Can you briefly summarize how the band formed and what you do in Paria?
Dustin: Back in the year 2000, John (guitar) and Corey (drums) went to high school together, but actually met when they were sacking groceries together at Baker’s. They formed a band called Splitlobe. I was also in a band called Bellicose and our drummer also worked at Baker’s as a sacker. Bellicose was already somewhat established and the Splitlobe guys seemed like nice dudes so we set them up with their first show. It was pure nu-metal mayhem! I was really impressed with the talent these guys had and saw a lot of potential in them so we did lots of shows together, shared gear, and started hanging out all the time. We even went as far as trying to write a mass collaborative song with both bands, but the attention span of high school kids is fairly weak so that didn’t work. Eventually both bands fell apart. Splitlobe basically got back together with a different vocalist (Andrew Gustofson). The bassist, Tim Greenup left the band as Bellicose was coming to an end so I told John that I was interested and they gave me the spot back in late 2001. Andrew moved to second guitar and we added Steve Athay on vocals. Steve was commuting an hour from Lincoln, NE for shows and practice, then moved back to his hometown in La Mars, IA so it made it difficult for him to dedicate himself to the band. Brian Craig, his college roommate expressed interest in trying out, which we thought was cool because he had a really deep and unique sound to his speaking voice. The guy had never held a microphone or really tried screaming before, but it turned out that he was a natural. I remember trying him out and being blown away at how loud and abrasive he was.
Your lyrics are infused with heavy detail and raw emotion. What is it that normally gives you inspiration when writing lyrics and is there a concept behind the writing of The Barnacle Cordious?
Brian: All of my lyrics are inspired by something different. Ultimately, they all deal with the human condition and the things of everyday life influence them. Some of my lyrics have been inspired by events in the news; others by relationships. The lyrics on The Barnacle Cordious were particularly inspired by the music itself. I had the opportunity to have a copy of the music by itself allowing me to listen to it when writing my lyrics. I would listen to each song over and over attempting to visualize what events the music made me think of. I saw war and acts of the worst kind. I took those feelings and images inspired by the music and tried to put them into words. They are an intentional lyrical manifestation of the music itself.
You just released The Barnacle Cordious, how has the reactions been thus far? What can fans expect when they pick up a copy?
Dustin: I search for reviews on Google fairly often and I have probably came across about a dozen good or great ones and one or two bad ones. Some of the reviews have been so good that they’ve sent chills up my spine. Just knowing that we evoked these kind of reactions out of listeners whose job is to critique music is extremely gratifying. We worked really hard on this album, never forcing anything that felt unnatural to us, and I think those who give it a chance will notice that. We are firm believers in a constant and natural progression with our sound so we mess around with a lot of ideas. We are all very meticulous songwriters so there is a very fine attention to detail as well. We are also a very eclectic bunch of musicians. We all listen to a pretty wide variety of music, but not necessarily the same variety. It often times causes each of us to pull the in different directions, but I think that’s part of what gives us our sound.
When it came to releasing The Barnacle Cordious how did that whole package come together? What was the recording process like, how long did you have, was their any pressure on you?
We had recorded a demo with our friend Jeff at his new studio, Infinite Productions, and had a really great experience working with him on that, so we decided to track the full length there as well. He’s very relaxed, easy going, and even when we were describing really specific parts of the songs (ie one of us making the sound of our instrument with our mouth), he always knew what parts we were referring to, making it very easy to work with him. It showed me that he was really paying attention because our songs are long and each of us describes our parts differently. Jeff has a curious experimental side too so any time we wanted to try something that was a little unusual, he was always enthused even if it was just to see how it would sound. Time was never an issue with him either. He cared much more about making this album exactly what we wanted it to be and was always flexible with his schedule. Then we did all the mixing and mastering with Jocko up in Syracuse, NY, who was referred to us by Guy Kozowyk. I spoke to Jocko on the phone once every few weeks for about a year until we actually flew up there with our unmixed tracks. Jocko has a perfect balance of a very abstract, creative, and imaginary side with a very right-brained booksmart side. We listened to samples of his recordings and none of them sounded the same. He had not only recorded just about every style of music imaginable, he had made them all sound exactly how they should sound.
How do you think you will effect the Metal scene you are part of? What are your thoughts on the growing popularity in it as well?
Dustin: I think that we will certainly turn a lot of heads with our sound because its pretty abrasive and we’re a band without a weak member. At the risk of sounding arrogant, all the guys in Paria are good enough at what we do to be considered the lead instrument. It just depends where the listener’s focus is. Different people are going to like us for different reasons.
How has Black Market Activities been thus far for you guys? Who approached who?
Dustin: We actually just submitted our demo with a one-page and a photo to them the old fashioned way. We made everything look somewhat professional for the budget that we had, but on the demo, the drums were mixed really low. John and Guy talked for a while over AIM and on the phone basically about our intentions and long term goals as a band, then Guy asked for some live footage of us (this was pre-youtube days so we had to send him a VHS tape). The camera angle happened to be right behind Corey (drums), which thoroughly impressed him and made his talent apparent to Guy since he couldn’t really hear it much on the demo, so he offered us a deal.
Who did the artwork and title for the album, when you look on the final project, is there anything you wish you could have done differently?
Dustin: Our friend Jon Tvrdik did the artwork for both The Barnacle Cordious and Misanthropos albums. His artwork is very unique and seems to be done very tastefully. Its always very busy and has a certain degree of elegance to it, but its not over the top and doesn’t seem like its busy for the sake of being busy. He uses a lot of layers so there are new things to find in his art all the time. Our package didn’t get printed on the paper that we had specified so the artwork came out much darker than we had anticipated so I would definitely change that/correct it for next time. I also would have liked to had the insert bigger so that they lyrics, credits, and thank yous were more legible.
The name of the band Paria, is interesting to say the least and sounds as if there is a story behind it. Where did the name come from and what is the story?
Dustin: I joined the band a few months after its inception so I wasn’t around when the name was decided upon, but initially it was taken from “Pariah” meaning an outcast, which I believe, is also the lowest level of the social hierarchy in India. Other bands had the name already so they decided to take the nu-metal route and manipulate the correct spelling of the word. Later we found out that the way we spell it is the name of a flower that only grows out of murky or muddy water so we think of it as a metaphor for good things coming from bad situations or being able to break through your dull surroundings and stand out.
Many of your songs are so hard and intense that I am sure they translate well into a live setting taking on a whole new life in front of a live audience. How does it make you feel when the emotion and power that you envisioned in the recording studio, come to life while playing in front of a crowd?
Dustin: Its absolutely incredible to know that we are capable of evoking the intensity and impact we feel from playing the songs into other people. It’s almost like communicating without words.
Different groups have unique ways of writing their songs. How do you guys go about writing your music? Is it a collective effort or is it more the efforts of one particular member of the band?
Dustin: The majority of the writing is done together, but everything usually spawns from a guitar or bass riff and elaborated from there. Writing as a group poses some difficulties though because everyone in Paria is opinionated and picky about what we write, but this isn’t necessarily completely bad because it causes us each to put a lot of thought and effort into our songs. When you are writing and playing parts you wrote yourself, you feel a much bigger connection with the music.
What are the upcoming plans for Paria?
Right now we are playing lots of shows locally and regionally on the weekends to help promote our new album. No tour plans are set up at this time simply because we feel that it would be much more beneficial to us to try and obtain an opening slot on a tour rather than headline or tour by ourselves. So if you’re reading this Metallica, Burnt By the Sun, and Mastodon, we are ready to tour with you now.
Going back to the music business, what do you think of everyone downloading music, possibly even your music? Do you think it helps or hurts bands in the long run?
I think the situation depends completely on the amount of touring the band does and their overall goals. Downloading definitely provides a much more opportunity for exposure, but at the same time, the ease of exposure has caused an enormous amount of saturation. That, however, is another topic I could tangent on. If a band’s primary motive is just to get heard without touring, than if they have material worth listening to, they will get passed around and heard by plenty. The downside though, is that people are starting to get in the mindset that they shouldn’t have to pay for music, which kind of sucks for those who want to do it for a living. I guess people will have to start doing music for the love of it again. I do think the increased amount of exposure and less discretionary income spent on music in a tangible form has increased attendance at shows, thus a listener is now more willing to trade off the money they would have spent on a CD for a higher concert ticket price or spend it on merch, which, for the most part, goes directly into the band’s pocket.
How has MYSPACE and the internet impacted your band and do you think downloading helps or hinders the artists?
Dustin: We were around in the pre-myspace days when bands had webpages. I think there are two sides to this coin as well. It has indeed made it easier for bands to have a page now because its basically laid out in a template. When we first started out, I literally had a program called something like “Websites for Dummies” so that I could teach myself how to create a website for Paria. So the good side of the coin is that yes, it is much more convenient and easier to reach you fans with myspace, but the bad side is that it is almost too easy to do so. When bands had to build websites, only the more serious bands (or someone who had a lot of extra time on their hands) had websites. Now that its convenient and easy enough to create a page in a matter of a fifteen minutes, its become pretty saturated. This can hurt bands because now that I receive 20 friend requests from bands on my myspace a day, I never listen to any of them anymore and do most of my music searching through LastFM or word of mouth. I feel so oversolicited on myspace that I just ignore it all.
What is the toughest lesson you ever learned in the studio and on the stage?
Dustin: I’d say in the studio that my biggest thing I’ve learned is to perfect your tone, don’t rush things, but also don’t be overly picky. You have to place your focus and time into things that matter most. I feel like I could tweak an album for months and still not be 100% happy with it, but you have to reach a point where it is done. I always have to set my completed albums aside for a few months so I forget about all the tiny little things that used to bother me about it.
On stage I’ve learned that while it may be more fun to drink lots of beer before a performance, it’s not always in my best interest. I mean, when you are really active on stage, it’s almost like a form of exercise and I don’t know anyone who slams beers before they go jogging. I remember specifically a time where I chugged a 40oz before a show and immediately after we were done playing, I rushed to the bathroom, kicked open the stall door and barfed it all up. Apparently “exercise” and beer aren’t the best combination. I have also realized that I as I get older, I care more about playing my bass with much more precision, which I don’t do as well when I’ve had a few.
What bands would you like to tour with and who has been your favorite to tour with this far? Any particular reason?
Dustin: This is a tough question! I’ve really enjoyed so many of the bands we’ve toured with for different reasons musically and on personal levels, but I’d say the one we connected with most on both levels would be The Esoteric. Psyopus on the other hand might have been the most fun. We played a lot of pranks on each other throughout the tour. On the tour, we finished them off so good that they skipped a date on a tour 6 months later to stay in town and ambush us at a fest. We were in the middle of a song and a girl walked out holding a big sign that said something like “Psyopus owns you pussies!” The next thing I knew, my band was being pelted with flour and glitter wrapped in paper towels. We were caught completely off guard because as far as we knew, Psyopus was 5 hours away from us. Apparently they sat around all day making the flour bombs. Props to them for winning the prank war.
What is currently playing on your iPod or CD Player?
Dustin: Weezer- Blue Album
Describe Paria in three words.
Dustin: Abrasive – real – zaney
If you had a chance to go back in time, where, what, and why?
Dustin: I would either go see Nirvana Unplugged or Alice in Chains Unplugged. Those are two albums I can never get enough of and the people who saw them recorded live had an unreplicable experience that only happened once. Its way better than seeing a band on a tour because they play essentially the same show every night for weeks. These shows happened one time only and to me, are absolutely timeless.
How do you think the recession is affecting musicians like yourself? Is it at all?
Dustin: I don’t think that the recession has impacted Nebraska nearly as much as it has affected other places in the country. I work for a CD manufacturing company pressing CD’s for bands and labels and I have observed a decline in our business as of late, but its difficult to tell whether that is from the economy or from the music industry. One could probably make an argument that both are affecting each other. The state of the economy has certainly made me more weary about touring full time since finding a job has proven to be very difficult. People seem to be holding onto their jobs with a firm grip right now.
What’s your reaction when/if a fan told you a very meaningful statement such as “Your music changed my life?” Has this ever happened to you?
Dustin: Answering this question is a little tongue in cheek for me because I feel a little bit arrogant or like I’m bragging by talking about this, but yes, its extremely flattering. I’ve had a lot of flattering comments both about Paria’s music and more specifically about my bass playing. It feels great to know that the hard work and creative thought I’ve put into the band are so appreciated and impactful on people. There really isn’t a perfect adjective to describe the feeling. I know how much I admire other musicians and I can never really put into words how much I love their music, how its influenced me, or how its impacted me personally. It’s nothing short of incredible to know that I am on the other end of that to some people.
Every band has its musical influences. What are some of the other bands and artists that have greatly influenced you guys and your music?
Dustin: Well, each of us derives our influences from a lot of different styles. All of us are pretty scattered with our preferences. John, for example, derives a lot of his influence from classic rock and I derive most of mine from 90’s rock, post rock, and electronic music. As a collective though, a few bands that we all agree on are Alice in Chains, Mastodon, Pantera, The Red Chord, Pink Floyd, Primus, Metallica, and Burnt By the Sun.
All of that passion that you play with must be tough on you physically. How do you prepare for the physical demands of a tour?
Dustin: Its indeed taxing on our bodies. I try to relax a lot before the shows and rest a lot during the drives, do some stretches before performances, and eat well so I have enough energy to play. We all keep to ourselves and relax most of the time during the drives.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Dustin: Just a big thanks to everyone who has supported us over the years and still kept interest in us after a four and a half year gap between albums. We’ve made so many friends that have shown us a perpetual amount of support, I really can’t say thanks enough to express how much we appreciate all of them and can’t imagine my life without them.