The Icarus Line
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October 23, 2018

Interview with Travis Keller

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A hellraising scribe, Travis Keller was responsible for a plethora of shenanigans during Buddyhead‘s heyday, and would routinely receive death threats and lawsuits from musical celebrities (most notably Fred Durst) who had caught his ire. Now utilizing his immense talents for the “cultural creative house and recording studio” known as American Primitive, I get to ask the pioneering trendsetter as to what his future plans are (amongst other things). Enjoy!

Your Buddyhead website was notoriously instrumental in upsetting the status quo, with your antics resulting in prominent rock musicians wanting to sue you. Despite this however, what would you say was the website’s proudest moment, and how would you like Buddyhead to be remembered in terms of its legacy?

That’s really hard to say… I’m proud of a lot of shit we did. All of it in fact. We put out a lot of cool records, got to travel around the world together, built a platform that reached a lot of people, made some funny shirts, cool comps, lots of shit… And we were ahead of the curve. When I meet people who read Buddyhead back in the day, one of the coolest things they say sometimes is that we saved them from a life of shitty music. And then they list all the bands and records we turned them onto… that shit feels good. So proud of that when people remind me. When Joe and I went down to Mexico City this past week for some shows of his, one of the interviews he did was with a music journalist who told me Buddyhead inspired him to start a blog and get into music journalism… that’s the kind of shit I’m proud of too. Also, I’m proud of Joe and I for still being alive, that’s prolly the greatest thing we’ve done. No one would have guessed we’d still be alive in 2018. And also still making shit that we wanna make. Not a lot of people can say that.

I would like people to remember us as being raw and honest. And doing what we were doing purely for the love of it. Yes, we spat venom from time to time. But it all came from a place of love… for music and art. And I hope people remember us as real motherfuckin’ G’s.

Buddyhead ceased to exist the year you formed American Primitive in 2016. How and why did this transition come about, and in what way do you think American Primitive differs from your previous endeavour, Buddyhead? What would you like to achieve with American Primitive going forward?

I ended Buddyhead because it finally felt like the right time to do that. I always said I’d do it until it wasn’t fun anymore. Not only was it not fun anymore but it wasn’t making any money. I did it really good, couldn’t imagine doing it better now. Plus I can’t remember the last time I heard a rock record I cared about. Times have changed drastically.

Joe has been using the name American Primitive thing for a while now. He put out records and shit. This version, if you wanna call it that, began when I started helping him out more and more with the films/videos he was making for his Holy War project. It wasn’t really planned or really ever even talked about, we’ve been friends a long time and it just kinda happened. I just started coming around more I guess. And we started making shit together more and more. It was totally natural. And like everything in my life thus far… unplanned.

American Primitive has a lot in common with Buddyhead and absolutely nothing at the same time. We don’t do the same shit but we’re the same people, only older, smarter, have more tools and our shit is streamlined now. Plus we make movies and there aren’t as many guitars involved. When we travel now there’s way less gear, it rules. I’d like us to keep making content, keeping putting zines out, records, feature films and keep traveling to rad places on tour with Joe. And most importantly have a good time doing all of it. Honestly, it’s just a vehicle for my friends and I to do rad shit. To do whatever we want. Which in a sense, is exactly what Buddyhead was… we’re just into doing shit a little different in 2018 and into the future.

Buddyhead ended its association with its co-founder, Aaron North, in 2008. At the same time, and now that you are once again associated with Joe Cardamone, what are the chances of Aaron North once again being associated with both yourselves and with American Primitive in future?

Aaron wasn’t a co-founder, that’s him trying to rewrite history… as usual. Let’s nip that shit in the butt now… I started the site myself and like a year later he started helping. Joe was involved before he was. As far as Aaron goes, I can’t tell you much. I haven’t talked to or seen that dude in ten years… Except at Alvin’s funeral wearing a baggy ass suit. He didn’t feel the need to talk to any of us and that’s where we’re at. Which is fine. So yeah… We’ve got a better chance of getting involved with Bettlejuice Green to be honest. Beetle, if you’re reading this, hit us up my guy.

What inspired you to work on, and release your Past Lives photo zine project?

It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I shot those photos… I’m not really sure why it took me this long. Finally doing it may have had something to do with Alvin’s death and seeing The Icarus Line Must Die on the screen. I was also at a point where I just really needed to finish a project. This zine seemed like a doable one, so I bought a cheap scanner and just started to scan all of my negatives. But I got bored about half way through and was just like, “I’m just gonna make something out of what I’ve got here…” And that’s what Past Lives became. It wasn’t what I had imagined when I started, a lot of my favorite photos aren’t in it because I haven’t even scanned em yet. And about half of the photos that did make it in the zine, I’d never printed before. Didn’t even remember them. But it’s cool and I’m really proud of it. At some point I’ll do a part two but it’ll be sometime next year cuz I need a break from old shit. it’s just hard because a lot of my photos are of people that aren’t around anymore, in one way or another. As as much as I like them, they’re also kinda heavy for me.

You’re one of the more prominent LA scensters who has done a great deal in documenting the LA music scene via your Buddyhead website. Given that Buddyhead no longer exists, what are the chances of you releasing a “Best of Buddyhead” book that collates some of the best writings and features that were once published on the website?

Uhhhh yeah, I might do a Buddyhead book next year. I’ve got a few friends who helped with the site that wanna help knock it out but I’ve gotta be in the mood to do it first. It’ll be a greatest hits with some extra shit you’ve never seen if it happens. But there will most likely be a Buddyhead / Icarus Line doc out before that which should be cool. Been a fan of the director since my teenage years where I saw his photos in skateboard magazines.

In 2015, you tweeted that you were working on a book that would act as “a memoir about moving to LA at 17, starting Buddyhead & touring around the world. Also plenty of my thoughts on music”. Do you have an update on this, and when can we expect to see a book on your writings and life?

Yeah I wrote a bunch of stuff but honestly it just wasn’t very good. Writing a book was a lot harder than I thought, haha. But it’s still something I’d like to do, I just wasn’t really in the right frame of mind to even be writing a book back then. Looking back it’s not a surprise to me now that what I wrote sucked. It’ll come out if I ever figure out how to make it good. I’m not in a hurry for that one. Plenty of other things are coming out that will tell parts of that story so we’ll be good on old shit for a while.

A lot of people have stated that the music industry is dead, with The Icarus Line being the last of the great rock and roll bands. As a big music fan, and as someone who has been associated with the record label industry since 2000, how have you seen the commercial viability of rock music change over the years? How has the LA rock scene adapted to this, and what advice would you give to rock musicians who want to carve out a veritable niche for themselves whilst remaining financially solvent?

I don’t listen to rock music at all anymore. That kinda sums it up, yeah? I have no idea what the LA rock scene is doing, don’t care either. I did that. We did that. I wouldn’t give advice to a rock musician because it would bum them out, and there’s just no reason to do that.

You’ve seen some pretty wild things over the course of your formative music years. What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve ever witnessed in the name of rock and roll – either onstage, backstage, or on the road?

After a while nothing seems outrageous, ya know? Plus those aren’t the kind of stories I give away on a blog. Ya know?

During your entire 41 years of existence, what have been the biggest lessons that life has ever imparted on you? What are your proudest moments and biggest regrets?

Not really answering this one either. I don’t have any regrets, all my mistakes made me who I am and got me to where I am now. I’m proud of it all, fuck-ups and victories. I’m proud of my friends, alive and dead. I’m proud of what we were, what we said, what we did and how we did it. We didn’t compromise. That’s fucking rare.

What are your hopes and dreams going forward, and what kind of person do you want to be remembered for in ten years time?

I hope I can stay alive so I don’t have to be remembered.

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