Today Is Another Day
I live in nearby Clinton, Massachusetts and that's a far cry from Tennessee and Detroit, the other places I lived. Massachusetts is way more like what you can call a New England State. There's a lot of computer business, a lot of advanced technologies. If there's anything humanitarian wise, Massachusetts is almost like some kind of utopian model state, it's probably the most European State of America. Yet at the same we are massively hit with all kinds of burdens here in The States where young people have no direction about anything going on. There's no hope for good education for a lot of people. Old people are fucked over by the government with almost no care once they get older. Mental people have really, really hard times being looked after and cared for. All because of the same reason: almost any embarrassing debilitation doesn't get help. No matter if it's AIDS/HIV, elderly, mentally handicapped: it's anything like that. But everything else gets massive amounts of help about everything all the time. That's why I'm saying that rather than these billions and billions of dollars that have been put into this Southern courageous plan of like changing evil in the world, we could have redound that money into try to change the way it is for the inner-city blacks in The States, or developing programs for the immigrants whether they can be fully integrated citizens or helping them to get back where they're from. Instead of having the whole country losing money with gas prices that are going through the fucking ceiling. The whole place is stressed out and angry.
It's not only in The States. Here in Holland, thanks to our prime minister Harry Potter The Second, his conservative, right wing cabinet and all the dumb masses who voted for Potter's party, we've been put back to the fifties of the previous century.
That's crazy! But maybe they were scared of you guys? You were completely out of your minds, I mean with all your nudity, that goddamn red light districts, you got drugs… the whole country has gone to shit. [laughs]
And how you do deal with all the present political and economical problems?
These days, where life is so fucked, people are more psyched up for certain basics, like “I'm gonna be able to go to a doctor” and “we're not getting into a war”, instead of things like NASA and space and fucking stamping out evil. I mean, it's the wrong time and place for all that shit. Everything's too shitty right now. Everyone just wants the basics. They just want peace and just want to be healthy. That's okay. And how I am gonna deal with this? You know, basically I have dealing with this the same way as I'm gonna do in a few minutes. I'm gonna grab my Heckler & Koch .45 USP Tactical automatic – yeah, I seriously am - I just pulled it out of my gun-safe and it's sitting right here to the right of me. I have about 200 rounds of ammo with me that I'm gonna take. I'll shoot for about an hour. And then I'm probably gonna shoot my 91 assault rifle, which is also a 'H&K'. I'm not gonna worry about like so much target-shooting with that, as it's much like combat-like type of shooting, which I probably go through about 400 rounds of .308-ammo until it completely bloodies and bruises my right arm. This will work out a ton of aggression that's inside of me and after that, I'll go directly to my studio where I have to master a record.
My life is pretty simple. I got a pick-up truck and I hang out with my four or five closest friends Chris Debari [TisD's bass player] and Mike Roswell [the drummer], Aaron (an eighteen year old friend that's an engineer in my studio) and Brian and Dave. I live on a road with a cow farm, which is a beautiful place to raise children. It's totally safe, it's totally chilled out here: very different with the earlier part of my life when I lived on 8 Mile in Detroit in that fucking crack neighbourhood, and also in Nashville in another crack neighbourhood. It's really nice, beautiful and green. It looks like a farm. I'm a member of a gun-range that's about half a mile down the street from my house. And the other things in life: well, I love my job, I really dig working in the recording studio on audio and video stuff, I ride my motorcycle and shoot my guns before the US government takes them away from me. Those are all my freedom deals: ride my bike and shoot my guns.
When you scratch off all the extreme imagery of Today Is The Day, what's an average day in Today Is The Day looks like?
I get up about nine thirty. I take a shave and a shower every other day (the other days I don't care and putting on the exact same clothes as the day before), I walk down stairs and there's my three year old son Hank, sitting down on the couch. He's watching Sponge Bob on TV. He usually says “Hi dad” to me when I'm walking into the room and I say “Goodmorning son” and I give him a kiss on his forehead. Then I usually go to the kitchen where I try to find my wife who's taking care of our two months old son Willy, who's named after Willy Stüder, the Swiss guy who invented the two inch tape machine. Yeah, I'm always the last one who gets out of bed every day and that usually winds up working till super late. My wife Hanna - the love of my life that I worship the ground she walks on – works in our tattoo shop called 'What It Is'. She started the shop in '97 and she's the one who runs it. The shop opens at eleven o'clock, so usually she yells at me every morning to hurry up: “Get you shit together, can we please go, can I please at my work on time for once?” If I'm lucky enough, I'm able to smoke a big bowl early in the morning: getting my brain restarted. But when we're in the car, I'm usually still half-asleep.
After I dropped my wife and kids at the tattooshop I drive to my studio the 'Austin Enterprise Recording'. I own it, and I hire two other guys who work for me. When I walked into the studio, about 99% of the time it's absolutely spotless clean. If it's not than, the first thing I'm doing is to make it to look hundred percent perfect. The first hour, hour and a half are dealing with checking and answering e-mail stuff and other Internet stuff like our Internet store and updating the website. These days I'm working on the new album from a really brutal, hard noise band from Switzerland called The Iscariote. They're really cool. I'm also working through 600 (!) recorded gigs on video from Today Is The Day to see what's useful for three upcoming DVD's. The first one is gonna called 'Died By The Wolf' and is a retrospective of the band, going back to the early nineties, even before we were on a label. I've got so many recordings over here, from BBC Peel Sessions, radio programs to just about everything on earth: I've got even analogue reel-to-reel tapes from my very first band, Alien Land Of Our Birth. Basically my wife and kids will be set up on old gem: if I die tomorrow, they've got enough records to release to 2020.
I'm also working on remastering and re-releasing the first three Today Is The Day albums: 'Supernova', 'Willpower' and 'Today Is The Day'. It's been a fight for getting the time to actually do this, instead of working on other folk's music. But I really want those reissues done, so the people can get the old records. Because these old records explain a lot to do with the way we are today. I think we were the first band that took punk rock and noise a la Touch & Go Records and bands like Slint and Jesus Lizard and crossed that with the sound of Earache. There wasn't anything like that back then, except for The Kreuzen, although they were like a million miles away of something like Today Is The Day. In my opinion the first two albums, 'Supernova' and 'Willpower', are probably the two most fucked up albums that have ever been on planet Earth. A large amount of metal that's being played in America and that's popular right now, are directly influenced by Today Is The Day's sound from the early to mid nineties. Bands like Botch, Dillinger Escape Plan, Mastodon, even Lamb Of God.
After that I go to the shop Northern Arms & Ammo where they might have found a gun which I was looking for a long time. Normally I won't shoot at the gun-range in the morning like I'll do now after this interview, but shoot in the afternoon, after I got back from the studio. Once I get home from that, I walked in the door and the kids will be in here going totally crazy. These weeks, I'm trying to get my mother – she's about eighty years and living in Tennessee – to Massachusetts so that I can take care of her here. But she didn't wanna listen to me. Oh yeah, she's still my biggest fan. She goes to the grocery shops and asked for metal magazines. Yeah, she is the metal granny! She says to me: “Steven, no one plays heavy metal like you!” Oh my God! [laughs]
It seems that you're really happy with your wife, kids, house, job: your daily life. So how far is your anger, hate and frustration in your lyrics still genuine and not a Today Is The Day act?
It wouldn't take much to keep that going! My wife and me are probably two the most angry fucking people in North America. It's the DIY-machine that is really what it's all about. We get hardly any help to get anything done. We basically try to carve our lives with doing stuff, even though we're some pretty different people who don't fit in. I tend to loose sight of the effect that people treat us differently sometimes, because I don't think of us as being different. I think of us as being normal. But then it's like every fucking somebody says it to me and makes me mad. I have a really hard time dealing with stupid fucking people a lot of times. It really wears me out to go that extra mile all the time for being accepted, just because my wife and me are a little bit different.
But up till I was about 31, 32 years old, my life really sucked, just beyond belief. I think that the big turning point of me being happy about stuff was meeting Hanna. And having my sons. They literally have changed life. Before that, I really didn't care about anything and I hated myself. Just yesterday when we were having this big party for Hank's birthday, it was one of the best days of my life. I think I gave him about thirty presents: to show him how much I care about him. And Hanna, she was just that magical thing that was so perfect. She even liked my music, and was listening to it years before I met her. She's brutal too! She's a really strong, independent woman. She's also smarter than I am, she's taking care about the business stuff. I'm more of an artist freakazoid that's into like art-shit and things that are for the sake of creativity. She's also very creative - she's super creative! - but she's more organised and having her shit better together than I am. This might be a total embarrassing description, but all the young girls in this area want to be like Hanna and hanging around with her. For them, Hanna is like the Godmother Of Cool. She's a really driven, determined person. She's always been hardcore. She's always been anti-mainstream. She's done more than any other woman has from her town. There she's living with her husband - a little fat kid from Tennessee - that does total non-commercial, underground type stuff and started a career with recording and producing that in the United States, to the point where the two of us have this really nice, perfectly located house of 2000 square foot. People don't understand that we can afford all this, just by doing all this anti-commercial stuff, but it all depends on the level of commitment of what you're willing to do. We work our asses off for that. We're probably the most successful underground couple in whole fucking State!
I think that no matter how hard you work with Today Is The Day, it will always be too extreme for commercial purposes and economic profits. So your engineering work in your studio must be your real work and Today Is The Day is your spare time, your hobby?
Right, that's totally a good way of looking at it. I'm not making any money with the band - people don't seem to understand that the lottery isn't in the metal - but I'm working like 16 hours a day in the studio so I'm making probably more money than any other successful band on Relapse Records. And that's the cool thing about it. Where most people are living and dying by the rock in a sense that if this doesn't work out, then they're completely fucked, so they start changing their music and start become more accessible. I don't have to do that. It's a bit like Steve Albini: I record stuff I like and I can play whatever I want to play. Or I liked to be looked at a younger Henry Rollins: I play in my Black Flag, which is Today Is The Day. But when I'm gonna start a new band and call it the Steve Austin Band, we're gonna still stay in Today Is The Day and take it all away.
But hasn't Today Is The Day not always been the “Steve Austin Band” already? For instance: you've changed the drummer… once again
After we played with Slayer in Japan I was so inspired to make 'Kiss The Pig'. But yeah, then we had some problems with Marshall Kilpatric. He lives like 80 miles away and he lost his driver's license because of DUI (driving under influence) for a long time. So he couldn't go to practice. Instead I gave him money to take the train and he did that five or six times. But then he met a girl, and she was on welfare and so forth, with all kinds of problems with the government and her ex boyfriend. So when it was time to record 'Kiss The Pig', we have practised with Marshall only a handful of times in one entire year. I called him on a Friday to get over here the next Monday and I have spent thousands of dollars for a new set of drums. Everything was prepared: the kit was tuned, it was in place with all the microphones on it, the whole thing. He came in, played the title song 'Kiss The Pig' one time, walked back into the control room and stared at the floor. Our bass player Chris – who is in the band for five years now and is totally dedicated - asked him what's wrong and he said: “I don't know this. I don't know this stuff and I don't know when I'm going to know this.” So we told him then that we don't want to do it with him anymore. We resent and hate people who bitch about us changing band members so much that now it stigmatised us to where somebody could get away like murder in Today Is The Day and they couldn't get kicked out of the band, because we don't want people to say that. So we came to the point what we wanted to do. Are we gonna worry about what people say, or are we gonna cut an album? So when John's telling us that he can't do it, not now and maybe never, we just had to find another drummer. It was shitty, but John totally understood it.
Our new drummer, Mike Roswell, played in Circle Of Dead Children. They have an album 'Human Harvest' that I recorded. That was a really explosive, brutal grind album. Mike was different than a lot of people I've met before. He was so extremely super serious and meticulous about his craft. Mike didn't want to play with them anymore, 'cause they changed their style. We kinda kept in contact through e-mail, so when he did quit – and I remember that Mike was a really sick drummer – I thought of him to replace Marshall in Today Is The Day. I was thinking: “That's so crazy! He's probably the best drummer in the United States right now and he's not even in a band!” So I gave him a call, he came up here, he learned Today Is The Day's material faster than any other drummer I have ever had in the band. He picks it up faster than I do.
But you had another drummer in your band that must be pretty fast too. (I'm referring to Brann Dailor, actual drumgod in Mastodon)
He's pretty fast too. He's probably the only other one that picked it up as close like that. Brann is awesome on drums, man! He's fucking sick as holy hell! I've been lucky to play with guys like that. No, I don't really have any contact with him and Bill Kelliher (bass player, also in Mastodon, EDS) anymore. I don't phone or e-mail with them. They're good guys. I don't want to get into too many Mastodon deals, because I wish those dudes the best of success. They were very, very young when they played with me in the band and I think Brann had a very deep commitment about wanted to play in Today Is The Day when he joined it. And I think that his friend Bill did not. And never did. He wanted to do something else. He wanted to do whatever they can to do together. That's a different thing.
Brann and I were like instant best friends type of things: He and I kinda hit it off and things just went like 'boom boom boom'. At that time, I had Brann first in the band and we couldn't find a bass player for a long time. It took us like forever to find a bass player for the album 'In The Eyes Of God'. At one point I was kinda worried that at one point Brann was gonna quite, leave and go home to Rochester, New York. Then he brought up his bandmate Bill (Brann and Bill played together in Lethargy before TidD, EDS) and he said to me: “I don't think you get along with this guy, because I know him for eight years and I still don't know him as good as I do you.” I thought that doesn't sound so good. So I said no. But we still we couldn't find any other bass player, so eventually we gave Bill a change. Bill was still available, he came over and we played the title track together 'In The Eyes Of God' and it sounded great. So even though I didn't know this kid, he seemed like a cool kid and he sure knew how to play the music, so I thought: “Where the fuck are we waiting for?” Finally!
So, no problems at all?
No, but it did become one. Shortly after that he didn't want to buy a bass. He was saying shit about that he's was actually a guitar player and didn't want to play a bass. And we were like one month away from cutting an album. I think Bill was still pissed because his buddy Brann left his band, Lethargy. So we got a bass player in the band who was mad about the fact that Brann is playing in Today Is The Day. Therefore he joins Today Is The Day as well, when he got the change, like the 'can't beat them, join them' kinda thing. Only to wait till the moment was right to basically talk Brann over into leaving Today Is The Day. The bizarre thing is: I never fired those two guys from the band. They fired me. I got reversed fired. I had to found out via Neurosis that they were playing in another band called Mastodon and they live in another State (Georgia), while I was still waiting for them what the fuck was going on, because I couldn't reach them. It went like this: you got with the two of them on tour, and while we're touring Bill is talking Brann into leaving the band. Talking about the credits they'll miss, because people will see Today Is The Day always as the band from Steve. No matter what they do: it will never be their band. Then we got home, they were packing in the instruments like they were going home for Christmas. I said: ”Okay, cool man. See you guys after Christmas. Take it easy! Bye bye!” And I have never seen them again.
I could understand this from Bill, but not from Brann. What the fuck?! Why didn't you just tell me what the deal is? I have more money than those dudes, more musical gear, longer credits, more history, I've done about 700 interviews, I've played with Slayer, Motörhead, Soulfly, every fucking metal band on Earth and be respected by people like Dave Sardy. Success to me is like in your mind. I could never do what they did. I could never pretend to do like “Hey, I wanna be your friend and I wanna play in your band”. And then like eat and drink together, acting like all's good at heart, and then one bad apple, which is Bill Kelliher, then give Brann the deal of like: “Fuck this man! Let's talk to Relapse and get our own record deal and then we could get the music a little less fucked up than Today Is The Day is, and a little bit more straight forwarded with some southern rock influences and all to make it sound more normal.” And then you got Today Is The Day Light. Which is easier for kids to get into. There's no extreme of disturbing messages in Mastodon's music. There's an amazing musicianship by Brann Dailor and there's some cool guitar stuff going on, because… there's some amazing drum-shit going on. And if you break it down even further, not be even meaner about it, but I can take songs off of everyone of their things and tell you the time signature from which Today Is The Day song half the time it came from! They took a design of something I made, and made a lighter core version of it and use the exact same business people that I work with. I've only toured for a thousand shows to lay the groundwork for Mastodon. I talked it out with Brann, so we're okay with each other, but yeah, you could say that my ass is a little bit burned about it.