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a minor forest scan 1.GIF (81477 bytes)

     John            Andee                 Erik

A Minor Forest

Interview with A Minor Forest 12/17/97 on the floor at Aquarius Records in San Francisco by Matt and DJ Hate (while eating Seitan sandwiches)

CB: You don’t eat vegetables, Andee?

Andee: I don’t. I like corn enough, so I don’t have to like any other vegetables.

CB: Does this go back to your childhood?

Andee: Yes, childhood trauma.

CB: Did your parents force you to eat vegetables?

Andee: No, but at least twice I sat at the dinner table till 2 in the morning because they said, "You’re going to sit here until you eat all these vegetables." I just sat there till they gave up and sent me to bed.

CB: So since you’re vegan, Erik, what do you guys eat in common?

Erik: Starch.

Andee: We meet at Denny’s for french fries.

Erik: French fries.

CB: That sounds kind of scary. Don’t you get kind of unstable existing on nothing but french fries?

Erik: One time I took a rice cooker on tour and I would make rice and lentils and vegetables in it. I’d just plug it in, even on stage or whatever.

CB: But it was just once?

Erik: I had to give the rice cooker back to my mom.

CB: And your food orientation John?

John: Vegetarian. Well, I eat pretty much anything that’s meatless and free.

Andee: freegan.

John: I’m frequently seen climbing out of dumpsters.

Andee: And fish sandwiches.

John: Anything without a central nervous system.

CB: Fish don’t have central nervous systems?

John: Well, shellfish.

Andee: And McDonald’s fish sandwiches don’t.

CB: When’s your next tour?

John: We talked about going to Europe in May. That’s kind of in the works right now. We’ll see what happens. We’re doing a quick trip out to Chicago in a couple weeks for some recording.

CB: Who are you recording with?

Erik: Brian Paulson (Slint, Spinanes, Uncle Tupelo)

CB: How did you end up putting out a record on Thrill Jockey?

Erik: We just toured a lot before we had any real releases. And we played at the bar in Chicago where Bettina worked. She saw us play there incidentally and came to see us again. Then I spent about two years trying to convince her to put out our record.

CB: You had to convince her?

Erik: Up until very recently she’s been a very small operation. Basically it was just her. Taking on a new band was a big commitment.

CB: So is there a label unity? Do you play with the other bands on Thrill Jockey when they come to town?

Erik: We played with Trans Am a couple of times.

Andee: But that probably would have happened regardless of being on Thrill Jockey.

CB: What’s your other band?

Erik: Threnody Ensemble.

John: I’m in this band with Andee called The Ticklish Warrior. Tic-War. We’ve done five or so shows and each one has been incredibly different.

Andee: And?

John: And I’m in this goth band the Amber Asylum where I play bass, cello, violin..

Andee: ...Eyeliner, black velvet cape...

CB: What makes it a goth band?

John: It’s neoclassical.

Erik: I’d probably describe it as 4AD.

John: It’s Relapse, a black metal band label.

Erik: You play a lot in San Jose?

John: Fresno.

CB: Andee, tell me about your other bands.

Andee: I’m in a band that used to be called Pee. It doesn’t have a name.

CB: Do you have a symbol?

Andee: So anyway. Yeah. And for a while I’ve been playing drums for J Church.

CB: How did you end up in J Church?

Andee: We were befriended one day by Lance at the Chameleon when we played, and in a drunken stupor he came up to us and suggested that all of A Minor Forest should play with all of J Church on the next J Church record. "Yeah, two drummers, two bassists, two guitar players! I’m not even kidding!" I think that was the first time I’d ever talked to him. And then later when I talked to him about it he A) denied being drunk and B) told me he was still serious.

CB: Like that Screaming Trees, Beat Happening record.

Andee: Kind of. But probably a little bit more problematic. So then I just started playing with them when their last drummer quit.

CB: Oh yeah, what’s the story with the J Church and Spazz split record?

Andee: We’re doing a bunch of covers, Drop Dead, Siege, Napalm Death and then five or six originals. They’re doing some Spazz pop-punk songs. Something to look forward to.

CB: What do you all do for a living?

Andee: THIS is what I do for a living. Sit on the floor at Aquarius eating cheesesteaks. (Andee works at Aquarius and seems to be scheduled 7 days a week)

John: I have a bunch of different jobs working for disabled people in Berkeley. I do emergency service. I work mostly with paraplegics.

CB: Like, helping them with errands?

John: More physical stuff. Like picking them up off the floor; and stopping them from bleeding.

CB: So emergency response stuff?

Andee: Yeah, but they’ll call him in the morning and have him come and bathe them, feed them, dress them, very generic daily chores.

John: But maybe one out of twenty calls there’s one that’s a severe emergency.

Erik: Sometimes you have to get ground beef.

CB: How long have you been doing that?

John: Seven years.

CB: How did you get started?

John: I started with a couple of therapeutic swim classes. My mom was in a wheelchair for a couple years when I was in high school. It’s really rewarding. There’s nothing that will make you want to continue with your shitty life when you can walk away and use your own hands and legs after helping someone brush their teeth. Every single day I’m reminded of that.

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CB: What do you do Erik?

Erik: Well, I kill babies.

[Everyone Laughs]

Erik: No, I’m still in school. Trying to finish at Berkeley.

CB: What are you studying?

Erik: Music. So I’m trying to finish that so I can...

CB: Get a job as a musician?

Erik: Be a real musician. An actual professional musician.

CB: So will you get any school credit for this band?

Erik: No. Not at all.

CB: How much more do you have to do?

Erik: Two more semesters.

CB: If you went to school where I went, you would definitely get credit for having a band. You’d just have to write a paper about what you learned.

Andee: Where’s that?

CB: Antioch.

Erik: I think we played there this year.

Andee: We got credit for it too.

John: We played a benefit for Big Mountain at Antioch last year.

Andee: It was horrible.

John: Right after we played, we drove to Columbus and played a show at somebody’s house. It was 4:30 in the morning and there were more kids at this house than at the Antioch College show.

CB: That sounds pretty typical actually. Antioch apathy. Now I’m getting depressed.

CB(DJ Hate aka Jason Knuth): Tell us about that song "Bill’s Mom Likes to Fuck"?

Andee: Bill’s mom does indeed like to fuck.

CB(DJ Hate): Who’s Bill?

Andee: Some kid in South Dakota and I can’t remember exactly, but someone was developing photos and found a racy picture of Bill’s mom. And this friend of ours, Jason, coined the phrase "Bill’s Mom Likes to Fuck".

CB: Ok, here’s a dumb question. A lot of A minors or a small forest?

John: I recently found out that loosely translated A Minor Forest is a Japanese term for poetic.

Andee: Not so recently I was informed that A Minor Forest is slang for a girl with no pubic hair.

John: There was that woman who came up to Erik and hugged him and said "I could hear the trees crying."

Andee: It’s from a story. As with all bands it was an emergency and the name was chosen quickly and without much thought.

CB: So is it music or trees?

Andee: A small forest. There’s no reference to the chord A minor. It’s from a story about retarded kids who cut down trees every christmas. Every christmas they cut down A Minor Forest and then one christmas they have an altercation and kill each other. It was just that, we had a show and we didn’t have a bass player. I’d never met John, Erik had. Oh, we can get back into this... Erik had made out with John’s girlfriend...

Erik: Oh come on!

[Everyone Laughs]

Andee: Anyway, he called John and asked if John wanted to be in the band and he said, "I guess." So we had a show scheduled three days later and we needed to have a band name. So, that’s it.

CB: Have you had many interviews where they asked you this question?

All Three: Yeah.

Erik: It’s amazing. The questions are almost invariably almost the same from every interviewer. Which is fine, I mean, it’s like the things that are most glaringly unresolved.

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CB: Ok, so what do you guys fight about?

Erik: That’s a good question!

Andee: We pretty much disagree about food, the shows...

CB: What about shows?

Andee: Well, I like to play a lot. Erik doesn’t like to play as much. John would play a birthday party. He’d play in a goth band.

CB: So you guys actually argue out loud about it?

All: Yes.

Andee: We really argue about everything. That wasn’t a joke.

Erik: I can’t think of one thing we don’t argue about.

Andee: And all the songs are born of argument.

CB: How do you deal with fighting all the time?

John: We’re inherently almost opposite people in a lot of respects. But when it comes down to the music itself, it’s really great.

Andee: Well, the end result.

Erik: Also, things have just changed over time. We’ve been doing this for five years, so as people independent of the band we’ve grown older and have changed. That’s probably part of it too.

Andee: We have a great roadie who distracts us from fighting too.

CB: How did you hook up with him?

John: We found him in North Dakota, he had just gotten out of the air force.

Andee: If you buy him a cup of coffee he’ll drive from sunup to sundown and talk continuously the entire time. So even if you’re the one driving, he’ll sit there and talk. You know how if you’re listening to the radio you fall asleep, but if you’re talking to someone you can stay awake. He’s just amazing.

CB: What else does he do?

Andee: He works at Kinko’s.

Erik: He’s got really wacky christian parents who used to work at Hershey’s in Pennsylvania.

Andee: Who we stayed with and they played us christian rap, because they thought we’d like it. And because I’m the only meat eater in the group, I was the only one who got to share the late-night snack with dad. He heated up some meatloaf and he told me that even though I was weird, and he was normal, we could still relate. Just as long as I’m good and he’s good, it’s all good.

CB: So what’s your roadie’s name?

Andee: James. I’m not going to tell you his last name.

CB: That’s ok, I think I know who he is.

Andee: And I’m sure, those who need to figure it out will.

CB: How do crowds react to you guys when you’re playing with punk bands and stuff?

Andee: I think we’ve been pretty lucky actually.

John: We were shouted down by the word "Slayer" when we played in North Dakota.

Andee: That was out of love though.

Erik: I think the only times it’s been bad it’s been basically because we were playing for people who had no idea what kind of music we were playing.

CB: What kind of music is that?

Erik: Well, anything that was not played on commercial radio.

Andee: We’re not pop punk. But we always have really good luck at Gilman Street. All the crusties really like A Minor Forest for some reason. There really haven’t been that many bad shows, but I do remember the time that guy Jon from Crain heckled us the whole show. Every time there was a quiet part, he’d yell "Slanted and Enchanted"; for like an hour.

CB: I know him actually. He went to Antioch.

Erik: That’s just the style in Louisville. That’s what you do at shows there. You just heckle people.

Andee: He came up afterwards and was really nice.

CB: Have you had any celebrity run-ins?

Andee: Well Erik and John ran into Henry Rollins buying groceries.

John: He looked freaked out. He looked scared.

Andee: And one time I was running out of a restaurant and almost knocked over Patti Smith. I was like, "Oh, sorry." And then I spun around and thought, "I just nearly injured Patti Smith!"

John: I got to talk to Chelsea Clinton at the last Bridge Benefit. I asked her, "Who are you here to see?" and she said, "I love the Dave Matthews Band."

Andee: And you could relate because last time we played at Gilman some kid came up and was like, "You guys rock." "Thanks!" "Yeah, you know the Dave Matthews Band? They rock too!"

CB: Was Chelsea cuter or less cute than you imagined.

John: She was cute! She smelled hot. She was holding hands with two other young girls and they ran off together, after I asked her that, like they were twelve.

CB: Any good tour stories?

Andee: Oh, I know one. We were in Texas and some friend of John’s said we could sleep in the shed behind his house. So we got to the shed and the floor and the cement was all cracked, you could see the Earth. John and his friend slept in the shed. Erik and I wisely slept somewhere else. In the morning, John had this huge bump/bite on his head. He kept saying he’d been bit. Over the next half hour he proceeded to get hives all over his chest and back. His head puffed up, and his features became distorted. He looked like a completely different person. We took a bunch of pictures because he looked so bizarre. We took him to the hospital. By that time his ears had swollen shut so he couldn’t hear, and his throat was swollen shut so he could barely breathe. They gave him a bunch of drugs at the hospital and told us if we hadn’t gotten John to the hospital, he would have died because his brain was swelling up!


A Minor Forest Discography

Bear Hug Cassette
Coed as Hell 7" (Karate)
Skam compilation (Skam)
Annoying, Tour Only 12" (1/2 pink 1/2 green all locked grooves)
Napoleon 7" compilation (Monkey Bite)
Split 7" w/ Gainer (Divot)
Split 7" w/ 3 Mile Pilot (Slave Cut)
Flemish Altruism 2LP/CD (Thrill Jockey)
Cool Beans! #8 compilation (Cool Beans!)

Upcoming releases

New LP on Thrill Jockey
Split 12" of Metallica covers w/ The Champs (Temporary Residence)
Improv 12" (Temporary Residence)
Compilation of out of print singles, comp tracks and unreleased stuff including a cover of "Lady" by the Little River Band (My Pal God)
My Pal Ohio comp
7" Comp/magazine (on Fried Seth in Indiana)