Thursday, May 27, 2010

russell hall

if you've dropped by this blog'll know that the band the united sons of toil are just one of the few SGM house much flattery has been heaped upon'd think we were sleeping with them (which we're not able to confirm or deny...they know folks that know folks)

when you think of wisconsin...the first thing that pops into your head 99% of the time is cheese...or that monument to tourist consumeration ('s a word) that goes by the name of the dells

but what you might not know is that whole grunge thing that made it's $200 combat boot/$50 flannel shirt presence known back in the 1990's (supposedly) got it's start in madison back in 1983 in the form of a band called killdozer

why bring up killdozer and madison,wi?

the united sons of toil are from madison as well...and should listen to the band killdozer...they'd like to make you a hamburger

but i'm getting off track

i was first approached by tusot vocalist russell back in june of '09...he had come across SGM and felt that maybe his band would play nice with everything else that goes on around those parts

speaking for myself...when it comes to music...i'm a jaded bastard...i felt that music hadn't been music since the days of the aforementioned combat boots/flannel shirt clad years...but he somehow talked me into posting the album HOPE IS NOT A STRATEGY...and to make a not so long story short...i ended up posting both of their albums (the other being Until Lions Have Their Historians,Tales of the Hunt Shall Always Glorify the Hunter)

my soul smiled that day

but enough with my want to know my feelings...go back and read the reviews i'd written...or try and find my diary

now comes the fun part

tusot frontman/guitarist russell gets to speak for the rest of the band

SGM: ok,russell...i have to get this out of the do you feel about that?

RH:I like some of her stuff quite a bit actually. My tastes are fairly wide ranging and the glitchy electronic stuff she does is often pretty cool.

SGM: how long has the band been together?

RH: Four years.

SGM: how did it all begin?

RH: January 2006: Chad Burnett, guitarist (and former drummer) for the excellent Madison band Colony of Watts, finally convinced me to start playing rock music again and offered to play drums. We played a few times with Jon Terrones, the bass player in my old band Pound WI, but he bailed pretty quickly. Chad and I decided we were having too much fun to stop so we kept writing.

May 2006: As we were looking around for bass players, I ran into an old friend and scenester, Bill Borowski, who said he’d give it a shot. I think my opening gambit was something like “would you be interested in playing bass in a noisy mathrock band?” At our first rehearsal, we ran through all five of our songs three times each. Bill figured out what we were doing and wrote parts on the spot. As he was packing up, he sort of shyly said, “well I’m really into this so if you guys want me…” Our response? You’re fucking hired!

October 2006: We played our first show at The Inferno in Madison. It went really well and we were encouraged. The next week we tracked our first record and then Bill went on tour for three months playing in Exene Cervenka’s band. Chad and I finished the record and started writing the next one.

July 2007: We played our second show – a record release for “Hope Is Not A Strategy” at the Corral Room in Madison. The response was exceptional. The Onion’s AV Club previewed the show calling Hope the “best hard-rock record of the year.”

March 2008: We recorded our second record hurriedly due to the impending relocation of Chad to the west coast.

May 2008: We released “Until Lions Have Their Historians, Tales of the Hunt Shall Always Glorify the Hunter” and played a farewell show with Chad to a packed and sweaty house at The Project Lodge in Madison.

August 2008: We recruited long-time fan Jason Jensen to play drums. The first time we got together, he claimed to know the first two songs from the first record. I counted it out and away we went. Damn if he didn’t hit every stop, start, and time-signature change. Once again, I said “you’re fucking hired.”

December 2008: We played our first show with Jason at the Cactus Club in Milwaukee, including a song written with the new lineup.

SGM: rumor has it...back in october of last year you were somehow coaxed out of wisconsin and to pile 3 bodies inside of a car to make a was that for you?...what were the ups?...what were the downs?...did you find out a little too much about your bandmates along the way?

RH: We did a couple of weeks around the Midwest. It was good for us as a band but the crowds were thin to non-existent. Highlights were Minneapolis (great club and audience), Cincinnati (great venue and bands) and Carbondale (pickup show when Lexington fell through). Lowlights were Saint Louis (apathetic promoter and zero crowd) and Detroit (douchebag promoter cancelled the show after we showed up). Look for our tour documentary on YouTube.

SGM: how about a little story from the road

RH: Around 10pm after a rather dismal show in Belleville IL (just over the
river from St. Louis), I got a Myspace message from the booker at Chaosome
in Lexington saying that he was pulling the plug on the show for the next
day. Outraged and demoralized, we slumped in defeat. To add insult to
injury, no one gave us a place to stay and we had to once again shell out
for a Super 8. We spent the next couple of hours sending desperate e-mails
to venues in Nashville, St. Louis, and Champaign trying to scare up a
last-minute gig.

We awoke to a day with no show. Made a few more calls and e-mails to no
avail. We overstayed our checkout time by an hour and then found a coffee
shop with wi-fi. After mucking about for a couple of hours, a light bulb
went on over Bill's head: "Let's call PK's." PK's is a dive bar in
Carbondale that Bill blamed for ruining his college career. Jason, the
salesman, got someone on the phone there and after delivering our tale of
woe was able to secure a gig, though it was attached with the caveat, "we
don't ha a PA." Our response: "we'll figure it out later."

A couple of hours later we were in Carbondale. Nick the bar man was
friendly and said he thought one of the regulars that would show up around
10 might have some sort of PA. (He didn't.) We loaded in and set up
anyway, trying to convince ourselves that we could just shout into the
room and get by. After a while though, I started to have grave misgivings.
When I expressed this to Jason and Bill, Jason astutely pointed out that
if we didn't play now, we'd have to pay for all the beer they'd drunk so
far. Suddenly a kid appeared out of nowhere. Jeff offered to make some
calls about a PA. He struck out but did say that he had a microphone and
he ran home to get it. We plugged into the extra channel on my guitar amp
and launched into our first song.

The vocals sounded alright and Bill and I sang Beatles-style side-by-side
into the single mic. As we played Revolutionary Panic Attacks, people
started looking up, moving forward, and dragging stools forward. We went
directly into Reconsidering The Green Mile and when we finished, the room
exploded with cheers, hoots, and hollers. People were whipping out their
phones and texting their friends to get down here. We decided we would
have to play two sets if we had any hope of pulling this off so we played
all the songs from the tour song list plus a couple of Joy Division songs
(including No Love Lost -- Bill reviewed the lyrics on my phone just
before singing it). Apparently there are a lot of people in this town that
were hungry for some noisy rock and as well as more than a few JD fans.
Jeff and his roommate Alex put us up at their place, a typical student
party-house. We were ready for bed, but apparently a touring band was an
excuse for a party, even on a Monday night, so we hung out with the until

SGM: and speaking of bandmates...we should probably speak of them a little did you meet them?

RH: Bill has played in numerous bands over the years so I knew him from around the scene. I remember telling him one night after a show “a reviewer once wrote that on a good night Peter Hook from Joy Division could eat JJ Burnell of the Stranglers for breakfast. The same could be said of you.” Jason saw us for the first time opening for Qui (David Yow’s post-Jesus Lizard band). He was so impressed that he introduced himself and then showed up for every show we played from then on. Nice kid, we thought. Turns out he played drums too.

SGM: from what i've heard...madison has a decent scene...are there any bands you'd like to give some lip service to?

RH: Right… Czarbles (crazy mind-bending mathrock). Coloratura (Dischord-inspired art rock). Dissent and Revolt (super-technical grindy metal). The Hemlines (stripped-down indie rock). Dick The Bruiser (bass+drum+theramin-fueled post-punk).

SGM: tusot isn't your first band....let's talk of the others (and if any of you are interested in hearing some of his other musical endeavors...i have some posted on SGM over yonder)

RH: Most notably, Pound WI (Touch&Go influenced indie rock) and P’elvis (instrumental post-rock). Also, I played bass briefly in Bullethead with Paul Zagoras (who later replaced Bill Hobson on guitar in Killdozer).

SGM: word on the street're a huge joy divison much so that you were them for halloween last year under the moniker leaders of men...this is the part of the show where i let you get all fan boy...but part of the deal is that you have to get all high fidelity about it and list your top 5 songs

RH: I have indeed been a long-time JD geek/fan-boy. I think Bernard's guitar playing is still, to this day, my biggest influence (not that you can tell much anymore). Due to our instrumentation, skill sets, and proclivities, we focus on the more aggressive, guitar-based material. Favorites? Colony, Shadow Play, The Sound of Music, Transmission, Ceremony.

SGM: if someone has never listened to tusot...who would you say are the band's biggest influences? (you can find a little something here and here)

RH: Well, it shouldn’t be hard to guess: mid-90s Touch & Go, Amphetamine Reptile, and Dischord bands with a heavy dose of Unwound. Lately I’ve been listening to a lot of epic post-metal/sludge like Year of No Light, Mouth of the Architect, and Isis. Bill is all over the map with a profound love of early Sub-Pop and The Fall. Jason likes a lot of weirdo pop bands like The Apples In Stereo.

SGM: do you agree with the saying "record collectors should never be in bands"?

RH: Well, then I should probably quit. I am an insatiable music nerd, always searching out new things, rarely staying put for very long. (I remember paying $25 for Tar’s “Play to Win” 7-inch and combing e-bay for all the Godflesh EPs.)

SGM: how do you feel about the current state of music?...should it be called music or "music"?

RH: There’s always been a lot of crap floating around; there’s always been a ton of great stuff to be unearthed with a little effort. I have yet to throw up my hands and declare that no one is making decent music anymore. A prime example is my new favorite band, Dublin’s Wounds. They just put out an EP that is the best thing I’ve heard in the last six months, maybe the last year.

SGM: in the review of the HOPE IS NOT A STRAGETY album...i called you the bastard son of steve albini and page does that make you feel?

RH: It’s never a bad thing to be compared to one’s heroes.

SGM: and since were on the subject of being called things...have you ever been called a "cheese head"?

RH: Only by my in-laws from New York.

SGM: word on the street have a new album that "drops" (as the kids say) in august...and i've gotta tell you...when i saw you play the song "state-sponsored terrorism" from the upcoming album...i got a little excited...and from what i've been're gonna bring in a little sludge into the mix...and if so...could there be any melvins covers in the future?...and of about the new album

RH: I feel quite confident that there won’t be any Melvin’s covers. We’re not really a covers kind of band (the JD stuff is tribute through and through). That said, we’ve recently been asked by a label in Germany to do a song for a Codeine covers comp. The new record is taking longer than expected but we hope it will be out in the fall on Cincinnati’s Phratry Records. The new songs are longer and more epic than the either of the first two records with less overt mathrock influences. Vocals are more screamy though, so who knows?

SGM: well,russell...i do believe i've taken up enough of your time...i'm just gonna let you say whatever it is you want to say here...tell it to the kids...and hopefully you can be coaxed out of wisconsin again in the future

RH: I’d like to encourage anyone who likes what we do musically to learn about the issues we talk about in our lyrics and the organizations we support. Please read “A People’s History of The United States” by Howard Zinn and “The Essential Chomsky” by Noam Chomsky. Please subscribe to the FAIR blog ( and Left I On The News ( Understand that most privileges in Amerikkka have been built on the blood-stained backs of indigenous peoples, workers, women, immigrants, and minorities. We encourage you to get involved with struggle and resistance against the status quo. Be skeptical. Distrust your leaders. Speak out. Consider joining a socialist organization (like the ISO or the Socialist Party) and volunteering to help lessen the suffering of those less fortunate. Work towards radical democracy.

and this is the part of the show where you...the reader...go out and buy any tusot related materials

the band is playing a little something tomorrow night on the radio starting at 10:00pm cst

the aforementioned tour documentary:

1 comment:

Odie said...

Kick-ass, great interview and documentry. I love these guys.

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