DISEMBODIED’S TARA JOHNSON: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW
One of the interviews I’d managed to line up for this year’s New England Metal And Hardcore Festival was with Disembodied. But as the second day went on, it started to seem like I might not get that chance. Stuck in interminable traffic, the reunited metallic hardcore band was in danger of missing their set. Their publicist texted me updates from the road, and they literally arrived barely a few minutes before their scheduled headlining slot on the upstairs stage. I’d never seen Disembodied live before, so my basis for comparison didn’t exist, but I suspect the Minneapolis pioneers must’ve channeled their road rage into their churning, fiery, savage show. Afterwards, I let the group load out before walking over with bassist Tara Johnson to a quiet spot in the Worcester Palladium parking lot to chat.
So given all that, do you think you had a good set?
It was a little stressful. It was really hard for me to enjoy it because I couldn’t hear anything… Once we started, I was like, “Fuck it.” You just have to go with it. I don’t fucking care if I can’t hear myself. [laughs]
I got to ask: what brought you guys back together?
Brian [Peterson], who wrote Burning Fight, emailed a few of us and asked if we would interview for the book. We did, and that was without ever talking to one another. So we did it individually, like Brian contacted us without us talking to each other.
And then he emailed a couple of us and was like, “Hey, I’m thinking of doing a show in Chicago. Do you guys want to play?” We were like, “Uh, I don’t know.” We never ever thought about playing a show or getting back together and doing a reunion. We were a little hesitant at first, but then we all sat down and had a meeting and went to dinner… We never really played a last show, so we were like, “Well, Chicago would be a good last show.” Then here we are today. It just seemed to work. We’ve all grown up. We’ve all gotten past all of our shit. We were so young when Disembodied had started. When we got onstage and played Chicago, everything just fucking felt right, like this is what we should be doing.
Now that you’ve played more than just the one Chicago show, how does it feel playing together? Is it like old times? Is it new?
It’s just like old times, but better because there is none of the drama. Everything we do, we do on our terms. It’s not like we don’t do it because the label tells us to or because we want to be rich and famous or get on good tours. We’re all older and have our own responsibilities. We’re just doing it to have fun. I don’t consider us like a reunion band or a band that tries to play reunion shows. We’re a band that took a really long hiatus. You know? We don’t want to be linked into that whole group–
Yeah! That goes to Europe just to make thousands of dollars. We don’t really make money. We fly to the West and the East Coasts. We get paid to fly, so we don’t make any money – which I’m fine with. I don’t give a fuck.
You’re enjoying yourselves.
That’s what it’s about. I don’t give a shit anymore.
So who is showing up to these shows? Are you seeing some old school folks who were seeing you back in the day or new kids?
Both. You see the 30 year olds or the 35, 36, 37 year olds maybe hitting 40 that come out who haven’t gone to a show for a really long time that want to reminisce and hear the old songs again. When we played California, there were like 14, 15, 16 year olds that were singing every song, and you were like “holy fuck. How do they even know this shit? They were barely even alive when we played California for the last time.” It’s a mix of everything which is awesome because we’re able to play to the new kids that had never seen us or heard us before.
Why did you guys decide to release the Psalms of Sheol compilation?
Just because we wanted to put all of the weird, random seven-inchy stuff and stuff that never kind of got released — like the Metallica thing that got released eventually. We wanted to put it all together. Since we were kind of getting back together, we wanted to have something out there because we knew we weren’t ready to record or write anything so soon. Our friend, Chase [Corum], put it out on his label, so if anybody was going to do it, we wanted him to do it. We just wanted to kind of do something to start out fresh again.
Are you guys writing now? Working on a new record?
Joel [Johnson]’s been writing some songs. We have to get some new guitars because we want it to be fresh and invigorating and something new and progressive, moving forward. We don’t want to have the same, old Disembodied style. Obviously the slow, heavy will be incorporated into that, but when we broke up at the end of ’99 – it’s fucking eleven years ago.
And you’ve done things since then.
Times change. Our musical interests have changed. It’ll be different, but it’s definitely going to be heavier – like tuned lower than it’s ever been. So we’ll be doing some new stuff that we’re excited for, but we have to get special guitars made for it, so we’re waiting for that.
Oh you’re having them custom made?
How low can they go?
That’s right. [laughs] As low as we want them to go. Put bass strings on a guitar, there you go.
How’d you end up signing with Good Fight?
Because we’ve known Carl [Severson] forever. He started Disembodied with us basically. He went to college in Minnesota, so I met him back when he was like 19 or whatever the fuck he was. We’ve always stayed friends. He was with us with Disembodied, he was with us with Martyr A.D., and it just seemed like the perfect fit because we weren’t really looking for the same things as we were back then. Now it was more like “let’s do something with our friends who we trust and who have the same ideas that we have and are cool with what we want to do.” We’re not going to be a full-time touring band. We’re not going to be like most of the bands on his label or most people’s labels because we’re not looking to tour and all that. He was totally fine with whatever we wanted to do.
When that album comes out, you’re going to play some shows though, right?
We’ll definitely play some shows, but it would be limited here and there. We won’t be going on tour for two months at a time. It’ll be a week here and a week there and like a week or two in Europe and whatever else we can do. We all have–well, most of us have jobs. I’m a pastry chef and so I can’t do whatever I want all the time. My boss is cool and lets me take time off, but if I want to be like “hey, I want to go on tour with Lamb of God for two months,” they’d be like “fuck you.” So you got to pick and choose what you want to do.
Now that you’re playing these shows, are there new and up and coming bands that you’re seeing that you’re really into and digging right now?
I really love the new Monument to Thieves record. The singer is Heavy K [a.k.a. Keith Barney] who was the singer in Throwdown. They’re fucking awesome. It’s probably my favorite newer band that’s around. I, out of all the band members, listen to the least amount of metal. I’m more of a pop punk girl. I don’t want to admit it. [laughs] I still love metal. Gaza is fucking awesome. I watched them last night. We played with them. They’re fucking awesome. I like all the old Pantera, Iron Maiden, blah blah blah. I like that stuff. Joel — my husband, the guitar player — he downloads everything. Illegally. He downloads twenty records a day to listen to. He loves all the shit that I hate. I don’t really ever get a chance to listen to a lot of music because I’m always listening to his crap. [laughs]
Do you think you’ll be recording the album this year?
I think it’ll probably be out in the fall/winter. If that happens, maybe a spring tour. Very excited. We’re going to Europe to play with Unbroken too. They’re my favorite hardcore band ever. When they asked us to do that, I was like, “Uh, yeah!”