ZT INTERROGATION – …AND WE ALL DIE DEVELOP INTO A MULTI-FACETED OPUS
Raymond Burton Estes tells ZT’s Paul Castles why he’s happy to have friends along for the ride with …And We All Die – but why for the time being at least this innovative work remains very much the focus of one man.
ZT: Good to talk with you, Raymond. For those not familiar with …And We All Die can you just start by telling us a little about the set-up here? RBE: I formed the idea of …And We All Die sometime around 2002 when I was still very much interested in playing hardcore again, but also wanting to do something more melodic. At the time, I was friends with the guys in Snowdonnas and Destination Venus and they helped me flesh out some song ideas. I recorded a demo of …And We All Die with Tim White (Sweetest Morphine, Snowdonnas) and Niki Saukam (Snowdonnas, Destination Venus), with Tim on guitar and Niki on drums. I played bass and sang. That demo sounds a lot more like the Pixies meets Integrity or something like that, it’s raw and loud, but has this indie rock swagger. Then Bysshe Mourningstar (Snowdonnas, Destination Venus) and I worked up a rough sketch for the rhythm section of what would become Modern Day Privateers. There wasn’t much to this demo, but it provided the structure over which I wrote the guitar and vocal parts. Around this time, my old Texas hardcore band Eleventh Hour reformed to perform a couple of shows where we played a version of Bodhisattva opening for Strife and Rise Against at Emo’s in Austin and a hometown show in Tyler, Texas with Written in Blood (John Gable of Knifight’s old band) and the Conversation. Fast forward a decade or so to 2012 and that’s when I went into the studio with Jason Rufuss Sewell of One-Eyed Doll to work up some music for the Eric Hueber film Flutter. The song ‘Modern Day Privateers’ ended up in that film. Anyway, that’s when we recorded the three original songs for the EP, plus a cover of ‘Give Me It’ by The Cure. So, you could say this record is well overdue.
ZT: …And We All Die doesn’t really fit the customary band template, why’s that? RBE: As of now, I’m the only full time member of …And We All Die. My goal with this project is to collaborate and work with friends and musicians I like and admire. That said, before …And We All Die, I played in a few Texas punk, hardcore and indie rock groups, to include Eleventh Hour, the Coffin Boys, Strong Box, Electric Wheelchair and the Worms. My old Texas hardcore band Eleventh Hour was fairly active back in the 1990s, when we did a couple of US tours with Chokehold. We also played a good number of shows with some more prominent bands, like 108, Bikini Kill, Bloodlet, Crowbar, Deadguy, Despair, Disembodied, Earth Crisis, Frodus, Hatebreed, Integrity, Life of Agony, Resurrection, Rise Against, Shelter, Sick Of It All, Snapcase, Strife, Type-O-Negative, Worlds Collide. I also served as touring bass player for the indie rock band Pop Unknown for a European tour and for the punk rock band Total Chaos for a US tour.
ZT: Your new EP appears to be a three-tracker but released in a number of different guises– That seems quite a bold challenge for a debut release? RBE: Bold is an interesting way to characterize it and I hadn’t thought of it that way. The truth is, I wanted to release these three songs, but didn’t want them to simply be an EP. And, I also didn’t want to release a full album, because my vision for a longer release of original material is more ambitious and complex. As …And We All Die is about collaboration and blending styles and genres, I thought having amazing artists contribute remixes would be a great way to start things off. I’m lucky and I’m honored to have Paul Leary (Butthole Surfers, Melvins), Will Brooks (Deadverse, IconAclass, Dälek), Shelby Cinca (Frantic Mantis, Frodus), John Gable (Knifight) and Gost contribute remixes. I even managed to get Darin Johnson (Eleventh Hour, 1066, One Against Many, The End of Julia) and Walter Lee (Eleventh Hour, Rockett Queen, the End of Julia) to collaborate for an Eleventh Hour remix. So, I’m pleased with how things turned out.
ZT: What’s up with the Paul Leary Remix? I sought out Paul because I’m a huge fan of the Butthole Surfers. I love their music and their approach to making it. They started out as punk band made a lot of changes along the way. I wouldn’t say that I want …And We All Die to follow the same path, but I do want my music to change. I don’t want to continue to put out the same record over and over again. So, I thinks having Paul remix this tune was a good way to start things off.
ZT: Because you’ve been working with so many people did this mean you’ve been holed up in the studio for months? Or did the other artists simply contribute their sections separately? RBE: Hardly. Jason Rufuss Sewell and I recorded the three original tracks over a weekend, with some vocal retakes some months later. The remixers did all their work on their own and provided their contributions as their schedules permitted.
ZT: It seems that across the different versions you’re working with a number of different artists. How did you sell the concept to them so that they would want to get involved? RBE: That’s a great question. I’m not sure. I just asked them and they said ‘yes’! So, I think that means they liked the music. I know I love what they’ve done with the songs.
ZT: The third song is called ‘Bodhisattva’ – what does that mean? RBE: In a very simplistic sense, a bodhisattva is akin to a Buddhist saint. Early Buddhism in India encouraged individual practitioners to practice compassion in order to obtain enlightenment. And, through reincarnation, these practitioners would continue to return to earth until everyone has reached enlightenment and there was no more need to return. Tibetan Buddhism encourages practitioners to take the bodhisattva vow by which they promise to keep returning to earth until everyone has become enlightened. I find this idea inspiring, but also practical because life is hard and we need help getting through it. Sometimes that help is personal and other times it’s indirect. And, though Bodhisattva is not a particularly spiritual song, it is an homage to two very spiritual people who have inspired me through their enlightened selflessness – Palden Gyatso and Adam “MCA” Yauch. I spent time with Palden Gyatso in Texas, India and a surprise run-in at Heathrow Airport. He spent over three decades in Chinese prisons where he was tortured and abused for meeting his obligations as a monk. In spite of the horrors and humiliation he has experienced, Palden Gyatso has the best attitude and sense of humor of anyone I’ve ever known.
Hands down, Adam “MCA” Yauch is one of my favorite musicians. He made fun punk rock and amazing rap and hip hop. Outside of music, he was also an inspiration as a human being. One day, I spent a few hours with Adam and his wife and daughter and was impressed at just how positive and practical he was in living his convictions. To me, he was an example of how each of us can change and make positive contributions to ourselves and to others.
ZT: A lot of musical reference points seem to stem from some great 80s goth acts such as The Cure and Sisters of Mercy. But you’ve blended these atmospheric arrangements with a full on volleys of hardcore… RBE: Well, my first love is hardcore, so it’s hard to disabuse myself of its influence on my writing. I would expect future releases to be heavier, wilder and more atmospheric.
ZT: Are there any plans for any live shows to mark the new release? RBE: Not exactly. Not anything that would be close enough to promote the release this year. I’m talking with folks about putting together a line-up for live shows, but that probably won’t happen until at least 2017. It’s probably safe to say that Darin Johnson would be in that line up.
ZT: Is there more new material on the way, an album perhaps? RBE: Yes. …And We All Die has three releases in the works. The next record is titled Modern Day Privateers (Remixes) and will contain nine remixes of that song. It’s almost done and will include remixes by Daniel Ash (Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, Love and Rockets), Rodney Anonymous (The Dead Milkmen), Ben Weinman (The Dillinger Escape Plan, Giraffe Tongue Orchestra), Ego Likeness, Mindless Faith, the Gothsicles, the Rain Within, Gost and Knifight. It’s a fun record and I can’t wait to get it out. After that, I plan to release covers of Static Age and T.V. Casualty by the Misfits. This line up of …And We All Die includes Walter Lee (Eleventh Hour, Rockett Queen, the End of Julia) on drums, Guillermo Stephen Murillo (Meredith Crawford and the Backhand Band, Surrogate Synths) on guitars and production, me on bass and vocals and we’ve got Gost on synths. And, sometime in 2017, I’ll get around to releasing a cover of the Cure’s Give Me It that Jason Rufuss Sewell (One-Eyed Doll) and I did when we recorded the EP. It’s fun and has One-Eyed Doll vocalist Kimberly Freeman contributing some killer backing vocals. As for an album, I have plenty of songs that are strong enough, it’s really just a matter of making some important decisions about how to record it, who will play on it and who will produce it. I’ve got ideas about that, it’s just a matter of making it happen.