Interview – Grinding in the Free World, An Interview with Avi Kulawy of Magrudergrind

April 2016 Vandala Magazine - Magrudergrind InterviewDue to the extremity of grindcore, it’s rare that anyone who plays it travels very far doing so. Those who do are top-tier creme-de-la-crop acts, most of whom have been around since the mid-‘80s. One group, however, skyrocketed to this upper-grind-echelon on the merit of their work and strength of their live act. Meet Magrudergrind, D.C.’s finest grindcore/powerviolence trio. After a six-year hiatus, they’ve just returned with II, their fifth full length, and first on Relapse Records. We called vocalist Avi Kulawy to chat about the new record, and what’s to come.

Interview By Sean Barrett
From April 2016 Vandala Magazine 
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I saw that there’s a Brooklyn show and then nothing until Choosing Death-fest. Is Magrudergrind no longer a touring act?

Avi: We’re actually gonna be in Europe during that whole time.

Oh, woah. Okay. I could not have been more wrong. [Laughter]

Avi: We’re actually leaving for Europe next Wednesday. We’re there for a little over five weeks.

Mostly Western Europe?

Avi: It’s gonna be pretty much all over Western Europe, going down south to the Mediterranean Coast, then going out east up into Scandinavia, so pretty much the whole circuit.

Not a lot of grind bands get to leave their little part of the country. How is it getting to play this stuff all over?

Avi: I mean, yeah, we’re pretty fortunate. If you were to ask me in 2002, if I would’ve played a show, nonetheless even gone to Indonesia, I would’ve laughed in your face. It’s been very fortunate.

How did playing the Choosing Death-fest come together?

Avi: Well, funny thing about that is, actually, we were supposed to do a U.S. tour with Noisem right after Choosing Death-fest – they’re on that – and, when we originally had the itinerary, that was gonna be on the itinerary, one of the first few shows on that tour. Noisem actually dropped off and were replaced by Yautja, so we just said “Alright”. We were already booked for Choosing Death, and the tour starts a few days after that, so we decided to keep on the bill.

It’s been about six years since the last release before II. What were y’all up to?

Avi: We all held full-time jobs, we were split in-between two cities for a number of years in between D.C. and Brooklyn. We went through a line-up change, had a new drummer, Casey Moore, join the band a few years ago now. So, between being split in two different cities and not really getting to jam – we did tour, we did a South American tour, we did a Decibel tour a few years ago with Cannibal Corpse and Napalm Death, and then we did a lot of fly-ins, pretty much, just going to Miami or Detroit, etc. etc. We didn’t have too much time off from our work schedules, so that was all that we could really accommodate.

Did the process of making this album get you all back into the groove of having this be muscle-memory?

Avi: Yeah, for sure. We incorporated a lot of songs off the new record into our set-list. We’ve kind of been hammering that in, getting ready for six months worth of touring starting next week, the end of this month. So it’s pretty much nailed in, dialed in.

Any old stuff on the set-lists?

Avi: I think the deepest cut will be from the Rehashed record, probably just one song off of that.

What effect did moving to Relapse have on the process of writing and recording?

Avi: None whatsoever. I think labels have always been secondary for us. We always do what we do and create what we want to create without any outside influence. Regardless of what label we would have worked with, we created this record just as we would any other Magrudergrind record. When we were in the writing process, we were talking about “Okay, what label should we get to put this out?” and, naturally, the first label that came to our minds was Relapse, and we already had a history with them; they approached us about releasing the first self-titled record. It just didn’t work out at that time, so it was kind of a natural progression to get in touch with them and see if they were interested, and, off the bat, they were really enthusiastic and excited.

In a 2011 interview, you mentioned that a full-length was planned for 2012. Is this that full-length, and was there a delay there?

Avi: Yeah, [chuckles] absolutely. It was moving to another city, being split between two cities, going through a line-up change. By the time we were in a place where we had all the members in line with lifestyles and personalities, we found ourselves in New York, everyone living in New York, in one place. We had a dedicated practice space that we could use, and we were able to constructively write the new record. But, from 2011 till a couple years ago, we just faced a bunch of hurdles.

I haven’t been able to find lyrics for this yet. Are you still raging against the same things, more or less, the meat industry, capitalism, etc.?

Avi: Well, first of all, I don’t know that we explicitly ever raged against those specific items you just mentioned. Some songs are explicitly political, but sometimes the lyrics might be misinterpreted, or might be actually contrary to what you might think a grindcore band would lean in the political spectrum. The lyrics are, for two, a compromise of strife and disdain for issues that are really personal to me: anything from drug abuse within friends or family, ranging to more explicitly political subjects like the prison-industrial complex or LGBT and gay rights and marriages in the United States. So, yeah, they do touch on similar tracks from what I would write on a previous full-length. But, that being said, we’re not an explicitly political band.

Sorry for speaking so broadly there.

Avi: Well, a lot of people make that assumption about us, just because of the style of music that we play and the aesthetic that we carry, but we wanna be sure you know we’re not fascist in the right or the left. In the lyrics, the subjects and content is to bring awareness to certain political subjects, but they’re not saying “Hey, this is the end-all-be-all that you should follow and abide to.”

You mentioned there that you might go in a different direction that one would expect of a grindcore band. What’s something where you and, say, Barney from Napalm Death might disagree?

Avi: I’ll let people read the lyrics. If somebody wants to spend time and dig into them, and look at the relevance of them and put the pieces together and really look at the lyrical content, and maybe study a little history, they’ll form their own conclusions, but I’m not gonna outright state anything specifically where Barney and I might might diverge in political affiliation or belief.

I only have one last question, and it’s a really f*cking goofy one: have you ever thought of working with the black metal band Tsjuder and calling it Tsjudergrind?

Avi: Never even crossed my mind. [chuckling] We’ve heard some different weird variations and mockeries of our name, and people butcher it from here to Timbuktu, but I’ve never heard that one.

What’re some of the better ones?

Avi: MacGrubergrind, McDudergrind, McDooDoogrind, people f*ck it up all the time.



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