L-R: "Karl Bournze," "Alan Hunter," "Sven Calhoun," "Jason Schmidt" (they go by their aliases)
Today's a special day for my column – We've got a special, exclusive premiere from Graf Orlock's new EP, the aptly-titled Los Angeles, which is out today via Vitriol Records. The song is called "Quick On The Trigger," but to be honest, Graf Orlock’s music scares the shit out of me. It’s the kind of music that makes me feel like I should be pouring beer over my head and throwing elbows with strangers – but that’s also something I can get down with. This grindcore band, somewhat jokingly yet seriously dubbed “cinema-grind”, is known for sampling sound bites from movies in their songs. They don’t stray from that trademark in their latest EP – here's that premiere:
I sat down for a brief chat with singer/guitarist "Jason Schmidt," who told me what he does for a living when he’s not thrashing and shredding in rock venues. Who knew a guy who sings like that would be a history professor at a university? Crazy. That makes me question all my teachers’ second lives now. From what I can tell, "Jason" seems more like the troublemaker type than the teacher type – he loves making shit up and pulling pranks on people. But he assures me, whether people think the band is a joke or not, they are FOR REAL.
VICE: Hi, Jason! So, this column is about what bands do for a living.
Jason: Oh, God [laughs].
Why? What is it that you do?
We’ve all done some pretty random stuff, but I particularly do random stuff. Our drummer, Alan, does graphic design so he does all the layouts and stuff. The singer is a Vespa mechanic. I teach history at a university in LA.
Oh, wow. I did not expect that. Do your students know you’re in this band?
A couple of them show up to shows sometimes. It’s such a mental disconnect for me. It’s nice that I get to book shows during breaks, though. Like, we just got back from playing shows in Japan during my spring break.
I still can’t get over the fact that you’re a professor!
Yeah, I also work at a bar. And I run our label too.
So do your students have that mental disconnect too – seeing you in the classroom versus seeing you in this band?
Yeah it’s kind of weird. I keep it on the downlow, but the kids who do come to our shows are like, “What?!” There were a few who knew the band but didn’t realize I was in it. I call them out on the mic [laughs].
That would be super weird to see my professor in a band like Graf Orlock. So, a lot of your songs have samples from movie clips in them. Why the fascination with cinema?
One of the endlessly entertaining things about this band is that we get to make up stories and stuff. None of our names are real, either – sometimes to avoid copyright stuff [laughs].
Ha! What else are you making up?
In 2009, we had a singer but he didn’t want to do the band anymore. When he left, we said he got hit by a cement truck and died. Now everywhere we tour, people ask, “Are you sad that your singer is dead?” and I just say “Nope!”
Los Angeles EP
You guys are such pranksters! Maybe your love for the cinema has something to do with your affinity to making up shit.
Actually, we had this absurd screenplay idea. The whole back story, which is fucking ridiculous, is that there are Canadians who discover a wormhole and they go back in time to assassinate Americans so that Canadians can become number one.
[Laughs] That’s so random. Why Canada?
Because it’s funny to imagine Canada as a military aggressor.
Oh, yeah, definitely. So what did you guys do before all this cinematic craziness?
For most of the time, all of us in the band have been vegetarian or vegan. My first job was working at a Japanese place cooking all this crazy shit I wouldn’t eat. I also worked at a Starbucks for two months – it was horrible.
What was so bad about working at Starbucks?
Maybe it doesn’t apply to you but in LA the customers are fake, middle class people who bring their shitty soccer kids in. I just had to deal with horrendous people who should not be allowed to go outside.
Did you put on your best fake smile anyway?
There are certain people with personalities that can thrive in that sort of dipshit environment but for me, I can’t fake niceness and I just don’t care.
It’s always easy to tell them apart at Starbucks – the people that are like “fuck this.”
Yeah, it’s a weird nightmare because you only get paid a little more than minimal wage.
How did you get into history then?
I guess from traveling and wanting to know what I’m looking at. I actually have another band that’s all about history.
With either band, do you guys have any pre-show rituals?
Yeah, like jumping jacks? Or shots?
For me, it’s mainly making sure all my shit works. No jumping jacks or listening to Iron Maiden or anything like that.
Keepin’ it real.
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