Interview: Thrice

When I played The Illusion of Safety for the first time, Thrice instantly became one of my favourite bands. However, for a various number of reasons, every time they came on tour in Europe something came up; I never got to see them. Fortunately, during their last European tour in 2012 I was able to not only finally see them perform, but also have a chat with guitarist Teppei Teranishi. Though being a brilliant musician and thus having the right to have an attitude, Teppei displayed a gentle and humble character in the interview.

CULTURESHOCK: You guys have been playing together for almost fourteen years now. It’s quite unique for bands to still have the original line-up after such a long time. What’s your secret?

Teppei: I don’t know. I guess we’re just all really mellow guys. There’s no one with a big personality; that’s probably pretty much it. Being mellow dudes.

CS: Thrice is taking a break right now. Where do you want to be in the next fourteen years?

Teppei: I have no idea, man. I don’t even know where I’m going to be in the next year. I’m just taking life as it comes. I don’t think I will be doing anything musically as a source of income for a while during the Thrice hiatus. The thing that has been taking its toll is the touring, especially for me and Dustin (Kensrue, singer of Thrice). We both have families. I’ve got two kids and a third on the way; Dustin has three girls. Touring is really tough on our family. Unfortunately, artists can’t make much money from other things but touring. That’s how we make our living. So I don’t think I’ll be doing any touring any time soon.

But what will I be doing then? To be honest, I don’t know. It sounds random, but I actually do some leather crafting stuff. At the moment, I do that on the side, but I might focus on that some more.*

CS: Back to music. Thrice is known for reinventing itself on every one of their albums, but it seems that your two latest albums – Beggars and Major/Minor – are the most similar of all. Is Thrice finally settling down in a genre?

Teppei: No, I don’t think so. We’ve never set out to make a different record; that’s never been the goal. We don’t write songs for a record in order to make it different from the last one. It just evolves naturally. We stumbled on something kind of cool with Beggars with doing things more groove- and field-based. We liked it and it ended up just happening again.

I do agree that they are probably the two most similar records. But at the same time, there is definitely progression and a difference. With Major/Minor we wanted to continue the musical themes we had been playing with before; the groove-based tunes and the rhythms from Riley (Breckenridge) holding things down. We also wanted to keep a raw element to it.

This time however we opted to work with a producer and to record the album in a studio. For Beggars we completely stripped the production. Deliberately. We recorded the album ourselves in our garage. We didn’t want to make it sound like anything else than what it was: just four guys playing in a garage. There was something cool and honest about that, but with Major/Minor it sounds more like a studio record. Which is exactly what it was.

CS: What does the name Major/Minor stand for?

Teppei: ‘Major/Minor’ originally was the working title for the ‘Yellow Belly’ song. We ended up going for the latter title instead, but ‘Major/Minor’ kept sticking around. At that time we were going through a difficult period. Some of us had lost family members or were confronted with friends having severe diseases. Such things really help to see the reality in perspective. That’s why we ended up using the ‘Major/Minor’ thing for the whole album.

CS: You have been working with Dustin on his two solo-albums. Any prospects in that respect?

Teppei: Not necessarily. If he asks me to help him record his next, I may or I may not. It depends on what I got going on. Nothing concrete, but definitely nothing against is.

CS: Thrice has been working with Invisible Children (an NGO working with child soldiers) for a while now. The KONY2012 campaign** had a massive worldwide support lately. Was Thrice involved with that campaign? 

Teppei: Not so much with this specific campaign, but we are still close with the leaders of Invisible Children and they will be with us on our next tour in the US.

CS: Invisible Children has received quite a bit of criticism as well lately. They have been called paternalistic and co-founder Jason Russell was arrested running naked in the streets on the verge of a nervous breakdown. How would you respond to that?

Teppei: That nervous breakdown is not something anyone wants to have. It wasn’t a publicity stunt: Jason was clearly out of his mind. Obviously it’s not good for the campaign, but it at the same time shows the genuineness of what they are doing. If Jason didn’t care so much about this campaign, he probably wouldn’t lose it like that.

CS: Speaking about involvement, Dustin is very engaged at Mars Hill Bellevue (Mark Driscoll’s church where Dustin now serves as worship pastor), do you play an active role in your church?

Teppei: I am a Christian and I do go to church, but I am not involved with the administrative side like he is. I actually just moved to a small island near Washington. It’s very rural so I go to a very small church there.

CS: Final question. What if next year Groezrock would have a tribute Thrice stage for which you can pick the bands. What bands would you put in the line-up?

Teppei: Wow, that’s impossible. Selfishly, I would just pick bands I want to see. Radiohead is an obvious one. For the others; I don’t know, my brain shuts down on these questions. There’s just too many options, I can never pick. (laughs) Of the bands that are already playing on Groezrock today, I caught Hot Water Music, we’ve been friends forever. It was awesome watching them again. I am obviously looking forward to Refused. Gorilla Biscuits; I didn’t even know they were playing until I got here. Very excited about that. That’s about it, I think.

CS: Awesome. Thank you for the interview and have a great show later on.

Originally published on www.cultuurshock.net.


*About two years after the interview, Teppei has set up his business in leather crafting. Check out his company at www.teranishibrand.com.

**Though KONY2012 raised a lot of awareness in 2012, war lord Joseph Kony is still not captured or tried. More information at www.invisiblechildren.com/kony.