Only Crime - Aaron, Bill, Doni, Russ, and Zach

Interview Date: January 23, 2007

Associated bands: Bane, Only Crime


Your record Virulence is coming out on Fat Wreck Chords on January 23rd. How does this record compare to To The Nines? Should fans expect any big differences?n

ZACH BLAIR: I really think it’s more of a product of us just playing together and writing together, developing a sound WE liked, and not caring who else did.n

AARON DALBEC: I think that Virulence is more of our \"own sound\" as opposed to our first record. When we started writing To The Nines, we had never played together as a band, so we were still getting used to each others’ playing and ideas. Also I think we have grown as a band from the touring we have done since we recorded To The Nines. I also think that Virulence is a lot more \"raw\" since we did it all live in the studio, all playing at the same time.n

RUSS RANKIN: I hope fans will hear us drastically move away from anything remotely resembling our other bands. To the Nines is a great album, but in places, it's a little derivative - at least to me - of some of our other projects. Like Aaron said, the two years of touring together and exploring our sound is hopefully real evident on Virulence. Fans will be stoked.n

DONI BLAIR: People always say their newest thing is the best, so I’ll leave that for Bon Jovi to say. But I'm real happy with both the process and the result. We didn't do the normal \"overdub\" thing. We did all the music at one time, together, in a small room, and the writing and practicing had been done in that same room, all together. The result is.... Well, you just have to hear it, I suppose. It’s Bird of Fire meets Damaged.

In what ways did you challenge yourself lyrically and musically with this new album?n

ZACH: I really wanted to focus on everything just having a certain impact and taking the time to make sure that every song and every note had that impact.n

AARON: I wanted to make sure that the new record didn't sound like our other bands, and I wanted to make sure we were still progressing.n

BILL STEVENSON: We were trying to blur some of the distinctions between the more dark sounding songs and the more melodic ones, and to also incorporate some amount of improvisation into what would otherwise probably be viewed as a fairly straight-forward song structure. Expressed in terms of the prior record, we were trying to make \"each song\" include the most of the diverse elements of, say, Virus, Real Enemy, and RJR.... The result is that as you listen through the record (do people still call it a record?), there isn't as much of a \"Oh... Here's the fast one\" ...\"Here's the heavy one\".... \"Here's the melodic one\".n

RUSS: I had to try to write lyrics and vocal melodies over some of the most FUCKED music I have ever heard. It was definitely a learning experience.n

DONI: I had to open my ears plenty in the writing process. I had preconceived ideas about what it was I wanted to hear, and honestly that's the first step towards mediocrity. Once I heard what everyone was bringing I just went with it, and by doing that I think it made it more exciting. I had no idea what it was we would end up with. I still don't know what the fuck it is that we ended up with, but it's a hard jam from top to bottom.

How do you approach writing new material in Only Crime? Is there a concrete process, or do you all just meet and talk about something new you tried the other night that sounded good?n

ZACH: Yeah, it’s collective. I have a tendency to take songs in that are at least basically completed and then see what everyone else suggests. Russ always has great lyrics, and we leave that part to him.n

AARON: When I start writing I basically write the skeleton of a song, and leave room for everyone to put their 2 cents in. Sometimes the songs sound very similar to the way I had it in my head and sometimes they are completely different. There is no concrete process to OC when it comes to writing music.n

RUSS: We usually start with a riff that someone brings in and begin trying to build a song around it.n

BILL: There was more \"stretching\" on this one.... trying to go into areas way outside of our collective comfort zone. This has always been the best way to create something new.n

DONI: It was very interesting (and sometimes maddening!) to be involved in the writing process. I wasn't around for much of the writing for To The Nines so to see how everyone did it was educating. We would sit around for the longest time just discussing a four bar passage and attempt it several different ways. I'm used to just going for it and this process was way more in tune with how we've grown as a band. There was a lot more pressure, at least on me, to make a follow up to a really great record.

This is the second album you've recorded at Blasting Room. Do you anticipate recording with the guys over there for even more records?n

ZACH: I’ve recorded pretty much every record I’ve ever been on there. I didn’t go to college; I went to the Blasting Room! It’s home. Plus, it and its staff are head and shoulders above its peers.n

AARON: I love it there. It’s like our home. We go there to write and practice. When we get ready for tour, we meet up there and get everything ready. We love recording there, and it’s the most comfortable place for us to record. Never mind the fact that everyone there is amazing, and they do the best job I have ever heard on their records.n

RUSS: It's a comfortable and functional place for us to do our thing and we can watch \"Tribute\" and \"Glengarry Glen Ross\" after a tough day of rehearsals. Plus we know the owner.n

DONI: Virulence will make the 7th record I've made at the Blasting Room so it kind of goes beyond the sun for me.

If you could dedicate your new album to anyone in the world, who would it be?n

ZACH: my brother, Russ, Bill and Aaron....and Mitch and Murray [from downtown]n

BILL: I would dedicate it to the various musical influences which, without even knowing it, have left their mark on the songs contained therein.n

AARON: It would 100% be for my mom, dad, and grandparents. They have always supported me, and I started playing the guitar at my grandparents’ house when I was younger, and they put up with a lot of terrible noise. VERY terrible.n

RUSS: To all my friends and family and the aging punk rockers who have almost given up on modern rock and roll.n

DONI: My wife Shelley, my brother Zach, and Jeff Richards.

Does this new album feel any more personal than To The Nines?n

ZACH: Totally, we sweat for 10 hours a day in a small room for three weeks straight recording music that we wrote together, with a unified, focused vision. Not taking away from To the Nines, but on this record we just knew each other better. We were a band.n

AARON: Virulence to me is leaps and bounds better. It is totally more personal, and it much more natural feeling.n

RUSS: Virulence is the album we have been waiting to make since we first started the band: Heavy music with absolutely NO METAL.n

DONI: Way more personal because it feels like an album from a band. We had more to prove, at least to ourselves and each other.

What do you do when Only Crime is not currently touring or writing?n

ZACH: I obsess about my house that seems to never get renovated enough, and I cook every day and work out for some OCD reason.n

AARON: I play in Bane, and I also do some web development and work at a book store part time.n

RUSS: I occasionally play shows with my other band Good Riddance. I produce other bands (most recently the album \"Into the Red\" by Splitting Seconds released on Lorelei Records). I skateboard, surf, play hockey, and I recently got a job as the California regional scout for the Kootenay Ice hockey team in the WHL.n

BILL: Been doing a lot of producing records these days. Not gonna really list bands…. I think anybody that got this far into this interview is probably well aware of all the stuff Jason Livermore and I do at the Blasting Room.n

DONI: I have an instrumental band called the Mag Seven that just put out a record with Zach and Bill on it. I train obsessively in Tibetan White Crane kung fu. When I'm not doing those I get paid to ask strangers if they want whip on their mocha.

After your west coast tour with New Mexican Disaster Squad, do you have any plans for touring at all in support of your new full-length?n

AARON: We plan on doing a lot of touring on this record. It is going to be smaller chunks, but we are going to hit it pretty hard.

Have there been any political, social, or otherwise beneficial organizations that you or other members of Only Crime have supported lately?n

RUSS: We have been featured on peta2's site, and will have an interview online with peta2 Germany soon.n

BILL: Other than the obvious \"formal\" organizations.... I'm still a sucker for the idea that the punk rock community is a family of people who are smart enough and compassionate enough to bring about some positive change here and there, as opposed to just buying a 300 dollar punk rock belt at the mall.

What would you like to tell the youth of America?n

AARON: I guess, just make sure that you do what your heart tells you. You can have a job making 200,000 a year and still be miserable, and on the flip side you can make 200 a week and be the happiest person alive.n

RUSS: \"It is not a world of men\" - Ricky Roma