Behead the Prophet No Lord Shall Live were a fantastically spastic Northwest hardcore band whose chaotic energy and intense live shows carved them a place in the Olympia/Bellingham DIY heyday of the 1990s. While they're often associated with the "queercore" genre, they prefer the term "schrag" to define their teeth-melting sound, made extra-special with the inclusion of an itchy white-noise violin (the dissonant instrument was played by the remarkable Michael Griffen who, sadly, passed away in 2008). In a much-anticipated Magma Festival finale that also includes Olympia's freshly united the Need, current Oly band Hysterics, and Seattle's Body Betrayal, BTP are playing the Vera Project after 15 years of dormancy, for no real reason other than someone asked them to.
I tracked down members Jordan Rain (drums), Joshua Ploeg (singer), Jon "Quitty" Quittner (bass), and Dave Harvey (guitar), and through a series of e-mails, talked with them about tour memories, almost playing with Quiet Riot, and how they got that fucking band name.
It's been a while! What year did BTP officially call it quits?
JP: We never did call it quits, but we played our last show in 1998 in Seattle, at someone's warehouse/apartment across from the Moore called the Blue Door.
What caused the reunion?
JP: Someone asked us to play a show. No one had ever bothered before.
DH: I'm not exactly sure, but I don't really want to call it a reunion. We're just playing a few shows again, how's that? I am looking forward to being that guy who ruins the band. You know when you go see a reunion show, and some dude thinks he's "updating" their sound, while obviously completely ruining what made the band great in the first place? I wanna be that guy.
How have the practices for your upcoming shows been?
DH: Ha! We've had ONE practice, and Joshua wasn't even there for it—he's living in Los Angeles. But it went great! Quitty and I have played together loads in the last 15 years, Jordan is still badass and totally creative on the drums, and Eric [Ostrowski] is fitting right in with awesome, shrill scree that'll make you see bees swarming before your eyes.
JP: Dave's right—I might get one practice in, but then again I need it the least.
Q: It was absolutely strange how easily we were able to summon the speed and fury. We play together easily. And I, for one, am just as pissed as I ever was.
JR: I haven't played this type of music since '98, and I haven't sweated this hard at the drums since, but I was missing the "marathon in 15 minutes" feeling and quite looking forward to it.
What's your definition of queercore? How else do you describe your music?
JP: Our music is called schrag. Queercore is when queer people make crazy music of any type and don't give a fuck what anyone thinks of it or how it's categorized.
Q: Hate the term—queer is not a kind of music, and 20 years of living in Olympia made me suspicious of grand declarations of personal identity. It did make sense to attach queercore to the Mukilteo Fairies, which was my and Joshua's prior band—not BTP, though. As to schrag—which I spell with a c—we really did sort of envision a new kind of crazy, dissonant thrash music given greater insanity by at least one instrument that was there solely to make aneurysm noise.
JR: I view the definition at face value and say it simply means "queer-relevant hardcore music." It was a subject, at the time, that hadn't had much coverage lyrically/musically—other than a handful of bands within the decade prior—so I think it was relevant to mention it to an extent. Much of the time, genre labels just give an audience a general picture of what to expect.
Where did your band name come from? Something about a Deicide song and a metal kid?
DH: At one of our first practices, Quitty, Jordan, and I went over to Safeway in the U-District to get snacks. We were at the magazine rack looking at some metal magazine, when suddenly we're joined by this baseball-behatted, semi-nu-metal-looking, no-count dude who asks, in a deep redneck sort of mumbling accent, "You boys listen to death metal?" We look at each other and say, "Uh, yeah." He asks, "You like Deicide?" And Quitty says, "Yeah, they're gnarly, the singer's got an upside-down cross burned on his forehead!" And our pal responds, "Yeah, that's my brother, he got me, too," and shows us a vague cross burned on his fist that could be upside-down or right-side-up, depending on how he's showing it to you. He quickly follows up with, "You heard the new record? Whaddayathinkof 'BeheadtheProphetNoLordShallLive' firsttracksidetwo?" And there you have it, our new band name. Well, it was between that and "Tear Off U Face." When it came time to play our first show, we chose the former.
Some years later, Quitty—who was working distro at K Records—was talking on the phone to a guy at a metal label down in Florida who knew all the metal bands there, and told him this story, and the guy responded, "Aw, that's bullshit, Glen doesn't have a brother."
Q: I have only one small correction to make to Dave's version, which is that "Glen doesn't have a brother" didn't come from anyone so boring as a metal-label guy on the phone; it was Steve from Assück in person. He worked at Morrisound Studio in Tampa, so he knew Glen Benton. Oh, and to the kid's credit, Deicide's new album at the time (1994) was Legion, and the song in question really is the best song on that solid, furious album. The other name we almost went with—"Tear Off U Face"—came from Exodus, so, you know, violence, devil, metal... that's your ticket.
JR: Walking out of the Safeway parking lot I believe I said, "Sounds like we have a band name," though I admit we sound more like Tear Off U Face.
What bands did y'all play with back in the day? Any favorites or least favorites?
Q: Favorites: Asshole Parade, Evaporators, Botch. And one that really sticks out is—I shit you not—Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys, who we followed one magic night in Jacksonville. Least favorite: Remember those shows where a few skinheads show up and make everything suck? We played a show in Salem, Oregon, with F.Y.P., where white-power skins made up probably half the audience. Weak.
DH: A band we almost played with but unfortunately did not was Quiet Riot. It's a fuzzy memory, but there was a time when Quiet Riot would play anywhere someone could collect them something like $500. Some kids up in Vancouver wanted to have them play their house and have us play, too. QR didn't come through, but it almost happened!
JR: Karp! We did play a show with Modest Mouse and the Murder City Devils, which was a good time. I liked watching the early Blood Brothers thrash it out as teenagers. I really liked the Sacto bands Pope Smashers and the Yah-Mos, who were pushing the punk/hardcore forms more than most at the time. New Bad Things from PDX—a gay mess of a quirky/punky/pop band like no other.
Any current Northwest bands you're into right now?
DH: I really dig the Family Stoned, Vex is a really great new punk-garage-rock-'n'-roll band in Oly, Hysterics are killer, I love Danava.
Q: BONE SICKNESS.
JR: I like $hit Machine in Mount Vernon, Larry Yes in Portland, Chivalry Timbers in Bellingham. I wasn't feeling what I was hearing of more recent Seattle hiphop, too serious for my taste, but I like Macklemore's "Thrift Shop," as it harks back to the more ridiculous/inventive stylings of Sir Mix-A-Lot, with a modern bump. Polyrhythmics of Seattle are sounding good on the instrumental tip.
Any very great or very shitty memories from tours past?
DH: I don't know if this is a shitty or good tour memory, but when we were having a really crappy day, Jordan and Quitty and I would start talking in falsetto—cursing up a blue streak about wanting to kill ourselves rather than walk past that crusty punk who was strangling a cat one more time—but in the gentlest, most defeated falsetto voices we could muster. I think it drove Joshua crazy, which was a bonus. And Michael would just chuckle. I think he was always okay with anything. Except the one time we were driving around Vegas, looking for a cheap buffet, and we hear from the backseat, almost under his breath, Michael growling, "I hate this fuckin' place..." I'm pretty sure it was the only negative thing I ever heard him say—and it took Las Vegas to bring it out of him!
Q: Dave's right, you just can't fuck with falsetto day. A day or a show had to be really shitty to get the falsetto treatment. Like one time we drove all night through a blizzard to get to Fargo. I slept for maybe two hours with my head in an ashtray at one of those houses that smells strongly of cat piss. The plumbing got knocked out by the blizzard, so the toilet then drained directly into the basement—where the show was. A nasty flood immediately followed and we were nearly trapped there. As we considered the possibility of a lengthy stay in Fargo—and never making it to our friends and shows in Chicago, Minneapolis, and so forth—a woeful, shockingly high voice would emerge: "Um, you guys? I hate life, and look forward to death... like, soon? So I'd really appreciate your assistance as I submerge my head into the freezing river, never to come up again." One stay in Columbia, Missouri, came very close to being so lame as to result in nude falsetto day.
JR: I think they covered it pretty well with falsetto in Fargo, though that show was awesome—those kids were so stoked to get some relief, they were literally jumping off the walls! On a shitty note: Right before playing a set at 924 Gilman Street, my middle finger got closed in our van's door. By the time our set was over, after all the adrenaline left my body and blood pressure shot up in to my finger—it was literally trying to explode. All I can remember is lying on the floor, yelling for painkillers of some kind. Michael drove me up to a Portland hospital, and I had to have my fingernail drilled into to relieve the pressure. Pain on pain. Good times.
Condolences on the passing of your friend and bandmate Michael Griffen. Can you talk about his contributions to the band? And Eric Ostrowski from Noggin will be subbing in on noise violin?
JR: Michael was a good friend and a hero to me. We always drove home after shows together once I moved to Bellingham, where I was able to spend time and learn from one of the most kind and creative human beings I've ever met. His contribution to the band was purely harnessed chaos with a smile on its face. A highlight thing that Michael would do occasionally at shows would be to pounce on anyone who bum-rushed the stage, while continuing to play and laugh simultaneously. I believe at the same show where my finger turned purple, our friend dove onto my drums WWF style, and Michael ended up keeping him in a leg lock until the show was over! Eric Ostrowski is the obvious choice to fill Michael's shoes, as their musical bond goes way back and they did a fair amount of noise fiddling in their duo Noggin. The only other person I could see sitting in would be Corey Brewer, who did a lot of noise shows with Michael and spent a lot of his teen years soaking up and contributing to Michael's living-room free-improv sessions.
JP: Michael was amazing and inspiring to play with. You really can determine your own path and don't have to do it by conventional means. He definitely liked to stretch the definition of music, or rather he liked to stretch the definition of noise to include music—that's how he could tolerate all of our stupid crap.
Q: Though Michael was more than 30 years older than me, he was by far the youngest member of the band in spirit. I would fret so hard about various things going wrong, but you could not shake Michael. In a band committed to making a fucked-up racket, he added the majority of the chaos that gave us whatever edge we had. Michael—a dear soul who definitely would be embarrassed at all the people who declare him as such.
[Watch Jordan Rain and Peter Rand's documentary about Michael Griffen, titled Words a Four Letter Fuck, at http://archive.org/details/WordsAFourLetterFuck.]
Let's talk about what you're all up to know. Jordan, tell me about your current band, Yogoman Burning Band. Have you ever played Burning Man?
Yogoman was a comic strip invented by Seattle hiphop DJ Mad Max back in the late '80s. I brought Yogo into the musical realms in '98 when I started DJing with the name Yogoman's Wild Rumpus—I then took it into live music in 2006 when I started writing songs and formed YBB. Mostly so we could say yes to that question—we played Burning Man festival the last two years, and it was quite wild and fun. YBB lies heavily on Jamaican forms due to my affiliation with my sound system partner Matt Knowles, aka Prince Pauper (Domino Sound Record Shack in New Orleans), who got me deep into that style. Essentially, Yogoman Burning Band is a good-times dance band you should expect to feel heated and rejuvenated by if you hop in with us; which is similar to the BTPNLSL experience, except BTP is much more efficient—YBB stretches it out.
Joshua, you're a touring vegan chef, right? That sounds incredible! And are you still playing music? Select Sex?
Yes, I do cookbooks and tour having dinner parties in people's homes and other interesting spaces. Select Sex is still playing, it's pretty good shit—nice to have music going on down here in LA. Screaming remains therapeutic, but I have branched out into bellowing for a change of pace.
Quitty, Dave: Your band from way back when was called Tight Bros from Way Back When. Any plans for a reunion?
DH: No Tight Bros reunion on the books. My main band for the last few years is Nudity, a sort of a hard psych-rock kind of thing. Quitty played in Nudity for a few years until moving to Seattle to go to LAW SCHOOL. Priorities, man, priorities, c'mon! Oh, and my other main band is called госкино—a Soviet-influenced '70s glam rock/proto-punk band. Ha! Rachel from the Need is also in that. I record a lot of bands down here in Olympia in my basement studio, too, and end up playing with some of them here and there, sometimes just on the recordings, but occasionally I end up joining them outright. Cairo Pythian is one of those.
Q: I never say never about nuthin', but I'm always skeptical about memory lane—current efforts notwithstanding—so probably no Tight Bros reunion. I'm in my second year at Seattle University School of Law. Me be lawyer real soon, and then I will return to issue justice in musical form as well as formal form. Right now, school doesn't allow me any enjoyment at all.