Alan Dubin Takes on the Flip-Flops

This pic is exclusive to this site, so don't go using it or they'll know where you got it from.When I learned that former O.L.D. and Khanate vocalist Alan Dubin lives in Hoboken, New Jersey, after reviewing This Face, the debut from his new band, Gnaw (pictured above), I knew immediately that as someone whose hate-filled screams drove doom to newer, darker depths than it had ever seen before, he’d probably have an interesting take on the town.

Hoboken is situated just across the Hudson River from Manhattan, and is connected to it via a rail system called the PATH (Port Authority Trans Hudson). PATH trains also run from Newark and Jersey City, but in Hoboken particularly, a commuter culture based largely on wealth and class privilege has submerged other resident demographics to become the face of the town. And that face is one of unmitigated douchebaggery.

Once comprised of a healthy immigrant community (mostly Italian; both Frank Sinatra and baseball are said to have been born there), real estate and rental costs overpriced even in this collapsed economy have made it impossible for a working class to thrive, and so what’s left are the kids from further out in the suburbs who don’t want to pay city prices even though they probably could instead move to Hoboken and take the PATH. Though this This one's more the "downloaded from Wikipedia" type.(as Dubin explains below) results in a wealth of places to find good sushi, it also means that anyone visiting the town is bound to be exposed to these soulless accountants-by-day-date-rapists-by-night and their self-obsessed, shallow companions. Even better, now they’ve started having kids and main drag Washington St. is thusly booming with mom and pop baby boutiques. As a lifelong resident of Jersey, I know it is the worst of everything bad about the Garden State.

His voice is the sound of all things disgusted, and even though Gnaw — a five-piece also including Jun Mizumachi, Jamie Sykes, Carter Thornton and Brian Beatrice on various noises and instruments — operates in a more blackened industrial vein than did Khanate, the same contempt that fueled Dubin then is evident in This Face, all the more prominently for the aural horrors surrounding it. Below, the vocalist discusses his place of residence, the dynamics of his new band and writing process, and finally clears the air concerning the status of Khanate.

Sea foam. Very doom.How did you come to reside in Hoboken and, once you were there and actually saw it, why stay there? That place is like the Williamsburg of Jersey, only even worse because no one actually has the “NY” in their address so they try even harder to not try at all. Is everyone in Gnaw based out of there?

My plan was to move out of my mother’s apartment before I hit the grand old age of 30 and I found a place in Hoboken just in time that I could afford. I really didn’t know much about the town except for seeing millions of shows at Maxwell’s. I assumed everyone who lived here listened to The Boredoms, Silver Apples and Mudhoney. Shit was I wrong. Hoboken is a cesspool of flip-flop wearing “meatheads” who like to yell “Woo!” on Friday nights. The reason I stay here is because it’s easy to get into the city, there are a lot of good places to eat, there’s at least five fat-necked dwarves to wish upon, the ghetto (most large towns have a ghetto section) is only two blocks long and there are shitty humans everywhere else in the world so I figured might as well stay for a bit. I do hate that there’s a fuckin’ god damned parade every fuckin’ weekend and the place shuts down! Society…? Jesus Fuckin’ Antichrist! I’m the only Gnaw member who lives in Hoboken although Brian is right up the cliff from me in Jersey City. Jun and Carter both in live in NY and Jamie lives down in Memphis for the time being but should be dwelling up here soon.

I’ve hit Louise and Jerry’s on Washington on several occasions, and they have a Buck Hunter game in the back with the rifles and all that, so that’s points in their favor, but is there a bar in Hoboken that’s worth a complete damn, as opposed to half or none at all?

Probably not. To tell you the truth, I really don’t hit the bars around here. I either drink at home or in Manhattan. Once a while I’ll do some drinking at Maxwell’s if there’s a show but that’s about it. Here’s a typical thing that can happen in Hoboken. My brother walked out of some Hoboken bar last week and some shitfuck bumped into him. My bro called him a douche or something and then the guy proceeded to rip his shirt off and five of his friends appeared out of nowhere and ran over with their shirts already off ready to fight. What the fuck? “Meatheads!!!” I would’ve laughed my ass off. A cop was walking by so the topless muscle fruits ran off. Yay! Sports!

Is there a metal scene happening there at all, or is it just fuckwad major label indie bands and bullshit from iPod commercials?

I don’t think there’s a music scene at all except for the random far in-between show at Maxwell’s. If you’re into sports, flip-flops and button down shirts then Hoboken is the shit!

Now that the hipsters from five years ago have become yuppie accountants and started having This place actually exists.babies, are they leaving, or is Bagels on the Hudson just slowly becoming a daycare center for over-privileged white kids whose parents have to catch the next PATH train?

All I know is kids fuckin’ suck! (Especially if you threaten to kill their parents for telling. Hey now!) Seriously though, there has been a kiddie population explosion here. My whole building is full of screaming babies. The real problem in Hoboken is the canine population. There is so much fuckin’ dogshit on the sidewalks it’s ridiculous. If I ever see anybody not scooping up after their stupid animals I’ll smash their faces into it. The only good dogs are hot dogs.

Through your work in Khanate and in Gnaw too, you follow poetic more than musical structures in the lyrics. How is it for you writing where you live? Do you write at home, or does a song like “Vacant” on This Face require you to actually see the people on the other side of the door?

I usually write at home. I don’t like to be distracted so I stay away from public places when I’m penning the lyrics. Writing lyrics comes in waves for me. I can be inspired by something that happened to me that day or just by listening to one of our new songs and getting excited. I get a storyline and/or mental picture in my head and expand from there.

It’s a big jump from the minimalist aesthetic of Khanate to Gnaw. Was the experience of writing the lyrics any different, and did you get a different emotional response to the music?

I suppose the process was/is the same for both bands. With Gnaw, however, I made demo vocal recordings that I captured myself so I was able to experiment with different vocal patterns and styles before hitting the mixing studio. They were more set in stone beforehand. As far as emotional response, both bands cast an eerie, dirty and melancholy atmosphere but Gnaw just seems more dirty and ferocious to me. Khanate will always be the blackest of the black and I think the sadness factor of Clean Hands Go Foul can’t really be bottomed. I guess I really didn’t give you a straight answer for this one. God damn Hoboken vocalist bastard!

Do you have to be in a certain mindset to start writing, inspired by something in particular, or do you work from a more general perspective? There are a lot of repeated lines on the Gnaw record; does that come from you hearing the song before you write the lyrics, or are the lyrics done beforehand and just fit into which instrumental you think is right?

I can be inspired to sit down and start writing for a number of reasons. Most of the time the storylines come from daydreaming after a bad day, commute, work shit, etc. I like to think I have a fucked imagination and always think of the songs visually. I play out the story in my mind as I write. I tend to put myself in different imaginary scenarios and write via mental P.O.V. through different characters’ eyes. Sometimes, an interesting phrase will pop into my head and I’ll expand on it until it’s a song. “Red glory!!!!” “This face means nothing,” etc. Most of the time, the lyrics are written after the music. The music can dictate the general feel and actually shape the subject matter (or inspire the And here's the album cover.subject matter). Of course, the music structure allows only a certain number of vocal lines and choruses so that’s a big reason why the lyrics are formed after the music.

How much do you draw on your surroundings for inspiration? There are two sides to the town; the yuppie and the old-style Jersey Hobokenites. Do you see that side of the town?

I don’t draw on Hoboken at all for music or lyrical inspiration directly. People tend to get in my way, and generally let me down wherever I go so I can’t blame Hoboken for that. That’s life. The older Hobokenites are slowly disappearing. There’s a handful of old schoolers still around though. A few mom and pop storefronts and old Italian neighborhood peeps on the side streets. It’s all college sport fucks and yuppies now. The artsy and music-scene residents are long gone as well. There are however a ton of killer sushi and Chinese restaurants.

A lot of the electronics seem focused on building an overall atmosphere, rather than being taken in one at a time. How were the songs arranged and where was the album recorded?

This Face was recorded and arranged all over the place. It was a unique recording process to say the least. The first part of the process was the noisy sound beds. Jun created a shitload of raunchy sounds using oscillators, synth and whatever else he had in his studio. He fed these to Carter and myself and we added more elements to these beds. Carter added guitar, bass, piano, field recordings and some homemade instruments. I added synth, samples, and atmospheric background vocals. Jamie recorded the drums in Memphis and Carter and I arranged most of the songs. I recorded most of the vocals in Hoboken in this shitty factory where I share a rehearsal space with [Khanate bassist who also mastered This Face, James] Plotkin. Some of the vocals were recorded at Jun‘s studio (Cut & Run) also. We mixed the album at Brian’s studio and Carter recorded some guitar and piano there. More Jun elements went into the mix. Brian added some more stuff. We all kept bringing stuff to the table throughout the mix. Good shit. Nothing beats a good shit.

Will Gnaw play live, or is it a studio-only project?

Yep, Gnaw will play live. We’re planning to start doing shows this summer. Two Gnaw members’ wives are shitting out kids so we’re working around that.

What’s happening with Khanate? I’d heard Plotkin lives in Hoboken too. Is Khanate done or is there still life left in it?

Khanate is done. Our final album, called Clean Hands Go Foul, is about to be released in the US through Hydra Head. It’s a really dark opus, even more dismal to a certain extent than previous outputs but in a different way. I think it’s killer, especially the CD version which has the full 32 minute version of a track called “Every God Damn Thing. Epic bleakness. Yeah, Plotkin lives in the land of flip-flops as well. He owns a blackened pig/dog hybrid that he feeds yuppie fingers to.

Gnaw on MySpace

Conspiracy Records

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7 Responses to “Alan Dubin Takes on the Flip-Flops”

  1. greenskeeper says:

    Fuckin’ Homoken!

  2. fuckwad says:

    dubin = genius

  3. […] hates a lot of things. Babies and dogs are not spared in this interview on the Obelisk blog. You can also read a recent Voice interview with Dubin and the rest of Khanate […]

  4. Lauwaert Bavo says:

    Excellent cant wait for the Live dates!

  5. Shit, that was a nice read. Fucking sandal fags!

  6. Balogh Csaba says:

    This interview is fucking funny. Such a cheesy way to pose he’s so “dark” and “evil” – he talks mean shit about babies, dogs, yuppies and also “Jesus Fuckin’ Antichrist!” haha that’s Despicable Me-evil right there, folks! :) I swear it’s Glen Benton all over again. I sincerely hope he was just kidding with all that stuff, if not, he’s fuckin’ pathetic :P

    No wonder he lived in his mother’s apartment until the age of 30 :D

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