LOS ANGELES, June 23, 2014 — Ryan Young is the front man for Off With Their Heads, who originated in Minnesota. Formed in 2003, the band has released three full-length albums as well as eight EPs and more than a few split 7” releases. Their most recent full-length, Home, was released in 2013 on Epitaph Records. Ryan Young took some time to answer some questions regarding the music that got him into guitar and punk rock, writing new music, and his new podcast, Anxious and Angry.
Scroll below video to read the interview.
Kevin Wells: What made you want to start playing guitar?
Ryan Young: I think as a kid, I admired my dad’s ability to play guitar. Then I noticed one of my uncles played as well. I was always into music more than anything else, so I figured I would take a stab at it. This was around the time Nirvana broke out. I realized that some of those songs weren’t very complicated and started practicing them in my room. That was the beginning of it.
KW: What bands were you listening to at that time?
RY: It’s cool. I was really into grunge stuff back then. I still am. There were so many bands doing weird noisey s**t. Of course, with any style of music, the bubble pops and cheap knock offs water s**t down to the point where it just dies. I’d like to blame bands like Seven Mary Three for sealing the coffin of that genre, [laughs] if anyone remembers that dumb band. I remember when Smash became the biggest record in the world. I had never heard anything like that before. I grew up on a farm north of Minneapolis. That’s when I discovered all of the Epitaph bands and found the music that would shape my youth.
KW: What bands first got you into punk music?
RY: The big one was Nirvana. From there, I learned more about smaller bands through the success of The Offspring and Rancid. We loved NOFX as kids. When I discovered there was a thriving punk scene in Minneapolis, all hell broke loose music wise. Dillinger Four had just released Midwestern Songs of the Americas. We were going to shows every chance we got. Lying to our parents and sneaking to Minneapolis. It was f**king awesome.
KW: There are some out there who consider Hospitals to be an EP, but there are others who will argue that it is a full-length record. Do you care to end this debate? Do you consider Hospitals an EP or a full-length?
RY: I think we were hoping that it was a full length, but the fact of it is that it runs around 15 minutes in total. I don’t think that really accounts for a full length. That record came out in a hurry. We had just discovered a niche that we felt we fit into musically, and I wanted it out as soon as possible. We sent that off, and wrote four more songs the day after. Those were Janie, 5 Across The Eyes, I Am You and 1612 Havenhurst. All of those songs could have been on Hospitals easily, I was just too impatient.
KW: Are you the kind of writer who is constantly writing music or do you dedicate certain times to write?
RY: I almost never write. I’m so busy with doing everything else that I can’t ever seem to focus. That’s why I wanted to take some time off and focus all of my energy on new stuff. Luckily, I have hundreds of voice notes on my phone. They are all song ideas. I just have to go through them and see if I remember what I was thinking.
KW: Do you have a preference with regard to writing, recording, and touring?
RY: I get satisfaction out of all of them. I think what I’ve learned over the last few years is that each one of them needs equal attention. I’ve spent so much time making sure we were always on the road that I feel like morale suffered, and our shows did as a result. What would have saved that is writing songs while we were out. Designating a day to get together and work on things. So I’m keeping that in mind for the future.
KW: Are there any plans to tour the rest of this year?
RY: For the first time in six years, we have nothing planned. Tour offers keep coming in, but I keep turning them down. It sucks, because I have to figure out a different way to make money, but at least when we go back out we will be more prepared and better than ever. I’m playing with a friend in LA starting this week. I’m hoping we can get to doing it once a week. I haven’t had the chance to just live in a town and practice in so long. It’s exciting.
KW: Are you currently working on any new material for Off With Their Heads?
RY: That is the main focus for the rest of the year, band wise.
KW: The Epitaph bands of the 80s and 90s were a huge kick starter for punk fans of that generation. It seemed that in the 2000s, Epitaph has strayed from the more traditional punk bands, leaving them for the offshoot, Hellcat Records. It seems that Epitaph is moving back in the punk direction with bands like Off With Their Heads, Propagandhi. Do you consider yourself part of a punk resurgence with Epitaph records?
RY: We were the first punk band they had signed in years. I guess we were a part of it at first, but I don’t think our band was as successful as maybe they had hoped. It was pretty much a shot in the dark for them. I’m glad that we weren’t a band that they lost a bunch of money on. I guess that’s not a bad place to be in. They are continuing to put out records with great punk bands old and new. I think that’s pretty cool.
KW: You currently live in Los Angeles. Why did you move to Los Angeles from Minnesota?
RY: I’ve been out of Minnesota for almost seven years. Since then, I’ve lived in Chicago, San Diego and currently Los Angeles. This was all following around the girl I was dating. It didn’t matter to me where we lived, as I was gone ten months of the year anyway. I stayed in Los Angeles because it’s a good place to get shit done in the entertainment biz. We’ll see. I definitely don’t want to live here forever.
KW: There is a podcast now, Anxious and Angry. What made you want to start doing a podcast?
RY: I knew I was going to be taking some time off the road, so I wanted a way to stay in touch with people. I also noticed over the number of people coming up to me sharing their problems over the last few years had grown exponentially. I have admitted to people that I don’t really like when that happens at shows. I’m not in a mindset to hear heavy or sad things from people. I’m not usually in the best of moods, and if I am, I don’t want to stop having a good time.
I also don’t want to dismiss anyone. I have been answering emails and trying to help people out for years. I realized that the medium of podcasting was pretty much perfect for this type of thing. I can not only give my input on peoples’ problems, but I can have a friend of mine weigh in on it as well. I can play music from unknown bands that I like. I can write sketches and play them. I can pretty much do whatever I want. It’s also a great way to remind people weekly that I have a clothing company I’m trying to get off the ground. It pretty much encompasses everything I’m doing right now in a public format. On top of all of that, I’m having a lot of fun with it.
KW: I read that there is a Home DVD in the works. What can people look forward to seeing on that? Do you have a release date in mind yet?
RY: We had planned on doing it, but it was just too much to take on. I can’t do everything else, organize, write, drive the van and whatever else, AND make a documentary of it at the same time. I still want to do something, but someone is going to have to come forward and take that project on. The only way it will get done is if someone else is in charge of it. I would love to make a documentary, but not of myself. That’s weird.
KW: Is there anything else you would like people to know either about yourself or anything else you are working on?
RY: That can all be summed up by listening to the podcast. All the info you could need is in there, plus it’s funny. http://www.anxiousandangry.com
Off With Their Heads most recent album, Home, is available for purchase via Epitaph Records. You can listen to his podcast here.
Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities Digital News. He also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music and food. Kevin plays guitar in the Los Angeles punk band Emmer Effer. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball