Here is an interview with Juniata product, George Hirsch. Fielding questions involving stillilladelphia graffilthy, being a road dog, the Market-Fkd Line, this globe he travels, and his hardcore band Blacklisted. Enjoy.
SG: George, growing up in a Philadelphia neighborhood like Fishtown, and my Mom taking me up to K & A for clothes when I was a youngin', One thing that boldly is etched in my head is graffitti. It being everywhere and covering everything. What is the first time you can remember graffitti striking you and you wanting to be a part of it?
George: I can remember writing from around 1993/1994, Boza, Nark, Cose, Kadism, Far, they all had their names on this wall a block form my house on Erie Avenue, they were a huge influence on, I would ride my bike up to Erie Avenue and just look at their names and wonder why they did it and how I could start. I remember seeing names from the "comeback era", Seeing BX and not being able to read it, Duck and thinking it looked so simple then finding out he was from around 1977, seeing Mad and alot of the people in ICP. I met some kids in my neighborhood who were into writing and got started, We would go to kmart and one of us would go in and the others would go out back where the plant area is and they would throw paint to us over the fence, There was a factory on Erie avenue my friends dad worked at and the kid knew of a closet with all this paint in it and we would climb in the window after 6 and get cans from there just to scribble our names. I got picked up by the police not to far after that, when I was around 12 or so, and then just kind of put writing off, Kids that I hung around with when we were like 13 or so started getting into getting high and drinking, I wasnt really into that, So I started hanging with other kids, They werent into writing so for the next few years it faded in and out of my life, Then when I was about 16 I started taking the El downtown and meeting other people who wrote and I just got back into it from there. I would just ride the el all day by myself and look out the window, other times I hung with kem, and he introduced me to end, he was into some stuff I was and he also put me onto alot of good stuff as far as old writing goes, Then I met some older writers and just got soaked into it, Taking thousands of pictures, Just meeting people to the average person was just some loser who wrote on a wall, but to me when I was a little kid was somewhat of a hero. Before I knew it I pretty much grew up with writing, It outlasted most my relationships with girls, My relationships with most of my friends growing up, Any other hobbies I really got into, Its been with me since the 6th grade. My oldest friend.
SG: How has growing up in a neighborhood in the city effected you as a person? And how you look at the rest of the world?
George: I dont know that it has effected me, I dont hold growing up in a neighborhood in some high regard. Im not winning any prizes because I grew up in a row home in the city ya know? It makes me look at the world in a lot better of a light because im not stuck in some vortex or repeating cycle of neighborhood themes, I dont know who is on oxycontins or selling their perk prescription so they can buy dope and I dont want to know, I dont know who is pregnant and I dont care, I dont care who got shot or who fought who at what bar on saturday over the girl from bridesburg because her boyfriend from mayfair found out she was hooking up with some dude from feltonville. Im so far removed from that neighborhood mentality and have been for a long time(if I ever even had it) I didnt like most of the people I grew up with and I always felt like they didnt like me. I see people that grew up around me still to this day and I cross the street, or go down a different block, I walk around afraid for the most part, Afraid I might have to actually talk to one of them and they will pretend like we like each other or have anything in common besides being from the same 10 block radius. I dont want to talk to them, I dont want them to ask me how I am doing or what I have been up to. No one cared about me then, Dont care about me now, drive by me when you see me, dont stop, dont ask my friends how im doing because you dont care. Unless you are jay or steve bush, joe hxc, ferrero, mikey, matt gallagher, paul b, jude or kem, leave me alone Philadelphia. I could be anywhere in the world and I will still be me, Location has no bearing on who I am.
SG: In the past few years you and your band Blacklisted, have seen almost every major part of the world, some parts more than once. What city in the world is the most similar to Philadelphia? What city feels most like home, if any?
George: No place is like Philadelphia, Philly is the most hopleless city in the world, Its sad. Its a city that was based on industry but now doesnt have an industry, the days of the factory worker are gone and it left alot of people with no jobs and it seemed like we never recovered. It only takes one ride under the el after 10pm on any night to see what I am. People cant get jobs, or there just are none. Its like people here gave up on life, its the most depressing city, Its sounds dramatic but watching people walk around here is like watching a zombie movie, No one is happy. We have these beautiful buildings and they get turned into things like "cvs" like we need another pharmacy. Everywhere you go some new condo is getting put up with a starting buy rate of 200 thousand and up, who is affording that? No one from Philadelphia. People are just getting killed everywhere because it is a heartless city, Not because the people are bad, But for the most part because they have no choice, people have run out of options. Every person I know is scrambling to get in some union so they can atleast have health benefits and worry about living paycheck to paycheck later. Philadelphia has always been a working class blue collar city, But where are the jobs? Im all for the bettering of this city, But it seems like the city is just pushing aside the people that actually lived here and built this place, throwing them on the side of the road so all the new flock can drive in and call this place home, Its sad.
SG: Also, what city is your favorite and least favorite round the globe?
George: I love SF, Boston, Belgium as a whole, Atlanta is great, I always change my mind there are so many, I couldnt just pick one. My least favorite is the same situation, it fluctuates daily.
SG: Reading different message boards and webssites people seem to be really anticipating "Heavier than Heaven, Lonlier than God". How does that feel? It has to be an awesome feeling for people to want something you hold so dear and are such a big part of.
George: I thought it was awesome when I first started this band, But I quickly learned it is what it is. I kind of hate releasing albums because Im not the type of person that will be a martyr for the music I write, I dont feel the need to defend it, or explain it and it seems like that is what you have to do nowadays. To be honest Im not prepared or qualified to do that. Blacklisted isnt a sound, for me it is a feeling, It is a natural feeling. I dont know why I sing the way I do, thats just how I sound. My voice depends on the way my mind and body feel that day, I dont have any skill, I dont have a "voice" Im not a good or talented writer by any means. Im not prepared to explain what the lyrics mean because they arent written for anyone but me, They are like little notes to myself, Its like walking into a house with yellow post it notes all over for reminder purposes, thats what my lyrics are but put to music. Its like saying "Hey George, you dont have to carry any of the worlds weight, you can drop it and go home anytime you like". Basically blacklisted songs are written just to let me know that im not crazy and its ok that im pretty much afraid of everything on the planet. Its crazy when people judge it and are like "its not hard enough" "he sounds like axle rose or kurt cobain", because a) youre looking for hardness in me, one of the weakest people ever and b)if i sounded like either of them people I wouldnt be making this music I would make one album then just have so much money I could pay people to tell me im not crazy, and if I was ever feeling frisky and wanted to feel like I was playing in a hardcore band, I could just pay people to belittle me and pick at every little detail they can find. So that is pretty much what it feels like to write, record and release a new record.
SG: What were some of your inspirations for the new record and how does recording this record differ from the rest?
George: My inspiration was to just be free, Just do whatever I wanted, whatever bean, shawn and dave wanted. The pressure of recording this record wasnt pressure from the outside world, It was just pressure from the inside, we just wanted to make sure that we were happy, that we were writing exactly what we wanted to write for us, It sounds selfish and alot of musicians say things like "I only write music for me", But when you hear this record youll understand what I mean, Its legit in the fact that this is a Blacklisted record for Blacklisted.
SG: If you were on the El and the all the doors were broken on the train, and you were forced to ride the el from 69th to Bridge and Pratt for a whole day. What things what you hope to have on your iPod?
George: I would love it, It would be the best day of my life, I guess if I had Nas-Illmatic and some Catpower and Dinosaur jr recors that would be a bonus.
SG: What people and things have inspired you/pushed you to do Blacklisted as hard as you do?
George: Joe Hxc has always been a big influence on me, When I come home from tour he will call me and Ill be bummed and just not feeling right. Whats weird about being in a touring band is people expect you to be the same everyday, Im not that consistent, I have some really good days and some really bad days, I cant help it, Its just how I am, So I learned on them bad days ill just play and think about people like Joe or some of my other friends who I feel should be doing what I am doing, I feel like im the least talented of all my friends, I just somehow got lucky, So when I need inspiration I just think about them and it pushes it to the next level.
SG: Lastly, when you have a band that your friends with in the city for a day or two, and you become the tour guide of Philadelphia. What does a day of you showing someone the city consist of?
George: I grew up a block from Santuccis, so it consists of that and Rocky I guess, since im from Philadelphia everyone thinks I know Sylvester Stallone and and he taught me how to box or something. Everyone always wants to go look at Rocky stuff so being a tour guide is easy.
SG: Any last words?
George: this band is called blacklisted, please take care of one another, Peace.
Check out George and Blacklisted's blog at: www.imwithblacklisted.blogspot.com