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Feature Thu Jan 01 2009
What is music but focused energy? If you have ever seen Naked Raygun perform then you will know this to be true. Formed in 1980, the band has seen its share of success and change, but with a loyal following their upcoming tour and album are both highly anticipated. The album, their first first studio recording since 1990's Raygun...Naked Raygun LP, is currently being recorded and is the culmination of the band efforts over the last two years that they have been together. Riot Fest Music Co. was responsible for their reforming back in 2007, and has been a factor in their path ever since.
Like many reunited bands there is a good chance you will see them performing as part of the All Tomorrow's Parties tour which has played host to the likes of Public Enemy, Sonic Youth, Sebadoh, and this year the nearly reunited Jesus Lizard. ATP, much like Riot Fest Music, gives bands a new stage and possibly a new audience. Over the years Naked Raygun has released nine albums with the first being Basement Screams in 1983. They have always been known for having this raw energy, and as the entire music world awaits their return they were kind enough to answer a few of our questions.
Gapers Block: Transmission: Your upcoming shows here in Chicago on January 2nd and 3rd are sponsored by Riot Fest, and you first reformed to play Riot Fest back in 2006. What has your relationship been like with Riot Fest and what are your thoughts on what they have done for Chicago punk rock?
Naked Raygun: When I first heard about Riot Fest in 2005, I thought it was really cool. I got in touch with Mike, the promoter for Riot Fest, and asked him if he would be interested in having Naked Raygun play. I had been out of the music scene for a long time and I thought that everybody had probably forgotten about Naked Raygun. Mike got back to me with a big Hell Yes. I reminded him that we hadn't been around for about 10 years. He said not to worry about it. He was right. We played Riot Fest '06 to a sold out Congress Theater of 4,000 people. That was very cool. Our biggest show ever. We were all very impressed with Mike and asked him to manage us. Riot Fest has really blown the doors off the scene here as far as I'm concerned. Mike has independently out done himself year after year, building on each shows success. It's given lots of Chicago bands a chance to play with bands that haven't played here in a long time, if ever, in front of a large, voracious crowd.
GB: Why a new album after so many years?
NR: Why not? We are working on new stuff and would like to release something soon. It's tough because anything we release now will be held up to and compared to everything we recorded before. Every NR fan had their favorite NR album.
GB: Over the years the line-up has changed a few times. How does a band retain a consistent sound while taking on new members? Are there certain songs that won't be played on the upcoming tour because of these changes?
NR: This band has had several members, but I don't think the band really strove for a consistent sound. Each new member brought his own style and influence that kept the sound new and interesting. There were a few albums that Jeff, John, Pierre and I all played on that sort of became what people expected to hear. As far as songs that we play, we just play what we feel like playing. We each have songs we like, sort of like, hate or refuse to play. It gets boiled down at practice before the shows.
GB: Another legendary Chicago band just announced their reunion as well. What are your thoughts on the return of Jesus Lizard?
NR: I've never seen Jesus Lizard. I know John Haggerty was always a fan of theirs.
GB: I just finished reading Concrete, Bulletproof, Invisible and Fried by Chris Connelly, and he doesn't paint the most pleasant picture of a touring rock band in the mid-'80's. I'm sure you've seen your share of madness of the road, but was one of the more memorable moments?
NR: The problem with tour stories is, unless you were there, its not really that gross, funny or disgusting. It's always a spur of the moment kind of thing. And besides, I have children that may read this one day. I don't need to hear, "Dad! You did WHAT?!"
GB: Back then word spread through small zines and if you were lucky the larger magazines, and fans would support the acts by buying records and attending shows. Comparing 2008 to 1988, do you think the way information travels and how mp3's are distributed has helped or hindered the small bands just trying to be heard? What about the major acts?
NR: I know "back in the day" fanzines and college radio really helped us a lot. We got some sort of major-ish press, but not much. I think the electronic media can only help a band. With a little effort you can send your music all over the place. You just have to hope that the recipient appreciates it as much as you. As far as major label bands? Ask Trent Reznor what his bank account looks like.
GB: What has been the most positive change in Chicago music over the years?
NR: Probably the newer clubs opening and the all ages shows. The more places to play to more people, the better. It's also cool that younger kids are interested in the stuff they missed out on.
More kids with Mohawks!
GB: These upcoming shows and your forthcoming album will expose a whole new generation to your music. What can new fans coming to their first Naked Raygun shows expect?
NR: HA! I just vapor locked on self-effacing humor! Anyway, like I said, we're working on new stuff. We're also looking at some new cover songs. People seem to like it when we whip out a song by one of our favorite bands. And they can expect long gaps in between songs where I gasp for air and drink beer. And free shit.
You can catch Naked Raygun with Hot Water Music on January 2nd and 3rd at the House of Blues. Completing the bill will be Shot Baker and The Copyrights on January 2nd, and The Methadones and The Arrivals on January 3rd. Tickets range from $21.50 - $23.00 and the doors open at 5pm each night. The shows are all ages.
About the Author:
Jason Behrends has lived in the suburbs of Chicago his entire life. He is the creator of the arts & culture blog What to Wear During an Orange Alert. As a natural extend of the blog, Orange Alert Press was born. The first novel, Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine by Chicagoan Ben Tanzer can be found here (link). His interviews have been published by Rural Messenger Press and Tainted Coffee Press, and he is involved with three different on-line literary journals. He has been a music nerd since birth.