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Walter Schreifels

"I never thought I would get anywhere in the guitar game because I just didn't have the discipline. But I think it was through the cool side of punk and hardcore that let me see that you didn't have to rip technically to express something unique and exciting to people or to say something cool. That technical skill was just an aspect in that, and how you use the technical skill."

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Walter Schreifels:
When I was a little kid, on a July 4th, just remember I had a sparkler with me. I went into my friend's house and we watched Yellow Submarine and that really was amazing to me, because I maybe had heard of The Beatles existing or whatever, and then I remember seeing that and just thinking, "That is the coolest thing that you could do."

Walter Schreifels:
I got an acoustic guitar, maybe I was like 10 or 11. I didn't know how to play so I would kind of just go [inaudible 00:00:58] on it. Not really making chords or knowing how to tune it in any way, and making up songs on one string. I started playing my own songs right away because I couldn't play other people's songs. Just making up songs about people in our class, making fun of people. But yeah, started playing our own songs. Of course, I wanted to learn other people's songs.

Walter Schreifels:
I remember my guitar teacher... First song I learned was Back in Black, which was amazing by ACDC because there's that little pull off on it. And then, [inaudible 00:01:28], which is harder. But it was a magical sound to be able to... Because I was super in ACDC at that time. When I asked him to teach me a Dead Kennedy's song, he wouldn't teach it to me. He was like, "I can't teach you anything with a band that's named Dead Kennedy's. I just find that deeply offensive." So, my money for guitar lessons was kind of running out, but it gave me the thought of like, "I'm going to have to figure these songs out for myself." So I started figuring out other people's songs just by ear.

Walter Schreifels:
We started off as The Rodents, which was like more making fun of people in our class. And then we became Not Quite, which was sort of more advanced, which is really funny. I guess we had a mixture of sort of... It was probably all really silly when I think of songs. You could say I was into punk stuff, but they were cool songs. And we had a very cool structure where I was singing, play guitar, and my friend was the lead guitar player that was like... And we ended up getting a drummer, would play the talent show. We had a bass player for a minute, that was amazing.

Walter Schreifels:
But when you're in junior high, or whatever it is, and even through high school, it's just slim pickings. If someone has a bass and an amp, they're your bass player because there's not that many other people that you can pick or that you would have commonality with, musically. But we didn't do anything besides playing little parties and stuff. I didn't really get into playing clubs until I was in high school and playing hardcore shows.

Walter Schreifels:
My first public performance was at CBGBs and we played a Sunday matinée with my band, Gorilla Biscuits, and that was awesome. I mean the night before I could barely sleep, I was so nervous. I felt as we were doing it, it's like, "This is awesome. We're doing good." Yeah. I was hooked. I mean, unsurprisingly, I mean, knew I would be into it, but I guess I was the night before, thinking about it. It was anticipation, but also fear, like, "This is going to suck." But yeah, it went well. It was really cool play. I played CBGBs too because I knew what CBGBs was. I had already had this kind of storied past. So, it was a pretty big place to do the first show, I thought, even though a lot of people were playing there.

Walter Schreifels:
We're out in Jackson Heights, we weren't an insider band for the hardcore scene. So it was once the records came out and the records were good, I think that really gave us our success. It wasn't just from our live shows. By the time we had an album out and a seven inch out and we were kind of catching fire within that scene, I think we were all ready to go to college and just into other stuff.

Walter Schreifels:
Not that it wasn't important to us or part of who we were, but it wasn't something that we did to as a career in any way. And for me, I started to get more successful... Not more successful, but what I was doing with Quicksand was pulling me into a more... Yeah, major labels wanted to sign us so my rent could be paid and where we can go out and play around the country and have a different experience playing for, not just this scene, but to be put into a bigger arena in some way, that kind of pulled as well. And the scene was just really kind of, I think, violent and falling apart at that point anyway. I think a lot of scenes do, it takes a few different people to kind of spark it and then it kind of reaches a certain critical mass and then the faction start to faction off and it's just the nature of these things, and that's where it was at that time.

Walter Schreifels:
Getting into Gorilla Biscuits was going into a scene trying to figure out the cues of what the music style is, because hardcore is a form. Trying to figure out what that form is and put your mark on that form. And then once kind of got through that, feeling like, "Okay, so I've got this music form of hardcore, I've got that down, now I'm stuck in this box. So now I have to do something to get out of that box."

Walter Schreifels:
So the first thing is just hit the strings open and see what that sounds like. The second thing is make a angle, like that, with your fingers and just to hit the guitar and see what that sound does or bend it, make something that sounds dissonant or rhythms, different kinds of rhythms. To just break out because hardcore rhythm is... So you do that. You can do a million things with that, but then after awhile, you got it. If you're growing as a musician, it's not a rebellion against the form, it's just like you're naturally going to progress out, or that's how it was for me. So yeah, just trying to do things that were not that. Or if you're doing that, do it with such a way that you're still holding on to the coolness of it, but you're saying something different about it.

Walter Schreifels:
A lot of time with a lot of punk hardcore stuff, as soon as you step outside of that formula, you completely lose your fan base because they don't want to hear that. So, how do you hold on to what's cool about this sort of like... We're making cabinets here, you know what I mean? How do you still hold the structure of the cabinet, but do something that contextually changes it, or whatever, that could grab...

Walter Schreifels:
And at the time, I think I still didn't see that as a high risk thing. It was just something that you just wanted to do, and to do something different was actually very easy because things had become very same-y. You draw mustache on the Mona Lisa, now you're a genius, you know what I mean?

Walter Schreifels:
I remember, especially in the hardcore days, every week I would go to the shows and I would see my friends bands or other bands, I don't even necessarily have to be friends with them, and be watching them and just be like, "Damn, that was a good mosh part. I want to write a mosh part that's better than that. Or has some of that, but is enough of mine that they're not going to bust me for ripping them off."

Walter Schreifels:
And by having that idea, you naturally, if you have your own style, you'll say, "Oh, I ripped this off completely from that." And be like, you might not hear it at all because there's so much of that person's just natural way of being, you don't notice the imitation in it. But how does it feel when people feel that way about me? Awesome, because people did that for me and that inspired me, maybe got me through something or inspired me to do something cool to where I get to be playing Ernie Ball strings and I'm hanging out and talking here, it's all just this conversation.

Walter Schreifels:
I'm generally playing the 11s. I kind of stepped up to 11s because with Quicksand, we were dropping the guitar to D flat. So I started playing 11s but I had been playing 10s. Back in the day, I might even have just heavier strings on the top of the guitar to hold the tuning. But 11s are kind of just a good... They can hold the tuning, but you can still kind of move around and you're not so restrictive. But I played 10s for a long time, I wanted that floppiness. I [inaudible 00:10:37] wanted just to try to see if I didn't hit them as hard, if I could hold the tuning, but I think 11s is just the nice, kind of a medium guy. I think that kind of is a nice compromise.

Walter Schreifels:
I think around Rival Schools' time, I started to contemplate like, "Hey, maybe this is just what I do." Maybe at that point. So it was a while after. I mean, I remember when Quicksand broke up, I was going to sign up to be a fireman because I thought, everybody likes firemen. They're cool. Get good benefits. But then the record label signed me as a solo artist and then I kind of felt like, "Oh, maybe it's not the time."

Walter Schreifels:
Getting into hardcore, that's not a good career move. It's amazing and you can play CBGBs and do all these historically epic things, but then it falls off a cliff real hard and you just run out of people, there's no one there. But as I got to Rival Schools, I was talking to two Dennis from Refused, about this the other night, we're about the same age, and have similar kind of stories. And he was saying this about (International) Noise Conspiracy. At some point it was just like, "Shit, I guess I'm just this and so I should just try to be better at it, appreciate it, and go for it." At a certain point you swim too far out to like... You got to get to the other side, you can't swim back. And that kind of happened with me. Whereas like, "I'm not going to go back to school."

Walter Schreifels:
It was great to accept that because then [inaudible 00:12:25] just take some of the resistance off. And also, one thing I'm grateful for is, a lot of people don't know what their thing is. Hardcore, punk, whatever led to that kind of thing. And I don't think I'm like... I remember learning guitar, there's guys that just ripped on me, and I just never thought I would get anywhere in the guitar game because I just didn't have the discipline.

Walter Schreifels:
But I think it was through the cool side of punk and hardcore, let me see that you didn't have to rip, technically, to express something unique and exciting to people or say something cool. That technical skill was just an aspect in that and how you use technical skill. Prince has the highest technical skill and the highest creative mind in the whole world. So there's going to be guys like that, but there's still room for guys like me.

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