Art-punks and Queens natives Unstoppable Death Machines are set to release their first full-length, We Come In Peace on August 21. It’s their most definitive artistic statement thus far; somehow managing to contain the Machines’ unrelenting spontaneous outbursts in a fourteen-track LP. We’re honored to present their album-release party at XPO 929 on Saturday with our good friend Kristina Tequila (it also features an incredible authentic punk undercard with Filthy Savage, The Psyched, Eula, Big Ups, The Numerators and Yeah Well Whatever.)
Before that, I sat down with one half of the Unstoppable Death Machines, Michael Tucci, to discuss his band’s latest work, their touring schedule, DIY venues and the chaotic nature of their live show.
Peter Rittweger – Your full-length, We Come In Peace is coming out on August 21, could you tell me a little about the recording process?
Michael Tucci – It was recorded half in Nashville at our friend Andy’s Putnam’s house and the other half we recorded in Brooklyn in our studio. We compiled the two sessions together and just made it a full-length. We took the fourteen songs, because that was what would fit on the actual vinyl and just put it together that way.
PR – So you didn’t plan on it being a full-length?
MT – We did. The stuff that we recorded on our own, the vibe was different, a little bit more spontaneous. The stuff we did in Nashville is a little more structured, kind of like verse/chorus style stuff, but still keeping that spontaneous vibe. We thought combining the two together to make one whole piece; kind of like something that sounded organic and would make sense as a full piece of work. It takes our song-writing sensibility in the Nashville sessions and our ability to just come up with stuff spontaneously and jam [from the Brooklyn sessions.] We wanted to bring those two things together and I think that’s what the full length represents, the culmination of the two sides of our personality as a band.
PR – The total package of Unstoppable Death Machines.
MT – I think it’s definitely going to be the definitive recording that we’ve put out so far. We put out a 7 inch EP before and had some remixes done by our friends Fake Money and Baryshnikov, we put out a CD-R of instrumental stuff before, summer tour tapes and stuff. This is probably going to be the best representation, if you were to say “Hey, check out this band,” you’d probably give them this record.
PR – Brooklyn artist Cheryl Arent is doing the album art for this album and I believe she’s done artwork for you before, could you tell me about that?
MT – She’s a great artist and a great photographer. The album cover that she did for We Come In Peace is a watercolor painting. She’s influenced by the surrealists and dadaists. We like her sensibility. Her visualizations go well with our sound. She did the Slumlord 7 inch EP art and that was pretty ratty punk style. It fit the sound and vibe of it. She’s pretty perceptive. We just ask her, “Can you do this?” She just does something and it comes out amazing.
PR – Does she listen to the record first?
MT – Yeah, for sure, she’s pretty keen on what we’re doing musically. She goes to all of our shows. She photographs everything. She’s a pretty big part of our documentation.
PR – You’re playing two record release shows, the one we’re promoting at Party XPO, then another at Shea Stadium on the 23rd, do you think you’re going to play mostly new stuff?
MT – We’re going to play a lot of stuff off the record for sure. Then we’re going to do some spontaneous interlude jams that we’ve been doing. We played some shows lately, some shows that we haven’t really promoted, just parties with friends of ours. Just jams, getting together, doing the whole kind of spontaneous jam along, so maybe we’ll try to interweave between songs and some “space odyssey” jams.
PR – I feel like crowd-interactivity is a huge part of your show. I was wondering if you could discuss how that fits in your vision.
MT – It actually started out as a party thing. We would play house parties. We played a show in New Orleans at our friend Oliver’s house. We did the show, and everyone was just having such a good time. People just started grabbing instruments and playing drums with us. I guess someone posted it online, so we came back home to Brooklyn and started playing more shows and just started doing it. People started just grabbing our stuff. It was never anything we really planned. It just kind of happened and we went along with it.
The show that we did at Present Company Gallery in Brooklyn this past January, that was more of a performance where we planned the crowd interaction. We made these paper mache sculptures of aliens and characters from our video Space Time Continuum. The idea was to create a giant robot, and within the robot we hid drums. We were hoping the crowd would tear everything apart, which they did. So they found the drums inside these sculptures and started playing along with us. Everything just got demolished by the end of the show, which is what us and the artists we were collaborating with were hoping for. That was really the only time we planned to do that. Every other time it was kind of just a feel kind of thing, vibing with the crowd. We play on the floor, so it’s easy for people to bump into us and become really interactive with us, whether they’re moshing, dancing, crowd-surfing, whatever.
It was always kind of a vibe sort of thing. We just kind of went with it. It was a good thing. There’s been a lot of good times and memories in Brooklyn. Our friend Maks documents a lot of this stuff and puts up a lot of video, but even when we toured across the country on the West Coast and stuff; the northern part of America, we did a tour, a lot of people were sort of catching on. I guess it’s a Youtube thing. We’ve kind of shied away from doing it lately I feel. Maybe not shied away, but not really presenting it so openly. We were kind of okay with whatever happened before. I feel like now we just want to perform. We’ve also been doing bigger shows, so we don’t want to take over too much time if we’re playing a festival at like SXSW. You kind of just have to play and get out, you can’t play an elongated set, going into overtime at a house party.
PR – I feel like that’s kind of got to be a little weird for you guys, you seem to prefer, maybe because of the freedom you have, to play more DIY or non-traditional venues.
MT – Yeah, we love playing DIY spaces, for sure. Death By Audio, Shea Stadium; Big Snow is another fun one. But we’ve been playing in more venue type settings, and not by any plan, it just happened. In New York, we really like playing DIY spaces, for sure. They’re our friends, the venues. You know everybody. The last thing we did in Manhattan was Art Now Gallery, and we played in the middle of the street out of a box truck. That was the last Manhattan show we did. No wait, we did a performance art piece at John Zorn’s venue “The Stone” where we had our friends play songs and we would cover our friends’ songs, like Filthy Savage, Ken South Rock, Ritz Riot. We did a collab song with Jah Jah from Ninjasonik. So we would do like two songs with them, two songs of ours and go back and forth. That was a fun show we did in Manhattan. Those are the two really fun ones we did recently in the city. I don’t know, what was the question?
PR – I don’t know, I was just asking more about DIY spaces.
MT – Yeah, DIY spaces. They’re the shit, we love them.
PR – It’s kind of interesting because I feel like lately, a lot of them are starting to turn more “legitimate,” like XPO, for instance, was remodeled, Market Hotel might reopen as a legit space, Glasslands is more “corporatized,” if you want to put it that way. How does that make you feel?
MT – I feel like that’s just the progression of what those venues would be. Glasslands is on the north side of Williamsburg. I mean, there’s Glasslands there, and then around the corner is Death By Audio, and I don’t feel like Death By Audio has corporatized too much at all. I mean, even though there’s a condo across the street and a fancy bar, I think they’ve kept it real for a really long time.
PR – Somehow…
MT – Yeah, they just have the right mindset for it. Shea Stadium, too. They’ve definitely kept to the DIY ethos, for sure. I don’t think they’ve corporatized at all. 285 Kent is pretty real. It’s definitely not the Music Hall of Williamsburg. These places aren’t like Public Assembly or Knitting Factory, they definitely have a different vibe that’s comfortable and really fun.
We were on tour on the West Coast actually, in Seattle. We played at a place called “The Black Lodge.” Our friends run it. Every time I play there, I’m like “man, this place feels like New York.” I told my friend Keith who helps run it, and he said, “You’re not the first one to say that.” It feels exactly like Shea Stadium. It’s like Shea’s parallel on the West Coast. Places like that really make you feel at home, even if you’re on the other side of the country.
PR – I was going to ask you about that, because I know you were just on tour, so I was wondering what kind of spaces you were playing on a tour, and how you would even find stuff like that in certain cities.
MT – We book our own tours, so we just call up our friends, and they set something up. We just did Tijuana to Vancouver with our friends Stab City from Los Angeles. We flew to LA and met up with Stab City and did a show there. Then we drove down to Tijuana and did a show with our friends, Mentira Mentira. We just walked across the border. They got us and we used all of their gear and played a show. We hung out there for a day. Then we walked back to America, to San Diego, then drove back up to LA, then to the Bay Area. We did the 4th of July in San Francisco and that was really awesome. We went up to Portland and then Seattle, Vancouver, back down, we hit Bellingham and Seattle again. Then we went back down to California.
For the most part, it was a mixture of art spaces, bars; like the show we did in Tijuana was at a bar. The show we did in LA- we did two shows in LA; The opening show was at an art space and the closing show was in a bar in downtown LA. Seattle was a DIY space, Portland was a bar space and Bellingham was our friends’ bar that they own. It’s like a venue though. We played a really shady venue in Vancouver it was like, crackheads and prostitutes just hanging out. We played next door to the place, just this bar that was attached to a crack motel. But that place was apparently a real venue. But yeah, it’s just the combination of things. We just ask our friends in each town if they can help us out, or in some cases I’ll just book a show myself. Kind of as you would here but in another city, I guess. It’s not really too hard, I guess. It’s just about having friends in different places willing to help you out.
PR – You just finished touring, but now that the album is coming out, do you have any plans to tour again?
MT – Yeah, we’re gonna do a tour into Canada with Neon Windbreaker starting September 27th. It’s going to start in Toronto. Then we’re going to hit the midwest, Detroit and Chicago, so we’ll do that for like a week. Then we’ll come back and do some New York shows in October.
We were offered to go to Japan in January.
PR – Have you been out there before?
MT – No, our friends have; Ken South Rock. They’re out there right now, or they’re in Taiwan by now, but they toured Japan a bunch. We’ve played with Melt Banana here in the States and another Japanese band called, Zzzs. So we have friends in Japan, it’s just a matter of coordinating it to make it work out. Right now, we have some Canadian dates with Neon Windbreaker and some midwest dates. We’re just really focused on putting the record out now and doing these New York shows.
PR – Do you have a favorite city to play besides New York?
MT – Yeah, I have a bunch. I like Chicago a lot. I like Los Angeles, Seattle. Austin, Texas is fun. Miami is fun. There’s no one favorite, they’re all fun in their own ways. Different friends, but yeah, New York is probably my favorite.
PR – Yeah, haha, I think everyone says that. I want to ask you about your relationship with Japanther, they seem to be a huge influence on you.
MT – Yeah, they’re really good friends of ours, and really big supporters of ours. They’ve been really generous and kind. We became really good friends really quickly. They took us out on a bunch of tours. We’re doing the record release show with them at Shea Stadium August 23rd. We wanted them to be a part of that night.
PR – They’ve been at it for a while.
MT – They’re probably the realest band in the scene.
PR – They’re like the “grizzled veterans” of the scene.
MT – Yeah, they keep it real.
PR – It’s amazing how they have. Really kind of inspiring.
MT – It is. It’s inspiring to have friends like that.