Richard Johnson interviewed by PSL
How did the idea of making a DVD come around?
I think it was as simple as me reflecting on how many bands had DVD's, and thinking that Enemy Soil could have one too. It is also meant as a companion to the posthumous discography, and since that has is in its third pressing, it seemed that people would accept a DVD from a broken-up band in this case.
The DVD consists mostly of various camcorder clips. Was it all footage you had yourself or did you have to obtain it from various persons?
I got all of the clips from different people over the years, while the band was around, and one or two of them came in more recently. One that I was searching for and never found led me to some video that it turns out I needed, which I found from posting messages on bulletin boards asking for help finding footage. Another example is, the opening clip on the DVD came from someone in Virginia coming up to me at a show Drugs Of Faith was playing and handing me a VHS tape of footage he shot.
How come there isn't any footage before 1996 on the DVD?
That's the earliest live footage I had of the band during the period that we had live drummers. We played a few shows with the machine, back when we first started playing shows, but I decided to concentrate on the more "live" aspect of the band's performances.
Looking at the different video clips from the period 1996 to 1998 it looks like you had a lot of fun. Was it a fun period despite all the line-up changes and so on?
It was fun, but difficult because of the line-up changes. When you lose a drummer, for example, you have to spend time trying to find another one, someone to fit the band and its personality. It was very difficult to do that, and we had to do so several times!
In the DVD it seems like you didn't just play the regular venues, but pretty much anywhere?
That's right, anything from a basement to a hall to a club to a community center to a record store to a restaurant.
J.R. Hayes and Brian Harvey from Pig Destroyer used to be in the band, but you've had quite a few people come and go. Which line-up do you think were your strongest?
The one with Adam Perry on drums and Jeff Kane on bass and myself on guitar and vocals was very solid. The other one that was classic was the one with me, Brian on drums, Mason on bass and Doshu Tokeshi on vocals, followed by J.R. on vocals. Those didn't last that long as I recall, but had their chemistry. The different ones represented on the DVD had their unique qualities.
When and why did Enemy Soil disband?
We had another set of line-up changes that we had to deal with and I wasn't looking forward to that. I felt like it had run its course. There was a period during which people would tell me I should get the band back together, but I didn't want to do that. Besides, we have the reunion show on the DVD, so that should satisfy some people.
Did Enemy Soil accomplish what you hoped the band would during its existence?
I didn't really understand the importance of being strategic and seeing the big picture while the band was around. I was making decisions about who to bring in the band that weren't the right decisions, and the band was just going about its business without a direction about spreading the name of the band during several periods. I used to think at times that the band wasn't appreciated, but then we would meet fans from other parts of the U.S. that would go out of their way to hear us.
But in terms of legacy, there are a few people from the line-up that are playing music now that wouldn't have if it weren't for being in Enemy Soil. I'm also very happy that some people really loved what the band did and what it sounded like. I used to get letters from fans saying that Enemy Soil was their favourite band of the genre, and that's a very humbling thing to hear. And music fans haven't forgotten about the band. So when you take that into consideration the band accomplished a lot.
Which of the Enemy Soil recordings do you consider the best and why?
I like the Casualties of Progress 7" a lot, as well as the CD reissue on Relapse. I think that's a good chunk that represented the band well. That record is very primitive and that's what the band was in a way. Also, the Fractured Theology 3" is something that I'm very proud of. The sound and the performance are solid. The 10" The Ruins of Eden is a fan favourite as well, and the spontaneity of that recording works.
You did a reunion show in 2001 at CBGB's in New York City. How did it come around and would you have liked it be the start of something more?
It was only meant as what it was, a one-off performance. Omid Yamini had the idea to do that, to commemorate the release of the select discography. Ralphyboy from Disassociate was organizing another one of his "Loud Az F*ck" fests and so the timing worked out well for us to do it at CBGB's.
How much have you stayed in contact with Brian, J.R., Mason and all the others who have been in the band? Do you see any of them now and then?
As far as the "DVD line-ups" go, sure, I see Brian at Pig Destroyer shows or when he comes around to hang out when there's an Agoraphobic Nosebleed vocal session. I have lunch with Mason once in a while. I see J.R. sometimes when hanging out with mutual friends and at shows. Omid will come to town once in a great while. The last time I saw him is when they had the "Masters of Metal" tour in the States-we went to that together. I speak to him on the phone and online sometimes. I haven't seen Jeff in a while. On rare occasions I'll see him at a show that our mutual friends are playing. Adam lives on the West Coast of the States while I'm on the East Coast, so I haven't seen him since I stopped playing in Drugs Of Faith with him… I need to write him an email and say hello. I haven't spoken to T.L. via email in a very long time, and the same goes for Doshu. I saw Vaughn, one of the singers from the drum machine days, at a Drugs Of Faith show recently. So to varying degrees, I keep upwith most of them and they keep up with me!
The band broke up in 1999. Has it surprised you that the Enemy Soil moniker continues to exist?
Of course these posthumous releases help, but if people didn't care about the band still, these projects like the Casualties of Progress reissue, the select discography, and the DVD wouldn't have happened. Yes, it is surprising, and it's something I'm very proud of!
Could you see Enemy Soil reform?
It would be simple to start writing like that again. There's a little bit of that in Drugs Of Faith, but that just comes naturally. I don't think it's that much, and no one seems to think so. I really think that the roots of the "grind 'n' roll" sound from Drugs Of Faith is in the Fractured Theology record. I never realized it at the time, but I've noticed it recently. But it would be difficult to find people to be in the band again. Not new people, but people from previous line-ups.
If Enemy Soil never broke up I wouldn't be playing the music I am now, and I love what I'm doing. I do miss it and think about the band a lot, probably because of these new release projects. But I don't want to just redo what I was doing before, or drop what I'm doing now to relive something from the past. That's what's good about the DVD and the select discography and the 7" reissue, that people that missed us the first time can check us out that way, or people that listened to us and never saw us live can watch the DVD.
What are you doing these days? Are you busy with Drugs Of Faith or other projects?
As far as music goes, I'm still writing for my zine, although a lot more slowly than I should, and staying busy with music projects. Some friends and I are doing a 7" project, Drugs Of Faith is playing shows and writing for an LP, and a friend of mine-the one that introduced me to our bass player, Taryn, as a matter of fact-are working on his acoustic band, just us two people.
How much do you pay attention to what is going on in the underground and grindcore in general nowadays?
Not nearly as much as I should. A friend I used to be in a couple of bands with talks about groups that he's heard or read about and I don't know what he's referring to, or he plays me stuff on his iPod that's awesome but I never heard of it. If I ever catch up on reviews for my zine, then I'd know more. Also, there's so many blogs these days where you can catch up on music that I should check out more than I do. It's interesting to compare, that you had to rely on tape trading and zines in the old days.
Anything you'd like to add to conclude this interview?
Yes, thank you, sir, for the interview. I appreciate you helping to spread the word on the Enemy Soil live DVD. It was a lot of work and I'm very happy with it. When Enemy Soil fans see it they're very excited and really like it, but most fans don't know it's out there, so I am happy to talk about it.