Oakland’s Judgement Day has been wreaking beautiful havoc on the music scene since 2002, creating a hybrid of classical and metal music dubbed “string metal.”
With three albums under their belt, the band has slowly transformed from metal into an experimental rock project. With Judgement Day set to open for Pinback at the Catalyst Friday, we talked with violinist and UCSC graduate Anton Patzner about his thoughts on other string bands, the end of the world and his random musical encounter with Lou Reed.
SANTA CRUZ WEEKLY: Where did you grow up and when did you start playing music?
ANTON PATZNER: I grew up in Oakland. I went to college at UC Santa Cruz and lived in LA for little over a year. It was cool, but I didn’t like having to spend so much time in my car. I took private lessons growing up. I started on piano when I was five and took one lesson a week and practiced every day. When I was in fourth grade, I took to violin and went to Crowden middle school in Berkeley where they practice two hours of classical music daily. Since then, I’ve been playing in bands.
Is it true that Cursive recruited you for a tour with Bright Eyes? How did that happen?
We used to play outside of concerts when they were getting out. We did that for Cursive, and the band came out and watched. That was exciting, because we were big fans. We kept in touch and their cello player was touring with Bright Eyes and she recommended me. The best part about touring with Bright Eyes was the musical lessons that I learned. One time we had Lou Reed join us as a special guest. We didn’t practice, he just showed up for soundcheck, and we ran through his song twice. The first time he stopped us after about 20 seconds. One of the chords was wrong, so he showed us the right chord. The second time we played through the entire song and afterwards he said, “Well, I don’t think we want it to sound any better than that.” He was right. That was quite a lesson for a young perfectionist.
What does the name Judgment Day mean to you as a group and how does it reflect upon your goals as musicians?
Basically, it’s the end of the world. It’s the most epic thing we could think of. We started the band halfway as a joke. Every song on our first album has joking references to the end of the world or hell. I never really realized we would make multiple records. I just thought we’d be always making ridiculous metal albums as a novelty, but when time came to make the next record we wanted to escape that novelty. In some ways, I wonder if we should have created a new name, but it’s who we are and there’s an upside to the name because whenever there’s a predicted apocalypse we get thousands of new followers on Facebook. The downside is that one can’t find us on Google. And yes, we are huge Terminator 2 fans. We’ve busted into the theme song a few times at our shows.
Where do you see Judgement Day going from here?
We don’t have any plans for a new record. I just need to take a break from trying to make “strings-only” records. I really cannot stand some of the pop string stuff that has come out in the last few years, like 2Cellos, who do metal covers of pop songs and Linzi Stoppard, who dances a jig while she plays violin solos over techno beats. I just think that stuff is wrong, and I don’t want to be a part of it. There’s definitely a way to make good music with strings. Andrew Bird is an example of a good violin player who is also an artist. His records aren’t just violin all the time, they’re legit and worth listening to. I even still think it’s possible to make a great record with just violin, cello and percussion. But goddamn, it’s difficult.
The Catalyst, Jan. 18