AN INTERVIEW WITH FLESH PANTHERS
Every time i talk to someone affiliated with the Chicago music scene their answers are always more than positive, emphasizing a booming music scene with a sense of hometown pride. Rock n roll band Flesh Panthers is a part of this welcoming do-it-yourself music community, from the never ending house shows to the distribution of perfectly shitty tapes. I chat with Ryan Zombotron, vocalist and guitarist, about this musically thriving city, the recreation of the subconscious in music, and the necessity of booze in the music scene. So give it a read, make sure to pick up a tape or two, and anxiously await the release of Flesh Panther’s LP Willows Weep in September.
Within the Chicago music scene that you’re a part of, there seems to be a strong collaborative mentality. Can you tell us more about the importance of this joint effort? Working with Dumpster Tapes, Tall Pat, etc + working with other bands? How has this affected you as a band?
As a kid i always longed to be a part of a collaborative music scene. I feel very fortunate to have crossed paths with these amazingly generous people. We owe a great deal to the good folks at Tall Pat and Dumpster Tapes. We are all friends and i never get to say it but “thank you and we love you.” If had not been for them being such hard working humans taking an interest in our music we probably wouldn’t even exist.
Working with other bands in Chicago has been great. Mac Black-Out designed killer t shirts for us. We have coaxed many friends into the studio with us to help with backing vocals. Joey Rubbish of The Rubs came in and did the piano on "Last I Heard." Lucas sang for Wet Heat before he was in Flesh Panthers. I invited him over to sing on some early demos and he ended up joining the band. Same with Mars. She and Jen Dot, of swimsuit addition did some of the hellos on 'elevator girls’ and now mars plays drums for us.
Is there a specific reason that your latest released LP, NGC 2632, is the name of a grouping of stars? Does it pertain to a certain theme within the record? Can we expect something similar with your record coming out in September?
I can’t give away the plenary meaning of NGC 2632. There’s definitely a slew of running themes on NGC 2632 but I want people to figure it out for themselves. That’s why I put the cross word puzzle in the liner notes. NGC 2632 is a sort of puzzle.
willows weep is very very different from ngc. i felt that working with a comprehensive theme was too limiting. so thematically willows weep is scads more aqueous than ngc.
Knowing that your band name is derived from a dream, do you feel that the music you create is an accurate reflection of your subconscious? Another world existing outside of physical reality? If so, is this an important aspect of creating music?
Absolutely. the goal with Willows Weep was to make something ethereal. NGC was still very angry and Willows Weep is not. Tapping into my subconscious with music had exposed a lot of raw nerves for me. I questioned the world with NGC now I had to question myself. I’m telling you when we took those mushrooms in Detroit and went to 2648 West Grand, that trip changed my life. The next day we traveled home and I scribbled the words for “Let It Die” which was the first song we wrote for Willows Weep.
When we recorded Willows Weep I covered the studio in collages that I had made. I photo copied a bunch of really great Marlboro ads from some 80’s Rolling Stone magazines. The ones with horses and mountains. I cut all the cowboys out so it was just the cool stuff. I also photocopied some chants and stuff from the spiral dance. I wanted the to make the studio feel like another place so we could tap into the vibe stream.
Your song "Teethe" was written hung over on the toilet - is this sort of care free spontaneity necessary when writing music, in terms of the whole good times/house show/'punk’ DIY music scene, as well as in a world where music has been turned into a business?
The only thing that necessary in the good times DIY punk show music scene is booze galore. Booze is fueling the whole thing even the business side of things. Yer either getting drunk at a party or selling beer at a bar. Beer and guitars and drums and the night.
Is there a certain era in music that has most influenced your style and sound?
The late sixties for sure.
An artist/song/album that makes you feel a heavy dose of nostalgia?
"Brown Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison.
What’s it like being a musician/band in the 21st century?
The internet is god. I have a love hate relationship with social media. I really enjoy flyers and street art and one thing I Really hate is that Facebook has sorta killed that. It’s pretty cool that anyone in the world can hear our music when ever they want and i can listen to theirs.
interview by AL SMITH
photo by BRIAN FOX