Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Interview by James Damion

I asked Peter Horvath to provide me with a list of all the bands he’s played in, and after he stopped laughing and called me insane, he provided this compendium of “just the main ones:" Etcetera, P.E.D., September Violence, Seething Grey, Separate Peace, Halo Boots, Greyhouse, and finally, The Anderson Council (1999- present) and the Beatles tribute band Hey Bulldog (2004- present.) I am pretty sure that I met Peter when he was in P.E.D. – a very long time ago, when Jersey Beat itself was only a few years old and I don’t think Peter had even started shaving yet - and over the years we’ve become good friends and I’ve enjoyed, admired, and written about most if not all of his many projects. There is simply no way to talk about the last 30+ years of New Jersey music – punk, indie, underground, call it what you will – without mentioning Peter Horvath. So we happily and proudly present this interview by JB’s James Damion. – Jim Testa

Q: GreyHouse was always one of my favorite bands. There was always something uncharacteristically unique about the band. Can you give me a little inside look at how the band came to be and if there was any template to what you wanted to sound like or find common ground with?

Let's see, I was in a band called Separate Peace, whose bass player was Little Dave, who was in the band Minus One with Ed Glazar and Chris Hines. Ed and Chris would end up in Greyhouse with me, while Little Dave would go on to Ressurection and The Judas Factor. I played guitar once at a Minus One show, and I guess the seeds were sown there. Ed decided that he was also going to play guitar, and we would all be involved in the vocals. Greyhouse has been referred to as "NJ's answer to Fugazi", and I suppose we had that whole DC sound in the back of our minds as some sort of a touchstone, but I don't think we consciously tried to ape the Fugazi/DC sound.

Q: I remember a show you played at Wetlands. After which, I recall approaching Ed to see if the band would do an interview for a fanzine I was doing. Though he did not say "No". It seemed as if he was puzzled as to why anyone would be interested in covering GreyHouse. I was curious as to why the band seemed so stand offish to any such possibility?

That Wetlands show was really great. I have no idea who else was on the bill with us, but I feel like it was with bands who didn't really "go"... In any case, we rolled in there with our usual assortment of 4 Marshall 100 watt half stacks, fully expecting to be told that we couldn't use all that gear, but the sound guy was REALLY into the fact that we were going to test the capabilities of the club's PA system. THAT was a first... Anyway, to answer your question, I feel like we always felt out of place as a band in the "scene". We were always on bills with bands who espoused a more SXE lifestyle than we did, which always seemed a little weird to me. As a result of that, I felt as though we were this total outcast of a band. With that in mind, I can totally see why Ed was a little confused as to why someone would want to do a piece on us. Of course, we've come to find out 20 years later how apparently well liked we were. Go figure.

Q: don’t know if you recall the split 7” inch you did with Dahlia Seed, but it was the first time one of my photos appeared on a record. If I remember correctly. You played a lot of shows together. How did you come to know one another and how did the opportunity to put out that record come about?

Mike Simonetti / Troubleman Unlimited put that one out, right? I figure he put it out since we were pretty terrible at putting our own records out... We played a few shows with Dahlia Seed. I feel like those shows happened towards the end of our time as a band. Not sure. I remember playing a show at Stockton State College with Dahlia Seed, and we kept blowing breakers. Those damn big amplifiers again... That was the night I learned that some manufacturers put light bulbs in PA cabinets to act as a fuse. The fun byproduct is that the PA cabs light up the more power that gets slammed through them. Instant light show... Honestly, the only person in Dahlia Seed that I knew was Tracy, their singer. She always seemed to have a cold when they played a gig...

Q: A proper discography of the bands catalog was held up for years. Rumor has is it that the recordings were somewhat hijacked by someone who agreed to release it. Is there any truth to this? Or is it just a wild, blown out of proportion, punk rock myth?

Initially, David Wolter, who put out our first 7" on Withering Records was going to release the discography too, but he kind of fell off the face of the earth. We got so far as to master the release and start on cover art, but we stopped working on it when we stopped hearing communication back from David. Fast forward a few years, when I was in communication with two gents from San Francisco who were interested in putting the discography out. We tried to get in touch with David again, but once again, no go... Eventually, the songs made their way to ye olde internet, and new folks started hearing us, along with the folks who said "I used to love these guys back in the day"... Where the fuck were they then??? Ha.

Q: We were finally rewarded with “Dives to the Deep End” in 2016. How did the opportunity to hook up with Simba Recordings come about?

Vique had put out a split 7" with us and Fabric a million years ago, and we had kept in touch with her. When the occasional talk of the discog came up yet again, she agreed to put it out on Simba Recordings, and the rest is history. The record was mastered for vinyl from my personal CD master, in case you want some trivia.

Q: I never had a chance to catch Seething Grey. Can you give me a little background on the band, the band's recorded output? Was the band short lived?

Short lived??? Seething Grey was around in various forms from 1988-1999! We started in May of my senior year in high school, as a band that REALLY wanted to sound like The Mighty Lemon Drops or The Wonder Stuff or bands of that ilk, and ended up as an angry amalgam of The Who and Swervedriver, with tendencies toward odd meters... The original band got as far as a demo tape, and various other lineups made recordings, but our first "real" release was a 7" on The Sinclair Recording Company, our own label. We put out 2 full length CDs and had some tracks on various comps. The band imploded as we were doing preproduction for our 3rd record. By imploded, I mean that I quit my own band, which then mean they had no singer and guitar player. It was a bummer, but the band vibe was getting too down and somber, and I needed a musical about face. Luckily, I had been writing songs in a 60's psych vein, which became the first songs for The Anderson Council...

Q: Had you continued writing music and recording songs in between Seething Grey and Anderson Council?

I actually started writing songs that would end up being Council songs in 1995, so there was really no in between time. Seething Grey stopped in April of 1999, and The Anderson Council's first show was in September of 1999. I would do the demos by myself, playing and singing everything, which is really fun to do. Also, remember, I was recording these on my 4 track, so it also caused me to become a better recordist, and definitely a better drummer!

That's Peter on the right...

Q: How would you describe your transition from a hardcore kid writing and screaming songs like “Meditation 17” to writing 60’s flavored pop rock anthems such as “Magical” and “We’re Like the Sun”?

I have always been a fan of really poppy college/indie rock, and 60's music, and more aggressive stuff. To that end, I've always tended to be in more than one band at the same time, to kind of appease those multiple facets of my musical upbringing. Sure there was some overlap; how could there not be, when the same person is doing most of the writing? That said, I write whatever I write. If the thing I've written doesn't fit the current band, I'll file it away somewhere...

Q: When did you start noticing a change in your writing and approach to creating songs?

I think that the songwriting approach differs with the band situation. I've always written songs, since I was 13 or 14. Sometimes I would bring these songs to whatever band I was in at the time. Sometimes I'd bring a piece of a song to a band rehearsal, and we'd develop it into something fully fleshed out. Greyhouse songs were essentially written together with everybody in the room. Seething Grey songs went from being me writing everything myself to us working on everything together. The Anderson Council started out with me writing everything, to me asking the band to write stuff themselves, to me doing a lot of co-writing with our drummer. It all works, with varying degrees of success, and I really don't have a preference...

The Anderson Council - "Girl On The Northern Line" video (2016)

Q: I have this fond memory of seeing the Anderson Council perform at Clifton’s The Clash Bar. I can’t recall the year, but I still have homemade CD with some of the bands early recordings on it. I’ve kept the CD all these years, partly due to the fact that the Fender label on it made it somewhat unique. Can you tell me how the band came to be and what type of music were you interested in making?

Fender logo? Not sure about that... The first Council release was a split CD with another band called Nonesuch, which was the same four people in slightly different roles. Me and our drummer were looking for a bass player and guitar player, and those two guys (both guitarists) were looking for a bass player and drummer. We said, "we'll join your band if you join ours", and that's how it went, both bands existing at the same time, until the Council eventually "won" the battle. Nonesuch was very Hum-inspired, and very unlike The Council. My vision for us has always been to exist in that place where bands used up their entire musical experience on making one incredible single with an even better b-side, before losing their stripes and paisley and buying denim and playing some sort of "blues"... I feel like we mostly stick to that premise without it getting too stale!

Q: The band’s sound has been described as everything from every sub-genre or pop to psych and garage rock. What terms would you agree best fit Anderson Council’s sound and overall approach to songwriting?

I describe us as PsychPowerPop. That's good enough for me. We're not garagey to my ears, but if Little Steven wants to keep playing us on his radio show, I certainly won't complain.

Q: Skip forward to 2016’s “Assorted Colours”. As someone who saw it as the bands best and most focused work to date. I recall the record getting its share of play and praise within the indie community. Is there anything that particularly stands out about that record, a particular song or perhaps performing the record in a live setting?

It was focused because it was kind of a Greatest Hits type collection. There were songs from every album, all of our Coolest Songs in the World from Little Steven's Underground Garage show, 4 new songs (one of which became our most recent Coolest Song), and one song that was previously only a b-side to a 7" release. Bang for the buck there! I think that the collection as a whole really holds up. It's very GO from the second you hit play. I'd really only replace one song with something else, but overall, I'm really happy with how it turned out. It's also amusing to note that almost every one of our lineups to that point was represented on that release, and yet, we still sound like the same band. Fun story: I brought Magical to our last rehearsal before we were set to start recording, and said, "you guys, we NEED to record this". They were pissed at me, but we recorded it, and it became a Coolest Song in the World, so I guess I vindicated
myself there...

Q: Which brings me to Hey Bulldog. What inspired you to start a cover band and do you bring anything particularly different to your performance?

This band came about from some sort of Lennon birthday jam session that I wasn't actually at. From there, it turned into a monthly gig at a local New Brunswick restaurant. I still wasn't in the band, but I would do a solo opening slot playing Beatles or solo Lennon stuff. Eventually, my solo opening slot turned into me not getting off the stage when the other folks in the band would come up to play, and now 14 or however many years later, I'm still up there. This band is the only cover band I've ever been in; coming from my illustrious punk/hardcore background, one just doesn't play in a cover band... I guess I stopped giving a shit about that rule.

Hey Bulldog

Q: What was your initial exposure to The Beatles? Was it a particular song? Album or performance?

My brother, who is 12 years my senior, had me listening to Frank Zappa, The Allman Brothers, The Beatles, Moody Blues,GrandFunk Railroad, etc. since I was a wee lad. My parents listened to easy listening stuff like The Carpenters, Ray Conniff, The Lettermen, and stuff like that, so I guess I got a sort of well-rounded musical education. In any case, the first Beatles record I heard was the American release of “A Hard Day's Night”. Which was half Beatles, half orchestral soundtrack stuff. It was ok, but then I heard “Revolver” and I was hooked. I guess I was 4 or 5?

Q: In playing someone else’s songs, in this case, the Beatles. There has to be a temptation to lean a bit heavily on performing them in the same frame in which they were created and recorded. Is there anything you bring to the songs that adds your own individual interpretations to them?

I think it really depends on which song we're playing. We've reworked some songs heavily, while others we play just like the record, because you just can't improve upon them, you know? Our band premise was this: pretend the Fabs got back together, and said, "these are our songs, and we can do whatever we'd like to them, whether it's a long solo outro, or an electrified version of an acoustic based song, or whatever..." We're definitely NOT and band like The Fab Faux, who you go see when you want to hear records recreated note for note. I can appreciate the skill and care that goes into a project like that, but that's not what we do.

Q: What are some of the rewards and fallbacks to being in a cover band?

Rewards: getting paid well, and getting to play some really great music.

Fallbacks: drunk people knocking drinks into my gear, or knocking my mic into my teeth, getting paid well for playing music that isn't my own, and the crowd being really into it. There's definitely a feeling of weirdness there, like "why the fuck do you people not come to see my band that plays 99% original material?"

Q: Tell me about this “40 Songs” gigging you do. Is it a mix of covers and your own material? Do you take requests? What are some of the songs you regularly bust out? Have you ever actually managed to perform forty songs in one performance?

40 Songs w/ Mr. Horvath came about because a friend of mine needed a fill in for a solo acoustic gig at our local watering hole. I told him I would be playing originals and covers that probably nobody (or very few people) in the audience would know. One gig became many, and now I've been doing this for 3 or 4 years, I think? At first, I didn't bring a song list or a set list; I just played whatever would come into my head. Now I bring a set list, but I might not stick with it. I usually come up with stuff on the fly, or whatever. Sometimes I attempt to have a theme ( Mr. Horvath Plays 70's AM Radio Hits, for example), but that's an exception. Depending on my mood, I MAY take a request. It's been known to happen on occasion. I also may put an audience member on the spot and get them to come up and sing a song. That's fun...

Regularly covered artists include: Squeeze, XTC, Robyn Hitchcock, Procol Harum, The La's, Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, The Jam, Aztec Camera, Sloan, The Who, Blur, The Replacements, Big Star, The Smithereens, Dag Nasty, Gorilla Biscuits, Donovan, The Bee Gees, Lemonheads, Kaiser Chiefs, REM, Split Enz, The Knack, The Brilliant Corners, Pugwash, The Chills, and others of all walks of musical life.

My record for an evening is 73 Songs. I'm not into taking breaks. The gigs last 3 hours, on average. They're really fun, and keep me on my musical toes. I'm not one for keeping lyrics on a iPad or whatever; they're mostly up in my head. This makes for some interesting lyrical variations on occasion.

Q: Moving forward. Do you ever see yourself not writing and or performing music?

I certainly hope not. That would really suck.

Q: What are some of the elements that keep you drawn to making music such a priority in your life?

I enjoy when I can write a song that can evoke whatever feeling I had when I wrote it. It's also a real joy to bring a song from inception to final mix, to see that process happen.

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