Interview: Gaslight Anthem drummer Benny Horowitz talks his new DIY hardcore band, BottomfeederJanuary 13, 2012
Bottomfeeder feature an assortment of New Jersey punk luminaries: Derek Reilly (Jaguar Shark), Corey Perez (Let Me Run), Dan King and Mike Maroney (Gates), as well as Benny Horowitz (The Gaslight Anthem). The new band recently released their self-titled debut EP on Gaslight Anthem guitarist Alex Rosamilia’s new record label, Human Blood, and it includes four blazing songs showcasing Bottomfeeder’s homage to the bracing melodic hardcore that once rattled the basement walls and VFW halls all across the Garden State. (Read AP's recent review here.) Drummer Horowitz discusses this side project, the importance of DIY and his evolution from basement shows to arena rocking with New Jersey’s most famous musical son.
Interview: Casey Boland
You’re obviously a pretty busy dude with the Gaslight Anthem. Why add Bottomfeeder to your full plate?
I get bored really easy. I simply don’t do well with free time. I want to keep working. The way I look at it, too, is that someone gives me the liberty to be a professional musician now, so I’m not going to just jack off while I’m at home. I just want to play more music and write as much music as I can. I’d been trying to do something with Corey [Perez] from Let Me Run, because he’s from the same school and he’s a cool guitar player. So when me and Derek [Reilly] chatted and I realized he sang, I thought of Corey and I said, “Dude, fuck, we should start a hardcore band.” Corey knew the other guys [Dan King and Mike Maroney] and before we knew it, we were jamming out. And as hardcore goes, keeping it in the spirit of not being too complicated. The songs come out pretty fast. It just kicked off. It’s really a lot of fun. Everybody in the band is doing other bands and other shit. We get together and chill out and write tunes and go to the diner. It’s cool. It’s low stress and a lot of fun. I’m really enjoying it, you know?
Derek mentioned you basically formed at some famous diner in Jersey City? It was featured on TV?
Yeah, yeah, that’s the Brownstone Diner! It’s right around the corner from me. It was on that Food Network show, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with that guy with the spiky hair [Guy Fieri – Food Network addict ed.]. He came there. They’re pretty famous for their pancakes. They’re pretty serious pancakes.
Have you had these pancakes?
I have. They’re awesome. I get the Nutty Pancakes. It’s pancakes with walnuts, almonds and pecans.
That sounds like a hearty pancake.
It is, man. It’s serious. You’d better be ready.
Derek also mentioned that with Bottomfeeder, the idea was to keep it DIY. Is that the general idea, keeping it more low-key and DIY?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s important to me, actually. As Gaslight’s gotten bigger and bigger, things happen that you have to do. Listen, it’s good problems to have. With [Bottomfeeder], it’s so easy to make decisions. It’s so easy to move around and book shows. There’s no one else involved, and we’re really focused on keeping it that way. People have been trying to help and lend a hand and that’s cool. But we’re just having fun. There’s nothing we can’t do. Between the guys in the band and Alex [Rosamilia, Gaslight Anthem guitarist], we released that record. Got it out there, booked the shows, did the layout—just like it would have been how everyone used to do it. And that’s something that I think Derek and I are really stoked about with this band. We come from a time when things were done that way. And it wasn’t some sort of weird, nostalgic thing for all the guys in your band to actually do all of the work, or for the guys in your band to put out the record and promote the record book the shows and carry your own shit. It wasn’t some kind of novelty. It’s just the way it was.
And that’s another thing we’re finding important to keep in the narrative of [the band], is that sort of ideal. That was what that scene was based on in a lot of ways. It was based on community and that feeling you get from it. In those days, it wasn’t about getting signed and getting big. It didn’t exist. You were never gonna buy a house from playing music then. It wasn’t the way it worked. People played music for extremely honest reasons. I don’t know, I think it’s cool to just, not bring that back, but just really highlight that fact. Kids these days don’t know that that was the way it was.
It’s interesting to think about how vastly different it is for a kid now starting a band than it was for someone in 1995.
I don’t even have any concept for it, really. Even the guys in Bottomfeeder are like, “Oh cool, we’ll set up a Bandcamp and this and that,” and I’m like “What?’ I don’t even know what you’re talking about. Shouldn’t we make a Myspace page?” And they’re like, “Dude, that’s so five years ago.” And I’m like, “What? Myspace? I thought that was cool.” [Laughs.]
And even for you that has to be interesting, because it’s a lot different now than when Gaslight started.
Yeah, it is! It’s totally different. When Gaslight started, I was still in my old office burning CDs, printing out sticker paper and doing everything like that. Something has changed. I’m not exactly sure what. I’m not exactly sure if it’s for better or worse. I’m not trying to make that kind of judgment. I just know that I’m nostalgic for the time I grew up in. I’m not telling anyone else what they’re doing is wrong. It’s funny though, because I used to book shows at the Manville [Elks Lodge in Manville, NJ]. I tell kids how I started booking shows and they look at me like I have four fucking heads. I tell them I had this giant notebook filled with phone numbers and I had a pager and kids would beep me and I’d go to the QuickChek and call them back on my dialer and I’d sit at this pay phone for an hour talking to singers of these bands.
I remember one of my favorite experiences as a kid was calling Rob Pennington’s house [Endpoint, By the Grace of God]. I was trying to book By The Grace Of God and Rob Pennington’s mom answers the phone. And I had a 25-minute conversation with [his] mom, this sweet, Midwestern lady, who was asking all about my life and stuff. I hang up and I’m like, “Wow, I just called one of my idols and spoke to his mom for 25 minutes, just because I’ve done seven shows at an Elks Lodge in New Jersey.” So it was extremely different just as far as the size and the scope and the feeling.
A lot of the people that know you through Gaslight have no idea about the shows you booked back then. How old were you when you started doing shows? Weren’t you like 15 or 16?
I booked my first one when I was 14 and I booked my first Manville show when I was 15. It was crazy, man. Some people know. But it’s not like something I’m trying to carry around like some badge of honor, you know?
When was the last show you did?
It was actually a Gaslight show in New Brunswick. I booked a show with Gaslight, Fake Problems, Look Mexico and one other band. It was a good show. That was a basement in New Brunswick. But that’s what’s kind of fun about these Bottomfeeder shows. We’re booking the shows. It’s like how we were doing it back in the day, where instead of asking someone to book the show, we’ll just book this place for whenever and ask people to play. It’s cool, too, to have the background in that stuff, because it makes you savvier in this business. I’m glad I had all those years of seeing what a lot of things are about, seeing both sides of the fence.
And I’m not exclusive in Gaslight. Brian [Fallon] our singer was around way back then too. He did shows at this little Moose Lodge up in North Jersey. We actually found out he booked [Horowitz’s former band] Low End Theory in ’97 in some Moose Lodge in Hackettstown. We didn’t put that together until we were playing together for a couple of years. He comes from the same school. That’s something that through the course of Gaslight has helped us a lot. We’ve come from that world, and we’ve both dealt with and we’re not freaked out about people and we’re confident about that situation. I think it’s helped us navigate through this music business-y kind of world.
When you were younger and recording demos with your old bands, such as Dilemma, did you think you’d one day be onstage jamming with Bruce Springsteen?
You know, it’s funny. I’ve been asked this question before, and I know it sounds extremely presumptuous, but yes. Yes, I was. That’s exactly what I was thinking about when I was a little kid. And everyone thinks you’re supposed to say, “No, I never thought in a million years.” But I got sold on the rock ’n’ roll fantasy when I was ten years old. It’s all I’ve wanted since. I think you could subtract Bruce Springsteen and put a bunch of people from that time. I would’ve pictured it more with Axl Rose or James Hetfield or Freddie Mercury. I was raised rock ’n’ roll by my mom. It’s been what I’ve wanted since then. So yeah, I kind of did envision it when I was putting out Dilemma demos. alt