Photo by James Rexroad
Interview with guitarist and vocalist Chris Spencer | By Morgan Y. Evans
Chris Spencer of Unsane fame is one of my heroes, the epitome of a creative, edgy, and very metropolitan artist. For years, the dude has churned out such consistently amazing, heavy, and forward thinking shit that it explodes skulls to think about it. Now he is back with his project The Cutthroats 9, blessedly active again after a near decade long hiatus, to raise hell, hopes, and high water via the controlled chaos of new album Dissent.
How has the touring with Black Cobra and Arabrot been?
Unfortunately the singer from Arabrot fell ill shortly before the tour, so they were not able to make it. Wizard Rifle jumped on the bill and were not only great guys, but entertaining to watch and musically interesting. It was really fun touring with Black Cobra. We’ve known them for a long time, so it was great to travel together. We found ourselves wishing that the tour was much longer. It was unusual for me to watch both bands we play with every night, but I did. There was a real sense that all three bands were like one big group of traveling musical gypsies.
Why the long stretch of inactivity? I mean, obviously you have other projects…
The stretch of inactivity was mainly caused by trying to get Unsane going. It can be rough when the drummer lives in Mexico and the bass player [Tony Baumeister] is The Melvins’ sound guy and tour manager. I was also back living in New York, so getting together with [drummer] Will [Carroll] was not so easy…
This album has some unreal chemistry. How much did you play the songs before tracking?
It really went in phases. At the beginning, I wrote a bunch of the material using Pro Tools and a drum machine. I then brought the tracks to Will, and we worked on the drums and song structure as a two-piece, which took us a few weeks. Tony came up from L.A. and we hammered out the details of vocals and possible lead work. He also contributed another song outline (Eraser), which we worked on together. Once we felt everything was good, we went up to Tim Green’s studio (LOUDER) and lived there for almost a week tracing and fine tuning things.
Who would win in a fight: The Cutthroats 9, The Magnificent 7, or The Dirty Dozen?
Shit. That’s a really tough question. I would guess The Cutthroats 9, being that they’re all inmates.
So, San Fran versus New York? Not to pick a fight…
There is really no comparison. Both have been horrifically gentrified. To be honest, I will always love New York, but once my neighborhood became drunken college students at night and hipster idiots during the day, I knew it was time to go.
How did it feel bringing Tony from Aeges and -16- into the fold?
Tony has been playing music with me and Will for longer than anyone. After the first two Cutthroats 9 releases, I think we went out on four long U.S. tours that Tony did. He also did random shows over the hiatus when he could. When we started writing Dissent, I knew that Tony was the guy to do it. He had done so much touring with us, but was never on a record. He had definitely earned it, and I am so glad that he’s the bass player on that recording. Will, me, and him have a pretty serious chemistry, both musically and as friends.
What is the best part of touring? Physically or spiritually?
For me, the best part of touring is playing music with my friends. The experience can be both physical and spiritual. I really enjoy the fact that my friends and I are able to deliver both an idea and indescribable feeling to others as a group. All from us playing music together live. That one act has given me some of the best experiences of my life.
Is there enough dissent in society or are we still too passive?
I could write a novel on this topic, but won’t. Not here. No. There is not. We are all being manipulated by the media, government, and corporations. But dissent can apply to a lot more than the big picture. An individual can feel dissent about any idea the group thinks is right.
How did you know Tim Green was the right guy to track with?
Tim is the man. He’s got one of the best recording setups I know. We track entirely to tape, are in an environment with no distractions, and he has a great ear. I’ll work with him anytime I can. Me and Steve Austin (of Today is the Day) are heading up to his place at the end of the month to work on our new record (a band called UXO) and are really looking forward to it.
What guitarists have influenced you? The slide guitar that makes Unsane great also makes Cutthtroats 9 unstoppable. Is there a benchmark you want to hit as a player or is it just about consistent execution?
A majority of the slide guitar players I like are old blues guys. I didn’t really play that much slide in Unsane. When we started The Cutthroats 9, I really wanted to do it a lot more. I learned to mess around with a slide when I was very young and always wanted it to be my main focus. The Cutthroats 9 gave me that opportunity. At the moment, I really just want to play guitar as much as possible, be it with The Cutthroats 9, Unsane, or UXO. Fortunately my friend Alan Schneider and I have started a vinyl-only record label (Lamb Unlimited) that will allow me the opportunity to do that, as well as release music from bands we like.
Purchase Dissent here: http://lambunlimited.bandcamp.com/album/dissent