Interview: Lee Spielman of Trash Talk

This is an extended version of an interview which will appear in an upcoming issue of Absolute Underground.

Trash Talk

L.A.-based hardcore band Trash Talk is doing as well as a band can with 70-second songs and gratingly screeched vocals can do. The four-piece (sometimes five live) has been building their name in the west-cast hardcore scene for the past nine years, is signed to red-hot hip-hop label Odd Future, and recently achieved cross-over success with appearances at such festivals as Coachella and Pitchfork, events which don’t typically feature many heavy acts. Absolute Underground’s Michael Luis sat down with frontman/madman Lee Spielman before their Vancouver show with Dillinger Escape Plan, Retox, and Shining.

Absolute Underground: So, how’s the tour been so far?

Lee Spielman: It’s been sick. We got to go to a lot of parts of Canada we’ve never been to ever. We’ve only ever been to Toronto once and Vancouver twice, so it was tight to go to Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, places I’d never think of going to.

AU: The four bands on this tour are all very different, kind of like four different flavours of heavy music. How has the crowd dynamic been from band to band?

LS: It’s been good because it seems the fans just came to see some sort of aggressive music, or heavy or extreme or whatever you want to call it. I think every band does a pretty good job of doing their output. Therefore, it’s been pretty receptive.

AU: And have you learned anything from these other bands, their different approaches or philosophies?

LS: Naw, not really. I’d be lying if I said yeah. They’re just doing their thing and we’re doing our thing.

AU: And this is a heavy tour, but you guys have done some tours with hip-hop acts. So how do these quote-unquote “hip-hop” audiences receive you guys?

LS: Rap shows are tight. Kids don’t show up with pre-conceived notions. They’re not like on the internet “aw I hate this band because of this” or “I used to like that record.” It’s all fresh and new to them so it’s kinda cool. And I feel like hip-hop kids never get to see that kind of reaction from bands and shit. When people start [stage] diving and shit kids are like “what the fuck is this? I’ve never seen this in my life. I can front-flip off a stage and not get stabbed or something. ” It’s definitely different for a hip-hop kid to see that.

AU: So it’s a very fresh experience.

LS: And it’s fresh for us too. They go about things completely different. Here you just start to play heavy music and it’s about to go down. There you got to make it more to be into it.

AU: Speaking of these tours, is it true that Action Bronson cannon-balls into the fucking mosh-pit?

LS: Yeah, we played Los Angeles and I was tripping and the show was going really good; it was home-town shit so it was crazy. Out of nowhere I just hear “aaaaahhhhhh!” And I just looked and Action Bronson hit a cannonball off the stage. And that’s been like his thing, man. He just stage dives during Trash Talk.

AU: I think he’s here in two days too.

LS: Yeah, he’s coming up for 4/20. He’s the perfect guy for that shit.

AU: I was at Coachella, the same one you guys played, when he was throwing all that weed into the crowd and shit.

LS: I threw an eighth into the crowd and I thought I was cool. And then he threw out five ounces of weed (laughs).

AU: You guys got a new album coming out. What can we expect?

LS: We got a new album coming out May 27th called No Peace on Odd Future Records. It’s more… not that our other records… ah, it’s hard for me to explain. This one sounds – people always say more mature — but it sounds like we know what we’re doing if that makes sense. It’s not that we didn’t know what we’re doing but it feels like an “adult” record, the record we should’ve made last time. Still fast, hella aggressive, a lot of hooky-type shit, like anthem punk.

AU: Song lengths?

LS: There’s a song that’s 50 seconds and there’s a song that’s four minutes, y’know?

AU: Any guest appearances?

LS: I can’t even talk about that. (The album has appearances by The Alchemist, Wiki of Ratking, and King Krule).

AU: What’s the drummer situation currently? I honestly have no clue. It was Sam [Bosson], then I saw you with some other guy in April then it was Thomas Pridgen [famously of Mars Volta]. Who are you guys playing with?

LS: We have this kid Devon Bentley playing with us. We’ve had lots of drummer changes. Sam was with us like five-six years. He was the one; he was a part of the shit, but he had some stuff going on with his personal life, so he had to go do his own thing. And then we had Thomas. Thomas was cool, like he could play very well. But I don’t think we were together head-wise, like where we thought we should be. It wasn’t his vibe; it wasn’t our vibe, but he’s a fucking phenomenal drummer for sure.

AU: Yeah, and he’s played with Ben from Dillinger in that Giraffe Tongue Orchestra as well.

LS: Yeah. Trash Talk’s been from the beginning has been me, Spencer, Garrett, so as long as long as those three people are there it’s still Trash Talk.

AU: So, do you think Devon is going to stay on for a while?

LS: Yeah, he’s playing with us right now.

AU: Did you guys ever finish Nardwuar’s punk activity book?

LS: Yeah, we did.

AU: Was it super fun?

LS: it’s on my coffee table at home. Nardwuar’s fucking sick. Last time I went here I did his radio show for charity and my homie called in and donated 50 bucks and it was the only person who donated 50 bucks. I’ve never seen someone work that hard. It was like, we’re about to go on, five, four, three two, one, and it felt like a switch flipped. And he turned into [says in a high squeaky voice] Nardwuar! It was super sick to see someone so passionate about something.

AU: I interviewed FIDLAR after he did and it was like “How the fuck do I follow that?”

LS: Yeah, it doesn’t even work. He was saying some crazy shit to me, like creepy. It’s hella funny when he makes people mad.

AU: Yeah, like the Transplants didn’t like his interviewing style.

LS: Yeah, they said they were gonna break his nose or something.

AU: Blur too I think. They don’t get it. We get it. I saw a video recently of you guys playing at South by Southwest, where you played on the patio of a liquor store, and kids were jumping off the roof of the store and jumping out of trees. Obviously, tonight you guys are playing a traditional venue, but do you guys almost prefer these guerilla shows?

LS: It doesn’t work if it’s planned out. Shit has to be on-the-fly, like a show gets shut down and some dude’s like “I got a backyard, let’s go do it.” I don’t prefer those shows because you never know if they’re going to happen. But when they do happen it’s like “Fuck, that was amazing!” The reason that shit happened in Texas was because the night before we were supposed to have an all-ages show, and there were too many people in line. And the fire marshal showed up, and before they even let anybody in, they counted four-times as many people [as the capacity of the venue], and were like “that’s not happening.” That was our only all-ages show at SXSW, so the next day I was like “We should try and set something up.” So we set up on the patio and it was super sick. It was crazy.

AU: That transitions well into my next question. How important are all-ages shows to the Trash Talk ethos?

LS: I think they’re super important. I was a fucking 16-year-old kid who wanted to see a show and it was 18-plus. Knowing that one of your favourite bands is playing down the street and being not able to go is one of the most frustrating things. I don’t think that music should be age-limited or genre-limited. If you want to come and check out and see if it’s for you, you should be able to come out and see if it’s for you. It’s fucking music. This tour has been cool though to see that we can play age-limited shows and they’ll still be good. Sometimes it’s a toss-up. It’s like “This is going to be fucking horrible. It’s 21-plus.” But to play age-limited shows is super… weird almost.

AU: Yeah, well at least in Calgary and whatnot it would’ve been 18-plus so you could at least get college freshmen and whatnot.

LS: America’s just 21 everywhere so you’re fucked for a while.

AU: I came over from Victoria, BC. So I was wondering if you know anything of the Victoria hardcore legacy.

LS: I don’t but I used to live in Seattle and I remember bands would always go to Victoria Island. Is that right?

AU: Vancouver Island.

LS: Yeah, bands would always travel up and do that. But I honestly don’t know much about Canada. Canada never wanted to let us in before. Like I said [with] Edmonton and Calgary, this is our first time ever being able to go around and see shit.

AU: Yeah, it’s been fucked lately.

LS: Yeah, we had to pay.

AU: I know the reggae band The Expendables had a tough time. Larry and His Flask couldn’t get in. Danny Brown was supposed to play a festival in Victoria, same tour with you guys and Action. Action made it in but Danny didn’t.

LS: Yeah.

AU: Anyways, Nomeansno and Dayglo Abortions is who you have to check out.

LS: Oh, I know Dayglo Abortions.

AU: Nice, and Nomeansno is like original math punk and mathcore.

LS: Sick.

AU: So the guy who did your “Slander” video, Jay Howell, of Sanjay and Craig and Bob’s Burgers. How do you know him?

LS: He’s from Sacramento. He’s from my home town. I honestly didn’t meet him in Sacramento, but when I did meet him it was at a house party or some shit. We were drunk and it was like “You’re from Sac? I’m from Sac!” And we got into a “No you’re not,” just talking about bands and shit. Ever since we’ve just been homies. He’s a punk rocker, so even though he does a kids Nickelodeon show, that’s not where his art came from originally. That’s what he does now. He still enjoys doing it, but he’s a punk. He wants to make the art that’s the shit he wants to make, his own shit. He’s doing a new one for us right now. It’s cool that he doesn’t always have to do Nickelodeon censored cartoons and shit. He can have fun. If someone wants to eat a bunch of mushrooms and trip out, and they want to see some cartoons, he can do that.

AU: he’s done some tattoo stuff for guys as well, right?

LS: Yeah, I’ve got Damian from Fucked Up tattooed on my leg and Damian has me tattooed on his leg. He bought a tattoo gun and he can draw anybody in like five seconds.

AU: In his particular style.

LS: Yeah, it still looks like the person but in his style. It’s like “Fuck, we should get tattoos.” He’s got a gun and he’s learning how. It’s hella fun. He comes over to our house and we can tattoo shit on each other.

AU: The second I guess “Hollywood” connnection would be Blake [Anderson] from Workaholics. How do you know him?

LS: I just met him from living in L.A. Taco from Odd Future was like “he fucks with your music.” We linked up and shit and now we’re just straight homies. We watch fucking sports and drink beers. We like the same music so I show that dude punk and stuff. Bros are hella regular even though they have a TV show. It’s cool.

AU: Yeah, their shows doing super well. Here up in Canada they have a large fan base.

LS: Yeah, he’s just “one of us” if that makes sense.

AU: Anything else you’d like to add to your Canadian fans?

LS: Shout outs to Fucked Up, No Warning, all our homies in Toronto, all the homies in Vancouver. We’ll be back soon if the border lets us over. We can’t wait to come back.

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