Libby Freeman Chats With
Abyssal Creatures' new self titled release is a wonderful mash of acoustic punk rock and first person narratives that deal with national issues on an interpersonal level. I recently had a chance to speak with Ian Fellerman about this release, North American storytelling, the aftermath of 9/11, the financial collapse, and much more.
PG- Hi Ian. I appreciate you taking the time to do this interview with Punk Globe. I've been listening to the Abyssal Creatures self titled release and was struck by the imagery, themes, and how character driven it is. Can you tell the Punk Globe readers what compelled you to make this?
Ian Fellerman- The initial idea for the album was to make a character concept album from young people's point of view living in today's America. It wasn't more or less putting blame on how things are and how hard it is to find a job. It was more about the feelings of what people go through in this day and age. It's a bunch of different characters and their feelings on how life is today.
PG- Abyssal Creatures seems to fit really well within the tradition of North American storytelling. The twelve songs seem to be first person narratives of individual characters. The setting appears to be in the aftermath of 9/11 where we've been coupled with the financial collapse that occurred a few years back. Did I get that right? Could you expand upon this?
Ian Fellerman- That's totally correct. That's 100 percent the idea of the whole entire album. We've gotten a lot of flack for it. That's how I see things. People may see things differently, but that's how I see them and so that's how I wrote the album. The characters in some of the songs are based upon my own experience, most of them are based off the experience of people I've met throughout the last couple of years. Also, watching the news and observing how things were during pre-9/11 (which for me was high school and even grade school) seeing how things really changed from that point on.
PG- Do you want to talk about any of the flack you got for making this album?
Ian Fellerman- Yeah. The first thing was, (I didn't even know this would be a big deal) we signed on for the musician strike against the Arizona immigration laws. Whenever you do something political, it's almost like that's one of those things you're not really supposed to do, particularly in music. There's been a lot of negative reaction from people who are in the upper bracket. We could especially see it when we played some shows and we opened. People were expecting two minute really loud punk songs, not songs that were written on acoustic guitar and had some kind of message as to what was going on in our and our friends and family's lives.
PG- To return to some of the first person narratives, we seems to have exhausted working class people, students, a prisoner and a guard to name a few who seems to be attempting to hold onto their dreams while looking for a crack in the armor or maybe even plotting to make one. Do you have any thoughts on the fate of the North American working class? Any suggestions or possible solutions?
Ian Fellerman- This album has more to do with young people in the work force than older people in the work force. The first song on the album, "College is a Racket" is about how you're told to go to college and that you'll get a job and then you get paid and you have a family and you settle down and that's the American dream. What's really happening is that you go to high school, you don't learn what you need to learn. They don't even teach you how to do your taxes, which is kind of ridiculous. Then, once it's time to go to college, everybody's parents are bankrupt so it's only the uber-wealthy that go to college and can get the jobs. We've all been raised on this media ideology that this is America and we're all gonna do something really great, but that's really not the case. Once you get out of high school there's really not much in the way of opportunities to find a job. If you do find a job you're making minimum wage, but you had all these dreams and all these things you wanted to do and it just doesn't seem possible. On the other hand, as long as you try to keep those dreams and keep working towards them things can happen. I just think it's really hard for the young person coming directly out of high school to find themselves. That's how I feel for the younger people and I also feel that it's kind of dangerous too. It's not like the 1960s where we had young people who were super educated. The fight against the system is harder now because when young people out of high school they are totally totally ignorant because they don't have a chance at higher education. The blame of what's going on in the world gets put on each other within the working class rather than that blame being put on people who actually control things. So, education I find really important, but at the same time you can spend a trillion dollars on a liberal arts degree and you're still working at the coffee shop for minimum wage. It seems that we're either being controlled by big government that want to clamp down or by big business that wants to cut our wage. Really, right now in terms of solutions, near the end of the album, the second to the last song ("Ignatius") expresses that it's good to have these feelings and it's good to work towards them. It's good to have compassion for everybody, keep yourself educated, and continue to try to find a job cause you gotta feed yourself. Is that too confusing of an answer?
PG- No, not at all. It's a confusing situation we're in. The answer makes sense. So, a lot of these narratives on the Abyssal Creatures self titled release read/listen as critiques that deal with national issues on an intensely personal, emotional level. Is there a reason these critiques were framed this way?
Ian Fellerman- I didn't want to come off as super preachy. I thought it would be a better idea to interview the people around me and remember the experiences I've had with other people and put their ideas and their critiques into the songs instead of me following the normal punk protocol of smashing the state that everyone's ears are kind of plugged to. I thought it would be more of a palatable message if it was told through other people and through me.
PG- I found "Electricity" to be a particularly interesting song. This song appears to detail a love/hate affair between a prisoner and a guard in Guantanamo Bey. Can you tell the Punk Globe readers any background or reasoning that went into the creation of this song?
Ian Fellerman- I always wanted to write a book. You know, love is an interesting thing that's present even in oppression and hate. On a small scale relationship level there's definitely elements of hating the person and loving the person that goes back and fourth. I think oppression is the same sort of deal, whereas if we all stopped doing everything the oppression wouldn't work the same. I thought it was a good situation to try and discuss these sorts of things. Really the idea is that we have this prisoner who is being oppressed and so is the guard. What's really oppressing them both is the prison state and the state of what the world is. It's not so much between them. One person has the least power and one person is getting paid to do something, but they do share a common ground. A prisoner and a prison guard can find each other. It's a little bit of an S&M story too with the prisoner getting shocked by the person that they love. It's kind of a sick, twisted commentary about love. It works on two levels. It works on a political level and also the level of just social interactions with people.
PG- "The Disappeared" as well deals with 9/11. Can you tell the readers about this song?
Ian Fellerman- Yeah. It was around 2005 and Guantanamo Bey wasn't so much a huge media issue. The story is about someone who is kind of obsessed with the details of it. They're at a point where instead of just eating normal mass media information, they're inundated by the information and they're also trying to manage a love life at the same time. They're experiencing that it's almost driving them insane and they just want to show that people are still around. It also has to do with the Peace Movement. I used to do a lot of stuff with the Peace Movement, not so much anymore. With the Peace Movement there's always this moment of silence the we're supposed to do for peace, being quiet and pacifist about it. That used to really get on my nerves cause you know what? We're wasting time here with this silence. We should be talking out and we should be aggressive. Really the whole thing about the song is that pacifism doesn't work. This character is struggling along to get it out that pacifism is not the right way to conduct ourselves in this type of situation. That's what the lyrics, "speak for the ones that will disappear" are all about. Let's break this moment of silence and speak up. Silence is really not what we need right now. Pacifism and silence are probably more what people in power would want rather than people acting out.
PG- On that tip, do you have any thoughts about this culture of fear that has proceeded 9/11?
Ian Fellerman- I don't know if the album deals too much with the culture of fear. It definitely plays into it, but there's no real material directly put into it. In my mind things are definitely a little scary right now. I don't think it's scary in the sense of Islamic terrorism. I think it's scary in the sense that young people need options to do better than there parents did and that's not happening right now. My feelings on the culture of fear is that the wrong things are totally blow up when the real issues are pretty much kept in the closet.
PG- Towards the end of the album we have songs like "A Gentleman's History" and "Suicide By Cop" where there's discussion of rebellion. Can you tell tell the Punk Globe readers your thoughts on revolution or rebellion in general?
Ian Fellerman- The songs are about individual characters with different views. Some people are pacifists, some progressive, and some are radicals. The title "A Gentleman's History" was taken from a chapter in a book by Michael Perenti who is a famous Marxist. The song represents a character's point of view on what his feelings are about what needs to be done. His whole idea is that we should totally destroy absolutely everything and rebuild everything up because right now there's no real connection between people. That we need to destroy everything and start over. I can't say that I agree with that, but I do think it's a very interesting perspective. Then in the song "Ignatius" we have a person who is trying to find compassion for that kind of person. It's telling that person that, yeah, you can smash the state, you can break everything, and destroy it all to the ground, but at the same time how are you going to feed yourself in this day and age? I know how hard it is to have these ideas and go to work everyday, but you have to find another answer. Then, "Suicide By Cop" is on the same plane as "Ignatius," but it's more the person from "A Gentleman's History" understanding that you can go out and destroy everything, kill cops, kill yourself and that whole nine yards, but at the same time it's pretty far out there because there is a lot of good in the world. So, this character is talking about all these dreams and issues and relates that this is just a dream of his. This character also talks about how he talks to his parents and how they feel that these dreams of his are pretty insane and how he can kind of relate to their sentiments. Then he takes a bit of that anger and puts it on himself and feels like he needs to start over on another idea.
PG- Right on. So, we discussed a great deal the literary structures and lyrical content of the album. Can you tell the readers about the making of the Abyssal Creatures self titled release from a musical perspective?
Ian Fellerman- Yeah. I'm not the most amazing musician in the world and at the time I had literally the size of a dorm room closet to record in. I recorded all the instruments myself and I had other people play them when we play live. I wrote all the songs first on acoustic guitar and then started adding other instrumentation on top of that. It was a long drawn out process. I've just built another recording studio in a much bigger space and we're gonna have another album out hopefully by the summer. The new album will be completely from this. It will be more electronic based and filled with electric guitar. The theme more or less will be my own personal experiences in culture with social awkwardness. I've written fifteen songs already for it for the new album. It's going to be much, much different from what I've done before. It will be funny to see the punk rock community hate it and then all the people who hated the last album really like it. I'm looking forward to the mixed reaction.
PG- Can you tell the Punk Globe readers which musicians were most inspiring to you as a young person?
Ian Fellerman- I grew up on a heavy diet of Fugazi, Minor Threat, the Pixies were huge to me. Also bands like Built to Spill. These days, my favorite musician, it was actually the best show I've ever seen, only like two hundred people fit in there. It was Jamie Stuart from Xiu Xiu. I think he's just totally amazing.
PG- How about poets and writers?
Ian Fellerman- When it comes to writers my favorite things to read are auto-biographies of civil activists from the 1960s. I've found people like Abbie Hoffman and Huey P. Newton, even William Kunstler to be super interesting characters. When it comes to poetry I'm kinda bland, I like all the same stuff as everyone else: Burroughs, Bukowski, etc.
PG- Do you have any stories from touring that really stuck with you that you'd like to share with the readers?
Ian Fellerman- Yeah, we played a local show here in Aspen, CO. not too long ago. It was a good show, we had a lot of fun, but they didn't know who we were. Someone else put the whole show together and put us on as headliners and the opening band was this heavily Christian orientated band. When we played we got the most awkward reaction we've ever had at a show before. It's my favorite concert we played because it was just so awkward. About a week later the local newspaper was filled with letters to the editor from really angry Christians. I thought that was really fun. Even directly after the show we kind of wanted to crawl in a hole because it was so awkward.
PG- That's funny. Do you have any advice for young musicians or writers?
Ian Fellerman- Do it as much as possible. If you can hold down a job and write as much music as possible and put it out as fast as possible that's the most amazing thing you can do. The internet is a huge thing too. I'm originally from Massattuses and then I moved to this tiny town in Colorado and the internet is just amazing. You don't need to live in a big city anymore. You can make the music you want to make, live wherever you want to live and still put it out and get it heard. Utilize the internet as a tool, make yourself happy, don't watch so much T.V., keep writing, and when you have spare time, be in the studio.
PG- Thanks again for taking the time to discuss the Abyssal Creatures self titled release with Punk Globe. Do you have any parting words for the readers?
Ian Fellerman- Definitely check out our MySpace at & the Abyssal Creatures website and stay tuned for new music this summer that's really different from anything we're done before.