Paint It Black
 Contrast Paradise with Paint It Black’s 2003 debut, CVA, and you could be forgiven for thinking there aren’t many differences between the two: The songs still shred; Dave Wagenschutz (Good Riddance, None More Black, ex-Kid Dynamite) is still the best drummer in hardcore; and both vocally and lyrically, frontman Dan Yemin (ex-Lifetime, Kid Dynamite) is still the spirit child of Henry Rollins and No For An Answer’s Dan O’Mahony (look it up). But once you get past the album’s most obvious features-its velocity and aggression-your ears start to adjust, and you can hear the salutes to early Sonic Youth in the dual-guitar textures; the nods to early Dischord Records bands in the melodic breakdowns; and the overall desire to stretch out as much as possible within the boundaries of a two-minute hardcore anthem. Thematically, it’s just as ambitious, with Yemin-a child psychologist by trade-putting human conflict, his own divorce and the current political climate under the microscope and watching the DNA strands intertwine. But for all the ambition Paint It Black bring to their new material, they’re more effective for what they don’t do on Paradise: Because as Yemin seems to understand innately, an ounce of restraint is worth a ton of finger-pointing.
With hardcore’s most outspoken Ph.D., Dan Yemin.
I figured I’d hit you with a deep, existential question right off the bat.
Okay, go ahead.
You’re 36 years old. Why do you still do this?
I think I do it because I need to. I tried not doing it, and my life went so far out of balance that I wasn’t me anymore. I tried letting my career be my world, and it’s not a good world. I love my career, but I don’t love it 60 hours a week, and I’m not sure how any person can-though I don’t want to cast judgment on people.
The last album was about your stroke; this album is about your divorce and the Iraq war. What ties those two themes together throughout Paradise?
I think what ties them together is conflict and illusion-and that’s kind of what Paradise means. At the root [of that title], there’s war and conflict; but it’s also talking about the illusions we all willfully-and not so willfully-invest in, in order to stay sane and feel as if everything’s okay.
So that idea would relate to a song like “The Pharmacist,” where the illusion…
That illusion would be self-medication; that song’s talking about how using alcohol or being high as a way of dealing with emotional trauma will do nothing but set you back further on the road to recovering from that trauma…. But also, [the drug] can really be anything; it’s also a metaphor for any of the number of illusions we engage in to make ourselves feel okay with whatever the state of affairs is. You know: “I don’t fight with my wife, so my marriage is great!” Well, you know what? You need to fight in a healthy relationship; your marriage is not great. It’s the same thing with how you sell war to a country of 500 million people: You have to make it seem okay; you have to create a systemic and well-integrated network of illusions to get a populace behind a war.
Which is also something you deal with pretty directly on this record.
Yeah, but I hope the political thing is a little more sophisticated and a lot less like, “I’m bludgeoning you with this.” Hopefully, it’s more nuanced, and smarter-I mean, I feel like the lyrics are 20 steps past [CVA]. The last record was basically me waking up in the hospital [after a stroke] and saying everything I hadn’t been saying for two years as bluntly and quickly as possible. In terms of songwriting style, too-that whole 30-second song thing became more of a restraint this time. At first, it was freeing-you know, like, “Everything you say in your three-minute radio epic, I can say in 20 seconds-and I’ve got a verse, a bridge and a chorus, too!” I used to be the unapologetic advocate for brevity, and now, well, you’re not gonna see me writing a seven-minute song, but…
Are you still the main songwriter in this band?
Yep…. I play guitar on this record, too, along with Colin [McGinniss, new guitarist]. I didn’t want it to sound like two guys playing the same power chords, though-I wanted a more nuanced and multilayered thing, but I still wanted it to be aggressive. So when we lost Dave [Hause, now in the Loved Ones] as a guitar player, I was like, “I still want this to be a two-guitar-player record, but I don’t want it to sound so precise and linear; I want it to go off in these [new] directions,” and then I’m like, “Wait-I play guitar!” [Laughs.]
There’s no doubt you’re still writing hardcore punk songs, though.
Yeah, even though I don’t listen to too much straight-ahead hardcore. I still listen to Minor Threat and Bad Brains, because they’re amazing, and I think it’s some of the best music ever written, but there are very few bands that I think are worthy of that kind of attention now. I’m much more influenced by other stuff, and I wanted to be able to bring that in, in a way that was “classy,” I guess. [Laughs.] I didn’t want it to be like, “Oh, here’s some guy trying to smash a bunch of styles together.” Ultimately, it’s still a fast punk record, but I think we were able to be adventurous, and I felt like we really stretched as a band. -Aaron Burgess