Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Phoenix On The Fault Line

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Phoenix On The Fault LineUntil my friend Anton mentioned this band to me, I had never heard of them. I loved the name, and when he told me they won the 2011 Battle of Birdy’s, I knew they had to be good. Battle of Birdy’s is an event that happens every year that features some of the best talent in the Circle City. The Battle gets a lot of attention too, and tends to pack Birdy’s year after year. When these guys are on stage, the stage is packed too… there are nine of them. Needless to say, they make a lot of noise. What’s weird is that when you listen to them, you would never know there are so many guys in the band. They are very polished. It’s my pleasure to be sitting with and to introduce you to Phoenix On The Fault Line.

I love the name. Mainly because I love Arizona! Where did you guys come up with that band name?

When I joined the group they were trying to call themselves Kung-Fu Grip. I hated that name. I talked them into changing it and we underwent two weeks of tossing ideas on our white boards. When I got to practice one day Phoenix On The Fault Line was on the board. I knew that was it. A week later we voted, and here we are today. We all have different ideas of what it means. To me it means… brotherhood.

I also like the logo. Who designed that?

We currently have two logos floating around. One designed by Liegh Miller and the other by Dan Mecca at Bleeding Media.

You guys have some pretty mature lyrics. Who writes all of the lyrics?

Thank you! I write all of the lyrics. Sometimes the guys come up with the song titles though. On this last album I would say 80% of the titles were the original working titles for the songs. I just make it fit in with the mythology.

Your sound is very polished. It seems you have a pretty professional setup. Do you guys practice a lot to nail that down?

Yes we do. I am also very fortunate to be in the room with eight other extremely talented musicians. Separate we would have all taken different paths through this musical odyssey but together we form something much bigger than ourselves.

Where did you all meet?

Johann and I met playing in the band REBUILT several years ago. The rest of the guys have known each other for years. Some since childhood. When they first began this project, a mutual friend of ours put us together. I loved the sound and camaraderie so I stuck around.

There are a LOT of guys up there on stage… As you said, nine of you. Does it ever seem crowded up there?

Hell yes. Our combined weight is a little over a metric ton. It is kinda like a mosh pit, but on the stage. I collide with people and instruments nightly. I know better than to spill Jon Ball’s beer though. And if I do, I promptly get him another.

What’s with the nicknames… The Prospect and “Big” Andy?

Well sir, thats a long story. The name Johann 51 aka “Nate Gray” had to do with an incident involving an android on one of our adventures. The details of that incident are currently being scribed by our guitarist, Chip Strohs. He is our resident historian/journalist. Ocho was the eighth member. Big Andy and The Prospect are giants (and really brothers). Hence the “big” in Big Andy. The Prospect was our prospective final guy. Once he earned his way into the fraternal order that is POTFL he decided to keep that name. It’s a right of passage really. Once you are reborn into our brotherhood you choose your name and your numbers. Darby is just Darby. I don’t know if that is his first or last name. His wife calls him Darby so that’s good enough for us.

Why do you guys say 3317 A.D.?

I believe it has some sort of numerological value that has not been determined yet. The date itself was an accident. I was only trying to push us ahead by three days and well… I am not the mathematician of the group. Poof! We had gone too far. Time travel is an exact science with many coordinated factors. I, however, believe that everything happens the way it was destined to, so sometimes we just spit whiskey and go, go, go! It took us about a year to get back home but it was an awesome adventure that brought us all closer together.

Original rock in the city of Indianapolis is rare. How do you guys raise the bar night after night?

We tell our stories with the conviction of a dictator leading his troops to war! People seem to like the escape from reality that we provide them. Yes, we are talking about spaceships, zombie robots, and time machines but like in any good sci-fi experience, sometimes those things are just metaphors. Today’s music is a sad state of affairs indeed. Too much carbon-copied, mainstream media manipulation and over-processed corporate consumer nonsense. We don’t wear our sisters jeans, and we don’t use auto tune.

What’s your favorite venue to play in Indy?

I personally love The Melody Inn. We don’t quite fit in there anymore, but I love that place. There is a nostalgia that is thick in the air of that bar. Lots of blood, sweat, and whiskey tears have pushed through that place over the decades. I am glad we have gotten to be a part of it.

What’s the biggest crowd you have ever played for? The smallest?

The biggest show we have played so far was when we opened for Clutch last year. It was a sold-out show and an amazing opportunity and experience. I’d say the smallest show was when we traveled to a festival in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I think there were five people in the bar. The promoters messed that whole experience up. We still had a good time though.

The horns are so unique. What made you want to add horns to the band?

I don’t think we have ever had an intention of adding any instrument. We all just came together like the gravity of a collapsing star. Jon Ball was already part of the show when I walked through the doors. He was the reason I felt that we were on to something special. What he was doing with that baritone sax was not something I have ever heard being done. It was like the band Morphine had a bastard child. It made the sound they were creating unique. We added Darby about a year in and The Prospect jumped in last year. It’s not my lyrics that give us that sci-fi sound. It’s them.

I see you are whiskey drinkers. What’s your favorite whiskey?

I am a Kentucky bourbon man myself. James and Chip seem to like the Irish stuff. Darby is fond of Canadian sipping whiskey but I can’t speak for the rest of the gentlemen. With nine guys, favorites are never a cohesive thing. The consensus, however, is that whiskey is a good thing.

I want that logo on a shirt. What kind of merchandise do you guys have?

We have shirts, hats, hoodies and more. We are currently working on making a LOT more of a variety too. We are a DIY kinda group.

Really digging your website… what content management system do you use for that?

Thank you again! If you asked any of the guys what content management system is used they will tell you it’s called Tony Ferreira. I think they are under the impression that I manage the site with the power of my mind.  It is just bits and pieces of code I have collected and modified to meet our current needs.

P.O.T.F.L. is being featured on the X103 tribute to Nirvana. What does being a part of that project mean to you guys?

It was an honor to have the opportunity to cover one of the greats. Like them or not, Nirvana changed the game. With that respect in mind we tried to make the song our own.

You don’t play a ton of shows in Indy. Are you branching out of the Circle City and playing in other Midwest markets?

We traveled a lot at first but for the last year we have been at home building an army and finishing our new album, “Basement Of The Coliseum”. We will be branching out a bit in 2012 and even more in 2013.

Tell me a little bit more about your relationship with Shoot The Hostage Records.

Shoot The Hostage Records aka STH Media & Publishing is our label/company. We own and operate it. Our mission is to create a legacy of entertainment for the masses of this new interconnected society. Back ten to fifteen years ago you needed to sign with a label to get advertisement and distribution. Now the business model is totally different. I can make quality products and distribute them electronically to all points on the globe. Harnessing social media for advertisement purposes cuts out the millions I would have had to spend getting us out there into the eyes and ears of the world. Social media is the game changer. If you can overthrow governments with it, then you can build empires too.

Where do you guys practice?

We built a bunker in an undisclosed location. I could tell you where, but the Men in Black would undoubtedly show up at your door. I assure you they are not as fun or as witty as Will Smith portrays them to be. The bunker is pretty awesome actually. There are lots of fun electronics, a lab, music room, and of coarse a Jon Ball custom bar. There are NO time travel devices allowed at the bunker though. We learned that the hard way. I keep that stuff locked away safely out of Ocho’s idle hands.

You have a couple of albums under your belt. What have you learned along the way from one album to the next?

We have three now and a fourth one under construction. Through the process of making them we have learned how to work as a unit. We have also learned to check your ego at the door. We don’t hold each others hands through the writing process. I can make a suggestion, but ultimately if it’s your part, you make the decision of what to do there.  Newton’s first law of motion also applies. We keep charging forward with writing new songs. We have to keep that fire alive.

Do you guys have jobs outside of music?

Yes. We are swords for hire. We are basically like a time-traveling A-Team. If you can find us…. you can hire us.

I haven’t seen you live… yet. What can someone who hasn’t seen you perform expect from a show?

Exhilarating adventure! We take the listener on a journey. I expect to see you in the front row soon, sir!

You are getting a lot of radio play. You have been featured on stations here in the United States as well as overseas. What was it like the first time you heard your work on the radio?

Words can’t describe it really. We had not even released our first album yet and it was being played on the air. The best is when I am driving and I randomly catch us being played. It’s an awesome moment. Makes me proud of what we have accomplished and it never gets old.

I have to thank Anton Swartz for introducing me to you. How do you guys know him?

Anton and I used to work together at a tech company here in the Indianapolis/Carmel area. I have not been able to prove it, but I am pretty sure he is an extraterrestrial alien. I think he may be a little touchy about that subject, though, so I don’t push it. I will say this, though… if I am in a jam with my website, I call him.

I LOVE the “Basement of the Coliseum” album cover. Who designed that? What’s the meaning behind that image? It’s pretty powerful.

The original art work for the album was done by Faith Mullins. She also happens to be the sister of Jon Ball. She read the lyrics to a song off our album (SteamPig) and that is what she saw. Josh Smith (who also did the graphic design work on our first album) did the design work around Faith’s art. My favorite part of the picture is the two old men in the corner with their ale glasses held high in salute to the ship. The name of the ship is Parsifal. That is our salute to three extraordinary inventors. Hammond Van Ocher, Thomas Birks, and Joachim Jensen. They designed and built the first steam-powered flying pig and named it Parsifal. It is an amazing feat of engineering, truly. It is an even more amazing feat that Birks and Jensen have convinced people that it is just a  piece of art when really it is one of the most powerful airships in the galaxy. You can read more about them at

Are you familiar with presents six bands for six bucks? I would love to chat with you guys about getting you on a bill.

I am indeed familiar with that idea, and we are totally down to rock out with you.

What’s 2012 look like for you guys? Got anything big planned this year?

We plan to release another album, hopefully in October. It’s a concept album tentatively titled “Dethiachi”. We are also hoping to work with a local film company doing a short film of the same name. I can’t tell you much about the concept behind the album but I’ll tell you this much. If Danny Trejo had thirty minutes of zombie killing to do this is what he would want to be listening to while he did it. We also have the novel that Chip is writing about our ridiculous adventures through space and time. If I get my way, there will be graphic novels too. Other than all that, we just plan to rock as much as we can all over Indiana and the Midwest.

When it’s all said and done, what’s the P.O.T.F.L. legacy? What do you want people to remember you for?

There is a lot of irony in asking a time traveler what he wants to be remembered for, don’t you think? We want to be remembered as game changers and adventurers. We take a lot of risks just being us. I want to always look back on what we have created and smile.

Thank you so much for taking the time to sit and chat today. I appreciate it guys. In all of the interviews I do, I always give the artist the last word. Go.

Thank you so much for the interview, Ricky! I only have a few things to say and I’ll be on my way. Please support local art and music. We have a ton of exceptionally talented people in this town. With your support, we can make Indianapolis an epicenter for creativity in the years to come.

I would also like to tell any would be time travelers out there one extremely important bit of information… avoid 2217. That is all.

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Header photo compliments of Liz Nicol of 110db.