Interview: Mark McCoy - Das Oath
DAS OATH is a fiery, hyper-blast of Hardcore 4-piece with a geographical problem. The band has just released its debut album on Dim Mak Records. I was impressed, greatly in fact, so got together a bunch of questions for this e-mail interview. The response from vocalist Mark was, well half-hearted. This appears as I received it, bar a few inserted comments from myself. I hope you enjoy reading it more than Mark did in answering it.
..For a start, just tell us who and where you are as you complete this interview and what kind of mind-set you are in.
..Mark) I'm Mark McCoy. I'm home in New York City, a little bit ago I was in Germany and some other places. My mindset is clear. I just had lunch and maybe I'm a little weary over the thought of answering these kinds of questions.
..How, why, when and where did the band DAS OATH form?
..Mark) Nate and I went to visit these Dutch guys in late '99. We didn't really know them all that well. We hung out there, went on this road trip to Denmark, had this idea and then tried to play songs that ripped off STRAIGHT AHEAD and PANDEMONIUM. I don't think there's a single riff on the EP that isn't stolen from some particular place.
Given your geographical locations - 2 based in New York, the other 2 in the Netherlands - how has that affected the band's progress, it must make rehearsing awkward?
..Mark) Well, it makes for a real hassle to get anything done as you might imagine. Even the simplest plans need to be laid to the point of being borderline obsessive-compulsive. Luckily the Dutch live a blessed existence and don't require actual paying jobs to make a living, so it frees up a lot of time to play and daydream.
..Who are the main influences on the band - in terms of music, writing, film, politics etc?
..Mark) I respect a lot of people and things. But I don't feel the need to give them credit.
..That's charitable! Previously, you guys have been in some pretty significant bands - CHARLES BRONSON, DEVOID OF FAITH and OIL to name just three - what are you hoping to achieve with DAS OATH that those bands failed to do?
..Mark) We don't compare our old bands to what we're doing now. I try to keep my head out of my past. All I know is that it feels good to be doing this thing and I'm glad those old days are gone. We never had our shit together back then, which I think worked well for us. It was so unorganized, we were young and obvious concerns never crossed our minds and it was fine. It was endearing. We lost tons of money, did records with terrible labels, played any shitty show we could. BRONSON never really tuned, never made any concerns about good equipment, or fussed about how we sounded live. It didn't matter!
..Is there a different goal or motivation behind what DAS OATH does?
..Mark) Not much of a difference, no.
..If there IS a DAS OATH agenda, what is it?
..Mark) What use is an agenda? We just want to play.
..By default, that IS an agenda. Bassist Nate Wilson recently left the band yeah? Why was that?
..Mark) He has his reasons, ask him!
..Who is his replacement and how is he fitting in?
..Mark) Mr. Aaron Aspinwall. He's fitting in fine. I'm 6'3", Jeroen's 6'7", and Aaron's right in the middle at a cosy 6'5".
..The band has just released its debut album, the self-titled 'Das Oath' on Dim Mak Records. Are you pleased with how it came out?
..Mark) Indeed, but I think we sound better now. Don't bands always deliver that same cheesy spiel? "Oh man, wait 'til you hear our new shit.!"
..In hindsight, is there anything you would change or improve about the album?
..Mark) Well, most of it was written in the span of a month, so no. It's enough that we did that much.
..It has an incredible live feel about it, with the tracks flowing into each other - was it recorded pretty much as you would play it live?
..Mark) That was the idea, at least.
..Do you feel it is a definite progression from the band's previous releases and an indication of where the band is heading?
..Mark) No, it's a huge plummet for us. At least I hope. We could have rewritten all that old crap, which I listen to now and pick apart like crazy. But we are always under incredible time restraints so sometimes you just have to learn to appreciate what you got. I can at least pad our defence with the excuse of not having a year to lie around and write a shitty record like most bands do.
..Why did you hook up with Dim Mak Records?
..Mark) He asked us, we let him talk us into it.
..All your previous releases were released by the labels that the band members themselves have set up - Youth Attack, Gloom and Coalition Records - why did you not release it on those?
..Mark) Too insular, routine, benign. Not that I'm expecting much to change anywhere else we go.
..How did you hook up with Dim Mak and why did you choose them over any other independent label?
..Mark) For some damn reason Aoki was a long time supporter of what we were doing, especially after we thankfully cut out a huge cross section of listeners with that second record.
..Has being on a label altered the band's commitments or direction in anyway? Has DAS OATH lost any control over how much, or how little, it will do in the future?
..Mark) No and no.
..Really informative... If we could just talk about some of the tracks on the album, starting with 'Blood Oranges'. It seems quite pessimistic in its outlook with lyrics like "What's more noble about eternity than to spend it evoking its end?" and "Only through that which is truly impassive and unfeeling will we ever safely disappear". It seems to be looking at the death knell of human existence - that correct or is it something different?
..Mark) Perhaps. It's strange, but even if you feel something for a moment and write it down, it becomes a real thing, even if you never feel that way again. I don't walk around like some serial killer, but it's tough to argue everything coming out of your mouth is just parroting lines to avoid the inevitable undercurrent of your personality. Everyone is acting. This is because, as they say, the soul is sad.
..'The Great Everything', with lyrics pertaining to carcasses, scabs, transplants, vampirism and even cannibalism, draws a lot of bodily parallels. There's also a suggestion of disdain for the 'celeb aristocracy' and the lack of new ideas. Can you elaborate on the subject matter a little?
..Fascinating... A lot of the album's lyrics in general tend to be rather abstract and lateral, requiring the listener to think about what you are saying somewhat more than the dogmatic polemics of many bands. Is that a particular aim of the band?
..Mark) Explaining these lyrics would just be boring. We only print them because the other guys insist that I do. Maybe I have something to say, but I prefer to insist that I shouldn't.
..Would you say that all too often, bands in the Punk and HC scene have almost dumbed themselves down, preaching and screaming in simplistic monotones, in a desire to get their base message across?
..Mark) But that's kind of the appeal of it all, isn't it? Sincerity in their simplicity, that's why I got into it!
..I understand that the release of the 9" EP you released caused a bit of a stir, getting banned from the Ebullition distro due to a booklet that came with it - what was sooooo shocking that it managed to offend Punk Rockers?
..Mark) I'm not sure what everyone was so torn up about. I've never heard a single attack that I thought seemed justifiable or that I didn't immediately dismiss. It's the same reason people are afraid to say they like Skrewdriver and fanaticize about Dominatrix Nazi girlfriends. These are the same people living in their mom's basements at 27.
..Do you see the band trying to produce another taboo-breaking item that'll offend all the holier-than-thou pious PC Punks?
..Mark) There's no point in planning things like that.
..A lot of what is written about - and to a degree BY the band - suggests you guys revel in the fact that you are considered to be some kinda 'enfant terrible', protagonists in stirring things up and exposing all the pretentious shite that is inherent in Punk and HC - that correct?
..Mark) That was joke. We don't care about most other bands, to be honest.
..What are the prime reasons for you guys to stir something up and, more to the point, why do you feel you fellas have the right to do it?
..Mark) Everyone has that right, don't they? It's more about who is willing to go along with the charade
..A Charade? Yeah, I can relate to that. What do you see as the main negatives of the current HC scene? The track 'Get Out Of Your Scene' is a pretty scathing attack - where, or at whom, is it directed?
..Mark) This is obvious.
..Maybe NOT to those who have yet to hear the song. I guess you just havent the backbone to name names. What is the DAS OATH live experience like?
..Mark) A mess!
..Do you play any covers?
..May be you should. Youve just done an extensive European tour - how did it go?
..Mark) Went well. Really well.
..What were the highlights?
..Mark) London, Ieper Fest, Trainspotting Fest.
..Any tour stories to tell?
..Mark) What goes on tour, stays on tour.
..The band has toured a lot; what differences have been apparent from shows in Japan to those in America to those in Europe?
..Mark) In Japan you're treated like Rock Stars while they secretly hate you. In America no one cares about anything besides which band shirt you're wearing and what's for sale at the merch table. In Europe, kids wish they were Americans but haven't quite figured out how to be.
..Do you find that you get better treatment in any one particular area/country?
..Mark) Not really.
..The UK has always had a reputation for not looking after bands as well as some places in Europe, the same is sometimes said of America. Have you found that to be true?
..Mark) No, England was very kind to us.
..I'd like to ask a few questions about the other projects the band members' are/have been involved in, starting with your old band, CHARLES BRONSON. Why did they split up?
..Mark) The time was right. There didn't seem much point is keeping it going, we'd said it all. We always parallel our time line with what the greats had done. I saw it like, man, if you cant do it in three years, bail. If you do, bail anyway! Destroy yourselves before anyone can comprehend it.
..I have a quote of yours regarding that break up stating, "We just wanted to undercut all that exposure crap and break up before anything caught on and got stale. We really believed in what we did; we weren't fucking fakes." Why was exposure such a negative?
..Mark) We didn't want people to "like us".
..Does that attitude also exist within DAS OATH?
..Did you conceive, back when the band was together, that the band would be as influential as it has turned out to be?
..Mark) Of course not!
..I dont suppose you could say anything else to that really. What is the one strongest memory you have of your time in CHARLES BRONSON?
..Mark) Fiesta Grande, ABC NO RIO, the shit Jon used to say to the crowd. He was the brains, that guy.
..We spoke before of the various record labels you guys run - do you think that the DIY nature of HC/Punk necessitates the formation of your own labels?
..Mark) Hasn't it always?
..Not really, least of all today. Could that not be seen as narcissistic?
..Mark) Yes, but so what? Everyone thinks their taste is the greatest. Mine rules.
..If a band is interested in releasing a record through one of the labels, Coalition let's say, what do you want to hear from the band musically and does the collective personality and attitude of the band members affect the bands you decide to release?
..Mark) Aw man, it's everything - the whole package. For me, I try to look for myself in each record I put out. "Do I wish I could play in this band?" Sadly, this question is usually way too easily answered.
..Coming off music for a bit, what are your views on the upcoming US election? Is the American half going to vote? Is John Kerry a viable alternative to Bush, or are you gonna be supporting the Imperialistic nature of the Bush regime? 'Better the devil you know', or 'a new broom sweeps clean'? Who would YOU like to see running the States?
..If you could change but ONE thing in American culture, what would it be and why?
..A year or so ago, Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn was assassinated. What was the reaction to that like in The Netherlands? Considering his far-right stance, his stand on immigration and race issues (including the labelling of Islam as a 'backward' religion) and his entourage of bodyguards - was his assassination really a surprise? Do you think there was a degree of hypocrisy considering he was gay, yet spouted such far-right propaganda - not to mention being Catholic? Had he not been assassinated and won the Prime Minister's seat, how different do you feel Dutch politics would now be?
..Where do you guys stand on the legalisation of drugs? Should ALL drugs be legalised, thus rendering 80% of criminal activity redundant? Substance quality control could also be administered.
..The Netherlands has produced some influential and era-defining bands over the years - BGK, The Ex and, more recently, NRA and BREZHNEV. Do you feel these bands still carry an influence over the Dutch sound and scene?
..Mark) The last five questions have nothing to do with DAS OATH's music.
..WHAT?? And there was me thinking Punk/HC was always more than just music I thought it was about ideas, opinions, politics if its ONLY music, then may be the vacuous mainstream world of Metal calls. You done any shows with Iron Maiden yet? And incidentally, I recall it was YOU that said, "Explaining these lyrics would be boring." Doesnt seem I can win here. Remember Biafra singing, "Drive bright people out, of our so-called scene, til all thats left, is just a meaningless fad"? I sure do!
..What are the next plans for the band?
..Mark) More playing and recording in November.
..Have you thought about a follow-up album yet?
..I read somewhere that the band has a track on a Tony Hawks Pro Skater Playstation game - that true?
..Mark) Ha-ha, yeah unless I'd been lied to all along and this is all a part of some elaborate attempt to verify our Poser Status.
..How did that come about?
..Mark) Tony Hawk adores us.
..If DAS OATH finished today, what would you like to see engraved on the band's tombstone?
..Mark) TRIAL BY FIRE
..Anything you want to add? Contact address, web sites, e-mails etc etc.
..Mark) No, don't contact us.
Well, that was that! If you bought the bands album and hoped for find out more, then I guess youll appreciate the depth of sincerity displayed. And, odd as Mark says "Dont contact us," that he should leave an e-mail address. Feel free to contact him. [email protected]