Dust devils are whipping by my car as I drive down a particularly desolate stretch of Texas highway.  I passed a small rundown gas station about a half hour ago, but otherwise it’s me and acres of dusty scrub land.  Aah, the life of a music journalist.

So why am I here in the middle of nowhere?  Seeking out the latest Texas troubadour?  Writing a piece on country music honky tonks?  Nope.  I’m here to interview an English grunge band.

Say wha?  I know, it seems a bit out of place, but then The Chosen Rejects are a bit out of place no matter where they rest their heads.  To say they’ve revitalized the rather moribund genre known as Grunge would be an understatement.  After a string of successful EPs the band recently released their first full length LP “Patchwork”, and briefly toured the UK and US with punk riot grrrls Cherry Vendetta.

Holing up in a remote and dilapidated mansion in the middle of the Texas high plains to record your follow up may not sound like a good move, but when it comes to The Chosen Rejects the first rule is there is that there are none, they simply go where the music takes them…

Figment News:  So this is quite an interesting location to record an album.  What inspired you to travel from the UK to Texas to record in a dilapidated mansion?

Toad Garret: It was Jerry’s idea to begin with. He’s been reading this book by some Canadian author whose name I can never remember…

Jerry Horowitz: …Chuck Palahniuk.

Toad: Oh yeah, right right, that guy. Anyway, this book’s called Haunted and it’s all about this group of twenty writers that get whisked off to some abandoned theatre to write their “masterpieces” away from society. Jerry said that’d be well cool if we could record our next album like that, in some rotting old building and slowly going crazy. And well, y’know, without the whole death and gore side of things.

Jerry: …that’s what you think…

Toad: What was that?

Jerry: Oh, nothing.

FN:  Any room in particular that you like the best for recording?

Ren Burwell: Toad likes to do his vocals in the bathroom, we all figure that’s because he’s spent years singing soppy love songs into the shower every morning.

Toad: Shut up man.

Ren: aha, Yeah, as if you shower…

[Toad just shrugs]

Jerry: The rest of the time we’ll use this old billiard room. It’s even got a pool table, though it’s missing a few balls. It’s one of the largest rooms in the house, so we could fit all the kit in there no problem.

FN:  Are you producing the record yourselves?

Toad: Yeah, we’ve had our good friend Garth with us since day one, who’s spent years of his life hopelessly dedicated to technology. Back in the old days, he was this computer nerd who said he could record us if we wanted to and we couldn’t pass that up. Since then, he’s been the producer and technician on all of our recordings, and our number one fan.

FN:  Toad you have a very distinctive look with your blonde dreads, how are the locals handling the arrival of an English grunge band in their midst?

Toad: We seemed to be shocking quite a lot of people with the trashy way we dressed at the airport. People can’t tell if we’re hipsters or just freaking homeless. The only other local we’ve seen for days is our pizza delivery guy, and he’s too perpetually stoned to know what’s even going on.

FN:  Speaking of grunge music.  Do you think it’s still as relevant as it was in the early 90’s?

Jerry: On a mass scale, no, I can’t see a “nu-grunge renaissance” on the horizon, but a lot of people are starting to get it into their heads that they can play whatever the hell they want, so I suppose, as long as people listen to grunge music, people will write grunge music.

FN:  How do you carve out a niche in a genre that is defined by bands like Nirvana, Soundgarden and Mudhoney?

Toad: The thing that’s always attracted me to grunge music was that any old loser, reject or weirdo could start a band in his garage and sing what the hell they wanted. We heard all this exciting new music in our teens with funny names like “Sprinkler” or “Pearl Jam” or “Alice In Chains” and we wanted to make that kinda music, because we like listening to it. Just buy a cheap guitar, whack on the distortion and scream—we like that.

FN:  Your band has a hard-partying rep, is that more a creation of the rock press or do you all really enjoy the rock-n-roll lifestyle?

Jerry: It’s true. We do like to party and get messy and all “fubar”. We’ve had more than our fair share of chemical romances between the lot of us and, let’s face it, we still do.

Toad: …Yeah man, I mean, what? We’re twenty? What else are we supposed to do at this age other than party our faces off? Most people are in uni at this age anyway, and all of them like to punish their livers hard. This generation seems to like getting wrecked, and that’s alright with me.  [sips glass of wine]

FN:  I understand your live shows are renowned for their rather chaotic nature.  Do you like playing live or do you prefer recording?

Jerry: I prefer playing live simply because passing out onstage simply isn’t acceptable in the practice room. …Onstage, it’s alright, as long as you can get back up again.

Toad: You’ve gotta love playing live. Some of our best gigs have been impromptu little house parties where we’ve just set up and played. Whip out a crate of your finest cheap lager, invite your friends, please don’t smoke weed in my bedroom & come rock out. That’s how it’s done.

FN:  You recently toured with Cherry Vendetta.  What was that like?

Toad: Touring with Cherry Vendetta was probably one of the best things we’ve done in our career. They’re the only band we’ve ever met who could drink us under the table and go back for more, and their live shows? Pure f*cking raw energy. They’re some pissed off chicks, man.

Jerry: We had a great time. Cherry Vendetta are definitely one of our favorite bands. Their debut album, “Peepshow”, is played constantly in the van. Toad still has an old vodka bottle from the tour, the sentimental old sap.

Toad: Oh, get screwed, you little creep. We all know damn well how hard you fell for Mara.  [Adrienne “Maraschino” Jackson, lead guitarist for Cherry Vendetta]

Jerry: JUST SHUT UP!

Ren: Awww, d’aww, look at him, he’s blushing…

FN:  How hard is it to get back into the swing of recording after being on the road?

Ren: It wasn’t hard at all. The band are always making these little demos and being all like “hey guys, check out this riff I came up with” or “dude, I just wrote some killer lyrics” so getting back down to creating new music wasn’t hard at all. Plus, we got more than enough practice on tour.

FN:  What do you do for fun out here in the middle-of-nowhere when you’re not recording?

Toad: We like to play imagination. All the time. I’ll pretend to be a velociraptor and Ren’ll be Sam Neil and we’ll chase each other around the manor.

Jerry: I recently discovered an old dusty ukulele stashed under my bed and since then I’ve been obsessed with mastering it. You’d think I’d be perfecting my bass lines but nope, I’m all about the ukulele.

Ren: Sometimes I go hunting for snakes in the wilderness.

FN:  What’s your songwriting process like?

Jerry: Usually it starts with some relative idea of what the song could be about then we pen music to express that, though sometimes it’s vice versa. We find inspiration everywhere we go, whether it’s Ren and his explosive diarrhea or a rogue piece of tumbleweed crashing into a cactus.

Toad: Sometimes we’ll just pick up our instruments and go for it, but usually before hand we’ll listen to some music or have a few shots of jagermeister to get the creativity flowing around the room.

FN:  Your released a number of EPs before your first LP, Patchwork.  Any method to that madness?

Toad: We’re all pretty creative people and we’re always busy bringing new material and new songs into the practice room. By releasing EP after EP, I think it allows us to recognize our stronger songs so that when it comes to getting a full-length down on disc, the selected tracks are The Chosen Rejects functioning at a hundred and ten percent.

Jerry: Yeah, all we seem to do in our spare time is write music anyway. There’s no point hoarding it all up and locking it away, we might as well give it to the people.

FN:  How did your band form?

Toad: I met Jerry one day in detention at secondary school for threatening to blow up my science room with a lighter and gas-tap. I was paranoid about the attending teachers ability to stop such a scenario. Anyway, I met this little dorky loner called Jerry and we sorta just stuck to each other. I took him back to my place because my folks were on like what, their fifteenth honeymoon? And I showed him some music, drank beer and browsed YouTube for mindless hours. It sorta convinced him to buy some albums and a bass guitar, and the rest, they say, is history.

FN:  Was The Esoterical Shred a member of the band for a while?  If so, what was his contribution and why did he leave?

Jerry: Aha, yeah, The Esoterical Shred was indeed a member of our band for a short period of time. I met him busking around and eating hash-brownies in Camden Market one fine day, and seeing as we needed a radical touring guitarist and he needed some money. He introduced us all to loads of psychedelic music and a fine young lady called Lucy Endeski, which is why a lot of our songs on “Patchwork” have that dreamy feel to ‘em. He left to go pursue his own musical demons, I think he realized that his future didn’t belong in creating grunge music with a bunch of kids.

Ren: Say what you want, I never really liked him. He smelled like moldy cabbage and he enjoyed collecting receipts. He’s a bit of a weirdo really.

FN:  What is the song “Trampjacket” about?

Toad: Well, in the town where we live, there’s this skate park which, during the day, is usually filled with all sorts of intimidating extreme sports punks, stoners and rude boys. However, at night, there’s hardly anybody around, so we’d go there and slip around on the ramps. One night, me & Jerry were freezing our asses off trying to roll up, then we find this stinky old hooded jacket left on the vert, so we took turns sharing it ‘til we went home.

Jerry: The next day I took it out and sat in the town waiting for Toad & Ren to meet me, and while I was waiting this old couple came up to me and asked if I wanted a sandwich, because they had eaten too much and didn’t want to waste it. Anyway, they give me the sandwich and start to walk off, nattering to themselves “ohh, isn’t it nice to help out the less fortunate?”…So I wrote a bass line that night and Toad put some guitar work over the top of it.

Toad: When you think about it, it’s basically a song about some confused old people…

FN:  So when will the new record be released?

Toad: I’d love to give you a straight answer to that, but I’m afraid I can’t. At the moment we’re all a bit lost in the thick of it and just trying to enjoy the experience while it lasts, though if I had to give you some kinda rough estimate, I’d say somewhere in between mid December and early January. Roughly.

FN:  Well thanks for taking the time to talk to us.  It was great meeting you.  Anybody know the best way to get out of here?  I must admit I got a little lost finding the Manor…

Toad: And quite rad it has been meeting you too. My best advice is to get in your car, pick a direction and drive. Not sure where you’ll end up, but I’m sure there’s life out there somewhere. Good luck.

6 Responses to “Pick A Direction & Drive: The Chosen Rejects Interview”

  1. bmick14 Says:

    this is pretty cool these guys have great personalities

  2. theHoseman Says:

    When the whole “grunge” thing exploded out of Seattle in the 90’s, it used to piss me off. I dug the bands and tunes, but it was just a progression of what had already transpired in MPLS during the 80’s with bands like Husker Du, Soul Asylum, Stickman, et al. (and in some respects even the Replacements), who themselves were all heavily influenced by the Godfather/Grandfather of flannel lined distortion…Neil Young. Eventually I got past all that and just enjoyed grunge for what it was. The Chosen Rejects are a perfect example of just how kickin’ it can sound! They are faithful to the genre, yet drive it their own way…a way that is blasting out of my speakers right now.
    Great interview. The lads’ wit and creative chaos shine through from start to finish. Oh, to be a fly on the wall during their self imposed exile recording sessions.

  3. theHoseman Says:

    Oh yeah…
    Just wanted to say to inflatable_twerp:
    I really dig your writing style. I could sit and read your band and album descriptions all day. Great stuff man, truly great stuff!

  4. TMTYTF Says:

    I actually enjoyed this interview a lot more than I thought I would. Very interesting, a pleasant surprise!

  5. Childofalma Says:

    One of the best interviews to come along lately.

  6. inflatable_twerp Says:

    *bows, bows again*

    Shucks guys, thanks for the comments and kind words =D
    You lot are an awesome bunch of people

    Oh and Eric, awesome job with setting up the interview and the odd wee bit of editing, and thanks for wanting to interview The Chosen Rejects, it was a hell of alot of fun xD

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