I almost interviewed Henry Rollins in 1999. I have no idea what the hell I was thinking. There is absolutely no way I’m qualified to sit in a room with a video camera, microphone and Henry Rollins. The interview ended up not happening, which in hindsight was definitely a good thing. I don’t know what he had for breakfast that day, but it came damn close to being me.
After keeping a low profile on the interview scene for the past 15 years I decided it was safe to give it another shot and reached out to guitarist David Obuchowski and singer Zachary Lipez to talk about their stellar new project Publicist UK.
For those of you with exceptional taste in music, you already should be familiar with David from his other bands (Goes Cube and Distant Correspondent) and Zachary from his time fronting Freshkills. Likewise if you know your way around a circle pit, Publicist UK’s rhythm section should look familiar as it consists of bassist Brett Bamberger (Revocation) and drummer Dave Witte (Municipal Waste).
The band recently premiered two of the many songs they are currently collaborating on. Have a listen to them below and let David and Zachary properly introduce you to Publicist UK.
For those who don’t already know, how did Publicist UK come to be?
David: I know Zach and Brett because my other band, Goes Cube, used to tour with their former bands (Freshkills and East of the Wall, respectively). Late last year, Zach suggested we collaborate, and I was all for it. Shortly thereafter, I was talking to Brett, and he suggested the same thing. I agreed, and told him about a new thing I had with Zach that didn’t have any bass. I sent him a couple tracks Zach and I were working on, and he liked it, and he sent me some ideas, and we were blown away. In the first week that Brett was involved, he went down to Virginia to hang out and play music with Dave Witte. He and Dave have a project called Argonauts. Brett told Dave about the new project he got involved in with Zach and me, and Dave really liked it, too, and asked if we wanted a drummer. Brett texted us if we’d be cool having Dave Witte join. I’d never met Dave Witte, but was very familiar with his work, being a big fan of a number of his bands. So there wasn’t any question. And with that, we all of a sudden had guitar, bass, drums, and vocals.
Zack: My name is spelled with a “k,” David. ZacK.
Is there any story or meaning behind the band’s name?
David: Zach came up with the name. We went back and forth on some others, but when he suggested it, I loved it. Actually, he originally suggested PUBLICIST. But then he realized Ian Svenonius actually had a band called PUBLICIST, so Zach suggested we just throw UK on the end, as both a bit of a joke (none of us are from the UK), and as a kind of reference to how other bands (from the UK) have dealt with similar issues. In terms of meaning, yeah there is some. Zach can explain it better. But I enjoy it as it’s a bit of a nod to the (often accurate) idea that a band’s popularity has more to do with their publicist than their music.
Zack: Like, I realize it’s confusing because “Zach” is a natural shortening of “Zachary.” But I spell it with a “k.”
I’m assuming there must be some common musical interests and influences between all the members. Can you elaborate a bit on what those are?
David: I’m assuming the same thing, but we’ve never talked about it. I’m a little worried we’ll get in the tour van, and Zach will totally look down on me for the music I like. (Shhh, he’s also a music journalist.)
How about non-musical interests? Was it a mutual love of bowling and beer that brought you all together? Based on some of the band’s tweets, it looks like Dave isn’t the only beer connoisseur in the band.
David: Beer, for sure. I live in Colorado now, and so I’m surrounded by amazing breweries. Dave Witte is almost as well-known for being a beer connoisseur as he is a drummer. Brett knows his beer and uses tours as an opportunity to try new and obscure brews. And Zach tends bar at a place with a great selection. Not sure if these other dudes bowl. But if they don’t, that’ll just make them easier for me to beat.
Zack: ZACK WITH A “K.” Presumably, my parents knew what they were doing.
Are the first two tracks (“Never Gone to School” and “Slow Dancing to this Bitter Earth”) that have been posted online a pretty good representation of the band’s overall sound?
David: Yes, in the sense that they are not anomalies. But neither of those songs are actually final recordings. And we have a lot of other songs that showcase other elements. So for each song, I could probably list three things that they don’t feature that others do. But we’re not hemmed in by any particular style, or whatever, so we don’t have a narrow sound in terms of every song sounding the same. But, sure, in a general way, yes. Which is why I suppose we chose those two songs for people to hear.
Zack: I agree.
Is song writing a group effort, or is there one or two of you who are bringing the main ideas for songs to the rest of the band to expand on?
David: Kind of neither, actually. I’ve presented these guys with over an album’s worth of ideas (or guitar-only “songs”), and I’ve done so almost entirely without comment. So with the songs we have/are working on, they all started with guitars and click tracks. But we entirely reject the notion that, as such, the guitars are the main ideas. They’re not. It’s completely equal. Each element really changes the song into a whole different beast. However, without being too semantic, it’s not a group effort, either: no one is advising each other, no one is workshopping. Everyone has their own territory, and we work within that territory with total autonomy. So when I present them with guitars, I have zero expectation of what the song will sound like once everyone is done their parts.
Zack: I agree.
Do you guys function as a band in the traditional sense where you are able to get in a room together and play? Or are you all contributing remotely?
David: It will be both. We started as remote, and it’s good to know that won’t be an issue. Makes writing easier. But we’ll also be able to get together, and we’ll tour.
Zack: I greatly enjoy having at least skeletons of the songs being sent to me by the actual instrument playing members of the band. Band democracies can be the worst. I like to be pushed around.
David – being a father, how do you strike a happy balance between your home life and finding time to write, record, tour, etc.? I can imagine having multiple bands on the go must make that a bit challenging sometimes.
David: I write constantly. Being a father has meant more time at home. And that for me, means even more time writing. It also means I’m able to enjoy tour a lot more because, well, I’m not doing it as much as I once was, and so I don’t take it for granted. But it also means I push harder. I know it probably sounds trite, but there’s a sort of “I’m not fucking around” attitude now that I have two kids and a wife at home. I want my kids to be proud of me, and I want to accomplish more for my family. When I go on tour, I am going to miss my wife and kids, and they’ll miss me, and I’ll be burdening my wife with taking care of two kids by herself for however long. You don’t do a thing like that casually. You do it because it’s your passion, and you’re out to accomplish something important, and you have their support, and you’re going to make them happy and proud to support you, and glad that they did when you come home.
One thing I find when it comes to doing anything creative is sometimes inspiration and free time don’t always sync up. Is that something you run into at all?
David: I don’t mean to be glib, but I don’t think any of us have free time. Our lives are all crazy and full for a variety of reasons. So you just have to make it work. Hell, when I’m not on tour, I wake up at 4:30am just to give myself a few extra hours to be productive. But there will never be enough time. So you just keep focus, and try.
Zack: Everything is labor. As it should be. The eventual goal is dignity and satisfaction of a life worth living. Happiness is a bourgeois lie. When I have free time, I watch Justified.