With their March 2021 release of "You Knew I Was Poison" Reno, NV's Fall Silent ended a four year run without a new release while also upping Revelation Records' diversity cache to new levels. Not being able to slap a label on these guys was a major draw into liking their latest release that draws influences from all over the extreme music map. If you throw Slayer, Sick Of It All, and Gorilla Biscuits into a blender you just might have the base ingredients to the Fall Silent smoothie. Fall Silent are not new to the game though having been at it since the mid-90's when myself and lead singer Levi Watson were cross country, snail mail writing, merch swapping penpals... a true sign of the pre-internet hardcore scene. With this one I tried to keep things current while also trying to touch on some specific Fall Silent history. Levi Watson was interviewed in March of 2021, lead photo by: Ali Rivera, graphics by Bas Spierings. Fall Silent 2021 also includes: Danny Galecki on guitar, Joe Foley on bass, and Levi's brother Damon Watson on drums.
IE: What's up Levi? Where are you right now and what would you usually be doing around this time if you weren't answering these questions?
Levi: Right now, I am in the room in our house with a computer here in Reno. We also have a piano in here, which I don't know how to play. My kids play really well, especially my daughter. I am on spring break for school, so I should be finishing up painting my daughter's bedroom, but she fell asleep, and I am not going to keep doing it if she isn't going to help. I also should clean up the kitchen, but I don't want to. I also should take a shower because I can't remember the last time I took one, but I am an avid water conservationist, so I won't do that either.
IE: “You Knew I Was Poison” is the first new Fall Silent release in 4 years. Can you give us some insight on the process of putting it all together?
Levi: When we recorded “Cart Return” in 2016, we only had Damon, Danny, and me in the band because our bass player lost his grip on reality and sort of quit our band. Danny did both the guitar parts and the bass parts on that album. Shortly after that recording, we got Joe Foley to play bass for us and this is when we started writing for “You Knew I Was Poison”. It was a very slow process because we are all much older and have a ton more responsibilities now as opposed to when we were in our twenties. We started writing it in the autumn of 2017. We would get together once or twice a week for about two years and put together ideas. I wish we could have done a few more songs for the album, but there were a few songs we threw out because we just weren't feeling them. A thrash album such as ours should not be longer than a half-hour anyhow. Some of the greatest hardcore records ever made were no longer than 30 minutes. “Blood, Sweat, & No Tears” was only 27 minutes. “Start Today” was 24 minutes. It is about quality, not quantity. The new Bieber album is 45 minutes, and it should have only been about 12. (I listened to the whole thing today while my daughter and I were painting. Not good. He seems depressed. I am more of a Baby Biebs fan. You can't beat roller skating to “Baby”). Anyhow, we went into Pus Cavern Studios in Sacramento in November of 2019 and recorded the 8 songs that became “You Knew I Was Poison”. The recording went really well. Joe Johnston, who recorded it, was one of the easiest engineers we have ever worked with. He was totally gracious, generous, and just let us do our thing. Joe, Damon, and Danny went down there first because I had to work, and then we went back and finished up on another weekend. It was fun, and we are really happy with the album. My favorite tracks are “The Clearing” and “Two Plus Two Is Five”. Those songs really get me going.
IE: What kind of effect did Covid have on this new one? I have heard stories from various bands where some went crazy writing new material during quarantine and have enough material for multiple releases and others who couldn't even get into a studio because of local restrictions. Others I have talked to had their recordings fully done but decided to hold off with releasing it in hopes of dropping it just as shows started happening again. This is obviously your first pandemic era album as is the case with every other band putting out new material. What was your experience like?
Levi: As you know from the previous question, we had this album recorded, mastered, and in the hands of Revelation two months before Covid hit. They officially listened to it in January of 2020. So, as far as the record goes, Covid didn't affect the writing or recording of the album. It did affect how long it took the album to come out though, I think. Usually, it takes about six months from the time the label has our recording until the street date. This one took 14 months, which is much longer than usual. I don't really know why it took so long, but I think it was Covid related. I know that RevHQ got extremely busy during the pandemic because people just sat at home and bought stuff online, which is cool. I would rather people spend their unemployment and stimulus checks buying hardcore merch and music than other dumb shit. As far as Fall Silent goes, we didn't do anything band related during the pandemic. We had finished the album and were waiting for it to come out since early 2020. We didn't write anything, or even meet up. We were all focusing on our families and just getting through it. I have not felt any creative juices flowing in me since Covid became part of our lives. Without shows, and without the need to write new material (because we had just finished our new album) we have just been on hold. Hopefully, the guys in the band will want to play shows again when that starts happening, and we can get out there and put together a set, but who knows.
CLICK BELOW TO STREAM OR DOWNLOAD FALL SILENT'S "YOU KNEW I WAS POISON" ON BANDCAMP
IE: Lyrically the new album has a few songs that jumped out at me. I don’t want to turn this into a track by track break down so can you just give a brief description of the message in “AsThe Twig Is Bent” as well as the title track?
Levi: This song is about raising children, and how every decision you make from the point of insemination affects the child. Most men are not fit to be parents and shouldn't be, but they are ruled by their dicks and can't help themselves to think beyond their boner and immediate pleasure. If these dudes would just go out and get a vasectomy, then they could have as much consensual sex as they want and it ends there, for the most part. As an educator for the last 15 years, I have seen a lot of sad stories about kids who live in abusive relationships with their fathers, or non-existent relationships with their fathers. Strong relationships with both parents have lifelong effects on children, and it is not to be taken lightly. You are a father Chris, so you know what I am talking about. A grown person will act the way she or he was taught to act as a child, just as a tree will grow however it is manipulated as a twig. Little Bobby's parents thought it was cute when he threw tantrums, and you will notice that he still throws tantrums now that he is grown up. The world has enough people in it. We don't have room for unwanted children.
IE: What about the lyrics to the song "You Knew I Was Poison"?
Levi: This song is about how human beings are constantly trying to harm ourselves and our environment. We know that drugs and alcohol are bad for us; mentally, physically, and socially and we still consume them. We know that eating unhealthy foods is bad for us, yet we still eat the food. We, often, choose partners to share our lives with that are going to harm us or make us miserable, but we dive in and get married, have kids, and make an entire household miserable. We know that we are destroying the planet that we live on, but we aren't doing anything about it. So why do we do it? Are we that addicted to pleasure and convenience that we will risk it all? That is the question and point of the song. Are other creatures like this? Is it our big brains that are the culprit? I don't know.
DANNY GALECKI- GUITAR PHOTO BY: JUAN TWO THREE PHOTOGRAPHY
IE: “The South Virginia Street Death March” focuses on your home town of Reno. I've never been there myself but from reading these lyrics it paints a grim picture of your town that I am sure your local tourism board will not be endorsing any time soon.
Levi: Reno is a special place. I have lived here my whole life. The history of Reno is all about people passing through. We are at the gates of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and we are the last stop before you get into California. When bands used to tour, Reno never got big bands on the weekends. Reno is between big cities, so bands and booking agents would book shows in Reno on Wednesdays or Tuesdays because they don't want to waste a weekend date on Reno. Gaming is the main industry that pays the bills in Nevada. Our state used to have the monopoly on gaming in America. Reno was around way before Vegas and our whole city revolved around gaming: Cards, slots, dice, sports betting, etcetera. Along with that comes alcohol. Gaming and alcohol go hand in hand. The casino's give you free booze as long as you keep putting money in the machines or on the tables. They give you free meals and hotel stays as long as you keep playing the games. There are no clocks or windows on the casino floor, so you get lost in there and you lose track of the time that you are there. Even the fucking carpet on the casino floor is crazy so that you feel disoriented. The gaming leads to alcohol and the alcohol leads to drugs and drugs will eventually lead you to blacking out on the banks of the Truckee. In the early 1990's, reservation gaming laws were passed and Nevada lost its grip on the gaming industry. Within a decade, half of our strip's casinos have shut down. Now, Californians do not have to go over the pass to come to Reno to gamble. They can do it at any number of Indian Reservations all over the state. Yeah, we still have gaming, but not like it used to be.
The lyrics in “The South Virginia Street Death March” talk about the dangers of living in a 24-hour town where you can get drunk at any hour of the day and find any drug that you want with ease. It is a song about the slow deterioration of people who get caught in the addiction cycle and how hard it is to break that cycle in a city like Reno. I love my city and will probably die here. I raise my kids here and am proud to be a Renoite… but, as they say, "Reno is so close to hell, you can see Sparks."
IE: Growing up in Reno did you and your friends find yourselves hanging out in casinos a lot?
Levi: As someone who was raised in Reno, and majored in mathematics in college, I don't gamble. Most of the people that have lived in this city long enough know that gambling is silly, and you will always lose, eventually. Mathematically, you can run the numbers and the probabilities, and you will always lose, and the house will take your money. My dad worked as a slot machine technician in the 80's and used to tell us about all the crazies in the casinos in the middle of the night. On the other hand, casinos are great because they are open all night and they have great, cheap, coffee shops that were great hang outs for us in the 90's. Some of the fondest memories I have were hanging out at the Pioneer Coffee Shop downtown after hardcore shows. We would sit there till 3 or 4 in the morning drinking coffee and talking shit. None of us gambled, so it was fun to just hang. Some of the gutter punk kids would roam the casino floor looking for change that people left in the machines. The casinos give gamblers free drinks, so they lose track of time and their money. Drunk gamblers would always leave money in the trays. They would also leave alcoholic drinks, half drunk, all over the casino, and some friends of mine would get shitfaced off of people's drinks that they would leave around. One of my friends, James Cammorata, learned how to play craps and was always pretty good at it. He would win us all dinner and he would always want to go gamble. When I was in middle school, a girl I met at Circus Circus let me feel her boob after we made out in the stairwell of the hotel. It was the first one I ever felt. It was rad.
IE: Where is the location of the band photo on the back of the new album?
Levi: This was taken in Reno up by the college. It is a place called Knophankanycee Heights. It is rumored that, for centuries, this was a place where people would come and try to cast spells and do black magic. There was a myth that it was sort of like “the crossroads”. You know, like where Robert Johnson made his “Faustian Pact” with the devil to become the world’s greatest guitar player. There are a lot of stories around here of bands or other artists going to Knophankanycee Heights to try and make this sort of deal with the devil to become the greatest in the world at their trade. We never did it, but we thought that it would be a great place to take a band photo. Danny actually came up with that idea, and I am glad he did. It is located on the corner of N. Virginia Street and Moraine Way, about 2 miles north of the Reno Arch.
"YOU KNEW I WAS POISON" BACK COVER PHOTO SHOOT BY: ALI RIVERA
IE: When I got the press kit from Revelation I had totally forgotten that you were the singer of Fall Silent as it has been well over 20 years since we had interactions. When I saw that you were the singer I immediately saw LEVI WATSON and thought back to a time in the 90's when we were (for lack of a better term) penpals as you used to order In Effect back when it was a printed fanzine and we would write back and forth about various stuff including merch swaps. When we were setting this up you showed me a photo where you still have everything I sent to you as well! Can you talk about life before the internet a little in regards to being in a band and these types of interactions?
Levi: Yeah, in the 90's there was no internet that was available to me. Shit, I didn't even get a cell phone until 2014 or something. I do not enjoy technology and I do not trust it. It is hard to believe that we sold our records worldwide, booked tours, and kept in touch with people without the internet. Thus, we wrote letters. I used to love writing back and forth with people all over the world about hardcore music and life. With you and I, we mostly talked about records and swapping stuff. I remember getting In Effect zines and selling them at our shows for a couple of bucks. The one I remember the most is the No Redeeming Social Value cover where the guys are wearing suits. I really think that it turned a lot of Reno hardcore kids on to some of the bands covered in there. As the band got more popular, more letters came in. I would spend a couple of hours every day writing back people who wrote me. I would always try to answer all their questions and comment on what they had to say. Also, I couldn't throw away their letters and I would keep them in a file folder box; Alphabetized by organization or last name. I still have them. I felt honored that people would give a shit about Fall Silent enough to sit down, write a letter, put it in an envelope, address the envelope, pay money to put a stamp on it and send it away. Communication has gotten so easy nowadays that we take advantage of that. I answered every letter ever written to me because I knew it would stop someday, and, of course, it did. I felt very fortunate to be a part of Fall Silent and wanted to do everything that I could to keep that ball rolling.
BELOW: EVIDENCE OF PRE-INTERNET HARDCORE MERCH SWAPS BETWEEN IN EFFECT & FALL SILENT
IE: When I read lyrics from certain bands it is obvious that the person writing them really gives a shit about the message and you can just tell it is important to them. I get that vibe off of the new batch of songs but going back a few years I've read some accounts where you had physical alterations with people over the lyrics in the old Fall Silent song “Looking In”. Can you tell us more about the song’s lyrics and those interactions? Were these situations where someone wanted to debate you or bust your balls over the lyrics and things just escalated or did people just come at you with their fists up? It sounds like it’s happened more than a few times so I will leave it to you to pick some specific instances that hopefully you will talk about.
Levi: Oh shit, the “Looking In” controversy. This song is about the violent straight edge gangs in the 1990's. It is a song that lashes out against the kids who turned a really cool idea and lifestyle: straight edge, and turned it into a reason to beat people up and ruin hardcore scenes across America. Straight edge was a part of my life from high school until I was about 25. Around Reno, they say "if you're not now, you never were" about straight edge, and that is fine. I guess I was never straight edge. But it was something that was a positive influence during my teens and early twenties that kept me from drinking or drug abuse at a crucial time in my life.
I was really bummed when the straight edge kids turned into meat head jocks that just wanted a reason to fight at shows. In Reno, these guys would bring machetes to shows and all sorts of chains and knives and it was fucking ridiculous. They latched on to us because of the lyrics to the song, but mostly because my brother (Fall Silent’s drummer) had a relationship with the gang leader's girlfriend after they had broken up. We were an easy target because we weren't very tough back then. These straight edge "soldiers" would slash our tires while we were playing. They stole $1,800 worth of merch money from us. They would come to our shows and try to fight us or get other people to fight us. You name it, they did it. It seemed like every city had a violent straight edge gang in the late 90's. Namely, Salt Lake City.
We went to play a show in Salt Lake City at a karate dojo. We should have known that there would be trouble, but we agreed to play the show anyhow. From the moment that we walked into the place, there was a bad vibe. We knew there was a violent scene there and the Reno gang had riled them all up about the lyrics to “Looking In” and that we needed to be beaten. They didn't want to debate the lyrics of the song or even have a discussion, they just wanted to beat us up. Well, just me.
So, we played a few songs, and then started to play “Looking In”. The kids in the crowd started throwing shit at us and throwing punches at me as I sang the lyrics. Eventually, one of them connected and knocked me the fuck out. As I was blacked out, they continued to kick and punch my unconscious body. The band finished the song, my guys revived me, we packed up our gear in a rush, and drove the 9 hours back to Reno. The worst part about it was that, in our haste, we didn't pack the truck very well and we lost a guitar and a snare in our escape. Also, I think they broke a rib or two because it hurt to breathe for about 4 months. So yeah, “Looking In” really fired people up, It is a good song, and I think we have played it at every show since we wrote it.
IE: Even besides the lyrics Fall Silent seems to strive to be unique. I'm not going to sit here and pretend I know your back catalog inside out because I don’t but while I listen to “You Knew I Was Poison” I can hear different things going on stylistically. I love the fact that it's really hard to slap a label on Fall Silent and say you are this genre or that genre and from afar it looks like doing that sort of drives you guys. How important is it for your band to not be "just another band"? When I heard the vocals kick in on the opening track “As TheTwig Is Bent” it was so refreshing that they weren’t some variant of the death metal cookie monster style that is so prevalent when hardcore bands mix in heavier styles.
Levi: I don't know if we have ever set out to be a band that could fit in any certain genre besides aggressive music, but aggressive music can mean a lot of things. We have also never set out to be a type of band that wanted to be eclectic in our style of music either. We never had any discussion in the 27 years that we have been a band about what kind of band we wanted to be. We just wrote what we wanted at the time and that was that. It is not like we are beholden to anyone for the music we make. We make absolutely no money doing this band. We lose money on almost every project we have ever done.
The way that we are unique is because we have been doing it for so long, and that we are from Reno. Hardly any bands come through Reno on tours. We grew up going to shows that were mostly only Reno bands. We are isolated up here in the high desert and I think that contributes to the music. Damon and I grew up listening to Van Halen, and then Metallica, and then The Misfits, and then we found New York Hardcore and that was it. Danny is way into Florida death metal and that influences what he writes on guitar. In addition to the metal/punk/ and hardcore we were listening to, we also were deeply into good hip-hop as well; which also makes its way into our music with drumming and vocal cadence and groove. Vocally, I am just doing what my body and throat can do. A person's voice is not something that can change that much when you are yelling and screaming. As far as the death metal Cookie Monster style; I just can't do it. Also, I want our records to sound a little more urgent and real, and the death metal low vocal style just doesn't move me like the hardcore style vocals do. When you hear Mike Judge sing “Fed Up”, or Lou Koller sing “Injustice System”, you can't help but to get goosebumps and feel the hair on your neck stand up. That is what I have always strived for vocally for Fall Silent.
IE: Considering the last question and that you have been a band now for 27 years how would you describe the types of crowds/fan base that watches your sets and buys your music? What kind of shows do you feel most comfortable playing on or which ones seem to bring Fall Silent the best crowd participation?
Levi: I don't know how to describe the people that are into Fall Silent and buy our music. I think that our fans are older, due to the fact that we have been around so long and are into more challenging music. I think that our fans are mostly male, and probably overweight. I do not think that we are a passive band to enjoy. For example, if I hear that song “Lovefool” by The Cardigans, I'm like "oh shit, I love this song" and continue singing the lyrics. I would never go to a Cardigans show, or buy any of their music, or even download it for free. It's not like I don't enjoy the song, but I would never actively pursue that band. People who listen to our band really like us. There are a couple hundred people around the world that actively seek us out and find our records or come to our shows and support us. Some have even said we are their favorite band. They sing along at shows and bang their heads. I love them. I just wish there were more of them.
I feel the most comfortable playing basement shows. We haven't played a basement show in years, but when we did, they were my favorite. The fact that you are eye to eye with people that really enjoy your band and have actively come to enjoy your music means the world to me. When you are sweating it out at a basement show and it is dark, smelly, and dirty, with people that believe what you believe and feel what you feel, there is nothing like it. It is not like when you play a bar and you are the background noise to people getting fucked up. Or when you are opening for bigger bands and people just tolerate you until the headliner plays. Aside from basement shows; we get the best crowd participation in Japan. Since we have been playing again the last five years, the shows in America have not been great. The first two "reunion" shows we played in Reno were really fun and the crowd got into it, but then the novelty was gone and the shows were lame after that. We played Rev Fest in 2017 and it fucking sucked. This band played for way too long before us, took their time unloading and cut our half hour set in half. We drove 9 hours to play for 15 minutes in the middle of the day. Japan is the best though. We first went there in 2000 and we went back in 2017, and have been building strong relationships with that scene ever since. They love fast hardcore and we fit in perfectly with that scene. I would love to only play shows there. We haven't traveled outside of California and Nevada since we have been back. I would love to come out to your neck of the woods in the future, but who knows.
LEVI (VOCALS) AND JUSTIN SPALIN (BASS) @STONEY'S SKATEPARK CIRCA 2001/2002
IE: Top 3 Fall Silent awkward/weird show or tour experiences?
Levi: In no particular order: That Salt Lake City show I mentioned earlier is definitely up there with a memorable show experience. One time when we were in Canada, I think maybe in Edmonton in 2001 or 2002, Mike Mechanic gave me some weed to try for the first time. I told him that I was too strong to be affected by weed. I was super wrong. This was the only time I have seen the Northern Lights and it was an amazing experience. There was a whole tour where my piss bottle and water bottle were one in the same. I even drank some of my piss on that one. It is not recommended.
We were driving through Montana or Wyoming once and it was in the middle of the night and “Through Silver And Blood” by Neurosis was playing. I was tired and everyone was sleeping. There was a lot of road construction cones lining out the lanes on the freeway and I was following them to stay in lane. Some asshole had slowly moved the cones over many miles to lead me directly off of the road into the median/ditch type thing. The next 30 seconds were the most terrifying and hilarious (in hindsight) I have ever had. Somehow, my driving skills kicked in and I was able to avoid flipping the car and no damage was done. Luckily there were no other cars on the road.
IE: Can you talk about your relationship with Revelation? In a day and age where a band can put out their new recordings totally digitally what kinds of perks do you see with having such a reputable label having your backs?
Levi: Our relationship with Revelation goes back to 2000, or somewhere close to that year. Ron Martinez, of Final Conflict and Lower Class Brats and an LA staple in punk/hardcore/metal, was working for Revelation at that time doing A&R. He called us and asked if we would like to work with the label and we agreed. They have been very good to us over the years and I was really surprised when they said yes to putting out “Cart Return” in 2017 and “You Knew I Was Poison” this year. We aren't a big money maker over at Rev, and I think that Jordan Cooper is the main reason we are still a part of the label. I think that he felt like we are family, and that Revelation should put out our records still even if we aren't big sellers. They could have easily turned down our last two projects and I would have totally understood why but they didn't, and I am very proud to be a part of the label. I never would have thought that in 1990 when I was sending money to New Haven for Judge and Gorilla Biscuits records that I would have a band that would have that black and yellow star on the back. Especially as a 45 year old with a new record on this legendary label.
The perks of being on Revelation Records is that they have been doing this for so long, and have such a good reputation, that they know what they are doing. They have one of the biggest hardcore/punk/metal distros in the world, RevHQ. They have put out some of the biggest records in hardcore, and they have consistently put out high quality records for over 30 years. They get our album out to any and every store and every hardcore fan's hands all over the world. I could not do what they are doing for us on my own. They have a wide reach that I could never have.
I also like that there isn't a lot of pressure that they put on us to sell records. On “You Knew I Was Poison”, we didn't get any money from the label to produce, record, or master the album.
We as a band paid for all of that. We didn't even sign a contract for this album, which is exactly the way I think that things should be run. Revelation leaves it up to us to do what we can for our
records, and that is how I believe hardcore labels should work. I would have it no other way. I wouldn’t know how to get our music on streaming services anyway, and I don't want to
LEVI (VOCALS) & DONNY JOHNSON (GUITAR) @STONEY'S SKATEPARK CIRCA 2001/2002
IE: If you could go back and have a do over with anything relating to this bands history what would you like to do again?
Levi: The one thing that I would have done differently was look over my left shoulder at the traffic behind me on a rainy night in Pennsylvania in the early 2000's right before I pulled right out in front of a car that hit us and ended that tour. We had just toured across the bottom of America from Vegas to Georgia and the shows were shit. No one came out and we were losing money, but still having fun. We started heading up the East Coast towards the Northeast where we had a lot of really great shows booked that would have been really great opportunities for us. Hellfest, CBGB's with Bloodlet, and lots of other shows. Things were about to turn around for us.
I was attempting a U-turn from the shoulder and didn't see a car coming up behind us in the lane and I pulled right in front of the car. We were t-boned and the car was ruined. All of our gear was fine and besides a little whiplash, everyone in both cars were fine. We tried to rent a van to finish the tour, but there were so many bands out at this time, there were no vans or anything available. This ended the tour and everyone went home. That was the last tour we ever did before our 11 year break, and I think that it would have maybe brought us up to another level if we could have finished it and kept the ball rolling. Now, every time I pull the same move on the road, I always triple check that there is no one coming up behind me. I guess that is one good thing that came out of this event. Maybe I have saved my life dozens of times since then. Who knows?
IE: Anything else you wanted to add before we wrap this up? Thanks for your time. Good luck with the new album and playing shows when that starts getting back to normal.
Levi: I don't think I have anything else to say besides thank you. And I would also like to thank the couple hundred die hard Fall Silent fans around the world that support our projects and enjoy what we do. Hopefully we will be able to play our songs in front of you someday and have some good talks.
FALL SILENT 1998. L-R: LEVI, DANNY, DAMON, AND ROGER (RIP)