MRR: THE WIPERS HAVE BEEN AROUND SINCE THE BEGINNING OF PUNK IN '77?
GREG: Yeah, late '77; officially on record in '78.
MRR: WERE YOU ALWAYS BASED IN PORTLAND, OREGON?
GREG: No, we vagabond around. The concept began in Portland, ended up being confirmed in Florida. But our first show was in Portland.
MRR: WHY DID YOU START A BAND?
GREG: Nothing else to do. It was a perfect time to start one. The '70s were dead musically, except for the STOOGES and BEEFHEART (the underground of the time). BAD COMPANY was big. I wasn't inspired, so I messed around with recording equipment by myself, when suddenly this outbreak of punk came in '77. There was a place for people with original music without looking for a big record deal. I made a lot of radio commercials at first; real abrasive stuff.
MRR: DID YOU WORK FOR A RADIO STATION?
GREG: No, I managed a movie theater for the purpose of using one of the auditoriums as a recording studio. I recorded these strange bands as a small business late at night. Writing my own stuff and recording. I got into doing radio commercials and the idea that nobody listens closely ot them. It worked out really well. I ended up making a lot of commercials for films. A lot of times I'd have the same problem then as I do now with the WIPERS, in that radio stations would refuse to play the stuff because it was too abrasive.
MRR: GIVE ME AN EXAMPLE OF ONE. LET'S SAY YOU WERE HIRED TO DO A COMMERCIAL FOR AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT.
GREG: (laughs) I didn't do Italian restaurant commercials. I did mostly commercials for films. "Freaks" was my claim to fame in that area. Me and a friend wrote the script. We made it as scary as the movie... we re-generated about a hundred people's laughter. It sounded like you walked into a closet with a hundred crazy people. It became a real clut thing. This guy from L.A. heard it and got a copy for the guy who owned the rights to the film. They used it for their ad campaign. I ended up getting ripped off by some of those producers.
MRR: WHAT WAS PORTLAND LIKE IN '77?
GREG: From the first show we played, we were accepted, but we weren't trendy enough at the time... fashionwise. It wasn't organized politically. People sensed that we were different from the commercial new wave pop. I don't consider us punk or hardcore or pop. How do you classify any music without placing a limit on it? There's so many diversions. Any music can get to a point where everything has been done. You gotta keep climbing.
MRR: PEOPLE LIKE TRENDS.
GREG: I have a lot of respect for hardcore punk. But I'm afraid that it's so organized that anti-factions have been created. A chain reaction. Around and around and around. OK, we're not personally connected to hardcore or any movement. I think in some areas people burn out if they're not part of a group of followers. THere'll be no clubs for a while, as in Portland, then someone will start one. Then it gets 'political' with the club. Everyone finds something wrong with that scene, so there's never a focal point for the energy. Then the club fails and disappears and everyone complains about no place to go. In othe rbig cities, the scene is taken for granted. I don't get depressed about it anymore though.
MRR: WHY DID IT TAKE YOU SO LONG TO PLAY IN CALIFORNIA?
GREG: To me, L.A., S.F. and N.Y. are too cosmopolitan to really care for something that's not real big at the moment. It's dictated by trend. I always avoided them. We usually go through the Midwwest and play where the pressure doesn't exist. We attract more individualistic types: people that decide for themselves whether they like it or not. I try to write songs that are more emotional. We aren't really hardcore political, though we are socially political. Our song, "Target for Reaction" is about this, about how peer pressure dictates environment and what you think, just as government dictates how you live. It's the same disease that creates political aggression. I try to go deeper than the surface. Some say it's too deep. A lot of people don't wanna hear that.
MRR: TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PREFERENCE FOR OLD EQUIPMENT.
GREG: Well, the newer stuff strives for perfection on paper. Spec sheets, minimal this and that, total perfection. Older equipment wasn't designed for perfection. We're not a perfect band. We want it to be raw. In new stuff, all the overtones and noise are gone. When you get something so perfect, it doesn't fit into your environment. It's the same with sound.
MRR: DO YOU LOOK FOR OLD EQUIPMENT ON TOUR?
GREG: No, I can't afford to. Our soundman does. I look for rooms. We recorded Over the Edge in a basement of a house I rented out. Real primitive. I could concentrate there.
MRR: RECORDING STUDIOS ARE ABOUT AS COMFORTABLE AS DENTIST OFFICES.
GREG: Yeah. I'm not used to an environment that totally plush, where people try to stick coke up my nose. I like isolated dingy basements.
MRR: THE WIPERS' MUSIC AND LYRICS REFLECT A LOT OF THE ORIGINAL SPIRIT OF PUNK IN THE '70S. NOTHING SEEMS TO HAVE CHANGED IN YOUR MUSIC OUTSIDE OF BECOMING EVEN MORE AGGRESSIVE.
GREG: You said spirit... that's what it is. It's alive. We haven't been exploited by time or peer pressure. Classification is out of the picture.
MRR: DO PEOPLE SEE YOUR MUSIC AS DEPRESSING?
GREG: Sure it's depressing. Depression, alienation, and confusion make the world go round. Basically, I'm comfortable when people go through the same things I do. Scratching the surface to go past the headlines... the fine print.
MRR: YOU ALSO TRANSCEND THE DEPRESSION BY MAKING THE STATEMENT AND CRUSHING IT WITH A POWERFUL SONG.
GREG: If we can capture the reality and break through it, that's good. Absorbing the feelings, pushing it underneath and shaking it free. We want the emotion to be recorded onto that piece of plastic with the sound waves.
MRR: YOU GUYS SEEM REAL SERIOUS ALL THE TIME.
GREG: We do enjoy making records. We make very little money and it goes back into the band. We work really hard. But, we are pro wrestling fans. I mean, if you wanna know what we have fun with. I did this album with a wrestler named Beauregard. He was great. I was at a friend's house practicing, and he came over. I saw him do an interview, and I was amazed. He had a 45 and wanted to do an album. He liked the way I played guitar. He gave me some passes to his matches. But after he did the record, he kinda turned into a good guy to sell more records. That was the end of his career. When we tour, we check out other wrestling leagues, but Portland seems to have the best though. We've got Rip the Crawler, Oliver the Assassin. They're the ones to watch. They cripple 'em up, send 'em out on stretchers, and wait for the next one. Brad (WIPERS bass player) and I worked on a film crew for a wrestling special, and we got to mee a lot of them. Some people think it's false, like he can't be ramming this guy's head into a steel pole. But they go out on the street and see the same thing and go "Oh god, poor fellow". It's a very dedicated profession. There's as many obstacles in the music business. I love wrestling. Here these guys go out and beat the shit out of each other 7 nights a week. How the hell do they get the guts and intestinal fortitude to get out of bed and do it again? It takes a certain breed of person. Doing what we're doing takes a certain... should I be modest to say, guts and intestinal fortitude to play night after night. Some nights, like tonight, getting beer cans thrown at us.
MRR: WHAT ABOUT THESE TEAMS OF TWO ON ONE?
GREG: Well, there's opening acts and then there's the headliners. Let's leave it at that.