Arizona psych-punks Destruction Unit play the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan tonight with local noise music star and Sacred Bones label mate, Pharmakon. It’s far from the first time they’ve played in town this year, one that’s so far featured the release of two separate full-length records, Void in February and Deep Trip last month, and near constant touring, both for the band and its members’ numerous side projects. Deep Trip is especially good, a loose but savage collection of menacing rock n’ rock that’s had critics deploying all sorts of rocky desert imagery when trying to explain its sinister appeal.
We caught up with singer and guitarist Ryan Rousseau by phone a couple weeks ago as the band vanned it through a Wyoming landscape that “looks like Mars.” Speeding through a land of limited phone reception and even more limited rock n’ roll clubs, Rousseau chatted briefly about the brutal Phoenix weather, the small, tangible products made by the Ascetic House label Destruction Unit helps run, his time spent in bands with the late, great Jay Reatard, and the thrill of making such distinctively bad-mood music.
Do you guys actively like living in such a hot place, or do you just deal with it?
Ryan Rousseau: Well, during the summer we’re indoors all the time, so it’s not too bad.
I assume your practice space is air-conditioned?
Would you die if it wasn’t?
Probably. Last year we went out and it was about 125 and a half degrees.
Yikes. Can you even open doors at that heat?
Yeah, you can, but it doesn’t do anything.
No, I mean the metal knobs must be so hot?
Oh, yeah, sometimes.
Do you write songs mainly as a live band? Does it all come out of jamming? Do you start with a single part? What’s the process?
Usually, nowadays, it’s jamming. We’ll come up with shit together. Before that I’d just write a song or something, but now we all do.
How much time do you spend, when recording, slaving over the particular guitar sounds that you’re getting? Are you spending a lot of time trying to get really specific tones?
We’re not trying to do anything. (laughs) It just happens. I mean we mess with pedals and shit…play it back.
When you guys are on the road, does that prevent you from being really actively involved with the Ascetic House stuff, or are you involved while you’re touring around and playing as well?
It’s pretty involved while we’re playing. Jes [Aurelius, DU guitarist] is on his computer all day, looking after stuff, email, whatever. But we can’t put out a bunch of cassettes or something while we’re on the road. We usually get everything ready before tour, take it all out on tour, sell it. And before the next tour its a whole new batch of tapes or whatever. Zines. Shit like that.
Do you all see huge importance in the physicality of items you’re putting out, rather than just putting something out into the Internet?
Yeah, that’s pretty much the point of it.
Is that just because you’re making things that will last? What’s so important to you guys about having a physical record of it?
Do whatever you want with it. It’s just there. Once it’s yours, you do what you want. (laughs)