Fall Silent is an American band based out of Reno, NV. Their sound ranges from influences of death metal, punk, and hardcore. In this interview, I chatted with their vocalist, Levi Watson, where we discuss their upcoming album, what it’s like to be a math teacher in a prolific band, poison oak, and much much more.
Before we dive into the nitty-gritty, introduce yourself to those who don't know what’s up!
This is Levi Watson, vocals. I have been in the band since the beginning. Damon is on drums, Danny is on guitar, and Joe is on bass. I will answer most of the questions. If I need backup, then I will defer to the other fellas.
It's a pleasure to talk with you, Levi, and I appreciate your time. So, tell me, what've you guys been up to since your repress of Superstructure back in 2017? A lot has been happening in the world since then!
The 2017 repress was done with a full Japanese translation for the CD insert for release over there for a tour we did in Japan in the summer of 2017. Pete Menchetti (Sticker Guy, 702 Records) and Jon Kortland (Satan's Pimp Records, Iron Lung) put the vinyl version of that release out in 1999, while I put out the CD on RPT.
Also, in 2017, we put out a 7 inch of new material on Revelation Records called Cart Return. At the time, the band was just Me, Damon, and Danny. We had just canned our bass player, Justin Spalin (who played with us in the Drunken Violence years), because he was sort of going out of his mind with drinking, drugs, and relationships with awful people. Danny played the bass and guitar parts on that release.
Shortly after recording that album, we got Joe Foley on bass, who helped write and record You Knew I Was Poison.
From 2017 until now, we haven't done too much. We have played shows in Reno here and there and just sort of lived our lives. It is much more complicated to do a punk band in your mid-40s than when you are in your 20s.
Joe opened up his own barbershop, Commonwealth Barber Company in Reno, and it is the best. He and Damon are both barbers. Danny makes tattoos and I am a middle school math teacher.
A lot has happened in the world since 2017, especially in the last year, which has made things very difficult for bands. I don't think that it has affected Fall Silent too much though. Sure, we probably would have played a few shows since last March; You Knew I Was Poison may have come out a bit earlier, but overall, I think that the band would be doing the same.
Damon, Danny, and I have done this band, off and on, since 1995. I think we probably will still do it in the future. No pandemic or awful political situation can kill Fall Silent.
It sounds like all of you are doing well during these hard times and that's great to hear. I bet being a middle school teacher during all of this has been an interesting challenge! When you say it's more complicated to do a punk band in your mid-40s, what are some of those complications that you face?
I am doing well during the pandemic. Fortunately, I have been able to work continuously throughout this time and have not missed a paycheck. My wife's business was only closed for 10 weeks, so that wasn't too bad. Also, I don't really like being around people that much, so that has been nice.
Doing a band as a 45-year-old man is difficult because I keep comparing what we are doing now to what we were doing in the late ‘90s. When we were in our 20s, that is all I did. I worked so that I could earn money to put out our records or buy a van and tour.
I would wake up in the morning and spend all day doing Fall Silent stuff. There were a few points in time where we all lived in the same house and would always be doing band stuff. During this time, we were the most productive both in writing and in playing shows.
Danny and I both have families with two kids each, and that has replaced doing the band as we did in the ‘90s. Fatherhood is just as challenging and rewarding as doing the band full time, but it leaves much less time to do anything else. It is very difficult to organize tours or even practice schedules.
Furthermore, by the time we usually get time to do band practice, it is like 9pm and we are tired as fuck.
Also, for me, I sometimes feel a bit foolish running around on a stage screaming and carrying on. If 19-year-old me saw 45-year-old me trying to do Fall Silent songs, then 19-year-old me would totally make fun of 45-year-old me.
Since we have been back at this as older men, live shows have not really felt the same as they did when we were younger (Japan excluded).
It's amazing though that through all this time and all the stuff you have to juggle, you guys never gave up on the dream and that's what matters. You've brought up Japan a couple of times now, what is it that separates them from the rest of the world?
The Japanese hardcore scene treats punk/hardcore like it was when I first started going to shows in the early ‘90s. In the hardcore scene, there is much more fun and energy. When we play shows there, the people in the crowd have fun and don't give a shit about anything but the music and energy. They dance, smile, and love fast/aggressive music.
Playing shows was much more enjoyable there, for me. I wanted to keep playing because the energy I gave was reciprocated and made me want to get more at the moment. Since we have been back (since 2016), shows have not been that fun in our hometown or even in California.
No one seems to be enjoying themselves when we play and 10 minutes in, I just want to be done with it.
I've heard the Japanese hardcore scene is definitely on another level than here in the States. Who are some bands out there in Japan that you're fuckin' with? Also, what do you think is lacking in the hardcore scene here in the states that the Japanese scene makes up for?
Some Japanese bands that I really fuck with are Statecraft, Birthplace, Endzweck, Superstructure, Loyal to the Grave, Numb, Nervous Light of Sunday, Saigan Terror, Friendship, Tiger, Fight It Out, Palm, Tragic Film, Isola, Razing Staff, and many more that I can't remember off the top of my head.
I don't know why I dig the Japanese scene more right now. Maybe America is jaded. I am confident in the statement that America has created the best hardcore, punk, and metal bands that the world has ever seen.
Since the 1970s, it has been fairly easy to see some of these bands in your own home city (especially on the East Coast). It has made the American punk/hardcore/metal fan lose the excitement of a live show because it has been too easy. It is like a heroin addict, always trying to chase that first high.
Eventually, you are just trying to keep from getting sick. Probably not the best analogy, but that is all I got. Maybe the COVID pandemic will bring some of that excitement back into the American scene.
I have a theory that the pandemic is going to bring out some sort of new wave of music, art, film, etc. So I’m stoked when this shit is over to see what happens in the world of art and music. Do you mind talking more about the significance of the track "Two Plus Two is Five" from the new album? I feel like there are some layers there, especially with it being your lead single.
Fall Silent has never had a “single”. We have always just put out whole records at a time. It makes me feel weird to talk about a single in reference to Fall Silent.
Anyhow, the fact that I chose it for the first song that people should hear has nothing to do with the lyrics. I chose it for a few reasons. The first is that I think it shows all of the different aspects of our band in one song. Sort of like an overture.
There really isn’t an intro, so it quickly gets right into the song, which is good for people who have never heard us before. It has fast parts, it has good double bass parts, and it has a big epic outro. It is a quintessential Fall Silent song.
Lyrically, it is just my observation about the literal interpretation of the bible and how that can be very problematic. What I do in the song is quote some “facts” that the bible puts out and then I counter it with “Two Plus Two is Five."
We all know that two plus two is not five, and we all can accept that, but the Bible puts forth equally ridiculous stories and ideas, and people actually believe it. Some people actually built a rendition of Noah’s Ark outside of Cincinnati. It is super funny.
I am not trying to diss religious people. Some people need to believe something bigger than themselves because they have some other unresolved issues from childhood or something. Usually father issues. I am just pointing out that we shouldn’t believe everything that is told to us. Always question.
Also, I have taught math for 15 years, so the 2+2=5 is funny for me.
Question everything is what I like to say! Especially during these times where there is so much false information being distributed to us. What is it like being a math teacher and a vocalist of a punk band?
I always really looked up to my teachers growing up. I never thought I would be a teacher as a kid, but I respected the profession and really enjoyed school. I was always good at math and really like the discipline and organization of it.
Certain simple rules that apply from elementary school math to college math, and if you know them, you can almost do all levels proficiently.
Now teaching math to middle school kids and high school kids is more about entertaining than about teaching about math. Many of my students don't really like math and are just going through the motions to pass the class and move on.
I like to try and change that perspective and get them to really enjoy math and want to excel at it. Thus, I need to be somewhat of an entertainer, in a way, to keep the interest and motivate them to engage with me. This happens during punk shows sometimes as well.
I can remember times when we were playing live shows and I noticed that we (crowd and band) are all just going through the motions of attending a punk show. This is when you really need to pull something out and do something unexpected or entertaining to get people interested again. Like slapping a kid in the front or saying something outlandish or spitting on someone.
Trying to do something memorable and bring people back into the moment is a skill that any math teacher or vocalist in a band needs to have.
Also, being around young people is always fun. School and punk music are filled with young people or young-minded people, and they are way more fun to hang around than stuffy old mother fuckers.
Speaking of unexpected/entertaining moments, what's one in particular that stands out more than the rest?
We have played a lot of shows all over the world, but one instance that was particularly funny was in 1999 in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
We got on a big show called the Wilkes-Barre Fest. I think it was at a roller-skating rink or something. A few weeks earlier we were in the Midwest. I think it was out in the farmlands of Illinois or Nebraska or something.
We were at some church or VFW or something and we had played a show and people started shooting off fireworks in the dirt parking lot. I had to pee really bad, so I went off in some bushes and took a piss.
Over the course of the next few weeks, I started to itch really bad in the ditch of my right arm. It started to get really bad and all of these boils and lesions started to form. It crept up and around my arm and up my neck.
The itching was incredible and I would wake up scratching my arm until it bled. By the time we arrived in Wilkes-Barre, I had resorted to wrapping my arm in an Ace bandage to keep myself from scratching so much. It was gross.
So we get to the show and we ended up playing right after Tristeza, which was an instrumental/ambient band that was actually really awesome. The problem was that when they played, all of the people sat on the floor to watch them. They are a very dreamy type band and they play for a really long time, so it made sense that the kids sat on the floor.
They finished and we set up to play, and all of the kids resumed sitting on the floor. I was pretty miserable at the time, due to my arm, and was frustrated that we were playing with a bunch of sad kids sitting on the floor. I told them to get up and get moving and was pretty obnoxious about it.
About halfway through our set, the Ace bandage fell off and revealed my diseased, flesh-eaten arm. I started hugging all of the people in the crowd and wiping the pus and ooze all over everyone close to me just to fuck with them. They were disgusted and many of them left. It was a pretty fucked up thing to do, but I thought it was hilarious.
It turns out that the bush I was pissing in was poison sumac, which is a variant of poison oak. There was no google or WebMD to look up symptoms or anything so I had no clue what it was. I ended up going to the hospital that night and got some shots that cleared it up in a week or so.
That show always stuck out in my mind. I still have the Spine and Sensory CD that I bought that day from Tristeza, and every time I hear that album, it reminds me of that show.
Holy shit! You brutal bastard! [Laughs] I bet those kids didn't forget either. With regards to Tristeza, who are some bands that you've been currently jiving with?
I am not very up on new music and I mostly fall back into things that I have listened to a million times, but there are a few bands that are putting out new music that has got my attention lately.
Gehenna has a new LP in the works which will be coming out on Iron Lung Records in the near future. Zombie Apocalypse, Section H8, Damien Done, and Regional Justice Center are all bands that are doing some cool shit lately and are currently active bands. Well, I mean if they were able to play shows, then they could.
Lately, I have gotten back into some old hip-hop from when I was younger that really got me going. Organized Konfusion, BDP, KRS-One, Public Enemy, Eric B. and Rakim.
Oh shit, I almost forgot -- check out $pace JUNK Vs. Wasteoid Loser Club on Soundcloud. Best rap group to hit in years:
I feel you, man, I'm the same way. Good new music is few and far between these days and the pandemic isn't helping it either. In terms of new music though, let's talk about your guy’s new music! How would you describe the direction the band took on You Knew I Was Poison?
I am so proud of the new album. Each project that we have done is like one of our children. This is our 4th full-length record. This one is probably one of our fastest records. Damon did a really good job with the drums on this one and the fast parts really cook.
The new album is fast, its pissed, and it sounds great. This is the only album in our catalog that has Joe Foley on bass guitar. He came to our group in late 2016 and has brought a freshness and new set of eyes and ears to the group that we desperately needed.
Joe has a great sense of figuring out what is cool and what is wack. We were lucky to have him in the writing and recording of this record.
Danny shreds on this album, as always, but this time he has added some guitar solos and tricks that are new to the Fall Silent sound.
If I had to sum up the album in 18 words, it would be explosion, fire, burning feces, maggoty, anxiety, jackhammer, swords, arrows, galloping horses with armor, lightning, lava, and tidal wave.
Hell yeah man! I know we're all stoked to listen to it and get lost in all its madness. It comes out in a few days so the wait is almost over! What was it like recording an album during a pandemic? Did you find it easier or harder?
We had the album recorded and finished by December of 2019. We didn't record the album in a pandemic. I do think that the pandemic certainly delayed the release of You Knew I Was Poison, but we had the whole thing wrapped up a full 3 months before this COVID thing happened.
I do believe that the delay in the release of the album and the lack of shows has done damage to our band though. Besides a live set we did for a benefit for our buddy Ryan Butler, we haven't practiced or even all been in the same vicinity of each other since 2019. Even for the Butler Fest recording, we didn't even get one practice in together before we played it.
I don't know. The lack of shows has taken the wind out of our sails a bit since we have finished the album. Hopefully, we can get the band back in working order so we can play shows again.
Wow! Kudos to you guys for knocking that out before the shit show began. In due time you guys will have your time to rock hard! I know myself, along with many others, are waiting. How has the pandemic affected your personal creative process?
This pandemic has really put a damper on my personal creative processes. In the last year, I don't really think I have done anything creative. Since March 2020, I have had to learn how to teach online, which is a disaster for me because I am not a tech guy, nor do I want to be.
It was a very intense learning time last year to try and navigate teaching from home. Also, my wife is a business owner in town, and her business was closed. This was very stressful for both of us because no one knew when this would end or had any answers to any questions. Each day was a mess of uncertainty and worry.
The media and ignorance of our country and how to deal with this made even going to the grocery store stressful.
We didn't receive any unemployment checks or stimulus packages. I am thankful that I had a job throughout, but I didn't have time to learn a new hobby or bake bread or some Instagram bullshit like that. Life was not Netflix and chill time for us. It was a mess.
We didn't meet up as a band during the last year, and relationships within the band are not strong. Thus, no writing, or practicing, or even talking that much between band members.
I say all of this, to say that, No, I have not been creative in the last year. This year has sucked the creative life out of my brain.
You’re not the only one man so I fuckin’ feel you. We definitely live in some difficult times, but things seem to sort-of-kind-of going back to normal. Hopefully, things are getting better for you and yours. With the release of You Knew I Was Poison what do you have planned next?
Well, next, we need to find rehearsal space and take all of our gear there. Then, we need to get enough inspiration to drag our asses down there and put together a solid 25 and 35-minute set. Then we need to relearn all of those songs in the set, and then practice them a few times a week until we are confident to play them in front of people.
I do believe that shows will be happening again by the summertime. Once they start up again, I would love to play those shows to help support our record. This record is being released in Japan on Retribution Records out of Tokyo, so I know that we can go and tour it over there if Damon and Danny are interested.
Those are the plans for Fall Silent, in my mind. I hope that they can come to fruition.
For me, personally, I would like a sandwich.
Well Levi, thank you for your time. It’s been a great conversation. Are there any final words you’d like to say as we wrap up?
Thank you, James. It has been a good conversation. I think we said it all. I would just like to add that I would like anyone who is reading this to go out and buy our new record or a shirt or something. Revelation Records did not have to put out our record. They could have said no, and it would have made sense.
We are old, we don't really match the style of music that made Revelation a legendary record label, and we don't tour like the other bands do. The fact that they still agreed to put out the record and promote it makes me very grateful for that trust.
You Knew I Was Poison is out now via Revelation Records.
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Tagged: fall silent