Interview by Holly Day
Like many people, my first introduction to the Feederz was through the seminal Alternative Tentacles compilation Let Them Eat Jellybeans (1981), where their widely-offendable contribution, "Jesus Entering Through the Rear," became a favorite part of the soundtrack of my youth. Later, I discovered the Feederz - then made up of frontman Frank Discussion, bassist Mark Rodriguez, and D.H. Peligro on drums - had a whole bunch of other songs, and through much borrowing of other peoples' dub tapes and late-night requests to the UC Irvine college radio station, I managed to make me a tape of nearly all of the tracks off of their first and impossible-to-find album, Ever Feel Like Killing Your Boss?
So it was with great joy that I received in the mail, all these years later, not just the new Feederz album - Vandalism - Beautiful as a Rock in a Cop's Face - but reissues of those first two albums - Ever Feel Like... and Teachers in Space - in their entirety. It's just as wonderful to find that Frank Discussion's new material is just as offensive and brutally clever as his old material was, much like the man himself. I spoke to Frank Discussion right before his trip to visit a friend in the circus to learn the arts of sword swallowing, fire eating, walking on broken glass, and becoming a human blockhead.
Cosmik: First of all, and I guess an obvious question would be, what have you been doing for the past 15+ years since Teachers in Space came out?
Frank: Well, actually, I've been doing various things. I mean, that's a lot of time! I moved up to Seattle, and, like a lot of people in this area, I ended up doing time at Microsoft, where I did my best to stay creative, like anyone else put in the position of having to get a "straight" job. For instance, sometimes these companies I come across tend to forget to do things, like make their Web sites open source, so I'd hack into their Web sites and send the source codes out to people on my "buddy list," so to speak. Merry Christmas, right? Then, at Microsoft, I was a tester, so I got paid to break all of Microsoft's new toys. I found new and bold ways to make new products crash - I guess that part of working there wasn't too bad. When you're working at Microsoft, participating in corporate espionage, you're getting paid to do it. And that's why a lot of people end up doing time there, is because the money's so good.
But also, you know, it's fun to send those big, corporate source codes out to people, people who will hopefully put it to good use. Microsoft products aren't that secure in the first place, so having the source code can lead to a lot of interesting experiments. Microsoft screws up so bad on everything it releases - the stuff goes out buggy, they don't fix things unless they have to, and then they, of course, charge customers for more secure upgrades. But you can make their shit crash easy - most of the time, it just crashes all on its own without any help.
Cosmik: So what made you start performing and recording again?
Frank: Well, actually, one of the things that made me get away from it all was getting genuinely sick of dealing with all of the asshole club owners, all of the shit that goes on. I'd been doing it for what, ten or twelve years, and there was just this point where enough was enough. I just had to take a break. But after a while, the old rage came back and I started to have a little fun with my music again.
Cosmik: What made you pick Broken Rekkids to release (and re-release) your music on?
Frank: Well, actually, because Mike at Broken has a very good rep for honesty. He also goes through Mordam for the distribution, and they're probably the largest distributor that's untouched by the RIAA, the big five record companies, that shit.
Cosmik: I know the original copies of your first two records apparently sell for hundreds of dollars now?
Frank: I just saw a copy of Ever Feel like Killing Your Boss? go on eBay for $335-fucking dollars. I can't believe it.
Cosmik: Did you ever make that much money yourself when those records came out?
Frank: No, of course not. But that's actually not what annoys me about it. What annoys me is when you have a situation where people who just want to hear the music on those records are having to pay these huge amounts to get a copy. Personally, I wouldn't pay $335 for anybody, not even if they were my favorite band in the universe. But because this stuff isn't around, then your only choice is to shell out the big bucks, and that bit, which is why we re-released them.
Cosmik: Those first copies must have had a really limited distribution.
Frank: Actually, it did okay, which is why there are almost always copies of the record for sale. They aren't that rare, but they still command really high prices. Especially on places like eBay, where you get people going on bidding fevers, and before they know it, they've paid a gazillion dollars for something worth five. But hey, they won!
Cosmik: Do you think that re-releasing the albums will bring the prices down at all, since copies will be more readily available?
Frank: Yeah. Actually, as soon as the re-releases came out, the prices started going down. The market's a lot smaller for original copies of the albums. But yeah, prices are coming down, and you've also got a situation where it's just the collectors that were willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for the first pressings. And if they still want to spend a zillion dollars for some obscure record that was recorded in a crappy studio instead of the new, more expertly-mastered re-release, then whatever. If someone just wants to hear the albums, now they can, without paying the big bucks.
Cosmik: I've noticed that you have a lot of religious reference in your material. Did you grow up in a religious household?
Frank: Not any more than probably anybody else did. I guess I just got a little more pissed off about it than some people. I mean, when you stop to think about it, you know, it's a bunch of people making laws and trying to run your life based on the worship of a 2,000-year-old corpse.
Cosmik: I grew up in a house with no religion, so I find all the religions fascinating. Especially Catholics. Their services are amazing, with all the gesticulating and standing and sitting and group litany. It's like being in a room full of robots.
Frank: Oh, yeah! I had to go to a Catholic church for a wedding, and I was like, "Oh, God! What do I do?" Luckily, someone just told me outright: "Stand up. Sit down. Stand up. Sit down. Stand up. Sit down," so I was pretty set. But yeah. Catholics are nuts.
Cosmik: There's a lot of material on the new record about computers. What do you think about all the new technology in general, both in music and in everyday life? It sounds like you're comfortable with it, having worked at Microsoft and everything.
Frank: Obviously, by having free MP3s of all the Feederz material on the Web site, I'm very much against the major labels trying to stop the trading of MP3s. When the first album came out, the big worry was people recording onto blank cassettes. If you look on the cover of that album [Ever Feel Like Killing Your Boss?] , it says, "Recording Music is Ruining the Music Industry - Keep Up the Good Work." Well, obviously, our feelings haven't changed. We have MP3s on the new CD, so they're half-pirated for people already. So far as in general, I think all the advances in technology have created some great opportunities for sabotage. You've got to look and think about all the new opportunities new technology opens up, and start going at it at an angle that the people who create this shit aren't thinking of. For instance, now you have the ability to change, like, the New York Times Web page to read something entirely different. You may be aware of the old school board fiasco I pulled off over twenty years ago, where I put out 5,000 copies of a letter supposedly from the head of the school board to all the students in the district. Well, now you can do much, much bigger things, and without even the printing cost. You just need a little patience to learn a few new skills, and you can reach millions and million of people, and cause a lot more damage.
Cosmik: So you must spend a lot of time on your computer.
Frank: Yeah. And that's one of the reasons I got into the whole computer thing. All of a sudden, I started thinking about how to break computers instead of how to make them work, and it just went from there. And then, of course, I was getting paid to do that by Microsoft, and learning how to break even more sophisticated machines.
Cosmik: Do you have a cell phone, too?
Frank: No. No, no, no. Cell phones are an intrusion. Shit like that - I don't have a cell phone. I barely have a phone. At places I've worked, they would offer me cell phones all the time, and it was like, I don't want to be accountable to anyone twenty-four hours a day, much less an employer. I don't want to be that accessible. I don't take phones out of the house with me.
Cosmik: Do you spend any time at all on chat rooms?
Frank: Generally, I'm a predator there. It's kind of cute to walk into a chat room and have a nice nickname like "Cumstooquick" and then you go on and say, "Hi! Anyone want to whisper? I promise it won't take long." It just stops the things cold. Or you go on as "Tiny Genitals," because all these people come on and say they're huge, or they're great in bed and all this shit, so I like to just have fun with them. When I worked at Microsoft, I got an .msn account that didn't ask for real credit card information, so I got an account there under the name "Senator Exxon." I go into the sex chats under that name, and they'd just go silent. All these things are made for a specific purpose, and the best thing to do is to use them for a completely different purpose, for your own amusement. Actually, just about everything I get into, I think, I follow that philosophy.
Cosmik: Do you almost feel like you're in your element, now that everything, politically and socially, is pretty much like it was in the '80s?
Frank: Actually, if anything, it may be worse, because of the whole 9/11 thing. The government has all these excuses to do an incredible amount of shit. I mean, look at the Patriot Act. I mean, it's like, forget the constitution. The Republican administration gets a chance to show its real face, and they're getting away with it. It's pretty amazing. People are buying their rhetoric, people who I thought actually have a couple of brain cells to rub against each other, are buying the whole concept of imminent war hook, line, and sinker. When I go outside with my "I Heart NY + airplane" T-shirt, people get genuinely upset with me, and all I can say is, "I'm glad you like the shirt." I don't know. With all these tragedies, you see all these people crying, and they're 2000 miles away. They didn't know anybody at the Trade Center. They didn't know anybody who died. And I think they do all this emoting because they think they'll look more human that way, somehow. But it's really kind of an abstract reaction. Something happens on the news, and half the country goes to a psychiatrist to deal with what they just saw on TV. And as far as what they've actually received, with the exception that there's a newscaster telling them that it actually happened, it's not much different than what they see in the movies. All I know is, someone's making some money here.