Johnny Pettibone - Himsa

January 24, 2004

Tell me about the band.

The band started basically in '98 with members of a band called Trial kind of splitting up. Three members and the roadie left that band to start forming Himsa and at the time they didn't have a singer. They had me in mind basically but them not knowing I was moving to New York, I had to decline. They had a friend of theirs move up to Philadelphia named Christian who actually sang on the first EP and the first LP. Jump ahead two years later, I move back to Seattle and at that same time the singer had left the band. They asked me to do it and at the time I really wasn't into the kind of music they were playing. The stuff they were writing for the next record I was really into because it was a more heavier, aggressive style. A lot more metal influenced which I wanted to do. I was looking to be in a band that had similarities of other bands that I and other members of the band were in back home. More hardcore based and also more aggressive. More technical. A lot more on the grounds of guitars and drums standing out more than a band standing out for basically vocals or lyrics. I didn't want to be in a band that had anthems. I had already been in a couple of bands that had done that. I was looking for more of a personal level kind of thing. I had been listening to a lot of European and Swedish metal. One band being At The Gates which I'm a huge fan of. A very big influence on me for what I do now. That's what I was looking for that had to be a big involvement for me. When I moved to New York, I went to go work for a band and went to Europe a couple of times. Just being engulfed with the metal scene over there, that's what I really wanted to do. I was fortunate to come home and find out all these guys felt the same way. Some of the guys I've been friends with for 10 to 12 years back in the Seattle hardcore scene. All of us wanted to do the same thing. It was just luck at the time. I joined the band in early 2000 along with Timmy Johnson. Derek is the only original member of the band right now. We have a new guitar player named Matt Wicklund who has been in the band about seven months now and Chad Davis who is our new drummer. He's been in the band about four months so that's how it formed. To give you the short version from where it was to where it is now. It's been a definite progression and if someone never followed along from what it was to where it is now, they'd think it's a completely different band. If you were to follow the progression of how it was, you could see the basics of how it is today.

Your latest offering is a lot different from the previous two.

In most ways on the early versions of Himsa, there are still some metallic parts in it. A lot of heaviness and whatnot. They searched for a lot more melodic melody in it. More of a singing type of band at times and very political where I am not like that. From where I took over I think that's the biggest difference. From how Christian was and how I am and how we portray ourselves. I think that's the biggest difference but you can definitely hear from the first EP and Ground Breaking Ceremony to the Death Is Infinite EP where I took over singing and to the new record now of the progression of the music. It's always been there. In the beginning it was subtle but now that's the forefront of the band.

What kind of issues concern you as opposed to political issues that you use in your music?

More of just everyday living. Being able to play in a band in some form for the past 12 years and being able to travel around the world has opened my eyes to a lot of things. Kirby and Derek were fortunate enough to go do a tour of Asia. At the time I was also doing another band at the beginning when this band was going, so I couldn't go on that tour with them but they got to go there and actually see a complete 180 of how we live in the U.S. where we're very fortunate and ignorant to how other people live halfway across the world where it's very poor. There's a lot of poverty and granted, America has a huge problem here but in other places that's how living is. They go to see that in the forefront and coming back just the stories they had. I just feel that yes I am privileged and I am lucky for what I have now. I put more into the band of what I see everyday and how I live everyday. I'm still the loner kid. The 13 year old kid that didn't get along with anyone at school. Didn't have friends. It's a sob story but that's what pushed to me be who I am today. It definitely comes out. The record is very dark and it's very lonely even though life has gotten a lot better especially with this band. This is my true passion. My true happiness. There's still that inside that will never go away. I deal with issues like depression and anxiety as a lot of people do and this is my medication.

Definitely better than taking pharmaceutical drugs.

It is. I've been put on them before and it actually made me feel worse.

I don't like all those drugs anyway. They cloud people's minds.

It's synthetic. Just a fake feeling. It would just make me feel worse.

I think this is more therapeutic. Tell me a little about the band name. I understand Himsa comes from causing hurt or harm. How did you guys come by that?

The word ahimsa is to cause the least amount of harm to oneself or to anyone else and we just basically took the opposite of that. Took out the "a" in ahimsa which is basically Sanskrit for rage, wrath, or violence and not so much unto others but I kind of live how people respect you, that's how you should respect them. If someone were to cross us then we'd cross back. More of an avenge or revenge feeling. That's how we've taken it. The band's very angry. The band's very aggressive especially with an asshole frontman like me. Being on stage I think I'm the one that is the most outspoken about it. Especially back home. I work as a security guard at a club so I fight every other day. Just drunks and jerks coming into the club or whatnot so it's kind of inbred in me. I'm kind of an angry kid but everyone in the band, we give everyone a chance. It's a subtle form. We would definitely lash out if we were crossed.

You seem like a sweet guy on my side of it.

My mom still can't believe that this is what I do and how I am.

Are your parents supportive of what you do?

They're very supportive. Like I said before, I've been playing in bands for so long. There are time when they ask why I didn't go to college. I've just always had this dream of being in a band that actually did something and I'd be able to pay my bills. Giving something back to something I came from like the hardcore scene and now my mom comes to a lot of my shows back home. My parents and my sister are very supportive of me. I'm fortunate in that way that they're always there for me no matter what. Even though I come home, I'm basically homeless. I usually come home pretty broke but they're always there to help me along. What's good is that we're always on tour so I don't need a place back home. I'm lucky that way.

I wouldn't say that college is out of the question for you. You can do that anytime.

I can always go. Once Himsa can't do it anymore or when it's not fun anymore, we know we'll stop. We're having the best time now but I know what I want to do after this and I've taken classes before. I'd like to do movie makeup and whatnot. There'll come a time.

This is your second album. Tell us about it.

Yes it is. It's very dark, depressive, and angry. It's very brutal. Just kind of out there in your face. The influences stem not only from the Swedish metal scene but also early, early hardcore thrash bands probably like Cro-Mags. I love the record. It's the best thing for me personally that I've ever done in any band I've done. It's so much more forward than anything I've done. I think all of the guys would speak for themselves too in the same way. This was a record that really pushed us to the limit of where we can go. Now with the new guys, there's even more and a better influence from what they came from. We're actually excited to start writing new material with these new guys to see what we come up with.

Do you feel that this lineup will last a while?

This is the last lineup. I'm over it. We've been through it so many times and it kills momentum. Teaching someone the new songs instead of writing new stuff, I'm so sick of it. The two guys we have now are on the same page. We've been on tour basically straight with these new guys since they've gotten in. The short future right now is pretty much booked up for what we want to do. It's awesome because both Matt and Chad haven't really been into bands that are so serious and they've always been looking for that. Now they've found this opportunity and they're 100 percent behind it like we are. It's been a long road for the other three of us but now it's finally paying off.

What makes your band stand out from other bands doing the same thing?

As far as I see, personalities. Even though each one of us is so different and kind of eccentric in our own way, I'd say the humor and our personalities get along so well just in the band. That's the most important. Being trapped in a van with guys 12 to 14 hours a day, that's your family right then and there. That makes or breaks a band and so far it's been awesome. We have our little scuttles but we're all old enough, we all range from mid 20s to early 30s, so we've been through the picky arguments and what's great is that this band is a total democracy. Everyone has their say and usually we are always on the same page like I said before. We all want to go forward with this and see how big it can get. As long as it's fun and we all know once it's not fun, we don't want to do it anymore.

Once it gets too businesslike.

Yeah, that's the worst part of it. It changes people. It changes the way the band should work and we don't want that affecting it at all.

You've had a myriad of setbacks and accidents. What the hell's been going on?

We bought a brand new trailer on the first U.S. tour last year in April and after 12 days it got sideswiped and we lost a lot of equipment. That set us back and problems. A lot of bands go through accidents. It sets you back and puts you in debt. It's either stop then and pay it off or keep going and pay it off. It's day to day breakdowns. The biggest part of it is because basically in every interview one of the first questions is lineup changes and we've been through so many.

It gets a little confusing for people.

It does, it really does. There are so many names involved in what's going on. I can't even keep up anymore. I forget who was in the band a year ago.

Who's all on tour with you guys?

Right now we're on tour with Sworn Enemy, As I Lay Dying, and With Honor. There was a band with us called Autumn Offering from Florida that was on the first couple of weeks. They're a great band from Daytona. With Honor has been on the tour a couple of days now and they seem like awesome guys. A really good hardcore band. It's awesome to have some other straight edged kids since I'm straight edged. Some other straight edged team members on this tour so that's cool.

Does that mean you're staying out of trouble?

Nah, I never get in trouble. I'm always the troublemaker actually because I'm bored. I don't drink. I don't smoke. I have to do something. It's been awesome. In March and April we go out with Bleeding Through and Death By Stereo. Then after that we're going to start writing some new material for the new record.

When did the tour begin and where did it start?

We met up with As I Lay Dying in Pittsburgh I think two weeks ago. The 12th or 13th. We met up the next day with Sworn Enemy in Philadelphia and it's been great. The shows have been awesome. Great turnouts. It's kind of a good spot. We play second which means we get a half hour set. We're on and off quick. We've been showing up late to a lot of shows so we've been getting in trouble for that with the Sworn Enemy guys. Getting a little spanking once in a while. It's been awesome. This is one of the best tours we've been on.

How long is it going to last?

It goes on another month. We're heading to the West coast and then making our way back East. Then we play our own shows to get back home.

You're going to start writing new material when you get back home. When can we expect a new record?

That's hard because the label is still pushing us to keep going out and our management. We'll start writing when we're home in April. We want to take May and June off but we don't know how serious that will be because if a good tour comes up that we can't pass up, we'll jump on it. I would say probably a new record by the beginning of next year.

Any other thoughts or comments?

Thanks to all the kids that support us and come out. The Dominion which is like our fan club basically. Just come out and see us if you like good American metal. Come check it out. Tell us if you like it or you don't. We'll take all comments. Come check us out and thanks for the interview.

Himsa