pg.99 interview

Originally published in ‘zine issue #25, 2001

pg.99 is one of those bands that is coming up very quickly in the underground. They deserve all the accolades they are receiving. They’ve worked hard to get where they are now and they have the talent to back up anything they have to say. They are a punk band which has elements of screamo, but they’re way beyond just that. They create dirges which scoop up the listener and takes him or her on a trip to the local insane asylum, using layers of opposing melodies and harmonies to prep you for your stay in your padded cell. Contact them at

I have developed the idea, from watching the band play over the years, that at times in the live setting they are intentionally trying to piss off their audience. The band has a song in their set, for instance, the last one on document #5, which when they perform it tends to stretch out to twice or three times its originally recorded length. Mike Taylor, guitarist, explains, “It’s self indulgence. Who cares what anyone else thinks? So we play the song as long as we want, and we don’t play it if we don’t want, and we do play it if we do want. And yeah, sometimes it’s fun to annoy people, but that’s not why we play it. Probably the better half of pg.99 is a bunch of stoners, and if they aren’t literally stoners, they’re definitely stoners in theory, so we don’t realize we’re playing the song half that long when we do play it.”

Photo of Chris Taylor

Also on document #5, pg.99 has a song in the middle of which the band stops playing and blasphemes Jesus, a tune that for a long time was a staple in the live set. Mike reveals, “The whole ‘F. you, Jesus’ was never literal. It was making fun of the Bible belt religious kind of characters. It was almost like us saying, if Jesus did exist and we were in an argument with [him], we’d say, ‘Fuck you, Jesus,’ you know?”

All that aside, pg.99 it seems actually is full of substance on a lyrical level. Mike, his brother Chris (or Brewdog, as Mike affectionately calls him), the singer, and Blake Midget, the other singer, all contribute lyrics. One of their earlier records, document #4, had a concept about suicide attached to it. I was under the impression that the band was using that angle to screw with their audience, but as it turns out that wasn’t entirely true. Chris tells us, “My friend tried to kill himself, so that record’s for him.” Mike continues, “The whole reason it’s grey and black is ‘cause we wanted to do a more of a moody theme kind of record. Then we realized that a lot of people took that literally, and in some way we made the lies that we were telling mean something to ourselves, just like every true neurotic person does. We got the idea when we found out that this little boy that lived out by our aunt’s house had killed himself at the age of 12, so we thought it was pretty ridiculous if we started wondering what a 12-year-old boy’s reasons would be for actually killing himself, which spawned the idea of a record based around suicide. So nowadays, the record has a little bit more meaning.”

An area that’s unique to pg.99 is the way they present their lyrics on record. On many of the band’s releases, the sleeves aren’t laid out in a way that’s sympathetic to a listener’s desire to clearly read and understand the song lyrics. Instead the band is more concerned with presenting the lyrics in a visual context, with the content’s actual legibility being secondary. Chris expands on this: “First and foremost they’re for myself. Whatever anybody else can get out of it, secondly, if they care that much, they will get out of it. If people can’t read my lyrics, I really don’t care. Here’s what I’m saying: some people have come up to me and said that it’s helped them through a relationship or whatever. The whole purpose of music is to be a relief, to be out there so people can see it. If I get a record that [when] you open up the booklet and there’s nothing in it, there’s just nothing to that band, automatically. There’s no point in not printing it. The lyrics are so about myself and not about something that I think anyone else would be able to relate with unless they went through it. So if they can’t read it, whatever.”

Another interesting dynamic of the band is the way they perform their sets live. The band is very emotive onstage, to the point of being cathartic, and in the early days was even theatrical. “In the beginning it was a new band; we were trying something new,” Mike says. “The whole thing of wearing clown masks and paper bags, and angel heads missing and broken Mary statues, and [wearing] all black, and falling down [together] and the angel samples, it was all experimenting around, fucking around, seeing how much fun we can have. Since [then] it’s become more about the music.”

“I think people should test their limits, push their own envelopes, and do whatever they wanna do, no matter who says that’s too much.”

The band eventually backed off on these signatures, but trademarks have a tendency of resurfacing. “Now it’s come kind of full cirlce and we kinda want to start doing stuff like that again, just for fun. I mean, we’ve been a band for four years. Things get boring, especially when you’re playing punk rock, so you begin to want to recreate, make things new again, fuck around, take it back on an old idea, reinvent it.”

pg.99 is a fascinating band first and foremost––and most noticably when you see them play (they tour incessantly)––because they have eight people in the band: three guitar players, two bass players, two singers and a drummer. They’re sort of like a clan because different people are in the band at different times. The last tour they went out on they accomplished with just two guitar players. I saw them play once in Sterling and their drummer was playing guitar and they had a different drummer. Another time they had a different guitar player who later created the noise that begins and closes out the document #5 record. When they started as a band they had a less unusual setup, and when they one day told me they were adding a third guitar player, I thought it was a bad idea, but they made it work, and very well. Even still, I was taken further aback when they informed me they were adding a second bass player. “At the time we needed somebody new and enthusiastic,” Mike recalls. “So enter the second bass player, not for any strategic reason, but more because we just wanted to have fun and party. The louder, the better. The louder, the more impressionable, the more effective. Basically the backbone is Johnny and I and Brewdog and Blake and George. The O.G. members. All the new members can kiss my ass.”

Photo of Mike Taylor

They’d even go so far as to add a second drummer if they could figure out a way to physically and economically do it. “I think it’s a shame [that] there’s a limit on the boundaries [of] what’s supposed to be considered a punk band,” Mike says. “I seriously would like to break that limit, but you need a lot of willingness to do it. I don’t think anyone’s directly said that, but I think that feeling’s out there that we’re overkilling, but it’s punk rock. It’s supposed be overkill. I think people should test their limits, push their own envelopes, and do whatever they wanna do, no matter who says that’s too much.”

pg.99 is very prolific, and you’d think the band would have a plethora of songwriters in their ranks with eight members, but you’d be mistaken. “I have a problem playing other people’s songs, literally, but I can do ‘em,” explains Mike. “It’s just that in this band alone, and the bands that we’ve done, I just write the songs.” You’d assume that either he has a personal problem working with other musicians, or he’s a band fascist. “I admit defeat. I suck. Yeah, I can’t play other people’s riffs very well. That’s because I don’t think I’m actually a musician. I’m a punk rocker. I don’t know what I’m doing.” ■

Photos: Chris Taylor (courtesy Eliza Bulla), top; Mike Taylor (courtesy Chris Taylor), bottom


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