I woke up in a bed of blankets without a clue of how I got there the previous night. The room contained the bed, a computer and myself. I bent the blankets off of my legs and found myself drifting to the illuminated screen. When I arrived, the words "Panic," "broke," and "up?" berated me from all two dimensions.
I woke up again and knew that the dream's significance meant that I was to track down the band Panic and ask them the freshly sharpened question. Although they formed in 2000, 2006 was the year of answers. An interview was setup between Azy Relph and myself; between a guitarist and a man with a dream.
What resulted was discussion of Panic's newest Circles: six songs of punk rockdom, the difficulties of having band members scattered across the USA, Strength In Solitude: a discography of the songs that put Panic in my dreams, and the difficulties of dudes with goatees whispering in your ear.
Scene Point Blank: Panic broke up?
Azy Relph: I know this is some messageboard joke, but I don't really get it. But yeah, we broke up for a bit.
Scene Point Blank: Do you think the band Kids Like Us will be alone forever OR alone together?
Azy Relph: Both.
Scene Point Blank: Is it difficult to keep things going in Panic while Gibby lives in LA and the rest of the band lives on the East Coast?
Azy Relph: Gibby and Masek both live in L.A. This is a logistical challenge, but doesn't really make it that difficult, because we are all pretty busy people, so even if we were all neighbors, we would still only be able to play occasionally. It actually is nice, because since a couple people always have to fly for whatever we do, we have to plan things way in advance, so I at least am always well prepared.
Scene Point Blank: How is the lyrical content different in the new songs than the previous?
Azy Relph: Lyrical content is different from song to song on each record. But there is certainly a shift, since there is like three years of time between records, and people grow and change in that amount of time. I'd say there is some hope in them now, whereas before things were a little bit more bleak. However, emotions like anger, insecurity, and regret still dominate and they probably always will. I am sure that if we reached points in our lives where everything was so picture perfect that we had nothing to get angry and scream about, we would probably not be motivated to do this band. And as good as life is, there is still a lot to bitch about.
Scene Point Blank: How did the song writing process for the new EP, Circles, go? Can we expect a full-length any time soon?
Azy Relph: Song writing was pretty simple. Over three years I had a lot of music that I wanted to get out, that didn't fit with the bands I was doing. So when we decided to do the band again and do a new record, I probably had at least half the material ready to put together. One song I had actually written before Panic broke up, and somehow had remembered and reconstructed it. It was then just a matter of us getting together, Q and I worked extensively on â??Shadow Parkâ?, Damian and I on â??Involvers,â? and then when Masek flew out to record we put together â??Hello Young Lions.â? We basically demoed all the music and sent a tape to Gibby and gave him a couple months to write lyrics. Obviously there was still some writing going on in the studio, but given the straightforwardness of Panic, it is easy and I have always felt that improvisation is good, because your first instincts are usually the best. I think punk rock music suffers from overworking. I think being a little rushed and not being too picky helps keep up that sense of urgency and anxiety that is vital to this kind of music. As far as a full-length goes, it is definitely something we want to do, and it is just a matter of time and logistics. Obviously we are overdue to write a proper record, but it isn't something that we can just force. If the situation is right we will be all over it. We definitely have the steadiest most confident lineup possible, so hopefully it can happen. But still, if it does, it will obviously take a while, as it won't be like a three weeks in the studio thing given our schedules, it would have to be a weekend here and there probably in different studios on both coasts, over a couple months process.
Scene Point Blank: In addition to creating music, what is your objective, or objectives, being in a band?
Azy Relph: Other than creating music? I guess just playing some fun shows and hanging out with my friends. I think punk rock and hardcore bands that have any other objectives are kidding themselves. There is no money or future in it, if you do somehow get signed to a big label and get a taste of some money, you are going to have your band ruined by shitty dudes with goatees whispering in your ear. If you decide to grind it out and tour full time, you will probably just ruin your health, your relationships and your credit. At this point, the only motivation for us is fun and creativity. We like playing and making music, and we have the ability to do so. It is a good excuse to hang out with each other and see our friends around the world, but no band five-year plan for us.
Scene Point Blank: Is it intimidating to play your new songs live knowing that when you play your older songs the audience has listened to them a lot more and potentially will get into them more?
Azy Relph: No not at all. I think we have the most fun playing the new songs. Songs that are four/five years old can start to lose their spark after you've played them hundreds of time, so I look forward to playing new stuff. I mean that is why we got back together, to write new music and keep going, not to just play our old songs, get a sick pit going and then walk away patting ourselves on the back. Also, the new songs were getting great reactions on our summer tour, so that wasn't really an issue. It is definitely cool to play old songs that kids feel really strongly about and see people going nuts, but it is also important to play new songs and show that we are serious about this music and that we have somewhere we are taking it.
Scene Point Blank: How did your summer tour go? Did playing with a heavier stylized hardcore band, Guns Up!, make your shows awkward at all? What were your favorite moments of touring Europe - either at the shows or outside of the shows?
Azy Relph: Touring with Guns Up! was awesome. That band and those guys are awesome. I usually don't get too into really moshy bands, but I love them. They are the best band that plays that style, period. The only thing that sucked was having to play right after moshing for them for 20 minutes, we were usually tired by the time we got on. My favorite moment of tour was Henriks Revenge, a new band from Sweden/USA. Keep your ear out.
Scene Point Blank: What's the deal with the Strength in Solitude release out on Bridge Nine Records?
Azy Relph: Both of our EPs that were on B9 went out of print. So rather than repressing two sets of records, we wanted to put them together and throw everything else we could find on there, so you get one easy complete introduction. It was cool to do because we got to hunt down a live recording of a song we only played two or three times, and find videos and old pictures. It was a nice stroll down memory lane. It was rad too because Desmond, who was our first bass player, did the layout. So having other members of the Panic family who aren't necessarily in the band anymore work on it was a good feeling.
Scene Point Blank: What was it about your reunion show in Europe that caused you all to realize that Panic should be a band again? Anything in particular about punk/hardcore that made you come back for more?
Azy Relph: Well, when we broke up, it was just kind of a spur of the moment decision. Gibby had moved to New York, Damian and Scott were busy with their other bands, and I was feeling like the band was causing me more stress than playing was releasing. So right before we went on stage, one of us was like, â??Let's have this be the last show,â? and everyone was like "Sure." But immediately afterward, Gibby and Damian and I would talk about figuring out a way to make the band work and not be a headache for everyone, because we all liked playing together and being in Panic. It just never materialized. We tried to get our shit together and play shows a couple of times, but things never worked out. Reflections just lit a fire under our ass to get us to play that show, which we didn't consider a reunion, so much as our first show in years. After we played the ball was already rolling, so we just went with it. Nothing particular about punk/ hardcore made us come back, because we never really left. I had been doing bands that at least I would describe as hardcore during the Panic sabatical. I don't know how to play anything else, and frankly, I am not interested.
Scene Point Blank: How is punk/hardcore different now than how it was when the Trouble first started playing? (If Gibby is answering)
Azy Relph: Gibby isn't answering, but I don't think it is different though. All that changes is faces, clothes, and dancing styles. None of those things are of particular importance to me, so I don't see changes. There are trends that come and go, one year fast straightedge is big, then next it is hate mosh. I never quite cared for whatever the big trends were, and only usually find 3 or 4 bands at a time that are any good. But those bands are usually great, and really inspire me, and keep me from becoming some jerk in Dockers and a blue collared shirt.
Scene Point Blank: If Panic could do a split with any band together, who would it be?
Azy Relph: Henriks Revenge.
Scene Point Blank: With the demo tracks resurfacing on Strength In Solitude, what were your initial reactions to hearing these songs again? Do you have a favorite of the two EPs featured on this album? Why?
Azy Relph: Well, the demo tracks kind of make me cringe a little, but you are always your harshest critic. My opinion on the two B9 EP's has always been that they would make one great EP. There are songs and elements on both that drive me crazy, but overall I am very proud of them. Our new record "Circles" is definitely my favorite recording I have ever done. Every aspect of it I am happy with, each song, the production, the artwork, etc.
Scene Point Blank: If a fan of Panic performed a song on American Idol, what would your reaction be?
Azy Relph: I've never watched that show, so I'd probably miss it. TV is not my thing.
Scene Point Blank: If you were forced to compare Panic to a mating ritual, how would it go down?
Azy Relph: A short violent fuck, that ends before you knew it started, but leaves scratches and bruises. And probably requires a visit to the clinic after a week or two.
Scene Point Blank: Any final thoughts?
Azy Relph: Not really. Thanks, Azy.
Interview conducted by Zed.
Graphics and layout by Matt.