Revolver has Bone Cutter's debut self-titled 7-inch available for pre-order in limited-edition "oxblood and black swirl" vinyl. Quantities are limited to 100 — grab yours now!
There are so many bands out there doing so many interesting things, it's hard to know where to turn. That's why we've created Uprising, a recurring feature offering a concise introduction to a band or artist that we think slays, covering their origins, process and vision. Our latest subject is Bone Cutter, the Heavy Heavy Low Low spin-off whose "manic" Napalm Death/Devo/Chinese Stars–inspired sound is on display on their new eponymous 7-inch debut for Twelve Gauge Records.
We recently caught up with vocalist Robbie Smith to find out what makes Bone Cutter tick: from his early love of Violent Femmes, the Cure and Korn and why he "applies horror to everything" to how his new act is embracing pop and electronic elements to "make people dance weird" and more.
WHO IS BONE CUTTER? PLEASE GIVE US A BRIEF HISTORY ON HOW THE BAND CAME TOGETHER.
ROBBIE SMITH Heavy Heavy Low Low was touring Australia with Sam Pura filling in on guitar and it really started to jive. We started talking about making new music and I suggested that we create a new band with Sam as our guitarist. That eventually became Bone Cutter.
IF YOU HAD TO DESCRIBE YOUR BAND'S MISSION STATEMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
To make people dance weird.
BONE CUTTER IS A SPIN-OFF FROM HEAVY HEAVY LOW LOW — WHAT DOES BONE CUTTER ALLOW YOU TO EXPLORE THAT YOU CAN'T IN THAT BAND?
I'm not sure. I don't think Heavy Heavy Low Low ever felt restricted in terms of what we could or could not explore and what genres we dipped in and out of. Bone Cutter feels more manic to me — and I think that affords us a certain unpredictability. I think we also feel more comfortable incorporating pop and electronic elements into Bone Cutter whereas we always went for a more gritty, organic punk rock approach to Heavy Heavy Low Low.
BACK IN THE DAY, HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INTO HEAVY MUSIC?
When I was really young I was gifted a Violent Femmes CD from a family friend and that was my gateway drug. It was so weird and different from the radio crap. From there I gravitated to stuff like the Cure and that tapered into shit like Coal Chamber and Korn. In high school I discovered punk and hardcore and that changed my life. My first hardcore show was With or Without You.
IN TERMS OF MUSICAL INSPIRATION, WHO ARE YOUR TOP THREE INFLUENCES WHEN IT COMES TO BONE CUTTER?
Chinese Stars, Devo, Napalm Death. All musically. I'm sure each person in the band's choices would all be vastly different.
BEING IN A BAND, WHAT'S THE HARDEST CHALLENGE YOU HAVE COME ACROSS SO FAR?
Being houseless was always a challenge. I joined [Heavy Heavy Low Low] in 2004 and slept on couches or wherever I could until 2009. Forever grateful for the friends who let me live on their couches when we weren't on the road.
THE PANDEMIC HAS OBVIOUSLY BROUGHT ITS OWN SET OF UNIQUE CHALLENGES. WHAT HAS LIFE BEEN LIKE FOR YOU — DID YOU DEVELOP ANY NEW CREATIVE ROUTINES OR HOBBIES TO HELP YOU COPE WITH ALL THE UNCERTAINTY?
My fiancé and I watched so many goddamn movies. We'd black out the windows and cover the bed in entirely too many blankets and pillows and we'd escape into cinema. I made a couple short films and rediscovered my love for drawing. I wouldn't say I loved the pandemic — it was pretty damn frightening — but I do love the time it afforded me to reconnect to myself.
The realization that something so simple could come along and wipe any one of us off the face of the earth really causes you to think about what you're spending your time on and what's important to you. And I'm aware of how privileged that sounds — that I was in a lucky enough place to be able to mostly shut myself off from the world and use it as a means of bettering myself rather than worry about where my next meal was coming from because I'd lost my job or couldn't work due to the circumstances.
YOU MENTIONED MAKING SHORT FILMS. IS THAT A BIG PASSION FOR YOU OUTSIDE OF MUSIC?
I love cinema. I love watching movies, I love making movies, I love everything about movies. You can use film as an escape or to challenge your beliefs and ideas or to reckon with something you didn't know was deep inside you. And they're fucking endless! I watch at least one film a day and at least once a week I'm surprised and reinvigorated by the art form. As I mentioned, I make short films whenever/however I can. I'm currently seeking funding for a feature length film. You can check out my stuff at robbiesmith.org!
HEAVY HEAVY LOW LOW WERE SUPPOSED TO REUNITE IN 2020. DO YOU THINK YOU'LL EVENTUALLY GET TOGETHER TO TOUR AGAIN — AND DO YOU FORESEE ANY NEW MUSIC IN THE FUTURE?
We are definitely going to get together to tour again. Just waiting for it to be safe. I don't foresee us making any new music, but I can imagine that when we tour that we'll play the songs as if they're new. I think that the few records we created are a perfect encapsulation as to who we were as a band. The last record we released was in 2010. Each one of us are entirely different people than who we were 11 years ago. I think that if we tried to create new music, it may feel like we're only emulating past versions of ourselves.
DO YOU MISS LIVE SHOWS — AND DID YOU HAVE A PRE-SHOW RITUAL WHEN TOURING WAS IN FULL EFFECT?
I do miss live shows. I still have not seen a live band since the pandemic hit. I am vaccinated, I just have not had a band come through town that I've deemed worthy of the risk, my time or hard-earned dollar. My favorite pre-show ritual is talking to people who are as juiced as you are to see a particular act. That and a nice cold beer.
DO YOU HAVE ANY "UNEXPECTED" MUSICAL INFLUENCES THAT MIGHT SURPRISE LISTENERS?
I doubt it'd surprise anyone that I love scores/soundtracks. Zbigniew Preisner, Ennio Morricone are some of my all-time favorite composers. Fuckin Miles Davis and Isaac Hayes did some wild influential scores. Even Marvin Gaye did one! Trouble Man. It's a killer. Then some modern composers I really dig are Daniel Hart and Clint Mansell.
I'm huge into Sade and Chris Isaak right now. My car only has a CD player and they're always in there. I was just listening to Snail Mail and now I'm listening to Foie Gras.
WHAT BAND OR MUSICAL ARTIST ARE YOU THE BIGGEST FAN OF? ANY SUPERFAN STORIES
Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I have the hands from the cover of their album, Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven tattooed on the ditch of my left arm. I've seen them quite a few times and it's always moving and unpredictable.
BONE CUTTER DROPPED A WILD HORROR-THEMED VIDEO FOR "SEA OF BROKEN NEEDS" FROM THE NEW EP. YOU MENTIONED YOUR LOVE OF FILM: HAVE HORROR MOVIES PLAYED A PARTICULARLY INSPIRING ROLE IN YOUR LIFE?
When I was six years old my mom and dad were helping my grandmother move and she, without their knowledge, sat me down in front of a TV and put on Night of the Living Dead (68). It was fucking terrifying and I loved it. I was addicted! I still am. I apply horror to everything. I think horror, and film in general, is the best empathy machine.
As for favorites, here are some lesser-known gems: Messiah of Evil, Angst, Kill List, Red White & Blue, Cemetery Man, Koko-Di Koko-Da, Exorcist 3, The House by the Cemetery, The Blackcoat's Daughter, Anguish, [1981's] Possession. Then I love the classics: An American Werewolf in London, [1978's] Dawn of the Dead, Return of the Living Dead, [1963's] The Haunting, Black Sunday.
IF YOU COULD PLAY ONLY ONE OF BONE CUTTER'S SONGS FOR SOMEONE TO INTRODUCE THEM TO YOUR BAND, WHAT SONG WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
"Peckinpah Leather Crackle." It's not too abrasive and it's got a certain pop to it. When you say "someone," I imagine a person working at a Flying J at 3 a.m. who guesses you're in a band and wants to hear some of your music. That song is about being on the set of a Sam Peckinpah film.