No Pro-Pain, No Gain
by Cindy Harper
After missing the opportunity to interview Pro-Pain in person some weeks ago, due to uncontrollable circumstances, I was starting to think this interview would never happen. Some weeks after, we'd play phone tag, and still no interview. With Pro-Pain having made it a point of touring no less than 300 days a year, it's really a surprise I nailed them down at all while on the road. With just over two hundred days to go, guitarist Tom Klimchuck is calling from San Diego. They're on tour, of course, in support of their self-titled fourth album, which harkens back to their punk-inspired debut, Foul Taste of Freedom...
It seems the band has had a bout with a few "uncontrollable circumstances" of their own. Prior to departure to Europe, two months ago, they had to replace their drummer Dave Chavarri, because he didn't have his passport information up to par, which would've prevented them from touring certain countries. So they kindly replaced him with Mike Hanzel. Their rhythm guitarist, Rob Moschetti, is gone, too. He left, along with the band's stage manager, the same day Pro-Pain was scheduled to play Toledo, Ohio. "But we did the show as a three-piece that night," Tom adds. "We did about five shows before we got our new guy, Eric Clinger. We were a little apprehensive... but we've held it together. In fact, things have improved vastly since the change."
Why did Rob leave?
Well, sometimes, the home life doesn't coordinate with this type of profession. He couldn't keep it together, and keep doing this. He had to go home.
Was the split amicable?
I don't know if I'd go that far. He kinda said, "Well, I'm not happy, so I'm leaving." The next thing I knew, he had already driven. He never said good-bye -- never said anything.
You don't miss him?
Nope. No one misses him, one bit. When Rob was around, he wouldn't talk to anyone. The mood in the van was very tense, because no one would wanna talk. Ever since he left, it's been like a giant weight has been lifted. Everyone's joking and laughing. It's been a thousand times more pleasurable.
How did you meet Eric?
He was playing guitar with the Spudmonsters, a band that we did several tours with. For a while, we saw this coming with Rob. He had gotten married -- actually, he had initially moved in with his fiancee, and his attitude shifted more and more towards her, and away from the band. So we had been thinking about this for a while, and we had ourselves covered. [Eric's] a big dude, a great guitar player, and he's goes bananas on-stage. So we had said that if something goes down with Rob, we should call Clinger.
Gary's married and has a three-year old son. How does everyone handle having families? Because you guys are out on the road quite a bit.
Well, it's difficult. It's, by far, the most difficult part about this lifestyle. However, it's something that's inside of us. If we didn't do this for a living, we wouldn't be ourselves. Our wives and girlfriends understand this. There's a certain beauty to it, too, because, after being away for so long, you get to come home, and kinda rediscover each other. It keeps it very fresh. There are some benefits to it; however, being away for so long can be a nightmare.
Did you like being in Europe?
We have a great time over there. Ten out of the thirteen German shows were sold out. We played in front of 1,300 kids in Yugoslavia, and about a thousand kids in Prague. We do really well over there. We have a great time.
Does the music translate well over there?
Yes, but I think they tend to miss out on a little bit of the lyrical content in the translation. I'm not sure they understand it as much as the American audiences do. That's unfortunate, because more than half of this music [is] the lyrics, and what they mean. But they still love the stuff over there. I think some understand what Gary's talking about. But the others really go for the music.
What songs have they been the most receptive to?
This last time through, we found that all of the material from the new record was going over better. Normally, when you release a record and start touring right away, and the record just came out, people either haven't bought it yet, or haven't gotten to really know it very well yet. But, this time around, as we're playing the new songs, I look down, and so many kids know the songs already. That's a really good response. I don't think we've seen that before, so the new songs seem to be catching their attention very well.
You've always had some political flavor to your music. Do you subscribe to any causes?
I would answer that with a "no," just because we're not really out on a mission, with any agenda. I think we're just playing our own music. If someone can get something out of it, that's great. But we're not out to convince people of anything. We're just speaking our minds, and playing our music.
Besides the issue of intolerance, which you address in the song "Love/H8," if you could change America's attitude toward something, what would it be?
There are so many difficulties going on. The one thing that bothers me most is people's work ethic, and their lack of understanding of just doing the right thing. Everyone has to take care of themselves, and make a living. And there are certain ways to do that, yet there are so many shysters out there. There are too many people trying to get something for nothing. And it hurts America. If one thing were to change, I'd wave a magic wand and everyone would just wanna earn their money, for a change, rather than trying to get over.
I heard you'll be playing the Dynamo Festival this year. I'm actually surprised you're not on the Ozzfest.
The Ozzfest is where you pay a shitload of money to go and get ripped off on monitors -- on sound -- on stage -- on catering -- on everything. So we're not going to go out and kiss Ozzy's ass just to kiss his ass. That's not our thing. We'll do our own tours. We'll make money doing our own thing. Bands that get on the Ozzfest, and are excited about it, good for them, if that's what they're in to. I don't wanna shatter anyone's illusions of the Ozzfest, but, the bottom line is, Ozzy is pocketing so much money from these poor bands. And the bands don't get shit out of it. They get their name on posters for Ozzfest, but, the bottom line is, the kids that are gonna go see this whole thing are gonna see a band opening up for Ozzy, getting ripped off on their sound. They're gonna sound like shit. I've heard stories about Machine Head, who's a big fucking band. They did Ozzfest. They get to play two or three songs a night, where the P.A. is bogus, the monitors are shot. It's a nightmare. We're not about to subject ourselves to something like that. We'll just go out and do our little club tour. And let them kiss Ozzy's ass all day long.
I take it you don't enjoy doing festivals?
I love playing festivals, especially over in Europe. We're doing like seven or eight festivals over there, this time. It's not a scam like the Ozzfest is. The festivals over there, we play in front of anywhere from 5,000-100,000 kids. We get paid the same guarantee we'd get paid on the club dates. We have a good time, meet a lot of people, and play in front of a shitload of people.
Gary has said you weren't able to accomplish that raw feel on past albums. Why?
The first two Pro-Pain records were done with an outside set of ears. There was a producer working with us, and it always left something to be desired in the final product. Then, for Contents Under Pressure,we took on the duties of producing the records ourselves. Since then, we've been much happier with the final turn out. I think our fans like the sound better. It really has nothing to do with the songs, because the songs are still the same. It's still Pro-Pain. But, as far as the production end of it, I think it comes across as Pro-Pain much more than with another producer adding his two cents.
One thing's for sure: you won't be able to use Rob Moschetti's apartment anymore to get that desired sound.
Yeah. That pad was actually lost shortly after this record was done. So the apartment was lost before Rob Moschetti was lost. I think, this next time through, we'll rent a house out in the sticks somewhere -- record everything right there.
Try recording in the shower, because everybody sounds better in the shower.
Well, Gary did his vocals in the kitchen last time.
No wonder I heard those pots and pans in the background.
Yeah, he was doing his vocals and cooking up some eggs at the same time.
I thought it was somebody's brains frying. I didn't know it was eggs... In the early days, you guys talked about making a few bad business decisions. Can you elaborate?
It's a learning process. Going into our fourth record, we had the attitude that, "Okay, we're finally getting this together the way it should be with a band." So many bands get trapped in the industry without really being educated, as far as how it works. They make mistakes just like we've made mistakes in the past. But you have to try [to] learn from them. That had something to do with the last record being self-titled Pro-Pain, becauseI think we're finally getting to the point where we're in chargeof our own destiny, and we're making the right moves, and not being scammed by anyone.
Do you think hard-core music is finally getting the respect it deserves?
No, it isn't. I don't think it ever will. I think it's the nature of the beast, where as soon as you take an underground band and load all kinds of attention, money, and big-time circumstances on it, that dilutes the underground vibe. I don't think underground music gets the attention it deserves. And it very well can't because it would be somewhat of a contradiction.
I took the song "Don't Kill Yourself to Live" to be about someone who's working to pay their bills, but hasn't had the chance to really enjoy life.
That's my take on it. It lends itself to what we're doing out here. It can be pretty difficult being away from family, and dealing with assholes on a daily basis, and really busting your ass. However, I think being stuck in a day job living from paycheck to paycheck is a definite way to give yourself heart disease, and be a real miserable person. At least, that's the direction it takes when I'm working a day job.
Is there any meaning behind the name "Pro-Pain?"
There's definitely meaning behind it. There's a saying that says, "What doesn't kill makes me stronger." I think there are life's lessons, and there's valuable character to be gained from going through difficult times. There are pros to painful situations.