We are pleased to present here an interview conducted circa 2008 / 2009 between Adam Dyson of Withdrawal, and Rasaraja dasa of 108.
By Adam Dyson | Withdrawal
When a generic “classic” band reunites, it’s often with one of two results. 1) They do a couple of shows where they barely manage to play their old shit and quietly fizzle out and fade back into the history books or 2) The excited band puts out a new release which is quickly and harshly dismissed as “not being as good as the old shit” and the band fizzles out and fades back into the history books.
Fortunately, 108 are far from a generic band. Boasting a career of classic releases and members of some band that some guy with dreadlocks used to sing in, 108 officially reunited in 2006 shortly after the ill-fated Hellfest 2005 to put out A New Beat From A Dead Heart, an album with which the aforementioned result 1) and 2) doesn’t apply.
I managed to get in contact with Rasaraja Dasa aka Rob Fish whilst they were crisscrossing Europe in support of the album. We discussed religion, their re-emergence and one of my favorite topics: SLAPSHOT.
Adam: The new record just hit the streets via (Jacob Bannon’s) Deathwish, and there is a lot of talk about it in the hardcore community. How does it feel to be in a position where a notoriously changing and fickle hardcore scene is still captivated and interested in you guys?
Rasaraja: We are excited about the record and are stoked that people are interested and excited about what we have created. We are approaching the whole thing as if we were a new band because for the most part we are. People know the name and have perceptions of what 108 is/was and we are excited to be able to reshape all of that and focus on who we are and where we are going.
Adam: Aside from a demo in 2006, this is some of your first recorded output since your break up in 96′, which I suppose now is more of a hiatus. When did you feel a creative resurgence in the band and why keep doing it?
Rasaraja: In April of 06 we got together to do 7 shows across the US to really start looking at the prospect of doing 108. We knew we weren’t interested in reunions. The very idea of just existing as a simple karaoke type band wasn’t appealing so the shows were there to really give us time together to see what we could create and if it really made sense artistically and personally.
Adam: What should someone who has never heard 108 expect from the new album? What should someone who has been into you guys since your inception expect?
Rasaraja: Well I think it is a sort of logical expansion on the Threefold Misery and Curse of Instinct records in many respects. Artistically it is a bit more aggressive, creative and diverse simply because we have all developed more as writers and this is our most collaborative effort by far. Every member wrote songs, both lyrically and musically, and we really found our stride in a short time. We only had three writing sessions, lasting a few days, as we all live across the US and we didn’t have a drummer until late December so we didn’t over think or analyze anything yet we pushed one another to write some songs that we felt had a sense of urgency and heart that would appeal to kids who had never heard 108 as well as those who have followed us through each album.
Adam: How did Deathwish come about? Were you solicited by them or was it the other way around? Were there any other labels courting you guys? I don’t really see you guys as unit shifting marketable hardcore, the type of stuff you’d see on Ferret records or something like that, did this affect your securing a new record deal?
Rasaraja: Essentially we wanted to find a label who understood that we are essentially a new band and we aren’t interested in living off of some feigned legacy rather it is about who we are today and what we will create moving forward and Deathwish was the perfect label for that. When we recorded our demo we all independently listed out 5 labels we would like to be on and Deathwish Inc. was at the top of each list so we sent them a demo and they we totally stoked on us joining Deathwish Inc. so that was that. There was interest and inquiries from other labels but nothing we considered as Deathwish Inc. seemed to be the perfect fit. As far as our marketability who knows… we will do what we do and see what happens.
Adam: Deathwish is known to be one of the most consistent labels in terms of releases; it rarely if ever seems to put out anything unlistenable. It creates a certain kind of hype for every release which I think a lot of the newer generation of hardcore kids pick up on, myself included. I had only checked you guys out after seeing that you guys were putting something out through Deathwish and before actually checking you guys out I kinda just figured you were gonna sound like late era Shelter or something. Do you find there are a lot of newer devotees to your band discovering you since your re-emergence?
Rasaraja: Late era Shelter… now that is funny. I am sure a lot of people have checked us out, who wouldn’t have done so otherwise, because of our working with Deathwish Inc. which is cool. It seems that people are really stoked on the new record and have been very excited about the shows we are playing and the energy we put out. Hopefully the people who dug the old 108 will evolve with us but as I said earlier this isn’t about the past. We are proud of past records and songs but we are only interested in how those songs work with who and what we are today so a following of kids that start with our first release on Deathwish Inc. isn’t a negative at all. It is a challenge we embrace and look forward to.
Adam: How has Deathwish been thus far? What has Deathwish done for you that other labels couldn’t? Is there a difference between a label now and back in the mid 90’s?
Rasaraja: Amazing in all regards. Again they understand that we aren’t interested in being touted as some old band rather we are ready to work hard to establish ourselves as who we are today and they are also down with the challenge. I can’t say enough about how great it has been to work with Tre, Jake and everyone at Deathwish Inc.
Adam: A lot of the really positive reviews for the new record have been due to a pre-release date leak of the record onto the internet, something you guys didn’t really have to deal with as much until now. Although I suppose it is too early to tell with the recent release of the album, how much of an effect does this have on a band like 108? Even your back catalogue is fairly accessible on the internet.
Rasaraja: It is what it is really. Part of me gets bummed because you want people to buy the record, to own the packaging, lyrics and just the entire package you created but it is what it is. At the live shows people are buying the record and a bunch of stores we have visited on tour have sold out their inventory on the record which is very cool. All in all the music is more important than the units you sell but it does present a challenge to an independent label and small band to miss a large chunk of perspective sales because people can get it for free. If the label doesn’t sell as many records it means people don’t have jobs, can’t pay bills and future releases are in doubt. Tons of labels have and are folding each day so it is a negative from that perspective but the music industry, bands and labels alike, need to evolve with the times.
Adam: You guys are musically very adventurous and progressive… there aren’t many bands that can cohesively shift from the uneasy metal of “Mantra Six” to the John Joseph-era Cro-Mags style ramble of “Holyname”. Who or what influenced you then and what influences you now?
Rasaraja: Well as we don’t have a song writer in the band responsible for our songs, unless you are talking about Threefold Misery and before, it is really hard to say. Prior releases were probably most inspired by playing live as opposed to specific bands. Vic would have sited the Bad Brains and Cro-Mags as heavy influences in the past. Today, as our songs are written by the entire band, it isn’t such an easy thing to articulate. We are all over the musical board from punk to hardcore, metal, hip hop, folk, jazz, etc.
Adam: You guys are currently on tour in Europe, is the actual process of touring the same as it was over 10 years ago? What is different?
Rasaraja: Same shit really. Play hard, little sleep, long van rides and play hard again. We love it.
(FOR THOSE WHO AREN’T AWARE: SLAPSHOT HAVE A SONG CALLED “108” ON THEIR ALBUM 16 VALVE HATE.)
Adam: You guys recently played a show with Slapshot, with whom you have somewhat of a past. Bullshit aside, which from what I hear is long since squashed and I’m sure you’re tired about hearing the same questions over and over again about the song; they apparently played the song “108”. I wanted to know: how does one react to having someone play what is essentially a “dis” song about you?
Rasaraja: To be honest none of us really care enough about Slapshot to derive any tension or passion from their song. Song seems to be about Ray Cappo, as it cites his name, so we figure 108 is there simply because it rhymes better with hate. There was no beef or need for conversation. To be perfectly honest we could probably walk into one another and never know who one another was. I certainly didn’t recognize them at the show and I doubt they recognized us. Regardless, we don’t mind controversy, protest or tension. If anything it makes it a bit more interesting as long as someone has an informed issue with us.
Adam: This is kinda just going by what Vic said in his “I was a teenage Hare Krishna” essay: having been influenced by the faith of others like the Cro-Mags and Ray Cappo, and then kind of adopting into their position and influencing others, have you received any backlash from anyone you used to associate with or influenced for losing the Hare Krishna faith as a band linchpin? Is faith still an important part of 108?
Rasaraja: If people have a problem with how we have changed personally over the years and how that relates to their perception of what 108 was, is or should be then it is their problem. Our faith and/or lack thereof is ours and ours alone.
Adam: What does the future hold for 108?
Rasaraja: More tours, records and creating.
Adam: Anything you’d like to say to anyone who reads this?
Rasaraja: Check out the new record, a show and get down.