photographs by Sandra Dieckmann
The whole of the interwebs seem to be a-buzz (and so have we) with Health again lately, since they burst onto the scene in 2007 when they dropped their debut full length as well teaming up with Crystal Castles to release 'Crimewave'. Now with the release of Get Colour and the unleashing of epic stomper 'Die Slow' and it's remixes, the boys can do no wrong.
Health were in London playing a gig with Deerhunter, and those of you who read this blog will know they were also playing a 'secret gig' at the Lexington. It seemed that many of London's purveyors of excellent musical taste were in attendance, (spotted: Joe of Metronomy fame) and for good reason. The LA based art noise rockers most certainly did not disappoint. The anticipation was palpable as Gold Panda did a set in support and was received with murmurs of approval from impressed audience members quickly followed by raucous applause.
Some DJs filled in for a time, and when the band began to slowly shift towards the stage, they made the hastiest exit I've ever seen any gap fill DJs ever make, to the screech of feedback from the mike and a wide-eyed, if awkward silence as the crowd waited for Health to begin.
And begin they did. No matter how great your soundsystem is, nothing can beat the thrill of watching a truly awesome band like Health pummel it out in the flesh. BJ hammering the drums into making ground shuddering beats like some kind of Thor, the guitars and effects; the shiny sweep of John's hair as he embodies rhythm as a dancer as Jupiter stands or crouches broodily next to him and Jake breathes his airily composed vocals - aside from when he screeches like some kind of little dinosaur.
Health are so fucking heavy, as in weighted with so much gravity, it's shattering. It's sex music, total man music; so much so that they actually got me wondering whether girls are capable of creating and playing this kind of music in the same way (discuss)? Health are the smartest kinda primal, the ones who would have discovered fire or invented the wheel kinda primal.
And all they want to do is give us music that our parents won't understand, as they told me when we sat down and talked it out whilst they were in town.
You guys have been around since 2005 - how jaded or not are you on a scale of 1-10? One being totally open and ten being witheringly cynical.
JOHN: I don't think we're jaded. But yeah I mean of course you get a little bit jaded. It depends on jaded with what would be the next question. There are some things I'm very jaded with and other things I'm less so jaded with.
In terms of like, people and music in general? I know that's also a very broad angle.
JOHN: I think we're still very excited about being in a band and doing music.
JUPITER: Yeah, all our friends who do music and all that, it's always awesome to run into them and really really stoked to interact with them. Personally, once you've been to about 2000 shows over the course of 2 or 3 years, well you start to get jaded with live music and well, bands.
JOHN: You've seen it so much that you can see through almost everything. And it just kinda gets tiring. But in terms of interacting with people that we respect and bands that we love, that's always super exciting.
How has your musical journey as Health affected your egos?
JOHN: It has had a very positive effect on our self confidence, social skills, it's an overall positive self improvement.
And what's your favourite thing about music and the industry today? What's the thing you enjoy the most about it?
JUPITER: Accessibility. Which is a double edged sword, because as a band it makes it hard to actually survive off what you're doing and at the same time, we as a band producing really weird music have been able to get some modicum of success from it because it's really easy for people to access the music.
You're often described as noise rock or art rock or whatever, and to me, anything associated with 'art' per se, kinda has the connotation of being a bit snobby?
JOHN: We're definitely not snobby and the way we think about and write our music is definitely not put on a pedestal or a mountain or anything.
So pop is definitely alright with you.
JOHN: We structure our things to make them more gratifying. I mean, we want them to be effective. It's really annoying if the shit's 20 minutes and it doesn't DO anything. I mean that's just lazy. Artistically, that's just lazy. You know in your gut that that's not as affecting as it could be and it's not working.
JUPITER: It's not necessarily always lazy, but it's just not what we're interested in, musically. We actually give a shit about creating music that is effective and gratifying. We want people to get excited about how the music sounds and not to just sit there and be like "Oh my gosh this is so ..." whatever. We want it to hit you, we want you to feel it.
JOHN: So you won't have to think about it.
JUPITER: So it's not head scratching.
In relation to that effectiveness you're talking about, John, you said about 'pop' and music once that "...sure whatever kinda music, but relevant music that sounds new. We let the 'goal' rule over our natural desires." To be relevant, I suppose, means that you have to refer to and be relatable to something that's already in existence.
JOHN: Yeah, it's probably true; 'it sounds new' as in you have this now, you own it. People from earlier times wouldn't necessarily get it; it would be very strange to them. Like, your parents shouldn't get it.
You also said: "In '97 I was in my bedroom fucking bummed about how there were no good new bands anymore; I thought music was just over."
JOHN: I did literally think music was over in 97.
How old were you in 97?
JOHN: Very young. [laughs] Very very young! But it seemed like, it was just over, there was nothing happening, and it was just going to get worse and nothing was going to happen.
And then you said after that "Now I'm perpetually fucking stoked."
JOHN: Yeah I am, but not as stoked as I was two years ago, two years ago was better, but I'm still very excited and there's new records coming out I really really like. Only thing that's messed that up recently, is that for online stuff we're compiling our decade top ten and we're like, shieeet, that was the decade? Fuuuck -
JUPITER: Yeah, we thought it was better!
JOHN: But still, great albums are coming out and exciting new things in music that I'm very excited about. Things go up and down and there's a new trend and you're like, godammit, but for the most part, it's pretty awesome. Compared to how miserable I was in the late 90s -
JUPITER: I'm with him on that...
Would that have had something to do with hormones at the time perhaps?
JOHN: No no, music really sucked! It was a really bad time for music. The only good thing in '97 was Ultimate Dance Party '97 -
JUPITER: I wasn't into pop at that time at all, and maybe there was some good shit going off in that, but as far as I knew, I was into rock music, and that time it just wasn't happening.
JOHN: If you were into different or interesting types of music that was a bummer of a time I gotta say, there was no alternative.
And so two years ago...
JOHN: There were a lot of new bands coming up that were very exciting. Dirty Projectors, I mean they've been around for a long time, but people are only just finding out about them
JUPITER: That Knife album...
JOHN: Oh yeah. There were a lot of great records coming out and the whole bloghouse thing, with Crystal Castles and stuff and the new dance thing was exciting cause it was very aimed at very young people...and just a lot of cool things were going on. It was just stuff that felt more relevant and more new and the best sign was that the older, more conservative people were like "Fuck that, that stuff's crap!" And I was like, "Oh that's a good sign!" That means it's actually doing something.
JUPITER: Rather than just some 'new' music looking backward and being retro; actually something that sounds like wow, this sounds unlike anything I'm familiar with up until this point.
JOHN: Or at least there's a new take on something old, but something that actually feels like a NEW take. There seems to be this mindset of just hating anything that's specific enough that you can actually hate it, cause you want everything to be fucking bland so that you're perfectly safe with your opinions - I dunno. There's a lot of frustrating things about music listeners today. So, we're definitely fans of new stuff coming out no matter how ridiculous. It's NEW, it's exciting, it's something to get into.
How did you all come to be in LA?
JUPITER: John was out there working, he'd just gotten out of film school, Jake and I had just gotten out of college, and were living in the LA area and we were all just working shitty jobs and wanted to make music and started playing together in a tiny closet size rehearsal space in LA, and found BJ, our drummer, on Craigslist.
It's kinda weird to think that you can actually find people like that, and it'll work and turn out like it has for you guys.
JOHN: We got very lucky.
JUPITER: REALLY lucky.
JOHN: We should write a Craigslist success story, they have a section for those.
SEVERIN: Hello, I'm Severin, nice to meet you!
OH WAIT, are you -
JOHN: This is the great Severin. There's a restaurant named after him in Berlin. And a song named after him on our album.
AHHHHH! [Severin settles in]
So, these days, instead of 'going down in the history books', it's more like going down in Wikipedia or something. If you were going to be quoted today for it to go down on some block of stone, what would it be?
Well, that's the magic of the internet now, you're gonna be in history already and you can fucking write it yourself apparently too. But making great music is the ultimate goal, and being special. [laughs]
It's about art, but, this music was made for the very frustrated 13 year old I was at the time. This music is for you kids in the know now, it's your music, it's your time. It SUCKS that you have to dress up like your parents and listen to a shitty re-hash of your parents' music and be told it's the new sound and try to feel cool and not even own your own 'rebellion' - fake as that is now anyway - but we're just trying to give you your own music. That your parents won't get.