|Pictured above: Don’t hate Eric McManus because he’s beautiful.|
For the last decade or so, Louisville has been fortunate to count Eric McManus as one of our own. Since his arrival, McManus has played drums with Nixon, Lords, Piss Alley, Trophy Wives, Savage Master, and plenty more; he’s been in so many awesome projects that I’m sure I’m forgetting something. His most recent work is with American Lesions, who make some of the most bad ass southern fried hardcore punk going in the city, thanks in part to McManus’ flare at beating on things. Goddamn this dude can play. You can listen to some of the new seven inch below, and can catch him wailing on drums like the fucking animal he is this Saturday at Modern Cult for the American Lesions record release show alongside a packed (read: double booked) show featuring DNK BDZ FMLY BND and Scuzz Master (also releasing their split tape), John Paul Wright, Shutaro Noguchi, Rail Yard Ghosts, and TrashHagTradHaggis. We caught up with McManus to ask about drumming, getting rowdy, and Rowdy Roddy Piper!
Never Nervous: How did you get started in music? What was the first thing you learned to play? What instruments do you wish you could play, but have never really gone for it?
Eric McManus: I got started in music around 1988. I was five years old and my dad is a drummer. He had his drum kit in the basement and I used to mess around on it, despite being too short to reach the kick-drum pedal. This will sound corny to some, but I’ll never forget the first time I saw the video for Metallica’s “One.” It was so fucking disturbing to me as a child, and I was morbidly drawn toward the creepiness and aggression in that video. The double-picking on guitar, and the way the kick drum sounded (FUCK OFF…I STILL LOVE THE WAY IT SOUNDS)…I’d never heard anything like that. It gave me this sense of urgency, and after the video was over, I immediately asked my dad to teach me. Since I was an ADHD-laden little shit, they got me these drumsticks that were wired into a small speaker, and made a generic 80’s-style snare sound.
The next time I saw that video and tried to play along with it, it wasn’t synching…so I asked my dad to REALLY teach me how. The best advice I’ve ever received as a drummer was from him was: “relax.” All I could think was “HOW THE FUCK AM I SUPPOSED TO DO THAT?!” It IS true, though…if you get frustrated, you’ll only stress yourself out even more, and backtrack.
The second instrument I learned to play was guitar, around 1993-1994. I saw nirvana live on MTV, saw them just generally flipping their collective shit while breaking their equipment, and thought “I…I HAVE TO DO THAT. THAT’S WHERE I NEED TO BE.” Then I realized that equipment costs money. The instrument I wish I could play, and wish I would’ve actually started off with is piano. I feel like that covers a lot of bases…melody, percussion, and most importantly, theory.
NN: Tell us about your musical resume. Are there any bands that you miss playing in, or are you happy with your tenure in each?
EM: I honestly miss every band I’ve ever done…there was always a connotation involved emotionally with every band I’ve ever been in. I have to say, though…the one that has priority is Nixon. If it weren’t for that band, I wouldn’t even be in Louisville. Those guys literally picked me up from Pennsylvania, with my two garbage bags full of clothes, cd’s, and drums to play with them. They’re family for life to me. Also, I think that may be the most unlikely, unique group of people I’ve ever been in a band with. They’re all ridiculously talented, and EXCELLENT songwriters.
Playing the Kiss It Goodbye reunion tour was pretty flattering…being the youngest one (and HUGE fanboy) in the band and hearing all of these crazy stories about the late 80’s / 90’s hardcore scene…priceless. I remember getting to Pomona, California for the Revelation Records festival, checking in, and our vocalist (TIM SINGER FROM DEADGUY…WHAT THE FUCK) points to the giant Gorilla Biscuits Start Today album cover poster on the wall behind the merch tables that Rev had set up, he puts his arm around me, and says: “Baby boy! Here’s a little hardcore history for you *points to said poster*…see that guy up front smiling up front by the stage on that poster??” My response: “NO…FUCKING…WAY. REALLY?!” Yeah…that’s Tim, in that live shot that’s on a record that I hold dearly and had a HUGE impact on my life, and here I am, playing in a band with some of my heroes, and meeting more of them. It was fucking surreal…I still think about that daily, and can’t fathom how lucky I am to have been able to do that. Jesus.
NN: Are you from Louisville originally? I thought I heard that you moved here. If you did, why? And what is the difference between Louisville and other cities in which you’ve lived or played?
EM: I’m originally from around the Philadelphia area, the Lehigh Valley specifically…I moved here to play in Nixon. Louisville is like a musician’s mecca to me…there’s so many talented and nice / welcoming people here. I think the only city comparable to me is Richmond, Virginia. There’s just a positive, supportive vibe with both cities. It’s unfortunately a rare thing, but that’s why I hold Louisville in such high regards. Shit….my older brother may move here with me. He loves it here, and now understands after his last visit, why I moved here in the first place. We really have something special here, on ALL ends of the spectrum.
NN: How do you feel that you’ve evolved as a musician since you started? What would you tell anyone getting into music now?
EM: I feel like I’ve adapted well to different styles and tempos, but I’m still drawn towards playing fast. I do enjoy getting that out of my system to play a bit slower. Anyone getting into music now: DON’T USE TRIGGERS, PLUG-INS, OR DIGITAL BULLSHIT WHEN YOU RECORD. Be efficient with your instruments, and don’t take the lazy route.
NN: Who are some of your drumming heroes, both locally and around the world? How did any of them influence your playing?
EM: This is going to be a weird response. I’m going to start by saying John Bonham. That’s who got my dad (first, and foremost drumming hero) into drumming, so by proxy, here I am now. He was a fucking maniac, and didn’t take it easy on those things…he was genuinely into the music he was playing, played his ASS off, and therefore, I can identify with him. I wish I was that fucking good.
Bill Bruford of Yes and King Crimson fame is another, as well as Jon Theodore from The Mars Volta, and lately, Queens of the Stone Age. As for local drummers, there’s SO MANY that are huge influences and good friends. There’s one drummer that we can all agree on in town that is something else: Chris Maggio. That guy is a fucking nuclear power plant that just doesn’t stop…EVER. One of my favorite records of all time is Trap Them Darker Handcraft. The drumming on that is unfathomable, to say the least.
NN: Do you prefer bands that collaborate in the song writing process, or where one solitary composer comes in with ideas that you have to help bring to fruition? What tends to be your role in the songwriting process?
EM: I prefer a mix of both. It’s easier when you have a member come in with an almost complete skeleton of a song, and you all collaborate from there. Making shit up on the spot is pretty hard to do, and is a rarity when and IF it works out. My role in the whole process is basically thinking “where can I accent these parts / what can I do to make it more interesting without overplaying, and choking these parts.” Complication in short amounts on drums has always been a guideline for me.
NN: What are some of the stresses involved with being in a band and how do you deal with them?
EM: It really depends on the band…are you just starting the band? Are you touring? What kind of problems or variables do the members have? Where are you practicing? WHEN are you practicing? Do we need to borrow gear? You pretty much have to deal with these things as you go. Figuring all of the said questions above are definitely the worst parts of actually STARTING a band.
NN: On the flip side to that, what are some of the highlights to your musical career?
EM: Mostly traveling, and making new friends while being out. Getting to play some of the legendary places around the United States. I think that one of my favorite memories is this: the first “real” tour I ever went on was with a band called LickGoldenSky. We did a week of shows, before meeting up with the other two bands we were going out with for the next 5 weeks. We were with Soilent Green and a little know band (at the time) called the Black Dahlia Murder. We have our first show as a touring package in Pensacola, Florida. We’re the opening band on the tour, and play around 8pm that night. There was this kind of “bro, I love disturbed”-esque, shaved-head, slobbering drunk fucking idiot in the front while we were playing. While playing, our guitarist SCREAMS at me. I can’t tell what he’s saying, so I keep playing and looking at him. He keeps nodding in this same general direction while looking at me, and I shit you not, said nu-metal numbfuck was in the process of pissing his pants. God damn it, Florida…
EM: That was one of the most relieving things that I’ve ever done in my life. That was the only time I’ve ever done vocals in a band. No one’s life is perfect, and we all need an outlet. I’ll tell you what…I felt GREAT for the next month after that. I’d like to apologize to anyone who was on the receiving end of any degenerate behavior I displayed at that show. They didn’t want me back there after that show. I’d like to do an original band doing vocals at some point in the future, but need to focus on American Lesions full-on right now.
NN: I understand that you recently left Savage Master. What was that band like? Why did you leave? Did you wear a hood on stage? If so, I bet you got super hot.
EM: Yes, I did leave Savage Master almost a year ago. It was a thing where I need to get my shit together financially, combined with wanting to focus on some projects that I’ve been wanting to do for a LONG time. I HATED leaving them, but I had to. They are some of the most driven, fun, and amazing motherfuckers I’ve had the grace of being in a band with. Adam and I had come up with the idea of starting that band when I filled in on drums for a Hookers tour, which was also one of the most fucking amazing, and flattering experiences of my entire life…a true honor.
That fucking guy is one of the best writers musically that I know…It’s nonstop with him. And then, everyone else in the band has their own unique characteristic to add. Larry is a multitalented musician, as well as Brandon. Stacey came in the band a bit shy, but now live, makes fucking sure you know who you’re dealing with. It’s pretty amazing to look at all of this from an outside perspective…their progression keeps multiplying with every tour they do, and I miss them like crazy! If you haven’t seen them, DON’T FUCK THIS UP…GO SEE THEM THE NEXT TIME THEY PLAY LOUISVILLE. And YES, it was definitely hot playing drums in the mask. I got pretty close to passing out a couple of times.
NN: How did American Lesions come together?
EM: Well, it was at first an “out.” cover show for halloween. After that, they wanted to make a band of it. Sure enough, no bullshit, it happened. It really was that simple, haha.
NN: How would you describe American Lesions to someone that might not be familiar?
EM: I honestly don’t know how to, but here it goes: have you ever listened to something that made you want to jovially drink yourself into oblivion, throw beer into / onto a crowd, and fuck everything that moves?? Cross that with slutty, simple and fast rock’ n roll, and there you go.
NN: Was it awesome to work in a comedy club? Did you get to meet anyone interesting? Did you ever do any comedy yourself? Would you?
EM: I actually still work there, and YES, IT IS FUCKING AWESOME. Both of my jobs are incredible. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet some crazy characters…the likes of Steve-O, Bobcat Goldwaith, Gilbert Gottfried, Jon Reep, among others. I’m about a year into (attempting to do) stand-up myself. Every open mic is a different experience…it’s similar to playing music, but vividly different. If you fuck up doing comedy, you don’t have other members and noise to cover up your mistakes. It’s very therapeutic in a different way, though…I love it.
NN: Who would you want to win in a fight: a velociraptor that will attack you or your family afterwards or Donald Trump?
EM: I’d rather take one for the team, and pick the velociraptor. If that wig-wearing, idiotic, pile of fucking trash with legs takes the presidency, I quit life. The fact that this slobbering idiot is even in the race is enough to irritate me to the point of all of you seeing my mugshot on CNN’s breaking god damned news. For fuck’s sake…
EM: ….Dane Cook had a career?? OH YEAH, he jumped around on stage like an asshole, and was in those two movies. Wait…can the velociraptor fight that dipshit instead??
NN: Last but never least, what are your top five desert island album picks and why?
EM: In no order at all, just my go-to albums as of recently. It’s REALLY hard for me to pick favorites…my mind is all over the fucking place (SURPRISE).
- Propagandhi – Supporting Caste. I’ve always looked up to these guys as a musician in general. Their songs are all catchy, even the more aggressive ones, and they’re a band that kicks me in the ass to be a better musician. Also, you might learn a thing or two by paying attention to the lyrics.
- Trap Them: Darker Handcraft. This record is probably the most irate thing I’ve ever heard. Genres like death metal, black metal, thrash metal…they’re definitely aggressive. However, I’ve always felt (personal opinion…DON’T SACRIFICE ME) that most albums in those genres seem to be linear, meaning that I don’t feel a different degree of feeling from each song. Darker Handcraft….this record pummels you emotionally from so many different directions, and I FUCKING…LOVE IT. Perfect for my ADHD. I literally listen to this album every day…no shit. It’s relentless, furious, and it makes me want to put my head through a wall.
- Three Mile Pilot: Another Desert, Another Sea. This is one that changed my life. It’s incredibly creepy / dark, yet melodic and euphoric. VERY infectious…these songs will stay trapped in your mind on repeat for DAYS. Some of the choruses sound nearly cultish, for lack of a better description. Great rainy day record.
- The Rezillos: Can’t Stand the Rezillos. God damn do I love female / male harmonies. This is the perfect balance of that, rock, and punk. No matter what mood you’re in, this whole collection will improve your mood.
- Bob Mould: : Silver Age. For me, this is the catchiest album I’ve ever heard. I’ll never get sick of it. The Descent is in my top 5 favorite songs of all time. Now that I think about it, I’m probably going to listen to it now. It’s incredible…I’ve never heard a single person who’s heard it, whether they know who he is or not, say a bad thing about this album. I love it from front to back.