(Duffy note: We’re really happy to have Aleks Shaulov, known to many as the guitarist for The Feelers, writing for donewaiting.com. Expect lots more punk rock coverage, obviously.)
I heard Vegetative State for the first time a few years ago, when they befriended my old band on Myspace. Immediately my cohorts and I thought that we’ve stumbled on to something awesome. Here were real teenagers, playing real teenage angst driven honest to gawd punk rock with no extra flab, kick, catch, or whatever else you could think of to make it “fresh” or “current”. Soon after, we asked them to play a show with us. A little bit later the label that my friends JG, Mindy and I were running put out their 1st EP. But before we did that, we had to have a meeting with some of their parents at the White Castle, to which we showed up hung over as fuck!!! They were around sixteen at the time and it was understood that parents know best. Since then they’ve smashed more guitars, shocked more innocent bystanders, broken up and re-started again more times then Ol’ Man Hank Rollins got laid.
The band is celebrating the release of their new album tonight at Carabar. Sick Thrills and Necropolis are also playing. Here’s all of the dirt and more as I sit down with the lead singer of VS, Andrew Wagner.
Where does the name come from?
AW: Originally we were called Kamikaze Motor Cult. I came up with that. I thought it was really cool, but we were really young at the time and we kind of thought it was stupid, because nobody liked us at the time, because we were playing at the wrong bars. So, then we changed our name to The Problems. We all knew it was a temporary name. This was all around the time the Terry Schaivo controversy was going on and so I had the bright idea that we’d name the band Vegetative State and have the whole “duuuuuuuh ” (drool) thing be the gag…that and abortion.
Alright, so you guys got an LP coming out on the local Nice Life label, called “Feeding Tubes”. When, where and how was it recorded?
AW: It was recorded in our current guitar player Alex Unverzagt’s basement. Oh fuck…it was early last year February or March of 08’. It was all done in Alex’s basement on a 16 track mixer into a 32 track recorder with mics and shits etc. We ran all the instruments straight into the recorder and it was all done studio live except for a few vocal tracks that I fucked up and re-did.
So you guys did it all yourselves?
Where are you guys from in Columbus? And how you met?
AW: Tim and I both are from Westerville and we grew up together. We met in 4th grade on the school bus. Tim thought I was annoying and I thought he was weird…but we both got into Dragonball Z and he heard me talking about it on the school bus and we became friends.
How’d you guys get into punk?
AW: Umm… Well it all started with Nirvana at the end of middle school. We would read books about their band and Kurt Cobain and he would always talk about his influences like Butthole Surfers, Dinosaur Jr. and Black Flag. That’s how we got into those bands. Really, Tim got into punk before I did, I didn’t like it initially. He would play me Minor Threat, Black Flag and Bad Brains and for awhile I didn’t like it until I decided one day to take a second listen of Minor Threat…”In My Eyes” single handedly sold punk to me! Followed by Bad Brains “Big Takeover”!
So how did the band start?
AW: Joey ( Our original guitar player) and Tim had a previous band but Tim and I had joked about a punk rock side project, because before they had a garage rock band that did some covers and a few originals, but they broke up so we took VS seriously…Perfect timing!
When did Ryan come into the picture?
AW: Tim met Ryan freshman year of high school. Initially they didn’t care for each other until Ryan wore a Dead Kennedys T-shirt and the rest is in my forthcoming memoir.
So where exactly are you guys from?
AW: Tim and I are from Westerville.
So if you were to find some Black Flag records and stuff like that, where would you guys have gone?
AW: We’d either download after the internet. I, actually, found Minor Threat’s Complete Discography at Virgin Records. Tim would get a lot of things at Magnolia Thunderpussy. And my step dad, Bob, was an old punk rocker and he knew about Magnolia too, so he took me there too.
You told me before that your dad had a bunch of punk records?
AW: I didn’t really listen to any of his records until I was in high school because they were always just boxed away. And we didn’t get them out until I was really into music. A lot of stuff I was really into was Lou Reed and The Who stuff. I never really dicked around with the 7 inchers because we didn’t have the 45 adaptor.
When you were first approached to do a 7”, we had to have a meeting at White Castle…with some of your parents. Can you talk about that a little bit?
AW: Well, basically, our (old) guitar player s dad had some reservations due to past experience when he was in a band and got screwed by their promoter/manager …whatever the fuck, so he wanted to meet you guys, just to kinda feel out your intentions really. We met with him beforehand and hatched this game plan and I being the speaker totally forgot it and we just agreed to put out the record on Death By Noise and be paid in records. Simple as shit, but we were 15 so people still cared about us.
When you guys just started out, where did you guys play and what were the gigs like?
AW: Well, we wrote a batch of songs and we really didn’t know what the fuck to do so we just followed the path of another band we knew and started playing pay to play shows at Scarlet and Grey Café so I would sell tickets to girls at my school who had a crush on me but they never came cause they’d pull up and be scared cause it was it really wasn’t a bad part of town but they though so after that we’d pay for the rest out of pocket and play to our parents and Ryan’s cousin who went to OSU. We played 2 shows there. We also played our friends birthday party.
How old were you guys when all of this happened and you got together?
AW: When we first got together we were about 15 or 16.
So how many years has VS been a band at this point?
AW: 5 years this summer.
You guys went through some line up changes. You, Tim, and Ryan are the original members, how did Alex and Adam end up in the band? And what happened to Joey, who played guitar on your first 7”?
AW: Alex ended up in the band while dam was recovering from a dislocated shoulder. We had recruited Adam after Joey left the band because he didn’t think he was being utilized to his full capacity. So we brought Adam in but he got hurt playing football so Alex who has been the band’s unofficial 5th member, since we started subbed for him for a show. After that show Tim and I decided that Alex should play with us. That’s when we adopted both Adam and Alex as guitar players into the band.
In the summer of 2008 you guys said you were breaking up, what’s the story there?
AW: Basically Tim and Ryan went to college so its obviously difficult for us to play shows let alone practice for them so we’re limited to breaks and summer vacation. But with the record coming out and the mutual feeling that we still have more to do we’re doing some shows while we can and possible a small tour with Mentally Ill.
VS also recorded a record for Parts Unknown label, whats going on with that?
AW: At this point that deal seems to be completely off the table, but we’re in talks with Criminal IQ (Chicago) about a possible release of those songs as well as some others.
So are you guys doing anything else right now musically?
AW: I’m currently putting a band together called Savage Pinkos, but we’re only in the early stages. Tim and Alex are currently working on a band called Sports Bras that I think has potential. But at this point all we can do is wait and see what happens.