When the band American Nightmare (later changed to Give Up the Ghost) released their 2001 album Background Music, it signaled a drastic departure from a decade of hardcore that focused less on wordplay, but more on ideology, or politics. The lyrics written by Wes Eisold were more dark poetry screamed with a backing band than the militant rhetoric of bands that dotted the genre's landscape since the mid 90s. When the band finally broke up, Eisold started a new group with members of The Locust called Some Girls. In this new band, he found himself with a group of like-minded malcontents with whom he fused William Burroughs' cut-up techniques with angsty, poetic lyrics that, when coupled with the power-violence style of the band, created some of the angriest, most poignant songs hardcore or punk had heard in quite a long time.
Examples of Eisold's lyrical prowess crept out of the underground into the mainstream since the breakup of those bands. In 2007, there was controversy when the band Fall Out Boy seemed to lift some of Eisold's lyrics for songs on their album From Under the Cork Tree. The hoopla surrounding the incident died down with an out-of-court settlement, but gave even more evidence to the already strong case that Wes Eisold was and is one of the most important punk writers of the last twenty years.
Today, Eisold has taken on new roles: one as a member of the darkwave band Cold Cave, and the other running the indie publishing company Heartworm Press that, aside from putting out books of Eisold's own written work, has also published works of other names from the punk and hardcore underground (Mark McCoy of Charles Bronson, and Chris Leo of The Van Pelt, and The Lapse).
“There's a disconcerted boy with an opinion and an arsenal of hearsay on any given corner of the world these days begging for you to fail so that they can redeem themselves somehow.”
You once said “…the way we feel about hardcore and punk now. It's so redundant now. It's monotonous. Personally, we're (Some Girls) really bored with it.” I'm curious if there was a point that you began to consider the music playing behind you as just another medium for your writing to be experienced?
Yes, but with mutual validity. Sometimes I felt less attached to the music and I was just hitchhiking. That's fair- Everyone in a van is going somewhere for some reason. Music and words and what the two create together are all I ever wanted to be a part of anyway. I was drawn to writing through lyrics in the first place. The words to songs we know inside and out don't always have a fair lifespan on their own legs, and that's fine too. Looking back, even just a few years away, so much of what I did and said was carpeted in insecurity. It's no surprise this quote is narrow-minded and one of many petty lashes against what I felt had betrayed me, but really it was mostly in the head. It was honest at least, and I think the music from then is a testament to those actions. I'm okay with that too though- I was bored with the years before and needed more and didn't know how to get there. I was a miserable person so I made miserable music and I treated people miserably.
Prior to American Nightmare, what was your background as a writer?
I moved every year or two growing up and that was before we lived in the future. My friends in the intervals were in the same situation so none of us bothered to keep in touch. Sometimes I would write letters to them and fold them up and stash them in a box that lived in the corner of a closet. Just trying to explain the insurmountable loss and confusion. It's pretty silly and I'd throw them out around the time I thought someone may find them. These nervous compulsions find their way to journals eventually. I'd say that was when I started to write.
Cold Cave seems like quite a departure from your past band (American Nightmare/Give up the Ghost and Some Girls). Is this something you have wanted to do for awhile?
Yes it is. I loved playing in the bands I played in but aside from when AN began, it was never what I really wanted to do. I never thought I could make music myself so I never tried. I guess two years ago I decided to try just for fun and I actually liked what I was making. It wasn't my first choice in sound originally- I'd rather play guitar or something. I didn't have other means to get what I wanted and so I tried synths and electronics until Cold Cave encompassed what I wanted for me and what I wanted from others. My only obsessions on earth have been music infatuations. When I was barely 10 my father's friend told me the people who wore black in the mall liked The Smiths. The “Just Like Heaven” video was the first music video I ever saw. A year later I tried my hand at stealing a Peter Murphy button and was detained for my passion. I don't think those are the type of sentiments that ever leave you.
Anyway, I couldn't put it off. Silence seems more golden at times. The older you get the more arrows you get thrown at you. There's a disconcerted boy with an opinion and an arsenal of hearsay on any given corner of the world these days begging for you to fail so that they can redeem themselves somehow. I get it, I just can't comprehend caring enough about anyone else's life to cast my own issues on to them, let alone mine. Even now, here, I don't think my opinion or view of the world matters. I never feel like I have a right to answer anyone's question about anything. I don't think Cold Cave or what we write or what Heartworm releases is a matter of existentialism. I think we're all just being honest. Self sabotage or get through the day. It's all something in between really.
“My only obsessions on earth have been music infatuations. When I was barely 10 my father’s friend told me the people who wore black in the mall liked The Smiths… A year later I tried my hand at stealing a Peter Murphy button and was detained for my passion. I don’t think those are the type of sentiments that ever leave you.”
When did the initial idea for Heartworm come about?
It was meant to be a label name for my zines and was also going to be a tape label. I think I needed a hobby but didn't really know what or why. I had had a collection of poems and lyrics I wrote coming out off and on for a couple years and decide to just release it myself. I didn't think anyone would care but if I did enough of them I could afford to put out a book I really would want to have, like Max's or Eric Pauls'. One of the first releases was going to be a Violent Students/Lambsbread tape but my recorder went to hell while they played.
People have drawn a lot of comparisons to the world of indie publishing vs. the major publishing houses and the indie label vs. major label. As a person who has experience in both fields, what are your thoughts on that?
It is absolutely comparable. I believe major publishers to be the same as major record labels because they both spend too much money on drab or manufactured performers. It's strange, you know. I'd love to be able to press thousands and thousands of each book and hope strangers find them and get turned on to them but it's just not possible. Until then, I am comfortable knowing a thousand books are in the world and at a home with someone who really wants to have it.
You give some pretty recognizable names from the punk/hardcore underground an ability to showcase their art in different mediums than they are known for – was this something you set out to do when you started publishing or was it just coincidence that you knew these people who were in bands who happened to be writers, visual artists, etc.
I want to release the works of people I believe in regardless of their background. I believe in the few people I call friends and some of them are from that world, so it just works out that way.
Boyd Rice has an upcoming release with Heartworm, how did that relationship start?
Howie Pyro put us in touch. Boyd was in Philly shortly after for a book signing and we met up before at Madame Blavatsky's old house.
What else is in the future for Heartworm?
It's 7am and I'm waiting for the Prurient Rose Pillar book to arrive. This was close to two years in the making and a colossal endeavor so I'm a bit anxious. Boyd Rice and Max G. Morton's new books are next and I hope they can be released at the same time. After that will be a book of Genesis P-Orridge's and then there are a few more that are a bit too early on to talk about.