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Full Length Interview: Integrity

Underground News Friday, 19 August 2016 07:55

AU: That said, do you think if you had signed with a label like Relapse in the 90s, would that have changed the trajectory of Integrity's path at all?

DH: I don't really know, we always were in a situation where the hardcore people said that we were too metal, and the metal people said we were too hardcore or too punk, depending on where they saw it. But that's also funny for us; I always made music because I liked it, [it was] what I wanted to hear. I didn't care. In fact, probably the reason that it wasn't so easily categorized was because I was making music that I wanted to hear, that wasn't necessarily available. So when you make something that's a little bit punk and a little bit metal, and a little bit whatever other things were thrown into the cauldron, it's not going to be easily categorized by people, so people are going to be freaked out and angry. At least in our case, they were usually angry. “Oh, you can't do that. That kind of style CANNOT be put in with that other style.” I'm used to it now, it's like, since the beginning we've had mostly negative critics and I'm used to that. I think if we started getting a lot of positive critics, I don't know what I'd do. We might have to break up or something.

AU: It seems like if people can't pigeonhole a band or pigenhole themselves in relation to that band, that they're afraid of it, and then they automatically turn to disliking it or speaking ill of it.

DH: It could be like that for sure, I mean, our first album's 25 year anniversary is this year... when we put that record out, they didn't like it, a lot of people gave it “end of the world” reviews, and I mean like, “This is going to ruin genres of music.” And I'm like, “Come on, that's not possible.” But they were really upset... that was such a tragic part of the formula for a lot of people. And we didn't really give a shit, but then a couple years later, people liked that record, but hated Systems Overload, they hated that one, and ultimately we made that one a little more punk and hardcore because people started to like the other one, and we wanted to say fuck you to them, and make something that was going to piss them off a little bit, too. It's always been this kind of weird thing of not really being accepted because we wanted to make things that we wanted to make. So yeah, I don't know if people are finding it to be too strange, or what the deal is.

AU: I'm definitely seeing, with the reissue of Humanity Is the Devil, people are starting to recognize the impact that Integrity has had on the harder side of music in general. I'm seeing that more so now than I was when those records were released. Do you feel like you're getting a little more respect as a musician now?

DH: Yeah I definitely hear that a lot. As far as being able to say that that's a fact, I can't say that because I'm right in the fire, so I can't see the smoke. But it's possible, it's possible people were influenced by it. I hear people tell me that, and I guess they're sincere. But when I hear their stuff it doesn't sound like us. I don't hear the similarities, but anything's possible.

AU: Also to be fair, Integrity has a very unique sound that, even when band are heavily influenced, you don't really hear it because there's a sound you just can't duplicate or replicate in an authentic way.

DH: It's like David Lee Roth once said, the best way to sound original is to rip off a little piece of everybody, instead of just ripping off one or two things... and maybe that has some bearing on this. I don't know. We have a lot of influences... the edges are a little bit softer, I think, when it comes to putting the pieces together. Whereas if other people were only influenced by two, three, four different styles of music or even bands, and you cram that together, you can really smell those other bands pretty strongly off them. But I don't know, it isn't really the goal to be the most fuckin' original band in the world or anything, that's not it. It's just making songs that fit thematically to the way that the lyric goes and the artwork goes, and the whole, for lack of a better word, universe of Integrity goes, to try to create that seamless mood and theme. So the music, the theme, the writing, and all that stuff fits together because it's like a soundtrack or something. I can't really put it into words... I can put it into words if I'm yelling really loud.

AU: To me, every Integrity record has been, like a full package. There's the artwork, there's the lyrics, the music, and you're right, it's very thematic. What sort of direction are you going to be taking with the new record on Relapse?

DH: It won't be too far from all the other ones as far as dark themes and such. But Dom Romeo's playing lead guitar on this record, and he has brought a lot of his own interesting ideas and his influences and guitar tricks and things like that. If you've heard that flexi that we just recorded, you can hear some of his chops in that, his skills... he's a pretty great solo guitarist as well, so that's a key part of what Integrity's about. It's always a funny thing that people seem to often miss, is that we have such an almost 80s cock-rock lead guitar thing going on, since the beginning, since we started in the 80s. It's always kind of been there for us, I think that's an important thing, and that's something I love, the solos. So like earlier, when we were talking about people hating the solos, I took that to heart, more than them saying I can't fucking sing... I never said I could fuckin' sing. Jesus Christ, does anybody think I can fuckin' sing?! I'm not fuckin' Celine Dion...

AU: You've been very open about your affection for blues music, and you've even played harmonica on a track... how much does it actually affect your songwriting? Are we going to be seeing more of that with the new record?

DH: It sounds weird to say it, but I think that from the beginning, we had a blues feel. Basically, my interpretation of the blues might be different than other peoples' because I think general population's gonna hear the word “blues” and immediately Eric Clapton pops into their head, that's not the way that I see the blues. A lot of people do see it that way, just as people do with a hardcore band, they might imagine somebody doing that kind of more Limp Bizkit-y kind of thing, which we do not do. But the majority of the people do that, so we're often considered to be that kind of music, as well. But with blues, I see it as... Robert Johnson, he's the first guy, long before Ozzy or Black Sabbath or Slayer or anybody, he fuckin' sold his soul to the Devil, he's playing the fucking Devil's music. People were pissed, hating him, churches were against him. This is way before Westboro church was against Slayer or Dio... EVERY church fuckin' hated these guys, they were the original heavy metal motherfuckers that everybody hated. People don't really understand that, because now it got watered down, now it's like Eric Clapton or something, and people see it that way, but in the beginning, the Delta Blues stuff was really wrong, it was like what metal used to be like, and that's kind of where I see the connection. And also the fact that they're very sincere about what they're saying, and what they're saying is often more a product of being fuckin' miserable and wanting to get the fuck out of this flesh and escape the confines of being a human and find some kind of release and some kind of peace in their life, and that's why they're making that kind of music. And I gravitate toward that kind of idea, about making music myself. One of my favourite records of all time is a record that Alan Lomax found, he was the guy who worked for the Library of Congress, and they went around recording people on phonograph records. Just the idea at the time was, we're going to go down there, and we're going film these guys in farms and in bars and whatever that were just entertaining their neighbours and their friends, and we're going to document that, and we're going to put it in the library like you'd put a book, so you could go back a hundred years from now, pull it out and say, “Oh yeah, these guys were making that kind of music way back then.” This was before they had an idea that you could sell records and things like that could go to where it is now. It was more of a documenting, more of a librarian aspect, but by doing that, they created what became rock and roll and then eventually heavy metal, and punk and every other thing. But back to what I was saying, Lomax was the guy who had the great idea to go and do that, and one of the things he would do, and it wasn't just blues music, he did all kinds of stuff, lullabies and funeral songs and all kinds of different stuff, it wasn't just blues music, but blues music became the one that was most well-known for his project. But the one recording that I love the most is when he went to prisons and recorded those guys. And you have these guys out chopping wood, or breaking stones with sledgehammers, and these guys are on the chain gang, just like in the old movies, you see these guys chained together in the scorching heat with these chains around their ankles, holding sledgehammers, smashin' on big boulders. And these guys realized they were miserable, but they could turn this into something positive and they'd made it into a spiritual, musical act where every time they'd pick up their feet to swing that axe, they're all doing it in unison, so they're all doing this percussive thing, they're smashing the stone in unison, again percussive, and then they're all singing and doing call [and response]... it kind of creates this great music, but at the same time you can tell these guys really fuckin' mean it, they're miserable as fuck. And it's a hundred, thousand percent sincere. There's no doubt about it that these guys are not pullin' some kind of Millie Vanilly here, these guys fuckin' mean it, and they mean it to their soul, you know? To me, that gives me goosebumps, thinking about it, listening to it. Ever since I've been a kid, I've really loved that. To me, that's the essence of the blues, is these prison albums, and I think that that is probably the most key aspect of what I'm doing, as well. I mean, I'm not living as miserable as those guys by any means, but there's parts of me that are very fuckin' tortured and I use the music to try to subside some of those problems, but it doesn't always work. It's a fuckin' long answer, sorry.

AU: You're also influenced by what you call horror-themed music. What do you mean by that, exactly?

DH: I've always been a fan of horror films as a child, I gravitated towards dark imagery and things like that, silent movies. Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents and they had the old-time radio shows that they'd play. I'm an older guy, so TV didn't even stay on after 12 o'clock at night, back when I was a kid, but I would always stay up late... even now, I can't sleep so well. So I would listen to this radio stuff, where they would talk, mostly horror stories... the ones I liked the most were horror stories, where they would tell you the stories, and in your mind, you'd close your eyes and they'd be telling you this. Vincent Price, for example, would be one of the actors, and he would be telling you that this is happening, and you'd hear some sounds like someone's squashing a banana or whatever, making these different sounds, so that you can be imagining like, “Oh they're strangling that guy,” or he's fallen down into a cave or whatever, but the fact that there was no visuals to it, that gave my imagination such free rein, and I loved that so much. I think that younger people now probably don't understand what that means or what that would be like, because we're all so overstimulated by visuals now, it's difficult to exercise your imagination that way. A lot of people are able to do it, of course, exercise their imaginations, and a lot of people are doing it great. I'm not trying to be like, oh the good old days and shit, it's just more like that was a lucky opportunity for me as a kid, that we didn't have good technology. Although I love technology now and I wouldn't trade it for the world, but I'm also grateful that I grew up right on that edge, where you had to use your imagination to wonder what was going on. Some of my favourite horror movies were the ones where you didn't see the monster. If you don't see the monster, that fuckin' monsters must be really fuckin' scary. And to me, that was another key thing to my growing up, what I like, and what I try to create also, with my writing and with my visuals as well.

AU: There is definitely a monster lurking in the background of every Integrity record that you might not see, but you definitely know is there. So that definitely translates well.

DH: There's also the spiritual thing, I had a religious upbringing, and that haunts me, and that's brought into it, so that's really just... I can't say hey, it's one thing. And again, what we said about the musical influences being a varied and pretty long list, the same thing goes with that as well, there's a lot of different aspects that come into this that all get mixed up together and it comes out that way. Now, depending where my life is at or what I'm reading or what I'm interested in, all those things factor in and they all somehow blend together and then they come out to be these albums. Hopefully each one sounds different, but at the same time, recognizably an Integrity album. Sometimes it doesn't work and sometimes it does. Sometimes I'm disappointed and sometimes I'm surprised that it worked out as well as it did, so it's really one of those types of formulas. When you're drunk cooking in the kitchen, sometimes it looks good and sometimes it doesn't.

AU: Your only show this year is This Is Hardcore Fest...

DH: Well we had a show in Canada last month, Amnesia Rockfest it was called.

AU: Okay so two shows this year?

DH: Yeah just the two shows this year, next year we have some more.

AU: Will there be a full tour behind the new album?

DH: I don't think there will be a full tour, but I don't know. We haven't discussed it yet, but it hasn't really been... touring all the time isn't really something I'm interested in doing. I'm also not interested in trying to convert people to like my music, so when the people say how much they fuckin' hate my music, I'm also happy. It's fine with me if people are angry, at least they're giving me some strong emotions, so that pleases me.

AU: I think generally, if there are people out there that hate what you're doing, you're probably doing something right, and it definitely will stoke those fires. You are an artist as well, are you going to be involved with the artwork for the new album?

DH: Yeah, I'm doing most of the artwork on it. Because we have an opportunity with Relapse being such a great label, we can do more things that we could probably have done with our other labels in the past, resource-wise. So I'm going to try to make the most of that.

AU: What's the end goal of Integrity? Is there an end goal? Is there something you want to pass on to the listener? For me personally, I'm definitely more aware of the genocide in Armenia, the Process Church... I learned a lot about Charles Manson, for example, and how people can be grossly misunderstood, and I think that you yourself have been grossly misunderstood in a lot of ways by a lot of people. As an artist, do you want to leave a legacy behind? Is there a crux to all of this?

DH: Again, I can't put it into one quick anecdote or anything, it has to be lots of little pieces of me just trying to understand the way I see the world, the way the world reacts towards me, usually negatively... It's a real difficult question to answer. I mean, one thing that fuckin' tortures the shit out of me is that constantly I'm thinking about the origin of man, and also about when the Catholic church rose to power, they went throughout Europe, and they confiscated every kind of book that you can imagine, and they keep that shit, and nobody knows what your history is, you know. People say this, people say that, even archeologists say one thing, they say the other thing, but there is no real fact to know where we came from, or why we fucking came here, because we are a diseased animal, you know, this is not natural, what we are. Because you can look out your window, you can see nature, surviving without this kind of disease, just ruining it all the time. So a big part of what I'm doing, is I'm trying to figure out things for myself, and that's what it is, it's selfish. There's nothing that I'm doing for other people, I'm not UNICEF or Red Cross trying to help out the world and say hey look, these things are being misunderstood, you need to open your eyes and understand them, it's more like, I'm trying to open my own eyes, and then everybody else is just kind of eavesdropping on the conversation. It's more like that, than just saying, here's one message that the band was always trying to get by, trying to get across to you. I guess that's the best way for me to say it, even though that may or may not make sense. I find that there's a lot of strange things that I don't understand about the way humans act, and history as well, and I'm often haunted by those ideas, staying up late at night thinking about it, trying to figure it out, going to places. One of the many things that really I find to be totally, insanely strange, is Egypt. If you go to Egypt, you can tangibly see the Sphinx, and you can tangibly see the pyramids, you can touch these things, right? But the people who live around there, none of them give a fuck about the [ancient] religions of Egypt. But the religions they're interested in, you don't have anything you can really say is real, is historically proven fact, that you can touch. I find that to be totally bizarre, but also fascinating at the same time. This is kind of a madman's rant I suppose, but you're asking a real complicated question. It's sort of like saying why do you put sugar in the sauce you make for your ribs, you know, I don't know but it works.

AU: I definitely see that Integrity, for you, has been a way to kind of figure some shit out, and I guess if people pick something up from that along the way... it's not intended but beneficial for the listener.

DH: Yeah that's great, I mean if it helps people, that's always a positive thing for me. I've had a lot of people misinterpreting lyrics and saying, “Hey that saved my life,” and I'm grateful that it did, I'm glad it helped and that things are better, but for me, I'm trying to save my own fuckin' life with this thing. The thing about trying to find answers, I think a lot of people are trying to find answers, maybe, and the ones that are not trying to find answers, they are blissfully ignorant and I am fuckin' jealous as hell of those guys. I wish I was like that, because it fuckin' sucks to be thinking about this stuff all the time.

AU: I've felt the exact same way, but I look at those ignorant people and I see walking dead. They're people that have died in life, accepted their fates before they're in the ground, and I would personally rather spend my life searching and thinking, even if it's torturous, than to be like that.

DH: I like who I am, I like why I am this way, but I'm still going to sarcastically say that I'm jealous of these people because they can just look at some fuckin' reality show and just be droolin' and happy as pigs, you know? It must be pretty nice, to just be able to snap on a TV and see somebody doing that kind of silly stuff and get so excited.

AU: It must be pretty blissful. I think that's about all I have for you.

DH: I hope you answered the questions you wanted to hear... It doesn't always come out in plain English, the lyrics don't really work out that way. Sometimes the songs aren't even about just one thing, they can be about several things at the same time.

AU: For me, one of my favourites is “Jagged Visions.”

DH: That's a very personal one, also about trying to find out what you're about, and not being able to get there. I think that, with that song and a couple other songs, there's this point, from my point of view from when I'm recording it, or singing it live, where it becomes like an out-of-body experience, where you feel like you're just falling off into this abyss, and just for a second, you feel it in there.. that song and a few other songs have that kind of a thing where it just sort of lifts me out of this just enough, and I always try to chase that, like a dragon... It isn't about writing pop songs or songs that are catchy, that people are going to enjoy, it's something else, but I can't put it into normal talk, so I put it into that flowery talk, fire and brimstones and flowers. I'm a tortured fuckin' guy, I dunno.

AU: I am too, and that was a huge draw for me when I first started getting into Integrity, like, this guy's broken but he's found a way to find some light, and he's hanging onto it and that's what I think a lot of people who got into your stuff are feeling as well. You can be broken, you can be fucked up, but there's way that you can express it and get it out, whether it's a band or artwork, or whatever the fuck it is, get it out and you're going to walk away from it as a better, stronger person. Even if you're not finding the answers, you're seeking, and that's what we're here for. 
You guys are slinging some ATWA patches on your site, are you affiliated?

DH: I have a record label called Holy Terror Records, and I just basically put out records for friends in real small quantities, it's not a serious label, it's just something that I do. And I put out the Charles Manson 7-inch, a few years ago, and it came with the patches. Did you ever see that? It came with the patches and people really wanted them, I gave the record to Magic Bullet to put out, and they also put out some LPs as well, and so then I put out some more patches to keep it going for those guys. And whenever I press more patches, I send a percentage of the patches to Grey Wolf and Star, they're people that are head people, they're sort of the representatives of Manson, on the outside.

AU: You've been in touch with him directly?

DH: With Manson? No, the records were put out through Star and Grey Wolf, via Manson. He has a lot of difficulty getting anyone in contact with him, because in the American prison system, he's the boogeyman, everybody presumes that he's guilty, he didn't get a fair trial, yeah it's a complicated thing. Basically he gets less rights than other inmates would get, and so if even if somebody does something on TV and it's related, like when Marilyn Manson was popular, the singer, when he would do something outrageous, Charles Manson would get punished for this type of stuff, because the name and the guy was trying to do this reference to him... so yeah he would get punished for certain things, like if a guard found what Marilyn Manson was saying or doing was offending his lifestyle, well then Charlie would get the brunt of that stuff. But what happened was they contacted me and said, “We know you are a fan of Charlie's music, and we have some recordings and we would like to put them out. Would you help us?” And so I did, and that's how the ATWA thing came to be, with my stuff. So we sell some things here and there, to people who are interested in that stuff, and help spread it out a little for those guys. A lot of people are interested in that kind of thought, and also there's Process patches that we make as well, for people who are interested in that kind of thing as well. 

https://www.facebook.com/INTEGRITY.HT/

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Last modified on Sunday, 21 August 2016 16:30
Written by  Ted Wilson

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