Interview from Spank Fanzine
by Michelle Daugher

Chicago's Apocalypse Hoboken are Todd Paglialong (vocals), Scott Hoffman (guitar), Kurt Dinse (bass), Andy Peterson (drums) and Sean Seeling (guitar) [the band is currently in the middle of an amicable split with Seeling; at press time, the new guitarist was know only as "Eric" (sic) and he has been described to yours truly as "gorgeous"]. They have been waist deep in the Midwest musical trenches for ten years, releasing jolting, left-of-center records on Illinois labels like Johann's Face, Rocco, and their own Dick Records. Suburban Home Records from Colorado just released a mutant re-release compilation called Inverse, Reverse, Perverse. Kung Fu is just shy of kicking out their second A.H. release, Microstars, a record that sees the band skipping the next proverbial rung, leaping all the way to the next level, and kicking the ladder out from beneath themselves: it rocks in the truest, most beautiful 70s-meets-'90s punk way (read: it gets a serious punk rock groove on). Is it a white flag or fully-flexed middle finger? You be the judge.

Interview with Andy Peterson

Michelle: How does Microstars differ the most from your past efforts?

Andy: We worked much harder on this, partly because we had toured most of the last year, and we learned a lot about what kind of music is out there, and what we wanted to do next. We got tired of looking at our past releases and regretting doing this and that, or not communicating about when something was half-assed and then regretting it later, so we took our time with this record and tried a lot of different sounds instead or relying on two guitars and a screaming vocalist exclusively. Microstars is absolutely different than our previous releases, but it's arguable wether it was 100% intentional to move away from our previous sound. I know what this band can do, and I did hope to push into areas we hadn't explored before, but it's obviously an Apocalypse Hoboken record. It's just a really solid one, and by far the one record that I'm happy with even months afterward. A lot of the reason we strayed from our usual methods or whatever is a general dissatisfaction with some of our shows later last year, and I'm only speaking for myself here. We talked a lot about what was "wrong", and I guess we were doing the same thing night after night, and there were really few surprises left for us or the audience. All the bands we grew up with, like "pre-punk" days, were more experimental, and less willing to fall into a formula. I'd really be happy if we were more of an established band with our own sound, as opposed to a typical punk band that makes two records and quits. There's a lot more we can do than quit, or adhere slavishly to one sound. Our audience is smart enough to know what we're doing. A lot of people are aware of our track record for going off the deep end now and then. We even ended up putting little T-Rex style backing vocals on a few tracks. "Little Fingers" is kinda Adam & the Ants-like, a nice dance tune. There's things that sound like Wall Of Voodoo and Janes Addiction to me. It wasn't intentional but it all works, and it's done with a lot of humor, so hopefully people will have a good time with our record as opposed to feeling beat over the head like some of our earlier stuff. The album turned out really well, Todd's singing a bit more, I'm maybe a little less wild, but it's definitely us. When you see us live, it will make more sense.

Michelle: The cover of "Darling Nikki" is phenomenal. I love that now, in the middle of all the political hub-bum surrounding media (games, music being the so-called influence of the decline of America's youth that you guys have included what is (according to Tipper Gore, Queen of the PMRC and our probably future first lady) the song that started it all.

Andy: "Darling Nikki" was an idea that we've been kicking around since last year, and it was Todd's idea to do it. I personally loved the original, and I thought it would be interesting to do a more vocally-driven song. I don't imagine Prince will ever hear it, but he'll get a publishing fee from us if we sell any copies. Kung Fu is pretty honest about that stuff. Rock music is a really easy target for people when things start going wrong with their kids, but I don't think what happened in Colorado is a national epidemic. Scott (Hoffman) says it was merely a genetic defect. There are people out there who can be driven to kill for all sorts of reasons. Those kids didn't seem to have a problem with killing people their own age, and obviously, most people do. Nobody knows why they crossed that line, but I guess people should look into what they do for entertainment, and keep an eye on their kids, for starters. I don't believe in censoring anything, and I'll back the second amendment as vociferously as the first. I enjoy the freedoms we have and don't think we should scale them back because some nut case bombs an abortion clinic for God or pees on a Circle K for Apocalypse Hoboken. This country has been dumbed down enough. We haven't gotten into any trouble for our lyrics, but then I don't think they're all that damaging. A lot of people seem to relate to Todd's lyrics, because they're really personal and unique, and he talks about things that are generally avoided otherwise.

Michelle: Would you consider Microstars thematic?

Andy: I think the album is autobiographical in places, all relating to the touring experience, meeting people, and trying to get some out of it all, because it's a pretty fucking insane way to live, it really is. I think most people are fascinated by touring bands, and there's just this great divide between the band and the audience, and I think we find that very frustrating, because we're not trying to make a lot of cash or do blow every night or whatever. Todd wrote the lyrics, so only he really knows what it's all about, but I get the sense it's about us and all the punks who come to see the band, and all who've helped us out or threatened our lives. When you spend most of your year on the road, it becomes really hard to make sense of it all, to say "Is it worth it?" It's become an addiction in a way. We can't escape this band! The new record is the nicest thing we've ever done, so I guess we just want to be loved now. I'm just so amazed by all the help we get from complete strangers when we're on the road. It's really encouraging.

Michelle: You and I have talked about this before - where do you think Apocalypse Hoboken "fits in" with "punk rock" today?

Andy: We don't feel that we fit in to any one genre of music, and that's fine. It's our own fault. We're anti-professional, we're always carrying on with inside jokes and stuff. We do that because it's fun. When I was a teenager, I loved Descendents, because they seemed so free. They totally indulged in inside jokes and absurd humor, and I remember people absolutely HATING them for that. I thought it was just the greatest. I always wanted to be like that, and we've paid a price for our, I guess "arrogance". I can't see us doing all ska or emo, but we constantly play with bands that do just that, and when we do something as innocuous as a fucking Prince cover, it's like everyone's going "What are you doing?", like we're goofing off on the job or something. If my band can't branch out now and then, what's the fucking point? I'm doing this because it makes me feel that I'm actually free, that I'm in control of my life. But we do catch a lot of shit for not, I guess, "focusing". We play with a lot of "focused" bands, focused on being The Stooges, focused on being on Fat. The fun and spontaneity are slowly losing out over bands that are just hammering out the same set night after night, for whatever reason bands do that. I we just don't do a lot of orthodox things. We don't fit in with the punk rock scene because we never really tried that hard. We just want to be respected as a good band, but it's hard to get tours without a real identifiable sound. So we play with just about everyone you can imagine, and it's working out pretty good in that respect. We toured last year with Suicide Machines and Assorted Jellybeans which seemed like a pretty odd lineup, but it went really well, and we're good friends with both bands. We toured with Electric Summer, The Candy Snatchers, At The Drive-In, Murder City Devils, and we did shows with Aquabats, Vandals, Swinging Utters, All, Less Than Jake, just a whole bunch of different bands. I know we don't sound like any of those bands, but the shows were that much better as a result. If our new record helps people to make up their minds about us, better or worse, then I'll be happy. As long as they hear it and understand that we mean everything we do and say. We're not followers. I just hope people will come to understand that, and stop trying to see something that isn't there.

Michelle: Is there an Apocalypse Hoboken mission?

Andy: I guess a mission of all bands who are doing the punk thing would be to reclaim punk rock as something unique, which now, frankly, it's not. Fucking Limp Bizkit is proof positive that everything I used to think was scary and punk has be co-opted by the mainstream. All the edges and the craziness is choreographed. Eddie Vedder is America's most famous stagediver. I'm surprised Dave Matthews doesn't wear a Grems shirt on stage. It's really cute and quaint, and that totally sucks shit. We toured with The Candy Snatchers this summer, and I can say that they were the only band I've seen in a long time that had that sense of danger and unpredictability. I'm not saying that all good punk bands are fucked up and drunk, but for God's sake, at least try to make it fun, and stop dumbing it down so the 14 year olds can understand it. We keep getting negative feedback from people because we often invite audience members on stage with us, sometimes to wear masks or costumes or sing songs. It's not planned, and that's what makes it so damn fun. But then we get accused of picking on our audience, as if there was such a crime. I just can't help feeling that I'd be better off going to work at Ameritech sometimes and just leave punk rock to the professionals. There's a lot of bands out there so it's inevitable that people are getting a little jaded. Our goal is to become a more entertaining band. I think The Blue Meanies are a great example of a band that does what it wants musically, and puts on a really good show. I mean, you don't even have to know their songs to appreciate them live. I really hope we can reach that level, and make more of the moments we're on stage.

Michelle: What do you think will surprise people the most about the new record?

Andy: I suspect a lot of people would've expected us to go "rock and roll" like New Bomb Turks or Rocket From The Crypt but we just did what we wanted, not what was expected. I mean, anyone who views punk rock as anything but an absolute free music form should get bent. This record is about as outside of everything that's going on as we could get. Our influences for it go all over the road, everything from Devo to Black Flag to Belle & Sebastian. It's eclectic, but not distracting or desperate in it's reach. I love it. We're not giving up, but we did what we felt was a very honest representation of where we are right now, so it may be suicide for all we know.

Michelle: The band obviously experienced a great loss with the death of you friend and long-time engineer Phil Bonnet this year. How did his absence affect the outcome of this release?

Andy: We were really heartbroken over that whole matter, because we were seriously discussing recording somewhere else from the get-go. Phil had gotten a lot of new microphones, and was trying to start a studio of his. That was definitely a dream of his, and he had discussed with Sean recording somewhere else, and he would just engineer it and take more time than our past releases. I went to his apartment with Sean to discuss this possibility with Phil, but it never happened. That was the last time I saw him. We were thrown into a panic, but we started searching around for records we liked, and Todd played me some stuff Dave Trumfio had done and we booked the time a week later.

Michelle: Was this the only time you'd worked with someone other than Phil?

Andy: We did a session with Chuck Uchida at Attica, which is his studio, but other than that, we'd done everything Phil. We didn't know Dave at all, so it was pretty nerve wracking going in with like 19 tunes and all this big ideas and then the first song requiring 57 takes. We wanted Dave to produce, which we'd never asked Phil to do, so Dave ended up helping us get good takes, and he contributed some really good ideas. I could play "what if" all day, but I think the album turned out a lot more musical as a result of working with Dave, and that's what we wanted. Phil wanted to get us on tape as straight as possible, but on this record we were coming in with a lot of production ideas beforehand, and with Dave, that was just perfect.

Michelle: What was the ten-day recording session like?

Andy: I learned a lot about patience, with myself and others. Ten days ended up being a relatively short period of time to do a whole album. Three tracks went unfinished, our friend Jon San Juan had about a three hour window to do all his keyboard tracks before flying off to London to tour with the Webb Brothers, so it was really intense. I wish we could've taken more time, but as it stood, we mixed into the morning the final day just to get ???. This was the most money we ever had to spend on a recording and it still wasn't enough. Next time...

Michelle: What material is available now on which labels?

Andy: Microstars should be out on Kung Fu October 5th, and we're doing the cover this week. We'll obviously tour once it's out. In the meantime, Suburban Home is putting out a retrospective called Inverse Reverse Perverse, which is a collection of 7"s, compilation, and unreleased tracks. We've been looking forward to doing this collection for a long time, so everyone should check it out, because our 7"s are really good and usually pressed in limited numbers. Johann's Face wasn't going to repress any of our old stuff, so we have it all now, and Virgil at Suburban Home couldn't be more helpful. Our Easy Instructions For Complex Machinery record will be reissued as well with bonus tracks, but that won't be until next year. Our relationship with Johann's Face ended years ago, which would explain why we haven't been selling those CDs at our shows since 1996. C'est la vie.