Interview: Toys That Kill

(This interview originally appeared as the cover feature of Modern Fix issue #15 roughly 2003ish)

– interview by pr!

It’s been a bad year; it’s been a bad night. Todd and Sean are back, bringing FYP’s young punk to a grown up Toys That Kill. There is no doubt that this new band is a step to the left (and maybe forward) from the speedy punk we’ve grown to love for the last decade, and there’s no doubt a few of the hardcore fans will scoff at this new collaboration. If anything, Toys That Kills comes off showing a band’s experience, which, like a fine wine, is odd, smelling but very potent. I smoked a bowl and caught up with Todd Congelliere, current Toys That Kill singer and owner of Recess Records.

PR: How are you feeling?
Todd: Great.

P: What’s up with the title of your album, Citizen Abortion?
T: I don’t know, just something clever, I guess. A lot of people ask us what its about, with the whole September 11th thing, even though the record came out in June, so it’s kind of weird.

P: Tying to September 11th?
T: A few people, when I did some interviews, asked if the record was about that. Strange.

P: Those interviewers obviously hadn’t done their homework.
T: Yeah, when I tell them the album came out before, they’re just like, “oh, weird”.

P: I like the coat hanger over the earth symbol on the back of the CD insert.
T: Yeah, it’s pretty funny.

P: Are you pro choice?
T: Oh yeah, of course.

P: Ever see those guys driving around in vans with dead baby pictures all over?
T: No, what’s that all about? I mean, I’ve seen the stickers and everything.

P: Maybe you don’t have them. Here in San Diego, we get these wacko’s driving around on the freeway with dead baby pictures on their van.
T: Huh, I’ve never seen that. That’s crazy. The main thing is that I think people should have to take a test, like a drivers test, before they can have a kid. Like a DMV parenting test. A lot of kids get real fucked up by bad parents who didn’t really want to have a kid, but were forced to because of religion or the way they were brought up. Don’t just ruin a kid’s life.

P: Like pulling an OJ, and killing your kids mom?
T: There ya go.

P: He was on a talk show recently, and the subject was ‘Single Parents’.
T: Wow, that’s pretty nutty.

P: Toys that Kill, the name of Fyps last album. Coincidence? Laziness? Sup with that?
T: At the time we were recording that, it was after our last tour, and I had decided we weren’t going to do FYP anymore. We had a new band name down, and Sean and I were working getting the other band members. We thought it was a good name, and our original intent was to play those FYP songs with the new band.

P: Do people want you to continue FYP?
T: Well, we’ve been on three tours so far, and almost every show, people will ask us to play FYP songs. At first we did play a few, but then we’ve just tried to stick with the new music

P: Well, the last FYP album came out pretty recently, so I could imagine that FYP is still fresh on listeners minds.
T: It came out a year ago, but yeah, it’s weird. That was the biggest reason we used that name on the album. There were three songs that we kind of wanted to play with the new band, but something happened, and we never got around to learning them. With FYP, by the time the record came out, I was already sick of the song. Now, with Toys That Kill, I’m not sick of the songs yet.

P: So when FYP died, Toys that Kill was born?
T: When we played the last FYP show, the next day we played the first Toys That Kill show. That wasn’t the plan, it just kind of happened.

P: Will there ever be a FYP reunion show?
T: Doubtful. If it happens, it will probably be like three of us at a party, all drunk or something. I think if we did that, I would play ‘Die Young’, because it’s sort of about that. It would be really funny to play that, to make fun of those bands. Like Circle Jerks and the Misfits getting back together. How are the Misfits playing together now? It’s practically karaoke.

P: Did you see Circle Jerks when Debbie Gibson sang for them?
T: No, but I saw a video of that.

P: That was a low point.
T: Yeah. It’s embarrassing, but at the same time, I have a lot of respect for them. When I was young, I loved them and Black Flag, and Seven Seconds. Out of all the bands, I have the most respect for Black Flag, because Greg hasn’t brought it back from the dead. He could, and he’d make a killing on it.

P: Like the whole Sex Pistols thing?
T: Oh yeah, see I didn’t see that, and I didn’t want to. Very weak.

P: Any more FYP albums?
T: No.

P: Will you try and make sure to have Toys That Kill break up and get back together a few times?
T: (laughs) I don’t know, yeah. If this band broke up today, we’d be back together next week. FYP’s something I don’t want to get back together. But I could be wrong, man. When I’m 40, maybe I’ll want to play that shit again, you never know.

P: To an outsider looking in, what’s different in Toys that Kill, as compared to FYP?
T: It’s not the fast monkey beat, which is the first thing people notice. It’s more weird rock, or something. I think one of the reviews we got said how weird we are, like pop weird rock. I don’t know, I think its like Cheap Trick or the Clash, or something. Some people say it’s not fast enough. Even people who stopped liking us, have come back and thought this was the coolest thing. I think there’s more energy to this then the last three FYP albums. It’s hard to put my finger on.

P: You own Recess Records also, right?
T: Yes

P: How’s that going for you?
T: It’s been good. Slowly getting out of debt.

P: Are you a rich yet, like Brett Guerwitz or Mariah Carey?
T: Not even close. Actually, I was 25 grand in debt a few months ago. Now, I’m about 12 grand in debt. It’s a good sign, but it’s lame to be like that, because you can’t afford bills all the time, and you can’t do cool things for your band. But at least I know we won’t go out of business.

P: It’s all about doing things you enjoy.
T: Totally. There are labels that go out of business because they just started to lose money, but they’re just trying to go out before they lose all their money. I think that when you’re in the hole like me, for twenty grand, and you can still work, that’s a good sign.

P: Do you get a lot of business off the Internet?
T: Yeah, we do pretty well off the mail order. Getting better… just trying to get back to zero.

P: I know you just got off your tour. How was it?
T: Good. I think we went too soon, though. We toured July and August, took September off, and then went back in October. It was still really good. We got to go to New York, which is cool, because I haven’t been there for a while.

P: Pre or post September 11th?
T: Oh, after. Actually, it wasn’t that long ago, like three weeks ago. We thought it was going to be all glum, but it was cool.

P: Did you get to see the site?
T: Yeah, we played like three blocks away, which was kind of sketchy. I got to get a glance at the rubble. It smells really weird there.

P: So having been to New York before, you know what’s missing.
T: Yeah, it’s definitely noticeable. When your coming from the tunnel, you get to see the skyline right there, and the gap where the buildings were is totally obvious.

P: Tour with any good bands?
T: Civic Minded 5. They’re on Recess. Haven’t gotten sick of watching them yet, and I saw them every night. Great band.

P: What was the best show?
T: Probably New York, or Boulder. We played a great show in Boulder.

P: What’s the worst show?
T: Um, with Toys That Kill? We’ve played at least 200 show, or at least a hundred. I’m trying to think of a really bad show. See there would be 15 people at a show, but it would be really fun. I just can’t think of any really bad show right now. Albuquerque was really bad.

P: What happened there?
T: The guy that set up the show, it wasn’t his fault, but the whole scene was dead. There might have been 40 people there, but they were all sitting around, drinking coffee. It was in the back of a coffee shop.

P: What does Toys that kill do in-between work?
T: On tour? Drive. Drive or… I don’t know. Stuff.

P: Who does your CD layout?
T: Me.

P: You did FYP’s CD layouts also, huh.
T: Yep.

P: Which band out there had handled success the best?
T: I would definitely have to say Fugazi. They’re a good example of a band that got big, but still is cool. Like they can charge whatever they want, but they keep the prices down. They still put out great records, which is the main thing. You can be the biggest creep in the world, but still put out great records. They always top their previous record without really changing. Most bands change to get on the radio or something.

P: I don’t think they’ve had a radio song.
T: No. I mean, they’ve had songs that could be on the radio, but they’re not interested in that format. They know they can do big things without fucked up rules like the radio has.

P: Which band has handled success the worst?
T: Fuck, I’m trying to think now. Pretty much every band I can think that is big… I like Green Day. They handle it good.

P: I just saw a VH1 special on Green Day, where they have quotes from some shit zine and the owner of a prominent punk label calling Green Day sellouts. What do you think makes a sellout?
T: No, I don’t think them even signing to a big label is a sellout thing, I think that’s just a bad business move if your a band like them. Most bands, if you do that, it can totally fuck you. If you sign on a major label and alienate your fans, then sell 30,000 records, you’ve screwed yourself. I think they’ve kept putting out good music, and I like them. Bands like Blink, I don’t really listen to that much. They definitely came from a different background then N Sync, but they are perceived the as the same.

P: So if you were Blink right now, and you noticed 95% of your fans are female, but your trying to do your ‘punk thing’, but your making all the money, are you in a bad place? The fans call you sellouts, but you’re surrounded by 14 year old girls.
T: Oh yeah, little girls. See, I don’t know. I think I have a different opinion of other punks. I don’t think they’re that bad, but definitely in the same area as boy bands.

P: At least they know how to play an instrument.
T: Yeah, they play shows, they’ve played shows with us before, which is something I can respect, which is something the boy bands cant say anything about.

P: If you were the band Anthrax would you change your name?
T: Fuck no. They had their name way before any of this came out, and if anything, they’re going to get more publicity out of it. If someone came out with a band called AIDS, that would be funny, at least to me. Are they changing their name?

P: There’s been talk..
T: See, that’s stupid. They should keep it; it’s their fucking name. People are too sensitive, which I can understand, but don’t start changing everything around. I can see altering it, because clubs wont let them play.

P: ‘Anthrax coming!’ on the billboard.
T: (laughs)Totally. Everyone sees the bill and runs away.

P: Should drugs be decriminalized?
T: Yes. Definitely. Less people will do them. If it’s illegal, and your parents don’t like it, and it’s hard to get, people will do it because it’s more interesting. If you can go to the store and buy weed, it would be better. Amsterdam’s proof of that. It would be a lot easier to buy weed, I guess. You can get any type of drug you want any time you want. Your definitely looking over your shoulder if your buying heroin, but you can get weed anywhere.

P: Do you partake?
T: Um… sometimes. Occasionally.

P: Republican or democrat?
T: Neither. No party.

P: Have a good joke?
T: Not really.

P: Who’s a moron?
T: Somebody that we know? Anybody. Too many. I still think our presidents a moron, no matter what’s going on. I still think he’s a moron. Jerry Falwell’s the biggest moron in the fucking world. There are a lot of others.

P: Who’s a genius?
T: That would be me.

P: Final words?
T: Um, don’t drink Captain Morgan’s like water; it’ll just bite you in the ass