Tuesday, July 10, 2012

An Interview with Ev and Paul of Cinema Cinema

After months of talk, scheduling and rescheduling, I finally got to meet up with Ev and Paul at their Brooklyn studio. We had wanted to talk about the band, music and life in general for months but just couldn't seem to find the perfect time or place to complete the mission at hand. Lucky for us, that time helped build a bond between us that allowed me to gain more of an intimate glance at the good souls behind the manic music I had grown with during the months that led up to our meeting. As we sat in the bands cramped, dirty space with the sound of music pulsating from the next room, I got a glance into the personalities behind the band. Ev, sitting on the edge of his chair was animated and articulate, all while remaining soft spoken and fluid. Paul on the other hand was shy and intuitive. He spent most of the interview sitting on his hands listening intently. Chiming in thoughtfully when the time was perfect.
A few months later their much talked about release "Manic Children and the Slow Aggression" is finally here and while Brooklyn's dynamic duo celebrate their success and hard work. I can finally sit back and say "Thanks guys, we finally got it done."
James Damion

James: How the band evolved. Did you originally set out to become a duo/two piece?

Ev: It all started back on January 11th of 2008 when we started doing Cinema Cinema as a two piece. That’s when we decided to play together. Everything everybody knows about Cinema Cinema started that day.

James: Do you go about creating the music differently when you’re a duo as opposed to if you were a trio or a quartet? How do you go about filling the sound?

Ev: I feel that we go about being a duo differently than a lot of better known duos. I think a lot of them decide early on that they’re going to play a specific sound. Regardless if it’s going to be Jazz, Blues, Garage or whatever, have made a decision to stick to one sound. They don’t broaden their palette. They bring their palette down to one or two colors and stick to that.
We approach it differently. I honestly don’t feel that being a duo limits us. I feel as if there’s an entire orchestra surrounding us. I don’t feel like I’m playing with one person. I feel as if this is a full band. I know how I need to play. I know how to fill that space. To properly use the bass drum and the pedals to present a fuller, more orchestral feel.

We approach it with a broad spectrum. What sets us apart is that we feel that every option is available. We want every part of every song to be anything it can be at all times.
We don’t want our music to be predictable where we’re throwing a mosh part here and a break there. Fuck that! I want to sound like Blag Flag and Queen fucking. Even if I never listen to those bands.
Whenever a group of people get together to form a band they have a vision and personal influences that they might want to bring to the band.

James: What were some of those influences and visions for you?

It was never really discussed between us.  As far as the direction we’ve taken and the sound we’ve created as Cinema Cinema. I would be lying if I said there was a master plan when Paul and I got together. It was this big, crazy, heavy improv, heavy but light monster/beast of switching tempos from Hardcore to non-core. It was a matter of us taking that approach in the realm of anything is possible in the song. Just that focus on the songs. That was the key. Even though we brought on this beast that was riff heavy.

Paul: The truth is that we just wanted to play with one another. I know I wanted to make music with Ev when I first learned to play the drums. It went beyond just wanting to be in a band. I wanted to be in a band with EV. It was exciting and organic playing with one another. I never thought I would be in a two piece Metal band. I like lighter music myself. Playing this kind of music with him has made me a better musician. It feels great.

Ev:  When you talk about influences; We haven’t really formed them yet. What influences this band is the relationship Paul and I have with each other. It’s rare when you’re in a band and you can be this freely creative. You can put everything you've got on the table during a practice or writing session and someone can say “Yes”  “Maybe that doesn’t work” “But what else do you have?” The openness of our relationship is what influenced us. Though we started in January of 2008, it wasn’t until mid 2009 until we started to sound like  what we are now. The music that I listened to along the way is the music that has always influenced me. I loved the serious nature of Fugazi when I first heard them. That opened the door for me to
Minor Threat, Dischord Records and SST. I was listening to all these records and my mind was blown. Now, do I want to sound like these bands? No. I don’t want to sound like anything but myself.

With Paul and I there’s a ten year difference in age. I started playing gigs in 1994 when I was fifteen. For as long as Paul knew me I had long hair down to my shoulders and was wearing Rock T’s while playing in bands. The fact that he’s been thinking about playing together for so long is incredibly flattering to me. This is how he’s always known me. It’s been eighteen years since I played my first gig with Rise at L’amours in Brooklyn.

James: How does the partnership run?

Ev: I manage the band and for the most part steer the ship. However, I don’t make any decisions without first going to Paul. As much as I handle things, I’d never do anything without first discussing it with my partner. It’s amazing but with that ten year age difference I’m amazed at the amount of things Paul comes to with zero motive and pure intention. He is pure of any interior motives when it comes to things. I became a musician in 1992 when grunge hit really big. Now when Nirvana said how important it was when Black Flag played in their town. Fuck Yeah, I’m going to go look into Black Flag. If Eddie Vedder was going to mention Ian Mc Kaye in a magazine article; Yeah, I’m checking them out to. I remember he had issues with having indie cred. He knew what he was doing when it came to working the media. You can’t play that innocent and act like a newb when you’ve got a huge corporation backing your record. He knew that if he dropped Mudhoney’s name he wouldn’t come off looking like the poster boy of some huge corporation. I mean give me a break. Look at Rage Against the Machine. They can talk all they want but they never made one independent record. What I’m trying to say is despite any calculations on the part of those bands; I always looked to explore the bands that influenced the one’s I was currently listening to. It’s been a blessing to know that the stuff Paul is influenced by now comes from such a true and honest place.

James: What was it that so compelled you to seek out Don Zientara?

Ev: Working with Don Zientera represented just how serious we were about our music.

Paul: He represents an ideal that we wanted to be a part of, or at least have present in our music. We have so much respect for him and his legendary work with so many vital artists over his career, he was
definitely at the top of the list of people we wanted to work with. Just the thought of getting to record where so many of our biggest influences created some of our favorite music...we knew it would bring a special quality to our record.

Ev: So we looked into his studio and sent him a detailed email explaining who we were and what we were looking to do “No holds barred” and to my amazement we got a response in forty five minutes. When I tell you it was a “jump up and down moment”. I'm telling you the straight up truth. I say that in all honesty because Don is who he is. He's a legend, he's sixty two years old and only works with people he really wants to. He can pick and choose the projects he wants to and at this point, he's pretty selective. Ultimately he got the hard copy of our material and referred to “Exile Baby” as a “Knockout”. I still quote his response on a regular basis. It meant that much to me. We started talking on the phone and he was every bit the awesome gentleman I had hoped he'd be.  He knew it was two cousins from Brooklyn and what we wanted to undertake. I told him we had twelve songs and and a thirteenth we wanted to improvise. Six songs for the first act, an intermission track and six songs for the second act. He quoted us a very reasonable rate for the amount of work we had. We didn't even have the money yet but we had the mission. We'd do whatever it took to complete that mission. We were broke because of it but Don let us live at the studio while we were recording. At the end of the day he'd lock us in the studio and go home. It wasn't until the last day that we got to go and take a shower. Before this all happened we really had no way to pay for the sessions. Not to call it luck or anything but a month before we went into the studio Paul's Uncle Tom died and left him an inheritance. He had no idea what that would be at the time but about a week before the recording sessions that inheritance came in. In a sense it was heaven sent.

James: What elements did he bring to the album that another producer may have missed?

Paul: I think the most important thing Don brought to the recording was a totally open mind. He really let us be ourselves in the studio and encouraged us to really go for it. He didn't try to over complicate things or file down our claws. Yet, he found a way to contain our craziness and channel us through a filter that was overall more pleasing to the ear.

Ev: He had us record to analog tape. That def helped to achieve more of an organic sound. He also helped us to realize that we just had to get out of the way of the songs and let our musical souls shine. I refer to Don Z, as "high priest Don Z", cause we went to him for counsel and he was able to guide the way with ease.

James: We mentioned the amount of shows and how you've built on them year after year. You've definitely earned your Road Warrior status. What is it about being out there constantly that drives you and makes you crave more. What are the sacrifices and rewards? How does it balance out in the end?

Paul: You don't really know what you're gonna get when you're a new & mostly unknown band on the road. Some of our out of town gigs have been the BEST we've ever played. Sometimes no one shows up or you find yourself on a bill of bands that don't fit well. But its always exciting, and its that excitement that really drives us to continue. There's something totally gratifying about winning over a crowd on the road. It's very addictive.

Ev: The road is what happens when you decide to "go live" life instead of "wait for" life to hit. It's an indescribable feeling. Traveling to share music and experience with people who would otherwise be strangers from far and wide but finding a way to agree upon the common denominator of music, sharing in its language is a gift. The rewards are unending in the way of how much you can learn about yourself and about life and the different ways which people choose to live it.

James: Tell me about how you met up and got to touring with Greg Ginn? How did
your personalities mesh?

Ev: in 2009, the second year we were a band, we decided we wanted to double the amount of shows we did our first year. In our first year (2008) we did about 30 shows. Many local (Brooklyn, NYC and New Jersey) But we did make forays to both Cincinnati, Ohio and up through New England. Playing both Connecticut, Vermont and Maine. We decided we would do at least sixty shows in 2009 and try to up the ante as far as how many states we could expand and travel to and through. By July 9th, we had done 60 shows, so the new goal became one hundred. We felt we had to do it.

So, in that crazed year of 100 shows we met everyone everywhere all the time. We played with a band with a dude who had been in another band who was on SST back in the day and it led to Greg & I My Space messaging and then meeting and really hitting it off and discussing maybe touring together. That was late 2009. Come 2010 we did a week and a half with him up in the North East and agreed that we enjoyed touring together so we would do it again if we could. So we did it again in August and November of 2011 and this past February of 2012 and we leave to go out with him July 17th for about two weeks in the
North East. So things are cool with us as friends and musicians who are comfortable working around each other.

James: What are Greg's least favorite topics?

Ev: Anything pertaining to the "old-school" or nostalgic talk about the past and/or "hardcore".
He's a very current person. Very of the now.

James: Are you planning on working with him or SST on future releases?

Ev: Well, we did spend a day recording at SST with Greg sitting in on Bass with us, this past February. It was pretty amazingly intense. Plugged into some real deep territory.
Very heavy. Very long jams.We did it ALL improv. About ninety minutes worth of music recorded. As far as if and when that will be released, that would be an answer that would be out of my hands and in SST's.  I do know that it felt really great working down there at SST, in the studio and with Greg's engineer (Mike Shear) - so you never know, anything can happen - as far as us maybe recording there more but we keep all plans fluid and see what happens as it happens.

James: I've seen you live enough times to see both sides of the coin. I've seen crowds that totally got the message. I've also seen the clasped ears and running scared types a la the Pianos show. When we last spoke you mentioned the term "Surrender to the Trip".
What did you mean by that?

Paul: I guess it pretty much means you need to come to a Cinema Cinema show with an open mind. If you're not willing to give to it, it's not gonna give back. You'll get nothing out of it, and that's ok! It's hard for people sometimes to let go of what they think a band should sound like or how their used to seeing a band perform live.

Ev: We are going to start to carry Cinema Cinema ear plugs at our merch table, this way even those scared by the crush of volume can give themselves a chance to
"surrender to the trip". I guess that really means, jump in the ocean with us.. we don't know which way its going to flow but we are willing to have a true experience with ya whilst we find out, so open up and get lost in the wash of volume and force.

James: On stage you (Ev) and Paul have very different persona's. Paul is animated and almost engaging. While you (Ev) seem to be locked in some spiritual possession on your own. What are you going through and how do you separate your very intense stage presence with the laid back, soft spoken Ev I've gotten to know?

Ev: The Ev that's on stage is the primal, "plugged-into" & "fully entrenched-in it" guy. He only can come out when I am at my most free in making music and with Paul I can get there. It IS possession or trance or whatever you'd call it. It is. It's not conscious, planned or derived/prepared in any way shape or form. It's my chance to channel the moment and vent all the stuff inside me that is at the forefront at that particular time. It's a bonfire, it rages.

The Ev you've got to know, and please - pardon me for third-person-ing this... I'm just trying to answer the question as directly as i can.. but the Ev you've gotten to know is just as intense and "plugged in" as the dude on stage but I'm not nearly as angry or crazy as I must seem to most seeing us live for the first time. They don't know that its basically like I am having an episode of sorts, one that I get to have enhanced to a fever-like state by playing highly improvised, crazy-train music with my cousin, drummer, and best friend. It's a highly personal and intimate version of Ev you witness live...one I couldn't be all the time cause I can't get to that frenzied state without being totally unplugged from the world and floating in the orb of music, in total freedom... I don't know. I mean, are you supposed to particularly like or want to hang out with an artist who's music you like? I have seen Swans and Gira's intensity was extreme. It kind of overwhelmed me and I loved him more for it afterwards. Same with Lightning Bolt. It brought something into my life that wasn't there before. It pushed me.  That's the power of music and especially live performance and band's choices made on how to express themselves. But to get back to the answer, I'd say my fun loving & comical spirit most likely doesn't show through too much when I play live and most people get there first impression of me in that atmosphere. But what can I say? the stage Ev and the non-stage Ev are both me just being myself in the moment at hand.

James: What are the expectations with the new album? How will you measure it's success?

Paul: No matter what happens with the record, I will feel as if it's a total success. We've learned not to have any expectations when it comes to this business. So, I just have a great sense of accomplishment already attached to the record. The fact that we got to work with a legend who we can now call a good friend, not much can top that! We made something that we all could be proud of and that's an achievement in itself.

Ev: The two of us getting this record made together and doing all the rest of the work involved up to now has already made this entire endeavor a success for us. We expect to continue to work hard and play as often as we can and know better than to expect anything more then what we earn.

cinema cinema;

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