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Interview:

Lost Art: Voice of Addiction

Interview by Chris Auman


Voice of Addiction has been charging up the local punk music scene in Chicago for nearly 15 years. Sure, there have been lineup changes, but bassist/singer and main songwriter Ian Tomele has been the one constant throughout the Bush years, the hope of Obama, and the national nightmare of Trump. All the while, Ian has toured and recorded with the band and booked shows through his company Wrecking Ball Productions.

The Lost Art of Empathy, released in 2017, is V.o.A's new album, and it's the first in six years. With songs about our decaying society, infrastructure and values, the 12 songs on the record are filled with anthemic vocals and crunchy power chords, but are not immune to melody. Not immune to the recent flu epidemic floating around the country, Ian spoke to Reglar Wiglar after his trip to the doctor’s office to deal with a two-week bout of a bug.

RW: What is the lost art of empathy and how do we get it back?

IT: The Lost Art of Empathy describes how I feel about most everything going on in modern day society. We don't relate to one another. We have created these social media echo chambers where we only hear agreeing voices. No one has discourse or debate anymore. If you are disagreeing no one want to hear it. We can't put ourselves in each others shoes. Everything is completely polarized at the extremes even when most everything lies in between. Our choices should not strictly be binary. It is possible to compromise. Nobody gets 100 percent of what they want 100 percent of the time. We just need to listen.

Voice of Addiction Lost Art of Empathy

RW: Voice of Addiction started in the middle of Bush W’s two-term presidency. It was thought by progressives at the time, that things couldn’t possibly get worse. Well, guess what? They have. How are you coping with the Trump Age?

IT: How do you fight someone who doesn’t care about facts or the truth? Welcome to bizarro world, where everything has been turned upside down. Have you seen Dubya in any interviews since Trump has been President? It is odd. He just acts goofy, careless and makes jokes about his biggest failures. Politics always swings like a pendulum, progress never happens on a straight line. But Obama was as middle of the road as they come, it seems like it keeps swinging farther and farther to the right. Everyone was caught by surprise when Trump won.

We did 160 shows in 2016 almost all of them in the States except a couple weeks in Eastern Canada. People have to remember how big the United States are. We get stuck in these liberal bubbles and forget about the rest of the country. I saw way more Trump signs than Hillary signs throughout the country. In fact, you know where I saw the most Trump signs? New Jersey. So far though, the opposition has been loud, strong and numerous. But we are only a quarter through his first term. Remember nobody thought Bush would get re-elected. So, while I am proud of the overall resistance, I am also worried about the long journey ahead.

RW: Your song “Rust Belt,” which is about your hometown of Cleveland, is written from the perspective of the blue collar workers who lost their jobs when major industries left town. Trump was able to appeal to many of these disaffected people and get their vote. How do you square that?

Voice of Addiction Modern Day Meltdown

IT: How do you reach these people? I grew up in the 80s and came of age in the 90s. My formative years are basically the history of the eradication of the middle class and the American dream. You used to have job security. You could have the four person family, car, house et cetera. Now people get fired before their pensions kick in, two parents work full time to make what one did a generation ago. Control is power and by turning us into a debtor nation we are dependent upon sucking on their corporate teet.

Desperate people do desperate things. This has been exploited by the Trump camp in the form of false populism. Even with his approval ratings, the lowest of any President this far into their term, it is baffling he maintains that much support.

RW: Shifting gears, what brought you to Chicago from Ohio?

IT: College. As much as I love visiting back home these days I was always scared that if I went to school in state I would get stuck there. Both my degrees are from Columbia. Instrumental performance for Music and Live Sound Engineering for Audio Arts and Acoustics. It only took me a couple years to start calling Chicago home. I love this city and all the amazing things it offers.

RW: How do you find this town in terms of support for your band and your booking efforts with Wrecking Ball Production?

IT: Wrecking Ball Production was started by accident. As VoA started getting busier, playing more shows and more out of town shows, I was booking more and more shows without us playing. So, initially Wrecking Ball was started as a way to write off costs on my taxes. Like most big cities it isn't easy to book Chicago and can be political at times. I like to focus on superb bands that need the help. Plenty of people book the big shows here. This has always been something I do in my spare time when I am not touring. As much as I love helping people out. I try not to bite off more than I can chew.

Voice of Addiction logo

RW: What are the things you are most proud of in the band's 14 year existence?

IT: Fourteen years of existence! Making it beyond two years as a punk band is quite a feat in itself. I have hit every type of roadblock along the way and I just can't give this thing up.

RW: What is the line-up of VoA now and how many people have been in the band over the years?

IT: Voice Of Addiction started in the summer of 2002 when I moved to Chicago to attend Columbia for Music and Audio Arts. I moved into a house with a long time friend and music cohort and another one of our roommates just happened to be a drummer. We were all super busy during this time, both working and going to school full time. But late at night jam sessions would happen. The start was kind of slow, so I usually say the band started in 2004 which is when we released our self-titled full-length album. There have been countless people in it throughout the years.

Touring was my objective and it is not for everyone. Usually kids or a career would eventually get in the way and we would lose a member. Currently, it is Andy Ducey on drums and Ricky Henrix on guitar. Their first show will actually be coming up on February 2nd and I couldn't be more excited. Great players and people.

RW: You have a West Coast tour coming up in the spring, is touring something you still enjoy—do the rewards outweigh the pains?

IT: Performing in this band is my outlet and I notice when I am not playing shows I get depressed. In a way a stage is my own form of therapy. I also look at touring as very therapeutic for my mind, body and spirit. With the 24-hour news cycle and the echo chamber of social media, life can seem quite depressing. Touring humbles me. No tour is successful without the generosity of friends, family and fans, but also of complete strangers. The road reaffirms my faith in humanity. I guess you could say that's my addiction.

RW: Filmmaker Bradley Pontecore of Madness Maker Films followed VoA on tour for a bit for the documentary, “Punk Band”—how did you become involved with that and when will it be released?

 

IT: I have actually known Brad for quite a long time. Probably 12 years or so. He had mentioned his documentary idea a few times over the years. When he moved back from Los Angeles again the timing was just right. He was stuck with us for 4-1/2 weeks on a west coast tour. The film is currently in the festival stage and will be released publicly in summer 2018.

RW: What else have you got planned for 2018?

IT: It is extremely hard to stay relevant these days. We have two major tours planned. The West Coast in May and June and Canada/East Coast in September and October. There is a lot of regional stuff and festivals planned throughout the summer. We are currently working on a new music video for "Dead By Dawn." We are pulling out all the stops and have a great idea, so I am very excited for this. I am also looking forward to working on new material so we can be back in the studio by the end of the year.

RW: Thanks, Ian!

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