Like Rats fuse furious hardcore with collossal Celtic Frost style riffs, and have recently made their new 7″ EP available as a ‘pay-as-you-please’ download. M3 talked to guitarist Todd Nief about their forthcoming full-length and the late 80’s heyday of extreme metal…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Todd – My name is Todd and I play guitar for a band called Like Rats. I also read, exercise, and have dietary restrictions.
What inspired you to form Like Rats? What is your own musical background?
We formed Like Rats as a continuation of a quick little metal project that Andy, Dan & I had done. When we formed Like Rats, we wanted to play those metal/Celtic Frost riffs in a slightly more punk context (maybe some Scandinavian hardcore influence, can’t remember what I was thinking at the time), but the band has since taken on a much more death metal direction.
My musical background probably started with my dad playing me Rolling Stones songs, although some of the earliest musical memories I have are listening to the 69 Boyz and Freak Nasty on the radio while doing my homework in like third grade. For a while, I made tapes of Foo Fighters, The Offspring and Busta Rhymes off the radio, then I got into “underground” music around age twelve via bands like Rancid and Less Than Jake and kids with cool older brothers in my math class. By 18, I was a full-fledged “music freak*,” with a particular interest in metal.
My first band in high school was a hilariously overly ambitious technical metalcore band that actually kind of sounded like “screamo” bands like My Lai and Orchid, although we weren’t particularly influenced by them. Since then, I’ve been involved in several projects of varying genres that I don’t really want anyone to hear at all. Oh and I played clarinet and tenor saxophone in school band starting at age nine or so.
What was the reasoning behind making your recent 7″ EP available for free or ‘pay-as-you-please’ download?
We are all twenty-something individuals who have been downloading music for most of our adult lives. As such, we recognize the value in having music freely available to people who want it. Also, we recognize that people do want to support artists that they like. So, offering a free download as well as a “pay what you want” download allows people to access the music easily and also offer financial support if they so desire.
It’s not like we’re trying to pay our bills with royalties from Like Rats or anything, so we have no problem giving our stuff away for free, especially since people are going to get it for free one way or another.
I also believe that people will pay for something they find valuable, even if it’s available for free. In the context of Like Rats, people will download our record for free then donate or buy a physical copy or come to a show if they like it, so there is some self-serving marketing in producing great content and making it freely available.
What benefits and/or disadvantages have arisen from this distribution method?
I don’t think I have much perspective on this, because Like Rats has been the first band I’ve been involved with that people who I don’t personally know actually care about on any level. I’ve been burning CD-R demos for my bands since high school and trying to give them away, and no one ever cared at all.
So, I’m stoked if I ship a record to another state, let alone another country. I’m also stoked if we cross 1000 downloads, paid or not.
But really, I think that if you offer value to people, the distribution method amounts to nothing more than logistics. If you make something good, people are going to get it for free via any number of channels, and people are going to buy it via any number of channels.
On average, how many people would you say still pay for a release when given the option to download for free?
You know, I don’t have these numbers handy. However, I know that more people download for free than choose to pay. Still, we’ve gotten a pretty reasonable amount of people choosing to donate when they download.
Would you say this method is a realistic possibility for the future of music distribution?
If you look at sites like Bandcamp, it’s already the reality of music distribution for many people. Not sure how it works for someone trying to support themselves via record sales, but it’s not like most artists saw much money from their record sales in the past, either.
It’s cool because artists can take more responsibility for the distribution of their music. However, giving things away can devalue a product and take some of the excitement out of it.
Similarly, the low barrier of entry to having an online band presence has flooded the marketplace with crap and totally jaded and desensitized music consumers. No I don’t want to go to your event. No I don’t want to read your press release. No I don’t want to like your page for a free download. No I don’t want to realize that my musical hero is a lame idiot via his Twitter page. Etc.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
This is a tricky question, because the ways that I actually listen to music most often are on my computer while I’m working on something (Serge Gainsbourg coming through crappy speakers right now, for example) or via CD in my car while driving. I’ve never been a fan of MP3 players, really. Scrolling through a list of artists is some sort of psychological barrier for me.
The act of putting on a record and listening to the whole thing is very satisfying, but not something I do anywhere near as much as I would like. Partially because my receiver broke and I haven’t bothered to buy a new one oops. I actually have a gigantic CD collection, and I have to say that the pop-top CD player has been my best musical friend for about fifteen years.
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
I do think that the idea of the album has been undermined. However, I don’t think “the album” has ever had much value to people other than the artists creating it and weird, intense music fans. Singles were the format for most releases until probably the late 1960s, right? So the album had a heyday for a few decades, and now people are just buying individual songs again.
Still, I maintain that music is simple entertainment for most people, and that they never cared to process music as albums anyway. That’s reserved for us nerds. And nerdy bands will continue to make cohesive albums for nerds. And some especially nerdy bands will continue to make concept albums for assorted basement dwellers.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
It’s hard for me to believe the the digital age has killed the record store when there are at least five fantastic record stores within two miles of my apartment. I have to be careful of these places because if I accidentally go inside, I will spend money on things that I don’t need. However, these record stores cater to the niche of “music fans.” There will always be people that want to collect physical copies of their music. I mean, people collect stamps and bugs and all sorts of creepy things. Although the record store may be reduced to a collector’s store, those collectors will always exist.
What is your take on the current SOPA/ACTA controversy?
The internet is totally out of control, which I think is awesome. People who have money and jobs dependent on intellectual property rights and things like that are understandably less enthused about everyone just doing whatever they want all of the time. I can’t see how regulations can effectively curtail online piracy without getting into some scary privacy stuff, but that doesn’t mean that those with interest aren’t going to continue to try. I think the overwhelming majority of people want to keep doing whatever they want, though, and there will be continued backlash against attempting to stop them.
Finally, what does the future have in store for Like Rats?
We have our debut full-length coming out on A389 records spring 2012. Our goal was to create a sound reminiscent of the creativity going on in extreme metal in the late 80s and early 90s. A lot of bands were taking influences from Celtic Frost, Sepultura, Sodom, etc. and twisting them in different ways, and we tried to pretend that we were a band in that same time period trying to create something new out of the same influences. I’m very proud of it, and really excited to have it out there.
For more information about Like Rats, head over to their official site to purchase their new 7″ EP, or freely download a digital copy.