Drop of a dime tempo changes, B-movie samples and obscure instruments: powerviolence. The genre is a mix of hardcore punk and metal that started in the 1990s and made waves in the metal and punk music scenes. An influential band from California, Spazz, was active during the time, dishing out tons of close-to-a-minute long songs and 7 inch vinyls. I got a chance to do a Q&A session with the guitarist of Spazz, Dan Lactose.
Q: Powerviolence is in the vein of hardcore punk, but the name, why the name?
A: The phrase was coined by Eric Wood of Man Is The Bastard in his reference to the sounds being created by his friends in Capitalist Casualties, Crossed Out, No Comment and Manpig. I always took it to be very extreme hardcore without the excesses associated with metal. I always looked at Spazz as a hardcore band; everyone else called us powerviolence.
Q: Spazz released many vinyl that to this day remain pretty hard to come by. Any reason why you stuck to a vinyl-only release style?
A: In the 90s the 7 inch format was extremely economical to manufacture and ship, and the time restrictions really worked for bands writing such short, fast songs. There was no Internet to upload your music to, CD burners were extremely expensive and tapes were considered amateurish. Vinyl was the ultimate medium.
Q: Spazz has some awesome Kung Fu and B-Movie references. How did you guys come by these samples? Also, a personal favorite song, “Bobby’s Jackpot Jamboree,” has a sample right in the beginning of the song saying “feel like I’m smoking a pipe.” What is that from??
A: Max and I watched a ton of movies together. I can’t remember where that specific sample came from (I believe it was one of Max’s), but we took the Burroughs/Gysin cut up approach and really just looked at and listened to everything as if it could be a possible Spazz sample or song lyric inspiration. I remember Max hearing a sample on an evening newscast, contacting the television station and actually purchasing a VHS tape from them so we could get ahold of the sample. This was a world before Youtube.
Q: Another Spazz song, “Sweet Home Alabama,” has one of the sickest instrumental hip hop beats I’ve heard at the end of the song; the placement is a bit odd. What made you want to sneak some hip hop in a hardcore punk album? Do you make hip hop beats as of recently?
A: I had started DJing and making beats shortly after Spazz started, and Chris and Max wanted me to make a beat for the LP we were writing so I did. That beat was one of the first ones I ever made, so it’s a little embarrassing to hear it now. I’ve been steady making beats since ‘95. I’ve been in multiple rap groups, the most recent being Grand Invincible. My DJ name is DJ Eons One.
Q: Certain songs have a range of instruments not usually found in hardcore punk, like banjo, harmonica and saxophone. Any reason for this? It’s badass regardless.
A: Chris was the one who spearheaded bringing in all the different instruments and players. We were just trying to be different. Most of the underground DIY bands that were playing extremely fast or heavy were really wrapped up in politics and activism. We just wanted to have fun, so we went the other direction. You really have to give props to Mike Coykendall (banjo, etc) and Alex Yueng (sax) for being able to come in the studio, listen to the songs and improvise their parts on the spot. Not an easy task.
Q: What was it like to be in the hardcore punk/crust punk scene in the 1990s? It seems like a pretty awesome time to be playing shows.
A: The scene for very extreme hardcore was very small in the Bay Area at that time. The only other band that was playing stuff like that was Capitalist Casualties. The cool thing was as that whenever a band like Rorschach, or Assuck or some Japanese bands came through, both bands were always on the bill. We got to play some amazing shows.
Q: Were you involved in any other bands while playing guitar for Spazz?
A: I was in a band called Clout when Spazz started. I also briefly sang for a band called Happy? and played guitar in a band called Canaan. I was also the DJ and made beats for a rap group called the Shed Dwellaz.
Q: I commend you for the rotating vocals added with the short and fast tempo of the songs. It seems like a lot of energy and ridiculously hard.
A: Thanks! It wasn’t easy, especially since we figured out all the vocal arrangements on the spot in the studio, but I think it really gives the songs some extra umph because EVERYTHING is constantly changing. Even in a 45-second song, we may have more changes than 2-4 minute pop songs.
Q: What are your musical plans as of now? Any plans of a Spazz/powerviolence revival? Punk is not dead!!!
A: As I said before, I’ve been making beats steadily since 1995 and have a lot of projects in the works, including an all instrumental solo 7 inch that is at the pressing plant as I type. I just played my first show with a new band I’m in called Deny The Cross that is straight up 90s power violence. DTC is Carlos (Black Army Jacket), Dave Witte (Municipal Waste), Franko (Agents of Satan) and myself. We hope to record something towards the end of this year. No plans for a Spazz reunion at this time.
Check out Dan’s stuff here:https://soundcloud.com/dj-eons-one
Contact Dan Here:https://twitter.com/danlactose