Just wanting to really play slow: Bongzilla’s Michael Makela

The reunited Madison sludge institution plays February 26 at the High Noon Saloon.

The reunited Madison sludge institution plays February 26 at the High Noon Saloon.


Photo by Bruno Pereira.

Photo by Bruno Pereira.

Bongzilla’s reunion in 2015 after a decade-long hiatus saw the Madison band—which, in its prime, cornered the market on joyously splattering sludge-fests and lyrics seemingly dictated by THC itself—embark on a series of successful festival dates and overseas tours. But despite the fact that the individual members play frequently in town with three newer projects—Dosmalés, The Garza, and Grotto—the only show the group had played in town recently was a free set at the Great Midwest Marijuana Festival in October. So it came as a welcome surprise when the stoner metal legends announced a show in Madison at the High Noon Saloon on February 26, which kicks off an American tour with Black Cobra and Lo-Pan.

Bongzilla formed in 1995 with guitarist/vocalist Michael “Peewee” Makela, bassist Nate “Meanstreak” Dethlefsen, and drummer Michael “Magma” Henry, and started putting out a steady stream of singles and EP’s the following year with the Mixed Bag 7″. In 1997, guitarist Jeff “Spanky” Schultz joined and crucially expanded Bongzilla’s sound, which was documented on 1998’s Methods For Attaining Extreme Altitudes EP. Their debut album Stash arrived in 1999, but it wasn’t really until the following year’s Apogee EP that Bongzilla really began to take off. Relentless touring, and the arrival of bassist and co-songwriter Cooter Brown, helped cement 2002’s Gateway in the minds of many as their best record. Amerijuanican, released in 2005, was also well received, but the band had fallen apart by the time it was released, with Weedeater’s “Dixie” Dave Collins filling in on bass for the recording.

With all this history, and the impending February show in town, I sat down recently with Makela to discuss the band’s plans for new recordings and touring. But the conversation ranged all over the map, from discussing the band’s influences, to whether Europe supports musicians more than America does, to the virtues of pioneering doom and sludge bands like Grief, Winter and Corrupted. After this American tour is complete, the band is planning on recording a new album, possibly with Chicago engineer/producer Steve Albini.

Tone Madison: Do you think there are going to be new recordings?

Michael Makela: Yeah, I think for sure—if we’re gonna keep doing it, we’re gonna want to write new songs. There’s riffs floating around at practice. I think we started playing enough together that it’s starting out. You know, all the good Bongzilla had fallen out of practice to me—so definitely, for sure.

Tone Madison: The last show in town you guys did was the Great Midwest Marijuana Festival, and then before that there wasn’t really much for a while, so why the High Noon now?

Michael Makela: Our booking agent booked it—he talked about a big tour, and he… I didn’t have much to do with the yes or the no. He knows what we want for each show, and apparently it worked out. And I think the Marijuana Fest is something that we’ve played so many times through the years, be it Harvest Fest or the one they used to do in the spring, the… uh… there’s good reasons why I don’t remember the name of it, but there used to be a festival in the spring too that we’ve played a couple times. And it was a free show, and for our first show to be free, I thought it was pretty cool. I mean, those tickets at High Noon are 20 bucks or something, aren’t they?

Tone Madison: It’s like 20, 22.

Michael Makela: It’s a great four-band show, in its defense.


Tone Madison: Yeah, it’s worth the money. When I saw Babes in Toyland, they charged 22 bucks for that.

Michael Makela: Was that packed?

Tone Madison: When Babes In Toyland went on it was packed. Before then, it was a little sparser.

Michael Makela: For Porcupine and Powerwagon?

Tone Madison: Right. Powerwagon were good.

Michael Makela: Yeah, they’re really good. I used to play bass in Powerwagon, for a brief moment.

Tone Madison: They really remind me of Karp, in a weird way.

Michael Makela: Yep! Cherubs-y, Karp…

Tone Madison: So obviously I enjoy them, and I like the guitar sound a lot.

Michael Makela: Have you seen that Karp documentary yet?

Tone Madison: No, actually, I haven’t.

Michael Makela: Oh man, it’s super-good. Kill All Redneck Pricks, it’s called.

Tone Madison: Yeah. Self Titled LP is a masterpiece.

Michael Makela: Yep, I would agree.

Tone Madison: I’d say that one’s the best.

Michael Makela: With the bird—

Tone Madison: The bird and the heads—

Michael Makela: The eagle—

Tone Madison: Right. I’d say that one’s the best, but the first song on Suplex, “Get No Toys When You Pay The Money,” might be my favorite Karp song ever.

Michael Makela: Yeah, those songs are really good too.

Tone Madison: Karp’s a great band.

Michael Makela: Yep, I’d really agree.

Tone Madison: So I guess with the recordings and stuff, how do you guys generally write for the band?

Michael Makela: Well, Gateway was written by, partially, me and Cooter—at my house, we would find—I was living with a pot dealer and we’d find huge roaches and finish songs. Most of them were started at practice and finished either at practice, or by me and Cooter, like intros and extros, you know, exits. Amerijuanican I mostly wrote by myself, because that was an odd period for us, nobody really wanted to be there at that point. It was like at the tail end—we played one show after we recorded that record.

Tone Madison: Yeah, Amerijuanican I’d always heard was kind of a rough period for the band.

Michael Makela: Yeah, yeah.

Tone Madison: Was it because Cooter—did Cooter leave?

Michael Makela: Yeah, he hooked up with a girl and moved to Cleveland. Nobody for sure wanted to be—Dixie jumped off a—Weedeater was opening for Corrosion Of Conformity, so he jumped off two weeks of this tour, Weedeater jumped off it so he could come and record this record. We had to fulfill a contract with Relapse, for the good or the bad. It’s not like it’s a horrible record, it just isn’t—

Tone Madison: A lot of people like that one a lot, though.

Michael Makela: Yeah, a lot of people say it’s our best, which is weird cause—

Tone Madison: It didn’t feel good when doing it.

Michael Makela: No. And I think I can hear it, but I don’t know if you can hear it. And it’s—it’s a good record. Like, recently because we started playing again—I never had listened to it. We listened to mix it, and I never listened to it again cause it was just this point in my life that I wanted to pretty much forget. And anyway, like going back and listening now, there’s a lot of good. We’re gonna start playing “Weedy Woman” and “Stonesphere.” That we even played the ending, or the middle jam part of “Stonesphere” as well as we did on that record without playing together—we practiced two weeks before, and me and an ex of mine were changing places. Me and an ex of mine were moving houses. We had a month, so we spent two weeks practicing in this house. We were living next to Bucky Pope of the Tar Babies. So I talked to my neighbors, we practiced every day for two weeks, then recorded the record, then played one show for Brian—they had a tattoo party, he flew in Weedeater, Bongzilla played, and Weedeater played, and that was the only show we played. Otherwise, we didn’t play.

Tone Madison: So, basically Dixie was sort of just there—

Michael Makela: He helped us out. We needed a bass player and we had gone through a couple people and we needed to do this record, so I called Dixie and he helped us out. He’s a great musician so I wasn’t worried about that, and he’s a super brother.

Tone Madison: He shares the aesthetic.

Michael Makela: Yeah, Weedeater and Bongzilla had toured so much together, by that point. We spent weeks and weeks together on the road. And he’s a brother, so he just super helped us out.

Tone Madison: Which one would you say is your favorite Bongzilla record? Doesn’t even have to be an album…

Michael Makela: Oh, Apogee.

Tone Madison: Apogee?

Michael Makela: Yeah, the one with the helicopter getting shot down.

Tone Madison: Is that the one that has live recordings on it as well?

Michael Makela: Yep, yep, on the CD. Originally it was just supposed to come out as a 10″, and we recorded “H.P. Keefmaker” three times to try and get it short enough, but it never was, so they put it out as a 12″.

Tone Madison: That’s a good length for a 12″, though.

Michael Makela: Yeah, it’s a three-song 12″. Yeah, by far that’s where I always wanted us to be. Like, Gateway to me is our rock and roll record. I think definitely everybody else would say Gateway possibly, but to me, I always wanted to be really sloooooow. Extra slow. You know, now I like to midtempo groove, like Eyehategod sort of, but back then I wanted to play as slow as possible, and play the riff forever, like “Grim Reefer,” like ridiculous amounts of—we don’t count, you know, just feel.

Tone Madison: Yeah, just completely like slow motion.

Michael Makela: Yeah, and you end up counting anyway, and the feel of the song almost creates itself. You know what I mean?

Tone Madison: Yeah, it’s almost like Corrupted.

Michael Makela: Oh yeah.

Tone Madison: Like Corrupted would do that really, unbelievably slow…

Michael Makela: Grief, if you’ve ever heard of them –

Tone Madison: Yeah.

Michael Makela: And Winter, from the early ’80’s, a band from Boston, played really slow. There’s a band from Seattle called Toadliquor that were super good.

Tone Madison: Oh! I think they were from California.

Michael Makela: Nope, no.

Tone Madison: They were from Seattle?

Michael Makela: I’m almost positive, yeah. It doesn’t matter.

Tone Madison: Yeah, Toadliquor is one of my favorite bands.

Michael Makela: Yeah, they’re incredible. But they never released anything on CD, they only released records. It’s why their music was so hard to get.

Tone Madison: Relapse did a compilation, though.

Michael Makela: Yeah, but that was very much after the fact.

Tone Madison: Did you ever feel like your vision was the one that predominated with Bongzilla?

Michael Makela: Oh yeah, it was me. Those guys would have played noise rock. Even I, at times, had to almost put my foot down about what I would call a circular riff—

Tone Madison: The one main riff of “Greenthumb”?

Michael Makela: —a riff that doesn’t go anywhere. No, no, that goes somewhere.

Tone Madison: It’s one of my favorite riffs.

Michael Makela: Like, “doo-doo-doo doo-doo-doo doo-doo-doo,” like noise rock, where it’s more a circular—like, stuff we’re playing is blues, so there’s always a tag, that little tag that completes the riff. Maybe I’m not making sense, and that’s just how I see it. But yeah, I mean definitely I was the guy that wanted to play, you know, Skynyrd, Sabbath-y music, and—I mean there was points where I just wanted to play swing, which I’m kind of glad they didn’t just let me play swing entirely, cause that gets old. But, then you mix it up and stuff like Corrupted and stuff that’s super slow, you can’t even—you see a band on the road and you’re like, “Man, we’re not heavy at all!” That stuff would happen to me.

Tone Madison: Really?

Michael Makela: Oh God, yeah.

Tone Madison: That’s happened to me before.

Michael Makela: We played with this band called Baba Yaga in Seattle, they were four women, and they just crushed us that night. I was like “Man, we gotta get heavy.” [Laughs.] You know, that’s all I could think. Whether I was right or wrong, who knows.

Tone Madison: That’s actually something that’s interesting. There are a lot of really good heavy bands right now, like Primitive Man is incredible.

Michael Makela: Oh yeah! Yeah, they’re getting huge actually, those kids are really cool. We hung out with those kids out west a couple times, they opened for us in Los Angeles at the Echoplex. They’re super heavy. Super heavy. Good kids, too.

Tone Madison: Is touring now easier than it was before?

Michael Makela: Easier? That’s an odd word.

Tone Madison: Well, okay. Maybe…

Michael Makela: We’re making—like financially, it’s more sound. So yeah, that would be making it easier. You’re not starving. Like, we used to starve.

Tone Madison: Did you guys get—I mean, I’ve been on tour. You know, touring on a small level is—you eat whatever you can find.

Michael Makela: Yeah, you hope to get fed, and if you don’t, you can scrape it together for sure. I mean, it’s funny, but looking back, those are the shows that were—because you’re so excited to be on the road, and you never have been—those are the shows that you’re way more excited about. If it’s two people—sometimes those early two-people shows are way more profound than playing in front of ten thousand people, when somebody thinks you’re somebody. When nobody knows who you are, and the two people who were there freak out, that’s pretty intense.

Tone Madison: Oh yeah, it’s a huge feeling.

Michael Makela: So yeah, I mean, we suffered. The first two tours I booked by myself, on a pay phone half the time and on my house phone, so pre-Internet.

Tone Madison: I guess booking a tour now is completely different.

Michael Makela: Yeah, you can book a tour on Facebook.

Tone Madison: We’ve been doing that.

Michael Makela: Yeah, we now have a bigger booking agency, and we’re lucky, you know. To say we’re not is… yeah. But I don’t know, easier? We’re older too, so sitting in a van for twelve, fourteen hours isn’t as much fun as it used to be.

Tone Madison: Does one of the guys do most of the driving?

Michael Makela: We have a driver now. That makes it a lot easier, actually. And we never had a tour manager or a driver, and one guy did drive all the time —Spanky, who went on to long-haul trucks. When he’s not touring now, he’s driving an 18-wheeler.

Tone Madison: Obviously he doesn’t mind driving too much.

Michael Makela: No, he actually likes it.

Tone Madison: Our drummer likes driving. He did all the driving on tour.

Michael Makela: It’s common that one person drives, mostly.

Tone Madison: It was lucky. How did the band start up?

Michael Makela: We were in La Crosse. Me and the old bass player that was on Methods For Attaining Extreme Altitudes [Nate Dethlefsen] and I was more into like… oh, I don’t know, Hüsker Dü and Black Flag, and we were so close to Minneapolis, so to get into that music was pretty easy, I think. Even the AmRep stuff, like Hammerhead and the Cows, and then a little bit of like Touch and Go stuff. But I remember hearing the Melvins, and thinking “holy…” and then like being a punk rock kid and playing mostly punk and thinking, “well, I can’t really listen to Sabbath and Zeppelin cause I wanna play punk rock.” But then, hearing Sabbath again, and kinda tripping out about it, and thinking, “yeah, fuck punk rock, I’m gonna play slow.” And then just wanting to really play slow, when nobody really but the Melvins were really playing slow back then. I mean, there was bands if you saw them out, like Winter, and Grief started in the early ’90’s. And then we just got weirdly hooked up with like the weird powerviolence scene, with Spazz and Black Army Jacket—

Tone Madison: And Charles Bronson—

Michael Makela: Yep, yep, those kids we played with a bunch. And that’s how I kinda booked the tours, because those scenes crossed into metal and punk, and powerviolence is such a—

Tone Madison: It’s a hybrid in a way—

Michael Makela: Of a lot of stuff. It always reminded me a lot of noise rock, AmRep noise rock, with grindcore added.

Tone Madison: Just sped up, like really fast.

Michael Makela: Some, but not all of it. Spazz was slow a lot of the time.

Tone Madison: Yeah, I mean—

Michael Makela: For how fast he played in other bands, Max [Ward, drummer of Spazz] didn’t play that fast. Anyway, I mean, we were just sitting around smoking pot. I remember wanting to try to call the band God Bong, and it was just so hard to say, or Bong God, it was hard to say, and then our bass player goes, “Bongzilla!” Then we moved here because we didn’t have a drummer, and hooked up with Magma, and then literally Spanky needed a band—Pillowbiter, this band, broke up that he was in. And he needed a band, and I was like, “oh sure, why don’t you come and jam and we’ll see if it works out.” We were a three-piece for a long time. Our first record was recorded as a three-piece, the 7″. And then we got lucky, and lucky, and lucky. You know, you talk about bands like Corrupted that maybe should’ve been huge. You look at Sunn O))) now, and you think Corrupted should’ve been one of the biggest bands ever, at least as big as Sunn O))) is.

Tone Madison: Well, I mean, the thing about Sunn O))) is that there’s such an image attached.

Michael Makela: Yeah, I guess. They’re like Electric Wizard.

Tone Madison: And Corrupted is almost anti-image.

Michael Makela: I mean, for whatever reason, Sunn O))) is cool to like. I mean, tone-wise I think they’re some of the best, but riff-wise, meh.

Tone Madison: I mean it’s a demonstration of amplifiers, at some level.

Michael Makela: Yeah, at some level. I mean, you know it’s funny because many musicians will look at them and go, “oh, I can do that.”

Tone Madison: But you can’t.

Michael Makela: But you can’t. Playing slow is way harder than playing fast. And playing slow without a drummer and staying together is…

Tone Madison: Yeah. That’s difficult.

Michael Makela: Me and Cooter do it. I think it’s a great way to get in tune with musicians, just to drone, and to make yourself not—we’ll go, “we’re going to play two notes, but then one of us, at some point, can add a half-step note, and that’s it. Those are the notes we’re playing.” And to listen, you listen different. Just like, I was making noise before Bongzilla started, like Merzbow-type noise. And it really changes the way you listen, because there are such subtle changes compared to music.

Tone Madison: Such subtle differences.

Michael Makela: Yeah, and the same with droning—to me, as a musician, I love it because it makes me listen and I hear stuff you’d never hear when you’re so focused on riffing, or whatever you want to call it. You know, there’s a meditation to droning that maybe Sunn O)))’s tapped into. Just, the people I’ve seen at a Sunn O))) show are like the same people that go to Electric Wizard and don’t know who Wino is!

Tone Madison: Yeah, that’s…

Michael Makela: It hurts my feelings! [Laughs.]

Tone Madison: I mean, it’s like, how do you not know who Saint Vitus are? How do you not know that Saint Vitus is one of the most important doom bands?

Michael Makela: Yeah, and The Obsessed. But anyway, it’s the hipster thing about stoner rock, or whatever it is. Doom, you know, the same reason we’re able to make money.

Tone Madison: So you think you’ve benefited off that a bit?

Michael Makela: Oh God, yeah! Oh God, yeah. Cause I think there’s kids like me, first you hear Electric Wizard and you start searching out more obscure things. But a lot of kids are like, “Okay, I listened to Coldplay and I guess it’s cool to listen to Electric Wizard too.” (laughs) And I got my big beard and my fade. It’s like hipster rock.

Tone Madison: And this new tattoo of The Sword I got yesterday.

Michael Makela: Yeah, yeah. I love that new Sword record. [Laughs.]

Tone Madison: It sounds like Thin Lizzy.

Michael Makela: Oh yeah. It sounded like they had a big record budget—didn’t have one song written, and had a good time recording the record.

Tone Madison: Yeah, pretty much. How did Cooter join the band? Cause I know he became really important to the band.

Michael Makela: Oh yeah, definitely, I think that’s true. When Cooter got here, the original bass player quit. We were looking for a guy. Cuda had—we had seen Cuda, and he was actually—we knew him because of Cuda. That was probably one of the bands that we helped even before Cooter was in the band, because it was one of the only bands I liked in Madison. No offense to anybody, or maybe offense to everybody, I don’t know.

Tone Madison: It doesn’t matter.

Michael Makela: Yeah. [Laughs.] Yeah, so we just asked him and he fit so—me and him fit so perfectly, it was silly. So, I mean, I guess once I saw how close we fit, and how easy it was to write with him, that’s maybe why it was so hard to move on after him. That’s for sure why we started again, it’s because he came back.

Tone Madison: He came back to Madison.

Michael Makela: Yep, yep. He was living across the street from me. We actually started playing, riffing on acoustics in my front yard.

Tone Madison: Was it just chance that he got there to be across the street from you?

Michael Makela: Oh, yeah. That was very chancy. He separated from that girl and moved back here, and him ending up there, I think just made it easier, maybe sped up the process. And also, at the same time, like, I had been getting calls about playing, or emails, or Facebook messages and whatever, forever.

Tone Madison: I mean, that makes sense.

Michael Makela: But I would always give them these insane amounts of money that I would never think anybody would pay, and then one day a guy… So then I had to go back, kind of, and talk to everybody and go, “Well, if we got back together and played at least this show, we’d make this much, and then I’m sure, progressively, it’s gonna blow up in our faces,” and that’s pretty much what happened.

Tone Madison: Wow, that’s pretty lucky.

Michael Makela: Yeah, no, no, we’re very lucky. I would agree.

Tone Madison: I guess Apogee is your favorite. Do you have one that’s like your least favorite? I guess Amerijuanican sounded like that.

Michael Makela: The tones on Methods—I mean, the songs are good, but the tones are just ridiculously bad. But Amerijuanican, just maybe cause of the time… you know, in a way, maybe they’re like your kids, you don’t wanna hate one, because of what you did. [Laughs.] “I raised that album poorly! Got out there and killed someone! Oh my god, they committed suicide to that album!”

Tone Madison: Maybe that’s why they like it the most.

Michael Makela: Yeah, right? [Laughs.] “I feel horrible about that album!”

Tone Madison: Do you guys have any plans for, you know—you said “noise rock,” and of course I automatically thought of The Garza and stuff. Do you guys have plans like—I mean, I’m sure The Garza has some plans right now, I’m sure maybe even Grotto has some plans, and Dosmalés just made the EP with Paul O’Donnell.

Michael Makela: Dosmalés is trying to do a little tour this summer, late summer, but I’m not sure. It all sadly depends on Bongzilla. Or happily, I’m not sure. And The Garza and—Grotto, I know, wants to record when we get back from tour. They’re gonna go record with Paul as well.

Tone Madison: Are they gonna get a vocalist or is it just gonna be straight instrumental?

Michael Makela: I tell ’em no, but I’m not sure… They’re better without a vocalist. If you really listen to their music, to me—I was talking to Cooter about it—I’m like, there’s not a lot of… you guys don’t repeat patterns, which is what singing kind of commands. If you’re gonna sing verse, chorus, verse, chorus, you know, like a normal band—and there’s not a lot of places to sing in their music. I sat in front of them when Chris [Vance] left, however that worked out, and was thinking, “Oh, I wonder could I sing to this?” Not that I would want to, that would be too awkward, but I kept thinking there’s not a lot of places to sing. With Dosmalés it’s like, “Oh, there’s the singing part.”

Tone Madison: It’s like, “here’s a riff, here’s a riff, here’s a riff, this is where I sing over it,” but with Grotto, it’s like there are so many different parts.

Michael Makela: Yeah, and it’s like, here’s the riff, here’s a different little version of the riff, here’s another version, here’s another riff, but they don’t go back to it. Rarely do they go back to it. It’s not like A-B-C, A-B-C; it’s like A, B, A squared.

Tone Madison: Like D, E, D, C.

Michael Makela: Yeah. Like two notes of A, you know.

Tone Madison: You’d have to be doing like spoken word or something. It would be really difficult.

Michael Makela: And Chris sings different every time, and I guess in a way I can understand why.

Tone Madison: Cause the structures are so slippery.

Michael Makela: Yeah, they are. And I don’t know what’s up with The Garza. I think they’ll probably record another record, and keep doing what they’re doing, and I don’t know how much more they’re looking for. But those guys could probably speak more to that.

Tone Madison: I guess I understood why you guys reunited in the first place, which is that you basically got along with—basically, Cooter moved in, and—

Michael Makela: Yeah, and I think we were all over and past some of the crazier stuff that had happened. You know, you gotta put the water under the bridge to go back. It had been almost 10 years. For a lot of it, since Cooter, it was 10 years.

Tone Madison: Do you want to talk about the crazier stuff or not? You don’t have to.

Michael Makela: I mean, we were all doing stuff way beyond marijuana that we shouldn’t have been doing, and I think we’re all better.

Tone Madison: It was just kind of a crazy time for you.

Michael Makela: Yeah. We just weren’t thinking of the band, we were thinking of ourselves, and I think as you get older, maybe that happens less. You start treating—I think we’ve taken more of a business aspect to it. Even little things like—it’s so common for a band to, like, “We’re practicing at 6,” and that means you meet up somewhere at 6, and you get to your spot a hour later, but no—if it was a job, you’d have to be at the practice space ready to go at 6, right?

Tone Madison: Right. Yeah.

Michael Makela: So treat it like that.

Tone Madison: And then everyone’s happier.

Michael Makela: I’m not saying I’m firing anybody, but if you treat it like that, then you’re not shitting on each other. And everything you do, everything you say, maybe take a second and think, “how am I gonna affect this band?” I’m not talking about living, I’m talking about when we’re in a van, when we’re playing music—if somebody does something you didn’t like, to fuck with them during the song, during a live performance— that’s not just affecting you and him, that’s affecting—

Tone Madison: Everyone.

Michael Makela: Yeah. That’s horrible for the band, for instance, or whatever, or being a junkie, or whatever it was. And it isn’t anymore, which is why we’re playing and why it’s going so well. Everybody’s a little more adult about it. I mean, bands are supposed to be—if it ends up a job, it’s always that torture of “it’s my art” vs. “it’s a job,” and there’s always the musician—

Tone Madison: It doesn’t have to be that duality, though. It can be your job and it can still be art that you fully support and love.

Michael Makela: Yeah. There’s a point when it—I think it’s maybe more Western to not think you can survive off your art. Maybe it’s what we’re taught, that you need a 9-to-5, that—you know what I mean?

Tone Madison: Oh, of course.

Michael Makela: Maybe that’s more where that comes from, then. You know, like European countries, where you could be a band and get money from the state to play music. Each one of you could go apply for what we see as welfare, what they see as supporting the arts. All over Holland, you play clubs that—the city gives them a big budget to pay bands. So they only have to worry about volunteers to run it, if that’s how they’re doing it, or paying the people working there.

Tone Madison: Do you think there’s more of an opportunity for music to develop in countries with that kind of infrastructure?

Michael Makela: Just the openness to music. There’s something about the US and music, too, that—there’s more access to instruments and stuff. There’s places where it’s a lot harder to—you can’t go buy an amp, like we could, let alone a Green or a Sunn head. It seems like most European countries, though that’s a generalization, are more supportive of arts in general. But it seems like, to this day, the best rock and roll comes out of the US. Maybe it’s per capita too. There’s a lot more bands in the US than most countries.

Tone Madison: That’s true, and we make a lot of the amps.

Michael Makela: Yeah, and we started the music. It’s actually—rock and roll is ours. (laughs) Blues, too. Where much of today’s music comes from.

Tone Madison: OK. So the plan is to do a new record?

Michael Makela: Yeah. Oh yeah. I think so, there’s probably 3 or 4 labels that are interested.

Tone Madison: Not Relapse?

Michael Makela: Relapse is one of them.

Tone Madison: Would you do it with them again?

Michael Makela: Uh, I’m not gonna say anything about anything, yeah.

Tone Madison: That’s really smart, yeah.

Michael Makela: We haven’t decided. Relapse, it’s not like they treated us horrible. Record companies are record companies. Unless you want to take the time and effort to do it all yourself, you know, you get what you sign up for. So yeah, we just haven’t decided. I would like to do it as a one-off, and not worry about trying to get us to sign for 3, 4 records. I just don’t want pressure of what we have to do; that got weird for me. “You owe us a record,” you know. “Well, there’s not really a band, so that’s cool…”

Tone Madison: It’s like, okay, now you’re making me force it.

Michael Makela: Yeah, in a way—when I wrote Amerijuanican, or much of it, I felt like I had to finish my drawing project for art class. It’s what it felt like, sitting around, forcing out riffs. For the good and the bad, there’s 8 billion different ways to write a song. But for sure, we’re going to do a record.

An ode to the best and worst of Madison summers.

Eight stories over eight days, delivered directly to your inbox.

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top