DeCapite, Donari Braxton, Hubert Selby Jr., Arthur Nersesian, and Lauren Naylor. I read the poetry of Chris Yarmock, Tom Kryss, Alex Gildzen, Valerie Webber, Cesar Vallejo, Priscilla Becker, and Jack Brewer. I’ve always appreciated when people recommended books, musicians, and artists to me. It’s great to keep hearing new things, or to hear stuff again that maybe you didn’t feel or understand the first time around. The best music and books take a committed amount of time. I’ve noticed that there are many bands and writers that I did not like upon first listen or read and eventually came around. The best work takes time to soak in. Or so it seems.

I've always paid attention to lyrics in music. I can remember trying to figure out Beatles’ lyrics when I was four years old. I’d listen to Simon & Garfunkel and Johnny Mathis records in my house or whatever was being played on the radio at time. For example, the lyrics of Alan and Richard Bishop and Charlie Gocher of Sun City Girls are some of the best lyrics anywhere. There’s many great lyricists but to name a few for your readers I’d point out: Mark Stewart of The Pop Group, G.W. Sok of The Ex, Jennifer Herrema of Black Bananas, Alan Vega of Suicide, Eugene Robinson of Oxbow, Daniel Higgs of Lungfish, Lizzi Bougatsos of Gang Gang Dance, Chris Yarmock of Easter Monkeys, Admiral Grey of Cellular Chaos, James Jackson Toth of Wooden Wand, Chris Desjardins of The Flesh Eaters, Michael Gira of SWANS, Brandon Chic Dagger of The Plain Dealers, James Dalgleish of Slug Guts, Nik Void of Factory Floor—they all write raw, believable, cutting lyrics that intrigue me.

My lyrics mostly come directly from experiencing day-to-day life. I might sing something obtuse, or vague in its meaning, but that keeps it open to interpretation. If things get too literal, then the lyrics can get really boring quick, so I avoid doing so when possible. When Mayo Thompson sings about "Vile, Vile, Grass"—I have no idea what Mayo really means by that but I think it sounds great and I really like that line. Or how about Mike Watt singing in his song called “Search”, “son of a martyr/son of a father/you can look inside you/you can look inside me/you can put it together/you can pull it apart/you relapse unconscious/you don't remember”—great lyrics that I can feel.

Watt writes good lyrics. If you examine Mike’s words—and D. Boon’s words, too—in Minutemen, they are brief blasts of observations and ideas that, when coupled with D. Boon and George Hurley’s guitar and drums parts, and Watt’s expressive bass, made for great songs. It was a unique approach to songwriting and I still listen to those albums today. The same thing could be said of Jack Brewer with Saccharine Trust. Jack had these heart-felt, complex words mixed with the jagged and cryptic ST music. It’s amazing that both of those bands were coming up with these great songs all in the San Pedro, Wilmington, Long Beach part of southern California. I like that part of the U.S. Those guys were far from the hip, Los Angeles vibe and I think that it may have helped make their bands get better. Brewer did a lot of music other than Saccharine Trust. He had the Jack Brewer Band that still sometimes plays as the Jack Brewer Reunion Band. They put out two albums that are great. Also, Jack did two records with Bazooka that are absolutely fucking killer. Jack still plays music today with The Exxtras and Saccharine Trust. He’s sung live with SOT and we have that big group together called Toothless Grin; we’ve almost finished the first album.

Back to songwriting. Of course, if you write things to be tricky, or pretend it's a game—to be dumb in your approach—that bores me as well. It's a fine line to write about real things in an interesting, universal way. I think that irony is fairly lame. Life is real enough. I think that Brewer and Watt succeeded in balancing the real and universal in their songs. Also, both these guys prove that rock and roll is not just a young person’s game. Watch and listen to Saccharine Trust or Watt’s stuff nowadays—it’s great music and not a nostalgia trip. Watt’s last album, Hyphenated-Man, was great and I know for a fact that Saccharine Trust has a bunch of new songs recorded that no one has put out. Hopefully, some label will step up and do ST’s current music justice. It’s fucked up that Saccharine Trust’s back catalog seems to be out-of-print. 

ST: The Vega connection with your lyricism is immediate, for sure: that sense of the speaker navigating through uncertain, un-sequenced ideas and emotions, hurtling the listener deeper into mystery. 

MW: Vega and Rev of Suicide made great albums with staying power. I like all their albums for different reasons. I hope that they do another one. The last album, American Supreme, was challenging, gross, and demanding of attention. Those guys are the real deal. Also, their solo work is fantastic. I should clarify since you are asking me a lot about other bands and writers. All this stuff—music, books, living—it serves to affect and inspire. In Scarcity Of Tanks, we are not trying to ape, or mimic, anyone else. We are trying to get a group of people together, to let our chemistry influence each other and make great songs.

It can get annoying when people box SOT into this, “they sound like this band” sort of thing, but I understand why this happens. SOT has been compared to other bands that I’ve never even listened to in my life. I have to remain aloof to this stuff. It’s futile to complain when this occurs. I just keep working on our music and try to write good songs. I think that rock and roll is still a compelling form. It’s not to be brushed aside as a lesser kind of music. And if it does get brushed aside, then I couldn’t care less. 

ST: How does a Scarcity Of Tanks song usually take shape? Do they come together through collaborative improvising—meaning vocals and music en masse—or do the players work out elements separately and bring them together in puzzle-piece fashion?

MW: We employ all approaches when composing our songs. Sometimes a riff or beat starts it off and then we jam it over and over and tighten it up. One way to look at it is that maybe you want a line drawing, or maybe you want a full-on painting. Things can be sparse and primitive, or things can take on a dynamic and complex kind of form. In other instances, I'll have a structure mapped out with words and we create music to support this structure. We nearly always have logic to our forms. It might not be: verse/chorus/verse/chorus/bridge/—but it's there. We rarely just wing it but there’s a place for that, of course. We are not going to wank off with the music, or vocals, in an ego-stroke kind of way.

Again, there's a discipline within the music that comes from experience and taste. The last two albums (Vulgar Defender, Fear Is Not Conscience) have a lot of openness in the songs but those players were completely intentional in their choices of what they were playing. Ohio Captives largely had vocals and music written together but there were a couple of songs in which we wrote music first. A cool thing about Scarcity Of Tanks and how the albums come together is that since I involve a lot of different people, I’m always learning and experiencing new ways to write and perform the songs. So far, things have stayed fresh by doing it this way. 

ST: What I've found, and liked, is that SOT songs always feel surprising without feeling undisciplined, if that makes any sense.

MW: Yes, that makes complete sense to me. It helps keep the songs alive. Some songs, if played always the same way, they may lose their zest to me. Of course, there are songs that no one wants to change and they stay great forever. For example, Elvis or Dead Moon tunes—if you started improvising or changing those songs, then I think that would sound sort of wack. Right now we are writing a SOT album to be recorded at Suma Studio with Paul Hamann in November called Garford Mute that will be released in 2013. We are writing the forms for each song and the point recently came up that we want a disciplined approach but we don’t want a tight-ass, count-each-measure sort of method. We are older and experienced enough to be able to play with musical intuition. This helps keep us into the music that we are creating. Things can lose their life if played too precisely. Garford Mute should be a good album with Tom Herman on guitar, Scott Krauss on drums, Steve Mackay on sax, Andrew Klimeyk on guitar, Weasel Walter on guitar and bass, Rich Raponi on bass and guitar, and me doing vocals.

WEASEL WALTER: Well, the songwriting process is a culmination of the idiosyncrasies and predilections of whomever are in the group at the time. I think Matt tends to pick musicians that have reputations for getting results, historically. Ha ha ha. Basically we all throw around the ball and see what happens. The bar tends to be set somewhat high most of the time. It is a rock band, however, so that crude spark will always be in there somewhere.

ST: How did your label, Total Life Society, come to be? Future plans?

MW: Total Life Society is a direct result of pragmatism. Doing it all yourself is still the best way to go with your art. I’ve been running small book labels since 1987. Not much has really changed. I want control of things. Here’s the hard truth to those that don’t know about the music industry behind the scenes. I want more than a small percentage of copies of a run of my albums. I don’t want some person telling me to change the music or change the cover art. I’ll play only gigs that I want to play. I play as often, or as infrequently, as I want to. I’ll release no albums for the first three plus years of the group and then put out three albums all in the same year. I want control when possible. Control of what you are doing is valuable. Total Life Society was started to put out Scarcity Of Tanks’ albums. I have a bunch of other groups that I’ve talked to about releasing their work but I have to do it right. There’s nothing worse than mediocre execution of things and having high standards is the only way. For the curious, check out these labels releasing great music such as ugEXPLODE, Trd Wrd, Abduction, Sublime Frequencies, Sham Palace, Young God, My Dance The Skull, Fusetron, Biological, Textile, Tombstone, Hazelwood, Siltbreeze, Ba Da Bing, Scat, Fusetron, Fire, Neurot, Mississippi and Carbon for a start.

We released Ohio Captives in September. I plan to have two or three SOT albums to be released in 2013. I have live SOT that is well recorded and there’s unused studio work from the last eight years. Maybe it will come out if there’s interest? Also, I started a new group called Obedient Skull with Cleveland guys Scott Pickering on drums, Dave Cintron on guitar, Jeff Deasy on bass, and I’ll do vocals. We plan to record this winter and that album will come out in 2013. Obedient Skull is still rock music but perhaps a little less out-there than Scarcity Of Tanks with aggressive yet melodic tunes. The practices are going really well and all the guys in Obedient Skull have played in Scarcity Of Tanks, so there’s an established chemistry. I’m the youngest guy in the group at age 40, so the group’s got maturity and experience on our side. 

ST: Are you a fan of Guided By Voices and/or Robert Pollard, at all?

MW: Yes! I have been a fan of GBV since the early 1990s. I was living in Dayton, Ohio for a few years and remember getting their first EP (Forever Since Breakfast) from a friend. When Propeller and Bee Thousand came out, I was really impressed with the whole group. Their songs were weird and damaged but melodic. Bob is able to sing great phrases in a deceptively gnarly and pretty way. That’s really hard to do. In rock and roll, there’s only so much room to phrase something and you need to keep it fairly basic to fit the meter of the line. That’s probably why I have to sing-speak certain things because I have too many fucking words. But Bob’s lyrics are not the typical shit. He’s got a good voice and good mind for singing non-trite things. Also, he always has great players surrounding him and they all work hard at making strong albums. I saw GBV play in Cleveland last month with Cobra Verde, and both groups were excellent. I keep up with as many releases as possible from Pollard. I’m definitely part of the camp that thinks Pollard being prolific is necessary. I know that he works hard on his music and he’s a very determined guy. Petkovic and I took him to one of our favorite biker bars called Little Kings Lounge in Cleveland and they were singing The Who and David Bowie songs until Bobby passed out. It was a fun time.  

ST: I brought up GBV for geographic reasons and because they're similar to SOT in the sense of being a strong, prolific band with the same lead singer and a rotating membership. There's also workingman's stolidity to the songwriting in each case. Also, and I'm not sure why, whenever I listen to SOT I think of blacksmiths, welders, and carpenters: tradesmen of all kinds, the kind of workers unions once served well. It's as if you're carrying on a dying tradition in your own way.

MW: That’s an interesting response that you have to SOT and GBV. Many of the men and women in SOT have either working class background or jobs—even those with more white-collar jobs tend to have grown up poor. Many of us are at odds with those that we grew up with or seen as oddball fuck-ups for doing what we do, especially as we get older. If you come from a non-wealthy background, to be playing original music, essentially at a loss of money, for this long seems to be a bad decision. But lately I’ve noticed much more workingmen and workingwomen enjoying the group. It’s one of the reasons that I still believe in the CD. Most people do not have a record player but they do have a CD player. It’s one of the reasons that I insist on putting out high-quality CDs. This is a way to still be heard.

When I drink at these bars in my hood, there are people that have SOT CDs who are 50 to 70 years old and listen to our songs who don’t know anything about underground, or punk, or avant bar band music. They are listening to Rush, Van Halen, late “Mama”-era Genesis, Frank Sinatra, Polka music—or contemporary country—a fairly different scene than SOT. But they will ask me what the lyrics are and what they mean and will listen to the music and claim to be into it. If I had only put out vinyl, then these types of people would not have heard our group, and that bothers me. It would cut them off from accessing our music and I do want people to hear our work. 

SPLICE TODAY: Is there a catharsis, for you, in SOT lyric writing and delivery? Sometimes, particularly with Ohio Captives, I get this sort of secondhand or vicarious charge as I hear you lob these verses and bits of dialogue home. The effect can be akin to listening to someone else engaged in private, idiosyncratic communion with the larger universe.

MW: There might be catharsis from writing the lyrics for SOT but I don’t really know. There is a large amount of personal meaning in my lyrics that is often hidden in deliberate ways for reasons that I will keep to myself. Some things are literal and happened to me. Some things I’ve witnessed. Also, most writers know that if you open yourself up, words can come out that only reveal their meaning as time ticks on. I’ve written lyrics before that I couldn’t really get a grip on as to what they meant only to realize years later what may have been going on. It’s kind of bizarre but it happens. The subject matter on Ohio Captives deals with tough subjects and a few of those songs were very difficult to write, record, and now perform. I mean, is it a release of tension when playing the hard songs, or does it make it worse to keep reliving it? I don’t have any firm answer to this. In fact, there are certain questions that will never have definitive answers. For example, questions that are not simply questions of practical matters like how get to a particular place, or how to cook a certain food, or how to fix the van when it breaks down. Questions that have to do with the whys behind art work or why things happen—those questions really can’t be truly answered. Of course, many people try to pretend to have the answers.

ST: I have a lot of similar experiences, where I'm writing poetry with the aim of being totally objective and outside of myself, and then later it occurs to me that the poems are directly reflective of inner tumult; not that it's immediately obvious to the average reader what that tumult is, but I know, and it can feel a little unsettling, as though I've outsmarted myself somehow. To the extent you feel comfortable talking about it, what's the core arc or narrative behind Ohio Captives? The title presents the state, to my interpretation, as a prison of sorts.

MW: An album is a snapshot in time and not a final statement. I don’t do theme-based albums or albums in which the meaning is completely worked out and evident. With regard to Ohio Captives, there are common ideas presented such as cruelty, abuse, addiction, expectations, beauty, love/hate, madness, deception, poverty, and so on—things may or may not be obvious to the listener. The songs on the album are logical and cohesive to me based on my likes and my vision for the album. I use my intellect and emotion when it comes to choosing what will be on each album. From start to finish, Ohio Captives, probably took nearly a year to write and then to be released. I was mainly in Ohio during this time. Ohio Captives is an apt title because everyone on this album lives in Cleveland and we recorded it here in Cleveland. The songs are not Ohio-specific, but maybe there is an Ohio feel to it? I don’t know. I don’t think about things in these terms. I don’t really agree with saying that there is a regional sound, whether it is Cleveland, Manchester, Los Angeles, Brisbane, or Washington DC—to me this is the attitude of marketing—and I’m not in this to solely sell a product. As John "Broken Hand®" Morton said to me once, this is about art and not some hustle to pull the hood over one’s eyes.

Back to the notion of sound and place, I don’t mean this to sound snobby, but I don’t think that there’s a current group in Cleveland, or Ohio, that sounds like Scarcity Of Tanks. So how could we represent a current Cleveland, or Ohio, sound? I think that there is a SOT sound that becomes evident over these last six albums or through our live shows. I surely didn’t try to make an “Ohio” record or anything. It’s a SOT sound and not some regional Cleveland/Ohio sound. In terms of being a “captive,” I think that we are captives to things all the time. So that part of the title is more universal and thus everyone is in a prison, I guess. 

ST: Andrew, John, and Walter, how and when did you begin working with Scarcity Of Tanks? How would you characterize the band's mission?

ANDREW KLIMEYK: I started working with Scarcity Of Tanks in January of 2007, by which time the band had been in operation for several years. Matthew actually invited me to be part of a new grouping, with Ted Flynn and Scott Pickering, that would be more rock- and song-oriented. I had known Ted for years, and had played with Scott previously, with him on sampling keyboards rather than his more customary drums. That line-up gelled rather well, and some of our earliest recordings became part of the first SOT album. We played out soon after, and started mixing more recognizable songs into our improvisations, which were of the direct and powerful sort, rather than anything particularly tentative or exploratory.

As far as the band's mission, I would say that we strive to play things that are accurate, though not necessarily journalistic, depictions of ourselves and our time and place. Personally, I have been very happy to be working with a variety of committed and serious (though not pretentious) players, and Matthew.

WW: Mr. Wascovich approached me to help him work on the first record years ago. He was so charming, how could I resist? I basically helped out with production and did some wacky overdubs and that was that. I think Matt is trying to foster a global community of musical renegades and outcasts that resonate with his own sensibilities. He's interested in the past, present and future in equal regards, so often the ensembles reflect this. I think he's just trying to find cool music to issue his edicts over.

JOHN PETKOVIC: I did my first show with Scarcity Of Tanks in 2006 and had no idea what to do. And by that I mean I had no idea what I was going to do or what I was supposed to do. I played an old Roland monophonic synth and a Les Paul guitar, with the approach to both instruments being the same: What I was doing was contingent on where things were going and the other people in the band.

Some call that “jamming” or “improvisation,” and maybe that's what it is, but the members of the group are often very different from one another. So there's more of a counterpoint approach than free-flowing approach. In some ways, it's jamming in opposition. More recently, I've been involved in the more song-oriented output, coming up with parts and song structures on one record and adding overdubs on another. In the case of the more recent record, Ohio Captives, the role is more traditional, about adding harmonies and melodies to what's already there. This approach is more about adding musicality than jamming in opposition. But they both fit into the mission of Scarcity Of Tanks, which, to be honest, is more about bringing disparate voices together than having a mission, per se.

ST: I like that: "jamming in opposition." Is there any difficulty in being part of an ensemble that changes slightly from album to album? Is it tricky to make those sorts of adjustments?

JP: Not really, because Matt usually has people with strong musical personalities. Also, while the personnel changes, it seems that the people come from a similar background and shared references and approaches. Otherwise, the changes from record to record would be more drastic than you find, which is something I find interesting. Maybe that's part of the “mission” you initially asked about, an underlying idea that brings some commonality to all the records, despite the different personnel. Except I don't think it's a conscious mission; it's a matter of responding to what is going on in the room, often in real time. And that's the difference between, say, “jamming in opposition” and if he were to get someone in with a totally different set of references.

To jam in opposition is different because you know the point of the person next to you—you are aware of what they are doing and where they are going—and you can provide a counterpoint to it. You can answer someone, or even engage in a debate or argument, if you know the language they are speaking.

WW: There's always a certain degree of improvisation involved, i.e. okay, we have these guys and we need to get something done, so how do we do this? Most of the people in the band are up to the challenge. Matt has a sense for balance in the groups. It's a bit alchemical, but he follows his instincts. There has never seemed to be any major problems musically.

ST: Walter, you’ve mastered all the Scarcity Of Tanks' albums and Matthew often talks about your importance, on many levels, to the group. Can you speak to this, and to what you try to accomplish when working with SOT as a performer or in terms of mastering?

WW: Well, Matt and I have this sort of severe Midwestern work ethic and rockist approach. What can I say? I try to make SOT kick ass on whatever level I can. I am not involved with anything musically I don't believe in, so I want the SOT records to be as good as they can be. That's about it.

ST: Scarcity Of Tanks has involved some of the more creative musicians from the American underground from the last 40 years. It's a pretty unique group of people from different musical backgrounds and generations. Andrew and John, you have been around since the late 1970s/early 1980s, and Weasel since the late 1980s, making music, and you've experienced a lot. Where do you see SOT fitting into this larger musical context?

AK: I think SOT may be unique in that as much as the personnel changes, the group retains a certain sonic consistency, and even though it changes, it's not for the sake of novelty. The players in the group generally have a pretty informed viewpoint of a variety of musics, both current and of the past, getting inspired without necessarily being imitative, or, let's say, imitating the surface of other music, or being eclectic for eclecticism's sake. I could see SOT fitting up against a number of different bands, as long as they weren't bands that were in some micro-genre where the fans would likely be close-minded. No examples leap to mind.

JP: Honestly, I never think about context or the past, and I don't mean to be dismissive of the question or flippant in any way. I've always just seen each group as its own thing, occurring in that moment. I've never walked away from doing music, so I've never really reflected on the past. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing; maybe walking away will give you perspective. It might also make you nostalgic for some past that occurred more in your mind than actually occurred, since nostalgia plays tricks with the mind.

What I like about Scarcity Of Tanks is that Matt brings what you could call a present-tense sensibility to recording and the aesthetic as a whole. There’s a bit of immediacy to the band that makes it unique and interesting. In many projects, there's an idea or an image or a sound that is brought to a room and then you work within that framework, but with SOT the idea/image/sound is sometimes created on the spot. It's like there is a basic agreement on principles that exists, but that's more in the selection process going through Matt's head. I can speak for myself, but I think most of the people that have been involved with SOT have walked into a room looking forward to playing with the other people in the room because they're aware of what they've done in the past, but when they start playing they just proceed with what is happening in the room at that time.

WW: Well, there are tons and tons of creative musicians spanning the scope of the scene. It's true that SOT has had a few of them in its ranks. I'm sure our leader has plenty more ideas for lineups. It's pretty much an inexhaustible situation. The point is to just chug along and do the work for its own sake. If people notice SOT, that's great. If they don't notice us, that's their loss. That's sort of the history of the underground rock thing in a nutshell.

ST: Ohio Captives is different from the other SOT albums but makes musical sense sense within the scope of SOTs catalogue. Would you say that there's a continuity to the SOT sound and aesthetic from album to album?

AK: I could see grouping SOT's albums so far in pairs; obviously the Brooklyn albums, which have a totally different line-up with the exception of Matt, but also No Endowments and Sensational Grade, which each feature a large line-up and a mix of songs and improvisations, and Bleed Now and Ohio Captives, which, with the exception of some saxophone and some overdubs, are guitar/bass/drum albums. Additionally, the songs on both Bleed Now and Ohio Captives were worked and re-worked over fairly long periods of gestation. In Ohio Captives we brought the volume and distortion levels down, but still projected a forceful sound. I would credit a fair amount of that to Elliott Hoffman’s arrangement ideas and drum playing, and to Rich Raponi’s guitar playing.

ST: This is the second SOT album that Todd Tobias at Waterloo Sound recorded. How has working with Todd been? Is there anything in particular that he brings to the table?

AK: I enjoyed working with Todd; I found him to be organized and efficient, which gibed well with our approach, as we had a lot to get done in just a few sessions. Also, Todd is not the type of engineer to try to put a particular sonic stamp on the session; he rendered our sound accurately, which might sound simple to people who haven't spent time in studios, but it doesn't always happen.

MW: Todd is a very good engineer and musician. Check out his playing on the Circus Devils and Robert Pollard albums. He listens and knows how to engineer great sounding recordings. Also, he doesn’t insert his input unless necessary and helps us get the sound that we want. I see us working with him much more in the future.

ST: Talk a bit about the experience of playing live in Scarcity Of Tanks.

AK: Playing with SOT is generally a blast; everyone tries to bring it, usually without much hot-dogging. The band has fun, but is still serious. We don't subscribe to the goof-rock aesthetic. Some of the stuff we do has esoteric levels to it, but there is a level to it that anyone into rock should be able to get into.

WW: Oh, it feels so sexy. In the last lineup, John "Broken Hand®" Morton kept intimating that I was having an epileptic seizure while we rocked. He was worried about me. I like to get down.

MW: I like playing live. The songs take on an inspired, immediacy and physicality that is hard to duplicate in the studio. Right now it’s difficult to play live for a bunch of reasons that is frustrating but Scarcity Of Tanks plans to play live as often as possible. We want to go to Europe but need real, financial interest in order to make this happen.

  • lots of the bands mentioned by SOT - red krayola, sun city girls, ONO, the ex, the dead c - are some bands i've always tried to get into but could never find anything to dig into. Maybe i prefer organized chaos. But the fact that almost no rock bands beyond The Mars Volta utilize sax is a crime and a shame.

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