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Flesh Panthers interview with Ryan Zombotron, Mark and Dan

If you’ve read many of my interviews you’ve probably noticed that I have a deep love for music from certain geographical locations.  It doesn’t so much have to do with a certain genre of music I’m looking for, but rather some sort of prevailing spirit and ignored sense of talent that rises through the sounds to greet me.  Chicago has been pumping out some of the best bands in the world for decades now but the underground scene there is exploding all of a sudden, genre shattering, mind numbing talent seeping and oozing from every pore of the cities seedy-underbelly!  And while there might be more and more talent a lot of people aren’t getting their dues, or the respect and attention, they deserve.  There aren’t a lot of bands out there that are genuinely fun to listen to but the Flesh Panthers are without a doubt an electrifying listen.  They make sure they take you along with them to the party, no dickhead high school buddies ditching you here!  It’s just an extended play slab of a night out on the town with your pals.  So get ready for a long night of drinking and partying, smoking until your incoherent and jumping around until your legs are numb.  Or you can just put on the cassette tape and feel like you’re tagging along, because while a lot of bands claim they play punk-rock, most of them wouldn’t know good rock and roll if it but them square in the ass.  Flesh Panthers draw inspiration from some of the purest and most interesting psychedelic rock’n’roll out there.  With heavy psych rock running head first into a wall of distortion, fuzz, feedback and some serious punk attitude The Flesh Panthers are just out and out fun!  So if you missed the party or are just another one of the curious and uninitiated read on and learn everything you needed to know about the band, so long as you’re a human and not “another one of those Flesh Panthers” that is!

What is the band’s lineup?  Is this your original lineup?

Ryan:  I sing and play guitary type stuff, Lucas really plays the guitar.  Dan plays the drums and Mark does the bass.  But we will all probably be playing keyboards soon.

Are any of you in any other bands?  Have you released any material with other bands?

Mark:  I'm in Free Drugs.  Everything we've released is free on Bandcamp.
Dan:  I was in a band for about eight years called Most Genuine Expression, we put out a couple records on a local label called Cassette Deck records.  Since then I’ve been in and out of projects but Flesh Panthers is the only band I’m currently in.

Where are you originally from?

Ryan:  Crystal Lake, Illinois.
Mark:  South.
Dan:  I am originally from the Northwest burbs (Palatine).  I have since moved to Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood.

Where is the band currently located at?  How would you describe the local scene there?

Ryan:  Chicago.  Everybody here just wants to set up in a living room, crank it to eleven and party till your friends hate you.  That’s what we like.  All the bands here know the clubs are scammers.  We’re all scrabbling to put out these shitty little tapes ‘cause that's all we can afford.  There’s a couple bedroom labels putting out vinyl of the cool Chicago bands but they just can't keep up with all of it.  We’re all doing these tapes because we have something to say, even if it's just "were fucked up and we need more beer".  Either way it's death or glory.  Nobody is waiting around for anybody to pay attention to the Chicago scene.  We’re just cranking out runs of a hundred noisy tapes like McDoubles at fucking McDonald’s.
Mark:  Chicago.  Way better than Los Angeles.
Dan:  Logan square area of Chicago.  The scene is saturated with talented groups of all genres.  Bands are nice to each other.  It’s a friendly competitive environment.  If you pop in to a show on a whim around town you are most likely going to enjoy yourself.

Are you very involved with the local scene?

Ryan:  Yeah, we’re always going to shows and playing in people’s living rooms and basements.  We put out our shitty little tapes, but we buy them too.  We are genuinely interested in what’s going on around us.
Mark:  Enough to write, record, release and perform music.
Dan:  I just try to go to as many local shows as I can.

Has the local scene played a large role in the history, sound or evolution of Flesh Panthers?

Ryan:  Definitely.  This band has been very spongy.  Sometimes I think I’ve done something really great and then I go and listen to somebody else's band and it's just like, fuck!  I really respect our peers’ tones, if Chicago is known for one thing its good tones.  We’ve covered some of our friends’ bands too, Pink Torpedo, Wet Heat, The Blast Eats, Gypsy Blood, Modern Day Rippers.
Dan:  We’ve all been in bands that have played around Chicago so it’s hard to say that the local scene hasn’t influenced us.

When and how did you meet?  What led you to start Flesh Panthers?

Ryan:  I met Lucas at a party at his house when he was in The Hundredaires.  We were jamming on Chuck Berry and The Sonics while everybody else was getting bored.  That spoke to me at the time.  With Dan, we got fucked before a big show, Tutu And The Pirates end of the world show.  Our drummer bailed on us.  Dan came in and learned all the songs in a week and played them better than before.  We even did a Nirvana cover, which pissed some people off.  A couple days later it was New Year’s Eve and the next week we recorded the EP.
Mark:  I met Dan at a punk house in Normal called The Kitchen and the rest of the guys through debaucherous activity.
Dan:  Ryan and Miles started the group and later on Lucas joined the band.  I met Lucas through partying.  Down the line their original drummer moved away, I stepped in and haven’t looked back.

What does Flesh Panthers mean or refer to?

Ryan:  I had a dream one night, and in the dream someone asked me "are you a human or just another one of those flesh panthers"?  At the time we were looking for anything that sounded fierce and dangerous and I guess that fit well enough.
Mark:  Sex.

I don’t like to label or classify music, how would you describe Flesh Panthers’ sound to our readers?

Ryan:  We call ourselves party punk, or at least that's how we see ourselves, that's how we feel.  We’re definitely free; nobody has a hold over us.  We’re not just doing it for the punks, everybody can join the party and it’s not exclusive.  Everybody knows life is bullshit.  That’s what we sing about.
Mark:  Punk rock.  That's what it is, man.
Dan:  I always say “Party Punk” if people ask, but it’s pretty straight forward rock‘n’roll.

Can you tell us about who some of your personal influences are?  What about as a band rather than just personally?

Ryan:  Okay, The Velvet Underground, The Clash, Jam, Slade, Nirvana, The Young Rascals, The Spits, Germs, The Kinks, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Wilson Picket, Chuck Berry, Black Flag, John Lee Hooker, The Libertines and The Strokes.  Otis Redding, Patti Smith Group.  BB King, Howlin’ Wolf, Only Ones, Oasis, The Meat Puppets, The Minute Men.  Trex, Void.  The Temps, Four Tops, The Supremes.  Big Youth.  Eater, Slaughter and The Dogs, David Bowie.  Small Faces, Graham Parker, Led Zeppelin and all punk rock.  All of it.  There’s more but those are the big ones. 
Mark:  The Clash, The Jam, Joe Jackson, Richard Hell.
Dan:  Drum-wise I grew up listening to NOFX, Rancid, Chocking Victim, Refused, Propagandhi, Lightning Bolt, Dakota/Dakota, the Lawrence Arms and Desaparecidos.

Can you talk a little bit about Flesh Panthers’ writing process?  Is there a lot of jamming or does someone come in with a more finished product to share with the rest of the band?

Ryan:  There’s both going on.  Sometimes I record my ideas and then bring it to the band, sometimes we jam on a cool idea and sometimes we just need a break from the set so we play some new shit.  But we always go with what feels right or what’s most interesting.  Lately it’s been democratic and we have been challenging each other, bringing in our own flavors and trying to think of crazy shit.  I think it's made us write better songs.  Our next tape is gonna be wild as fuck.
Mark:  Well, first there's a lot of beer and grass and the practice space smells a little.  But once we've gotten used to that someone plays something and another joins in.
Dan:  I’d say Ryan or Lucas come in with something in mind, like the bare bones version of what the song will become.  Then we run through it and add or remove parts we think sound good.  It’s definitely a collaborative effort but we usually start with a solid jumping off point.

Do you enjoy recording?  Some bands love it and it drives other bands completely insane!

Ryan:  I love it.
Dan:  I personally love it.  The part that drives me insane is when you hear the mistakes you made on a record over and over again.  So you have to make sure you are tight and not to settle on a garbage take.
Mark:  I love it when it drives me insane.

You just released a self-titled EP on cassette March 16th; let’s talk about the album a little bit.  Who recorded it?  Where was it recorded?  What kind of equipment was used?  Who’s releasing it?

Ryan:  Brian at Two States.  Two States is a great studio and Brian was really cool.  I wanted a lot of feedback and noisiness.  We made it raw.  No patching in or anything, we just cranked it out.  There’s a sitar in there somewhere.  Exxotic Aquatic Tapes released it.  They’re the Nonnie Perry people.  They get the whole DIY noise thing.

What about 10 Cigarettes your track from the Sexy Babies Across America compilation?

Ryan:  That was the first thing we recorded, so at first it was like, "wow we recorded this shitty little song and now it's on a comp, we are so awesome!  This is gonna be so easy"!  Dead wrong.  It took a minute to really add it all up, and we’re still figuring things out.  I’m glad those guys put it on their CD.

Are there any plans for a full-length follow up anytime soon?

Ryan:  Our next release will be via Tall Pat records, not sure how many inches yet.

What other music have you released?  Is any of it currently available?

Ryan:  We released another album on Cold Slice Cassettes, but it's out of print and staying that way.

Where’s the best place for our readers to purchase your music?

Mark:  The World Wide Web.
Ryan:  At shows, most of the records stores in Chicago still have it and Bandcamp.

What do you have planned as far as touring goes this year?

Dan:  It’s always on my mind.  Any time you can leave your hometown and meet new people, drink beer and play rock’n’roll songs it’s a good time.  I always say there are three steps to being in a band: write, record, and play shows.  The fourth one is profit, but that never really happens.
Ryan:  A regional tour in the fall.

You guys have played with some of my favorite bands out there right now including The Hussy who have a super special place in my heart and on my turntables, who are some of your favorite acts that you’ve a chance to share a bill with?

Ryan:  Big Clour, Slushy and Pink Torpedo.
Dan:  Absolutely Not (the band).
Mark:  I once played with Leftover Crack when I was in high school.  That shit was crazy.

Do you have a funny or interesting story from a live show that you’d like to share with us?

Ryan:  We were playing the basement of this jazz club with Uh Bones and Rainbow Gun Show.  It was a pretty crappy set up; really shitty house equipment.  For some reason the mic I was using was sending shocks through my broken tooth and mildly electrocuting me.  I’d go to sing a lyric and bam!  Shock wave!  It was fucking me up.  I tried to ignore it but there was no way.  Zap, zap, zap!  So I lost it and smashed my guitar on the floor.  It was right after that Green Day guy smashed his guitar, so it was kind of a joke.  The guitar I was playing I had bought for cheap at a garage sale, it was pink and crappy.  I never really liked it and had thought of getting rid of it, I wasn’t planning or anything but it felt right and we all had a laugh over it.
Dan:  I had just joined the band and Ryan goes ape shit at almost every.  I got to watch him stage dive at the Empty Bottle and it looked like he wasn’t going to get up, but he did.  It was pretty epic.

Where’s the best place for our readers to keep up on the latest news from Flesh Panthers like album releases and upcoming shows?

Ryan:  Dan’s diary
Dan:  Ryan’s diary.

With all of the different mediums for releasing music these days I’m always curious why artists choose the ones that they do.  Why a cassette release as opposed to CD or vinyl?

Ryan:  We party.  We are the people’s musicians.  But mostly were broke.  There is no budget for DIY musicians.  Cassette are the people’s medium.

I love having a digital copy of the album to listen to but there is something irreplaceably magic about having something physical to hold in your hands.  Something about having a picture to look at and liner notes to read while you listen to an album that makes it a much more complete experience.  Do you have any such connection to physical releases?

Mark:  Oh shit yeah.  I don't feel like you really own it unless you can hold it in your hands.  It's all about the collection.  No one cares about your digital music library.  You gotta be able to display it.
Ryan:  Everybody loves nostalgia.  Sure, paper was great.  Now I just use it to wipe my ass.

Digital music is quickly changing the face of the music industry to say the least but it’s exposed a lot of people to a great deal of music that they otherwise wouldn’t have ever heard.  How do you feel about the rapidly changing face of the industry and music distribution?

Ryan:  I feel music will regress.  People are starting to realize the importance of locally grown foods and beers.  I think music will follow.
Dan:  I think it’s great.  It’s so easy these days for a band to be a one-stop shop.  They can write the music, record the music, and distribute the music all on their own.  The internet has connected us all and it has definitely changed the way people hear and share music and I think that’s great.

Do you have a music collection?  If so can you tell us a little bit about it?

Ryan:  Part 70's Brit LA punk, part 80's hardcore and power pop.  Part soul glam and 60's pop with a bunch of Motown and classic rock.  The rest is blues and doo wop, CDs, records, tapes, VHS; used to have a sweet Boston 8-track.
Mark:  I just bought a Clarence Clemons and the Red Bank Rockers vinyl the other day.  It's pretty killer.  My vinyl is mostly the rock‘n'roll I grew up with and a little new-wave and punk rock in there. My CD collection is mostly punk with some east-coast hip-hop.  I have a VHS collection too, wanna hear about that?
Dan:  I have been really into Death Grips lately; I can’t really stop listening to their album.  Some new pop-punk bands have really grabbed my ear as well, like Dear Landlord, The Menzingers, Hop Along And Glocca Morra.  I’m still listening to some folk-punk bands like Andrew Jackson Jihad and Kind Of Like Spitting.  I have been into T. Rex a lot as well.  Otis Redding, James brown, Sam Cooke.

I ask everyone I talk to this question so please feel free to list as many people as you’d like, I am always trying to keep up with the flood of amazing music that is out there.  Who should I be listening to from your local scene or area that I might not have heard of?

Ryan:  Pink Torpedo and Slushy.
Mark:  Free Drugs, Bike Cops, Gypsy Blood, Swimsuit Addition and The Night Brigade if they bring it back one of these days.
Dan:  The Please & Thank Yous, Pet Symmetry, The Brokedowns, Meat Wave, Wide Angles and Paper Mice.

What about nationally and internationally?

Ryan:  Slutever, Jsbx.

Is there anything that I missed or you’d like to talk about?

Ryan:  Lucas wants to talk about boners.

(2012)  Various Artists – Sexy Babies Across The Wasteland – Cold Slice Cassettes (Flesh Panthers contribute the track Ten Cigarettes)
(2012)  Flesh Panthers – Quick And Dirty Cassette – Cold Slice Cassettes (Limited to 100 copies OOP)
(2013)  Flesh Panthers – Flesh Panthers EP – Cassette Tape – Exxotic Aquatic Tapes (Limited to 100 copies)

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2013
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