Download 2010: THE DAMNED THINGS
Andy Hurley on The Damned Things, his Fuck City and Burning Empires projects, and how the hurdles don't come from the obvious sources
Photo by Ruth Midget
While having a giant fat chick straddling a train is impressive, one of the biggest coups for Download Festival 2010 was the second ever UK show from The Damned Things. Comprised of Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano (Anthrax), Andy Hurley and Joe Trohman (Fall Out Boy) and Keith Buckley (Every Time I Die as well as Buckley's bandmate Josh Newton for touring): the band have attracted as much attention from those wondering how the heck it would work, as those fans of their other bands. However, what expectation can account for is this: whatever a mismatch they appear to be, The Damned Things can make one heavy heck of a ruckuss.
However, for ex-Fall Out Boy drummer Andy Hurley, it's just one of the many projects he's been working on since his other band went on hiatus. Along with flatmates Ryan Morgan, Stuart Ross, Kyle Johnson (all of Misery Signals) and Matt Mixon, they've been working on hardcore band Burning Empires. Not only that, but the five of them collaborate on Fuck City, a combination of distro, clothing line, sometime recording studio and more for the music and books they love.
Ambushed backstage at this year's Download fest, Andy Hurley chatted to Ruth Midget about The Damned Things, the new album, how he's been keeping busy with Burning Empires and Fuck City, and how it's not always the obvious sources that make for the hurdles.
I see you're looking at the lineup for today. Is there anyone in particular you're going to try to catch?
"I'd like to see Napalm Death, but they're right before us, so... but definitely Dillinger Escape Plan, and then Suicidal" [Tendencies] "but I think we have like a three hour drive back to our hotel." [We ask if he's staying in London] "Manchester, I guess it's two hours."
That's not too bad. How does it feel being over with The Damned Things? You're kind of a new band, but at the same time there's all this expectation behind you because of who you are. Does that feel weird?"I guess not any more. At first it was kind of weird and nervewracking. We came over here to play our first ever shows and they happen to be at big festivals, which makes it extra weird, but it's been awesome. We played Rock am Ring and Rock Am Park in Germany, and there was a tonne of people there, and they seemed really into it. We played a couple of headlining shows which is really weird 'cause we don't have a record out and kids seem to really love it. I'll be nervous here 'cause Download's, y'know, the biggest festival... but I feel a lot more comfortable. Before the first show in Brooklyn I was just like, 'I don't know what people are gonna think, are people even gonna be at the show?' And it was awesome."
I saw some footage from the Brooklyn show, it looked wild. Are a lot of people coming to the shows, having picked up on songs on the internet, singing along?"Yeah. We just put out two songs, rough mixes of songs, on myspace" [www.myspace.com/thedamnedthings] "and at all the shows there have actually been people who have sung along to the songs, or like when the songs come on you can tell they're really stoked, just really crazy.
"It's pretty cool cos there's definitely fans of all our bands, and you can tell who they're fans of, and they've been nice to everyone. I wouldn't expect Anthrax fans to be super nice to the Fall Out Boy dudes in the band, but they've been super cool and super supportive. But at the same time that doesn't really matter, especially for playing live. We've played headlining shows, but just because of the other bands we're in doesn't mean like those shows'll be awesome, or sold out or whatever. Especially in the economy today, it's a big choice to go see a show. So it's really cool that the shows have actually been good, and people have actually been really supportive of only two songs so it's awesome."
Has the recession hit you guys at all with travelling around?"Uh... yeah, especially for this, because we don't have a record out, so we don't have a lot of tour support from the label, and it's really expensive to travel so we had to cut corners. Whereas Fall Out Boy, y'know, obviously been around, we have money in the bank I guess, and we obviously get bigger guarantees or whatever. This has not been a lucrative, and you have to think about it more these days. Even in Fall Out Boy at the end, it's like every band's cutting costs where they can 'cause it's just so expensive these days.
"But y'know, at the same time, we got an awesome opportunity to come over here, play some awesome festivals. I think we're barely breaking even, but I don't really care. That's fine."
Earlier this year, you did a stint drumming for Earth Crisis when they toured in Europe. Were you surprised at the reaction of fans when it was announced?"Not really. There were certain mean things said and I expect that. I understand people's perception of Earth Crisis and then of me, but I've been Vegan Straight Edge for like fifteen years. They're the reason I am straight edge."
Wow, so that must have been incredible..!"Yeah, it was an honour for me! And then I think by the time kids actually came out to the shows and saw it, it was all good. And there was a lot of like positive reaction when it got announced as well. People were like, 'oh, he's a really good drummer and he grew up listening to hardcore and playing in hardcore bands', so, I dunno. I understand, though. Perception."
You've had a lot of projects going on since Fall Out Boy ended, so let's talk about those. How is your Fuck City project [www.fuckcity.com] progressing?"It's good. It's not really like a clothing line, it's more like a collective. I have this band Burning Empires" [Listen to Burning Empires on Myspace here] with the dudes I live with, Fuck City, and three of those guys are in Misery Signals, and they'll actually be over here in October. We're talking about Burning Empires coming over as well, but I think that may be when The Damned Things record drops - it's still up in the air, but I'm thinking it will be hopefully October sometime - so I don't think I will be able to come, which sucks.
"...Fuck City and Burning Empires have been around for a while. I mean, it's similar to The Damned Things. The Damned Things has been around for three years, maybe, it's kind of just been on the backburner. Mainly just Joe writing demos, us getting together and hashing out the songs and adding things as a band when we can, which isn't often. Then six months later getting back together, kind of having to relearn all the songs because it's been so long."So, that's the same thing with the Burning Empires and the Fuck City stuff. I'm on tour a lot, they're on tour a lot, so we get to it when we can, but it's a cool project I guess. Like we just do whatever. One of the dudes produces, has pro-tools and stuff, so we do a lot of recordings, like DIY at the house for different bands or whatever, and then we put it out."
Sounds like Fuck City a cottage industry for everything to do with a band, really."Yeah, totally. Well, and then we have clothing stuff and we put out a couple of books by like these political, philosophical writers that I like. So it kind of runs the gamut of stuff."
You say The Damned Things have been around for three years. A lot of people are going to be wondering how you kept it quiet. Did it come together in bits?"Kind of. It started with Joe and Scott meeting and kind of jamming together, then I came in and we had a few practises with just us. Then we were thinking about who would be a good singer and I think all of our first choices was Keith. Asked him, he was into it, finally got together with him.
"It started with him kind of sending demos and sending ideas, and it kind of cemented or solidified, I don't know how long ago at this point - maybe a year and a half? And we recorded a demo, a six song demo with Joe Barresi, he's like an awesome producer that we all like. And that's kind of when it solidified, when it became a lot more serious."A few people knew, but I think it was so kind of in the background that it just wasn't big news yet, and then we had no songs. There was no real announcement, it was kind of like this shadowy thing, and it was more friends. I think any friends in the media kind of respected it, kept it quiet until we had something to show. "Then we got Rob who's also in Anthrax, and then started recording January, February this year, so that's when we unleashed it."
Tell us a bit about the album you've got coming up. How many songs are going to be on it?"I think ten."
Are you able to reveal any song titles, album title?"Uh, we don't have an album title yet, we do have songtitles. I can't really remember them all. 'Ironiclast', which is on Myspace. 'We've Got A Situation Here', 'Black Heart'... 'Excellent Time', which had a different name. That was the writing in progress title, but we thought it was kind of funny, so we kept it. That's all I can remember, I can never remember song names."
You mentioned you had the luxury of having friends in the media who waited until you were ready with The Damned Things. A lot of known musicians who come out with other projects are under a lot of pressure to make their new projects massive before they're ready. Do you feel that way? How do you deal with it?"Well, I think that's why we kind of kept it under wraps, and just slowly whittled away at it in the background. By the time that pressure comes on, we already have the record written and it's about 90% recorded. Of course now, especially if you're going into shows, you're worried [I hope] this goes well, and I hope people like it. And of course, you want it to do well and be big or whatever, but personally, I'm cool with whatever. The reaction so far has been way better than I could have expected. A lot of people even have said like I expected this to suck and it's actually really good."
So what else is coming up? Are there any releases planned for the Autumn from Burning Empires?"We have an EP that we recorded last November that was supposed to be out Spring, but... label stuff - and not with me, which is kind of weird - with Misery Signals has prevented it. But I think we're close to figuring that out and once that's figured out we'll put it out. Hopefully that'll be around the same time, around Fall at some point. I'm not too sure yet, but hopefully after that comes out, we'll be able to come over here and tour. We were supposed to come over here with Architects, and the tour got cancelled and we weren't able to rebook it. But we'll be back."
The Damned Things debut album is due out later in the year through Island / Def Jam.
Burning Empires have a new EP due soon. In the meantime for all things Fuck City, head to www.fuckcity.com.