Interview with Alexander Heir done on Feb. 5th 2018 prior to band name change.
By Ambrose Nzams. Originally printed in Demystification #1.
Above photo by Martin Sorrondeguy.

How did L.O.T.I.O.N. start?

I played in a handful of bands before and I’d known Tye for a minute, he was a homie through the scene or whatever. One night, we were talking about music and what we were into and I mentioned this project, Scumputer. I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, but it’s Gabba, the guitarist from Chaos U.K., he did this electronic project using all Discharge samples and punk samples and shit. It’s really cool. I mentioned it to Tye and he was like ‘oh shit, I love that.’ After [a little while] I said, ‘we should try screwing around with something like that’. So he came over--I knew a little about GarageBand at the time--and we made the demo tape in a month or so. We just kinda started screwing around; just recording him on guitar and bass in my room; I did the vocals and I had drum machine tracks. We did that and we had no idea how people were gonna react to it, but people were into it. We thought everyone was gonna hate it. Eventually, we got Emil and Corey on board and we started doing it as a full band.

I read another interview where you said Scumputer was super influential to the band and then I saw on the tour tape that he did a remix of “Goodbye Humans”? Also, it says on the tape that you guys are doing a split, how’d that happen?

Probably [after reading] the same interview you’d read where we mentioned Scumputer, Timmy Hefner--who does Chaos In Tejas--reached out. He’d actually booked Scumputer and probably Chaos U.K. before. He was like, ‘hey, I was planning on putting out a Scumputer record, would you guys wanna do a split since I know you’re into them?’ We were fucking thrilled. Initially, Scumputer did this remix and we were gonna put it on the split, but timing didn’t work out, so we just decided to put it on the tape.

What year was it when you and Tye started doing stuff?

I wanna say 2013 was when that first tape came out, so we probably started jamming in 2012 or something.

So that was right in the middle of the Toxic State ‘boom’ right?

For sure. That was like peak of Dawn Of Humans, Crazy Spirit, Hammerheads. Tye was in Nomad and Sad Boys, I think Sad Boys was over at that point. What was New York like for you before the Toxic State scene? Were you super into the street punk stuff or...? Yeah. So, I’m from Jersey, I went to my first show in 1998 and throughout high school, I was pretty into the whole street punk thing. I had a huge mohawk and bondage pants and all that. I moved to New York to go to art school in 2002. At that point, the New York scene was pretty dead. The only punk stuff I was really going to was when older bands were coming through. There was like the Holidays In The Sun fest in Jersey, and those bands would also play CBGB’s. And there was like Zombie Vandals, Eyes Of Hate, Rabia and like local street punk bands. Those people became important members of the current scene, but it was much less of a cohesive thing. Because of a combo of the lack of bands and [being] in school, I was a lot less involved ‘til like ‘06/’07. I’d go to occasional shows but there wasn’t a ton going on. Actually, when I started doing Death/Traitors and the clothing stuff was around the same time I first saw Crazy Spirit. I realized there was this whole younger group of kids doing really cool shit and I started getting inspired and back into the whole scene.

When you were younger were you also into electronic music or did that interest come later?

It kinda came full circle ‘cause The Prodigy was one of the first CDs I ever bought. And they were a really important [shared interest] between Tye, our bassist Corey and I; a huge influence. So yeah, when I was really young I liked that and then getting into punk, I kind of definitely wrote off anything like that. Although, I was always into ska and then reggae and hip-hop--when you’re younger everyone goes through that point where they can only listen to punk and everything else is for posers or something. And then once you shed that, you can get into everything.

You said once that doing L.O.T.I.O.N. was ‘a bit of an ignorant attempt to make this music, like the kid who’s playing punk for the first time’. I think that’s really cool, because it feels like a lot of people are focused on mastery as opposed to honesty.

That’s still kind of the way we feel about it. I’m much more into electronic music and know a lot more about it now than I did when we started but I’m still a novice. Even as my skills have evolved, we’re still getting really stoned and slapping together stuff in my bedroom with GarageBand, the process hasn’t really changed. The songwriting has changed but we’re still very much novices when it comes to the actual equipment, which I think is also purposeful. I know so many people into analog synth and synthesis and stuff and I can just see how it becomes a wormhole where you need to know enough or have enough gear to accomplish what you want. It’s also easy to become so obsessed with your gear and production that you forget about actually songwriting and that’s something I’m conscious of. I’m always trying to get my skill level up but I’m very much aware of that pitfall. Which can happen with rock music too; people get obsessed with buying guitars, amps and pedals and stuff and then just make a mush of stuff without actually writing.

In regards to mastery vs. honesty; I know this is different but--this happens a lot in punk--sometimes people try to master a certain era or time or place instead of trying to write something that might be authentic to them. Do you know what I mean?

Delving into new genres helps that, but that’s also something that I know that I’ve personally always been aware of. I’m never trying to just recreate someone’s sound or vision. I think that’s an element of punk as tribal music and as folk music, so I don’t necessarily write off bands that just play in the genre because I think that’s important. As far as my own personal musical output, I’m trying to make something original or new or at least attempt to.


How important are the aesthetics of music to you? Can a band be great with bad art?

Certainly you could look at classical music or a lot of jazz or outsider stuff, the visuals can be less important. Particularly if there was no original artwork ever made, just recordings. As far as pop or rock music or punk or whatever, I think the two are inherently linked, they provide context for each other. Because punk music isn’t just music anyway, there’s a whole culture around it. You can define things anyway you want, but even looking ‘not punk’ or ‘anti-punk,’ that’s still an image. I think that most people that craft good music are aware of the rest of it anyway. Even if it’s not super considered, even if it’s just minor, they’re still going to hopefully have the taste or concern to address the art. I can’t think of a record off the top of my head where the music is amazing and the art is just terrible.

Obviously L.O.T.I.O.N is pretty heady conceptually, ‘cause I’m an artist myself and I have a lot of time to put into doing it. Also, it’s just fun. Especially taking from the industrial world and bands like G.I.S.M. and stuff and creating this atmosphere; this militaristic thing. I don’t even really know how it came to be. We started doing the style as I started to figure out the lyrics I wanted to write. The technological aspect seemed to be an interesting thing to riff on and then all of a sudden, this whole world opened up in front of us, of these concepts that both related to the audio and were so pertinent to the time we live in. The costuming and imagery evolved from that. Also, when we first started, it was just supposed to be a recording project because we didn’t think we were going to be able to play it live. Sculpting the world was really important because we didn’t think anyone was gonna see us play and I just continued it once we started to playing live.

Sometimes I question, like I know people might like our music but if we came to your city and you saw us and I wasn’t wearing any stage clothes, would that be a big bummer? I also don’t want to be a schtick or anything like that. I’m kinda conscious of how far I can push it because of that. I don’t wanna be a joke or a spectacle, the music is the foremost thing. Not that we’re anywhere close to them, but when you see George Clinton or Prince play, it’s part of the whole thing. Like, damn, this music’s sick and they look sick and there’s a stage show and it’s more than just people on stage playing music.

Photo by Skrewhead.

I was gonna ask about environment actually. I’ve seen L.O.T.I.O.N. a handful of times and it’s never been before 10pm. There’s always a smoke machine and costuming on set and I think that’s really cool. I was wondering how important that was to you.

I think general atmosphere is super important. I’m 33, everyone in the band is around 30 and have played in bands for a long time. Ryan also plays in Warthog, Tye plays in like three other bands and goes to school. We have busy regular lives so we don’t really have the time to tour. Having played in bands, we know instead of playing three times a month [and having it notmatter], we could play once every couple months and make it a really good experience. And then also, taking influence from raves and electronic clubs and trying to put a little bit of that into whatwe do. That’s something I’m personally interested in since getting really into electronic music. At shows, I’ve been DJing also, and the more I played house music and techno, I noticed, the punks just wanna dance, people wanna dance. They might not listen to it at home, but people aren’t not about it. So trying to create more atmospheres where we can mix dancing--whatever genre it is--with a punk show is something everyone’s kind of interested in.

I always appreciate that about New York punk,I feel like every time I’m there, after a show, it always becomes a party.

One of the things I really like about the New York scene--and I think why there are so many cool bands--is that almost everybody involved has interests in music outside of punk, which makes their own writing more interesting. Also, when you go out to a show, it’s just as much about seeing your friends, letting off steam and being social as it is about seeing the music. So if we’re here to have a good time, after the bands are done, we don’t need to stop. We could just change how we’re dancing and change the vibe a little bit, I think people appreciate that. Plus, punk can be so sexless and I think that dancing is sexual and I think that’s good for people, you know?

How was that California/Mexico weekend you just did? Where’d you play?

We played Santa Ana, in the back of this Mexican restaurant. When we rolled up, there was a rockabilly band of like fifty year olds playing. We were like, ‘oh no, this is gonna be weird’ and it ended up being awesome. It was us with Sadicos, and Tozcos. That one was really fun. Then we did L.A., which was dope. It was in the back of a venue and there was like a pop-punk band playing in the front. That one was cool, had the most people at it, but the least amount of dancing. There were a lot of homies there and that was really fun. Tijuana was a blast. There were like six bands on the show and the show didn’t start ‘til 11pm. After that we went to an 80’s club called Porky’s and they were playing all this new wave and we were dancing ‘til 5:30 in the morning. Oakland, I’d have to say, overall was the best show. It was booked in the back of this record store, so it could be all ages. All these teenagers came out--like spikey punks--and they were going wild; super into it. That’s the first time I ever got to actually play an all-ages show like that and it was cool to see younger kids.

Yeah, I was at the L.A. show and I was kind of surprised at how no one was really moving. When you guys played, there were probably the most people in the room and they wanted an encore and everyone was into it, but no one moved.

I think a lot of times, specifically if it’s a new city we’re playing in, that’s kind of the reaction. People are kind of watching because it is such a spectacle like ‘what the hell is this?’ And I’m doing my thing and Ryan’s got the crazy drum set-up. First couple times we played, when people weren’t moving, I was like ‘oh man, I hope they’re into it’, but then I realized they’re not necessarily not into it, they’re just standing and watching what the hell is going on.

Do you know what the set up Ryan uses is?

There’s a drum pad, and there’s a trigger on the kick and a trigger on the snare. So when he’s hitting the snare or the kick, he’s hitting both the actual drums and then triggering a sound. Then there’s the rest of the kit which he can play acoustically. We’ll make the songs in the studio or whatever and have different drum machine samples we can go through, we’ll make the song and then we’ll load the kit onto his drum machine and basically with every song, he’ll have a kit to choose from.

Speaking of drumming, what was it like when Emil quit all of his bands? I know he was a big part of L.O.T.I.O.N.

He wanted to just do his own stuff and felt like he couldn’t do everything. I don’t wanna speak for him, I don’t know how much he wants the world to know what happened with him or what’s going on with him. It was a bummer that he left L.O.T.I.O.N. but it was no hard feelings because I just wanted him to be happy. And he is now, and he’s doing his thing. We picked up with Ryan and it’s been great. Emil was amazing, Ryan’s amazing, I don’t wanna compare either of them. I think it’s definitely better that he was able to tell everyone what he was feeling and do it, rather than be miserable and continue doing projects that he wasn’t happy doing. He’s still homies with everyone, no one was butthurt. I think everyone separates and understands the difference between your friendships and your collaborations. Not that our relationship was ever toxic or bad at any point, but just in general, if a band’s relationship is toxic or someone’s unhappy, then that’s going to spoil a friendship more than just leaving and being able to be friends outside of it.

So, you guys have a record on Toxic State coming out this year?

We’ve got the split--which was the last thing Emil played on--with Scumputer. We’re waiting on the test presses now. Timmy Hefner’s putting it out. Then we’re working on an LP for Toxic State, most of it’s written or started and should hopefully be out this year.

Is there a name idea or anything or is that under wraps still?

The split with Scumputer is called Campaign For Digital Destruction, but we haven’t decided on a name for the LP yet. Me and Corey have a running list of acronyms and stuff we think of when we can. I love all the little acronyms and shit to hide, almost like little easter eggs or something.

One last question, how important is the idea of progression to you? In punk or in art or whatever.

I think it’s essential, you know? Even as an individual person, you always have to be growing and pushing yourself. No one’s born with all the knowledge and experience, so it’s like you should always be growing within yourself. Punk, at least for me, is about constantly questioning and destroying and rebuilding everything. Be it, the way we think or the way the music sounds or whatever. To be stagnant is death because the world isn’t stagnant. The reason that there’s certain periods of punk that sound similar or go together is because they were reacting to the world they lived in and to each other. Obviously, everyone has their influences and nothing exists in a bubble, but there’s no way that if you just sat down with yourself or three friends and made something that was honest, without trying to just ape something, that it’s gonna just sound exactly like something else. It’s always gonna have your own twist on it. Doesn’t need to be groundbreaking, it’s the thoughtfulness about what you’re doing that’s the important part.

As a visual artist, I think about this a lot but just being different for the sake of being different isn’t necessarily what I’m about. With L.O.T.I.O.N. you’re still gonna hear lots of influences of where we’re coming from. For whatever new stuff we’re putting together, I feel like it’s kind of a collage of stuff we like rearranged. It’s [about] thinking about what you are actually doing and not just ‘hey let’s sound like Discharge’ and doing it all exactly the same, but ‘what if we sound like Discharge but I also like this other drum beat from this funk music, let’s do that too’ or whatever. And that’s when things get interesting.

Lyrically and conceptually, too. At this point we all agree that war is bad and genocide is bad and fuck the cops, but like pushing the way you think forward is important. You hear about lots of corny, older punks stuck in the 90’s that complain about the P.C. police and punk being too P.C. and all that. I certainly have my issues with policing people also, but I think it’s good that people don’t drop the f-bomb anymore, it’s good that people are more concerned about feminism, it’s good that there’s more ladies in bands and people are trying to support minorities. That’s where punk should be going. We all have our ways to go, that’s what progression is. Nothing’s ever perfect or good, just a journey towards the best that it hopefully can be.

If you’re not actually thinking about your own personal actions and how that contributes to the bad stuff, then you’re not really any better. You’re just giving lip service to them.