The merging of music and sport is an interesting proposition – albeit one that requires effort to get the balance right. The brainchild of Thrice drummer Riley Breckenridge, Puig Destroyer is the perfect pit stop for fans of heavy music and baseball. Taking inspiration from America’s favourite pastime – namely Cuban born Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig – the band has just dropped their self-titled album. We caught up with vocalist Mike Minnick to discuss the record, baseball…and the prospect of another Giants World Series title.
Hi Mike, how are you?
Good, how are you?
I’m going well, thanks mate.
How are you enjoying the MLB post season so far?
It’s been great. Yesterday was a sad day of sorts because [Yasiel] Puig from the Dodgers, who inspired the band, was benched and then the Dodgers ultimately lost. But, in all honesty, myself and Ian [Miller, bass] are Giants fans – so we were torn because we were really excited as our favourite team advanced, but there will be no more Puig…
I think this interview will go extremely well in that case because I’m a big Giants fan myself. I actually spent September in San Francisco.
Oh, nice! Did you go to the games?
I did. I went to every game of the September six game home-stand. Got to see the Giants play three games against the Diamondbacks and then three against the Dodgers, so saw Yasiel Puig firsthand.
Great – that’s awesome! I live in Chicago, so I’ve seen the Giants every year since I moved here, which is usually two to three games a year. I didn’t catch them this year, but I caught Puig a few weeks ago for the first time – it was pretty great. (laughs)
Epic day of baseball yesterday. First time seeing Puig in person. Best game I saw all season for him alone. pic.twitter.com/ftC0gwoVap
— Mike Minnick (@worldwarmike) September 22, 2014
Well just on that, before we get to the music questions, I take it you guys were a bit annoyed Mattingly benched Puig?
Yeah, I mean, eight strikeouts is kind of crazy but what are your options? I think in a short series like that, that’s the Dodgers best hitter, you’ve got to let him work it out.
In terms of Puig Destroyer as a band, it was something that started as a bit of fun, now you have a few releases under your belt and the album is being distributed in Australia, it has gained momentum pretty quickly.
Yeah, I think it [the band] is a little over a year old now. It just started off as a throw away joke that Riley [Breckenridge, drums] and Ian [came up with] – they both do a baseball podcast called, ‘Productive Outs’ and when Puig came up last year and caught fire they just made a dumb pun off of the metal band Pig Destroyer (laughs). I guess pretty much when they finished recording that episode of the podcast, Riley talked to Ian and said, “we should really do that”, and he knew me because Thrice and my old band, Curl Up and Die had toured together and played shows, and he knew I was a baseball fan, and he got in contact with me. [And then there’s] John Howell, who plays guitar in Kowloon Walled City and lives in Oakland with Ian, so that’s how the members [came about].
Within nine days we released a first song and how that went was Riley made the drum parts and Ian put the bass track over it, and John and I did our parts at the same time. We sent it to Scott Evans who mixes all our stuff and we’re never in the same room (laughs). We did that with the first EP and second EP. With the full-length we had a little bit more time and No Sleep [Records] was going to be putting it out, so we wanted to give a little bit more than me recording it in my room or basement (laughs). We took a little bit more time, but still did it the same way except Ian started the process on most of the LP songs, he started with the initial bass or guitar part, and then sent that to Riley.
When you’re mentioning there about not being in the same room, what was the dynamic like this time in comparison to your time in Curl Up and Die?
It was very different. I think with this band basically being a fun [project], it started off as a joke even though I don’t treat it like a joke, I take it pretty seriously, but the whole thing about it is that it’s based off a joke and has become this fun thing where we can play fun music and talk about our love of baseball, and have a place for it.
We’ve kind of been like, the first idea is the best idea and just everyone come up with your parts and then we’ll pass it around, and it has sort of been liberating because we don’t second guess or beat each other up over a note or part. I’m sure with other bands, we spent hours and days in a room with each other arguing or discussing and debating different parts we were trying to work out and sometimes that’s to the detriment of the part because sometimes you lose yourself in it. So, this project has kind of let me see that there’s a plus to both sides. Sometimes your first idea is the best – just move on, you don’t need to beat it up. But, also you can work, but you don’t need to work it to death (laughs).
One of the cool things about having the baseball angle is the coverage it gives you. For example, Puig Destroyer were featured in Sports Illustrated. How does that make you feel – a metal band getting coverage in a publication like that?
I’m blown away by it because all of us are super big baseball nerds. I’m even more of a baseball nerd than a metal nerd. I’m like outside of the baseball world completely, so this is like the closest I’ve even been through this project and this band. So when we see stuff written about the band or even about the lyrics, some of my favourite beat writers or the guys at Sports Illustrated or Baseball Prospectus, I kind of fan out and get super hyped (laughs).
Like for example, Peter Gammons that old beat writer he just mentioned it and since I’ve known baseball, I’ve seen that guy on TV or read some of his articles, and it’s super flattering and amazing.
Talking about how it’s flattering and beat writers are mentioning the band, in regards to the players – I know there was that Vine of Puig at the MLB fancave where someone was playing your stuff to him – and you’ve got the Mike Trout song and ‘Trumbomb’ [Mark Trumbo] track. Have you had many people get in touch and mention if any of the professional players have checked Puig Destroyer out?
Puig heard it at the MLB fancave and that was pretty cool…even though we could tell that it’s not his thing at all (laughs). It was cool that he heard it and maybe he was hyped that there’s a band that revolves around his talents (laughs). Trumbo is actually in to pretty cool music and him and Riley know each other because Riley is an Angels fan, so from his time with the Angels they know each other pretty well. I know Mike Trout heard the song and did a little mention, which was cool. When you write those songs for specific players and they hear it that’s like what else could you want from it? That’s more than we ever thought (laughs).
There are a couple of players like John Axford [Pittsburgh Pirates] he like talked to us on Twitter a little bit and mentioned he was hyped for the record. I think he’s a fan of heavy music, so that was pretty cool.
We’ve mentioned before that the band started off as a bit of fun and now you’ve got a few releases out; do you re-evaluate the direction? I know there was interview where Riley said there are no immediate plans to play shows, but could you see that as a possibility down the track?
We don’t [have plans] right now. If we can make it happen, we will somehow, but it’s still up in the air. It most likely won’t [happen]…I shouldn’t of even said that much (laughs). It probably won’t happen. We all really want to make it, so if we can we will, if we can figure out some way to do it…
…It [the project] just wasn’t built for that [though]. The idea was to make it as ridiculous as possible. There is a drum machine playing super fast (laughs).
In terms of the lyrical inspiration you get from the sport has there been anything this post season that you could see transferring into future Puig Destroyer releases?
Not right now. Once we finished recording [this album], I was like, “Ok, I’ve exhausted my baseball options and topics.” I guess at this point, in the last year and a half, I’ve written 34 songs about baseball (laughs). Ian wrote a couple of the songs and gave me some ideas for the lyrics on two of the songs on the full-length.
But, I can talk about the process before the full-length. I took a lot from the last two baseball seasons. Obviously, there’s Puig and there is a song called ‘Wild Horse’, which Vin Scully, the announcer for the Dodgers, coined that term for him, so I wanted to have at least one more song about Puig and I kind of addressed that on that song. There is a ‘No Hitter’ song, which was inspired by the Clayton Kershaw game and also there was the Tim Lincecum one, which happened pretty close together. I remember being like, “I have to do a song about how this feels.” Like how it feels to watch it because you get so excited, but then I was trying to put myself in that position of how to feel. Then I was also heavily writing about guys crushing baseballs (laughs), so I wanted to have some pitching on the full-length.
How important is it to maintain a sense of humour in metal? Metal sometimes unfairly gets pigeonholed as outside people think it’s serious and angry when in fact the people involved are not.
I think it depends what kind of metal it is. For instance, this is a good way of a band that is just fun. It’s still pretty serious – I take it seriously. But, I guess it can go either way. We’re on the jokey side, but there are some bands where everything is a joke and I find it hard to take it even seriously. But equally, I can’t take a band that has no sense of humour or personality that shows through the band – it’s all serious and dark, but too much that it feels forced.
My favourite types of music, movies, books kind of have all that stuff in there. A little bit of humour, a little bit of seriousness. I try to incorporate that into everything I do because that’s how people are.
It is kind of weird though. Growing up, I didn’t like joke bands or funny bands that much and then I ended up being in a funny band (laughs).
I guess it’s a case of taking the music seriously but not yourself. So as long as you’re putting in all the effort and being professional about the music then you can then have a bit of fun.
It [the band] started off as a bit of a joke but it’s more just about fun, and what is great about baseball that we like.
This one might be a tough one to think of off the top of your head, if in a perfect world you could get an MLB baseballer to provide guests vocals on a Puig Destroyer release is there one that comes to mind?
I know [Mark] Trumbo plays guitar, so that would be cool for a guitar part. It would be pretty rad to see Randy Johnson (laughs). I know he’s into some “real” heavy metal. Maybe him doing some sweet back-ups would be awesome. It would be pretty great just to compare the two of us next to each other because we look completely different.
He would just tower over everyone (laughs).
Exactly, he’s like intimidating (laughs). He’s the first one that pops into my mind that would know what to do.
A lot of baseball players are guys that are just into country.
I have noticed that. One of my mates made the comment on Twitter during the week that Stephen Strasburg looks like a black metal enthusiast though.
Totally. You could see him putting the paint on.
When your time is not taken up with Puig Destroyer, what fills in the rest of the time?
When Riley asked me to do this it got me excited to do music again – like yelling and vocal stuff. I was like, “I don’t know why I’m not doing this?” Just because I’m not in my first band anymore doesn’t mean I can’t do this anymore or I shouldn’t. I got excited off that. I’ve been working on a few different projects with different people since then. I’ve pretty much started them over the last year/six months, but nothing I can announce yet because it’s still getting worked out. Other than that, I live in Chicago and hang with my two dogs and take tonnes of baths (laughs) when I’m not watching baseball or reading books and comics, and I work for a friend who owns an online portfolio company.
Really appreciate you taking the time to chat today Mike. Loving the album and hopefully in a few weeks time we’ll be celebrating another Giants World Series victory.
Hopefully. They’ve got to crush those Cardinals. They’re the only team I don’t want to see in it. I suspect that’s the way people probably feel about the Giants (laughs) …because they’re in it so often now too. Should be cool and exciting. Good talking to you and thanks for taking the time to do this.
Puig Destroyer’s self-titled album is out now (digitally) in Australia via No Sleep Records/Shock. You can purchase via iTunes.
Read our album review here.