Interview: INNER DAM

I went to my first hardcore show in 1994. The landscape was completely different. Shows were far more dangerous. Local bands were almost always at least decent. There were more fans than bands. Touring bands often came to town for a few bucks and some sandwiches based on handshake deals. Only rock stars had management. If it sounds better than today, that’s because it was. One of my favorite bands from that era was Inner Dam, so when I heard Inner Dam was doing some shows this year, I leapt on the chance to catch them again. I had a conversation with vocalist/mainstay John Viista outside of their show with Skarhead and Wisdom in Chains.

Brian: When did Inner Dam form?

John: We started in the fall of 1995. It was me and the original drummer, Ernie. He was still in high school at the time, I think he was in 10th grade. He was my brother in law at the time and he told me he played drums and I never really believed him and he said he was going to put a band together and he wanted me to sing for him and I said ‘yeah sure, I’ll sing for you’ never really thinking he would get a band together, but he did by October of 1995 and that’s when we started originally.

Brian: I remember considering the Day Everything Meant Nothing to be somewhat standard issue to fans of local music in the 90s. Do you feel there’s any local bands primed to release a really good album, or local bands you’re stoked on?

John: There’s a lot of really cool things going on here. It’s kinda like the 90s where there’s a lot of shit going on. A lot of bullshit bands, with the attitudes and the egos. Just like the 90’s, or early 2000s or any time era. Locally or nationally. Now locally, there’s a lot of great bands. Like Dead Channels or Nothing But Wolves. I feel like those two bands in particular are rising in terms of material they’re putting out. Or Living Laser. That’s another band that’s on the rise. There’s still a lot of really cool bands doing shit, which thankfully keeps the music scene alive, even though it needs to be on a respirator at times.

Brian: Bands like Hatebreed, All Out War, Inner Dam were kind of on the forefront in terms of metallic hardcore in the mid to late 90’s which influenced a lot of current bands. How do you feel about the scene today compared to back then?

John: I don’t know. I’m really far removed from it, just being older. Even though I am still in this music scene… I was gonna say in the shit.

Brian: Same thing.

John: Yeah, it’s the same thing. But, locally I don’t hear a lot of bands influenced by Inner Dam, All Out War, Dissolve. I don’t hear that a lot locally. I hear a lot of bands elsewhere where I’ll say ‘that band sounds like All Out War’. But to me, All Out War always sounded like Bolt Thrower. So, you know.

Brian: Are you guys planning on writing and recording new material?

John: We’ve talked about it. Our last show for now is going to be in 2013 at the Tuscan Cafe with Armedalite Rifles and Troublebound. After that, we’re supposed to write new shit and not play until the spring. Our goal is to try to write 4 to 6 new songs and see how it goes. This has been the best combination. We did a few shows in 2005 and 2007, but as the quote unquote ‘leader of the band’ I knew those combinations weren’t right to write new shit, but this seems like the best combination now.

Brian: Being from an earlier era and playing currently, how do you feel promoting your band has changed in terms of promoting shows..

John: It’s terrible!

Brian: …and would you consider the change a positive thing? (laughs)

John: It’s just terrible. And this goes back to the early 2000’s. Kids don’t know what a flyer is. They don’t know what a fanzine is. My girlfriend does a zine for the last 12 years and we give them out at shows and sometimes people don’t know what the hell they are. They don’t know it’s free. They don’t know what the hell to do with it when they get it. We put up an event page for our show and people RSVP, but that doesn’t mean those people are showing up… it just means they pressed the fucking button. In this time era, we play the Chance and Frank is just excited that we make flyers. We hand them out at other shows, we put them up at record stores and book stores. Put them on cars at other local shows. And that’s just my work ethic, because I grew up in a time era where that’s just what we did. And the older I get, I just can never change that. I don’t like computers anyway, because even if 100 people say they’re going to go to a show and 25 show up, the promoter ends up standing there with their thumb in their ass. So, things have changed, but I don’t think they’ve changed for the better at all, man.

Brian: If you could ressurect any dead band to tour with, what band would it be?

John: Oh man…. There’s a lot of good bands. I think of bands from when we went to Europe, and I love those bands. A lot of those bands that were really small then, that got really big like Born From Pain and Knuckledust. As far as tour with a band, I had a lot of connection with All Out War and I was lucky enough to roadie for them when they went on tour with the Cro-Mags. I like a lot of those guys, and I think this area misses bands like that. I don’t think they appreciate bands like that when they’re around. Kids in this time era take shit for granted because it’s so accessible. They should realize this isn’t going to be here forever.

Brian: Especially with the way they treat it.

John: Yeah. They may leave the scene themselves. If they see a band playing and say “Screw it, I’ll see them next week.” Next week may never come for this band, that’s how fragile these stupid bands are. My band included.

Brian: I feel like a lot of 90s bands music holds up today. Do you feel like music a lot of current bands are releasing will hold up?

John: No. The short answer for that question is no. I really don’t think so. That’s just my opinion. People may hear my band and say ‘that shit doesn’t hold up’. And some of it doesn’t. But some of it does. There’s always certain things that will hold up and you’ll go back to it ten years from now and say ‘you know what, that sounds really fresh and really good.’ It’s a lot of trial and error. I listen to a lot of my bands demo stuff and I just cringe in horror. But we at least had an excuse: It was the 90s and nobody recorded shit good.

Photos by Jim Gilbert

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