Gas Chamber is a Buffalo, NY (USA) based hardcore punk band formed in 2007. Our music is a nod to various traditions including but not limited to 1980’s UK/European hardcore, brute force hardcore, progressive music and ambient electronics, and we believe in a song-writing paradigm, not a genre-specific one. The members have played together since 1999 in various units, culminating in this group. “Gas Chamber” is a reference to the technology of violence, and the twentieth century man’s exponentially increased capacity to do harm to human life, in an era of little accountability.
2014 interview from Summer Isle zine:
Gas Chamber has performed with a more extensive live line up of collaborators. Will this become a more frequent occurrence? Who were some of these collaborators and what was to motivation to incorporate them into a live setting?
PB: The core group of the band that most often appears live and on tours (v-Sheperd, g-Bailey, b-Bolger, d-Nowacki) is only one approach. We view each recording, tour, or even individual performance on a project-specific basis. Each project may be guided by a different member. At the moment there are four at-large members of Gas Chamber that are willing to work together with us. Gifford is a founding member of the band, and was the guitarist on our first 12”. He is well-known for his involvement in the hardcore scene over the past 25 years. Since stepping back from the band four years ago, he has continued to contribute electronics and/or guitar playing to our most ambitious live sets, including the Modern Vision record release show and subway gig. Green and Kedzierski, long-time veterans of their noise group River of Ichthyosis, have joined us to contribute brutal electronics more than once. Ranallo, vocalist of Cages (in which Bailey is the other permanent member), also collaborated with us at the subway gig, and will appear on an upcoming split LP. Unfortunately, due to logistical issues, these collaborations may never be seen outside of Buffalo, though we have spent many months preparing for each gig.
In late 2013, Gas Chamber performed inside the Amherst St. subway station in Buffalo with an expanded live up. How did that come about?
S: Over the years I’ve become an avid collector of assorted transit memorabilia, due to the amount of hours I’ve logged on several transit systems. A while back I put out a series of t-shirts of old NFTA Metro logos and sold them locally, mostly to friends and fellow Metro enthusiasts. Years later, an associate of ours informed me of an event that was going to be taking place in the coming months, in which visual and musical acts would be performing in various NFTA Metro stations. Sensing my enthusiasm toward this, he asked if Gas Chamber would be interested. We graciously accepted this offer and began planning our approach. Due to the size and visual power of the specific station that we would be performing in, it was agreed upon that an expanded lineup would be the most efficient way to approach this non-conventional venue. After all was said and done, an eight person lineup consisting of our closest associates performed a version of the MVOTEN record, with some varied and additional parts. It was extremely successful for us as a unit, and a very satisfying ordeal for me personally.
Can you explain what “Burial Project One” is and what was the purpose behind it? I’m assuming from the title that there will be future installments of this project in the future?
S: I have a difficult time remembering how we originally came up with this idea, but it had
been talked about for a very long time before it occurred. We have regular discussions about various themed projects/gigs/etc. that we have introduced over the years.. some past examples I suppose would be “dark gig” 1 and 2, as well as “hostage gig”.. I believe BP1 predated all of these ideas though. We buried 30 shirts in the ground for 2 months one fall, then exhumed them and placed them into handmade wooden boxes with all the accumulated organic material still encrusted/living in them. A photo of the original burial process was included inside the box, which was subsequently nailed shut and marked with a small custom plate containing the dates of burial and exhumation. I kept one for myself and allowed it to manifest for an extended period of time, I believe a year in total, before removing it. Popular/civilian opinion would consider the shirts completely unwearable, as they were severely decayed and home to multiple species of insect that had survived the transition. If I had to guess I would say I was probably the only person to wear the shirt “unaltered”, although I may be wrong.
Yes, there will be various additional installments. As far as purpose, difficult to explain… A tribute to a dedicated individual whose actions left an impact on me as a youth.
What was transition between the breakup of Running for Cover and the forming of Gas Chamber? Were the concepts and lyrical content in Running for Cover similar to themes within Gas Chamber?
PB: Running For Cover ended in 2005, leaving a void for us. During the next two years, all the future members of our group attempted numerous concepts, including Adult Colony and Slaves In The Afterlife (none of which recorded or played live). At some point in 2007, Gifford and I arrived at square one after parting ways with another drummer we had worked with for about a year, allowing for Gas Chamber to be abruptly born one day when Nowacki and Sheperd were approached to complete our lineup. We are changed as people in some ways since the days of RFC. Those were years of psychological malaise, isolation, abject self-loathing and frustration that made us constantly sick. At that time I thought about killing myself almost every day. I also developed a debilitating long-term dependency on alcohol in part to mitigate the extremely lucid dreams of genocide and people’s bodies being mutilated that I suffered through nightly. Many of those feelings have not translated to Gas Chamber. However, what is consistent is that we never believed in choosing a genre and deciding to start a band in that genre. Material we use is developed over a period of months or years until it becomes mature. That methodological approach has been consistent over time.
With Buffalo being so close to the border, what is your relationship with Toronto and the punk/hardcore scene here?
PB: Over the years we have had many good friends from Toronto, and Toronto has almost always been one of the best cities that any of us ever played, from Who’s Emma to Soybomb. We are currently working on new material for a split 7” with Column of Heaven on Diseased Audio, and have plans to play with them in Toronto again next month. A long-term project of mine has been writing an extremely fucked record with Carroll (Farang, Black Iron Prison, Endless Blockade). I also send all releases to the Equalizing Distort dovecote for use or destruction as they will.
There are definitely progressive tendencies within your music. These tendencies were also present in Running for Cover, but to a lesser extent. Was Gas Chamber a natural progression from Running For Cover or did you approach the band as an entirely separate entity?
PB: It would be accurate to say that Gas Chamber is part of the same semi-linear path of creative thought that Running For Cover occupied, although there are certainly new ideas brought in by the difference of membership between the two groups. There is no one in Gas Chamber that does not contribute a great deal to the formation of each song. With Gas Chamber we did not set out to play any particular type of music. In fact, when we started I expected that we would have a much more melodic output. But we are compelled to write the exact songs that we have written. That is how it has always been. My bass playing has not changed stylistically since I was in my first punk band in high school in 1996, regardless of the context.
In an interview with RIOT IN THE INFIRMARY, you stress the importance of individual interpretation in terms of lyrical content. While the interpretive meaning of your music is equally as valid as your intent in creating it, do you feel a sense of accountability to participate in explaining your motives behind a song or being involved with other interpretations?
PB: The consciousness that I am experiencing while writing lyrics is very site-specific and as years pass, it is possible for the meaning to evolve as I experience life in new ways. If someone were to misrepresent the primary topics, for example, societal apotheosis, and repulsion from organized violence, then that would be the only instance in which my beliefs would trump that of the individual reader.
The first Gas Chamber release utilized noise, but was not present in your earlier live outings. However, since the release of Corpse With Levity, it has become a very integral part of your performances. What prompted to decision to include noise live?
PB: From 2007-2010, I did live noise material in between the songs at most if not all live
performances. At the end of that period, I no longer felt that I could manage both playing bass and working with my homemade noise gear, which was extremely fragile and rudimentary. Bailey is now responsible for building our devices, which are far more sophisticated, and Sheperd does live electronics in the typical lineup.
Why did you choose to use the image of a high school student’s suicide in 1970s Buffalo as the cover for the “Modern Vision of the Erect Nightmare” 7”?
S: When Patrick presented me with the lyrics to MVOTEN, the two prominent themes that echoed in my head were those of technology and violence. An obvious visual interpretation would be that of a weapon or a criminal atrocity, subjects that have been very covered and documented by artists. I had been researching the suicide of Robert L. W. Jackson for years, and although it was a publicized event in Buffalo’s history, it had almost become sort of an urban myth in the past decade. I spent a significant amount of time scouring the microfilm archive of the Grosvenor Room in the Buffalo Central Library, and was finally able to come up with text and images that had long been pushed into obscurity. We all felt that the concept of a human being using architectural technology to destroy himself fit in perfectly with the other components of the record. The fact that the end result was such a unscripted, powerful image that will more than likely never be replicated.. it became an obvious choice. Although not all are obvious, every image that is used in the record is a significant detail in the life and death of Mr. Jackson.
You recently re-released Corpse With Levity on cassette with almost 45 minutes of additional content. The spontaneous and improvised nature of these additional recordings gives the cassette an entirely different atmosphere, one that is closer to your performances. How do these installments and supplementary release incorporate themselves into the Gas Chamber catalog?
DB: The cassette release KAIROS is a broad viewing of the group’s current work; written & rehearsed punk songs recorded in a professional studio using conventional instrumentation; improvised performances utilizing homemade gear recorded in practice spaces; live recordings of new musical arrangements mutating over the course of a tour; purely electronic music; purely acoustic music; and heavily-edited material derived from various post-production techniques.
Many of these methods were used subtlety on the MVOTEN recording (and even moreso during it’s subsequent live performances), but on the cassette they are given more room to develop an identity of their own. It is also a reaffirmation that the operations employed by the group are not limited to any certain configuration. While Gas Chamber has been interested in exploring different mediums to inhabit, it has been a consistent message with a consistent force delivered throughout.
The photo featured with “Hemorrhaging Light” is some of the bleakest I have ever seen. Where we these taken and how do they figure into the LP thematically?
S: All of the photographs from Hemorrhaging Light are from a location in Buffalo that is very important to me, and because of that I will have to keep it’s specific location off the record. I spent quite a bit of time at this place throughout the writing and recording of HL, and although I had originally intended to have the artwork be a completely different idea, these images kept coming back to me in some way. Thematically, the concept of a wall is very heavily weaved into several songs- some decipher easily such as in My Warsaw/Quality of Death/Septillion, and slightly more obscured in Stacked Logs and Pigeon. The linear foundation of the collection of images, as well as their industrial nature is also something that comes into play as well. These structures all have a very harsh aesthetic to them, but it should be noted that their visual darkness is really the tip of the iceberg. This is an extremely toxic and violent place that is and will be devoid of natural life for decades, if not longer. The continuation of the avian theme was completely unscripted which is honestly very strange, but fitting I suppose. It is my hope that people realize this is not just random photos of some disconnected “urban decay”, but that of a place I have a very intense connection with.
The LP also contains a reworked and extended version of “Pigeon” from Corpse With Levity. What was the reason behind this?
PB: For some time we had considered the possibility of reworking the Corpse With Levity 7” into a “white” version, with reimagined takes on the songs. “Pigeon” grew to the length of a side, and then as we worked with it, we realized that it could only be part of an LP. It continues to become new and the improvised section in the middle gets more engaging (for us) the more that we run through it. While recording Hemorrhaging Light, we also re-recorded “Prone” and “Why Are All The Dogs Barking” which will be eventually released; the latter on a tape comp on Feral Kid Records.
The careful attention paid towards thematic, artistic, and lyrical details within GAS CHAMBER is incredible. Hemorrhaging Light is your most calculate and complex yet in regards to the lyrical content and the music itself. Could you give us a quick explanation of some of the overarching themes explored within the release?
PB: Being in an oppressive dark place and then being able to look back as a survivor when one finally comes back into the light. Hemorrhaging light subsumes death to give the absent closure. The generation of children that survive genocide will be followed by a
generation of people that may be able to laugh without thinking about what is not funny. It is about individuals and groups outliving self-destruction and violence.
Status update of the Solutions – Life of Joy 12”?
PB: The release of the Solutions 12” has been indefinitely postponed, but we anticipate that it will ultimately come out as expected.
What are some current Buffalo acts that you enjoy?
PB: Victim of Circumstance, Sperm and Cross Stitch have made the biggest impression on me recently. Buffalo has exploded with new punk bands in the last couple of years. Cages is also a very important band. Buffalo has a somewhat fragmented punk scene, in which the most active component is a crusty/pogopunk/ska network. Gas Chamber has not been invited to participate in their events. The aging MRR-type scene which has been whittled away over many years here has forged ties with that group lately. Buffalo has a number of punk festivals and traditions including Vaggie Fest, Big Neck Fest and Hive of Mayhem (showcase of new bands), of which the former two draw many punks from other cities.
What is the next step for Gas Chamber after the release of Hemorrhaging Light?
PB: We have some future records sketched out. With the upcoming split with Column of Heaven, we will alter the band lineup amongst ourselves for the duration of that project. There are east coast and west coast tours also planned for the next twelve months, both of which will be with other bands.