Icarus Line: You make your own L.A. reality: interview

A band must destroy itself to be reborn. Icarus Line.

The Icarus Line has gone through several different line-up changes over its decade-plus career, however the brutal combination of violent rock and angry diatribe has never had so many fans.

Live, The Icarus Line are a fearsome noisy band that push themselves and their audience to abandon the present and enter a timeless arena of primal force and the echoes of adolescence pain. It’s therapy without all the weird psychobabble and extortionate hourly rates… it also might be the recipe for all the best music ever written.

There might be another analogy somewhere… but in the meantime Trebuchet caught up with Joe Cardamone, lead singer of The Icarus Line to talk through life and touring.


Trebuchet Magazine:  How did the first leg of the tour go?

Joe Cardamone:  It was good, we played to a male audience, a predominately white, male, hairless, audience.

Pre-teen?

No. More like senior citizen, but it’s all good.  Some of them got with the program and I would say it was 50/50 every night, half of the crowd would get involved and the other half would try to boo us off the stage or spit at us or whatever, it was great.

It’s exactly what we look for in an audience.

You’re a very reaction led band then.

It definitely helps wake us up in the morning.

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012

The roundhouse show was a historical show, one of the best of the year and you guys really kicked it out of the park…

 That was fun, we had a good time. I mean to tell you the truth the last trip we did was one of the best we’ve done. Not financially or anything like that.  No practical terms were met but as far as playing it was probably the best trip we’ve done.

At this point that’s the only reason to really do this anymore.  It always has been, and honestly what else would you be playing music for anyway? If you are not having fun doing it then really no point unless you are a glutton for punishment, you know.

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012Well, today is case in point really, it’s an hour before your gig and every amp is blown?

Not only every amp, we show up to the venue with brand new amps, factory delivered amps, and we plug in to the venue power and none of them work.

I think it’s the venue to tell you the truth. I mean the bass amp was an Ampeg. It’s not like they all broke from the same factory. We show up, we plug our shit in, and nothing works.  I have never heard of anything like that happening before. What a coincidence that different amps from different places all break the same day the first time they were turned on?  I don’t know… I’m going to sue.

How long is this tour (with Killing Joke)?

This one is 25 days. We pretty much fill in days that they have off with our own shows, so we play even when they’re not playing.  The last trip was 14 days; we played the day we got here and then every day until the day we were due to leave… and then we played that day and then left!

Do you sometimes do two shows a day?

No, because for the time being it would be like playing two empty shows? It’s like, fuck that.  No, I mean we try to book as many as we can in between though, just because to make extra money or whatever, whatever you can do to get to the next town.  We really wouldn’t able to afford to tour if we didn’t play shows in between, because we get paid jack shit on support tour, we get paid nothing.

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012Is the support slot more of a marketing opportunity for you then?

Yeah that, a vacation and a chance to go see some places that we haven’t been to in a while. Really it’s that we get to play in front of new people and that’s why we’re here more than anything.

But the responses have been good.

Yeah it definitely could have been worse, I’ll tell you that much.

You guys seem to take about three years between each album. That seems long?

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012We had label support that wouldn’t quit at that time (Black Lives…) we basically tested how much money we could spend. We spent our whole tour support before the record even came out, so like, when we got some more we spent all that money immediately. We really went to town but that’s because we had money behind us to pay the bills.

You were with V2 at the time right? But they went bust before the record came out?  

Yeah

  …and then you were on Dim Mak?

The whole story is ridiculous how we got off V2 and put the record out. (We’d been touring) …and then we came home. I wanted to make another record. They (V2) were like ‘You´re not ready’ but I needed the money so I said  ‘ok, well drop us’ and so they dropped us and then I went to Dim Mac and said ‘I want to make a record, can you give me some money?’, they gave me money, I made a record and then V2 heard it and they signed us back.

Good way to make money.

Yeah, total swindle but you know, that’s what you have to do I guess.

The original title of the latest album was actually ‘Joe Cardamone versus the Icarus Line’ tell us about that.

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012 That was the working title.

The only reason I changed it was because Jeff who’s played drums since the beginning pretty much, didn’t like it. He was kind of throwing a fit about the title so I just changed it at the last minute.  You know, for an act of diplomacy or whatever.  But I guess he’s not in the band anymore so it didn’t work. It proves fuck everybody and just do what you want because what difference does it make?

But you have the band on Wild Life was pretty much the band from Black Lives, not the band that made the record but the band that toured it so it was basically…


So you are touring with battle hardened guys that you’ve been on the road with, friends not session guys… 

Yeah, they all. I can’t even play in a band with people if we are not friends, you know what I mean, what is the point?  Jason the guitar player has been in the band for six years now, maybe seven. Alvin who is playing bass right now, who didn’t play bass at the Roundhouse show, he’s only doing this leg. We’ve been playing together since like I think maybe third grade or something.

Yeah, me and Alvin have been playing music together on and off for like our whole lives essentially and then the drummer he’s new, he’s good.

So this is a relatively stock question but it’s not relatively stock band so… How has the band changed its approach to record making over the years? You started producing the records yourself right?

I didn’t really have a choice, but you know what the funny thing is? It kind of was always my vision but I was so limited by my abilities at the time. I had never mixed a record life ever in my entire life…

Because you had Harvey Weinberg do it.

I had Alan Moulder do Penance, I have had different people work on all the records.

 …who were no slouches.

Exactly, which is like a lot of pressure when you are like sitting in front of a console that you don’t know how to use trying to make a new record, you know!  It was pretty fucking nuts.  I think it came out all right. I basically learned how to engineer during Wild Life. I knew I was probably not going to another payout, I knew it was like ‘ok this probably be my last record budget for a while so I am going to buy enough gear to be able to make records for the rest of my life’.

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012So Wildlife took me about a year and I feel the fact that it took me a year to make that record is probably like the thing that really will change with the next one. I had to talk to people because I didn’t know what I was doing, I didn’t go to school for any of that shit…

You didn’t get an engineer in then (as many self-producing artists do)?

I had a friend help me track the basic tracks but once it came down to it I was alone and I was alone in there for a long time. I mean let’s put it this way: the relationship I was in that period, pffft…  gone.

I wouldn’t say that’s as close to the (ideally musical) vision I have been, but we got close and we can get closer now because now I know what I’m doing. *laughs* I know what I’m doing enough to know that I shouldn’t engineer my own shit ever again.

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012No distance?

Yeah, how can you give a performance when you’re thinking technically. You know what I mean? it’s too insane.  I mean it can be done and it’s like I do stuff like that still, but you know it’s not ideal.

Well performance is a big thing for you guys. On our shots from your last show we captured a presence there. Is this something that you’ve worked on? 

Maybe. I mean I don’t think we really… we’ve always been like that live. For me that’s the weird thing about this band is just like there is a feeling on stage that if we’re not achieving that then there is something wrong in the group. (If that’s not  there) there is something missing and then we shouldn’t play at all.

Do you rehearse hard?

Joe Cardamone:  We don’t rehearse at all!  *laughs* We try to, but Jason lives in Arizona, we don’t rehearse, we really just we rough it out for the first couple shows, you know, we kind of just mess around.

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012Do you do warm up shows or just…

…we just get on stage. We designed a set that there is room to improv in it.  We can take it where we need to go that night, you know, because even though we are a Rock & Roll band we are still influenced by shit like Charles Mingus or whatever. Not that there is a lot of improv going on there, but like Miles Davis or the Stooges or whatever – any band that can basically be like ‘I’m going to do whatever I want right now and it’s going to be cool’.

‘Within a parameter’ sort of playing

Exactly, if we can’t do that then what are we doing, you know what I mean. I don’t want to go see a band and watch them click through their fucking bullshit. I just try to do what I would want to go see, basically.

Something real happening

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012What’s ‘real’ to you?

I mean… a real show to me is just excitement, you know when I see a band that really believes in what they are doing and is really enjoying themselves. People that are enjoying themselves because they have to do that, they have to be there and you can tell that they are supposed to be there.

(Alternatively ) I see some bands and it’s like, you guys could be doing anything, you guys could be like playing soccer or whatever.

This is something that you guys have to do.

Oh yeah, we wouldn’t be over here losing money if we didn’t.

Take a song like ‘We Sick’ – it’s really pointed kind of song and it seems like you have something to say…

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012I mean it is but…  it’s one of the hardest ones to play live.

It seems as one of the simplest. 

It is simple but we played it a bunch and it doesn’t seem to come across to me, I don’t know, I’m still like…

Are you on the fence?

Yeah I don’t know what to do about that, it’s a different thing.

Where did the lyrics come from in that because you are writing about?

Just kind of lashing out at people, being a baby, being a spoiled baby, yeah I don’t know, just being a baby.

You don’t tend to explain the lyrics to your songs much, if at all.

I don’t half the time know what the fuck they are about, I mean, the main thing is a lot of them will be about different things within the same song…

 but there is a tone within it…

Yeah there is always a glue that makes it a piece but there will be shoutouts towards different people and things so it’s kind of a scatter brain approach. I wish I could develop it more.

Some of your lyrics in your earlier songs were more imagistic, now they are more pointedly vocal.  How did that come about?

I think mainly because of how sick I get with the way other people write, and how even pop is so like pretentious in such a cliché way these days that it’s just like oh, I can’t say ‘you and me and we and all…’ You know the way that it’s said a lot of the times it’s just like; ‘Dude I don’t want to hear anyone talk like that and like please don’t say the same fucking shit to me over’ so basically…

Do you say that to yourself? Something like ‘I’ve got to go a different way with my next record’?

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012No, not really it’s just that the slang gets a little bit heavier, that’s all it is, because I have always written in slang.

 Your local slang?

Just slang I guess I don’t know, you know it’s just like slang, that’s my style, slang, city slang, I guess.

There is a real literary feel to a lot of your lyrics and some people have brought up a Nick Cave connection…  

Yeah, because I wear a blazer on stage.

I’m one quarter Australian too. My grandmother’s from Perth.

***we eat shrimp and order some drinks***

Do you keep in contact with Aaron (North) at all?

Not really

You guys were tight unit at one stage no?

We were like great business partners more than friends, I mean I guess we were friends but we were better business partners if that makes any sense. We were good at being in a band together for a while.

Just kind of lashing out

at people, being a baby, being

a spoiled baby,

yeah I don’t know,

just being a baby.

It was kind of a rough when he left the band but our relationship had had it’s the legs cut off already anyways. There was nowhere to go. Maybe there was but the way I felt at the time there was nowhere to go.

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012How about Don, do you keep in contact with him?

Yeah a little bit here and there, I mean we don’t have sleep overs and paint each other’s toenails but I talk to him sometimes. That’s about it.

You’re quite involved with the visual side of the band. You came up with the ideas for the latest video didn’t you?

Yeah, I knew that we could do that cheaply for nothing.  The whole idea with that was basically to animate the cover of the record that’s all it was really. For us it just about how do we animate the cover and get through a song so we’ve got something to put on YouTube. How creative was that?!

It came out pretty good for I like the new video more because it’s kind of funny, I mean trying to bring humor into the group.  I know that doesn’t really make sense but I think if like you can make people laugh a little bit, you know, that’s good. I mean I listen to New York Dolls and his (David Johansen) lyrics, hilarious! I love it, I love!

Did you ever meet him?

No, I never meet anyone that I really think is great.  I mean we opened for the Stooges, I probably could have met Iggy that day but it was just like… I couldn’t.

Do you shy away from meeting your heroes?

Yeah, there is no point. I mean I didn’t even go see the Stooges when they came back. I was like I’m not going, I don’t want to go. I already had this psychotic vision of them in my mind and like it’s not going to be that.

…but then I saw them and they were good so I don’t know.

You know who I did meet, I met Nick Cave this summer because I worked with him and Warren on a soundtrack and they were great, they were actually really fucking good.  They were good dudes, like regular, you know?

Which is good, it’s always nice. If you can like power through and keep going then good on you know what I mean.  It’s not for the faint of heart I’ll tell you that much.  The whole lazy musician thing that’s out the window these days, don’t think you can even be one if you wanted to.

I don’t think it’s an easy thing to do, I think it’s easier to get an office job.

Fuck yeah. The stress level alone of trying to figure out how to keep the lights on when you’re making nothing, that’s just fucking insane.  Anyone’s who has done freelance knows, you know what I mean.  It’s just another freelance job that’s all it is, you know what I mean? Just like any other freelance.

Do you do any other jobs on the side?

I produce records at the studio (Gang Bang Park) yeah. I did Giant Drags last record but she won’t release it, I don’t know why.

It’s great. It’s such a beautiful record.  I don’t know if she is afraid to put it out… or I don’t know what she’s waiting for, maybe she doesn’t like it, who knows?  She liked it at one time.

Where did you go with it from a production point of view? 

Well she just wrote a bunch of songs and I just kind of followed her voice. You know that was really it. Just let her voice go and whatever story she was trying to tell let that lead everything and form the rest. I feel like I was pretty delicate about the situation.

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012She’s a great songwriter and I just wanted to give her a good record, that’s all. So hopefully that’s what she got.

But yeah I work a lot in LA; I built a studio. Finally a huge classic studio.  It looks like 1965 when you walk in there it’s pretty cool.  It was just finished the day I left, the new studio, I’ve been basically… if you can look at my pants I’m covered in glue! I’ve been doing construction!

Everything, the blocks, the floor, I put in linoleum tiles for two days, shit that sucks you know what I mean? Shit that is not sexy at all and you are just covered in the most disgusting shit – there is nothing nice about it, you know.  But so that’s what I do – I do everything myself.

Me and

my crew

built a

fucking temple

to sound

Now it’s beautiful!  Me and my crew built a fucking temple to sound and it’s amazing, it’s like oh my god I can’t believe I can open this place with a key and walk in and it’s like I’m here, you know, it’s insane, it’s crazy.

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012

How long you are going to run it for?

As long as I can pay the rent. I have a five year lease.

It’s in Burbank.

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012You can pretty much get there from anywhere, I mean yeah I think it will last, fuck, it better.  It’s like that’s all I got, that’s my back up, that’s it man. Make good records for myself and other people, beyond that I have no education, not any formal one anyway.

Do you reckon that that ‘without-a-net’-ness is part of The Icarus Line

Yeah it has to be, that’s just like, you know, it’s how we’re living.

It’s always been like that we’ve never, I mean let’s put it this way – I haven’t had a job in ages and it’s not like I come from money. My parents don’t have any money, my dad hasn’t worked in like I don’t know how many years and my mom is a school teacher.

So you came from an educated background?

I got a good education, I just didn’t finish it because it was too expensive.

What did your Dad do?

Jack of all trades, Hollywood man, still is kind of. He was a child actor when he was a kid, that’s what paid his family’s rent, he was on TV in the 60’s and shit.  When I was a kid he worked in the union doing Kraft service for Universal, which is like fucked up shit. It’s like hard labor, he had two fingers chopped off by panes of glass that fell, moving crazy shit.

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012Kraft services?

Yea, because Kraft Services doesn’t just mean catering. It’s like cleanup and whatever else, it’s pretty hard core. So he did that, he’s done camera, teleprompter, all sorts… he was involved with film.

Both my parents worked, they still work. Yeah they just my mom is like, she works from 6 in the morning until 8 at night all week long.  So that’s what they do.

L.A. is different town to every person that lives there, you know.  I grew up there

there is

no place

you go and

be like

‘I’m here’.

You build your

own city

You build your own city, there is no city center, there is no place you go and be like ‘I’m here’. You build your own city.  That’s a city you make, you find your different pieces, put it together and then that’s how L.A. is for you.

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012You develop your own reality there, that’s what I like about it so much. That’s why going anywhere else is hard for me.  Like New York, I can’t understand how people wake up and then see humanity *smacks fist* first thing in the morning every day, I can’t handle it.

It’s really hard to grow up in L.A. and go anywhere else, or even conceive of living somewhere else. Because L.A. enables you to become a control freak. If you have that kind of personality it allows you to be like ‘Cool, I can massage my lifestyle exactly how I want it and get on a routine and be productive’.

Do you like it there now?

Kind of. I was in Hollywood for a while but I’ve never really lived in Hollywood. I lived there again but I don’t know, I don’t know man. I live in Laurel Canyon

Really, Neil Young-land?

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012Yeah… me! Go figure right.  Most of the bands that come out of there… *grimaces* I don’t know.

I live there because it’s quiet in the morning. My dogs have somewhere to run around. Really, I live there because my girlfriend was sick of the Valley so she was like, ‘we’re moving’. She wanted to wake up somewhere nice, so that’s where I am.

Weird shit goes on there.  A week after we moved in some guy had literally poured gasoline on his girlfriend and lit her on fire. They shut down the street, we couldn’t get back to our house for seven hours.

He was barricaded with a AK 47 and this went on for hours, and there’s only one way in and one way out. I mean there are a couple of little ways to get in but we didn’t know that yet and we’re just sitting there.

It’s fucked because up there at night it’s quiet, its dark, the houses aren’t that close together so people start getting weird notions. Weird things happen up there all the time and the majority of people that live up there are wealthy so its fucked up.

Do you like that kind of separateness about it or does it kind of disturb you a bit?

I like the fact that no one is around once I’m in my house. The last place we lived there was the psychotic dude that was singing and screaming outside the window until two in the morning.  Every night, singing Sublime songs and shit, it’s just like ‘Oh man, somebody do something about this guy’

So yeah it’s nice to have some quiet because when you work in the studio and you have speakers pointed at your fucking face all day like the last thing you want any sort of sounds, it’s like shut it down.

What is your relationship to sound as a band now?

Well the thing is like nothing has to be that premeditated anymore which is nice.  We don’t really think about stuff too much, we don’t really talk about anything while we are doing it, everything evolved. The group is really easy right now, we don’t have to talk.

Did you have to talk in the past?

Icarus Line Buffalo Bar April 2012

Yeah I mean when we were getting it off the ground, you are younger and you don’t really know how to do anything but verbalize ideas. You have to talk to each other and really spell things out.

These days it’s become easier for me to set up a street light and let everyone drive down the road, you know what I mean? I don’t really have to say anything, it’s like, that’s where we going, I know you know how to get there and we go, and that’s awesome.

Does that free you up to do different stuff?

Yeah it frees me up to enjoy their playing which is what I’ve always wanted.

Are you connecting more with the audience more than you did before?

I’m not sure, that’s a night-to-night thing really because sometimes yeah, sometimes they just stonewall us you know? It’s weird.

Are you the kind of performer that finds the guy in the audience that’s not getting into it, and make sure he gets involved?

No, I’m sure it might look that way sometimes, and maybe that might be true to a little extent, but I just hear people yell and it’s like ‘Oh, you have something to say, come take the stage. Lets go’.  But no, I’m not trying fight anybody or anything unless they are going to steal from us, you know then; let’s fight.

Icarus Line Website

Photographs By Carl Byron Batson. More photo from the Killing Joke support slot at the roundhouse can be viewed  here.

The Interview took place on the 10th of April 2012 prior to The Icarus Line playing a gig at the Buffalo Bar, Islington, London.

Kailas
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