Finally! Seven years ago when I started this site, one of the first releases I received from Vagrant was a sampler that had two amazing songs on it from a band called Automatic 7. Unfortunately they had broken up and I was unable to do an interview with them. Fast forward to now where Automatic 7 is back with a great new album called “At Funeral Speed” (out on Mental Records) and where I finally get to do an interview with vocalist Johnny!
PRT: Who are you and what would you like to tell our readers about yourself?
Johnny: Johnny H. I sing for Automatic 7.
PRT: What have you guys been up to for the past 7 years and what made you decide to give it another go?
Johnny: We all sort of disappeared in late 2000 after “Beggar’s Life” and I can’t really recall much about the following two years but in 2003 I ran into Ray and Nic and we started working towards making record without a label. We were really loose about it and were just taking our time. We actually wrote a record, played a few local shows, made some demos and then decided to start over again. We just wanted to get it right and did not have any cares about a time line or record companies or producers or anything. So, that ate up a few years. My friend John Foote called me up one day wanted some tracks for a comp that his new label (Mental Records) was putting together and the next thing I knew we were talking about a full length. They just basically said “Send it over when it’s done” and that was what we did.
PRT: Does it feel like picking up where you left off or is it more like starting over again?
Johnny: Both. Automatic 7 always seems to be starting over so it’s like picking up where we left off….starting over…..right where we left off.
PRT: For people who haven’t heard Automatic 7 yet… if the band was the lovechild of two other bands, which acts would’ve had sex and which position were you conceived in?
Johnny: Jawbreaker and Social D and I think Jawbreaker would have Social D’s ankles pinned behind their ears while Face To Face is whacking off in the corner.
PRT: The new album is called “At Funeral Speed” and it once again sounds amazing, honest and sincere. So congratulations with that! Did you write the songs over the past seven years or were they all writen recently?
Johnny: Thanks. It’s a lot easier to get that honesty on tape when there are no producers and label people breathing down your neck.Fall In Line and The Better Part Of Me were from the 2003 sessions, Greasy (Revisited) was written in 1997 and came out on a Vagrant comp around that time but that version was a bit weak. We always loved to play that song live so we felt the need to it back to life. All of the other tracks were pretty much written at crunch time. Some of the tracks we literally had only played 10 times before we recorded them. Those are always my favourite tracks.
PRT: What’s up with the title? When I hear the words funeral and speed, I think of something slow and cerebral… neither of which are characteristics that can be attributed to Automatic 7.
Johnny: Who you callin’ un-cerebral suka?? There are a few reasons we chose that title. First, we felt it characterized the huge time gaps between albums and just the general pace at which our band seems to get things done. If you lived through Automatic 7 you would simply feel the weight of that title……in a very non-cerebral way, in fact. Second, it is lifted from an obscure Clash song on Combat Rock called Atom Tan and we wanted to pay our respects to Joe in a subtle/obvious way. “The pink hearse is leaving at funeral speed. Driving your heart
away with the flowers” We miss you, Joe.
PRT: Your new album is out on the relatively unknown Mental Records. How did you end up with them and how’s that working out for you?
Johnny: They are great. John Foote has been a friend of mine for 15 years.
PRT: Was it a conscious choice for you to stay away from the more well-known labels after the problems you had in the past with A&M?
Johnny: Yes, most record labels suck and totally fuck up the music but I don’t think we really thought about it in those terms. We just wanted to make a great record and rather than make a few demos and try to “shop” them around, we just decided to make the whole record. The more we did it on our own the more fun we realized we were having. The funny part is that the Mental Records deal just sort of happened in the process. I guess there is a lesson in there somewhere.
PRT: Your last album was released on Vagrant and in the liner notes of “At Funeral Speed” you say sorry to Vagrant… That kinda makes me wonder what you’ve got to be sorry about? Any sordid stories to be dug up there?
Johnny: Jesus, you actually did your homework and read the goddamn liner notes. I am sure that those guys could probably remember some nasty details but I will just say that we were just young and dumb and punk. The worst and most common combo. Without much detail I do remember threats of a switch blade stabbing from someone somewhere sometime. J Stupid.
PRT: The single of the album is your version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” and while admittedly it sounds great, aren’t you afraid of the Alien Ant Farm syndrom where a band becomes best know for a cover?
Johnny: It might be nice to be known for something don’t you think? Maybe we should have gone with the stabbing thing?
PRT: So what’s up next for you guys? Lots of touring? Any plans to come to Europe?
Johnny: Based on our past I am guessing a nice 5 to 7 year hiatus!! No Euro tour on this record…..sorry
PRT: Any last words for our readers?
Johnny: Never pet a dog that’s on fire.