In preparation for Leftover Crack’s show at the North Park Observatory with Anti-Flag, War on Woman, Blackbird Raum, and The Homeless Gospel Choir on Friday Feb. 26th; Mitch Gets the inside scoop with Stza (Leftover Crack, Choking Victim, and Star Fucking Hipsters). In this exchange we talk about Leftover Crack’s new album Constructs of the State, squat houses, stuffed animals, books, and Wu-Tang Clan!
Now that it’s been a few months since the newest LÖC album, Constructs of the State (which is awesome) was released. What kind of responses have you guys been getting to the album?
Generally we’ve been getting really positive feedback & reviews. Occasionally, there will be something written that is not flattering, but, upon further reading, I feel like some of those pieces come from folks who either haven’t listened to the record or have some type of prejudice & seem to give it a cursory listen. I’d certainly be interested in a negative criticism by somebody that has actually paid attention to the content. Folks seem to be into the new songs at our shows though.
You guys had a lot of guest artists contribute to this album. Was that always the plan once you guys decided to start recording?
No, I mean, we always love to have a wide variety of people on our records as we have a lot of different influences. I also find it simpler to include as many folks that we care about & respect in the creative/recording process than to make a “thank you” list or try to explain the “who & what” in an interview that will not be as solid of a “record” as our liner-notes strive to be. It’s mostly coincidental as to who ends up on the album at the end of the process, but I certainly had the time & motivation to track a lot of the folks on this record down. There are only two people/bands that I attempted to contact for collaborations that I couldn’t make happen… Maybe next time?
What is your favorite song to perform live from the new album now that you’ve started touring with the new material?
I like “Slave to the Throne” because I love thrash metal & am really proud of our band for really having the chops to pull it off & play it live as well as we recorded it. “Last Legs” is another that feels great to play. Both songs had the most minimal contributions from myself compared to the rest of the new record & our past songs. So, maybe that has a bit to do with my affinity? In that I’m very proud to have friends that are great song writers & I feel as if justice has been done with my personal meddling on those tracks.
On a more personal note, I’ve read you’re a pretty big reader. What are you reading at the moment?
I am reading “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander after finishing the remarkable “Chasing the Scream” by Johan Hari. I have a few books in my sights for our upcoming tours including the new Haruki Marakami. I thoroughly enjoyed “the whispering bodies” by Jesse Michaels which I read quickly a few months ago & I cannot recommend enough to those that covet wit & irreverent humor. Before that I read “Travels with Charlie” by my favorite author John Steinbeck who holds that place in my heart & mind directly beside the fantastic genius of Kurt Vonnegut Jr..
Through the grape vine I’ve heard the name Stza is actually a tribute to Wu-tang Clan (if true). Were they a big influence for you musically or was it just sort of a funny way to make up a name?
I grew up in & around the origins of hip-hop & punk rock having been born & raised in NYC during the late 1970’s. I always liked the first “rap” that I heard, but, in the late ’80’s, with Public Enemy, KRS 1 & the Zulu nation folks (Tribe & De La) I became enthralled & by the time ’90’s hip-hop hit the world, I was hooked for life. At that time, music still retained a regional identity just before corporations like Clear Channel homogenized the country’s radio waves & general musical tastes. Mobb Deep, Grave Diggaz & their affiliates including Wu-Tang took the increasingly original musicality of the genre to a new level in the wake of the Biz Markie “sample crisis” which put a halt to sampling popular music for a while. Dark & eery music along with dark & intelligent lyrics hooked the whole city & as a soundtrack to the PCP smoke, forget it. By the time Old Dirty Bastard released his first solo record “return to the 36 chambers…”, I fully embraced hip hop as a crusty, squatting, dust-smoking, misanthropic nihilist in my early 20’s. Putting a “za” after your names first consonant was an old B-boy thing & I started tagging STZA under a generic fish sketch on Freight trains & in Squats mostly. It’s just one of those “jokes” that was kind of a temporary nickname. One of many whimsical nomenclatures that I used. Honestly, if I knew that Wu Tang would last so long or become such a huge pop culture dynasty, I wouldn’t of used it. But, I suppose I could have done worse.
A lot of your fans might have seen or heard of some of your stuffed sidekicks like Jitters and Bezby, what’s the story behind those fuzzy little friends?
They are reliable & low maintenance. I’ve never had a pet animal or a child for that matter. I can talk to these characters without the burden of actual responsibility. It definitely goes back to when I was younger & did not have any friends. I feel slightly saner talking to them than just talking to myself I suppose…
Since it’s that time of year again when crooked politicians see who can slime their way to the top… Do you think our particular countries elections are any real basis for electing government officials or just a popularity contest designed to raise money for the already wealthy (news stations, political parties receiving donations, etc.)?
The electoral process is not only a bit more complex than the populace is led to believe, but I also feel that this kind of puppet show acts as a litmus test for how far the unchanging power structures can push the state, country & world policies in a direction that always benefits the wealthy & powerful of this broken system. I don’t think there is any pretense about them losing their positions as much as there is a worry about how quickly & blatantly they can destroy & profit. With the exception of some of the public social media trends, corporate media is completely compromised by the poisons of money & censorship.
I know you’ve been involved with the Alameda County Superior Court case when they (allegedly) illegally foreclosed on a squat property. How has the case been going?
I’m pretty sure that a condition of our recent settlement includes a stipulation that I can’t discuss the outcome with outside parties… I feel like we did pretty good in the long run though. I always have C squat for better or worse…
What advice can you offer people so they can protect their squats from similar circumstances?
Establish occupation by postmarked mail as soon as possible & save those documents/envelopes in addition to any power, water or gas bills that you might pay if you’re not pirating it all. Look up the property’s legal status. Who “owns” it, are the property/land taxes being paid? There are cases where you can pay the back taxes & have a right to “possess” the property over any former owner that has defaulted on their payments… A year of proven occupation is great, but 5 years is really key in a lot of places to making the banks/governments/delinquent landlord’s “home” yours…
Any final words for our readers?
I look forward to seeing everybody down in San Diego. End the war on drugs California! We’re almost there!!!
I’d like to thank Sturgeon (Stza) for taking the time to do this interview with me and Fat Wreck Chords for making it possible. I know you don’t have anything better to do on Friday night so come hang out with the San Diego Punk community at the Observatory North Park to see Leftover Crack play with Anti-Flag! Tickets are available at the link below! Stay tuned for Mitch’s interview with Anti-Flag and all the album reviews, concert breakdowns and more at SanDiegoPunk.com!
For Tickets visit TicketWeb
For the latest Leftover Crack news:
Official Site: fatwreck.com/band/index/87
Interview by Mitch McSteamy