HEALTH: “We Don’t Want to Let Off the Gas Pedal”

The cult industrial/noise rock trio HEALTH recently dropped visited Istanbul as part of their Rat Girl Summer tour. We chatted with bassist/producer John Famiglietti for a brief 10 minutes backstage before the gig.

From your Instagram stories, I am guessing you are really enjoying your time in Istanbul right now.

John Famiglietti: Of course. Yeah. We’re excited to be back. It was great the last time, which is a very long time ago.

Do you have fond memories of the previous times?

The first time we came here, the plane couldn’t land in Istanbul. It landed in Ankara by emergency because of the fog. So we were just in Ankara, stranded. We knew a person there. We rented a car and drove from Ankara to Istanbul. The person renting us the car was like, “Don’t rent the car. You will die! You cannot survive a drive in Turkey.” But we did it anyway. We drove overnight. No sleep.

We got to Istanbul, played a show, and then we went to an incredible birthday party with this legendary german DJ, and later to this incredible bar on the Asian side of Istanbul, where they had a live tortoise. The whole time we were here was kind of like the best experiences as a band. The first time was very idyllic and we did a lot of tourist stuff, too. We were here for a few days. We’ve always been wanting to come back.

I’m glad that you’re back. Obviously, your most recent album is RAT WARS. Going back to the album-making process, can you name two tracks, one easiest and one hardest to finalize?

Let me think. With RAT WARS, we really went through so many generations of revising everything so many times. So I don’t know. I guess “SICKO” was easy. That one is based around a sample.

Although, going back, nothing was easy. We went through so many generations of getting the production right. Even if the song was done, we went back many times. And nothing was particularly hard, just because of the way our process works.

A lot of times when we do the music, we’re like, “Hey, it sounds like this. We know it’s good. We will make it sound cool later. We’ll make it work later.”

Nowadays, more and more projects that make darker tones of music are becoming popular. Do you think that has something to do with the world getting sh.ttier and sh.ttier and more people realising that?

Oh, very possible. But you never know. If you watch the black metal documentaries, you’ll see that people who usually make the dark music come from really nice backgrounds, while people who make happy music have a really hard time. So I don’t know. However, for us, we’ve always been making this post-apocalypse music, and now it seems to be catching on. So probably yes. (both laugh) The time has caught up. The tide has caught up to the music.

Music audiences are becoming more embracing of different genres as well. I interviewed Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu a few years back, who also collaborated with you-

Yeah. We’re a big, huge fans. We go way back with them.

He told me this: “When I was a kid, no jock would listen to The Cure, ever. Or no white kid would listen to hip-hop. Now everybody listens to everything.” That’s a positive thing, right?

Well, it depends. I mean, everything has its pros and cons. It’s great that you could say “I am a punk, I’m metalhead, and now I need to fight you!” or something like that. While that’s not a positive thing, it’s great for music because it really authentic. Now you can kind of jump around however you want, which is nice. You can be a lot more reasonable. That’s positive. And no matter how weird or how ridiculous it is, it is good for people to have great meaning in my music.

Yet I love the thought of people being so passionate on music that they would incite violence. (laughs) Not that it’s a good idea, but for instance when Rites of Spring emerged, they were f.cking ripping seats out. That caused riots. It was just so shocking.

It’s great that everyone listens everything, and that’s how we operate. That’s where we live in. We’ve been a very modern internet band, and we’re only existing to this day because of that. So it’s good for us. But I do love the thought of people being that crazy and going “It’s not just music! It’s more than that!” Probably not the best thing, though. Being a hardcore punk fan in 1983, you could get the shit kicked out of you for having long hair. It was a little bit ridiculous.

You have collaborated with lots of artists so far. Off the top of your head, can you name one artist or project you haven’t collaborated with yet but would love to someday?

There’s tons, and they don’t have to be huge. There’s all kinds of artists we admire. We’d love to work with some, and some we are working with right now. We don’t want to tell you, but-

So that’s a secret for now?

Yeah. We will either have another album or more collabs relatively soon.

Or maybe an album of collaborations?

No. I don’t want to spill the beans, but I think we would love to do another album of originals as soon as possible, way faster than anyone thinks, and then start doing collabs. Basically, we are very excited right now. We don’t want to let off the gas pedal.

If you have access to your streaming platform’s search history right now, can you name the last three streamed songs?

There is “Bleak” by Maenad Veyl. I think this song is a masterpiece, and it is the song that got me into EBSM. A very dark, mid tempo dance music. He was a big influence on our music, and we ended up doing a collab with him. It’s a song called “IDENTITY”, which we open our sets with. So I’m a huge fan of that song.

There is “Step-Grandma” by Salvatore Ganacci.  He’s a really comedic DJ who makes great dance music, and he’s hilarious. For this song, he even has a music video that’s super comical and high budget.

I’ll check it out.

Do that. It’s super funny, but I think it’s really great dance music, too.

And finally, there is a song by Pantera. I love Pantera. (laughs)

An eclectic list of songs.

Yeah. These are all also on my own playlist. I make a playlist of songs with ideas that I want to echo in our music. And all three of these songs just happen to be on the same playlist.

Let’s imagine we’re 100 years into the future at a musicians memorial park, where lots of artists have their own memorial stone with a lyric by them written on top of it. If you have a specific lyric you would have loved to see on that stone, which one would it be, do you think?

Man, the level of a thought experiment! This is just astronomical. I don’t know.

I’ll choose the most logical one. Our most popular song on Spotify is “Major Crimes.” So if nothing else happens, that’ll probably remain the most popular. A great lyric from that is: “Life’s short / Why does it take so long?”, which is a great thing to have on your headstone. How about that?

You can check out HEALTH’s Bandcamp profile here.