Neddal sez: Federation X, from Bellingham, WA, are the new rock. They've released two amazing albums on Estrus Records, AMERICAN FOLK HORROR and X-PATRIOT. I caught up with guitarist Bill Badgely via email. Many thanks to Josh Vanek at Wantage for the hook-up.
DEAD ANGEL AVOIDS DISCUSSING COPYRIGHT LAWYERS WITH FEDERATION X:
NOTE: DA in this case means Neddal, dig? But you could have guessed that, right? Right? Ehhhh....
DA: You're Bill and you play guitar in a band called Federation X. What else do we need to know?
BB: That your pants can't save you, even when found in delightful combination to your shoe choice. That too much emphasis is placed on music in general and that more people need to throw books at each other. That music should be played while strongly endeavoring to do something else, like running as fast as you can.
DA: Who else is in the band?
BB: Beau, who plays drums and builds songs in his house with no phone, and Ben, who plays guitar in several bands and lives off the fat of the land as an Italian restaurant cook.
DA: I'm a jaded hipster. Sell me on Federation X in three sentences or less.
BB: It doesn't matter if you like the band or not. It doesn't matter if I like it. It's something that me, Ben, and Beau do together and we love it.
DA: What's the significance behind the title X-PATRIOT? What was the significance behind the title AMERICAN FOLK HORROR? How do they relate to each other?
BB: X-PATRIOT is about leaving. At least to me, it is. It is about outgrowing your dreams, and trying out new ones. It seemed fitting to place that on a political structure due to the things that were going on in the world at the time, but it's really about our lives. I love my bandmates, they are my family, and we've been through a lot together; we've been kids together, we've travelled around mercilessly as a tightly-knit roving band of idiots. We were leaving together. It seems that's what a band's life is about, and when you record a record, it's your chance to voice some kind of opinion about what's going on with you. And for us it was wiping the slate clean: X-PATRIOT.
As far as how it relates to AMERICAN FOLK HORROR, it seems like a natural extension. AFH is about the darker side of being an American. The gross parts and X-PATRIOT are about redefining what you will keep and what you will throw out as you get older. When I was a senior in high school, my friend Walt told me I was killing my old man that year. That everybody had to do it to be their own person. To kill your father so that you can fill his shoes, accepting the gauntlet that he has thrown down, embracing his strengths and attempting to cut out the weaknesses in your self, but most of all just being aware of them.
DA: During the sniper attacks in D.C. last year, you posted an article on your website from a local paper saying that John Allan Mohammed drank at a bar in Bellingham. Did you ever meet the guy?
BB: No, but in between tours I would eat a couple of meals a day down the street from my house, and the father-son duo ate theirs at well in that time period, but I don't remember them. In fact, I typed out a lot of the conversations that I had with people there, and kept a running diary of what we had to eat. One meal of note was spaghetti with beef jerky in it, which I found particularly strange. The meal items were always making strange rotations; what was salad one day would find its way into an entree the next day, and condiments -- they were very into condiments, if we had roast beef there would always be horseradish, shit like that. They took it very seriously, which was nice.
DA: The article also mentioned that at one point Ted Bundy also frequented the same bar. That, along with the Green River killer and Pickton in B.C., makes for one fucked-up area. Any theories as to why that area (U.S. Pacific NW and the Canadian West Coast, Vancouver in particular) is so fucked up?
BB: Well, I think John Allen Mohammed said it best: "Bellingham is a great place for a person who is trying to escape something." It's a great place to be left alone.
DA: Who is / was Charlie Jackson? (Yep, it is Charlie Jackie?)
BB: I think you're talking about "Charlike Jackie Freedom Pride." He's a ficticious character, based on the Indians that lived on the reservation outside of my home town.
DA: On AMERICAN FOLK HORROR there's a song called "Moose Blood." Have you ever gone moose hunting? Have you ever tasted moose? (I ask 'cause moose hunting is big here -- there's a place near where I work that serves moose and caribou burgers.) [TMU: Words fail me.]
BB: I've never been hunting at all. In fact I pretty much detest it, except for instances of survival. The song is about the cities being burned down and the character running into the forest and taking part in a blood ritual with a moose to wash the urban disease from his blood and re-verify his place in nature.
DA: Most of the songs on AFH seem to tell stories, where the songs on X-PATRIOT seem to be much more personal. Was that a conscious decision? Did anything in particular bring it on?
BB: When we were writing songs for X-PATRIOT, I feel like I was feeling a lot of things for the first time, or maybe just for the first time as an adult, and try as I did, I couldn't really dress them into analogies like they are on AFH, although one still in, and that would be "Slave Song" -- but even that one is only half-analogy.
DA: What inspired "Slave Song"?
BB: "Slave Song" is about falling in love as an adult and realizing that upon experiencing this thing that you've broken out of somewhere else, which is also what "Real American Kids With Real American Ids" is about too, only no analogy there. It's about realizing that not being in love is being a slave, but that being in love is even more so, but the slavery in that case is slavery to freedom and redemption. It can be convoluted, but the song is about the getting there, and that's the important part.
DA: How was recording with Steve Albini? Any good stories?
BB: That's a long story. Steve is hilarious and was very, very good to us. People kept telling us that he was gonna yell at us and tell us our songs sucked. That was a load of horseshit. It was immensely comfortable recording there. Basically Steve is a badass. He's a mad scientist of sound. It's fun recording with someone who understands every step of the recording process on a molecular level. We asked many questions and the session was broken up many times by short lectures that Steve would execute visually on a little yellow pad he kept around. And when our eyes would glaze over and our lips turn to non-moving wiry postures, he would stop and tell jokes and we'd smoke cigarettes. We got him a cake that said "we hate you" on it in frosting at the end of the sessions.
DA: Did he cook for you?
BB: Yeah, his parents sent him some buffalo burgers, sans dry ice, which he was bummed about because apparently he likes to place these in his toilet. [TMU: I'm assuming he puts the dry ice there, not the buffalo burgers. Although that's where I'd be inclined to put buffalo meat....] Anyway, he cooked it up with an aioli sauce and it was delish.
BB: As part of the X-PATRIOT sessions, you did a Budgie cover. I can really hear Budgie in some of the songs. I think I can also hear some Iron Maiden, especially on "Madness." What was kicking on your turntables, rolling in your tape decks, spinning in your cd players, or streaming out of your computres when you recorded the record?
BB: Yeah, we did do a Budgie single with Mr. Albini for Josh Vanek of Wantage Records fame. It's eight minutes long so it fades out on the first side and fades back in on the second. I don't know if we were listening to much of anything other than the other bands we were playing shows with. We played a lot that year. We went to Europe and stomped around the U.S. as usual. We do read a lot, though.
DA: I've heard conflicting reports regarding the status of the band. What is the status of the band?
BB: We're each doing different things right now, but we will most likely tour again soon.
DA: I saw on the Wantage site that a collaborative LP with Federation X, The Cherry Valence, and The Fireballs of Freedom may be in the works. Is that still happening?
BB: I don't know. Hopefully it will go ahead. The whole project is pretty ambitious. Did Josh tell you about it? Each band donates a riff and then each band writes four songs based on the four riffs. Crazy.
DA: Who are what is 1776? Is there anything available?
BB: 1776 is the band I'm in here in Brooklyn. I play guitar, sing, and play a foot organ. My friend Sterling plays drums. We just did a little tour with Fleshies from Oakland, and then played a few shows out west. We've only been a band a couple of months, but it has been hella fun. I think it's more song-oriented than Fed X; less riffy, but similar in some ways, although Sterling and Beau have very different drum styles.