Fiskadoro on the Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia
By Jack Daniel Betz
Photo courtesy of Fiskadoro
Lots of bands like to take on the mantle of preserving their favorite subgenre or specific musical aesthetic, but more often than not, that noble attempt to keep a style alive-even an idea alive-is merely a bad impersonation. It lacks all of the spontaneity and life of original works in the genre and feels merely like a paint-by-numbers affair.
However, Houston’s Fiskadoro blends all sorts of dark, post-punk influences together, and yet the music does not end up sounding derivative at all. It’s probably because frontman Richard Kimball-unlike a lot of millennial post-punks starting revivalist bands these days-was old enough to be buying records and going to shows in the 80s, despite not really looking his age today. He is incorporating inspiration from actual memories, not streaming them, playing catch-up using the adware time machine of Spotify.
Talk to us about your vocal style. In all of Fiskadoro’s music, you have a very scratchy, almost whisper when you sing. Where did you get that from? I can’t think of very many people who you probably call influences who do that.
I think it has everything to do with trying to record quietly in various New Jersey apartments in the 1990s, so as not to disturb anyone else. I struggle to sound good when singing. The guitar tuning I use is specifically so I can sing along and not sound too bad. Sometimes I’ll just give up and scream for awhile. I learned my punk rock lessons well.
I don’t think I’ve ever really been influenced by singers. Guitar players or bass players sure, but not singers. I’ve been enjoying NOT singing in Dirty Christmas & Helicopter Manouvres. It’s nice to pretend to be Rowland S. Howard.
And the singing is a key thing in Distant Worker, even more than Fiskadoro..Distant Worker is our pop band. I can’t wait to play our new songs live.
Bass lines are extremely important in your music and in the history of post-punk in general. Do you like dub music? Are you influenced by it?
I am a massive fan of dub. Of course it all started with hearing The Clash and Bad Brains doing reggae, which lead me down the path of listening to The Reggae Schoolroom on WFMU every Sunday morning for years and hearing a ton of dub-buying bootleg Mikey Dread cassettes from rasta guys in New York who sold them on St. Mark’s Place out of their duffel bags, and then all the Adrian Sherwood stuff with the On-U Sound label: Creation Rebel, Dub Syndicate, New Age Steppers, the first Mark Stewart & Maffia record and the Blood & Fire reissues of all that great 1970s dub: King Tubby, Prince Jammy, Scientist, Keith Hudson, Lee Perry and on and on. K. Martin’s ‘Macro Dub Infection’ CDs, the Wordsound thing-certified dope! These days I’m really into the dub crazy stuff out of Bristol UK like Young Echo, Vessel, Killing Sound-and also the Hyperdub label with Kode9 and the Spaceape, Burial, Zomby. Fiskadoro covered Zomby’s cover of ‘Spliff Dub’ a few years ago. It’s much easier to cover a cover. If you dare to cover at all.
One day I want to have a band where all the song titles are named after 1970s Jamaican record labels.
Dub influences every move Fiskadoro makes. All the drop-outs and echoes, the lyrical choices, dealing in themes of dread and being mad at the man. The artwork on the CD-R covers was about dub.
Dub is a proven way to break down the space-time continuum.
And dub has everything to do with Distant Worker as well. Three of the 7 songs we’ve released have been dub mixes. And it’s not like we’re lacking for material. Every recording we make I try to make a dub mix. It’s a great way to understand the song better. And to show us what we need to do to make it better.
Dub is the most important thing to happen to music in the past 40 years or so. It’s constantly shifting and constantly changing and I doubt it will go away anytime soon.
Who would you open for in a perfect world?
You probably expected me to say Beyonce or Nicki Minaj or New Order. Those would be cool, but Twisted Wires is one of my favorite bands and they almost never play. I saw them play the first month Jen and I started going to shows in Houston. We saw Future Blondes play in front of an abandoned grocery store during a Westheimer Street Festival and that was the day we met Domokos. Everyone I met in Houston I met because of Dom. Around this same time period we saw Balaclavas play at The Artery, we saw Dead Roses play at Rudyards the night they did an amazing cover of the Roxy Music song ‘In every dream home a heartache’ which Jen brings up almost weekly. It was epic. And we played the first couple Fiskadoro shows in this time period as well.
It was months later before we got to see Indian Jewelry play. That was just incredible. And then we saw //TENSE//, which blew us away again. And it was inspiring just how nice everyone was.. everyone was borrowing amps and percussion instruments from each other. Everyone was friends. Long before I ever met Kirston, I actually borrowed a bass amp from him so Fiskadoro could play a show at the AvantGarden. And that was that same street fest where we saw Future Blondes play that first time.
Following on that perfect-world theme, if you guys made it huge, who would you have open for you?
But then we’d step aside and let The Wiggins headline.
Of course if it was a perfect world we probably wouldn’t be in a band.
What are your plans for Fiskadoro? Are you going to keep making music as that group or continue your efforts through other side projects, like Dirty Christmas?
Fiskadoro lost a lot of momentum last year when we weren’t able to play shows for such a long period of time. And then we played three great shows in a row at the end of 2013 when Joel Reed Parker joined. We haven’t even practiced since the Winter Wonder Glam show on December 27th last year. There are a lot of new tracks in various stages of completion on hard drives scattered across Texas. One way or another, we need to figure that stuff out.
Joel and I did that Dirty Christmas show at Super Happy Fun Land a few months ago which was so much fun. It was completely improvised-it’s great to be in a band that never practices. As opposed to all our other bands, which hardly practice.
Helicopter Manouevres played our first show on July 5th at Vinal Edge. Shawn Rameshwar put this group together with Kirston and I. It doesn’t sound like any band I’ve ever been in. Kirston has posted some practice tapes on Bandcamp.
Do you have any shows planned for the fall?
Distant Worker, Dirty Christmas and Helicopter Manouevres will all be playing shows again soon.
Helicopter Manouevres will be playing with this great new band called Holy Money. We just need to get that set up.
And Distant Worker is really busy. Jen and I are recording a bunch of new songs with Kevin Hirth and we’ve released an EP and a couple dub mixes on Bandcamp in the past couple months. And there should be a video soon.