Milwaukee-based The Buzzhorn have earned an intensely loyal fan following via two self-released albums and tireless touring throughout the Midwest. Disconnected, is the band’s Atlantic Records debut and is an electrifying collection of mightily melodic rock ’n’ roll with an inventive, aggressive edge. Powered by guitarist Bert Zweber’s sweeping sonics and lead singer/lyricist Ryan Mueller’s roughhewn, impassioned vocals, tracks such as the extraordinary ’Ordinary’ and the unstoppable ’Rhino’ reveal The Buzzhorn to be a thrilling new band whose drive and talent will most certainly connect with rock fans everywhere.
The four members of the Buzzhorn (completed by drummer Rob Bueno and guitarist Todd Joseph) first came together back in 1996, finally self-releasing their debut independent album A Complete Package of Action-Packed Tragedies in the Fall of 1998. The album – recorded on a shoestring budget in just three long days – drew instant local acclaim, as did the band’s powerhouse live sets.
Once again the band pooled their cash to record and release 2000’s self-titled The Buzzhorn. This eponymous album garnered substantial attention in the Midwest, enabling the band to take their live show to cities like Kansas City and Chicago. The Buzzhorn soon signed to Atlantic and found themselves venturing out to sunny Los Angeles to record their major-label debut with producer Howard Benson (P.O.D., Motörhead). The Buzzhorn’s meticulous approach towards songwriting and recording paid off in the rich sound and vision of Disconnected with tracks such as the tender ’Out Of My Hands’ and the turbulent title track hallmarking the band’s complex riffs and relentless energy.
Taking some time out with the band as they prepared to join the infamous Tommy Lee’s ‘Live & Loud’ tour extravaganza, I first wondered where their name had actually originated ? Ryan ”The band’s been together for about seven years and back in the day we did some other things ! We’ll just say that much, but it was kinda a slang word for the pipe basically. And we were trying to bury that for a while, ‘cause the first people that come along and the first people that really become true fans are these kids. Which is kind of ironic because the very reason the name was brought up was to be a code word where kids wouldn’t know what the adults were talking about and now it just means so much more than that. We don’t really like to talk too much about it, but we’re not ashamed of it by any means. I think now it’s even taken on a different meaning because no one knows what the word means anyway ! We made the word up so as long as it can mean what we want it to we’re happy about it.”
Why name the album Disconnected ? Todd ”Basically, writing the album the words that Ryan takes out of feelings all that stuff is pretty deep and has a lot of meaning. When we went out to LA to do the album we were feeling separated from home and so the material that we started writing was really disconnected from all the mainstream-novelty-happy stuff. And basically it’s the theme of the album and is the outlook we have and the way we release our music.”
Rob ”I think that a lot of it too has to do with the fact that we’ve been together so very long and have been doing everything ourselves for so many years that to finally let go and let the producers, A&R person and the label step in was really hard. You have to disconnect yourself from it all. It’s like having a kid, kinda and then watching it grow and then letting him do whatever he wants to do. You have to let go and then in facing that you have to come to the realization of coming to a crossroads and then am I gonna do this or am I gonna walk away from this ?”
What’s changed the most for you since your debut A Complete Package of Action Packed Tragedies ? Ryan ”Well, it’s almost been seven years and we are definitely writing better and we’ve figured each other out a lot more. I think that the songs are a lot stronger and we definitely have more of a focus on what song we’re after. The recording process has got so much better too. We’re really finding good guitar songs and diggin’ deep to find the right lyrics and even the right moments in the songs. You go back to that ‘Action Packed Tragedies’ disc and all the songs arrived from real feelings and real times and everything comes from a real situation from either myself or someone in the band. So going back to that we really just wrote what was on the top of our head and now we feel like more of an architect. We’re really putting the songs together and you’ll see on this album there’s some really great moments within each song that we really tried to make sure happened.”
Making that debut album it was told to me that you spent the entire two years buried in your homes ? Bert ”Definitely, we got together and our chemistry was really good and we stared writing tunes and didn’t wanna settle with going out right away and playing cover tunes and mediocre songs. We really sat down and spent a lot of time trying to write really good songs so that we could release a CD and start going at it.”
How hot is the passion for what you do these days ? Bert ”I think we’re really passionate about it. We work so hard doing this. Before we got here we would spend all our money on like the advertising of our own shows, paying for the recording of the CD and stuff like that and we would just never give up.”
So, with a brand new record deal with Atlantic are you making the money back hand over fist ?! Rob ”Nah,” both he and the rest of the guys laugh heartedly. ”It’s been a very long process and the one thing that I think all four of us have learnt is not to concern ourselves with the amount of money that we make because we haven’t made any money ! It’s not about making the money it’s about sharing our music with other people and really enjoying a chatting moment like today here and other shows that we’ve played. You always have to keep a keen sense on the business end, but that’s why we pay people to do that for us ‘cause that’s one of the luxuries that came with the deal. But, as far as actually seeing a return on past CDs or the present one we haven’t seen too much.”
Todd ”I think it’s a road that’s never gonna end. It sort of became a machine from the first album on. We became so critical and every step of the way got bigger and bigger and when you get in here it’s just the beginning of a whole different level.”
What’s the biggest hurdle you have to overcome ? Rob ”I think a lot of it has to do with you establish yourself in your home town and you finally see big crowds coming out to see you and local radio stations are playing you on the radio and you’re having a great time. But, you’re dealing with a completely different playing field once you make it to the big league. It’s gone from Minor League baseball to Major League baseball where you’re freshman again. You don’t know anybody. You’re disconnected from everything all over again and you’re starting from grass roots again, you know. From your home town who supported you all the way to now, it’s a whole new ball game.”
Todd ”The whole thing is really a big filter process where there’s a lot of people looking at the glass half empty and there’s a lot of non-believers who stand up and keep on standing during that filter process and then go to bat with the big boys and those are the people who stick around.”
Ryan ”In other words, if you were in it for the money it’d been over a long time ago,” he and they all laugh again.
Describe the bands music in three words Group ”Rock, dark and diverse.”
Sum up your feelings behind these album tracks:
‘Rhino’ - Ryan ”Well, that would be me,” he jumps in immediately. ”That just happens to be my nickname that people called me for years when I was in the construction business for almost ten years. It’s really a song on a general outline of myself and some of the trials of the last year for myself.”
‘Holy Man’ - Bert ”It was one of the first tunes that the band wrote a while back and I can’t speak too much with Ryan’s lyrics, but they come off really cool and hopefully intense and I think it’s a really, really interesting song.”
‘Isn’t This Great‘ - Todd ”I think you can take the meaning of a song in different ways, but ‘Isn’t This Great’ for me personally – the way that I can relate to the lyrics – is that you’ve got something you hold very, very close to you and to have it almost be destroyed and almost taken away it can completely destroy you. And I think that frustration is brought out in that song.”
‘Ordinary’ - Rob ” ‘Ordinary’ is about Midwestern guys who hit the big time, see the big picture and go back home, go to the BBQ just as ordinary as the day before.”
Who would look best dressed up as a woman out of your four ?! Ryan ”Me,” he immediately volunteers himself to the laughter of the remaining trio. ”I would probably look really good in a dress !”
Rob ”Tell him about the thong,” Rob chips in excitedly.
Ryan ”Oh dude, there’s this radio station in Louisville, Kentucky and on their web site they have the ‘Thong of the Month’ contest. They basically take a picture of a girl in a thong from the waist down and you kinda give them an anonymous name so just between us I’m sending my picture in in a thong ! It’s gonna ruin the web site for a lot of people, but I have a feeling that I might just end up being the ‘Thong of the Month’ next month !”
Who’s Mr. Loverman out of the quartet ? Todd ”Well, we’re still bottom feeders so there’s not really a lot of gigoloing !”
But, everybody looked at you and you even answered the question ! Todd ’Yeah, I know,” he and they all laugh.
Who’s the messiest on tour ? Ryan ”Me,” he laughs. ”Man, you’re just nailing me here every time. Its like you know me or something ! I come in a backpack, basically. I’ve been living out of a backpack for about a year and a half now because I just need the hotel room to feel a little bit like home. Like, I’m the one that turns the maid away because I feel bad, you know,’ he laughs. ”But then I have to clean up, but I’m keepin’ it down to a minimum these days.”
Who’s the funny guy in the group ? Rob ”Yeah,that’s me,” he agrees wholeheartedly. ”I just enjoy being a ham, I guess. I’m really sarcastic especially if things are going bad I’ll make ‘em worse, by just completely destroying whatever feelings anybody has towards that person or situation.”
Ryan ”Just before someone’s about to punch him they end up crackin’ up, that’s all !”
Any words of wisdom ? Ryan ”The other day we’re all sitting at this table and someone was bitching about something and this story of a little bird who is freezing and cold was told. Well, along comes this elephant who takes a crap right on the bird and saves it’s life ‘cause it warms up the bird. Well, the next morning it’s all crusty and this bird can’t get out and along comes a lion who scrapes the bird out and eats it ! And the moral of this story is not everyone that shits on you is your enemy and not everyone that pulls you out of the shit is your friend.”
Finally, what’s the most amazing fact about the band to leave with the readers ? Ryan ”We can do this for a living now,” he laughs. ”That’s just the best thing now. We don’t have to get up and work a 9-5 and we really truly get to do what we want now. But believe me it’s not a mint of money by any means and we will have to sell a few CDs to get out of the red here, but when it’s all said and done we’ve gotten to do some great things with this band. It’s really cool.”
Interview and Live Photos by Russell A. Trunk
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