HEALTH (John Famiglietti) “We probably should have worn more black.”

While often appearing in the typical indie rock clubs, HEALTH's music shouldn't be reduced to the label "indie rock." They don't play catchy little pop songs with "unusual instrumentation," and they are most certainly not the next Arcade Fire. Instead, HEALTH play noisy noisy rock. Sometimes downright bizarre and other times a little scary, HEALTH effortlessly meld otherworldly shrieks with pummeling drums and space-age guitar sounds. And it's totally badass.

So badass, in fact, that Trent Reznor asked them to hop on tour with him. Yeah, that's right, Reznor somehow decided that HEALTH would be the perfect opening act for Nine Inch Nails. Unexpected? Perhaps. But it's nonetheless amazing.

HEALTH bassist/noisemaker John Famiglietti kindly took the time to talk with me about their first arena-sized tour.


After generating your fair share of underground buzz for your debut album -- getting the hip blog write-ups and touring indie rock clubs -- you've suddenly been given the opportunity to jump on tour with the platinum-selling, stadium-rocking band, Nine Inch Nails. How the hell do you respond to that?

It's pretty weird, yeah. But it's pretty rad. I don't think anyone would have predicted it.

How many shows have you played with them so far?

Only three so far. We've got one tonight, and I think there's a total of eight.

What's it been like taking a show honed in basements and clubs to an arena-sized audience?

You realize there's a lot of things that are different with an arena-sized crowd. When things are that size, there are a lot of things that you wouldn't have considered that become an issue with making shows translate on a bigger scale. It really opens your eyes about why arena bands have to do certain things and why shows are set up certain ways and why there's a light show. It really makes you think about your own music very differently, and it gives you a lot of respect when you realize why certain bands at that level have to do certain things.

Have you changed anything in your set to accommodate?

Yeah, it was Trent's idea after our second show. They've got this insane, fucking mind-blowing light setup. He reminded us that there's a fucking screen behind us, and he'd love to set up cameras so the show will translate more. Just the nature of our music and who we're playing for, no one really gets what we're doing for good reason, because you can't see it. The cameras last night seemed to work really well. It's pretty cool.

I read in a previous interview that you tend to get sassier as the crowds get bigger -- have you reached shocking new levels of sass on this tour?

It's different because usually when the crowds are getting bigger, they're getting stoked and they're getting amped, and it's a natural byproduct. This crowd's a lot bigger, and there are a lot of people who are really into it and are cheering -- and then you get two dudes with handlebar mustaches saying, "Fuck you. Where's Reznor? You guys suck." Or any specific heckles like, "Throw in some Discipline." We've been recording some specific ones.

You'll have to hold on to those.


But you have gotten a good response from a good portion of the crowd?

Yeah, actually we have. It's surprising, we were expecting none, and it's actually been really, really good, a lot better than we thought. It's different city to city, but it's been pretty rad actually.

How have the NIN fans compared to the fans you typically play to?

Completely different, and that's also a really cool thing. The crowds you typically play to when you play indie rock or whatever, mainstream crowds, especially Nine Inch Nails crowds, are totally different from others. They're totally unique fans with a completely different mindset. For any band with any underground appeal, you're pretty much not giving them anything they want, so it's been interesting. It's very, very different, and it really opens your mind to how different music is for different people, even something you think is similar like alternative rock music.

Have you had any particularly notable experiences with any of the fans?

The really amazing thing is how dedicated some of the fans are. They'll go to show after show, driving several hours, and at load-in, which is really early, they'll come up to you and say, "Hey, are you in the opening band?" They'll just start talking and say, "Yeah, fucking Nine Inch Nails changed my life in 1989, and I've seen them like 13 times." They'll just talk to you and get photos with you and ask you a million questions. They have just crazy, crazy dedication, which is pretty awesome.

Have you gotten a chance to hang out with Trent and the band at all?

They are very busy, but yeah, Trent came and talked to us after our show, which was really cool because they totally don't have to do it. They came and watched our show, which was awesome, and they talked to us about it. There is a lot of work to do at all times; it's insane just how much crew and how many people are working around the clock with no sleep to make this possible. It really makes you respect things. It's like, "Holy shit, that's a lot of work." They don't fuck around.

Learn any sage advice from Trent?

Nothing specific.

So your next record will be totally industrial, right?

[Laughs] We've been described that way before, but no, it's not.

Speaking of your next record, your debut full-length was recorded at LA venue The Smell in the early morning. I'm guessing that was a difficult process?

Yeah, it fucking sucked.

Do you think you'll be able to find a more difficult way to record the next album?

I don't want to. We want to eliminate difficulty. I don't want to ever record there again, and we don't want to have any recording situation like that ever again. We're going to be a in a studio, with an engineer. We found a place, and it's actually very acoustically similar to The Smell. It's got concrete walls and high ceilings, and it's actually in LA.

Fashion seems to be a pretty integral part of your art; not just what you wear, but the clothes you sell. How does that fashion interact with your music?

I don't know that interacts is the right word, but it's an extension of the aesthetic. It's the way you think about the music, which has always been the case in almost any genre of music. It's an extension of the artwork, of the aesthetic of the album cover; it's the whole mood and style of the band. So yeah, it is important. It's uniform, clothes, and the album and whatever. I think it's a pretty big deal.

Have the Nine Inch Nails fans responded well to the visual aspect as well?

No. They have not. We probably should have worn more black. We brought all the black versions of our t-shirts.

What's next for HEALTH? A new record or a tour with Ozzy Osbourne?

[Laughs] That would be fucking something, but the new record is the highest priority. The second we get back, we've got two more songs to write, and then we're going to record. That's what we're doing. We've got to finish this tour, then we've got a few shows with of Montreal, and then we're not playing any shows until '09, until the record's released.

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