Grim Deeds is the prolific singer/songwriter from Foster City, California who has appeared several time before on Just Some Punk Songs and who has a greatest hits compilation coming soon. Titled Only The Beast it'll featured re-recorded versions of 13 of his best songs. Next year Grim Deeds is likely to go on hiatus due to parenthood and the demands of a new job so it seemed like a good time to have a chat with him. I'll intersperse the chat with some of my favourite songs of his and give you links to his Bandcamp and Facebook pages.
Bandcamp : https://grimdeeds.bandcamp.com/music
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/Grim-Deeds-815536498460718/
Just Some Punk Songs : "GRIM DEEDS is a complete waste of your time! Pay 5 bucks to download the album! FUCK YOU!" Hardly the most illuminating of Facebook biographies. Bandcamp isn't much better just mentioning that you're from California. So let's start with who's Grim Deeds?
Grim Deeds : Grim Deeds is essentially a one-man band based in California. It's been going now for a little over 3 years, and I've recorded somewhere around 150 songs so far - many in my parked car - but have also received help and support from dozens of friends across the globe who've contributed songs and recorded parts for my songs. There's a strong connection with The Lillingtons (also my favorite band), and Kody/Tim/Alex/Cory have all contributed to songs as well as playing with me live. In addition there is "Grim Deeds Japan", consisting of Keita/Daisuke/Yusuke/Hiro who have helped with recordings and played with me live in Tokyo. I've collaborated with musician friends from Indonesia, Germany, Russia, Japan, and all across the USA. Dr. Frank serves as my unofficial advisor at times and is otherwise a significant source of support and inspiration. My daily life is one that apparently has little to no tolerance for Grim Deeds, which is why I've maintained an alias the whole time. My profession and family life are both very demanding and the nature of what I do makes it necessary for Grim Deeds to exist in a separate universe.
The Braindead Masses
JSPS : You mention that you've recorded around 150 tracks in a little over 3 years (and when you've featured previously on this blog I lightheartedly comment on how prolific you are). Is it just a case of an idea comes into your head and you get it recorded as quickly as possible? Do you release everything and let the public decide on it's worth or are there hundreds of other recordings that haven't see the light of day?
GD : Good question. Basically I have always operated under the impression that I'm on borrowed time, and therefore should exploit every opportunity to record and be productive. Almost every Grim Deeds song recorded ends up on my bandcamp page (I've deleted a handful of lacklustre ideas over the years but they were few and far between). Bandcamp links share easily on Facebook, which has been my main tool for connecting with people and promoting what I do. People have shorter attention spans now and more media to consume on a daily basis, so the strategy of releasing short songs with a catchy title on a somewhat regular basis has worked well for me. When I have enough songs, I make an album. So far there have been 8 full length CDs, 2 cassette splits, and an appearance on a comp that's on both cd and vinyl format. I'm currently working on two separate split 7" releases, a "best of" album featuring the best songs re-recorded with a more official studio sound, and I also have enough recent singles to justify a 9th full-length release. OUTLOUD! Records has been my main source of support for releasing albums. I've also worked with Indonesia's Rizkan Reocords, Mom's Basement Records in the USA, and Dumptruck Records who supported the release of two albums and featured a Deeds song on their compilation album. So almost everything I've done is archived digitally on bandcamp, or exists in a physical format (though some albums are out of print).
JSPS : Last year, you chose your 10 favourite songs for this blog. As well as several fairly lesser well known pop punk tunes, there were a number of songs of a more humerous or offbeat nature. Would you like to share your influences. When you're writing new songs do you first come up with a catchy tune and write lyrics to fit or is it the opposite way around?
GD : It was fun and an honor to make that list for you, Mick! Humor is key to my life, and I find it to be therapeutic in the same way that music can be, so naturally a blend of the two can be ideal.
My songwriting approach for Grim Deeds has mostly revolved around good song titles and concepts - something personal sometimes, other times topics that I think others will relate to but aren't addressed in pop punk music typically. The fusion of catchy, poppy melodies with rather dark and intense lyrics has always been a recurring feature of the Grim Deeds style. But the project is ultimately my main creative outlet, so I've thrown in plenty of covers (enough for a full album), tribute songs, and collaborations based around a theme. Sometimes I've featured others people's songs just because I liked the tune and wanted people to know about it. There have also been special circumstances where a song just had to be written in response to an event that deeply affected me, such as a friend's death. That specific source of inspiration has recurred too often in the past two years, but I'm grateful to be able to make something meaningful out of it. Likewise I often write about my own personal struggles with adult life and human existence, so beneath the upbeat and catchy tunes lies a more desperate and deeper meaning.
Honk Till You Wonk
JSPS : Does being essentially a one man band make gigging easier as in you can call on any number of friends to make up a band for any particular show or does not having a set line up make things harder. What can people expect from a Grim Deeds show and how often do you get to play live?
GD : I've only played 5 shows since I started, and all were based on lucky offers. I've played Chicago, Las Vegas, and Tokyo with live bands made up of friends. Besides that I've done two acoustic shows, both in Oakland. I love playing live and try to make the Grim Deeds set a unique experience with lots of weird humor and energy behind the songs. Performing is a great release for me personally but also a great means of connecting with an audience, which I also find very meaningful. Ultimately my current life limits my abilitiy to play live, so I just take what I'm offered when the timing is right. I am scheduled to play some California dates in September with The Moans, The Rinds, and my friends in the band PornoSurf from the Canary Islands. I doubt I'll ever be able to play live in a regular basis, but I'm still motivated to do it when possible and to make the most of every chance I get.
Life Sucks (Then You Die)
JSPS : The music scene is a very different place from when i was a teenager rushing down to my local independant record store to buy the latest release from The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers etc. Nowadays pretty much everything ends up online. Aside from the bigger name bands is it possible to make money nowadays from punk music or is it just a case of hoping you don't end up too much out of pocket persuing your love of music?
GD : Great question. I've struggled with this issue since starting Grim Deeds. Although I do make some return on what I put in financially, I'm always operating at a very significant loss. It got to the point where my wife and I sat down and made a spread sheet based on an annual spending limit. The deal is I have a limited budget for music projects each year, but can offset costs with whatever proceeds I receive for digital downloads, cd sales, etc. The majority of my sales are digital downloads of songs and albums. CDs barely sell at all, and there was a time when I was losing money on cd sales by shipping them to different places, including internationally. I've also given away the majority of my merch and physical releases to friends and people I've met at shows. I used to send Travis at Eccentric Pop Records boxes of CDs to give away with orders, which helped get my name out there. In general my goal is just to build a larger audience of people who like and get what I'm doing. Meanwhile one friend and fan named John Kokkonakis from Greece has literally paid for every song I've released, including free downloads. The majority of my music income can be attributed to one awesome Greek fan! Also to give you an idea of my "success", my earnings so far in 2017 are about 1/6 of my expenses for production costs, and I'm quickly approaching my budget limit for the year! I'll try to make the most out of what's left. I have four releases planned for the remainder of 2017.
A future goal though, perhaps post-Grim Deeds, is to record and release music without paying for any production costs - DIY based on gear I currently own and have gotten better at using over the years. I've progressed in my home recording skills to the point where I think that'll soon be "good enough" and I'll no longer "need" to spend money on extra costs like mastering and art. Of course I still love working with new artists and producers so it'll be a hard habit to break! Luckily for me I have a friend in Sweden who helps me achieve a great studio sound from his home studio (plus plays all instruments), and only asks for a VERY small price for what I get. People will hear that on the upcoming "best of" album.
Diggum Collects Vinyl
JSPS : You've mentioned downloads and cds but what about vinyl? Will Diggum get to add Grim Deeds to his collection?
GD : Ha!!! Those who know Diggum (human name: Jacob Desersa) who plays drums in Grim Deeds know that he will spend literally every last dime on his precious vinyl collection. At this point I would value his collection at the same price as the average down payment on a single family home. I know he has obsessively collected each release by the the bands Ghoul, Lillingtons and other cool bands as well as other useless so-called pop punk and obscure, unlistenable black metal shipped from faraway lands. I guess since I'm giving him a hard time I'll also throw him a bone and promote his band Lightweight - they just released an EP and it's actually very good for those who like original sounding punk rock (https://lightweightpunk.bandcamp.com/). But more to your question, there will be 7" vinyl for Diggum soon enough, but I'll have to work on getting some proper 12" records pressed some day. For now I have copies of my metal band's first album on vinyl (Cloven Altar) and I made sure that my little frog friend got dibs on a copy. Another fun fact is that I constantly give away my lightly worn band t-shirts to Diggum because we wear the same size and I usually don't like to wear band shirts. In public I prefer to incognito as a lame, upper middle class white wanker.
Audrey Has Autism
GD : Recording music and writing songs are two outlets that I rely on heavily for their therapeutic benefits as well as the community-building aspects of sharing tunes with like-minded people. I'm honored to be friends with people who are also my favorite songwriters, and particularly grateful to feel part of an emerging scene of pure pop punk that has risen in recent years. Thank you to Kody Templeman and The Lillingtons for your support throughout the years. Thank you to David Jones (RIP) for your guidance and friendship. Thanks to Dr. Frank for being receptive to my ongoing rants and maniacal songwriting tendencies (and for providing an extensive catalog of excellent songs that I've routinely revisited for inspiration and study). Thanks to my friend Christian Golden for the wise council you've offered me throughout two decades of friendship. Thanks also to Jesse Linn, John Kokkonakis, Matt Bennett, Cederick Forsberg, all the friends who've helped and contributed art, songs, recordings etc. Thank you Mick for the great opportunity to talk about myself and also for your outstanding blog. And finally check out these awesome pop punk bands who deserve your plaudits: Neon Bone, Vista Blue, Parasite Diet, The Nerdy Jugheads, The Hathaways, The Putz, Andy Social and the Antidotes, The Blendours, The Young Rochelles, Ryan Manhole, Surfinbird, PornoSurf, The Rinds, The Moans, and stay tuned for more new Lillingtons...
She Won't Fuck Me
Thanks Grim, good luck with the new album, parenthood and the new job.