Me: How are you? Please introduce yourselves and members of Tenement.
Tell our readers a brief history of the band – how you met each other,
what year was the band formed, etc.?
J: I’m Jesse Ponkamo and I play bass, sometimes, in Tenement. Amos and I are quite old friends, we came together when his old band disbanded and that was sometime in 2006 if I recall correctly. After a few drummers, second guitarists, and 4 7”s we arrived at our current state.
A: I'm amos. I write most of the songs and I'm kind of a recluse by society's definition.
E: My name is Eric, I play Drums, I met Amos and Jesse when different bands we were in played together about 6 or 7 years ago, we would always run into each other at random shows and always kept in touch, then Tenement needed a drummer for a U.S. tour with another band called the Used Kids and I was asked to play for that tour and I sorta just never left.
Me: Why did you choose the band name Tenement?
J: It was quite a grueling process involving paging through dictionaries and brains storming for hours.
A: At the time, I was obsessed with poverty and had been reading Jacob Riis's book, How The Other Half Lives, about poor living conditions in New York City around the turn of the century. These poor living conditions involved, many times, tenements where poor immigrants lived.
Me: Your debut LP coming soon. Tell about it. How long did you work on it?
J: We were awarded the luxury of recording at a reduced price with a friend of ours who is a rather lauded recording engineer and producer of rock bands, Justin Perkins (http://www.justincarlperkins.com/ : "I finally got the Tenement album mixed, one of my favorite punk rock albums I've worked on....it should be out by summertime on vinyl and CD". - прим.). We began recording in early summer of 2009 with the intention of having an LP ready for our 2 month full US tour that summer. However, it became clear quickly that this would not happen and there were certain circumstances that compounded the stress on Tenement on a personal level, which will not be discussed here, that made the recording process longer. We finished the recording sometime in 2011 and since that time it had been awaiting final treatments to get it ready for release. The material was finalized in May of this year and is currently available for preorder from Mandible records and Hang Up records on LP and CD, respectively.
A: It's called "Napalm Dream". The majority of the record was recorded at a couple professional studios in and around Wisconsin, with the exception of many overdubs and a few entire tracks recorded on an 8 track machine at my home, BFG, in Appleton, Wisconsin. The drums were recorded at Smart Studios in Madison, Wisconsin - where Nirvana tracked some of "Nevermind" and the Smashing Pumpkins recorded "Gish". The place has since closed down.
Me: What main principles are you trying to convey to the listener of
your music? What means the music in your life?
J: As with most pop and rock music we’re typically conveying different emotions using a narrative and in some instances the narrative just stands alone as a story which loosely conveys a more specific abstraction. But, I’m a firm believer that you should take away whatever you want from the music be it emotions or otherwise. Having an artist put all the cards on the table really is a disservice to the consumer of art.
E: Destroy everything.
Me: I really enjoy cover arts of all you releases. I guess I see some
concept in it. Kinda retro / nostalgic. Maybe I'm wrong. Please tell
about it. Who owns an idea?
A: The idea behind the visual art that accompanies our records isn't necessarily supposed to convey nostalgia. I use collage art, by and large, because my hand isn't very graceful with a brush or pencil and It's much easier to open up other people to my world with other colors and shapes that I can cut up and paste together. Painting, for me, is like playing guitar with mittens on much of the time. The idea is there, but I just can't find a way to express it well with the resources I've got. You can also create alot of clutter with cut-up old images, and clutter is something i've been enthralled by since childhood. There's a place in south-west Wisconsin called "The House on the Rock", which was the former home of Alex Jordan, an architect who was an understudy to Frank Lloyd Wright. He obsessively built a collection over many years which reflected his imagination, and It's been on display there since the 1980's. I've been visiting it every year or so since I was old enough to understand it. Every room unveils a new world, from Colonial Streets to the Middle Ages to a Utopian 1950's society to abstractions of color and light. It displays all arrays of mood whether it be vivid color or shadows and darkness that leaves your imagination to dream what it wants. But most of all, it creates a stunning clutter that's almost overwhelming.
Me: I only read very good reviews about your live performances. Can you
name the most memorable concerts for you? and why. I have seen some
live video of Tenement and i can say you guys are killers.
J: I’m assuming the question is referring to concerts that Tenement has played not ones we have personally attended as audience members. The concerts that really stick out in my mind are usually ones where we’re playing to people that really don’t know where we’re coming from as a live band, we take a lot of cues for live performance from HC and more intense live performers regardless of genre. So, the concert that I think was most memorable was when we played with Screeching Weasel in Minneapolis last summer. I can’t think of a time I’ve seen an audience so torn apart, one half hating what we were doing and the other half cheering us on. Definitely memorable to say the least.
A: We play most of our most memorable shows in more intimate settings, I think. Like basements or living rooms. However, that night in Minneapolis left a feeling in the air unlike any other I've felt at a punk show. I could compare it to a car crash or a loud storm. Some sort of extremely tense moment which concludes in a great release of energy. To some, it resembles bliss and to others it's almost frightening, because they don't understand it. We were told by Screeching Weasel's management that we had to play for an hour. We played music for a half hour and violently improvised for the remaining time. It's nothing we hadn't done before. We just did it for an entirely new audience. Some people really didn't like it. And some people really did.
E: I really liked our set at Insubordination Fest (Baltimore, MD - 2010) , we played well and Amos smashed a glass bottle on his guitar and proceeded to roll around in it, there are a few other memorable sets where I'm sure people felt un-safe.
Me: How would you describe the "style" of Tenement to people who have never
listened to Tenement before.
J: We’re a punk band with a broad range of influences, and it’s painfully obvious we’re all record collectors.
A: It's pop music that can be either delicate or noisy depending on how we feel it should sound and what environment we make it in. We take an entirely different approach to playing live than we do recording, and that can be really apparent if you've listened to recorded material then attended a show.
Me: Besides Tenement, what other bands/projects are you all involved
with? Tell 'bout them briefly.
J: I’m currently only involved with Tenement. However, I’ve been meaning to start a bass and drums band for quite sometime. Both Amos and Eric of Tenement are in some great bands and I think fans of Tenement would appreciate the work of Technicolor Teeth and Bored Straight.
A: I play drums in a number of other bands. Namely: Technicolor Teeth is a Medicine / Swirlies styled shoegaze band. Tim Schweiger and the Middlemen is a blues/power pop group with folks from other older Wisconsin bands like The Obsoletes, Yesterday's Kids, and The Mystery Girls. Chinese Telephones are a punk/pop band based mostly out of Milwaukee. I play drums for most of the US dates for The Paul Collins Beat, too.
E: Guitar in a hardcore band called Bored Straight.
Me: Please tell about punk (or something) scene in Wisconsin.
J: We’ve got a nice history of punk and HC here in Wisconsin going all the way back to the early 80’s. The scene currently I would have to say is in some what of a lull, we need some youngsters to kick us “older” folks in the nuts. This isn’t to say there aren’t people making interesting music in Wisconsin currently but there were times of greater activity.
A: When we were young, bands like Holy Shit! and the Modern Machines introduced us to a "punk scene" that we were clueless about. We grew up going to crust shows and garage punk shows alike, and I think it shows in how we turned out. The Catholic Boys were one of the bands that I have most vivid memories of. The styles of underground music interacting in Wisconsin these days is all over the place; everything from powerviolence bands like SFN and Deep Shit to jangly pop bands like The Midwest Beat and Sticks and Stones to electro/experimental/noise like Samantha Glass or Burial Hex.
E: Wisconsin has so much different shit going on. Milwaukee especially; tons of bands, most of which sound nothing alike.
Me: What do you do outside the group (a hobby)? Do you work somewhere?
J: I collect records primarily punk, post bop jazz, and there’s some electro music that really peaks my interest as well. I also attend university where I study chemistry. I also have an interest in photography. And, I’m a pizza delivery guy.
A: I'm a dog groomer. I enjoy interior decoration and soul music.
E: I work at a tofu factory. I do that and collect hardcore records...yeah thats about it.
Me: Tell please about yourselves. How early your love for music was
manifested? What music do you listen in childhood? Whether your
tastes have changed now? Which artists/albums/whatever did influence
J: Growing up I really wasn’t around much music besides commercial pop music and my parents weren’t very interested in music. However that changed in highschool when I was introduced to Weezer and then shortly after that I was given a mix CD with black flag on it, the song "police story" was the first black flag song I was introduced to. The immediacy of the music struck me instantly and from the first moment of guitar feedback in that song I knew I was hooked. Since then I was introduced to other bands that had a similar immediacy like minor threat, and then the pages of Maximum Rock’n’Roll were introduced to me and an entire world of modern music with a similar style was available. We all grew up in small towns with very small scenes and very little connection to the larger scenes of the world so Maximum Rock’n’Roll was an important publication to cement the idea that punk rock was an international phenomenon which was loosely interconnected and that being from a small town in Wisconsin didn’t mean anything and there was no stopping what you could do. As I grew older my tastes broaded and I became interest in metal and more “experiemental” forms of music and that extended into jazz which I’m currently very interested in. Hearing Ornette Coleman’s shape of jazz to come and change of the century albums were very influential to me as well and this came to me when I was 21.
A: When I was young, my father turned me onto stuff like The Beatles and Johnny Cash. On the other side of the spectrum, my mother got me into Aerosmith and other hard rock and proto-metal bands. When I was six or seven, I was given a four piece drumkit by my uncle, and learned to play the drums along to oldies stations on the radio. Soon after, I started a band with a few of my cousins and that persisted until I discovered punk music in my early teens. My older brother bought me a Descendents record, and it changed the way I thought of music and how it related to my life. It suddenly conveyed much more personal ideas. Other punk and hardcore bands followed, and post-high school led me to rediscover alot of the music I had been exposed to when I was younger and chose to ignore, like The Band, Big Star, and alot of soul, blues, jazz, and experimental music.
E: The first band I ever got into was Green Day when I was 9. I wanted to be in a band because of them, but my taste in punk has morphed over time. I still like Green Day but in no way am I influenced by them now like I was back then.
Me: What are your favorites movies/books/writers/... ?
J: I’m a big fan of Ridley Scott’s early work, great films. I also enjoy the films of Stanely Kubrick and Jean Luc Godard. I think that Richard Dawkins is a rather insightful writer that people should look into. Ernst Hass and Robert Mapplethorpe are two photographers I find really interesting.
A: As far as film goes, I love David Lynch and I love Stan Brakhage. They both have dealt with creating a mood and a world that you can peer into, in the most beautiful way. I also think Lost in Translation is a great film with a great soundtrack. I like alot of early color photography like the works of Mark Cohen and William Eggleston, and the black and white photography of a really great couple from Wisconsin, J. Shimon & J. Lindemann.
E: I dont really have any.
E: I am fine with now, and good things are happening. Yeah, I would have loved to have seen Minor Threat and Black Flag, but now I would be an old man not giving a shit about what's happening these days.
A: I would have loved to be around to see an early 60's era Ray Charles.
Me: Are you Mr. Nostalgic? What means this feeling for you?
A: I grew up in a town thats contents pretty much fit on top of a hill. So it very much had an "Andy Griffith Show" feel to it when I was younger. As a result, I've grown to really appreciate small rural towns that never seemed to have stepped out of 1965.
Me: The most memorable concerts in which you attended as a spectator?
J: Seeing Baroness, Gorilla Biscuits, Peter Brotzmann, and Happy Apple. Screaming Females are really quite a band to see live.
A: The Modern Machines played at a coffee shop in my small hometown when I was fifteen. It redefined the way I thought about a loud rock band.
E: 7Seconds maybe, Government Warning in a Basement in Milwaukee!!
Me: What inspires you most in this life? What do you hate most in this life?
A: I'm inspired most by peculiar human behavior, and sounds and sights that thrill me somehow. I dislike mustard and mayonnaise.
E: I'd say People around me for both of those questions. If that makes sense.
Me: What do you most value in people? What are the qualities you do
not like in them?
J: Honesty and dishonesty.
A: I have no patience for people that don't have passion for anything in their life. I think that answers both questions. People like that are usually the ones that end up being cops and asshole employers.
E: Nothing really, I guess I never thought about it
Me: Describe in few words the current state of punk-scene. Which contemporary groups you like?
J: There are a few interesting things happening in HC and punk at the moment. In particular I’m curious about some current trends in American HC. Bands such as Ecoli, Dry Rot, Slices, Cult Ritual, and Total Abuse come to mind.
A: Total Abuse is a great band.
E: I like that hardcore this time around has out lasted the earlier forms. It's forging ahead, I think in the right direction!
Me: If given the opportunity to choose any musician, who would be
chosen to be in the accompaniment?
A: I would be thrilled to join a rhythm section like that of The Figgs for a day. Such a solid rock n roll band. A couple of my favorite current songwriters are Jeff Burke of the Marked Men and Andrew Kavanaugh of the Goodnight Loving.
E: Erik Meyer from the band, Sweet Tooth.
Me: What are the associations you have with the word Russia? What do
you know about this country?
J: My parents are from Finland so the events between Finland and Soviet Union during the second world war come to mind immediately.
A: I think of Stalin. Then I think of THE Stalin. Then I think of Lenin's mummified body in a glass case. What a curious thing.
E: I can only think of dumb stereotypes.
Me: Finally Come on, I will name a few groups, you will tell about his
relation to them - well there favorite albums, songs, maybe some
curious facts relating to that group ... So - Dinosaur Jr, XTC, Guided
by Voices, The Nerves, Big Drill Car, The Replacements, Lesley Gore,
Jesus and Mary Chain
A: Here I go:
- Dinosaur Jr: Always enjoyed "Bug", but otherwise never paid much attention.
- XTC: "Statue of Liberty" is a great song.
- Guided By Voices: I love "Propeller". If you enjoy GBV, check out Bill Fox. It's a fellow from Ohio that influenced much of what Robert Pollard did.
- The Nerves: "When You Find Out" is my favorite Nerves song. Paul Collins started a band after the Nerves called The Beat. So good.
- Big Drill Car: "Record Type Thing" was a pretty good record. Was pretty into these guys when I was younger.
- The Replacements: One of the midwest United States' best exports. "You're Getting Married" is such a great, sad song.
- Lesley Gore: I think Lesley Gore is pretty disposable.
- Jesus and Mary Chain: "Darklands" is my favorite record by these guys.