Trimming the concepts of rock with the Hair Police's Mike Connelly
by Josh Eppert
The Hair Police rip through the flowing banners of rock and wipe their asses on the remains; they light the proverbial children's
farts and shake it in the eerie blue light.
Live, they are a complete, yet compelling catastrophe; their flamboyant gestures and combustible stage presence are the perfect
accompaniment to their unholy brand of noise-meets-rock-meets-death.
On stage, Mike Connelly is a livid madmen who crosses the line between stage and audience quickly, violently, and often, spewing
out a torrent of misnomers, spelling errors, concrete and abstract metaphors, and so on.
He doesn't exactly play his guitar, either; he chokes it.
Off stage, Mr. Connelly is the gentleman artist, affable, always laughing, and full of praise for those around him. The following is an e-mail conversation I had with Mr. Connelly several months ago, before the release of the Hair Police's Freedom From debut, Blow Out Your Blood.
(P.S. If you're in Northwest Ohio on Thursday, June 6th, be sure to check out Mike Connelly in his role as Zombi, noisemaker supreme, with the maniacal Mammal and others at Howard's Club H, 210 N. Main St., in Bowling Green, Ohio. It'll be a scorcher.)
JE: Is there any sort of specific "inspiration" behind the Hair Police, or would you say it's more a confligration of various elements/people merging into one? What kind of process is involved when playing/performing/writing songs with the Hair Police? Is it a benevolent dictatorship (ala Beefheart's relationship with the Magic Band), or is it more of a mutual participation type thang?
MC: The Hair Police came out of other bands including Hexose, FWK, Cerbinals and the Shiblizz Brothers. Basically, we were all good friends, enjoyed doing similar music and thought, fuck... let's do it together. The actual birth of the Police took place out of an idea I had for FWK. That was mine and Matt's band at the time. I wanted to do a song with five people... the song never happened, but the Hair Police was born. The Hair Police now is me, Matt Minter, Robert Beatty and Trevor Tremain. Ross Compton, from mine and Matt's other band Hexose was also a member for a while. So, yeah... it's people merging into the one being that is Hair Police. We all add tons of different elements. There is definitely no dictatorship. As far as writing songs, we are all involved. When a song is first brought up, much of the time it is me or Trevor who come up with a base idea. Then we all get together and the song spawns from there. We all respect each others ideas and feel free to bring up what we want, as well as taking out what doesn't work, etc. Really, all four of us are best buds, so we all totally into working together.
JE: How much of the Hair Police's music (performed or recorded) is improvised vs. structured? What do you find personally stimulating about performing/recording improvised music? Where do you draw the line between good improvisation and bad improvisation, and/or do you think such a distinction can be made?
MC: The entire History of Ghost Dad CD-R is improvised. Each song was edited together by Trevor. He sifted through tons of tapes and put it together. We are now interested in actual song structures, though we prefer to keep them loose. Blow Out Your Blood is what came of this. Again, Trevor and I laid down the foundation. We'd work out songs and then hit record. All of our stuff is totally first take, no messing around or "cleaning up" (ha!). Then Robert and Matt listened to what we did, and fucking laid it down hard! They took time though. All the shit they did was deliberated over and thought about hard before recording. When I say "took time," you have to keep in mind it took us less than a week to record. So this is a relative term. The result is a total harsh and tangled mess. I think it's a pretty sick album. We are all very happy with it. Good improv/bad improv is kinda hard to say. I guess I know what I like and know what I don't like... have to leave it at that.
JE: How would you like other musicians and/or the audience to perceive the Hair Police, or is this even a concern at all? Do you see yourselves fitting into any particular musical tradition or genre?
MC: I'd be lying if I said I don't care about what people think. Sometimes I don't. I dunno... I guess I hope people get crazy and want to join in what we're doing. When we play, it's total chaos on stage. It's the best when the audience fucking just goes for it. Best show ever was [Ypsilanti, Mich.], this past New Year's Eve. I mean people were off the wall. Slamming and just having insane fun. It was an extension of what we were putting out. Ideally, that's what every show would be like. Slam fest! But mostly, it's people just watching. I must say though, that's cool too if you aren't the slamming kind of person. People can enjoy the music on any level they want. Or hate it... whatever. As far as genre, I don't know if there's a name. We just do our thing and that's that. We end up playing with great bands like Wolf Eyes/related projects, No Doctors, New Faggot Cunts, Death Beam, Mammal and others. None of us sound the same or anything. It's not a genre, just people who dig each other and each other's stuff and like playing together.
JE: What's "the scene" like in Lexington, KY? Do you find yourselves surrounded by like-minded musicians/performers, or do you feel yourselves in opposition to whatever's going on there?
MC: Ha ha ha... oh god. No scene for us in Lexington. Ugh... not many people like us here. There are some, and punks seem to dig our shit, but mostly Lexington is over-run by the "smart" indie crowd. Not really into fun or anything like that. But yeah, there are people and bands who aren't necessarily on the same page, but at least get it and dig it. There's this super sugary sweet pop band Big Fresh, and we're always at each other's shows. We should play together, that would totally be awesome. People would just be confused! Some friends of mine just started this band called Mad Shadows that, again, are totally different musically, but you know, we're just into each other's shit. Lexington is not big enough to really faction off musically, but it is done. We don't play much around town, which is too bad.
JE: What is the song "Shirts vs. Skins" really about? Is it a celebration of high school gym class, is it more of an attack on a sort of bullheaded jock mentality, or is about something else entirely?
MC: My friend Ben from Mad Shadows told me what he liked about us was our complete disregard for everything... audience, music, lyrics, etc. That's cool, but lyrics are something both Trevor and I spend time on and really want to be good. This is not to say we want a message or to get a point across with words, we just find words important. "Shirts vs. Skins" is one of mine. It's not an attack on anything. It was certianly inspired by high school related activities, but not in a bad or good way. We just think high school and everything that goes with it is fucking hilarious. "Shirts vs. Skins" is actually a sexual song. The two other lines in the song are "You gotta show some skin if you wanna get in/You'll never know the depth of my skin." See, skins always wins! We have two other sports songs... "Tryouts for the Team" and "Vocalist Dan Marino." "Tryouts" is another high school song. It's not an attack or anything, it's just there. "Just got back from tryouts for the team." It's about this dude's dad getting mad 'cause he didn't make the team. I don't know why we think that's funny as hell, but we do!! Not an attack or a celebration... just there. Funny thing is, "Shirts vs. Skins" is probably our most "popular" (relative term!!) song, but we've yet to record it. We're planning on using it for a Freedom From comp. We love that song, but for some reason, we haven't laid it down yet.
JE: What's your opinion on the current microlabel explosion (i.e. the proliferation of labels like Hanson, Heresee, Animal Disguise, American Tapes, etc.)? What do you think are some of the reasons why there is such an interest in smaller CD-R/tape labels lately, or do you think that there really is a growth in interest at all?
MC: Dude, I love that shit!! All those labels you listed are some of my favorite labels. Gods of Tundra is totally the same way. Personally, I just see it as people who really love music and want to get it out. For me, it's just fun. That's kind of how I see it. We all just totally dig the music and love trading with other labels and getting it out to people. I gotta say, most of my favorite shit in the past two years has come out on those very same labels. I don't know why people are getting more into it. It's totally cool that they are though. Freedom From was strictly a tape label for a while as well. Now he's getting "legit," which is great. But I still love CD-Rs and tapes. Especially tapes.
JE: Did you have any goal in mind when you started Gods of Tundra? What kind of a response have you gotten thus far?
MC: I don't know really, just wanted to do it. My first introduction to tape labels was Free Sound tapes, which existed in Lexington for the first few years I was here. I had never heard of this kind of shit before. I loved it so much, so I wanted to do one myself. This is before I had heard of Hanson, American Tapes, Freedom From or anything like that. I put out a few tapes... editions one of one, that type of shit. Again, really before I knew there was a bunch of other stuff out there. The name Gods of Tundra was not around yet. Then, after a few years, I wanted to do something more than just my own shit, so I asked [the band] Nautical Alamanac if I could release a live video. That was the first release. I started really slow. I think I only had like six releases in the first year. But now, I'm up to 25, and just received the 26th today. I've gotten a great response from people which makes me happy. I'm having fun doing it, that's really what it comes down to. I love all the shit I put out and hope other people do as well.
JE: Tell us a little about some of the artists on the Gods of Tundra label.
MC: Hair Police -- well, not really GOT anymore, I guess... a Freedom From band now! Blow Out Your Blood is out and ready for attack. But yeah, my band. La la la la... Zombi -- my other project. Solo sounds. Basically, total insanity with tapes, drum machines, vocals, broken shit. Gonna have a tape on Animal Disguise and American Tapes soon. Also a song on the soon-to-be-legendary Animal Disguise comp. Look for Zombi/ Mammal tour in June. Sick Hour -- Trevor and Robert from Hair Police. They said "electro fog." I like that. But they're always different. I'm gonna put out their early stuff, which is very junk noise. They also just play a show that was totally fucking harsh and insane. They rule. Cat Hope -- Australian bass noisemaker. I met her when her other band Lux Mammoth played here. She rules. Her CD rules. Irene Moon -- Now a Lexington resident! Oh, she's the coolest. She's an entomologist. Her stuff is based around bugs and shit. So amazing. Me and the Sick Hour boys recorded an hour of stuff with her that will be out soon. We've been talking about doing a vocal album together, 'cause her vocals totally kill. Mammal -- Dude, the most insane man! This tape is absolutely incredible. Harsh dance attack. The man of the hour. Best shit. Nautical Almanac/Meerk Puffy -- Ah, you know! [Nautical Almanac] -- the best broken electro money can buy!! And Meerk... he's a fucking serial killer. Slash you right up!! Snma -- crazy noise from this dude I met in Tennesee. Varied and yummy. Tom Smith related work -- Yes yes. Great stuff. Everyone's favorite... the "BOC" one!! Him, Nondor and Fred Ware III go see Blue Oyster Cult in 1996. Really. Sucking Coeds is him and a bunch of the AA crew doing junk. Dylan Nyoukis/Milche Grand -- just got this one today!! Listening to it now. It's miminal, eerie, irritating and sloppy all at once. Quite nice.
JE: Are there any artists with whom you feel some sort of tribal affiliation (at the least, both in regards to the Hair Police and Zombi), and why?
MC: Yeah, HP, Zombi and Sick Hour I'd say. HP and Zombi for obvious reason, but Sick Hour 'cause it's my bros, and I'm usually in the other room whenever they play.
JE: Tell us a bit about your own personal history as a musician/performer, what other bands/projects you have been/are involved with, what inspired you to explore the more extreme kinds of music, etc.
MC: Oh man... a doozy. We'll stick with the main bands. Performing began in '98 with Hexose. Crazy insane no-wave inspired junk. Oh so much fun!! FWK (Frankenstein with Knife, Fast With Karate) was my first solo venture, culminating in a five person orgy and diminishing soon after. Noise noise shit noise. Hair Police started in 2001 and has been going strong. Zombi began mid-late '01, and I've done tons of shit. Always recording. Zombi's first live gig is this Friday. Also have done American Video/Kitty Twister which is me and my friend Jessi. The only non-fucked up thing I've done. Electro sex romps. Totally just flat out fun. As far as getting into extreme music... I dunno. I saw the Boredoms when i was in 8th grade in 1994 at Lollapalooza!! Ha ha... So, you can see what I was into at the time. But seeing the Boredoms at such an impressionable age can have quite an effect! It was slow starting, but I was into bands like Boredoms and Butthole Surfers (among other shitty bands!!). Then I heard US Maple and Lake of Dracula and it kept going from there. I heard about noise from Ross Wilbanks, who ran Free Sound and was constantly listening to all the nosie I could find. Merzbow was the easiest to find, but I don't really listen to him anymore. I prefer stuff like Brinkman, Nautical Almanac, Prick Decay, Evil Mositure, American Tapes stuff now, though I will pull on some Japanese craziness every now and then!! I've been big into death and black metal as well. I like extreme entertainment! Horror movies, crazy music, etc.
JE: What's one of the oddest things you've ever heard in reference to the Hair Police?
MC: Wow... good question. Oh yeah!! We were told that our song "Magic Tool, A Big Hammer" sounds like Sparks!! Ha ha ha! We all love Sparks so much, but man, I can't see it. Great though. Odd, but totally cool!
JE: Tell us a bit about the past, present, and possible future(s) of the Hair Police.
MC: Past -- what's done is done. Present -- waiting for our package of Blow Out Your Blood CDs to arrive. Sell millions. Future -- thinking on and working out new songs. We have a few proposed seven-inches and comp stuff which we will record for. Whatever doesn't come out, we'll save for something else. Hopefully splits with New Port as well as Newton... that's the idea. Tom Smith was going to record Blow Out Your Blood but our schedules didn't work, so we are hoping to record with him soon.
JE: Ditto for the Gods of Tundra.
MC: Keep on keeping on. Put out great tapes. Really want to do a Zombi seven-inch. We'll see though. Need to save up! I don't really want to go "legit," meaning I don't want to do lots of CDs. Though I would LOVE to do an LP or three, it's just a money issue, and I have none. There was talk of me doing the Miss High Heel studio CD, but I just don't have the cash flow. I am quite content being a lil' ol' label.
JE: Ditto for Zombi.
MC: Tour with Mammal this summer... gonna rule!! Keep recording, putting out stuff. Got some goods on Animal Disguise and American Tapes. Maybe some other labels someday. Currently working on live material... and as I said, hope to do a seven-inch in the future.
JE: What drives you as a musician/artist/performer?
MC: I fucking love it. I love playing, I love performing, I love creating. I need more and more insane music in my life, and I need to create it. It's releasing, it's painful, it's fun, it's hard work. Doing this shit is my favorite thing in the world.
JE: Whatever happened to the To Live and Shave in L.A. "tribute" band you were involved with, I Live in L.A., and what sorts of response did you get to this from members of To Live and Shave in L.A. and fans of said band?
MC: Ha ha ha! Well... I think I Live in L.A. was made up of Fucking Outrageous, Orlak Neraux, Levi Jackson, Chicago Bears, and Live From New York, It's Saturday Night. I wouldn't presume to know what happened to them. Though I will say, they were adamant that it was NOT a tribute band, nor a Shave sequel. You'd have to ask them I guess. But last I heard, they are nowhere to be found.