Direct Attack Interview by Kris Hex
“Hailing from New Orleans LA, Direct Attack bring a vintage post punk and goth sound to the Big Easy with guitar reminiscent of early Christian Death meeting NYC acts Of A Mesh with a bit of Ex Voto thrown in for good measure. “
1) Ok for starters, mind introducing yourselves to the readers out there?
Jack Champagne: Hey I’m Jack. I play guitar, sing and program the drum machine.
David Fransen: What’s up. I’m David, and I play bass and yell occasionally.
2) Alright, to discuss the bands work, I love how you seem to have a good balance of the old and new sounds in the scene with tracks like “Lapsed Catholic” sticking a very solid punk bedrock, very much in line with the post punk revival that’s been going on the last couple of years ala bands like Spectres and Christ vs Warhol. Do you guys come out of the punk scene or do you take equal influence from whatever happens to catch your ear?
Jack: Thanks, I appreciate that. I do love Christ vs. Warhol! Well the first band i joined was right out of high school, in 1997 and it was a New Orleans Gothic Rock band called Falling Janus. I moved on to The Public and then Kindest Lines (Wierd Records). So I’ve mainly just been involved in darker rock projects. I started dIRECT ATTACK after KL came off of a five week tour, the first half supporting Xiu Xiu. On the second half I ran in to alot of old friends, including Kenton Holmes (Rozz Williams, Gitane Demone, Akubi Object, 45 Grave, you get the picture) and we talked about collaborating and why we never started our own solo projects. So i got home and the mid-life crisis began. So this is an amalglam of everything I’ve loved since I was a kid; starting with my first love The Cure, Big Black, Christian Death, Black Flag, early Sisters eps…etc.
David: I mostly follow Jack’s lead, since Direct Attack was born as a solo project. I don’t honestly keep up with the current goth scene all that much; we’re not really involved in any active scene down here. But I’ve always been big on a lot of the bands Jack just mentioned, and he threw in Ministry and The Gun Club as key guide points for what he wanted bass-wise, which really sweetened the pot for me. I’d been wanting for a long time to have an outlet for playing stuff in that vein without necessarily sounding LIKE those bands, but it always seemed so out of line with what most contemporary bands are trying to do.
3) New Orleans these days seems to have a heavy focus on EBM and Industrial, Aggrotech etc, is it a trick at times to find bills or events to jump on with? I know when I lived there was always the issue of different factions fighting for dominance musically instead of just trying to co-exist peacefully; You ever do any work with Mange Voorhees of Death Church? He’s a good encyclopedia of deathrock and goth bands.
Jack: I haven’t paid attention to scenes or even gone out in ages, so I’m pretty clueless about what’s going on. In my early days I watched the Hot Topic generation take over and now it’s going towards the Urban Outfitters generation. When it ceased to be about music, I lost interest! We’ve managed to play with a wide array of bands, from Merchandise to Haujobb to King Dude and the audiences seemed to dig it. But on the Mang guy…I don’t go out and I keep a small group of friends.
4) Have any bands reached out to you that like your sound and want to do collaborations? It’s always great when acts band together to create albums, sometimes the results can be pretty fantastic, I’d love to hear a pairing between the band and someone like Anasazi or Virgin In Veil.
Jack: The guys in Haujobb have kept contact with me since the show, which is pretty cool. I really want to do something with my friend Kenton who I mentioned earlier and also Anthem from Frank (Just Frank) in France. Check that stuff out! As far as dIRECT ATTCK in the future, it will continue as a collaborative effort. I want there to always be guests. I don’t want to play live as often but just keep writing and recording.
David: I’d love to collaborate with other like minded (and maybe not like minded) bands. The process for Direct Attack has changed a lot just since Jack started working on this stuff. Originally, he had written everything and I just learned the parts when we went to play live, which is what you hear on Amputate. Lapsed Catholic is the product of a lot more collaboration just between us. Moving forward, it’s definitely opening up a lot more. We’re actually trading tracks and, I hate to admit it, but we even “jammed” once. I could definitely see a scenario where we’re trading tracks and getting others involved even if we can’t be in the same room or play gigs together and all.
5) NOLA is a musical city though it’s not so kind to its darker elements anymore, Jack, how do you deal with the gentrification of the city as a musician? I know it’s a national problem with venues shutting down and alternative acts in general struggling to find places to play now let alone in a city like New Orleans where arrangements are rarely honored and trying to have something legitimate going can be an uphill battle (trust me I know your pain).
Jack: Man that’s funny that you asked. I went to a clothing store here one time to pick up a magazine that Kindest Lines was featured in. The guy at the counter was telling me how much he loved Wierd Records and I told him I was in a band on that label. He perks up and asks, “Wow are you from Brooklyn?” I said we’re from here…he quit talking to me. Whatever. My toughts on the gentrification as a Louisiana native are expressed in “No one Dresses Better Than a Fascist” and “Words Doesn’t Matter.” The city really never showed my projects much love, maybe except briefly in The Public, but my biggest concern is I can’t afford to live here anymore with the fucking Yuppie invasion. The area I live in now is just filled with a bunch of jocks with man-buns. I hate it.
David: Who dat, baby! Yeah, I actually lived in Brooklyn for about 7 years, and it’s been frankly kind of hilarious to come back to New Orleans and see the whole Brooklyn thing starting to happen here. I actually had always thought fondly to my younger days on the scene here. My first band The Fantastic Ooze ended up getting pretty thoroughly embraced down here, and part of me always regretted bailing for New York. The thing that really jumps out at me moving back is how there’s this huge influx of young professionals, and the live scene infrastructure hasn’t done anything to accommodate that. 4-band shows still don’t start until 11PM on weeknights. That’s fine when like 90% of youngish show-going people are in the service industry and can go to shows like that no problem. That percentage has shifted a lot with all these new transplants and a lot of new industries gaining footholds here since mid-00’s though, and people just can’t go to your show if you’re not going to even be setting up til 1AM on a Tuesday. I just feel like it’s hard to expect a scene to really develop if people can’t go out on “vintage” NOLA hours. Or maybe I’m just too old.
6) You guys have all performed together in various incarnations of this band and others, what lead to the formation of Direct Attack specifically?
Jack: Man I jumped the gun and answered that at question two! I talk alot. That’s what you get for an email interview with us!
David: For me, I’d been riding out the ratty ends of rock star dreams in NYC with various projects that never really went anywhere. I became close friends with plenty of great, inspiring people in killer bands I still love, like The Vandelles and Dead Leaf Echo and many, many others, but I never managed to actually play with the right combination of people to make anything happen in that saturated of a scene. I moved back here with my tail kind of between my legs and wasn’t really planning on messing with music anymore at all. Jack and I were hanging all the time though, and I was hearing his demos for the first Direct Attack songs while he was still working at new music with Kindest Lines. It just kind of happened naturally that when he needed someone to play bass, I was going to get in on it. It was a good way to ease back into playing without much pressure, since you know, Jack was doing everything himself at that point anyway.
7) A fun question, there’s been the issue of music downloads and everyone have different feelings on the matter ranging from cries of piracy to others saying it’s a cheap way to get music out to people, truly a double edged sword, what are your thoughts as a DIY band?
Jack; I used to get pissy about this but I honestly don’t care anymore. I know now I’m not going to make shit off of this through sales or playing live. The bright side is I can just make whatever I work on available immediately. The humorous downside to music being readily available is any person can get in to obscure bands without the work we had to do. You know buying random albums because the album cover looked cool. They don’t have to go through the painful process of being made fun of for listening to some weird shit like Lycia, which my friends gave me hell for when i randomly ordered that tape when I was 14!
David: I’m actually really fascinated by this and could go on forever about it. I think the thing that weirds me out about it is that so much animosity is directed at the streaming services themselves, who I really feel are the ones trying to figure all this out. Whenever I see people like David Byrne and David Lowery railing against Spotify or whatever, they compare what they make from streaming to what they make on physical albums or paid downloads. And that’s just such a ridiculously irrelevant point to me. If the masses were still willing to pay for that stuff, streaming wouldn’t exist. The whole reason for the debate is that people weren’t paying ANYTHING for music. However little artists make from streaming and BandCamp and whatever, it’s more than the zero they made from Pirate Bay. I really think it’s more on the major labels than it is on the streaming services anyway. What streaming services are paying out to the major labels isn’t really all that shameful. What those labels are paying out from THAT to the artists is outright embarrassing though. I’d like to see someone figure it out, and I don’t feel like lobbying against the services working toward that is particularly healthy.
8) Lastly, what releases do you currently have out and do you have plans to tour anytime soon?
Jack: well we’re just having Lapsed Catholic put out through Sawrus Recordings in Austin, TX. I’m really happy with it and I’m ready to finish up the next batch of songs. I put out Amputate a little over a year ago on Justin Blaire Vial’s tape label All Colors of the Dark(former Kindest Lines synth/programmer/producer who played drums for the first couple of shows). As I was saying earlier, I don’t really have any intentions of playing live often. Honestly I can’t afford to do shit like that anymore and it’s very mentally and physically draining. I just want to write songs, record, and read. That’s all that makes me happy anymore.