Features

The Body Sold Their AK-47’s to Move to Portland

Interviews

By Brad Cohan

0

The Body

Chip King and Lee Buford—the two hairy-faced, tats-swathed (okay, only Buford is the dude with the ink) beasts who make up The Body—are the real fuckin’ deal when it comes to brutarian metal of the highest order. Sure, The Body have been confined to myriad metal subgenres (stoner-, doom-, black-, avant-, et al.). But this much is true: King and Buford are busy dudes and ascribing to the banality of metal tags is not on their agenda. Instead, The Body are preoccupied with the vagaries of everyday real life: regular day gigs, restocking on guns, suicide adulation, cult obsession and prepping for tour as they promote Christs, Redeemers, their Thrill Jockey debut.

Christs, Redeemers not only certifies “The Body” as a legit genre (who the hell else sounds like The Body? No one.) and with it the duo has captured the sound of the apocalypse—or the perfect soundtrack to kill yourself to (please kids, don’t try that shit at home). From its morbid and sonically insane noise-wall backdrop, blood-throated, six feet under screams, stadium-sized death-grip riffs, symphonic arrangements and pummeling drums torture, The Body has reached its terror epic apex. Now if only King and Buford can get enough cash together to replenish their AK-47 supply.  

We phoned Buford at home in Portland to catch up on a bunch of stuff.

Hey. How are you, man?
Doin’ pretty good. I gotta warn you—I have terrible service so let me know if it ever cuts out.

No worries. So you and Chip moved to Portland?
[Warbling then prolonged silence]

I guess the service is already cutting out. Hello? Okay. And we’re back.
We moved to Portland a little over a year ago.

From Providence, right?
Yeah, yeah. We were in Providence for ten, eleven years.

Why did you guys choose Portland?
We were from the south originally and the west coast is kinda like the south but with more stuff to do.

Like what kind of stuff?
Just like the south meaning we both grew up in Arkansas and there’s not too much as far as jobs and music stuff; I mean there’s some good music but it’s not the same as out here.

So you feel more at home in Portland because it reminds you of back home?
Yeah, definitely. I think people are more laid back down there. In New England, it’s brutal—people are not friendly. It’s pretty rough there.

The people in Rhode Island aren’t too nice?
Yeah, I think Rhode Island, and Massachusetts especially, and all around there. It’s pretty rough.

That sucks.
Yeah [Laughs].

Plus Portland has a pretty vibrant music scene, right?
Yeah, but I don’t really go out much but there’s some good people here and stuff.

You and Chip moved over there to Portland together?
We moved here together but we moved around first. We moved to Greensboro, North Carolina and we were hanging around with your friends in that band Braveyoung. We lived there for a couple of months then we all moved out here together.

So you, Chip and the Braveyoung dudes all moved to Portland together. Do all of you live in the same house?
I live here but Chip lives in a house like eight blocks away. Pretty ideal.

Do you have day jobs out there or you just do The Body?
We both have jobs. Chip works at REI, that camping store, and I make pizzas.

Cool. How long have you known Chip?
Oh, god. I’ve known him since I was 16 or something; I’m 35 now. He’s a couple years older. 

Did you meet in high school?
I think he was out of high school but I was still in high school.

Were you two dudes already playing guitar and drums as teenagers in high school?
Yeah. Actually, I did this record label and I put out a tape of Chip’s first band he played guitar in. That was like ’97 or ’96. He was in a lot of good bands in Arkansas.

Did you and him then immediately bond over music?
Little Rock, at the time, was pretty close knit and there was a lot going on, actually. So, we all had mutual friends and we all hung out in a group setting. But we didn’t start becoming really, really tight until a few years later. We were definitely in the same scene.

What were you guys listening to back then?
The hardcore stuff from around the mid-'90s—like a lot of that San Diego stuff…

Like Drive Like Jehu?
Yeah, stuff like that and what was on Gravity [Records].

When did you and Chip ultimately do the band thing?
We started the band in 1999.

What about the progression into metal?
I don’t really know but Chip always was obsessed with Neurosis so he always had that. Ever since I’ve known him he was always drivin’ out to see’em and stuff. He’s seen a lot of really good shows they played. He was always into heavier stuff. 

What about your tastes?
I dabbled in a lot of stuff.

Did Chip turn you on to the heavy stuff like doom and black metal?
Yeah, he was definitely into that stuff early on. And then it’s kind of weird because now he doesn’t really listen to that much stuff like that and I listen to the black metal stuff more now. So it’s kind of reversed.

How did the gun obsession come about?
That is kinda recent. About six or seven years ago we started getting into that.

Would you say that topic has been overblown when it comes to The Body? Are you guys seriously into guns?
I think people do blow it out of proportion but we like guns a lot. Actually, I don’t think we even own any (guns) right now because we sold everything to move out [to Portland].

Wow. Were you bummed that you had to sell your guns?
Not really. It’s not like it’s anything we can’t get again. I had an AK for a while that I sold when I was in Providence still and Chip sold his, too. We both regret it because it’s harder to get it now. But I’m not that worried about it.

What do you and Chip do with your AK-47’s?
We don’t hunt ever or anything; we just like shootin’ guns and we like having’em.

So would you say The Body is a staunch advocate of The Second Amendment?
Yeah, definitely. But that’s the thing: a lot of punks will give us a hard time about it sometimes and people have said stuff to us in the past and we’re like “Well, would you rather trust the police with the only guns?” That’s the most un-punk thing you can think of [laughs].

In the current climate, it’s politically correct to be anti-gun and shit like that.
I understand people’s rationale with that definitely. But I don’t trust the government or the police to be the main holders of guns in the country [laughs].

You and Chip have to re-stock on the guns. Are you going to do that soon?
I’m sure—whenever we get money.

Is that one of the reasons The Body signed to a bigger label like Thrill Jockey—so you have more money to score some new weapons?
[Laughs.] I don’t know it matters what label (we’re on); I think we’ll always be a subgenre of a subgenre. I don’t know if money will ever be in our future.

Come on. Thrill Jockey is all the rage.  
Oh, yeah. Working with them is awesome.

How did you land on that label?
Bettina [Richard] saw us at the Gilead Fest. I think she thought we were going to do [a new record] with Gilead and that’s why we were playing [the fest]. But we were just friends with Adam, the guy that does the fest and are friends with that band, Thou. So we were doing shows around that time and she wrote us saying “If you’re not doing something with Gilead, I’d love to do something with you guys.” I’ve always liked Thrill Jockey so it’s awesome.

Were you familiar with Tortoise and other “post-rock” bands that started on Thrill Jockey in the 90’s?
Oh yeah, definitely. I think in 1995, I drove to Memphis to see Tortoise and The Sea and the Cake.

Cool. Was that during your post-rock phase?
Yeah but I’ve always liked that stuff. I’ve never really had “phases;” I’ve always kinda listened to everything.

What are you attracted to specifically?
Either sadness or hate is what I respond to mostly.

Is that The Body credo: sadness and hate?
Yeah, totally.

Getting back to the guns thing. Are you and Chip pro-NRA?
In theory. I think they do a lot of dumdum stuff but I’m glad they exist. I think they take some dumb stuff too far than it should be.

Are The Body right wingers?
No, not at all. We’re probably the farthest left you can be.

But with guns.
That’s the thing: someone one time was like, “It’s like they are so left wing that they sunk back to right wing.” There’s some accuracy in the statement, I guess.

There’s the gun obsession and then you seem to be enamored with suicide, as evidenced in your videos. What’s the story there?
I think [suicide] is something we both think about a lot—just because the world is so shitty. Both of us have an admiration for the people who don’t want to live in the world.

Whoa. That’s pretty heavy.
Which is why we like a lot of cults stuff. There’s an admiration for people who want to distance themselves from regular society, people who drop out of the regular world.

Are their particular cults you’re into?
We use a lot of Jonestown—like Jim Jones—samples and imagery and stuff just because that one started out the most ideal, I guess. I think it ended probably—but people would disagree—kind of ideal, too.

Your video for “The Ebb and Flow of Tides in a Sea of Ash” from your last record Master, We Perish, is totally fucked up shit. That reenacts a mass suicide, right?
Our friend Beau filmed that. We went up to his aunt’s cabin up in Lake Placid and that’s where we filmed it. His dad played one of the cops and his mom is one of the ladies at the end (of the video). We went up for a weekend and filmed it. Yeah, it’s supposed to be just a mass suicide.

Where did you find all the people in the video to play all the suicide victims?
They were friends of ours or both parents. We all went up for a weekend and it was pretty fun.

Do you and Chip make an appearance in it?
No. Chip was living in North Carolina at the time and I just helped out. I don’t think we’ll ever be in a video.

You could have been played one of the dead people wrapped in the white sheets. 
Yeah. I was behind the scenes on that one.

On to the new record, Christs, Redeemers. You worked with the Assembly of Light Choir again. Why do you think you need to integrate that into The Body aesthetic?
I love choral stuff. Most of the stuff I listen to is from the 70’s where there was heightened, big productions and from the 60’s where they just had tons that of stuff on there. Those are the kind of recordings that I would like to emulate. Our first LP was just me and Chip and it’s hard to transfer what we are like live-to-record so we kind of try to make up for that by adding all these other things to it.

Have you and Chip thought of adding the choir as permanent Body members or, say, the Providence noise dude Work/Death who contributed to Christs, Redeemers?
We never really considered it. We work with so many people and we have people come on tour and play with us. When we play in Providence, usually our friend who records us from [the recording studio] Machine with Magnets will play drums with us and we’ll have extra drums and stuff. We’ll always have people going in and out. But it will always be just me and Chip.

There’s a lot of religious references and imagery in The Body. Are you dudes religious?
No, not in the sense people think of with things religious. I can’t speak for Chip but I like to imagine that there is a reason that the world is the way it is, and that there is some sort of reward at the end of the fuckin’ shitty life that people live.

So there is light at the end of the tunnel? One might get the impression in The Body’s world that everything sucks judging by the suicide stuff, guns and overall bleakness.
Everything we do is pretty sincere, so. [Laughs.] As far as religion, it would be great if there were some god that would punish for the fuckin’ terrible things that the world does. Logically, could I believe that? I don’t know. In theory, I’d like to believe it.

Prison isn’t enough?
Yeah, the way people live their lives, I guess. There’s no consequence for anything anymore.

So Chip shares similar viewpoints then it translates on to the records? 
Definitely. I don’t know at this point if it’s just because we are together so much and we’ve been friends for so long that how much of each others feelings on some things factor into the other person. But we are so close now and it’s a very symbiotic relationship.

Do you and Chip ever butt heads or you get along pretty well all the time?
I hang out with Chip almost every day. We are both pretty laid back and we have the same ideas about stuff so we don’t really butt heads or anything.

Does Chip lose his voice from of all that screaming?  
Oh, definitely. Usually the first week of tour is kinda rough for him then he gets used to it but he definitely loses it.

At the same time you recorded Christs, Redeemers, didn’t you record another record?
Yeah, we did collaboration with our friend Neil who does the black metal project Krieg.

Is Chip the one who writes all the lyrics and song titles and shit or is that a collaborative effort?
He mainly does it. I think I named the Master, We Perish record. I wrote the lyrics for two songs on the new record—the ones that Chrissy [Wolpert] sings. The ones that are just her, the female vocal. But 99.9% is Chip.

Another Thrill Jockey record by a super-heavy band is coming out the same day Christs, Redeemers is released, Oozing Wound’s Retrash. Have you heard that one yet?
Yeah, yeah. We’re actually playing their record release show in Chicago and another show on that tour. That should be cool. We played with Cacaw, which I don’t know who in Oozing Wound was in that but they were really, really good.

Right now though, life is okay in The Body?
I would like to think so. I feel like when you feel like this you just have to focus on whatever makes you happy and stick with that.

But you and Chip will definitely be stocking up on new guns, right?
I’m sure, at some point, yeah. When I go home, my family has a shit ton of guns. Every time I’m home for Christmas, me and my brothers and my dad usually go out and shoot stuff—shoot cans and stuff.

Is that in the backyard?
My dad is a farmer so we go out there. Chip’s family is out there, too. We tour a lot so we get out there two or three times and year and we stay there a week or so at a time.

So a lot of shooting stuff goes on, huh?
Yeah, we try to get home as much as we can [laughs.]. 

Comments

Let's Be Friends