Interview: Human Impact
I feel the music we are making is totally of this time but also reaches out to the future, which can be rather daunting.
With members who have served time in Cop Shoot Cop, Unsane and Swans, Human Impact have an edge when it comes to making noise laden and dystopian music with a cathartic edge. The band’s self-titled debut album is released imminently and is a must listen for any fans of noise rock and fans of the alumni’s past bands.Gavin Brown caught up with Jim Coleman who handles all the band electronic elements to hear all about the album and its sound, how Human Impact came into fruition, his time with Cop Shoot Cop and life in the urban metropolis that is New York City.
E&D: What was the impetus for Human Impact getting together in the first place?
Jim: Chris and I had wanted to make some noise together since the early days of Unsane and Cop Shoot Cop. A couple years ago I opened that idea up again with Chris after seeing an Unsane show in Brooklyn and we started working on some ideas shortly after that.
E&D: Your self-titled debut album comes out next month. How did the creation and recording of the album go?
Jim: The album is the culmination of a handful of recording sessions. Though Chris and I had some sonic foundations and loose song ideas/structures together, we went into the first session not really knowing what our sound was, or what this thing would be. So we came out of that session with a lot of parts and elements, but it took a lot of attention in our respective studios to extract the essence and really craft the songs. Going into the following rehearsals and recording sessions, we had a much better idea of what this band was, and we could write to that. So more of the writing and song development is now in the front end if that makes sense. Chris and I are constantly kicking sonic ideas back and forth – some of them live to see the light of day as songs, some of them die along the way. Typically Chris and I do the foundational work on the songs, then bring in Chris Pravdica and Phil Puleo as we head in to rehearsals. Partly this is due to us living in different areas – we don’t have the luxury of getting together in a rehearsal space all the time and hammering out ideas. There are some songs though that are more written as a whole group – such as E605.
E&D: How was the experience of working with Martin Bisi again on the albums and what did he bring to the Human Impact sound?
Jim: Martin did the initial recording session, so he was part of our birth. We recorded ‘Consequences’ and ‘Protester’ with Martin, and a few tracks that are now unreleased bonus tracks. The rest of the recording and all of the mixing was done by Alan Camlet at Hoboken Recorders.
E&D: The album has a definite cinematic vibe to it. Was that your intention with the music of Human Impact?
Jim: I would not say that a cinematic sound was a part of our intention. More like that is in the DNA and might on some level be unavoidable. I have always had this sensibility and it’s been a part of my music, and Chris Spencer and I have both done varying degrees of scoring for films. Additionally Phil has been working on a ton of tracks that are essentially film scores in need of a film. And Chris Pravdica does a bunch of scoring. So, collectively and individually it’s a genetic thing.
E&D: Your music also has a claustrophobic and dystopian vibe, do you feel that is a true description?
Jim: Totally on point. And that is also an apt description of the current social political economic and psychological climate. I feel the music we are making is totally of this time, but also reaches out to the future, which can be rather daunting.
E&D: What has the feedback for the band been like so far?
Jim: So far, so good. People in general seem very enthused and receptive. I think there was an initial curiosity and interest just given our collective histories. Of course, this could have worked against us, as people come to it with expectations and ideas about perhaps what it should be. But we feel that the music is strong, and we aren’t trying to do anything – we are simply making the music that exists in some way inside of us. So in that way, we are being direct and honest, and I think that people sense that and are receptive.
E&D: Do you think that the influence of Cop Shoot Cop, Unsane and Swans shines through on the music of Human Impact?
Jim: Yes and no. I’d say that, one one hand, we were all integral components of those bands, so our sonic sensibilities, what we are drawn to, how we make noise physically, emotionally, structurally – it’s all there. It would totally make sense for fans of those bands to dig what we are doing. On the other hand, we are not trying to re-create what we did in those bands – so Human Impact is totally it’s own thing.
E&D: Were you all friends before Human Impact and had you collaborated beforehand on any projects?
Jim: Chris Spencer and I knew each other for many years before starting Human Impact. Though there were years in between where we did not see each other. Phil and I were playing together in Cop Shoot Cop of course, and continued to make music together in many forms through the years. And Phil and Chris Pravdical have been playing together in Swans for many years.
E&D: How is life on Ipecac Records and how did you hook up with them in the first place?
Jim: Chris Spencer sent them 3 songs. They got back to us the same day and said they would be interested in putting it out. They were our first choice in terms of a label, and we didn’t even send the songs out to anyone else. So far it’s big love – i really respect what they are doing, and they seem really involved in a good way. Mutual respect.
E&D: How did your live debut in Brooklyn go last year?
Jim: That show was fun. The show was sold out and people were in to it. This music really demands to be played live – it’s visceral. To date, that’s the only show we have done, so we are really looking forward to playing more and touring.
E&D: You are playing a record release show in NY at St Vitus next month. What can fans expect from the Human Impact livd experience?
Jim: Bring your earplugs. The album is officially out the day before (March 13) – but we have been continuing to work on new material. So while the set will focus on songs from the record, there should be a new song or two in there.
E&D: Norman Westberg from Swans is supporting at the gig, do you think it will feel like a homecoming for you all?
Jim: I always love seeing Norman play. I think what he does will be a perfect counterbalance to what we are doing. It’s like flip sides of the same coin. But it’s the same coin.
E&D: Will you be playing the album in full at all?
Jim: We haven’t discussed this. Maybe in 2045 for the reunion tour.
E&D: Will you be playing any Cop Shoot Cop, Unsane and Swans songs as well?
Jim: No. This would be like some strange deformed bastard. I’d say we all totally stand behind what we have done before, but this is now and that was then. It’s funny – currently we are seeing a lot of bands from the 90’s reuniting. While that’s cool, I am so damn happy that we are doing something new.
E&D: You’re going to be hitting the road for some West Coast dates with Yob. Are you looking forward to those shows?
Jim: Totally psyched for these shows. I’ve been in to them for some time now so looking forward to playing with them. If you are reading this and don’t know them, take some time and listen to their album Clearing the Path to Ascend. This will also be our first bit of touring, so we have been itching to get up and running with that. Just for ourselves, I think we are really anticipating getting out there and playing night after night.
E&D: What are your touring plans for the rest of the year? Hopefully some UK and European dates!
Jim: Yes for sure. We will probably be down for the summer, but will be doing more touring in the US in September, then focusing on Europe and UK in November and December but will be releasing new material in the interim as well.
E&D: What was New York like when you were just starting out as a musician and what were some of the highlights of those early days?
Jim: NYC was a very different place in the late mid/late 80’s and through most of the 90’s. It was kind of a forgotten wasteland that the U.S. had cast aside. No one of any social standing aspired to living there, so it was made totally affordable to artists and all forms of degenerate creative types. You could do just about anything back then and you didn’t need a permit to do it either. Along with the lawlessness and potential danger there was a real freedom and exhilaration. All of us were trying to find our voice, make our mark – but it was typically very supportive. Of course, dope tore a lot of us apart and when crack settled in it became very fractured. From the perspective of the music / rock community – it was very supportive. There were a lot of ad hoc basement and loft parties where bands could play. I have seen some of that spirit recently in Ridgewood and Bushwick, so it’s not totally dead. But NYC is just obscenely expensive and not that conducive to struggling artists living on the edges of society.
E&D: What are the biggest differences with life in the city now compared to back then and do you miss the grittier vibe of old New York?
Jim: I own shoes now that cost more than my monthly rent was when I first came in to NYC. That’s kind of absurd, even with inflation. Even having stared down the wrong side of sawed off shotguns, even having been threatened by cops and much more – I feel very grateful for coming of age in NYC at that time. The city is currently a sanitized disneyized homogenized shopping mall. But obviously it isn’t just NYC. Most cities across the planet have lost their history and their uniqueness – it kind of went down the drain along with the seediness and grit.
E&D: What were some of the most memorable gigs you played and bands you witnessed in NY?
Jim: Back in the day Cop Shoot Cop, Unsane and Pussy Galore shared a rehearsal space in a basement on Avenue B. We kind of grew up together as bands, sharing a ton of stages and playing gigs together. Other bands that were kicking around then were JG Thirlwell / Foetus, Helmet, Skeleton Key, Galaxie 500 just to name a few there were tons. Cop toured a lot with Jesus Lizard – not so much a NY thing – but always thoroughly enjoyed that. Touring with Iggy Pop was also memorable. We heard after the fact that his people were trying to keep us away from him as they thought we would be a bad influence.
What were your favourite venues to play?
Jim: Best NYC clubs, or at least the ones we played repeatedly. CBGB’s was really the stand by. I think we played there most frequently. Pyramid club was always fun. Later on there was The Cat Club. And I recall a fun night at what used to be the Palladium with Unsane, Cop Shoot Cop and Foetus.
E&D: What venues do you enjoy playing now?
Jim: The next one on the tour.
E&D: What are some of your favourite spots in the city both past and present?<
Jim: Williamsburg waterfront, Parts of Central Park, Tompkins Square Park, Williamsburg Bridge, most of these favorite places are from historical New York. And most of them are places of relative escape and quiet within the city. I find myself more at home outside of the city now. Partly the city has changed, partly I have changed.
E&D: What are some of the quintessential New York albums for you?
Jim: Various Artists – No New York, Television – Marquee Moon, Sonic Youth – Evol, LCD Soundsystem – self-titled, The Velvet Underground – Velvet Underground and Nico, The Ramones – self-titled, Public Enemy – Yo Bum Rush the Show, Beastie Boys – Pauls Boutique, Talking Heads – Remain in Light, Dead Boys – Young, Loud and Snotty, Girls Against Boys – Venus Luxure No. 1 Baby, Barkmarket – Gimmick.
E&D: What are your biggest influences as a musician ?
Jim: That’ll vary person to person in the band so I of course can only answer for myself but here are some: Joy Division, Beatles, Gang of Four, FEAR, Minutemen, Brian Eno, Aphex Twin, Killing Joke, early Aerosmith, Negativeland, Tuxedomoon
E&D: What have been some of the most memorable events of your career so far?
Jim: I recall a friend of mine once saying, “Memory is a fickle bitch”. In the early 90’s, we were touring 8 – 9 months a year. And I have really fond memories of that. But then I happened upon a postcard I sent an ex from the road, in which I expressed that touring felt like being trapped in the 7th level of hell. So there can be a disconnect between experience and memory for sure. Being in a band is like being in a family of your choosing, but it can still get fucked up and dysfunctional. In Cop, that dysfunction and tension definitely fed the music. That was the place where we came together in a harmonious way. And I’m not saying that the rest of the time we were in battle, there were plenty of times where it was just plain fun.
Distinct memories: Touring with Iggy Pop. During which time we had all of our gear stolen. Being chased by the Belgian police in Gent at 2 AM after having a percussion jam at a building site. They finally caught us and took us to the police station, where they served us tea and we discussed the history and politics of Belgium for an hour or so. Being detained by the LA Police for an hour after they thought our van was loaded with explosives for no reason. They blocked off a 10 block radius, brought in helicopters and some kind of paramilitary unit, broke into the van only to find… Cop Shoot Cop T shirts. Playing a show naked in France with The Deity Guns. Had to disrobe after equipment failure to keep things interesting. Getting arrested with Natz 15 minutes before going on stage in Boston
Shooting the Cop Shoot Cop video for $10 Bill with members of a Mexican Circus. I had just cleaned up my act and I realized once we got down there that everyone on the crew was getting paid in coke. Leaving NYC on a tour in January with the temperature well below freezing and the heat not working in the van. Playing live. There are some nights where everything is just so in alignment, where the synergy within the band and the connection between the band and the audience is so tight – that’s a unique experience. There is nothing like that. Making music. This is an ongoing process of creating memorable experiences. It’s an ongoing demand in a way. I’m not making music to make money or get popular – no outside motivations in that way. It’s rewarding in and of itself. But continually bringing these sonic entities into life, and continually trying to expand what this is – that’s an amazing rewarding life. Each song or group of songs is like a mark in time, providing an audible roadmap of where we have been.
Human Impact will be released on March 13 through Ipecac Recordings. Pre-order the album here.