This is No Cover, a production of KOSU and Oklahoma State University and hosted by Matthew Viriyapah. On this episode is Oklahoma City noise-rock band Chat Pile.
Chat Pile takes its name from the large piles of waste of early 20th century lead mining in the northeastern Oklahoma town of Picher, which has been called America's most toxic town. The band released a noisy debut EP titled This Dungeon Earth in May 2019, channeling what happened to Picher.
In this episode, Griff and Randy, who also go by stage names Luther and Raygun Busch, spoke about what Picher means to the band, the making of their debut EP, and bad movies.
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."
While still a relatively new band, 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.
"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."
This conversation was recorded in the fall of 2019. Since then, Chat Pile has released another EP, been mentioned on a very popular YouTube channel, and had their EPs put together on a limited editon vinyl through Reptilian Records.
They also may visit Picher and the Tar Creek Superfund site, which is still being cleaned today.
Music featured in this episode:
- Chat Pile - Mask
- Chat Pile - Face
- Chat Pile - Rainbow Meat
- Chat Pile - Crawlspace
- Chat Pile - Rat Boy
- AxCx - Face It, You’re a Metal Band