INTERVEW WITH
MIKE HILL OF ANODYNE

BY CURRAN REYNOLDS


Over the past year, I've been lucky enough to make the acquaintance of Mike Hill, singer and guitarist for New York's noise-core behemoth, Anodyne. Founded by Hill and friends in Boston back in 1997, Anodyne has undergone a lot of changes in the years since then. The latest incarnation of the band is a mighty force to be reckoned with. "Machine-like" is the best way to decsribe this band's sound, approach, and work ethic. Anodyne don't play songs so much as unleash storms. With only three members (Hill, bassist Josh Scott, and drummer Joel Stallings), Anodyne deliver an astonishing amount of power. All three exert themselves to their utmost capacity; each member's every move is crucial to the functioning of the whole machine. The sound of Anodyne is the sound of crushing waves of anger, sadness, and isolation, twisting and turning through torturous time changes, anchored by a relentless rhythmic battery. One of the heaviest bands on the East Coast hardcore circuit, Anodyne is also one of the most hardworking. I recently caught up with Mike Hill in New York and here's the result.

Mike Hill, Anodyne



CR: Mike, you're originally from New York and you live here now but you spent some formative years in Boston. What brought you up to Boston is the first place?
MH: This will sound lame but I moved up there to be with a girl. It didn't work out but I ended up staying. That was like summer 1994. The worst year of my life. She lived like two miles away from me.

CR: Tell me about the scene in Boston during the time you were there. I think of Boston as being a town with a thriving scene for forward-thinking, heavy bands. Converge started out in Boston, Hydrahead Records is based there, and nowadays there's bands like The Red Chord coming out of that area. What was it like when you were there?
MH: Boston was really cool for a while. La Gritona, one of my favorite bands, was around back then. Things really went downhill after a few years. Pretty much when the "old school hardcore" revival started is when a lot of bands became really generic.

The whole Bridge 9 [Records] thing ruined hardcore as a creative outlet in Boston. There are some great bands like Isis and Defcon 4 that are doing vital music. Most of the best bands are now defunct -- Opposition, Get High, Coleman, Grief, Disrupt, etc. Those were the real innovators that were doing interesting, crucial stuff. Now every band sounds exactly the same in my opinion. It's like the jocks and popular kids co-opted this underground style and killed any sort of creative thought.

left: Isis

CR: How did Anodyne form? How did you reach your current line-up? How did you acquire your drummer, Joel?
MH: Originally the band formed as a two-piece instrumental band. I formed it during the summer of 1997 with Thos Niles. Coincidentally I was going through another break-up with a girl. Can you see a pattern developing? We wanted to do this heavy noise sort of project. From my perspective it fell somewhere between Earth and Crom-Tech.
right: Get High
left: Crom-Tech

Some of the material was slow and sludgey and some was fast and fairly technical. We drafted Mike Davis, former bass player from Luca Brasi, and Ayal Naor joined later on. This line-up performed live and recorded some of the early comp tracks, the demo and the out-of-print first 7-inch. Davis left and was replaced by Josh Scott who remains in the band to this day.

Anodyne: "Red Was Her Favorite Color"

right: Josh Scott, Anodyne

Thos left due to personal committments. At this point we were moving toward being a touring band and Thos just couldn't commit to any substantial roadwork. All of these departures were very amiable and cool. I remain in contact with both of these gentlemen to this day. We had some fill-in drummers until we found Mike Swanson. He's on the "Quiet Wars" record [2000, Escape Artist Records.] Ayal and Swanson left and Josh and I moved to New York. Dave Witte filled in on "Red Was Her Favorite Color", the out-of-print 7-inch that Happy Couples Never Last released. Dave also played one of those Hellfest hardcore shows with us. We also had Andrew Orlando [ex-Black Army Jacket] as a special guest for that show. It was fun for us but probably not so much fun for the crowd. Those Syracuse kids like their hardcore macho and generic, something that we're not very good at. Shortly after Hellfest, my good friend Rich Hall found Joel for us. I have a good feeling about Joel. I think that he won't quit.



CR: What brought you and Josh back to New York?
MH: I think that we've been in NYC for a little over two years. Josh and I just hated living in Boston. If you're not from that city, it can suck the life out of you. Things have really gotten bad up there. There's no place to do shows. Most of the clubs are just interested in selling booze, so all-ages shows are near impossible to do at established clubs. Shows still happen but they're at unconventional places. The kids that go the extra mile to attend these shows are awesome. They have a lot of heart in an otherwise soulless community.
Joel Stallings, Anodyne

CR: I've heard you say you think of Anodyne as a punk band. Which punk bands in particular have been an influence on you? In what ways would you say those bands influence Anodyne's sound? Or is their influence manifested elsewhere, i.e. in the lyrics, politics, or work ethic of the band?
MH: I think that mainly we're "punk" in attitude. I'm defining hardcore as the generic brand of macho bullshit that you can get on a number of generic labels. I just wanted to get that out of the way before someone gets the wrong idea. I used to consider a lot of bands like Angel Hair, Honeywell, Black Flag, and Minutemen to be hardcore bands, but over the years hardcore has become a narrow thing.
It's become this sort of fascist community where everybody has to dress the same, eat the same food, and buy the same records. I consider us a punk band in the way that Black Flag and Saccharine Trust were punk bands. They didn't limit themselves or close their minds to new ideas. Collectively we dig punk bands like Tragedy, Deathreat, Dead and Gone, Severed Head of State. They sort of embody the original concepts of punk as well as making totally intense music. We don't really have a political stance or anything. Each one of us has our own politics but there is no sloganeering or dogmatic preaching at our shows. That's a bg criticism that I have of the "punk scene". It's cool to have your ideas about politics and I totally support someone's freedom to express these ideas. I think that it's tiresome when bands feel compelled to have a political platform for social reasons. I have been at shows where the singer will go out on a tangent for 5 to 10 minutes without clearly expressing any sort of idea. When has going to a punk show ever really changed anything anyway? If you want to be effective in a political way, organize or write letters or assassinate a government official.
Black Flag

CR: When I hear Anodyne, I hear elements of Zeni Geva, Rorschach, and Neurosis. Were these bands an influence on you?
MH: All of those bands are big favorites of ours. I'd also add to that list Black Flag and Dazzling Killmen.

CR: Dazzling Killmen, one of the first Skin Graft [Records] bands. Yeah, I feel a connection between Anodyne and that generation of psycho midwest indie rock. The Skin Graft bands, the AmRep bands, the Touch and Go bands. There was a common thread of intelligence and heaviness running through those bands.
Dazzling Killmen

MH: Yeah, I worshipped all of those bands. It seemed like they played music for themselves and didn't shy away from taking chances. As a result, some really amazing music was made. I could talk for hours about Hammerhead, King Snake Roost, God Bullies, Rapeman. In a lot of ways, it seems like people are just catching up to these bands.

CR: Rapeman was a great band. Totally burly and scathing with a wicked sense of humor. Rapeman was also Steve Albini's band. Which reminds me, aside from being the frontman for Anodyne, you have worked in recording studios for years. Is it true you were Brian McTernan's partner up in Boston?
MH: Yes, that's true. I was partners with McTernan back in Boston.



Premonitions of War

Steve Albini

CR: You guys recorded so many notable hardcore bands up there. Any stories for us from that era?
MH: There were quite a few bands through there. The ones that I directly worked with were Isis, Cable, Madball, Jejune. More recently I've been working [in New York] with Premonitions Of War and Lick Golden Sky. Nothing exciting really goes on in a recording studio.
CR: Unless you're Nas. So now that you're back in New York, would you say that the experience of living here has changed Anodyne from what it was in Boston? In what ways has New York shaped Anodyne's music/lyrics/ethics? The inlay of the latest Anodyne album, "The Outer Dark", is filled with photos taken in Brooklyn -- shots of warehouses, factories, vacant lots. In fact there's no band photos, just shots of the urban landscape, as if the city is the band or vice versa.

Anodyne: "The Outer Dark"

MH: If anything, I'd have to say that living here has focused us more. Getting a practice space, etc. in New York is very difficult. So being in a functioning band requires a real committment. Moving here had very little to do with "the scene" or any kind of "New York" music vibe. I like living here for reasons other than the music scene. Frankly I think that the scene here kind of sucks. I don't really feel any kind of connections to any bands here. We mostly play out of town. Occasionally I get emails from friends that want to do a show in New York and I'm like "Don't even bother". No one comes out. Maybe it's because there's so many other things to do and everything is so easy to access here. I went to a show over the summer with Harakiri, Kalibas, Commit Suicide, and some other death metal style bands and there were maybe 20 kids there. The final Discordance Axis show at CBGB wasn't even sold out. That was the last time you will ever see that band and there was no more than 100 kids there. Pathetic. It's better playing somewhere else where it's not so easy. If anything, New York has made my lyrics more negative. I can't relate to a lot of the stuff that's going on here "scene-wise". Everyone is pretending to be something instead of concentrating on truly being creative. I think you know exactly what I'm talking about because we live pretty much in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn. There seems to be a lot of people that appear to be doing a lot artistically but under closer scrutiny they're not involved with anything other than buying black hair dye and thrift store clothes. I like New York best late at night, like 4 a.m. during the winter when it's cold out and everybody is off the street.

CR: So what's next for Anodyne? Touirng? Recording?
MH: Well, we just recorded some new songs for two projects. One is a 10" EP for Insolito Records in Germany. It will be available on vinyl in Europe only. Later next year, Init Records will release a CD version. The other project is a split 7" with Boston's Defcon 4. The split will be the first release for Ammonia Records, a new Boston-based hardcore label. In April we're heading out for a European tour. In February we're making plans for a short Canadian tour as well. In addition to that we're pretty much constantly playing around the Northeast.
Discordance Axis' last show, CBGB, NYC

CR: Well, thanks for your time, Mike, and good luck with everything.
MH: Rock.



Interview by Curran Reynolds
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