I don't even remember how I met Demian Johnston. It was before I became smitten with his music, a mathy sonic assault known to the world as PLAYING ENEMY. The band was started after the demise of Johnston's immediately previous band, Kiss It Goodbye, when he hooked up with drummer Andrew Gormley (formerly of Rorschach and Die 116), and, after a series of fill-in members, bassist Shane Mehling. Demian is the kind of guy who is truly passionate about what he does and doesn't feel the need to hide it, and those of us who count him as a friend are luckier for it. On a Saturday night in September of 2003, I corralled Demian on AIM and got him to answer four questions for me. He was hammered the entire time. Go pick up a copy of their record CESAREAN, which has been available for a while on Escape Artists Records, or visit www.playingenemy.com for more shenanigans...
1. How did the Hydra Head Records tour come about?
We didn't even know we were a part of that tour until I decided to see how Hydra Head's move had gone and checked their website. I saw a big ad for a tour that we were a part of. Then I remembered that Dan from Thunderdome Booking asked us if we wanted to do a week with Scissorfight. We were not able to because of work and nonsense, but we wanted to play at least the local shows. I am glad it became a little movement that we were part of, though. It was a happy surprise. I really hope that kids saw those tour posters and read all the bands listed and connected the dots between every act. I think bands like Harkonen, Scissorfight, Pelican and the Austerity Project have the potential to affect people the same way bands like the Jesus Lizard, Big Black, Don Caballero and Slint (to jump all around the 80's and 90's) affected people and the way music was written after that. They are doing something real and interesting... thank fucking god.
2. What is the current status of Playing Enemy? When can we expect a new record/tour/whatever?
Playing Enemy just got kicked out of their house. We all found new apartments, but no more late night drug induced song writing sessions in the living room. No more being freaked out to see Jeff Wood sleeping on your floor holding Barbie dolls... Alas. We are almost done, like 90%, with our next full length... After that a bunch of shows are somewhere. We just have to hammer out label details and whatnot. There will be something soon on both Escape Artists and Ammonia records.
3. What was the first record you heard or show you went to that made you want to become involved with music, and how old were you when you did? What influences you to this day?
I remember going to see the Young Fresh Fellows and watching Kurt Bloch play guitar and being amazed at like 13. I think it was when I saw Christ On A Crutch play for the first time I was hooked. They were fucking incredible. Before I went to these shows I thought bands like Black Flag and Dead Kennedys were all that mattered. I skated first and liked punk rock second. Once I started playing bass, all that changed. Then I liked the Birthday Party and Bastro first, and girls second... Nowadays I drink a lot. I listen to a bunch of stuff. The Locust, Richard Buckner, Sigur Ros, Cat Power, Venetian Snares, Emmylou Harris, Squarepusher, Phantomsmasher, Sicbay, Floor, Sunn, The Beatles. a ton of the Beach Boys (so fucking great). I like that one good Phoenix song, I think that the Dismemberment Plan is excellent, These Arms Are Snakes are great but they're about to be as big as Radiohead so fuck it, Radiohead and Bjork (whom I love too), if you don't like the Dazzling Killmen you are lame, if you are lame and like them, it must be because you think that Nick Drake is overrated. Nick Drake is great. Better than Jeff Buckley. Better than Leonard Cohen. But Leonard Cohen is really, really, really great... Wilco is good. As good as Friends Forever. As good as the TV show Friends. That show is fucking great. Almost as good as Cowboy Wally or Gram Parsons. I wish Uncle Tupelo was around because Sun Volt ain't all that good... not bad though. I like smoking pot too. Roy is good too (speaking of pot). The new Denali record is pretty good. That new Blood Brothers record has a couple jams. I really look up to Nick Cave. Tender Prey... fuck. Remember Ink and Dagger? I heard that the Pixies are getting back together... Play "Debaser"!
4. How do you feel the Seattle area's post-grunge music has affected the world music scene, how is the scene currently in your opinion, and how does Playing Enemy fit into it?
Seattle is really isolated. We do everything in a bubble. I guess bands like Modest Mouse and Murder City Devils got out there a lot. We are a city that cares about music. We play music. Always have. I love the scene here. It's not all that supportive of mathy noise bands like us, but I still feel a kinship with everyone. Fellow musicians are always very nice and supportive. The local papers always write nice stuff. We get free drinks... I guess we need to make these people hate us more...
Interview by Charlie