19 Jul 2020

# 541 Interview with The Rabies

An Interview with The Rabies

I had the chance to interview the great people of The Rabies who brings us a new single after their last releases in 1982.

Special thanks goes out to George Faulkner who made it possible!

Here it is:

1 Please introduce yourself and your other band members.

George: I’m George, the singer.

Torin is the guitar player and songwriter.

Kevin plays bass, and John is the drummer. 

2 How did it happen that after 38 years, after your last two 7" records in 1982, you released another record?

George: It had been a few years since I had recorded something fast and loud. I missed it. We also noticed our 1982 singles were selling for close to $200 so we knew there would be an audience for something fresh.

Torin: For me, it was mostly about (My Girl’s a) Hologram, the A-side of our first single. I hadn’t heard it for decades, and when I listened again recently I finally understood why everyone loves it. Unlike nearly everything else I had written, it’s fun. Makes you smile. I wanted to see if we could come up with a worthy successor. And we did.

John: We send a group text each year on the first of every May.  It’s in reference to one of the lyrics in our old song Labor Day.  On this particular May first which was in 2019, we started talking about the old records and the spirit of the original band in the early days.  After a lot of reminiscing and jibber-jabbering, we decided to try hard to get back in that old headspace and try to recapture the fun and energy of Hologram.  After the recording went so well, we decided that to make it a real Rabies thing, we need to press it.

Kevin: We grew up together and as much as we live in different parts of the country, we are good friends and still have a strong bond.  When the idea came up to record a new record we were all excited to play together again. 

3 How did you get back together to reactivate the band? Did you still have contact over the years or was it a laborious search to get all band members together again?

George: We’ve known each other since we were kids, and went to the same schools growing up. We played together in various bands off and on up until about 1996 before we took a long break. We’ve remained friends and keep in touch. No magic to this reunion beyond the fact that we all still like each other after so long.  

Torin: If there’s no magic to this reunion, then there’s no magic to anything!

John: Once a Rabie, always a Rabie.  It’s like the mafia, once you’re in you never really get out.

Kevin: Two days in Brooklyn to play together and record a couple of songs was great fun; we knew it would be a blast and no one had hesitation about joining in.

4 The new record sounds, in terms of songwriting and sound, as if you hadn't stopped releasing records in 1982. Was it difficult to write songs again, which sounds the same as they did back then?

George: We actually did stop releasing vinyl records for a while, but we all stayed pretty active in music with various bands releasing cassettes and CDs, and playing live. My first love is vinyl though, and our first release way back was on vinyl. As John said, once we had the right songs ready, we all agreed we had to get back to where we started – by pressing a single. We also decided to be brutally honest with Torin as he presented song options to us, and to be open and collaborative (and to be patient with one another). But don’t misunderstand, Torin is responsible for 99% of the Rabies compositions you hear. I’m a big fan of talking it out in pre-production, but when we hit the studio I like keeping everyone in their respective lanes. I’m not a fan of producing by committee.

Torin: I looked at it as a lucky opportunity. 1982, when we released the Hologram single, was an amazing time for The Rabies. Then my songwriting went downhill, and we made all sorts of mistakes. To me, our recent reunion is like having a second chance at that fantastic first romantic relationship, except this time you know what you’re doing. In particular, now George, John, and Kevin are fully involved in the writing process, giving me invaluable, honest feedback on everything.

John: We made a very conscious group effort to make it sound seamless with the original Rabies sound.

Kevin: While it was a conscious effort to be consistent with the original sound of the Rabies, I think it’s simpler than that – this is what we sound like when we have fun playing together. 

5  What were your main influences for your music then? And what are they today?

George: I was a music junkie back then. Still am actually. But in 1981 when we formed, I was deep into NYC and UK punk and new wave. But, to me, the biggest influences were our friends and school mates that had bands. Not the kids with cover bands. The original bands. Teenagers writing their own original songs. It blew my mind that this was an option, could sell, and could draw a crowd. The biggest band that had members from our High School was called The Student Teachers. They were incredible. Influences on my most recent releases? The Ramones, Murry Wilson, The Lyres, and Harry Nilsson. 

Torin: The Student Teachers were terrific, and their singles still sound great. Also, Michael Shelley’s band, the Imposters, were a big influence (Michael is now a D.J. at WFMU, but he grew up with us too). But I was also trying to mimic The Ramones, The Clash, and The Velvet Underground. Hologram was obviously a Ramones-style song. In the decades since then, I’ve listened to so much music, of so many different genres, that I can’t really narrow it down. If I had to, though, I’d say The Beatles.

John: I agree with George and Torin.  Our High School was really like no other.  For a period of about four or five years, there were a number of really cool bands playing original music.  We were just part of it and because we actually had a physical product, we were super popular.  For me, the biggest influences were The Beatles, The Who, The Clash, The Ramones, and also Bowie in a big way for all of us back then.

Kevin: I think we were all on the same page in the 1980s… and who knows how many Clash concerts we managed to squeeze in during that time.  But there were always other interests too, from Dylan to Elvis. I always loved rockabilly and one of the great pleasures of moving to Austin Texas in ’91 was discovering the joys of country swing, and two-steppin’ at the Broken Spoke.

6 The new record was released on Bolt records and Presidential records . Are these your own labels?

George: The Rabies started Presidential Records and then it hibernated after the second single until today. I started Bolt Records sometime in the mid-80s I think. Presidential is just for The Rabies. Bolt is for all of the music I have been a part of throughout my life, plus music from some bands led by friends throughout the years.

John: Presidential is to the Rabies what Swan Song was to Led Zeppelin.

Kevin: I think we liked the two different ways you could read the words Presidential Records, but also always loved the humor in the graphics of our ‘presidential seal’ and bolt’s powerful image – and it’s great to have joined forces with Bolt Records in the US, You Are the Cosmos in Spain, and Different Class Records in Portugal too! 

7 How did it come about that your two highly sought-after singles from 1982, are also being re-released? What I consider very gratifying is that even people with smaller purses can buy your records again.

George: Actually, only the (My Girl’s a) Hologram 7” 45 is being re-released as of now. A great label from Spain called You Are the Cosmos reached out to us and they were interested in doing the project. What’s great about this is it inspired us to find the original tapes and have producer and engineer, Peter Denenberg, re-create the mixes and properly digitize them. All previous reissues we did ourselves were from cassettes and vinyl. This will be the first time this single will be heard as (close to) as it was in the studio. We hope it sounds as good, or maybe even better, as the original pressing. Time will tell. But yes, we are really excited that people will be able to buy Hologram again on 7” vinyl at a more reasonable price. We don’t have any copies of the 1982 singes anymore anyway. They are really hard to find.

Kevin: It was wonderful that as we were planning this new record, sincere interest in the 1982 records reached the point where small labels started contacting us about reissues. Very fun!

8 Most of you never stopped making music and playing in bands or doing solo stuff. Please tell us a little bit about your music life during the Rabies hiatus.

George: It’s an addiction, I think. I’m one of those guys who just can’t stop making music, even though I have tried many times. I’m lucky, too. One of the very first things The Rabies agreed upon was to focus on recording originals, to try to only use professional producers in professional studios, and to release physical audio products (and not just be a bar and club act). Those decisions in 1981 were the right decisions, but they also introduced me to an industry – and some amazingly talented collaborators. After having been a music fan since childhood, I finally understood how it was done, and who was doing it. I needed it more and more. All of the bands I’ve worked with and all of the projects I’ve taken on have held on to a lot of that original Rabies approach. Keep writing, recording, and seek out pro collaborators. But, to answer your question, I’m currently re-recording the “lost songs” of Murry Wilson - father of the Beach Boys - for an album project. Right now though, it’s all about The Rabies.

Torin: I’ve done a number of projects over the years, but really nothing compared with the Rabies at our best. George, Kevin, John, and I have a musical chemistry that I’ve never found with any other group. But one might be worth mentioning. A couple of years ago, I recorded some of my best post-Rabies songs, mostly at home, with minimal instrumentation—mostly just acoustic guitar. George sang them all. I released it on a CD called, “The Quiddities: Songbook 1”.

John: After the Rabies broke up, I hung up my drumsticks and made a declaration that from now on I am a guitar player.  Well, I wound up playing guitar like a drummer and after a ten-year hiatus, I wound up back on the drums and jamming with friends.  The Rabies also reunited for our 30th anniversary for one show only in NYC which was a blast.

Kevin: The highlight of my music life was our 30th reunion show in NYC. It was on the anniversary of our playing at CBGBs in 1981. Playing for our fans from the past along with playing for a whole set of new fans was special.

9 Are the Rabies playing live again or is it just a studio project?

George: We’re not sure. It’s hard to avoid, but with the pandemic still peaking in the United States, I don’t think we’re going anywhere, anytime soon.

Torin: When it’s safe, I hope we’ll play, maybe for our 40th anniversary next year. We played at a cool club in NYC, The Living Room, for our 30th, and it was fantastic.

John: Japan 2021!

Kevin: After the reunion in NYC at The Living Room in 2011 we committed to a 60th reunion in 2041, but I’m hopeful that we’ll be playing live sometime before then…. ‘celebrate the end of the pandemic with The Rabies’

10 We are living in a difficult world right now. Does this influence your songwriting and lyrics?

Torin: Possibly, but I’m definitely not trying to comment on the dire state of the world. More than ever, I’m trying to write lyrics that are both honest—giving expression to feelings I’ve actually had—and positive.

George: There is an immediacy and innocence to the Rabies' sound. We care a lot about what’s happening in the U.S and the world and are each actively doing our part to make positive change in our respective communities. In our music, however, we have learned over the years that we are best at bringing some immediate positivity and music to make you smile. Go to Dylan or Prince for a brilliant meal to savor. We’re a fast, sugary dessert in my opinion.  

Kevin: Like George said, I’m so happy for us all that we have poets like Dylan who can help us metabolize and understand our world and call us to action.  That said, I hope that a more just and post-pandemic world will also be one where we will be prioritizing being with the folks that we care about.  Reuniting personally and musically was such a strong social occasion for the four of us, and making time for The Rabies will, I hope, be part of that re-prioritization. 

11 The cover picture shows a very big Roy Lichtenstein influence. How did it come about?

George: We used David V. Hughes, the same artist who designed our first two singles in 1982. He has come a long way since then (laughter). I think he was maybe 16 or 17 years old when he did the first two singles. But to answer your question, although The Rabies stayed close and gave feedback on the work as Dave presented it throughout the process, it was all him.

Kevin: When the notion of having Dave Hughes design the cover came up, and when he was excited about participating again, we were all keen.  It felt right, and we were thrilled with Dave’s work, which like the songs felt consistent with where we came from, but current at the same time.

12 Please tell us, where can we buy or download your records?

George: Digitally? All the usual services. BoltRecords.net, Bandcamp, Discogs, iTunes, Spotify, etc. Or, if you like record store shopping and buying vinyl, Record Grouch and Rebel Rouser (Brooklyn), Record Surplus (Los Angeles), NAT Records (Tokyo), and My Mind’s Eye (Cleveland). They are all amazing record shops.

13 Finally, what does the future look like for The Rabies? Are there any plans for further new records, for example an LP ? Or a world tour or the first band to play on Mars?

George: I’ve been on a singles kick since childhood. I like EPs too. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great album, but they are really hard to do well and incredibly time-consuming. What always bites me in the ass though is that an LP basically costs the same to press on vinyl as a single or an EP. Singles are not exactly cost-effective on the manufacturing side, even though they are cool as hell.

Torin: I want The Rabies to record many more singles, all up the standard set by Hologram and Adderall Girl. Then maybe collect them on an LP. And I want to play live again, definitely, if not on Mars then at least in New York.

John: The Rabies really only work in miniature.  The 7” format suits us perfectly.  Get in, get out.

Kevin: The whole experience has been great fun and I suspect that we’ll be doing something…

14 Thank you very much for taking the time for this little interview! I wish you all the best for the future!

George: Thank you!

John: Ditto

Torin: What they said.

Kevin: Thanks. I hope that you like the record. (Oh yes i do !! Razor)


The Rabies on Bandcamp 
Bolt Records