Scissorfight Interview with Jay Fortin: The Granite State Destroyers Reborn

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It’s been 10 years since New Hampshire’s Scissorfight released their last album, Jaggernaut. The label they put that out on, Tortuga, no longer exists. They toured for that record with Orange Goblin and I saw them in New York. The venue? Closed. An entirely new generation of heavy rock and roll fans has come along in the time since Scissorfight were laid to rest, and there’s a very good chance that its collective ass is about to be taken to school.

This year started with the announcement that Scissorfight had reunited, under the guidance of founding guitarist Jay Fortin and bassist Paul Jarvis and with newcomers Doug Aubin and Rick Orcutt on vocals and drums, respectively. In particular, Aubin has some sizable shoes to fill — the band’s former frontman, Chris “Ironlung” Shurtleff, was a landmark presence up front, riding their thick-rolling grooves and leading like a madman through bizarre tales of obscure history, pop terror and the occasional bit of backwoods motherfuckery.

Fortin, as it happens, isn’t unaware of the challenges facing Scissorfight. It’s just that, in the true tradition of the band, he could give a shit. So Scissorfight have been steadily announcing live appearances — the first of them March 27 at The Shaskeen in Manchester, NH — and regional trips like a weekender in July with Backwoods Payback and Gozu as the initial steps of a reunion that, as the guitarist has said all along, will eventually lead to new material to play alongside the classic burl of “New Hampshire’s Alright if You Like Fighting,” “Outmotherfucker the Man” and the ever-essential “Planet of Ass.”

What shape that new material will take — album, EP, etc. — is still up in the air and depends on how the writing goes, but as Fortin explains, there’s no shortage of riffs cobbled together from years in bands like Mess with the BullSupermachine and Dieselwulf, and as he steps back into Scissorfight, he begins to realize how much of a common thread was drawn through everything that came after, between then and now.

Complete Q&A with Fortin is after the jump. Thanks for reading.

scissorfight 2When did you decide this was going to happen?

Probably about five, six months ago. Probably about five months ago, we, I shouldn’t say we, Smuttynose Beer Company came out with a Scissorfight beer. At the time, Jarvis and I were in another band called Dieselwulf. At a local bar, they had a Scissorfight kind of beer release party and Gozu and Hey Zeus came up and we all played and everybody did a few Scissorfight songs and it was a good time. And then we started thinking maybe we should put together a band to do Scissorfight, just do a set of Scissorfight here and there and just call it something for the heck of it. And then Jarvis and I were like, “you know what? Fuck that. Let’s just start the band again. Man, it’s our fucking band.” Yes, so it was about five months ago.

How has the process been since? Tell me about bringing in Doug and Rick.

Yes, it’s going really good. I think it was maybe almost a year ago, Jarvis had seen Doug. He was in a band called Iron Chin. We’ve played with them and we just know other guys in the band and all that stuff. But, Doug sings and plays bass in that band. Jarvis had seen him doing some songs and they had somebody else playing the bass so he was doing kind of the front-guy thing. He had mentioned “Yeah, Doug would be good man?, you know.” And, then when we decided to put this together, we called him up. He was more than happy to oblige.

It’s got to be nerve-wracking for him.

Yes, totally, you know. I remind him of that every time. (Laughs) I like to make him nervous. Same with Rick. I’m like, ?”You know, when we start playing, everyone’s going to be looking at you guys. I’m just going to be over on the side doing my thing.” Yeah, anyway, of course. But we were trying not to think of it in terms of, you know, we’re not trying to just put in somebody to act like Ironlung or whatever. The idea is to kind of, make it be its own thing, be kind of like a new kind of chapter of the story, I guess you’d say.

Scissorfight is, we look at it as kind of almost like an idea of something. So, just trying to make sure that he knows that. He does. He knows what’s up, so. He’s just going to be put his own spin on the old classics and then whatever we come up with is for new stuff. It’ll be just a little bit of a different vibe. Not too much different, but, you now. Still will be heavy and loud.

What happened, I guess a decade ago at this point to bring the band down? You guys — after Mantrapping you did Jaggernaut, you had some solid momentum, and even before that.

Yeah, with every release came a little bit more momentum. The last one seemed to be going really well for us, doing some trips to England, getting some stuff going there and it was cool. I think, from my point of view, I knew it was pretty obvious that Ironlung was tiring of touring because and all because he really was not much into that, but he really didn’t say anything. I think we did a short scissorfighttour of Orange Goblin around the Northeast. We did that and it went really well and we got done with that and we did one more show up in Burlington, Vermont, and that was the last time I’ve seen or talked to him.

Wow.

I mean, we’ve had over the years some communication through email, but that’s it. There was never really any explanation about dropping off the radar, and for a few years everyone was speculating, like Mark Thompson, who ran the Tortuga Label. Even [drummer] Kevin, his brother. Like nobody had any communication or heard, he didn’t talk to anybody or nothing. It was kind of frustrating for a while. There’s still never been any explanation for that, it’s just all speculating on it.

That’s an actual mystery.

Yeah, it’s an actual mystery. And, who knows if we’ll ever find out? (Laughs)

Obviously any kind of reunion, Black Sabbath on down, has its detractors. What do you say to them?

I mean, I guess I would say, that it’s your loss if you want to feel that way. It’s going to be a good time. It’s not like we are out to ruin the upstanding image of Scissorfight. I would say, definitely give it a try before you decide. I mean, I seen all those comments, you know like, “oh, no Ironlung, no Scissorfight,” and all that kind of stuff. Part of me is like, yeah you know, I mean if that’s how they want to feel, but I think my favorite ones are, ‘Ugh, No Ironlung? That’s, you know, that sucks but I’m going to try anyway” (laughs). I think I saw one comment, the guy was like, “no Ironlung, no Scissorfight, fuck that!” And then he commented, or replied to his own comment, “Ugh, well, yeah, maybe I’ll check it out” (laughs).

Changing minds already.

Yeah, I think that was pretty funny. I think, you know, I would be bummed if people decided, you know, made up their mind already, based on that. So hopefully we’ll be able to change their mind.

Have you started writing new material yet?

Yeah, we got about six or seven tunes, kicking around. I think the plan right now is to play for the first show, toward the end of this month, in Manchester. I think we are going to do three new songs. I feel like they absolutely fit into the Scissorfight. Well, I mean, they sort of have to, it’s me and Jarvis (laughs). It’s the same old Les Paul writing the riffs, so. We’re going to do – we’ve got about an hour set.

Is it strange for you to be back writing for Scissorfight after Mess with the Bull, Supermachine, Dieselwulf, all of these projects in between? Is it weird for you to go back to writing for Scissorfight?

It is, in a way. I feel like throughout those other bands a lot of those tunes, if the guitar was tuned down to Drop A like Scissorfight, they scissorfight first show backcould have been Scissorfight tunes. It’s always been there, but when we started rehearsing, it took me at least two rehearsals to get used to the sound of that guitar again. It was kind of weird. It just sounded strange and out of tune and whatnot. It was kind of interesting. But, now it’s back to normal.

(Laughs) You got over it.

Yeah, totally.

Any idea when or where you would record?

No. The sooner the better, I guess. If we really wanted to we could push. We could have plenty of songs. We could probably release an EP or something if people dig it. Do people even release physical music anymore? I don’t know (laughs).

Now and again. On fancy-colored, much-delayed vinyl.

That would be great. There have been a couple of people that have been asking about, I think maybe offering things but I mean — I wouldn’t mind recording in the new Mad Oak. That’s always a good spot. So we’ll see. Hopefully by the summer we’ll hooked up with somebody to get something recorded.

How much is riding on the response to these initial shows? How much are you feeling things out?

I guess a little bit as far as those live shows. I did a lot of research (laughs) before we even practiced to see what some people would think of the idea. Then, after realizing that it’s definitely a good idea and seeing the response to the posting of those shows. The positive response far exceeds the negative, so that’s nice. It’s gonna be what it is and we’re going to do it anyway, even if — I think it’s going to be a good response. We’re psyched to prove it, (laughs) that it can be done.

The first initial round of shows might be well attended and if that can continue, then that’ll be great. If we can build on it, it’ll be awesome. Especially if we can get some new material out. I know a lot of people are interested in that.

Let’s say you do these shows, everything goes real well. The response is cool, people are getting on board. If everything works out, would you do wider touring? Would you become a touring band, putting out releases again?

Yeah. If it’s possible. It’s gonna be similar to how it was before. I mean, everybody is in the same boat. Jobs, responsibilities and all that old guy stuff (laughs). Putting out releases, definitely. How much we can tour will depend, but it would be awesome if we could and make it viable, you know? I’m sure we’ll do — I mean, we’ve — the idea has already sprung of going out to the West Coast with White Dynomite and doing some shows. Yeah, New York and Philly, we’ll see where we can go from there. Maybe some crazy rich guy will pay for us to go over to Europe (laughs).

It’s been 20 years since Guaranteed Kill. It’s been 10 since Jaggernaut. What did you learn from Scissorfight the first time around that you’re going to bring to the band now?

The biggest thing is to spend more time writing the songs. scissorfight philly(Laughs) Scissorfight had a thing, we had this unwritten rule if we spend more than 15 minutes writing a song, alright, that’s it. Call it. For me, I have my favorite old songs and then I have a lot of them that I feel like were kind of left undone but we recoded them anyway. Especially through some of those EPs that we put out in the later years that were — I don’t know. Some of them were kind of weird to me. I know there was some experimentation in the vocal department that was kind of strange (laughs). It wasn’t my favorite time.

Sometimes we’d be recording one of those and Ironlung would stay down in the studio with those guys and they’d stay up all night recording shit that Jarvis and I would show up the next day, in the morning, walk in and I’d hear this song that we recorded and it’d have keyboard parts and shit on it (laughs). I’d say, “NO. Get rid of that, you fucking guys.” There is some funny stuff. But yeah, that’s one thing for sure and then the other thing is to keep the setlist varied through all of the albums, especially the early ones. That was one thing we kind of, well, Jarvis always wanted to play the early stuff but it was really hard to convince Chris to because he didn’t want to relearn the lyrics. It still is pretty dumb as far as that goes.

How much more do you think you’ll write before you’ll look to record?

If we want to do a full [LP], we’ll probably try to get at least 15 songs or something. There’s at least that many that are kind of at the gate, ready to go. Then again, I have a lot of recorded bits and pieces but a lot of times the best tunes come out at practice the second — right after you plug in your guitar and start playing. All of a sudden there’s a riff there and that turns into a song. There’s a lot of material, a lot of stuff from all of those other bands that I have that never became songs and there’s some parts of songs from even Supermachine that I’ve pilfered from myself and adapted to Scissorfight (laughs). There’s a lot of material, so it shouldn’t take too long to get enough for an album. An album and a couple of Japanese-only split double-45 live releases (laughs).

Do you feel like going back to Scissorfight you’ve come home?

Totally, yeah. Jarvis and I of course have talked about this a ton. It’s always like, “why the fuck didn’t we do this nine years ago?” (Laughs) We made the rounds with other bands and had some good times and wrote some good songs and shit, but it was never the same. It does feel good to come home to drop A tuning (laughs).

That Les Paul I used that whole time basically went unused for 10 years. Other than sitting around the house and playing on it every once in a while. Now it’s back. The whole thing is pretty awesome, we’re really psyched about it. The positive feedback has been awesome and I think it’s gonna be — we’re gonna deliver and it’ll just be good. So many people want to hear those songs played live again, you know? A lot of people have remarked that it’ll be awesome to do that. Get psyched on some new stuff. It’s all good.

Scissorfight, “The Ballad of Jacco Macacco”

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8 Responses to “Scissorfight Interview with Jay Fortin: The Granite State Destroyers Reborn”

  1. Ollie says:

    Some bands have replaced singers and done ok…Iron Maiden, Sabbath, Deep Purple, Faith No More…no reason why it shouldn’t work here.

  2. jaggernaut says:

    Sorry, I’m one of those people firmly planted in the “no Iron Lung, not Scissorfight” camp. That explanation sounds bullshit. Please interview Kevin for his perspective.

  3. Mountainman says:

    Ironlung was the face of Scissorfight and you guys should show him some respect by not playing the songs he wrote. He stayed up in the studio all night because he cared about the band way more than these pussies. I bet Jay doesn’t have a masters degree.

  4. Anotherloser says:

    So many disappointed people………….including myself. No Kevin & no Chris = no scissorfight! Might as well be Mess with the Bull doing covers of scissorfight.

  5. Captain Kidd says:

    Fuckers gotta get over Ironlung and let the fucker do what he wants to do. Jay and Jarvis wanted their damn band back and they thought Doug and Rick were good enough, give the fuckers a chance, they’re fahkin killin it dood

  6. Steebers Janiky says:

    this right here: “… leading like a madman through bizarre tales of obscure history, pop terror and the occasional bit of backwoods motherfuckery.”

  7. GSD says:

    I had my doubts but Dover/Manch/Somerville silenced them pretty quick. KILLING!
    Critics: go see a show before you piss on the reunion, otherwise you’re just a troll. And if you’re in the back with your arms crossed for an hour, at least tip your bartender, dick.

  8. MrC says:

    Saw them last night at Desertfest, and admittedly I was doubtful about the band minus Ironlung, even considered skipping them for another band. So glad I checked them out – great performance – best band of the day for me. Rocked it.

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