3d house of beef interview
(July 2001)

3D House of Beef will make you cack your pants, or your money back. I first paid a Beef-related visit to the launderette more years ago than I care to remember just after a cassette called Crowning On A Ferris Wheel dropped through my letter box. It was accompanied by all manner of cheap plastic crapola (doll body parts, spiders, toy soldiers), a ticket for Napalm Death at the China Club in Seattle, a Microsoft meal ticket, a Super Duper condom and a single US cent. With an air of expectation I have long since learned to lower, I popped the demo straight into the stereo and pressed play. Five seconds later my underwear was full.

A mixture of excruciating sludge-laden power chords and screeching ambience, Crowning.. was Black Sabbath from an alternative universe where Ozzy had actually died but still insisted on making records. Via the bargepole of the internet, I struck up a relationship with the band's leader, Nial McGaughey. At a distance of several thousand miles, he seemed well-adjusted and relatively normal - for an American - apart from a distasteful fascination with gory medical photography and firearms. From a distance of several feet, the music coming out of my speakers suggested otherwise. Still, more tapes followed and the band recorded a couple of demos for my radio show ("Get that Jimmy Possession bastard on the radio!" and "urgh! urgh! urgh! urgh!") and a highly experimental soundtrack for a short super-8 film I made.

They made an album (3D House of Beef) and released it on the web and we eventually met when me and Donna Donnelly went to stay with a friend in Vancouver. Nial turned out to be a scary-looking teddy bear who showed us round the record stores of Seattle by day and played dark, dark music by night. The band toured over here a couple of times, got some coverage in Kerrang and the other metal mags, changed line-ups several times, moved from Seattle to California, made a remix album for their own Supergeisha record label (I covered one of their tracks on an acoustic guitar for the album, but the tapes have been lost, thankfully), fell apart, played a few shows and eventually turned up again with a new album, Low Cycle, for Lunasound Recording of Sweden. We've been meaning to do this for years, but now seemed as good a time as any to interview Nial.

So, how long has it been since that first demo tape?

almost 9 years. wow. and i don't feel a day over 90 years old. amazing what a diet of bile, alcohol and cut rate grey market foods can do for you.

A diet of bile. Do you feel bitter about things then?

i'm very bitter about a lot of things. i haven't lost any limbs, but i've probably gotten more than my fair share of "gotchas" in the last few years. going into details would be a bit laborious to say the least... and probably not very entertaining. i realise i'm taking the path less travelled, and i suppose that is the way i feel that things have meaning, and an honest effort behind them. people have never failed to let me down in one aspect or another. generally i hold them at arms length and while my expectations are low, my disappointment is also commensurately low.

The band line-up has changed a few times, hasn't it?

yes. unfortunately we've been blessed with the rotating door with band members. just as soon as the fuse is lit, the rats leave the ship. its made me incredibly bitter, because i want to tour every 4 to 6 months, and i end up getting talented people that arent commited to much else other than their jobs.

Is the current line-up the best/most stable/something else?

yet again more fast food calibre drama. we moved from SF to LA to escape the rents, the unemployment, and the death knells of one of the most vital art and music centres in the whole world, only to escape to the land of plastic and smog. yes, the lovely LA opened her surgically altered arms, and we dove right into them. in the meantime we lost our other guitar player, and our drummer to the SF carnage. as we arrived to LA, we were working with barry from nailbomb as our new drummer, and he suffered a personal crisis, and we've already had to move on, and we've only been here for 3 weeks! john the bass player has been the grumpy old stable dad, and i'm of course the sick, twisted, can't let go enabler, so we are looking for a few more family members right now. the calibre of playing on the last CD was great, everyone made a contribution, and i think the new CD is yet another milestone in HUGE, but we've had to move on. it sucks, but i think that its also lent a lot of diversity to our overall sound.

How difficult is it to maintain the direction of the band when you're constantly changing members?

it is very difficult, but i have ended up doing it for so long that it almost feels normal in a way! fortunately i think i have the interview process down pretty well, there are a scope of bands that the person must be familiar with, and preferably they like. they have to be of above average intelligence, and have a good sense of humor because we are always cracking inappropriate off color jokes, gallows humor sort of thing. and they obviously have to be capable musicians.


3D House of Beef, 3D House of Beef CD

Not since King Kong dumped his load at the back of the Empire State building (it was cut from the film) has there been such heavy shit. Tuning down to G, 3D House of Beef dredge up the demonic nightmares of a thousand demons - on bad acid - and turn them into a sonic death ray of pulsating riffs powerful enough to kill postmen at a thousand paces.

As crisp as your adolescent bedsheets first thing in the morning, 3D House of Beef proved "heavy" does not have to mean sludge-ridden, we're talking heavy/industrial/noise/metal here, but, again, that's "metal" without all the cliched crap that for some reason causes hordes of pubescent Maiden fans to make the devil sign and swap acne stories while struggling to pull on a pair of their sister's aerobics trousers.

From the intro of Heard You Were Dead through to the closing clangs of a blinding version Black Flag's Rat's Eyes, this is an album that's capable of using sound as a weapon. The twisted Thalidomide (replete with suitably disturbing samples), the ten minute dirgeathon that is Crawl, the stuttering riffs guaranteed to cause maximum headbanging confusion to all the Beavis and Buttheads of this world that begin Society of Old Crows and the downright nastiness of Identified by Dental Records all combine to blow my head off every time I listen (well..)

3D House of Beef, demo tape

First new tracks for ages from the Beef and I'm pleased to say that while things have moved on, it's mainly business as usual. The same: grinding, sludge-laden riffola, bondage-trouser drumming and fluid bass. The difference: ants in the pants. That's right, where 3D once crawled like a sloth with 4 broken legs, these three tracks are played almost at a canter and the results are stupendous. The songs are chopped-up, lurching and noisy. There's still life in the metal beast yet

3D House of Beef, Similar Attack Pattern (Supergeisha) CD

Why do so many heavy bands look back so fondly upon Kiss? I mean, they were only ever a bunch of pretty boy pub-rockers with a neat line in costumes, one oversize tongue and a relentless appetite for self-promotion. Whatever the reason, you'll find that 3D House of Beef have hidden a churning cover of some-time Kiss member Ace Frehley's Stranger In A Strange Land at the end of Similar Attack Pattern, and they've made it all their own; on a par with the 3 new tracks which are indeed similar to the last album: grinding, gurning, twisted slowcore geetar, tight and hard epileptic drumming and heavy, sinuous weighed-down bass. If there's any appreciable difference between this record and that, it's that the band have accelerated from a lurch into a crawl...but they're on the verge of falling back down.

The other tracks are remixes from the debut 3D House of Beef by the likes of Leech Woman and Deathline International. Sedition (the 16 Volt mudcock mix) is taken over by a snare-happy loop and some electronic bobbling, reducing the seething grunge of the original to almost nothing. In contrast, Crawl actually seems slower and more dense than before - perhaps not surprising given that it's remixed by the band themselves. Scar Tissue turn Society Of Old Crows into a lump-hammer industrial beating while Deathline Intl make White Hogslaughter one of their own children, artificial electro devoid of emotion. Leech Woman's overhaul of ID'd by Dental Records is buried beneath a thick layer of hum, hiss and piercing whistle, shading new texture into the track's incessant repetition and things are rounded off with Insilico's gabba version of White Hogslaughter.

It must be a trial just teaching new people the old material.

yes. a lot of times i feel that the bands progress is hampered due to the fact that i have to get new people familiar with the old material, and to get them into the vibe before we can proceed with writing new material. that usually takes a few months, and by then its time to play shows, and next thing you know, you blink and its a whole year gone. this time around, though we are already writing new material, and hopefully we will have an EP length of new stuff ready for when we go out on tour in fall so we can intersperse some new stuff for people.

How much do you let people contribute to the creative side and how much of the 3D sound is just Nial McGaughey?

i always tell people to be themselves and be comfortable with their own playing as far as personal playing habits are concerned. for example jason our new drummer always starts things off with only a 2 count rather than all the other drummers who start with a 4 count. we adapted to his style rather than force him to change how he likes to play. i try and keep a tight rein on overindulgence or overplaying when it comes to aesthetics. i'm very concerned about how the band sounds. i have never liked grandstanding or solo showmanship in bands, and i generally don't play with people who do. i've needed writing partners in the past, and on this new record, ryan and i brainstormed a lot. i always solicit the whole band for reality checks, and i think everyone contributes. everyone has to like the arrangements before "its done"..

How much has the sound of 3D changed since the Crowning.. tape?

we've evolved a lot since the first tape. tried a few things here and there, some worked, some didn't. we've gotten equipment that allow us to get the sounds i hear in my head, and the reliability factor has gone way up. my frustration with the limitations of the physical realm have gotten lesser.

You seem to have got more focussed.

i know what sounds i like to hear coming from the band, but i'm also aware of the pitfalls of painting oneself into a corner. i definitely think we've matured, and in a unique way. everything we do is an aesthetic judgement call. when things fall outside those boundaries, we still evaluate them to see if they do something interesting.

Are you getting more commercial?

i don't think so. but no one ever wants to admit to themselves that they might have made a compromise that might be potentially viewed as distasteful. i think the vision is more focused now than it ever has been, but hopefully leaving enough of the rough edges in it to make it compelling listening. i won't ever take the conventional easy path. i don't know if there was an original vision, just wanting to make heavy noisy crazy music that blew people away, and was far away from anything we had ever heard before. my only vision now is wanting to play our music loudly and for a lot of people. we are in that cycle of the band's music, we've made a new record, and now we need to sing its praises from the highest rooftops, and play amazing shows in front of lots of people. i want to succeed at that, and then go on to write another great record.

I'd say (a cliché is coming..) that you haven't managed to capture the whole live power on record.

each time we've recorded, we've come closer to the live sound, the tools have gotten better, and the brains behind the tools are better. the results are getting closer. i don't think any medium can truly convey the force of a live performance experience. i don't think that problem is unique to us.

But you really do nail it live.

thank you. our new sound is even better, actually. where as before it was huge and low, now it has POWER added to the mix with the new amps and guitars we've gotten, and jason is from the loud Melvins school of drumming, so this new setup should set a few records of some sort.

Is Supergeisha still going?

not really. i wish it was, but i've basically taken everything out of my life that was causing me stress, and that was one of them. i still do most of our mail order stuff myself, but as far as becoming a "real" label, i felt bad for the artists involved, and i knew my heart wasn't into it, and i was doing a disservice to them by not being able to give them the work they deserved. my focus right now is 100% 3D House Of Beef, and anything else is viewed as a potential time sucker, and to be dealt with as such. long term, that is very bad in terms of personal growth, and balance, but i figure balance, and other things can come later after i've put more effort into things and i can take a bit of a rest.

Talking of rest, you've had chronic medical problems all the time you've been in 3D House of Beef.

i have had severe chronic fatigue syndrome (AKA epstein-barr) for the last 6 years. it was very severe during the recording of our first CD, so much i had to go on medical leave from my day job and basically spent the first few months of the illness sleeping all day long. the illness has wrecked schedules and made me not be able to think or concentrate much less have any motivation to do anything, so its also been a huge factor in what the band has been able to accomplish due to the fact that i have pretty much done everything since day one, and if i didn't do it, it didn't get done. i feel cheated sometimes because i feel that the band would be further along if i wasn't so tired all the time. usually when its in full swing, just making food and eating it requires a supreme effort. i definitely feel that my quality of life has been affected negatively, and that the things i will be able to do during my lifetime have been curtailed. i try not to think about it a lot, and i've tried to restructure my life around it. i feel like my life is less rewarding and i feel like i'm a damaged human being. i don't really have a positive upswing about it, either.

I don't have a positive upswing about metal. What's happened to it?

its gotten fat, soft, dumb, and comfortable. its now profitable for big labels to do heavy music, and what's considered metal today really makes me laugh at how much the genre has stretched. the classic old school guys are still doing the old styles, and some are innovating, but by and large, the whole genre needs lean years, coupled with a lot of genius before its going to be compelling listening again. as a band we are twisting it into new shapes that hopefully take on a life of their own.

So who is your audience? Marilyn Manson fans?

i dunno. in the US its kids with long sleeved metal shirts and short hair. or indie people who are starting to appreciate metal and some of its new forms.. in europe it's a mixed bag entirely. to get into what we do, i think you have to have an IQ and an open mind. we are the inconvenient food.

That's certainly true. An acquired taste as well, but why not give it a try anyway? nialmcg@yahoo.com www.3dhouseofbeef.com www.lunasoundrecording.com


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