We’re a little more than a month out from legendary Boston extreme music pioneers/provocateurs SIEGE hitting the stage for the first time since 1991 at AS220 in Providence, RI alongside Infest — a similarly foundational Valencia, California outfit that successfully reunited for its own series of post-1991 live assaults back in 2013. To get the lowdown on the who, what, where, why, and how — amongst other issues, both original SIEGE vocalist Kevin Mahoney and short-lived early ’90s replacement Seth Putnam died in 2011 — Decibel roped SIEGE drummer Robert Williams and current Infest bassist Chris Dodge — also of Spazz, Despise You, Lack of Interest, and a million other legit insane bands — into a email roundtable convo on aural resurrections and renewed brutalities…
Robert, I think everyone is going to have the same question about Siege coming back: Why reunite now, in 2016?
ROBERT WILLIAMS: There have been many times I’ve heard some third generation generic grind garbage with misogynistic jokes for lyrics and was like, “This shit wasn’t even funny when it was originally fucking happening.” ‘Anti-P.C.-core’ has turned out to have the shelf life of bong water. And I kept saying to myself more and more often, “We need more bands like Napalm, like Discharge, like The Clash even — bands willing to say something more serious, lyrically.” Then I realized that chance and that responsibility was partially ours. It meant getting my old SIEGE songwriting partner [guitarist] Kurt Habelt out of his perfectionist seclusion. It meant a new spirit of collaboration with a team of players who were equally disgusted by some of the things our pig-infested government is still doing, and who were looking to channel that hatred into the propaganda of our art.
Who is in the SIEGE lineup for these shows?
WILLIAMS: Besides me and Kurt, the group includes Chris Leamy of Brain Famine and Japanese Torture Comedy Hour and singer Mark Fields from the Bridge 9 band Proclamation. [Check out Proclamation covering both SIEGE and Infest here — ed.]
Have you been surprised at all by the continuing influence and staying power of the band’s music?
WILLIAMS: Sometimes I have to laugh at the whole ‘grind founder’ thing when I remember how we used to worship DEVO and how I was in the drama club at the same time we started SIEGE. But behind drums I became a very hostile person. It was like all our political outrage came exploding out through our instruments. I believe anytime you create art fueled by sincerity, it’s going to resonate.
Did the success of Infest’s initial reunion run back in 2013 have any sort of come-on-in-the-water’s-fine effect on your decision to do this?
WILLIAMS: I sat in with Dropdead when they played with Infest in Cambridge, and the pit was predictably crazy. But actually it’s the relentlessly mounting attention of the fans and devotees of this music that was the deciding factor.
How has it been revisiting these songs? Are you finding new power and meaning in some of them with age?
WILLIAMS: The rehearsals have been crazy—my hearing is already fucking gone. And I drum every day now, almost. My personal practice regimen is still to play along with AC/DC records, on 45 rpm. But the SIEGE songs are being treated with real reverence, and with seriousness towards matters at hand: The audience and listener must be pummeled.
Chris, you must have an pretty unique perspective on this, considering your own crazy awesome discography and time in Infest. First, though, maybe you could tell me a bit about the impact Siege had on you as a punk hardcore kid and musician? Were they an important band for you?
CHRIS DODGE: I was weened on hardcore in the ‘80s, and I was always searching for bands that were the fastest and most punishing. I scoured magazines like Maximum Rocknroll… read every record and tape review, read every band interview, every scene report. In one issue there was an interview with SIEGE, and they sounded intense. I did a lot of tape trading back then, and got a copy of their demo that way since they didn’t have any records out. I had a core of favorite bands that were highly influential — Larm, Wretched, Neos, Deep Wound, etcetera. SIEGE was at the top of that list. They were the pinnacle of fierce songwriting: They kept it fast and brutal, but their songs were also memorable and full of hooks. It’s astounding to think that a band with such a small amount of recorded output has retained such a long standing influence on extreme music.
How did you end up doing the initial Infest reunion? Can you tell me a little bit about your history with the music as — I assume, anyway — a fan and then a participant?
DODGE: I was a fan of Infest after hearing the demo in 1987. Walter Glaser at Maximum Rocknroll copied it for me. I bought their first seven-inch at Blacklist in San Francisco, and got a copy of the Slave twelve-inch from Off The Disk to review in Maximum Rocknroll. I saw them at Gilman for the first time in ’88. Then when I started my label Slap A Ham in ’89 my first release was the Infest/PHC split eight-inch flexi-disc. I was in touch with [Infest guitarist] Matt Domino off and on through the early to mid ‘90s, we were out of touch for probably a good decade, then I relocated from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and in 2010 I started playing with Matt and Bob Deepsix in Low Threat Profile. In 2012 LTP needed a vocalist and [Infest vocalist] Joe Denunzio was moving back to SoCal after being sprung from prison in Arizona. Joe was going to be in LTP. To get Joe warmed up, those guys ran through a couple Infest songs, and they sounded better than expected. They tried a few more times after that and it felt right, so they decided to see what would happen if they re-learned more tracks, and asked if I wanted to join. It was all or nothing — it had to sound good — so the four of us practiced for about seven months before playing the first live show in January 2013 in Los Angeles. I’m fortunate to be along for the ride.
It’s hard to tell how these things will go, but the Infest vibe must be good since it continues to roll on.
DODGE: Absolutely. If it didn’t feel right, we wouldn’t be doing it. There have been a few times when those guys talked about pulling the plug — usually after a lousy practice. Any show could be the last. But we’re enjoying it while we can.
Is it at all surreal for you both, as artists who were there for what was pretty much the ground zero moment for “power violence,” to see how much love the sub-subgenre gets these days and all these younger bands influenced by your past work?
WILLIAMS: I enjoy seeing new groups that really push beyond the established limitations of “genre.” What’s surreal is to think back to a time when absolutely everybody hated our music for being “too fast” or “too preachy,” and then strolling around a punk and metalhead tribal gathering like MDF and realizing, “Holy fuck — this shit is global now!”
DODGE: I don’t know if I’d call it “surreal” as much as I’d call it surprising. I’ve always felt a bit like the underdog…involved in creating music that a core of folks like, but definitely something that could not be categorized as popular whatsoever.
Maybe “gratifying” is a better word?
DODGE: Gratifying is the perfect term. I’m grateful so many people appreciate what we’ve done and what we’re still doing. It was one thing to have our scene of friends who played this music at the time, but to have new generations of kids who are excited & influenced by it is a humbling experience.How have your lives have evolved since those early days? And what remains the same about this music/scene for you?
WILLIAMS: When you’re a performer and a creative-type, that’s for life. It’s like a masochism. You’re born with it. So that’s remained the same. I’m still from an artsy-craftsy household that supports rock n roll. What’s changed is I am now the punk rock curmudgeon, calling from the kitchen for my son to turn down his Archgoat cd so I can listen to the Exploited.
How have your lives evolved since those early days? And what remains the same about this music/scene for you?
DODGE: For me, “powerviolence” was always just another progression of Hardcore, and Hardcore has been an important part of my life since the 80s. I’ve been involved in this music all this time because it’s personally rewarding and remains something I’m excited about, regardless of how many “fans” there have or haven’t been over the years. The whole West Coast Power Violence scene in the late 80s and early 90s was basically just a bunch of friends and like-minded individuals who all enjoyed creating aggressive music at a time when it was frowned upon. Clearly there is a following for the music these days, and I feel lucky that anyone recognizes or respects what we’ve done. It’s great to see the newer bands taking it to the next level. That’s what it’s all about. Taking that influence of what you love and adding your own spin.
What moment you’re most looking forward toward in the other’s set?
DODGE: The whole damn thing. I’m mainly looking forward to seeing how people will lose their minds when SIEGE hits that long-anticipated first note.
WILLIAMS: Seeing Joe take the stage, really. And raging up front with new friends.
So, say these show go exactly how you hope they will go. What’s that look like? And what’s the future then hold for the bands?
WILLIAMS: SIEGE have a folder of as-yet unrecorded compositions and lyrics from the Cleanse The Bacteria era. We’re continuing to strengthen this machine, and more cities and special events will likely be announced.
DODGE: To play on the same bill with SIEGE gives me major bragging rights! [Laughs] I never thought I’d see this band live, let alone share the stage with them. I would have been excited to see them at 17, but honestly, I’m even more excited at 47. I’m not looking to the future. Any show could be the last. I’m just enjoying the here and now.