After a half dozen knocks, the door to Detore's Boston area dwelling has slowly swung open into an eerie welcoming position, where I am greeted by a haphazard smattering of Starbucks latte cups dryly laying idle. "On the road," guitarist Christopher Corry has warned me before "if you ignore the words 'Can you pull over at that Star-bo's?' you can pretty much guarantee yourself to be without a vocalist that night." I have prepared myself with two Venti's for Justin that will surely tally to the towering pillar-esque pile of ivory white and forest green he has erected in only a matter of days.
After 15 minutes, I am still waiting on Justin, scrambling to find any other notes I may have jotted down on the way over. With Mind Eraser ready to unleash two beastly releases since their sophomore effort "Glacial Reign", there are many questions posed, yet far fewer answered. One release is a 2 song 12 inch on Clean Plate entitled "Conscious Unconscious", another a 10 song 7 inch on Youngblood Records called "The Prodigal Son Brings Death", a record Corry has publicly professed to being heavily influenced by Vangelis score to Blade Runner. "I just call them 'Use Your Illusion 3' and 'Use Your Illusion 4'", longtime friend and collaborator Derek Scace says to me with a sly smirk, as he sits on a beaten and frayed loveseat next to the ominous jaundiced door. I hadn't even noticed him in the room the entire time I was there. However, I also have no time to wonder why he didn't bother answering the door in the first place, because Justin has just arrived behind me, draining a latte' and holding the days fan mail snugly nestled between his bicep and ribs.
He tears at the sides of a few envelopes, cooly blows the fresh tears wide open and extracts the letters mechanically with his forefinger and middlefinger. He then unfolds them with a snap of his wrist (as if they are scrolls) with one hand, soy latte in the other, as his eyes swiftly pierce the heavy handed bic scribbled words. "Looks like they're still 'backing us' with slack-jawed hyperbole and cumbersome salutations." Detore whispers listlessly to me. We haven't even made eye contact yet.
"Bunch-a dim reapers they are." Brendan Radigan smugly spits out as he enters through the threshold without even touching the door. A native and nonchalant Englishman from a small fishing town called Hawk-Shire, a town that has long been (and bizarrely so) a Pro- American region in England. Radigan spent the majority of his boyhood and early teenage years casting off of rickety docks and rowdy rum-filled boats out in charming but choppy ocean for days at a time. Soon after, he found himself and his fishing rod under grey skies on the other side of the Atlantic in New Bedford, Massachusetts. "Guess I found out there really are more fish in the sea, didn't I ?" Radigan quips. Behind him, bassist Craig Arms crisply spits out "Where the fuck is Corry, man?" and enters the room in a white-knuckled fury. Born and bred to be a farmer on farmland in rural Massachusetts, Arms carries himself more with of a sadistic swagger typically instilled in a lumberjack. "Looks like he's mailing this one in again," Justin answers back as he continues scouring through the days mail, which still has his undivided attention. Corry has a legendary and infamous habit of cancelling on practices via snail mail weeks in advance, without telling anyone. Yet he is always careful to ensure every envelope he sends to his band contains a video introduction to practice explicitly detailing what is expected as well. Audio cassettes, containing his parts for practice as well as the skeletons of future Mind Eraser songs are also included along with a practice setlist, picked by Corry himself.
"Mentally I sometimes feel that my being doesn't carry a physical importance at practice," Corry has written to me in a letter I too received dated weeks in advance. "But if I can include tangible tapes, that can also physically stand in for me, so what I mentally have prepared to physically play is still able to reach out to the rest of the guys mentally in a form they can physically play on the recorder as well as the instruments. Then I can physically take care of other mental matters that need me physically down the road. Mentally I find it a better way to physically rest at night."
He doesn't really believe in e-mail, which I think is fucking stupid." Arms says. (EDITOR'S NOTE:
*** When questioned on the touchy subject Corry leans back on the
futon in the corner of his cramped Brighton bedroom. "Listen, the
title of the new 12" is 'Conscious Unconscious', that's not just a
clever name that I thought of. Carl Jung referred to a theory of an
Objective Psyche in some of his writings, that there was like a common
unconscious mind connecting all of us. Like if 'I' cancel practice to
go on a mission with Cooch, we're all the ones who've cancelled it, not
just me. I'm just doing what we've all decided as a part of the whole
cosmic beyond that nets us together you know? We all cancelled
practice, and we only cancelled it because that Objective Pscyche that
we are a part of already knew it would be cancelled, because we were
gonna cancel it... The other guys, sometimes they have trouble with
stuff like this you know? Not everyone is born to think outside the
box, some people have to work for it and that can be tough; for them
and me. It can be a curse sometimes, when you've just seen too much of
the big picture it's like -- what can I do with this knowledge? How
can I live like I'm one of them when I see so much more? It's those
times I have to remember that a lot of people are counting on me, and
that I've got to do it for them as much as myself. Those are the times
when I really realize how lucky I am.")
"Through rain, sleet, or snow we can depend on him to cancel, can't we?" Radigan shrugs.
Detore who had fostered a continued, yet heavy silence through polite slurps of the soy lattes I had bought for him, mentions how important Corry is, even down to his lyrics, whom Justin said they are also dedicated to, because he was his "editor". "He goes through it and takes out all the 'fucks' and 'shits' Justin said, grinning.
Radigan looked at him and said, "Mark Twain's wife did that, too."
Like most bands, Mind Eraser isn't too quick to go into details about their last tour. (I'm finding they aren't too quick to talk about anything regarding their work.) There were the stories that slowly seeped out, primarily surrounding Justin's unpredictable, erratic behavior.
Detore had fought hard (and lost) to include an eternal flame to be placed in front of him on stage for Mind Eraser's last US tour. It became a reality only until it was about to be placed into the van. "He kept telling me how 'heavy' and 'eternal' it was going to be and it would be like a pagan ritual, placing our work on a pyre to 'The Blessing'." Arms recalls, "But then I had to point out to him that we'd have an exposed fucking flame sitting in the van, which could have blown us all the fuck up!" It was left on the side of a road off I-93. "Where it burns," Detore whispers, "eternally."
"We really snuffed out that plan, didn't we?" Radigan hisses.
Detore's actual performances were captivating, and terrifyingly unpredictable all at the same time. He created a furor in Toronto when he stopped the band in the middle of their set and shouted to a rather stunned crowd: "YOU'RE ALL A BUNCH OF FUCKING GRAVES!" Occult rumors swirled in the cauldrons of gossip circles over a show in Bredberg, Tennessee where Detorre, writhed and contorted like a one man exorcism until he was swaddled in his own sweat. He then stood motionless, as a damp, dense circle of bodies stomped around the room. "He just fuckin stood there man, watching this scene he had just created and then calmly pointed his index finger outwards towards the crowd." Arms recalls.
What happened next, even Joey Silvia a quiet, plump Communist/ Portugese immigrant Mind Eraser took out on the road, could never have dreamed he'd ever see. "Sweat just begin dripping off Justin finger, like a dropper dispensing medicine to children. The kids keep running in circles and looking at Justin the whole time and stick their tounges out to catch the drops of sweat from Justin finger." Silvia's head drops like his chin is chained to an anvil and he begins scratching at the portrait of Hugo Chavez he has tattooed on the side of his neck. "It was fucking rock and roll!," he exclaims.
Arms remembers the event a bit less fondly. "Yeah, that was only the second song and then Corry had us just keep on playing the same note for another 15 minutes, and then the show got shut down." Arms carries such anger in his anecdote its almost as if the event is happening again in front of him, before growling at me with firey eyes, "That's why Waste Management is my real racket." Detore, doesn't wax poetic about this event either, treating the past like its one grand ghost story about a kindred soul he doesn't know or have any emotion towards.
"I've always been attracted to ideas that were about revolt against authority. I like ideas about the breaking away or overthrowing of established order. I am in interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos-especially activity that seems to have no meaning."
It was, however, the biggest debacle of the tour, when Detore himself, disappeared from tour for almost 3 months, 2 months after their final date. "A lost weekend to find myself, really," Justin explains. "A weekend to lose his mind, wasn't it?" Radigan interjects. "Shut the fuck up Brendan, its getting old," Arms screams.
We do know that he boarded a flight to Boston with Jason Clegg, owner of the flourishing record imprint Eating Rats and former singer of Think I Care. Clegg has also been dogged by persistant rumors that he is actually the gorilla-masked frontman of DFJ's side project, Dead Black, namely because he has conspicuosly been absent from the crowd at every show so far. (This interviewer, on assignment, asked him that very question blankly at Sound And Fury 08 in Santa Barbara, California. "Oh no! I missed that band with the guy who has a gorilla mask and throws dollar bills and permanent marker scribbled plain t-shirts into the crowd?! I may as well turn around and fly all the way back home!" He responded to be with sincerity as he held a trash bag stuffed with currency and jogged for a cab waiting to take him to the airport.)
They were first spotted in Boston moments after the Boston Celtics won their first NBA Championship since 1986, wearing subtle disguises; gigantic foam 10 gallon cowboy hats, oversized green plastic sunglasses in the shape of shamrocks and matching green foam fingers fashioned into a "#1" position. Cops and paparazzi alike chased after them when Clegg, allegedly on a dare by DeTorre, had scaled a downtown Dunkin Donuts with a can of orange spraypaint and crudely changed the sign to say "Funkin GoNuts" before disappearing into the night. Not much more is known except for the paper trail left behind. We know now they boarded a first class flight to Paris, France early the next dawn where they check into a $60 dollar-a-day room at the fashionable Georges V Hotel and began to explore the city- visiting the haunts of Left Bank existentialists, mingling with gypsies, performing on the streets of Montmartre, making pilgrimages to Balzac's home, Napoleans tomb and the catacombs. After being spotted drinking soy lattes at numerous sidewalk cafe's and bistros, DeTorre decided he needed a steady place to grab a latte ("I need my starbo-hydrates, he chuckles.) The bistro, which was named "Beastro", garnered a heavy buzz among the hip Parisian jet setters. Unfortunately, mere hours after they closed for the night after their grand opening, "Beastro" was engulfed in flames and burned beyond repair. The culprit? A dastardly gust of wind, and an eternal flame that Detore insisted on having placed on the outdoor patio. Finally, a somber and despondent Detore made front page news when a hotel maid performing daily house cleaning discovered a motionless and unresponsive Detore in a tepid tub of water in the bathroom. In a desperate panic she called for an ambulance. Later it was discovered Justin had simply fallen asleep in the tub.
He was asked to leave the hotel and soon after caught a plane back to Boston, where we find ourselves right now.
Mind Eraser can be a seen as a group of paradise-seekers who find that their paradise is merely an epic (and sometimes eternal) journey of total liberation. "Mentally, I find the keys to my kingdom quicker than the set I use in my physical world" Corry tells me.
When asked where he sees Mind Eraser in 5 years, Corry lets out a heavy sigh, looks to the ceiling and then directly back at me: "Wherever Dead Black is in 10."