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Gavin Brown Takes On The Legendary BL’AST | Interview + Release Special

March 24, 2023
Southern Lord

BL’AST!  Interview Special

With Gavin Brown

Santa Cruz hardcore heroes BL’AST! have just brought out the Manic Ride record on Southern Lord records, the brilliant reissued version of their third album and it hits even harder today than it did when it was first released. To celebrate the release of Manic Ride, Gavin Brown caught up with BL’AST! guitarist Mike Neider and vocalist Clifford Dinsmore to hear all about the album and its history as well as discussing the past, present and future of BL’AST in a very informative and entertaining interview with one of hardcore punks’ greatest bands. 

You have just released the remastered Manic Ride album. Can you tell us how this one came about? 

Mike: It was fitting for the next chapter… It’s used in Clifford’s lyrics in one of the tunes. Take the Manic Ride for Life!

Clifford: We’ve been trying for a while, but the original recording was so bad. Brad Boatright has been working really hard on it for a few years so it’s nice to finally experience this record in a way that actually sounds good. 

How was it working with Bard Boatright again on the remasters and the sound the album now has?

Mike: Haha, oh shit… Could you imagine working with me and deciphering this album to make it be the best it could be.

Brad did, & was patient. He killed it! A good amount of time was spent.  

Clifford: He’s the best! I don’t think anyone else could have pulled it off. The fact that he’s had the patience to stand by this project and keep plugging away when most people would have given up really means a lot to us!

What was it about the sound particularly that you wanted to change this time around?

Mike: Take down some of the levels and take out some of the reverb. So it’s better for full impact.

Clifford: we just wanted to make a great record more listenable. Manic Ride is like the Mount Everest of the BL’AST! records, so to create this monster and have the recording be so horrible was an endless source of frustration.

Can you tell us a bit about the album’s cover art?

Mike: Well, I worked at Santa Cruz Skateboards & one of the artists Justin Forbes who did some art for the Skate Company was down to do The Manic Ride cover artwork. We wanted to display our music w/ the art, come here so we can destroy, or something.

Clifford: It’s a slightly different take on the original art by Justin Forbes.

The original album was called Take The Manic Ride. Did you want to give it a shortened title to reflect the new production?

Mike: We wanted it differentiated from another label to make it singled out & showcase the new production.  

Clifford: We just wanted to change things up a bit… no real reason.

Has the history of BL’AST! been a manic ride for you?

Mike: Yes, No, Yes, No, Yes, Maybe, Kinda,Definitely.

Clifford: It definitely has its share of ups and downs. It’s been a long ride!

What are your main memories from originally making the album back in 1988?

Mike: Playing it in the studio was completely insane. Looking in at the board Seeing Dave Rat like a mad scientist. We were extremely ready for the task & like the title says…. We took it!    

Clifford: I remember it was way more intense than other recordings. A really heavy vibe kind of overshadowed the whole experience. The songs were played way faster than the original versions, crazy tension in the air the whole time.

How was it working with Dave Rat from Rat Sound on the album?

Mike: Insane, Dave is great, he hobo’d a cargo train from Oxnard to Santa Cruz to do this record to start the manic ride. We’ve known Dave for some time, he’s built custom cabinets for us. We watched him & his brother Brian grow their business Rat Sound from the beginning starting with the massive PA system that he took on the road with Black Flag. Dave was the best live sound scientist and we wanted the best, most massive sound we could get.

Clifford: It was great, he’s one of the best live sound guys in the world. It would have been a great experiment if we had a good studio engineer to translate what he was trying to do.

Do you look back on your time with SST with fondness?

Mike: Yes, we became great friends with everyone and had a ton of great times that was unreal. They had an amazing team & we were always welcomed with severe celebrations. I talk to Chuck often, as we shoot the shit & talk about our amazing families& plan to record a new record sometime in the future.

Clifford: Overall, I definitely do. For the most part it was an incredible time period on a great label. They did so much for us and were always great about giving us what we wanted.

BL’AST! are celebrating your 40th anniversary as a band this year. Aside from this reissue, will you be celebrating this milestone?

Mike: Yes, we are planning on playing live & recording new tunes in the studio. Aside from that Santa Cruz Skateboards is reissuing something cool & we hope to put a good team together to help us book gigs & do it right.

Clifford: Hopefully some live shows !!

What have been the highlights of those 40 years so far?

Mike:The people we’ve met. Probably shouldn’t talk about most of our bands existence. Haha! 

Clifford: The live shows were always so intense and over the edge! Playing live was always my favorite part of the whole experience.

How does it feel looking back at the band’s history after so long?

Mike: Unfinished…. Grateful to still have access to such a machine. Honored to be a part of it.

Clifford: We haven’t been together the whole time, so we’ve had plenty of extended breaks over the years. Blast is like a sleeping giant in our lives that can awaken at any time.

What do you still want to achieve with BL’AST!  in the future?  

Mike: Record more music, play some amazing gigs that let us enjoy BL’AST!, fans, & peers. Sonically BL’AST! HEADS!  

Clifford: it would be great to finally record a kick ass new record.

What live gigs from BL’AST!s history stand out in your mind the most?

Mike: One’s with a great sound that allowed us to feel what we wanted to achieve. We were a live band more than anything & we didn’t ever want to cheat us or anyone out of the real BL’AST! experience. We take it literally & mean it!

Clifford: God, there’s so many, it’s all kind of a blur! Too much adrenaline!

What stands out most for you from BL’AST!s early days?  

Mike: You know who you’re asking, right? Much mayhem & brutality. haha! 

Clifford: Just the intensity of the time period. That era was such an incredible time to be alive and playing those kind of shows with some of the best bands in history!

How important was surfing and skating to you alongside the music?

Mike: Most….. BL’AST! was surfing & skating. Paddling out or dropping in a pool was like playing our music. We never got into the studio thing or gather around the campfire or learn technical musical lics or how to read music. It was all feeling & aggression exactly like skating / surfing. That’s all we wanted to do with our band.

Clifford: very important to have that outlet, so much energy, it just seemed to go hand in hand!

What led to the band getting back together in the first place?  

Mike: We were always together and just had other bands in the 90’s but we decided it was a good time to do what we do. It wasn’t a business for us although it would have been nice to have it pay for us to play more in the past. Grohl & Anderson really got us fired up with the releases of the first two albums. It helped us enjoy BL’AST! again.  

Clifford: The 1st Southern Lord reissue!

How were the Blood! and The Expression of Power albums received when they came out?

Mike: Really good, they got the royal treatment from Grohl & Greg. Honestly, we’ve never been treated so good so it was kinda odd for us. But they did such a great job the folks were appreciative of bringing in the organic the sound of BL’AST! was amazing.  

Clifford: Great! That was a lot of fun to be able to do that!

How did it feel to be back and making music with the band again?

Mike: Really good… Especially with such great support. Honestly, it felt like we never stopped. Right on point!

Clifford: was like we’d never left.

How was it working with Dave Grohl and Chuck Dukowski on the For Those Who Grace The Fire and what did they bring to the BL’AST! sound?

Mike: infuckingcredible…. they are both one of our favorite musicians so the whole experience was wizardry. Dave better than you could imagine, he helped w/ the arrangements & parts & beat the living shit out of his drums it was brilliant. Chuck the same, he was insane. It was like looking over and seeing Chuck brutalizing the tunes as he did in Black Flag. Both were the masters of brutality. Chuck & I were warming up getting set to record & Dave walks in & starts playing “Rise Above” from Black Flag, they recorded it. Unfortunately my head phones were not working and I improved but it would of been sick if we pulled the tune as we all knew it well because it sounded brutal. Fuking Grohl man.  

Clifford: Unreal! 2 of the greatest people we’ve ever played with. Talk about heavy!!!

Have you got plans for any new music at all in the future?

Mike: YUP!

Clifford: Hopefully lots of new music!

How has it been working with Southern Lord on your music both past and present?

Mike: Oh shit… it’s been really hard. We aren’t allowed to even see or hear anything & we have no say at all. Hahaha… not even just fucking around. Greg has been a long time friend & he’s always been into BL’AST! so it is a great time w/ a perfect fit as we are fans of Gregs as well. He’s done BL’AST! about as good as anyone could ever do it. So we’re grateful & appreciative & are totally pleased with everything he has done. Allot fun.  

Clifford: It’s always great!!

Did you enjoy doing the split release with Eyehategod a few years ago?

Mike: Fully, always love our southern brothers!!!!!! Hopefully we can do more with them all.

Clifford: Yes, Eyehategod has always been one of my favorites.

Thank you for this incredible interview be sure to hear “Manic Ride” in full streaming above and available on bandcamp. We’re excited for the 40th anniversary celebrations, what a milestone!

Words: Gavin Brown

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