Beyond Classification

We spoke with Ryan Patterson of Louisville's COLISEUM just before their swing through the West following the release of their album House With A Curse on Temporary Residence.  They’ll be playing downtown at the Sixth Street Warehouse on Friday, September 10.  Sounding heavier but re-affirming his love of hardcore and DIY over metal, Patterson is not an easy guy to classify—which is apparently how he likes it.  In addition to playing guitar, writing and singing, Patterson is also an accomplished visual artist.  Last time we saw himCOLISEUM were supporting NAPALM DEATH at the Key Club following the release of the brutal No Salvation on Relapse Records.  Now they’re on Temporary Residence, playing more “atmospheric” songs and headlining a tour playing DIY spaces.  Patterson couldn’t be happier.  Here’s what the man had to say:

Tell me about the new label.

We’re on Temporary Residence.  It’s awesome.  We have a history, the owner is from Louisville but has moved to Brooklyn.  It’s more DIY, run in that old Touch and Go, Dischord mold.

I hear Touch and Go is down to one guy. Hopefully Temporary Residence has a better long term plan.  You seem uncomfortable being lumped into metal, but now you are playing slower.  Fu Manchu is like that.  Sometimes they are as heavy and deliberate as anything, but they would never agree that they are metal.

I’m not a metal dude.  I didn’t grow up with it. I understand a lot of people did and are into us, which is cool.  I've listened to some, but I’m more from that punk and indie world.

Why the turn to a slower sound?

We had gotten as fast as we could.  We had to either get totally crazy and be a grindcore or power violence band, or slow down.  This is more like our second EP.  I had lost my ability to enjoy just going faster.  It wasn’t an orchestrated plan.  My influences are the same, just they manifest themselves in different ways. 

On this record I sat down to write songs, not just hash out riffs on power chords.  By the time I sent the songs to the band, they were completely demo’d.  I would write the songs with a drum machine and bass, then the guitar could do more random stuff.  A lot of bands use the jigsaw approach: “here’s two riffs, let’s see how we can get them together.” I wanted to write songs with more themes this time, more dynamics.  The band was a little shocked, the fans were shocked, but the response has been positive.  The record grows on you.  By taking out the eight hours of practicing trying get a song together, I eliminated the worst part of being in a band.

So the fans were surprised?

Yes, a little shocked.  But we are getting better reviews in bigger places; it takes time to grow on you.  You know, Fugazi is my favorite band, and every album they did I would be like “what is this?” and then I would love it.  Immediacy is great, but it doesn’t keep you coming back.

That’s funny, I remember when End Hits came out.  I was living in Reno, and it was in the delete bin, and I was like “How did the new Fugazi record end up in the delete bin?” So I checked it out, and I was like “Oh, their fans aren’t going to take to this right away.”

Yeah, that’s the album.  It starts with the song “Break.” When I heard it, I thought “this is too much for me.” It was a transition.  In on the Kill Taker was a pretty perfect album.  But I like those transition albums.  People step out of their comfort zone. They might not get it perfect, but they do next time.  I love to look back over a band’s catalog for hints of where there were going.  No Salvation has a couple of songs we didn’t play live, but they show where we are going now.

I checked out your video for "Blind In One Eye".  It is interesting – happy and fun, you seem sort of relaxed.

I’m enjoying myself more.  That video is part of it.  Get everyone together in a little bitty space, going wild, having fun. We’re enjoying playing with our new drummer.  It opens things up.  We can be moving and passionate and entertaining.

You’re a visual artist, able to create a quick impression.  I admire that.  I can write lyrics, but I’m a linear guy.  Your lyrics aren’t so linear.  They don’t tell a story…they are about something, but it’s not clear what. 

I tried to challenge myself as a lyricist; I’ve tried to have storyline, but that didn’t work.  My favorite thing is start with an idea, then it comes something else. We have and old song “Get Up And Drive” that was about an ex-girlfriend and this weird trip she laid on me, and now it’s really popular as this road weary anthem.  Not what I meant, but it’s great.

So you are playing a DIY space here on September 10th?

Patterson: Ya, we’re touring with Burning Love.  I heard Keith Morris is DJ’ng.

Have you seen the "Touch and Go" book?  We reviewed it.  It goes to what you are saying.  Those guys weren’t just punk, they were reviewing Venom, Big Country, the Cure.  There are so many categories now.  I mean, what is a  “powerviolence band”?

Yeah, I agree.  The audience drives a lot of classification.  Something like Touch and Go, Tesco Vee and Dave Stimson, they were tastemakers.  Not a lot of people are going to look for a Big Country single.  But they sought it out.  But a band like Black Flag tried to change.  A lot of times the audience gets really upset. There are bands I’d like to take on tour, but people don’t want to see them. Maybe I will if we become a big ass band that can do whatever they want.

Like Napalm Death took you guys out.

I couldn’t have any more respect for them.  Barney the singer is totally into first wave hardcore, Discharge and that stuff.  They have seen it all.