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National Razor interview july 16, 1995

this interview was conducted in person face to face & I made myself feel like a fool. it was done in Philís basement in my grandmotherís hometown, Bethlehem, PA. Phil does the guitars & electronics & Burton does the lyrics. theyíre named after a french slang term for guillotine.

QRD – how did you become based in Bethlehem?

Phil – evil fate.

QRD – is this where your parents are & you grew up & stuff?

Phil – yeah, do you think weíd be here...

Burton – all of us have traveled around & run into each other in different parts of the country, but this is kinda the only place where we all connect.

Phil – I use to live in maine. I moved up like ten years ago. before that we use to play in a band, when we were young. I was up there & I couldnít find anybody to play with. so I started driving back here every weekend from maine. that went on for like a year. actually we recorded some of the first record in maine. half of itís recorded in maine & half of itís recorded down here.

Burton – & at Scream Studio.

Phil – oh right, we mixed there.

Burton – some was Scream Studio & some was here.

Phil – right.

Burton – that was a hellish recording session. it was twenty below zero. my feet were sticking to the ground.

Phil – so I finally decided to move back here, what is it, like three years ago. & now Iím stuck here.

QRD – what country are you most popular in?

Burton – itís hard to say.

Phil – we sold a lot in germany.

Burton – Iíd say either germany or here.

Phil – Hyperium distributed, & sales went pretty well there. I guess weíre still getting orders on that. weíre distributed by Tower now too.

QRD – youíre still in the Projekt catalog too.

Phil – cool. from what I hear from Randy (of Scream) heís a real nice guy, the Projekt guy. actually Randyís treated us pretty fairly. itís a pretty good deal.

Burton – Scream is... theyíre good people to deal with.

QRD – I understand you only play around four times a year?

Phil – thatís a great one!

Burton – no, when we were playing we were actually playing a lot. but weíve been through a lot of stuff. a lot of evil bad things have happened.

QRD – do you want to play more again then?

Burton – yeah, we probably will be in the fall. weíll probably have a relatively full playing schedule at least for us, what we consider a lot.

Phil – well the reason we only....

QRD – day jobs & stuff?

Phil – no, we lost our bass player.

Burton – weíre breaking in a new bass player & Iíve been taking care of a family member who has cancer. itís been going on & itís really heavy duty. itís really a lot of trauma.

Phil – basically weíre really picky about who we like to play with. we couldnít find anybody whoíd fit in. so it takes so long to get somebody, but we did get somebody really good.

QRD – what current acts would you like to play with?

Phil – who would we like to play with? I donít know.

Burton – it really doesnít matter. weíd like to just play with somebody somewhere within the same vein as us. so weíre not on the bill with somebody totally different.

QRD – like some random metal band...

Burton – yeah, or electronic bands that are real happy poppy type stuff. weíre definitely in the goth vein or in the industrial vein. our group has a darker sound, I donít know what or how it comes about, but a lot of our music sounds dark or melancholy & as long as itís in the same feeling it would be anybody.

QRD – what bands have been your biggest influences?

Burton – you field while I think.

Phil – oh, thatís a loaded question.... it varies, I like so much stuff. I use to be really into Joy Division years ago. & right now I like Tad a lot.

Burton – youíre also influenced by a lot of sixtiesí electronic people....

Phil – yeah. also weíre big fans of Einsturzende.

Burton – yeah, thatís for sure, we like Neubauten a lot. & I like a lot of the gravel voice singers like Howling Wolf.

Phil – Feotus.

Burton – Tom Waits. who are some more gravel voice singers?

QRD – Lemmie of Motorhead, formerly of Hawkwind.

Phil – Hawkwindís cool.

QRD – yeah, everybody likes Hawkwind.

Phil – yeah, I know.

Burton – no matter where youíre coming from.

Phil – it bridges the gap between many people.

QRD – what songs do you cover besides "Exercise One" & "The Wanderer?"

Phil – we do a Creme song.

Burton – we do the Creme song "Tales of Brave Ulysses." we havenít recorded it because we donít want any backlash from publishers & stuff like that. so we just do it for our own ears.

QRD – did you have any problem getting permission for the other two since theyíre actually on albums?

Burton – no, we just make it clear that we didnít write it.

QRD – do you have any side projects or anything else we should know about?

Burton – no, not right now.

Phil – Iím working on these purely electronic pieces, I donít know, maybe some will be on the new disc.

Burton – weíve talked about doing side stuff. maybe electronics with beat poetry type stuff. beat verse over electronics.

QRD – what are the coolest socks you own?

Phil – I donít own cool socks, Iím too busy buying synthesizers.

Burton – actually these are some of the cooler socks I have because they have holes in them. theyíre cooler than other socks.

QRD – what constellation would you most like to be?

Phil – as far as zodiac constellations?

QRD – it doesnít have to be zodiac, just anything in the stars.

Phil – Iíll go with the Crab Nebula because Iím just a crab.

Burton – uh...

Phil – Burtís not a space man.

Burton – Orion maybe, heís always there.

Phil – I made that reference to the anti-big bang theory on the last record.

Burton – I didnít know what it was.

QRD – whatís your favorite National Razor song?

Burton – thatís really hard.

Phil – oww... probably "Work for Food." I look back on it & Iím really pleased with that one. but thatís being forced to select.

Burton – itís kind of a toss up between "Potters Field" & "Room 214."

QRD – thatís my favorite, "Room 214 Farewell." I donít know if that oneís popular or not.

Phil – itís popular with us. most people canít handle it.

QRD – have you written much of your next release yet?

Burton – no, weíre busy rebuilding. but there are some, you know, weíre kicking ideas around.

QRD – if you could organize your own weekend event, what would happen & where?

Burton – I donít know. itíd probably be a lot of musicians in the same vein as us playing doing their things separately & then everybody playing together. with as many people doing whatever they feel like doing in the mean time.

Phil – I donít know if it would involve being in this state.

Burton – yeah, it could be some place that looks really nice, not like parts of here. I mean, there are nice places....

Phil – yeah, I guess all my references to this area are well.... I donít know, we do better when we play in new york. in this area, weíre kinda lost.

Burton – yeah, when we travel we do better.

QRD – well isnít this basically a college town? the steel industry has died off pretty much....

Phil – itís a college town, but thereís a lot of neanderthals. itís a time warp. a big time time warp.

Burton – actually, because itís a college town the most popular thing is pop & garage music. thereís a lot of that around here & the bands are pretty good, but itís not our cup of tea.

Phil – that versus the rock element.

Burton – & the metal. I guess every place has metal.

Phil – itís confused looks we get from that crowd.

QRD – what did you think of your Alternative Press review?

Burton – we didnít hear it yet.

QRD – it basically said some songs are good, but others are excessively trite.

Burton – really. well, you canít have all good reviews. the fact that they liked some of it is great.

Phil – you canít worry about that stuff.

Burton – yeah, all of our songs come from the heart. everyone of them is a true story. itís all stuff that weíve experienced in one way or another, & when it comes from the heart there really is no such thing as good or bad. itís just us.

Phil – Burtís got a lot of good stories for all the songs.

Burton – yeah, thereís a lot of stories behind the music. every one has a story behind it.

QRD – whatís the story behind "The Virus"?

Phil – itís basically about AIDS.

Burton – itís about AIDS & all the other new viruses developing which are similar to AIDS. they start with one person & just travel around. actually, the original song "The Wanderer" is about a guy who travels all around & has a girlfriend everywhere & is this hip loose guy who gets the girls everywhere. when youíre going by social standards in the nineties, thereís people whoíve been doing that that have been dying of AIDS.

QRD – did you change the one line to "god on my left arm & Mary on my right, neither is the one that Iíll be with tonight?"

Burton – no.

Phil – thatís good though. sometimes an interpretation is better than the original.

Burton – yeah, it changes all the time.

Phil – weíre gonna use that.

QRD – whatís "Room 214" about?

Burton – moment of truth is somebody we know that went in for a physical & got a chest x-ray & they found a spot on the x-ray. so they told him to wait, they were gonna redo the x-ray because the spot looked suspicious. so they took another x-ray & in the mean time heís sitting waiting in a respiratory therapy room. he was sitting there waiting & he read on the wall, scratched on the wall, "six weeks to live, thank you marlboro" & there were one two three lines & thatís all it was. & he was sitting there wondering if the guy never made it past that or if he was counting down those six weeks. so heís just sitting there & heís just waiting & waiting for the results to come back & the doctor finally comes in & tells him that itís okay. itís just something that showed up on the x-ray, but itís nothing that he has to worry about. so heís all shook up & heís leaving & as heís leaving heís looking back & he reads that thing again & he walks out with his head spinning "thank you marlboro one two three."

QRD – what about "Joeyís Party?"

Burton – thatís about a kid I grew up with who got really heavily into drugs.

QRD – the lyrics to it arenít in the booklet, is it a cover?

Burton – yeah, it is a cover; but a really obscure one, an old blues cover. the words just fit because I grew up with this kid named Joey & heís a heroin addict & heís been that way since he was twelve years old & he just canít beat it. in & out of jail all the time. itís pretty much destroyed all the people around him, destroyed all his friendships. heís still fighting the habit today. heís still in bad shape.

Phil – that one & "The Grind," those are off the cuff.

Burton – yeah, those songs are. we sat down, played them live, recorded them, & they went right to the disc. right off without any pre-planning, they were from a jam.

QRD – was that here?

Phil – we had a party up in the poconos & we had an eight track reel to reel there going while we were playing & we were able to pull those songs off to the first disc.

Burton – "Potters Field" was like that. just took music & words, put them together, they went down on one track, that was it.... "Sabina" is about a friend of mine who I met when I was on the west coast. the way it use to be with the iron curtain to go through the berlin wall was they let you through to visit family for just a weekend pass. it was only if you were a good communist you could do something like that. but a lot of people escaped through the berlin wall doing that. you couldnít take anything with you. you couldnít say bye to anybody. you had to just one day disappear. you couldnít tell anybody you were going to go or somebody would rat you out. so you had to just disappear. so what they did is they had three layers of clothes because you couldnít look like you had anything more than youíd take for a weekend or day pass. they put on three layers of clothes & left everything behind; their home, their money, all their possessions, everything. they passed through the wall & never went back. & thatís her story because she was a little girl then & it was a major traumatic event. to have to leave everything behind, to not say goodbye to her friends or anybody. because as soon as anybody knew; a good communist would rat. there was always a paranoia going. "Bosko & Admira" is about a serb & muslim couple, a guy & a girl that fall in love in the middle of the bosnian war. they get permission from both sides to leave the country so they can be together because theyíre so politically wrong for each other. they get permission to go through this sniper alley & cross a bridge out of the country because theyíre young lovers. & as theyíre leaving they get gunned down by snipers. the picture in the paper looks like a young couple embracing each other, but when you read what happened they were gunned down as they were leaving. no one could go out there & bring them back because they were in the sniper zone, so they just laid there for days. a total political comment on how wrong it was.

QRD – is there any reason you chose to cover "Exercise One" instead of another Joy Division song?

I use to like playing it; itís fun to play. I always want to do "Shadowplay" because itís such a classic.

Burton – weíd like to do more Joy Division.

Phil – we can.

Burton – we could just turn into a Joy Division tribute....

Phil – we canít, we gotta stay away from that.

QRD – do you like analog better than digital to record on?

Phil – yeah.

Burton – yeah.

Phil – actually, all of itís analog. all the cdís were actually recorded on analog tape machines. lately Iíve been just tending towards analog gear in general.

Burton – we went to a lot of pains to get Shiver mixed so that it would have a nice warm sound like an album. so if youíre playing it alongside other cdís youíll notice the difference.

Phil – I predict in the future weíll just be going back to analog because it gets to the point of why break it up into numbers if youíre just gonna listen to it anyway. who cares if thereís a little hiss if it sounds more ballsy? thatís just my personal opinion being an engineer. you can get a neater sound out of a tape machine than out of a DAT. although a DAT will produce it & reproduce it more clear & quiet. but thereís actually a sound you can get by pushing a tape machine to get it to sound meatier just by the fact you used an analog tape machine. I know a guy who has an eight track & we used Scream Recordsí sixteen track.

QRD – have you gotten your videos played anyplace?

Burton – no, but we do have two videos. one of them is extremely violent & probably wonít be played any where, but the other one is....

QRD – maybe 100 Grad, that german show....

Burton – we should try to do something with it. itís in pretty decent shape.

Phil – itís for "Ripped Off."

Burton – the one for "Desensitized" is just extremely violent.

Phil – yeah, itís just clips.

QRD – are you thinking about releasing your own video?

Phil – our videos are just psychedelic trips, optical effects & stuff like that. it takes a lot of time & a lot of money & it seems like thereís just no outlet for us. to me videos just seem kinda pointless, like a commercial tool.

Burton – big production & a lot of money & thereís only a few outlets that really do anything with it. Mtv is a big commercial.

Phil – plus thereís a principal involved. I really like some videos, but thereís something where I listen to bands & I see things & you donít need a video. thereís a lot of great songs out there that donít need a video. you donít have to see a video to it. & sometimes you have a better imagery in your mind yourself than when you go see the video the band has playing.

QRD – especially just seeing a band playing.

Phil – yeah, or even how much is there you can do with special effects compared to somebodyís imagination?

QRD – then thereís the KMFDM "Drug Against War" video thatís really good.

Burton – itís just that guyís artwork. it is really nice.

QRD – itís just that guyís artwork & weird stuff going on.

Burton – but wherever do you see it?

QRD – Iíve seen it once.

Burton – itís so limited.

Phil – they wonít play it on Mtv.

QRD – I actually saw it on Mtv....

Phil – at three in the morning....

QRD – yeah, on headbangers' ball.

Phil – itís almost like a monopoly.

QRD – thatís why everyoneís starting to like VH1 now. but really there are getting to be people with public access shows playing videos.

Phil – we donít have public access here.

Burton – we donít have that around here. thereís one thatís really right wing.

Phil – itís religious & Rush Limbaugh & the old Star Trek. you can see the mentality there. they finally accepted Star Trek twenty years later.

QRD – they probably still donít play the one where Kirk kisses Uhura...

Phil – right.... actually they had a marathon & they played that one. I was like, "they had that in í67? they had Captain Kirk kiss Uhura on the lips?"

Burton – whoa....

Phil – a black woman.

QRD – that was the first inter-racial kiss on tv. but it wasnít like they chose to do it. some god forced them too....

Phil – that was the way out. they were being telepathically controlled. forced to kiss, but they didnít want to, so it made it okay.