Oh Russian Circles. There are bands that are living in set lines, and then there are bands that stroll beyond them. And then there are bands that just don't give a fuck. But it's not that Russian Circles don't care, it's that when their new album Station plays in full, the heavy, dissonant tones breathe life into current standards of creativity. So it's just hard to see lines to begin with. Circles, maybe. But no lines.
I was given the opportunity to chat it up with new-ish Russian Circles bassist Brian Cook (also in These Arms Are Snakes), and we talked about a few things, like him coming into the band, how he got into music, and how gas prices and Internet are playing the same downhill team. Thanks much to Brian and Derek from Solid PR.
To start off, for the record, can you please tell us what you do in Russian Circles?
Brian Cook: I play bass guitar in Russian Circles.
How did Mike and Dave recruit you? Let's start from the beginning.
Brian: Well, they parted ways with Colin back in December. I had known them because my other band had played with them and we had a lot of mutual friends. They already had a recording date lined up for the new record, and so they needed someone to come in and help them out as soon as possible. So, yeah, I offered to help them.
And did they have everything written for you, or did you also go in there and help a bit with the writing process?
Brian: They kind of had everything laid out. They has already written one song with Colin, and then once Colin left, I came in and added bass lines.
Did everything mesh well, or did it take some time for you to get adjusted?
Brian: There wasn't really a lot of time. I think it worked out really well. I was already familiar with the band and what they were going for so it was pretty easy.
Well let's get right into the album then. What are your thoughts on it now that's done, and out there, and people are hearing it.
Brian: I'm pretty proud of it. I think people are responding to it really well, so that's always cool. Yeah, I don't know. It's hard to really comment on it because we've sort of evolved with it. I think it's a good record, and I think it's goes the way that you'd think the band would go in terms of the way the songs are. I don't know what the best terminology would be, but it's like the songs are more 'song-y'? Like less just a collection of ideas, and more building around a couple ideas. Ideas are sort of elaborated on. Am I making sense? Haha.
Absolutely. It makes sense. Well, is this something you want to stick with? I know you have These Arms Are Snakes, but will you be with this for awhile longer?
Brian: I think so.
Confirmation, right here! Great. So today is the last day of your tour with Daughters, right?
Brian: Haha. Well, they actually dropped off the tour a couple days ago. This is their last before we get to Chicago, but Daughters already dropped off.
Oh! Well, how did things go? How was the tour?
Brian: It was good! It was a really good tour. It's cool, especially with Daughters. They're a hilarious group of people. And an awesome band. And we got to do a bunch of dates with Young Widows, and they're amazing. It's cool. It's nice to be on tour with bands that we really admire. And do something different, but it still complements the overall show.
Well, I'm sure it will be a lot different when you are out on tour with Coheed. I'm sure that will be two very different types of crowds.
Brian: Yeah, haha. We;re going into that very positive attitude, but we're expecting to be lone warriors on that one, so we'll see how it goes. Typically, when we go on tour with bands that we've already established friendships with, so it'll be interesting to tour with a band that we don't really know and don't have that relationship with.
Definitely. And Coheed is a band with a very interesting group of fans, but I also feel like a lot of them are younger, so it might be harder from them to translate Russian Circles, and fully grasp what you guys are doing.
Brian: Yeah, I don't know how it's going to go over. But you know, Baroness just toured with them and that went really well, and I guess Clutch toured with them and that went really well, so it seems like they're taking out these really interesting bands and the audience is getting it. Hopefully it'll work out. We know it's kind of a gamble, but it's a pretty short run. It's a pretty interesting market so we figured we'd give it a shot.
Well let's go back, and talk about you. How did you first get into music? Turn the table a little.
Brian: I always liked music when I was growing up, like when I was a kid. Listened to radio when I was younger, and then punk music and stuff like that. When I was 14 I wanted to try to make music on my own. I think it was the punk scene that I saw as something I could do, not designated by just the musical elite, like it was something tangible.
So did you ever have any formal training, or did you just kind of get in there and start playing.
Brian: I took piano lessons when I was really young, and then in high school I took saxophone. I hated taking lessons and it totally killed any desire I had to play any instrument. I had more fun playing stuff I didn't know how to play, figuring it out on my own and unlocking all those mysteries. That was more interesting for me.
What were some bands and album you really got into when you were younger?
Brian: I was really into Dead Kennedys. I think that was the first, you know, straight up punk band that I really latched onto. I was really into Fugazi. The first concert I ever went to was Fugazi. That was life-altering. I was really into the Minutemen just because of the bass playing. I liked that it was a prominent instrument and that you could actually hear it. I thought that was really inspiring.
So did you start off on bass?
Brian: Yeah, I started off on bass. I'm left-handed and it was really hard to find instruments easy to play, and a right-handed bass seemed easier to tackle than a right-handed guitar.
You're a musician so you're around music all the time. And I know for me, it's just not the same as it was from when I was younger and new to it all. You know, still exciting. So I was wondering if there are any bands that still get you giddy to see live?
Brian: I feel like there is definitely a point where that initial rush I got when I was in high school started to go away - when I was front-row-center, shaking my fist the whole time as I was watching the band. But you know, I've always been one of those people that's been more interested in finding music that makes me feel a certain way than finding music that sounded a certain way. So when the hardcore bands that I was listening to weren't really exciting me anymore, I tried to find other music that gave me a similar rush. So for me it's always been a matter of if something is boring me, I find something new that excites me.
So, who's getting you excited right now?
Brian: Good question. Well, I've been digging the new Sigur Ros stuff. I enjoy that. I've been into that new Torche record. God I don't know. I'm totally drawing a blank.
It's OK. I'm sure that after this is done, you'll think of about five more.
Brian: Ha, yeah! It'll be like, why didn't I bring that shit up?
Let's go music business. Let's start with the worst. What do you think is the worst part of the music biz today?
Brian: It's so hard to say because the music business is changing in so many ways. The worst part about it is that with the cost of gas and the sheer amount of bands out there, I think it's just really hard for younger bands that are really trying, to do something in music. It's weird to think about the Internet, and the weird popularity of Internet music enabled so many bands to get out there and tour and sell records. But gas is so fucking expensive and on tour nowadays, a band has to cater to what an audience already likes to keep surviving. And I think that's a recipe for people to get really burned out and stagnant. It's great, but it's also ... I don't know. I feel like at some point the bottom is going to fall out on the whole thing, the whole Hot Topic/Warped Tour thing.
It probably will. But you guys will still be there, making music.
Brian: Well that's because we're awesome, haha.
Exactly! All right Brian, I think that's all I have. Be safe on the road, and I hope I'll see you guys soon.