10 Not-So-Obvious Influences on Fight Amp

All loud things must come to end. And that is why, after twelve years of pummeling everything that wandered within a half-mile radius, Fight Amp have decided to break up. But when your sludgerock band is almost old enough for a bar mitzvah, there is a lot to look back on. So what follows is the band’s own Mike McGinnis offering a list of influences you may not have picked up on. And scroll to the end to see the band’s final tour dates, starting this Friday. 

Throughout our existence, Fight Amp was generally always compared to the same bands and given the same influences by those writing about us: Melvins, Unsane, Jesus Lizard, etc. We love those bands, but we were never aiming for a bulls eye with only those sounds on it. Songwriting for Fight Amp was always something of an experiment. We always tried to translate the weird shit going on in our heads into the initial ideas and riffs that became our songs, and the influences that shaped those ideas weren’t always so obvious. Here are some that you probably didn’t pick up on.

1. Two Atheists Walk Into A Christian Construction Company
During the writing of our first full length, Hungry For Nothing, our bassist/singer Jon and I spent the M-F hours of 7 to 4 working for a construction company that… you guessed it… used their born-again Christian faith to sell their services. Being two non-believers who often openly criticize the harmful agendas of faith groups in the United States made this… interesting, to say the least. The daily rhetoric from the highly religious bosses and helpers and ridiculous parody the situation represented brought about a lot of the nihilistic, atheistic and organized-religion-criticizing themes that wound up on our first album… though there are hints of that on all of our albums.

2. Dead Is Dead Kennedys
Not really worn on our sleeve outright, DK has influenced Fight Amp since day one. East Bay Ray was an early influence on my guitar playing, and musically I always thought their sound was an early version of what would become one of the major subsets of noise rock (I know, that might sound crazy to some of you, but speed up Unsane’s “Committed” 20 BPM and raise the pitch of Chris Spencer’s vocals…). We even did a DK cover set one Halloween in New Orleans to a bunch of surprised record store goers. It was mostly comprised of songs from Plastic Surgery Disasters, our hands-down favorite DK record.

3. Un……..Wound
Tonally and sonically this one isn’t very obvious. But Unwound played a huge part in our development as a band, especially when considering their songwriting, lyrical content and general attitude. Repetition and Future of What are the top contenders, but every single Unwound record gets play on our stereos from time to time. I’d venture to say this band has been in my top 10 go-tos for over a decade at this point. Their approach, along with a lot of the Kill Rock Stars roster, was always and will always continue to be an inspiration to us as musicians.

4. Hunter S. Thompson & Gonzo Journalism
Did you know that our first drummer is Kevin Federline’s cousin? Well, he’s not (or is he?) but that’s one of a handful of stories we told to reputable magazines printing stories about us. I realize it’s ironic to be telling this to readers of a reputable music magazine’s blog… but whatever, fuck it. We were always inspired by the writings and ideas put forth by Hunter Thompson, and always tried to embrace a mutated version of his gonzo style in our travels. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story… and trust me, always question what you read on the internet, especially this.

5. Eno, Byrne, Talking Heads
The first thing that comes to mind when listening to Constantly Off is Remain In Light, right? Of course not. But the influence of these three entities on us as musicians has been crucial. Eno’s self-described “non-musician” status and production work has been a guiding light for us when making albums, and Byrne’s “How Music Works” has been passed around our tour van since it’s release a few years back. We even considered covering “Memories Can’t Wait” a year or so back, but never got around to it. 

6. Nobuo Uematsu & Final Fantasy
OK, I’m going to show my inner geek here. I’ve been a huge JRPG fan since I was a kid. One of my earliest musical influences was the work of the now-infamous composer Nobuo Uematsu. To this day I’m left in awe at his compositions and, believe it or not, they’ve bled into how I think about songwriting when putting my own songs together. I know, I just lost about half of you, if not more. But for those of you left and unfamiliar, take a seat, smoke a bowl, and listen to the Final Fantasy 6 soundtrack and you may realize that Uematsu is truly a modern great.

7. Early 00’s “Screamo”… No, Not That Screamo
This may be a little obvious to some of you that paid attention to us in our early days, 
but not so obvious to people that recently got into us. Before Fight Amp, Jon and I were rubbing elbows with a handful of musical camps, including the early 00’s hardcore and screamo scenes. Often times the shows we’d play with our old bands or go to see in Philly at places like The Killtime had mixed bills with bands from both of those and more. The bands that often stuck with us were groups like Pg99, City of Caterpillar, Orchid, Combat Wounded Veteran, Jeromes Dream, Creation Is Crucifixion, Neil Perry, etc. Yes, I realize the definition of that genre has changed, but it’s what a lot of people called those bands back then, so that’s what I’m calling it now. In reality they were genre-less or at least genre-bending and ultimately rooted in punk, and that is something that has stuck with us. We even recorded our first EP with Will Killingsworth of Orchid specifically because we loved the lo-fi production quality of his Bucket Full of Teeth recordings.

8. Sonic Youth
Probably obvious to some of you just because of the era they come from, but certainly not obvious in the sound. I specifically remember while recording our first full length with Philip Cope of Kylesa, he asked our reasoning for having only one vocalist on certain songs instead of having multiple vocalists more often. Our answer was simply Sonic Youth, and he instantly got where we were coming from. I really can’t even begin to explain the influence of this band during our formative years before Fight Amp began, and their albums have continued to be points of reference to this day.

9. The Road
Our third full length, Birth Control, was the first album we wrote in which we reserved all lyrical ideas until after the instrumentation was written. We had a semi-concept in mind. We then wrote out a simple narrative, broke it into eight parts, and picked which song each sub-theme within that narrative would be assigned to. While doing this we were touring a bit, and happened to have an off day that we went and saw the film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. We already knew we wanted our narrative to be about a character navigating the “end of the world,” filtered through our own experiences, but this movie really sealed the deal by putting a bleak picture into our heads. We also still joke about my audible “AAH” in the theater during the
basement scene…

10. Rage Against The Machine – Evil Empire
I stand by this record to this day. I’ve left behind its predecessor (which helped me learn to play guitar in the early 90s) and anything that comes after it, but I’ll go to bat for Evil Empire any day of the week. The song structures and riffs on this album continue to inspire my own songwriting. Maybe if you revisit this album and then listen to a Fight Amp album… you may hear a little more Rage Against The Machine in there than you previously thought existed. And oh yeah, we did a Halloween cover set for this band too.