Free Shoutcast HostingRadio Stream Hosting

Friday, July 22, 2022

CNQ Interview with John Toohill from Swimming Faith Records

Recently John Toohill (Swimming Faith Records, Science Man, Spit Kink, Hamiltones, Night Slaves, etc.) was kind enough to do an e-mail interview with me. I've been a big fan of the new Science Man album Nines Mecca, playing a lot of tracks off of it on the CNQ Live show and on the CNQ Hour over on KPISS.FM. So it was really cool to get to ask John some questions and have him respond with some answers! To wit:

CNQ: Swimming Faith Records - how long have you been doing it? What was your first release? Where does the name come from?

John: Swimming Faith Records started in 2019. I had been self-releasing stuff for years with various projects of mine but I never really thought to just come up with a name and call it a label, tho other people had suggested I do that. In late 2018 I had an entire LP worth of Science Man songs ready, I knew no other labels would wanna take a chance on that kinda thing, and it kinda seemed like a perfect time to try it out. Since SM is just me, I wouldn’t be disappointing anyone but myself if I fucked everything up or the album didn’t sell. I pressed 300 and slapped the SF logo on it.

The name is just something I came up with. I don’t think I even had any other names on the drawing board. It sounded familiar, like it had come from something else, but it was my own. I thought that was a good quality to have. Plus pressing an album is kind of a “leap of faith”. You throw $2K up in the air and wait a year. When the records finally arrive, you hope you make some money back. It’s insane. Also the “Swimming” part felt fluid. Like I can change directions at any time. I can put out and believe in whatever I want. It’s mine to choose. I don’t have to follow anyone else’s commandments. Ya know, for a people who hate governments and control, us punks sure got a lot of rules. haha.

CNQ: You've put out a lot of different sounding material under different band names. Science Man, Spit Kink, Alpha Hopper, Night Slaves, the Hamiltones...I think there are others? Do you tend to work on one project at a time or have lots of diffrent things going at once?

John: Oh ya. And there are a few more! It’s all going at once. Some step in and out of the spotlight depending on what the other people involved are busy with. They get more priority when the time feels right. Others, like SCIENCE MAN, always seem to be near the center, sucking up energy. I just always wanna be pushing the cart forward. I wake up everyday and do something. Even if it’s just trying to design a poster or noodle on a song idea. I love it. Even when it can be frustrating/infuriating. I don’t wanna spend my time doing much else.

CNQ: That's super inspirational for anybody attempting any kind of DIY. Obviously a full time job, if it can be called a job since you enjoy it. Do you do all of this and have a day job as well?

John: I have a night job actually. The label/bands legit make me zero spending money. It all just pays for itself. So I don’t really lose any money, but I absolutely need a job. I bartend 2-3 shifts a week at a restaurant. Luckily, the owners and the staff could not possibly be more supportive. So getting time off is seldom a problem. Thanks Marble and Rye! Love you.

CNQ: How'd you get into making music? What were your early influences?

John: My mom always played rock and roll records around the house. I remember seeing the LP of one of my uncle’s old bands “The Restless” and thinking that was so cool. When I was a teenager they got me a guitar. I had an older cousin, Scott, who lived in Toronto and liked all the cool, bad kid music. So when we visited family up there, I always begged him to make me cassettes or show me ones to buy. Shit like Nine Inch Nails, Rancid, Ministry, KMFDM, White Zombie, ect… When I got to around 11th grade, my friends and I discovered more punk and hardcore stuff as the internet went high speed. That was wild. Really got to taste the world of music then.

CNQ: Those bands you listed are pretty much what I assumed your reference points for Science Man might be, since it's an "industrial meets hardcore punk" type of sound. One of my favorite albums ever is La Sexorcisto; I'm not as big a fan of Rob Zombie's solo stuff. NIN wise I tuned out after Broken, but have gone back since and at least enjoy the singles and a few songs post Downward Spiral. I got to see Ministry twice back in the mid nineties as a teen, and still love anything Psalm 69 and before, but again had tuned out by the time Filth Pig came out. Sounds like you may be a little younger than me -- what are your WZ, NIN, and Ministry fave albums or songs?

John: We have very similar stances. I was born in 84 but totally grew up listening to lots of that stuff too. I remember getting the last two White Zombie albums (La Sex/AstroCreep) and thinking I had to hide them cuz I was kinda worried something bad might happen when I played them. Like they were supernaturally powered! That idea/effect on me is probably actually cooler than that band ever was! haha. Same goes for NIN/Ministry/KMFDM ect… Pretty Hate Machine/Broken/Downward Spiral were huge for me. Ministry’s the Mind is a Terrible Things to Taste was a big one that got me. I don’t find myself listening to those bands with any regularity at this point in my life. But there was an undeniable influence on me as an early teen that I probably only now can start to see. Growing up in shitty Lockport, NY pre-internet that stuff serious gateway drugs.

CNQ: What live bands have you seen/can you recommend seeing now that bands are touring again? 

John: Leaking Head from Rochester. Illiterates from Pittsburgh. P.C.P. and the Knives from Salem. Alien Birth from Philly. Pearl from Baltimore. The Serfs from Cincinatti. MS PAINT from Hattiesburg....

CNQ: The videos for Nines Mecca are a blast and seem to tell a bit of a story. Very much a lo-fi Twin Peaks thing, imo. What were your inspirations for these? How long did it take to put all of these together? Any reason you  released it in a format (VHS) hardly anyone has anymore, other than for fun? Was it more or less expensive to put it on VHS than say a DVD?  

John: I kept referencing back to those bat-shit green screen sequences in Ken Russel’s movies like Altered States and Lair of the White Worm. Jodorowsky’s surrealism and mysticism. Evil Dead’s fun factor. Countless 90’s music videos and sci-fi TV. It took Lindz and I about a year to make them all. I suppose it coulda been done faster but the world was still pre-vax covid confusion and we were basically learning WTF we were doing based on what ideas we could imagine. I’d pitch her a vision for a video and we’d say “cool. Ok how do we do that with no money or experience?” Then get to work.  It’s all filmed on my phone and shit. I learned how to edit while making these. All the videos are on YouTube and physical media is largely dead. It only matters to a real specific type of person. So why not make it that way. Specific. I don’t know anyone who collects DVDs. I know plenty who still love VHS. Plus it just felt right and more fun for us to do. We only made 50 of them and it sold out very quickly. So they all found good homes I think. They weren't expensive. I could show ya how. 

CNQ: Do you have a typical process for SM, it just being you? For instance, when I'm doing my Legless Crabs, I usually start with a canned drum beat, add guitar and bass and then pull from a box of lyrics I keep handy.  

John: I just pick up a guitar and start banging away. Once I get a few parts sticking together, I’ll start programming drums. I’ll mumble gibberish as I play to help the thing take shape. Dump that into the recording program and I start layering. Usually while I’m tracking guitars some lyric line will pop in my head. By the time I’m done recording all the music I got a few lines and a theme. I loop the song while I write the rest then go yell in the attic. Always mixing as I go. I like to finish a whole song in a day. Idea to final tracks. Any re-amping and final mixing comes after I have a whole bunch of songs done.

CNQ: I love Dracula Invitational 1791 by the Hamiltones. The packaging on that vinyl is out of this world. Did you do the whole design, including the interior artwork of the monster party? I can't bring myself to open the wax seal on the included invitation with the bat on it, it's too cool and I'm afraid I'll mess up the seal. Is that  Hamiltones March 12 "movie poster" what's inside? 

John: OPEN THE DAMN LETTER!!! I ain’t tellin ya. That's part of the fun. Nick and I cooked up the basic idea for the album and pitched it to Chris. Then we all ran with it. The music, art, band photos and the 3 videos all came from there. Chris, the drummer, did the front and back cover/layout. The inside monster party is by Mickey Harmon, who is a local artist and friend of ours. He did the 7” art and some other t-shirts/cassette art for us too. The envelope was a combo between Nick and I, tho he actually wrote the letter inside. The letter explains it all. It’s the story of what happened at the 1791 Dracula Invitational party and what we have to do with it. Just open it.

CNQ: Congrats on the pressings selling out.  Inspiration on that one you make clear -- Marricone meets Ventures meets Cramps.  Which of the three of you play what on that? And what else have Nick Reynolds and  Chris Scamurra done? 

John: I play guitar, Nick is on bass, and Chris the drums. Tho Nick is the real wizard. He plays almost all the other instrumentation we added on the album. Nick and Chris had a band called SPACE WOLVES together. Then we started HAMILTONES as sorta a 1 time joke band. It just ended up outliving them all. Nick and I did a Hardcore punk band for years called RADIATION RISKS too. Check it out.

CNQ: Do you have plans for a tour beyond your local area anytime soon? 

John: Sci Man just did a 10 day June tour. We’re about to leave for another 10 day July tour on the 21st. Gonna start planning a fall trip for probably November next. Gotta sling drinks for money for a while first.

That's it! Keep an eye out for Science Man in your area and check out all the cool tunes from John and Swimming Faith Records. Thanks John! Oh, and for the record, I still can't bring myself to break the wax seal on that letter that came with Dracula Invitational 1791. That's just the type of freak I am tho.