Interview with Walter Schreifels
While catching up with NYHC pioneer Walter Schreifels over the phone, we spoke about his new solo album AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SCENE and the albumís radical departure both in sound and approach, Walterís modified cover of an Agnostic Front moshpit anthem a
When did you decide to sit down with acoustic guitar and not to have a band back you up?
I guess it was just kind of time, you know? I had been in bands so long. In fact, Iíve been doing it since I was 16. And I got this acoustic guitar and then I just figured why donít I try writing songs just like au natural Ė the vocals and the guitar as opposed to having to rehearse with a band and do all that. I kinda have a habit of putting the vocals on the music at the last minute in a panic and I just thought I would do something that I would take a little bit more time and it brought me in different directions.
The video for your rendition of ďSociety SuckerĒ is very entertainingÖ itís commendable how you made a song by Agnostic Front sound like something that people who attend Lillith Fair will enjoy.
The melody of the song just kinda struck me. Coming home late at night I just was thinking about AF and how much I love that songÖitís like one of my favorite songs, the mosh partís so sickÖ I did the version thatís on the album one night when I was in Berlin. Itís actually a couple years old now, but it fit in with the theme of the record, and I had also recorded it myself. Not that itís such a great recording, but that I did it, so I wanted it on there.
Have you heard any feedback from any of the guys in AF yet?
Oh, yeah, totally. Roger sent me an email. I gotta tell you I was absolutely shocked. It was just crazy. He wrote me just a really nice e-mail saying that he really loved the song and how I developed it to a solo piece, and that just made me feel so good.
Youíve basically done everything you want to do musically between Quicksand, Rival Schools, Gorilla Biscuits, and Youth of Today and now this albumÖis there something that you havenít done that you want to do?
I think maybe thereís a kind of like and itís cool that Iíve kinda got my shit together to do this solo album. I feel like Iíve really opened up the possibilities in terms of the kinds of music that I wanna do. I definitely want to branch out stylistically as much as I can and I guess Iíve been doing that over the years, but itís been at a kind of a heavy costÖall these bands, kind of putting them together and then rather than continuing with the band, I kind of just switched the whole band. So, in particular Iíd definitely have like a few records in my mind that I would like to kind of record and make real. Producing, I like to do once in a while but itís not really something that I like solicit or try to do. Itís only when people kinda come to me and I have the time and Iím interested in the project. I wanna do everything. You know, Iím just interested in doing creative things. I got, you know, ideas for game shows and I like to paint and write haikus. And Iím into all of it. You know, anything creative, Iím kind of interested in pursuing. But it takes so much for me to just get these albums togetherÖthat keeps you pretty occupied.
Do you feel like this album is less of a strain because it was a less chefs in the cook kitchen kind of deal?
Ah, well I think that cuts both ways, to be honest with you. When you have different people in the band, you have more feedback and you have more things and people to bounce ideas off of and you can also get in the world of ďthatís that personĒ, so you can blame other people when somethingís not working, but when youíre alone, you gotta figure it out, Ďcause youíre the only person at fault. So you gotta look at it with what level do you want to take it to? And that can be tricky too. Iím really happy that Iíve managed to navigate it, because there was a couple moments there, I was like, ďOh, dude, I donít even know, man.Ē Youíre just youíre too far in it. I enjoy having the back and forth between me and band but with bringing it solo, I feel like itís got a different set of problems, but itís also really fun to just not have to really consult anybody and just do it how you want.
For the next solo album, would you consider a more hands in the mix?
Actually, I actually just did finish Ė I didnít finish it but I recorded all the basic tracks to a new solo album already up in Canada about a month or so back. And I worked with a guy whoís a friend and an amazing musician who has his own little primitive recording studio. I think he has a real interesting technique. I really collaborated with him on the record in terms of I just had the songs and we just kind of put Ďem together. And it was a way more kind of quick process. Like we just did like I donít know, 11 songs in ten days. So, yeah Ė I wanna do it differently, you know what I mean? So I think there was a fair amount of collaboration this time.
Does it follow this albumís blueprint?
I think itís a little different. The kind of sonic quality to itís very different. I think itís definitely a step forward into something new. I think the song writing isÖ some of these songs Iíve had for a while. You know, I mean, it was really something to make them all and I wanted to get them out, you know what I mean? But to make them all sound cohesive and fresh took some doing. Whereas the songs that I just recorded, I donít have that kind of baggage connected to it. So I think itís a really different kind of sound. And, you know, so Iím really excited for the next step, you know? But thereís a lot, I just, this one just came out. And I got a Rival Schoolsí album coming out in the fall tooÖthatís pretty much finished too. We just signed a record deal with Photo Finish/ Atlantic. So thatís happening as well. So Iíve got a lot, a lot of cool shit that Iím working on.
What prompted the Rival Schools reunion?
I guess after a while, we kind of especially at the time we put it on ice and called it quits or whatever it was, we didnít solidify and say hey weíre broken up and dismantle the whole thing. We were just kind of all burnt out and the guitar player had quit to do solo stuff. We had just done a lot of touring, and for me personally, I mean, I can only explain it for myself, I needed to put it down, you know? Like the whole way of doing things, the major label way of doing stuff, the touring and all that kind of stuff. I just needed to put it down for a while. I put my attention into the Walking Concert, which was pretty much like a solo album in the sense that I really did work all the stuff myself. And I had all the songs written on acoustic guitar. And, you know, and then doing this solo album as well. We always kind of knew that we would be stupid to just let Rival Schools just be a one-off thing. And, you know, we also are friends and our relationships are all really good. So, everyone was still game for it. No one had like gotten some sort of situation where they couldnít devote enough time to make a record and do some touring. So, itís been fucking great, man. Iíve been really enjoying it. And I really think the music weíre making is very good. And Iím really looking forward to it coming out.
When is it actually coming out? And thereíll be some touring for that as well, right?
The date coming up for that release is September 21st. So, you know, around that time, I guess weíll be touring in September, probably more October, November, December.
I guess youíll do the whole big thing Ė go to Europe and the whole nine, too, right?
Yeah. Weíll do it. I mean weíre not Ė not probably on the level that we have done it, you know. We all have kids now. And that kind of you donít want to be away from Ė you know, I donít want to be away from my daughter very long. And so, that definitely factors in. But weíre definitely gonna go everywhere and play everywhere. We just might not, you know, play Lincoln, Nebraska three times. Yeah. Weíll make it out once weíre hoping.
Sergio from Quicksand is in the Deftones now and I wanted to ask you about that whole thing and your feelings on that. Because I know you guys are tight and I know you guys in the Deftones are tight.
Yeah. Itís awesome, man. I mean, itís not the best of circumstances, you know, like Chi is an amazing person and itís just really kind of surreal, the state that heís in and that shit like that happens to people that you know, but things being what they are, they gave Sergio a call and like theyíre all pretty jazzed up, man. So itís pretty positive.
Who have you met that really has surprised you by saying how much that you have influenced them?
That I have influenced them? Ahh, gosh, man, I donít know. I guess I havenít really kept track. So I mean I canít really quantify like or qualify but I guess it blows me away how the records that Iíve made whether it be Quicksand or Rival Schools are old but continues to find new listeners. And that people who are 16 years old or 22 years old or, approaching 30 and will discover records that I made a while back and that it still speaks to them, the things that Iíve been involved in. Itís not like theyíre the Led Zeppelin catalogue or anything like that but itís amazing that it has resonance for different people.
Have you heard the new Sick Of It All album yet?
I havenít heard the new album. I heard the last one and I was pretty impressed actually. I thought that they had a, you know, the clichť of ďreturn to form.Ē But they Ė fuck man, itís so heavy, you know? You know, itís almost like I canít listen to music like that for more than a song or two anymore. My ears are just old and weak. I mean I just think theyíre one of the most important bands that are continuing to play and remain vital.
Well, they have a song called ďA Month of SundaysĒ on their new album and it really is a great companion to your ďOpen Letter to the SceneĒ. Itís funny how it got released almost at the same time.
Iím kinda going out on a limb here but Iím gonna be playing a solo acoustic show with Sick of It All and Snapcase for a Snapcase reunion. They especially asked me to come up and I just wanna do the show but I donít know if the kids are gonna really feeling Uncle Wally on acoustic guitar. But Iím gonna give it a whirl. I think itíll be all right but I donít know if itís gonna be my shoe-in audience.
Do you still follow anything about going on in hardcore these days?
Ah, not too much. You know, I will, I know people that are involved in it, so from time to time I will, you know, brush up against it. But Iím not really following the bands or whatís happening, I really love Fucked Up but I donít know if that even counts as hardcore. I thought that record was really taking stuff that I really liked in hardcore. And doing something new and all. You know, and every once in a while thereís a band thatíll creep up that kind of catch my ear, but, man, I spent seriously two years pretty much listening to nothing else but hardcore. So, I guess kind of in some way paid my dues and but I just check in every once in a while and make sure everyoneís all right.
Whatís the ideal touring situation for you? Would you ever consider a doubleheader or tripleheader show?
Oh you mean where Iím playing in different bands? I donít know I think it would be cool maybe on paper, Iím kind of involved in my solo shows, I kind of throw in a song from each band that I do. And thatís sort of a good way for me to do that. Because getting it for real, you know, itís just like 20 people, just to practice with and all that. So, I guess I was doing it back in the hardcore daysÖ it happened all the time, Gorilla Biscuits was playing with Youth of Today and I was in both bands. Or Gorilla Biscuits would play with Warzone and Iíd be in both bands. That kind of stuff would happen a lot in hardcore days. In hardcore there was that group of musicians that could all fit in and fill in for someoneÖlots of people in hardcore bands donít last that long, so yeah, I would do that then. But now, I donít knowÖI guess I just kind of involve those songs into my solo set.
What can we expect from a solo show from you?
I do a little bit of everything but Iíll probably be focusing more on the new album. I know that the people are coming out to see me and theyíre supporting me at this time and they want me to kind of touch on some of that stuff. For me thatís all part of my story and I enjoy that aspect of it.
Ever get any negative backlash towards your variety of musical styles?
Every single thing Iíve ever done thereís been someone that said Iíve sold out or my new shit sucks. You know, thatís always gonna happen but I guess I donít really pay attention to that too much because itís hard to control. And I wouldnít really be able to just keep doing the same thing, you know, itís just not how I am. I want to do different things. I have A.D.D. and I canít really help it. But if Gorilla Biscuits kept making records or Quicksand kept making records, you know, or any of these kinds of things were playing those directions, and continued on that same path, maybe those would be bigger bandsÖor maybe we would have just made a bunch of bad records that no one will play. So itís hard, itís hard to second-guess yourself because you got to move forward and do your thing. And, you know by doing the Rival School stuff I guess Iím kind of trying to maintain some sort of continuity with something. Weíll see how that turns out.
Be sure to check out Walterís new solo effort AN OPEN LETTER TO THE SCENE and check him out on the web @ www.waltertown.com