Interview – Chest Pain

Austin’s Chest Pain play blistering hardcore punk with more than a passing nod to the glory days of late 80’s powerviolence. M3 spoke to bassist Matt Needles about their free EP, the difficult issue of copyright and their upcoming tour…

M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Chest Pain – Howdy, my name is Matt Needles, I play bass in Chest Pain and I release analog format recordings through Depleted Resource Records. In my spare time I book hardcore shows in Austin, Texas. Sometimes I make art for bands if I don’t hate their music. I used to be a college radio DJ.  I drink my coffee black and I like petting cats.

What inspired you to start Chest Pain? What are your own musical backgrounds?
Chest Pain got started a few months after Brian Chamblee (Guitar) and I started hosting a late night all hardcore show on KVRX, the local college radio station. Our friends started to come hang out each week and everybody would bring in records to play. Eventually Travis Smith (vocals) and Ariel Golan (first drummer) were both coming in each week and one night after the show we talked about starting a band  over pancakes at Kerbey lane (a local place that serves pancakes all night long).  I think our initial idea was something in between Void and Born Against but when we jammed what came out sounded more like old west coast powerviolence/freak punk stuff.  We all were into those bands and liked what we were jamming on, so we kept moving in that direction.  We all like playing fast,  drinking coffee, blast beats and yelling, so we just let our sound coalesce around those shared interests.

Personally speaking:  I played saxophone for six years in school band and picked up a bass because my friend started a Weezer cover band and needed a bassist. I had few punk CDs like Minor Threat and Black Flag and saw a couple of local shows but hardcore didn’t really click for me until I was a freshman in the dorms at the University of Texas. I like 70’s rock, Miles Davis, and almost every band that had an affiliation with Sam Mcpheeter’s Vermiform Records back in the late 80’s/early 90’s.

I think music is pretty fascinating.

What was the reasoning behind making your EP available for free download?
I released our S/T EP on Depleted Resource with a limited pressing of 200 copies before we went on an east coast tour in the fall of 2010. After selling out of the physical copies of the record I put the tracks up on Bandcamp so people could still listen to the songs even though the record was out of print and hard to find. Once it was up on Bandcamp I received an email from J Randall of Agoraphobic Nosebleed saying that he dug our songs and asking if we’d like to be included on his Grindcore Karaoke net label. We agreed and he re-hosted the 7″ songs on his page and advertised it around the web to his audience of fans and readers/followers. Having a slightly more notable musician endorse your music definitely helps get new bands attention on the internet and he has done a great job making Grindcore Karaoke into a tastemaker of what’s new and cool in extreme punk and grind. We had almost 5,000 plays off of his site in the first week it was posted and wound up being one of the most listened to bands on that site which was pretty cool. After having the EP streaming on the web for about a year we talked with Will Butler from To Live a Lie Records about repressing it again as a 7″, so now it’s readily available for fans in both the physical and ephemeral realms.

I think there’s an excellent democratizing process being undertaken in the market place of music as bands are increasingly finding cheaper and easier methods to record music themselves and find avenues to promote themselves.   Whether we actively admit it or not we’re a part of that process and are actively participating in a fluctuation of market and industry that is different that any before it.

What benefits and/or disadvantages have arisen from this distribution method?
The benefit is that we have almost complete control over our music and how it is released and shared with the world. We don’t have to sign a contract obligating us to move a certain number of units or reach a certain set number of paying audience members. We make the music we like how we like it without any outside force affecting that process . We might be losing out on some slim sliver of income that could be squeezed out of the internet like an old orange but I never got involved with punk rock or hardcore with the expectation that I’d make money.

On average, how many people would you say still pay for a release when given the option to download for free?
I really don’t know, but I’m going to guess Zero. I personally wouldn’t pay for something I could download for free, but I am always surprised by what people deem worthy of their money and time.  I get the impression a lot of American bands are on the same page about releasing music freely in the digital realm and charging for the actual physical record.

What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Vinyl for sure. No download ever sounds as good as listening to a freshly pressed copy of a well mastered new record. Plus my computer speakers can’t carry nearly as much low end as my stereo.

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?
From a pop music perspective I could see that being the case. As more and more major label pop artists do the glut of their work in singles and videos,  an album usually represents a collection of songs (usually released as standalone examples of the artist) featuring collaborations between the same singer and producer.  Usually this allows for a unified sound but not a unified concept like you might expect from a Led Zepplin or a Todd Rundgren record. There are artists producing high quality full length albums that flow and convey concepts as a packaged set of ideas and song (Graveyard, Dead Language, and Wiccans all seem like worthy examples that could fit this bill) but they are generally operating in some form of underground or away from the modern American mainstream music industry… Either way, I listen to both sides of LPs I buy.

Do you think that the internet has rendered traditional concepts of copyright obsolete, or do you think they are still relevant?
If it hasn’t yet it will in the next 20-30 years. I think the recent actions in England pushing back the expiration of existing copyrights just as a number of popular Beatles songs were about to expire served as an interesting lesson to a lot of music fans about just who really needs copyright and how little it benefits the artist responsible for the actual music.

What is your take on the recent SOPA/ACTA controversy?
So much nonsense vomited unnecessarily into the public dialogue due to American politicians being short sighted and greedy when they should be voting for the interests of the people they represent.  Legislation similar to these bills will keep coming back every year as long as the US congress continues to allow bills to be ghostwritten by lobbying interests.

Finally, what does the future have in store for Chest Pain?
We’re definitely going to drink coffee, pet cats, skateboard, and argue about minutiae ad nauseum. In between all of that I think we might find time to record a full length LP and a live 7″.  Later this summer we will be touring all over the west coast. There was talk of us planning a European tour but we most likely won’t have the time for that until next year.  Does anybody in Europe want to book us?  Bring us to your wonderful continent! Europeans had such a great idea when they kicked out all those Protestant bores a few hundred years ago but now they run our country and it’s a bummer for us. You owe us. Come on.

Chest Pain’s self titled EP is available for free download now. For more information about the band, you can visit their official Facebook page and purchase merchandise through their Big Cartel page. You can also catch the band on their upcoming US tour at the following places –

6/15  Austin TX @ slamalot W/ Nasa Space Universe
6/16  El Paso TX
6/17  Phoenix AZ
6/18  San Diego CA
6/19  Tijuana Mexico
6/20  Los Angeles CA@Mcworld  – W/ ACxDC, Low Places, Stoic Violence
6/21  Bakersfield CA  @ The Killer Clam w/ Suffering Luna
6/22  Berkeley CA (Gnarmageddon)
6/23  Ventura CA  (Gnarmageddon) & Gnargaritaville After party
6/24  Oakland CA – Gilman
6/25  Portland OR
6/26  Olympia WA W/ White Wards
6/27  Tacoma WA  W/ White Wards
6/28  Victoria BC Canada – W/ SBB, Obacha
6/29  Vancouver BC Canada W/ Mass Grave
6/30  Seattle WA – W/ Iron Lung, White Wards, Mutant Video
7/1    Boise ID – W/ Hummingbird of Death
7/2    Salt Lake City UT
7/3    Denver CO @ Blast’o’mat
7/4    Kansas City MO W/ Nasa Space Universe
7/5    Fort Worth TX

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About M3 Event

The music industry is rapidly changing. The internet has enabled widespread piracy, as well as a variety of new business and distribution models. We want to offer an engaged audience in and around the Euregion an opportunity to develop a coherent and detailed picture of the future of music distribution. On the 31st of May 2012 a music conference in Maastricht, consisting of oppositional debates, creative workshops and lectures, will provoke opportunities for intellectual stimulation, debate, as well as networking. We hope to utilise the skills and ideas of some of most forward thinking minds and operators in the industry in order to highlight some promising new ideas and areas which can be improved upon.

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