I N T E R V I E W
Cam Reid of Blue Cross
by Arpie Shirehorse
(Photo by Stace Robertson)
Hamilton punk band Blue Cross play a show at Nivara Lounge this coming Friday July 29th, together with Kitchen's Floor and GPOGP. HUP caught up with the band's drummer Cam Reid to talk about the band’s history, its future plans, the Hamilton music scene and his involvement in Press Gang Records.
What was the catalyst for starting Blue Cross? Blue Cross is myself on drums, Sam Willoughby on guitar, Chris Yousef on vocals and Ash Spittal on bass. I moved from Wellington to Hamilton in late 2013, and Sam got in touch right away about starting a band. Sam wanted to play guitar in a band again as he was only playing bass in Wizz Kids at the time. I really liked his guitar work in Wasteland and The Vrill, so of course I was keen on the idea. Instead of doing anything about the proposed band, I filled in on drums for PCP Eagles for a few months, reformed Old Loaves, and kept up writing and playing with Phone Sex Robots in Wellington.
At Punkfest 2014 in Christchurch, me and Chris bonded over a shared love of noisy and ugly heavy music which was probably brought on by an excellent set by Log Horn Breed, and he said that he was in on the plan to make a band with Sam. We decided we wanted to go for an AmRep noise-band sound, try and make something sinister, ape our heroes a bit, like the Jesus Lizard, Big Black and Unsane. We met Dean later in 2015 as he was a regular at all of the shows in Hamilton, taking photos, filming stuff and just being an all-round awesome guy. It turned out he was desperate to start a band before he had to go back to the U.S. as he was over here studying at the university on an exchange, so we enlisted him in the band and called ourselves [band] for a bit until we came up with Negative Capability. Unfortunately for all of us in the band, we formed not long before Dean had to leave, so writing, rehearsing, playing shows and recording was all done in a matter of a few weeks, maybe a month at most. The band wasn’t much of a departure for me, I’d played bass in a couple of bands by then, but it was great getting to move away from the drum throne for a bit and work with people I’d never played with before.
All too soon, Dean moved home to the U.S. so we decided to start again under the name of Blue Cross. We asked our friend Ash to play bass for us and I moved on to the drums. I’m a much more robotic drummer, so our Blue Cross material is a bit heavier and simpler, at least drumming wise. With the new name, we’ve started to touch on a bit of an industrial influence. For me, this stems from my time playing in the band Society in Wellington, and prior to that, a band called DIAL. One of the challenges for this band, though, is that we’re not allowed to use drop tuning at all. Everything has to be in E-standard, and it must be heavy.
The EP on Bandcamp was released just over a year ago (under the moniker Negative Capability) – any plans to record further? The plan for 2016 was initially to play no shows, and instead write and record a 12” LP, but somehow we caved and agreed to a few shows. We haven’t managed to drop the Negative Capability material entirely just yet, which is something we will look to do in the future once we’ve written more songs. It’s definitely my plan for this band to get into the recording studio soon, or at least start demoing some material for an album. We do have two new songs that I’m especially proud of, shifting into a more industrial approach compared to the previous material. I’ve been listening to a lot of Ministry, Killing Joke, Headless Chickens, early Shihad and UK post punk bands for inspiration. Massive riffs, repetitive structures.
What is your writing process typically? Other than Ash, we’ve all got other commitments as well, with Sam in Love Mess and Wizz Kids, and Chris in Wizz Kids as well, so we don’t spend as much time in the same room as each other as we’d like, so our preferred writing method of writing in the jam space hasn’t been possible for us for a while now. A lot of that also has to do with Sam losing his jam space on Ward Street. Being able to walk in with everything set up meant for a very productive session. We’ve been using a space at the uni recently, thanks to Kat from Cheshire Grimm, which has served us well for practising for shows, but that has been taken back by the student union, so we are on the hunt for a new space again.
To answer this from my own perspective, if I have a song for the band, my current process is to demo everything myself: bass, drums and guitar. I have a very rudimentary setup that allows me to record on my computer, and an electric drum kit also makes that much, much easier, otherwise I just programme simple beats to go along with the track. I then send it out to the band to learn, then when we’re in the jam room together, we can work on additions and deletions. But that’s just how I work. Sam’s approach is to bring a riff to the band and flesh it out in the room. I prefer a much more hands on approach as I very rarely get to dictate a song from the drum kit in any of my other bands.
What are your feelings about the Hamilton indie/punk scene at the moment? Would you say it’s in a healthy state? I still feel like a bit of an outsider in regards to the Hamilton music scene, as I’ve only been here for two years now, so I don’t feel I can really comment too accurately on the music scene here. This city has always produced some of the best bands in the country, and this has not changed. I wish that attendance at shows was higher, but I don’t want to discredit everyone that does come out to shows. I frequently see the same faces at shows, which makes me very happy. There’s certainly a desire for things to happen in this city and it seems that there are more touring bands coming through as well. I’d like to see more new bands, more indie bands as well. Just, more. That said, with bands like Wizz Kids, Contenders and Spiteful Urinator calling this place home, I feel very lucky knowing I can see them as often as possible.
Tell us about Press Gang Records! Who runs it, what’s the ethos, is there a masterplan for world domination? I started Press Gang Records in 2012 and I run it by myself at the moment. It’s a means for me to put out material from the bands I’m in, and also to put out releases from bands that I love, like Chalk Horses, Viking Weed, Odd Bodz and Hollywoodfun Downstairs. It isn’t genre specific, the only requirement for me to want to put something out is whether it’s good. I don’t take any profit or ownership of any of the releases. Everything always goes to the bands. They’re the ones who invested all that money in instruments, writing, practising, and recording, so they deserve to retain it all. I’ve mostly released cassette-only releases, but have also put out two 7”s and a 12”. I’d like to release more vinyl, and after having great dealings with Zenith Records in Melbourne, I think that is highly likely to become my main focus in future.
I have no master plan, definitely no desire for world domination. For my own bands, I’d much prefer to work with like-minded labels in different countries, so for something I might put out on Press Gang, then we’d release it on a different label in Australia, another label for Europe/UK and another label again for the U.S. I’d be happy if I can achieve at most something that resembles that, so that international consumers don’t have to pay a fortune in shipping. I really appreciate my customers in Europe, but I always feel so terrible when I see how much they’ve had to pay to receive the goods.
Is Britain doomed after voting to leave the EU? I don’t feel like I can answer this as I just don’t know enough about it, but from what I see in the media, it sure looks like it.
Any favourite Aussie bands? Royal Headache, Masses, Leather Towel, No Class
Which member of Blue Cross is the sportiest?! Sam rides bikes, so he wins that award.
What’s your favourite Blue Cross song to play live?
One of the newest with the working title of Ministry/Shihad Rip Off.
Which other NZ bands should we be listening to?
Rackets, Bargain Bin Laden, Big Tipper
You can curate a show anywhere in the world with any three bands, dead or alive, and there’s only one thing to drink…who/where/what are we quaffing?! PJ Harvey, Supergrass and Randy playing in my backyard, we are drinking wine and smoking a million cigarettes.