originally written by Erik Highter
Back in April, before they started the first tour for their latest album, Re-Unvent the Whool, I reached out to Portland’s Prizehog to see what made them tick. They opened up to my many questions and answered honestly, thoughtfully, and at length. After getting a chance to see them and introduce myself at their tour stop here in Dallas, it was quickly apparent that I needed to follow up with them when they returned. Though the logistics proved a bit more challenging this time – as you can imagine, trying to make up for lost time and money meant life overwhelmed email for a while – Rion, Vern and Zakk all took the time to answer each of my questions on their own. It’s only fitting; though collectively the band is more than the individuals involved, they each bring their own unique viewpoint to the music. It’s interesting to read how the experiences both overlapped and didn’t, and to assemble the puzzle that is Prizehog.
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I was unprepared for the loudness and intensity of your live show. It’s not metal, but it’s psychotically heavy (and I mean that in the best way possible). The effect is almost disorienting. As you well know, I absolutely loved it; but what was the general reaction across the country? Any horror stories? Any shows where the crowd carried you of as conquerors and built shrines to your greatness?
RION: I’d have to say… the general reaction was awesome! This wasn’t our first rodeo, so most of our shows were attended by friends and family and such. It’s always the best to play to folks you know and love, and know what they’re in for. As for people who were seeing us or the first time, it seemed like most people had the same reaction as you. There weren’t any horror stories I can think of besides this one bad burger I ate at a trolly diner outside of Philly. Is blue cheese supposed to be that blue? No shrines that I know of, either. There is still a shrine WE built in the van while on tour. It came together nicely by the end.
VERN: This tour was amazing. We had a pretty wonderful time at almost every show, saw lots of old friends and made lots of new ones along the way. So I guess, you could say all around good reaction across the country. I don’t know about any shrines being built in our honor, but I would say our best show as far as reception is concerned was in Murfreesboro, TN. We were kindly added to a 4 band bill at the last minute, and really didn’t know what to expect. As it turned out, we were set to play with 4 radical bands, the venue was huge and the sound was huger. It was one of the largest crowds we played to on tour, and the people there seemed to be pretty enthusiastic about us.
ZAKK: No horror stories really. Our best tour yet for sure. When you play every night of the week you have to expect some dead nights, there’s no way around it. The general reaction however was good all around! We got to play for an all ages crowd that received us quite well at a house show in Flagstaff. SF is always a blast. The two nights we did in Tennessee were amazing!! The two nights in New York were exceptional. Boston is like our second home as a band so its always awesome. All in all though it was a blast ! Seeing old friends and family as well as making so many new friends all over this big beautiful strange country we live in is the best.
2) I mentioned in the first interview that I loved the breadth of artists you played with in the past and those that were scheduled for this tour. As music fans, which bands caught your eye and ear this time? Are there artists out there we should look for and listen to if they come around?
VERN: Geez… this one is tough, because we played with pretty great bands almost every single night. We were honored to play the six days in the Northeast with VAZ, who is one of the greatest bands ever. We played two nights with the almighty Hepa/Titus. We got to play with Ghetto Blaster in San Diego. They always put on such a wonderful, animated show, and even provided party favors when we played with them! We were thrilled to play with Bludded Head in Dallas and ended up playing again with them in Columbus, Ohio which was a very special treat. We got to play with our pals Tijuana Goat Ride again, they shred so hard. In Murfreesboro we played with a band called Forest of Tygers. They are an amazing two-piece – loud as hell and very intense. Their tape came with a knife too…’cause they’re super bad-ass.
Insect Ark in New York was probably my personal favorite new band we played with on this tour. Insect Ark is Dana from Angels of Light doing an amazing one-woman act with a bass, a lap-steel guitar and computer programing. The music she makes is absolutely beautiful — lots of thick beautiful layers of sound. .To continue the list Acoustic Guillotine and Conetrauma in Iowa City, The Funeral and the Twilight and Strange in Minneapolis, Fando, Echo Beds in Denver, Cornered By Zombies, Burnt Books, this list could and should be way bigger, but my memory is not serving me well. Really, almost every night we played, I got more and more excited about people making music.
RION: Yowzers… Every show on tour had a killer line-up in the sundry mixed-nut style you and we so enjoy, and I don’t think there was a show where there wasn’t a band I think you should check out. We played a string of northeast shows with VAZ, and getting to see them like 6 nights in a row was not enough. I got withdrawls from not hearing those songs after our shows with them were over. So a few bands that I hadn’t seen yet and totally killed it.
Hive Bent, who we played with in Baltimore, were an awesome two-piece with great songs, and sounded so cool. We played Iowa City with our pals Acoustic Guillotine and got blown away by their friend’s daughter’s band, Conetrauma. I’m also stoked we got to play, not one, but TWO shows with Bludded Head, who’s tape is still in my tape deck since we got home. Burnt Books from SC kill it! I’m sure you’ll be hearing/seeing them in the near future, cuz they have a new album coming out sometime soon. Canada’s The Great Sabatini are ripping and its always reassuring to find that folks on the same page of this Mad Magazine of life are out there. Dana in Insect Ark was everything I hoped it would be, loud and fuckin mesmerizing!
And holy fuck, Forest of Tygers from Tennessee. Loud, brutal, AND sweet as hell. Minneapolis obviously has always bred some killer weird tunes, and Strange proved thats still a thing. They opened our show there and fuckin killed it. Then Funeral and the Twilight played last, brought the room back to life… and re-killed it! As for some bands we’ve known and love, San Diego’s Ghetto Blaster, LA’s Hepa/Titus write really fuckin awesome songs that stick to my brain, Tijuana Goat Ride, Fando, Towers, Cornered by Zombies, Same Sex Dictator, Echo Beds… maybe just check out every band we played with, and try to catch them if they’re coming through your town.
ZAKK: Man… We played with so many amazing bands on this tour, it was quite an honor. Hepa/Titus is one my favorite bands right now definitely check them out if you haven’t. We did six shows with VAZ and they are scary good. Bludded Head and Space Beach!!! But you were at that show so I don’t really need to tell you that but, for anyone else reading this please do yourself a favor. Pygmy Lush was awesome! Insect Ark is so good !!!!! Ghetto Blaster. If you have the opportunity to see Ghetto Blaster from San Diego do it! You’ll thank us later. The Great Sabitini !! Cornered by Zombies is a two piece instrumental shredding squad!! Fando from Albuquerque is always a pleasure to watch. Same Sex Dictator ! Tijuana Goat Ride ! Funeral and the Twilight ! Strange was awesome. I’m definitely leaving some other bands out that should be on this list.. but there ya go.
I don’t want you to divulge any prize Prizehog secrets, but I’m slowly turning into a pedal junkie and Rion’s board caught my eye. Rion, with effects for both vocal processing and guitar, is there a pedal or combo you use that brings a sinister grin to your face? Are you using stock pedals, custom work, or tweaking your own? Likewise Vern, is there a piece of your setup that brings a twinkle to your eye? As I don’t want you to feel left out Zakk, what’s the drum or cymbal that you think best exemplifies “Prizehog” in your kit? (Sorry man, I know it’s not the same. Feel free to berate me.)
RION: I really enjoy stomping on a Big Muff. I’ve been using them forever, and I don’t think that’s ever gonna change. Most of my pedals are buyable at any pedal shop, or at least replaceable sound-wise. It’s ridiculous to realize that my ‘elaborate array of pedalry’ is really all distortion and delay. Nothing fancy. It just looks like a lot.
VERN: When we first started playing, almost nine years ago, I had one synth and a few busted pedals. Now my set up is about as elaborate to set up as Zakk’s drum set, so by the time I get it assembled I feel like I built a transformer or something and I feel confident that any one thing I play with will sound burly. In short, all my stuff makes my eyes twinkle.
ZAKK: Haha. Well, everything has its place, and there may be more added to it by the time I see you again. There is no one piece of my kit that exemplifies Prizehog. Our gear needs us for that. I will take this opportunity to plug the master Pete Engelhart. He has been making metal percussion instruments for over 20 years I believe. I use a satellite drum he makes and people always ask me what it is.
What’s in the short and long term future for Prizehog? A deserved break? More touring behind Re-Unvent the Whool? Another recording?
VERN: Well, we’ve got a lot going on right now, actually. It feels pretty overwhelming! For the next few months, we will be playing quite a few shows, including some with friends we made on this recent tour, The Funeral and the Twilight, Total Fest, and we are playing three days in the Northwest with A Minor Forest, which we are all thrilled about. We also are working on new goodies, and are planning to record as soon as we can. Probably another tour in the spring time, and hoping to get to Europe and Australia sometime next year as well.
RION: Prizehog’s near and distant futures are always busy and productive. There are a bunch of awesome shows we’re playing soon, one being Total Fest, and there’s always fun projects and new music to work on getting out into the world. There’s kind of no room to be taking breaks, because there’s always something to be done.
ZAKK: I’m going with “all of the above” on this one.
Lastly, what’s the story behind the Pokemon parody tour poster?
RION: Well, first of all, it has always been a dream for me to be a real Pokemon trainer, and my roommate Jazmyne made that dream come true by drawing us as such! But the idea that this tour really was going to be us as Pokemon trainers, traveling across the country to catch friends and family, new and old, while making a bunch more new friends, just made so much sense to me. Some people/bands you know and love, some you haven’t met and can’t wait to catch, others you find and kinda don’t need to catch them and you let them back into the wild, and some you never knew existed, and now that you caught them, you will love them forever.
VERN: Really, this Pokemon poster makes my 12-year old self so happy.
ZAKK: Gotta catch em’ all!!