Basement Space Travel: An Interview with Green Dragon

Pamela Nashel Leto

Green Dragon emerged from a New Jersey basement in 2013 armed with a love of heavy psych and Black Sabbath, plus years of experience in other bands like Unearthly Trance and Devoid of Faith. Since then, they’ve spent plenty of time jamming in that very basement and have released a demo, EP and full-length, all titled Green Dragon. After about a dozen spins of their album, Green Dragon indulged me for a chat about doom, Rorschach, Sabbath worship and the possibility of live shows. Don’t forget to stream or purchase their album on Bandcamp while you read.

Green Dragon is made up of members from various other bands including Unearthly Trance, Devoid of Faith and more. How did the band come to be?
Jennifer Klein [bass]: We didn’t meet through our bands although we traveled in the same circles because of them. I bought a house in Jersey that needed a lot of work and hired Nate (Wilson, drums, Devoid of Faith) to paint it around 2005. He stayed at our house while he was painting and after that he used to come over with his wife to BBQ. They ended up buying a house about a mile away about three years later and our families all became friends, hung out in our yards and at the town pool, went to shows together. We were drinking in my backyard one night and Nate said he had met this guy Zack while he was getting his oil changed, asked if I wanted to come jam with them in Zack’s basement.

First time we played with Zack, he looked really familiar. We realized we probably crossed paths when we were younger. I used to bartend at the Mars bar in the East Village when I was 19, he used to drink there while he was playing in Sweet Diesel. He had toured with this band Kiss It Goodbye, which was comprised of guys from my husband’s band Rorschach so we knew a lot of the same people. There were a lot of connections both music and otherwise. Playing together and hanging out felt really natural, started happening a lot. I think the three of us realized that we missed being in bands. Not so much the playing shows piece, but the creative piece. Gradually my basement morphed from a jujitsu studio, which my husband had set up for his own use, into a practice space. My husband came downstairs one night, saw a giant green dragon tapestry hanging on the wall, bunch of amps down there and was like “What the F happened down here? It looks and smells like a head shop.” But he was cool about it. We ended up deciding to record what we were doing in the basement, which is how the demo and 7” came to be.  

Ryan (Lipynsky, Unearthly Trance) started jamming with us when he moved to Jersey from Brooklyn a few years ago. Although I like his bands a lot, I didn’t get to know him through music, I worked with his wife and she used to come out to Jersey to visit. When they decided to move out of Brooklyn I showed them around the area and they ended up moving really close by. I thought Ryan would get along really well with Nate and Zack, and would be a good fit for Green Dragon. I loved his aesthetic and playing, loved all the Unearthly Trance art as well as their music. We were all really happy when he agreed to come jam with us in my basement.

Zack Kurland [guitar/vocals]: Jenn got to the crux of if. I mean, it’s funny because in a way we all moved out to the burbs of NJ to raise kids and do the family thing. And for me, when I got here, I suddenly had the space to play music again. I met Nathan at Jiffy Lube, he was wearing Napalm Death shirt and I had a Sleep shirt and it was just like “oh hey…” and it turned out we had some shared friends from the ’90s post-hardcore days, and Nathan knew Jenn. And Jenn and I had all these shared friends through that same scene. So it felt new and familiar all at once. And Ryan knew Jenn, and he moved out here and we all hit it off really easily. So we’re good friends to each other, over the years we’ve been through natural disasters, surgeries and family stuff; we fight and we laugh and I think it was always most surprising to us that when we play [that] it isn’t awful and there was something going on that felt special musically.

There’s a sea of doom bands out there that take their main inspirations from Black Sabbath and the like. Do you actively try to give Green Dragon a sound that sticks out from those other bands?
Jennifer: The four of us connect on a shared love of Black Sabbath, Motörhead, Blue Cheer and Budgie but from there our tastes vary, so not sounding exactly like Sabbath is probably a product of our liking a lot of different things. I think we initially connected musically because while Nate and Zack were very much into doom, they both have a wide range of taste. I’m from Maryland, I like southern and classic rock and they do too. We move from referencing Lynyrd Skynyrd to Witchfinder General pretty easy. I’m pretty sure we must scare Ryan once in awhile when we deliberate covering ’70s rock bands like America or Fleetwood Mac, but we always meet where we agree. We’re too old to be cool anymore. We like what we like, it gives us some creative freedom.

Zack: There are so many dimensions to Sabbath. I’d like to think we might gleam some of the more subtle ones. We all come from the hardcore punk thing in one way or another, but also all grew up on classic rock and metal in the ‘burbs. In additional to Sabbath, early Maiden, ’70s Priest, Deep Purple, all really important.

The album seems to have been well-received so far, selling out of its physical pressings and getting love from King Buzzo on his Gimme Radio show. What’s the next step now that you have this out?
Jennifer: In terms of next steps, we’re ready to leave my basement. That was big because we’ve been playing and recording down there so long we’ve developed some untraditional ways of being a band. If we could find a show to play that we can all agree on that would be great. I’m working on getting Nate to agree to leave New Jersey. We would really love to see someone put the record out on vinyl.

Zack: You know, it’s a trip that anyone listens or likes it at all outside of us. Mostly this is about us just hanging out and being creative, and blowing off some steam. But we also really care about making good records. As good as we could. I’d love to see this album get vinyl run. After six years of staying in, playing some shows and having some adventures sounds fun. We have some new songs that sound really early Priest-y. I’m excited to get into the next batch of songs.

Your album is self-titled, just like your demo and EP. Will your next release also be called Green Dragon?
Jennifer: Oh man. I really had no idea this was the case until you asked. I can’t believe we are such burnouts that we forgot to name our records.

Zack: I think I liked the basicness of it. It might be a touch of Germs influence. Like an SST aesthetic, kinda. I don’t know what we’ll name the next album. But it’ll definitely have a two headed dragon.