YA talks with vocalist Aaron, guitarist Joe, original bassist Adam and drummer Craig of THE REPOS on the occasion of their reissued first two LPs.

S/T LP—2004

2017  Deluxe Remastered 180gm vinyl reissue available here

For several years prior to The Repos, Craig, Joe, and Aaron all played together in The Mushuganas. Describe the transition between bands and your decision to switch from playing traditional punk rock to fast hardcore. How did Adam come aboard?

Aaron: The Mushuganas were kind of being forced to its end due to personnel issues. Basically, we were without a drummer. The three of us had been friends for quite a long stint at this point and really enjoyed playing music together. Not only was it a matter of enjoyment, but we clicked musically. We all connected on a level that I have found rare in playing music with others throughout the years. I don’t think we were ever stuck on playing a certain style of music since all of us have a vast background of musical interests. The transition felt like if you and your best friends lost a job working at a restaurant and all found a new job together at a construction site. I was fond of Adam from his time playing in a band with Sutfin and Arends back in the DeKalb/Sycamore days. I remembered him as having a good sense of humor and a variety of talents in art and music. I arranged a meeting with him at a now defunct bar in Chicago owned by Chuck Uchida of the great Attica Studios. The three of us had already recorded the demo so I came equipped with a tape and a plan to hook him. We talked over a couple drinks and I convinced him to try it out.

Joe: It was time to do something different. Originally Aaron was going to play bass, Craig was going to sing and we were going to find a drummer. We recorded the music for the demo and Aaron took a stab at vocals. It was great. Craig stayed on drums and we needed to find a bass player. Adam went to NIU so we knew him from DeKalb. I used to break his balls and say he looked like the kid from Courtship of Eddie’s Father but he joined the band anyway.

Adam: Aaron gave me a call in ’02(?). I want to say Craig may have suggested me. I’d known them and Joe since early ’92 – ’93 in DeKalb. The only other band I’d been in at the time was The Killers and we ran in the same circles as The Mushuganas, Christ Mess, etc. so we kind of knew each other. Aaron had said they recorded a demo and wanted to play out so they needed someone to play bass.


The first LP contains all the songs from the demo, 7 additional songs (one of which was an old NBA song) plus a Jerry’s Kids cover. What do you recall about the writing process for this material and how fast did it come together? Was there a particular vision you had in mind for the sound/style? Where did you guys rehearse and how often?

Aaron: We were very disciplined about practicing regularly. We were doing two practices a week at the end of the Mushuganas era and kept the same regimen going during this time. We had a practice space on the very far northwest edge of Chicago (a block away from where we recorded “POSER”). It was the beginning of being in a new band and we probably wrote more songs that we scrapped than kept. We were excited about what we were doing and we were eager to create as much as possible. As far as vision for the style goes, we all came up going to shows in the 90s where we witnessed great bands that broke their momentum by over-explaining lyrical content. We made a conscious decision to play fast, short sets without any talking between songs. Not because we were reacting negatively to the bands doing the opposite, but because we wanted to do something that would take people by surprise. I was obsessed with the first wave of hardcore punk bands that consisted of kids who were just learning their instruments and mistakenly made great recordings that could never be duplicated, like the Gang Green and Jerry’s Kids tracks on the Boston Not LA comp. and early VOID and DEEP WOUND and also the established musicians who dumbed down their abilities to fit into the genre, like Angry Samoans and Bad Brains. We were leaning more toward the latter since we had all been playing together for some time. Craig has always been a tremendously talented guitarist so his new move to drums gave us the frantic edge I wanted. Joe has always been far too great of a guitarist to play simple hardcore , but he immediately understood what we were going for and dumbed it down to a point where he only showed glimpses of his true talent as a musician. Adam was a guitar player so positioning him as the bassman added a little more discomfort. It all worked better than I could have hoped.

Joe: It was very easy, the songs came very fast. We had been playing together probably a couple times a week at least so it was very instinctual. I wanted it to sound like the first Face Value 7″. We practiced at a space way on the far Northwest side of Chicago by Superdawg.

Adam: Pretty much every time we got together to record everyone would throw in bits and pieces of riffs, chord progressions and shape them into 30 seconds of terror, tops. If a song wasn’t working or we’d hit a wall, we would take breaks until something gelled. Joe had a knack for twisting something that was weak-sounding and turning it into gold. Craig always went for every different way someone could play drums for a song. Like we had something with three same sounding verses but he plays it where each verse was almost a different style of drumming.

And I have no idea what dark corners Aaron gathered his words from. Some of the most visceral stuff from someone who wasn’t going to kill me!

Craig: I’m pretty sure Aaron wrote practically all of the music on the demo, and the lyrics, of course. Joe and I might have come up with small parts of songs, but I think it was all pretty much Aaron. If Joe or me came up with a riff, Aaron would tweak it. He’d tell me how drums parts should sound.

The rest of the songs that made up the first LP were a bit more collaborative, I think. Slightly. But it was still under Aaron’s direction. The songs came together fairly quickly, and we padded the album out with two covers. I’m really glad we did the NBA song! I hope I’m remembering this right, but in the summer of ’95 or ’96 a group of Dekalbians and one St Charlesite started a hardcore band with an all-skate theme. I don’t want to call it Skate-core or anything like that, because that cheapens what it was. NBA stood for Neal Blender Alliance, and every song was about skateboards. OK, back to trying to get this right, it was Mark McCoy and Joel Fennel on dual vocals, me on drums, Aaron on guitar, Ebro and Jon Arends on the other guitar and bass? Or was Ebro on drums and I played one of the guitars? I feel I was the drummer, but where would that have left Ebro? I know he was there. Does that sound right? Argh! My brain doesn’t remember things very well sometimes. But it was a lot of fun, and even though it only happened once or twice as practices and never played a show, we managed to write and record (on a boombox or handheld tape recorder) a handful of songs. Certified Cult Band is an NBA song, but with different lyrics.

Getting ready for the LP, we now had Adam on bass, and I’m pretty sure we practiced once or twice a week. I can’t speak for the other guys, but I felt the first LP going to a more evil place than the demo. Where the demo was just fast crazy stuff, I felt the songs on the LP getting a little more manic. I liked it.

You recorded the album with Joe Partyka, who has since vanished off the face of the earth. What was Joe like? How would you describe his studio and how long did the album take to record?

Photo by Jenny S.

Joe Partyka, ca. 2005

Aaron: I knew Joe Partyka because he worked at a legendary record store in Naperville, IL called Record Swap. I was there 2 or 3 times a week after work combing the used bins in search of gems. Joe was talkative and friendly and we hit it off right away. Right around the year 2000 I moved from the DeKalb/Sycamore area to Downers Grove, IL into an apartment a half block from Partyka. I would go over to his place all the time and just sit around listening to records and talk. When I started talking to him about this new band I was doing, he liked it and offered to record us. I felt that doing a recording with someone like Joe who had very little experience and knowledge would add positively to what I had envisioned for the path of the band. We recorded everything live, including vocals. Partyka’s recording space was in the basement of the apartment he lived in. It was all brick and concrete, not like a suburban basement of a house but more like a well-lit elementary school janitor’s space. It all came together very quickly. We may have done all of it in a day or two.

Joe: Joe was great, very deadpan. The studio was in the basement of his apartment building I believe. Very sparse but got the job done. 8 tracks on tape I believe  and we may have bounced it down to ADAT and done vocal overdubs. I played the guitar leads live and then overdubbed another one over.  I stole this idea from Rick Sims of the Didjits.

Adam: If I remember correctly family members got involved. Joe (and his recording buddy whom I remember only as “Jah-Raffe”) was alright. He burned me a bunch of RIDE CDs so that was cool.

The record arrived in 2004 at the tail end of the early 00’s thrash revival. From my perspective, this record helped seal the fate of that style and influence a whole wave of new bands. How did you view yourselves in contrast to what was happening musically then and how did people react to you?

Aaron: We were oblivious to what was happening in hardcore at the time. Whatever role we played in changing the direction of trending styles was accidental. We immediately had a great reaction to what we were doing so we kept doing it.

Early Repos shirt design.

Joe: I was not paying attention at all.

Adam: Being slightly out of the loop where the HxC community is concerned, I was always stoked that people got excited for us whenever we played or had a record out. I think we approached our stuff with honesty and integrity and people felt the same and were really into that. The best reactions came from people in other bands or our friends cuz then you really felt like the shit! People were really cool to us.

Craig: It will take a long time for me to describe how I viewed this band, and in contrast to the musical climate at the time. I might sound shallow and narcissistic at times while I do. But it’s my mindset. So, I was part of the creation of this band following the end of my previous band’s long run. And that ended with a whimper. Nobody was interested. The old band had been through several low points, but we had seen many highs over the years. At times we had some legitimate respect, but also had a bunch of detractors. It was a weird band, which probably deserves its filing in the pop punk genre, but that cheapens it because I think we were so much better than that. Although it was really an absurdist band, I always felt it was as much dangerous as it was funny, at least early on. It was not rare for us to get the best reaction in a live set when not headlining. I had a great time up there. But that was gone, and I was not doing so well, mentally. I missed it, and the band was barely even broken up when we made the new one. I named the new band the Repos, because I wanted to take back our spot in the music scene. I wanted to take it back and own it. I wanted that feeling again of making music and performing in a way that made people excited.

As far as comparing the Repos in 2004 to the other music going down, I really can’t say. I wasn’t feeling connected to any scene at the time. My old band wasn’t a part of any scene, and I didn’t go out to shows except for the ones my band played. In 2004 I was now in a scene that I wasn’t really familiar with. The weird part is I knew a lot of the people in it, but I was always kind of running parallel to them. I got my start in 1992 Dekalb, in their hardcore scene, but then started more of a pop punk band that kept playing with hardcore bands for a while. So when the Repos started up, we were now definitely in the hardcore scene, sort of reunited with people we knew from a long time ago. But, I still don’t think we fit in. We did our thing, but it really took a long time for people to warm up to us. We stuck to our goal of making short, fast, dumb songs, and then ran them all together in our live sets. I don’t think other bands were doing it like that. But our shows for the first couple years were very small, and not many people came out. The LP probably helped push things along at first. It was a big leap from going from demo tape immediately to LP. I feel there probably should have been several years of releasing 7″ records with odd delays until finally putting out a full length. The album artwork is really great, kind of weird and dark and leaves you wondering what this band is trying to get across to you. Weird. And I’m good at weird. This record fit.

As much as I’m saying I didn’t feel part of the scene, I have to say that the HC scene here has been so great. I’ve met a lot of really great people and bands over the years.

What do you recall about the reception of the album?

Aaron: Absolutely nothing.

Joe: People liked it. People were excited to get a copy and seemed to really like it. Locally, I mean. No one outside of Chicago knew anything about us really.

Craig: Personally, I remember thinking it was really cool. The spotted vinyl, the weird artwork and the part glossy/part flat finish made it a cool looking release. I liked it. It was cool to have an album come out so quickly after starting a band, I thought. While I wasn’t thrilled about my performance on it, I was still proud of it. It was a landmark for us, at least. I think our newness comes through on this album, as it should; we were still very much in the beginning phase of the band.

I recall that we still were not very popular at the time of this release. I’m picturing our live shows, and not many people being there. I could be wrong, though. Compared to our shows a couple years later, they seem insignificant. We never played outside the midwest, having gone as far as Minneapolis once for a fest, and to downstate Carbondale, Illinois to play a sub sandwich shop. I’m pretty sure we knew we were doing something good, but we still hadn’t made an impact anywhere outside of Chicago, really. I think this first LP became more interesting as time wore on, as more people heard about us. A lot of the songs on this album remain some of our best, most memorable ones.

Hearts and Heads Explode LP—2006

2017  Deluxe Remastered 180gm vinyl reissue available here

Hearts and Heads Explode is considered to be one of the best hardcore records of the 00’s. What, to you, are its distinguishing characteristics?

Aaron: We were in a weird place during the recording of this album. We had some momentum and support going for us and wanted to push limits in some way. We wanted to loosen up, ditch any roots we started out with. We were riding high on the ease we had with writing songs in the style we were hoping to achieve so we would fuck with any logical ideas we had for writing legitimate songs in typical time frames in any way we could. If I recall correctly, we were rehearsing and writing new songs in Joe’s basement in a beautiful bungalow he found in a terrible neighborhood. We would just jam on a riff endlessly and then add other elements to the song to complete it. There was very little structure going on during this time. No talk of playing a part 4 times then moving to the next riff. It was all very free and weird. At the same time, I was getting deep into drug abuse and strangeness. The lyrics for this album are disturbing to me now as I can see where my mind was at that time. I had moved away from any thematic structure rooted in being part of a scene and togetherness and drifted out into total isolation. It all worked in a way that we can never duplicate because it was a specific time and place that can’t be duplicated. This record is both the best work I’ve ever done and the scariest time in my life. I mistakenly saw the band as being the reason for my mental decay and forced a break up. I made up the excuse of living 6 hours away from the rest of the band as being the reason we had to stop.

Joe: It is like nothing before or since.

Craig: We went into the studio armed with maybe 5 or 6 songs. I don’t even know why we booked recording time! But it turned out to be the best recording session I’ve ever been a part of. We were recording in a large living room of a small house. All of us were together, in the same room, close to each other. Just like a typical practice space. JT and Joe Partyka had their “control room” somewhere outside of the living room. There were chairs or a couch in this control room, and we brought a bunch of beer. After recording the 5 or 6 planned songs, we had to make up the rest on the spot. We’d be hanging out in the control room, goofing off, talking, and then someone would say, “Hey! I just thought of a riff!” We’d all jump up and run into the recording room, throw our guitars on, get behind the drums, the tape would start rolling, and we’d bang out a song. All of us were coming up with songs left and right. I can’t remember who wrote other songs, but I know I wrote the music for “Keep On Keepin’ On” and “No Luck, No Dice”. As short as the songs are, we also managed to write songs where one person would make one riff, and another would make the second riff in the same song. It really was cool how easily these songs came out of our heads. We’d record a song, run back into the control room and listen to it, have another beer, get inspired, and run back into the recording room. It was that simple, that improvised, that instant. It should not have turned out so good! Haha…

The lyrics for the last-minute songs were definitely written after the fact. Our music is always written first, and then Aaron write lyrics based on the music, or he has short stories written ahead of time that fit the music, or sometimes I have drawn weird pictures for him to base lyrics off of. I am 100% positive he has more to add to his lyric writing process!

Was there any material not used? That’s a good question, and I have no clue. The final track on the album, “Totenstille”, was probably not meant to be on the album, but it was kind of shaped into a song by Will and Mark in the mixing/mastering process. It makes for a good ending to the album.

The album has a very loose, intentionally sloppy style that shows more of a disregard for perfection than a lack of ability. How much of the material was improvised in the studio? Who came up with the riffs? Were the lyrics written prior or after the music was recorded? Was there any material not used?

Aaron: I don’t know that we ever really communicated the idea of playing more loosely. I think it just kind of happened while we were practicing and writing new songs. We would just jam on a riff for a long time experimenting with the dynamics. I remember at one practice leading up to the recording we were running through a few songs that we had finished in full and then we’d stop, make some jokes and Craig would just starting beating on the drums then Joe would make up a riff on the spot. It was meant to be silly most of the time. He’d add weird note bends as a part of the riff and it blew my mind! I could suddenly hear how the song would go in my head. Then it was a matter of working out how parts would go together. Some of that we saved for the studio, with only a loose idea of a song. Other songs like “Goodbye City” were completely finished before we went into the studio. I wrote that one in full in my apartment in Riverside on an acoustic guitar. “Hearts and Heads Explode” was a song that we worked on for a long period of time. We had the first riff of the song and practiced it all the time but every other riff we added to it didn’t seem to work. One day it just hit us in the most natural way. It wasn’t a matter of laboring over it either. We would try some riffs and, when they didn’t work, we just moved on to doing something else. As far as lyrics, I do the same thing now as I did then. I always have a notepad on me and when something strikes me I write it down. It could be an idea or just the pleasing way words fit together. For instance “Goodbye City” was a title before any lyrics were written. It was a tribute to some of the titles from the first Mushuganas album (“Shit City” and “Wright City”) and then I figured out that I wanted it to be a song about leaving a physical space to find some kind of better life. You know, blame the city for everything that ailed me. I was reading a book by Kathy Acker at the time and her bleak apocalyptic writing inspired me to write in a similar style. In other songs like “Crooked Finger” and “Bored and High” it was just free-flow writing. I tried to paint a picture or tell a story that had just the right balance of detail and vagueness in order to create a feeling of romantic uneasiness. “Casket Case” was a title first. I liked the play on the idea of being a basket case to the point of total destruction. I conjured up the idea of driving (a theme I often use) recklessly in the area where I grew up. Route 23 is the main road you take from DeKalb down to where my parents live in Waterman, IL. I used a lot of fantasy mixed with reality in writing lyrics. The reality is usually the physical space like in “Ogden Ave.” When I lived on the Chicago Western Suburbs I travelled on Ogden Ave all the time. There is a strip of cheap motels and I always imagined what kind of person would be there. Then I applied my own mental state of the time, feeling disheartened, out of control, and sick of life. I imagined a fantasy of myself in one of those rooms, having a drink and writing a suicide note. “Fun To Stay” came together lyrically in the same kind of way. I had a membership at a local YMCA where I would go to run on the treadmill when it got too cold to run outside. I really enjoy running. It seems to calm my mind when there’s too much going on. I had a lot going on at that time so I was there a lot. The Y also provided rooms for people in need. I would see these people in the exercise room sometimes. At least I imagined I did. Then I placed myself as the person staying at the Y. I imagined myself far gone “I look like a hurricane, I smell like a monsoon” and I would be “digging through the garbage, crying on the bed, flirting with sobriety.” The title “Fun To Stay” comes from the Village People’s lyric “It’s fun to stay at the YMCA.” I was also very inspired by the Beach Boys’ “In My Room.” Sometimes the ideas would come together quickly and sometimes they would take a little labor. Looking back, I’m really happy with the way the lyrics reflected what was going on in my life. It may not be outwardly apparent to most people, but the lyrics for this album reads like a journal to me. It’s a time in my life captured and coupled with both amazing and terrible times. I cant recall if there is any unused music from this session, but I think we recorded our own version of the intro riff of The Cars “Bye Bye Love.” I’m having a hard time remembering if we did that during the recording of the first LP or “Hearts and Heads.” I recently found the notebook from this time and there is a lot of writing that was unused for sure.

Joe: I would say 80% of it was improvised. We had some ideas we were building on. I believe most of the lyrics were written after. I don’t recall anything left on the cutting room floor.

Craig: I just got dumped today. Anyway, as a person who doesn’t listen to much music, I have to agree that this is one of the best hardcore records of the 00’s. Why? Well, it’s 50% the riffs, 50% the lyrics, 50% the performance, and 50% the production. And I’ll add just a little 50% because of the artwork. I love the creepy ghost on the front and the shrugging ghost on the back. It’s the perfect combo of creepy and weird/funny , and the fact that it’s just you under a blanket in a hallway makes it that much better.

We just recorded the music together, with all 4 band members. I think Aaron recorded the vocals on his own on a separate day, and I know I was there for at least part of his vocal recordings. I don’t think we had a rough mix of the recording to listen to, and I can say here that we made up about 75% of the songs on the spot on the day of recording. So, you can see that we really didn’t have a clue what the finished product would sound like. I remember the day I got a taped copy of the final mix/mastered mix, and played it in my truck for Joe while in the parking lot of a southside pizza place. It was like fucking magic. Since this album, it has not been rare for us to record songs, forget all about them, and then hear them on their intended format and go, “Whoa! This is awesome!” This is the exact reaction we had while listening to H&HE in my Bronco. You mentioned our 1st LP helped usher out the thrash scene, but I heard a thrash album in H&HE in the Bronco listening party. I am a nerd, and when this album came out I called it a Thrashterpiece, and I will not apologize for that. I am not a film major, but I thought of making a film to the album, I was so excited. The only thing that held me back from this project was a lack of high-end video cameras.

The distinguishing characteristics of this album are as follows:

1.) Aaron’s vocals and lyrical content turned a new corner. Our previous recordings featured differences that haven’t really been dipped back into: Aaron’s vocals went from a gravelly scream to a lower gravelly yell, now to a yell that inflects at the end of words and sentences, which gave a feel of backward masking done forwards. I wanted to have some actual backward masking vocals on the this record, which didn’t end up happening. But to hear Aaron nearly make his regular vocal cadence do this kinda blew my mind. This is the style he kept with the rest of the time, so this album is a definite landmark in our band’s history.

2.) The production is fucking great, and I never heard such a difference between rough mix to mastered mix as I did with this album. [Will Killingsworth and Mark McCoy, who produced the album,] took something that was already kinda special and put a really fucking cool spin on it, and turned it into what I think of as a masterpiece. “Totenstille” was awesome, because [they] took a weird song of a meandering riff we recorded, and turned it into an actual instrumental song.

3.) Biased here, but this album marked my first decent drumming recording, which as tried and true as the “bass and drums are the backbone of a band” saying goes, really is true. Even though the recording level isn’t as high as the first LP, my improved performance in addition to slightly burying the drums in the mix made it sound even better. Adam has always been a rock on the bass. It was time I matched his steadiness.

4.) I’ve mentioned myself a lot in my answers now, followed by Aaron and I just made an Adam comment. I can’t go without saying how Joe’s guitar work is also at the top of this band. I’ve played music with Joe since 1992, and I can’t figure out how he makes guitars sound so loud and solid. The Repos albums would sound and be totally different if Joe wasn’t the guitarist. And not in a good way.

Additionally, this record has a more developed and layered sound than the first LP, with wild guitar solos and double tracked vocals. What were some of your thoughts about the production going into the recording session?

Some of Aaron’s original lyric drafts for the Hearts and Heads Explode LP

Aaron: I don’t remember having any preconceived ideas about how I hoped the recording session or production would go. I do recall pushing for Joe to add many, many layers of guitar and layers of feedback. Joe has this amazing ability to come up with leads and weird bends on the spot. He doesn’t take hours or weeks to figure out the perfect lead, he listens to the song and plays whatever he feels. He can do it with any song. It seems like his creative ability is endless. When I figured out that he was able to do this I encouraged him to do multiple tracks. I liked the way it sounded and I feel like his unique style of playing is something that separates The Repos from other bands in our genre.

The double tracked vocals were a delightful accident. The “HAHE” recording session was done in Partyka’s new place. It was a house he and JT rented and built a studio. It was a great atmosphere. We’d sit around in the kitchen and talk about the latest R. Kelly song that was on the radio in way too much detail. It felt very relaxed, maybe a little too comfortable. I didn’t do vocals the same day as the rest of the guys recorded their tracks, but came back another day by myself. I recall being in a weird headspace on the way over to their spot, thinking about the lyrics and what was going on in my life. I had a pocketful of pills and a fifth of whiskey going into the studio. The three of us hung out for a while before we got started and I dipped a little too deeply into my supply. I was feeling good and ready to record vocals. We all joked about the lyrics and had fun with each other. Partyka said I should change the line in “Half A Hole” from “Failure takes a lot of effort/ So I’m digging half a hole” to “Failure takes a lot of effort/I’m on pills and alcohol.” I jokingly told them not to look me in the eye while I was singing and they both put wacky, dark sunglasses on. We were having a lot of goofy fun. Then I turned a corner where I was all of a sudden over-the-top intoxicated and had to stop. I had a finished vocal track for every song except “Ripped & Glued.” I passed out on Partyka’s bed and it was only mid-afternoon. I woke up the next morning feeling terrible. I didn’t even want to listen to anything I recorded the day before. Partyka and JT were still in great spirits, told me my behavior was no big deal. They were great that way. They didn’t get bothered by anything. They really meshed well with everyone in the band with their caustic sense of humor and laid back attitudes. And they loved what we were doing. I still have very fond memories of that whole time recording with those two. At the time I felt shitty about myself so I retreated for a few days and worked hard on revising some lyrics and trying to get into the right state of mind to get the vocals finished. I went back to their studio very sober. Craig met me there. I think I was hoping Craig could lend me a little moral support and he did, as he always does. He even did some backing vocals on most of the tracks. It’s hard to hear because his voice just blends right in with mine. This time I was determined to do two great vocal tracks. I asked Partyka to delete the first take of all my vocals, but he thought it was a good idea to keep them. I ripped through all the songs this time with ease and confidence. When he played back the songs, he turned up both vocal tracks and it was amazing! Looking back, the dual tracks have a kind of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde appeal. They represent me at my best and at my worst all at once.

Joe: They had moved the studio into a house so it had a bit more of a relaxed feel. They didn’t mind us stretching out. I overdubbed leads over the whole thing from what I recall and Will edited them tastefully.

Craig: I’m a big fan of both the doubled vocals and the wild guitar solos and feedback. The vocals were done separately from the music, and the guitar solos were also done on a separate day than the main recording. The solos may have been done on the same day as the main recording, but either I left already or I can’t remember anymore.

I had zero thoughts about the production going into the session. I’m simple like that. We were recording with the same team we’d recorded our earlier stuff with, and I assumed it would basically sound the same. AFTER the session/mixdown/mastering, though, is a different story. I couldn’t be happier with the finished sound. It is so loose and chaotic, wild, and exciting. The first time I listened to an advance copy of the final product, I knew we did something special.

You recorded with Joe Partyka again, but by the time it was completed, he went AWOL and took the master reels with him. How were they eventually recovered and how much time passed until the album was mixed by Will Killingsworth at Dead Air studios?

Aaron: Yeah, it’s still a mystery as to what happened to Partyka at that time. I remember feeling, right after the recording, that everything was cool with him. I think I even went back there to hang out a couple times and have him do some studio work on another project I was in the middle of working on. Then suddenly I lost communication with him. I called him numerous times and wouldn’t get a call back. I had seen in the past that he had periods of depression and would isolate himself. I also knew that he was constantly busy with projects and jobs so I wasn’t worried at first. Months went by and I started to worry that something happened to the tapes and that he was avoiding me for that reason. Soon, everyone got involved in trying to find Partyka, but nobody could. He seemed to have vanished, but his phone was still on so we kept calling. I remember being in my then wife’s parents’ kitchen talking about how I was frustrated and worried about the situation with Jenny’s dad. He asked me for Partyka’s phone number, called and left him a message. He didn’t say more than his name and that it was important to call him back. Partyka called back within 5 minutes. Jenny’s dad talked with him, gave him instructions as to where to send the tapes, then handed me the phone. Partyka was on the line still. He said “I’m really sorry, Aaron.” I think I said “It’s OK, Joe.” But before I could ask him if he was doing all right he hung up the phone. That’s the last time I ever talked to him. We searched for him later on thinking we’d like to record with him, but he has no internet presence and all promising leads through friends seem to lead nowhere. I really hope he’s OK. He was a very important part of these recordings and I considered him to be a good friend. He was a kind and generous dude. The day I moved into an apartment close by his place, I didn’t really have a plan or any help to unload the moving truck. I walked over to his place and woke him up. He was happy to see me and asked what I was doing. I said I was getting ready to move in down the street. He immediately got dressed and helped carry boxes and furniture up three flights of stairs all day with me without a single complaint. One of his many jobs was working at a coffee joint right down the street from where we lived. I would walk over there after getting really high sometimes. He always could tell when I was in a bad spot and he’d make me delicious coffee drinks and cheer me up. I miss that guy.

Craig: Wow, this is a part of the story I do not remember at all. I do know that by the time this album came out, we were no longer really a band anymore. I guess that shows it took a long time to come out–I honestly don’t recall the situation involving the delay. Sorry!

What do you recall about the reception of this album?

Aaron: The only thing I remember is hearing that someone said it wasn’t as good as the first LP. I could not disagree more. The first LP was, to me, a mocking tribute to all the early Hardcore we loved mixed with our own developing style.” Hearts and Heads Explode” is when we fully came into our own as a band and is always the benchmark for everything else we do.

Joe: Again, people liked it, locally. It wasn’t until much later that it really caught on.

Craig: The way I remember it, people took a long time to warm up to our band. Our shows for the longest time were very very small. Even after the first album came out. We played good live shows, but I just remember not many people came out. Aaron moved away from Chicago after the Hearts and Heads recording session, before it was released. We weren’t playing anymore. I can only imagine that while we were on this sort of hiatus before officially breaking up, Hearts and Heads came out, people heard it and liked it, and realized they liked our band a lot more than they thought before. We played a couple shows in support of the new album and to mark the end of the band. The crowds were huge, lively, and just went nuts for us. We ended the band right there on a high note. If Aaron hadn’t moved back after 5 years, it would have remained an awesome way to go out. Turns out it was a great way to begin a 5 year break.