Brendan Canty (The Messthetics, Fugazi)
From drumming for the seminal rock band Fugazi, who have influenced a plethora of modern bands today, to his current band The Messthetics, describing Brendan Canty as anything short of a legend would be remiss.
He talked to us about life, music, coffee and overdosing on Simon and Garfunkel.
Make sure to catch The Messthetics on tour now, they’ll be playing the Casbah April 11 if you’re not already going to Coachella.
Fresh Pots: No doubt it’s been told countless times before but would you care to share just how it all began for you?
Brendan Canty: I’ve lived in the same zipcode my whole life. Luckily some other great bands are from here as well. I gravitated out of the theater world when I was in High School into the music world, after seeing the Bad Brains and Teen Idles and Untouchables. I formed a band called Deadline with some other boys who were a little older than me. I had a drum set. I couldn’t play, but I had a set. Ian said we could be on Flex Your Head if we recorded so we went in with Bert Queiroz and recorded 5 songs. Three ended up on the comp. After that I was in a Discharge rip off band called Insurrection, and then Rites of Spring. That song felt like the end of the world every time we played. I still get a longing for those shows. We were a unit that felt profoundly that our shows had to absolutely destroy. So we destroyed our gear almost every show. Anyway, after Mike Fellows quit, we formed One Last Wish with Mike Hampton, then Happy Go Licky with Mike Fellows again, then he quit, then we formed Fugazi.
15 years later we stopped because of kids and life and death. It was time. I raised four kids, now I’m back on the road. Loving playing drums again.
FP: Your latest project, The Messthetics, sounds like Mahavishnu Orchestra if they came out of the 80s hardcore scene. How did it come to be? Also what does messthetics mean?
BC: I stole the term Messthetics from a Scritti Politti song. To me it has two meanings. We know what we are doing, and we are ok with failure and not knowing what we are doing.
Joe and I were playing together after he moved back from Rome, but as soon as Anthony joined us it really took off. He is a very knowledgable and ambitious player. I think we all feel very challenged by the instrumental format, and the trio format. Everyone has to do their job all the time. I love that. No one feels redundant.
FP: What music are you listening to these days, any new bands that have caught your interest?
BC: I listen to a lot of free Jazz and Coltrane and things like that mostly because I’m driving around with Joe and Anthony and they listen to that a lot. I love it, but I also love songwriters. I listen to a lot of piano music and classical music as well. I also like more degraded noisy music that lives in computers.
I hate to use the old adage, but I listen to all sorts of things all the time. I was listening to Warren Zevon demos and Joe Tex singles earlier. Then I ended up listening to Simon and Garfunkel until I became disgusted with myself.
FP: I’ve always wondered how did your iconic bell become a mainstay in your drum set?
BC: I used to use many different minimal percussion pieces. Like circular saw blades. But they were never loud enough to play in a room without a PA, as Fugazi often would. Guy Picciotto found the bell at a farmers sale in Virginia and bought it for me. I love how loud it is, it wakes everyone up!
FP: It’s great to see you working with Joe Lally again, so naturally I have to ask, when can we expect to see you two with Ian and Guy for a Fugazi reunion?! Unless you’re bringing back Riot Spray...then of course I can see why Fugazi would be put on hold.
BC: Ha! I don’t foresee any reunion honestly. It would be lovely, but I realize it would be very difficult to pull off at this stage. It’s ok if it doesn’t happen. Having said that, if it did, I would be very happy. I’m very close to those guys and we still have a bond that hasn’t been replaced.
FP: Messthetics are playing Coachella this spring, is this your first time having played there? Any other artists you hope to see while you’re there?
BC: I played there with Deathfix in 2013. I enjoy it. I love seeing bands have their “big Coachella moment”. It actually ends up feeling kind of intimate in the tents. I have friends out there now, so it’s easy and fun. I don’t know who is playing this year but I’m sure it will be more about discover than anything else for me.
So many bands that I know nothing about.
FP: Any other exciting projects we can expect to see in the near future?
BC: Not really. Doing some soundtracks that I can’t talk about. Playing a little with the MC50 and Wayne Kramer. It’s going to be a busy year.
FP: Lastly, before we go, coffee do you drink it? If so how?
BC: I have a Moccamaster by Technivorm. Usually I make 2 pots a day. Sometimes around 5 I have a venti iced americano as well. I drink endless amounts of coffee everyday. It’s a real problem, or a real solution. I’m not sure.