Interview with Colin from The Brains

I sat down with Colin from The Brains before the Stomp 20th Anniversary Party at the Horseshoe in Toronto with Los Kung Fu Monkeys and East End Radicals. It was Halloween so I dressed up as April O'Neil from the 1987 TMNT cartoon series and he was a guy named Colin from a band called The Brains. 

Check out our chatter, chuds!

I heard you guys sold out Katacombes in Montreal last night, how was that!?
Colin: We did! It was fucking great. Right from the get-go we knew it was going to be a good night, it's a home town show, record release, but it was even better than we thought it was gonna be - all the bands performed really well, all our friends were there, all the Stomp crew.. we just really couldn't have asked for a better night.

Didn't you guys play a couple sold out headlining shows in Russia recently too? 
C: We diiid one sold out Russia show and one almost sold out Russia show if I'm gonna be perfectly accurate.. yeah! And that went really well - that was really surprising because we'd never been to Russia, and Russia's got, like, this reputation for being really sketchy and you have to jump through a lot of hoops just to get in there.. and we just had no idea what to expect there, we thought there was a 50/50 chance we'd get rolled and we'd never walk away from it, like end up in a Russian prison. But it went really well, the Promoter was kinda sketchy but in the end everything went really well and the Russian fans were some of the most intense I've ever seen.

So how is it that the first time you go to Russia you can almost sell out two full nights? 
C: Psychobilly is pretty big in Russia right now... Russia is generally like, I dunno.. I don't want to say this because it could be mean, but, I feel like Russia can be like 20 years behind on everything..! Psychobilly started in like the 80's I guess and it's just catching on there now, but it's really really popular and they have a lot of great psychobilly bands there now so there is a scene for it... and we had a lot of fans there I guess... and they alllll came out! Like, we brought in what we thought was enough merch for two shows and it was all gone in one night, they were just like 'aghhhhh give it to me' because they can't order it on the internet like you and I, the Russian government at the border would be like 'naw, this isn't coming in'. so yeah. We had bass players from the other bands asking to buy our pickups from us because they can't get them in Russia and I was like I'd love to but I kinda need them..

Do you have plans to go back there any time soon?
Not any time soon because it does take a lot of work just to get it set up but we do plan to go back because it was so good and it was so fun. I think next time what we'll do is we'll tour up, we'll maybe start in the south of Europe and go up to Finland and from Finland you can take a train in instead of flying, if we take a train we can take some of our equipment which would be nice.

Saw the new video for "Out In The Dark" - love it - but first, how was it that you got Rue Morgue to premiere it?
That's kinda funny because we have been good friends with Gary Pullin for a long time.. Gary Pullin worked at Rue Morgue and he's an amazing artist and we partnered up with him and he was gracious enough to do a couple of our album covers and some t-shirt designs for us so I think that kinda got our foot in the door and because our lyrics are lots of time horror-centric it kinda works out so they were kind enough to help us get the word out there for the video and it's been going good! It's getting a lot of views so we're pretty happy about it.

The making of the video was like a family affair for Rene right, his daughter is in it and his wife helped make it somehow?
It was, yeah! The album art was done by Rene's wife, that is his daughter in the video. Phil, our drummer, put together the whole crew for it and he was the Producer and Director on it and he did a really really good job and got a really stellar crew together, everyone worked really well together.

Who came up with that goat monster dude?
We have a friend of ours in Montreal (Tamsen Rae) who is a makeup artist and we shot some ideas by her, we were kinda thinking like, you know, Satan meets Pan's Labryinth kinda thing and she was like yeah, OK, I can do something like that, then she shows up with this like huge horned goat skull head with like hair sticking out and his eyes glow and we were like holy shit that's really cool! Yeah she did a really good job. Everything came together... we got really lucky, we had a lot of talented people working with us.

The video wasn't gory or anything but that monster dude actually freaked me out a little bit!
C: Yeah! We wanted to go more, like, creepy but nothing that's gonna piss anyone off, our last couple of videos got banned from MuchMusic because of various things.

Oh yeah, there's the one with the guy following and killing girls right?! ("Take What I Want")
C: That wasn't even the worst one! There was another one called "Screaming" that was basically a snuff film ... well, you can search it on YouTube, the uncensored version... there's some shit... don't let your kids watch it!

You're welcome.

This one will be fine to get on MuchMusic though?:
I think this one will! I don't think it's going to violate any of their terms this time around, I don't think we're going to piss off anyone unless there are some half goat people who are like 'you're misrepresenting us'! *laughs* I think it will be OK this time, and MusiquePlus the Quebec version of MuchMusic has always been really really cool with us, they play our videos and let us come in and do live slots and interviews, they're really cool with us.

They never banned you on their side? 
C: No!! They were like 'oh what did you do, you hung her, you drugged her, then she was raped? Nah that'll go on the air, no problem!' They're very liberal there over in Quebec!

So you do all the merch designs yourself?
Well I work with some very talented artists but like I come up with the idea of what I want and then I go to the artist I think can do it. I have 3 or 4 artists that I like to work with and then I have a shop, I can make everything and print everything so it makes it really easy. Everyone in the band is responsible for making something to do with the band, like Rene does all the CD's, like the recording and production and stuff like that, and Phil does a lot of the multimedia stuff and videos obviously, and then I do the merchandise and like tour managing and stuff like that. We all come together as a team, we have a real DIY spirit, we can get a lot of shit done.

You don't need to bring any more people with you to Russia...
C: Ohh yeah, exactly, yeah. We can go with like a skeleton crew and not attract too much attention. They can be a little skeezy, we had to pay some bribes in Russia.. yeah, there were these like cops on the night train from Moscow to Saint Petersburg, we had to bribe them.. cops outside the hotel, we had to bribe them too. They were just trumping up some tickets and were like 'just put some money on my car seat and then I won't give you a ticket'.. we were like ohh man, okay.. Russia is as sketchy as you think it is. Like all those dashcam videos, that's normal.. that's Russia.

Did you run into any problems while you were there?
Uhh, well the promoter didn't pay us like a €1,000.. but we got it back eventually cause our bookers were like real bulldogs about it, so they got it back from him.. and yeah the two or three run-ins with the police were kinda sketchy, but then it was just like a little bribe, like you give them like the equivalent to 50 Canadian dollars...
And then there was one time when we were coming out of this bar/restaurant, it was the first night we were there and they were showing us around town and it's really beautiful there, they have like amazing architecture and the churches that you see in all the postcards and everything.. but yeah we're just waiting outside the restaurant waiting to leave and some guy comes up and just starts accosting us, he's like really intense and really violent screaming at us in Russian, and we had the promoter and some friends of ours with us and we were like 'what is he so angry about' and they were like 'oh he doesn't want you to speak english here, and he wants you to get the fuck out of his country'. We were like 'ohhhhhhh okay yeah let's just go over here'... but it was OK in the end.

Does Stomp do all your booking for you too?
Stomp is our booking agent in Canada, for Europe it's MAD who are based out of Berlin, and then in the United States we have a couple different bookers but we've been banned from the United States for the past few years, so...! But we're gonna be back soon, we have a really great lawyer who actually gives a shit this time so I think we're gonna be back in within the next 4 or 5 months!

What happened?
C: Well, like, once upon a time a long long time ago a member of the band who shall remain unnamed was believed to have something in his possession which he in fact did not and this person was never formally charged with any crime and still has no charges against him, he was never arrested or anything like that, but they said you know what we don't like the cut of your jib, you're not getting into the country. So we have to get it all ironed out, I don't know what you would call it, I don't think it's necessarily a pardon but it's kind of the same idea. They can say no to you for any reason but I think we finally got it sorted out so America, we're coming for ya!

So you have a song called "Wolfman" on the new album.... have you seen the movie Wolfcop? *And here's where I go into detail about the movie Wolfcop again (thanks Shawn from Plan 37!)*

C: That sounds terrible!!! He's still policing it up, even with an exploded penis and a wolf body!? I gotta see that now, if only for the exploding penis and cop wolf!

Watch it! Have you seen any other good horror movies lately? 
C: I think the last one that I saw that was really good was - it wasn't a newer one - it was a french one called "High (Haute) Tension".. that one was fucked up.. like the first scene in the movie is like this dude in a truck and you hear this gross noise and he's skull fucking a severed head and then he just hangs it out the window, drops it, and drives away. So that's the starting point, I'm not going to tell you any more because there's a reeal twist!

Oh yeah is that the one where the cover is like this chick with a chainsaw or something?
C: Yep.

I've seen that.
C: Yeah it's naaasty!

I hear you moved from Jasper to Montreal just for The Brains?
C: Yeah, I had a band in Jasper but it was kinda... the whole group didn't have the drive to make it into a real touring band I don't think. So, we had opened for The Brains a few times and then Rene's original bass player left because he wasn't a big fan of the constant touring.. he liked having a normal home and family life.. so like a month before Rene was all like drunk after a show, we were at an afterparty together, and he's like *in a drunk voice* 'hey man, if anything ever happens I'm going to call you cause you're a grreat guy!' and I was like OK buddy, we'll see about that. But sure as shit like a month later he called and was like 'I need you to come to Montreal' and I was like hmm okayyy, like, when? And he said if I was going to make it in time for the show I had to leave within the next 3 hours, and I could only stop for a total of 16 hours on the road, by what google maps was telling us. So I was like OK let's do this! I called my boss and I was like I got a thing and I gotta do it and she was surprisingly cool with it and then I called my girlfriend at the time who was at work and I was like I'll pop by work on my way out of the town to say bye to you but I have to go for like a week and a half to Montreal and go see this thing through. So I drove by myself all the way across fucking Canada like nonstop, I would sleep for like 4 hours in parking lots and outside gas stations and things like that and then keep driving to make it in time and then got there and I did a bunch of rehearsals and learned a set worth of songs, and we did a studio thing and they filmed some stuff so they could show it to the label, and then we went and did two shows... my first show ever was in, oh where was it... the second show was here in Toronto at the Cadillac Lounge but the first show... it was in, OH, Oshawa! At the Atria! And the promoter got really drunk and he lost the money from the show, it was an envelope in his back pocket and he was like 'man I dunno if the money fell out of my back pocket' so I fucking grabbed him and I was like we're going to an ATM, and Rene comes around the corner and sees me with this guy at the ATM like getting our money, and the guy was crying so Rene's like 'what's going on' and I was like he's paying us! And I think after that Rene was like 'you're in and you're the tour manager now! Take it and run you mean little bastard you!'

Was there any resistance on your end to move there or were you just like fuck it, I'm moving!
C: After doing those two shows I was like this is going to be way too much fun, I gotta do it. So I went back and tied up all my loose ends and packed up, and convinced my girlfriend to move with me.. I mean we're not together anymore but she was a real trooper about it... a real good sport! So yeah we did it, we moved to Montreal, I lived with the drummer for a couple weeks until I got an apartment and got settled. I love Montreal, it's a great city!

No regrets?
Nah, no regrets! Well, maybe dragging that girlfriend across the country was the only regret.. that didn't pan out in the end. But she likes Montreal so I guess it worked out for her... I guess!