Napalm Dream: An Intervew with Tenement’s Amos Pitsch

by | Oct 20, 2012 | MUSIC

Tenement is a three-piece noisy pop punk band from a small town in Wisconsin called Appleton.

Tenement is a three-piece noisy pop punk band from a small town in Wisconsin called Appleton. Guitar player and vocalist Amos Pitsch is probably the most talented musician you’ve never heard of. Scorching solos work their way into catchy, riffy hooks with gruff, lo-fi vocals that make me think of what it would be like if the Kinks had been a Ramones-core band. When he’s not playing guitar, Pitsch is usually doing something music related. Tenement just
got back from tour with Chicago’s Chinese Telephones, for whom Pitsch played drums during the tour.

His room, located on the top floor of the BFG House, Appleton’s main house show venue, is indicative of his lifestyle. Some recording equipment is set up on a desk, with a computer that doesn’t connect to the internet. There are several tape players and a record player connected to a stereo, and the only other real furniture in the room are some shelves which provide haven for Pitsch’s vast record collection. When I enter the room, he’s listening to the Four Tops. He doesn’t have a bed, but there are some sleeping mats folded in the corner. Recently, Amos was nice enough to turn the music down for long enough to have a brief conversation with me about Tenement’s new album, drummers gone wrong, and the pros and cons of living in a small town.

Where did you learn to play guitar?

I don’t know, I guess I got an old Harmony guitar from a friend of mine when I was young and I learned from Ramones records and Descendents records.

You learned to play solos like that from Ramones records?
I don’t really consider the stuff I play conventional guitar. I don’t know, I never learned to play the way I do, I just kind of did it. I don’t know how to explain it any better than that.

Have you ever been tempted to leave Appleton? You have Chicago, Milwaukee,and Minneapolis all relatively nearby.
Usually only when I get back from tour. When I’m not away, I don’t really know what I’m missing. But in a way I grew up here and it just feels comfortable and I think that’s what happens to a lot of people that live here. Appleton is pretty
small but it’s also big enough where it stays interesting for as long as you want it to. You find a lot of older punk rocker dudes that stay here their whole lives. But, sometimes I do feel like moving out, but in a way it feels nice to be in a small
pond. I don’t know.

You seem to have a very anti-mp3 status. None of the original Tenement tracks can be found for download anywhere online. You don’t do CDs. It’s all strictly tape or vinyl. Why is that? Why are you so loyal to the older formats?
I don’t have the means to upload stuff onto the internet. I have a computer but it doesn’t have the internet. It has a CD burner but everything we’ve recorded has been onto tape and stuff like that so it all ends up on a cassette and it seems
easier to give people a cassette, to me at least, than it does to figure out how to get stuff off of a tape and onto a computer and onto the internet. So, we usually do tapes if it can’t be found on vinyl anymore.

Why did you guys go through a drummer change?
We were leaving for a short tour in summer of 2009 and the morning we were leaving we woke our drummer up and he was sleeping on my porch. He had been going through a rough time in his life – some girlfriend issues and working
for days at a time, trying to stay afloat because he had just moved to Madison from Appleton. We woke him up around 6 in the morning and he sat in my van and he just kind of got up and I think he lost his mind for a couple of hours, just
went crazy. I tried to talk to him about it and he doesn’t even understand it. He woke up and went over to Jesse and was talking gibberish to him, and asking him questions that didn’t make any sense. When Jesse didn’t understand him
he started choking him and slamming his head against my van. Jesse just told him to leave him alone and then he got angrier and punched out the windows in my van and ran into my house and punched out windows in my house and
taking shit off my walls and throwing it around and ripped the stove out of the wall and threw it across the room and pretty much my house was covered in blood everywhere. It looked like someone had been murdered. There were blood
splatters all over the house, the walls, the floor and the kitchen were covered in blood. So he goes out on my porch and was talking to a photo of his dog and asking him what he should do. He was covered in blood and crying and then
passed out in my front yard.

At that point, we hadn’t been getting along with him for a couple of months, there had been some incidents. In Minneapolis he had trashed someone’s drumset. He was just kind of being a jerk to us. It just wasn’t working out and at that point we decided to let him go. He was a great drummer and I think he fit our band really well. He’s in some good grind bands now. At that point we kind of had all kinds of drummers. We had been with him for a long time and he fit really well and it was really hard to adapt. Then we found Eric and I think he’s a really good fit. He might be a permanent drummer now.

When can we expect the full length out?
Hopefully by October or November, it should be mixed in August. It’s called Napalm Dream and after that should come a split single with the band Cheeky and a single on Toxic Pop from the same session we did with the LP. The LP is
coming out on Mandible Records on vinyl and Hang Up Records is doing the CD. I’ll be putting out a cassette of it, so it will be out on several formats.

Matt Ringer

Matt Ringer

A meat popsicle.

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