An Interview with Health
By Imogen Clyde-Smith and Robert Parry
For those of you who haven’t heard of Health, their new album Death Magic is the epitome of modern rock. It pummels, thumps and pulverises just like the noise band’s previous records, but has been given an electronic update. Turning to new production techniques, the band has evolved its sound aesthetic with an inclusion of dark electronic-punk beats. The sound that has taken them six years to create is finally here. We caught up with John Famiglietti, Health’s bass player, zoothorn player and electronic percussionist, ahead of their Liverpool gig at the Kazimier.
So where are you currently for your tour?
We’re actually in Amsterdam, we’ve been here for two weeks.
Are you enjoying touring?
Oh yeah, I mean we’ve been doing this for while now but we love touring. That’s what we got in the game to do.
So are you looking forward to coming to Liverpool then? Have you been around the UK before?
Yes, we’ve played the Kazimier before and we’ll be sad to see it go, we’re one of the last people to play there!
Your album Death Magic has been a huge project taking six years to complete. How has it been received?
It’s definitely been positive overall. The fan reaction though has been incredible and that’s the real reaction that actually matters.
Do you read your reviews?
Oh yeah, totally, everyone reads their reviews and anyone who says they don’t is f**king lying.
So would you say your new album has veered quite far away from your previous work?
Oh yeah, completely. This album, as you can hear, is a lot more electronic, so we took a very new production style and learnt a lot of new things, which is the big reason why it took so long.
Why did you decide to go down more of an electronic route?
Around the turn of the decade, the 2010 era, all the, like, electronic music and pop music on the radio seemed to get a lot more powerful in terms of production techniques, and we’re a band obsessed with being loud and wanted to have the biggest gun available.
Your album has been said to sound like ‘Nine Inch Nails filtered through “Yeezus.”’ Does that sound accurate to you?
Yeah, close enough. I mean, I would listen to that record.
Are you thinking of keeping your more electronic sound?
Well, we still want to stay a song-based band. We were just using that production style. We don’t want to start suddenly making techno for some reason.
Do you prefer more intimate venues or do you prefer larger venues?
As long as they’re full, but yeah, anything can be a good show. Of course we prefer larger because we need to get paid. Touring is very expensive.
So you soundtracked Max Payne 3. Do you think that experience had a lot of influence on the album?
It influenced making music faster but not in terms of sound. Anything you’re doing will, even if not consciously, influence you, but it actually influenced us not to do anything soundtrack-y on the record because at that point we were sick of it.
Do you play any of it live?
We play the single Tears live.
What are your main influences then?
When we started we were very influenced by New York and its rock bands, like Ex Models, Liars and stuff like that. As time has gone on, though, we’ve been influenced by more ordinary stuff, like pop and hip hop, so we really take influence from anything.
How was the writing process and how do you think people listen to your music?
It’s not background music, it’s active listening and it’s very aggressive. You get off from it, but I actually hate writing music. We’re all servants to the aesthetic of the band. But yeah, I’ve always liked music to be loud. It makes you feel better.
Do you want to continue to tour and make music?
You want to continue the lifestyle as long as you can, and at some point you should probably stop unless it’s going really well because you’re too f**cking old.
So you’re enjoying the lifestyle?
Yeah, that’s why we got in the game and why we’re still doing it.
Our FaceTime conversation is interrupted by John asking his taxi driver, “Can we go where there’s a good weed bar area, yeah, I want to do that while I’m here.” Back to me he quips, “Yeah, so we enjoy the musician lifestyle.”
Catch Health at the Kazimier on 25 October as part of Liverpool Music Week. Buy tickets here: http://www.liverpoolmusicweek.co.uk