Laina Dawes

this is part of a photo series i’ve been working on since 2011. it is a collection of photographs of badass women involved in metal, hardcore and the borderline metal/punk/avant-guarde worlds. these are the people who make up the music scene. these are my friends.

Extreme Woman: Laina Dawes

Meet Laina Dawes, music journalist, author of ‘What Are You Doing Here’ and concert photographer.

tell me about the conference you recently did.

LD: I recently presented at the Metal & Marginalization Symposium which took place at the University of York in the UK, but I Skyped my presentation in from Brooklyn.  My presentation was entitled, “The Music or the Message? A contemporary analysis of racism, anti-semitism and misogyny in the extreme music scenes.” By using my book as a jump-off point, I talked about the difficulty in navigating the metal scene when there are issues with artists who have expressed racism, Anti-Semitisim, homophobia and misogyny within both the live performance and within the lyrical content and imagery via the cover art. I wrote about my personal experiences and the experiences from black women involved in not only the metal scene, but also the hardcore and punk scenes in my book, but there has been quite a lot of discussion since the book was released a year ago. It seems like the question: “do you or should you support and artist based on their music, or take their politics into consideration when listening / purchasing their music or going to see them perform live?”, is something where there is no clear cut answer. Granted, its a personal decision, but we in the metal scene tend to judge each other on whether we do or not. The conversations I’ve had in the past few months and the blowback in relation to this issue has been extremely disappointing, so I was fortunate enough to talk about my research at this event.
what was your first metal experience?
LD: Discovering KISS at a very early age. I was more enthralled with the imagery than the music at the time, which as a kid, was scary as hell but really exciting. I also loved that they seemed really powerful and  intimidating, with were aspects that I desperately wanted to have for myself. Outside of listening to my older sister’s ACDC and punk albums, the mainstay for me was Judas Priest, which I got into at 11 or so. 

Extreme Woman: Laina Dawes

I first talked with you years ago, when you were interviewing for your book. Since then, A LOT has happened. Let’s chat about your book, which I still haven’t read because I’m a slow reader and a TERRIBLE friend. Can you talk about some of the reactions you’ve had.

LD: Overall, the response has been great – more positive than I imagined, and the amount of reviews and interviews I’ve done has been incredible. I must say that the metal community – magazines, podcasts, my journalism colleagues – have been BOSS! On the other hand, there has been a small contingent who is angry that the book exists. I’ve heard from black ( as in black people, lol)  metal fans who have thought that by talking about the black female experience in metal that I’m somehow making race an issue in an environment when it should be about the music. I’ve also gotten some feedback from predominately white males who are angry for the same reasons, as though I’m an outsider who is simply trying to take the scene down – which I don’t have the ambition, nor the power, to do. 

I look at it this way: The extreme, underground metal scene needs as many fans  as possible in order to keep it alive. Bands need fans to buy the albums, buy merch, pay to go see them perform live and more importantly, spread the word.  Race IS an issue in relation to making those things a reality for a number of people.  I’ve talked to a number of young black people and people from other ethnicities both before and after the book was published who are afraid to support their favourite bands in a live environment because they are afraid that they are going to be racially harassed. Because we live in an environment in which everyone has access via the Internet or through other forms of media to explore a myriad of different musical styles, racism within the scene – and the book is not specifically about racism (which has been a misconception) – doesn’t make any sense from both a cultural and economic perspective.  Why not shed light on it to make it as inclusive as possible? I’m a lifer in the scene. I’m not going anywhere. 

Extreme Woman: Laina Dawes

Will there have to be a part two?
LD: I hope so. I have a couple of ideas but graduate school is currently killing me.

Now that you are FINALLY in NYC, what are some of your favorite places to spend time and money?
LD: Honestly? I’ve been hibernating, just trying to keep my head above water with my course work, my school office gig and my freelance music writing assignments. However, Saint Vitus is my go-to venue, as the bands they have playing there are great, and it’s a pretty chill vibe. I love Brooklyn, though, and I love to walk around and explore the various neighbourhoods and cheap take-out places. The diversity here is wonderful but the gentrification is insane! I also plan to get back into tourist mode during the summer months and get out other parts of the city. 

On Monday May 12th, you can catch Laina taking part in a panel discussion after the screening of the documentary ‘Rock, Rage and Self-Defense: An Oral History of Seattle’s Home Alive’ at the Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn.

Some links:

Polly Watson

this is part of a photo series i’ve been working on since 2011. it is a collection of photographs of badass women involved in metal, hardcore and the borderline metal/punk/avant-guarde worlds. these are the people who make up the music scene. these are my friends.

Extreme Woman: Polly Watson

Meet Polly Watson, musician, writer, editor and a positive presence at metal shows in NYC. Her current project 1-800-BAND releases Diver Blue EP on April 8th. Below I ask Polly about her personal metal history.

What was your first metal experience?

Polly Watson: My first experience with metal apart from TV was seeing DRI at the beginning of crossover thrash play a warehouse filled with fish tanks in Iowa. The tanks were filled with fish, and they were quaking and sloshing. There were about 20 people present, and all 20 of them were in the pit. I felt a cold wind blow through me!

How the did you end up in Baltimore doing vocals for Triac?

PW: I never did vocals for Triac; I was in a vicious-style band called suspicious devices with Noel from Triac; Matt, who’s now in Biters; and Eric, who plays bass in Iron Cross and guitar in ravagers but is a fantastic superfast drummer. Matt put it together; I met him in B-more when I was in older bands. Suspicious Devices lasted about a minute because I would just take the bus down there at night after work, we’d practice, I’d sleep a couple hours at Noel’s house, take the 5 AM train back and go back to work.

No time for hanging out, and to be honest, it wasn’t very much fun to work on stuff alone up here, so it was probably doomed from the start, but they are the best guys and have all gone on to bigger and better!

Oh good. I’m glad to get the Triac thing cleared up. Both Mick and I, for the longest, assumed you were in the band. We’ve tried to put the timeline together in our heads, MANY times. Haha.

Tell me more about booking shows in a Chinatown karoake bar. Did any of your DIY shows get shut down?

PW: I put on my first show in my parents’ backyard when I was 15. I went door to door leaving flyers with a drawing of a big nuclear explosion on them letting everyone within a mile radius know there would be a show in my backyard and that it would be super loud. My mom dressed up in case the cops came, which they did. The grass in the yard still has not come back.

Since then, even more than playing in bands, I love putting on shows or parties in weird places. Or playing weird places. I don’t get to do it as much as I’d like because I work too much.

S.W.A.T. Bar. I think my sister told me about it, she lives nearby. It was a lot of old Chinese guys playing dice and one very drunk guy singing every song in the book. Joe, who ran the bar, let me have a show. It was pretty full and we were all really happy! Then at like 1 a.m. some EDM DJ came in and there were a ton of european models there to hear him and you couldn’t move. Pretty funny; Here I was, thinking “I found it!” not exactly! Anyway the worst that has ever happened at any show I’ve put on is people getting busted for drinking outside.

You’re the music editor for High Times (aka every once in a while my bosslady), a copy editor for a ton of publications (including Bazillion Points), plus you make music and love going to shows. How do you manage your time? What’s your secret to working hard, going out all the time and still feeling fabulous?

PW: I am the worst time manager, THE WORST. If you searched my e-mail the two most common words would be “sorry” and “late.”

What are you packing for these tour dates in May? (books, music, things you can’t live without, etc.)

PW: I will be traveling with my teddy bear, who makes a fantastic pillow.

Also do you have any tour secrets?

PW: If you put a can of soup or ravioli or whatever on the dashboard at 8 am on a sunny day, it will be warm and ready to eat by the time you get to the club.

Tour Dates:

4/5/14 @ Record Grouch, Brooklyn, 7 p.m. early action!!!
4/25/14 @ Gold Bar, Baltimore
5/2/14 @ Gooski’s, Pittsburgh, PA
5/4/14 @ Quarters Rock n Roll Palace, Milwaukee, WI
5/5/14 @ Triple Rock, Minneapolis, MN
5/6/14 @ Emporium, Chicago, IL
5/7/14 @ Painted Lady, Hamtramck, MI (taco night!)
5/8/14 @ Bourbon Street, Columbus, OH
5/9/14 @ Bell House, Brooklyn w/Dwight Twilley, Pezband

Join Your Idols: Curran Reynolds

Today Is The Day


[ This is an interview series highlighting musicians who go from being a band’s biggest fan to being in THAT band. The title is taken from the hardcore band Kill Your Idols. ]

Curran Reynolds is a musician, publicist and promoter. You may know him from his drumming in Wetnurse and Today is the Day, or from his show bookings at Lit Lounge (every Monday for 6.66 years), or from his magical pr powers. Curran is a tastemaker, a skilled drummer, a talented songwriter (do visit his solo project Body Stuff) and a great person to get advice from.

Today is the Day

At what point in your life did you discover Today is the Day?

Curran Reynolds: I was 17 when my friend Johnny Dwyer told me about Today Is The Day. Johnny’s older brother worked at AmRep, TITD’s label at that time. I liked the band name. I hadn’t heard the music yet but the name stuck with me. Later that year I went exploring around California for a couple months. I was in a record store in Santa Cruz and I saw Willpower in there. I had the clerk put it on and it was instantly that feeling of “Yes, this is for me.”


What album drew you in?

CR: Willpower was the one.


Wetnurse at Santos Party House February 26, 2009
Wetnurse at Santos Party House February 26, 2009
Wetnurse at Public Assembly April 12, 2009

How did affect you?

CR: Everything about that album was perfect to my ear. Fucked up sounds, from the heart, contrasts of loud and soft, mean and sad, complex and simple. It went beyond liking the music, it was a feeling of kinship with the people who made it, whoever they were. I knew nothing about them, all I had to go on was the one band photo, the lyrics, and the inscription: “For the pain of living”. That sort of mystery, which is impossible in today’s world, made it even better because it allowed the imagination to run wild. Up until I saw TITD live for the first time at Coney Island High in NYC, a year after buying Willpower, I thought the longhair dude in shades was the frontman.


When I met you, you had done a tour or two with Today is the Day, but your job was selling merch and not playing drums. How did you meet Steve and start doing merch for the band?

CR: After being a fan since the 90s, I first met Steve properly in 2006. I was building up my music PR business at that time and I’d heard Steve was starting his own label. I took a chance and reached out to him about working together. I drove up from NYC to his place in Massachusetts and we met and hit it off. For the next couple years I was his publicist, up through the release of TITD’s Axis of Eden album. We worked intensely through that whole period and he became like a big brother to me. I sold merch for the band on two of the Axis of Eden tours.


The_Network at Lit Lounge October 2009.
The_Network at Lit Lounge October 2009.
Landmine Marathon at Lit Lounge April 2009.
Landmine Marathon at Lit Lounge April 2009.
Curran handling business at work (aka Lit Lounge).
Curran handling business at work (aka Lit Lounge).
The Year Is One at Union Pool on March 12, 2012.
The Year Is One at Union Pool on March 12, 2012.

At what point did you join the band? Did you confront Steve like, ‘Hey I’m a BADASS MOTHAFUCKA, let me play drums’? Or it happen more organically than that?

CR: On the first Axis of Eden tour in 2007, Steve had his other band Taipan open each show. The Taipan drummer quit the tour after three days and I was a logical replacement since I was already out there with them selling merch. There was no rehearsal, I learned the set in the van on the way to my first show in Allentown, PA. I continued filling in for the rest of the tour, which was the whole US in five weeks. That’s how Steve and I first played together. A couple years later, he needed a drummer for TITD and he called me up and asked me to do it.


After being in the band and recording ‘Pain is a Warning’, what would you tell your teenage self about Today is the Day? What about making music as an adult?

CR: We recorded the Pain Is A Warning album with Kurt Ballou in 2011. That was an exciting time. I’m proud of that record. During my three years in the band we also did tours with bands like Unsane and Soilent Green, we played in almost every state in the US and 20 countries in Europe – I’ve played shows in Athens, Barcelona, Budapest, Oslo, Reykjavik, and so on. All of this is the stuff of dreams and my teenage self would be proud.

TITD had a total of six drummers before me, not including touring drummers. It’s a tall order to try and do justice to all those different styles, especially when some of those guys are considered the best in the world. I could never compete with Brad Elrod, for example, and I never intended to. He was first and his style defined the band’s sound. I was in the band to do a job. More of a laborer than an artist. My approach was to look at the big picture, not the micro details, and make those songs rock. To give Steve a solid foundation and put a lifetime of pain into every hit. Turn off the brain and let the heart do the work. This seemed appropriate, ya know, I think this is what TITD is about, being your own person and doing things from the heart. On that note, I left TITD after our US tour this spring. My heart wasn’t in it anymore. I think I felt I had done the job as best I could and that was that. I had made my contribution and it was time for other things. A more happy-go-lucky person might have stuck it out but for me this stuff is life-or-death. I can’t just go through the motions. So I left TITD in April, put out my first solo record in July, and played my first show as a frontman in October.

Words of wisdom to my younger self: Inspiration is a precious thing. Don’t question it. Run hard with it and follow it where it leads you.


Let’s say I’m 17 and I want to make unconventional, intense music, what advice would you give me? How do I join my idols?

CR: Be your own idol.


Body Stuff at Acheron October 2013.
Body Stuff at Acheron October 2013.

Today Is The Day

Today is the Day at Gramercy Theater on November 4, 2011.
Today is the Day at Gramercy Theater on November 4, 2011.

Body Stuff:

TITD live in Portugal, 2011:

More TITD:

Play this at his funeral:

Join Your Idols: Colin Marston


This is an interview series highlighting musicians who go from being a band’s biggest fan to being in THAT band. The title is taken from the hardcore band Kill Your Idols.

Colin Marston runs The Thousand Caves of Menegroth studio in Queens. He plays/writes for Dysrhythmia, Behold The Arctopus, Indricothere, Krallice, Byla and Gorguts. He also REALLY REALLY REALLY loves ellipsis.

Dysrhythmia at st. vitus

At what point in your life did you discover Gorguts?

Colin Marston: I was 18. My friend Alex Nagle sent me the songs “Inverted” and “Behave Through Mythos” right after ‘From Wisdom to Hate’ came out in spring of 2001. I was instantly intrigued since that album featured Dan from Martyr on guitar, who’d I’d just become a huge fan of, but the Gorguts material was way uglier, brutal and horrific, which is always something that’s been attractive to me. I grew up with prog and classical, not metal so much, so I’d already found Univers Zero, Bartok, Penderecki, and the most fucked up parts of the King Crimson discography, but I didn’t know much about what extreme metal had to offer in the dissonant asymmetrical department. So meeting Nagle (and Kevin Hufnagel a few years earlier) gave me access to two vast encyclopedias of unique and strange metal bands. A couple months later, Kevin played me ‘Obscura’ and with that I was fully aboard the guts train. Thanksnagles.


What was the album that drew you in and how did it affect you?

CM: I got deep into Wisdom and Obscura at the same time. Obscura was great because of the Hurdle influence and I liked the way it was recorded and mixed a lot better, but Wisdom was a little less repetitive and more mysterious, so both records hooked me. A year or two later I got the first two albums and grew to appreciate those immensely as well, but the latter two directly influenced the way I thought about harmony, tempo relationships, and even musical intention (especially after watching the Lemay/Cloutier lesson–seeing how passionate Luc was about this super fucked music was beyond inspiring).


12_Colin Charlie Z-1241

After years of touring with Behold the Arctopus and Dysrhythmia, how did you meet Luc?

CM: I met Luc at the first Negativa show. In 2006 Mike Lerner and I found out that the best weekend of music ever was taking place over a weekend in Montreal. Friday night was the Martyr album release show for their first new album in 6 years, and Saturday night was the debut of Luc and Steeve’s “new” band Negativa. There was no other option but to go get in the pit. Previously I was in touch with Steeve Hurdle through email, but that trip was when I actually met him along with Luc, Miguel and Etienne. Luc and I didn’t hang much at that show, but Steeve and I kept in touch. He was really the reason both Kevin and I ended up in Gorguts two years later.


How did he go about getting you in the band?

CM: He sent Kevin a myspace message saying he had Longstreth on board for a new lineup of Gorguts and asked both of us to join. I guess social networking has done some good things for us. We immediately said “yes” and that was that.


Gorguts soundcheck


After being in Gorguts for a few years and touring halfway around the world, what would you tell your teenage self about Gorguts? What about death metal and music?

31-year-old Colin: “Hey buddy, you’re going to be the new bassist and mixing/mastering engineer for the next Gorguts record!”

18-year-old Colin: “Fuck off dude; I can’t even find a guitarist and drummer to be in my dumb Warr guitar band I’m trying to start.”

31-year-old Colin: “Don’t tell me to fuck off! It’s true!”

18-year-old Colin: “Ok sorry, but bass? Why can’t I play guitar in the band?”

31-year-old Colin: “Seriously? You get to be in your favorite band, asshole. Plus Kevin makes more sense as a lead guitarist for Gorguts. Your solos are garbage.”

18-year-old Colin: “Fair enough. Better keep staying away from girls and writing nerdy unlistenable music.”

I didn’t really answer your question.




Let’s say I’m 17, love death metal and want to start a band. What’s your advice for me?

CM: Music works better when kept at least a bit tasteless. Don’t go making it too respectable. Oh yeah, and only make demos if you want Germans and Australians to like your death metal. The second you make your first record, you’ve ruined a perfectly good band logo.


How do I join Gorguts?

CM: Aren’t you the high vocalist for MNDLSBLSTNG? How have you not been asked already? I’ll see what I can do.

Hire Colin:
Buy Colin’s Music:
Buy Gorguts:
Kevin’s tunings:


Join Your Idols: Jesse Krakow

Shudder to Think + The Shaggs

This is an interview series highlighting musicians who go from being a band’s biggest fan to being in THAT band. The title is taken from the hardcore band Kill Your Idols.

Jesse Krakow is a bassist, composer and host of “Minor Music”, a radio show that showcases rad musicians under 18. You may also know him from Dynamite Club, Time of Orchids, PAK, Doctor Nerve and The Exploding Note Ensemble.

Shudder To Think

At what point in your life did you discover Shudder to Think?

Jesse Krakow: I guess I first heard the name Shudder To Think in high school, when I found out that one of the guys in the band did the music for the MTV sketch show “The State”, which I was (and still am) obsessed with. But I didn’t hear them until early 1999 when I joined Time of Orchids and Charlie Looker – ToO’s guitarist at the time – made me a mixtape with three of their songs: “Gang Of $”, “Chakka”, and “Hit Liquor”.

What album drew you in?

JK: “Pony Express Record”, definitely. All of their albums are wonderful, but that one is incredibly special. The idea that a record that fucked up came out on Epic Records makes zero sense, in the best way.

How did it affect you?

JK: It actually really pissed me off at first, because it was exactly – and I mean EXACTLY – the kind of music I wanted to play, as well as being something completely new. It was proggy without being egghead-y, it was anthemic without being cheesy, it rocked without being derivative, and it was fucking heavy – sonically and metaphysically – as hell. The guitars were playing all these weird dissonant chords and soaring atonal solos, but it was all very controlled. Very James Honeyman-Scott. The bass and drums were a machine, even when the tempos and feels were pushing and pulling against each other. And the singer had this bizarre falsetto with a demonic vibrato, and he was singing these amazing cryptic lyrics, and crafting them into “hooks”. I loved everything everyone was doing, and in the process it changed how I listened to, approached, and ultimately played and thought about music. (And therefore art.)

1_Jesse Krakow-8954

Let’s fast forward passed many years of playing in bands like Dynamite Club and Time Of Orchids and making your own Solo projects happen. How did you meet Craig Wedren?

JK: I met Craig in 2004 through my old job as a music producer at an advertising agency. My job was to reach out to new composers and see if they would be interested in writing music for commercials. Having known that Craig had done TV and film work, I called him in for a meeting. It should be noted that Craig knew of Time of Orchids, so he was aware that I was a musician and huge fan of his. By 2006 I was no longer in advertising, but I had stayed in touch with Craig’s manager Chris Dell’Olio and had let him know – almost in a jokey way – that if Craig was ever in need of a bass player that I’d love to play with him. And in 2006 he was, so I got the call.

How did you go from playing in his solo project to playing shows with Shudder to Think?

JK: Quite simply, Stuart Hill – the original bass player – didn’t want to do it. And being that I was a huge fan, could play a lot of the songs, and could count out of the weird parts, and had been played with Craig, Kevin, and even Nathan before, they asked me. I remember the phone call from Craig very well. I was at my job getting ready to teach, when he called and asked me “So are you fucking psyched to do some shows with Shudder To Think this summer?” And then I started shaking…

Jesse Krakow-2239

After playing in Shudder for a while, what would you tell your teenage self about the band?

JK: Well I probably would tell my teenage self “Hey, the dude who wrote the theme to “The State” has a great band that you should check out.” But I would tell my slightly older self that what was and is so amazing about Shudder To Think is that they didn’t know – from a technical standpoint – what they were doing. They loved art-rock stuff, but they also loved X. They loved free jazz, but they also loved Joni Mitchell. They loved Cecil Taylor, but they also loved Van Halen. You see, at the time I was under the impression that complex music could only come from a complex place, and especially a technical one. I thought that all composers knew exactly what they’re doing, always. But Craig and Nathan had no idea that they were playing in 23/16, or playing polytonal chords, or playing stacked tritones. They were just doing THIS part. And that is really, really fucking important. Do THIS. Why? I dunno, but you should just do it, ’cause its rad. That’s art. Or ART.

None More Eleven

A few years ago you put together a Shaggs tribute show. How did that show transition from a tribute to you playing in Dot Wiggin’s band?

JK: That all came from the tribute. At the tribute I organized a Q & A session where Dot and her sisters could answer questions from the audience that I would read aloud. One of the questions was “Are there any unrecorded or unfinished Shaggs songs?”, and we were all surprised to learn that the answer was “Yes.” The day after the concert I was talking to Dot about these unfinished songs and told her if she needed someone to help her finish them that I would love to be that person. She said “sounds good”, and a few months later I got a package of sheet music from her, including the original charts for “My Pal Foot-Foot”, “Philosophy Of The World”, and a host of new tunes and lyrics. After looking at all these sheets I decided to put a band together featuring the biggest Shaggs fans I knew (who had performed at the tribute) and record her new songs. We did that, and then we drove up to Epping, NH to record Dot’s vocals. Shortly thereafter Dot was asked to perform at a WFMU Benefit concert, which necessitated us forming a proper band and getting a full set together. Following that, I sent the recordings to Jello Biafra, who flipped out when he heard them. And long story short, Dot’s solo debut album came out in late Oct. on Alternative Tentacles.

Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t be afraid to look like an idiot in front of your idol.

Let’s say I’m 17 and I want to make strange music, what advice would you give me? How do I join my idols?

JK: Well first off I’d tell them not to call it “strange”. It’s not strange, it’s beautiful and very real. “Strange” is something you say to someone who doesn’t know about cool shit when you are trying to explain what you sound like. But much more importantly, I would tell them to not worry about trying to impress people with your coolness. Impress them with your knowledge of their music, and your dedication to it. I remember one time Craig asked me what I did the night before and I told him, truthfully, that I spent most of the night trying to play through “50, 000 B.C” – Shudder To Think’s last studio album. He had no gigs booked, I was just doing this because I loved the record. And when he realized this I think it made him appreciate how seriously I took his music. And that lead to me being asked to replace Stuart in the band.

I’d also tell them not to be afraid to take a huge gamble and try something that makes no sense and that people tell you is crazy. When I was arranging my Shaggs Tribute I got Dot’s number through a friend, and I had to take a moment to tell myself “ok, now you’re gonna call the person who wrote “My Pal Foot-Foot” on the phone and ask her if she wants to come to the show.” And I did, and she said yes. Then I had to figure out a way to get her and her family down to the show, which cost me money. So I had to figure out a way to pay for it. Everyone I talked to said that there was no way The Shaggs would want to come down and see their music be performed, because they had such a horrible time as a band. But they were wrong, and the only way we know this is because I wasn’t afraid to ask. Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t be afraid to look like an idiot in front of your idol. So long as you are an honest idiot who knows what they’re talking about and are talking about something they’re interested in – and if that something is how much you love their music, they’ll be interested. I’ve achieved some pretty amazing things in my life by totally geeking out on my idols, and so can you.

Find Jesse Here: