Interview Date: 6/18/2010
Gelman Library, Washington DC
Chris Richards is a musician and journalist from Annapolis, MD, noted for his bands Q and Not U and Ris Paul Ric. He lived at Kansas House during his last semester at the George Washington University in 2000.
TP: When did you live there?
CR: I moved into the Kansas House, if memory serves me correctly, it was late August of 2000 and I was there till the end of the year, which was essentially my senior semester of college. I graduated a semester early. It was just four months, but so much happened to me in those four months. When I sort of think about all the memories of what’s gone down in a very little window… it’s pretty cool.
TP: So, August to what– December?
CR: Actually, I think I moved out around Christmas. On Christmas Eve I moved all my stuff out to my parents’ house.
TP: Do you know whose place you took?
CR: I think Jason Hammacher. No, Jason Hammacher came after me. Before me, it might have been Juliet… was that her name? From the Rondelles?
CR: No… Yukiko lived there with me. It was Yukiko, myself, Bob Massey and Ann. And I think Juliet, the singer from the Rondells was in that room before I was.
TP: Which one was your room?
CR: The porch. The back porch room.
TP: The room… the sleeping porch.
CR: The sleeping porch.
TP: So you were actually probably there for… I mean you weren’t there in the middle of winter when it would have probably sucked.
CR: It was actually way worse in the summertime, I heard, because it was just brutal. That September was so brutal. I guess the winter must have been awful too. But it got cold in the wintertime. No climate control.
TP: How did you find out about the room opening?
CR: I think Yukiko told me about it. But I have a bad memory because Bob Massey was kind of like the father hen of the house at the time. But I’m pretty sure it was Yukiko, because she was at GW here, I was going to GW. And she was going to GW and I think she told me about it. But I always get things mixed up because Bob Massey got me my job at the Washington Post, where I still work today.
TP: Did you take his job at the Post or was it a different job?
CR: Bob… actually that’s an interesting story too. Bob Massey got tons of rock and roll people, a lot of musicians hired at the Washington Post in the Style section as copy aids, where we did work– mostly clerical stuff. But we all took turns going on tour, essentially. The woman who did all the scheduling understood what it was like to be in a touring band, so it was a very cool job because you could work solid for a month and go on tour for a month and come back. And we all kinda took turns going on tour together. So when I got there Kathi Wilcox was there, Allison Wolfe was there, Michael Cotterman, who I think was still playing with Kid Dynamite at the time was there, Bob was there and it was kind of a little punk rock job and the people who ran it understood what we were doing.
TP: Did you work there while you were in school or was that after?
CR: No it was after, about a year after. Bob Massey hooked that up, and I wouldn’t have got it if I hadn’t lived at Kansas House.
TP: So you were in school… were you doing anything else during that time?
CR: During that time… I was playing in Q and Not U at the time. And, yeah finishing up my senior semester. I was setting up shows there, too, because I guess that’s what you did if you lived at Kansas House.
TP: What were some of the shows you set up?
CR: I remember distinctly only one that I know that I set up alone and that was The Rapture. We had The Rapture play there, before they were signed, obviously. And it was a great show. I can’t remember who opened. But that was the one show that I remember that I booked the whole thing.
And I can’t remember if Q and Not U played when I lived there. I think we played when I lived there. I know we played there twice… Twice? Definitely once, and maybe twice. No, I think just once. And I had moved out by then. I remember that.
TP: Who else played the Rapture show, do you remember?
CR: I can’t remember who played the Rapture show. Maybe Et At It might have played. Or one of those bands… remember Et At It, and Rah Rah Fray and all those abbreviated name bands? It was one of them. And that was it. It was just two of them. And it couldn’t have been Et At It because I don’t think they were together yet. It might have been Rah Rah Fray plus Ann, because they were friends with Gabe, who had joined the Rapture by then. I can’t remember… this is great research since it’s all time line fuzziness, but you’ll figure it all out, I think, as you talk to more and more people…
TP: Okay so talk about what it was like to have a band play at your house.
CR: Doing shows at Kansas House, it seems miraculous that it actually happened. But the culture that I grew up in the harDCore punk scene in DC it just seemed totally natural. I was used to seeing bands in domestic spaces because that’s all that we ever had. I grew up in Annapolis, MD, so we kind of had a starry eyed view of the DC Punk Scene, from far away. Even though we were only 45 minutes away, it seemed like a whole different terrain. And it really was. So we would do shows when I was in high school, in the basement of our parents’ house or in someone’s living room. And we ended up meeting some young bands from DC who were also in DC or in the suburbs, and they would get us booked for shows. We thought maybe we would play a club with them, but no– we ended up playing more basements. By the time I was in college, house shows were just an ingrained part of my cultural awareness, I guess. But it was a wonderful thing because it was like throwing a party and a concert at the same time, and you knew half the people there very, very well, and the other half you had no idea who they were. They were kind of just coming to a public event that was being held in your living room. And there was a really good chance to mix it up with people you hadn’t met before. And I was really surprised how respectful and, for lack of a better word well behaved everyone remained over the years. I think it could have gotten really…
TP: Why do you think that may have been? Because everyone’s saying, I can’t believe everyone was respectful of the house.
CR: I don’t know, I think it’s a “When in Rome” situation. Like, the DC punk scene has always been a really magical place because it’s always been about the community and the event and a general kind of social contract of respect. When you walk into the room… I don’t know… I think everybody kind of bellyaches and says that Fugazi stole a lot of fun out of music by telling people not to mosh, but I think they created a place where everyone really respects each other. And at a Fugazi show that might feel stifling to some mosh dude who likes to stage dive. But the legacy that I felt from that whole gesture was in house shows, because you could go into someone’s living room, have a wonderful time, you could dance to music, have a great time with a stranger and see bands play in front of a fireplace and not worry that people were going to trash the joint. And I think that, because it was such a safe space, for lack of a better term, they allowed it to keep happening. Like, if anybody ever destroyed anything, you know, they’d probably stop doing shows then.
I remember I had left a couch at Kansas House when I moved out. I had left it there thinking I was gonna get it back, because I was going on tour and didn’t have a place to live and kind of couch surfing going from place to place on other peoples couches. But I thought when I finally get my place I’m gonna get my couch back. Well, The Locust had played on the Fourth of July in 2001, and I wanted to pick the couch up two weeks later, but apparently everyone had stood on the couch because I think they had like 200 people come to the show which is, you know, in a room smaller than the one we’re in right now. And I remember being so upset and offended, like: how dare people stand on my couch! And now that I think about it, it’s hilarious that the couch wasn’t, like, knifed and burned and beer poured all over it, and you know, bloody. I was just mad because people stood on it. That’s hilarious to me now.
TP: Do you remember who set up that Locust show?
CR: I think Jason Hammacher.
TP: Cause he was living there, right?
CR: He was living there, and he had tricked out that back room and built like a bunk and blocked out the sun to keep it cool in the summer and warm during the winter. He got very industrious with it, and when that happened he started bringing a lot more… he had all those connections in the harDCore and Scream-o worlds, so I think things kind of got a little heavier at Kansas House. But those are the shows that I’m really amazed that the place didn’t fall apart or get torn to bits.
TP: What were some of the logistics that happened on putting on an actual show. Like what would have to happen in the house?
CR: What would have to happen in the house… well, you’d have to have it kind of cleaned up. You didn’t have to have the place mopped, but you’d have to have all of your personal belongings, books and CDs kind of tucked away. And that’s the other thing, too. I’m really surprised that not a lot of stuff got stolen. I mean, I had a huge record collection, not a huge, but a pretty decent record collection at the time, and people would always be going through my bedroom to use the bathroom that was in that back room. So people were always really respectful of stuff. But yeah, clean the place up a little bit. It was a uniquely stationed house… you wouldn’t have to warn the neighbors because it kind of stood alone on this field, really. So that was cool. You had to get a PA. I think at the time we had a PA of our own in the basement, if I remember correctly. You know and a couple of mike stands and a microphone. It was nothing. And then, just open the doors and ask people to come. It was really so easy to do. And we didn’t have a ton of furniture in the place, either, so if you were just hanging out at home on a Sunday, you’d feel like you were just in this big empty room, with a couch and a television and a lamp, and a coffee table and that was it, in the whole place. But you had to move the coffee table out and put the TV up against the wall.
TP: Where did the stuff that was in the house go when there was a show? Like, where did the couch go?
CR: The couch stayed, or maybe we pushed it up against the back wall. There was also that kind of sitting room, to the side, the space between the living room and the porch bedroom and the kitchen was, so I think a lot of stuff got moved in there and that’s where people would kind of sit and hang out. Oh yeah, for the bigger shows, the couch didn’t go anywhere. It got stood on!
TP: What did you guys do to soundproof, if you did anything?
CR: I remember there was a mattress that we’d drag up from downstairs and put that up against the front door. I think, I very vaguely remember that, but not a lot. And I don’t think we ever had trouble from the cops because the house was so uniquely stationed that there weren’t complaints from anybody. The funny part was that we’d have complaints from other people. Or, I don’t know, not complaints but you know, you’d hear so much living in that porch room. There was this Halall butchery behind, and all these guys would come hang out on Sunday morning, like very, very early. And they were next to you. Like, the window was here, my head was here, and guys were hanging out like right here, shootin’ the breeze and talking real loud. So I would wake up every morning at like, or every Sunday morning at like 7, after being out and having fun. I’d be like, oh these guys again! Like, loud, loud conversation going on right on the other side of the pane of glass. It was really funny.
TP: Did you ever practice there?
CR: Q and Not U practiced there once. Mostly when I was there, that band Dead Teenagers was practicing there, and that was really fun. I remember only one night when it bummed me out because I had to study for a final and I was like: aw god I wish they weren’t practicing, and there really nowhere else to go to hang out or study. I think I went to Mario’s sub shop across the street and that was not helpful.
TP: You rented a room at the Highlander…
CR: Yeah, yeah, at the Highlander, exactly… Dunkin’ Donuts study time. But otherwise that was really fun to hear them play because that whole time was really cool, with the Motorcycle Wars / Dead Teenagers fake thing.
TP: So you were there for that?
CR: Yeah, I sang backups on the Dead Teenagers demo tape because I was upstairs.
TP: Do you remember which song it was?
CR: I’m pretty sure I just yelled “dead teenagers” with them. Like “dead teenagers!!!” I think… I don’t have the demo anymore.
TP: You know what… I think I have a copy at my desk.
CR: I would love for you to make a copy of that someday. So yeah, I think I was upstairs reading and I think Ryan Nelson knocked on my door and was like: “Hey man, you wanna come down and sing some backups man?” And was like, yeah, I’m down! It was really fun.
TP: So did they play a show while you were there?
CR: I’m pretty sure that Dead Teenagers and Motorcycle Wars played a show at the house while I was there, but I don’t remember very, very well. Shows I do remember happening when I was living there… All Scars played once which was great and I think they played with a band called Dateline Diamonds, which Nick Pimmentel was in. But the All Scars show was great, and I remember it wasn’t that crowded either and at first we were a little bummed, like oh not enough people came. But then we realized how nice it was to have such an energetic show in the room, where you had room to not be like pushed up against somebody or crammed into someone. And they were awesome. That was when they were in that classic line up phase when it was Buscher, and I think Dugie Bird was still in it, and Chuck was obviously fronting it. I can’t remember who was playing drums… oh Jerry was. And someone else was playing guitar for them. But it was the All Scars when they were kind of in my favorite zone, and I loved that show.
TP: I think I remember… all of those shows have become one show, in a way.
CR: It’s like a mega show.
TP: Because I know… All Scars may have played a show… I get that show and the show they played at La Casa melded into one. Because there was one where they did, I remember they were playing on top of some weird radio transmission of some sort, I can’t remember if it was live or not and I can’t remember which one that was.
CR: I don’t remember that at Kansas House. I remember at the Kansas House one is that it was really funky, and I always though they had a really good groove going on, and I’ve always loved listening to Chuck vocalize. I mean granted this is now ten years ago, and his music has changed so much over the years, but in those days I had such a fondness for his whole rhythmic delivery. I thought he was just one of the best singers, best vocalists to come out of this scene in forever. I’m such a huge fan.
TP: What other shows do you remember happening there?
CR: I remember the Juno show and I remember…
TP: And you were not living there for the Juno show or you were?
CR: I think I was, but I can barely remember. There must have been about ten shows in that four-month span. I can’t remember… did Dismemberment Plan play that one as well, as a surprise?
TP: That was January and I know the exact date because Eric pulled it out of some part of his body… and they looked it up on their database. It was January 29th 2000. So it was right before you moved there
CR: So I had been out for a month… oh no you’re right! That’s right.
TP: That was a birthday party, and they played that, they were the surprise…
CR: Didn’t they have a funny name for it?
TP: I can’t remember. They might have. Because I didn’t remember, I feel like I knew they were playing so it wasn’t really a surprise, but they were the surprise.
CR: I remember the Juno set being really cool. And I remember Arlie the singer, who now I know and lucky enough to call a friend. I had not really heard their music too well, and he fell down on his knees at one point you know kind of this like, you know, melodramatic James Brown, Jim Morrison fashion and I thought, this guy’s really intense! Like, I was kind of suspect of it, and then I met him a year later when we were on tour out in Seattle and he is one of the most sincere people ever. And I was like yes, that makes perfect sense. But that’s the kind of thing a lot of people at the show, they already knew him. And they already knew… that’s one of the things that made shows there so magical, that a lot of people in the crowd knew the musicians personally and it was this really intense dialog boiled down to a really direct A to B kind of thing, and the fact that everyone was sharing, and it makes perfect sense. That was an episode where I didn’t know the band very well. But I felt like I was the only person in the room who felt that way because everyone was just, like pumping on all cylinders.
TP: How many people, if you had to say to do a head count, were at that show?
CR: Aw man… the thing is I think, probably, like 75, but that feels like 500 people in that room because it’s a really small room. But I would say probably about that I think.
TP: What was the difference would you say, or if there is a difference, between watching a band, but then also being a performer in that space.
CR: You know, almost very little, and that’s what I think was really special about it. And the beauty about house shows in general, is the demarcation line between audience and performer pretty much evaporates. You’re on the same floor as them, looking people straight in the eye and making eye contact with them across the room the same way you would if you were at a party or you know, hanging out.
TP: How would that differ from other shows that you have performed?
CR: Oh, very much so. I think when you’re playing on a stage there’s a huge difference and the band is even metaphorically elevated to a higher position than the crowd. I know a lot of punk bands try to subvert that and they played in front of the stage on the floor, but then if you have more than 100 people there you’re not making eye contact with the whole large portion of the crowd. That’s why the house show, the really packed house show is the most perfect form of music, I think, because you’re really… everyone is on the same site line and everyone can see each other and no one, maybe the very last person in the back of the room is a little bummed out because they have to crane their head to catch a glimpse of the band, but otherwise it’s like, you’re all there together and it’s this pumping thing. I would have liked to have done a show at Kansas House where we played in the center of the room, and had everyone around us, but we never did that. Just set it up like a band practice. I think it was probably a logistical thing, because everybody would have to get in and it would be hard and probably take up more space but that would have been so cool, to have just the way a band practices the way it as at rehearsal when we’re all facing each other. We were trying to think of a way to do that on stage back in those days, I remember we talked about it how when we’re rehearsing, we’re all looking at each other but when we get on stage, we all face the same direction and not each other.
TP: I think every band has that moment when they realize… cause in Federal City Five… everyone practices that way. You look at each other and you’re developing this communication line that totally disappears when you’re performing. So then we tried a couple times to practice the way we would stand at a show and it seemed really weird.
CR: Yeah, totally.
TP: Because even at a show, you can still turn around and see the drummer, in a way. And we stopped because it just didn’t feel right. So that would have been… I wonder if it would have been because the door would have been right there.
CR: Yeah, the door would have been blocked. But that All-Scars show that I’m talking about, I do feel like they were further in the room. Like not all the way against the wall, jammed up. I feel like they kind of came out into the room a little bit more, but you’re dealing with a decade of fuzzy memories with everybody.
TP: Well, that’s how it works, I guess. So talk about what the house looked like when you lived there, on a non-show day.
CR: Sure. The house was, when it comes to punk houses, everything is relative. I’ve seen some absolute squalor, in my time, and I’ve seen some nicely, well-kept places. I think at the time, I was 19 or 20 years old, I thought oh, this Is a pretty nice place, it’s well-kept but if I were to go there as a 31y.o. I would think it was pretty gnarly. And I remember after a couple months there I realized that it was pretty gnarly. We had a really bad rat infestation in the basement. But what happened was, these rats weren’t coming to live, they were coming to die. Essentially… they were building a hotel I believe, or some kind of condominium complex a block away, and then all these rats maybe they had eaten some kind of poison there and were looking for a place to hide and they would find a way to get under our porch and into our basement and there were just all these bloated, dead rat bodies underneath that porch area that I lived in, and the smell became really bad, as it seeped into the floor. I remember Bob Massey and I went there with like a fireplace shovel, I forget the name of it… a fireplace tool, essentially and a hefty bag and were like, scooping up bloated, dead rats and putting them into this bag, and we got to about six or seven dead rats and we were like—and there were probably about 20 of them down there. But the landlord wouldn’t come, to send anyone to clean them up and then we just said this is ridiculous, we have to just call…
TP: Actually talk about what your relationship was like with the landlord.
CR: I never dealt with the landlord, ever. I think Bob started the communication and then Ann became the point of contact because she’s very alpha and wants to run things, so I think she was the one who dealt with that person. Or maybe she was out of town and that’s why we weren’t able to get a response from them. Yeah. I think that may have been part of the reason why I moved out. I mean, I needed to move out anyway, but I wasn’t clamoring to stay there because dead rat smell was not my favorite thing. But it was a pretty messy house at the time. I mean we all kept it… I mean, we were very neat, but we weren’t clean if that makes sense. It was very dusty, dirty, you know, but dishes got done, and stuff got put away, and it wasn’t cluttery, and I think that’s part of it. Like, it couldn’t really become cluttered because we were having events there all the time and it would take forever to clean up all your stuff, so people kind of knew. And we were all punk rockers, too, like we didn’t have a gazillion possessions that needed to be put away, we were all living pretty spartanly.
TP: Was there any, like, I guess for lack of a better word, what kind of personal effects were around?
CR: I remember there was a really cool kind of Marimekko print painting that hung from the ceiling if I’m not mistaken? It kind of hung from the ceiling and they used it as a light fixture, and I loved that, and I remember laying on the couch and looking up at it. Bob Massey had a really nice television that he had put in there, and we had cable, with MTV2, which at the time for me was amazing. And I remember… I’ll remember it for the rest of my life. Outkast’s “Bombs Over Baghdad” video came out and premiered on MTV2, and this is one of my favorite songs in this earthly life, and I saw it and as soon as it came on I jumped up, out of my chair, and there’s that scene where Andre 2000 is running and all the kids are behind him, and I don’t know what to do with myself. I was so excited by this song, I couldn’t believe it; and the verse goes by and the chorus comes in and it’s so incredible; and then Big Boi’s verse comes on and it’s so incredible; and then the big finale with the gospel choir and the guitar solo; and the drum patterns start going crazy and I couldn’t sit down and I was so freaked out and I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I started pacing around the room. And then I remembered that Now Music and Fashion, which was a record store, like about three or four blocks away was just down the road, and I thought, well maybe they know something about when this album’s gonna come out. We didn’t have Internet, at the time. I didn’t have a laptop or a computer or anything and I had to find out when this album was gonna come out. So, I literally ran three blocks down the street to find out and I walked in also and Ben Adams was working there and I said to him “I just watched MTV2! And they had this song! By Outcast! And it’s called “Bombs over Baghdad!” What do you know about it?!?” And miraculously, Ben Adams reaches behind and pulls out a twelve inch single they had gotten, a promo, it’s orange vinyl, I still have it till this day and he says: “here ya go, man.” And I was like, get outta here! And I think I thanked him profusely for about three minutes and then I ran right back home and I listened to the song about forty times in a row. So, I thank Bob Massey for having cable television. That was huge. It was one of those things where like, I think musically for me anyway, as an artist, I was still so steeped in Punk Rock and then that was a band that came along that reminded me that the world is so much bigger. And that music that’s not from your world can communicate to you, and it made me think of music completely differently. And in a way that’s something that I owe to Kansas House.
TP: That song comes up a lot in Kansas stories. Ben talked about having the video, and there was apparently some moment, which must’ve been very close to this day, so I don’t know where you were, but they watched it at Kansas. They were at Galaxy Hut, and Ben was like I have the video, let’s go watch it.
CR: I remember that! I remember because it woke me up, and I remember being mad, and being like what’s going on you jerks! I have to go to school tomorrow! Oh, you’re watching Bombs Over Bagdad? Okay. Cool.
TP: That’s the third time that moment has come up. That makes me really happy.
CR: It’s like when you hear Purple Haze for the first time, or like, Sergeant Peppers. It’s so important to so many people, and it was like, prime time.
TP: What was the neighborhood like when you lived there?
CR: I was actually amazed. I thought we were kind of in our own little universe. For me, I remember not interacting with the neighborhood at all, and it seemed really desolate to me. I would go skateboarding up and down Kansas Street all the time, and there’s this little parking lot I think for one of the buildings of GMU, that little satellite campus they have. And I would just skate around the parking lot in circles and then come back, and I don’t remember seeing anybody on our block, ever, aside for the dudes at the Hallal joint behind us on Sunday mornings, who woke me up, but it was really pretty quiet. I never met any of the other neighbors on our street, granted I was only there for four months. But it was really chill and I think people liked coming to shows there because there was a Dunkin’ Donuts and they would go to Mario’s and they would get subs and stuff. I felt like we were in our own little universe.
TP: How did you get from place to place? Like, how did you get to campus?
CR: I took the metro. I didn’t have a car at the time. So, I think there was a tour van in our driveway. I think that belonged to Bob. But, nobody had cars. We all took metro, which was about a block away, Virginia Square.
TP: Also, another thing that’s come up is that some people have talked about what it was like to live in a group house, but what was it like to live in a group house that was also like this hub for people who didn’t necessarily live there?
CR: Um… it was great. The thing that’s interesting, we were all in the punk scene, but we really did roll in different circles. The Q and Not U world was very different from The Rondelles world, which was very different form Bob’s world, which I think he was doing Telegraph Melts at the time. And of course we all had our little places of overlap where our Venn diagram all came together. I mean literally at Kansas House, but it was fun because we’d all bring in different people into the mix. And I think it was pretty enjoyable, for the most part, for me. My time there, I was there for such a brief little fun exciting blip, I didn’t have time to get sick of anything or bummed out by anything, the way that you get annoyed with roommates. That never happened because we were just busy living and having a nice time and my life was busy at that time anyway, music was in full swing, college was in full swing. So I was out and about quite a bit.
TP: Did you ever go… was there anything that ever happened there that was not a show?
CR: I don’t remember any parties that were not a show. I do remember people would come over from Galaxy Hut, pretty drunk, and hang out on our porch, pretty loudly, from time to time. But I think everything we did was music based. If you were gonna have a party, you’d have a band play. Everybody knew bands, everybody wanted to do something. A party is like, work, you know what I mean? You gotta get beverages, and snacks for people and make sure everyone’s comfortable. But a show, you just put a band in the room and the sparks fly, and everything takes care of itself.
TP: What, I guess, was your most significant, or maybe there’s more than one significant moment that happened at Kansas?
CR: I think… when I was living there, I can’t put my finger on one incident but as a band, the show that we played there when our first seven inch single came out… that must’ve been… maybe that was before I live there, because I think that came out in 2000, spring of 2000? It was in May and we played there and I can’t remember who we played with. It was us and two bands… maybe it was The Scam? I can’t really remember. I think I have a flier, I’ll look for it for you. But I remember we played a show at the Kansas House and it was one of the most energetic shows that we ever had, up to that point. And we have a video of it now…
TP: You do? The show at Kansas?
CR: We have a DVD of it. And you look back at the DVD and the photographs that we have of it and it’s like, oh is that so and so? Is that such and such? Is that him? Is that Frank? And it’s people that we would come to know over the next couple years, but at that point, everyone was at the beginning of their friendships and just starting to know each other, and people who I still talk to, once a week to this day were in that room when we played there. But at the time, it was just that kind of fuzzy thing where you’re there with your friends, and also with some strangers and we’re all exchanging this energy together and it just felt really powerful. And I remember at that point, if I had to just pick the best house show that we ever played it would absolutely be that one. And also, too, it wasn’t really our turf. It was in Virginia and we were more of like a Maryland side of the line band, because we all lived in Silver Spring for a while, and we did plenty of house shows up in Dale Drive and things like that. But that Kansas House show was personally my favorite house show.
TP: I wonder… do you feel like anything that happened there sort of influenced maybe what you guys were doing musically, or maybe not even musically, maybe just artistically?
CR: I think it just… all the good stuff that happened at Kansas House just reinforced the worldview we were kind of brought up with. It felt like the ultimate embodiment of all the things that we came up with as teenagers, you know playing in basements and playing in living rooms and really trying to throw down hard and play a great show and give everything you have to the people who have come to see you. I think that’s something we took with us as we got bigger and I think we tried to play, you know if you’re playing in a nightclub that fit 800 people, and it was full of 800 people, we would try to play with the same intensity that we would play at a house show. It’s a great incubator. I’m super allergic to “Back in the Day-ism” and I really hate when people say it was better in the day, but I do notice now that with the blogosphere and how fast people have access to music, bands can get put up on the big stages very, very quickly, and they don’t have time to germinate and learn what it is about them that makes them unique on stage, and they don’t learn how to communicate their music on stage as quickly as they might have if they had the experiences of going through, sort of like a farm league kind of circuit. And for us, house shows were such a crazy training ground. Like, I don’t think we would have been able to have been the band, bring the intensity as a band later on if we hadn’t had these experiences playing at houses, and it’s really cool. And I think that’s the changing way. I think bands nowadays will figure out other ways to make it work, but you know you see, I think that Kansas House show that we played was probably our 50th show, and I think nowadays, if you’re a band with some hype behind you, your 50th show can be Cochella or something. And I’m sure that was the case back then, certain groups get on a rocket ride and they go really far, I’m just really thankful that we had that incubation space to really learn our turf.
TP: Well, I wonder… I think that that’s true. There was kind of the parallel roads, right? So you might have a band that their 50th show was, I don’t know, not the HFStival, but something like that.
TP: And then there was this smaller thing that was happening, right? So, I wonder if… I mean I think if you look at it and there are roads and at some point, because what you’re saying, that they’re diverging, maybe what’s going to happen is that their music is going to be available but they going to have to play smaller, because the life span of somebody whose 50th show is Cochella…, it might not be that long, because they might implode.
CR: That’s true. I think there’s room for all kinds of trajectories now. And I think that there’s not a scripted route is really, really, really interesting. And it’s not my job to say one is better than the other or anything like that. I think that music is music and it comes out in all these different forms and through all these different channels, and that’s what makes it fascinating. But I am really thankful for the route that we had the chance to enjoy and I think house shows had a lot to do with that.
TP: Does it make what you do now, writing about music, does it make you look at it in a way that you think you might have… how did you think it affected that?
CR: Oh absolutely. Yeah, sure. Seeing music at Kansas House, or any house show taught me to have very intimate live experiences, and to really be, because you’re so close. You can see the person playing drums as close as you and I are right now. And so being able to be that close and that intimate makes you perceptive, and it makes you a very careful watcher of what’s going on on stage. And I think that’s what that taught me, because you have no choice but to look closely because you’re right there. Of course now, when I go to Verizon Center to see Maxwell, or if I go to Jiffy Lube Live to see Pearl Jam, I’m watching those groups, even though they’re farther away from me, I’m watching those artists with the same intensity that I did as a 19y.o., when they were playing in my living room. Not when Maxwell and Pearl Jam were playing in my living room although that would have been cool.
TP: Well, I guess Maxwell spun, or was spun in your living room. He was played there… but he didn’t play there.
CR: I think people made out to Maxwell records at Kansas House, but he did not perform there.
TP: So, anything else that you can think of?
CR: I mean do you want little anecdotal things?
TP: Yeah, totally.
CR: Okay let’s see if I can think of any… one thing that I remember is Bob Massey was training for a marathon, and he would come back and I didn’t know he was training for a marathon. I thought he was just going on runs. And he would come back from his run, and he order like a large Papa John’s pizza and he would drink a four pack of Guinness and I’d be like, what are you doing? And he’s like, “oh, I just ran to Silver Spring and back” so he was doing his carb reuptake, which I thought you were supposed to do before but maybe after. But I remember at the time Ann and some friends had done like a fundraiser to send him to Ireland to run in this marathon.
TP: Oh I remember that!
CR: Which was really cool, you know, and that’s kind of the cool thinking of your friend kinda stuff that happened there. But I remember just being amazed, I mean, since then I’ve learned how to eat an entire pizza and drink four beers at once but then I was a smaller, tinier, 19y.o. being amazed that someone can do that in one sitting. But Bob did, but he had run to Silver Spring and back. He had run 20 miles, so, god bless him. And he ran the marathon and did it well. It was cool.
TP: I think I may have given a couple of dollars…
CR: Yeah, I’m sure, to that cause.
TP: So who else was it? It was Bob and Yukiko and Ann?
CR: Yeah, it was the four of us. The three of them were upstairs and I was on the porch.
TP: Did you ever feel like stuff was happening and you were sort of isolated from them?
CR: By being downstairs? No, not at all. I mean, people went to their room to sleep. It wasn’t really like a super hang out house. It wasn’t like we’d all be in the living room kicking it. Everyone was really, really busy with what they were doing, but I think those moments when we did hang out, we would hang out and so would like, 100 other people, and they’d all come over and we’d have this nice time together. I really enjoyed living with all of them. I think that was part of it, too. We all kind of stayed out of each other’s hair., but again… four months.
CR: I remember I could walk to Dischord, too. And I went to hang out with MacKaye on Halloween night one year. And I remember being so sad because I didn’t have anything to do and I thought, god, I’m 20-years-old and I got nothing to do, no party to go to and I just felt like a total loser. And then, Ian called me for some reason, because he is oblivious to holidays and the rest of the world, you know what I mean? He’s on Ian MacKaye time. And he called to ask me a question… something was going on with our record, either it was the seven inch or the album, something was going on and I asked him what he was doing. I was like: it’s Halloween, shouldn’t you be out dressed as a vampire? And he was like what? I don’t think he even remembered it was Halloween. But then he invited me over to listen to records, and I remember that very well. And that was the thing. Even though you were in Arlington in the suburbs, there were still places to go. I don’t know if that’s the case anymore, either. Now was down the street, and that was such a great record store, and Dischord wasn’t too far, you could walk over there. And even in the desolation, I loved skating figure eights in that parking lot at like one in the morning, because you weren’t bothering anybody.
TP: Anything else you can remember?
CR: I don’t think so. I think I got it… there was a really cool lamp, I forget the name of it.
TP: The silver one? Heidi found pictures of it. When I interviewed those guys, we were trying to remember the stuff that was in the room, and she said, “there’s a lamp!” Everybody remembers the lamp, but they can never remember the full… but it was like that silver.
CR: There’s a name for it, some kind of designer. I learned this later because now an ex-girlfriend, many times ex was obsessed with those lamps and I had told her we had one.
TP: It’s Scandinavian, Mid-Century modern… I don’t think it’s Saarinen, but…
CR: I’m not gonna remember the name, if you pull it out. But there’s that, there was like a long couch, that was pretty Scandinavian too, pretty uncomfortable because it was all very clean edges, and a brown coffee table and a television which sat on a very plain thing and I think that was it. There was that fireplace, there was that clock thing on top if it with star shapes that came out it. And we didn’t have a kitchen table or anything. In that other room, there was just a couch, a chair… it was really pretty Spartan. But, that’s how we did it.