conversations with bianca

Talking Punk Records with Night Birds’ Brian Gorsegner!

Thanks to my friend Monty from DFL I found out about the awesome band, Night Birds! They play super cool surf punk with a kinda ‘80s hardcore punk spirit AND Night Birds’ vocalist, Brian Gorsegner, also happens to be a fellow super nerdy collecter of punk records and stuff! We recently nerded out about records, and chatted about new Night Birds’ music in the works as well as their ‘Who Killed Mike Hunchback?’ release. Be sure to catch Night Birds on their very first Australian tour! (dates at the bottom of the interview). I can’t wait to see them live!!

BRIAN GORSEGNER: We’re excited we’re coming to Australia! It was a really long-term crazy kind of goal that I didn’t really think would ever happen because, I don’t like to fly. Seeing as how the world is rapidly unwinding, I figured now is as good a time as any.

Is there a reason you don’t like to fly?

BG: I just feel like I’m going to die every time I get on an aeroplane; it just doesn’t feel natural. I don’t trust aeroplanes; you know, cars break down every day, what’s to stop a plane from breaking down when I’m a million feet in the air?!

Oh man, I’m glad you’re facing your fear and getting on a plane to come here.

BG: Yeah, well, we might die. I’m going to do it any way!

Why is music important to you?

BG: Music has always been my thing. You know when you’re a kid and you’re trying to work out where you belong in the world? You try playing sports, you try drugs or whatever… then you narrow down where you fit in and where you don’t. My parents were a little bit into music, but not a ton, so the first music that I really got into was music on the radio in the ‘90s, which was all just post-cursor to punk bands. All the stuff that I initially got into was inspired by Black Flag and all that kind of stuff, naturally that was the stuff that I got into next, Black Flag, Minor Threat. Punk was the first kind of music I really loved, my tastes got a lot broader after that. For me, getting into music was just getting into punk.

I was a teen and grew up in the ‘90s, so I can really relate.

BG: Cool. When I got into music and got into Nirvana, Soundgarden stuff like that, all those bands were extremely influenced by the Ramones, Void and Minor Threat… it’s one step away from punk, Nirvana is basically a punk band when you strip it down.

Definitely. You guys just got back from playing shows in Mexico and Texas; tell me about some interesting things you saw or experienced.

BG: I had never been to Mexico before, everyone was super friendly. You know what I did find interesting?

What?

BG: I don’t know if it’s true but, I got in a conversation with someone, they told me that heroin isn’t really a thing in Mexico. I found it really interesting because right now in America, heroin is an epidemic. They were like, you just can’t get it! I guess the Cartels made an agreement with the government and they basically keep heroin out of the whole country. Again, I don’t know if that’s an actual fact but, it sounded pretty legitimate.

Did anything related to what’s going on with the craziness of the U.S. government at the moment come up in conversations with people you met on your travels?

BG: Being an American I expected people, to rightly so, give us a hard time. I think people just assumed we were just against everything going on over here. Everyone was really, really friendly. I was really blown away at how friendly everyone was, maybe it’s because I currently feel really guilty to be from America, with all the shit that’s been going on here. I just expected some kind of backlash.

Have you been working on any new music of late?

BG: We’re working on a new record for Fat. We have half of it written, so there’s another half to go. We hope to have it out early next year.

I understand that you guys like to take your time with writing an album, writing pretty slowly?

BG: Yeah, we are really slow. For no real particular reason. We end up throwing a lot of songs away; if we write three songs we often throw two away. When you write like that, it takes a long time to put a whole album together.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that though. It’s good not to force creativity, if you let things happen organically, I find things work out best.

BG: Yeah, and because we don’t do this professionally we don’t have to put out a record. If it doesn’t happen for us organically, it isn’t going to happen at all. It’s not like we need a new album to come out because we need to do the full tour circuit again, and if we don’t put out a new record we’re not going to be able to feed our families. We actively practice when we’re actively writing songs. We tend to, so far in our band’s existence, put out records every couple of years. If we didn’t feel like we had a good enough record to go, we certainly wouldn’t release it because of some sort of schedule, that doesn’t really matter to us either way. As soon as you’re doing what you’re passionate about for a pay check, it’s only going to be a very short time until you lose some love for what you’re doing. We make okay money when we go on tour and sell our records and stuff but, I feel if I did it for a job, it would take one or two tours before I absolutely hated it—it would just suck all the love out of it.

Right now, it’s my favourite thing to do; I love writing songs and I love going on tour because I don’t have to do those things, it’s my choice. We tour where we want because we want to tour there, not because it’s necessarily where the best paying shows are or anything like that. When we make a little bit of money from doing the band, I always end up just buying an expensive stupid record as a souvenir of ‘this is money that I got from going on this tour and somehow I ended up making a couple of extra dollars’. I spend the money on something that I can’t normally afford with my day job pay check that I need to feed my child and pay my home owner’s insurance, shit like that. It’s nice to make extra money but, I feel if I tried to do it for a living, I would get burnt out really quickly.

Last year in October you guys put out the ‘Who Killed Mike Hunchback?’ release, which was early demos…

BG: Yeah. Mike was in the band early on for the first year or two years and wrote a good chunk of the songs that was on our first record. Fat [Wreck Chords] was doing a series where they put out a 7-inch worth of a band’s demo material. We had demos from that first album and talked about doing multiple demo 7-inches for each one of the albums that we did, but I don’t know how necessary it is to release all those demos though. If it wasn’t for the fact Fat was doing the series we probably never would have released them at all. Not that people don’t care but, it would have felt a little presumptuous to us—we’re not the fucking, Red Hot Chilli Peppers! [laughs]. It was fun though, I enjoyed doing it. There’ s a couple of versions of songs on the record where it’s just Mike playing guitar and singing, with electronic drums; it reminds me of the very first Misfits single ‘Cough/Cool’; it’s really raw, it sounds super, super barebones. We got to work with Mike again, who hasn’t been in the band for four years, he was very hands-on with the 7-inch. He left on good terms, he opened up and record store in Brooklyn, we started to tour more and more and he needed to be home at the shop. He also plays guitar in Screeching Weasel, between Screeching Weasel and the record store he was pretty busy and didn’t have the time to do Night Birds as full-time as we were doing it.

I love how the ‘Who Killed Mike…’ artwork references Danzig’s ‘Who Killed Marilyn?’ EP, I thought that was really fun.

BG: Yeah, well that was initial idea; it’s also an easy cheap layout, it takes two seconds when you do a rip-off thing, you don’t have to put much thought into it [laughs].

You mentioned Mike owns a record store; what’s one of the best records that he’s introduced you to, or recommended to you?

BG: That’s an interesting question. Shit, I don’t know. Mike got me into a lot of stuff. When he joined the band, he was the initial… very heavy on into surf music. He would make us a lot of mixes with ‘60s and ‘70s surf stuff, we got really influenced by that. Even after he left the band, it was important for us to continue to have elements of surf rock in our songs. So, he definitely got me into a whole bunch of surf stuff.

Let’s talk about your record collection! I know you’re a big collector.

BG: Yeah!

Do you have any idea of how many records you have?

BG: No, not really. That’s like if someone asks me, how many people were at the show? I’m a really bad gauge of how many people. Maybe hundreds, thousands?! I have a lot. I’ve been collecting records since the late ‘90s. I had a daughter a three years ago, I didn’t stop collecting, but I put it on pause, ‘cause the first year or two she was around I definitely didn’t have enough time. I definitely didn’t have any spare money to waste on it either. Over the past year I’ve gotten way, way, way into collecting again [laughs].

What was the first record you ever bought?

BG: The first record I ever bought, there was a label from New Jersey called, Squigtone, they used to have a mail order catalogue and I ordered a 7-inch from them by a band called, Bomb Squadron; it was a street punk 7-inch. That band went on to be The Virus. Do you know that band?

I do, interviewed them many years ago for my zine.

BG: Cool. It was in about 1997. My first punk 7-inch was the ‘Bomb Squadron’ EP. Then there was a lot of… this band called, The Oi! Scouts; the cover of the record was a drawing of The Simpsons dressed up like skinheads beating up cops [laughs]. There was a lot of local New Jersey stuff, that was what I was discovering from the local punk scene. I probably got my first couple of records before I even went to a show. I started writing bands. You’d get a comp[ilation] and it would have the band’s addresses and you’d write them and ask them to send a 7-inch, patch or sticker. I remember it being 1997 and writing Anti-Flag and getting their first 7-inch because I wrote them, and the band, The Unseen—a lot of ‘90s street punk, that was a lot of my favourite stuff.

Me too! Mark Unseen is a close friend and I’ve interviewed The Unseen and bands like, The Casualties, Lower Class Brats and more.

BG: Oh really? That’s awesome!

Yeah. Around 15 or so years ago, I used to have massive liberty spikes and be all about those street punk bands [laughter].

BG: [Laughs], yeah, that stuff was fun! They’re the first bands I’d go see. It’s funny, in around 1998 I met my wife-to-be at a Casualties show!

Nice. I met my husband-to-be at a Henry Rollins show. He was doing a set of Black Flag songs in support of the West Memphis Three, at the end of the set I went to get the setlist and a guy grabbed it and I asked him if I could have it and he told me ‘no’… years later we’d meet again and now today he’s my husband! [laughter]. What’s the latest addition to your record collection?

BG: That’s a good question because, for a long time I had a pressing of the first Black Flag 7-inch the ‘Nervous Breakdown’ EP with the brick walls in the background, the black and white cover. A couple of years ago when my daughter was coming, we were trying to pull together some extra money and I sold it. It was one of the few records that when I got rid of it, I immediately regretted it. I was like, fuck man! I got a couple of hundred bucks for it but, I could have just worked for a week and made that money and never got rid of it… so, today in the mail, I got that record back! I traded. I had a test pressing of the first Zero Boys album, that got me the first pressing of the Black Flag 7-inch and the Canadian band, Subhumans’ first EP ‘Death To The Sickoids’.

Rad! It’s the best coming home from work and having a record package arrive to open.

BG: Yeah, that’s my favourite part! I literally just got home to my house and I saw the package.

What’s one of the rarest records you own?

BG: Before GG Allin took a bunch of acid and became the GG Allin that everyone knows and either loves or hates, he did a band called, The Jabbers, in the late ‘70s, like ’78… for his first couple of 7-inches, what they would do would be to go to this place in New Hampshire and you’d go in and record the songs, then they would press them to record right on the spot. It was a make-your-own record kind of thing! Their first two singles ‘Bored To Death’ and the ‘Cheri Love Affair’ were recorded at this place; they only pressed a couple hundred of ‘em. At home they made the cover for it and photocopied it. I have one of those, I have the ‘Cheri Love Affair’ single, I still need the ‘Bored To Death’ one. I have the first Gang Green single ‘Sold Out’ they did 100 of those on clear vinyl with a clear acetate sleeve. I have some cool stuff.

I really love al that old GG stuff! Before he became the GG that most people I know love, he was more fun and a goofball in the beginning.

BG: Yeah. I don’t know if there’s any truth to it, but what I’ve heard is, his brother gave him a crazy dosage of acid, he spiked his drink, then after that night of partying he never bounced back and became the GG that throws shit and shoves stuff up his butt [laughs]. Those early singles are great, they’re just super awesome American power-pop. I don’t give a shit about any of his later stuff, I think t’s really bad.

Agreed! On your @ancientartifax Instagram account I spied an original GG Allin art work you have.

BG: [Laughs] Yes, I definitely do. That’s obviously later era and not early era.

How did you acquire that piece?

BG: That was art that my friend Jim, who is an older guy, he was pen pals with GG when GG was in prison. If you wrote him a letter he would write you back and sometimes send you a drawing. I was buying some of Jim’s collection a couple of years back and stumbled onto that and was like, man I have to have this! It’s definitely weird, and definitely not framed up on the walls of my house [laughs]. I thought about putting it up near my bed but then I thought that’d just be bad ju-ju! [laughs].

[Laughter] Yes! A friend of mine recently got rid of a lot of his stuff, he has some interesting collectables and things – we often have friends giving us things ‘cause they know we [my husband and I] collect stuff and appreciate things and will look after them – he gave us a letter sent from Charles Manson in prison… I was like, whoa! I’m a bit of a true crime buff so from that perspective it’s interesting to me… but then I’m like, he inspired and did such terrible things!

BG: Oh shit! Wow.

In the letter he talks about how people should look after the earth and animals and water, like all these things that actually really matter and that are important…

BG: Way to go Chuck! [laughs].

Yeah but, then you remember who he is and you’re like hmmm… it’s not like you can put it on display, like what you were saying with the GG piece. It creeps me out when I hold it, that I’m holding something he’s touched, he’s written, it gives me chills. It’s crazy!

BG: Yeah, I know what you mean. There’s this painting I thought about purchasing for a minute but then was like, it’s a terrible idea! It was a painting that [John] Wayne Gacy the serial killer did of GG Allin in a coffin, it was before he was even dead. It was a painting that Gacy sent to GG in prison when they were both in prison at the same time. GG’s brother Merle was selling it on Facebook a year or two ago. I saw it and was like, holy shit! Just the fact that that even exists, is so crazy—it’s like one maniac made this gift for another maniac. I’m glad I didn’t get it.

When Merle was selling off stuff, I saw this really beautiful purple and gold dress for sale that GG used to wear that I really wanted, but I didn’t have money at the time so couldn’t get it. It spun me out that GG wore something that I actually dig and would wear!

BG: [Laughs]. That would be pretty badass if you wore GG’s dress!

Yes! Aaah, it’s so nice to speak to a fellow collector that gets it and that’s as big as nerd as I am for things, things with history.

BG: Yeah totally.

I saw the post you did online about acquiring a collection of Slash Magazine and I was super jealous!

BG: Yeah! I got those from a woman who went to shows in Los Angeles from ’77 to ’79 and then she moved to Australia. When she lived in Los Angeles she signed up for Slash Magazine when they started taking subscriptions in the late ’76-early ’77. They accidently put her in the system twice, she had one set she’d read and cut out the articles and hang pictures on the wall, then she had another set in the original Slash mailer from ’77, that was the set I bought from her. It’s a mint, pristine set. So, she moved to Australia and I ended up buying a bunch of records from her that I didn’t know who they wer… I got a Hoodoo Gurus album—it’s awesome!

Yeah! I love Hoodoo’s!

BG: I also got The Sunnyboys and other Australian records. I know some of the more popular Australian singles but I definitely need some schooling on Australian punk through the years. Since we decided that we were going to tour and travel and see Australia, I’ve gotten way more stoked on the idea of starting to get way more into Australian punk and learn about the history. The records I got were like a cool kick off.

What test pressing do you have in your collection?

BG: I had that Zero Boys test pressing that I mentioned, until I sent it out a few days ago, that was probably my best testing pressing; ‘Vicious Circle’ is one of my all-time favourite American hardcore records. I’m not a huge test press guy, often they just come in a blank sleeve, and while they’re super rare, I find them a little bit boring. I’ve had a lot, but I end up getting rid of them because I’ll have them for a little while then I get bored of them. I had a test pressing of the Dischord ‘Flex Your Head’ comp, it had Void, Minor Threat, Iron Cross, stuff like that; I sold it.

What’s the most money you’ve ever paid for a record?

BG: Oh that’s probably an embarrassing question [laughs]. I definitely bought two copies of Misfits’ ‘Cough/Cool’ in the same week, ‘cause there was a guy that had two of them and I knew that if I bought both I’d get a better deal on them. I bought them both for around $1,800 for the pair, so it was $900 USD a piece. I traded one of those for the only existing set of acetates to Black Flag’s ‘Damaged’ album.

Wow!

BG: They originally belonged to Spot [Glen Lockett], then Spot sold them to a friend of mine and I traded the Misfits’ ‘Cough/Cool’ to my friend for the acetate. That’s not really a test press but, it’s pretty close. I had them framed on the wall of my wife and I’s old apartment, I sold those, then I also had a copy of the Necro’s ‘Sex Drive’ single, which there’s only 100 of, I sold those for $6,000-$7,000—we were buying a house and it helped put a down payment on our house.

Another good one is the first Big Boys single ‘Frat Car’ 7-inch. There was a guy who I found, who lived with Biscuit [Randy Turner] when the 7-inch came out, and the guy didn’t really love the band’s music too much but he really liked Biscuit’s art work; the back sleeve of the first 500 7-inches (the first pressing there’s only 500) he hand-coloured all 500 of those records. This guy went through the collection and picked out his favourite drawing, and he never played the record, it had the brightest colours. Biscuit did a bunch of little scribbles on some but, I got a couple of copies that are fully coloured and really awesome. Me and my friend Dave went in on those, I think we gave them $800 for the pair. Again, that’s like a $1,000 record, same with ‘Cough/Cool’ I spent $800 on it but now it sells for $2,000.

At the other end of the spectrum; what’s one of the biggest bargain buys that you’ve had?

BG: I bought an Antidote 7-inch for $50, that’s pretty regularly a $700 record.

Are you a completest collector of any particular band or label?

BG: I’m two records away from having original pressing of all the, Dangerhouse [label] records, like X, the Eyes, The Avengers. I need The Bags’ single, which I had at one point – I sold that when my daughter was coming and I needed some money – and I need one Black Randy single. At one point I had all the early Dischord records, and I had all the early X Claim! Records; I sold the SSD and DYS stuff, I kept the good stuff like Jerry’s Kids and The F.U.’s… same with my Dischord collection, I sold my Teen Idles single but kept S.O.A. and Minor Threat. I have all the early Misfits records, I have all the singles and a first pressing of ‘Walk Among Us’ and ‘Beware’; I don’t have all the variations of the pressings but I have at least one copy of all the early stuff.

How do you let go of some of your records? I ask ‘cause I really love all of mine and have a hard time giving up any!

BG: I do too, but the way that I do it, because I have never really had a lot of money and could never afford to buy everything and keep it… though there are certain things I’ll take to the grave [laughs] and never get rid of, like that Big Boys’ single and my Misfits singles—stuff that I want to try and hold on to forever. A lot of stuff, like that Zero Boys test press, it’s super cool but it’s the kind of thing that I know that I just can’t keep forever if I want other super pricey stuff that’s on my want list. At a certain point I have to get rid of some stuff. I usually think, well, ok, I’ve had it for a while and have enjoyed it, time to pass it on to someone else so I can get something else cool.

There’s only been a couple of times when I’ve regretted selling things, one time was getting rid of that Black Flag 7-inch I mentioned – the one I got back today and am excited about. I had the first, Fear, single ‘I Love Living In The City’ and I sold it for maybe $400 at one point when I needed the money, after that it immediately became a $700-800 record! I was like, fuck, I’m never going to get that back! Every time that song would song would come on or someone would play it at a show, I’d be like, fuck, why did I get rid of that record?! It’s such a fucking great single. I did end up getting one of those back, but I did pay a pretty decent chunk of change for that one [laughs]. I kept on kicking myself every time I heard it until I got it back. My thought process is that I’m never going to be able to keep everything because I’m not Henry Rollins [laughs]. I have a good collection of keeper stuff though, and I do love to trade. At the end of the day though, they’re just records.

Do you have a memorable experience about acquiring a record?

BG: Probably. Let me flick through my 7-inches and see what I can think of. That’s a good question but, I don’t know off the top of my head… let me see, one second. Here’s a weird one, as far as rare records go, this is pretty interesting! The first Descendents single ‘Ride The Wild’ 7-inch, usually the sleeve has Pinsicato or Orca, those were the record labels that Bill Stevenson made up when they put out their own records… I have a copy of that but the sleeve has no record label information on it, it just says ‘Descendents’ and has the three goofy pictures and says ‘Ride The Wild / It’s a Hectic World’. I asked Bill about that when we played with the Descendents a couple of months ago and he wasn’t sure when that was from, I think there’s very few of those and they’re the first couple of sleeves they made.

Ok, here we go, here’s a good one, it isn’t interesting as far as how I acquired it but it’s got a cool story… when the Misfits went over to England, like when they wrote the song ‘London Dungeon’ and they got arrested and they ended up coming home… that’s what the ‘Beware’ 12-inch was for, it was for the tour that didn’t happen, BUT what people didn’t know and that got unearthed recently is that they had sent over a box of 200 copies of the ‘Horror Business’ single on gold, which is a $600-700 record, it has been for a super long time. Recently, the person that they sent it to in 1978 found the box of 200 Misfits singles in his attic—they all have inserts and its super cool. I don’t even know that if it’s public knowledge that that’s why there’s so many copies on eBay right now. The Misfits never got their records back in ’78 when they came back to the U.S.

That’s amazing! Stories like that is the stuff of dreams for a record nerd.

BG: Yeah, like how much fucking money is that?! [laughs]. It’s like 200 records X $700! That’s like $140,000!

Wow!

BG: That’s fucking obscene! Those Misfits singles have been sort after and rare since the ‘80s. Misfits’ singles are always collector’s items.

I have a drawing that Jerry Only did for me when I interviewed him almost 20 years ago.

BG: Oh really? That’s cool. I’d love to see that. Oh, I found another record, this one has a good story too… I bought a copy of the first Poison Idea single ‘Pick Your King’ – it was probably 10 years ago – while I was waiting to get the record in the mail, I paid for it, it was on it’s way, that’s when Pig Champion [Tom Roberts] died. Within that three day span I was waiting to get that record, he died… I get the record and I was still living at my parent’s house, I laid down in bed and was taking it out the packaging, super stoked to get it! I pulled the record out of the sleeve and a note falls out of the sleeve, it turned out that it was a note from Tom to Sab Grey the singer from, Iron Cross. He wrote it when the 7-inch came out, he was sending this copy to Sab. In the letter he talks about how, Minor Threat, was coming to Portland and he wanted to book them but Ian wasn’t returning any of his calls—it was hilarious. I remember getting chills ‘cause it was just days after he passed. As I read the letter, I didn’t know who it was from until I got to the end of it and he had signed it… it was signed ‘Tom Roberts’ so it took a second for me to register who he was because everyone just knows him as Pig Champion. It was crazy, it was creepy, I still get chills thinking about it.

Wow! You have so many great stories. I could listen to these all day. I once got a Sick Of It All record – Scratch The Surface – that I found at a record fair that had a note in it from singer, Lou Koller, to his friend he was sending the record to. It said something like, sorry to hear you’ve been sick, hope this cheers you up.

BG: Wow, that’s crazy.

I love finding stuff like that.

BG: Yeah, that’s one of my favourite parts of record collecting too. I love finding flyers, stickers or setlists or some other bullshit things stuck in the sleeve.

I love all the flyers you’ve been posting online lately.

BG: Yeah. I’ve got a lot of cool ones I’ll be posting soon.

How do you feel about represses/reissues of records?

BG: I love it. I think it’d super important for any music to stay in print. I’m a nerdy record collector so I don’t mind tracking down a $100 copy of something but, some people don’t care so much about the collector value and they want records to be available, that’s important too. I don’t think that if you want a copy of something you have to pay $100; there should always be the $10 option available. I hate when a good record goes out of print and you can’t find it anywhere.

Totally! How do you feel about autographed records?

BG: I don’t personally care about it, I’m not a big autograph guy. I do have some autographed Ramones stuff though, ‘cause they’re the Ramones!

[Laughter] Yeah, I totally get that!

BG: That’s probably about it, as far as stuff I care about. I’m not against it.

What’s at the top of your want list right now?

BG: At the top of my want list, that is and has been for many years now is, The Dicks’ ‘Hate The Police’, they’re from Austin Texas. It’s one of my favourite American punk songs of all-time. I really want a copy of that.

What’s some other fun stuff in your collection?

BG: You know what I have that’s pretty cool?

What?

BG: One of my favourite hardcore bands from New Jersey ever are, Adrenalin O.D. on the cover of their record ‘Wacky Hijinx’ Bruce the guitar player is wearing a t-shirt of the band, White Flag – it’s like a Black Flag rip off shirt. On the cover of the record they’re covered in pie ‘cause they all got ‘pied’ in the face… I have Bruce’s White Flag shirt from the cover of ‘Wacky Hijinks’ and it still has pie stains on it!

That’s RAD!

BG: It doesn’t fit me and it’s pretty gross but, I don’t want to wash it. It has pie on it from 25 years ago! [laughs]. Even though it doesn’t fit me, Night Birds’ old drummer wore it in a picture that was supposed to be the cover for an album ‘cause I wanted the legacy to live on but we didn’t end up using that cover.

Australian tour dates:

Night Birds are on tour with CLOWNS. For more NIGHT BIRDS go here. Follow Night Birds on FB. LISTEN to Night Birds here. Night Birds are on FAT WRECK CHORDS. Follow Brian’s record collecting adventures here @ancientartifax

See you at the shows!

B xox

*Photos courtesy of Night Birds’ IG and Facebook (band photo and live photo by Keith Marlowe) & @ancientartifax

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