Bl'ast From the Past: Santa Cruz Punks Return to NYC After 25 Year Absence
[UPDATE: Oops. It turns out Bl'ast won't be back out east after all, as vocalist Clifford Dinsmore has come down with a nasty ear infection. This interview with him, though, is pretty great, so you should read it anyway. Enjoy. And always know no one can cancel the mosh pit in your mind!]
Santa Cruz California's Bl'ast! were certainly one of the more peculiar bumps to pop up on the American Hardcore landscape in the '80s. Formed under the name M.A.D in 1982, the band was initially deemed too influenced by fellow Californians Black Flag to be taken seriously. For further proof, check out Flag vocalist Henry Rollin's scathing mention of them in his well-known tour diary bio, Get in the Van.
But oddly enough, it was when the band signed to Black Flag's label SST in 1985 that they finally found their own footing. Immersed in the labels' weed-fueled aesthetic and matchless roster of bands, Bl'ast! carved out their own disturbing sonic niche within the label which culminated with the release of their final LP in 1989, the falsely maligned Take The Manic Ride, and their break-up soon after.
A few years ago, some reels of an unreleased Bl'ast! recording session featuring short-lived second guitarist (and current Alice in Chains vocalist) William Duvall were found in a band member's storage space. Those tapes -- re-mixed and re-mastered by old time Hardcore buddy of the band Dave Grohl -- were released under the title Blood! by Southern Lord last summer.
As expected, there was a demand to see Bl'ast! after the release of the album. When some of the original members showed no interest in the endeavor, Queens of the Stone Age members and longtime Bl'ast! fans Nick Oliveri and Joey Castillo jumped right in and volunteered their rhythm session services. Man, from being considered Flag wanna-bes to having well known musicians trip all over themselves to help you out: It must be nice.
Bl'ast will be returning to the east coast this week to play their first shows here in 25 years. Tonight, July 23, they play a show at Santos Party House, followed by gigs in Boston and Philadelphia's infamous yearly festival, This is Hardcore. We talked to Bl'ast! vocalist Clifford Dinsmore about the band's recent European tour, how they wrangled Nick and Joey into the mix, the beauty of old-fashioned skateboard tossing and the possibility of new Bl'ast! material.
Since the release of Blood! last summer, it seems the revamped version of the band has been pretty busy. Can you give us a brief rundown of everything that has happened since then?
So much! I remember going to breakfast with (Bl'ast guitarist) Mike Neider and him laying the whole trip on me about Blood! being released and the possibility of doing live stuff. I had just got in an accident and I was in really bad physical shape, but I was like 'Holy shit! Let's go!' and that's when we started re-mixing the stuff that would become the Blood! record at Dave Grohl's studio. I was making a lot of progress with the physical therapy and we started thinking about doing some live shows. We ended up being asked to support Neurosis and we weren't going to turn that down since they're old friends. Those shows went great, so we decided to keep going at it pretty hard since then. It's been insane and overwhelming for sure. We just got back from Europe and people were coming up to us saying they'd waited 25 years for us to come there.
How did Nick Oliveri and Joey Castillo from Queens of the Stone Age enter the picture to fill in for the rhythm section?
I work at a place called The Catalyst here in Santa Cruz as a bartender. Nick was playing there with Mondo Generator and he didn't know about Southern Lord releasing any of this stuff yet. He was asking about Bl'ast, so I laid the whole thing on him about what we had planned. He asked who was playing bass and totally sarcastically I said 'You!' and he said 'I'll do that shit! Let's do it right now!' He gave me his number and he ended up coming into the studio with us while we did the re-mix on Blood! Originally, we had Hoss from Mondo Generator on drums. We wanted to ask Joey, but we just figured he was too busy, but Nick came back and said 'Joey wants to do it.'
How did the initial practices with Nick and Joey go?
We were determined that it couldn't be half-assed. It took a lot of physical discipline to get there, but all the time and energy paid off. We're playing on a level now that we never had before. After all the Europe shows, it got to a point where all the pauses in the songs are bigger. It's more manic and over-the-edge than it's ever been. The tension when we play is amazing. The stuff we're known for is now hyper-exaggerated at this point and it's made it pretty fun.