Lazy-i Interview: Mousetrap’s back, but don’t call it a reunion; new Criteria video; John Klemmensen needs a kickstart…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:39 pm August 15, 2013
Mousetrap circa 2013, from left, Colby Starck, Patrick Buchanan and Craig Crawford.

Mousetrap circa 2013, from left, Colby Starck, Patrick Buchanan and Craig Crawford.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

In this week’s column, Mousetrap’s back. You can read it in the current issue of The Reader, online here, or what the heck, read it below:

Over the Edge: Mousetrap’s Back, but Don’t Call It a Reunion

For regular readers of this column, a quick synopsis of who/what is punk rock band Mousetrap:

To use the word “seminal” to describe their impact on the Omaha music scene would be an understatement. Almost every significant Omaha band I’ve interviewed — whether they play punk, hard rock or even singer-songwriter stuff — has name-checked Mousetrap as an influence. That includes all of Saddle Creek Records’ most successful acts.

At the band’s core are bassist Craig Crawford and frontman/guitarist Patrick Buchanan. Their hey-day was in the ‘90s, when they released a couple 7-inch singles followed by their debut full-length Cerebral Revolver in 1993; the follow-up, Lover, in ’94, and their final album, The Dead Air Sound System, in ’95.

How to describe their music? It’s loud, but not macho or “tough-guy” or anything like today’s corporate metal goon-rock bands. Instead, the music is bitter and angry. Its anger is channeled more toward themselves than whatever situation Buchanan and Crawford are howling about. Actually, it’s more pain than anger — not a broken-hearted pain, but an exposed nerve physical throbbing abscessed tooth sort of agony — bright red and pulsing.

Mousetrap’s abrasive, acidic rock is not for everybody, in fact, it’s not for most people. After years of touring — a rarity for local bands in the early ‘90s — Mousetrap eventually faded away by the end of the decade.

And then seemingly out of the blue — the band played a pair of reunion shows at The Waiting Room in 2009 and 2010. And now their back again, but this time it’s different. Mousetrap intends to become an active band, or as bassist Crawford put it, “We’re a functioning band that plans to put out a new album by December.”

Crawford talked via Skype last Saturday in the band’s Chicago practice space. Also on the video-chat were frontman Buchanan, looking as sinister as ever with his mane of black, tousled hair, and new drummer Colby Starck.

Starck, a former Lincolnite who you may remember from such ‘90s bands as Pablo’s Triangle and Roosevelt Franklin, has lived in Chicago for about 12 years, where he made acquaintances with Crawford. He says Mousetrap’s first 7-inch “Wired” b/w “Train,” released on the late Dave Sink’s One-Hour Records, continues to be his favorite single.

“I’ve been a fan for a long time, and Mousetrap has always had trouble with drummers,” Starck said. “Whenever I saw them, I always said, ‘That should be me up there.’” And now it is.

Buchanan wanted to make sure I mention that former drummer, Mike Mazzola, who played with Mousetrap at the reunion shows, is a great drummer and a good friend and that the switch to Starck was a scheduling thing.

“It totally made more sense to have Colby come in because he can invest more time in the band,” Buchanan said. “We want to make this a living, breathing, fully operational band and that requires more time and commitment.”

Becoming a “real band” had been the plan back in 2010, but it obviously never happened. Shortly after the holiday reunion show, Buchanan, who works in advertising, got a job offer in Miami. “It’s the nature of the ad business, if you want to get yourself a raise, you have to move to where the job is,” he said. But it didn’t take long for Buchanan to realize that Miami is “kind of a shithole.” When he got another job offer back in Detroit, he took it. And as soon as he got back, he called Crawford and got the ball rolling again.

By the way, Buchanan said despite the city recently declaring bankruptcy, Detroit isn’t a bad place to live. “I actually love it,” he said, “and I love that the media is so harsh on it. It’ll keep all the hipster douche bags away.”

Back to our story. Detroit is an easy drive to Chicago, which allows the band to get together over the weekends. Word of this reunion leaked back in March. Since then, the band not only has been getting Starck up to speed on the band’s back catalog, but writing new material, including one new song that will be performed at Friday night’s show at The Waiting Room, and Saturday night’s show at The Chesterfield in Sioux City.

Buchanan said Mousetrap’s new material is “pretty dark.”

“It’s driven by the type of vibe that you hear when you listen to Iggy Pop’s The Idiot album, which is the greatest nighttime album ever made,” he said. “Let me explain it in less specific terms: Mousetrap of 1993 was a sawed-off shotgun. Mousetrap of 2013 is more like a sniper rifle. The stuff we’re doing isn’t less violent or abrasive, just extra concentrated.”

Both Crawford and Buchanan said there’s a void for their style of aggressive music. “The formula (in pop music) in the last year has been bands saying, ‘Hey, Ho.’” Crawford said. “I don’t see a lot of bands with balls.”

“You see a lot of dudes with beards strumming acoustic guitars wearing vests and suspenders, old-timely clothes like a frontier pioneer guy,” Buchanan added. “I feel like what we’re doing is pretty fresh right now because it’s not what’s happening. There’s a lot of dance-y electronic music and softer indie-rock stuff, but there’s not a lot of loud, aggressive rock music that’s not metal. There has always been an anti-social streak to us in a musical sense; we’ve always been dark and confrontational, that’s the music we want to make.”

And if no one likes it?

“It doesn’t really matter if not a single person buys our next album,” Buchanan said. “We make music the way we want to make it. We’ve always been musically very selfish. We’re going to do whatever we want to do. If you like it, that’s awesome. If not, there’s the door, get the fuck out.”

Mousetrap plays Friday, Aug. 16, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple Street, with Ron Wax and Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship. Tickets are $8, the show starts at 9 p.m.. For more information, go to onepercentproductions.com

Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@gmail.com.

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And yet another Mousetrap interview right here at hearnebraska.com.

And here’s Mousetrap doing “Superkool” at The Waiting Room in 2010, via the YouTube.

Friday night’s show at TWR should be epic.

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In case you’re wondering what the boys in Criteria have been up to, check out their just-released Love Drunk video for yet-to-be-released song “This Reign Is Ours.” Heavy riffage. Lots of exciting woodworking. You get the idea. BTW, Criteria will be playing the local stage at Saturday’s Maha Music Festival. Get your tix right here and get ready to rock.

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Finally, Omaha’s No. 1 broken-hearted troubadour, John Klemmensen, is getting ready to hit the road on a tour that takes him to the West Coast. The only thing he needs is gas money. And that’s where you come in.

Check out John Klemmensen’s Kickstarter Campaign, where he’s trying to raise a measly $500. Prizes include a candle-lit bubble bath drawn by John himself as he serenades you with one of his slow, sad, sexy ballads…. j/k.

“j/k” stands for Just Kidding. Though John might want to consider adding it to the list. It’s got to be worth $50…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

2010: The Year in Music, Pt. 2 — Best Live Shows; Live Review: Mousetrap; Stolen Kisses tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 2:08 pm December 30, 2010

Column 303: Stage Dive

The best shows of ’10

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Wrapping up the music year in review, here is my list of the best shows of the 100 or so that I attended in 2010. Yeah, I know there are a few missing (Where’s the Pixies? Where’s Justin Bieber?), but I can’t be at all of them. Help fill in the blanks by listing your favorites in the comment section of this story.

Jan. 22-23 — The Waiting Room re-grand opening. After gutting the interior and literally “raising the roof” (or at least the ceiling), the centerpiece Benson club celebrated with two nights of shows — a local gig featuring Little Brazil, Little Black Stereo, Ground Tyrants and Kyle Harvey, and a national show featuring afro-beat band NOMO. The verdict, Omaha had another world-class club to compete with Slowdown.

Jan. 29 — Haiti Relief Concert at Slowdown — What more could you ask for than Conor Oberst singing “Lua” backed by Nate Walcott on flugelhorn? The Bright Eyes reunion was one of the highlights of a sold-out show that benefitted the earthquake-torn country, that also included performances by Tilly and The Wall, It’s True, Simon Joyner, The Mynabirds, Bear Country, McCarthy Trenching and Brad Hoshaw.

March 15 — Digital Leather at O’Leaver’s — With a full beard, frontman Shawn Foree resembled an indie version of Jim Morrison circa Morrison Hotel. And with an extra keyboard player, he was free to get more involved on stage and with the crowd on such moving anthems as “Studs in Love.”

April 5 — Beach House at TWR — Visually, a boring show. Sonically, nothing less than amazing. Every note of their chamber pop echoed and glowed as they played all the songs from breakthrough album Teen Dream. Between numbers, they talked about Malcolm X, the Omaha Beef and 311, dedicating songs to each of them.

May 2 — So-So Sailors at Slowdown Jr. — I came to see Jeremy Messersmith, the crowd came to see The Mynabirds, but it was So-So Sailors that everyone was talking about after the show.

May 22 — Criteria at The Waiting Room — You couldn’t tell that this band hadn’t been on a stage in almost two years. Everything was tight, including Stephen Pedersen’s high-flyin’ vocals that still had that pop. They were having the time of their lives, and so was an audience that greeted old favorites with raised fists.

June 13 — The Mountain goats at Slowdown — Balladeer John Danielle did a Storytellers shtick, with bits about life on the road or what inspired the next rousing anthem or stirring ballad, delivered in the rapid-fire style of a well-seasoned stand-up comic.

June 28 — Deerhoof at TWR — As a live band, Deerhoof eclipsed their restrained, measured recordings with sheer ferocity, transforming from an art band into something that more closely resembled punk.

June 30 — It’s True at Slowdown Jr. –“This is our third to last show,” said inebriated frontman Adam Hawkins without giving an explanation. The performance had the charm of a drunken wake, with Hawkins taking double shots between songs. Despite proclaiming that he was “wasted,” he still put on one helluva show.

July 9 — Lincoln Invasion in Benson — Twenty bands from Lincoln decended on Benson for one night, but it was Mercy Rule that made the best argument for Star City’s superiority.

July 24 — MAHA Music festival — We all had a favorite performance. Some said Spoon, others Ben Kweller and The Faint. For me it was conquering heroes Superchunk playing for their first time in Nebraska.

July 31 — Concert for Equality in Benson — For one day, 2,000 people crowded the streets of Benson to celebrate freedom, or the lack of it. While host Conor Oberst shined with Bright Eyes, it was the reunion of his other band, Desaparacidos, along with Lullaby for the Working Class, that made the day historic.

Aug. 27 — Slowdown Block Party — With his stringy hair and big, crazy graying beard, Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch looked like he just walked out of a survivalist compound. And though his Neil Young-meets-Kermit the Frog voice couldn’t hit the high notes, he could still shred on guitar like few others in the indie world.

Sept. 16 — Titus Andronicus at TWR — I wouldn’t say it was “epic” as much as an attempt at being epic. Every one of Titus’ tuneful anthem punk songs started small before exploding into pounding riffs, sing-along lyrics and the occasional Celtic-flavored melody.

Sept. 24 — Serena-Maneesh at TWR — Slowdive. Ride. My Bloody Valentine. I never saw any of them perform live on stage. And after this show, I get the feeling that Serena-Maneesh will be the closest I’ll ever get.

Oct. 22 — Bad Luck Charm at The 49’r — The headliner was BLC, but the real star was the bar itself, which was celebrating its second-to-last show before closing its doors forever.

Nov. 19 — Tim Kasher at TWR — Backed by a solid band, an unually reserved Kasher was all business, serenading the crush mob with solo ballads, Good Life covers and a tip o’ the hat to David Bowie.

Nov. 29 — Mark Mallman at TWR — Ever the professional showman, Mallman played as if he were in front of a sold out Carnegie Hall instead of a virtually empty room. He deserved better.

Were we saving the best for last? An early press date kept me from including the Dec. 23 reunion of Slowdown Virginia and Polecat, and the Dec. 29 return of Mousetrap to The Waiting Room. I guess I’ll just have to include them on next year’s list.

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Mousetrap at The Waiting Room, Dec. 29, 2010.

Mousetrap at The Waiting Room, Dec. 29, 2010.

Actually, you needn’t wait for next year’s list. You already saw the Slowdown Virginia review. And last night was Mousetrap at The Waiting Room.

Before I get to the specifics, let me get this off my chest — There is something strangely timeless about Mousetrap’s music, and here’s what I’m talking about: No one — not back then in the ’90s and certainly not now — could channel rage quite the way these guys could and still do. It’s not a macho or tough-guy thing like today’s corporate metal goon-rock bands. Instead, it’s bitter and angry, but it’s anger channeled more toward themselves than whatever situation Patrick Buchanan and Craig Crawford are screaming about. Actually, it’s more about pain than anger — not a broken-hearted pain, but an exposed nerve physical throbbing abscessed tooth sort of agony. Bright red and pulsing.

Nothing sounds like Mousetrap today. Look at any of the 2010 top-10 album lists floating around the internet right now and ask yourself how many of those bands sound like they’ve ever been mad about anything. Arcade Fire, for example, channels regret and lost hope in mournful tones, as if they’ve come to accept the fact that we’ve all somehow been cheated. They’re martyrs. Mousetrap is on the opposite side. They’re not giving an inch. If you fuck with them, they’re going to let you know what they think of you at 300 dBs with spit flying from their mouths. And that is what makes their music strangely timeless. I can’t think of another band that has their ridged-back attitude. Mousetrap is that scrappy guy that no one fucked with in high school — not because he was the biggest or toughest in the crowd, but because everyone was afraid what he might do if you piss him off. Because if he snaps, there’s no stopping him. Mousetrap is that guy, that scary guy. You don’t want to get them started.

Last night they were in fine form, as good as they sounded last  year and better than I remember them back in the ’90s. They were always a great live band that spent every set teetering over the edge of the cliff. That sense of uncertainty is gone. They’re more focused; they know exactly what they want to do, and they do it. Their sound is as vicious and acidic as ever;  but Buchanan’s voice (as well as Crawford’s) is more controlled and certain. And after last night, I’m somewhat convinced that Mike Mazzola may be the best drummer they’ve worked with, giving the absent Scott Miller a run for his money. The crowd of 130 or so looked like they were paying homage to returning legends, which they were.

Buchanan ended the set saying, “See you next year,” but made the surprise annoucement that the band is considering recording a new album in 2011 — that is, if they can find a label to give them some cash. Somebody needs to step up, because it would be a shame if Mousetrap remained a once-a-year reunion gig. And we all could use a regular dose of anger in our musical diets. With the world the way it is, we certainly have a lot to be angry about.

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The reunions continue tonight at The Slowdown. The last time I saw Stolen Kisses was way back in January 2009 (reviewed here). The band split up shortly afterward when Chris Kramer moved to Chicago. Well, he’s back tonight for this Stolen Kisses reunion show that also includes performances by Darren Keen and the Fellowship of the Ring, and the debut of Our Hearts Are Stars, a new band that features members of Bear Country and Talking Mountain, among others. Show starts at 9 and is absolutely free.

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Lazy-i Best of 2010 sampler

Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of the highly coveted Lazy-i Best of 2010 Sampler CD!  Just send me an e-mail (to tim@lazy-i.com) with your name and mailing address and you’ll be dropped in the digital hat. Tracks include songs by Arcade Fire, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, The National, Tim Kasher, Hot Chip, Sally Seltmann, Belle and Sebastian, Titus Andronicus, The Mynabirds, Zeus, The Black Keys, Pete Yorn and more. Full track listing is here. Enter today. Deadline is Jan. 18.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i