Todd Keisling (Dystopia, Mange) sat down with Suffering Luna at SxLx’s rehearsal space for an interview / conversation. All references to crimes not covered by the statute of limitations have been edited out.
(WARNING: folks talk about drugs in this interview. If you’re gonna be offended, don’t read any further P.E.)
Todd: So how did Suffering Luna start, anyways? What’s it about?
Messee: It started way back with CHRISTFALL. It was originally CHRISTFALL then we started SUFFERING LUNA in like ’95 cuz we were all into drugs and shit and we didn’t want to do no more basic hardcore shit. We wanted to do some psychedelic, crazy bullshit, you know what I mean? So we turned into Suffering Luna way back in ’95.
Sean: You were around back then, Todd. That’s when DYSTOPIA and SUFFERING LUNA put out the split 7″. What was SUFFERING LUNA about in your mind?
Todd: Very interesting and different and I was all about doing it.
Messee: Our shit, back then, it was weird, fool. Back then everyone was trying to be just brutal, dog. Everyone was brutal as fuck, then we came out with that weird shit.
Todd: Plus Mess was my homie, too. i just remember seeing SUFFERING LUNA a few times and me and Mess would fucking run out and mob all over the whole neighborhood with Meanstreaks and just jump on the backs of RTD buses and hit it up and shit.
Messee: Hell yeah!
Todd: That’s my main memory of SUFFERING LUNA in those days, actually, going out bombing… So, something I was wondering about is why did Suffering Luna break up and why did you get back together?
Messee: We never broke up!
Messee: We just went our own directions. [laughter]
Todd: What year was this?
Messee: 1997. Taz and Joe [original members] were acting retarded. They wanted to do gangster rap shit, so i said, like, “fuck them fools.” [laughs]
Sean: I can totally picture them listening to PSYCHO REALM and being, like, “that’s what i want to do.” [laughs] That was before I was in the band but I was hanging out with SUFFERING LUNA back then and I swear I remember somebody telling me they were joining the army. It wasn’t Messee.
Messee: i was too busy getting loaded.
Todd: So drugs have influenced SUFFERING LUNA?
Todd: For better and for worse?
Messee: For better! [laughter]
Todd: So tell us about drugs and SUFFERING LUNA.
Messee: What do you want to know about drugs?
Todd: Well i probably know it all already but…
Messee: LSD, Jane, kriznak, black, dust, yay…
Todd: Tried it, tried it, tried it…
Sean: The first musical breakthrough with me with music and drugs really was…
Todd: Smoking a bunch of kriznak? [laughter]
Sean: No, dude, it was nitrous. The first time I heard that wahwahwahwahwah, I was like, “holy shit, there’s a drug that changes the way you fucking hear music!” It’s adds like a tremolo, roto sound, or whatever to everything you hear. So then I got all into, like, trying to wear headphones plugged into a microphone, doing a balloon and then using guitar effects on the microphone to make it so that the sounds of real life that the microphone was picking up would sound in the headphones like everything sounded when I was on nitrous. So I’d have headphones and a microphone and like these effects and, you know, I could set that shit up and walk around and everything sounded like I was on nitrous. I could totally zero in on that sound and i was like, this is what psychedelic music is all about, trying to capture that shit.
Todd: You’ve done a decent job of it. So nitrous oxide enhances creativity?
Sean: Yeah, man, and it took me years to fucking process that shit. [laughter]
Todd: Did you sniff paint, sniff glue?
Sean: Video head cleaner was my shit. Same sound.
Todd: Dust Off.
Messee: Computer cleaner.
Fivel: Spray enamel. Made it taste like strawberries.
Todd: I’ve gotten high just from going out writing.
Messee: That too. Spray paint in a bag, huffing.
Sean: That’s a bad headache, though.
Patrick: I used to get high in the ’90s with a lot of old jazz cats and play free form. You internalize it while you’re playing and you find the center of blackness.
Todd: Did you huff a lot of paint with those guys?
Patrick: [laughs] No, just pot.
Sean: Those jazz musicians, they got style, they don’t huff. I mean i know they did when they were kids, but…
Todd: Yeah, they drink whiskey and shoot dope they’re “classy.” [laughter]… So does SUFFERING LUNA have any politics?
Fivel: Treat others like you would want to be treated.
Todd: That pretty much covers it.
Fivel: A cool friend of mine named Hesh says, “keep it clean.”
Todd: That works too. What about politics and music? Music’s a way to inspire people and educate people, thats for sure.
Sean: Not always. Fucking pornogrind is not inspiring the people, you know what i mean?
Todd: I don’t listen to that shit. Yeah, not all music, but it could be.
Fivel: If its triggered with passion, hell yeah! You know what was really nice? I used to deliver mail in South Central and I always felt this energy when I would deliver mail to this one elementary school, you know, and then one day I started nerding out, catching up with my records and dude, DYSTOPIA wrote a song about a young man who committed suicide at a school and I was thinking of that school I deliver mail to and I was really hit by the love you guys did for him and made that beautiful song. Man. fuck dude, now that kid is always there, man.
Todd: Music can immortalize things, too in a way.
Sean: There is something about speaking to the human side of shit. Like, that’s what artists are supposed to do, right? We’re supposed to speak to the human side of shit.
Todd: My music always speaks to squirrels. [laughs]
Sean: Well okay, for real though. What’s a better word than human? Organic? The biosphere? You got to speak to the biosphere? You know what that makes me think of? I remember hearing that AMPS FOR CHRIST that shit was about speakin to fucking birds. I mean yeah it was all tubes and electronics and shit, but the attempt was for humans to create sounds that birds recognized as their own and responded.
Todd: Right on, freak the birds all out.
Sean: No, just speak to them, make them think you’re their homie. Tell them, “I believe in you. You and me, birds, we’re together. We’re a biosphere.” And you know what else you got to do if you’re gonna speak to the biosphere? You got to connect to real people’s suffering. That’s what your music’s got to connect to or else you’re not really doing your job as an artist.
Todd: I like to think I’ve done that. I know I have.
Sean: Definitely. Well the lyrics for our newest shit are all about near death experiences. Like, shit where you almost die.
Todd: Thats dope.
Messee: Like hitting the pookie and fucking doing a big old ball of heroin. [laughter].
Sean: Exactly, like the time i saw this motherfucker almost split his head open on a garage floor from passing out from a hit of moonballs. [laughs] Nah, but Fivel’s got stories about being chased by some motherfuckers, like we all got stories about near death experiences, right?
Messee: I got hit by a fucking car, lying in the road in a puddle of blood.
Fivel: I almost died in a plane crash once, landing in zero visibility in Colorado airport. It’s about being so alive at that moment, but something wants to take that away and you barely make it. It could be anything that fucks with our flow of life. It could be yourself, hardcore gangsters, loved ones, you know, anything.
Todd: Shit that can destroy you if you let it.
Fivel: And us being lucky enough to fucking make it and talk about it, I guess, or share it.
Sean: When we started writing the song, for me it was about a car accident, too. And i remember there was a moment in the car accident, it was like those old fashioned TVs, when you’d pull the plug and whole picture would go down to that little fuckng dot in the middle right ? I saw that. And my life flashed before my eyes just like they fucking say in the movies or whatever and i remember I was like, “I’m about to die” and I was cool with that. I was like, “I’m alright with my life, I feel no regret” and I was dying and I was thinking that. I was like, “I’ve had a good life and I’m about to die proud of myself.” And ever since then, I’ve wanted every choice I’ve made for it to be so that when I die I don’t have any regrets. Did you think that when you were dying?
Messee: Bleeding to death, all yayed out, hell yeah, i mean, no. [laughter] Shit, dude, just fuck, dude, you can’t do shit. Dude, that shit’s scarier than shit.
Todd: I’ve had a pretty decent life. It’s been hard sometimes but… everything else becomes very unimportant at that moment. I’ve had moments where I thought I was gonna die and I was pretty comfortable with it at that moment, too, actually. I was just like, “is this how it’s gonna end? Thats a trip but, you know what, it’s all good. This is interesting, kinda, you know?” It was weird. I hope when it really happens I can be that cool with it.
Sean: I talk to people who also, though, they feel regrets. I talk to people and they’re like, “for real, I got shot seven times and I was lying in a pool of blood and all I could think about was how I fucking mistreated my mom, you know?”
Todd: That’s an awesome realization too.
Sean: They live their lives differently afterwards.
Todd: They probably do, ’cause that’s a heavy experience, too… Any last thoughts about still playing music after almost 20 years?
Patrick: About music in general, I made a decison a long time ago that if i had nothing else, if i always had music, I’d be a rich man.
Todd: Suffering Luna will make you super wealthy! [laughter]