Interview with The Factory Incident (July 11, 2003)
By Sean Koepenick

The Factory Incident is a band that is new on the scene, but is poised to make a major impact on rock music this year. Formed only three years ago in Washington D.C, the group has already become an explosive act live, playing to rave reviews up and down the East Coast. There's no shortage of music pedigree in this group. Starting with singer John Schroeder, who was previously known as John Stabb, lead singer of 1980's punk rock heroes Government Issue. Illustrious past members of Government Issue included J. Robbins (Jawbox, Burning Airlines) and Peter Moffett (Wool, Burning Airlines) among others. All of the members of The Factory Incident have done time in numerous bands throughout the years. But now is truly the time for this group.

In 2001, they released the brief but intriguing Helmshore EP, on their own newly formed Post Fact Records. The music was hard to define but was characterized by the shimmering two guitar complexities of Karl Hill and Aimee Soubier. Dueling melodies intertwine with harmonic overlays that truly draw the listener in to a brave new world on each repeated listening. Cascading over these engaging patterns are the dreamy ethereal vocals of John Schroeder. Portraying both hope and despair, often within the same lyric, Schroeder perfectly complements the music, with a rare dramatic bent that takes the uninitiated by surprise. This combination is enhanced by the lean rhythm section of Steve Brown on drums and Shaun Wright on bass guitar. Bass and drums combine to provide a dynamic backdrop to each song.

The interview proved to be an intriguing look into a band that is totally serious about where they want to go with their music, but do not want to compromise their sound to fit anyone else's preconceived notions or categories. If that means that it takes take a little bit longer for their music to break though to a larger audience- then so be it. The Factory Incident is happy and content with the methods that they have set up to release and perform their music. This integrity quickly came across during our brief meeting and cemented the respect I had for the band.

Having never seen the band live before, I had no idea what to expect. The polished performance I witnessed was absolutely extraordinary. Tracks from the EP, such as "Departure" took on a new found urgency in this setting. New songs, not yet recorded- showed the band taking on an added serrated edge to the proceedings. If the live set I saw was any indication, the upcoming CD (to be produced by Steve Hansgen of Minor Threat fame) should be a revelation. The Factory Incident is not afraid to show their influences. Early eighties music seems to be a starting point but the band than takes these signposts and travels down a completely different road. Traces of Joy Division, Echo & The Bunnymen, Killing Joke, even The Jesus & Mary Chain are faint echoes in the background that certainly do not sound derivative. Instead, the band shapes and molds these textures to conjure up a new sound that is unique-and sure to break out to a mass audience in the future. Even as Schroeder rails at the end of "For Someone Else"- "this should be our swan song"- nothing could be further from the truth. For The Factory Incident, this is the story of a band ready to take flight, like a phoenix preparing to rise from the ashes. Prepare yourself for the experience of The Factory Incident-your perspective on music will be forever changed.

Right: The Factory Incident live at Chief Ike's Mambo Room, Washington D.C. 7-11-03, (Photo by Ted Tuel)

E.C.: How and when did The Factory Incident first come together?

Karl: John and I were in a band called Betty Blue together and that was kind of coming to an end. We played our last show on the first of 2000 and that same night I just said "hey Aimee and I are working on some stuff let's see if we can get together and see if it works." We knew Shaun and Steve and it came right together pretty quickly. Six months later we started recording the Helmshore EP.

John: Karl convinced me to leave a band that after 5 years of no one paying attention to in their own hometown-it was a good idea to leave. Karl showed me some stuff and some cool ideas they had influenced me to start my life of "post-punk". I've been happy ever since.

Karl: Now he can't stop saying post-punk!

E.C.: Could you name some of the groups you had played in right before joining this band?

Karl: There's no need to go into that (laughs). I mean we have all been in a lot of different bands.

John: There's so many to list for me. But the ones that really stick out are JS & The Cupids, Weatherhead, United & Wrong, No Trespassing and John Stabb & The Stains. There was this other band called Government Issue that I once played in-a little band. Stabb Nasty too-but most people in that line-up don't want to let that me known. Steve was in a very aggressive metal band called Steel Nipples. Before he left that group he actually got to play the "Metal Meltdown". It was with that band from Sweden called Something Hamburger? (laughs all around the table)

E.C.: What bands/artists influenced your playing/singing when you first became involved with music?

John: Karl turned me on to a lot of really cool vocalists from the post-punk era-like Adrian Boreland. A lot of "shoegazer" stuff that I really didn't know much about. Only that they stared at their shoes and they played. But I like a lot of that stuff now a lot. It's challenging vocally to do certain things with this band that I've never done before with any other band. That's really cool for me. And despite our three song CD being a little softer and a little more "Smithsy" we are definitely a little more aggressive in our material these days. It's not a good representation of what we're like live. We kick major post-punk butt!

Shaun: Probably stuff that influenced me more was PiL; I was always a big Jah Wobble fan. The Stranglers-J.J. Burnel. Chapterhouse-and Crowded House! (laughs)

Steve: Too many to mention-I'll do the cop-out.

Karl: I think a lot of us like PiL. Early eighties, late seventies rock.

E.C.: 2001's Helmshore was the band's first recording. What made you decide to take on the additional responsibility of creating your own record label?

Karl: We knew we needed a label to release the record on-we knew we were going to do one and that was going to be it. We'd start it up and even if The Factory Incident wasn't around we would keep releasing stuff. Stuff that John is done in the past like Weatherhead-which has never really been released in any format-we would like to release. After that we are open to other artists' material.

E.C.: I've heard different descriptions of your music from various sources. How would you describe your sound to someone who has never heard you before?

Karl: Kind of "pastiche".

E.C.: I was wondering what that word meant from your "one sheet."

Shaun: Heavy skiffle.

John: A cross between Bad Brains and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Crosby Stills, Nash and H.R.! Like I said, I love a lot of those post-punk bands that I'm discovering over the last few years. Like The Sound-they were kind of obscure to most people but I think they are amazing. Like Karl said Josef K, Edwyn Collins from Orange Juice and Edwyn Collins solo basically-his original unit. Other cool bands and stuff. For me it's getting away from the more funny and sarcastic lyrics. The lyric content that I was famous for in other bands-like Government Issue. Someone wrote to me recently from Montreal and said "I remember I said why don't you do any more funny and sarcastic stuff?" This was about '86 in Montreal and I said "we grew up." That pretty much says it all. We want to do "grown-up" music. This is just a real cool band to be part of and be involved in. If we ever had to split up maybe Karl and Shaun and I would do something electronically through the mail. But it won't sound as "electronica" as Bob Mould's stuff. We are not going the techno route.

Karl: It's hard to describe the sound of your own band I think. It's always hard. I think we take from a pool of influences. Just talking about this band in particular, not just how we are all influenced separately; the way we play our instruments. It's mostly early eighties type stuff. With whatever current ideas that we're coming up with.

Shaun: Like John said-it's definitely changed. Not huge shifts but; we kind of hit the ground running. I was only playing with you guys a month-before we recorded. Then we went and recorded and it was like-

John: Steve was still playing in Mange-or whatever that band was. They had a hangman's noose-that's why I remember.

E.C.: How do you think the alternative/independent music scene has changed in the last couple of years?

John: There are still really good indie labels out there. Hopefully like Dischord they actually pay people on it. I found an independent label-Dr. Strange-for G.I. 20 years after the fact I'm now making money for something I did put a lot of hard sweat and effort years ago and never got paid.

Karl: There seems to be a lot more bands these days and a lot more labels.

John: Not to misquote Ian MacKaye or whatever but he said indie labels can rip you off just as much as major labels. Sometimes it's not a huge thing to be on an indie. You can still get burned as much as you would on a major label. Hopefully we won't have to do a really bad MTV video with 50 Cent, Tupac or whatever-2 Cents.

Aimee: It probably is easier to avoid that conflict now when there are things all around you.

E.C.: Are there any new band/artists that you are into currently?

Karl: There are a few that I like, but none that really influence me.

John: Actually, a lot of older ones. I like Gene, I like the old bands. I wish they would get more of the credit that they deserve. I like a lot of the older 80's punk bands still. Power pop. Down the line I'm discovering I like more of the eighties stuff that the current stuff. Current bands I've been impressed with lately-Shiver, Stomachinc, The Cheats, Ursula Major. Also Mission of Burma was a recent well appreciated reformation. That does it for me.

Aimee: There are a lot of current bands that we do like but they tend to have influences from the eighties too so it's more like we are influenced by the originals or whatever band they are trying to play off. We tend to like a lot of them too.

Steve: I'm not going to let the rest of these guys speak for me.

E.C.: What was the name of the metal band you were in?

Steve: Episode One/Upside Out-kind of a metal thing. Definitely nothing you could compare to as far as what we are doing. Basically they stripped me of my double bass pedal so. (laughs around table). See-here is my evidence!

John: G.I. tried to do that to Pete Moffett. He like beat us into the ground-either listen to metal or the double bass. And we were like OK-two pedals!

E.C.: I know you also have plans to release your second record in the next few months. Can you tell us about the new tunes and how they sound compared to the first EP?

John: They are definitely a lot more aggressive. They are quite a bit more angular. Math rock-ish?

Karl: I don't think there is any math-rock in there.

John: Well, math is my worst subject so I don't want to be part of a band that does math rock anyway!

Shaun: I don't know- I think it more complex and less complex at some points.

John: I think there is a lot more going on two-guitar wise that any project I have ever been part of. Weatherhead was two guitars and that was about the only thing I have ever done before (with two guitars). I think people would definitely lean towards more Gang Of Four harder stuff. I'm happy with it. Sometimes I sing soft, sometimes I sing harder. But if you ask me what key I sing in I say "house key."

E.C.: How has the Helmshore EP been received and what reactions have caught you by surprise?

John: They have been favorable up to a point. To a point of them saying-"why isn't there more?" This is our first thing you know, and I just hope we do more.

Karl: We thought it was a really natural thing to just release three songs to get started with-one EP. You gotta start somewhere. Instead of sitting around trying to write a whole record.

John: Dischord was nice enough to put us on their "direct" list so that was really cool. Some stores still carry it, but some don't. We have given away more than we've sold. (laughs). Lots of promos-just to pass them onto people. Not to fans. We would just rather have it get out there then not get out there.

Karl: Anyone who wants a copy-here's John's address.

John: I only have four left! I've given away too many. It's good to get it out there.

Right: The Factory Incident live at Chief Ike's Mambo Room, Washington D.C. 7-11-03, (Photo by Ted Tuel)

E.C.: What gig has been the most memorable so far for you? Have there been any gigs that you would like to forget?

Karl: Fort Reno. We did our first show at Fort Reno-it was our very first show. It's an outdoor, summer concert series. Clouds were over top of us and in our third song it just poured like never before. It was over.

John: I like the moody, dark vibe but the rain sort of stopped us from playing.

Shaun: There was a point where we were seeing this sheet of rain and this lightning and the wind was kind of going. We're all looking at each other like-should we keep playing?" We kind of didn't want to stop. It wouldn't be a bad way to go-electrocuted on stage.

John: We were like nah-fuck it-we can postpone.

Steve: That was definitely a show to forget. But our next show at The Black Cat-the sound there was amazing. It was like from sounding crappy to sounding as good as you possibly can.

John: The Big Takeover gig was a lot of fun up in New York. Pittsburgh with Shiver- who we still owe a show down here. Even Art-O-Matic was interesting. You could either look at bad art or see a band! A couple bands in the next room and then look at more bad art in the next room.

Shaun: There was some good art there.

E.C.: What bands out there playing live now would you like to be added on for a killer double bill?

John: I would like to open up for Gene. Or have them open up for us-either way.

Karl: The way John has his hair right now, the way he is dressed currently-maybe with The Fall-a good pairing.

Shaun: We just saw The Fall here last week. It was really-no comment. We are all sort of big Fall fans too and-

John: Did he fall onstage?

Shaun: Put it this way-that was one of the first shows in a long time that I walked out on.

Karl: I was happy to be at the bar.

John: I saw The Fall in their heyday; at the old 9:30 Club in like '85? They were terrible then. They had two drummers and I think the only band that works with two drummers is Adam and The Ants. I'll go on record and say that. It just didn't work.

E.C.: Are there any musicians/bands around now that you would like to collaborate with-i.e. write a song together?

Shaun: Like Elvis Costello when he got together with Burt Bacharach.

John: I would like to get the guy that produces all the old Echo & The Bunnymen stuff. I can't remember his name. Hugh?

E.C.: Hugh Jones.

John: Yeah, Hugh Jones would be pretty cool. We are doing this for like our own enjoyment. It's not like we are making a lot of money out of it or anything and we don't expect any major money to come out of it. When it stops being fun that's when I'm going to stop doing it. I should have learned from my past when it stops being fun to stop it. It has taken me about twenty years to learn that. It's going to be fun to do. It's cool to play in DC when we can play in DC. We can play New York and Pittsburgh and have a good time and do those kinds of gigs. As soon as The Black Cat asks us to open up for like Kelly Osbourne.

Karl: We have been playing sporadic shows. We're trying to play more shows but I don't know about touring though-but we will play more.

John: Ursula Major is a really cool local band. We played with them at our first show at The Black Cat. Moodroom-I don't know if they are still actually active at the moment. My old drummer Sean Saley plays with them now. I'm anxious to see what new bands come out on DeSoto Records. When the J. Robbins solo project comes around I really want to hear that. I'm anxious to see what he is up to. What he has a new band called Channels?

E.C.: Describe the process of how a new Factory Incident song is created. Does one person come in with complete music and lyrics or do you work on everything together?

Karl: It's very collaborative. We all come in with basic ideas or a riff, a beat-whatever. Then we assemble it from there and piece it together. We rarely show up with a whole song from anybody.

Steve: I'd like to go back to your question about what the difference is between the first three songs (on the EP) and the newer songs. The newer songs all happen in different ways. I think a song or two was just a bass line that we stumbled upon while we were practicing other songs. It just turned into us putting a drum beat with it. Versus a lot of times we will all be coming in with some great riffs. All the new songs-there's not a single way that we wrote a new song.

Shaun: The last songs we wrote were the most painless songs-they were done in like a day.

Steve: It falls in between songs that you have played a million times where for some reason you get influenced by a note that somebody hit.

John: A key factor is that if we are drenched in sweat when we are done we know it was a good practice.

E.C.: Do you think it is more difficult for a new band to get recognition in the music scene today than say, 5 years ago?

Karl: Well, it just seems like there are a lot more bands now then ever. I don't know if that is in my head or not but it sure seems that way.

John: The Positive Force shows-it used to be like there were lots of new bands, then a lot of older bands. With the more seasoned musicians that have been out there awhile. There are tons of bands out there; it's all kind of like you know-the process of weeding out. Not to quote a Black Flag album. I used to think that was the process of eating out. There's a lot out there. It's just a matter of finding out what you are into. Definitely with MTV and all the other video nonsense that is out there has made it much easier for band from the nineties until today to actually get out there and have notice. It's all a matter of making a really cool video and jumping up and down. Wear your hair just right like Kurt Cobain and scream the right way.

Karl: Who is this?

John: I'm talking about bands from DC-not the ones that are from Seattle.

E.C.: The band has also started to play a few out of town shows. What has been the response in cities where no one has heard of you?

John: It has all been really positive. It was great for Jack Rabid to like our CD enough- on the basis of that to ask us to come up and play a Big Takeover fanzine party around Christmas time. We got to play with Adam Franklin from Swervedriver. Jack Rabid's band-Last Burning Embers. And another band-EDP-a great mod/pop band. It was a blast to be a part of that. And then we played in Pittsburgh based on some really cool people in Daghouse-on Dag Nasty's website/message board. Which has been a blast to make all these connections with people I haven't heard from in years. Just on that alone is actually helping us get some shows. Instead of like calling local clubs in DC like a thousand and one times.

Steve: It just amazes me, like you were talking about the Dag Nasty board. When we played in New York, they came up from Richmond to see us. I've got buddies from Baltimore that won't come to DC! The people that are really into this music seem to really enjoy this kind of music. Actually this is like a whole different scene for me. I'm not used to the kind of crowds with this kind of music. A lot more friendly crowds.

John: Steve would have made the drive whether we had a gig or not. He loves parking in New York! He's the person that comes into the show and goes-"I'll never fucking play in New York again!" (Everyone around table laughs)

Steve: I also thought I would never be amazed by New York. When we accidentally got on Broadway and it was daylight out we were like what the hell is this? Crosswalks thirty feet wide filled with people.

E.C.: What are some of the future plans for The Factory Incident?

Karl: Our first goal is to write a couple more songs. And play those out before our second record-before the end of the year.

John: Sell a few more songs to our friends in Interpol.

Karl: Those guys must be tired of; I mean they got that whole image and they're probably like-"damn, it's hot onstage!" You see pictures now they are just stripped down to the ties.

John: The guitarist is from the DC area. We're actually going to kick Shaun out real soon and replace him with someone who looks like Crispin Glover!

Shaun: I want to act like him.

John: With his German prog rock haircut. I like Interpol personally.

Shaun: I thought we were kicking you out?

John: Oh yeah, that's right. Actually, we are just anxious to get this next album out. We want to record it, put it out there and play some more shows. If things go right-we will see. Oh yeah-and no more punk rock reunions!

E.C.: There you have it. Thanks for your time and looking forward to great things from The Factory Incident in the future.

All: Thank you.