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Livewire's One on One



Livewire's exclusive interview with Guitarist/vocalist Dustin Kensrue of Thrice

June 24, 2004

Livewire's Karen Bondowski got the chance to sit down with
Guitarist/vocalist Dustin Kensrue of Thrice for a candid Q & A.

LW: So, How's the tour going so far?

DK: So far it's going great. We've been having a blast with all the bands. The shows have been really, really fun actually.

LW: Are you getting a big response?

DK: Yeah, it's been about what I expected. Definitely the majority of the crowd is there for Dashboard, but there's a lot of our kids there. And all the other kids are kind of starting to get it, so that's always a good thing.

LW: How did you guys come up with the name Thrice?

DK: It was a really bad inside joke kind of thing. Our friends in high school always said "thrice." There's no significance to it at all, but we needed a band name. We had all these band names, but none of them felt right. So we ended up deciding on Thrice. It sounded somewhat metal and (laughs) so that was about the extent of the meaning on it.

LW: How did the band get formed?

DK: Me and Tepi knew each other in high school, we kind of had a band before, but we started another one. And knew Eddie through skateboarding and Riley is Eddies brother so... he kind of just joined on pretty much right after we started. We were looking for a drummer and he decided to jam with us. It worked out really well so...

LW: Did everyone connect really well?

DK: It evolved because we enjoyed playing together and everyone has unique ideas. But Ed just started playing bass and Riley is like 5 or 6 years older then me and the rest of us so at that point I was like 18 and he was like 23 so it was kind of a big age gap and we looked up to him and we were kind of scared of him. (laughs loudly) I mean he was nice, but a shy dude too. It took us awhile to actually get to know him and obviously we know him well. He's not mean at all, he's shy in social situations.

LW: How did you guys feel when you were asked to perform on "The Late Show with Craig Kilbourne"?

DK: Uh, it was fun. We'd been talking to our label to try and get us on some TV shows and so we did that one and it was kind of weird 'cause you play before the show and so no one's up there, Craig's not there. It's just the audience, but the audience is basically just full of our fans. It felt kind of awkward when we got out there. Some kid yelled to play a certain song that everyone there knew that we wouldn't play. It was kind of a funny inside joke with the local fans. It kind of chilled everyone out and it was a lot of fun. Then we played Jimmy Kimball and it was actually a lot of fun cause it's like a real show thats set outside and there were like a 1000 kids there and they had a whole stage and everything and they let you play a song for the show and then we played four more songs for the kids.

LW: Can you tell me some of your musical influences?

DK: We've been trying to catch up to our musical influences with what we play and haven't really done that. And on the next record we write, were really going to make an effort to do that. We listen to nothing really that sounds like what we play. Right now we listen to a lot of jazz and classical and just kind of weird stuff like movie soundtracks. And then bands like Radiohead. It's really all over the board. We listen to pretty much anything.

LW: Was there any one person or group that inspired you to perform?

DK: Not really. I think for all of us, punk rock in general, was an amazing thing when we found it. And we found it in different ways and Tepi found it through metal and I think actually Riley and Ed did too. Bands like Pennywise and stuff. It was like hearing this kind of music I didn't know before and there was a record store by my grandparents house and it had like a punk section and I said, "Whoa, I'm going to check this out." And I picked up a Screeching Weasel record called Anthem for a New Tomorrow and it totally changed my life and I still love that band but it's not something I listen to every day. I just think that the energy and honesty of punk rock definitely will always be a big part of our music whichever way it goes.

LW: How would you label your band?

DK: I would just call it a rock band at this point. In the past our influences were obviously more punk and hardcore metal and the more subtle influences were seen the way we handle those things. But, hopefully in the future we're going to start incorporating more of this. And I think we'll always be definitely a rock band. We're going to play the heavy music because its kind of who we are as a band. But, the way we do it, I think we'll always be changing.

LW: Were your friends and family supportive of you being in a band?

DK: We hit a certain point where me, Eddie and Tepi all dropped out of college and Riley quit trying to find a good job and we went on the road with like no money, basically, trying to make it happen. And I think our parents were kind of worried at quitting of school and stuff and didn't really see what we saw, that there was a chance there that we couldn't really pass up. I think there's doors of opportunity and if you don't take them, they don't come back. We always thought that we could go back to those things anytime we wanted and we went out on the road to where it progressed to where we were always on the road and at a certain point finally able to kind of sustain ourselves doing that. But, I think our parents gradually saw that it was something that could actually happen for us and I think in general that they were always very supportive of us. My dad lent us money to record our first demo and we actually practiced in an empty space at the place where he works.

LW: Do you still maintain a decent relationship with your family?

DK: Yeah, very much so.

LW: What is your most memorable moment as a child?

DK: As a child?? Like age period?? (laughs) Here, I'll make it a musical memory cause thats easier to think of. I don't know if I remember this from doing it or from pictures or videos of doing it... I used to love Micheal Jackson. I still do, but his last record was pretty crappy. (laughs) I used to have a jacket that I would call my foiler jacket and would dance to Micheal Jackson songs. I also remember my dad listening to his stereo with big headphones on that would like cover my whole head. (laughs)

LW: What's a good day for you?

DK: A day with my wife and my family. I just love being able to be home to see my friends and family. If there's a party at my parents house or something, I'll have my friends over and my family will be over. That's pretty much a good day for me at this point in my life because it's more rare then any other day I guess. It's cause I'm gone so much.

LW: Does being in the band have a negative side to it?

DK: Yeah, just touring in general. It's awesome. I love being on tour aside from the fact that I have a life or try to have a life at home. But I get to see so many amazing things and certain tours more then others. Sometimes you almost get to see alot of amazing things and you don't.. So thats kind of depressing. (laughs) When your home for too long from touring, you kind of get itching to get back on the road. But after we've been out on the road for a year and half straight, but its at the point where we'd much rather be home right now. But other then that, it's alot of fun. Making music is fun and playing music is a blast. Even when your on tour, dying to be home, the hour when your playing is awesome still.

LW: How do you prepare yourself before going into the studio?

DK: It's been really different on every record. Like the last record we were really rushed for time and we wrote really quickly like a 2 or 3 month period and went straight into it not as prepared as I think we should have been. And it just made certain aspects of recording hard and I think this time we're going to force that time to be there and be really prepared to go so that way we're able to do things like record. I think we we're going to record most of it live and just really have the songs to the point where their really at their peak. Because I think usually you'll go into the studio and the song will be in its early stage of being recorded and you learn what that song really is from playing it live for awhile. I think we're going to do what we can to find that place earlier and record that.

LW: How do you feel when a fan comes up to after a show explaining how your music has touched them?

DK: When it can help someone, I think that's the most gratifying thing. It's not something you can plan or control but I think that's kind of what music is meant to do. To steer you into a way that nothing else can and create a place that you can be thats safe from everything else or that even makes the good things in life better or makes the bad things not so bad. I love it when people tell me that stuff. It kind of just blows your mind and to me it makes me realize that there's alot more going on under the surfaces of things then what I am putting out there. I think there's things that work that are not in control. It's humbling to be a part of them.

LW: How do you feel about free music downloading?

DK: I think its like anything.. A moderation thing. If there's people who can handle it responsibly, I think it's awesome. It's such a cool way to find out about new bands. Everyone in the band has Ipods, we all trade music with each other and if we find something we like, we go buy it. Cause you know, otherwise, if you stop supporting bands monetarily then you stop supporting.. in reality stop supporting their label and then their label freaks out and drops them or doesn't support their next single. The whole music industry is a really bad place right now and its just going downhill and everyones scrambling to survive and I think that alot of it has to do with people not purchasing music when they used to and I think that's a sad thing. And I think it's only judgmental to the music industry in general and to bands and musicians. It really comes down to people. Like right now.. Now we have to put some big advisory on all universal music records that come out, it takes like a 1/3 of the artwork on the back, which I think is retarded. And they'll probably get mad at me for saying that but I think it's the dumbest idea ever. It's like one of the only things that people are still buying records for is the artwork and if you took a big portion of that and put a big ugly (fsi?) warning on that. I don't see how that's helping the problem at all. I think it's silly when bands are like, "(gasp) free music, is... whatever, awesome!" It's not the way things are offered, it's like shared music is awesome and is supporting those bands, but things just cant work if everythings free. Things aren't free. It costs money to record a record (laughs), it costs money to put out a record out. It's not just magical.

LW: What's been the most scariest thing to happen to you or anyone in the band while touring?

DK: We've had some scary times while on tour in the winter in our van with a trailer. Like being up on the I-80 and Wyoming and it's a really dangerous road in the winter, especially with a trailer. So we've slid out a few times. We've been really lucky. We've known alot bands who have been in pretty bad accidents and we've never actually crashed into anything but we've definitely slid off the road and that's always really scary. Or we've hit deers. (laughs) You'll awake with a loud sound of a deer crashing into your trailer. One time a car was speeding past us and he clipped our trailer from behind and totally shredded his tire and then drove past us, going probably 95... I think he was on something.. And ended up going up this on ramp and crashing and being ejected from the car. It was pretty crazy. Being on the road so much, there's definitely stuff like that, that happens.

LW: How do you feel about groupies?

DK: Groupies?? Umm.. We don't really have groupies, none that I know of. (laughs) We have I think some of the coolest fans ever and I know everyone says that.. But, I means there's always kind of some weird kids out there who are a little freaky (laughs) but for the most part, I've met some amazing people who listen to our music or are really an encouragement and are kind of like.. given another site or different aspects of our music. And I think that's awesome. But, groupies in the traditional sense of like.. girls.. I think we're the most ungroupy band ever. Two of us are married and Ed has a girlfriend and Riley is very shy. And we all just kind of keep to ourselves.

LW: What are some of your political views? About Bush and the war?

DK: I really hate politics. I like social aspects of things better just because their more cut and dry and we try to involve ourselves with things that are obviously more beneficial to people.

LW: If I were to give you $10 million to quit music, would you do it?

DK: No. (laughs) That would propose that I was doing it to make money. And I think there is so much worth like what we are doing for ourselves and others. I kind of think I'll be alright, no matter what happens. So.. No. (laughs) I think there's alot of people who would, but wouldn't say so. (laughs)

LW: If you could choose any band to sing for, for one day, who would it be?

DK: And I would have a voice that would not ruin their band? (laughs) Umm.. Probably Radiohead.

LW: Are you a big fan of Radiohead?

DK: Yeah, a huge fan.

LW: Have you ever seen them live?

DK: Yeah, a couple of times. Their amazing.

LW: You mix emo with metal into screamo, this seems like a marriage made in hell and it seems to work for you guys, why?

DK: I don't think its a conscious effort to mix those things. I'm not a huge fan of that term. But terms come and go so thats really minor, but I think that the reason that our music works is because we're not trying to make those things. We're just trying to play.. Play music that on one hand is powerful and heavy because we like that and it's still kind of melodic because I think melody is the key to any really effective music and in effect to the way people feel or think.

LW: Did you write "Paper Tigers" in response to the war in Iraq?

DK: Kind of in reflection of everything that had happened in that year and the way that I think that a lot of the past actions of our country have built into the current situation. Not that anything like justifies terrorism or anything else, but that there are causes and I guess I would hope that people would want to look into those. Based on the ways that we handled our politics in WW2.

LW: I see that you donate proceeds to the SSE foundation, are there any other charities that you support?

DK: Yeah, each record we support a new charity. It was something we started with when we were on Sub City records. They do the same thing. When we moved to Island, we decided we wanted to keep doing that, and so we chose SSE for this last record. But we also worked with "Home for the Abused and Neglected Children" in Orange County and then a place in South Central L.A. which is kind of a community center for the youth there. It's a really bad area. Kind of a lot of drug and gang culture there and it's a place for them to get out of that and there are awesome music programs there for them. They can get meals, they can get an education and many varieties of things for them to do there to help keep their heads on straight and not get involved in the violence and drugs there.

LW: Where do you see Thrice in 5 years?

DK: 5 Years... Maybe.. (laughs) 5 years would be like... I don't know. It's really hard to say... I hope we're still playing music and just paying the rent, ya know? I'd really like to still be playing, whether it's with these guys or not. But I love playing music with them. I think we definitely would have a different dynamic then any of us would have on our own just because the nature of the way we see things is very different. Especially like me and Ed, we see things almost completely opposite at all times. (laughs) And sometimes we'll see totally eye to eye, but it's never kind of half way.(laughs)

More Thrice
Concert Review - Allstate Arena, May 21, 2004

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