Friday, February 15, 2008

Absolutepunk Interviews Paint it Black's Dan Yemin!

huge thanks to Julia Conny and the entire Absolutepunk staff!

Paint It Black (Dan Yemin)
by Julia Conny

Most business folk live and die by the resume. But punk rock kids? Hardcore kids and real music fans? They don't give a shit about who you know or how much vinyl you own - unless, of course, you reach idol status. Then, it's all about the resume. It's all about where you've been and what you've done, because that's when kids say, hey, this one matters. This one made a difference. And this is where Dan Yemin, singer for Paint It Black, guitarist for Lifetime and previously Kid Dynamite, strolls into the picture. Thank you to Dan for answering questions and thank you to Derek from Solid PR hooking this up.

Ok, first of all, hello Dan! Great to hear from you, and thanks so much for doing this. I should also mention that a good bunch of these questions are from one of our users - RyanFTW is his username - who is a big fan of yours.

Let's start off with your name and what you do in Paint It Black, just for the record.

Dan: My name is Dan, and I “sing” for Paint It Black.

I think we should start with New Lexicon. What do you want your listeners to walk away with after they listen to the album?

Dan: I would hope that they feel excited by the music and inspired or empowered by the lyrics. That might be a lofty aspiration, but I think music has the power to empower people to make changes in their lives, and to get through difficult times in their lives. It’s done that for me over the years, and I hope I can return the favor in some way. I hope that people feel like the album stands out, both in terms of sound and content. Ideally, I hope that people put it on in their car or in their bedroom, crank it really loud and be blown away. After the initial impact, I hope people listen to it on headphones and appreciate the texture and density of the recording.

Which of these new songs are you looking forward to playing the most?

Dan: I like playing “White Kids Dying of Hunger”. That drum break at the end just gets me so stoked.

How did you manage to hook up with Jeff Pezzati? ("Shell Game Redux" is a beast of a song, by the way).

Dan: First, let me way that we are HUGE Naked Raygun fans. They are hands down one of the most exciting and influential US bands that were making music in the 80’s. I wrote that anthem part at the end, and then the guys sort of re-arranged it for maximum impact. We always joked about having Pezzati sing it, and one day I just thought, “Maybe we could actually make it happen...” In addition to Naked Raygun, Jeff is also in a band called The Bomb, and J. Robbins, who produced Paradise and co-produced New Lexicon, also produced their record. I’ve also known The Bomb’s guitarist, Jeff Dean, for like 15 years. He was the first kid I ever knew to get a Lifetime tattoo. I called both Jeff D. and J. and asked about the possibility of Pezzati singing, and a couple of days later, he got in touch with me. The logistics were fairly easy. Josh recorded the vocal part as a reference for Pezzati, and we were able to email the song to friends in Chicago as data files so Pezzati could record vocals. Technology, man...

How easy (or hard) was this record to write in comparison to CVA and Paradise?

Dan: In some ways it was a little bit more difficult because there were several times when I thought I was finished, and then there would be this nagging thought that something was missing, and it was back to the drawing board. In terms of arrangement and rehearsal, things were much easier. The current lineup of P.I.B. has an amazing work ethic, and I was able to let go of the songs to a greater extent, so I could back off and let Andy, Josh, and Jared handle the arrangements. Lyrics and vocal cadences are always the hardest part, because compared to writing on guitar or bass, its a relatively new form for me. I’m definitely getting more comfortable with it, and I’m really really proud of the lyrics. I got to have a lot more fun with language.

Why have Oktopus handle the mixing?

Dan: Have you heard Dalek’s albums? They’re heavy and apocalyptic. We figured having him do post-production and mixing would be a really exciting way to challenge the traditional hardcore punk format. The songs are heavy live, but on the record the songs take on another dimension. There are layers of sound underneath the drums, bass, and guitar, those layers are made up of manipulated and transposed samples of our source material, field recordings, tape loops, and some string section samples. I still hear something different every time I listen, especially on headphones.

The music blogsphere is calling for a revival of vinyl and an increase of vinyl sales for 2008? What are your thoughts on this?

Dan: Awesome. Vinyl rules. It sounds better, and adds a tactile element to music ownership. Plus the art is normal size instead of shrunk down. CD’s are a dead scene, man. Destroy that shit system.

Kid Dynamite, Lifetime, Paint It Black ... Three great, hugely influential bands. What are some of the most poignant moments of your music career?

Dan: Too many to mention. But overall, touring, meeting new people, and getting personal feedback from people about the impact the music has had on them. It’s really gratifying when people take the time to write or email or come up to us at a show and share that with us. It’s the ultimate feeling of success. Also, I feel embarrassed to admit this, but there’s a little too much ego wrapped in making music for me. Sometimes, certain reviews have really excited me over the years: a review of Lifetime’s Tinnitus in HeartAttack that started with the words “holy shit”. Or when Hello Bastards was on most of the writers annual tip ten lists in Punk Planet. Or when WKDU in Philly played the Kid Dynamite album in its entirety twice back to back. When Paradise was album of the year on Punk News and Paste Punk. I always sucked at sports, so those experiences are my trophies.

What is your favorite local venue? How important do you regard local venues to Paint It Black, or any music venture you've been involved in? As the context and attitude of music changes, how do local venues change?

Dan: The First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. It’s my favorite place to play, and with only a few brief interruptions, its been a constant for for us here for the past 14 years. I’m so proud of this scene. It took on Clear Channel (giant mega-corporation that owns concert venues, radio station, and billboards, and have a serious right wing, pro-war bias) in this modern David vs. Goliath tale, and emerged with only minor injuries. Paint It Black won’t play Clear Channel shows, so local independent or DIY venues are important to us for so many reasons, both practical and political. Punk shows have gotten increasingly business oriented, and we lose something in the translation when that happens.

Do you have any other touring plans lined up other than the dates in March?

Dan: Definitely. We’ll be hitting the West Coast, and parts of the Midwest, Texas, and Florida. And definitely Europe in the summer. Keep your eyes open and you’ll find us. You may have to take a little road trip and meet us halfway, but we’ll definitely get the chance to see each other.

What do you think of a lot of underground legends (American Steel, Face to Face, Hot Water Music) getting back together? Do you think the music community needs these bands to be around? On a related note, what band(s) would like to see a reunion from?

Dan: I have an obvious bias here because of Lifetime. I’ve definitely changed my tune over the years on this issue. I used to think that reunions shifted a musician’s focus from present to past, but I’ve found that doesn’t have to be the case. As long as bands aren’t exploiting us, they should do whatever they want. In general, I think we need new bands more than we need old bands...

Let's talk about the word "underground." It used to be a defining factor in punk and hardcore genres, and now it operates in a gray area. With the Internet as a major promotional vehicle, is the word "underground" still applicable? Are you happy where underground music is now?

Dan: I think that the underground is just further underground. There’s mainstream, then there’s a big gray area where mainstream and underground overlap. I’m sure that the reality is much more complex and nuanced, but you sometimes you need to oversimplify things to explain them when you have limited space. As an example though, My Chemical Romance is mainstream, Rise Against or Comeback Kid is in that gray area, Tragedy is underground.

Do you employ any tricks to maintain or protect your voice? If so, what are they?

Dan: Clean Living...

Is it hard to balance being involved in so many projects? AND you're a teen psychologist. How do you find time to do everything?! Can you teleport? If so, please teach us.

Dan: I’ve mastered the art of overextending myself. Also, I have a clone. It gets confusing sometimes.

Your list of accomplishes is inspiring. What other sorts of things do you hope to do one day? Sky-diving? Release a techno record? Run for office?

Dan: Man, you’ve gotta stop flattering me. I’m blushing. I want to keep making records and helping people overcome obstacles. I want to make my wife happy and have a baby. I want it all.

That's all I have! Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, and best of luck in everything. Please let me know if there is anything I can help you with.

Dan: Thank you for the support. Seriously, from the bottom of my heart.