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1998 Raw Head. Inc / Mayhem Records. Ltd

Profile by Neil St.Laurent

Pro-Pain has been a band that since inception has stood as an icon in the genre. It is impossible to forget the catchy ryhtms, and rather silly lyrics, of songs such as "Death On The Dance Floor", or of the classics "Pound For Pound" and "The Stench Of Piss". Rather than being just another hardcore band, Pro-Pain was approaching the metal scene a little more, with "The Truth Hurts" album marking a significant move in that direction. If the memorable riffs were not enough to realize that Pro-Pain was different, then the harsh, sometimes brutal, lyrics of Gary Meskil would seal their destiny as a forerunner in a genre that can now almost be called their own.

A rather volatile lineup over the years have altered the sound of Pro-Pain to various degrees. As mentioned earlier the transition between "Foul Taste..." and "The Truth Hurts" was possibly too much for many fans to handle. This new self-titled album has much of the same attributes that made "Foul Taste..." a classic. The in-your-face stlye of music gives it an aggressive nature. Simple attacks from the drums accompanied with a rhythm guitar style now popularized by such power metal bands as Pantera, are the basis of the hardcore sound for Pro-Pain. The very jagged melody (if it can even be called a melody) is suitable territory for Meskil to add his still raspy vocals (first introduced on "The Truth Hurts"); ranging from easy to difficult understand, they deliver harsh lyrics either about the ills of society or some of Gary's less than favourable experiences.

With the inclusion of a fourth member, also on guitars, the band has the opportunity to add truly flowing melody into their songs. It is difficult to describe exactly what this sounds like, for it still maintains the basic nature of the genre; still harsh and in-your-face they seem faster than they really are and provide for a short period of pure adrenaline pumping action. So unlike anything else that can be heard, it is these segments, so intimately tied with the rest of the music, that help make Pro-Pain an excellent band.

Pro-Pain has integrity and strength in their music, it has always been solid and enjoyable. A desire to do so much of the work themselves may have limited their exposure, but has made Pro-Pain an extremely respected band with music unaltered by the forces of the industry. Without a doubt Pro-Pain will be considered one the masters of the 90's, and we can hope that it will continue well into the next millenium.

Pro-Pain is now:
Gary Meskil - Vocals, Bass
Rob Moschetti - Rhythm Guitar
Tom Klimchuck - Lead Guitar
Mike Hansel - Drums

Foul Taste Of Freedom (1992)
The Truth Hurts (1994)
Contents Under Pressure (1996)
s/t (1998)

Gary Meskil of Pro-Pain:

Interview done by phone by Neil St.Laurent, 23 January 1998

Why did you do the self-titled album this time?

Basically because it's a new situation all around for us and in a lot of respects it's a new beginning because we're working with so many different new people right now and we have new situations here and abroad. And we finally settled into a really solid line-up for the band and we wanted to kind of, not necessarily start over, but in certain respects, you know. And that's why we decided to go with a self-titled record this time around.

Why has the line-up been volatile all these years?

I don't know, I guess it's just one of things... When you do so much touring and you maintain the band for years... just going through some line-up changes is part of the course in a band that's been at our level for a while. I think that... each guy that really comes into the band brings in his own style, and its changed a little bit of the music over the years for Pro-Pain. Of course each line-up at the time would be a steady line-up and would remain true for the length of Pro-Pain. Unfortunately that hasn't been the case. Guys have found themselves leaving for one reason or another, like with Danny, he went off to join Life Of Agony, some old guitar players were just a little too on the lazy side for us, because we're a really hard working band, and that didn't work out. There are a lot of different things that have to mesh to keep as a unit, and sometimes it doesn't always hold true.

I noticed there is a slight change back to the style of Foul Taste Of Freedom. Is that because of the new line-up that you sort of have that old style again?

I think it has a lot to do with Tom. Because Tom came back to the band for the recording of "Contents Under Pressure", I even think a lot of "Contents Under Pressure" went back to the days of "Foul Taste...". "The Truth Hurts" we went on a little more of a metal tangent I think and [we saw] a darker side of the band, partly due to the fact that we had a couple of West Coast guitarists that were more metal oriented. And one guy was from Possessed, it threw in a little bit of a death metal side into Pro-Pain at the time, I think. And as I said before, each new player brings somethings to the table, and the music changes a little bit with each record. Most of the players have been at least consistant from "Contents..." to this new records, so there is a nice natural progression there. We just wanted to make sure this album was recorded real true to form, and to make sure we had a real raw sounding recording, which is something we've wanted to accomplish but never quite hit the nail on the head as far as Pro-Pain is concerned. Recording is always a little tricky, you don't have a lot of resources at your expense, it makes it all the more difficult to come up with something you really really want, and this time around we just said "fuck it" and winged it. I think in a lot of respects that's the best way to go.

You mention that you want to capture that live sound, is there a plan to do a live recording in the near future?

As a matter of fact we're going to record some live songs at an upcoming show in Germany, which should be pretty interesting since it'll be the first live stuff that we've ever caught at a show. I think that will probably be planned for a future release or something like that. I think that will be great. One thing that's always stuck in my head over the years is that people will be coming to the shows and they'll be "man, it sounds a lot heavier live", which is really one of the reasons why we took the recording process under our own wing. And this time around I think we did a really good job of capturing that live essence.

You support the albums a lot playing live. Do you enjoy playing live more than you do recording the albums?

Hmmm, well, we definitely enjoy playing live, it's something that we do most of the time and the recording process is only a short process in being in this band, but a very important one because that usually dictates everything that goes on in touring and everything else. I get more sastifaction out of playing live, the recording process, for me personally, is a little tedious. It's tough to maintain an excitement in the studio, and some of the early projects have just been a little lengthy for me and sometimes I have hard time staying really focused and keeping the music fresh for long of period of time in the studio. Because I don't like to dwell on things too much, I just like to get the job done and move on. And with the new recording it kind of went by fast and painless. We just wanted to capture everything and keep the song as fresh as possible. That's pretty much that.

Why do you do so many live shows? Is that really because you enjoy playing live, what was it, you did 250 or something [last] year?

Yeah, well actually I think we did 280 for "Contents..." We're one of those bands that's usually on the road. It's been part of this band's history I guess. Ever since "Contents Under Pressure" came out, we did 300+ shows for that record and we just found it to be something that we love and enjoy and also a really good source of promoting this band. Being and independent band all these years we don't have the luxury of big spending and really blanketing the earth with advertising and everything, so we've learned to go out there and be our own main source of promotion. We've really gotten accustomed to it nicely over the years.

In reference to being independent, I noticed the new album is produced by "Raw Head" and you're on the label "Mayhem". Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Yeah, Raw Head is our own label, we wanted to create a new situation where we're kind of at the helm and we call the shots, which has always been a really important part of Pro-Pain in every aspect. We are a record company, but aren't full fledged in that we don't do our own marketing, so we wanted to find a really competent company to handle our marketing, and Mayhem really fit the bill because I like the direction the company is taking, and they got some really cool bands in our genre, which really helps. It's a real good marriage, we're doing things and being productive with these guys and that's all that counts.

What are some of the bands that you consider to be "cool" in the genre?

Let's see, I like Crowbar, I like Meshuggah, I like EyeHateGod, I like some Stuck Mojo stuff, I like Limp Biscuit, some of the newer school stuff that's coming out, Coal Chamber, Seven Dust. All different styles within the heavy music scene.

Some of those that came to mind seem to be on the heavier side, like Crowbar and Meshuggah, and in the Thank You's you mention bands like Madball...

Yeah, Madball's cool...

Do you almost see Madball as a different part of the hardcore genre?

I think so, they have a pretty good hardcore back-bone going on, and there is some really cool interesting roots to that band. And they've been some friends of ours over the years, we played quite a few shows together, mostly overseas though. I really like Madball a lot, it's one of those bands that really stands out, for me. Another one on the more metal side of things, I mentioned Meshuggah, whom I think are just brilliant.

Do you derive a lot of influence from these other bands. I know you say you try to be away from the trends, but where do you really see yourself coming from?

They're kind of tough to pinpoint becuase I don't actively seek them out. It's just things that I picked up on over the years that I guess comes out naturally when I go to write a song. So that would most likely be old school hardcore, which I think is one of our bigger elements in our music, and I used to listen to a lot of punk from the early 80's, like Exploited, UK Subs, Sham 69, and Vibrated, and the list goes on... there's a little bit of that in there to I think. As far as the other band members are concerned, they're more on the old 70's rock, and old school metal, there's a little bit of that in there. And I think if you combine all those elements that's what you're hearing in Pro-Pain, especially these days.

Do you find, that when you're doing this, are the lyrics more a result of the style, or is the music more of a result of the lyrics you want to use?

Those are definitely the lyrics that I want to project. The way the writing process has gone lately, I can say, is the music is done first, but with the phrasing in mind, and then I let the song sit until I come up with the proper lyrics, but I already know how it goes and then it's a matter of coming up with the right words, the right subject matter at the time. Then I just kind of fill in the holes, and then make sure it's right. Sometimes the phrasing was there and I had all the words pencilled in, and the lyrics just didn't do it for me, so I scratched it and did it over again, and come up with a song that meant something completely different, but sounds exactly the same.

I noticed that on the newest one, as progression has gone, that the lyrics have become a little more serious and little more mature. Comments?

Yeah, I'd like to think that we're maturing with each record and that I'm getting better at my craft each time around, lyrically. As a lyricist it's pretty important for me,to write stuff that means something to somebody other than myself. I tended to talk about issues that effect pretty much the average person and I think I've gone through a lot of the things in life that aren't too different from what other people have gone through, like basically average people. Mostly aside from the whole band aspect of things, and people can relate to what's being said pretty well, and I try not to have the lyrics be pushy at all or like force agendas down anybody's throats, which I think is important to because I respect everybody's opinion.

One of the song's that intrigued me on this new one was "Godsize". What exactly is that song trying to say?

Certain songs are more like "a day in the life" and certain songs just come out of a mood, something that I might be feeling at any given time -- I'll just write something spuratically. And something could just result from being in pissed off mode and in a revenge type mood, and that's what "Godsize" is all about.

Do you find that when you're touring that different people in different countries are receptive to different songs, maybe based on the lyrics or just the music itself?

Yeah, it's kind of strange, on this new album a lot of people from overseas, I hear, are into... the song "Smoking Gun" has come up a lot, and they've really latched on to that one. And over here (North America) it's more like "Don't Kill Yourself to Live" I think. It's kind of interesting, I don't know why, I guess it just fits into more of their musical taste as a whole at the time. "Smoking Gun" is maybe a little bit more thrash metal oriented, and maybe they can relate to that better than some of the newest and freshest sounding stuff we're doing like "Don't Kill Yourself To Live", that might be a reason for it.

What are some of the songs from the older albums that you find people are still enjoying and you play at shows a lot?

I don't think a show has gone by without us playing "Foul Taste Of Freedom" and "The Stench Of Piss", which is one of my personal favorites, I think we play that every single show. So those are a couple of the staples that we've had in the set over the years, and "Pound For Pound". Usually the stuff that's been most requested at shows we just continue to play over the years, and we don't neglect the older stuff in our history, so there's a nice spot in the set alotted to each album per night, which I think the fans really enjoy to.

Can you remember back to when Pro-Pain didn't have a history what it was like to tour then? Like supporting the first album, or even before the first album.

There wasn't much a history before the first album because this is one of those bands that was actually signed because of certain band members prior histories. Our whole style and our experience came from post-album time, post "Foul Taste Of Freedom", which is kind of strange because most bands get their chops going and there is a little bit of history before their first record comes out. Which really I think is the right way to do things, and its what I did with my old band, and stuff like that. We started paying our dues after "Foul Taste Of Freedom" came out, so we immediately got on the road and just toured non-stop. I thought it was a really good time for us, to just get out and have a lot of good memories about those early shows, the early days, it was a time of loosing a lot of money. But we felt the need to get out there and make a name for ourselves, and play in front of as many people as possible. We really got on some killer tours back then, Bodycount, a couple times with Testament and D.R.I., and the list goes on. We played in front of a lot of people... there are a lot of Testament fans that eventually bought Pro-Pain's album, and DRI fans, and that was pretty cool. We've just kept the ball rolling ever since.

What are the major differences you find on your first tour, and the tours you've done recently? The differences you notice as you become a more recognized and popular band?

I think we pretty much conduct ourselves in the same way. I think the band is pretty down to earth, we go into each venue and approach things in the same manner. We like to hang-out with fans, you'll probably see us hanging out by the bar on any given night and talking to people, and that's something that has held true over the years. On the other side of things we tend to handle our own business affairs close to 100% these days, whereas going on the road the old days we had a lot of techs and a tour manager and stuff like that, so there were a lot of babysitters involved, whereas these days we are pretty much hands on. So I think that we've shown some good growth in that respect. Other than those two things it's pretty much the same vibe, we get out, we're excited about going on the road and each tour has its ups and downs, and its always a pleasure to come home after each tour, and then we find ourselves going right back out again. It's this continuous cycle, it's almost like you're always doing something, if you're not on the road [then] you're recording.

Is it very important to you to have this image of being with the fans and with the people and supporting your own shows?

It's important for us to be in contact with the fans, it's not like a marketing thing for us. I just think its the thing to do, to be in touch with the people that you have something in common with, and that's a big reason in why we do this and get out there and meet as many people as possible. We've really made a lot of friends over the years that we see time and time again when we tour the same city over and over again through the years. It's really cool, I really enjoy that.

Do you try and support the local bands and scene as you go through the cities?

Yeah, in the States we always provide a couple of slots on each bill for local support, which I think is important becuase there is really great local bands in every city. It's great for them to get out and play in front of our fans, I think that's really cool, and bring some people down that might not see Pro-Pain also. We try to help out the opening acts as much as possible, and overseas, you don't get a lot of that. You don't go into a club and get local bands playing, it's more like a package thing, like three signed bands on a bill, but we still try to help out the opening bands as well. I'll give you an example, there's a band called Gurd from Switzerland, who's on Century Media, I tried desperately to try and get them to come over and tour the State since they're such a great band, we think the kids would really like them over here. I was begging Century Media to let them go, but they didn't get the tour support to go unfortunately. And another example is Spudmonsters, who've toured with us quite a few times, I ended up kind of doing some management functions for them. It was never my intention to be a manager, it's not something I want to do, I just felt the need to help those guys out, because they were going through some hard times and I found myself booking tours for them and everything else, but just out of sheer friendship. I just thought people would really get into those guys given the opportunity.

Do you have the intention of being involved with other projects, or are you involved in one?

I am, but only really as a fan. I try to help out and maybe save some of the few steps along the way for some of the up and coming bands, because I knew I went through hell sometimes, because I signed the wrong deals and made a lot of bad steps along the way that I would've have done differently if I knew then what I know now. I think its important for new bands to get educated in that sense. I try to help out, I'm working with a band called Rhythm trip out of New Jersey, and I just got them hooked up with a couple of deals, we're getting them released worldwide and just trying to get the ball rolling for them because they're a great band. It's not something I want to ultimately do, and I don't have a financial interest in it, I'm just trying to help.

Do you remember, back a long time ago now, when you were first getting into music, what made you want to get into the music scene?

It was the whole hardcore scene in New York, because I started going to a few shows and I saw The Misfits, that was my first show, I saw them at the Ukranian National Home, in New York City, with the Necros, a band out of Michigan. It just blew me away. I don't know how old I was at the time, but I was basically just a kid and it had a lasting impression on me, and I started going to other shows, like Minor Threat, Bad Brains with the original line-up, and I had been playing bass for sometime before that, but I never had a band together. So I think it was sometime in late 1992, or early 1993, that I started a band called the Crumsuckers in my summer vacation in high school. We put it together, we started off doing a few hardcore cover songs and then got right into playing original music , it always amazes me that we took it to a level where we actually got signed and put out a couple of records, and even got to be a little bit of band that had a bit of a cult following, that was kind of cool, becuase we just started off as a sort of party band, a fun band. In those days, we weren't on a mission to get signed, because none of these bands were really doing much, like Agnostic Front was unsigned, Cause For Alarm was unsigned, and not even looking for record deals, just going out and having fun and playing shows. And next thing you know it was 1985 and there were the record companies down at the shows and all these bands got signed at that point in time. That was a big step for hardcore music.

Did you have any bands in between the Crumsuckers and Pro-Pain?

Yeah, I had this one band called Heavy Rain, Crumsuckers broke up in 1989, we were together an aweful long time and we decided to call it quits, everybody kind of went their own separate ways. Then I started this band called Heavy Rain in 1990 and we were only around with Heavy Rain for about a year, but we were playing stuff that was more like old Soundgarden and stuff like that, it was really like a heavy rock-n-roll sound, with a little of an alternative edge to it. We got out and played a few shows, it was just important for me to get out and do soemthing different than hardcore at the time, maybe gather some new influences. If I was going to start another heavy band I didn't want it to be exactly like my old band. So that was a really important growth time for us. Then myself and my drummer, Dan Richardson, decided to start Pro-Pain, and that was in '91, and we were later signed and came out with "Foul Taste Of Freedom" in '92. That's when everything started.

You said you wanted to get away from the hardcore scene, do you find you're wanting to do that now, or do you like the scene and want to continue with it?

Well I always liked hardcore music, I did back then and I still do right now. It's just that I think the hardcore scene, is more like, it's for the youth, and it's music played by the youth for the youth, and I think it's important for hardcore music to have it stay that way, and have it be authentic. It's something where I came from, and I'm proud of that, but being older now I don't pretend to be part of the New York hardcore scene anymore. So I'm kind of saying I grew up from, rather than away from it. We tend to just do our own things these days and use hardcore as just a source of influence. And of course incorporate a lot of different styles as well, and I think it gives Pro-Pain a little bit of a unique sense which I think is important.

Do you see Pro-Pain itself changing styles significantly, or would you form a different project before you do that?

If I felt the need to do something drastically different, which I don't at this particular point in time, I'd probably start another band, I wouldn't want to subject Pro-Pain fans to that. But we're pretty content in what we do, in the shows that we play, and just overall with Pro-Pain right now. We've always been really comfortable at our level and we want to continue Pro-Pain and keep it going as long as we can. If the need comes up to do anything different, I guess time will tell, it will probably be in the form of another project.

I'm going to move of the band for a bit. I noticed in the Thank You's you thanked Gary Jr. for the first time?

Gary Jr. is my two year old son and the older he gets the more difficult it gets to get out on the road. But I really appreciate all the time off that I have, the little time off that I have, to try and spend every ounce of time I have with Gary Jr. and my wife. I'm pretty much a family man off the road. I'm pretty low key, not like the old days going out and clubbing and all that stuff, I'm older now and I made it through that, thankfully. But, yeah, Gary Jr. is in the credits, proud to say, and he's doing great, and the rest of my family is in the credits as well.

You recently relocated to Florida, is that part of this...

Yeah, it's a family thing. My brother has been down here for about a dozen years now, and my parents just recently moved here from Long Island, so there wasn't a lot left back at home. I had a lot of old friends from back home that moved on, moved out of state, pretty much gone on with their lives and I gotta do the same thing, so I sort of followed suit with my family, eventually made my way down here.

The touring must take a lot of your time, is the amount of touring going to decrease as you spend more time with your family?

I hope not, as long as we have Pro-Pain around, we really want to keep the touring level up there and play as many shows as we can. I don't know if in the future we'll be doing 300+ shows or whatever, but we'll be doing a significant amount of shows, I can say that. Off of this album I can say the touring will be fairly significant, there's already four tours in a row booked back to back. We're already booked through November, so we're going to stay fairly busy as of next week. We go overseas on Tuesday, the whole touring thing starts for us on the 30th of January. We're all a little anxious right now, we've been rehearsing all the time and trying to get everything to the point where it sounds good, and we're doing a little bit of a warmup show here in Tampa. It's just basically a word of mouth show, we're just throwing up a bunch of gear on stage at this billiard place in Tampa and we're just gonna lay it down and test out the new stuff and get ready for the European tour, so it should be a lot of fun.

Do you know what the long term future holds for yourself?

It's tough to say, I don't really make those kind of plans, anything long term. We just base everything on the immediate, and we have these tours coming up and then we'll make plans as to the next record when we're almost done with all these tour dates and stuff like that. Hopefully we'll get to make a few more records with Pro-Pain, that'd be great, it's certainly one of our goals.

Any final comments?

We'd like to thank everybody for supporting us over the years and I just want to mention that the US tour starts on March 27th in Tampa, and look for us in March and April, it'll be a full fledged US tour with some Canadian dates as well.

Tracks Of Creation March / April 1998
Copyright ©1998 Borcek
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