Revenge is Easy (Small Stone)
An interview with guitarist Josh Diamond
by Brian Varney
Hailing from New York City (an achievement in and of itself for a band so steeped in The Rock), the four guys in Puny Human crush out a dense, muscular sound that is equally grounded in Grand Funk and Devo. It must be heard to be believed. And once you’ve heard it, you’ll want to hear it again and again. The CD has been near the top of my play stack since I got it, oh, two or three months ago. Every time I think it’s time to put it away, it somehow makes its way back to the player for another ten or twenty spins. Needless to say, it’ll be near the top of my year-end list as well.
I spoke with guitarist Josh Diamond on the phone and we talked about why the scene in New York City blows, the sources of the band’s bizarre song titles, and the best strip clubs in Las Vegas. Oh yeah, and a bunch of cool rock bands.
How has the turnout been at recent shows (they played in Detroit and Toledo with Five Horse Johnson and Throttlerod)?
Youngstown was zero, but we expected that on a Thursday. Detroit was about 200, and Toledo was in a smaller place, so it was packed. We had a great time.
What does your company (MBS Productions) do? Do you do graphic design or something?
It’s a post-production company. We do stuff for MTV, VH-1, various record labels… Pretty much anyone with money.
I asked because the record cover and the t-shirt you sent me are very designer-oriented.
A friend of ours did all that stuff and he is a graphic designer. He works at MTV. As for the cover itself, we wanted something that shied away from the whole space concept that everyone seems to have these days: comets or satellites or whatever. And although I’d never seen it before we did this, apparently our cover looks identical to The Clash’s Give ‘Em Enough Rope. I guess there’s a dead cowboy on that one, too.
I don’t know… I guess I can see the resemblance now that you mention it, but I wouldn’t’ve made the connection myself.
That’s why we also put Thunderlips on the inside, just to give it a little something different…
Do just you and your brother (Jason, bass) work at MBS?
And Iann, the drummer. Our singer, Jim, has an animation company in Queens. He does claymation and stuff. He has a short called Master Volume, which is a claymation rock band.
Cool. I always like to hear about musicians with regular jobs.
And we all work for ourselves.
Did you guys meet when working together?
Well, my brother and I are twins, so we’ve known each other our whole lives. We met Iann in college eleven years ago and we met Jim three years ago through mutual friends.
Did Puny Human form right away?
Well, my brother and I had been in other bands for ten years. Iann’s been playing for six years. All of our bands broke up and we were working together, so we said, “We should just get together and jam, just to keep our chops up and have fun.” We had one incarnation of Puny Human a couple of years ago with a friend of ours singing who was a Sebastian Bach type, singing like “Aaaahhhh!” (does a pretty good Seb imitation) with snakeskin boots and long hair.
That sounds like it might’ve been pretty good. I like the second Skid Row record a lot.
It was OK… But the guy was a total flake, so we said “Fuck this” and stopped playing for awhile. We jammed without a singer for bit, and then we met Jim. We said, “We have these songs if you’re interested” and he was into it. He’d been in other bands like Norman Bates and the Showerheads. My brother and I were in a couple of bands before. One was called Grey, and another was a band called Fancy Albacore, which was two guitars, bass, drums, trombone, sax, and trumpet. It was like Zappa meets Metallica. It was pretty fun, but trying to get that many people to do the same thing is impossible. Our drummer was in a band called Trust. Not the French metal band, a New York hardcore band.
How’s the scene in New York? Is it tough to get gigs?
We know most of the club owners in the city, so we’ve been playing the Continental for ten years. We don’t play CBGBs that often because they don’t really do heavy music anymore. Continental seems like the only place in the city where bands like us can play.
I have no idea what it’s actually like in New York City, but here in the midwest, New York is associated with artsy-fartsy bands like Sonic Youth and the Swans, so it seems like it’d be tough for a band like Puny Human to find an audience.
There’s no scene in New York. It blows.
When I got your record, I looked at the booklet and said, “How did this band come from New York? They’re thanking Cactus!”
For the most part, music that comes from a specific area of the country sounds like other music from that part of the country. We’re not really playing that kind of music though; we’re just playing to have fun. We’re not playing to be rock stars. All of the other bands we were in wanted to be rock stars and nobody cared about them. So the band where we all said, “Whatever, let’s just jam” is the one someone wanted to put out a record by, and now people are telling us, “Wow, you guys are great!” We’re like, “What the fuck? Where were you ten years ago when we wanted to be out on the road every day?” Response has been great, though. It’s really nice to have people like your stuff. The only bad review I’ve seen was in Kerrang!, but that’s probably because we wouldn’t buy advertising in their magazine.
How did you hook up with Small Stone?
We’re friends with Tony at Tee Pee Records and we saw online that he was doing the vinyl for the Aerosmith tribute record (Right in the Nuts), so we called him and said, “We’d love to be on that.” He said, “Call my friend Scott at Small Stone.” We called him and he said, “I’ve never heard of you, but if you’re friends with Tony and he says you’re cool, I’ll put you on. But why don’t you send me a CD just in case I hate you?” We sent him a CD and he really liked it. He said, “If no one’s putting out a full-length, I’d love to do one.” We already had six songs from our demo, so we wrote four more, re-recorded them, and put the Aerosmith song at the end. That was the record.
Is Small Stone going to do your next record?
Yes. We’re going to try and do it next year. Scott’s been really great. For a one-man operation, he really kicks it out.
Where did the name “Puny Human” come from?
It was a cross between the Dead Guy song “Puny Human” and the Incredible Hulk. I think Dead Guy named their song after the Hulk as well, so I guess it all comes back to the Hulk.
Do you guys like Clutch?
I don’t dislike them, but I don’t think they’re as great as everyone says. We’re compared to them a lot, for some reason. The two biggest comparisons people make are Alabama Thunderpussy and Clutch.
A couple of people pointed the Clutch thing out to me. I guess it’s Jim’s phrasing.
That’s the only thing I can gather.
I don’t understand the Alabama Thunderpussy thing at all.
Every review says something about them. It’s really weird, because I don’t hear it either. The guy from Kerrang! was the only one to pick up on the Devo influence in our sound. “Way of the Intercepting Fist” is sort of a tribute to Devo.
Speaking of which, what’s the deal with the odd song titles?
Before we even wrote any songs, we made up song titles. We were just like, “Hey, that sounds really stupid, let’s use it!” We have a couple more we haven’t used yet, like “Town of Robby Knievel’s Leg,” which is Vegas. We love Vegas. I’ve been four times in the last two years.
Do you like to gamble?
Yeah, and they have the best strip clubs I’ve ever been to. If you ever go, you have to go to the Olympic Gardens. If you’re into that kind of thing, Olympic Gardens is key. (laughs) Vegas is just fun. It’s twenty-four hours. You can get up at five in the morning and say, “I don’t feel like sleeping” and go downstairs and blow your life savings.
That’s like a nice option to have.
“Lefty Among the Leeches” is about Darryl Strawberry.
I had no idea, but I can’t understand any of the words.
We’re trying to work out getting a lyrics page up on our website (www.punyhuman.com). “Way of the Intercepting Fist” is about Devo, but it’s named after Bruce Lee’s jeet-kune-do because Iann used to practice it. “Jesus Has My Leg” was taken from a comic strip called Book of Sick. The picture was of a kid in a wheelchair with one leg missing and a syringe sticking out of his arm, and he’s looking up at the sky with a smile on his face and saying, “Jesus has my leg.” We actually sent the song to the artist and became friends with him.
That’s my favorite song on your record. I went through about a week where I played it constantly, and right when that was ending, my wife started playing it, so I’ve heard it a bunch.
That’s cool! I’ve been doing that with the new PJ Harvey. I think it’s one of the best records of the year. But then again, not that much great shit has come out this year.
I really like the new Hellacopters album.
I’m not into them so much, but I really love the new Entombed record. But I still like To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth better. It’s their Master of Puppets. Have you ever listened to Fireball Ministry?
I don’t think so…
They’re putting out an EP on Small Stone with Brad from Fu Manchu playing bass. Scott actually told us that the Aerosmith thing was going to be the last Small Stone release because he couldn’t find anybody he wanted to work with other than Five Horse Johnson. But then he heard us and wanted to put out a record, and after that he found Gideon Smith and the Dixie Damned, Halfway to Gone, and Fireball Ministry, so now he’s putting out a bunch of great stuff. And he doesn’t care what kind of music it is; he doesn’t say “It’s not metal enough” or “It’s not stoner enough.”
Yeah, there’s a lot of different stuff on that Aerosmith thing. I liked that you guys didn’t do an obvious song like “Sweet Emotion” or something (they did “Rock in a Hard Place”).
I wanted to do “Back in the Saddle” or “Draw the Line,” but they were both taken at the time. We also did “Preacher’s Daughter” for a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute on Game Two. We rocked out both songs as much as we could, but we also tried to keep them close to the original. We didn’t want to make them unrecognizable.
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