If the breathless Mad Max: Fury Road makes one thing clear, it is that your well-oiled machine better have a damn good engine at the heart of it. Got a litany of war drummers at your disposal? Well, that helps too. In the case of Toronto hardcore massive Fucked Up, they make do for the most part with just one. Luckily, Jonah Falco brings the noise and then some. When not pounding the skins for the Canadians, he dons guitar for Career Suicide and has a solo project of his own, Lonely Wholesome, which he’s hard at work on when he takes State’s call.
This Friday he and his cohorts will take to the stage at one of Dublin’s newest, hippest venues – Hangar. Ahead of that momentous occasion (we suspect there will be quite the atmosphere in the city), Falco gives us his thoughts on the band’s forthcoming Year of the Hare 12″, last year’s terrific Glass Boys, his status as the least recognisable member of the band, Tottenham Hotspur star striker Harry Kane, why the film Whiplash irked him so and the fact that he must constantly be working on music…
“You know what? It increasingly feels that way but I don’t expect that that should come with any sympathy. As I purport to be a professional musician, you feel like there should be music every day of the week and recently that’s been coming true, so whether or not that makes me more or less professional is up for debate but I certainly feel dedicated to my craft at the moment”.
Let’s talk Year of the Hare. Two tracks, one of which is 21 minutes long. Have you played that live yet?
“We’re working toward doing just that. With all of the songs from the Zodiac series, the challenge that faces us is to take all the energy that went into the song in the studio that rarely gets put back in in a live setting. We have to approach playing live in a new way. Year of the Hare is particularly difficult because it has a really long intro with all sorts of sounds and noises and effects and other instrumentation. It’s going to be a challenge but the way we have met this challenge, as with the rest of the Zodiac songs, is by actually increasing the number of people in our band…”
That sounds like cheating…
“Yeeeah, it is and it isn’t. It’s like when you’re doing housework and you find yourself muttering, ‘Oh I wish I had two extra arms’, well sometimes those wishes can come true with other people’s arms and legs and voices. We’re touring all summer with a band called DOOMSQUAD and they’re helping to fill out the line-up for the shows where we’re playing the Zodiac tunes. It’s three people and it makes us seem all that more maximalist but it is an interesting new way to play the songs live”.
Year of the Hare comes one year on from Glass Boys. Is it a case that you’re just constantly looking forwards? Do you ever take time to evaluate past work?
“I feel like it’s better to evaluate what one has done in a passive way. It’s much more valuable when you are in the position to have to pilot a group towards relevance all the time. I don’t mean to sound so disconnected from it but to re-evaluate is to take a step forward. It’s not good to sit and ruminate on the things you’ve done in the past because you sort of cease to be relevant in terms of making a new point. Your past has gotten you to your present and so to get from your present to your future you have to pick a new element from which to move forward. Of course we take stock in what we’ve done, but the core of the forward motion in the band is never directly reflexive on what has happened. I’m actually probably the most likely candidate to say, ‘This sounds too much like this’ or ‘We’ve already done that’. A year on from Glass Boys, you think about what that record meant only in the context of what you’ve done now. In hindsight, you can contextualise it. To do so at the get-go will hinder you”.
That album felt like an evaluation of the band at the time, though. It seemed to be a contrast of the personal and the professional and whether or not it was time to pass the torch.
“In a way, Glass Boys was a summation of many things that had happened prior to its release and that definitely happened thematically. I think the music is an acknowledgement of where we’ve always been going but in a funny way it also felt like we were putting a cap on a certain method of songwriting. We’ll always be the same songwriters, of course, but there were certain concessions made with regards to everything on that record; the sense of melody, the sense of aggression and also the sense of experimentation all got a bit of a fair shake. In that sense, I certainly agree that it was a way to blend the personal and the professional. Fucked Up has always been sort of standoff-ish and Glass Boys was such an honest record in some ways. But, y’know, we disrupted the honest and nostalgic qualities by having quadruple drum tracks.
There’s always got to be a branch in the machine with Fucked Up. In the case of Glass Boys, it was rather on purpose to have kind of simplistic pop songs with nostalgic lyrics and then to have a seamlessly needless drum arrangement. Those kind of complications arose all the time with Fucked Up – screaming vocals with melodic guitars, really long songs while being a hardcore band, etc. You pick it; there’s always been some kind of agitation involved. The Zodiac songs are the most disruptive to all genres and all notions because they’re so long and so conceptual. They are under the name of Fucked Up but they’re standalone. They exist outside the general solar system of this band. The good thing about that is it normalises them into their own thing and the more that get released, the more they become their own moment and their own relevant representation of the band”.
Mike [Haliechuk, guitarist] said around the time of the release: “If you’ve done it right, you’ve had a good decade and then someone else does it. That’s the way that it should be”. How do you feel about the future?
“Hmm… let me think of a good way to put this. I’ve never been certain, sure or aware of what any construct of the future was going to mean for Fucked Up and here we are and I don’t feel any different now. To me, that is not an admission of fear, uncertainty or doubt but more an acknowledgement of the process by which this band continues to exist – on a horizon but without a map”.
On the subject of quadruple drum tracks, Glass Boys was released in two different time signatures. Was that your idea?
“Not entirely, no. I’ve put double drums on things before and we’ve definitely experimented with that but the time signature shift and combining the two was something that I certainly scoffed at at first. But like everything, you take it on board and start to understand how it fits just by virtue of the fact that you are doing it. I think if you imagine some of those Glass Boys songs just as straight, melodic punk songs, the last thing you would think is, ‘Let’s put a half-time groovy drum beat underneath!’. That seems excessive and ‘let’s just throw this in and see what happens’ but this is the beauty of making a statement; once you make a statement that’s just the way it is. There doesn’t have to be a justification for it”.
Hey I’m all for it, as both a drummer and a music writer who can draw his own pretentious narrative about time…
“Well, you certainly could and it’s the drummer’s job to self-aggrandise. Traditionally we’re sitting back there making a racket and competing with exciting singers and guitarists…”