An Interview With The Thermals

Hutch Harris, the lead guitarist and vocalist of Portland, Oregon based The Thermals had a chat with us and you get to read it right now. All the words were typed in real time.

Fuckin’ A is turning 10 and, god damn, it holds up, huh? It’s like, we open the door and you have all these shrieks of feedback, power chords and your voice blowing in our face. It’s great. Every Stitch is such a good song! Let’s go down memory lane for a second and talk about how that record came to be, shall we?

It DOES hold up, doesn’t it! Thanks a lot. Yeah “Every Stitch” is one of my favorite songs of ours. Fuckin’ A was recorded in only 3 days, and mixed in 2, by rock producer extraordinaire Chris Walla. It was our second record for Sub Pop, and the first Thermals record to be recorded live, by all members. Our first record, More Parts Per Million, was recorded just be me, at my old house.
What are you guys doing to celebrate the Fuckin’ A anniversary?

By selling a ton of reissued Fuckin’ A vinyl DIRECTLY to our fans, via our website (sweet plug huh?).  Also by playing most of the record live at all our shows this year.

What would you say are the main differences in the Portland scene since then?

Hard to say. Many bands and venues have come and gone in the last ten years, but that’s just the nature of the scene.  Portland as a city is definitely a lot more popular than it used to be, for better or for worse.  The music scene still thrives here, and of course is always changing.
How do you feel about the hyped up Portland?

Mixed.  It is overwhelming with so many people moving to Portland lately.  Hey, we are transplants ourselves.  But Kathy and I have lived in Portland for SIXTEEN YEARS now. So, we moved here way before it was cool.

What have you been listening to, by the way? Any new musical influences?

SO many good bands coming out of the Northwest these days. Summer Cannibals and The Ghost Ease from Portland, Wheelies from Tacoma, Big Eyes, Tacocat and Wimps, from Seattle.  Wimps are my favorite band these days.
Fast forward to last year’s Desperate Ground which resonates a lot with The Body, The Blood, The Machine in my opinion. What says you? Is this a concept album like TBTBTM?

Most of our records have themes, but we try to not call any of them concept records, says I.  The term is a little uh, bloated, in our opinion.  Desperate Ground is about violence and murder. It is similar to TBTBTM. We also find it to be similar to our first record, More Parts Per Million, in that it is fast, short, and LOUD.

Tell us a bit about the creative process. How do you decide on which stories you want to tell? Desperate Grounds sounds like you decided to go back home or at least take a route that was closer to your origins.

Exactly. We felt that after TBTBTM our records were getting a little… soft. We wanted to get back to our dirty roots. WE DID.
Would you say that all these places and characters live in the same universe? Are they part of the same story?

I don’t really think they are all part of the same story.  Each of our records is unique, and stands alone.

Do you ever think of your stories filling the pages of a book or as a movie script? Anything like that?

Yes, I would like that very much but I would also like very much for someone else to be filling those book or screenplay pages, as I don’t want it to be me, because it sounds like a lot of work.

What was the biggest inspiration behind Desperate Ground?

The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. That’s where the term desperate ground comes from.

I feel like The Thermals used to be more of a political band, but something changed. Would you say that’s true?

We strive to not be labeled as a political band.  We’ve written some political songs, but we don’t want to be known as a political band. Politics are useful and sometimes necessary, but can totally kill the party if you overdo it.

You guys have been super busy touring. That being said, you have released new songs almost every year since The Thermals started. Did you have any time to write or work on new songs or is that in the back burner for now?

I am always writing, personally. We should have a new record written, maybe even recorded, by the end of the year, so I think we’ll have a new record out next year.

Tag Brum
Tag Brum

Tag Brum lives in Brooklyn and writes things from a computer whenever wi-fi is available.
You can follow him on Twitter @tagbrum.

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