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There's a Serious Side to the Sense of Humor

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“I don’t feel like people push that stuff enough,” says Schmidt, who cites the band Hewhocorrupts and the labels Robotic Empire and Vendetta as examples of album artwork he admires. “Maybe people will have colored vinyl or a thicker jacket, 180 gram vinyl or something like that. But there’s so much possibility in a 12 x 12 format that doesn’t exist in a CD. If you look around and you know what you’re doing, it’s not very expensive. It’s probably the cost of a normal pressing, or a little bit more… Electric Wizard just put out a double LP, and no matter where you buy it, it’s 30 bucks. I hope that people at least appreciate that for the most part all the records that we’ve put out are all ten, eleven, 12 bucks. We’re trying to keep the price low and make it available in as high quality as we can.”


He adds, “All these [ideas] come out of conversations about what we want to do, and then we try to do them. Everything’s just developed out of that, so there’s no particular aesthetic aside from involving things that are real photographs. We’re very photo-heavy. With Destination Time Tomorrow, we ordered the chestburster and facehugger from Malaysia, made the models, and then put blood on them and took pictures of them.”


Once you’re through ooh-ing and aah-ing at the art design, the music on Doombox more than hold up its end of the bargain. Comprised of merely six songs and an overall running time of just less than 12-minutes, it goes by fast, but it’s instantly memorable thanks not only to Schmidt’s maniacal yet melodic riffs and new vocalist Karl Bournze’s twisted, oddly decipherable screams, but the band’s trademark movie samples as well, the two sides always balanced impeccably. Whereas the Destination Time trilogy focused primarily on action flicks, especially the Schwarzenegger oeuvre, we hear samples from more urban-oriented fare as Juice, Harsh Times, King of New York, Boyz N the Hood, Menace II Society, and Belly.


“The idea came about because this record is more about the early-‘90s gangster films,” Schmidt explains. “Since the trilogy was over, that idea was finished aesthetically, we went in a different direction, and it kind of developed out of the whole NWA aesthetic….The other records were about ‘80s action movies and stuff, and there was always an ideological bent to it, whether people picked up on it or not. For instance, Red Dawn is a movie that is insanely Reagan-era, but if you take the dialog out of that and cut pieces out of it and make different dialog, it carries a different meaning to it. With this record, I’ve always been into LA history, we’re all from around LA, so we thought of pushing it in a weird undercurrent of urban theory, but using stereotypically ‘90s urban movie, so it kind of went in that direction.”


For all the gimmickry of the artwork, the fun of the music, and the sense of humor on display in the insert, there is in fact a serious side to Graf Orlock. Schmidt, who has attended film school, puts a lot of thought into not only the movie samples he incorporates into his music but the central theme of each record as well. In the aforementioned insert, after all the lampooning, there’s a fascinating little essay that muses on those ‘90s gangster movies and their portrayals of New York and Los Angeles to the point where you’re practically blindsided by its eloquence:


How does this not so distant past factor into the 2010s and beyond? How did these events translate into the currency of media and film?... Although certainly violent and fraught with a legitimate conflict for autonomy, we must look back through all superficial representation of these cities, particularly in mass depiction, and flesh out the real from the role.


Most kids know Graf Orlock as “that ‘cinemagrind’ band, but how many will actually care what Schmidt says in his liner notes? In a genre as physically and sonically punishing as grindcore, getting people to actually take a minute to pay attention to what you’re trying to say can sometimes be a tall order. “I obviously recognize that there’s an element of humor, because the whole thing exists to entertain us,” Schmidt admits. “I was laughing the entire time I was writing the insert.


“Also, there has always existed that idea of anti-copyrighting and appropriation, changing something into something else, and there’s always been a strong, DIY political bent to it because we are a punk band even if we are playing some form of grind. The liner notes in particular are about LA and New York, they’re totally serious. When I was writing them I was trying to inject more of the ideas that we didn’t fully develop before, and not just be a novelty type band. Have some type of substance. I don’t know how much people will pick up on it, but we’ll see.”


In the meantime, while we’re all gushing about Doombox, Schmidt will be managing his time between writing Graf Orlock’s next record, touring with that band, Ghostlimb, and Dangers, and running Vitriol Records, which has also put out the memorable debut by Tacoma thrashers Owen Hart and is about to release the excellent new record by his own Ghostlimb. As for where Graf Orlock could possibly be headed next, he says, “I’ve always wanted to address the urban issue, and now we’ve done that… The songs have started to write themselves, so we’ll see in time. They haven’t completely formulated yet. We can do anything we want right now. Sometimes I think that we’ve used every good movie we could use, but then other ones pop up and I remember other movies that are awesome.”


And of course, we can’t wait to see what the next record is going to look like, as well.

Adrien Begrand has been writing for PopMatters since 2002, and has been writing his monthly metal column Blood & Thunder since 2005. His writing has also appeared in Metal Edge, Sick Sounds, Metallian, graphic novelist Joel Orff's Strum and Drang: Great Moments in Rock 'n' Roll, Knoxville Voice, The Kerouac Quarterly, JackMagazine.com, StylusMagazine.com, and StaticMultimedia.com. A contributing writer for Decibel, Terrorizer, and Dominion magazines and senior writer for Hellbound, he resides, blogs, and does the Twitter thing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.


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