Interview: Boy Sets Fire

BOY SETS FIRE
interview by James Wright

boysetsfirepic

(editors note: James Wright is our Canadian contact for Modern Fix. You will notice many Canadian/United States comparisons in this interview. And as you read these comparisons, make sure to ask yourself “Why?” these major differences in policy occur between our countries despite our geographic closeness. And then look at our current President and the state of our government. Sucks, doesn’t it? Especially the Health Care system. All this money, all these doctors and no one can afford to get sick.)

“I would like to be remembered as a group that revolutionized the world,” says Boysetfire vocalist Nathan Gray from inside the confines of his band’s tour bus. At worst, I would like to be seen as someone who at least made a difference in someone’s life.”

Speaking about revolution is something that comes naturally for this Delaware quintet. Their latest release “Tomorrow Come Today” is a politically charged mixture of hardcore and melodic rock that until now, has never been done before.

Talking from the heart is right where Modern Fix caught vocalist Nathan Gray while on tour. Nathan was more than willing to share his views about the current government, losing faith in government, the 9/11 tragedy and why he is a strong supporter of the American right to bare arms.

You guys were previously on Victory, now you’re with Wind Up. What was the time between records like?
Nathan: It was a little weird because we had one offer for Victory, which means we only had a contract for one record. After that ran out, we really weren’t that happy with Victory, so we decided to move on. We actually told them we weren’t going to be working with them anymore before we found anything else. It was sort of like a mad dash to find out what we were going to do. We talked to like three million labels and ended up with the one that we thought would be the best choice. We went with them and the label recorded a new record and that was three months in the making, and then it took forever to come out. So it’s been out for three months now. It’s been great distribution. I think all record labels sort of suck to an extent, because when it comes down to it, the record label has the label’s best interest in mind, and the band has the band’s best interest in mind. It doesn’t matter if it’s independent or whatever, that’s just how it is. Obviously, people being people, we’re all going to have our own interest in mind. That sort of sucks, but at the same time, there’s much better distribution and it’s better because people actually know who we are.

Getting into the record, would you say that this record reflects how you feel and what you see with regards to society today?
We’ve always been a political band, but the reason that I think that this album was even more so was because we were trying to get out since 9/11, we wanted to get our point of view out. We wanted to get our point of view about politics out there in general, even though we knew they were going to be very unpopular in the States at least. The second reason is because nobody’s broken up with me in a long time, so I didn’t have any material to write, as far as emotional type issues. In the future, I’m sure we will again. A lot of people say this, and this, and this is the reason for this, but I think that with every album we put out is different. Whether it has to do with our political or emotional stance, no matter what, it’s always been and always will be an enigma. We don’t even know what we’re going to do next. I don’t know what’s going to happen as far as political content. Maybe the next album with have no politics… No, wait; I can’t say that because that’s never going to happen because on at least a couple of songs, it will.

You’re very up front about your lyrics, where a lot of other bands are really vague and they want to leave it up to the listener to interpret them on their own. Is that a conscious effort on your part to be up front?
Yeah, I think it’s very important to let people know why I wrote what I did. If you don’t explain it to people, that takes your part of the process out. I see the band and our audience as a big community and if you take out what you felt at the time and let other people decipher it for themselves, it takes yourself out of the community. If you say what it’s about, it can’t be any different. At least the political songs, I explain to a tee because that’s what they’re about. The more emotional songs, I’ll explain it by saying this is how I felt at the time, but I really do like it when people hear their own issues in it. It then makes them more part of the process. I will still explain to them what happened to me, but usually with emotional things, when you explain to people how you felt, people can connect, so it works out right.

Do you think it’s a scary time right now in the States for freedom of speech because of 9/11?
Yeah, I think it has been for a while. Not as much now as it was a year or two ago though. People are starting to realize what’s going on and they’re starting to get past the mass hysteria, which is the problem that happened. In a sense, people are just stupid. People are scared. They have no hope and they have nothing to grasp onto. That’s when a leader comes in and says, “Hey! Follow me.” So people do just because they’re scared and they don’t want to die. Fortunately, people are coming out of that and realizing they’re being fucked with. People are starting to realize that George Bush lied. The thing is, I don’t want to blame everything on Bush because honestly, I think he’s really just a puppet. You have Dick Chaney and you have Donald Rumsfeld, these are the people that know what they’re doing. They’re geniuses, in an evil sense. George Bush might honestly want what’s best. He may think he’s doing the right thing but with these people behind him, he’s not going to know. I’m not saying George Bush is a great guy or anything, I’m just saying he’s sort of a puppet. He probably does think he’s doing what’s right. I think it’s sort of like what the US went through with Senator McCartney and things like that when the government looks so bad. It was at the point where it’s almost a good thing because that’s when changes happen. The American people have been so sedated by these circuses for so long that people need to stand up for what they believed in, just like they did in the fifties and sixties. A lot of what was fought for in those days has been changed for today, I sort of look forward to it to a point. The more the government becomes more oppressive, the more people are going to realize what’s going on. It’s really hard for people to stand up to make a difference. It’s funny because you don’t want a corrupt government, but in a way, you sort of do because it makes people stand up. Hopefully now, people will get fed up and we can make a difference. Maybe we can take capitalism out as a whole, which is the foundation for the corruption that happened.

Do you think that in cases like this, people lose faith in government?
Oh yeah. Now that people realize that the government lied about the reasons we went in, people are starting to lose faith, and I think that’s a good thing.

Do you think another party could come in and make things better?
I don’t know. I want to have a big long speech about it, because I really don’t know. I was a member of the communist party for a while and then I just began working with all sorts of groups because I didn’t want to be part of just one party. I think that the left is really unorganized and fighting with each other. As unrealistic as it sounds, it’s going to have to take a lot of people letting their guard down and compromising. I think that it can happen, but it’s going to be difficult to get that many people to not act like people. Get people to get out from under what they have been trained to think. A lot of times, we think that people act the way they do because they’re people and that’s just how it is, when I think that environment plays a bigger role. Whether they’ve grown up under capitalism, the death penalty, all these things play a role. Growing up in this environment has turned them into a new species. I don’t know what would happen if those things were taken away, but I think it’s important to try new things. Our founding fathers wanted revolution every ten years, to try something new. That’s where I’m coming from because I’m bored with the bullshit that has been happening over and over and over again. I’m bored with people who want everything to stay the same. I’m not like that. This is our country, and our world needs change all the time for things to stay fresh and for our people to really remain free.

In Canada, we don’t have the death penalty, we have health care for everyone. Guns aren’t legal, the opposite of America. Do you think that’ll ever happen in the States?
You know what pisses me off? Up until last year, I didn’t have health insurance and now I just got it from our label and I’m 31 years old. Since I was 18, I haven’t had insurance. If I got sick, or if something happened to me, I was fucked. If I were dying, it wouldn’t matter. When we went over to Iraq, and pretty much took over, our government is looking into giving Iraq health care. What about us? We have all these corporations and rich doctors and people who don’t give a fuck. I don’t care about these rich people with mansions but that’s the way it works. The people in power remain in power because that’s the way they want it. People who are not in that position should finally stop apologizing for people who are in power because these are the people who are fucking them constantly. We need to stop thinking rationally. Stop apologizing for these rich doctors, stop apologizing for the rich politicians and stop saying that they need the money. They don’t need to be that rich when there are people starving and can’t afford the right to health care. It’s bullshit. I was in Germany and I got sick, I was taken care of immediately. It was the best thing that I’ve been through in my life.

In Canada, we have a photo ID for health care, so you just go into any doctors, and they swipe your card through a machine.
People don’t go in for check-ups, they don’t go in for physicals, then they turn forty and find out they have a cancerous lump that could have been prevented or removed if they had come in a few years earlier, but then it’s too late. Then ten years later, they’re dead.

There’s such a difference between the rich and the poor. Do you think that’s ever going to change?
It has to. I think that at some point, the richer are getting richer, the poorer are getting poorer and the middle class is getting eliminated. I think it’s a good thing because people are finally going to stop apologizing for the rich and things are going to be done differently. We have a leader who’s a liar and it has nothing to do with anything sexual. That whole Clinton thing was so annoying. I don’t think Clinton was the greatest guy either but I think it’s stupid that you want to take out a guy because he got a blowjob. You’ve got all these people, all these Republicans who have done the same thing.

Chris Rock said, “He’s a guy, and if someone offers you a blow job, you can’t run that fast.” I don’t want to say anything, but if someone says, “I want to suck your dick,” there’s not a guy in the world that would run away. He may argue for a couple of minutes, but he’s not going to run away.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, someone a few year’s back broke into the Canadian Prime Minister’s house and that was the big news in Canada.
That would never happen in the States, you couldn’t possibly get near the president. I think they know that the president would be dead if they could get past security. There are so many people that want to do away with the whole system in general whether it’s a wacko with serious complaints. With every president we have a lot of enemies because of what we’ve done throughout the years. We even started WWII when we went in to defeat the Nazi’s because of the Jewish problem. Hitler sent out a message to the world that he didn’t want to Jews and if someone didn’t take them, he was going to kill them. Nobody responded except someone on the Caribbean offered to take a limited number. The US wouldn’t because we didn’t like the Jews either. It wasn’t until they started moving into Great Britain that we panicked and decided to move in because Great Britain was one of the countries we had allied ourselves with. It was really funny how we disguise war as a moral solution, just like we did in Iraq. There’s always some moral reason that we’re in there. We actually bombed the shit out of Bulgaria to solve their homeless problem. It was a really weird underlying problem. Nobody knows about this, I looked up on it because I had heard something about it. Apparently, Bulgaria asked us to bomb them to help with the homeless problem. Nobody knew about it.

What I find interesting is the only time death is mentioned is when it’s a US soldier.
Oh yeah, it’s very American. I think it’s awful when American troops die off, so why are we sending them there? We’re sending 19 year old kids off to some foreign country to get shot. I’d like to see George Bush and Bin Laden fight. Let them kill each other. I don’t like seeing teenagers getting shipped off when their only concern at that age should be how their going to get drunk and how their going to get laid. Not, “Am I going to step on a land mine when someone is shooting at the back of my head?” George Bush taking away veterans benefits after telling us to support the troops, we’re a big military country. The military makes almost nothing compared to what most people make in the US. They have to live on military bases. I don’t understand it at all.

So you think they should disarm the military? A lot of people think that by disarming the military, it would leave you wide open for another attack like 9/11.
Well it would now. Now that we’ve treated people like shit for so long. It almost sucks that we have to protect ourselves. I think disarmament takes a long time. It’s not something you can just do overnight. If you do it overnight, everything would be fucked. It’s a thing that you do over time. You start building trust; you start building allies all over the world. You start agreeing. If we started acting like the superpower that we should be, instead of the superpower that we are then we’d start setting an example for other countries. Instead of going to help these countries and acting like the benevolent big brother, instead of acting like the bully on the playground, I think that would help a lot. Canada and France don’t agree with the States anymore.

I’ve heard it’s gone as far as changing French Fries to Freedom Fries.
Yeah, it’s sort of been blown out of proportion. It’s not at every restaurant. It’s just a couple of dumb-asses that did that and they got big exposure. It’s just like when Michael Moore stood up at the Grammies and said his thing about war and everyone booed him. It was more like fifteen people. There were a few people that stood up and clapped. That’s how it works in the States. It’s almost like a dictatorship. If you can get the media to say whatever you want them to say, which the government can, you have the people. I think Michael Moore is excellent. He’s not just a smart guy; he’s a funny guy and a down to earth guy. He’s not a linguist that uses 25-cent words. He’s just a normal everyday kind of guy. He’s funny, he’s got a good head on his shoulders and he’s just really cool. I like seeing him doing what he’s doing.

I’ve seen hate mail directed at him on the Internet for Bowling for Columbine, saying his Oscar should be revoked.
That happened after what happened after the Oscars, it sort of discredited him. It’s like what happened in the Nixon era, they tried to discredit him from the left. Through things like people and groups that put out fliers and papers about him, they discredited him. I’m surprised we haven’t heard that Michael Moore has had an affair with a little boy by now. It’s all bullshit made up by people so they can discredit someone so they don’t have to think about what they’re saying. That’s what the problem is. If you’re going to try and discredit someone, find something real. Find out what they’re saying and if it’s true or not. What Michael Moore’s saying is true. From what I know, it’s just a lame attempt to discredit him so nobody will listen to what he has to say.

I couldn’t imagine being able to walk into a store and walking out with a rifle.
Maybe if I lived in a different country, I’d feel different, but I am a very strong supporter of gun rights and people being able to use them. The only reason for that is because of the country I live in. It’s not because I’m afraid of people, but I’m afraid of our government. I’m afraid of the government having all the guns, and the military having all the guns and the people being unarmed. It sucks because when you talk like that, a lot of people will call you a conspiracy theorist and things like that. I really liked what Michael Moore had to say about a lot of that stuff and I understand why guns are not a good thing to have around. If we lived in a different country, maybe I’d agree with that. In a big way, so many things have happened that it makes me think that conspiracy thoughts aren’t that far off. “Move” a group based in Philly, is a group that was bombed by the US government and the Philadelphia police. They burned out a whole block of a black group, called the “Move”, that was basically out for peace. They basically took a city block, and wanted to be left alone. They wanted to be their own people and start change in our country. It was a great movement, and they were bombed for it. Ruby Ridge was a family of white separatists. They were one family living up in the mountains, not bothering anybody. The CIA went up there to fuck them up. Then the kid saw trespassers on their property because they weren’t wearing uniforms or anything, he shot at them. They shot at the kid; stormed into the house, shot the wife who was holding the baby, just shot them all. That’s why I honestly believe that citizens should be armed, so you can protect yourselves. They will knock down your door and they will kill you. It’s just what they’ve proven throughout the years. They’ve proven to be untrustworthy; they’ve proven to be people that will take you out if you may cause a problem. If I lived in Canada, I probably wouldn’t think that way.

Do you think it’s a wrongful assumption that poorer black communities in the States are more associated with gun violence?
Oh yeah. That’s why the Michael Moore movie is so true. If someone accuses a black man of doing something, everyone will immediately accept it as true, because black people are “scary”. In the US, any dark skinned person is perceived as scary. I’m not quite sure how that came to be, but not just black people, but the poor are scary to the Americans too. Anybody that has nothing to lose is scary. White trash and black trash is the same thing in the US. People are afraid of them and consider them to be volatile and sister-raping people. That’s why I think it’s more of a class issue than a race issue. The O.J. Simpson trial, he got off clean for doing what he obviously did. He killed the woman, but he got off totally clean. If that were a poor white man, he’d get the electric chair immediately. The electric chair is reserved for blacks, and poor whites. That’s why I think a lot of the time that blacks and poor whites need to realize how much they have in common in our country. If they realized how much they had in common, the revolution would begin today. They upper class keeps them separated by keeping them enemies. They’re played on each other.

Do you think the poor communities have to unite to overcome this?
Absolutely. It’s going to take the poor communities, the working class and the youth. Those are the three groups that really need to unite and do something. They are used to being told that they’re stupid and they don’t know what they’re doing. In some ways, I blame it a little on the art that goes on these days. There’s a lot of anger, a lot of depression, without any answers. I don’t want to be weird and blame a hundred things on music, but I do think that in a way, that’s why we’re here. We want to install hope and tell people they don’t have to be angry and depressed. There are outlets; there are ways to make a difference. Stop listening to what everyone has to say about you. I think there’s so many bands out there singing about being angry and singing about parents that hate their kids, and the kids listening to it are like, “Yeah, I feel that way too, what do we do about it?” And the bands are like, “I don’t fucking know. We just sing about it, that’s our release. Fuck you!” As far as I’m concerned, that’s not what revolution and change is about. What it’s about is being hopeful, about your future and your country. It’s boring seeing a bunch of political idiots who are not having fun. Fun is a very important part to change a revolution. It’s a party, it’s fun and it’s something that’s going to make your life better. Be joyful about it. Lighten up, have a party and drink some beers. I think it’s very important to teach the youth that it’s fun. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll have a big part in revolution. It always has. The sixties are a great example of that.

What message do you hope people will take out of your music?
If nothing else, to believe in themselves and the power that they have to make a difference. And not only that, but also to realize that since we’re speaking our minds, they can do it too. To instill hope in people. If somebody tries to put me down or bully me, I put them down. I want people to know that they can do that. That they don’t have to succumb to bullies. We also try and put some humor into it. It’s kinda like we try and set up lines for hecklers. The best line for hecklers, especially if you’re in a band is, “I don’t slap the sailor’s dick out of your mouth when you’re working, so don’t fuck with me when I’m working.” It works every time.

How do you want to be remembered after you’re done making music?
At best, I would like to be remembered as a group that revolutionized the world, for a group that started a revolution and changed the world. At worst, I would like to be seen as someone who at least made a difference in someone’s life. I want us to make people think, so people will look back and say, “Hey, they had some great ideas and they really had some good stuff to say and they really made me feel better about my opinions and how I look at the world.”