Exclusive: Birth! returns to L.A. this Monday

Birth! is Douglas Halbert and he makes some of the most impressive and radical industrial and electronic hardcore you could ever hope to hear.

It’s not easy to make one-man-band angst and rage accessible and rambunctious and fun, but somehow Halbert does it.

Actually I’m not completely clueless here—Doug is a dear friend and from observing him I have noticed how he makes it work: he writes strong lyrics, he can shout and scream in a way that is powerful (even witheringly so) but he’s never macho or shrieky, he’s got a great ear for hooks (even the most uncompromising Birth! blasts have unshakeable beats and melodies), and he lives his music.

“Fear, comfort and money are the three main things that hold people back from pursuing their goals in life,” Doug Halbert explains. “If you don’t just go out and DO what you want, you’ll never actually DO anything.”

An audience feels the pain of Birth! in Salford, England (photo: Nathan Clemence)

Welcome back, Doug—it’s been too long!
I KNOW! It’s been like eight months!!!!!

When did you leave for tour?
We took off March 1 and I got back October 25 in time for Halloween! Basically my good friend Cole (Human Hands) and I decided on a whim one morning that we were going to leave L.A. and tour all over the United States together.

You recorded and stayed in Ohio?
I recorded my album I WILL on Realicide Youth Records late 2009 in Cincinnati and decided that I wanted that to be our home base while we planned out the rest of our East Coast tour. There is a really healthy scene going on in Cincinnati and a lot of amazing people. Cole and I rolled in mid-March to play a show with Stress Ape and Realicide which was awesome.  We basically went there with no idea where we were going to stay but ended up renting a room from a guy we just barely met named Paul that resembled a guy that would tie a damsel to the raiload tracks [laughs]. We stayed in a really bad part of town in this small,dirty, falling apart house for a month and a half getting up every morning to go steal coffee from Starbucks and get online to book the East Coast dates. Early May we set out for the bigger half or our tour together where we did something like 22 dates up the East Coast starting in Nashville, TN and ended it in Pittsburgh, PA. Cole and I parted ways and he went to Chicago to hang out with Natalee and I went up to Canada with Realicide for a week to play some shows and hang out at the Anarchist bookfair in Montreal.

Doug gives Birth! to Vilnius (photo: Sieloj Ramu)

Then you went to Europe?
After Canada I went back to Cincinnati and stayed there June and July with the Bunk News crew,doing sparce local and out of town gigs while at the same time feverishly trying to book a two month European tour by myself surrounding the Drop Dead Festival in Lithuania. I wasn’t really sure how the hell I was going to do it but through the help of my good friends and people that I met last time I went to europe I was able to pull together sixteen shows in five countrys!

What were some of the highlights/lowlights of your trip?
Lowlights: 1) Being trapped in a house in the middle of nowhere North Carolina with a bunch of people on meth, and one guy walking around the house with a gun strapped to his leg playing System of a Down covers on his guitar at 8am while we tried to sleep. 2) Dealing with the stress that comes with booking a tour compleatly DIY—you never know if a show is actually going to happen until you get there (but that’s part of the fun of it). 3) Flying into England to start off a two month European tour with only thirty bucks in my pocket. 4) Seeing this old Batcave band Specimen, probably one of the most dissapointing reunions ever (and they were total dicks!). 5) Not having access to real Mexican food… 6) Not really getting to see some of the amazing cities I went to because of my hectic travel schedule—I feel like there is no real point in doing this unless you get to actually see the places you’re traveling to, and get to meet the people and take in a little bit of the culture.

Birth! & friends at the Drop Dead Festival (photo: Sieloj Ramu)

Highlights:  1) Getting to spend a lot of time traveling with Cole—that dude is like my brother. 2) Seeing how generous and supportive complete strangers can be. 3) Finally getting to see places I’ve always wanted to go like New Orleans, Montreal, Quebec and France 4) Going to Whartscape in Baltimore and finally seeing ARAB ON RADAR! 5) Staying in Leipzig at a squat with the same people that took me in last time I was stranded there in 2008. 6) Taking a road trip to the Hill of Crosses in Lithuania with Andi Sex Gang of The Sex Gang Children!

Where was the best place to play?
I’ve played so many great shows these past eight months it’s hard to choose, but the ones that stand out the most were: Cleveland, Ohio at Now That’s Class on the 4th of July with Wolf Eyes. The PA there is fucking killer—it was like the loudest set I’ve ever played. Vilnius, Lithuania at the Drop Dead Festival. The Drop Dead Festival started out as one of the only real DIY Deathrock festivals in the United States. And over the past seven years they have moved to Europe and since then have become one of the most eclectic and positive events I have ever been to. You get pretty much every type of music like old school Deathrock, Anarcho-Punk, Rockabilly, Minimal Synth and Experimental music. Like, anything goes! I’ve been going to this festival since I was 17 and it’s just so great to be able to come out again and play with so many great bands and amazing people. I played to something like 200 people on the first night and sold out most of my merch. That really helped me get on the right track for the rest of the tour! Thank you, Polina! Munster Germany at Gleis22 with Melt-Banana—I was randomly asked to play three days before the show and i was like “FUUUUUCCCK YEAH!” I’ve never seen them play before and it was just totally awesome to get to open for them in Munster fuckin Germany!

Who are the best new bands (or bands we wouldn’t normally hear about in L.A.)?
Now Wash Your Hands (Manchester)—the cleanest power electronics you will ever hear. Petra Flurr (Berlin)—really energetic in your face gay electro punk. Moravagine (Bordeaux)—French all-girl post-punk band. 1984 (Toulouse)—Operatic vocal noise. Human Beast (Providence)—Harsh synth-noise with beautiful female vocals.

So…I heard you went to Ian Curtis’ grave and suicide spot?
Yeah! I just kinda mentioned it to my friend Nathan and he planned out this whole day long trip for us. Ian’s grave and home is in this little town called Macclesfield just about an hour south of Manchester. It was kind of funny actually. We were all really hungover because we were all drinking heavily for the past two nights. Most of it was just us cracking goth jokes and generally having no respect for the dead. We went to his house and stalked the person who was living there and debated asking the guy if we could “hang” out in his kitchen.

Doug Halbert at Ian Curtis’ grave outside Manchester (photo: Nathan Clemence)

After all your travels, did you learn anything new?
I’ve learned on this trip that it is absolutly crucial that I learn to speak other languages. Most of the people in the world can’t speak English and I feel that if I’m going to be traveling to so many places I want to be able to get to know people and have real meaningful conversations with them. It’s a very alienating feeling to be in a room full of people and not be able understand and be a part of the conversation.

I’ve also learned over the past few years of doing this that fear, comfort and money are the three main things that hold people back from pursuing their goals in life. If you don’t just go out and DO what you want, you’ll never actually DO anything. Anything is possible as long as you have positive and supportive people in your life.

Beer & Birth! in Berlin (photo: Charly Vivi)

How do you feel now that you are back and what are your plans for the fall and winter?
It feels really good to be back finally! It’s been a really long, rough year and I’m looking forward to seeing all my friends and having a chance to chill for awhile. Probably going to hang out and focus on writing some new music and planning out next year. I really want to try to hit up Australia, South America or Japan next time around!

Do you have anything special planned for Pehrspace this Monday?
I’m just hoping all my friends will come out. I’VE MISSED YOU!

Don’t miss the return of Doug and Birth! on Monday:

Sean Carnage presents…

The return of L.A.’s prodigal son

with return of prodigal daughter
Kevin Shields


and noise superstars
Pedestrian Deposit

Slaves (from Portland)

Plus very special guests
Miss Josie Bunnie

and your pal
DJ Marijuana Weed

Starts 9:30pm / $5 / all-ages

Pehrspace—325 Glendale Blvd., in Historic Filipinotown

RSVP for Monday Night Pehrspace Halloween

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