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Interview with Human Missile Crisis
Hey! My name is D.J. Vaters. Born and raised about as far east as you can go without swimming to the province of Newfoundland in a little town on the east side of Cape Breton Island called Glace Bay. I play guitar and sing in the Dartmouth, Nova Scotia-based Garage Rock/Post-Punk band Human Missile Crisis.
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I’ve always been a huge lover of music since as far back as I can remember. From being a toddler pulling out pots and pans from my parents’ cupboards and banging on them with wooden spoons to making my own drum kits out of cardboard boxes and plastic buckets as a pre-teen. My parents got me my first drum kit when I was 13 years old, and I immediately started playing and writing original music back then. I started with loving music my parents listened to like Supertramp, Pink Floyd, Kiss, April Wine, and Trooper. My first couple jobs growing up were kitchen gigs working in local restaurants and I’ve always enjoyed cooking so if it wasn’t for my passion for music I probably would have gone into the culinary arts and worked towards becoming a chef.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
I like to stay informed on current events so I’m always reading and watching the news, sometimes what is going on in the world influences some parts of what I write about and incorporate into my music but not so much on our first album, Our first album is mostly a personal album but the song MR PRYOR does have some nods to the black lives matter and me too movements which were in full swing at the time. I’m also a big PlayStation nerd so I play a lot of videogames, this doesn’t necessarily influence my creativity but sometimes if I’m playing for too long it forces me to think “Hey I’ve been playing videogames a bit too much this week, its time to put down the controller and pick up the guitar” so in a sense that does influence me and forces me to try to get myself back into a creative mindset.
How long has your band been around?
My drummer Matthew MacIsaac, bassist Justin Boutilier and myself have all been performing together in one form or another since 2003 under different band names but this most recent project Human Missile Crisis started around 2016 and we started playing shows in 2019.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
We are based out of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia but our hometowns are about 450 kilometers east of where we are based out of now. Growing up in a small town on Cape Breton Island on the east coast of Nova Scotia, the music scene was very small. We had no choice but to play with whatever bands were around at that time, sometimes that meant playing with a metal band or a hip-hop artist, a Celtic singer-songwriter, a rock band, or an electronic music producer. The shows back then were always mixed genre shows and that helped expose us to a lot of different styles of music and playing. This helped bring different sounds into our lives that we could learn from.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
I was writing a lot of electronic music influenced by the Chemical Brothers back around 2010-2013 and since they were all instrumental, I was naming my tracks random things. One of the tracks I came up with was the name “The Human Missile Crisis”. At the time it was political because around that time when Obama was in office, it came out that he dropped more bombs on people than any other president at that time. So that was more political in nature, but I always had the idea of using that for a band name at some point. When I started writing more personal songs, I realized that it didn’t have to be political, and the human nature side of the human missile crisis could be something I could lean into as well with my songwriting, and thus the band and concept for Human Missile Crisis was born.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
Many years ago, I had the opportunity to open for the legendary Canadian hardcore punk rock icon D.O.A. Not only was it an honor and incredibly humbling to get to share the stage with Joey “Shithead” Keithley but they all actually came back and crashed at my house after the show. We all stayed up drinking beer into the early morning hours and I vividly remember cooking Joey a lasagna in my kitchen at about 3AM while we talked politics. Recently we also got to share the stage with one of my other favorite Canadian punk rock bands “Single Mothers.” That show was just a great night all around, filled with great people and amazing music, it was a sold-out show at our favorite place to play (Gus’ Pub) in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Our favorite place to play by a long shot is the legendary Gus’ Pub in Halifax Nova Scotia, it's kind of like the Canadian East Coast’s version of New York CBGBS. It's just a straight-up punk rock bar and the people that come out to Gus’ shows are some of my favorite people in the world. It feels like home. Two venues I have never played but would absolutely love to play is Terminal 5 in New York City. I attended the last three Dillinger Escape Plan shows there and I also really love Foufounes Electriques in Montreal, Quebec. Would hop on a show at either venue in a heartbeat.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
Queens Of The Stone Age, Refused, The Armed, Human Missile Crisis.
I think that’s a solid lineup. I would also love to do some sort of crazy Canadian music festival and have the lineup go something like this... Alexisonfire, Billy Talent, Pup, The Dirty Nill, Moneen, Human Missile Crisis.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
Don’t limit yourself. Don’t say hey I want to write technical metal music and limit your creativity to only that, allow yourself to be open to different styles. Who knows you might be good at writing technical metal music but then you write the greatest pop-punk song of all time and win a Grammy. Lean towards whatever you feel flows naturally and build upon that, take risks and try different things. If I could go back and give myself some advice, I would probably start by telling myself to practice reading and writing music more and work with a click track to get myself prepared for studio time a little better. I’d also tell myself to buy a Telecaster for my first guitar over the Les Paul.
If you could go back in time and give yourselves advice, what would it be?
Don’t book a show in Sydney, Nova Scotia on the same night that the Game of Thrones season finale happens because half the audience going to stay home watching HBO. Also, start listening to Tom Waits a lot earlier in life because he is going to change how you think about music.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Though this song doesn’t quite fit the standard single mold, I wanted Liquor Store Stories to be the first single from the record because it was the most important song to me. It was the first song I wrote for the band, and it really helped me get through some rough times and my thought process is... well if it helped me, maybe it can help someone else too. So, I wanted to get this out first.
Which songs are your favorite to play, and which get requested the most?
Liquor Store Stories is my favorite to play live, I just really love the bridge of that song and when we’re locked in and super tight it just feels right. I also love singing The Spark. Recently the most requested song has been the opening track for the album Do You Remember.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
Generally, I (D.J.) write the rough ideas for a song and bring it to rehearsals. Matt (Drums) usually has ideas on changing the song structure, extending verses, etc. Justin (Bass) and Matt then work on creating a bass melody and drum part that both counters and compliments the guitar parts. The band is all about cooperation, and no idea during a jam is a bad idea.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
Lyrically this album is a journey through life, love, frustration, jealousy, suicidal thoughts, making mistakes, learning from them, and moving on, all while dealing with existing in an anxiety-fueled world and trying to make it through the rough patches. While remembering friends who were taken from this world too early. Musically it reflects all that. Aggression, romance, hopefulness, and hopelessness ultimately leave you with a strong uplifting message. I want people to know that they are not alone and that others have gone through what they might be going through.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
We’ve been playing together for over 20 years so naturally there would be some disagreement along the way. The main thing we try to remember is that we are all working together to write the best possible music we can and our opinions though they may differ we are all trying to achieve the same thing. Like in any healthy relationship, there must be room for compromise.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
2024 is going to be another great year for us. As it stands now the plan is to release Liquor Store Stories on vinyl, hopefully before spring 2024. And then we’ve been working hard on some new songs and already have half of the follow-up record written and ready to go, I’m hoping by June of 2024 we’ll be back in the studio to start work on our second album.
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