Health music can be
harsh and grating, of course, but also sensually smooth and sexy and
electronic and also metallic and all Fodderstompfy –– the main points being
that it can be anything it wants to be, and that it can be all of it at the
same time if need be.
All of this is being
eagerly embraced by hordes of fresh young weirdos nationwide and across the
Atlantic. Health is a total MySpace band; on the site, check their
references to Stockhausen, gamelan, Can,
Kraftwerk and loads of other
music-as-art type things. But note how at their earliest shows at local
sweat holes like the Corral and the Smell, word got out about how their
heftily rocking aural mayhemic maelstroms can cleverly convey strangely
memorable "pop" tunes. They say they're basically very ambitious,
yet their basic formula for success will always be to play music that they
themselves would like to hear.
So now Health
(comprising Jake, John, Jupiter and BJ) is a band, a real band, though
initially they were just a bunch of guys who sat around talking about being
in a band.
"After I finished
school,"says John, "I wanted to start a band with Jupiter, and it
was hard to find people to play music with, and I was working at Guitar
Center and buying gear for cheap. I worked there for about two months and
then freaked out and quit. But I met Jake there right before he quit.
Surprisingly, you'd think that there'd be a lot of people at Guitar Center
that would be into it, but there weren't people that shared similar music
tastes at all, so we said, 'Okay, let's try to start a band.'"
Jake, Jupiter and John
started playing to a metronome thingy in their tiny rehearsal space, and
tried to find a drummer.
"We had a drummer
when we started," says John, "but it wasn't working at all."
"He just wouldn't
lose the ride cymbal," says Jake. "Uh, but that's not
superexciting. There's no rock glory in our story. We were just guys who
were obsessed with music, and spent a lot of the first practices figuring
out what we wanted to do as a band, or, like, how much we sucked at that
point. And slowly we started writing songs."
They eventually came
across burly biker bear BJ on Craigslist. "It was a modern
courtship," says Jake.
"I don't think BJ
knew any of the bands we listed," says John, laughing.
"It could've been,
like, Zeppelin, Floyd, they could've put anything," says BJ.
"influences" list is way up on the modernist, avant-garde types,
including Steve Reich and Swans and the Locust and Black Dice and Animal
Collective, but live and on record they sound admirably dissimilar to any
of them. They developed their own sound quite early on, something that has
turned out rather bizarre in most listeners' perceptions. Working up to a
certain point in total isolation, however, they were unaware of exactly how
peculiar it was.
"When we first
started, we did really conventional songs," says John, "and we
weren't satisfied with it, and so we were just really actively trying to do
something which I would have thought new or interesting. And we were
getting really frustrated, going more and more off the deep end, just
"If you just kind
of put everything aside and make really weird music at first," says
Jake, "then you maybe find a way to figure out where you're gonna
It took a while, but
eventually, by gauging audiences at their live performances, the band
zeroed in on a characteristically untypical sound.
John: "On our
first tour, we had a hard time getting shows and didn't play that many, and
when we did, we had some conventional songs and we had a bunch of our
unconventional songs. Then we went on a really small, poorly booked tour
with another band, and the reaction was really strong to all the different
kinds of stuff. People were saying, 'Why are you guys playing these normal
kinds of songs?'"
Jake: "Well, some
people liked those songs too, but the strange thing is, we were very
neurotic and sort of spending four or five nights in our practice space and
really had no idea. If you're always just spending time with each other,
there's no control, there's nothing to be objective about. And now some
songs we think are more conventional when we write them, people think
they're very, very strange."
Hitting the road out in
Middle America has brought Health a number of benefits, not least of which
was the experience of being co-billed with several hardcore and metal
bands, who showed them by example how to toughen up their sound and not
come off like just another bunch of art geeks. And they've had the chance to
sway a lot of kids who might have previously occupied an entirely different
Is this L.A.'s best
kids in a punk basement in Reno," says John, "they love intense
music but might not necessarily get the chance to hear a band that is maybe
hardcore," says Jupiter.
"We played shows
where half the people left the show because our merchandise wasn't
black," says Jake. "And then we'd play and there's some drunk
heckler, he's just like, 'Hey…sorry…you guys are actually
John: "It's like
we were able to satisfy people who wanna get off on really heavy or intense
music. That's exactly what we wanted to do, same with, like, how you
listened to a Sabbath record when you were 12 and you'd be fuckin' stoked.
We would do that but then try and make it new and maybe a little more
Goes without saying
that the Internet is making all this weirdness possible, 'cause bands can
locate their specific niche "markets" and get the word out
accordingly. But they do have to get out there. Fortunately, hard-working
Health love to do just that, and even they seem a bit taken aback by all
the approval they're getting.
"I mean, you go to
noise shows, whatever, and people are screaming; that would have never
happened before," says John.
"Or you get, like,
L.A. Weekly announcing, like,
shows at the Corral, places where we cut our teeth playing," says
Jake. "And if you ever went to shows there, it's just like CalArts
noise dudes just playing pure harsh noise. That's what's truly fun about
the L.A. scene, is that you have no class concept. Whereas if you really
think about it, this kind of music is very abstract and it asks a lot of
you as a participant, but without sort of highbrow aesthetics –– with people
just getting drunk, goofing off and going crazy, but then doing actually
very experimental music.
now is that you've got, like, 19-year-old kids doing that, which I don't
think you saw before."