Tabs Out | Anthems For Disaffected Mutants – An Intro To Video Nasties

Anthems For Disaffected Mutants – An Intro To Video Nasties
11.16.15 by Jacob DeRaadt

video nasties

Video Nasties are one of the first bands that I encountered upon moving to the remote college town of Portland, Maine. After seeing their songs performed live, it’s nice to hear a definitive album version of those lunk-headed party anthems for disaffected mutants that plod along in simple-minded, wide-eyed grin or grimace, depending on how you hear it.

There’s a quality that I enjoy about so much new-wave/post-punk bands from the mid-80’s that is channeled in an authentic fashion on their latest cassette EP, “SLP”. The vocals are similar to early Robert Smith being bathed in a liberal dose of cheap digital delay, and the guitar’s dry twang and dated flange won’t dispel any comparisons to that sound. Lyrics about (you guessed it) B-movie VHS viewing sessions and everyday boredom. You are in the mind of a worm, watching video tapes and detachedly observing the failures of the human race. Horror Holocaust is a dancy little number that will get your toes a-tappin’ and groovin’, while B Nasty regales you with a tale of becoming de-sensitized to onscreen violence.

Squirm” is my favorite VN tape. It’s positively fried, out-of-control insanity, has chaotic edits, and a totally fucked-up-beyond-comprehension guitar tone that gives me flashbacks of my first time listening to Chrome. I thought my stereo was fried for a second, and that’s always a good sign that something wrong is going on with the recording process. Happy mistakes are found all over this one. This band is warped! There’s a drum machine that sounds like it was left in a microwave for a week, absorbing all the flavors of your TV dinners. Half-dead Casio presets colliding with synth tones from a lost Connie Plank recording session perfectly echoes the backwoods cultural wasteland that is central coastal Maine. There’s no way of telling for sure that this wasn’t recorded in the mid-80’s other than the recording date is stated as 2014. Both sides of the tape end with collages resembling spools of tape coming out of the shell, speed/tone fluctuations, and the blue screen of reality setting back in. Every degenerate lover of acid punk needs to smear some Video Nasties in their life.

Tell me what your names are and what you do in the band.

CAL: “The Kisser”, hypeman

BRENDAN: I call myself B. Nasty in the band.

What do you do?

BRENDAN: Oh, I just be nasty.

CHRIS: And I call myself C. Nasty, and I watch him be nasty.

BRENDAN: C makes the beats, and I just rap on ‘em.

How did you guys meet up?

CHRIS: WE met in junior high when he [Brendan] came up to me and he had a big wooden box that he was charging people to look into and he would charge a quarter or two to look into the box. And when you looked inside of it was a VHS copy of Deathrun (a low-budget South African Escape 2000 type movie), and I knew from that moment on that we were going to be friends. So we’ve known each other a long time.

How did you get around to forming Video Nasties?

BRENDAN: It started five years ago. [Chris] and his ex were starting to play these psychedelic folk songs that were these kind of parodies of Christian folk music and they asked me if I wanted to play with them. That was called Visitations, and we did that for 6-7 years. Touring, lots of releases, a couple records, some tapes, some CDrs… But that wasn’t all we wanted to do in terms of music, so we started to do a band called A.M. Frank, which was meant to still have some folk elements. But our first show we did a cover of Frankie Teardrop by Suicide, and after that we pretty much did Suicide songs, or 60’s bands like Monks and the Seeds, but as if Suicide was covering them. Then I moved to NYC, so both of those bands disintegrated.

Then C had an idea for a band called Video Nasties, something we had always wanted to do but never knew how to do. Both of us had been fans of punk music since we were in junior high, and separately recorded four-track demos of punk songs with keyboard/drum machine. So it was natural for us to do this kind of band together. Visuals were always a big part of it. The Suicide cover band gave us a taste of what it was like to do a band where people danced and didn’t just sit cross-legged on the floor. Then Cal, “The Kisser”, was always dancing at the shows, kissin’ the floor with his feet, he was pretty much at every show; so it just occurred to me to make him part of the band.

CAL: I’ve been at every show, with the exception of one, since July of last year.

CHRIS: We’ve released one single every year. We’ve been pretty slow to release things, but we’re working on a record that should be done pretty soon.

I wanted to ask you about the recording process for “Squirm” and the other tapes. can you delve into that a little? There almost seems to be a different sound on every tape.

BRENDAN: We always wanted to release singles. you can just focus on how 2 or 3 songs fit onto a tape as a miniature suite. I’ve always had a hang-up with recording where you feel limited by a certain concept. It’s the same for filmmakers or artists, but if you just release tiny bits of things, it can be anything. And that was really liberating. It made recording so much easier once we decided we would focus on one or two songs at a time.

CHRIS: He’s right in that we definitely keep the medium in mind. We’re digging from a pool of songs that we have and deciding which ones would go together. We haven’t released everything that we’ve recorded, and the recording process is absurdly long. Some of those songs took years to get recorded. They’d start out on tapes, a computer, or a reel-to-reel in my home studio, we’d play around with different pieces of different things, and then go over to my friend Caleb, who’s produced them all. They’re recorded at different times, so it’s hard to pinpoint where they begin and end. Like for instance, one part of “Squirm” is played through a broken four-track.

BRENDAN: And we were using the reel-to-reel to get a dubby effect, where you were playing it back and touching the tape to speed up and slow down. The idea with “Squirm” was that we wanted it to sound like it was a crappily dubbed tape that eventually got cut out before the song comes across. We try to make each tape an individual experience.

CHRIS: “Squirm” was a tape where we had a miracle concept where one song is about a worm and the other is about a fishy smells. Then we have a tape that’s all about voyeurism, and the most recent one is all about our appreciation of the world of horror movies. The perversion of watching fucked-up things alone is something that we’re into. We want to recreate that feeling with music, to make it seem like you’re seeing something that you shouldn’t see.

I hear bits of synth pop, The Cure, and Chrome in your music. What kind of music influences your sound?

BRENDAN: Definitely Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, early Human League, more punk stuff like the re-issues of “Hardcore Devo Vol. 1” and 2.

CHRIS: I really love Italian Disco, Giorgio Moroder, and classic electronic music like Xenakis, the White Noise album, and pop music as well. I definitely went through a heavy Cure phase in high school.

BRENDAN: C and I have a similar lexicon when it comes to the type of music that we listen to that we’re trying to emulate.

CHRIS: Can is a huge influence with the cut-up technique with taking jams and whittling them down.

BRENDAN: When we started working on our second tape, which has a song that has a Public Image Limited influence to it, we had to give Caleb (who records all VN material) “Second Edition” so he knew what we were going for. I can’t think of any other album that perfectly distilled no-wave, punk, and pop music into something that was challenging weird and danceable.

There seems to be a lot of lyrics about boring, banal, everyday life sort of stuff.

BRENDAN: Yeah, everyone wants to tell you how they’re feeling, how they’re depressed, and I’m not interested in that. You shouldn’t subject people to that. No one wants to read a book of poetry, so why subject them to poetic lyrics?

CHRIS: Our songs are about things we’re interested in, that we’d want to hear. I think a real formative moment for us was hearing the Misfits as kids, and thinking, “This band just sings about horror stuff?”

BRENDAN: They’re not political, they’re not emotional, they’re just telling you a version of a horror movie that they just watched.

CHRIS: By logical extension, in 2015, everybody’s in front of the screen. Its pretty perverse. Everyone’s probably a real sicko behind closed doors. So we sing about what people are doing alone while they’re watching a screen.

BRENDAN: If we have any social commentary, it’s that “We know what you’re doing.” We both love 80’s slasher movies and junk horror culture, but I find that my tolerance for it has reduced over time. When we write these songs it gets me back to the thrill that I used to get from trashy horror movies when I was a teenager.

List your top horror movies of all time.

Phenomena (Dario Argento)
A Night to Dismember (Doris Witchman)
Manhunter (Michael Mann)
Cruisin (William Friedkin)
Deep Red (Dario Argento)

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