Blow The Scene’s Joshua T Cohen caught up with San Diego’s favorite indefinable quartet of unhinged musicians Ghetto Blaster, for an exclusive interview this week. Ghetto Blaster draws on influences from across the board delivering an onslaught of quirky riffs and melodies punctuated by a pugnacious vocal intensity that finds itself floating somewhere in the punk-rock, alt, prog end of the spectrum with a splash of schizophrenia thrown in for good measure. Ghetto Blaster singer and front man Ryan Foxe takes Blow the Scene readers into his world..
Joshua T Cohen (BTS): Go ahead and introduce yourselves to Blow The Scene readers around the world. Declare your musical contribution to Ghetto Blaster and where and how this delicate band title came to be.
Greg Sudor: drums and percussion
Cole Mears: bass and Background Vox
John Cota: guitar and Backgound Vox
Ryan Foxe: Vocals and stage personality
Ryan Foxe: The name Ghetto Blaster was a name developed out of desperation. We are trying to connect with the youth that has no past and who is trying to feel apart of the 80’s phenomenon of break dancing/popping; locking, neon images, Ray Ban sunglasses, Rubik’s cubes, feathered hair, flagpole sitting, pac-man, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, Tom Cruise at his best in Top Gun. The list goes on into infinity. It was a piece of time where if you had no talent and no influences, a person was bound to be successful. I see why a generation with no-one to look up to, would look back in time for something to follow. I guess, “Back To The Future,” is now.
A ghetto blaster was the ability to express the type of music that you were into and blast it at top volume for ears that didn’t want to hear it. Growing up in San Diego a couple blocks from the beach I would bring my ghetto blaster along to every bit of debauchery that I and my friends took part in…sneaking into skate spots, crashing party’s, the boardwalk, the qwik corner convenience store, where-ever. There was always a soundtrack blasting in the background…MDC, Minor Threat, Battalion Of Saints, Bad Brains, Rapeman, Einstürzende Neubauten ,The Feelies, The Gits, The Slits, Poison Idea, Wire, Wall of Voodoo, Insolentsents. That’s the kind of stuff that was coming out my ghetto blaster while we sat on the boardwalk. We listened to everything and anything that had the same attitude that we had.
A ghetto blaster really, is a battering ram for a crack house.
Joshua BTS: How would you describe Ghetto Blaster’s sound to someone who has never heard the band before?
Ryan Foxe: I have to let people come up with their own definition. The only way to have one of anything in this world, is if there is another to define it. People who haven’t been exposed to much will come up their own definitions. I overheard someone say that we sounded like Fugazi with Jello Biafra singing. I also heard that we sound like the Melvins on Crank. I hear these things and it’s obvious that these people have never heard the Dead Kennedy’s, Pailhead, Egghunt, or the Melvins.
Cole (bass player) told me he stopped listening to everything for a long period of time just so he wouldn’t be influenced by outside sources…which is a great approach. If I’m listening to Squeeze a lot, it’s gonna show up in the song I’m working on. The stuff that I’m into doesn’t sound like the stuff I write or sing. I listen to a lot of World Music and Chamber music because I exhausted everything else.
Plus, in a way I’m kind of a foreigner to what Ghetto Blaster is doing. Maybe here and there it may sound like Fishwife but that’s far and few between. Some of the material is pulled from the junkyard of a couple of Hostile Combover songs, but that’s a skimp portion of what we are doing in Ghetto Blaster. We sound like 4 dump trucks crashing into one another.
I never know what to say when people ask that question,”What Do You Sound Like?” If it’s an 90 year old woman I always say it’s,” Math Rock,” and when she asks me what kind of rock? I always ask her if she’s ever head of the band RUSH.
Joshua BTS: Ghetto Blaster features former and current members of Fishwife, Grids, Hostile Combover, Rats Eyes, and Irradio..The San Diego Reader even went as far as to call you a “Super-group.” How did the current line-up come to be and should we expect any more additions to the Ghetto Blaster family? What were some of the driving influences of the band?
Ryan Foxe: We are a,”Super Group,” because only real, true Superheros come and see us play. Since there aren’t any real, true Superheros, the crowd attendance is running a little thin. Plus, we’ve only been together for 6 months and it takes 10 years before a band even gets talked about in the U.S.. People need to be told what to like and they want to hear that a band has a history even though they were not there for it.
John Cota (guitar) and Greg Sudor (drums) got together and wrote 8 songs or some number like that and then John approached Cole and he was into it and he’s a quick learner so the 3 of them had a solid instrumental set. John Cota approached me and asked if I wanted to sing and he handed me an 8-track cassette tape and it took me a month to hunt down an 8-track cassette player at the local swap meet. When I first heard what they had come up with, I just shook my head cause I could tell, it was going to take a lot of my personal-free time to apply lyrics to this complicated mess.
As far as new members are concerned, Rob Crow (Pinback) wanted to play keyboards for some of our stuff but we are in the process right now of trying to get rid of some of the members we already have. Streamline it down to the bare essentials. Basically, I see myself doing spoken word coffee house tours and at every show I’ll cut off a new and exciting body part to keep the audience captivated. I’ve got a lot of body parts that I really don’t use.
Joshua BTS: Tell us about the song-writing process..Does everyone share a piece of the action or do you have a captain at the helm dictating the direction of the music?
Ryan Foxe: I don’t know what those guys do when I’m not there but they just come up with the music part and then I write lyrics to it. Sometimes, I complain that a riff is to long but no one really listens to what I have to say, that’s why they let me write the lyrics. John Cota suggested that him and I get together and write stuff if I don’t like the lengths of certain riffs. (That’s not exactly what he said other wise I would have put it in quotes but it was something along those lines) I’ve never done that. That just sounds weird to me. I thank John for trying to be considerate of my dilemma but if 2 guys are alone writing lyrics and guitar parts together it just sounds like it will lead to something else. John’s cute and all but it just sounds hokey. I always figured that’s how folk music developed and folk music is weird too. Not to leave out boring. Regardless, of what the message may be. There is nothing worse than somebody trying to convey a message through, “Their,”music. Actions speak louder than words, so put down your acoustic guitar and cut enough of that hair off to make Molotov cocktails with that wine bottle sitting on your soap box and throw it at the nearest post-office every time the price of a stamp goes up. Do something don’t sing about it.
Joshua BTS: You have a few upcoming shows booked for July and August..What can we expect from these shows?
Ryan Foxe: The only reason I go to shows now-a-days is to learn what not to do. I watch other bands and I’m more entertained by the check out girl at the supermarket. People playing music are so boring. Stick your neck out a little, so what if it gets chopped off. The fucking bass player for High On Fire jumps like 8 feet off the ground while he plays, it’s fucking rad. That was the last time I saw a good show. Those guys are into it. So many bands bore the shit out of me. Then again I’m kind of spoiled because I’ve seen some amazing shows and I’ve even been luckier to share the same stage with some great bands. Alice Donut is the first to come to mind and after that would be playing with Nirvana in Tijuana and more mind blowing than that was being on tour and playing with the Cows up in the northwest for a couple of shows. Shannon Selberg (singer of the Cows) was the last real front man of our times. David Yow (Jesus Lizard) is in a fair running and John cota has told me some funny things about the singer of Triclops which I’ve yet to see.
As far as Ghetto Blaster is concerned.., When we played with Red Fang at the Casbah it was a fairly packed house & I started swinging my microphone full speed over the heads of the crowd all I could see paralyzed fear in the audience members.
Joshua BTS: Being based out of the East Coast, I am always interested in how other music scenes are doing around this country and abroad..Any bands or musical groups really exciting you on the west side of the Mississippi right now? Local, national or otherwise?
Ryan Foxe: Rats Eyes, Red Fang, High on Fire, The Widows,The Night Marchers, Spider Fever.
that’s all that comes to mind
Joshua BTS: What’s in store for the future? Album in the works? Tours?
Ryan Foxe: Going on West Coast tour starting October 19th for like 3 weeks. We have enough material recorded for a record but we haven’t asked anybody to put it out. We have a, kind of e.p. demo thing, that we sell at shows. We are still a new, “Act,” but I see a lot in our near-by future. Hopefully, we’ll be out on the east coast soon.
You can check out more on Ghetto Blaster at their Official Myspace Profile.