It had been some time since we had heard the emotional aggression of Jesse Michaels’ unmistakable voice, but 2020 brought an unexpected and welcomed dose of fond and familiar relief. On July 29, Michaels posted a Bandcamp link to a brand-new, five-song EP from Classics of Love. Immediately noticeable is a much harder, faster, and more stripped-down approach than when we’d last heard from the band in 2012.
He is as humble as he is a recognizable name that thousands have thanked at some point in their life, whether for inspiration or simply improving a record collection. Recently, Jesse was generous in answering some questions about newly created music with Classics of Love, and graciously opens up about mental health.
Since 2012, the music room of Jesse Michaels has been quiet. What have you been up to since then, and when did you start getting back to music?
I have been up to a lot of things. Many of them are mundane and have nothing to do with artistic output. Around 2012 I think, I released a film. Since then, I have done visual art, worked a job at a rehab, sold art online. I have crushing depression and mental illness, so my life has no orderly, productive flow and is often just about survival.
I don’t think I knew some of those deeper details about depression.
I do not go into heavy detail about my personal life in public, but essentially it is an illness that my entire family has … with serious depressive mental illness, my experience is that it is an illness that eats the soul and turns a person into a fuckhead, and there is not that much you can do about it except get punches in when you can. Exercise, and so on. Fight as hard as you can every day, and try to be of service, and that’s life. Life says, “Fuck you, depression.” Eat it and fight.
So, what ‘got the creative juices’ flowing to culminate in the new Classic of Love EP?
My friend Sharif said, “You should come down to the practice pad and jam sometime.” This led to a whole different project, an unnamed death rock project, which got canceled because of the pandemic. It was spooky punk, kind of like TSOL or 45 Grave. This stuff was not originally going to be called “Classics of Love,” but I couldn’t think of a name, and the guys in the old band Classics of Love that I played with from 2008 to 2012 gave me their blessing to use that name.
There is a passion and rage on these songs, truly beautiful. What inspired the lyrics?
I really appreciate your generous assessment. Thank you. I tried to take a different approach with the lyrics. Typically, I try to make lyrics that are somewhat poetic.
There are definitely a few poetic lines in these songs, but mostly, I tried to go for an approach similar to the old hardcore bands I grew up listening to. Specifically, bands like The Fix, Negative Approach, The Necros, Minor Threat and so on; direct, honest, simply expressed feelings and very aggressive.
I do have a lot of rage inside because I think the world is fucking stupid. I think people on the left are just as stupid as people on the right now, and most people are blind, dogmatic, deeply uncharitable frauds. And that very statement that I just made conveys the fact that I have a bit of judgment in my own heart.
But this music is not about trying to be a saint. It is about communicating totally honestly, or as honestly as possible, and the hope is that through that directness, it reaches something in the heart that is beyond language, that everybody can relate to, including people that don’t agree with what I think.
Are you tired of people asking about a reuniting Operation Ivy?
If you are interested in the possibilities of an OPIVY reunion, it is not absolutely out of the question, but not in the works, especially given the current state if live music for the foreseeable future. If it ever were to happen, a lot of things would kind of have to fall into place, and I am not even sure if it’s really possible.
I am very grateful for the lasting relevance of that music. I respect and appreciate anybody who gets something out of it. I feel lucky to have participated in something that has real meaning to a lot of people. The inner spirit of the songs is 100 percent alive in me, even though in some ways, I have changed superficially. In other ways, I am exactly the same as I have been since I was, like, six or something.
There is a planned vinyl release of the New Classics of Love EP later this year on Asian Man Records.
Photo by Alan Snodgrass
Pick up a copy here.