Under the leadership of local punk veterans Tim Offensive and Nick Stix, Pyroklast has flame-thrown its dirtball hardcore across the Isthmus, while also spreading some of its fire to help ignite Madison’s underground punk-show circuit. Additionally, Offensive has launched his own record label, Offensive Media—its most recent release is a split LP between Pyroklast and its fellow Sconnie pulverizers, Wartorn (from Appleton). The mighty quintet recently returned to Madison from a tour of the East Coast, just in time to prepare for an opening slot with the legendary D.R.I. at the High Noon Saloon on Nov. 20. In anticipation, The A.V. Club sits down with vocalist Offensive, drummer Stix, bassist Anthony Moraga, and guitarists Jeremy Zumm and (A)Brandon All Hope to discuss politics, leg locks, and why Pyroklast is not a crust-punk band.
The A.V. Club: Pyroklast tends to get lumped in by locals with the “crust-punk” label. Do you identify yourselves as such?
Nick Stix: The more mainstream people sort of slap us as crust-punk, but the crust-punk scene calls us hardcore, or thrash.
Tim Offensive: Hell, when we played Mickey’s recently, three people came up to us and said, “That was the best metal band I’ve ever heard.” [Laughs] We’re hard to nail down. I don’t think we’re easily definable and that’s kind of the plan.
Anthony Moraga: We’re not a cookie cutter band that follows the rules.
AVC: How did Pyroklast materialize?
TO: I had been in a band with Nick before and I was currently in a band with Brandon. Then, the two of them began working at the same place and started discussing an Anti-Nowhere League cover band.
(A)Brandon All Hope: After a week of talking about that, we decided that it was a really bad idea.
NS: I was like, “Fuck this cover band, let’s just start a real band.” Once we got Anthony and Jeremy on board, everything clicked.
TO: Before you knew it, we were cutting records and touring. It was awesome.
AM: We were slayin’ babes.
TO: No, we were not slayin’ babes.
AVC: It seems like many of the local punk shows are held at secret D.I.Y. spaces or basements, but Pyroklast tends to play plenty of actual venues as well. As a hardcore band, do you prefer a basement to a stage?
TO: Most likely, yeah, but we do both. We don’t want to limit ourselves.
Jeremy Zumm: I don’t want to be locked into playing just a bar or a basement. There are plenty of people who won’t bother with a basement show.
(A)AH: The sound is better at the club, but the atmosphere is better in the basement.
NS: It’s a different kind of show. The crowd is right in front of you and there is no stage. It’s in your face. Whether it’s in a warehouse or a basement, we’re all good, as long as the cops don’t come.
AM: I think playing in venues is fun sometimes, too. I feel like I don’t belong there and that I’m getting away with something. Like, “What? They’re gonna give us beer, we’re gonna play, and they’re gonna give us money?”
AVC: I bet that sort of indiscretion can help when booking a tour. Speaking of touring, you guys just got back from the East Coast. How did it go?
TO: The East Coast is hard to play, that’s a fact. We had better luck when we toured the West Coast.
AVC: What is it that you find particularly tough about touring the East Coast?
NS: First of all, we hadn’t been out there with this band before and we released a record before we went on the road, so it was just about getting us out there.
TO: My opinion—as a guy who grew up in West Virginia, which I consider to be part of the East Coast—is that it’s older and more grizzled. The cities are bigger, there’s more going on.
AM: East Coast just doesn’t have the same youthful exuberance. [Laughs]
NS: People aren’t as open or friendly right off the bat. You have to win them over somehow.
TO: They’re all fucking spoiled brats, dude. When I grew up, I had to drive two and a half hours to the closest city, but there, everyone has something a block away.
AVC: What were the obvious high points, then?
TO: We got to play ABC No Rio on the East Coast, which is kind of a landmark spot in New York City. In fact, that same night we had to drive to Boston for a basement show.
AM: Sometimes even if there’s not that big of a turnout, it’s still fun. We played for some kids in a living room and there weren’t that many people there, but it was awesome. We played a small place in Lima, Ohio and a there were a bunch of kids that were stoked because live music was going on, you know? And they’re all like-minded, too, so we all have the same ideals as to what a good show is.
JZ: Also, we’ve always made enough gas money to keep going.
BH: Boston was pretty good. Raging hardcore in a packed basement.
AVC: What did you guys do with your downtime?
TO: We rolled into Burlington, Vermont and got loaded on the beach until eight in the morning.
BH: We swam in Lake Champlain…
AM: …And went looking for the lake monster!
TO: Hanging out with Wartorn and my band and having a fucking blast. We spent a lot of time in the fucking van. It was a big smelly van full of fun.
TO: [Laughs] Bitty, the singer from Wartorn, is an ex-pro amateur wrestler.
(A)AH: The first night we were out at a Motel 6 by Denny’s and Tim and Bitty wrestled. I think Tim was stuck in some arm or leg lock from Bitty and, in order to get out, he bit Bitty’s leg. He drew blood.
TO: Well, he fucked with the werewolf, man! He should’ve tapped out. He didn’t feel the pain because his adrenaline was pumpin’!
AVC: How does Pyroklast survive on the road?
TO: Normally, I drive every day. I make sure we make it. I make sure we get up on time and I make sure the kids get on the bus. It’s hard to do that when you’re a raging alcoholic, but it works out. Also, the key to being on tour and keeping it together is a little bit of separation once in a while.
AM: Yeah, like in Vermont, half of us went to the beach and the other half went to the gun shop.
NS: We were looking at automatic machine guns…
TO: …And we were looking at automatic babes. But yeah, the key is fucking rock ’n’ roll man. It’s making the next show and having a great time playing for 20 or 250 kids. Also, most of the time, people realize that part of throwing a show is feeding the bands.
NS: Yeah, I mean, when we throw a show and a band comes to town, we feed ’em and give them a place to stay, have a good time.
AVC: When listening to the explosive “No More Bullshit,” it’s easy to hear correlations to the legendary D.R.I., a band you’ll be opening for this month. What kind of impact has D.R.I. had on Pyroklast?
AM: I used to listen to Dealing With It all the time in high school. I had that tape with the Dirty Rotten EP on the other side. They played faster than anyone. Sometimes they’d play so fast that they’d go offbeat because they were playing so fast.
TO: We wanted to play so badly that we’re playing a show with a $16 cover for free to do it.
AVC: What is the writing process like in Pyroklast? Do so many years of being wrapped up in the punk scene ever hinder the songwriting process by making you too jaded or picky?
(A)AH: Not at all, it actually makes it easier. We arrange them together and Tim puts lyrics to it.
TO: Jeremy brings riffs to practice all the time. We get the songs down and then I try to put some formidable lyrics to it.
AVC: What percentage of Pyroklast’s lyrics lean on politics?
TO: It kind of bounces all over the place from personal to political. The personal shit’s just talking about the punk rock scene in general; “No More Bullshit” kind of calls it like it is. Cut out the bullshit, let’s work together and get some punk rock done. Then it jumps to things like “One Part Gas, Two Parts Oil,” which is, for those of you not in the know, the recipe for how to make a Molotov cocktail. It’s basically talking about war profiteers and if you were to seek justice. I don’t know how to word that without sounding like a “terrorist.”
AVC: So is this more of an anarchistic standpoint?
TO: No, in fact, the song opens up with, “This is a recipe for revenge.” Take it as you will. “Villains Of All Nations” is about as close as we get to anarchistic. It’s basically about claiming allegiance to no nation and no thought, ever, leaving no borders. If that’s anarchy, I don’t know.
AVC: Are there any recurring themes?
TO: Well, another song is called “In Search Of Blue Gold,” which is about the book Blue Gold, which is about the world’s water supply. It’s now a documentary. It’s one of the first songs we wrote. It addresses the issues of water shortages of the world. There are more sick children in hospital beds due to bad water than anything else in the world right now. The Great Lakes here, where we’re surrounded, hold 20 percent of the world’s water supply and they’re being polluted and depleted every year. There is no new water created, it is a cycle. If you fuck it up, it’s gone forever. We also have a new song coming out called “The Extermination Of Permanent,” which is about the mountaintop removal going on in Southern West Virginia and Northwestern Kentucky. Over 500 mountains have been blown up and decimated and will never grow back. There are two million miles of clean, freshwater streams that have been filled in and are not coming back.
AVC: Do you have any plans for the upcoming year?
BH: We’re working on writing a few more songs so that we’ll have enough for a new LP. We’ll be touring again this spring.