We've all heard the phrase "To be or not to be." That famous Shakespearian line demonstrates something called the "principle of contradiction." A thing must either be or not be - it can't be both.
That's a fairly simple principle. And then there's Thrice. Thrice is a So-Cal Punk band that can in one instance sound so radio friendly that it's hard to believe that they aren't the leading-edge of the current punk charge. And then in another, they are the most hardcore band you would ever want to encounter. And just because you might hear a pop hook, dive a little deeper and listen to the lyrics. Dark, grim, sometimes joyless but very real themes haunt these powerful melodies. Call them enigmatic; call them consistently inconsistent but call them Thrice. You're sure to be hearing more from this Californian-based band in the coming year. The follow-up to their successful 2001 debut The Illusion of Safety(Hopeless Records) is expected to hit the stores in spring of 2003, and the band hopes to be hitting the road with what would be their third consecutive Warped Tour.
Guitar.com spoke with Teppei Teranishi, lead guitarist of Thrice just before the holidays, as he was enjoying a little down time. Thrice has already begun many of the pre-production chores for the new record and Teppei took some time to share his thoughts on Thrice lead vocalist/songwriter, Dustin Kensrue's guitar playing and Teppei's favorite metal bands.
Guitar.com: Teppei, welcome to Guitar.com, in the event you're not familiar with us, we're an Internet Guitar community, with over 550,000 registered users. Have you ever been to Guitar.com? Are you a fan of the Internet?
Teppei Teranishi: Actually, yeah I have, only once though. When our manager told me that you were looking to do the interview, I went and visited. It's pretty cool.
Guitar.com: Well, you have a lot of fans. There is a contingency of Thrice fans on there and I continually get email requesting that we get around to interviewing you.
Teranishi: Really? That's awesome, very cool.
Guitar.com: I'll have to give them the credit on making this interview happen.
Teranishi: Well thanks to the users then.
Guitar.com: Now, has Thrice used the Internet to their advantage, promotionally in the past?
Teranishi: We've had a website ever since we've been a band and I think it's been a really great tool for us. Even if it's just been a place where kids can go and just download our music. I dunno; it's been a meeting place for our fans, with the message boards and all. It's pretty cool. I think it's been really useful.
Guitar.com: Yeah, there have been a lot of bands that have utilized the net as one of the prime means to get their message and their music out there. It's really interesting to see the web evolve as a tool for bands. I've been reading some of the many articles written about Thrice over the course of the last year and I found it very refreshing that you don't think of the way that you play, as traditional guitar chord-based playing. Your playing turns out more to be more like a series of "set-to-stun" staccato runs; more like borderline lead guitar work from beginning to end. When it comes to the songwriting process, how you do you sew together the concepts into a cohesive thought?
Teranishi: It's really an unconscious thing, at least on my part. I don't think I ever realized that my guitar playing was like that until after we recorded the record and I sat back and listened to it, you know? I mean, I think it's good to play chords and lay down a real solid foundation but I get a little bored sometimes (chuckles)
Guitar.com: (laughs) yeah.
Teranishi: Maybe it's a bad thing, I'm not sure but I feel like I need to be playing something different melodically or whatever.
Guitar.com: No, that's really compelling. It has it's own chemistry, like it has a life all it's own intertwined with the melody. You still create it, just in a different manner. My first couple of listens to Illusion(referring to Thrice's 2001 release The Illusion of Safetyon Sub City/Hopeless records), I found the band more of a paradox because you are very melodic. There's a lot of guitar-interplay and there's even some strong hooks that pull you in and force you to listen but to have these happy hooks, these almost "pop-py" Goo-Goo Dolls-esque hooks and at the same time, diving into Dustin's (Kensrue - Lead Singer/Guitarist) lyrics, he's singing this edgy, dark, anxiety-ridden themes. Again, is that part of the unconscious songwriting effort?
Teranishi: It's not intentional. I think Dustin's writing basically just what he's feeling. I mean what's on his mind and such. I mean, he writes all the lyrics.
Guitar.com: Oh, you guys don't contribute lyrically?
Teranishi: Yeah, Dustin pretty much writes all the lyrics. I mean, yeah, I think it's all pretty natural.
Guitar.com: Does Dustin bring finished songs to the band or do you come up with ideas and Dustin writes lyrics for the music?
Teranishi: Well, music-wise, we all come in with riffs and ideas or little parts that become songs or whatever and we'll jam on it. And then somebody will say, I've got a part that would work with that and we'll try it out. Everybody brings pieces of music in and we all just kind of jam on it. And in the end, Dustin will write lyrics all over that.
Guitar.com: What about when it comes to influences.
Teranishi: Well, theres a lot of 'em.
Guitar.com: I'm hearing some Black Flag, maybe some Bad Religion and maybe even some Bad Brains. Is that where your roots are?
Teranishi: Our roots are definitely in punk. I think all of us grew up listening to punk bands and later on we sort of progressed to hardcore. Actually, when I was younger, before I got into punk, I was really into metal.
Guitar.com: Sure, me too.
Teranishi: Like Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera; just like in 5th or 6th grades
Guitar.com: (I cringe when he says 5th and 6th grade because I was already out of college **choke**cough**choke**gasp - making me feel just a wee bit old) - I think that's a pre-requisite for 5th and 6th grade (or if you're out of college), you HAVE to be into at least those three bands.
Teranishi: Yeah, totally - it's mandatory (laughs). And I think come junior high, I started getting into punk rock and stuff.
Guitar.com: So if you were listening to Kirk Hammett or Dave Mustaine, were they your guitar gods at the time? Were you aspiring to be the next Dave Mustaine?
Teranishi: Umm, (thinks for a bit) I don't think I really did but Metallica was my absolute favorite band for quite a while so honestly I really looked up to their guitar playing. Yeah but I don't think I had a single guitar hero or anything like that, really.
Guitar.com: Right, I think as much as that works for a lot of players, it can make you focus on one particular style. And that's a good thing too but you start wood-shedding on that player...
Teranishi: Yeah, you try to sound like that *one* player, totally.
Guitar.com: And at the same time, it can work against some other players.
Guitar.com: To change topics somewhat abruptly (laughs) but I wanted to give this some real attention in this interview. I was really impressed that Thrice, in conjunction with Hopeless Records donated 5% of the proceeds from Identity Crisis(previous release in early 2001 on Sub City) to charity and you basically did the same this with The Illusion of Safety. Can you talk a little bit about A Place Called Home (a non-profit organization that Thrice chose to donate the proceeds from their most recent release to) and the whole motivation behind your efforts?
Teranishi: Yeah, A Placed Called Home (www.apch.org) is a non-profit organization that is located in South Central Los Angeles, where kids can go and just have a place to be. They provide all these crazy services. One of the things that drew us into this place is that they have this recording studio there.
Guitar.com: Really, that's unique...
Teranishi: Isn't it? They let kids come in and record for free. They have instruments there so kids can jam. They give free music lessons. It's like, they really get the youth in LA really involved in music with an effort to keep them off the streets. I mean that's just one little part of what they do. They really do some amazing stuff.
Guitar.com: It's great to hear that a community center is so enveloped in music and supporting the kids in their community.
Teranishi: Yeah, totally. They do so much. You can get your GED, if you dropped out of high school. They have dance classes, everything that you could think of. It's a super cool place.
Guitar.com: I've heard of a similar type of place. It was somewhere in New Mexico, I can't recall exactly. It was called Rock School and they did a similar thing where they took kids off the street and gave music lessons and immersed them in music in hopes of keeping them off the streets. But I think the really important point is, if more bands and artists took a small percentage of their time, energy and money and assisted programs like the ones that you and Thrice have uncovered it would make for an greatly improved place to live.
Teranishi: Well, we realize we're really fortunate to get to be able to make money doing this and we really want to give back something.
Guitar.com: Well, I commend you and your band mates for your efforts. I think it's really great. Okay, let's switch gears and talk a bit about your live shows. Any pre-show rituals, warm up routines or exercises that you use before you hit the stage?
Teranishi: I don't really. I probably should but I don't. No - hmmm, I just go onstage. (laughs)
Guitar.com: Have a couple of beers and then hit the stage (laughs)
Teranishi: yeah, oh well. (laughs)
Guitar.com: I think it was Dustin who intimated in one of his interviews that he didn't consider himself a real guitar talent. He sort of just does what he does. And it's obvious you handle the brunt of the guitar work. But several of the tracks on the CD, "In Years to Come" and "The Red Death" come to mind, where there are some really challenging rhythm guitar parts and some intricate guitar harmonies as well, are you playing both parts or is Dustin playing as well?
Teranishi: No, no, no, Dustin definitely played on all the tracks on the record. He's a great guitar player, I think. I mean he's not like a crazy soloist, lead guitar player but he's definitely a solid player.
Guitar.com: He's just a little self-deprecating, that's all.
Teranishi: Yeah. (laughs)
Guitar.com: Part of what interested me in Dustin's comments was related to all the guitar harmonies on the record. Are you pulling those off live?
Teranishi: Yeah, pretty much everything we do on record we do live. Dustin's right there, like I say, solid.
Guitar.com: So you're not artificially harmonizing stuff live.....
Teranishi: No, it's all live, although we do have a considerable collection of pedals and stuff.
Guitar.com: Oh really? What do you take out with you, pedal-wise?
Teranishi: I have the Line 6 modeling pedals, the DL-4 Delay Modeler, the MM-4 Modulation Modeler and the FM-4 Filter Modeler.
Guitar.com: So now you're headed for the studio to follow up The Illusion of Safety. Have you decided on a producer as of yet?
Teranishi: Oh yeah, definitely, we're going to be working with Brian McTernan again, who did our last record.
Guitar.com: Oh that's great.
Teranishi: Yeah, he's really grown to be one of our closest friends and he's just an awesome producer. We've already been doing a lot of pre-production with him, from the ground up in preparation for this next record. It should turn out really cool with Brian involved.
Guitar.com: Do you do any writing in the studio or are you pretty dialed in with Brian before you get there, ready to go?
Teranishi: We want to be as prepared as possible before we get in the studio so when we get there we can just knock out the tracks. Brian has already come out once already and we have two more pre-production sessions scheduled before we record.
Guitar.com: Do you have a bevy of material already set and ready for this new record?
Teranishi: (long pause , laughing) Uh......yeah, we're working on it (continues to laugh).
Guitar.com: (laughs as well) Are they any surprises planned for the new recording?
Teranishi: It's a little too early to tell. We only have a few songs really prepared at this point. It will be really different, hopefully. I don't know, different in a better way.
Guitar.com: I must say, one of the things that I liked about Illusion is that it's not, I mean, probably unconsciously as you have said, you evade being tagged, under one specific label, in a world where every piece of music has to be pigeon-holed and categorized. Thrice is punk but the variety of pop and hardcore mix is an added bonus, you know?
Teranishi: Yeah, Thanks.
Guitar.com: What guitars will you be taking in the studio with you?
Teranishi: Well, we'll be in the studio in February. I'm definitely going to bring my '77 Les Paul Standard, that's my favorite guitar.
Guitar.com: I sold my '77 back in the day to pay the rent. I loved that guitar.
Teranishi: Oh no! Too bad. I just love the way that this guitar sounds. I'm probably going to be bringing in a lot of my gear, just so we can have a lot of options.
Guitar.com: Is that also the guitar you take on the road with you?
Teranishi: I actually don't take it on the road with me anymore, cause I'm afraid of damaging it.
Guitar.com: Or of someone borrowing it permanently?
Teranishi: Yeah, definitely.
Guitar.com: Well it's probably a little too soon to start talking about touring at this point.
Teranishi: Yeah, well we are planning on like an April tour. Plus we're going to be doing the Warped Tour this summer.
Guitar.com: Oh that's great. That's always such a fun tour. The new talent that follows that event is pretty amazing. Weren't you guys on that tour, last year?
Teranishi: Yeah, we've done it the last two years. Two years ago, we only did a week and last year we did about two weeks but this summer we're going to do the whole thing.
Guitar.com: Were the weeks that you did, a regional thing, like did you do Southern California?
Teranishi: Well, we were only one out for a few weeks so it was regional due to time. We did.......where did we go? We kind of did the Midwest.
Guitar.com: How did that go? You've obviously done a lot of national touring by yourselves and with other acts.
Teranishi: It was great. It's really been coming together. All the kids were great.
Guitar.com: Any favorite moments from the previous Warped tours?
Teranishi: Nah, nothing that comes to mind. It was just a really great time. I got to hang with my friends and met with the fans. We're really looking to this summer.
Guitar.com: Well, we'd really like the opportunity here at Guitar.com to follow up with you once the new CD is out. Maybe we can catch up with on the Warped Tour.
Teranishi: Absolutely. I look forward to it.
Guitar.com: Best of luck with the new recording and we'll talk to you then!