Interview: Joey Molinaro

If you’re reading this and into grindcore, you’re probably already well aware that Discordance Axis’ The Inalienable Dreamless is viewed by grind heads in the same way Master of Puppets get looked at by thrashers. Both are genre-defining albums that no die hard fan of the respective sound is nothing but 100% behind. Both Master and Inalienable are albums that you should never hear anyone say, “Yeah, it’s alright” and if you do happen upon some chucklehead uttering that sort of indifference in reference to either, please do us, and them, a favour and put the poor sap out of their misery. People love The Inalienable Dreamless. I do. A lot of you do too. Some people, however, take their love of their favourite albums to crazy lengths, like violinist and experimental musician Joey Molinaro who, last year, covered and recorded a violin and foot stomping version of our 49th Hall of Fame entry. Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re aware our Mr. Mehling first brought Molinaro to attention over a year ago via this very blog, but hopefully a little more digital love will help get a few more bodies out as Joey is presently twisting and warping minds in different cities as part of a couple-month-or-so-long tour. We caught up with him just before he settled in to perform at a house show in Virginia.
So, I guess the obvious question as it pertains to Decibel is why tackle The Inalienable Dreamless?
I started playing grindcore in an awesome band called Basilica in Bloomington, Indiana in 2005. I really liked the band and we’re actually still recording and getting new stuff together, but just with the amplification and the size and difficulty of touring as a violinist, I became really interested in having the ability of being able to just open my case and play. So, I went with the solo thing and, again as a violinist, I just have all the high frequency sounds. I’m also an avid fiddler, so I got attracted to the sound of the foot and the bass drum sound that foot [stomping] gave. Then, I heard a few French-Canadian fiddle styles where they use both feet. I happen to love French-Canadian death metal, so it just really reminded me of the way I’ve always felt: that metal, hardcore and punk are just a continuation of the string band tradition. And so, in Basilica, we composed a lot of unprecedented, unusual, projective sound. With this project, I wanted to start it out not so pretentiously and I thought that covering an album that I had been listening to extensively and kind of doing it my own way would be a good way to get my solo thing started.

How long did it take you to work out your own arrangement of the album?
Mostly, what I did was write it out the way I remember it. And I was able to do that very quickly. I went back later and watched the Pikadourei DVD that has the tablature on it and I looked at that and I realised that I have two strings to few and it wasn’t going to make sense to try and get the same notes or anything, so I pretty much stuck with tweaking my experimental transcription. I’d say I worked on it for about five or six months.

Looking you up online, I see that you play with a variety of bands and play a variety of styles as well as teach and perform in some unusual situations and venues. Are you the sort of musician who pulls influences from wherever and treat your style more like a bohemian type of thing?
That’s how I started. Basilica really changed that for me. I started to really identify with a language and that’s what I loved so much about Discordance Axis. One of the many things I loved about Discordance Axis was that it was like they were using a language and really transcending that language. Now, for the most part, I like to have a dialogue with that language. These days, I’ve been playing in a lot of radical brass bands and doing performance art, so you could say I grab influence from everywhere, but the way I look at it, it’s all one thing.

What have the reactions been like to your version of The Inalienable Dreamless?
The traditionalists are the least enthusiastic of them all about it, for sure [laughs], which is sort of disappointing. I play a lot of folk-punk shows and those people are really receptive. Metal crowds love it! Metal crowds are some of the best audiences I have. It’s difficult sometimes to get metal promoters to get behind what I’m doing, but once I get on a metal bill and perform, it’s a great reaction. Punk shows are great. Indie rock shows are sort of so-so; those people are sometimes too into themselves to really lend their ears to what I’m doing. But the reactions to the performances have overall been very heartening.

Do you have anything planned for a follow up?
I’m just about to release a 7” split with my current touring partner, Valerie Kuehne who does sort of a psych-metal, cello, singer-songwriter thing I’m really enthusiastic about. On the B-side of that are songs that I’m performing with vocals and seven-part strings. So I think that might turn into a band at some point. I have at least a cassette tape worth of new, original music for that same set-up and then Basilica is going to be releasing some new things. I’m not really planning on…if I do another cover, it’s going to be for a radical marching band I play in called RMO, so I was thinking about doing some crust punk, grindcore or D-beat covers for them.

I know you just said you’re not planning on covering another album, but if there was one record you could do because you either love it so much, think you can really do something with it or think it needs it, what would it be?
I hope you don’t mind if I take a second to think about that…[“a second” turns into a loooong pause] Well, you know when I recorded The Inalienable Dreamless it was because I was listening to it almost everyday. Whenever I would get home from work and just want to sit on the couch or take a nap or something, The Inalienable Dreamless would get me up and keep me going. Right now, Cursed by Rotten Sound is doing that same thing for me. I doubt that I would ever cover it though.

Joey Molinaro on tour:
4/26 NC @ Squidco
4/27 Asheville @ Izzy’s
4/28 Knoxville TBA @ Poison Lawn
4/29 TN HELP
4/30 TN HELP
5/2 Evansville, IN TBA @ Mother Brain Sound Infrastructure
5/3 Bloomington, IN @ House Show TBA
5/4 Cleveland, OH @ Halcyon Lodge
5/5 Pittsburgh with Uke and Tuba @ Bloomfield Bridge Tavern
5/6-Columbus, OH @ Wermhole
5/7 Ohio TBA
5/8 Cleveland @ Bella Dubby
5/9 Cleveland, TBA
5/10 Buffalo @ TBA
5/11 Cincinnati @ Static Age, 1334 Main Street, Cincinnati, OH w/ Redettes 7 pm$5
5/12 Toledo @ Robinwood Concert House
5/13 Fort Wayne @ House Show
5/14 Chicago @ Township
5/15 Indianapolis @ Murphy Building Attic
5/16 Louisville, KY @ Chestnut House
5/17 TBA
5/18 Bloomington, IN @ Bitchyard
5/19-21 Chicago
5/21 WI @ Borg Ward
5/22 Minneapolis @ Tuesday Improv
5/23 WI @ Laundry Chute
5/24 Detroit @ Trumble Plex
5/25 Ann Arbor TBA
5/26 Ypsilanti @ Dreamland Theater TBA
6/23 Louisville @ Louisville Experimental Music Festival