It’s been a long time since a band waved the flag of industrial music as loudly and proudly as 3TEETH. You’d have to look back to the 90’s to find a band blending a potent political message with buzzsaw guitars and heavier than a cement truck rhythms that also had a strong sense of melody, crossover appeal and this much middle finger in the air attitude. In fact, they might just tell you they’re not waving a flag for any type of music in particular, just lobbing musical Molotov cocktails at a world that’s become so bizarre, it’s getting harder to lampoon. Reality had it coming? We caught up with front man Alexis Mincolla via phone before the band head out in support of their excellent new album Metawar. We talked about the new album, the state of political infotainment, what it’s like to open for your idols, remix albums, their favorite Columbus gigs to date and so much more in advance of their upcoming headlining show at A&R Music Bar on July 26th.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, I really appreciate it.
It’s like kinda the calm before the storm in that little bit of a lull before you head out on a big tour cause you know your life is going to be just nonstop for 3 months.
I was looking at your tour dates and you guys start overseas with Ministry this weekend.
Yeah we fly out to Berlin and we kind of kick things off this Sunday with Ministry, which will be awesome. Those guys are obviously a huge inspiration to what we do.
How long is that leg?
I want to say two weeks, something like that. Ten shows, two weeks. And then we’re gonna get back here and do our little headline run through the US.
I can’t wait for that, you guys are coming to town again next month. That’s gonna be awesome, I saw you guys last time you played Columbus.
It’s funny, literally right as you called I was doing a Q&A on Instagram, someone was like which shows are you looking forward to the most. I found this old video of me standing on a balcony in Columbus, OH, fans chanting for an encore and some girl flashing her boobs. I decided to post that, Columbus, OH, cause it’s a swing state and I’m running for office. Literally you just called and I had your number as Columbus Calling. Speak of the devil and he shall arrive.
Columbus is literally calling. Was that your first show here?
I think it might have been our second show there. I mean we’ve played there three times. It was, I think it was at Ace of Cups. The venue never sounds good but it’s always such a party in there. It was like a Tuesday night, sold out, which for us you rarely sell out a show on a Tuesday night. It was just awesome. We’ve always had such good energy in that town. We’ve got a lot of local friends and other artists who’ve helped us put together underground shows before we even had a booking agent and we were in a real touring circuit and we would just do like a one off. You know, my friend Joey Pig who’s a visual artist there basically just cleaned out and gutted the Milo Art Center and we did this crazy underground show there. It’s just been a really supportive scene for us over there. We’re very excited to kind build and get into bigger venues over there.
I’m pretty sure I was at that last Ace of Cups show with H0990R and I recall you making a comment onstage about wanting a bigger stage, maybe feeling a little crowded with all your gear. Do you feel 3TEETH is meant for larger stages and bigger production. Are arenas fun to play and maybe a goal for the band.
Yeah, I mean once you taste that arena blood. We’ve been fortunate too opening up for Tool and Rammstein and stuff like that, you get slightly addicted to that. It’s like getting a helicopter ride up to the top of a mountain where it’s like you didn’t climb that mountain but at least now you have perspective from the top of that mountain, you can sort of chart a course visually from there and you can get a lot of understanding where it doesn’t feel like an impossibility. You’re like “I just played in front of 20,000 people, we should do that all the time.” So whether it’s a delusion of grandeur or not you get that taste of blood in your mouth, you don’t soon forget it. You just kinda want to find your way back to that. You know, write songs that can fill those types of spaces, daydream about production. It might just be a pie in the sky, you never know but at least you sort of aim your sights and target at something like that cause the worst that happens is you aim for the stars and land on the moon. But yeah ultimately to answer your question, the way I envision the project yeah it is for bigger stages. I don’t think it takes away from anything, I’ll play in front of 200 people, I’ll play in front of 20,000 people, it doesn’t make too much difference to me. I enjoy it either way. They’re very different experiences. I’m a fan of pro-wrestling and I compare it to, sometimes I go to like indie pro-wrestling and it’s like indie pro-wrestling if you’re in the audience you’re kind of a participant as opposed to if you go to a WWE show, it has nothing to do with you. And that’s kinda how I feel about arenas. Like Danny Carey told me one time, he’s like when you play in a small room you’ve got to kill every motherfucker in that room. As opposed to in arenas it’s just this blackness you don’t even see anything out there. The crowd sounds like static when it roars, it doesn’t even sound like people. Just totally different experiences, both very awesome.
I would love to see what you guys could do with that bigger stage production so I hope that it happens just because I’d love to experience that.
Yeah I mean just because you’re opening for a band you’re not necessarily getting your production, you know what I mean? You’re just kind of at the whim of you know, you’re opening for Rammstein they’re like “don’t stand here or you’ll explode, don’t stand here or you’ll explode. You can stand here, so you don’t explode.” If you’re opening for a huge band your number one goal should be to make as light of a footprint as possible and never be underfoot. It’s sort of a respect thing, you’re there by the graces and the honor of them wanting you there, but never think for two seconds that show is about you. You don’t get to say “hey can we change this and can we put something here and I would love to have this thing on stage”. It’s kinda like you just make it easy, you get your shit offstage.
So you’ve got to tour with some legendary bands like Tool and Rammstein, you’ve got the Ministry tour coming up. I’m sure those are all dream acts to play with. Is there anyone else you look up to that you’d love to tour or collaborate with?
I think it would be really cool to play with Rob Zombie. I think, you know, for me I just love learning from acts that have big sort of theatrics, pageantry and stuff like that. I think Rob Zombie’s done a phenomenal job of building that sort of scale of a show. You know I just think it would be cool, you know it’s just fun. Some of our music is sort of heavy handed in it’s messaging so we’re always trying to figure out ways to make it more fun in the delivery system. Cause whether or not there’s a social commentary I think there should be an entertainment based delivery system. I think it would be fun to learn from that. I don’t know, like I’ve kind of got to tour with some bands that people are like, who would you want to tour with and I feel very fortunate.
Speaking of the entertainment delivery system, I think 3TEETH has one of the more interesting social media presences of any band out there right now. I was curious what goes into curating your social media and art feeds, and who is responsible for putting all that together?
Man, I do all that stuff. Before I was in a band I was an art director. So for me I just have a lot of fun with that stuff. And before I was an art director I was a copywriter, so for me I kinda taking a lot of that skill set, especially an advertising skill set, and just like injecting a hit of LSD into it. It’s like almost the culture jamming, using the same skill set to undo what’s happening out there with the semantic feel of that. We’re kind of a countermeasure if you will to kinda break up that haze. I just have a lot of fun with it, there’s not really a lot of premeditated, if I have an idea and have time I make it and post it. For me I’m just constantly art directing and that’s fairly easy. I’m like art directing my own life at this point. It’s sort of how my aesthetic nature sort of works at this point. So yeah, there’s going to be a lot of visual continuity to it in terms of messaging. It’s all coming from one person in terms of my voice. It’s not like there’s like five different people working and trying to figure out brand guidelines, and making continuity, you know like it’s just me. So I’m sure it feels cohesive, as much as my brain is cohesive.
It’s so funny. That was a slogan that I had like as a joke kind of running through, when we did <shutdown.exe>. At first we were writing before Trump got elected. It’s like I almost had no idea how much reality had it coming. When we were sort of like joking about that, it just sort of created an assault on reality, on sort of a consensus reality perception management system. Little did we know that this was just going to completely spiral. Now nothing is real, we live in a post factual, post information age. No one has any confidence, you can see something with your own two eyes and it’s literally not real, you know what I mean? You’re like oh I just saw this and it’s oh wait, it’s a deepfake, you’re like I don’t know never mind. So nothing’s real at this point. Which is interesting cause like, not that I want to get hugely philosophical in this conversation but it sort of begs the question, where do we go? If nothing is real, if facts no longer hold any real substance then like where do we go in terms of actual information and rhetoric? Sometimes I sort of have a little speculative theory that it’s gonna have to be like sort of like a return to more the poetry of word where it’s not necessarily about who has the most facts in their argument because facts can be presented and anybody can present any argument and be often skewed. So it’s like at this point who can almost say it, in the future, who can say it the most beautifully? Which, you know who knows, that might be interesting.
Connecting with people, absolutely. To that point, we live in insane times, where each day seems to bring yet another can’t believe it’s happening moment. Creating art in an environment like the current one where seemingly everything is shocking but we’re simultaneously more desensitized than ever, do you think that rock n roll can still feel dangerous?
That’s a really good question. It’s like, what is left to transgress? Growing up the kid with the pentagram shirt would be told to change his shirt and leave the classroom and nowadays everyone is like a drug addict witch on instagram. You need to have like, you know, some sort of transgressive behavior that it’s just like super normative at this point. The only real thing that’s transgressive now is the kid who wears the MAGA hat to school. And everyone’s like oh my god, which is funny cause I feel like that’s the natural inclination of people to be like “oh wait, this is the one thing that pisses people off”. There’s a lot of people who are drawn to doing that strictly because of that. Where it’s like you know the transmutation of the left or the right for bad boys sake. You know that’s the mutation chamber of identity politics in 2019. So to your answer your question, I do always think there will always be space to transgress I just you know in terms of what feels dangerous it’s almost dictated by what is consensus reality. I think that those spaces are gonna be hard to find. They’re gonna be more fringe and actually more dangerous than we thought. You know, which is why you’re seeing things like a guy who went into a place and shot up a mosque with a bunch of memes written on his gun. That type of 4chan rhetoric, that shit’s dangerous. There’s gonna be bands that are gonna start to do that type of shit just for shock and awe. How will people react to that? Who knows. But yeah I think there’s always gonna be room to create some sense of danger. For the sake of shock you know, but whether or not that has real substance, I think that’s going to be the real challenge.
So I’ve been listening to Metawar over the last few days, I love the album, I think it’s great, and it closes with this cover of Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks”. Speaking of that sardonic turn, and I can’t stop listening to it. I was curious, how did the idea to do the cover come about and are there any other songs you thought about tackling?
We did, we thought about a few songs and there were some more on the nosey ones, you know like Tears for Fears “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” and that was like that was a song that we wanted to cover, but it just went too far back. I wanted to cover something that happened in the 2000’s that was super iconic and super relevant in a way that, you know, it’s like if we go back and cover Killing Joke, it’s just too far back. You know what I mean? I wanted to cover something that felt really like a challenge that when people heard it they’d be like what the fuck, this is crazy. Why would they cover that, I don’t know how they would possibly pull that one off. And I wanted to do something that lyrically was sort of a bright, you know the tone had a brightness to it and the lyrics had a darkness to it so if we did it, it kind of took on a whole new shape and form. Like Manson covering “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These), like that kind of gave the song a whole new context and darkness and creepiness that to me lyrically “Pumped Up Kicks” was a song that was sort of like this sun soaked kind of surf town kind of anthem that no one really batted a lash and thinking about how it’s really about a school shooter and mental illness.
It just seemed like a perfect storm. I didn’t know if it was gonna work but we just said, hey, let’s try it! As we were doing it we somehow kept the melody intact. You can’t really cover that song without using that melody. It somehow worked. It’s dark but it’s like bright dark and it’s just kinda sinister but still poppy and kinda fun, you just have to listen to it, it’s hard to explain.
I love it. I’ve been listening to the whole album and I think it’s great and I think it’s gonna click for people when they hear it for sure.
It’s interesting, when we were recording that song there was a shooting like 45 minutes from the studio at Thousand Oaks and twelve people died. With all respect, we wanted the song to have some real emotion to it, to really kind of cut into the zeitgeist of that, especially at the end where it’s like it gets kinda unhinged. I remember being with Sean Beaven in the studio recording vocals that day and we watched this video of this Dad who lost his son giving a speech, like I said, thirty minutes from the studio. We were like, there’s that, you know what I mean? It’s not like we have to dig too hard to tap into the zeitgeist of this moment, it just happens constantly. So we kinda wanted to touch on some of that.
Your new video for “President X”, speaking of crazy times again, it seems to represent the idea that all candidates are just these interchangeable figureheads and an actual lizard person might be less surreal than what we currently have occupying the White House .
I mean yeah, that’s pretty much it. “President X” was this song that was sort an ode to a concept from the Frank Zappa quote “Government is just the entertainment division of the military industrial complex.” To me it becomes even more imminent when you look back at the Obama administration, I think that was really where the first era of infotainment was really ushered in. Obama, you know, you watched that guy deliver a White House correspondents speech and it’s like wow, this guy is better than most stand up comics, he is absolutely amazing! I would pay for a ticket to watch that guy do a stand up routine and he would be on SNL and then he had this super savvy marketing campaign. It’s hard to remember how much Obama was a TV star, you know? The pendulum always swings back and forth between Presidencies, you know, you are going to get the opposite end of that version of a TV star. You were literally going to get the scum of the barrel instead of the super slick guy, you know the reality TV star version of infotainment, that’s how we got that. Where’s that gonna leave us in the future, who knows, but regardless it’s gonna be infotainment. Politics was never interesting growing up, I studied politics, I got my degree in political science. It was always boring, no one want to watch it. Now everything is so political. As much as all these news companies just want to continue to bash Trump, their ratings have never been more through the roof. People are glued to the TV watching major network news 24/7 because the news cycle is being delivered that, say what you want about Trump, that guy delivers ratings. You have every media publication, mostly bashing him, you know you have Fox News that’s trying to blow him, either way the guy equals ratings and it’s just crazy. I mean it’s like everyone’s gonna sit there and get tuned into to whatever sort of you know amplified version of theatric that’s coming through the mainstream narrative, meanwhile, we’re not really paying attention to the issues.
I couldn’t agree more. And it’s funny, I’ve said for a while that I feel like Trump is sort of the fun house mirror version of Obama. To his base, he animates them and they feel emotionally attached to him in a way that a lot of people felt toward Obama, for better or worse.
It’s just characters on a bad TV show at this point where it’s like who would you get to play the foil to an Obama who is this super slick, charismatic progressive guy. It’s like literally out of a comic book, you have these archetypes facing off on either side of the page, it’s just ridiculous. Like a Batman and a Joker. And the funny thing is, where are they without each other? That’s all the Presidency is, you get one guy who comes in who’s constantly undoing the things that the last guy did, then the next guy comes in he’s trying to do undo the last thing that the other guy did. But really, at the same time, the President has very little bearing.
Do you think that the insane political environment contributes to art, or maybe there’s a renewed interest in heavy music or industrial music?
I think in general it’s made it more challenging. We put out our first record in 2014, you know we had still been doing the same type of behavior during the Obama administration. And it felt like it had slightly more impact during that time because to be sort of anti-systemic during a centrist Presidency where everyone was very pacified but yet you’re sort of, you know, doing these sort of truth jabs and sort of culture bombs the way we would poke fun at that stuff actually meant something but now everyone is on that bandwagon of sort of ripping on the President where it almost means nothing. And also to the point where a lot of people came in late and we’re making fun of Trump at one point like “oh look at these snowflake liberals making fun of Trump“. Where have you been? This is what I do. You know I have been poking jabs at everybody, whether it’s Hillary, whether it’s Obama, you know I think that stuff actually made it harder to actually say something. So I think with Metawar we had to really in particular make sure we were giving it up on both sides, hence President X. It wasn’t about Trump, the first verse of that song pays a reference to Bush, Obama and Trump.
I wanted to ask you a question about remix albums while we’re talking about industrial. I know you guys had a remix album for your self titled. How do you feel about remix work in general, and what are some of your favorite remix records?
I think remix work is good, especially as a vocalist it’s always interesting to see how people are gonna incorporate those elements into their versions of the songs. And it’s just fun to see what people do with the stuff, especially with the way that we write. We’ll write a song and maybe we’ll keep the bass line and the lyrics but then we’ll ditch everything else and then start to write some new stuff around that. You know we’ll write six songs to write one song. It’s just of the nature of us and how we create. It’s definitely not efficient. But in terms of you know making industrial music where it’s almost like creating an abstract and trying to Frankenstein them together and then layer it with a bunch of stuff and create such density and sort of weird soundscapes that is industrial. We’re almost like remixing our own songs. If you listen to “Du Hast” by Rammstein that song sounds like a song that they wrote then remixed it into “Du Hast”, you know what I mean? It doesn’t sound like a song that was written front to back. It sounds like they wrote a song from front to back and then someone just said, hey let’s remix this, and then boom, “Du Hast.”
The remix is the single that got released that you heard first.
Yeah! So that’s kinda what it sounds like and I think that’s sorta industrial music lends itself to that very well. It’s always hard for us to get all our stems together and get them off to people. Remix albums create a whole new layer of work, so we have not had any time to get that stuff together cause for us it’s been finish the record, then get ready to make music videos, get right into rehearsing. So it’s probably going to happen at some point with us, we’ll get to remixes but definitely not right now. In terms of my favorite remix albums, I think Nine Inch Nails has really cool remix albums. Just really cool remix work in general.
I’ve always loved “Fixed” and “Further Down the Spiral”.
You know Danny Lohner, for example, is like the guy who’s sort of known for his remixes of stuff, which I think is really cool and being the old guitarist in Nine Inch Nails. He’s played with bands like A Perfect Circle, he remixed some of their stuff. Danny’s awesome, he’s a friend of mine.
He’d be the type of person it’d be really cool to have do a remix of something.
I would love to hear that. You guys are coming back to town next month, after the tour with Ministry. You’re going to be playing a slightly larger venue at A&R Music Bar. What’s been your favorite venue experience in Columbus so far?
I think that Milo Arts Center show that we did was just so cool. I don’t know if you’re familiar with that place but it just looked like the Xavier School for the Gifted, it looked like where the X-Men lived. It was just all these cool artists living in this really awesome brick castle looking building and then it had this amazing bottom that my friend Joey spent two months cleaning out and then projection-ed out the whole inside. It’s like a real homegrown thing, you know what I mean? It was just us flying in for that show and him doing all this production mapping and there was a couple of other local bands that we had on that bill with us. It was just an awesome, cool, completely illegal probably, underground party that we did. It was one of those shows were like that type of special stuff doesn’t really happen later in a band’s career unfortunately because it’s so homegrown and organic and everything. There isn’t an agent booking it through a promotor, etc. We still do work and try to layer and do extra special stuff like production mapping for the shows, so I’m sure we’ll come up with something cool for this Columbus show.
If you’ve had any downtime in Columbus was there a favorite spot that you’ve found? A place to eat or just anything else fun that you did while you were in town?
Um, I went to a cool burlesque drag show that happens on like Monday nights. That was fun. We’ve definitely had downtime there. There’s been times where we’ve had like three days off there. That’s probably why we have such a good crew of friends there cause you know we’re always just hanging out with the local crew.
You seem pretty intense in your live show and videos. Do you have a soft side? When was the last time you cried?
Uhhhh, probably at my Grandfather’s funeral a couple of weeks ago, I don’t know (laughing). I think with Metawar there’s more emotion coming through our music. Initially I just wanted to be this like incredibly cold machine-like lockstep industrial that was sort of devoid of emotion. Whether or not that had to do with my insecurity as a vocalist or more you know a band that wanted to come out sort of mean and lean but eventually here we are a few years later and I think you are hearing a bit more of that in my voice, a bit more of that vulnerability. As we lean into more melody. There’s more melody on this record than before. We’ve got some soft songs, “Insubstantia” is a soft song. I think “The Fall” has some emotional concepts to it. It’s one of those things, we’re all human beings, we have a range of emotions. At some point your band becomes a facet of your emotion that you express a portion of yourself from. And maybe it’s not a good idea to express all of yourself through music but I do think with different albums you’re sort of allowed to explore different territories within yourself. So who knows, maybe album four we get into more of that stuff. But I knew that very specifically having this be our first major label release what I didn’t want to do is get softer. I knew this album had to be heavier, meaner, and just massive. Because there was already going to be sort of a critique on like “oh, this is a major label record that they put out now.” I do think this album is sort of strangely more digestible. It might be heavier but there’s just more digestible songwriting within. And also, we wanted to be able to give something to the label that they could sell to a broader audience. I already did two sort of like fringe industrial records, I wanted to try something a little different.
Catch 3TEETH live at A&R Music Bar on Friday July 26th with Author & Punisher and GOST. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 day of show and available through Ticketmaster.