DEAF CLUB interview from Break The Chain Zine

We are publishing an interview with Deaf Club from the Break the Chain zine that is print only. You can pick up a copy of the publication HERE.


First just wanted to ask how all of y’all are doing during all that’s going on?

Scott: Doing well, keeping sane by hiking and not practicing social distancing all that well.

Brian: Doing fine, writing music, trying to keep things going via video or voice memos or emails with all my musician friends.

Justin: Decent. We had or tour cancelled and I think most of us are entering familiar territory of serious financial insecurity but we are all still alive at this juncture.

How did you all form together as Deaf Club? How did the project begin and where did the name originate from?

Scott: I moved to San Diego from Austin, Texas and the only guy I knew was Justin. I kept on bugging him if he knew anyone trying to jam and one day he said Brian was trying to start something. But he lived in LA, so I drove up to meet him at our first rehearsal or in retrospect an audition for the band and it kind of just worked out. We established a fast paced workflow right off the bat and the ideas didn’t seem to stop. So I continued to come up for rehearsal until I eventually moved up to LA and things work a little easier now.

Brian: I played shows with my band at the time and Justin’s band (Retox) so we met then. I ran into him again in San Diego at a Metz show at Casbah. At the time my band had broken up and he asked me what I was up too. I had nothing. He said let’s make a band or let’s talk about a band. I didn’t think he was serious. But I hit him up a few months later. He was on tour with Dead Cross so we discussed first and foremost finding a great drummer. I tried one out for a bit until Scott came into the picture and we hit it off. We worked quick and could just change course whenever something new popped up. Jason (our bassist) was recommended by Cody Votolato of Blood Brothers. And Leo Ulfelder was buddy of mine I knew threw our old bands.

Justin: I do like to look back and think about how the band mutated into something that is currently is. I really dug Brain as a person and as a guitarist, and we had talked about putting something together but it was an on going conversation that didn’t seem like it was going to pan out. Oddly enough, Jon Syverson hit me up and said that his friend from Austin was moving to San Diego and was a ripping drummer, who was looking for someone to jam with. One, having Jon suggest a ripping drummer is something to pay attention to, and two, I already knew Scott, who was the person Jon was mentioning to me, but I had no idea how I could assist with finding a band for Scott. At this time, Nick Zinner and I had done some stuff for a film score and Three One G released it on it’s own, called More Pain. There was a great reaction from the material we released, and we sort of talked about putting a band together. Initially me reaching out to Brian about jamming was in relation to the More Pain stuff. But I started to realize that More Pain was only a couple minutes worth of material, Nick wasn’t looking to start a new band, and I was not looking to just do another project that was going to die off. I think I suggested Scott and Brian Jam and Cody Votolato was lumped into the mix, but was unable to take part. I also was dealing with Retox possibly splitting up and just wasn’t sure I should dive into another project. But things sort of came together organically; Retox broke up, the material that Brian and Scott demoed was ripping, so I dove in. We got Jason and Leo in the band somehow, and here we are.
As for the name, I was wanting to roll with Boyfriends of Christ but someone in the band didn’t like that for a name, so it became a song title. The name Def Club was sort of based on the idea that we all live with tennitus, which is getting worse and worse for me as I get older, and we really do destroy our hearing. It’s odd to me, I try to take care of myself for the most part, I eat healthy, practice yoga, don’t do a whole lot of stupid shit anymore, etc. But when it comes to my hearing, I just trash it. The name seemed fitting, as we are all heading that direction based off of the sheer volume of the band. I do see that it can be an offensive name, and we actually did get a message on one of the social media platforms, about how it’s insensitive to people who are technically deaf. Where I recognize that as a disability and am not taking lightly to that or any other disability, there seemed to be un underlying message or meaning in the band’s name. I have been drawn to the sort of “gang mentality” of a band as early as I can remember in life, seeing bands who all looked like one another, who functioned like a unit, or a family… or a club. And well, we do destroy our hearing for some reason. Then you can throw in the historical Deaf Club, which was a punk venue in San Francisco, which got me thinking. See, for many years, I worked at a gay club here in San Diego. The gay part isn’t relevant, but they played EDM and often these deaf couples would come in and sign and hang out. I started to see them moving to the beat, and wondered if they were moving in relation to the people dancing, or the lights, or perhaps the subs, which was what turned out to be the element that they most enjoyed at the club, aside from obvious club activities. I started to think about the subs of the sound system, and also the sheer volume of what our band was going to be performing at, as well as the rhythm changes, the almost violent actions in a live setting of a band of our nature, and then the reaction that it could have on someone who is hard of hearing, or even deaf. So for me, Deaf Club took on many meanings. And I also cringe at people complaining about shit sometimes, and look towards a “fuck you” attitude, but in an empathetic manner if applicapble. Again, I do recognize that disability and the band name is not an attempt to make light of people who deal with hearing loss.

How does Deaf Club differ from or compare to the other projects y’all have individually been involved in? (Weak Flesh, The Locust, ACxDC, Dead Cross, Fissure, etc.)

Scott: From Weak Flesh, it’s a similar track. Me and Brian write most of the songs, get critiques and ideas from everyone else and take it from there. The main difference is the distance- I’ve never been in a band that had to drive more than 20 minutes to practice. So when we actually get to be in the same room it’s almost a little party every time.

Brian: Well I wasn’t allowed to really use any effects before. It was considered too prog for powerviolence. But, in Deaf Club, Im able too and even encouraged to embrace that again. Too make weird sounds that aren’t just distorted guitars. I consciously try to play more dissonant open chords and off notes in this band to make it sound different than what I did before. Plus no one flinches when we play really weird timings like 7/8 or something. I’m pretty lucky to be able to progress musically.

Justin: Deaf Club for me functions a lot like Retox since it’s based in Los Angeles and I live in San Diego and can’t make it to rehearsal every week. I sort of get the final product that the rest of the players come up with. Luckily for me, I get to work with rad people who are awesome with their instruments. They are also really rad with me giving constructive criticism, mainly when considering the density of the songs and how vocals can be applied to them. But they are also sort of open to me asking for more D-beat stuff, and my push to sound like a crust band since I really would like to be in a band like Discharge or Nausea. But with the other projects you mentioned, that I am part of, it’s completely different. I only play bass in Dead Cross, and we don’t function like a regular band at all. And with The Locust, we will work on 20 second of music for two months, then decide to rewrite it and take it in a completely different direction for no apparent reason. So I see no comparisons, musically, or otherwise in the stuff I do personally. With that being said, I am so grateful to work with all the rad and talented people I get to work with.

Where does Deaf Club draw it’s lyrical inspiration from? What themes do your lyrics typically explore or express?

Brian: That’s all Justin. I have full faith in his ability to reflect the music and have always enjoyed his sense of humor and word play.

Justin: I tend to have a ton fo notes, which are just ideas, thoughts, phrases, etc. that I can draw upon when writing. It can be anything, but usually fits into some sort of general realm of dark humor. As bleak as the subjects I tend to dive into lyrically, there has to be some sort of humor, or “hook” to try to grab people’s attention. I also tend to use metaphors so people can reflect and possibly draw their own conclusion or meaning in stuff I write. There is an over all vibe or pool where you can locate the over all subject matter I frequent. Sadly enough, we are constantly given plenty of subject matter to sing about in this world. It’s the art that reflects the world we live in, and it’s that art that is supposed to set things straight. If we are doing that, or taking part in that, I’ll let the critics weigh in and decide. But I am certain the passion in the music that we collectively write is a reflection of the world we live in. Both the good and the bad. It’s not supposed to be continuously be about love, and it’s not about hate or need about nihilism. It’s our opposition to apathy and people not giving a damn. That is where the drive comes from. The vocals and words are only a fraction of the songs. We are speaking with language, but also communicating well beyond language.

I saw Deaf Club described as an “opportunity to confront our collective sicknesses.” Could you elaborate on that concept a little? Is that kind of the mission statement of the project?

Justin: Awe, I don’t know that we need a mission statement in this day and age. As lame as this might sound, think of what we are doing here, as a band, and even more so, with listeners who are part of a community, and in a larger picture… the planet we live on are all part of a collective something. Aren’t we confronting a collective sickness? Let’s circle back to the previous thing I said, about love, hate, and apathy. You see, we can wish peace on every living being on this planet. But do that you ignore the people who are pressing others? To project love onto those who destroy the planet and others in their path, seems like a green light to keep fucking others over. We do have a collective sickness. There is aggression and anger in what we do artistically. But it’s thought out. People who are oppressive have been taught to be that way. It might be in their DNA, it might be due to parenting, it might be due to politics. But they were somehow taught to do that shit. It’s a collective sickness if others are oppressed. There is a sickness when there isn’t peace among all living creatures. The goal is to figure out how to confront that sickness. Perhaps playing absurd and annoying music is our way to confront that stuff.

Can you tell me a little about the writing and recording process behind ‘Contemporary Sickness’? What was it like making the record? What was the process like? What’s the significance of the title?

Scott: We had only been a band for a few months by the time the EP was recorded and just made it happen. My anxiety and limited time to rehearse made me come up with new beats/fills faster than normal. I just wanted to have something I was proud of in my hands as quickly as possible. So pushing my drumming into as many different directions as possible as quickly as possible helped songs come together faster, I think. With that came some tense moments and Brian and I definitely would get let’s say, passionate.
Recording for me was basically how I’ve always recorded, which live in the studio with scratch guitar tracks and hoping there isn’t too much bleed in the drums. No click because it’d be a lot of work to map out the tempo changes and rerecording entire songs if I messed one part. Definitely struggled a lot with “Days of Amusement…” because it was the last song tracked and I was running on the fumes of coffee, a vegan donut, and avocado toast, with 5 hours of sleep.

Brian: Yeah it was quick. We were only a four piece. We were basically just writing instrumentally. So we sort of packed these dense pieces of music together. We were just carving out a brand new sound for ourselves. We were sending messages back and forth. Trying to tighten everything up. Trying to get used to communicating ideas with new open minds. I improvised the sounds in the studio more or less because I had the pedals but also because we always thought we would have an extra guitarists. So I just layered stuff as if we were a full band at the time. Scott and I wrote our first song at our first practice and continually just changed it over and over. Now we are probably even quicker to find an idea and fix it to our liking. The process was interesting. The recording for me was pretty fast – once drums were done. Our engineer Alex Estrada (Silver Snakes) is just quick and great to work with. We learned a lot about what to do and how to record in this band.

Justin: The recording process was something that I didn’t get to really take part in. As Brian and Scott pointed out, it was a bit rushed, and for reasons unknown to me. I’m use to things talking a lot longer. Perhaps it’s in part due to the evolving, or de-evolving world we live in, where people tend to want things instantaneously. I mean, I am the elder in this project, so I might just be an old dude to the rest of the band. Anyhow, I was given the tracks after they were recorded and just laid down the vocals in San Diego with Luke Henshaw who is in Planet B with me, as that is where I spend most of my time at when not on tour, or up in LA working on stuff. I think in retrospect, the process was justified and seems commonplace for how a lot of what I have done in the past panned out. Granted, in the past was when I had no money, no concept of writing, and no means to really iron out things. It was this sort of “now or never” type attitude. It wasn’t till early to mid 2000’s where I got to start working with producers and started thinking about song structure and music in terms of something more than just an absurd blast of sound and rushing to get things released as if the world was about to end. Oddly enough, it seems more like the world is about to end now more than ever. I do wish we had the ability to spend more time reworking some of the material. Some of it just passes by insanely quick and I wish we were able to hold onto some of the material a tad bit longer. But it is what it is and I can appreciate the music in that respect.
As for the title, I brought it up with Scott and Brian, as it comes from an artist/ activist collective called CONSIC, which is short for Contemporary Sickness. Scott seemed to really dig the idea and we rolled with that as the title. Oddly enough, it seemed fitting then, but more fitting right now. Guess the irony in what we do can seem a bit sketchy at times.

I totally love the cover art by Jesse Draxler. How did the album cover come to be and what was the intent creating it/picking it out?

Scott: Leo is friends with Jesse’s manager and basically made it happen through them. We were given a series images to choose from and we went with the image because it seemed to reflect the Contemporary Sickness we’re living in.

Brian: Yeah I liked the drooling, spitting up, sort of rabid look of it. It just fit.

Justin: When we started talking with Jesse about the possibility of using some of his art, that image made sense. I also think Jesse is on the same page as we are, when it comes to music and art, and the reflection that pushes us all to create what we need to. His art seemed to match the sounds we provide.

Obviously, for the time being I know things financially for everyone are pretty up in the air, but I noticed that the 7” of Contemporary Sickness y’all made is sold out. Are there any plans to make more physical copies of it?

Scott: We were planning on touring up to Seattle to play Top Knot Fest, so we ordered a second press of the record as well as a cassette version with remixes, but the fest and everything got cancelled. So we’ll have them when we have them.

Brian: Yeah there’s some special stuff on the tapes for sure. The vinyl may look a bit different just gotta wait and see. But even this run of music will be short. We are focusing on the future.

Justin: Oddly enough, the 7″ isn’t sold out. You can get it in the Three One G web store and also from Rev Distribution. I wish it was sold out. And as the guys mentioned, we just repressed it again, so there are plenty to go around.

It’s tradition that I ask every band or artist I interview for reading recommendations. Are there any books you guys have read recently or just personal favorites that you think people should check out?

Scott: Nope, but do you have any recommendations for me?

Brian: William S Burroughs “Naked Lunch”
JG Ballard “Atrocity Exhibition”
Bertrand Russell “Why Im An Atheist”
Gibby Haynes “Me and Mr. Cigar”
Noam Chomsky “Optimism Over Despair”

Justin: My favorite all time book is Lipstick Traces by Greil Marcus. I also just started reading What About Tomorrow? by Alexander Herbert, and I’m looking forward to reading Strange Cures by my pal Rob Zabrecky once I can get my partner to give it back to me.

What can fans expect in the near future from Deaf Club? Any upcoming releases or new music?

Scott: We recently recorded drums and guitar for a full length. Expected to be out whenever this shit is over.

Brian: New music (hopefully soon) Tours (hopefully soon)

If things get less hectic at some point, do you think we could expect Deaf Club to come through Florida at any point?

Scott: Of course!

Brian: Just tell us who to talk to.

Justin: The wet dick of America, sure.

Photography by Becky DiGiglio