INTERVIEW: Fight Amp’s Mike McGinnis

Even though they are just off the red-eye after spending 30 days playing 30 shows across Europe with Black Tusk, there is plenty juice left in Fight Amp. New Jersey/Philly’s undisputed heavyweight noise rock/HC/punk/sludge/OTHER champs have one show left on the calendar, but Mike McGinnis just wants to keep on going. The Deciblog caught up with Fight Amp’s principal riff-master and vocalist and found him still buzzing for the road, and ready to put some of that nervous energy down on tape.

Here is your chance: plug your post-tour/pre-hibernation show at Kung Fu Necktie.
“We’ve tried to limit what we do here locally in Philadelphia, just so we don’t over-saturate. This is only our third home town show of the year. The first one we were direct support for Weedeater and the second one we were direct support for Pentagram. This one, we just wanted to do a local show once we got back from Europe, the last show of the year with us headlining. I’m really stoked about who is on the bill. We handpicked the bands. We did a split with Ladder Devils on Brutal Panda records; it was a three-way split between us, Ladder Devils and Kowloon Walled City out of San Francisco. Ladder Devils is a Philadelphia band, reminiscent of Young Widows, and our old drummer [Mike Howard] who played on our second full-length Manners and Praise is currently their drummer. Empty Flowers has one of the guys who runs Translation Loss, and the rest of the dudes were in that metalcore band that was on Hydra Head, Cable, which is pretty fucking cool. Braille is a band who we share a practice space with; they are young and up-and-coming dudes. They play in a few noise rock bands like Bubonic Bear and Ape, and they kind of have their own crowd here in Philly. They are an awesome band. When we play Philly it’s all familiar faces; basically, it’ll be a big party. It’ll be a good for us to get home from tour and see everybody, have a good time and hang out.”

Do you feel now that you’ve done so many dates in Europe that you’re a lot tighter unit?
“Every show we play together, the bond gets stronger. I mean, really, since Dan joined the band he’s done a full North American tour with Weedeater and Saviors, and he’s done a full American tour with Black Tusk, KEN mode and Today is the Day. This was his third major tour with us, the Black Tusk European tour. Going overseas and adding another major tour playing with us, it definitely strengthens the way we play together, and how, live, we are really like a well-oiled machine by this point. We can just step onto a stage at anytime and play, and it’s pretty smooth.”

You did 30 shows in 30 days in Europe. What was that like?

“It was relentless. There were a lot of overnight drives. Luckily we had a hired driver, a guy named Adam from Hungary, and he was awesome. He was a machine. We can’t really complain because any time we were driving overnight we were sleeping in the van. But, y’know, we were burning the candle at both ends. There was not much sleep to be had. It was awesome. We were there to play shows and not to relax, and as much as it is gruelling at the time, when we get back it’s great to say, ‘Hey, we took full advantage of every single place we were.’ It’s funny, you really get into that [playing] mind-set and I come home from touring and—I can only speak for myself here—I take about a day to sleep it off and then I wake up and I feel like I am ready to get back into the van and get to the next show. For the first few days when I get home, I don’t even know what to do with myself.”

Do you feel like you should be getting out there on another tour or is this the time to put that restless energy into writing and recording?
“It’s a double-edged sword. Personally, as tough as it is, I could easily have kept on going for another month. Like, Black Tusk? They get home for only 10 days and then they get back out there on their North American tour. I kinda envy their position. I would love to do something along those lines but that’s just not on the cards for us right now. We are writing for new releases and that’s exactly where our energy has to be focused, taking that energy that we’d normally spend on tour and putting it into new releases is the way that we have to look at it.”

What releases are you writing for?
“An EP and a seven-inch, and then we are going to continue writing for a full-length. We have a whole lot of writing ahead of us and I am sure tour offers will come our way—that remains to be seen right now. We did four major tours for Birth Control. It may not be as much as some bands where they tour half the year or three-quarters of the year but we toured a quarter of a year and for a band our size that is quite a lot of touring.”

Have you got a label to release these?
“At the moment we are free agents. We completed our deal with Translation Loss with Birth Control, so right now we are just weighing up label options, taking a look at some offers and seeing what comes our way. We are being patient with it; we’re not eager to jump into something as we’ve just got out of a deal that was pretty long. While we are free agents right now, we’re going to do the EP through Brutal Panda; they are really close friends and they’ve done a lot of our vinyl releases for our first two full-lengths and a couple of splits. We’re going to do a vinyl release with the EP, and go down the route that Rosetta did with their latest record and self-release the digital and CD EP ourselves and see how it goes. It’s kind of an experiment.”

Have you got any songs written?
“We’ve got five songs that are not completed but are on the drawing board. We finished them before we went on tour but they’re not quite done. They don’t have lyrics or vocals yet, and the music still needs some tweaking but the ideas are there. The idea we had going into it was to take a little bit of everything that we’ve had in our sound; since Fight Amp started ‘til now, we wanted to take something from everything. Like Birth Control is really like a noise rock record, but Hungry for Nothing has some sort of hardcore/D-beat stuff on it and we wanted to combine it and really have a little bit of everything. That’s the path we are going down. We still want to maintain that noise rock sound but we want to reach down through our back catalogue and bring some D-beats back; while we want to progress through the noise rock realm we want to reach back and touch our hardcore roots.”

I guess for your sound it is a question of balancing the freer elements of noise rock with the physicality of hardcore.
“Yeah, definitely. By no means are we going to write a hardcore album. But we want to incorporate it a little bit. Like on Hungry for Nothing, our first full-length, we had those elements peaking through the surface and I think that’s the goal, to go back and let those hardcore roots peak through the surface a little bit, while still retaining that noise rock sound and, at the same time, trying to do some things that we have never done before. We are experimenting a little bit with some of the dynamics, like some of the loud/quiet/loud, almost like the Nirvana thing . . . A little bit. We’ll see how it goes. So far, the five new songs we have are a mixed bag and that’s what we’re aiming for. It’ll have a cohesive sound but each song will have its identity.”

Birth Control was an album with a concept, at the heart of which was a central character—is that concept, that character something that could appear again on record?
“Probably not, to be honest. I am not saying that we’ll never touch on that again but I think that this EP coming up is going to be a little bit more stripped down, and each track is going to be its own song. I think we’ll leave the bells and whistles out of this one and it’s going to be pretty straightforward. I really liked the way we did it on Birth Control, and we might go back to that—but this time, and it’s kinda inadvertent, we are just writing all the music and leaving the lyrics and the vocals ‘til all the music is done. The idea is to write too many songs for the EP and have them left over for other releases, and then continue to write. Once we have the songs picked out better on the EP, I think we’ll probably go back and start filling in the vocal patterns and lyrics. We’ve never really discussed it, but it just seems to be the way that we are doing it.”

Do you feel that you’ve got room to rework your songs after touring them and playing them live night after night?
“There are definitely songs on this tour where we were adlibbing here and there, and there’s nothing that’s crazy but if you’re really paying attention you could probably hear it. But it’s really just to keep things interesting; we’re not machines so we don’t really like to play it to the fucking key every time. It’s nice to go off just a little bit.”

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