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Coliseum

Coliseum

Hardcore Rock and Road Trips are in Coliseum's DNA

By Kevin Gibson

Coliseum tours. A lot. This is a band that, following the release of its debut album in 2004, set off on the road for eight months, playing more than 100 shows.

It has hardly let up. The band just wound down from a summer North American tour in support of its most recent album, House With A Curse. Touring with Toronto band Burning Love opening the shows, the musical expedition pretty much covered the map.

"In June-July we covered just about everywhere east of Louisville," said Coliseum guitarist/vocalist Ryan Patterson, "and in August-September we went everywhere west of Louisville. It was a great time."

Coliseum closed out the road trip September 19 with a homecoming show at Skull Alley and after some much-needed R&R, is poised for a European swing starting November 7 that will take the band to Germany, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, the U.K. … well, you get the picture.

Louisville Music News caught up with Patterson and drummer Carter Wilson before they set out on the road again, and the road-weary duo talked about touring, songwriting and Louisville's music scene.

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LMN: Any good stories from the road? What was the best date so far?

RP: Countless great stories from tour ... an afternoon at an outlaw water park in Florida called Bob's River Place stands out as a highlight, as does the time in the middle of the night at a rest stop in Kansas when all of the power went out and we were standing in the pitch black darkness in the middle of nowhere for a while before some emergency generators kicked on.

Toronto has consistently been the best stop on all of tours for many years, and they didn't disappoint this time around. Shows in Seattle, San Francisco and San Diego on the western leg were better than we expected and were the definite highlights of the last half of the tour.

CW: All of the California shows were the highlight for me. San Diego was a definite high point for attendance and general excitement from the audience.

LMN: What led you to start this band?

RP: I started Coliseum with the intention of carving out some sort of lasting legacy and accomplishing as much as I could with the band; touring the world, releasing multiple albums, making music and having experiences that I could look back upon and be proud of over the years. We've already done more than I ever would have imagined and we show no signs of stopping, so I'm hoping the best is yet to come.

LMN: Touring has been Coliseum's mainstay for a number of years. Is this something the band simply loves to do or is it primarily for promotion?

RP: Once again, it's part of what Coliseum is as a band, we have toured heavily since day one. It's not about promotion; you're out there to play music for people and share in that experience, to enjoy playing and attain that elation that occurs during a great show.

Part of the idea is to continue to make the band grow, but these days I don't think there's necessarily a direct correlation between touring and a band gaining more fans. That's not to say it doesn't help and hasn't been a major part of the humble level of success we've achieved, but touring has to be enjoyable and fulfilling in and of itself, because if you're looking at it as a means to an end you may end up disappointed.

CW: It is simply a love of playing music. The people in this band play music to fulfill a need inside themselves. If other people get enjoyment out of what we do, then that is just an added bonus.

LMN: What is your songwriting process like? Your music is very intense from where does that energy primarily originate?

RP: The songwriting process varies; generally there are two ways that we have written music in the past. In some cases, we have come up with ideas at practice and work through them until we are happy with the arrangement. In this process I might have a riff to start and we will piece things together from there.

For most of House With A Curse, I worked on demo versions of the songs at home, generally starting with the rhythm section first, then adding guitar and eventually lyrics/vocals. I'd give the demos to Mike [Pascal, bassist] and Carter; they'd become familiar with the parts and arrangement, and then add their own slant. At practice we'd figure out what worked and didn't work, then refine it from there.

The energy is part of the sound of Coliseum, part of our roots in punk/hardcore, it's just part of our DNA as a band. Although not every song is necessarily "energetic," we do attempt to make each song passionate and intense in its own way.

LMN: Your intense sound also contains plenty of melody some of the songs I've heard are downright catchy. How do you balance those two things?

RP: I generally prefer music with a sense of melody and melodic songwriting, so that's something we have always attempted to bring to our songs. There was a time when the balance was maybe a bit more difficult to achieve, but on House With A Curse the melody and catchy aspects of the songs were much more of a focus. From day one, nearly every Coliseum song has had a fairly standard structure with a big, catchy chorus, that was one of the things we had in mind when we started and still stick with to this day.

LMN: Do you feel your music comes across better in a live setting or as a studio production?

RP: I think there are aspects to our records and our live shows that are unique to each experience. There's definitely a raw intensity of a live show that you can't replicate in the studio, but we spend a lot of time on our records and also add elements that are only on the recordings and won't be part of the live show. The albums will exist long after the show is over, but there's no album that can perfectly capture the feeling of a live band performing directly in front of you.

CW: Speaking for our latest record, House With A Curse, it was mainly created in a live practice environment, and recorded just how we rehearsed it. I feel like those particular songs can be enjoyed live just as well as recorded.

LMN: Who are Coliseum's most prevalent musical influences?

RP: We each have a lot of different influences and do our best to filter all the music that moves us into a sound that is uniquely our own. Throughout the history of Coliseum, some of the bands that made a particularly strong impact on our sound have been Avskum, Judgement, Killing Joke, Born Dead Icons, Pegboy, Fugazi, Laughing Hyenas, Danzig / Misfits, Bad Brains, Wipers, Crime And The City Solution, among others.

LMN: Who are your most prevalent influences as an individual musician?

RP: My prime influences as a musician are from various bands and artists throughout the history of punk, hardcore, and indie rock. Specifically the Washington DC / Dischord scene had a huge impact on me (Fugazi, Ignition, Gray Matter, Swiz, Kerosene 454, Regulator Watts, Soul Side, among countless others), a lot of the music on Touch & Go Records (Laughing Hyenas, Didjits, Pegboy, Jesus Lizard, among others), bands on SST Records (Bad Brains, Black Flag, Dinosaur Jr., Husker Du, etc), and so many others.

But honestly, to try to name-drop all the bands that have inspired and influenced me would be a never-ending list; in general it's the entire world of music that has followed since the inception of punk rock and its direct forefathers.

CW: For me personally I take influence from … Many D.C. area punk bands from Minor Threat to Jawbox, to obvious classic punk artists like the Misfits and Black Flag. I also take influence from many 60's and 70's jazz and soul drummers.

LMN: When did you change labels, and what prompted the change?

RP: We joined the Temporary Residence family right around the end of 2009 and beginning of 2010. Some behind-the-scenes changes in terms of finances and contract specifics enabled us to be out of our contract with Relapse Records and while they still wanted to work with the band, we felt that we'd be better suited on a label less focused on and associated with metal, as that's not who we are as a band and not the community that we come from as people.

LMN: What specifically does a label like Temporary Residence provide a band like Coliseum?

RP: In terms of the mechanics of a record label, most are essentially the same they pay to manufacture and promote your music. But the people running the label, the music they release, and their approach to every aspect of running their label is what really matters in the end. Temporary Residence comes from the same community and set of ideals as us, they release a wide variety of incredible and sincere music, and they truly believe in Coliseum.

LMN: In what ways do you think Coliseum's sound has evolved over the last five or so years?

RP: Well, considering we've been a band for just about seven years now, the last five years has seen a lot of change in terms of our music and sound. Honestly, it's hard for me to say and put into a quick response. The band has evolved and will continue to change and evolve; I think House With A Curse is our biggest stylistic change, but I also think it picks up with a lot of the ideas and inspiration that we followed on our Goddamage EP in 2005. Each and every song and release has some amount of change and progression and specific idea behind it, it would be a long divergence to try to pinpoint all the changes.

LMN: Do you find your fans are welcoming to changes in your style?

RP: Some are and some aren't, but that's true for all bands and artists. I think it's essential for artists to take risks and do what they feel passionate about with their art and music; I think becoming stagnated is the biggest insult to your fans.

LMN: Tell me about the early days how did you work your way into your current status of being a hard-working, touring band?

RP: Our main goal when we started was to be a full-time touring band and we did just that. We had our first practices in November 2003, played our first show in March 2004, and had released our first album by June of that year. Before the album was even out we were touring on a self-released demo.

Coliseum had the benefit of my years of experience and friendships from other bands I'd done previously, so we were able to hit the ground running right from the start. We've been at full steam ahead since then, if we're not on tour we're working on new material, the band has been 100% active for almost seven years now.

LMN: What have been some of your favorite venues in Louisville?

RP: Honestly, most venues in Louisville have simply been the location available for the show to happen, whether it was an established rock club or a rental hall turned into a makeshift venue for the night. It has never been about the venue or location of the show, but about the band and the audience and how the moment comes together.

That said, the venues in town that have been run by people from the underground / all-ages music scene have been few and far between and I know I'm not alone in saying that I feel very fortunate that Skull Alley now exists. It's a perfect sized room, great sound, run by great people, and it is part of supporting a larger community and ideal, rather than just dropping cash into a location that could care less about you as a person or your musical community.

For bar shows, Zanzabar is a really nice spot and I think with an improved stage it could be the best 21+ venue in Louisville.

LMN: What have been your experiences with the Louisville scene? Seems the loyal following of hardcore fans hasn't let up over the years.

CW: Being a Birmingham native, my only experiences with the Louisville music scene prior to being in Coliseum was seeing Louisville bands such as Coliseum, Young Widows and Lords in Birmingham. Since being in Coliseum, all of my experiences with the music scene in Louisville have been positive. Every show I've played in Louisville has been nothing short of a great time.

RP: Scenes ebb and flow, there are highs and lows depending on what's going on within the microcosm of a local music scene and even what's happening in greater popular culture. Louisville is on a definite upswing right now, with a great all-ages venue [like] Skull Alley and a ton of new and older bands that are making great music and working hard.