Is there anything – anything – more adventurous than being in a punk-rock band? Roaming the land with your comrades in an old van filled with guitars and bits of drum kits, sleeping on any old couch you find along the way and drinking every night until the sun comes up? Sounds like a dream. In fact, it was the dream of Greg Ahee, guitar player for angsty Detroit post-punk outfit Protomartyr, had when he was a child. Now let’s find out if that dream came true (spoiler alert: it did)
Phone interview by Koen van Bommel. Photos shot by Aaron Wynia in Toronto, Canada.
Hey Greg! So, what was the most epic adventure fantasy you had as a child?
Uh, well. I’m not very adventurous, but let me think. My mind isn’t really working, because I just woke up. Probably… shit, I don’t know.
There must be something…
Well, I’ve always wanted to be in, like, a travellers’ band and travel across the world. I think that is about as epic and creative as my mind got. I never really dreamed about climbing mountains, going to space or anything like that. I’ve kept my dreams relatively realistic.
But travelling around the world is pretty adventurous by any standard, isn’t it?
Well, you see, I like travelling, but I’m not very outdoorsy and I’m not much of an explorer.
So how adventurous do your travels actually get?
Sleeping in a different random place every night. We try not to stay in too many hotels, so it’s usually someone’s couch in a different city every night and meeting completely new people, so yeah, it’s definitely an adventure in that way.
You said you’ve always wanted to be in a band and travel the world. Tell me what that looked like in your head.
It was always my dream to put out an album. That was before vinyl made a comeback, so I just wanted to get a CD out and then I wanted to go on tour. And at a point I always wanted to make a living doing that. But as I got older I realised that isn’t very realistic.
‘I’ve always wanted to be in a travellers’ band and travel across the world… that is about as epic and creative as my mind got’
Sounds like you’ve already accomplished a lot of your dreams.
Well, yeah, but you set new goals once you’ve completed your original ones. Right now I’m very excited about going to Europe. Because once we had toured the US that felt like the next logical step. I mean, we’ve all been there, but just to visit. It would be much more rewarding to actually go there with a purpose. After that, I don’t know. We’ll try write a better record than the last one. So we just keep working, and we try not to take any breaks. We realise our time as a band might be… limited.
The image of a band going on tour and having adventures and whatnot, is that image romanticised? I mean, do the adventures you have and the good times et cetera weigh up against the boredom and frustration of being on the road?
I mean, we definitely have a great time, overall. But I would say absolutely it’s romanticised, because the vast majority of your day is spent either in a van or trying to find the bathroom or just sitting around a venue, waiting for a soundcheck and it can take its toll, just the amount of waiting you have to do. Sitting around is a big part of touring. And it can be frustrating to not always know where you’re going to sleep, because we don’t have the money to spend on hotels. But the good times and the fun and the people you meet; that, for us, makes it all worth it. But I think the way I view the whole process is that you shouldn’t see it as some sort of non-stop party, but see it more like a kind of work. And then afterwards, when you’re having fun, it’s even more rewarding.
That makes sense. So how about an adventurous anecdote to finish the interview with?
We were in Chicago after a show with our friends from Cloud Nothings and our drummer had this magnet shaped like a dog and we started playing this game where we’d take the magnet and throw it at our car and try to land the magnet perfectly on the car. That didn’t really work out, as we were all pretty drunk. After a while, a small crowd gathered around us and everyone was cheering and being very loud. Suddenly, the cops showed up and we thought we were gonna get arrested for throwing a dog magnet at a car. The guys from Cloud Nothings just took off, so it was just us and the cops. Luckily a friend of ours talked the cops out of arresting us. That would have been a pretty embarrassing reason to get arrested, as a rock band.
Protomartyr play on 09 August at De Nieuwe Anita in Amsterdam. The show is free for Subbacultcha! members