Destruction Unit’s live shows are a place where earplugs are futile and physical injury is par for the course.
Sometimes the Arizonan quintet swing off lighting rigs. Occasionally they have on-stage tussles. Every now and then, they take so much acid they play whole sets before without even realizing it.
“We dropped some during the day one time,” says singer and guitarist Ryan Rousseau about a show that occurred some time in the hazy past. “And by the time we came to play we were all fucked up. I thought I had frozen on the spot until someone came up to me and told me it was one of the best shows we‘d ever played.”
It’s not just at shows that the band like to operate on another level, either. “During practice sessions we would usually be high as fuck,” says Phoenix-based Ryan. During the recording of their new album ‘Negative Feedback Resistor’, he tells me that the dab rig – a form of concentrated marijuana pipe – was a regular fixture. “It’s the strongest form of getting high off weed but it’s fine because if you get too fucking high, you just vomit or pass out,” he laughs.
It’s 11am in Arizona and the sun is already 38 degrees and rising. For this US five-piece – completed by Ryan’s brother Rusty on bass, JS Aurelius and Nick Nappa on guitar, and Andrew Flores (nickname: Jock Club) on drums – the desert is their playground and drugs and music are their monkeybars. As they sweat industriously over their guitars, kicking up swirling tornadoes of distortion as they go, the result is a sound as extreme as the environment in which it is being created.
They’ve DIY released six albums since 2004, while at the same time Ryan put out three solo albums and played guitar in the late great garage-punk Jay Reatard’s band. Things got serious in 2013 with ‘Deep Trip’, which was the band’s first album for a proper label – New York’s Sacred Bones.
Follow-up ‘Negative Feedback Resistor’ is, according to JS, a record rooted in ideas of “transcendence, evolution and moving forward as a person”. It’s a visceral trip through heavy, cannabinoid psych-rock buttressed by undercurrents of confrontational punk. Standout moments include ‘Chemical Reaction/Chemical Display’ – a diabolical scree of noise and reverb-drenched vocals – and the snarling, hardcdore assault that is ‘Judgement Day’.
With three guitarists, it’s impossibly full-tilt rock, but there’s more to Destruction Unit than just their instruments and wall of sound mentalist. “It’s not about the immediate gratification of a riff or a hook – you have to listen to it a little bit more closely to have these ideas be revealed,” teases JS.
‘Negative Feedback Resistor’ is also the tightest they’ve ever sounded, and still harnesses their unhinged punk energy. “It’s a journey – music to get lost in,” says Ryan. Don’t expect a smooth ride.