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Photo by Matt AverageDas Oath are four orbiting-30 guys from two different continents whose entire conscious adult lives orbit minute-thirty hardcore songs on cheap black vinyl 45s, and society is fine with that because this is a new era: behold post-thrash, hyperconscious of everything that came before, the grad-school evolution of high-school hardcore for smart kids who haven't figured out a good reason to quit yet. The rules have changed, punk: you must be at least THIS self-aware to cover "I.Q. 32," and there will never be another Cro-Mags again. If you would like a vision of the future, imagine a 40-gig iPod loaded with every hardcore 7" ever recorded all the way back to, uh, the Neos (and all ripped from vinyl), set on shuffle' forever. And remember that it is forever.
Yet how alive it still feels, and how much song Das Oath can smash into a raw minute: riffs survive just long enough to recall someone else's name, then a drum break or a key change or three seconds of feedback flutter and a plunge back into the soup, with singer Mark McCoy's turbine whine cutting like a shark's fin through the din. Das Oath have several albums' worth (latest on Dim Mak) of these meticulously curated petit-mal songs. Thurston Moore just wrote a tribute to the adolescent mixtape, remembering the summer he spent as a Soho dishwasher, dubbing 45s in the middle of the night: "superfast hardcore" by (his list) Minor Threat, Negative Approach, the Necros, Battalion of Saints, the Adolescents, Sin 34, the Meatmen, Urban Waste, Void, Crucifucks, Youth Brigade, the Mob and Gang Green. Save a minute-thirty for the few classics that followed in the 25 years since, and there's Das Oath, one hundred shreds of hardcore mixed and mismatched into something new-ish but nostalgic, thrash by lifelong thrash-ologists: preserving the old ways from being abused, protecting the new ways for me and for you—what more can they do?
And so a lot of young kids come out—to them, this must be a whole mysterious world opening up, says Mark—but a lot of older guys too, bald by biology, not choice, who say things like, "One morning I just woke up and didn't understand punk anymore." (Or write things like: "All you need to know is I'm 35, and recently I got drunk and almost cried listening to a Judge record cuz it sounded so friggin' beautiful.") But Das Oath, they still understand.
"I'm outdated," says Mark. "But you're 29!" I say back.
"But this is music, so it's quick," he says. "I can already see it changing—like the kind of bands that played this fast hardcore are pretty much extinct. Of the whole new wave, we're like one of the only ones around in 2000 that are still together—"
Here he makes his own list, of bands that played for hundreds and then retreated to haunt T-shirts for the next 20 years; DS-13 and Tear It Up, if you want named names—
"—and I don't know if people miss them, or think about them. I don't know if they think about us. That's the momentum of the music industry—a quick turnover rate. Nothing is important anymore."
And listen to those violins: they mix 'em low on the LP but here they are at tonight's show as the last battalion makes ready to march into the mist. Although the first thing the public wanted to know from this interview were his thoughts on anal sex—"Oh, he loves talking about it!" the public said eagerly—Mark's shocking provocateur persona (the part that writes up-your-nose songs like "Awesome Rape" and "A Biggot Is a Spic," sociopolitical analysis with the élan of boiling water) doesn't come out to do tricks on command. He may well love anal sex, but he still has a life a 29-year-old could take home to Mom, as do the rest of his band (Jeroen Vrijhoef, guitar, 32, and Marcel Wiebenga, drums, 26, who both live in Holland, and new bassist Aaron Aspinwall, 32, who is married and lives in Chicago). He has advanced degrees and a job teaching art at a women's shelter in Brooklyn, and then a few weeks each year, Das Oath fly in to be bad again. They write songs in his two-bedroom Brooklyn apartment while Mark is at work, then they practice three days a week and play shows for four. Everyone has to be perfectly organized and extremely dedicated, or it doesn't work. An ordeal, you might say. In five years, if they are still around, Das Oath will be something their toddlers understand at first only as the thing Daddy does that makes him happy. Of course.
"It's my passion and my focus," says Mark. "I love these guys," he says a bit later. "I love these guys so much," he says at another point. "It almost seems like we could do this forever," he says after that. No future? Come on, there's nothing but! When the young turns old, you can still be loud and snotty, you can rip off the Void/Faith split forever, you can be the band no one really heard of that some kids will steal riffs from long after you are deaf and gone, and you can be on some middle-of-the-night mixtape by some 12-year-old just opening up to this whole mysterious world. Behold post-thrash, as romantic as it gets?
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