Exit to Euphoria
An interview with Exit-13
by: Adam Wasylyk
Exit-13 have always been on the experimental side. On both prior albums, _Don't Spare the Green Love_ and _Ethos Musick_, the use of pro-pot lyrics and their jazzy-grindcore sound separated them from the horde of generic grindcore bands. With their latest opus, _Smoking Songs_, Exit-13 have further experimented with their sound by dropping the blast beat drumming and grinding guitars, and instead playing the trombone and piano! What can be heard on the album are jazz/blues cover tunes of 1920s, 30s, and 40s marijuana anthems. On my first listen, I didn't quite understand what I was hearing, but I soon found myself snapping my fingers and tapping my toes to the music.

I had a pleasant chat with Bliss Blood, better known for her work in Pain Teens, from her New York home. Bliss contributed all of the female vocals that can be heard on _Smoking Songs_, and the amazing kazoo playing on the track "1'1 (Thirteen Inches of Fun)", which was on the _UHF/VHF_ Relapse compilation. Her vocal work is definitely one of the outstanding points on the record, which really complements the jazzy music.

First off, Bliss explained how she came to meet up with a couple of the members of Exit-13 and how she ended up singing on _Smoking Songs_. "I've known Dan (Lilker) and Rich (Hoak) from Brutal Truth since 1993 when my band Pain Teens did a tour with them and the Boredoms. Danny had been playing on Exit-13 records with Bill (Yurkiewicz) and Steve (O'Donnell), so when they started kicking around this idea to do this record, Danny immediately thought of me as far as a female vocalist that sang jazz. Although that's not what the Pain Teens was about, he knew I was into jazz. I talked to Bill and we clicked as far as our aesthetics of what we wanted to do, so I just flew up and we did some sections [of songs]". When recording, Bliss did have some choice as to which songs were going to be covered for the album. "I picked out the songs with the female vocals that I liked, and they had already picked out some other songs that they wanted to do, like "Hemp Cake". We basically all agreed on the songs that we were covering, as there weren't that many to choose from, so it was pretty easy".

On my first listen to _Smoking Songs_, I truly wondered if this was some sort of joke or gag. Was this album a serious one? I shared my feelings with Bliss, who answered, "It's sort of a novelty album, compared to the grindy stuff. But most of Exit-13's albums have been thematically along the same lines, like "smoke a lot of pot." In that sense, it was a continuation of their ideas with a different format for it. It's pretty adventurous of them to even think of doing what they did".

On listening to all 13 tracks, what is evident is each track had been modernized to a more 1990s sound, while still sounding true to the original. Bliss acknowledged this and also informed me on her involvement in the studio. "I had a little bit of influence as far as ideas for the arrangement of some of the songs," she began, "especially when the trombone player came in. I was giving him some ideas as far as the parts that he was playing. He could play Dixieland music anyway, but I did help him with specific licks. I thought that the guys were going to modernize [the songs] a lot more when they mixed them down, like add lots of weird, tripped-out stuff. Like the mix that I did on "If You're a Viper", you can hear the bass [which was] a later re-mix that they did. I suggested that they make it sound like it was in a big room, like Carnegie Hall. I was pretty surprised when I got the tape later on, and that they mixed it really straight. I wish I would have had more imput if I had been here when they mixed it. It would have been a little different".

Will older fans like _Smoking Songs_? "What Bill told me is that the fans of Exit-13 were intelligent and open minded enough to check out different things. But basically, they're not really concerned with doing music for the fans, they're concerned with doing music they dig. I'm sure a lot people who just like grindcore won't check it out, but you'd be surprised, a lot of people like variety, and especially if they're big pot smokers they're going to like it."

And finally, I asked Bliss if she'll record with Exit-13 again, and if she knew where the band was headed next. "I don't know. We've been talking about maybe doing a series of these records. Like doing one record about getting drunk, and one record of sexy blues songs from the '30s, because there's ton's of those. We may do some other projects, it just depends on how busy everyone is." I wondered out loud if perhaps some of the attraction to Exit-13 is not knowing what they'll do next? "They definitely are looking for ways to amuse themselves, as far as sheer variety [goes]. They want to keep the audience on their toes".

(article submitted 18/11/1996)


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