How many bands do you know with a line-up as stellar as Corrections House? No need to answer, we’ll do it for you: few, very few. Formed in 2012 by Scott Kelly, Mike IX Williams,Sanford Parker and Bruce Lamont, with whom we had the pleasure of having the following conversation, this collective stands determined in being its own entity. Neither super-group nor one-shot project, Corrections House just released a live album entitled “Writing History In Advance” and has its second full-length ready for a summer release.
However, be warned that the following conversation took place in November 2014, a time at which the live record had not yet been released and their December North American tour had not yet been unfortunately cut short due to medical issues – all our best wishes to Mike IX Williams. We sincerely hope all instances of “this year” and “next year” are clear within their context.
You just announced two new records and a tour. Were you expecting Corrections House to return so quickly?
No, I don’t think there was any expectation to move this quickly, it just naturally happened. We work really well with each other and it came together fast, there wasn’t even an attempt to put a live record out. We were in LA and had a chance to multitrack a show at the Echoplex, we were really happy when it came out and so decided we were going to release it. In the meanwhile, we started to work on the new record and Sanford is able to work on stuff a little quicker than the more traditional going on the studio – that’s one of the advantages of having the engineer in the band, you know what I mean? – he can work on it here and there and whenever. We have been working on it since July and finished it in November.
Is the whole recording process complete? Can you tell us something about a release date and a title?
Yeah, it’s finished but we are not gonna release it until probably next summer. We recorded a couple of bonus tracks as well, which we will be releasing periodically between now and then, and we will debut songs in certain places. There will be a pretty solid stream of activity from the band between now and next summer. And no, no title yet.
The writing and recording of “Last City Zero” was spread throughout the country, right? How did it go with the new record?
We wrote it together. Actually, the last one came together first through us touring. In the first US tour, we were doing four solo sets and, in the end, we would play the three songs we had written asCorrections House. As the tour went on, the solo sets just started to meld together, which formed a couple more songs just through that process. Then we had a couple of days off outside of New Orleans, so we went to Phill Anselmo‘s studio for a few days to get a few more ideas down, so there were a couple other songs we wrote there. So, yeah, it was kind of spread out there, but this one, there was a systematic rhythm with all of us in mind and we worked together much more this time. It’s not that the last record wasn’t cohesive, but with this new album there’s a flow to it that’s very different from the first one, the band has matured quite a bit in the last within the last twelve months. It’s pretty exciting, we are quite happy with the way it came out. It’s dark. [laughs]
In terms of approach and content, what was the biggest difference you felt between the albums?
I think with the first record we were kind of feeling each other out and just trying to get a sense of what we were gonna do, where with this one we knew exactly what we wanted, we knew exactly the sound we were looking and how we wanted to go about the whole process. As I said, there’s a maturity already within twelve months, so it was much easier – not that the first one was difficult or something like that! We definitively figured out what Corrections House is for now, although we might throw it out of the window and change it all for the next record.
Is Mike’s book “Cancer As A Social Activity” still an inspiration for the lyrical content in the new record? Did you and Scott also write lyrics for the album?
He wrote new lyrics. He’s working on another book and there were some themes from that book that made its way on to this record.Scott sings more on this record and I also sing a couple of songs as well, so there are lyrics from all of us, but Mike‘s words are the basis for a lot of the aesthetics of Corrections House, it’s always been the case and we will always default back to that. What he does lyrically is really special in a lot of respects and it definitely shapes a lot of what Corrections House is.
«People listen when Mike [IX Williams] speaks and that’s rare in this world.»
Can you tell us something about the lyrical themes explored in the record?
Nope. Like I said, it’s dark. It’s very personal to all of us in a lot of levels, a lot of things have happened to all of us in the past thirteen months, both positively and negatively, triumph and tragedies, and it’s all there. Our lovely outlook on life and things beyond life. Yeah, it’s something.
When you played Roadburn, you had Mike Scheidt come up on stage with you on “Run Through The Night”. Will some kind of guest appearance take place in the coming record?
We have no guests, it’s just us (well, we also have our minister of propaganda Seward Fairbury, who’s an influence on us as well). That was really fun to have Mike come out and play. “Run Through The Night” is a tough one for the four of us to pull off, playing acoustic, electric [guitar] and having saxophone, so we were grateful to have him come up, he’s a good friend of ours and it was really awesome that he partook.
You all dress the same way for your live performances. How did that come about?
It’s our uniform, it’s a show of solidarity, the symbol represents the four of us collectively. We wanted to represent ourselves as a unit and having that uniform across the board brings us together. We are not four individuals, we are Corrections House.
And not just “that band with Bruce Lamont, Mike Williams, Sanford Parker and Scott Kelly”.
Exactly. When we first came out as a band, the initial press was saying things like “it’s a metal super group” and “it has members ofNeurosis and Eyehategod”. That’s great and all, but at the end of the day, it’s the four of us making music together. It’s not a one-off project and that was also the initial assumption, that we were just going to do one record together because we are friends and fans of each others music, but no: this is a band. This is a band and we are planning to stick around for quite some time. It just seems right, we are very like-minded in a lot of respects and creating the music is effortless with these guys. I’m seriously in awe of their talents.
Can we expect to see Corrections House in Europe next year?
I think we are doing the UK in March and then Europe in the late fall. One of the reasons why we are gonna hold off on the record is that we didn’t want it out too early, in the sense that it would be out of everybody’s radars by the time we get back there. We might also do a couple of festival dates before that, we had offers and it’s a matter of scheduling, we all have other bands but we will try to make it work. So, yeah, we are definitely going there, Europe last year was awesome. We loved it, we did also some festivals, didRoadburn, did Roskilde, which was killer. So yeah, looking forward.
How were the reactions to these first Corrections House concerts?
Pretty amazing. Obviously we are a brand new band, regardless of who we play with and whatever, some nights for smaller crowds, some nights for bigger crowds. We brought 225 LPs with us to Europe and we sold out in 14 shows of 20, so it’s like “okay, wow!”. Merch wise, stuff was just gone, it was amazing. It’s been really positive wherever we played and so far so good. The last two shows we played in Europe, in the eastern block, people were insane. Those shows were off the hook, violent, fun. [laughs] The same thing happens in the US, it’s building, we’re trucking along and grateful that anyone gives a shit at all.
As you said, Corrections House have played both in larger venues like the 013 and smaller ones, how would you say they compare?
I personally am a fan of smaller places because it’s more intimate and there’s a closer relationship with the people that come to see you, you know? I’ve always felt that way, as a listener too. I used to go to arena shows hen I was younger and once I got exposed to a club show, my whole world changed. Actually, it kind of dictated the type of bands I liked because I enjoyed going to smaller clubs and seeing whomever I was into in these more intimate settings. As a performer, it’s kind of the same way. I don’t mind the bigger places, it’s totally fine. Roadburn was interesting, because we played two nights. We played one night at the 013, which is rather big, huge stage, and then the next night we played in a church, which is 600 people or whatever. It was great, I liked them both for different reasons, but I think I like the church a little better because it was a little more intimate.
In that church show as in the first U.S. ones, you guys started with four solo sets, only coming together in the end. Is it something that will happen again?
Yeah, I think so. That’s how we started, so I think we’ll return to that at some point, with different solo material. Right now, in this U.S. tour [which has since happened – ed], we are going to play a couple of songs from the new record and some stuff from “Last City Zero” and the 7”, maybe a cover, who knows?
When you wrote your lyrics for Last City Zero, you inspired yourself in Mike’s texts. Having written lyrics before, how was it to adapt yourself to his works?
Well, Mike’s writings are very inspirational, I think that he’s very unique in his approach, I’m a huge fan. That’s kind of the reason we’re doing something together. [laughs] I had the fortune of performing with him a couple of times when it was just him and I. One show we did in Austin Texas where he read from the book [“Cancer As Social Activity” – ed] and I was able to play music behind him, which kind of got our wheels spinning as in “hey, we could do something together”. I think he’s an amazing man at some many levels, obviously we became very good friends, but I’m in awe and here’s the thing: a spoken word type of thing in the year 2014 generally seems to come off as pretentious and I don’t really feel it so much, it’s not very genuine with most people I’ve seen – I’m sorry to say that, but there was a bygone era when that stuff really had its place. I mean, to hear people like William Burroughs orBukowski speak is pretty amazing. Now the exception is Mike, his voice, the way he articulates things, the words he chooses to use, he’s the real deal, he’s lived the fucking life. Every time we played, we were doing “Last City Zero” or the solo sets and he would read a couple of things from the book, I would just stand there watching him as a fan – and I’m on stage with him! I told him he should just do spoken word tours, I think he’s one of the few people on the planet that could pull it off and people enjoy it. I’ve seen it, a whole room go silent when he reads and not a pin drop, that’s pretty amazing. People listen when Mike speaks and that’s rare in this world. I work in a venue in Chicago with a really eclectic program, it’s called The Empty Bottle, where we have everything from metal shows to improvisational music. In this place you couldn’t get a crowd to shut up during maybe a solo clarinet piece, the musician couldn’t command it, whereas I’ve seen Mike do that, effortlessly shut people down and they are paying attention. It’s pretty powerful.
Will we get to hear any of the solo stuff on the live record or was it a show exclusively with material from “Last City Zero” and the 7”?
Yeah, just that. Like I said, we didn’t intend to release that. At first, we were gonna record the show just as a reference for us to gauge how our live show sounds. One thing about our live show is that we don’t really stick to the script per se, there’s a lot of openness, there are some improvisational elements. We stretch songs out, there’s “Dirt Poor Mentally Ill” which goes ten minutes longer, there’s a little more saxophone, there’s little more vocal, “Hoax The System” turns into this noise piece at the end, for an extra six or seven minutes. There’s more to it than that and that’s kind of what our live show is about, keeping things a little looser with room for us to experiment with it on the fly.
Besides Corrections House, what other activities can we expect from you in near future?
I’m going to the studio tomorrow [that is, in November – ed] to record my second solo record, I have a new band called Brain Tentacles that is me, Dave Woody from Municipal Waste, andAaron Dallison from Keelhaul, we are a trio. We will have a record out next year, it’s mostly sax, bass and drums. I also have a band called Bloodiest, we put a record out in 2011, we are recording a new one in January that will be out later this year. I’m writing withYakuza right now, working on another record for maybe this year, maybe the next year, depending on time. I’m involved in a project called Wrekmeister Harmonies, laying some vocals down for that, it’s kind of a large thing, a 26 piece ensemble with a 12 person choir with some guys from Indian and Bloodiest.
Wasn’t Sanford Parker also in that record?
Yeah, also Mark Solotroff from Anatomy Of Habit. We did two records so far, which came out on Thrill Jockey, and we are working on a third one that will be out next year. Uh, I think that’s it for now. [laughs]