Interview: Spencer Burton of Attack in Black
Attack in Black
“It’s totally gross and unappealing in so many ways.
It’s probably why I’m so lonely”
It’s a mild Valentine’s Day eve in the city and I’m at The Horseshoe Tavern, awaiting the first Attack in Black show in a very long time. Guitarist and fellow redhead, Spencer Burton is kind enough to chat with me a bit about touring, puppies and puke.
HP: So I notice that you’re also a ginger.
Spencer: I am, we share the same colour hair.
HP: And I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m a converted ginger.
Spencer: So you’re not natural?
HP: No, apparently I’m too stupid to realize that people don’t like gingers. Do you know why people don’t like them?
Spencer: What is a ginger, exactly? I’m guessing it’s people with red hair right?
Spencer: I always thought the Ginger root was like yellowish.
HP: It’s true! Maybe ‘ginger’ like ginger snaps…
Spencer: Oh probably, yeah.
HP: I don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a “Kick a Ginger Day”
Spencer: That’s terrible, I’d never want to be part of that day.
HP: I guess you haven’t been kicked then?
Spencer: I’ve never been kicked before. I’ve been beaten up, thrown around, kidnapped once. But I’ve never been kicked.
HP: You were beaten up and kidnapped?
Spencer: Yeah, totally.
HP: In all seriousness?
Spencer: Yeah when I was just starting high school these guys like, stole my skateboard and threw me into the back of the trunk of their car and drove me around for a few hours.
HP: And then just let you go?
Spencer: Just let me out in the middle of nowhere. And I had to like, find my own way home, I was disoriented and stuff.
HP: Is this common for Welland?
Spencer: No, I was still living in Kelowna at the time. But I don’t think it’s not very common.
HP: So what have you been doing in the last year or so? You released your album last year, but we haven’t heard a lot from you since then. What have you been up to?
Spencer: Oh, you know we’ve just been hanging around. We’ve all been playing with our own music. We’ve still been playing shows, just small shows here and there. We haven’t toured much on this record so far, which is strange. There’s just been a lot going on, life situations you know? But now, you know, we’ve got this new record again, I mean, the one we’re gonna be putting out. And hopefully we’ll be doing a lot more touring and things like that.
HP: Cool, so is this new album a live tour one?
Spencer: No, we’re recording all these shows but that’s just kinda a thing we want to be doing. Like, why not record all these shows? You know what I mean? I feel if you can, you should just do it. Maybe one day you’ll use it for something, maybe not. But it’s nice to archive something.
HP: Ok, so there’s no official release date for that stuff?
Spencer: Nope, not for the live stuff. It’s just something fun we’re doing for ourselves.
HP: Have you caught anything crazy on tape so far?
Spencer: Uh, nothing too wild. The last few shows we’ve been playing, people have been requesting really old songs that we don’t remember the words to, so people have been coming up and singing. Which is kinda nice, and fun.
HP: That’s cool! I notice that there’s a dramatic change between your first album to now. So are people asking stuff from your hardcore days?
Spencer: Yeah, we get that a lot. We don’t remember a lot of it. We just try to avoid it.
HP: Was it a conscious decision to move away from that, or it just kinda happened?
Spencer: No, absolutely not. Yeah…it just happens. I mean, I hope that people don’t think about changing, you know, I really hope they don’t. ‘Cause I feel that if you think about changing, the change isn’t natural and it doesn’t mean anything. This just happened, the songs just slowly went in a certain direction.
HP: Rather than the kind of band that’s like “We now have to all have the same haircuts”
Spencer: Yeah, like “Change into this, because this is what’s cool right now”
HP: “Let’s use Autotune!”
Spencer: Maybe that’s even smarter. Instead of doing what we did, and changing into something that’s not cool and people stopped liking us.
HP: Ohh, I don’t think that’s the case
Spencer: [Looking around the bar] Yeah, I think everyone’s here. All the people that are coming, there’s about 10 people here now.
HP: So I know that you’ve only recorded in studio once. Is there a reason for that? Was it a really bad experience?
Spencer: No, it’s just…it’s not necessary, I dunno. We spent two weeks at the studio, and I mean, it was great, the guys there are amazing. That was actually for Marriage, we recorded that record twice. Before we did it once in studio- didn’t work out. We recorded the second part in our friend Dan Weston’s studio; he’s actually the one who’s been recording the shows. It was pretty cool, and he still assists us with the recording stuff that we do on our own, at our own house, on our own time. It’s just, things go a lot quicker, you feel like there’s no pressure and because of that you get things done quicker. We’re all a bit impatient.
HP: Do you also mix and master your own stuff, or do you get other people to do it for you?
Spencer: Well, we’re gonna mix it. Mastering is done by a studio.
HP: So I heard that you had an incident with your finger? Back in B.C you were rock climbing and you almost lost a finger? Is that true?
Spencer: I’ll be honest with you, we do a lot of things where sometimes we do interviews and go on tangents that are completely untrue. And we usually tell the person that it’s not true at the end but sometimes we might forget.
HP: And then it just keeps on going…
Spencer: We do like doing that kinda stuff, going outdoors. And any chance we get you know, to do something wild like rock climbing, we do it. We go swimming, we do all that kind of stuff…
HP: So is the vomiting story also untrue? I’ve heard that you have a vomiting problem.
Spencer: I used to actually, yeah. I have a really sensitive stomach and if I eat certain things I just throw up. It’s totally gross and unappealing in so many ways. It’s probably why I’m so lonely, but…it’s just a thing. It doesn’t happen that much anymore, I’m watching what I eat.
HP: So has it actually happened on stage?
Spencer: No, no nothing like that.
HP: That would be rather spectacular.
Spencer: It’s kind of a Blink 182 thing.
HP: Yeah, or the New York Dolls…So I heard that the record party for Marriage was actually here a few years ago.
Spencer: Yeah, yeah it was.
HP: So do you have any special attachment to the Horseshoe?
Spencer: You know, it’s a great venue. But um, I don’t think I have a special attachment. You can’t really have any special attachment to any venue, I think just because, one day you probably won’t play there. You know? You’ll be doing something else. You don’t wanna be like “Ah you know, I miss that. That feeling” We just go day by day.
HP: What would you say is your favourite place to play in Toronto so far?
Spencer: I don’t know, I can’t answer that question. Mostly because right now in my brain, because I’m here, this is the only place I ever remember playing in my life. This is it. I don’t have a very good memory, I don’t get nostalgic about those kinda things. I get nostalgic about ah, you know, a really nice day or a lot of puppies in one place at one time.
HP: Have you actually had that? To be nostalgic about a lot of puppies?
Spencer: Well I’m not trying to sound like I must be a super nice guy or something, but I like to go to the Humane Society and just hang out and walk a dog or you know… I like looking at all the puppies. I call them puppies but they’re full grown dogs, I just say puppies.
HP: It’s a cuter name.
Spencer: Yeah! You know, you go and feel sad but happy then sad again. In this area I haven’t been to too many, but in BC I went to the SPCA and stuff like that. The one in Welland is by far the best I’ve ever seen, it’s so clean and nice. They just let you take the dogs outside and play with them, and they’ve got this outside playpen. It’s just a really, really nice place, they’re treated really well there- as far as I can tell. I mean, the Toronto one’s just a prison, you know? I feel like the one in Welland is a resort. And even St. Catharines, it feels very prison-like. The one in Welland is just kinda a place they can live when they have no home, it’s like a dog farm.
HP: Is that something you would do, like when you’re on tour across Canada? Do you make a point to stop at a Humane Society?
Spencer: No, not really. We don’t really have time for that. If I had the time to go by one, I would, it’s nice.
HP: What do you normally do if you’re on a long bus ride? What do you do to keep yourself sane?
Spencer: Bus ride? [Laughs] No we don’t have buses, we have simple van, we drive it around and stuff. But on those long rides; just a lot of music. I do a lot of driving myself, just to keep myself occupied. So; a lot of music, a lot of reading.
HP: Yeah, I heard you guys were big readers. What are you reading right now?
Spencer: Myself, I’m reading ‘The Women’ by Charles Bukowski, which is great. I just really like the way he writes. He writes page by page, almost like giant paragraphs. It’s easy to read but also very interesting. I like it a lot.
HP: And what have you been listening to these days? What’s in your CD player right now, or mp3 player or whatever?
Spencer: Well right now I think I’m listening to Me First and the Gimme Gimmes. Am I? Is that what’s on the radio?
Spencer: It totally is, which is awesome. I haven’t heard that band in ages. But at home, I listen to a lot of country music. As a band we just got the latest Ramblin’ Jack Elliott album. Um, I’m kind of a late bloomer to some music. I listen to a lot of Kris Krisofferson, I think he’s cool. Not really anybody I know likes him, but I think he’s cool, ya know?
HP: Somebody has to
Spencer: Yeah, I just came across some Loretta Lynn albums that are pretty good.
HP: So you’re more into real country, not like Taylor Swift country?
Spencer: Well, I mean Taylor Swift is probably one of my biggest influences, but I wouldn’t say that I listen to her a lot. I’m joking, I’m kidding.
HP: So, the last time I saw you guys it was 2006 with Alexisonfire and I was hanging out with your parents throughout the shows.
Spencer: Oh yeah, yeah, probably.
HP: Do they still come out? Or are they like “Ah, whatever, we’ll see you when you come home to do laundry”?
Spencer: Well Dan’s opening the show tonight with some of his solo music and his parents are up on stage with him right now, actually.
HP: Oh really? So they tour with you?
Spencer: Oh no, no, nothing like that.
HP: Just when you’re in town?
HP: That’s cool. So is that a good thing or a bad thing? Is it kinda like “Oh, we can’t be ourselves because our parents are watching”?
Spencer: No, we’re ourselves in front of our families. Family is friends, you know?
HP: So have you been writing any new album material that will be coming out soon?
Spencer: Yeah, later this year we’ve got an album coming out, we’ve written 10-11 songs for it.
HP: Will it be in the same vein as what you’ve been doing?
Spencer: Yeah, it’s another Attack in Black record. Better than the rest. Because I feel albums should always be better than your last, or you shouldn’t be making it.
HP: Is there anybody that you’re gonna be working with for that one, or plans to? Or is it still in its infancy right now?
Spencer: Well, we’re gonna record it ourselves again, have fun with it.
HP: Alright, so I’ll ask you our token Bring Back the Boom Box question. And it’s if you weren’t in the band, weren’t doing music and what you love, what would you be in jail for?
Spencer: Oh god…if I wasn’t in the band, what would I be in jail for? Uh, I dunno. What do you call it when you fake your own death to get out of bankruptcy?
HP: Fraud of some sort?
Spencer: I’d probably be in jail for that then, yeah.
HP: So if we see that you’ve ‘died’ at some point it’ll be like “hmm”
Spencer: Yeah, maybe not.
(Original publication: Bring Back the Boom Box Magazine- Mar 15 2010)