(Our man BadWolf interviews Jeff Lohrber of Enabler; he also took the photos in this post at Enabler’s show in Detroit at The Loving Touch on June 10, 2014.)
In the months since Inquisitiongate (can we agree on that as the formal term?), it seems like virtually any extreme metal band could come under fire for suspicion of racism—Dragonforce and Bölzer have both come under fire as of late, and rebuffed those accusation with varying degrees of success.
Let’s scratch one band off the suspicion list: Enabler are not racist. In a brief conversation with Jeff Lohrber, guitarist/vocalist of the three-piece crust outfit, he made that much perfectly clear, alongside talking about his love of classic rock and breaking down my favorite track on what very well might be my favorite record of the year, La Fin Absolue Du Monde.
To begin, things I didn’t notice at Maryland Deathfest: not only do you have a Today is the Day tattoo, but you have an Ohio knuckle tattoo.
What’s up with that?
Well, I’ve been in Today’s the Day three times now. I’m currently the drummer for the band, and I grew up in Ohio.
Around Dayton. I actually live back in Ohio again. We were in Milwaukee. We started in Milwaukee but we’re based out of Ohio now. We have one member who lives in Milwaukee still.
Where do you live, Dayton?
No, I live in the middle of nowhere.
In the middle of nowhere?
I’m staying with my parents, about an hour northwest of Columbus. I haven’t been home that much. I mean, I have a room at my parent’s house that my shit’s in right now and . . .
That’s about it.
Yeah. I haven’t really been home enough to restart again.
So your other inner arm tattoo is The Harlots.
You were in The Harlots?
Yeah, I played the drums. The Harlots was my band before I started Enabler. Those are my best friends. That wasn’t the first band I had to work with, but it was the first band that I had worked from the ground up with my friends and toured a lot. When I was 19 I was in Today is the Day and Harlots and I was out an entire summer or more working with those bands. It just seemed like a cool thing to do at the time.
Then you’re a heavy metal lifer?
How is that going?
It’s cool, man. I mean, you’re doing what you want to do, right?
I am. I’m here talking to you. I’m doing what I want to do.
I love this kind of music. I always will. I’ve always been a heavy metal fan since I was a little kid. I’d say what I’m listening to more nowadays is a little definitely more on the classic rock kind of trip just because I spend so much time with this kind of music.
You can hear that a little bit on the new record.
Yeah, we love rock and roll. I’ve always loved rock and roll. When I was a kid my favorite bands were AC/DC, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, and you name it. That was what I grew up on and then it was like Metallica, Pantera, and there you go kind of thing.
Right, the same evolution many fans take.
But I’ve always loved, like, KISS. I’ve always fucking loved KISS. If you can’t tell, there’s a giant KISS banner on our fucking van.
Our new drummer, who’s been in the band for about a year now, he also grew up with the same kind of upbringing. His dad plays in cover bands and he definitely comes from that kind of school.
One of the things on that tip for the new record was . . . I’ve been caught up playing extreme metal for a long time and I love it, but the last couple Satyricon records definitely kind of got the idea in my head that I can play rock and roll in this aspect, in this genre. I can have those rock and roll influences, the things that got me into music, the AC/DC hooks. I can put those into what we’re doing with this, which is a pretty extreme form of metal. It’s very pissed, very in-your-face, very off-kilter kind of thing, so it’s cool to be playing that kind of stuff, where we have four-on-the-floor songs, because that’s what I grew up listening to. It’s the simplest beat in the world, but the one thing I’ll say about that, too, is that it’s as a simple a beat in the world, but it takes a good drummer to play it fucking right because if you’re off-time . . .
Yeah. You have to be a human metronome to play that beat correctly, and not every drummer, especially guys who play like Dillinger Escape Plan kind of shit, they focus too much on all the crazy shit and they can’t play . . .
The simple beats, right! It’s funny. My bass teacher, and the first thing he taught me was “Runnin’ with the Devil,” which is one fucking note. He was like, ‘Okay. Let’s see if you can play it in-time for three-and-a-half minutes.’ I’m all, ‘I can do that,’ and then three minutes in I’m like, ‘I’m going too slow. Why?’
Yeah, that’s the human element brought into it, but that’s the thing. Playing on-time is such an important thing. Yeah, we all really like rock and roll and I’d say that’s more of what we’re listening to while we’re driving and everything.
We’re at shows every night. We’re seeing Eyehategod every night. It’s fucking awesome. They’re an amazing band, but it’s fucking loud. But, I don’t want to step into a van and listen to fucking Cannibal Corpse right after I get out of a fucking Eyehategod show. I need to let my ears chill for a second because it’s just too much.
I think it’s important too . . . a lot of kids that get into this, I definitely went through that phase where I was like, ‘I’m going to write off everything that’s not fucking hardcore,’ and whatever kind of metal that I was into, this genre. It’s like, ‘No, fuck that.’ When I got a little older it’s, like, it’s important to listen to the shit that got you into this, that got me into music in the first place. It’s important to keep that alive, no matter what any fucking person says, I think so at least.
My best friends and I have a rule. We’ve established this over years of going to see metal shows together. Our rule is: going to the show we only listen to old school hip-hop. That’s it, no matter what. It’s NWA, it’s A Tribe Called Quest. It doesn’t matter what show it is. On the way back it’s only ever the band we just went to see, that’s it.
I would probably do it the opposite way.
You know, it’s served us really well, actually. Okay, so I did want to talk to you about your lyrics. They’re super fucking affecting to me. Where were you coming from on Le Fin Absolue Du Monde?
Just calling it like I see it, man. There’s nothing special. I write a song and I definitely always have a vocal idea. Sometimes it’s challenging to fit the words that you want to say into a pattern, you know? But it just comes from the heart, simple shit. A lot of people ask what the sci-fi twist is, or the horror movie kind of obsession twist is and it’s like . . .
Is there one?
No, there’s not. There is in some of the song titles. The song titles are named after John Carpenter flicks.
The John Carpenter short film, that’s where the name of the record comes from.
Right, but the one thing that I always think is that I write the lyrics just from the heart, just calling it like I see it. It’s nice to be behind the microphone because it’s, like, ‘you know what? This is my time. I’m here behind the microphone and you’re going to listen to what I have to say. If you don’t like it, there’s the door.’
People always kind of wonder, if there’s a twist or a theme to it. There’s no theme. What I kind of think is that with horror and sci-fi, sci-fi is kind of the idea of what could be horror is kind of like the experimentation of what humans can actually do, but instead of acting on that you’re creating something with it. I think that it’s always kind of like writing lyrics and then finding things that it kind of applies to, finding similar ideas within different books, movies, or whatever.
Well, let’s take, for example, because it’s like my favorite song, “Sickened by the Wake.”
“Sickened by the Wake” is kind of a play on words. There was the Sikh shooting in Milwaukee a couple years ago.
When you lived in Milwaukee?
Yeah, when I lived in Milwaukee still. I was working at a moving company and there’s a super-racist fucker. I was his boss. He was way older than me, but he gets in the truck with me and he says something like, ‘I’d like to congratulate the motherfucker who went and did that. It’s a fucking courageous thing of him to do,’ and I’m just looking at him like, ‘You are fucking insane.’ It’s courageous to walk into a place of worship that helps these people do whatever—like any fucking faith—and shoot unarmed fucking children? That’s courageous? It just fucking ruined my day. I was just fucking pissed off all day. I can’t fucking believe he said that.
There’s a lot of puns in the lyrics. Like, “He wore a white face covered in hate.” You see like the Nazi skinheads. They have all the face tattoos with all that kind of shit on it. There’s a lot of plays on words there, but it’s really the frustration that people can be that ignorant about things that don’t even matter. Who fucking cares? If people want to have any kind of religion I don’t care. It’s not even a thing to me. That’s just who that person is and I’m who I am, so why does it fucking matter to people, you know? It doesn’t make any sense to me why people get so caught up on things that don’t affect them.
It’s almost like there’s people in the government that just want us to fight about shit like abortion and gay rights and not focus on what they’re actually doing, like contaminating our food essentially and all the crazy shit like that. They want us to fight. They want to split the population between two different sides and have us fight about things that don’t fucking matter at all. How does it affect you if some fucking woman gets a fucking abortion? It doesn’t affect you. It affects her. So who cares? If she wants to go do that, it doesn’t affect you. You can still not like it.
It’s the same idea of: in this country, if you want to be racist you can be fucking racist, but you can’t go shoot people because they have a different skin color than you. But if you want to be racist, you have the freedom to do that, and just go to your corner and let the other people go to their corner, and fucking whatever, man.
It just doesn’t matter. It’s just things that do not matter at all. It’s amazing to me that these things are still issues, you know? Like, people having different skin color, that’s a new thing? It’s, like, fuck off, you know? People have had different skin colors for thousands of fucking years. You know what I mean? Oh, someone’s gay. There’s a guy who likes dudes. Well, you know what? He’s with his boyfriend. He’s not hitting on you. What the fuck? Just leave him alone, you know what I mean?
I’ve heard so many ignorant statements in that kind of regard. That was just kind of the catalyst. That experience at work was the catalyst for that. It’s like the only antiracist song I’ve ever written, but I like those lyrics a lot. I like singing that song. I like the groove of the song too. It’s got an AC/DC thing going on with it.
You were talking about the four-on-the-floor before…
The whole song is four-on-the-floor.
I know. It works to its benefit.
It’s awesome. It’s got the simplest drumbeat ever but it’s just, like, let’s keep the drums on time and make the fucking riffs and the lyrics powerful.