WW: Well, first off, I was going to ask you how you’ve been holding up since the recent and tragic death of your daughter Jordan…
Felix: That’s fine. I’m doing a lot better. I never cried at the funeral. I instantly went back to work and when I got laid off things started hitting me and I almost lost it but I’m back on track now. And I’m just dealing with the pain. So things are a lot better…than they were last week.
WW: Bat is a super-group of sorts. Can you tell us who the members are and how you guys hooked up?
Felix: Ryan Waste and Nick Poulos. Me and Ryan, I came down and met Municipal Waste for the first time in 2008, I think it was. The reason was I heard that this band kind of sounded like D.R.I. and was thrash (that’s when thrash was coming back) and it was more of an ego thing, like who are these kids? And I met Ryan, and we hit it off, and we started just kind of hanging out. We talked about doing a little project like a recording and every year when he came through we would hang out until he said let’s do this band. And he put it all together and he would mail me the riffs, and I’d write the drums and fly up to Richmond to record. And that’s how we did it. Actually, the album is going to come out at the Gwar B-Q, and it’s really getting a lot of good press!
WW: Yeah I noticed that! Bat’s 2016 debut LP, Wings of Chains was voted thrash album of the year by MetalSucks. How does that feel? Cause they’re usually pretty tough.
Felix: Are they? Well, I’m very grateful. After the fallout with D.R.I. and prison and all the other shit.
WW: Prison? I didn’t know about all of that.
Felix: Yeah, I went to prison for a couple of years.
But..it’s nice! And I’m very grateful, now that things have changed…meaning the attitude towards D.R.I., and the attitude with my new band. It’s a nice thing. It’s kind of a weird situation because for a long time I was so resentful that it almost killed me. It caused some real problems, and my drinking caused a lot of them too. Now that things are the way they are and the way that they should be, I’m glad I made it through. Now Josh (Pappe), the old bass player from D.R.I. that played on Dealing with It, Crossover, 4 of a Kind, and Violent Pacification just moved back up here from Georgia and he’s living with me right now. So he and I are going to start doing a little project.
WW: Who recorded Wings of Chains?
Felix: Shit I can’t remember! Ryan recorded a lot of it. With all due respect, honestly if I can’t remember the engineer’s name it’s my apology. Our demo was done in a practice space on a quarter inch tape. Ryan recorded half the album, I think in his house. And I recorded the drum tracks in a studio up in Richmond.
WW: You have a lot of killer shows coming up in the next couple of months. Is there one, in particular, that you are really looking forward to playing?
Felix: The Gwar B-Q After Party is the one that I’m looking forward to the most . It’s our actual record release party. I’m just now learning a lot about all these different types of bands that we’re playing with because, when I was doing it, there were only two types of music, punk…metal. And that was pretty much it. Now there’s all different types and areas within these genres. Now there’s like 10 different bands with similar types of music but different. But I’m loving that I’m getting exposed to all of these different types of bands that we’re playing with live now because I can appreciate them and their drive. The Gwar B-Q is going to be killer!
WW: Who / what first inspired you to want to play music?
Felix: When I was growing up here in Austin I knew I was a little different. I was real rebellious and would get in trouble constantly. And I was obsessive…in whatever I did, whether it was bicycling of whatever. I was extreme. Like I am in other areas of my life, although I’m a lot more mellow now. So I went over to a friend of mine’s house and he had a bass drum and a snare in his garage. And I started playing on the bass drum and snare together and I’ll never forget the beat, it’s the D beat. And I thought Whoa! I’m actually doing this shit! So I went home and told my mom I wanted a drum set. And she got me one for like $200. And I sat in my room and obsessed on it. I’d turn the stereo on full blast and starting playing to Judas Priest (or trying to play to) and ACDC, Thin Lizzy, KISS. And then new wave came along, we really hadn’t gotten into punk yet. And I remember I got into new wave and listening to people like Devo and the B52’s and started practicing to those bands. And there wasn’t a drummer! It was a drum machine. So the rythyms are really sporadic and I’d try to figure that shit out. So there I was really concentrating on trying to figure out drum machine tracks, thinking it was the drums. And then this childhood friend of mine said I’m going to introduce you to a friend of mine and his name is David Roach, and he was playing with Junkyard. And he had this really cool haircut. It wasn’t a spiderweb, but it was something and I thought, “Wow. That’s really fucking cool.” And my first show I ever went to I remeber I was 13 and I was scared to go in. There were all these mohawks and I remember, it was at Esther’s Follies. It was right there, next door, and the bill, which I did not go to, it was a matinee show and it was Bad Brains, MDC, Dicks, Offenders and Big Boys.
WW: Wow, that’s insane!
Felix: At a matinee show, at Esther’s Follies. About a week later I got to go to Studio 29 which was over near campus and saw the Dicks for the first time and it was like BAM! I knew. It was really different, they were different, I was different but it was like one big camaraderie. So that’s when I knew that I wasn’t going anywhere.
WW: Were drums your first instrument? Are they the only instrument you can play?
WW: You have been in a number of well-loved Austin bands: Roger’s Porn Collection, Blunt Force Trauma, Condemned Unit…any chances of any reunion shows coming up?
Felix: We’ve talked about a Blunt Force Trauma reunion but it didn’t pan out. I’d do it but I have to respect other peoples’ decisions for their own reasons. I agree but I’m not going to let anything fuck with me anymore cause life’s too fucking short. We did a D.R.I. reunion a couple of years ago.
WW: Yeah, you were a long-standing member of D.R.I. I was just wondering why you split the band? And are you guys still on good terms?
Felix: Back then we didn’t know anything about anything. We partied, we toured for six months, then we got signed to a major label. Then money started being distributed. Some people were getting money (like our manager) but drummers didn’t get publishing back then because you weren’t considered a song writer. So, let’s say 50 grand comes in from publishing, I wouldn’t even get a cheeseburger. And they would split up their money and go on about their business. Well the resentments built and Josh was the first one to leave. And he and I used to do a lot of partying, and our manager just ripped everybody off. And I mean everybody. So he quit the band and I was a mess and I should have left with him. But I didn’t. And I was really young back then like 21 or 22. I think this was around 90′?
WW: So how old were you when you joined D.R.I.?
Felix: 16 or 17. So I did Thrash Zone and my drinking was way out of control. I mean, I was a liability. I mean I would just fuck shit up. I remember that one tour I got paid $1.72. Everybody else went home with about $15,000. I got paid $1.72 for damages and advances and just bullshit. We did 68 shows in 72 days in the states and our manager was getting like $1000 per show cause that was his percentage. So he made about $68,000 for that tour. Then we had a two week break and he sent us over to Europe to do the same thing. And I knew that I needed help. At this point, it was like a health issue. So I get back to the states and I tell him that I need to get some fucking help. I gotta do something and they wanted me to go on this two week thing up in the northwest. Well, he told those guys (Kurt and Spike) that I quit! I quit the band. And nobody called. They just got another drummer and just kept on going and that’s how I left the band. I didn’t quit, and I wasn’t kicked out or fired. After that I got a bill for transportation fees, and it was like a $20,000 bill from an attorney saying that I owed all of this money. And I was like, you gotta be shitting me. What about my publishing rights and royalties? And after that they moved all of the money out of the account so it was at a zero fucking balance when I checked it. And it almost killed me. I drank every day for three fucking years. Then I went to prison for two years and when I got out I got sober and got my plumbing license.
WW: Bat’s not digital or over produced. Were you guys going for that raw kind of feeling?
Felix: Yes. Simplify it. I like simplicity. Just my opinion, I don’t like it when drummers over play and override the other musicians. So when I recorded the drums I like to keep it real straight forward because it’s easier for a general person to get the ryhtym. If you’re doing all these rolls and all these fills the normal person won’t be able to sit there and want to listen to it. I know I don’t. A lot of bands when they go and play live and they overplay, it sounds different than what they’re playing on the album. I don’t know if you’ve ever gone to see a band live and they sound a lot different than they do on the album. But yes, I like simplicity.
WW: Who are Bat’s influences, or your influences?
Felix: Musically, for me, it’s all hard core and punk. I have some metal influences: obviously Slayer (early Slayer), Exodus, Sacriledge. That’s when I started getting into metal. Venom. Actually when we came here to record Dealing With It, we lived with my mom. Josh flew out and went to treatment or something and we came back here and lived with my mom. And all my south side buddies they weren’t punk. They come from the suburbs. But somebody turned me onto the band Accept. So yeah, those are my influences. Not too much new stuff, no hair metal (none of that), mostly old punk, like the Offenders and MDC are probably the most influential bands to me…Discharge! Yeah, as I was coming up I used to sit right by Pat Doyle every time he played. Every time he played I’d be right there. But I don’t know who that many bands are. Like the new stuff, I know nothing about. I’m the old guy. I’m surprised I’m still doing it and am not sure how much longer I’ll be able to. Because financially, I’m not able to go out for too long because I’m not making any money. I have to work. So we’ll see what happens. Right now it has to be short tours.
WW: How would you decribe Bat’s sound to the uninitiated?
Felix: Simplicity. It’s simple, catchy. It’s just a good album. Everybody’s character comes out in the album because nothing is overplayed. Nick is young. He’s young. He was born on the night that I recorded Live at the Ritz in NYC. But you can hear his passion. You can hear their personalities and that’s what I like about the band.
WW: What’s your favorite band that you’re listening to nowadays?
Felix: Too be honest I don’t listen to that much music. I play the radio. I like outlaw country. I think outlaw country is probably the first punk shit out there: Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash obviously, Kris Kristofferson, all those guys…David Allen Coe. They don’t give a fuck you know? They got their own genre cause the Grand Old Opry didn’t want them. I like outlaw country a lot.
WW: You guys have killer artwork. Who designed it? And whose idea was it to have Bat skateboards? And do you skate?
Felix: I don’t know how to skate. I know how to fall. When I’d get on a half pipe my ass would go straight to the middle!
Ryan. Ryan did it all. He’s super meticulous. He’s the one that designed the Municiple Waste logo.
WW: So he’s super talented all around?
Felix: Yeah, he’s a go-getter and he did it all. And he had the courtesy…basically, I was there but Ryan did it all. Give credit where credit’s due. He put it all together, he did all the artwork, he approved all the artwork, put it this way, have you seen the Cruel Discipline artwork? It’s this hot chick with chains and it says Cruel Discipline about this big and it’s a bad ass picture. But it took him a really long time to approve her ass. That’s how meticulous he is and how on top of shit. So, I trust his judgement and he’ll run stuff by me sometimes but I know that he’s going to do the right thing. With Municipal Waste, I mean, look where they’re at!
WW: Are they on hiatus right now?
Felix: They’re recording an album.
Felix: No, I lived in San Francisco from 83′-90′.
WW: In any event I know you have seen the scene change dramatically over the years here in Austin. Of course there’s a bunch of negatives (noise ordinance, gentrification, etc.). Do you think there’s still hope for the scene in Austin?
Felix: No. I hate this place. Well, I don’t hate it but it’s not what Austin used to be. It’s all about money. It’s about people getting pushed out that can’t afford to live in the city…typical. I mean, it’s happening all over the country. You know, they start building these condos with storefronts. Certain cities, like San Francisco, have changed a bunch. I remember going to Dublin, Ireland and some parts of America and they’re so similar now. There’s no character anymore. No culture. I mean, New York SUCKS! I mean, a lot of my bros live there and all but I’m sure they fucking feel the same way. Like Agnostic Front had that Old New York video and it was on! It was on in the 80’s, there was Times Square, there was culture…it was New York, you know? Here was a lot of fun, and it’s gotten so big here that its just not any more. I’m only here because of my children. If I could move up to the Pacific Northwest I’d be gone!
WW: To you have any words of wisdom to your fans or up and coming musicians out there?
Felix: Make it fun. Get together and practice for other people. Lessons show you some stuff but for me were boring. And when you play for other people it makes it fun.
And I’m grateful for people that stood by me in the past. When I got out of jail, it wasn’t the internet. There wasn’t any communication with the outside world. I remember thinking I’m going to prison and you’re going to Japan. And all of my money’s gone…I mean everything.
But I’m very grateful nowadays to have a lot of fans and a lot of friends. And I post a lot of stuff on Facebook becasue I don’t socialize, I don’t go out. And when I do I wear my emotions on my sleeve. But I’m kind. I’m kind because I know what it’s like to be a fan. Because I am a fan. I’m a musician but I’m a fan. And I’ve seen fans disrespect fans and I can’t tell you how that made me feel when I saw that…you crush this fucking kid cause you’re a dick? Or, “I ain’t got time to sign a fucking autograph”.
So if you ever want to hang out, let’s hang out. You want to play the drums…whatever. I’m no different than the next guy and I always try to keep my humility at that level. I’m gratefule just to be fucking alive! You know, I shouldn’t be here. You know, it’s like my daughter! You know you never think that’s going to happen to you. You know? It was a freak accident, she was crushed by a truck, but life’s fucking short. I mean, it’s so short. I’m still kind of fucked up. And I’m still grieving. And I don’t know what the grieving period is, 3-8 years, but what I do know is that I don’t know that I’ll ever be happy again. What I do know is that I will be there for my children and my loved ones but as far as a happy life? I don’t give a fuck anymore. My daughter is dead. And nothing can fill that hole. I do know that I gotta stay sober because I have to FEEL these emotions to be able to work through them. Bottom line.
Bat is Ryan Waste (Municiple Waste) – Bass, Vocals, Nick Poulos – Guitar (of Parasytic and Volture and formerly Battlemaster, Organ Donor and Cannabis Corpse), Felix Griffin – Drums (D.R.I., Blunt Force Trauma, Condemned Unit)