The next time I wind up in San Francisco, I’m gonna swing by Amoeba and settle into the
7″ bins, grab an It’s-It bar or two, and make sure to check out Rank/Xerox before I split. Not
many records give me the urge to track down that same band’s split cassette, but the debut
Rank/Xerox 7″ hit me that hard, three songs of frenetic, paranoid rock that sounded like The
Feederz (had they spent less time blowing up cop cars and more time outside art galleries,
drinking the free wine). They don’t really sound like anyone else currently playing, but the
music of Rank/Xerox is never deliberately obtuse or strange – it’s punk rock, no matter what
they’ll tell you. Had a chance to chat with guitarist / vocalist David West about the band,
which I’ll hopefully be able to replicate in person when they tour the US this summer…

Can you fill me in a little on the history of the band? Did you meet in San Francisco?
We probably started in early 2009 I would say… and yes, it was in San Francisco. I met Jon,
the drummer, after he organized a show in an obscure location, which I acquired directions to
from him via the interweb. I had landed in San Francisco, from Perth, Western Australia, two
months earlier. A few weeks after the show I met Kevin and we started the band. Jon and Kevin
are post-childhood friends I believe, from Southern California. They started a band after they
moved to San Francisco, it was called Jump Off A Building, they would classify it as a “hardcore
band”. They have a 7″ record. I’m guessing they had broken up a couple of months earlier, but
this is based on absolutely nothing. Of course, like all hardcore acts these days, they have
played numerous post-breakup shows.

I know you’ve played in other bands… did you have anything specific in mind for
Rank/Xerox, as far as sound, or aesthetic, or parameters of the group?

I’d say that from my perspective, I wanted to do something where I could play weirder (aka
self-indulgent) stuff on guitar, to not have to carry the song per se… I guess this was a
reaction to one of the previous bands I was in, Burning Sensation, which was very disciplined
and more “traditional” in the way I sang and played guitar… not for better or worse, it was
defined by the nature of the songs, but I wanted to do something different. It was really
challenging for me to play the fast, structured stuff in that band, so perhaps it was a change
born of laziness on my end. We didn’t get conceptual or hold any symposiums when we started
Rank/Xerox though.

I feel like there’s still a punk energy to Rank/Xerox, if not a hardcore one. What
do you get out of slowing down the tempo? Why not just play hardcore forever?

I’ve never really played hardcore, so it would be difficult for me to play it forever… as far as
the punk thing goes, I think the other two have more to say about that kind of thing, in that
they have a lot of history with it, ideas about “punk” in quotation marks, ethics, yadda yadda.
For myself, I was completely isolated from that kind of stuff, so I only really think of things in
a strictly musical way, or in a “that looks cool” outside sort of view. I don’t really care or think
about “punk” as a reactionary or conceptual thing. I will say that I’m into things with real energy
and intensity, or at least really intense poses. The slower tempos are merely a reflection of the
increasing misery that accompanies continued existence.

How did you get into punk, if you were initially “isolated” from it? While a more
interesting group than most, I’d consider Rank/Xerox to be a punk band.

It’s interesting that the term “punk” as used in that question sort of reads to me as a substitute
for “banal”… that’s probably not intentional, but what’s not interesting about punk? When I say I
was “isolated” from it I don’t really mean I haven’t been in any punk-type bands, haven’t played
shows with punk bands, haven’t been categorized as punk by a local newspaper. More so, I mean
I never really felt like part of a specific punk “scene”, in a communal, social sense, as I wasn’t
around that in my formative years, so to speak. When I did start playing shows, that’s when I
met people in the Perth punk scene, but Perth is so small, it’s more of just an underground music
scene with a bit of a subsect of punk stuff. There is a lot of crossover. And I was in a band that
could definitely be called punk, but I have never called myself a “punk”… I think it’s cool to be
punk, but it’s not something I feel I could do convincingly. Perhaps this is confusing. I got into
punk when I started a punk band, and when I bought a Sex Pistols CD from a record store.

I hate to play the “what are your influences” card, but I’m genuinely curious,
since Rank/Xerox sounds like a band that could’ve easily started in 1978, 1999 or 2011 to
my ears. Are there any artists in particular that played a role in your sound?

Well, I’ll match your “what are your influences” card with my “we don’t have any influences”
card. Of course this isn’t true, but we did make a pact that we wouldn’t mention or use as
shorthand any other bands when working on things… we try to use describing words, are
these called “adjectives”? I guess my claim to non-conceptualism is slightly refuted here. I will
offer up something from my personal archives though – I guess some of my guitar playing is
somewhat an attempted homage to the first band I ever went nuts over, Sonic Youth. It’s a
touch nostalgic in this regard.

Alright, then without talking bands, are there any particular scenes or time-periods
that inspired Rank/Xerox? What about non-musical, are there any artists or books that
play into Rank/Xerox? Hell, any TV shows?

I can only speak for myself here…but I would say that I am often inspired by the idea of
certain things, before I’ve experienced them or check them out properly. I really like the idea
of no-wave. I got out a book from the library about it and everything looked great, the art is
next-level, those people were so stylish, in wonderful black and white photography. I like some
of the music too, and obviously it’s brilliant and all that, but the idea and the image are really
quite inspiring. It’s the same kind of thing with various scenes, early Chicago house, Factory
Records, the Joy Division/New Order axis, goth things, Christian Death. Artists or books… well,
not really. I’m a fan of a lot of things, I could say some names, but I don’t really have the ability
to reconfigure things into my own stuff, or the desire. TV shows, that’s definitely a different
score. Twin Peaks, and the tele-drama within Twin Peaks “Invitation To Love” is amazing!

I don’t know about you, but sometimes my brain’s imagination far exceeds what
something actually ends up being… most of the black metal bands kinda let me down
when I first heard them after reading about them and imagining their music (Mayhem,
Burzum, those guys). Is there any scene you first read about that, upon actually hearing
it, met or exceeded your expectations?

Maybe I came off as a bit dismissive of no-wave, etc… all the scenes I mentioned have blown
me away in terms of their actual music stuff. I just meant that in terms of actual inspiration,
it’s more idea- or image-based for me than the actual music a lot of times. It could well be
easier to translate a mental image or feeling based on something “exotic” into your music, it’s
more of a general, sub-conscious thing, as opposed to actually using defined elements of it in
your stuff; I would refer to that as ripping something off. Rock’n’roll is based on appropriation
though, so maybe I am too egotistical to admit any wholesale or ideological theft I might have
committed. As for Black Metal though, I think that scene delivers in spades. Ulver and Emperor
are collossally good, and you don’t see any New Romantics burning down football stadiums do
you? Although hey, New Romantics push the barriers too!

I understand there is a full-length LP in the works… how would you say it differs from
the first single? Was there any particular change within the band during the album’s creation?

There is an LP in the works, it is getting “cut” in the next couple of days, and will be off to
various industrial plants after that, so it should come out within the next couple of months, or
years… I’d say it differs from the first 7″ in that it moves into some slower, more damaged sort
of zones, partially speaking… also, as it was recorded in an actual studio with time constraints,
it has more of an off-the-cuff, sort of rough, spontaneous vibe… that might be the main
difference. I recorded our single, so we had the luxury/punishment of unstructured time. The
only change within the band was that we got older.

Do you think the LP sounds like the work of an older band?
Not really, there’s a lot of rambunctious stuff on there too, which is probably something
associated with youth. Also some of the songs pre-date the 7″ stuff so it’s a bit of a Tardis,
time-warp document.

Seems like San Francisco is mostly recognized for noisy, hippy garage music
these days, at least in the indie world. Do you feel any kinship with say, The Fresh &
Onlys or Sic Alps or whatever? Are those the type of bands you’d play local gigs with?

I don’t really feel kinship per se with these bands, or any bands really, in a creative sense,
but perhaps in the notion of being obscure rockers, labouring away in a rather expensive but
scenic part of the world. We did record in the same studio that Sic Alps have done some
stuff in though. We haven’t played any shows with these particular bands, although it wouldn’t
be a major shock if it were to occur.

Who do you play shows with, then? Grass Widow? Any bands from your area that
you are particularly into these days?

We’ve played a lot of shows with Grass Widow, yeah. They are a great band. Other bands
from around here that we’ve both played with and that I’m into: Sopors, this killer sort of
early-indie-rock, melodic, scrappy pop band… the drummer released their LP. Culture Kids,
hardcore powerhouse. Ecoli, total maniac HC damage. Wet Illustrated, amazing band with a
legit NZ clang-pop thing. Traditional Fools, garage punk titans, surf-ish, actual surfers. There
are more but I’m drawing a blank now.

Is it true the band name will be changing?
Now this I could not possibly comment on…