Pachinko plays Maximum Ink's Halloween Spooktakular
photo by Mary Sweeney Photography
Named after a Japanese pinball machine, punk/metal hybrids, PACHINKO, combines the brutality and technical precision of metal with the wild abandon of punk rock. Formed by Wisconsin punk rock label Bovine Records founder, Steve Wipfli in the early 90s and featuring Magma (Michael Henry) from stoner metal Madison legends, BONGZILLA, PACHINKO has been led by vocalist/guitarist Brian Brech for over two decades. After signing to Jello Biafra’s (DEAD KENNEDYS) record label, Alternative Tentacles, and touring the US and Europe, the band has endured a series of lineup changes and took a hiatus in the mid-2000s. They’ve recently reformed and we talked to Brian Brech about where the band is going.
Maximum Ink: PACHINKO’s been out of circulation for a few years, what have you guys been up to?
Brian Brech: It depends on the band member, but we’ve been avoiding jail/raising families.
MI: What was the genesis of the band?
BB: Sean Wipfli had the idea to get some of his pals into a band with himself. We all played locally but didn’t really know each other. We owe him some thanks for his horrible idea.
MI: How’d you guys get hooked up with Alternative Tentacles?
BB: Original bass player, Matt Quigle, and Biafra were in touch, Biafra liked us for some reason. We toured the West Coast and met with Biafra and label dude Greg Werkman, they offered to do a single and see how it went. We ended up doing a few singles and compilations and two full lengths. We’ve had a standing offer for years to do a third full length, but, honestly I don’t know how we’ll release it.
MI: You guys have toured extensively, what’s your favorite live show experience?
BB: For me, one of the highlights was a Saturday night CBGBs (the legendary Manhattan punk rock birthplace/venue) gig that had us joining FOETUS (Australian industrial pioneer Jim Thirwell), ULTRA BIDÉ, and Steve from ALICE DONUT (Alternative Tentacles label mates) on stage for their final song, “Africa”, which if you’ve seen or heard, you know how powerful it is. Post show, we went to the Mars Bar around the corner and drank until dawn (we were on the jukebox, blew my mind). Kudos to FOETUS for having the balls to flip me shit while we played (of course, I shut him down!)
MI: From when the band started to now, how have you guys changed musically (if you have)?
BB: I think lineup changes affect a band’s songwriting more than anything else, and to that I’ve been really lucky having amazing, intelligent friends playing it with me. Other than that our music is very much by design, we’ve never blindly followed a set formula established within a scene. Our first and second records were produced to have very different soundscapes. I think our third, considering who I’m writing with, will be another varied fever dream.
MI:What’s the best song to listen to for someone’s first Pachinko experience?
BB: Ballad of Bon Scott Mominee
MI: What’s that track about?
BB: It is a spirited dirge about my relationship with an old friend in the 90s and recounts a few of our tales including acid-tinged knife fighting, drug-addled fist fighting whilst rolling down cement stairs and him eventually screwing my wife. The song does however have many PACHINKO design elements, as Tim Gunn (*Project Runway* host) would say: Abrasive vocals, fast punk rock riffs, spaced out Greg Norman (PACHINKO’s longitme bassist) bass solo and Magma going “ribbit ribbit” with a bunch of frogs.
MI: What’s up next for the band?
BB: The impetus is a “want” to tour Europe. The organic process is to record, release and see where it takes us. We are charming purveyors of snake oil. Magma’s been to japan with BONGZILLA and until this outfit makes it there, he will be ostracized within the group.
MI: As a band that’s toured extensively around the world, what’s your live show like?
BB: We are mean, witty, nervous, powerful, at times scary. PACHINKO shows are a balance of what is happening and what might happen.