Exclusive: HEALTH Have Returned, Hardcore as Ever
Jake Duzsik, the lead singer of HEALTH, opens the door to a Williamsburg Airbnb and ushers me in. "Come in, it’s fucking hot out," he says, leading the door to an apartment that is mostly beds, a kitchen table, and an AC unit that blasts in the corner. The other members of the band, Jupiter Keyes (multi-instruments), John Famiglietti (bass), and Benjamin Miller (drums), are all sitting at the table drinking water. "We played a crazy show last night, we’re all pretty hungover. It was so hot we thought we were gonna die," they tell me, and when I ask if it’s easier to play a show drunk or sober they all say "sober" in unison – something that surprises me from one of the wildest, loudest bands out there today.
But the diligence to constantly create new and challenging projects makes it undoubtedly clear that the L.A. based band is all about the music. With five albums under their belt, including two remix albums and the widely heard soundtrack for the Max Payne 3 video game three years ago, the band is on the heels of releasing their long-awaited return album DEATH MAGIC, which promises to live up to all of its expectations. This is, after all, an album that they decided to announce with the release of a music video for one of the songs, NEW COKE, which Rolling Stone magazine described as "the most disgusting video of the year."
Milk Made’s Ana Velasco talked to HEALTH to talk about the new album, getting sexy pics from fans, re-making a realistic Aerosmith music video, and what has been the craziest shit to happen at their concerts (spoiler: it’s really wild).
The ‘NEW COKE’ video is very much about portraying the gritty L.A. noise band scene which you guys are a part of. What is it about L.A. and its party scene that’s still so fascinating to you?
Jake Duzsik: It has changed drastically ‘cause what that video depicts is two different levels or eras of L.A. underground. When we started playing, we were going to warehouse noise shows which were essentially our L.A. version of crazy punk shows but the noise scene in Los Angeles had a different feel to it than for example in N.Y. or Providence where it was more connected to the art world and a little bit more high brow. It was really edgy, experimental music but you were going to some fucked up crazy party in a warehouse and everyone would just go nuts and get wasted and go apeshit to free noise music and that scene is really gone. Now, underground warehouse parties where its techno and house music is what’s really popular but it’s the same people. Now they just do a lot more drugs instead of drinking.
And the vomit was real?
John Famiglietti: Oh yeah.
JD: I don’t know how you fake that. Pain in the ass.
How did you make yourself throw up?
Jupiter Keyes: You get whole milk and put food coloring in to make it look more like real vomit. We were also drinking beer and eating all day too. Then you just drink a gallon of milk as fast as you can and then you wait and then you’ll throw it all up.
JD: I had excruciating stomach pain the rest of the day and then you just start shitting milk and the worst part is that the next day you basically start shitting cottage cheese.
Why did you choose to announce your new album in that way?
JD: I feel like our fans expect us to try to do something that breaks the mold with how you would normally announce an album or how you would normally make an album and what kind of music you would make. We actually turned it into this album trailer with the text and everything. We wanted it to be a unique way of saying, ‘Hey I know you guys are pissed that it’s taking so long but there is a record and here’s some other stuff you’ll like.’
Whose phone number is that at the end?
[John raises his hand]
Have you been getting a lot of calls?
JF: Mmmhhmm. I actually just got one right now. ‘Hey John, this is Tim from Chicago…’ Now it’s calmed down so I only get like 10 texts a day— people started texting me more, which I prefer because the phone calls are really awkward.
JD: The worst is that now he’s getting texts that are just like bullshit ‘hey, what time do you guys go on tonight?’ It’s like ‘fuck’ texting me like you’re my buddy.
Have you gotten any sexy pics?
JF: Yes, but not as cool as you’d imagine.
JK: He did get a totally crazy guy who was not a fan of the band — cuz the video got a lot of attention for it being so gross.
Rolling Stone said it was the most disgusting video of the year — that’s a great award to win.
JD: And Rolling Stone doesn’t usually cover us, so that was pretty funny. [laughs]
Benjamin Miller: I mean to take that award from Aerosmith… [laughs] I don’t even know what I was referencing with that.
JD: If I had the money for it I wanted us to recreate Aerosmith’s ‘Crying’ video with one of us being Alicia Silverstone, but then at the end you just jump off the bridge with the cable on there because in real life you’d just break your back— and just totally die.
BM: I don’t think I’ve seen that video
JD: Oh dude, that video was a huge cultural thing.
Was that the one with Liv Tyler?
JD: Yeah. But she jumps off this bridge. Her boyfriend broke her heart so she makes him think that she’s going to kill herself by jumping off this overpass and then she has this fucking cable tied to her, but she falls 50 feet and then she’s just flipping him off but it would just snap her in half. So if we had a lot of money I’d love to recast her now and redo the video and have her break in half.
So this is your first album since the Max Payne soundtrack. How is it different to create an album coming off of a concept album? What’s the biggest challenge you faced going back to a more traditional studio process?
JD: I think the biggest thing for us with Max Payne is that it’s very much our band, our artistic statement of making music for that game, but its also a collaborative process where you’re trying to create musical elements that are aiding a visual interactive experience…you’re working to make that game better. In a certain way, even though it was a crazy amount of work and took over a year, it’s somehow less stressful than it just being like “here’s our album.” Plus you’re getting feedback from other people. They have goals or necessities that they need you to accomplish. They can be like ‘hey, we like what you did here, but this part needs to be more intense— ‘this part needs to be more like that’ so that way it’s a different process.
You have all these diverse projects that you’ve put out, from the remixes to the game soundtrack. Is the creation process different when you’re making each platform?
JK: The remixes are easier because you don’t have to do much of the work. [laughs] Like the remixes— someone else does it for you.
JD: When you get a really good remix back from someone that you can respect, you can actually in a certain way shamelessly listen to your own song. It’s not like I’m gonna put it on our own album and be like ‘oh man, we just knocked it out of the park on that one,’ but if you get a really good remix back you can say ‘oh this is really exciting, I’m really proud that someone made this out of our music.’
What’s the biggest surprise that you’ve seen from working in the industry?
JD: The biggest surprise for us is that we’ve gotten to do any of this shit at all. Some bands they start at 21 and get signed at XL or whatever and they put out their first record and next thing you know they’re playing huge festivals. We didn’t even ever have that goal. We always said that we’ve been endlessly ambitious in terms of what we wanted to do but we didn’t have any expectations, so for us it’s always been incremental, like ‘Jesus, we just want to play a show.’ We just wanted to be able to tour and that meant booking our own tours on fucking Myspace and driving in 2 cars before we could afford a van. We’ve been very lucky.
JK: We were stoked being able to tour, we were getting pretty fucked up after shows. We played some show in a basement– you learn certain stuff when you’re touring on a DIY scene. It’s like don’t go home with the cross punk guy even if he says he has a good place for you to stay. Or ‘dude I got a bottle of Jameson.’
JF: If he’s got a back patch or a dog, don’t go to that guy’s house. You’re gonna sleep next to some fucking puke on the floor.
JD: Remember that John got a full body rash. He got some crazy bite of some kind that erupted into a rash for a whole tour.
Benjamin Miller: I chickened out, but these two slept in a cockroach-ridden house in North Carolina one time.
JK: We had to put in ear-plugs so they wouldn’t would crawl in our ears.
JF: They would crawl up your fucking face.
So has touring always been the goal or the favorite part of creating an album?
JK: That’s the lifestyle. That’s how you make money being a musician these days.
JD: Also for us, we enjoy it. It’s how we started. Some bands start as bedroom projects where it’s like they make all their music and then they have to figure out how to perform live. The way we started was we were a live band and so touring is just very natural for us.
BM: It’s fucking sweet man. Drinks are free and you just go places and you drink there.
JF: Also it’s like we’ve been lucky enough to see the world. We’ve gotten to go all over the place.
What’s the craziest thing that’s ever happened at one of your shows?
JF: A girl shit herself. We were opening for Nine Inch Nails and it was the first song, we were playing this really heavy song and this wave of shit smell hits the stage and immediately I think its one of these guys. I’m like ‘aw, Bees, did you shit your pants up there?’
JD: This fucking poor girl was camped out for 20 hours in the sun fucking drinking Jaeger or whatever trying to get in line to get in front against the barrier. First song, she was in these daisy duke short shorts and they had to pull her over. So we’re playing and we’re just like ‘man, which one of these assholes?’ [laughs] and then they just pull this poor girl over the barrier. She’s just got this black shit just streaming down her legs.
BM: What about Santa Fe? Those kids almost shooting up the place.
JD: Oh yeah, we played a DIY show where these crazy guys came and they said they were gonna come back with guns and threw rocks through the windows.
JK: One of the dudes who worked that venue kicked that guy right in the face.
JD: Then he was covered in blood, screaming and the cops wouldn’t touch him because they thought he had AIDS or something.
JK: OH! Then we played that one show where that dude had that mask on and he just had a gun. We had to call the fucking police. That was in the Midwest somewhere.
JD: We were playing an art gallery and then everyone started fearing out because this guy had a fucking gun. So yeah a bunch of shit happened over the years.
How would you describe the new album in 3 words?
JK: Not for moms [laughs]
JD: Not background music. We don’t really make background music. Background music will get you way bigger as a band. It’s like a magical thing, just put it on at a library, put it on at a wine and cheese party. Can’t do that shit with our band. You gotta listen to it or turn it off.
BM: Or turn it down.
JF: If you wanna turn it down, you can be a bitch like that.
JD: You can either love us or hate us or think we’re ok.
‘DEATH MAGIC’ will be released on August 7th
HEALTH photographed exclusively for Milk Made by Iouri Podladtchikov