Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Interview and photos by James Damion

Cinema Cinema was formed in 2008 by cousins Ev Gold (guitars/vocals) and Paul Claro (drums). The duo released its debut album Exile Baby later that year and since then, Cinema Cinema has performed over 400 shows across nine countries, and in 40 of the 50 states. The band has received acclaim for both its ferocious, take no prisoners live sets and its experimentally-minded recordings, the most recent of which - 2017's Man Bites Dog - was hailed by New as "a hodgepodge of haunting, jazzy, chaotic art-punk noise... an intimidating and absorbing listen here, not for the meek." With a new album on the way, James Damion queried guitarist/vocalist Ev Gold about Cinema Cinema's role in the noise-punk underground, how this unusual partnership evolved, and where it might be going.

Q: In previous conversations, we’ve talked about the early stages of Cinema Cinema. Can we go back a bit before you formed? Where you were both at musically? Other bands you might have been in. Or ones whose music you feasted on?

Ev Gold: Sometime in 2007, well before uniting as a band, Paul and I happened upon the chance to play together via a recording project that my uncle (a.k.a. Paul’s father) was involved with. A natural musical chemistry arose immediately between the two of us. I think we both sensed that something was beginning at that point.

In the months that followed, timing would have it that the musicians I was playing with were moving onto other things in their lives. I had been in bands, off and on, since 1994 and for the first time in over a decade was without any collaborators. I had yet to achieve many of the musical goals imagined in my youth. I wanted to play music in all 50 states, to break the road open on a long and winding national tour, (maybe) as support for a well-established act. I also hoped to tour Europe one day. Another goal was to make a record with one of the producers who’s work I was a fan of. Don’t get me wrong, since joining my first band at the age of 15, I had done a semi-healthy amount of music stuff, but I was still hungry for a lot more. Wanting for a band scenario that was about total commitment, willingness to make music activity first priority, and serious minded pursuit in chasing the sound wherever it goes.

As 2007 was ending, I was 29 years old and not sure what would come next. My search for fellow players was continuously proving unsuccessful. One night that December, Paul happened to have a gig in NYC with the group that he was in at the time. I was trying to meet up with a potential bass player (found on Craigslist) that night and the plan fell through, so I popped up to catch Paul’s set. I was totally blown away by his playing and presence. I had already known that he had talent and felt the spark when we jammed a few months earlier during my uncle’s studio session, but this night made me realize that if I could play in a band with him, I would have all I needed for a future in music. I spoke with him afterwards and it turned out that he had also felt that spark accompanied with the itch to attempt playing together, for real. On January 11, 2008 we hit the practice room to experiment. It worked. Our first gig was six weeks later (February 22, 2008 at The Delancey in NYC) and we haven’t looked back since.

Q: My reaction hearing Cinema Cinema for the first time can only be compared to the first time I heard Big Black’s “Songs about Fucking,” Amphetamine Reptile-era Helmet and of course seeing Jesus Lizard live. Can you share some of the bands or maybe albums that helped influence or shape the band’s thirst for nihilism?

I think hearing the Sex Pistols at an early age, with that confident swagger of the pissed off and disenfranchised. The charisma in the “fuck you and all you stand for because it means nothing to anyone” kind of snarl I heard in Johnny Rotten’s voice. That attack stance was a starting point. Then, Black Flag really hits me not long afterwards. I devour the incendiary combination of music and words and try to wrap my head around just how far out you can get under the free flying flag of “punk”. Reading the Rollins “Get in the Van” book was a large percentage point on my further investing in the idea of making art at any cost, especially the eschewing of conventional thought about class, society and the “American dream” of wealth and prosperity. I started to look at the world and my place in it, as a musician, a lot differently after both those bands infected me.

Q: During our many interactions. I’m often taken aback by how mellow and soft spoken you can be. A polar opposite of what we’ve come to see on stage and in your music. Where does that fire we often see, come from? Is it like flipping a switch?

Yes, flipping a switch is an apt analogy. A transformation occurs. I’m afforded a great deal of natural therapy when engaged in this way. It’s like a frenzy and when it comes to an end, I feel peace. When I go for long periods of time without the sonic exorcism, it gives way to a form of torture on my psyche. I guess that’s part and parcel as to why we have found a way to stay kind of hyper active over the last 11 years (averaging 40+ shows per year, while releasing four full-lengths and a handful of singles/EP’s).
In terms of where the fire comes from, there’s a burning pit deep in my soul. It would be a tired paragraph to illustrate specific points of pain, fear and disillusionment experienced in my younger years that fuels it, as I know that ALL of us have our lives’ trials and issues. I don’t know that I have had it rougher than any other human on this spinning globe of unanswered questions. I do know that I have a LOT of stuff afloat in the moat and I doubt I will ever reach that ‘kumbaya’ type point of inner peace and freedom required to cut the ‘shiny-happy/feel-good’ record. It’s just not in the cards.

Q: You once told me that in experiencing or understanding Cinema Cinema, you had to be willing to “surrender to the trip.” I have my own understanding of that and I think it’s pretty open ended. I think it can be left to each individual’s perception. That said, I’m rather curious as to what it means to you.

Total immersion in the moment. Be here now. We make music less for the entertainment value and more for the opportunity to actually feel alive. Life happens where thought ends and action begins in the moment you occupy. Surrender to the trip, take the ride. Be in this moment, with us.

Q: I’ve seen you live and I’ve been to your rehearsal space in Brooklyn. Both of which made me curious as to your approach to song writing and building. Can you take me through the process?

I collect musical ideas, recording them onto my phone. I never flesh anything out that far since it will likely change once I throw it into the ring, with Paul behind the kit. I try to not attach myself to a singular vision of the piece as it might not even pass the initial test of: “does Paul like it and want to work on it?”. If we begin to kick the idea around and it seems as though it will stick, it usually gets named right away. Then we push it and pull it, over and over, until it feels right.

We are deep in this process at the moment, working up new material for the next CC album, with hopes to get into the studio by summer 2019. I can attest it is both an exhilarating and arduous task. We’ve been trying to shut-down, in terms of gigs - to focus on writing alone, but it is hard! We are always itchy to play live, so turning down show offers becomes its own small dilemma. We constantly try to find a reason to dignify confirming the show or starting to plan the next tour.

Q: You’ve done a lot of touring, particularly in Europe. What is it that draws you to hop on a plane, cross the ocean and play for a bunch of Euro’s who may not have even heard of you?

We had the very good fortune of having our first European voyage be in support of the Martin Bisi Band, in 2013. Second stroke of lucky timing with our European fans was, earlier that same year Black Flag had toured over there and Greg Ginn was wearing a Cinema Cinema T-shirt for most of those shows. When we arrived at many of the venues on that first run w Bisi in November 2013, small helpings of music enthusiasts had already looked us up. That was a REALLY helpful introduction for us. We jumped the curb from being an unknown American act, coming over to undoubtedly play for “Euro’s who may not have even heard of us” to being the opening band for an extremely well-regarded producer’s (five-country/16 date) tour, compounded with the Black Flag endorsement rendering the amazing scenario of having a tiny bit of awareness about us before playing our first note. We immediately broke the decibel limit at our first show, in Prague, and set the table for a long standing relationship to commence. I think we’ve been over there six times since. Our current record label is UK based (with an office in EU as well), so the European love affair continues!

We remain steeped in gratitude to Martin for taking the chance of touring with a band he only knew for a short period of time and had yet to record. Also to Greg, for tapping us to open the Black Flag reunion stuff and spreading the word worldwide of Cinema Cinema, as much as he did for a time. They both have made such major contributions to so many artists paths over the decades. It’s an honor to be counted among those lucky ones.

Q: Having toured both the Eastern and Western sections of Europe, have you noticed many differences in the people coming to shows or in your daily exchanges? Where have you received the best or most involving reaction?

I can say with total honesty that there’s been nothing but positive experiences and supportive enthusiastic crowds at the majority of the European shows, east or west. The wonder and care attached to music lovers over there seems to come from very a committed place. They take their art seriously! New things excite them. You CAN be a small band and still be received very well over there. All the scenes are supportive, not competitive. It is a radically different experience, in terms of the entire touring endeavor. The clubs and owners understand that paying the band, feeding the band & helping to arrange lodging goes without argument or conversation, it is a given.

We have done really well in Germany, Berlin and Hamburg especially. Also in Austria, Vienna is one of our best stops, every tour. It is a consistent spot where we have as many people who know us and come to support as we do here in almost any of the states.

Q: Has the time away had any negative effect on your jobs, relationships or hygiene?

Nothing has been affected enough so as to pose any issue with our continued pursuit. We’ve quit jobs, but we’ve gotten new jobs. We have loved ones who understand us and accept who we are. The fact that we’ve been at this for over a decade now speaks for itself. The only thing that can stop us would be a mutual decision made to take a hiatus or some sort of health issue that could arise from an unforeseen corner of life to get in the way.

Q: You’ve performed as a duo now for a long time, but you’ve had some additional players along the way. Martin Bisi immediately comes to mind. Has there been a time when you’ve considered bringing more personnel to the band permanently?

No. At the very beginning, as soon as we felt the energy between the two of us when playing, we made the decision to not look for other members on a permanent basis, ever. That’s not to say that some other guests aren’t slated to appear on upcoming stuff, as we do have some cool and exciting things on the horizon. Stay tuned!

Q: You’ve been releasing new music at a steady pace for some time now. Each one seems to come with an added bonus, i.e., the legendary production of Don Zientara, your tour with Black Flag and of course working with Martin Bisi. Was there anything special outside of the music itself on Man Bites Dog that I may have missed?

This was our second record in a row working with Bisi. Those building blocks of experience proved powerfully important in terms of the end result achieved. I want to give a lot of credit to him for the record that we came away with. Martin’s input and hard work were integral, from start to finish.

The “special sauce” on Man Bites Dog is a man named Matt Darriau. He’s likely best known as part of the Grammy award winning jazz-world act, The Klezmatics. He’s a reed master, a wind conjuring powerhouse and cuts a great foil to Paul and I. Our first foray into having a guest musician on a recording took place when Darriau contributed saxophone to “Exotic Blood”, “Digital Clockwork Orange” and “Shiner no. 5” on Man Bites Dog. We have gone on to record about two albums worth of material with Matt, for our side project with him, a trio we call CCMD - very different type of stuff from any other recorded output of ours. Hopefully at some point in the future that material will see the light of day.

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