"I just want somebody to walk away with at least getting one of my points across and realizing something different from what they previously thought..."
Remembering Never a band that prefers to "keep it real"! They are brutal, in your face and non-apologetic. They aim to make you listen to the plethora of messages: animal rights, how we as a society live our day-to-day lives impervious to our surroundings not caring how our actions affect others and how we treat others, etc. These young men seemingly are carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders as they strive to change it by altering the views of just one person. As we all know, changes will occur exponentially and just to think their crusade starts with their latest 2004 release entitled Women And Children Die First a title that is just as memorable as they are. Join in my talk with the band's singer, Pete Kowalsky better known as Mean Pete as he talks about his passions and let's a couple of surprises out of the bag…
Karma: First off, I want to say thanks for doing the interview.
Pete: No problem.
Karma: From what I understand the band got started as a joke. Pretty impressive!! Please explain.
Pete: Danny, the drummer, & me were in another band and we played different instruments. Actually, I played the same instrument but he played the bass but now he plays drums. But the drummer from the other band wasn’t very committed to coming to practice. We got together with a friend and we were like, “Hey, we’re gonna go fuck around in this warehouse ‘cos we might as well while we’re here!” We just started playing Hatebreed songs for fun because we knew 1 through 10 off their first record. [Smiles] It was fun to do, and we were just messing around and stuff. Then we actually started writing songs one day; we had the ball so we decided to roll with it.
Karma: [Smiles] So then, there have been lineup changes…
Pete: ...Yeah, a whole lot! Members have been in and out of the band and then we’ve had a revolving door of bass players, which I think is done now, let’s hope for that one! But we’ve had like 7 bass players.
Pete: Yeah which isn’t very fun!
Karma: No, no! They can be kinda hard to replace.
Pete: No, they are rather easy, just none of them that are good or that fit that requirement that we need.
Karma: How is the tour going so far?
Pete: Oh, good, really good! [Smiles] It’s an amazing tour! I’m psyched! Most Precious Blood/Indecision is a legendary band; it’s great to be on tour with them and 2 other awesome bands [It Dies Today and Dead To Fall] and it’s a PETA2 tour [People for Ethical Treatment of Animals: The Animal Rights Organization] so that says a lot right there. [Voice trails off]
Karma: How did you get them to sponsor the tour?
Pete: I was talking to Justin [Brannan] from Most Precious Blood for a while and at Hellfest when I saw him I was like, “Dude, we should do a tour next year… a PETA tour would be awesome!” I guess it just turned out because the tour we were supposed to be in got cancelled and I guess they weren’t doing anything so… we just hooked up. PETA jumped on it once they found out both of us were on it [the bill] because they have ties with both of our bands. So it just made common sense [for them to do so]
Karma: Awesome, speaking of tours, you’ve been doing a lot of it (Unearth/STRHSS)… Has there been a difference between those and this one?
Pete: This is a hardcore show opposed to the big metal ginormous venues with tons of metal kids and stuff. This is more up our alley, this is what we’re used to, it’s what we’re about.
Karma: What are your immediate plans after this tour? Recording a new album or are you heading out…
Pete: …we have the Eighteen Visions tour [with Emery and Misery Signals] at the beginning of January, February, and the beginning of March so that’s like 2 months long. Then we’re gonna be home like 2 ½ to 3 months to finish the new record. We already have 5 songs and we’ll probably write…hopefully, we’ll have 5 more, record them all and have a lot of fun! [Smiles]
Karma: On the website, you have a depiction of the American flag bloodied and tattered, with a person hanging. It is powerful imagery; can you elaborate?
Pete: Yeah, it’s a metaphor about how Americans kill themselves every single day. Whether or not they do it by things, they put in their bodies - meat, or any kind of drugs or substance or the way they treat each other, the war that’s going on… It’s just a downward spiral! It’s basically a play off of that. People read WAY too much into it and were like [his voice starts to drop and becomes gruff while he puffs his chest out] “It’s unpatriotic…blah, blah, blah!” It’s just silly! It’s like yeah, you like your country and hate your government all at the same time; it’s totally not unpatriotic to do so!
Karma: Those are two completely separate ideas…
Karma: Your song writing has evolved since the days of She Looks So Good In Red, what can you attribute to the factor of you incorporating “issues” [like the war, politics, veganism, substance abuse, etc] into your songwriting now?
Pete: That’s good! [Smiles] Normally most people don’t even think about it!! But for that [SLSGIR] we were just kids and didn’t know what we were doing. We were like yeah let’s do this ‘cos that’s what we thought we wanted to listen to or that’s what we thought we should write because it was our first bunch of songs. The whole record was done terribly; it should have came out better than that.
We had just had four-lineup changes right before we recorded it. Now, it’s like totally straight forward. The Women And Children record was more like we think we’d have fun playing. And now we’re getting down to stripping everything away and building it from the bottom. Now we kinda have a better feeling of what we know we want to play and now it’s just that. Have you listened to…like, all of our records sound totally different.
Karma: Um-huh! Totally!
Pete: But if you listen to this record in comparison to the first one…
Karma…oh, it’s completely different!
Pete: They sound like two totally different records.
Karma: Definitely! Speaking of SLSGIR, is there a "she"?
Pete: No, it was in a lyric and I thought it would be fun to put there. It's all a big joke actually!
Karma: The cover of Women & Children Die First, can you explain that title?
Pete: It was supposed to be a Slayer record, South of Heaven was supposed to be called Women and Children Die First; well that's the rumor that's going around so but don't quote me on that one! That was the rumor but that was the working title [for the record] that's awesome! Its fun and Slayer couldn't use it so that's it. It was the working title, we just never changed it, and we just kept it. We were like, we have this title for the record, and it's a good title, now we just reasons to back it up. People were expecting something weird, like something from the last record so it's kinda a play off of that. Kinda like spitting in the face of our last record, which is totally unnecessary. I'm embarrassed that it came out, it just came out terrible. It's also a war tactic; when they bomb countries, they put women and children out first. But basically it all comes down to Slayer.
Karma: With the imagery of Women And Children, what were feelings were you hoping to invoke to the person who picks the CD up?
Pete: There are so many different issues that we talk about on the record. Every song is about something totally different. Like the first song [For The Love of Fiction] deals with religion, the second song [The Grenade In The Mouth of Tragedy] deals with animal rights, eating meat and stuff and things that go with it. The third song [Plotting a Revolution In A Minor], can't remember. The fourth song [The Glutton] is about people who use up more than what's theirs. Like people who smoke in public where other people have to breathe that in every night. When we play clubs, second hand smoke is everywhere and we come home or where ever we're staying that night and hawk up all this grey shit. Because are fucking assholes and they just want to smoke their lives away and they don't care who they take with them to the grave! There are more topics too like the decay of hardcore and how a lot of bands use it and abuse it. There are so many different things; I just want somebody to walk away with at least getting one of my points across and realizing something different from what they previously thought of.
Karma: What’s your favorite off Women And Children?
Pete: I'd say the first song! It's the last song we wrote so it's closer to what we sound like now even though it's still not really like us. But I'll definitely say the first song; it's a powerful song and it’s the funnest song to play live.
Karma: Who are some of your non-musical influences?
Pete: Oh, that’s a good question because I don’t even know. I don’t have non-musical influences. I don’t really have access to television; I’ve probably watched TV once on this tour. It’s like impossible! We lead lives that are so not everyone else’s; you are constantly doing something either you’re driving or you’re busy. So as far as any non-musical influences, I can’t think of any off the top of my head.
Karma: So then who are some of your musical influences?
Pete: Different people like Tom Waits, Björk, Converge and Faith No More has always a favorite of mine.
Karma: Well what do you think needs to change in the Industry?
Pete: I don’t know what you’re used to dealing with but there is a difference between hardcore and then there’s like pop or mainstream...whatever. Mainstream, I don’t care what it does! The only purpose to it is to sell records. That’s something I have no concerns with, I don’t know anything about it, I don’t care anything about…that’s their own thing. As far as hardcore goes, a lot of bands tend to use for certain connections and they have anything to say. Hardcore is about the message of what you bring to the table and what you try to communicate. Trying to make something positive about the situation you’re in whether it’s the government, the meat industry, or just people not being dickheads to each other.
A lot of bands don’t go there and then they say I mosh it up or do whatever but they don’t say anything between songs that has any importance to anything. They may as well be another metal band on a big metal label and making a million dollars every show, wearing masks and fuckin’ banging on tin cans or some shit. It's just so silly; it makes me truly upset when I see bands that try to say that they are hardcore bands and try to play the part and dress the part. But they go up there and talk about blood and skulls and the seasons changing…it's just bullshit that nobody cares about! It's so unimportant in today society especially as far as hardcore is concerned!
Karma: True! For those that don't know, including myself, what do X's on the hands mean?
Pete: It's all straight edge.
Karma: So what's up with the ODB [Ol' Dirty Bastard, member of the hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan] thing as far as you doing a tribute to him?
Pete: [Smiles] When I was younger, I was in 8th grade I think I came up to New York (because I'm from New York) and my cousin had this tape, Wu-Tang Clan. I was like, "This is fucking great!" I mean I didn't listen to hip-hop at all. I listened to mostly metal and hardcore. It was amazing, I never heard anything that fucking angry, so I always listened to them.
Ol' Dirty Bastard was always my favorite one out of all of them because he was always so sporadic and just like out of nowhere just change from like tiniest hiss to the loudest and weirdest words you could come up with in a sentence together! He was totally over the top, insane! His first solo record, I dunno but that was one of my favorite records still Top 50! I mean 50 doesn't sound like a lot but it is!
Karma: Oh, but it is!
Pete: One of my favorite CD's of ALL times! I think it was called Return to the 36 Chambers, and from beginning to end the whole thing is UNTOUCHABLE! It's so fun, funny, amazing, beautiful, scary, and just dirty. [His eyes light as brightly as a Christmas Tree and was said with all the passion he could muster]
I heard about it [ODB's death] when we were driving home from Orlando (me and the guitar player) and somebody called and said that Ol' Dirty Bastard was dead and I was like, "What! Are you fucking serious?!" I was bummed, I mean that ruined my week! I was so bummed. I was leaving on this tour and you just can't let something like that go, you know what I'm saying?
Karma: Yeah! I hear ya!
Pete: He's one of the greatest hip-hop men, EVER! I know a lot of people either may not agree or they just don't know because they're used to listening to Nelly and whatever shit like that! So I was like, we'd do a memorial/tribute shirt or something. I thought we'd do 100 of them or so and that's it! It would be a super limited thing, it was more for us than anybody else! But they did really well, it's like my favorite t-shirt that we've ever done; we may do something else similar to it but different but still keep it special at 100. When I heard about it I was devastated! I broke out my CD and I listened to it all that day!
Karma: See I can't see why they call you Mean Pete, you seem very nice to me!
Pete: [Smiles] It was nickname the people in my old band gave me and it was just funny I guess! I dunno, it's cool!
Karma: Here's a quick Speed Round of Questions for you.
Karma: What's your mantra?
Pete: The best way to say it is 25-Life…Keep it Real! Keep it real all the time!
Karma: Spiritual or religious?
Karma: Favorite quote?
Pete: I don't think I have one! I'm not really into people talking, quoting, blah, blah and such…you know!
Karma: Okay, so how 'bout your top 5 favorite movies?
Pete: Ohhh! Do they have to be in order?
Pete: Oh good! 'Cos I can't do them in order. Let's go with Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman [I] (the one that Tim Burton did). Man, I watched that shit so much! I remember I used to watch that during Christmas time and eat Batman cereal every single day and watched that movie every single day! It was so good!
Karma: That's great!
Pete: I know that movie word for word! Let's go with…you're stumping me with these questions…
Karma: Sorry! [Laughs]
Pete: [Smiles] Clerks, and I'll say Goonies…
Karma: Okay… favorite color?
Pete: I don't have one! I hate colors!
Karma: You do?
Karma: Now that's a first! How about best memory?
Pete: I would say…the first thing I can think of off the top of my head as far as if I could think of anything in the whole wide world… Possibly, I have a lot of them! Like whenever we play a place that we haven't played before, or a place that I didn’t expect not much to happen that was exciting. Whenever we have an awesome show and kids are totally into it. Like one of the first times, we played Memphis, being this year. It was one of my favorite shows that we ever played! Hellfest this year was also one of the moments. Places like that, you expect nothing to come out of that show and then kids are losing their minds, it’s like everything is totally insane. That is the best moment I could possibly think of!
Karma: Wow! How about your biggest pet peeve?
Pete: I can’t tell you because then you’d think I was a big asshole!
Karma: I probably wouldn’t.
Pete: No because I don’t anyone to know either!
Karma: Okay, that’s fine.
Pete: But I can think of another one.
Karma: Your second biggest…
Pete: I don’t know if its my second but…I hate hearing people eat potato chips or Fritos!
Karma: Because of the sound?
Pete: Yeah! It really freaks me out! And the handles in bathrooms, anything in bathrooms, door handles, yuck, I hate them! I can’t open them not unless I have five layers of paper towels!
Karma: Well I can understand that! Introvert or extrovert?
Pete: I’m both, I don’t like to talk to people really. I’m not really [social]. I mean I talk to, you know because we’re down. [We both laugh] But I don’t really go out of my way to make new friends or anything but when I do I’m extremely vocal to them. Pending if it’s relevant but I definitely don’t hold anything back!
Karma: As well as you shouldn’t you can get ill doing that!
Karma: Is your glass half-empty or full?
Pete: I’ll say its half empty, let’s go with that one.
Karma: Nicknames your friends would give you on the fly, off the tops of their heads.
Pete: Dick head! Hold on, let’s ask Grease! [He then screams for his guitarist who was in mid sentence with others in the bar] “Grease!” Real quick! I don’t want to steal you. [Then he turns and looks at me] Just because I really don’t know! [Grease walks over] If you were to give me a nickname or were to call me anything, what would it be? I already said dick head!
Grease: Oh see, that’s what I would have gone with too! I can’t man, I don’t know!
Pete: Call me sweetheart…that’s one!
Grease: I’ll call him… [Starts looking at Pete up & down still unable to come up with an answer]
Karma: Well what would you say his best feature?
Grease: His huge dick!
Karma: Oh my god!
Pete: [Shakes head]
Grease: I’m just kidding!
Pete: Which is totally untrue!
Grease: His ability to keep it real!
Pete: Oh! [Smiles] [The group that Grease was talking to before conversing with us came to reclaim him and he walks away] Wow! That's a good one!
Karma: So what do you think is Grease's best feature?
Pete: The fact that he can come up with anything [snaps finger] off the top of his head that's an insult and makes it hilarious!
Karma: That is a talent!
Karma: If not music then what?
Pete: Nothing! I mean honestly I think about this everyday! This is my life; I know people who say [drops voice], "Music is my life! Music is everything" …blah, blah, blah and they're not really doing anything except playing in a basement and not really doing anything except hang out with themselves or with their band. They don’t really grasp how real this is! Honestly, I don't even know because I've been doing this for so long, well really not THAT long but once I decided this was it, it WAS it! It's everything that I'm about. I put so much of myself in it that it's all one in the same. Music really IS life but I don't consider it just music, it's more of a communicational tool if you will!
Karma: First job?
Pete: I worked in my mom's restaurant; she had a little deli (kinda like a breakfast/lunch thing). I was the cook on Sundays. It was fun, she used to get mad at me because I would listen to music behind the counter and apparently, you could hear it all over the store. She would yell at me all the time.
Karma: That's great! First car ever owned.
Pete: '86 Chevy Celebrity, man was that thing great!
Karma: What color?
Pete: It was like a rusty maroon; my mom bought it for me for $500 for my [high school]
graduation. It was awesome.
Karma: Now that's a cool graduation gift!
Karma: If you could travel the spans of time which era would you visit?
Pete: That’s a good one! I'd probably go see Jesus. Just to see how it happened, if it really happened and to see what really went on. Nobody really knows, no one will ever know. But that would really be fun to see; I want to see the faces he made when they nailed him to the cross.
Karma: What’s the first thing you do when you get home from touring?
Pete: Unpack all my shit and then relax for a couple of minutes then it's back to business. I am usually on the phone with people I need to talk to as far as booking or merch or getting ready for the next tour. That's my job when I'm home.
Karma: If you could commission a band to do a cover of one of your songs, which song would it be and who would do it?
Pete: Band or any kind of musical person?
Karma: Either! Band or any musician live or dead.
Pete: Ohh, either Elvis or Tom Waits!
Karma: Which song would they do?
Pete: I'd like to see how they'd do with the first song off Women And Children, "For The Love Of Fiction". I mean I know I've used the Tom Waits answer a couple of times, but I would like to see either him or Elvis do that one!
Karma: If you were stranded on a desert island, whom would like to be marooned with?
Pete: Ohhh!! That's a good question, I had the answer off the top of my head, and I can’t think of it. Ummm! This question can make or break me! This is a tough one; it has to be somebody good! I'm gonna go ahead and say…shit… It has to be a female that's famous because she could be reading this and my want to take me to a desert island.
Karma: This is true!
Pete: [Momentary silence ensues] Ohh, it's coming to me, maybe the girl that played in Star Wars…the one that played…
Karma: Natalie Portman?
Pete: Yeah that one or if we can go back in time Carrie Fisher. Man she was awesome!!
Karma: It's all the Star Wars, princess kinda thing…
Pete: A little bit, maybe I think Natalie Portman's vegetarian, vegan, or something like that...or Alicia Silverstone even though I met her once because she's vegan I believe. We'd have something in common and she'd be fun to look at. When I was little, I used to watch Crush all the time! That's was a fuckin' great movie!!
Karma: It was!! If you could take 3 CDs with you, what would be your Desert Island Soundtrack?
Pete: Ohh! That's a good one too! I would say Marilyn Manson Antichrist Superstar, a special Björk mix that I would make myself, and Faith No More's Angel Dust.
Karma: And if you could ask these Speed Round Questions of someone, whom would you like to see answer them?
Pete: [Without hesitation] Tom Waits or Henry Rollins!
Karma: Well thank you very much Pete! I appreciate it!!
Pete: No, no, no, thank you!
I'd like to thank Pete for doing the interview and Chaniga, at Warm Fuzzy PR for setting up the interview up.