STUDIO TO STREET: Uncle Touchy

Uncle Touchy

If you’re going to make an impact on any music scene, you better damn well know what your band is about. Atlanta’s Uncle Touchy make no bones about who they are and what they stand for—they’re loud, abrasive, mean-spirited motherfuckers who play some of the most unsettling and ferocious noise-rock this side of HAWKS. The band’s stated goal is to make audiences’ stomachs turn, and while this kind of openly confrontational approach may seem divisive to some, the group appears to be having great success doing just that. Their latest album, the aptly titled Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Violence has sold out of three pressings and was recently picked up by Canadian label No List Records (KEN Mode, Breathe Knives), who issued a vinyl re-release just this week. Full of brutal guitars, scathing vocals and a disproportionate amount of misanthropic hate, Everything… may not be for the faint of heart, but it sure makes for one hell of a fucking rush.

Last week I got a chance to talk with the band—Chris Moree (guitar/bass), Jonathon Lewis (vocals), Kevin Yount (guitar) and Jonathon Mackey (drums)—about their history, the recording of their latest album and their experiences with Atlanta. The one constant throughout the entire conversation? Trannies. Go figure. Check out the entire interview below.

Can you give you give us a little of you back story—how long you’ve been together, how you met and so on?

Chris Moree: Justin and I have been playing together in bands for about ten years now. Uncle Touchy started out in 2010 with him singing, me on bass, and a few other guys who either left or got kicked out. We were having no luck finding more people to play with so we took about a break between December 2010 and August 2011. I met up with Kevin via a weird craigslist guitar gypsy deal over the summer of 2010. He was wearing a Butthole Surfers shirt and we struck up a conversation about porn. We kept in contact and eventually he joined up with us. We met Mackey through a some friends in other bands, we jammed with him once and he was in. We all got together for the first time in early August, hammered out the songs and were playing shows in about two weeks. We’d only been playing together in this incarnation of the band for a month and a half when we recorded the album.

Jonathon Mackey: I think Chris called me or emailed me or something and asked if I wanted to play, and I said okay. That’s about that, I suppose.

Kevin Yount: I have been with Uncle Touchy for a little less than a year. I met Chris trolling on craigslist for guitar shit, or maybe trannies. We expressed our love for both trannies and the same style of music. My other band played a show with them and when Uncle Touchy broke up after a falling out I kept talking to Chris about reforming and we stayed in talks for a while until we landed a drummer. The rest is history.

So, umm, Uncle Touchy. How/why did you settle on that name?

CM: Well, there were a few options. Out of the four or five maybes, Uncle Touchy was the least offensive. There’s a story but I can’t really go into it… let’s just say that there was a guy that we knew who was kind of a weirdo. He had some things on his hard drive and he went to jail for a long time. We used to jokingly call him Uncle Touchy.

KY: Seen as though I joined later on the name was there. I think Chris and I talked of a few different ones but he decided to keep it. It is just gross enough.

JM: Chris is obsessed with pornography, and is a closet homosexual.

CM: Trannies aren’t men. So technically, I’m still totally into chicks.

Talk to me about your songwriting process for this album.

CM: I wrote and arranged about 95% of the music and Justin writes about 90% of the words. I watch a lot of movies and I have this weird process where I write songs on paper first and figure out how to play them later. I was into a lot of stuff like Machine Girl, Tetsuo the Iron Man, Raging Bull, Goodfellas and Eraserhead at the time. Growing up, bands like Unsane, Melvins, Snapcase, Deftones and Faith No More were a huge influence, but I think I mostly just absorbed elements from all of those things and twisted it into this weird amalgamation of hate.

Everything was done in such a hurry that we didn’t really collaborate on the songs this time around. The newer stuff we’re working on has been more of collaborative process, though.

KY: Well, the songwriting goes like this about 90% of the time… Chris says “learn this.” Which is cool, he knows theory and all. I have been lucky to push some riffs through that have made it, but Chris arranges everything. Works out well, though.

Justin Lewis: A lot of yelling.

JM: All I can say is that a lot of whiskey is involved.

I really like the vibe of this record—it’s loud, angry and abrasive, but it’s still tuneful. What was the recording process like for this record? Where did you record it and who did you work with?

CM: Thanks. Yeah, like I mentioned, we really did this one in a hurry. We recorded the first eight songs with Jeremy Webb in Cleveland Tennessee at Regenerate Studios. We spent a few hours dialing in sounds and recorded guitar/bass/drums live in one room, and I went back and added second guitar as soon as we were done. Vocals were recorded in one take that same night and the whole album was emailed to us, mixed and mastered the next morning. The last two tracks were recorded in Clarksville, Tennessee with Edison Vidro at Mind 2 Mass Studios. Both instances were the easiest recording processes that I’ve ever dealt with. Both of those guys really knew their stuff and had no problem dealing with my alcoholism and iPad porn.

KY: Chris explains it like this: We can play, but we arrange it to make it seem like we can’t. We recorded in with a real cool hippie dude that knows more about drums then anything I know anything about. We basically practiced for a few months and just walked into the studio and spent a full day there.

JM: We spent a day in the studio and it was a lot of fun! I don’t remember too much about it because I was hit by a car the day before and was in some pain.

CM: Yeah, he really was hit by a car the day before.

You guys have had a really successful run with this record—three pressings sold out and now a vinyl re-release. Looking back on it, is there anything that you would change about the album?

CM: The response to this album has been insane. People really seem to get what we’re doing. We got really lucky when we were contacted by No List Records, too. Lee (the owner) is such an awesome dude and is totally on the same page with us. It’s pretty badass to be a part of the killer lineup of bands that he’s put together. As for the record, there’s some minor fuck ups here and there, but I’m really happy with the way that it turned out.

JM: I can’t really think about anything that I’d change. I think it’s pretty decent.

KY: I personally wouldn’t change much, maybe my slide on “Forced Out.” It would have been cooler if we had a couple of our newer songs on there, but that will just have to wait for next record.

JL: More blood.

The first time we spoke via email, you guys were splitting time between Tennessee and Georgia? Is that still the case or are you a full-time Atlanta band now?

KY: We’re splitting time, I guess. We have more of a base from Atlanta as far as people we fuck with and such. I grew up in the Decatur/Stone Mountain area, so I had a few old connects I was able to call on. Chattanooga sucks.

CM: We stay so busy that we’re all pretty much vagrants at this point. Atlanta is our base of operations, though. The people in Atlanta are infinitely cooler than 99% of the places that I’ve been to.

JM: Mostly Atlanta. It’s really hard to do anything in Tennessee unless you bang the right girl, or quit eating meat.

What’s your favorite place to hang in Atlanta?

CM: Fulton Industrial Boulevard, for the trannies. That and the Clermont Lounge. It’s my favorite place to achieve a “sadness boner.”

KY: Like I mentioned, I grew up in Atlanta, so I could answer that many ways for many things. The drummer of my other band lives in Midtown so you can get full access to all the trannies Atlanta has to offer. East Atlanta has always been a cool spot to kick it. Otherwise, I just chill with buddies in town.

JM: Anywhere with cheap drinks and not too many douchebags… probably my brother’s house.

JL: At Jowe Herrings’ crib.

Let’s say the zombie apocalypse descends upon Atlanta. You only have time for one last meal at one local restaurant. Where are you going and what are you having?

JL: The Varsity, for sure. One can’t face a wave of brain-hungry zombies without a gut full of tiny chili burgers and three pounds of fries.

CM: If that happens, I’m probably not gonna worry about food. I’ll save as many strippers as possible and use them to barter for food later.

KY: I don’t care much for zombies or this so-called apocalypse, but first thing that came to mind was Eats. My go-to place. I can’t go without a half jerk chicken and three veg plate for long. (Eats… better hook me up for that shit.)

What’s your favorite place to grab a drink?

CM: I’m pretty much white trash so I don’t really venture too far away from PBR/High Life and Evan Williams. I dig the atmosphere at 529 and the Drunken Unicorn.

JL: The Highlander

KY: Any place open.

What’s the best venue to catch a show in the city? What makes it so great?

JL: That’s really hard to say. I’m partial to so many places. I’m really into the classic haunts—529, the Drunken Unicorn. The smokier and darker, the better.

KY: I have always been partial to Drunken Unicorn. (Gavin… remember that, buddy). Small place, awesome bands frequently. I also dig 529. It has the same kind of feel.

CM: I really like Star Bar and Drunken Unicorn. 529 is awesome, too.

JM: I’ve been to shows under overpasses that were fun. At some places the people are nicer than others, but I don’t want to be a dick and name anyone specifically.

If you could change one thing about the Atlanta music scene what would it be?

KY: I think every scene in every town has the “I’m not pretentious, I just play it on stage” people. Fucking kills me. We (as in all bands) just playing music cause hopefully we love to. You’re an idiot if you think just because you play ultra-heavy or can shred or whatever that you’re something real special. That is a talent—kind of—but get yer nose out the clouds…

CM: (cuts Young off mid-rant) More trannies.

JL: More glitter.

JM: It seems to be treating us pretty well, and we have a lot of fun at every show. That’s all I’ve got.

Uncle Touchy will perform tonight at the Loft opening for hardcore legends Sheer Terror and Magoo’s Heros. Doors are at 7pm. $22 gets you in.

More Info:
Bandcamp: www.uncletouchy.bandcamp.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/uncletouchy
Tumblr: www.uncletouchy.tumblr.com