Interview: Caustic Resin

by gordon downs

I was familiar with Caustic Resin before that dreary evening sometime in the winter of 2000. It was a Wednesday, and the club hardly had any people in it. Local support Longer Than Miles had opened up, and a band called Ferdinand the Bull was playing the second slot. But for the dozen or so people that did decide to show up, it was the evening’s headliner Caustic Resin who we had all come to see. Known for his guitar work in Built to Spill, Caustic Resin front man Brett Netson, has amassed a healthy cult following himself. With six albums under his belt, he’s a veteran of both the grunge and indie rock movements. Never shying away from epic guitar solos and distortion laded feedback jams, Netson is a bit of a rogue within the realm of independent music for his ability to play his own brand of rock on his own terms. Caustic Resin’s most recent offering, “Keep on Truckin” is yet another foray into feedback, distortion and the guitar driven jams that Netson and company are known for. He recently embarked on a North American tour as a guitarist for Mark Lanegan’s touring band. I had a chance to talk with Netson while he was in LA with the ex-Screaming Tress vocalist, prior to the final show of the tour.

How’d you end up playing guitar with Mark Lanegan?
Brett Netson: We were both in New York, Caustic Resin was playing and Queens of the Stone Age were playing, and Mark mentioned he might be doing it, and then just called back on a whim.

Who else is in the band?
Troy from Queens of the Stone Age, the bass player’s name is Eddie, a friend of mine from LA, Norm Block. He used to play in a band called Plexi.

How long have you been jamming with these guys?
I’ve played with Norm several times, never played with the other two guys. We had about two weeks worth of practice for this trip.

And as I understand it, tonight’s the last show of the tour. How was this tour with Mark Lanegan?
Pretty good. Europe was a little better than the states.

Why is that?
I don’t know. That just kind of just seems to be how it is right now.
I remember the last time Caustic Resin played San Diego.

Oh really!
It was a dreary Wednesday night sometime in 2000.
(laughing)

It was a dismal turnout, this much I remember, but me personally, I’m totally down with the solos.
(laughing) Yeah, that one was more dismal than usual. A few places in the country are just like that.

Different Strokes for Different folks, ya know?
Yeah.

Do you still play with Built to Spill occasionally?
That was never really official, so you never can tell. That was kind of another thing, if I’m just around; Doug’s just another friend of mine, so if I’m around it’s like, “Hey, why don’t cha play with us?”

Do you plan on doing some more touring behind “Keep on Truckin” or do you have something new in the works?
Yeah, I got a bunch of stuff going on. I’ve just kind of been recording by myself, here and there when I can. This tour came up, so I wasn’t able to finish it. I’m gonna record a bunch of stuff by myself and see how that goes. I don’t know if I’ll do anything with it; I mean, I’d like to but I just don’t know if anybody’s interested? There are plans to do another Caustic Resin album, either on Up or there’s a possibility of Mark Lanegan, might have something going on. He might doing something. He might be starting a label for the sole purpose of putting out some old Screaming Tress stuff, and the plan was he was going to start putting out my records too. Which would be kind of cool. I’d be really excited to do that. I think it’s kind of for sure though. We talked about it last night when we were in Frisco.

How long has Caustic Resin actually been a band?
It’s been like about, fourteen years. We grew up together, it was the two guys, Tom Romich, it was mainly me and him ya know. We were just kids, eighteen years olds playing music, partying, taking acid. I kind of taught him how to play guitar even. It was one of those things. We just ended up not really having anybody else to play with because we had such weird tastes. Me and him just ended up playing together all the time because, he was just the one guy I knew where we could get together and play, and just play whatever, and there wouldn’t be any kind of hang up or what kind of style it was. There was hardcore punk and Metal, and that was about all anybody had even really heard of, around where I was from even in the Northwest in general really.

Being from the Pacific Northwest, how’d Caustic Resin take to the whole Seattle explosion in the early nineties?
We didn’t really fit in there either, but we fit in it enough to where nobody noticed what we were up to. It was pretty neat, it was close enough.

Sounds like good times.
It was fucking great times!

“Keep on Truckin” has this really laid back, and almost sinister vibe on the record. It sounds as if you guys decided to jam some new songs one day and just coincidentally mic the room.
Totally, it’s kind of an ass-backwards way of doing it. That’s how it started obviously, we would just jam until you come up with a little something, like a little melody. I’ve always been pretty into melody, which was another good way to keep your self away from the Metal crowd, (laughing) or hardcore punk. So yeah, it’s like all these different kinds of elements of rock and roll, and you jam until you get a little thing with a melody or something going on, and then you just milk it to death. I don’t really see any way to do it any other way (laughing!) You know, just getting right down to the root of the matter and just do it.

Are you still playing that one stratocaster with all those fucking stickers all over it?
It’s a weird start; they only made them for two years in the eighties. It’s some kind of bizarre special edition thing they did, and I just gotten used to using it. It’s really heavy and it’s got all this crazy brass all over it; brass bridge, all this brass hardware all over it.

How long have you had that guitar?
I’ve had that forever, and before that, I had a white one just like it that had got stolen in Boise.

You have the word Pixie inscribed on the neck of your guitar. Are you a big fan or is that something else?
Yeah, but that’s my girlfriend’s name, Pixie.

What do you think of the Pixies reunion?
It would be great! It’s gotta be good, I mean, that was a band that wasn’t based on youth or fashion or anything anyways.

Yeah, Kim Deal moved to LA to be closer to the new Breeders lineup. How do you like living in the Silver Lake community of artists?
Yeah, there’s a lot of different kinds of people here that’s why I ended up liking it. At first I wasn’t so keen on it, but you just end up meeting some really amazing people. And you just stay cuz’ it’s kind of special. Weird things happen here that wouldn’t happen anywhere else on the planet. I mean, you can actually make money being creative.