Ceremony: Fast, Angry, Dark and Against the Grain

Ceremony is a band that needs no introduction. The band started in Rohnert Park, CA, in 2005 to become one of the most important bands in hardcore/punk gaining their popularity entirely by the music, intensive shows and honesty they have. Here’s an interview with their guitar player Anthony Anzaldo conducted in the beginning of 2009 (just after their most prolific in terms of touring 2008) conducted by Mac for the first issue of his vegan straightedge zine Litmus Test.

Litmus Test: First off just introduce yourself. Who are you? What do you do?

My name is Anthony Anzaldo and I am nobody.

How long have you been straight edge/vegan? What were the deciding factors for you in making those commitments?

I have never drank, smoked, or have used any substance in my life. I claimed straight edge 7 years ago. I think smoking/drinking/drug use is selfish, weak and disrespectful to yourself and to those around you. I have never met one person who when drunk or high was cooler or more fun to be around. I see the kind of fun that people have when they are intoxicated and that is not at all my idea of having a good time by any means. And the odor, impedance and all the health issues related to drinking/smoking and drug use is not very appealing to me.

I have been vegan for 4 years, and was just vegetarian for a year before that. The meat industry produces more carbon into the air than automobiles, it’s highly inhumane, and I am dodging so many types of cancer and other nasty diseases by being vegan. And meat grosses the fuck out of me.

Are those two ideologies linked for you? Could you see yourself still being edge if you werene’t vegan? Vice versa? How do those two affect the way you identify yourself? Are you vegan edge or a straight edge kid who happens to also be vegan?

Well, they are linked, but at the same time they are not. I mean how can I have compassion and mercy for all species of animals if I’m not able to take care of myself? But at the same time it’s edge for veg for me. Drinking and doing drugs is way more self-destructive then eating non-vegan, and I got into both ideologies at different times in my life and (for the most time) got into them for different reasons.

What’s your favourite Ceremony song?

It would be a tie between the first and last tracks on “Still Nothing Moves You”, “Dead Moon California” and “Learn/Without”.

What have you been listening to recently?

Nick Cave is in heavy rotation right now.

The first time I saw Ceremony I believe you were wearing a fishnet shirt, eye make-up, and platform knee-high boots. Your style’s changed somewhat since then but you still definitely stand out somewhat compared to other popular hardcore bands right now. Has your appearance ever had an effect on the band? Do assholes ever give you shit about it?

Somewhat stand out, huh? I think the last time we played Richmond I had a gold glitter stripe across my face and a see-thru mesh shirt on, if that is your idea of “somewhat standing out” then hardcore’s just way more eccentric with me taking notice… J/K :)

Every once in a while somebody calls me a fag when they drive by me, or when I am alone and they’re on the other side of the street. And I have been told there has been numerous threads about me on public forums regarding the way I dress and all that nonsense, but nothing too crazy. I don’t like the way I look or present myself has had any affect on the band, I would find that to be very ridiculous, even in this day and age.

How did Ceremony start? What bands were you in before Ceremony? Had you ever worked with Ross before this band?

Ross [Farrar] and I have been friends since Junior High, and we got into hardcore and punk at the same time, and it just made sense to start a band. We wanted it to be fast, angry, dark and against the grain, and we wanted to name it Violent World, then Ross thought of Ceremony. I have played in a few hardcore punk bands in the Bay Area, Jealous Again, Life Long Tragedy and Said Radio to name a few.

What’s the writing process like for you guys as a band? Who are the primary songwriters, instrumentally and lyrically? Does Ross have much to say in the instrumental process and do you guys have much to say in the lyrics?

Ross writes all the lyrics, and I write most all of the music, but we all are involved in the formatting and structuring of the songs. Ross has a lot of say when it comes to write the music, if he’s super excited about the music, the vocals will be that much better I think.

Ross of Ceremony

Ross’ lyrics and some of his statements on stage can be extremely caustic and harsh. Does he speak for the whole band usually? Is the band generally on the same page on subjects like religion and politics?

On subjects regarding religion and politics the band is on the same page. When he writes or speaks on stage about experimenting with drugs he obviously isn’t speaking for the entire band. Writing for Ceremony is a major outlet for Ross, and it gives him a chance to speak his mind they way he feels fit, and as long as he’s honest and doesn’t start being a racist/homophobic/sexist/christ believing moron, his lyrics won’t have a negative affect on me at all.

The new record “Still Nothing Moves You” is in a lot of ways really different from “Violence Violence” and “Scared People”. Musically it is less abrasive and the vocals on the recording have less emphasis than previous records. Any interesting tidbits about how this record came together?

We didn’t feel like “Violence Violence” was a complete album, it was sort of rushed, and after writing “Scared People” I think we had a better idea of where we wanted the band’s direction to go. We spent a couple months just on writing for “Still Nothing Moves You”, and we wanted each song to have something the last song didn’t have, we wanted it to be the simplest and most complex thing we’ve done. Ross was working on lyrics since we finished “Scared People”, and he went through a lot of life changes in between records so he was very inspired and prepared for “Still Nothing Moves You”.

There seems to be a lot of continuity to the way Ceremony writes albums. The use of themes and recurring instrumental breaks makes the records sound more like complete works instead of disjointed collections of songs. Is that important consideration when you’re in the studio?

I’d say it’s more of a conscious decision when we are writing, not so much in the studio. But everything you just described is most definitely intentional.

Ceremony tours a lot, has that always been the case? What’s the dynamic like between you guys on the road?

This past year [2008] was the most we’ve toured, we started in May and we finish in the middle of December, before that it was summer/late fall stuff and weekends here and there. The dynamic depends on the line-up really, but it’s awesome no matter what. All of us (except Toast) grew up in a suburb outside of San Francisco called Rohnert Park, so we’ve known each other for years and are very comfortable with each other. We all have very different lifestyles, but at the same time have so much in common, so it makes for a fantastic/interesting touring dynamics.

What have been your favorite cities to play in or hang out recently? Bands that tour say you can do shit on tour you could never do at home. Have you guys done anything fucked up or crazy on tour that you can talk about?

We probably spent the most time in Philadelphia, every tour it seems like we’re posting up Philly for at least couple of days. We’ve very close with Paint It Black and Blacklisted, so it’s always so much fun when we’re there. The tour started on the East Coast, so we stopped in Omaha along the way to watch movies and have dinner with my grandparents, that isn’t particularly fucked up or crazy, but that is definitely not something I get to do when I’m home.

What bands have you been the most fun to tour with?

We grew up with Sabertooth Zombie and Life Long Tragedy, so touring with them was beyond fun. Touring with Blacklisted is always incredible. We start a tour with Never Healed tomorrow, and I’d imagine that they’ll make the list too.

Richmond sometimes has unusual taste in bands, the bands we love/hate here often aren’t the ones that are loved/hated nationally, but it seems like Ceremony’s popularity happened really suddenly here. Did it happen like that everywhere or was it a more gradual process?

The first time we played Richmond it was awesome (RIP Nanci Raygun), it all depends, some places you do exactly the same in no matter how many times you go there, and other places take time, and some places are never good.

There’s been different people in the band every time you guys have played Richmond recently, are permanent members just not able to tour as much or are you guys have played Richmond recently, are permanent members just not able to tour as much or are you guys actually having trouble keeping permanent members in the band?

We’ve had the same lineup for over 4 years, and we used to have a strict “no fill in” policy, but that ended when JD started going to school full time and, Ross and I will always do all the tours, the rest of the guys sometime need some time off.

Thanks again for doing this interview man. Hope to see you guys will be back in Richmond soon. Any thanks, shoutouts, fuck yous, or final words you’d like to leave us with?

XXX

www.ceremonyhc.com

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