Haldol - Negation
Haldol - Negation
Official Release March 5th, 2021
Haldol Reviews (post-punk / deathrock)
"Under normal circumstances the writing, recording and production of an album is at once exhausting and exhilarating/ wish fulfillment and catharsis. To record an album in 2020, in a time of pandemic, heightens this dichotomy and incorporates elements of isolation, self doubt and the feeling that you're playing in a vacuum. In addition to being stud musicians, Haldol fearlessly tackle these obstacles with ease and precision. Shifting from Pornography era Cure to Miami era Gun Club within a single song ( Taphonomy) they totally blur the concepts of punk, post-punk and goth until none of them matter, till none of them can lay claim to the song. Taphonomy is the best song I have heard this year and has replaced Universal Leash as my favorite Haldol song of all time. The mid song drum break that sends Taphonomy careening into another direction is brilliant.
Despite the difficult times, or maybe in stark contrast to them, I find Negation to be less dark ( not necessarily lighter ) than previous Haldol releases. Bull's Blood uses vivid religious imagery to describe the end of a relationship. Once the facades are removed its easy to see why the break up occurred and why it serves as a release.
Because I adore the band, I have tried to be as objective as I could possibly be. Given the material, given the musicianship, given the times we live in...I find Negation to the perfect tonic. 95/100." - Richard Brown, The Proletariat
"Haldol is ahead of the trend; while everyone else is going Christian Death, they’ve gone full 4AD, sounding more like something you’d see on 120 Minutes in the late 80s than a band on a flyer for a Madame Wong’s gig. That seems to imply a softening of Haldol’s sound, but that’s not the case at all… they play with the revved-up energy of bands like the Cult and the Jesus and Mary Chain… it’s pop music as much as it is art project, and listening to it provides all the immediate pleasure that pop music is meant to." - Sorry State Records
"Truth of an Arrow, lingers between the gothic rock of The Southern Death Cult and the spunkier dark nature of the lesser celebrated Specimen" - Destroy//Exist
"Capturing the gritty rust coated patine of early Cure, The Birthday Party, Rudimentary Peni, and Japanese rock band Les Rallizes Denudes, Haldol are yet fresh and forwarding thinking, standing toe to toe with contemporaries such as DIÄT, Negative Gears, and Blank Spell, all the while putting a massive dose of punk back in goth." Post-Punk.com
"HALDOL’s music looks to the past while pushing the genre forward, that’s for sure! Respect due to these humans who manifest timeless Post Punk!" - CVLT Nation
"With the release of their Negation album due next February, Philadelphia’s post-punk / deathrock band Haldol (Geoff R Smith, Aaron Muchanic, and Ande Ciampa) have dropped an advance track, Truth of an Arrow. ...
The song riffs heavily on 80s British post-punk, at times verging on Goth in its dark themes and tones. Think Bauhaus, or The Cure before their commercial height, but with a noticeable grunge aesthetic running through it, Truth of an Arrow is fresh and fierce, and a highlight of an already impressive-sounding LP judging by the songs that have already been previewed." - AnalogueTrash
Would you each please give your name and respective instrument?
Geoff- vocals, guitar, sometimes bass VI and synth
How did you all meet? How long have you all known each other? How did Haldol start?
Geoff: Meeting the current lineup, I met Aaron while booking Haldol in Allentown, PA when the last Nashville lineup was still together. I met Ande a few years back at a Philly Socialists meeting before we ever really met at shows and from teaching ESL through that group. Aaron and I have known each other since about 2013. And I want to guess 2014 with Ande. Haldol started around the beginning of 2011 on my exit from a previous band. I was 24 and writing a bunch of songs and hoarding them. I had become rather reticent in how to start a new band, and didn’t really want a solo project. I was living with Daniel Pujol at that time, and he suggested to me that I write everything and just form backing bands. I wanted real drums and couldn’t do it myself, so my friend Joey (the first drummer) helped me get started but disappeared after the first three months. Then Trey jumped in for a year or two. Once Sean came in on bass, I let that instrument go. It was almost like my little Leninist project of giving up power once I could believe it was safe from screamo and neo-crust, which was the tendency in Nashville back then, haha. But Trey and I both thought we could just be this collaborative, amorphous band that could at least survive all the departures, and have different variations for live shows and we have only twice broken the trio format so far.
Aaron: I joined when Geoff moved to Philly and needed to fill the voids losing Sean and Trey. We had our friend Matt on bass initially, and then our other friend Tiff and now Ande has joined since right before the pandemic started. So that’s been unusual for them to join, write and record an LP, but have no opportunities to play locally or tour. We had to cancel a little east coast weekend back in May because of COVID.
Why did you choose Haldol as a name?
Geoff: It was in a list of medication options for me at one point in my life. Probably not a likely one, looking back, but the name stuck out at one point. I kind of regret this name, because it’s not easy to search online and I prefer names that have a sort of neutrality and mystery to them.
Since being a band, what is your favorite band story or experience?
Aaron: Playing Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada was amazing. We drove forever through the dense and sparsely populated evergreen forests between Portland, ME and NB, Canada. All of a sudden you come across a small city when you think you’ve made a wrong turn, and you’re gonna end up on the Gaspé Peninsula or something. It was the typical amazing smaller scene show. Everyone was super enthusiastic, and the bill was really diverse and interesting. We played with this incredible band THE ROBINS who were Moncton’s first HC punk band started in 1979, and they absolutely killed it. They’re a furious 3 piece not dissimilar to Philly’s F.O.D. in their ‘wall of noise’ fast and tight hc/punk. Not only that, Halifax, Nova Scotia was also incredible. It’s a shame more bands don’t make the effort to go up that way, if Halifax were any closer, it’d be as obligatory as playing Philly, NYC or Montreal on any East Coast tour.
Another memorable story was HALDOL, and our partners in crime BLANK SPELL, playing el Centro de salud, Mexico City’s prominent goth club. We had just played this wild and weird show in San Luis Potosí after what was probably the most stressful day of our lives driving into Mexico. On the way to Mexico City, we hit the nastiest traffic that put us 6 hours behind schedule. ANTI-SEX, ZOTZ, MALCRÍA and MUERTE were on the bill (what a wild line up!) and the show had started on schedule, so since we were so late, they started seeing who was in audience to see if they could add more bands to the bill last minute. I think at least 2 or 3 more bands played and we finally showed up right as MUERTE was finishing up. We rush all our gear up the couple flights of stairs and play to this absolutely packed and ultra high energy gig. It was so wild and euphoric! Another place that more people should hit up, but please tour down there mindfully, don’t charge your first world prices for records and merch! Big faux-pas. Estamos eternamente agradecidos con nuestros amigos en México que nos ayudaron tanto con esa gira!!
Geoff: Aaron said Mexico City already, and that’s definitely mine. But I’ll try another experience. Montreal has always been a good place to us, the last gig was cool, and we played with SECURITY, which I had not heard of and was really blown away by. Other than that, I always liked the little things on tour, like driving through the western US, which I rarely see. There’s a lot of scenery you get to see when you’re not rushing with a plane. I also loved running around Dublin. We didn’t even manage to have a gig there, but I got to see the Phil Lynott statue, and it was just a day off well spent. There are plenty of wilder stories, but they’re not exactly favorites...
How has the music making process changed in 2020?
Geoff: Before all of this, I was having a miserable time mixing this record. The first month of the pandemic hitting us with a lockdown is probably why this new record was even finished. I was able to dedicate so much time to it. We’ve still been busy, and we’re all in the same germ bubble at the moment whether we practice or not. I know I’m way more particular, since we can take more time to record, and seeing we’ve done four records now, I feel like it’s good to really think about what you’re doing if you’re going to keep making records.
Aaron: I think, regardless of the pandemic, we were on this trajectory as a band to try self-recording. It has its pros and cons, a pro being that we can really take out time with the recording process and get things the way we want, and a con is that we have a huge learning curve and are limited by what’s available to us. I read this write up by Greg Saunier of how DEERHOOF have self-recorded all their albums. This one focused on the first three, and it really sounded like an abysmally hard process! They were working with a broken 4track that would only work if the power supply was propped up in a particular position and Greg spent two years fiddling with the knobs for hours every day on the 4track trying to perfect the 2nd album. I figure if DEERHOOF was able to survive that process and continue fine tuning, then in comparison, we can absolutely do it ourselves too with all the technological progress that’s been made and what we have at our disposal.
What were your band and personal goals and learnings from 2020?
Geoff: I suppose, personally, I’m trying to accept whatever happens. Of course, as far as the pandemic is concerned, I’m trying to be careful. I have very little social life now. I’m currently working a lot, and have a social life of two people, but I’m trying to make a lot of music, read books, and kick a ball around to stay active. I’m hesitant to put too much into looking into the future, because it’ll probably be canceled. But as a band, I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re recording again in a few months. We’ll probably try to do some live streams too.
Aaron: The pandemic has changed my musical focuses a lot. I’ve gotten into teaching myself the saxophone, and started formulating some solo percussion pieces that I’ll hopefully be able to record sooner than later. All of that through the backdrop of being ultra engaged in current events. It’s relieving to see people getting involved in grassroots organization and engaging with their communities. I think the pandemic has radicalized a lot of people in this acute way that wouldn’t have otherwise happened. Hopefully it’ll translate to alleviation of the burdens imposed on all of us by the ruling elite, politicians and corporations.
Ande: I’ve spent a lot of the past year refining old skills and developing new ones. Most notably, after two years of drumming, I decided to re-learn the drums left-handed (I’m a lefty, after all). It was a little awkward at first, but I feel like a much stronger player now!
How do politics and beliefs factor into that? Have things changed in 2020 at all?
Geoff: I’d certainly say this year has changed a lot. Politics have factored heavy in police violence this year, and Philadelphia is now in the spotlight with that. The week before the election, the police here killed Walter Wallace. It was absolutely horrible. The police haven’t had any sort of accountability, and just geared up to fight everyone when demonstrations broke out. Then the election happened, and now Philadelphia is in the spotlight for Trump being voted out, I’m not really sure how things will change. I bet a lot of people think they’re work is done, but I kind of feel like certain things can’t be settled. On a positive note, a months-long houseless encampment has won a number of rights for the city’s houseless populations through direct action and there’s been growing mutual aid projects, etc.
Aaron: One thing that has struck me lately is the idea of moving past allyship. Recognizing that our individual liberation is dependent on the liberation of others, and that we all have an equal stake in furthering our common causes. It’s overwhelming but necessary to recognize that no one issue needs to take center stage. We all have to simultaneously fight against climate change, against racism, against corporate/lobbyist rule and against the elites. As someone who has a lot of innate privilege, I need to figure out how to best utilize it to uplift my marginalized comrades in our interpersonal relationships. I think before I was too focused on how to be a good ally, but I think that inherently positions someone into sideline roles, which doesn’t seem too helpful in the long run.
Ande: The pandemic has exacerbated and further exposed so many faults and inequities in our society, so 2020 has been a galvanizing year, to say the least. I’ve often struggled to make organizing a sustainable experience, so a big learning of the last few months has been connecting with organizing in a way that’s joyful and builds community and, consequently, is long-lasting.
Who are your biggest influences and who would you say that you sound like?
Geoff: I spent a lot of years trying to zig-zag around Rudimentary Peni and The Cure, my all-time favorites, not so much on the first HALDOL record, but overall. Bauhaus, Wire, Banshees, Zounds, and all those classics. I’m not embarrassed to mention Joy Division either. I feel like I was on a real Birthday Party/Les Rallizes Denudes bender on the third record, and let that bleed in. I’d say maybe in the last few years, though, I’ve let the blues and country influences come in, and sneak a little Waylon or Howlin’ Wolf riff into a song. If I really want to dig deep, I’ve never really shaken my childhood Jimi Hendrix influence; I loved his lower string use, stratocasters, him being left-handed (although I never figured I could just flip my guitar and have an easier time, I’m left handed but play right handed), and he just worked so well with the bassists he played with.
Could you briefly describe the music-making process? How do you write your songs?
Geoff: I usually just get two, maybe three riffs together to bring to everyone else. Lately, I’ve been enjoying not writing lyrics along with a song, because I think I’ve gotten better rhythms without trying. But all of us take turns leading the songwriting. I often get sick of myself and how I play. It kind of works perfectly for making records, because by the time I have enough material to throw at an LP, I hate how I play, and pretty much try to change how I play. I spent a lot of the early years making harsh, ugly parts, and I’m glad I did. Currently, I’m trying to clean up, and play as if I’ve played for over twenty years. That’ll get old, too.
Ande: The last few months of quarantine have really allowed us to ruminate on new material. As Geoff said, one of us will often come to the band with a few riffs or a demo, but, from there, it becomes a collaborative process. Aaron invested in a handheld Tascam recorder that produces astonishingly high-fidelity recordings. We’ll create maybe two or three variations of a song or segment at a practice, and then Aaron records them. We take a week to review the recordings, make some changes, and repeat the process again. It can feel a little tedious at times, but I think it’s an overall boon to the quality of our music!
What are the lyrics about?
Geoff: I’ve written a lot of communist propaganda from a psychoanalytic angle over the years. Although some of it lately hasn’t been outwardly political. I often write a lot of personal stuff, too. I have always pushed the political stuff to the front, maybe also because it’s less embarrassing! To really pull out the Marx “personal is political”, I’ve thought to write love songs from a communist perspective.
Writing obviously political songs feels less important to me these days, if I’m being honest. Not because I’m becoming apolitical; I’d even say the less preachy I’ve been has yielded a little more action out of me. It’s also important to write freely, and not feel chained to anything. Hell, I’ll write about my favorite vegetable if the lyrics are good enough. This last record is heavily influenced by Julia Kristeva’s Powers of Horror.
Aaron: I’ve written a couple of the lyrics for HALDOL since joining. One is about technological alienation/isolation of the self from one’s community. The other is about feeling defeated and hopeless with our own physiological/neurological demons in the midst of the doomsday, scientifically sound warnings of humanity destroying the world.
How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?
Geoff: It has definitely evolved, with so many people being in and out of this band, it’s impossible not to change. And as you keep playing together, you’re more inclined to try new things.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band?
Geoff: Perseverance, maybe? For me, it’s been about ten years. I felt a heavy depression working on the last record, and I always debate on whether it really came out the way I personally wanted it to be. But who is ever really satisfied with their own work? But you definitely keep running into your limits as an artist. You’ve done this, you’ve done that. I get annoyed with how I play music every few months, and then I have to change it up. I suppose that to keep a band going for more than a year or two, maybe it just gets less and less comfortable if you don’t want to write the same old songs, or just play the same set list over and over.
What are some things that inspire you to keep playing music?
Aaron: Dissatisfaction is my biggest inspiration. I think the second one starts to feel satisfied with the work they're doing creatively, it takes an edge off of the whole process and ultimately the final work suffers. I’m terrified of the idea of ‘peaking’. I hope that I continue contributing to output that I see as better than the one that proceeded and I continue to grow as a musician, visual artist and person.
Geoff: I’m not so sure. I was talking about this with a friend just a few weeks ago, and how music was more of this god or love relationship. I think of it more as a Big Other, or higher power, I guess. Music has been both so joyful, and so miserable and everything in between, but I’m still compelled to make it. But because of that, it feels easier to express joy or pain. Maybe it’s because playing guitar was so difficult for me starting out. I can’t believe I never quit, because it took me over a year just to get through any shitty little song. I play right-handed, but I’m left-handed, and created a style out of compensating over how much I’d trip over myself. But I think it’s a little more of a spiritual thing than secretly being a bad guitarist. Regardless, I’ll play music or listen to music endlessly. I have to have a list of hobbies to pull myself out of my musical scab-picking.
Ande: I share a lot of Aaron’s and Geoff’s sentiments. I have a strong desire for progress in my playing and writing, and spending time with music—though often joyful—is predominantly about scratching an itch. If I miss a day of working on music or listening to music, it quickly translates into restlessness. I also enjoy and feel inspired by the ways in which music-making connects me to other people, both in the immediate sense of working on a song with my bandmates and in how it allows us to create community across time and place.
What are your plans for the future?
Aaron: The very minute touring is a thing again (will it ever be though??), it’d be great to do any of the following... extensive and ambitious Euro tour, hit smaller places or often overlooked stops. Extreme North American East Coast tour, that’s something everyone around me has been subjugated to hearing about, it’s from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Miami, Florida. West Coast Tour. Go back for a 2nd tour in Mexico and hopefully hit up more cities the next time around! SE Asia tour??? I would love to meet the people who put out HALDOL tapes and shirts in Indonesia.
Geoff: I’ll certainly tour again once it’s an option. I think I’d definitely enjoy some open road when I can. Other than that, I’m just aiming for more space to do the things I do.
Ande: As the band’s newest member, I’m eager to write and record and to perform and tour when it’s safe to do so!
What are each of your favorite records to “play alone?”
Aaron: Almost all music always has started as ‘play alone’ music for me and the pandemic has really shifted my listening habits. I’ve had a heavy focus on solo instrumentation lately and more abstract music. Some standouts for me have been 老丹 (LAO DAN)’s “思維扭曲的行動體 Functioning Anomie”, 阿部薫 (KAORU ABE) & 高柳昌行 (MASAYUKI TAKAYANAGI)’s “Mass Projection”, PETER EVANS’s “Into The Silence”, METASPLICE’s “Mirvariates”... A notable exception is CRISPY NEWPAPER from the Sakha Republic, incredible punk band that sings in Yakut, the native Turkic language there. Also, おとぼけビ～バ～ (OTOBOKE BEAVER)’s “いてこまヒッツ (Itekoma Hits)” is probably the greatest punk record ever recorded in my opinion.
Geoff: I’ll try to keep this short. Pretty much any Cure record; Townes Van Zandt’s self-titled and “Our Mother the Mountain”; Coma 7”; Pleasure Leftists “Woods of Heaven”; The Glove “Blue Sunshine”; Siouxsie and the Banshees “Kiss in the Dreamhouse”; Waylon Jennings “Ramblin’ Man”; Einsturzende Neubauten “Drawings of O.T.”; Rudimentary Peni “Pope Adrian”; Dobri Isak “Mi placemo iza tamnih naocara”; Extrana Mision Ensayos, Coil “Horse Rotorvator”, Can anything…. I’ll stop there.
Ande: Like Geoff, I listen to The Cure often, particularly “Pornography” and “Seventeen Seconds.” Some other standbys include Killing Joke’s “Brighter Than a Thousand Suns,” The Banshees “Tinderbox,” Red Lorry Yellow Lorry’s “Talk About the Weather,” Yellow Magic Orchestra’s “Solid State Survivor,” and Siekiera’s “Nowa Aleksandria.”
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