By: Mike Wilcox
Photos by: Craid Zirpolo
So my editor Aaron hits me up with this offer to live review and talk to Magrudergrind, the now
Brooklyn based Power violence trio,
about their newest album, ii, out
now on Relapse
Records. Naturally I jumped at the opportunity having remembered the
sonic force of their live set from the 2013 Decibel tour with Immolation,
The band, however, had since undergone a line up change, released a new album following their hiatus, and one result was that there was an unrivaled energy surrounding this show. So I drove to
Arriving at the venue, a renovated old fire house, I sought to find RJ, the
individual that I had exchanged very brief words with in 2013. Once I was able
to track him down and get the interview out of the way I made a quick stop for
lunch-dinner, Jamaican chow, and wandered amid the small but growing crowd for
the opening sets. Richmond
Ramming Speed brought every bit of the intensity that you know them for, a non stop ride start to finish. Really rad dudes too. They had run out of tapes so I snagged some spiffy fresh shades. Yautja, I discovered, is a force that I simply could not have prepared myself for. In a set spanning about an hour, they held every moment of my attention. The perfectly executed riffs, the arrangement of dynamic within their songs, the raw power that exuded from them as they played. I made absolute sure to snag a tape from them before I hit the road again for the night. That tape has been on repeat in my car’s deck since the show.
Finally, around the break of the 22nd hour, 10:00 pm, Magrudergrind took the stage. The energy in the crowd was insurmountable. The only other time I have seen that much excitement for a set was the first tour that Godspeed You! Black Emperor had after their 6 year hiatus. Final checks done and Magrudergrind starts. I gave up on taking photos of the set because the energy was simply too great not to feed on and feed into. With this kind of music you aren’t going to watch and listen to a band, you’re going to become part of the show, to be part of that energy. I found myself head banging slowly, quickly, that one kind of head bang that you can totally do really fast but can only do it for a like a little bit cause then you get really rattled and tired….all of it.
Luckily, friend and photographer Craig Zirpolo was there to get some great shots of all of the action. To bear witness to the live presence of Magrudergrind was a catharsis, just as it was in 2013. Halfway through, Avi asks how many folks were seeing them for the first time. It seemed that at least half of the hands in the crowd went up. There has been so much passion and support generated from fans behind Magrudergrind, and I saw it come out, all at once on 4/20 in Richmond. There were a few shouted requests from the crowd, most notably, “BRIDGE BURNER!!!” to which Avi looks at RJ and Casey and said, “not even three songs in…” It would seem that they get that request a lot. Playing a decent mix of old and new, absolutely nobody was let down. I got kicked in the face a few times by crowd surfers and stage divers but it just made the show that much better. Magrudergrind are a band that is best appreciated live at very high volumes, celebrated with friends that are chaotically running around and into everyone and everything in their path. This is "get to know your neighbor" pit music.
Support your scene, Support the artists, Support the music, you’re a tool if you don’t make this tour, spend all of your dirty capitalism dollars on shits and tapes from these guys. Then at least your friends will think you’re cool. Seriously though, this is not a tour to miss.
(Interview with RJ Magrubergrind)
Sludgelord) So what’s the direction of Magrudergrind right now? When I saw you guys a while ago you were kind of doing a different thing, I know there was a [band] and location change up…
RJ) Oh yeah, we all at one point lived in DC or right around there, Avi, our singer, moved to New York…about a couple of years back, I did the same thing about four years ago.
Sludgelord) where are you these days?
RJ) We both live in Brooklyn…all three of us live in Brooklyn actually…and then our drummer was still in DC and, you know, the distance was a little too much to do, and I don’t think he really wanted to be doing this kind of thing anymore so…he has other bands, so…Casey joined about two years ago and other than that there’s not really a new direction, keep writing the same songs.
Sludgelord) I listened to “ii” a few times through before the differences really clicked with me. I noticed that there weren’t samples, there seemed to be more of an emphasis on “hardcore”, forgive the overly generic label, it seems like the DIY feeling is still very much there, is there any real intention…like, is there emphasis from within, focused on any one thing more than another or is this just kind of what the group as of now is producing?
RJ) It’s kind of circumstantial. I feel like we’ve been writing the same handful of songs for a long time, for better or worse, I can hear it myself, the record sounds different, the recording is completely different even though it’s the same guy…
Sludgelord) It’s got a polarized opinion…
RJ) yeah, it’s not as noisy, I mean yeah, there’s a lot of shit that’s different about it, but, to me, I think that people will focus a little bit more than is necessary on like kind of the surface level aspects, and then I think, the songs, the core song writing, is pretty similar. The samples, it’s just, you know, frankly we weren’t able to do that this time.
Sludgelord) I like them [samples], don’t get me wrong, but with “ii” I’m not missing them in your music. It seems like there are a lot of grind kind of bands that are slowing down lately. Pig Destroyer slowed down with “Mass and Volume”, Agoraphobic Nosebleed slowed way down for “Arc”, you guys came out with “ii” recently, and it just seems like the whole grind/sludge kind of stuff has just slowed down. Are you in favor of that?
RJ) Yeah. Perhaps…I mean...
Sludgelord) I mean you recently toured with Primitive Man, right? How was that?
RJ) It was great! We’ve made a habit out of touring with slow bands frequently; we all listen to that kind of music for the most part…
RL) yeah! Fuck yeah, dude! You know, it’s something that we all enjoy, so you bring a couple of friends of that into the fast stuff…
Sludgelord) Mix it up, get a little dichotomy going?
RJ) Yeah, I mean if it’s fast all the time…I mean, we’re not a dynamic band to begin with, and you lose any of that dynamic if you only have fast parts.
Sludgelord) How do you feel about John Cooke’s band, Corrupt Moral Altar?
RJ) Oh they’re great! We just got off tour with them.
Sludgelord) How was it working with Kurt Ballou at God City again?
RJ) It’s great. We go back to him cause he’s a good engineer, he gets good takes out of bands, he gets good sounds…you know, we intentionally kind of did different things with the guitars, we didn’t really have an end point, as far as like, to work backwards from…
Sludgelord) what are you playing with now?
RJ) Right now? Tonight I’m using a new set up, this is the first tour I’m going on with it, but it’s basically, it’s pretty simple shit, it’s like a really old mesa 200 watt all tube head for the guitar channel and then I also split off a bass signal, it’s like an SWR.
RJ) I’ve always played SGs. I played Fernandez for a while but I only really ever felt comfortable playing an SG. Been playing the same guitar since I was pretty much fifteen.
Sludgelord) So to wrap it up, you’re confident in the direction, you like what you do, it’s about the music, all that jazz?
RJ) I wouldn’t really be here if we weren’t…the new album doesn’t really feel new cause we recorded it like 18 months ago…We’re stoked on playing these songs, we’re gonna try to put together a new record of some length this summer between tours…
Sludgelord) cool and many thanks for taking the time to chat about the current going ons with Magrudergrind! I can’t wait for the set!