When I proposed to 12 Eyes guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lynch the interview that follows, I pitched it to him as an exit interview, like human resources does when you leave a corporate job, to find out how your experience was working there. I wanted to know how 12 Eyes, now that they were leaving it, felt about the scene in their native NYC. With Lynch in the city proper and drummer Joe Wood (also of long-running sludge rockers Borgo Pass) and bassist Joe Rega out on Long Island, their perspective on Manhattan and beyond was bound to be worth investigation.
Sure enough, I was right. Lynch, whose relocation to New Mexico has put the band on hiatus if not actually broken it up, took the time to reflect on some of 12 Eyes‘ glories and follies. Having seen them more than several times myself and been lucky enough to consider each member of the band a friend, I can attest that the good-time vibe to which he alludes on behalf of himself, Wood and Rega is true and was always a big part of what made a 12 Eyes show so unique. No irony, no bullshit, no posturing, just a bizarre positivity cloaked in doomed-out riffs and blood-curdling cackles. They were like Bongzilla if Bongzilla drank three cases of Red Bull and started making up songs as they went along.
Their MySpace page still in tact and their current status unknown — which is somehow fitting their laid back, see-what-happens ways — The Obelisk proudly presents this interview with one of New York‘s few quality bands. Q&A is, as always, after the jump. Enjoy.
Take me back to the beginning. What?s the story of 12 Eyes? How did everything come together?
12 Eyes was born out of the ashes of The Bone Yard, a psychobilly band put together by Ken-E Bones of Negative Reaction and Joe Wood of Borgo Pass. After being on the road with Negative and Black Cobra, Kenny asked me to be a part of it. We jammed for four or five months and never played outside of the basement, mostly because we spent more time drinking beer and shooting the shit in Ken-E‘s garage than jamming. I was playing bass at the time and JW was on the drums. We found that we played off each other very well as a rhythm section, as a peanut gallery, and as friends. After a few recklessly drunken nights where playing music and keeping our wits were pretty much an afterthought, we decided to lay The Bone Yard to rest. JW started jamming with Joe Rega (who was a long time Borgo Pass show-goer) out on Long Island, and I jammed with a few people in Manhattan. After having trouble clicking with people in the city I decided to give JW a call and see if he was into working on something a little more metal. He told me that he had been jamming with a very talented bass player, and if I was down play guitar and travel to the island to jam he thought we could make something work pretty easy. I headed out bringing a few riffs, which would later develop into ?Tear Your Fuckin’ Face Off,? and the rest is history. I got along fantastically with Joe Rega and the fellas had a few months of jamming previously to build on. I think we all knew it was going to work immediately after that jam session.
What was it like entering?the NY scene? What were your impressions of it beforehand?and how do they compare to how it turned out?
I remember a show I saw several years back now. The lineup was Rwake and Weedeater at the now defunct Siberia. It was a Wednesday night and I think the bands were hitting NYC on the road before going out to Youngstown for the Emissions from the Monolith festival. The audience was around 10 people who I would come to know as ?the regulars,? folks who read StonerRock.com show listings like it was the bible. Needless to say both bands totally ripped like hell in front of the pathetic sized audience. I always think of this show when I think of the NY scene. I mean if Dixie Dave couldn’t get more than 10 people out on a Wednesday night in NYC, a) what the fuck is wrong with this town and b) how the hell should we expect to do any better. A few years later 12 Eyes was lucky enough to share a bill with Rwake at Club Midway in front of certainly more than 10 people, but I’ll never forget that show at Siberia. Both Joe Wood and I were there and at a lot of other local and not so local metal/stoner shows around NYC. Joe Rega was a fixture in the Long Island show-going scene. We knew pretty well just what we were getting into. We’ve seen some of the best damn bands we know of play in front of no one (or no one that cared at least) and certainly didn’t expect to do any better.
We weren’t looking for glory. 12 Eyes is about the need to rock out and have a good time, the desire to hang with good people and get fucked up. Don’t get me wrong we love it when there are people at shows and they enjoy themselves, but we do this for ourselves first and foremost. For some reason we just love getting up on stage and rocking out, being goofy, and getting ripped no matter how many people are there to witness it.
One thing that I did not expect, but turned out to be a very pleasant surprise, was the amount of support we got from fellow bands that we respected and venues we frequented. Local bands we love like Maegashira, John Wilkes Booth, Negative Reaction, Scribes of Fire, The Communion, Deep in Vein, Eyes of the Sun, and Suns of Freedom, as well as out of state bands we dig like Black Pyramid, Ol’ Scratch, When the Deadbolt Breaks, and OSSM. The relationships that we developed and the brotherhood that resulted really blew my mind. Venues like the Ace of Clubs in Manhattan and Mr. Beery?s on Long Island became second homes to us. Places where we were treated like staff and never had to pay for a drink. If you are only as good as the company you keep them we must really kick ass, because all of there aforementioned bands and places really represent the best of what the NYC area has to offer in my book.
How did the 12 Eyes style develop? Over the course of your time together, how did the sound change and what do you think was responsible for those changes?
When we started out jamming together we would intentionally try to evoke some kind of stoner rock or doom vibe to the songs. I’d come to the table with a riff or two I wrote, we’d jam on them, JR would embellish it, and JW would take all the parts and arrange the tunes. I think as we played more shows it affected our sound and our style. We got more comfortable with our band identity and what we were all about as a unit, then we would just jam on whatever we felt like, whether it had a punk, thrash, doom, classic rock or any other vibe to it. JW would then arrange pieces of jams and we’d have songs. We all love to rock out and drink and have a good time on stage and I think that our “party band” attitude really shaped the sound. ?Pootie Tang,? ?Dopplegangbanger,? and ?Zeus? came out of that willingness to get goofy and rock out while songs like ?Sisyphus? and ?Go Fuck Yourself? grew from a more serious?catharsis. By the time we wrote songs like “Hipster Hate Fuck” and “Into the Doom” there really was no plan other than, “Let’s get together, get drunk, and play music.”
How much of the band?s dynamic came from jamming? One thing that always struck me about 12 Eyes was the chemistry on stage. How much of that came from personal (outside the band) friendships?
I’d say most of it came from our personal relationships. I consider the fellas in 12 Eyes to be some of my best friends. While these friendships grew out of jamming together it developed into a deep mutual respect. From the beginning all of us knew that this was something we did outside of our jobs and lives to have fun. If it wasn’t going to be fun we weren’t going to do it. I think the fact that we all kept that perspective on things helped us become close friends while shaping our group dynamic. We were never the tightest band on the block, and we prided ourselves on being dirty and loose. We’d laugh off mistakes we made on stage and joke around about them over a beer. We never got into any kind of band arguments or fights about what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it — shit I’m not even sure we had many conversations about what we wanted to do as a band other than ?let’s play shows.? 12 Eyes was the easiest most natural thing I have ever done in my life. Even now that the band is essentially over, we keep in touch and probably will for a looooong time. Those guys will probably be a part of my wedding party if I ever get married.
What was the reception like to?Mamma Loves Sabbath? Being that everyone in the band has jobs and real lives, does it even matter?
The reception seemed pretty good. We actually ended up selling out of the 500 copies we originally made of the EP. I’m sure this is because we would sell them for as little as $1, never more than $5. Sometimes, I think, people would buy them just to get us out of their faces since we often walked around shows asking each and every person there if they wanted one. A good portion of them were shipped out to Portugal, Spain, Poland, and Germany which tickled me pink. Most of the people who contacted us from overseas did it through MySpace or after reading our review in Metal Maniacs. Other people who inquired about getting copies may or may not have got them out of pure disorganization. But we were lucky enough to have favorable reviews in local and national magazines as well as websites like HellrideMusic.com. We were also listed as one of the top unsigned acts to catch by The Aquarian, a long-running local music rag. All of which I thought was pretty damned cool. Being that we all have to pay the bills, can’t tour full-time, and some of us have families and mortgages to worry about, I suppose it really doesn’t matter. It just serves to help inflate our egos a little bit. Maybe it gives our music a little bit of validity, maybe not. We had a great time making it whether people liked it or not, so who really gives a crap.
How did the band?s end come about? How was it discussed within the band, and what brought it about? What the hell is the appeal of?New Mexico, anyway?
From the time the band was incepted everyone knew that I’d be leaving NY eventually. JW even talks about moving to Austin, TX, once all the right cards turn over. I just couldn’t take NYC anymore. The rents are too high, the cost of living is astronomical, the subways are disgusting and crackheads live in the train cars. I was having issues with “working for the man,” getting tired of working hard so my boss could buy another vacation house on Block Island or pop out another puppy. The line of work I was in did no one any real good. I found an educational program here in NM to train people as Wind Energy Technicians and I thought to myself, “There is something I could be proud to work as.” That’s when the plan to escape NY was hatched.?Being in Middle America gives you a perspective on the Tri-State Area experience.?Yuppies? Hipsters? Ha!!! Sure there are rednecks, scorpions and rattlesnakes abound here, but I pay less for my three-bedroom house than I paid for one room in four-bedroom apartment in the ghetto back in NYC. As usual there was no big band discussion about it. Once the date was set for me to move we just worked around it, getting into the studio to record 80 percent of our songs which we never recorded and doing as many shows as possible. NM is great, but I sure do miss playing with those fellas.
What?s the best show you played during your time together?
Once, our buddy Matt hooked us up to play his friend’s bachelor party. I can’t really get into too many details without incriminating family members of the then to be groom, but picture Joe Wood stomping on his bass drum while 40 strippers eat each other?s pussies on top of a plastic tarp. Joe Rega picking up money off the floor to tip the hos. Classy and awesome. Opening for Rwake and Bible of the Devil was also pretty friggin’ cool, but that tarp was amazing.
What happens now?
Well we are getting ready to release a three-way split CD with Maegashira and John Wilkes Booth called The Trilateral Commission which we are very excited about. It contains songs we have been playing live for a while that never got recorded. ?Rocks Glass and a Fistful of Mammary,? ?Sisyphus,? and a crowd favorite, ?Dopplegangbanger.? After that we’re going to release The 12 Eyes Anthology which will have everything from the sold out Momma Loves Sabbath EP, Fumes from a Dead Scene, and several others songs and covers we’d recorded before I moved. I’d say right now 12 Eyes is just very ?inactive.? We plan on jamming and recording on my rare excursions back to NY. If we ever got offered a festival date or something we would very seriously consider it. Joe Wood continues to play with Borgo Pass and is filling in for Maegashira on drums. Everyone should head down to SHoD X to check both those bands out. Joe Rega is busy planning his wedding and is engaged to a fantastic woman, but I’m sure you’ll see him playing again.
What?s your favorite 12 Eyes memory? What?s the story you?ll tell the grandkids?
The Fumes from a Dead Scene CD release party I think of as a high point of my musical career. The show turned out much like any other of our shows, playing in front of friends and compatriots, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. To me it represented something way bigger than it actually was. Here was a bunch of friends coming together in the spirit of brotherhood playing a Saturday night in Manhattan (almost unheard of without a headliner) getting ripped forgetting about their shitty lives in a true testament to escapism. It was at the Ace of Clubs where they always treated us like kings and we got to share it with everyone close to us. I think that’s what I’d tell my grandkids about. That’s what made my whole 12 Eyes experience special: The brotherhood…?and alcohol.
Tags: 12 Eyes, NYC, Sludge, Unsigned bands