Face to Face
by Jeff Jolley
An interview with Rob Kurth, Face to Face drummer.
- We're sorry we missed you here this last weekend (their show
- Yeah, that was the last show of our tour and we had technical
difficulties with our bus. We only missed two shows on the
whole tour. We broke down in Florida and missed Fort
Lauderdale and we missed Salt Lake City, which I guess now
that we found out that it wasn't such a bad thing because
going down from Seattle through Idaho and everything the
weather was really bad. So maybe it was a blessing that we
We were in Salt Lake about six weeks ago with NOFX, and we
told everybody "hey come back and see us at the Offspring" and
it really sucked that we have to bail out a day before after
telling everybody, but Salt Lake's really cool!
I was checking out the sound-scan sheet, that documents record
sales, and Salt Lake City, believe it or not, is a big market
for sales. Comparative to L.A. and New York, it's right up
- How did you like working with Fat Mike and Fat Wreck Chords?
- Mike's a great guy--he's a lot of fun. He's a good
businessman and obviously he's got a cool band, he's very
busy. Fat Wreck Chords is great because, I don't know if you
know, "Don't Turn Away," our first album was released on Dr.
Strange Records here in L.A. He was really a one-guy
operation, really small, he didn't have any money or anything.
We put the record out and there was some demand for it,
actually it was doing pretty well and he didn't have the
capital to press enough records, he couldn't advertise. We
just sat there and spun our wheels for so long.
So finally, so we could have a win-win situation, we worked
out a deal because he didn't own the record, he just owned the
master reels. We had the copyright and we owned the record
and everything, and we just allowed him to press it and put
it out. It wasn't happening, but he was a friend of ours, so
we came with this plan with Fat Wreck Chords. Mike was
interested in buying out "Don't Turn Away" or just taking it
and releasing it. So we said, let's do a joint venture with
Dr. Strange, like a Fat-Strange split label. And he wasn't
too thrilled with that--he wanted to keep us. And we were
like, well, we're getting more letters in the mail of "where
can we find your record" than actual copies sold. It was
getting kind of ridiculous. We were trying to make this band
a go, and it just wasn't happening.
He wasn't too happy doing this split thing, so we said,
"alright, we're going to take it anyway, you might as well
come along with us." He didn't want to do that. So we said,
"alright, how 'bout if Mike will buy it out from you and we'll
pay you a certain amount of royalties on each copy sold and
you don't have to anything." Kind of like a finder's fee.
And he didn't like that either. So it just kind of ended up
being a blow-out, and we move it on to Fat Wreck Chords and
he ended up losing out on everything.
Then Fat did a really good job putting it out, and he
advertised and it started takin' off from there. It was just
a business move--we didn't try to burn anyone, and we tried
not to--it just happens.
- You've done a little bit of touring in Europe? Where are some
of the band's favorite places to go to?
- Well, Europe was cool. We toured there with Live Wagon, a
great band, and some good friends of ours. That's just the
time we had switched over to Fat, and he had promised us the
record would be out by then, but there were some delays-
-some problems--so we toured Europe with no record out, no
distribution through Europe. Know one knew who we were, so
we kinda rode on Live Wagon's tail through that tour. It was
a lot of fun to see Europe, but the shows didn't do us a lot
of good. The shows weren't so hot.
We toured with NOFX after we came back. We did most of Canada
and the upper U.S.--that was really great, that helped us out
a lot. And we've done a lot of small one-week tours here and
there. We did the south for a couple weeks. Then we went out
again with NOFX for five weeks and did the whole U.S. and
Eastern Canada--that was an exceptionally great tour. Then
we finished up this last week with the Offspring on the West
Coast, which was O.K., it was kind of weird.
Our favorite places? The places it seems we do the best are
Canada and the south--Florida and Texas. And then' there's
sporadic places that do well, like Phoenix, Salt Lake City,
and a couple of mid-west towns. Everywhere we've been has
been pretty good.
- Those mid-west punkers, huh?
- Oh, yeah, there's a big scene there. Wisconsin...that's where
I'm originally from. Wisconsin is really killer. Minnesota,
believe it or not, we've played there a few times and it's
just raging--real dedicated people there. Salt Lake's been
cool. Florida has a really killer scene. Everybody in
Florida goes off. Every time we've toured we do five or six
shows in Florida. Plus Florida is a nice place to be during
- You guys must be on the road constantly.
- Yeah, I think we've figured it out--we have been working day
jobs up until a few months ago, and even with working full-
time jobs, all of us, we've managed to tour almost half the
year. I think we did 160, 170 shows this year. And we've
only done a few tours, so it's a lot of weekend stuff, three
or four day weekend drives on the west coast. So it's been
pretty busy. And we're going to be doing a lot more this
- I hear you'll be back up here in February?
- Probably after February, because we have our new release
coming out February 28. It's a new full-length, it's called
"Big Choice." After that comes out, we're going to be hitting
it hard, we're going to go everywhere.
- So has this pretty much been you're first full year together?
- No, actually we've been together a little over three years.
Our first album was put out in '91, I believe. Like I said,
it just kind of lingered there for a long time with no push
or advertising or anything. We did a lot of local shows off
of that record.
We were a three-piece up until about a year ago. "Don't Turn
Away" was recorded as a three-piece. After we got back from
Europe, we decided we would like to thicken up the sound a
little bit, shoot for a four-piece and go with two guitars.
So we hired a friend of ours...
- Yeah, Chad, and it worked great. The music hasn't changed
much because of it--the writing style or anything like that.
But the double guitar playing made it thicker and beefier, and
we were able to do some cool things like some guitar harmonies
and some different melodies lines and stuff. It just opened
it up and made it a little fuller. It hasn't really changed-
-no flying guitar solos or anything like that.
- How do you like Victory?
- Victory's been great. Fat Mike's got "Don't Turn Away"
forever, he owns that. He's going to work that forever,
The new album will be out on Victory. They're like a mini-
major label. They're small, but they have major distribution.
We're the only new band on the label right now. There are
only six people that work there, so that gives us all of the
full attention. It's almost a run like an indie label would
be. However we want the band to develop, we put our inputs
in and they work for us. The only difference is that they
have major backing. They have distribution through Polygram,
which means they'll be able to put out more records, get our
material out to people. It's been working out great.
- What are some of the influences that have made up the band.
- Oh, everything--all over the place. We've gone through all
of our phases growing up. Trevor and Matt years ago, like in
junior high school, were into a little bit more of the metal
style. They were in a band that was a cross between
Queensryche and Iron Maiden. Pretty heavy metalish, but
really good playing.
I was into anything. I tended to like more of the technical-
style music--Rush and the Police. Chad has been into punk
rock his whole life. He's a die-hard punker guy from heart.
We came together 3 1/2 years ago, just kind of sick of all the
mainstream stuff. Never decided to be a punk band. We just
got together and started doing what felt natural. We called
it "alternative" at the time, just because it was what
different from what everyone else was doing. And as we were
doing the shows and stuff, we just started getting a little
more energy, faster tempos, and basic chord changes. We
started gaining more of a punk audience. I don't even know
if you'd call our stuff "punk" now, because it's not's really
truly punk. It has that influence and it just came naturally.
We really didn't listen to records and say "let's try to sound
like this," it just developed.
- What's the band's "punk" attitude?
- It's not really trying to be a "punk" attitude or anything,
but our main attitude and goals of the band. First of all,
just do what we want to do. Don't change or play a certain
way to please someone else. Just do what we love to do from
the heart and have fun at it. And since we've been doing that
it seems that other people are appreciating that and they're
having fun listening to it. And this style of music--
the audiences that we play to are the greatest, I wouldn't
want to change to do it any other way.
Except for the fact that I can foresee if "Big Choice" does
start to sell really well this year and a lot of people get
into, you can't help it--the audience do change a little bit.
For example Green Day, Offspring, the mainstream has started
to appreciate their music, so that's a controversial thing.
A lot of people that didn't like those bands a couple years
ago are liking them now. Well, I can't answer--is that good
It's bad in a way that all these people finally jump on to it
and want to be cool now and like these bands that all these
people like a couple years ago. But on the other hand, it's
a band, you know?
The way I look at it, mostly, is that we're putting out music
for people to enjoy and for us to enjoy playing. And if lots
of people end up liking it, I guess we're just making people
happy. If they like our music--I try not to be prejudice
against our listeners, whatever lifestyle they come from or
whatever. If they like our music, that's why we write the
songs and play live--for us to have fun doing it and for other
people to enjoy doing it.
- One of the buzz-words these days is the word sell-out. What
is the difference between a sell-out band and a band who just
happens to have an enlarged audience?
- We've gotten so much mail from people who have been with us
all along, saying things like "Don't sell too many copies!"
"Don't sell too many shirts...I don't want to see the jocks
at my high school wearing Face to Face shirts when I've worn
them all this year and been cool and now..." all the idiot
people they don't like are wearing them, and they think that's
a sell-out. "Please don't do an MTV video. If you do, I'll
And it's like, "wow!" How can you be in a band for all these
people to enjoy your music when you're going to have to force
yourself to be small for a few people who want to be cool.
And we get a lot of mail saying that, and it get's frustrating
trying to write back to these people and explain what you're
doing and trying not to do.
I looked up in the dictionary the definition of sell-out and
it said "to betray your cause or your colleagues." If we were
to go into the studio and the record company said, "we want
you to write a hit pop song, we want to sell a lot of copies,
I don't care about your fans!" And if we did that, if we
changed our style, had somebody write the songs, changed the
way we were from the beginning just to gain an audience or
some money, that would be a sell-out.
But we haven't done anything like that. Our music is exactly
the same as we started, except I think we've gotten a little
better because we've been practicing for three years playing
live. You can find all our records in the same indie record
stores for the same cheep prices. But now that it's on a
bigger label, the people who don't shop at indie stores or
can't get to the underground stores, they can also find it at
the chain stores, or in their local mall, or wherever they get
their music from. We are going to strive as hard as we can
for the eternity of this band to keep reasonable ticket prices
for our shows, because that's very important. So really
nothing's changed, except the fact if lots of people like our
music, it'll be a little bit bigger scale.
That's what a sell-out is, someone who changes--we haven't
changed, so I don't think we've sold out in any way.
- Do you still have plans to do any more stuff with Fat Wreck
- We want to keep vinyl and seven inch singles. Victory isn't
really into doing seven inches because it's not worth the time
for them trying to do it on the bigger scale as they are, even
though they have pressed some vinyl, but it's mostly for
promotional use and for college radio that has turn-tables.
So they've made a limited amount of that, but not on a big
scale. It's fun to have collectible things, seven inches and
do some vinyl, do the different covers and all that fun stuff.
So we'd like to stay with Fat and keep him on that end of the
We're still on a working basis with him. Since he has "Don't
Turn Away," we kinda have two record companies. We didn't
really "leave" Fat, he's got one of our releases. That should
work out alright.
- What would be a recurring theme of your music?
- The music itself, lyrics put aside, is just straight ahead,
catchy, fun, energetic stuff to listen to. As far as the
lyrics--Trevor writes all the lyrics--and if you've ever read
through them, you'll notice they're pretty general, kind of
serious, and pretty much straight ahead. And that's just his
writing style. He doesn't write stories, he just writes these
general everyday thoughts and ideas. As he writes the lyrics
and listens back to them, he's got a certain picture of
whatever in his head, whereas I have a completely separate
idea of what those mean and can relate it to my life in my
head and I think so does every listener.
So everyone has a very general idea and can relate to the
lyrics in their own personal way, whether you look at 'em as
being a relationship, or as political, or something about
society, or just as friends, or however you want to look at
it, it means something different to every different listener.
- Is there anything else you'd like to say?
- I think we've covered a lot of the important topics. Just,
I guess a plug for the record. Watch for Big Choice, because
it's been so long since we've had anything out.
At the end of the interviews, we like to say to people who
have helped us out and supported us along the way, "thanks a
lot for the support." If you haven't heard of Face to Face,
"check us--you might like us."
You might drop our P.O. box in there, because we like to hear
from people. Write us, we'll put you on the mailing list.
(ED.: that address is P.O. Box 1182, Victorville, CA 92393)
Copyright © 1994, Rational Alternative Digital