Canada’s skatepunks MUTE recently announced an online show to celebrate the twelfth anniversary of their album ‘The Raven’. On August 8th, the band will be performing the whole album front to back for the very first time at L’ANTI in Quebec City (tickets available here). And seeing as it is 2020, you don't even need to go to the venue. You can just watch the whole thing from the couch in your onesie! We caught up with guitarist Alex for a quick chat about the show and the band’s future plans.
PRT: First of all... how did you guys spend quarantine? Write any new material?
Alex: No, we haven’t written any new material. We have practiced the whole The Raven album a lot. A lot of these songs are pretty hard to play and needed a lot of work.
PRT: You will be playing songs from the album that you have never played live before. Which songs?
Alex: The song Shredder is one that has never been played live before. The song Glass Bones has been played live three times. At least I can’t recall any other instances. Curtain Call has been played live maybe a dozen times at the most. Those are the really “rare” ones.
PRT: And how come they never ended up in a live set?
Alex: Well, Shredder is very hard to play for starters. We just never got around to practicing it with vocals. We never really got any request for it either, so we didn’t feel the need to spend time on it. Then, we released more albums and there was just less and less space for the songs from The Raven in the setlist.
PRT: All of you have fulltime jobs, which means that you don’t have to rely on the band for a living. But I’m guessing that a high-quality livestream doesn’t come cheap. Any worries that you will lose money over this?
Alex: We don’t really think about it that much. We have access to some governement programs that give grants for that sort of stuff. I’m not really sure if it will cover all the cost, but this is a paid stream, so people have to buy tickets to see it. We should be able to break even, I think.
PRT: In an older interview I read that when ‘The Raven’ came out you were in a not so great place as a band, which reflected itself in darker songs. You were kinda burnt out on how the skatepunk scene had slimmed down and by how few people showed up at shows. How do you look back on that now?
Alex: It’s all true. That album was certainly make-or-break for the band. Not in terms of going full time. That was never a goal of us. We never thought of the band as a full time job possibility. But we did want to grow our audience, to play to more people, to stop playing to so little people so often. That was a hard period for the band. Things did get better, fortunately.
PRT: Did it lead to you being in the band now with different expectations?
Alex: I guess... When you start being successful, even as modestly sucessful as we have become, we can’t help but have higher expectations. You think that shows should at least “that” good and at least “that” well attended and stuff like that. Obviously that’s never always gonna be the case. That’s the problem with expectations. When you get them, you need to temper them. When we were preparing the release of our last album Remember Death, we made some plans and we thought things like “we’re gonna play that festival for sure” and things like that. Assuming certain things were in the bag. Then reality sets in.
PRT: Do you feel like the scene is getting better again?
Alex: I can’t say that I do. I say that in a lot of interviews whenver I’m asked questions like that. There are very few younger people and therefore very few new bands. Essential ingredients for a healthy scene. Any music scene will lose people regularly. At a certain age, people have less time to devote to a music scene. That’s not really a problem if there are new blood coming in to replace them. That’s just not happening to our scene. I’m not even sure that’s happening to any sort of underground music scene today. People have a different relationship to music than before. Music has to compete with so many other forms of entertainment, all available at the push of a button. Also, I think a lot less people are learning musical instruments today than they did in decades past. Of course, that inevitably leads to less bands being formed. It’s a vicious circle. I will say that I see many people coming back to the scene after a long hiatus. Most of the times, it’s when their damn wiener kids are sufficiently gown up that they have more opportunities to escape family responsibilities hell.
PRT: What’s up next for MUTE after we get to a ‘new normal’?
Alex: That’s kind of hard to say, because we don’t know what the “new normal” is gonna be. What’s it gonna mean for indoor shows? Outdoor shows? International travel? It’s all up in the air at the moment. We had plans to go to Japan in October of this year... that’s out of the question of course, but that would be our first order of business for 2021. There are a few other projects, but I will keep them secret for now.
PRT: And last but not least... will you be renaming the song ‘Apocalypse Soon’ to ‘Apocalypse Now’ because... you know, it’s 2020 and the world is going to shit?
Alex: No not really... There has been many things much worse that what we live right now that have happened as recently as the 20th century. Two world wars, the Spanish flu, the great depression, several genocides or attempted genocides, the Cuban missile crisis... We’re talking about world-ending events for some of these. I don’t think we’re anywhere near that level. But who knows, maybe this is where we’re going.