If I could be anyone when I grow up, it would be Gary Meskil from Pro-Pain. I have an unhealthy fascination with the man’s work. The band has several thousand albums and I have memorized every detail about every one of them.
You can imagine my surprise when I ran into him in a Shoprite in Passaic, New Jersey. He was buying turnips. I was so overcome with joy that I began leaping up and down and shouting. I attempted to hug Mr. Meskil when a store security guard, who erroneously believed I was trying to assault him, hit me over the head with a billyclub. I lost consciousness.
When I awoke, I was in a hospital room. Gary was standing there with my family looking extremely concerned holding a Whitman’s Sampler and a card that said “Get Well Soon, Champ!” on the front. I began asking him questions…
Me: I saw the band play back in 1992 when “Foul Taste of Freedom” had just come out. One of my favorite shows ever. It was in a Guido bar in New Rochelle, New York called Marty and Lenny’s that occasionally did metal shows under the equally awful name “The Rocker Room”. I was a skinny high school kid with a Gabe Kaplan from “Welcome Back, Kotter” looking Afro. I was wearing an Immolation shirt. How would you rate my performance in the pit that night?
Gary: I would give it the highest of scores. A perfect 10! Aerodynamic haircuts are timeless and seem to be quite practical in and out of the confines of the pit. The spherical shape obviously aides in getting to the forefront of the circle pit and also in eluding certain rough and tumble types. The Gabe Kaplan cut was a good one! Add an Immolation T-shirt and you have a perfect score!
Me: Was Johnny Black a real guy or is that a made up story?
Gary: It’s a true story, but I made it vague enough so that the fans could relate to it via their own story. It’s generally about a modern day James Dean type. Someone whom we all looked up to “way back when”. Then as the years went by, everyone and everything seemed to change around him, yet he stayed exactly the same. As a result, those who once idolized him suddenly frowned upon him. He died young, and I was inspired to write about my observations of people who lose their inner child as they grow older. Suddenly everything becomes shallow and forced, with talks about the weather and such. I admire people who have the guts to always be themselves.
Me: You have an incredibly powerful, distinctive voice. Have you ever ended up in a public situation where a used car salesman or some other idiot is jerking you around and all of a sudden you change your voice like in “Johnny Black” and scare the hell out of them?
Gary: That’s a great idea, but I can’t recall ever vocally changing gears like that as a fear tactic in public. However, as a father it came in quite handy sometimes to use my “stage voice”, since I’m in favor of sparing the rod.
Me: (in a serious voice) A running theme in your music is a weariness and frustration with American military adventurism. From “Iraqnophobia” to “To Never Return” (a song I believe to be one of the most passionate indictments of US foreign policy ever put to music), you have railed against the government’s choice of wars. Do you see anyway for the United States to, at this point, extract ourselves from decisions driven by the military-industrial complex or are we pretty much stuck playing that hand until Armageddon or revolution?
Gary: It’s pretty idealistic to think that war is somehow not perpetual. That is indeed how insane the world is. There seems to be a disharmony between humans and nature. Perhaps we are alien to this Earth. The wars and occupations will continue as long as at least half of the citizens of the occupying country are somehow convinced that it is necessary. The world desperately needs more tolerance and less ignorance.
Me: You have done some interesting experimenting with your sound over the years. Have you ever thought of doing a really freaky, out-there Pro-Pain album? Maybe a mix of thrash, hardcore, gospel, and Bangladeshi folk music. Or something in that vain?
Gary: That would be interesting, if nothing else. I think there are bands out there who experiment to the extreme in that regard. System Of A Down comes to mind. They use their influences really well, in my opinion. With Pro-Pain, there have been quite a few exploratory moments over the years, and more than we are given credit for (I’m sure). We used 808 samples (now called bass drops) in 92’, we had trumpets on our debut , a sax solo and Ice-T duet in 95’, horn sections on various songs, melodic vocals, and lots of guitar wizardry….yet some still categorize us as just a hardcore band.
Me: I’m in the Pro-Pain Army on Facebook. Is there any chance we could go to war with the Kiss Army? We could invade the makeup aisle at Target or something. Go after anyone who has whiskers painted on them. What do you say?
Gary: Sounds like a plan, (and good PR). We might be outnumbered, but their Love Guns are no match for our PRO-PAIN Tanks!
Me: What do you think the greatest film ever made is?
Gary: The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz
Me: Really? Why?
Gary: Because it was beautiful on it’s face, ugly inside, and was magically and majestically presented on the big screen circa 1939. To this day, there is still so much room for all kinds of interpretation (political and otherwise). Fascinating stuff!
Me: Once I was hanging out with a bunch of serious hip-hop heads that were all freestyling rap lyrics. Everybody sounded really good and I was nervous because I can’t freestyle for my life. Each guy did a verse. They were making fun of me because they didn’t think I could rap. Luckily, I knew “Pound for Pound” by heart and none of them listened to metal. I jumped up and did the whole song. They all looked at me in stunned silence and acted like I was some sort of genius. I pretended I made the lyrics up and they all thought I was cool from that point on. I’ve always felt guilty for passing your work off as my own. You’re not angry, are you?
Gary: No. It must have happened some time ago though, because “Pound For Pound” is now required learning in most urban schools around the country. The class is called Street Cred 101.
Me: (at this point, I dramatically grabbed his hand…I think it made him horribly uncomfortable, but I wanted to convey the importance of what I was about to say) Promise me you’ll never stop making Pro-Pain albums. EVER! I want your word on this.
Gary: Define EVER. My word is that I’ll keep making PRO-PAIN albums as long as I’m ABLE. (see ABLE under definitions).
ABLE: See EVER
Me: (I look away from Gary and directly into the eyes of YOU, the audience) They have a new album coming out this month. It is called “Voice Of Rebellion”. You need to buy multiple copies of it and give it to all of your family members and friends. If you do not buy at least five copies, hundreds of bees will attack you when you are not expecting it. Like, when you are sleeping. Or, on an airplane.