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Head Wound City

Head Wound City

It’s the Eve before Halloween in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, a fitting time to meet up with a couple members of Head Wound City in the rich wood interior of The Black Cat lounge. Seeing as it’s “day time” and one of his handles is “Little Vampire,” Nick Zinner suggests we find somewhere shady to sit. Jordan Blilie carries his Old Fashion to a table that fits the bill. 

Head Wound City is the hardcore music brew made up of Jordan Blilie on Vocals and Cody Votolato on guitar (The Blood Brothers), Justin Pearson on bass and Gave Serbian on drums (The Locust) and Nick Zinner on guitar (Yeah Yeah Yeahs). They’ve been around forever, like at least ten years. It’s just been sporadic, very sporadic. It started and then stopped. They kicked back into gear in 2014 when Nick asked the members to play the BEDROCKtoberfest he was curating. This hurled them into shows in 2015 and the making of a new album.

Jordan was aphenomenal Pee-wee,” says Nick. “I was Edward Scissorhands. People have shouted it at me for over a decade,” and when he finally dressed as the Tim Burton character “it was perfect.” These were their costumes in 2014 when the band rocked a friend’s Halloween birthday celebration. They played two cover songs, a Misfits piece and Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People.” Little did they know come October of the next year they would be opening for Manson.

Jordan was heavily influenced by Marilyn Manson when he was younger. “He really, really taught me the importance of big vocal hooks. I think his writing is really smart. It’s just sharp, especially on Mechanical Animals and Holy Wood. I think there are just some terrific turns of phrases in a lot of his lyrics. And the songs are catchy but yet hit so hard.”

Most of the other music Jordan listened to in his late teens, early 20s, was hardcore but listening to Manson was different. “Once I heard that music it just kinda flipped my brain a little bit so to play with him now as an adult, it was awesome.” Plus the rocker known for his occultish make-up look was hospitable. “He was very welcoming and warm to us and so was his entire crew. “

Nick relished the shows as well, “I was really excited that at least at the general admission shows, there were all kids in the front, all the kids wearing makeup and fucked up clothes. I loved that, so nice to see.”

Being an opening band can be tough but it can be a good tough. “I liked kinda the absurdity of . . . playing to a giant sparsely populated room,” says Jordan. “There’s part of it too that puts you in this sorta street gang ‘Us Against Them’ mentality because you never know how someone’s audience is going to react to you.”

Head Wound City is well suited to handle a more contentious crowd. Nick points out that he “liked the confrontational aspect given the nature of this project . . .  you’re kinda impenetrable especially with our drummer Gabe, you just feel badass as fuck.”

There was minimal heckling with the Manson audience but when there was Jordan adds “it’s very empowering when you’re playing with someone like Gabe.” Like when someone would yell “you suck,’” Jordan would think, “No, I’m sorry but you’re just incorrect because I’m playing with Gabe. There’s nothing that sucks about [his] playing. He’s really an unbelievable drummer.”

“load up your love radical friends!"  You can tell by talking to them how much fun they have making music together. The name itself was originally bandied about by the band Nick was a part of in college. Luckily that group settled on the Boba Fett Experience and Head Wound City was saved. Nick called his former bandmates to ask permission for its use. “I honor friendships.”

The new album is officially coming out in 2016. They don’t know when but sometime in the course of this year it will be released. It’s been done. The name can’t be revealed, pretty much nothing can be revealed except they are proud of it.  That and the producer’s awesome golden retriever, Carl, was on hand to help. [Update: cat jumped way out of the bag - A New Wave Of Violence was released in May on Vice.]

As he sips his black coffee, Nick explains how playing guitars for Head Wound is distinct. “Vocals are done after everything’s finished and technically because of that, it’s completely different. “

There’s a lot of talk of how the recording was a relaxed, no pressure approach which is funny because hearing the songs live well, it’s not a soundtrack for your afternoon mediation.

Nick says “for me, I’d never experienced playing a kinda frenzied, fuckin’ crazy audience. With the Yeah Yeahs there would never be constant stage diving . . . you would never see someone swinging a chain at a Yeah Yeahs show” - things that happen in Head Wound City.

They plan to tour more, working around Jordan’s scholarly schedule and the family lives of the members. Juggling everything can be difficult. When Head Wound City planned a set of dates up the west coast, Cody had forgotten about his brother’s “save the date” - he had to fly back to Seattle to make it to a few hours of the wedding.

“I like thinking of him posting that we’re going on tour and then getting all these phone calls from his family immediately after, ‘like what are you doing?’” jokes Jordan, “’so what’s going on there?’”

Both Nick and Jordan have had phantasmic appearances in their homes while they were on the road. Last June, when Jordan’s wife was eight months pregnant, she sent him a text “Babe, something really weird happened.” The kitchen cabinets had mysteriously opened themselves and there was a broken bowl on the counter. His wife’s mom “is very superstitious and said ‘oh, don’t worry about it, it’s just the house getting ready for your baby.’” Now their son has been born and the ghost hasn’t been heard from since. 

“I like thinking of him posting that we’re going on tour and then getting all these phone calls from his family immediately after, ‘like what are you doing?’” jokes Jordan, “’so what’s going on there?’”

Both Nick and Jordan have had phantasmic appearances in their homes while they were on the road. Last June, when Jordan’s wife was eight months pregnant, she sent him a text “Babe, something really weird happened.” The kitchen cabinets had mysteriously opened themselves and there was a broken bowl on the counter. His wife’s mom “is very superstitious and said ‘oh, don’t worry about it, it’s just the house getting ready for your baby.’” Now their son has been born and the ghost hasn’t been heard from since. 

At the waitress checks in with Jordan about ordering gnocchi to take home to his wife, Nick talks about how his old New York apartment had a ghost in the closet. “Door would be constantly opening and closing despite all the windows being shut.” And his TV would turn on and off but he describes the activity as sorta cute. It wasn’t that bad. 

Customarily, he didn’t mention the closet ghost to those who stayed in his place. Nick recalls when his friend texted him “’hey is your apt haunted by any chance?”” Nick replied with feigned innocence “why do you ask?” One night his friend was in his room sleeping and he half woke up, looked up and saw the bedroom door open and the figure of a small five year old girl.  She walked over and slapped his face. “He said it felt cute and innocent and non-threatening.” Now that Nick’s moved to another apartment he sometimes misses his ghost friend.

In terms of non-music pursuits, when I first spotted Jordan at the Cat in his Ministry t-shirt, he had warned me he might be out of it. He had taken a UCLA mid-term the day before (finishing a cool twenty minutes early) not to mention the newborn at home. He holds it together well - articulate while imbibing in a couple afternoon cocktails.

Nick was involved in the good stress of planning his first Los Angeles photo exhibit which opened November 20, 2015 at the Lethal Amounts Gallery in Dtown, LA. Head Wound City gave it a righteous send off with a show at the closing on January 29.

Nick’s photography “goes from animals to . . . like my friends, to just street photography, weird funny things – kinda anything that is slightly more suggestive than whatever is depicted, hopefully.”

He’s also been racking up classic Hollywood experiences. He had seen Ponch earlier in the day - Erik Estrada of the buddy cop series CHIPS at a Rite Aid in Studio City. Nick was “mystified and humbled.” Jordan has had his own brush with the law, the Blood Brother dressed up as police officers once for Halloween and came on stage to the COPS theme song.

We talk about the best food in LA and I warned them I was told there is a right answer.

One of Jordan’s faves is the family owned stand Taco Villa Corona in Atwater Village. The mom makes all the hot sauce and they have the absolutely best breakfast burrito.

Nick doesn’t feel experienced enough in LA to take a guess but in New York he affirmatively states his new favorite is Superiority Burger opened by a former hardcore drummer from Baltimore.  The place has hardy vegetarian burgers slider-style and the community-feel that’s been disappearing from the Village. 

Apparently and definitely open for debate, I had been told by a friend, not the owner of the eatery (as Nick and Jordan jokingly asked) that a mythological Sunset Biscuit Kitchen is the correct answer. This turned into the trick in the treat when I later found it was not a LA eatery; the reference was to Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen in NC.

There’s talk sprinkled throughout about songs over the restaurant’s sound system, a favorite Sonic Youth song from Rather Ripped and a Yeah Yeah Yeahs deep cut that Nick hadn’t heard in a long while. We joke that someday Head Wound City will be on the playlist because people love listening to hardcore while they brunch - “thrash brunch!”

With that future in mind, Jordan heads home with the dish for his wife and Nick takes off for the lines of a Hollywood Halloween store to complete his outfit for The Count. When he first sat down, Nick had sweetly expressed anxiety over his selected costume and we had reassured him that the mathematical muppet vampire was a fine choice.

Not sure what their 2016 plans are costume-wise but Jordan loves skunks and the way their walk is a waddle . . . maybe his son is decked out as the critter this year. 

Photography by Bertie Pearson & Becky DiGiglio
Written by Vincenza Blank

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