I spoke to Patrick Stickles (Diplomats,Titus Andronicus) and Alex Tretiak (Dipolomats,Zombie Orgy), about their old bands from high school, bootlegs, tone deafness, back to the future, touring and various other things
FNR: So I’ve been listening to those diplomats recordings Mr. Tretiak hooked me up with. That was you on lead vox? I thought it was the other guy and you were on backing vocals…
STICKLES: It was mostly Sarim of Liquor Store, I sang lead on ‘Who’s Barbara Tanis’ and ‘Nobody Told Me.’
TRETIAK: Not to mention “Time Machine” and “Fuck”
FNR: How old were you guys when you started The Diplomats?
TRETIAK: I don’t remember the exact age but me and Patrick were probably 15 or 16? Which would have made Sarim 13 or 14. Most recording/show activity was the latter two years of high school.
FNR: I really dig the sample on ‘Who’s Barbara Tanis’. It turned me on to back to the future, which in turn turned me on to Johnny B. Goode, which I had never heard before, believe it or not.
TRETIAK: Go, go, go johnny go! go!
FNR: so whats the deal with the mysterious Seizing Elian? Library of Congress?
STICKLES: The Library of Congress album is the second album by Seizing Elian. Same band, same album, different drummer live…and who was that different drummer? Noted guitar slinger Andrew Cedermark’s brother, Kyle, or nowadays, Dr. Kyle.
FNR: Mr. Tretiak, you weren’t really in Titus Andronicus right? How did you end up playing on that first Titus tour?
TRETIAK: I ended up on the first Titus tour I suppose because they were between drummers and I was home from college that summer. The drummer before was himself starting college in another state or something I think? I honestly can’t remember why there was a vacancy quite then but everyone in the band were close friends of mine and I knew a lot of the songs already just from hanging out and going to their shows so Patrick asked if I would play on the tour. It was something like 10 days and super fun, and the day after the last day of tour I was on a plane to Ukraine for two months to do family history research. Needless to say that was a pretty crazy and busy summer.
FNR: I was thinking about the public enemy reference at the end of No Future Pt. 1 (which I had for a while thought was a mad max reference) when I realized that the vocals almost seemed to flow around the drum beat like a warped rap. You mention hip hop and rappers as influences quite often. Was that song originally a rap?
STICKLES: In so much as I was originally a rapper. LP3 actually has a good % of lyrics lifted from my own rap verses.
FNR: Speaking of LP3, is it true that you asked nyctaper not to record your set at warsaw? I was kind of bummed to hear that. I’m a big fan of bootlegs.
STICKLES: It is true our record company did. Yeah, they did. We said it was okay. They said it was not okay. That was the end of it. Same reason we haven’t done Dayrotter in 3 years even though we want to. Don’t really understand it.
FNR: I kind of wish you were still making an album about the Peanuts/German anarchists/Haymarket Square.
STICKLES: The Peanuts are going to be on there. The Haymarket thing will have to wait for another day.
Mr. X: “Mr. Stickles, I never knew you played the piano. Ever compose a Titus song on yr parents’ old upright?”
STICKLES: Yes, ‘Theme from “Cheers.”‘
FNR: I really dig the solo acoustic version of to old friends and new. Did you compose that on the piano too?
STICKLES: Yr talking about this hella rare version, yeah? Jesus Christ, talk about some bad singing! I was young. I wrote that song on an acoustic guitar, one night on my parents’ porch in winter 2008. Made the neighbors mad. I can’t believe we put this out and then I pouted about incessant Conor Oberst comparisons. What’d I expect?
FNR: I love that version! Now that you mention it, it does sound a bit like ‘when the curious girl realizes she is under glass’ in terms of recording style, and obviously instrumentation. Wish I had that 7″
STICKLES: It is okay, my man. I don’t even have a copy of that seven inch. New Years present for yr boy,
FNR: So how did this whole Titus TV thing get started?
TRETIAK: A year or so to right after finishing college, I was at home for long while looking for work to no avail and then I applied to grad school to become a librarian. In the interim while waiting for library school to start I was hanging out with everyone the night before they were leaving on their alleged Ted Leo tour in Oct. 2009 and I was saying how I had nothing to do social life-wise when the band goes on tour so they out of the blue invited me to come hang out on that tour. So the next morning I packed a bag and went along for the ride. I had made a few films on my own before that and thought it would be fun to do a tour doc as the band was saying they wished they were filming on the road more. So I kinda volunteered to do it for that trip that I tagged along on which ended up being the Absolute Zero episode of Titus TV. And then that turned into a few more episodes of subsequent tours that they filmed. And now I am a librarian too.
FNR: So, I heard during the recording of “The Airing of Greviances” Kevin. S. McMahon got a bit frustrated with your singing and told you to take a break / take some lessons or something like that? I’ve also heard you talk about being tone deaf. can you tell when your guitar is out of tune? If yes, you’re obviously not tone deaf.
STICKLES: I can’t tell – that is why I have to just tune it anyway at least once a song.
FNR: I think If I messed with your guitar before a show and tuned all strings to one note, you definitely would know.
STICKLES: Then I’d bust into this jam
FNR: Right on, my man.