Chat Pile: Turning Toxic Waste Into Music

Sep 3, 2019

Picher, Oklahoma has been called one of America's most toxic towns. So, what better inspiration for a noise rock band?

Oklahoma City band Chat Pile takes its name from the large waste remains of the early 20th century lead mining that had been done in Picher. Adopting stage names like Raygun and Stin, the band released a noisey debut EP titled This Dungeon Earth in Maychanneling what had happened to Picher.

The band spoke to Matthew Viriyapah about what Picher means to the band, the making of This Dungeon Earth, and bad movies.

Hear the interview above and read about the band below.

The decision to adopt the alter-egos was made by Raygun Busch, the vocalist who otherwise goes by Randy.

"I'm about to be 35 next month," said Busch. "And I have never been a punk band where I had a cool punk name. So, I convinced everybody to pick one."

"Yeah, you super pressured me," said Luther, the guitarist of the band.

The other two members of the band, Stin (bassist) and Cap'n Ron (drummer), are the brothers which form the rhythm section.

For the band, a strong sense of nihilism drives most of the music and was a factor when adopting the name, Chat Pile. Being "literal piles of waste" left in Oklahoma is how the band views themselves.

"I felt like it kind of fits our music of weird dark nihilistic stuff," said Luther. "We like to rep Oklahoma a little bit. All of us have chosen to stay living here, instead of being like lots of people we know and move to Austin, Denver, Portland..."

Rather than just channel horror movies, the band wanted to also represent modern terrors and fears.

"I know we wanted to stay away from the typical metal tropes of gore and the devil," said Luther. "What's going on now is way scarier than any of that type of stuff."

Despite having only played one show, their debut EP has found listeners around the world.

"It blows my mind a little bit that we got somebody in Spain who owns our tape," said Busch. "And this blog in Portugal interviewed me."

For them, the EP was a project made just for themselves and they had little expecatations.

"At the end of the day, we just want to make some dumb stuff that's fun to play at practice." said Luther.

Chat Pile wrote all their songs in practice sessions with Busch improvising all of the lyrics in one to two takes.

"I think like for this kind of music, what am I gonna do? Sit and write like on the bus in Eight Mile?" said Busch.

They characterized their songs as what Beavis and Butthead would listen to. And the lyrics of the EP are often grotesque, drawing from different movies and documentaries.

"Honestly, mentally it takes a little bit of toll to do something so extreme," said Busch.

But combined with their nihilism is a sense of humor.

"When you're saying 'Send my body to Arby's' or stuff like that, the intent behind the song is dark and tragic but like it's trying to be a little funny about stuff because it's extremely bleak otherwise," said Luther.

And one thing they want to make clear, especially to any residents of Picher.

The name Chat Pile— that's not supposed to be funny or a joke or anything - Luther

"Whenever any of us say our band name it's usually is followed by 'what's that mean?' and then we explain what it is," said Luther. "If anyone is still living in Picher and they hear our band, I just want them to know that we're not making fun of them."

With an EP already under their belt, Chat Pile plans on playing more shows, releasing more music, and possibly visiting Picher and the Tar Creek Superfund site, which is still being cleaned today.