Interview with Wet The Rope vocalist Scott Torguson | By Tim Anderl
Despite the vocal political climate of the contemporary music scene, instances of sexual abuse and other disgusting predatory behaviors are being exposed in the media more often than anyone can keep up with and still happening behind closed doors at an even higher rate. Sacramento political hardcore band Wet The Rope’s debut, The Sum of Our Scars – released in February via Adagio830 – tackles the consequences of abuse; it’s an intensely emotional record that is at once a personal and political statement.
Consisting of members of Pitchfork, Amber Inn, Sinker, Exhale, and many others, Wet The Rope’s members have been actively making music for almost 30 years. While the influences of previous bands can be heard in The Sum of Our Scars, the anger and vitriol captured in this LP are palpable and nearly as shocking as the subjects it addresses.
Vocalist Scott Torguson discusses tackling this heavy subject matter while the band prepare for their U.S. and European shows in June, July, and August.
How did this band come together, and what is it about your chemistry that makes it a rewarding endeavor?
Chris [Sanders] and I have been best friends since high school. We were in our first band together, Platypus Scourge, beginning in 1988 in Sacramento. I moved out of town in 2001, and currently live in Columbus, Ohio, while he’s still in Sacramento.
On my 40th birthday, in 2012, my wife flew him out to Columbus as a surprise for me. When he was here, we decided we’d try to get a band together to play a show for when I visited Sacramento a couple months later. We contacted Nick [Frederick] and AJ [Wilhelm], who we’d played with in the past. AJ was in Amber Inn with me, and Nick was in Bureau Of The Glorious and Exhale with Chris. They did three practices, and I learned the songs from MP3s, and we played. It went well, so we decided to keep going.
Since we are spread out, we don’t play local shows and only are able to get together to record and tour. All of our friendships go back quite a ways, so in addition to connecting musically, it’s just good to be together as friends.
The Sum of Our Scars deals with the consequences of sexual abuse and predatory behavior. Why address this topic?
I feel it’s an under-talked-about issue, generally. Everyone can agree rape is bad, but many people excuse the effects of power imbalances on sex and sexuality. It’s a more complicated discussion, but the resulting devastation can seriously damage the lives of victims and their families.
We also have a president that has been accused of this kind of behavior. Isn’t that mind-boggling?
It was very disappointing to see a president get elected after outwardly bragging about sexually assaulting women. There are many, many reasons for this, including him winning [votes from] white women by appealing to racism. However, he would not have been elected if this kind of behavior was not considered acceptable by a portion of the population. That groundwork was laid by many other politicians before him. In many respects, Trump is the outward expression of how many people in this country feel. These people now feel freer to speak these things publically.
Also, Fox News just removed Bill O’Reilly for sexual abuse allegations. How do you feel about the standards at Fox being higher than those for our country’s president?
You may be giving Fox News too much credit here. They have no standards. They didn’t give a shit that O’Reilly was sexually harassing his coworkers. Same with [former Fox News CEO] Roger Ailes. It looks like they were doing it to many, many women for years, and it was common knowledge there. The tipping point came when there were active campaigns to target O’Reilly’s advertisers, and Fox made a financial decision to cut ties with O’Reilly.
It seems like every year there are more and more instances in which dudes in bands leverage their popularity to do predatory things. What do you have to say to them?
Yeah, this has always been a problem. Not just dudes in bands, but dudes in any position of power. Those dudes have no place in the hardcore scene I want to be a part of. Part of hardcore, for me, was trying to create a functioning world outside of those type of people. But they can be good at blending in. We should all work at weeding them out.
Pieces of this album were recorded in several different places. How did this all come together?
Chris and Nick live in Sacramento, and AJ lives in San Francisco. They recorded the basic tracks at a studio called The Dock in Sacramento, which is owned by our longtime friend John Baccigaluppi, one of the people who started Tape Op [Magazine]. All of us recorded at Enharmonik, his former studio, in our old bands at one point or another.
I then did lead vocals in Columbus, Ohio, where I live. After we did some West Coast shows at the beginning of 2016, we did some overdubs and mixing at John’s other studio in Stinson Beach, Panoramic House. He bought an old house on a hill overlooking the ocean and converted it into a beautiful studio. I loved working there. Some additional mixing was done on AJ’s home computer in San Francisco.
And AJ flew to Sweden to master it, right?
Another old friend of ours, Eric Broyhill, who used to work at Enharmonik, opened a mastering studio in the Netherlands a few years ago, MonsterlabAudio. It has since moved to Sweden. We wanted to master it with him, so AJ took the opportunity to take a short vacation and spend a day there with Eric.
What are your proudest moments on the record?
Really, I’m just proud to make meaningful music with my friends and to be able to share it with people. There are a few things that stick out to me when I listen to the record: the guitar riff for the “chorus” of “A Landscape Abraded,” my vocals in the second verse of “Nantucket Red Delicious,” and the line “my hands are in your mouth” resonate with me.
You’ll be touring both the U.S. and Europe this year. What places are you most anxiously anticipating visiting and why?
I’m pretty excited about Czechia, formerly the Czech Republic. Everyone says what a beautiful country it is. I’m also looking forward to playing with Downcast in Oakland. Such a great band. I saw them a few times, and my old bands played many shows with their post-Downcast bands, but none of my bands played with Downcast. It will be a great reunion of old friends.
What does the future hold for Wet The Rope?
I think I’d like to do a 7” next and some more touring in 2018. I would really like to do some shows in the Balkans and really travel to some different places. We just want to tour as much as our schedules will allow and make records whenever we have the songs to do so. It’s a different way to be in a band, but it seems to work for us.
Photo by Jialin Luh