February 18, 2009
by: Morgan Y. Evans and Neesh
Author Mark Helprin wrote in his amazing novel Memoir From Antproof Case that, “The human race is intoxicated with narrow victories, for life itself is a string of them.” Musically, drummer/MC Josh Eppard’s victories have never been narrow. Josh is one of the best drummers in rock today and has always fruitfully attacked every song he plays on with enthusiasm. That he was as capable with a mic in his hand as a white, Upstate, NY rapping “emo” rocker, was unthinkable to some, but Josh proved them wrong, too, with his Equal Vision records debut under the name Weerd Science with Friends And Nervous Breakdowns in 2005. The “narrow victory” that applies to Josh Eppard is getting a hold on intoxication itself. It’s not about the quality of his art (which is excellent) but that he is still making music at all.
Josh Eppard is a man of constants and seeming contradictions. He’s full of bravado at times and shy and withdrawn at others, capable of shutting out the world and retreating into his brilliantly colorful mind or being really articulate and aware of everything going on around him. As long as I’ve known him (15 + years) he’s rapped, as interested in rock music as hip hop. Josh’s musical mind is constantly roaming for ways to summarize his existence. It’s no wonder, seeing as how he grew up in Kingston, NY and went to a high school where upstate boredom and bullies ran rampant. Heck, he used to fight kids himself before he realized that wasn’t his best outlet. The wind howls in the trees up here but it makes some of us want to dream bigger than ever. As a drummer, he’s inspired thousands with his playing in Coheed and Cambria or even earlier while he was still in his brother Joey’s band Three (“Earth Rotates” remains the jam). Still, it’s his rhymes that most resemble Josh’s inner clockwork.
Since leaving Coheed and Cambria during a tumultuous period in 2006 he has devoted himself to focusing his efforts more than ever on Weerd Science, his hip-hop project, as well as playing occasionally with his brother Joey as The Eppard Brothers. Post-Coheed, Josh battled depression and serious drug problems that seemed like they might cripple him, and he almost stopped making music altogether, but thankfully he couldn’t quit rapping. Josh has buckled down at Kingston’s Darkworld Studios and tracked his forthcoming Equal Vision sophomore disc Sick Kids, a follow up to Friends And Nervous Breakdowns that retains humor yet also succinctly examines unflinchingly how fucked up younger generations can get these days. The disc was mixed at Applehead Studios in Woodstock, NY by Mike Birnbaum and Chris Bittner (who worked previously with Coheed on their best records) and was produced by Dave “Wavis” Parker, Josh’s true collaborative foil.
Weerd Science is, literally, rapper Josh Eppard, but it is also more a group these days than ever before. In addition to Dave Parker as sonic technician, keyboardist and jack-of-all-trades, Josh’s hip hop outfit includes new official DJ “Dirty” Ern and hype man/fellow rapper Kwame (aka. “Gangstroph”). Kwame is a lifelong friend and a well-known face in the underground emo/punk/metal scene, a rather intimidating, huge yet congenial black dude who has sold tour merch to thousands of kids for both Coheed and Cambria and Killswitch Engage. It was the bonds between all of these guys that kept Eppard from giving up and allowed him to shake off some of his demons and put them, instead, into making a great record that just might have saved him.
While Dave Parker was keyboardist for Coheed and Cambria during their Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Vol.1 touring cycle, Josh and Dave’s musical relationship and friendship extends back far earlier than some people think. The Kingston, NY scene is, to quote my pal Vin Alfieri of the Smash Up “very incestuous”, but it’s usually a good thing. I’ll make it simple to follow for the new fans that don’t know the nuances.
Let me give you some quick insight into that and also some context for this interview. Again, growing up Josh was first in current Metal Blade artists Three with his brother Joey in the ‘90s. After Three, as far back as ‘99-2000, Josh joined a melodic,punk metal band with high school pal Dave Parker and current Mours guitarist Kurt Brown (plus myself on lead vocals). That group was alternately called Brain Fuck Daddy/Bleed Theory and would later, finally become known as Divest after Josh’s exit to join Coheed. After about 7 years Divest ended and the band members split down various paths. I formed and still front the more indie-rock influenced Pontius Pilate Sales Pitch with original 6 year Shabutie/Coheed drummer Nate Kelley, Josh’s percussive predecessor in Coheed. Post-Divest, Dave Parker became keyboardist in Coheed and Cambria, at Josh’s urging, for their Good Apollo Vol. 1 record, but exited around the time that Josh left the band due to a cited unhappy creative environment and drug problems, which we’ll get to shortly.
Parker reunited, after exiting Coheed, with ex-Divest guitarist Kurt Brown, but in a more space rock direction not as fully explored in previous music they’d done. That resulted in a short-lived band, Counterfeit Disaster, which also featured Darkworld Studio owner/operator Dave Daw. Daw is an ‘80s metal fan and a talented bass player who was also former masseuse for World Wrestling, (seriously!). A really nice guy who had to leave that profession due to an accidental injury received when wrestlers Sean Michaels and Stone Cold Steve Austin mistakenly thought he was their extra for a scene on Monday Night Raw. Daw mellowed out for a few years while recovering and built Darkworld Studios, where Weerd Science eventually tracked Sick Kids and Parker usually helms the boards.
It was the great creative environment of Darkworld that also re-awoke Eppard’s urge to play and sing in a rock band. The internet is buzzing with the news of Josh’s new group Mours, who already have several record deal offers within weeks of forming!
After Counterfeit Disaster broke up, most of the band paired up with Josh Eppard and a new-found pal from Pennsylvania, co-singer/guitarist Anthony Masington to start Mours. Controversially, Anthony sounds at times a lot like Claudio Sanchez, which has lit up the Coheed message boards. Mours insist it isn’t a gimmick and it is just his voice. It has psyched up fans of earlier Coheed material, which Josh did play a large role in shaping. The music is at turns ethereal and rooted in emo and prog, but less classic rock than later Coheed. I heard some of the guitar being tracked on a new Mours tune and it is killer, melodic and soaring stuff that sounded a bit like Dredg. It’s great to hear some of the more intricate guitar textures Masington brings to the table offsetting the super-effective rhythms of Kurt Brown. It made me miss playing with some of these guys in the Divest days.
Mours are growing in front of people’s eyes as they work on material, allowing fans access to their shaping future. The band cite as influences Dokken, Glassjaw and Deftones and are in the process of writing a debut as we speak. Seriously, they need to come out of Darkworld and get some sunlight once in awhile! A few days before the interview, Mic Todd from Coheed surprised the guys, and even came in and dropped some vocals onto a new Mours song, a big treat for fans.
I bro’d down at Darkworld and caught up with everyone involved in Weerd Science as well as some of the Mours guys and longtime Josh fan/Cobalt and Calcium (a Coheed fan-site) contributor Christina “Neesh” Medford to get the real scoop on Sick Kids. Josh and friends came clean (no pun intended, though he just hit 49 days off dope) about his struggles and his uncompromising art, as well as a slew of stuff fans have been wondering about–much of it for the first time anywhere–ranging from his split from Coheed to other topics burning up message boards, you’ll wanna read all of this.
MORGAN Y. EVANS: I was thinking about the last Cave In record Perfect Pitch Black. That band started out in a more heavy direction and then explored space rock and pop and then married the disparate halves on that last record to great effect. Some artists you have to follow for years to see all their facets. You’ve always loved hip-hop as much as rock. Wu Tang, P-Funk, art rock. You had a mish-mash upbringing too, with a sort of half urban development high school/bullies existence you talked about on Friends And Nervous Breakdowns and also this weird Woodstock, latent creative ‘60s generation rock vibe that has also affected your brother in Three. It always surprises people you could play prog and also MC so well. What did you want to say with Sick Kids to develop people’s conception of you and show different sides of yourself?
JOSH EPPARD: Sure. Referencing the first record, I think anybody that makes any record is probably drawing from their life. When you mention hanging out with your boys and people thinking they’re thugs, this urban upbringing…well, with this record, there was a story I wanted to tell. The first record was a culmination of years and years and years. This record was kind of about a 5-year period of time and about drugs. It’s drugs. That’s what it’s about. I mean, it’s called Sick Kids. Just like the first record drew a lot of what I saw around me and the shitty fuckin’ people, the bottom of the barrel people I was hanging out with and the things that I did to become a bottom of the barrel person…That’s where it comes from. It’s a captivating story and to me it speaks to a whole generation of people. Kids in America are sick, bro. It’s a disease. It’s not a pro-drug record. It’s not anti. It’s not a do or don’t or preachy. It’s, “This is what I saw in the little black whole that I was in.”
MYE: A snapshot.
JE: Yeah. That’s what I hoped to achieve. As things turned out I sunk into the thing I was talking about. If anyone didn’t know I was on drugs, I mean, listen to the fucking lyrics.
JE: [rapping] “Drugs! We sell them, we buy them and from our families we try to disguise ‘em. Drugs!” Y’know. It was kind of a cry for help mixed in with a big fuck you.
MYE: Some old school hip-hop I love the most is some of the “positive rap” like Leaders of the New School, Jungle Brothers, Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul. You are a lot less black than them.
MYE: But I also loved 2 Live Crew and Disco Rick, some nastier Miami shit growing up! It’s funny, ‘cuz your music with Weerd Science is…well, I love music that is serious and has a message or is political, but sometimes people are too serious. Or you can have Green Day American Idiot where they talk about political things but in a fun way and can reach a bigger audience.
MYE: Mix genres. What I’m trying to get at is Weerd Science talks about messed up things in life but you still have fun presenting it.
JE: Yeah, I think especially in hip-hop it’s a culmination of your personality. Mine is “Laugh at the Devil.” I think we’re all funny dudes, too. Me and Dave (Parker), to be in there crafting these songs, it can’t help but come out. We’re dealing with these things everyone, at the ground floor, goes through. Heartbreak. Despair. But our tongues are firmly places in our cheeks a lot of times. I think more than on our last record. We had more of a clear idea of what Weerd Science was and were able to build on that. This record is more serious but still has those moments. It was never a said thing of, “Let’s try to be funny.” But that’s just us.
MYE: It’s cool, in that, you can show “warts and all” type shit and not be so heavy-handed that some people are turned away.
JE: I agree.
MYE: But then some of it is really offensive!
JE: Which also is part of our personalities. I mean, God. When me and Dave were at the NAMM show, [Note- a huge music products trading convention], we were walking down the street and hoardes of people are leaving the convention center and Disney fireworks are going off and I said “Every time a Disney firework goes off, an angel gets AIDS.” That’s kind of like, “Every time a bell rings an angel gets it’s wings.” The crowd fell out.
DAVE “Wavis” PARKER: This is a fortune cookie we got while making the record. [passes it to me] “Your ability to find the silly in the serious will take you far”.
MYE+ KWAME: [laughing]
JE: Yeah! And that sums it up, man! That shit’s funny! Kwam’s still laughing! When we travel the world, me, Kwam, Dave…People say we have a way of talking. There’s a Kingston way of talking that people are always like ,”Yeah, we all end up talking like you.” We all kind of share it and we’re fucked up dudes, which is why we all kind of gravitate to each other, I guess. Our senses of humor are certainly twisted, which is why I love these guys. [Turning to a very stoned DJ Dirty Ern]. Right, Ern?! Morgan, you should put that Ern is too stoned to talk.
DIRTY ERN: You know what, I should say something. It’s like life. There’s the good and the bad. You gotta look at both sides of everything and laugh off what’s bad. That’s what’s going on with the kids these days. Generations are worse than they used to be, as far as the kids.
JE: I would have to agree. But let’s say that [turning to Kwame aka “Gangstroph”,fellow rapper within the Weerd Science project] Kwam, your girl broke up with you, right…and you’re bummin’ over here sad. I could see we’d say something fucked up and try to find some humor in it and I think that’s a big part of us. We’ve always been silly dudes. I mean, God, when me and Kwam were on tour together, before Dave Chappelle did it, we dressed him up like a KKK member and had him running around in Saves The Day’s hotel trying to beat down their door!
KWAME: White is right.
JE: He sang, “Get up, stand up. Stand up for white rights!” We didn’t know Saves The Day. We’d never met them before! But we thought that would be a good icebreaker! Kwame is clearly black! It wasn’t the best mask and his hands were sticking out of the sleeves. You know, just silly shit. It was funny and offensive and I think, the more offensive something is, not in just a straight up Shock Value way…I mean, God, I was watching MTV last night and they have that show How’s Your News? and it’s four retarded people doing the news. Fucking genius, dude! Tammy, my girlfriend was offended. She went out of the room. I thought it was great. They produced the show themselves. They get why it is funny, and that almost makes it less funny to me.
MYE: That they aren’t exploited? [laughing]
JE: Yeah! Not exploited! I didn’t mean it like that, but it wasn’t so much about shock value with the new Weerd Science record. “Wormfood” from the first album was shock value wrapped up in a pretty pop song, but it wasn’t just out of nowhere. It’s a true story, like I said in the song. I knew that would shock people. I remember Mike Birnbaum at Applehead stopped the playback in the studio and looked at me and said, “Do you really wanna go there?” And I was like, “Yeah, Of Course!”
MYE: Phew…If Mike said that you know it’s bad. [laughing]
JE: Yeah. It’s Birnbaum! But there’s really girls like that who once they have your kid don’t wanna fuck you and will cheat or keep having kids with different guys over and over and that’s what happened to my friend. It hurts. That was a serious situation and my buddy was in a lot of pain and I felt bad for him and wrote that song. Again, it was coming from a real place and not so much tongue in cheek but also seeing the humor in it. And I knew it was fucked up but awesome.
MYE: I can remember, years ago, the first time I ever saw you rap was at some open mic night at Tinker Street Cafe in Woodstock. [Note: a legendary little bar, now closed, where Dylan and Hendrix and others played.]
JE: Kwam wasn’t there. I did it and it was terrible! But everybody there was wasted! It was terrible, and I felt all confident.
MYE: I don’t remember, but it was the first oldest image that popped in my head of you rapping. So you weren’t nervous? Looking at you now as an individual and with these guys backing you, it really seems there’s a sense of family and that you’ve gone through so much together. I remember seeing early Weerd Science live shows and seeing it get more cohesive.
JE: Sure, that’s gonna continue. I’ve seen a lot of hip-hop shows. Last night I was watching a DVD of hip-hop shows and there was no DJ. Just the instrumental and dudes rapping over it. That’s so fucking boring to me. I had this decision in my head to do more. Even if it is a CD and just Dave on the keyboards, I want to do something as a frontman and make it different. Not just [mock thug voice] “Yeah! Yeah!” I know it’s something I would wanna see. It’s not an easy thing to get to. We all share a vision as a whole of where we want to get to.
MYE: As far as presentation?
DP: I think we worked a lot of that goal into the record itself. You could put together a band and play every song on it. It’s not just a bunch of keyboards and stuff. It’s guitars, live instruments. Of course there’s digital stuff and keyboards but we really tried to mix it up.
MYE: And live you can break it up or down as needed.
DP: Yeah. Any which way. If we had to just play the CD we could or have a full band.
JE: We would like to go there. Dave has always added this rock’n’roll element even just playing the keyboards and headbanging.
MYE: In a lab coat.
DP: I’m the Kurt Cobain of hip-hop. I’m gonna commit suicide with a gat.[laughing]
JE: As far as having a DJ, nobody ever worked out before Ern. Back up guys, too. We had to do a show without Kwam once and it was fucked! I know together as a core group, it’s dope. Since we met Ern, he’s in the group. It’s done. We finally have a DJ.
MYE: How’d he end up involved?
JE: We met him and he fit. I think a lot of being with us is our personalities.
MYE: He was a big enough asshole that you decided you were stuck with him?
JE: Ern’s more of an asshole! [laughing] We had some DJ’s that had tried out. Some dudes that are doing major things right now.
DP: And others that are probably still at home doing angel dust.
JE: [laughing] Oh, that dude! Choke! Choke directed a video and knew Danny Ilchuk. [Note-sometime Weerd Science collaborator and former member of NYC hip-hop group Roguish Armament.] Choke worked on The White Rapper Show on VH1. He laid the same sample in three songs and he wasn’t that into it. I think we just scared him. I mean, the guy walks into the room and there’s a hooker giving Dave a blow job and I’ve got my hand in her up to my fucking wrist! You know?!
JE: True story.
DP: If that offends anybody, you offend me.
JE: We were younger then. Now, we’d probably kill the hooker. But, no, we finally found a DJ that meshed well and is a friend and really talented. Ern’s a beat maker. He loves hip-hop like I love hip-hop and it is a huge relief to me that we have a DJ and someone who is down and who can cut. He’s all over the record and stuff.
MYE: Onto more studio stuff, how did it work out? You did some tracking at Darkworld Studio and also worked with Mike and Chris at Applehead again in Woodstock, who of course you worked with during your time in Coheed and Cambria. I know you had had a falling out at one point and some people don’t know how things improved.
JE: I think it goes had in hand with what Dave said. He plays guitar on every song and it wasn’t like, “Hey Dave, I have this beat. Let’s record it.” Dave has always been vital but now we’re a real band. As it evolved and became what it is on Sick Kids, it was more collaborative. The beat for “The Clap”, I literally came out and went to sleep on the couch. It was my idea but Dave took it and played it and added to it. I went to sleep for 6 hours and these dudes made a banger! Some credit has to go to Danny. Ilchuk was there and bopped his head and had some samples. Dave was unsure and I was like, “This is fire!” More then ever before, not to say Dave wasn’t involved in the last record, but Dave is to me the best musician I’ve ever worked with. I’m not just trying to kiss your ass, Dave.
DP: It’s cool.
JE: As far as knowledge and being able to translate it to song and get the song and what it’s about. I think that’s why me and Dave work well together.
DP: I’ve worked on lots of other things without him and over the past several years it is almost difficult for me to do it. We fill the gap where if he’s unsure or I’m unsure about something we seem to take care of certain things.
MYE: But not in a Jerry Maguire way?
DP: Yin Yang, I dunno…
JE: Although, Dave…You do complete me.
DP: [laughing] We’re putting together a puzzle that fills an entire floor and I’m down there with all the pieces and he’s up looking at the whole thing and we’re bouncing ideas off each other and I’m looking back, like, “Does this look like a sail boat yet?” Or whatever.
MYE: You know each other enough you don’t have to second guess and can anticipate each other.
JE: People have to understand we’ve been working together so long. Friends And Nervous Breakdowns was not in a studio. It was a house, and Dave came up and made it a studio. Sonically, Dave shines and can make places work. God, if I had to record that without him! We ended up taking it to Applehead and I think that record suffered because Dave didn’t continue to be a part of it. I wasn’t there for the mix, let alone Dave. I was in Europe. That record’s cool. It is what it is. But getting back to it, we’ve worked together on so many things and yeah, been in some bands and stuff, and it isn’t something you can put a price on. I always know we’re on the same page but any idea Dave has, he has full reign to explore that idea. Everything was stepped up on Sick Kids. We’re better players. That’s why hip-hop is fun for us. Anything goes.
ERN: Sonically it is unbelievable compared to a lot of what’s out there.
JE: It’s good you brought that up. It’s not two tracks of a beat and thirty six bars and a hook on it and it’s done. I wish! I could make thirty records a week! But we take a long time on these things and crafting them. We spend more time on the music than lyrics. I mean, I spend time on the lyrics…
MYE: You mean you don’t just go in and do all the rhymes in one take freestyle? Interview over, Man. Fuck this.
JE: [laughing] No. Hey, we did cut them in half an hour! I am quick!
ERN: Yeah, but also “Baby Parts”, we went in and he didn’t even have a third verse and Josh sat down and just hit it.
JE: But yeah, we have a day left of work to do at Applehead, some of Ern’s cuts, and then we are done!
MYE: You mixed Sick Kids at Applehead mostly and tracked it mainly at Darkworld, right?
JE: I think we tracked a couple things but 99% was done here at Darkworld. Darkworld is my favorite tracking studio ever. I love it here. With Dave at the helm he could make anything sound good. We were able to track it all here but we brought it to Applehead because we had spent so much time at Darkworld and needed a new perspective. Dave produced this record. I co-produced it, but Dave was there making sure it worked. A lot of people say they produced a record and it means they just hung out. Dave produced this and we brought it to Chris Bittner and trusted him under Dave’s eye. Chris is an amazing engineer and to have him put his head together with Dave was awesome.
DP: It was really nice to get Chris’ perspective on it, especially someone who’d worked on the first record.
MYE: And also grew up with you guys, too.
DP: Yeah. We spend so much time working on the stuff that…we don’t just throw in a snare drum. We’re trying all different things. Layering stuff up. Mixing it. Every nuance is tweaked. We spend days on one beat.
JE: Probably too much time.
DP: At that point our hands were so close to our faces we couldn’t tell they were hands! Chris came in and was like, “Cool, alright. This is how I’m gonna mix this and how I am gonna blend this and that and the other thing.”
JE: Again, knowing Chris a long time is priceless.
MYE: And he was in Three as bassist originally with you and your brother when that band was starting out.
JE: And Chris played on a bunch of stuff on Sick Kids! He’s such a smokin’ bassist. And we had Clip from P-Funk on the record. Dave Daw played some bass.
DP: Matt Goldpaugh [Note: of NYC’s The Arkhams] played some bass!
MYE: Goldpaugh was just on a Heavy Trash record, too, for Jon Spencer! He’s been busy!
JE: Yeah, Matt Goldpaugh. He did some stand up bass and it’s smokin’! And more about Applehead…I definitely had my problems with Mike Birnbaum. Long before Coheed I knew Mike and had made records with Mike with Three. It was me that brought Coheed to Applehead to mix on my favor. Just like any relationship has ups and downs, there was a falling out and it was great to rekindle our friendship with the new Weerd Science record. It was a healing thing. I love Mike and Chris. We’ve had some great things happen for us with a gold record and looking back I am so glad I got to share that with them. Mike’s like a dad to me. I’ve known him since I was eleven years old. He’s been telling me I suck since then and I’m better for it.
MYE: On the rock tip, you weren’t sure you were gonna come back and play rock, but was it therapeutic to do some jamming with your brother as The Eppard Brothers and play some gigs like that? Did it naturally happen?
JE: It was organic. Why we did other shows was that me and Joe learned how to play together and are still in each other’s heads. We’re playing Three songs and were like, “Man, we should’ve played that on the record!” We have a natural internal meter that is very similar. Being on the same page. There’s talks of us doing a record. Everyone is so busy right now. Even having Dave do a show with us, that was the best one. On tour you play the same songs every night and don’t grow as much as a musician. The last two years I’ve been playing every instrument better and growing and it feels really good to get to this point, being home. Playing with Joe is always exciting.
CHRISTINA “NEESH” MEDFORD: How was playing with Chris Bittner again at one of the Eppard Brothers shows?
JE: It was like we’d never stopped! We were kinda nervous. It was really exciting for all three of us.
NEESH: You didn’t even know he was gonna be at that show, right?
DP: Yeah, he just showed up!
JE: It was 300 people crammed into this place Mariner’s and it was a crazy night. Bittner happened to be there and came up.
ERN: It was all fate. We met there and I joined up.
JE: Yeah, I met my girlfriend there.
ERN: We started doing music from that night!
KWAME: I remember watching Joe and Josh play in a basement when we were kids.
JE: People don’t realize Kwam grew up with me and Three and that’s what you and me share in common, Morgan. Playing show’s together. Your friends trying to beat me up and shit.
MYE: [laughing] You guys handed it out, too.
JE: We were just kids. We used to get in trouble ‘cuz Kwam would stay over at my house so much that my mom had the authority to ground all of us! The punishment would be that we’d have to go with my father ‘cuz my mom couldn’t deal with us. So we’d get to go watch my dad [note-amazing classic rock/world music/blues guitarist Jimmy Eppard] play until late in the morning! It’s pretty cool when you’re eight, nine years old.
NEESH: What other instruments did you play on Sick Kids?
JE: Guitar, some keys, drums, no bass.
DP: I did. There’s like 6 bass players!
JE: Kwame did some bass! Kwam would be the baddest bass player, like Bubby from Snoop Dogg! I think I played every instrument except bass. I think I held down the drums. We all played almost everything.
NEESH: When you have a song idea for Weerd Science what instruments do you pick up first?
JE: It’s different every time. “Baby Parts” I wrote a chorus and there was no melodies yet but there was an idea for a guitar part. And it’s funny because it was one of the last songs we recorded but one of the first ideas. Dave found the chords. That was a new way of us coming up with a song. I can’t wait to do more records and do that more. I come up with some ill melodies I can’t figure out but that Dave would have lickety-split. Sometimes it’s drums.
DP: I can’t think of two songs that were started the same way. We’d start with a loop or a keyboard part and I realized early on it was the case. The way I went about putting the songs in the computer, I actually made sure every time that it would be different each time, you know what I mean? For the sake of, hopefully, making a difference in the song and making it fresh for me. There’s no formula.
MYE: Coheed sold well, and it was cool, too, because of that to have Equal Vision be behind Weerd Science more. I guess, does it feel cool that you have gotten this label that started out putting out Krishna hardcore or who did a lot of straight edge stuff and bands like Another Victim…That you’ve gotten EVR to put out a legitimate hip-hop record? I’m not saying, “Oh, fuck that! It’s rap.”
JE: A lot of people were like that! Equal Vision took a lot of heat for Friends And Nervous Breakdowns. I remember Steve Reddy did an interview with AP where they talk to label heads like him and Tony Victory and Steve brought up the Weerd Science record. He called it one of his favorite records and championed that whole thing. When it came time to do the new record he thought I could do better somewhere else and I said no, I wanted it with them and he was on board and said, “I think we need to do more ads.” Even some of the people that worked at Equal Vision, I don’t think got it, but Steve and Dan and all those guys, the first time they heard a Weerd Science demo they wanted to put it out! I thought they were kidding around. Those dudes are, as a label, some of my favorite people in the music business and real and awesome guys. Steve Reddy is my hero, straight up.
MYE: They’ve done a lot of great stuff over the years people can be thankful for.
NEESH: I wanted to ask you, now that we have a black President in office…
JE: World’s going to hell! [laughing]
NEESH: Do you think the World is accepting change enough to be ready for Weerd Science?
JE: I think the World was ready for Weerd Science. When it comes to music, some people don’t wanna eat what’s not force fed to them. I hate to sound like the bitter musician but it is fucking true! Bands like Three, Pontius Pilate Sales Pitch, Weerd Science, Mours, are bands really making true music! I don’t wanna feel like I have to go to the mainstream. I think this is a quote from The Cure, from back in the day, “But if the mainstream came to them”…I’m not looking…Do I think the mainstream media is ready? Absolutely not. I think there are people who are ready. I know Weerd Science speaks to and for a generation of kids who no one is speaking for and I am trying to do justice by them.
ERN: Bitches need to get their gaping assholes ready, because our album is gonna be the shit when it comes out.
MYE: If you don’t mind addressing it, Nate Kelley when he left as drummer for Shabutie, he got a lot of flak and people don’t realize it wasn’t the same band it is now or what was going on back then. People on message boards have said similar stuff about you leaving, that, “Oh, Josh is so stupid for that.” They’ve gotta realize there’s more to it than that. Not that you didn’t have good times with those dudes.
JE: Sure. At face value, was it a good decision for my pocket to leave Coheed and Cambria? NO! Bad decision. The only people that do understand are other artists. I left Coheed two years before I actually left Coheed. I was there and playing the parts but I didn’t have much to do with the live show or stage show. It’s because [it was] something I didn’t want to do anymore. I knew the decision I was making would affect me monetarily pretty bad, and they are certainly still doing well. God bless ‘em for it. I love those dudes. I wish there wasn’t still problems. We were a pretty tight knit group, from Dave Parker playing keyboards to Kwame doing merch for them. This is all the same family. It so happens they are their own family now. People say it was a bad move. Well, it was the best move for me. I honestly think I would’ve been dead if I stayed in that band. I mean, dead. I think one morning they would’ve tried to wake me up and I would’ve been dead. Seriously.
MYE: I’d say you made the right choice then, man. On a positive note, maybe everyone doing what feels right will hopefully smooth things between all the camps anyway.
JE: I hope one day I can talk to them more. I don’t hate those guys. I understand if they harbor anger and resentment towards me. Fuck, man, I would too! Sometimes when things go down it is hard to understand all the different ins and outs. We’re complex beings and have a lot of anxieties and feelings, and they were all pulling a lot of different ways. At the time, I felt, like we had this whole city on our back. We wanted to do great things for all the bands and we came up from this scene. Hopefully, if we bridge some gaps, we can.
[loud whooshing noise]
MYE: [speaking to a friend of Josh’s named Pat in the background] Did you just open that Heineken with your teeth, dude?
JE: I know! I’m getting all deep and I thought Pat just went, “Pssshhh!” like, “That shit is weak, Josh!” [laughing] Maybe we can bridge those gaps in ten years or whenever, but hopefully even me still working with Equal Vision…I made some lifelong friends with being in Coheed and I like the band. I like listening to them, and it’s something I’m really proud I was in. They are gonna continue, but it wasn’t for me anymore. Hey, when I left Three my mom disowned me for a minute! She told me I was ruining my life, and that one worked out pretty good!
KWAME: Not just your mom. All your friends!
JE: Everyone! It was a bigger deal then leaving Coheed.
ERN: You’re much more creative than just a drummer.
JE: Yeah, and once Coheed became such a non-creative outlet, it wasn’t satisfying my creative pallete anymore. God, on the last record Claudio wrote all the songs and delivered them to us. Even some of the songs are derived from ideas long before, but it was still, “These are the songs and it is not up for debate.” If I was Claud, maybe I would do the same things. I am glad I experienced that though, because if Weerd Science gets to a level, what makes it greatest is everyone’s input. I hope I’d make sure it remained like that. Once there’s success and pressure it is in our nature to say, “This is how it has to happen, so much is on the line.” Coheed was always mainly Claudio’s vision, but as for the rest of the band, I wonder how their creative appetites are satisfied, knowing it is mainly Claudio’s thing.
DP: Travis just put out a record.
NEESH: Davenport Cabinet.
MYE: It’s pretty good. “Demon Fire” is a really dope song.
JE: I can’t say. I haven’t heard it. It’s…hopefully we do get to that point and I don’t do that. Maybe Coheed’s better for it. Maybe I would do the same thing. I don’t know. For me, just playing drums isn’t enough. It has to be more. I have more to say.
MYE: It’s funny, Weerd Science is not just a side project like some people thought. It IS you.
JE: Weerd Science created a lot of drama for me in Coheed, bro. To Claudio’s credit he was the dude who was on board the most! Our first magazine cover ever he wore a Weerd Science shirt. That was dope. But, I mean, it was definitely weird with management and the other guys in the band.
KWAME: I got straight scolded for putting posters up.
JE: Tell that story.
KWAME: [To Parker] You don’t know that story? When we’d put out Friends And Nervous Breakdowns, I put some Weerd Science merch out at a show. Obviously behind me it is all Coheed and Cambria. I put out Weerd Science samplers and some posters and Coheed’s manager came out and scolded me. “You don’t work for fuckin’ Weerd Science. You work for me. Blah, blah, blah.”
JE: You should’ve said, “Fuck you! I’m in Weerd Science.”
MYE: Rap music is fucked up. It’s the devil’s music. Rock only.
KWAME: It’s not like we were taking money out’ve Coheed’s pocket.
MYE: Josh was in Coheed! Not to mention everyone being lifelong friends. Hello!
DP: I didn’t realize that. Wow.
MYE: Kwame, tell me more about the degree of your role rapping on this record.
KWAME: For the whole time we were out with Coheed we talked, and I wanted to do this shit more. But unfortunately, when the time came to do it, some unfortunate stuff went down. My mom passed away. I had a kid brother that was completely by himself and I had to take him in. The lifestyle I had at that point wasn’t conducive for taking care of a teenage kid so I wasn’t available for a lot of the record. They’d be like, “Yo, can you do this part?” If I could, I’d come in with all the intensity I could, like I had been there the whole time.
JE: Kwam is on this record a lot more than last record. Kwam’s just an entity unto himself, too. Kwame and I have been brothers since we were kids. We lived down the road for so long we didn’t need to see each other! I’d see him all the time on the bus. I smelled this man sleeping for years, bro! Before Coheed I smelled him sleeping. Kwam is such a big part of Weerd Science and maybe more than he even knows. It’s like it is even more this record. I am always thinking of us onstage together, and if he ever makes me do a show again without him I’m gonna kill him!
KWAME: From watching shit go on, seeing where everybody grew… When people told Josh it was a huge mistake leaving Coheed, they were only looking at the short term. Granted, there were some times I was upset with some shit that was going on, but I knew the potential and talent was always there and remains there. I know this new record is the shit.
JE: Kwame and Dave and Ern are my friends first. These dudes were not happy with me, man. I took the guarantee from a Weerd Science show and instead of splitting it with everybody I bought drugs.
JE: Yeah! Great! Awesome! [laughing] I remember I left rehab and the day I did I walked up the street with a stupid smile on my face and Kwam looked at me and shook his head and walked away. As a friend, he was upset with me ‘cuz I fucked a lot of shit up. That’s what the record is about. It’s a fresh take on it. We’re not the first musicians to do that, but…
ERN: We’re the sickest musicians.
NEESH: Gym Class Heroes, they use live instruments, right?
JE: Yeah. It’s a band. I like Gym Class. I’m a big fan. We toured with them.
NEESH: They opened for you guys?
JE: Yeah, as fucked up as that is! It’s different from what I wanna do. They remind me of an indie-rock band with a rapper. I wanna do a record with 50-year old bass players from P-funk. More about, I don’t know how to say this…
MYE: More of a hip-hop band with a raper?
JE: Yeah! I’m gonna make a band of all rapists! Child rapists, and then play shows at Elementary Schools! And call the tour “Flirting With Disaster”. On the posters there’s gonna be little kids talking to an old man handing out chocolate candy! “Hi Matthew, I love you!” But no…I knew Gym Class was gonna be huge. I met Travis as a straight up MC. He gave me a demo, Schleprock. It was our first Warped Tour and we were in a van. I hit him with a Weerd Science CD and our booking agents got in touch and that’s how our tour happened. Gym Class is awesome. I’ve got nothing but love, but it always was very different. I think we’re more hip-hop.
DP: But they are sort of bridging the same gap.
JE: We use live instruments but we’ve always had a way darker element then them. If we had a live band, it’s not where I’d want them to come from. That’s a good question Neesh. We’d have…better musicians.
DP: Oh God!
JE: I’m not trying to say that! But I’d want a bad motherfucker!
ERN: It’s a poppier version than what we’re doing. People draw comparisons because there’s live instruments.
MYE: Let’s talk about Mours, your full return to a rock music band. The band name…It’s a town in France?
JE: Well, Mours, the band name was derived from American Werewolf In London, where they say, “Stick to the road. Stay off the moors.” I always thought it was a mysterious sounding word. With Weerd Science I always had these songs and Anthony (Masington) and Dave was working with him. He came up from Pennsylvania and was a phenomenal songwriter and he moved up not to be in Mours. It was just starting, but what he wrote just around us ended up being the best part of a song. Mours is me, Anthony, Dave, Kurt and Dave Daw just coming together and making rock songs. Anthony has a gazillion songs and is a phenomenal guitar player and singer, so it just kind of happened. Anthony is the main singer and songwriter. Daw plays bass. Every song is different again. We all write together. The first song we put up “Christmas From Hell”, it’s just a working title, but it got thousands of plays off the bat.
MYE: Since we all broke up Divest, Parker, me and Nate (Kelley) went in a more indie-rock direction, but you guys, when you were doing Counterfeit Disaster, the guitars were much more of a spacey-pop thing. I hear some in Mours in Kurt’s playing.
DP: It’s several of the same people, yeah.
MYE: And you’re all collage-ing it.
JE: The first song we did I wrote, but at this point I wouldn’t want to hear it without all the others added to it. We all get in each other’s shit and nobody says, “No! This is mypart!” We’re using some of everyone’s stuff. It is different from us all on our own. It’s five dudes making rock songs.
DP: Everything is kept in a liquid form for a long time. The songs can change as we figure it out.
MYE: You’ve only had one song and people think they know everything about the band already.
JE: We don’t even know about the band yet! We have enough for two records of ideas for Mours but have 5 or 6 songs. The next batch, really the writing–Kurt Brown is in there right now crafting his part. Mic Todd’s on the chorus with us.
MYE: So you and Mic have a better friendship going than some of the other Coheed guys, I take it?
JE: When No World For Tomorrow came out we went to dinner and it lasted 5 minutes and I threw the record at him and I spit at him! We patched it up. I love Mic. He’d said something I didn’t like, but me and Mic are boys. He played the Eppard Brothers show with us. Yeah, he came by the studio and is a very busy guy living in L.A. now, but when he’s here we play music. We learned how to play together too. We went through it together. It’s really fun to still play sometimes. With Mours, we’re gonna make some songs, get a deal and go make a record.
MYE: Do you wanna respond to people who say The Mours reminded them about what they loved about the first two Coheed records?
JE: Yeah! What the fuck do people expect! Obviously from where Shabutie was when I joined Coheed changed a lot. Not just the drums, but straight chugging kick drums was all about what Coheed was about on the first record. There was no guitar solos. That’s what I loved about Coheed. We’ll expand on that. At the end of the day when this record is finished I wanna have it be like Sunny Day Real Estate played with The Deftones and somehow Foo Fighters got involved. Thanks to Darkworld we make music everyday. It’s a dream come true. I don’t have a dollar to my name and my life is in shambles right now but I’ve never been happier! It’s hard for people to understand, but as long as my girl keeps providing money, we’re straight! [laughing] There’s room for Mours and Weerd Science, but we’re getting real busy for Weerd Science and so are bearing down with as much Mours stuff as we can. But if Darkworld has a session, Dave’s the engineer, I’m session drummer! I can’t get away from these dudes! It’s really enjoyable. So far, maybe the most fun I’ve ever had making rock music.
MYE: People have read into “Christmas From Hell” as a statement to Coheed.
JE: Not at all. It’s about detoxing from heroin on Christmas, which I just did. Calling my girlfriend. I could see how people could think that. Maybe on some level it is. All that stuff had an impact on my life. Some of the stuff I’ve written IS about that. It was a big thing that happened, but that song is a song to my girl ‘cuz shit was fucked up. It’s not easy to tell someone, “Hey, I’ve been doing heroin our whole relationship. Merry Christmas, hon.”
DP: We got snowed in one weekend and Josh went off to detox while the rest of us finished it.
MYE: It’s cool in a way, she sticks through it.
JE: She’s the greatest. If it wasn’t for these dudes, too, for a couple of years I was clean, I was sober. Using, clean. Back and forth and not really sure what was going on. Doing drugs was the only time I felt things were okay. They weren’t okay! I got in a bad spot in my head. You know where I’m coming from, Morgan. I had to come to Daw and my parents and the people in my life like Daw and Kwam that are good people and Parker. I needed a hand to crawl out of that hole. While I’m newly sober from heroin 49 days, I really plan to be done with drugs. I don’t expect anyone to believe me, and they don’t have to, but it’ll speak for itself. I was never done. I was off drugs but knew I was gonna do them. I would stop drugs to get people off my back. I can’t imagine going back there. People don’t understand where I was at. I’m really shocked I didn’t kill myself. As corny as it sounds, I lived in a dark place for a long time, even during success.
MYE: It took me years after quitting heroin, ten years now since I last did it, to shake off a lot of the guilt and I never talked about what it did to my self esteem with some of even these dudes like Parker and Kurt as much, except for in Divest song lyrics, but I still will always appreciate Dave dealing with me the times I just drank my brains out instead! It’s a fight, man, to come back from the brink. I tried to kill all of Divest in a mini-van once when I was so depressed and grabbed the wheel from Dave driving! We almost crashed into a fucking toll booth by a few feet!
JE: I remember hearing that story!
MYE: You had such a rapid ascent with Coheed that, it was fun, sure, but a lot of pressure. Not making excuses for you.
JE: I think a lot of burning out happened. We went from never touring before to everyday! People say it is the dream come true and it was! But I did it for 5 years, man. It wasn’t like it happened on our first tour. It slowly escalated. When a drug is the only thing that makes you feel whole and you feel sick when you don’t and your bones hurt, it’s a scary place to be. I didn’t see a way out, but these dudes and Neesh showed me and I followed. I’d been lying to my family for a year again. I’d never come clean like that. It got as bad as it could be this last time around. You can’t keep up doing $300 of heroin a day when you have no money and these dudes showed me a way out. I want to live! I promised them I wouldn’t go back if I found a way out. They’ll realize you can’t get to 150 days sober without 49 days. I don’t wanna go back. By being honest with everyone I can’t fuck up.
MYE: One thing I like with your involvement in Equal Vision, growing up in Woodstock we had this old school ‘60s element around where I thought as a teen I could understand life by taking acid.
JE: There was a cool thing about drugs.
DP: Acid helped me figure out reality. Reality was, “Don’t do acid!”
JE: That was my reality also! I didn’t do it twice!
MYE: I used to take it every day, bro.
JE: I cannot imagine you on acid, Morgan. Don’t forget, bro. I played the show with you [in Bleed Theory] where you jumped off the stage and landed on a table full of girls! Acid fucked me up. I could never do it now.
MYE: The point I wanted to make is Equal Vision was more a straight edge label and some people say they sign bands now that are more commercial, but it’s a cool circle of acceptance also. Not to diminish from straight edge at all, because it is amazing, but it is good to include all paths. People aren’t from here and, like, Three carries on that creative push of the ‘60s and ‘70s in a more positive way. Coheed too, in some ways, not all, of course. I always thought Coheed could be the band to bridge the gap between these divergent lifestyles and scenes.
JE: I remember when you wrote that. It was well put.
MYE: I think Weerd Science could open people’s minds who won’t listen because the music is so engaging and the story telling element is there. Maybe not people that only like SXEHC but people can see you are human and trying to be real.
JE: I hope so.
ERN: Real music, there will be closed-minded people, but hopefully people will see it is someone telling their story and good music is good music.
MYE: You don’t have to be perfect to make good art.
JE: A lot of people do dismiss it, and hip-hop. I’ve been guilty of that, but it’s still art.
MYE: Some people dismiss a band because they are straight edge! That’s lame, too.
JE: That’s all a part of growing up, becoming accepting of other things. I put out a rap record coming from a rock band on an emo/Krishna label!
MYE: An emo/prog/punk band!
JE: [Walking away to go take a piss] It doesn’t get any weirder than that.