Friday, May 13, 2011

The Great Clearing Off

The Great Clearing Off were a Philadelphia hardcore punk band from 1998-2005. This is an interview I did with them way back in 2003 that ran in Maximum Rock N Roll #252.

OK, lets start from your first practice. Give me a little history about how the band started. What was your motivation behind it originally, and did you think you'd make it this far?
Josh: Denis and I have been together in bands since we were in high school. I met Tim on the old Philly Shreds email list, he was going to photocopy Soy Not Oi! in its entirety for me. A friendship blossomed, and we both agreed that we should start a band one day. This was, what, five or six years ago?
Tim: Yep, 1997 I believe, and we actually started playing in 1998 once we recruited Kevin Duble as our first drummer, who we got through the Shreds list somehow. At the time, we had a second vocalist, Allie, and a gent named Jon joined us on second guitar within the first few practices. We've had a few lineup changes, which included Allie leaving the band, Kevin leaving the band, the mighty Bill Law joining up and eventually leaving to go save the world in the courtroom, whereupon Jesse ended up on the skins. Then Jon left the band and Alex started playing with us over this past summer.
Alex: The guys gave me an ultimatum, which was: join or we will cut you - really deep.
Josh: Our early motivations were in essence what they are today, albeit in different forms. We wanted to be political, to cause changes in people's lives, and to make connections with people in general.
Tim: And to have fun, too. That's always been a big part of it. I don't want to be stodgy and boring.
Denis: With Josh and my histories with our previous bands, I honestly didn't think it would last that long.
Tim: I definitely had no idea we'd still be a band in 2003. It's awesome as hell. We also move at the speed of molasses though, so maybe it makes sense. And thats molasses on a cold day.
What do you mean by political? Like speaking out about social issues or what?
Josh: Yeah, I guess we started off trying to address topical political issues.
And that continues to be something that motivates you?
Josh: Yes. In different ways now, really. Six years is a long time, especially when you're starting off in your early years, so my ideas have changed a bit, but at the core they're still alligned with the things I felt back then. Boo ya!
Tim: I'd say that social, political, and personal issues motivate us. Our lyrics don't tend to be statistic-laden Aus Rotten-esque lyrics, but they aren't just about farting either. Though we don't shy away from the topic of farting, believe you me.
Are you guys involved in any other projects besides The Great Clearing Off?
Josh: The Great Clearing Off is currently it for me. I'm still in school, and I'm a horror fanatic, so I pursue those interests through various channels. I write a little, read a lot, and watch the shit out of horror movies. Oh, and I ride my bike.
Tim: I'm in another band called Hissy Fit that just started up recently. I live in a co-operative house in West Philly and to some extent we try to deal with how the neighborhood is being gentrified by having good relationships with our neighbors and paying attention to how we affect the neighborhood, going to community meetings, ect. Other than that, I'm in school and ride my bike too.
Alex: Aside from The Great Clearing Off I'm in high school, I read, work at a small movie theater that shows indie films so I see a lot of them. Also, I like to check out new music.
How would you describe the band to someone that has never heard you before?
Alex: Oh man, I have heard the words "heartfelt" "sincere" and "earnest" so much that you'd think our reviews were for the Shawshank Redemption.
Denis: Imagine if you started a hardcore band with a bunch of people that had different musical tastes but wanted everything to sound sincere and heartfelt.
Josh: Five guys who are trying in desperation to get something out of themselves however they can. It's cheesy, but it's how I've come to feel about the band over the years, especially now.
Tim: Hmm, a little Ratt, a little Boston, some Phil Collins. Oh, I mean -
Josh: The reason I've stayed as long as I have is because the rest of these guys mean it. I like to think that shows in what we do, but I'm too involved to be objective.
I've only seen you once, but I'd definitely say it shows
Alex: Any apprehension I had when I first joined was completely forgotten after the first few practices.
Jesse: We have a pretty unique sound, there are fast parts in our songs that can produce furious circle pitting, and heavy parts for the headbangers out there. We've got intensity in our music, but we also throw in good melodies.
Tim: We like to make ears bleed, but we're soft and cuddly too.
Josh: Granted, we don't hit the right notes, and we're always a little out of tune, but I'd like to think that when we're playing, everyone is giving their all. When we're done, I feel like I'm dying, emotionally, physically, and mentally. That also helps me not carry equipment, so I play it up for what it's worth.
Tim: I couldn't be in a band if I wasn't giving it my all, so yeah, you have a money back guarantee with that shit.
How did you get involved with the "Sea Of Steel" series?
Josh: Three of us - me, Tim, and Denis have lived with Mike Dailey from Ed Walters Records at various points of our lives, and he's always been someone who has showed us love.
Alex: I could always go for a daily dose of Mike Dailey
Josh: He told us one day that he was doing a bike themed series, and since we tend to like bikes a whole lot, he asked us to be a part of it.
Tim: And I guess we were a sensible choice, since we ride our bikes around the same city he does and get hit by the same cars.
Josh: For a while, we weren't sure who we were going to be on the split with, but when he told us it was going to be The Sound Of Failure, we flipped out. The Sound Of Failure are a really important band to us, and they're good friends of ours, too.
Tim: And they're a fucking steamroller, and they actually stay in tune when they play.
Jesse: I think it's such a great idea for a series of records. I was so psyched when I heard he wanted us to do it. And to be on a split with The Sound Of Failure only sweetens the deal.
Josh: They're a zombie-crushing devastator.
Alex: It was before my time, but it is one of my all-time favorite records, and came out during the height of my interest in the band.
The Philadelphia scene has been known to have its problems with the city shutting down venues. Do you think there's an area where they'd let some place in the future stay open?
Josh: Thats hard to say, really. The First Unitarian Church has been through a lot over the years, but its doors are still open. Will Philly ever have something like Gilman Street, though? I'm not sure. A big part of the Philly attitude is whats being done in bigger venues can also successfully be done in basements too.
Alex: I think it comes down to a common ground of respecting the places we play at. While some bands seem to understand, I've seen a lot of ridiculous unnecessary shit happen to get venues shut down. It's really a combination of a lot.
Tim: Well, the Unitarian Church has been having shows in it's basement for a while now due to Sean and R5 Productions. It's a fairly big venue, though, with fairly big shows. It would be nice to have a smaller venue run by a collective. I'm actually starting to take issue with basement shows a bit. I don't think we should have the attitude that our enjoyment is more important than the lives of those who live around the basement venues.
Josh: I agree with Tim. I get bummed out when I'm at a show on a Tuesday night and the kid who lives there says "The show was supposed to be done at 9, and it's 11 now, but shit, keep playing!"
Jesse: The only thing we can really rely on are basements. It seems that even if one basement venue can't do shows any more or if the kids move out, another house full of cool kids opens up their basement for shows.
I know a lot of people are critical of R5, but from my outside perspective, it seems like they're doing good things for the Philly music scene. What are your thoughts on that?
Tim: I'm not really sure why people are critical of R5. I'm totally glad we get to see rad indie hip-hop and rad bigger punk shows at an independent ,non ClearChannel venue. I'm not too into the indie stuff, but whatever, it's better that it's there than the TLA or the Electric Factory.
Josh: Yeah, Sean has really gone to bat for the whole independent music scene around these parts. I'm not into everything he does, but I'm glad he's still here and still doing it.
Alex: As much as it could be looked at as a necessary evil, it's because of R5 that the gap between really small shows and semi big indie shows is being bridged. And for good or for not so good, it has created a focal point for local shows.
Tim: It's vital that we keep indie music independent. That there are non-commercial venues that don't only book bands for big bucks. I really like the current trend of bigger indie labels making better networks and signing more diverse bands. That can coexist with smaller labels and smaller bands, so it's all good. I love what Jade Tree and Dischord are doing, even though I'm not praticularly into all the bands on their labels.
Josh: It helps get the point across that the independent music scene isn't just some springboard , it's real, and it's important to the people involved.
Alex: Yeah, it really makes you feel like you're a vital member of something and not just another face in the crowd whose band plays once in a while.
Lets get back to the band. How has being in The Great Clearing Off affected you? What have you learned from the experience?
Josh: It's held me together. I've been through a lot of crazy things over the past four or five years, and having the band here has served as an outlet. Since I tend to write most of the words, it also makes me analyze the things I'm thinking and feeling and saying; it tests me. The band challenges me to do better, to be better, and most importantly the band keeps me in touch with the rest of the people involved. It's a lot of fun in that respect, but it gives me a sense of purpose. It's also helped me connect with people because of something that we've collectively done, and that important to me.
Alex: It has affected me immensely for the better. This band from the very beginning has challenged the way I've looked at everything. From the issues brought up in the songs to the intense emotion bought into all of the members. The Great Clearing Off is truly, as I see it, something that lives in us all, and I'm so grateful that I can be a part of that.
Tim: That's a big one. This band has affected me on so many levels. It's a major outlet for my emotion, frustration, passion, anger. In that way, it has probably made me more sane and balanced. It's also a great tool of expression. We get to write music, which is really fun and challenging, and put words to it. That's fun as hell and fulfilling. The first time we play a song in my basement and it works out perfectly, I get this amazing chill down my spine. It's also a great networking thing. You meet a million people by setting up shows, setting up tours, being out there all the time. I've met a bunch of my friends that way, which can be good and bad, because it kinda limits whom you're meeting on a regular basis. But I've met so many amazing amazing people through the band that I can't say I dislike that aspect of it.
Denis: It's my only real creative output, plus I've met so many amazing people that I probably wouldn't have met otherwise.
Jesse: I've always wanted to be in a band that doesn't just play music, but that also instills hope in listeners. I was a listener for three years before I joined and the music inspired me, and they gave me a chance to be a part of that.
Josh: It gives me reason to be social, otherwise I'd stay in my room and listen to Assuck and keep reading I Am Legend.
Alex: I'm really glad this band came at the time it did, because otherwise I would have never seen and done the things that are happening right now which are important to me.
What do you think of the scene in Philly and also as a whole? What do you think can be changed for the better?
Tim: Oh, that's easy. Philly still shreds!
Josh: Fuckin' A! Philly has always been a great place.
Alex: I have to say I love Philadelphia so much and it has become such a huge part of who I am even though I live 20 outside of it. But there are things that really bother me, like some levels of pretension. There are people with superiority complexes that have grown inadvertently through the punk community, but regardless I am glad everythinggoes on.
Denis: I wish that more people saw being involved in punk rock a long-term thing and not just a hobby.
Jesse: There definitely needs to be more dancing!
Tim: Seriously, my favorite bands are mostly Philly bands: 2.5 Children Inc, (early) Ink & Dagger, Dissucks, ect. There's always stuff to change, I guess. You always want there to be less fights, less dumbasses, more fun and less egos, but overall,the scene around here is pretty rad. I wish it was a little less splintered, but what can you do. As far as the scene at large, I want to see a continuation of a serious independent network. I believe that in order to live in the world we want to live in, we need to create alternate institutions which work according to our values. So we can just kick ClearChannel in the ass and relegate them to the dustbin, and all their bands to the 99 cent bin, because art and excessive profits shouldn't overlap.
Josh: I want more considerate punks. Is that an oxymoron? It's the people here that keep Philly going. As a result, sometimes it's up, sometimes it's down. I mean without all this I have no idea where I'd be right now. If it weren't for Stalag 13, I doubt this band would have happened, and I would probably be living in the Midwest and listening to danzig in a darkened room while lifting weights.
Alex: Everything that comes out of Philadelphia make me proud and just all around satisfied when we are out of town and staying at someone's house and I tell them I'm from Philly.
Tim: Philly is a great town with a great attitude. Cynical as fuck but somehow positive, too.
Alex: Indeed
Josh: I'd just like to reiterate, Philly Shreds.
Alex: There is nothing quite like our town.
Tim: Yeah, thats the gist of it.
Do you have any future plans? Tours? Releases? Anything?
Josh: We are currently plotting a U.S. tour next summer, and we've also just begun talking about writing our first full-length.
Tim: We're also talking about making more t-shirts one day. Like I said - fuckin' molasses. We had shirts once. For real - once. Then we lost half of them somewhere.
Alex: Well we had umbrellas and a sombrero at one point, but those sold out too.
Josh: I'm getting old, but I still see a few years left for The Great Clearing Off. I blame Alex for that, really. He has to join the band and be so goddamned enthusiastic about everything, and well, it's infectious.
Tim: Yeah, we're gonna take this shit to the next level. A million faces , I tell you. And rock them all. It may take half a million shows, but fuck it. I'm in it for the long run!
OK, well I'm out of questions, but this is your interview. What do you want to say to the world?
Josh: I would just like to give a shout out to everyone who has been in the band at some point or another: Kevin, Allie, Bill Law, and Jon.
Denis: We'd like to thank Philly and urge people to check out Ed Walters Records and Cheap Art Records and listen to Sound Of Failure, Fighting Dogs, Underrage, R.A.M.B.O., Global Chaos, and Erik Petersen.
Tim: We're open for dialogue. We'd love it if you came to see us play or talked to us or some crazy shit like that. You can shoot potatoes at our assses.
Josh: And I'd also like for people to use their friggin' head. Think for themselves, understand that their actions have reactions, and to take responsibility for said actions. Also, if people want to write to us about anything, we're here.
Tim: I'll second that, Josh. It's cool to do what you want, but make sure you aren't fucking people over, cos that's some bullshit. I'd love it if everyone would use that as a guiding principle. But also make sure you dance and have fun and be goofy and whatever you do, don't fucking grow up and be boring. Grow up like Utah Phillips.
Josh: I'd like for people to know that it's OK not to dance, if that's your steez. Keep one foot in the gutter and one fist in the gold.
Alex: Also, don't be afraid to love or be loved. Our time is really fucking short in this world and to live everything is all we have. "You will ride straight to perfect laughter, it's the only good fight there is" - Bukowski

The Great Clearing Off (includes their 7", their side of the Sound Of Failure split, & In Flight From The Terror Behind)
Buy Sound Of Failure split
Buy In Flight From The Terror Behind

No comments:

Post a Comment

The downloads on this website are posted for evaluation purposes only. Obviously, if you find something that you like you should also at the very least look into buying it as well. If something on here is yours and you would like it removed, please contact me. I'm not trying to rip anyone off... just share some things that I've enjoyed.