Young Angst in Tacoma with Apache Chief
Sprawled in the southbound gauze of Tacoma is a stoned-up, grimy, punk-sludge-metal band called Apache Chief. They're three young and haphazard wraiths in search of annihilation. Singer/guitarist Miles VanMatre, drummer Jake Hupp, and bassist James Hauptmann (all 19 to 20 years old) lob out drunken mortar shells and distorted scherzos. The lo-fi compositions are loose enough to curve with scurvy but tight enough to drive spikes through innocent eardrums. VanMatre's vocals are strewn from his gut, going high-register for pained effect, then lower for dementia grumbling. Songs like "Witch Hammer" and "Rape Cave" make you want to intake alcohol rapidly, light shit on fire, break it, then light the shit you broke on fire. Also involved may very possibly be urination, M-80 fireworks, and dead-stiff rodents.
Last year, VanMatre and Hauptmann started their own label called Market Street Records, which three bands now call home. Things in Tacoma are stirring loudly; Apache Chief are afoot. VanMatre and I spoke in their musty, graffiti covered rehearsal space called the Hiroshima Hotel/Alano Club, a four-story building built in 1886 that burned down to the current one story. It used to be a brothel. There's a staircase leading nowhere. Rubble, beer cans, and cigarette butts pervade with the wrong smell of right rock and roll.
Talk about your songs "Dogfuckers" and "Rape Cave."
"Dogfuckers" is about a kid we went to middle school with who plays in a local Tacoma butt-rock band. He put some peanut butter on his dick for his dog to lick for a wee bit of R & R. Remember, kids, dogfuckers live among us. "Rape Cave" is not a place or destination, it is a state of mind. And it is not for this world.
Tell me about the goblin who beat his dog at one of your shows.
We witnessed a grunge-type goblin beat his dog to our music. We were playing in the backyard of a house in Olympia, and this gnarly bum, a breed that can only be produced in the Pacific Northwest, comes and gets in on the mosh with our friends, only he brings his dog with him and starts screaming and beating it. Finally, some friends took the dog away.
Does the name Apache Chief ever offend anyone? With the name of your album being Trail of Beers? Do Native Americans protest your shows?
It was a joke at first, because we'd count off one of our songs with "Eh-neeek-chock." But the name stuck. Pretty much every Native who's heard our band name is stoked and never had a problem with it. Why should they? We're not racist and neither is our music. Jake is a direct descendant of Geronimo. The public arts high school, the notorious Tacoma School of the Farts, forbid us from using our name at school functions. Other college-educated, European-descended motherfuckers are the ones who have a problem with our name. They can shove their white guilt up their asses and rot. Our name is in honor of the brave indigenous people who fought the invasive WASPs as best they could. And they never consulted the Apache Tribe. Until we receive a cease-and-desist from the tribal authority, we're gonna rock this moniker.
Talk about Tacoma.
Tacoma is a dead television station sky paired with a rotting industrial town that really has a lot of promise once [you get] past the grime. Our views of Puget Sound and Mount Rainier are unrivaled, so suck it, Seattle. We have a tremendous wealth of musicians and artists and local businesses that could really boom over the next century. We love Tacoma. We wouldn't wanna have a different city for our home base.
What do y'all like to do in Tacoma? Does it ever involve small explosives, such as firecrackers and dead rodents?
In high school, we'd go and break into abandoned buildings for fun to smash stuff and burn stuff and get wasted. Now we rent one to jam and record in. We blew up the toilet with a firecracker on New Year's and then went to town on the rest with a crowbar and a Louisville Slugger. Then we had the running gag at the party where guests would discover a pile of rubble where the toilet should be. Don't worry, we have a toilet now.
Is the Chihuly glass museum a source of Tacoma pride?
The only blown glass we know about is for smoking weed outta it. [Another band member points out that Miles's mom works at the Museum of Glass.] We don't give a fuck about Chihuly. He's one man who ain't blown glass himself in 25 years.
What disgusts you?
I'm disgusted by people who think that the game will always be the same. It's time for a heightened level of awareness, where we know we are part of the superorganism that is Mother Terra.
How did Apache Chief start?
Apache Chief started in spring of 2009. We saw famous Tacoma punk band Durango 95 at Hells Kitchen, and our lives were forever changed. I got my glasses punched off my face, and that's how we knew we wanted to start a punk band. And not an oi-oi, wear-a-patched-up-stud-jacket punk, but that Dead Boys/Stooges type of punk—trashy and raw. We've got a couple CDs of demos, a live EP recorded at world famous Bob's Java Jive in Tacoma, and our first full-length effort, Trail of Beers. Right now, we're planning on recording a new album and have been focusing on writing new material. Certainly now I don't think we're a straight-up garage punk band anymore. We've always had a focus on a harsher and heavier sound with a lot more metal influence than a lot of our peers. Because of that, we've never fit in quite so nicely with other garage punk bands, but we don't give a fuck because people seem to like it anyway. Music ain't about fitting in. It's about letting out what ya got inside. I guess based on our music, we're probably kinda fucked up on the inside.
What made you want to start Market Street Records?
James and I started it in fall of 2011 to release and promote our own recordings along with those of our friends. The bands associated with the label are Apache Chief, Dungeon Science—who just competed in Sound Off! 2012, filling in the underdog Tacoma band slot like we did in 2010—and the Trasholes, two 14-year-olds from Gig Harbor who love rock 'n' roll. The goal is to bring a new wave of bands and fresh music to the Pacific Northwest. It's time for a Northwest music resurgence. Sub Pop is dead. It's time for a new underground label that is tapped into the nerve of what's going on. Fuck you, Sub Pop, grow some balls and release some real rock 'n' roll.
Does Apache Chief believe in life after death?
Death is like life, the illusion of an end. Matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, and if everything I am made of, both my body and my psyche or soul, which makes up what is me, has existed since the big bang, then it will always exist. There must be an impression made on the higher dimensions by our soul. It must have a physical expression on a different plane that we do not perceive. I believe I will live again. In the words of Saitic Isis: "I am what was, is, and shall be." It's in our DNA, the whole story of life in the universe. We share a common ancestor with all other life forms. DNA is the cosmic spark that we all share. In this life, we may rot in the ground, but our soul will move on and our energy will transform into a different consciousness. That's how I feel, anyway.