Mission of Burma Brings Post-Punk Sound to Wellfleet
By: Sam Houghton, August 8, 2012
COURTESY MoB - Mission of Burma's Roger Miller (guitar, vocals), Clint Conley (bass, vocals) and Peter Prescott (drums, vocals) with Bob Weston (of Shellac), who joined on trumpet for the band's latest album, "Unsound."
If you were around during the early days of hardcore music—who endured the organic and aggressive vibes of bands like Black Flag and Minor Threat—chances are you know a thing or two about the Boston band Mission of Burma.
You might even know that drummer Peter Prescott is from Wareham, or that the band, nearly 30 years since their heyday, is playing the Wellfleet Beachcomber on Saturday, August 11.
Chances are, however, you snubbed your nose at the sound of it. It is, after all, music that is hard to listen to. It is abrasive. Some might even call it noise.
Mission of Burma
Playing at the Wellfleet Beachcomber
1120 Cahoon Hollow Road Wellfleet
Saturday, August 11, doors at 9 PM
Prescott would not hold that against you. The drummer was nice enough to chat with the InsideOUT Cape Cod crew, spilling the beans about the unyielding band that gave us “That’s When I Reach for My Revolver,” “Academy Fight Song,” and one of the best rock albums of the ’80s, Vs.
InsideOUT: In Michael Azerrad’s book, “Our Band Could Be Your Life,” you are quoted as saying your intent "wasn't to make people work, but that’s the way it came out.” What did you mean?
Peter Prescott: Sometimes people would come and see us one night and really dig it and then come back the next night and think it was horrible. Consistency was not what we aimed for. We never played the same set twice. We never have. We always wanted it to feel different, even if that meant going off the reels and being just horrible, and that made it very difficult for other people to enjoy.
i/O: How did that affect your ability to develop a fan base?
PP: We did develop a solid fan base, but it took longer than usual. We had a couple of popular, catchy songs that you could sing along to: “Revolver” and “Academy Fight Song.” People were saying that [we] were gonna be the next Clash, but it just wasn’t like that. That was an aspect, but we were kind of selfish. We all wanted to be interested in what we were playing. We always wanted it to be fun for us.
i/O: Back in the early ’80s, from what I’ve read, a popular thing to say about Mission of Burma was that if you all four played the same song at the same time, you’d be really good. That makes sense now.
PP: [Laughs] Yes, there are some quotes back then that really describe the band well.
i/O: What was that period in Boston like in the ’80s?
PP: I always have an amazing memory of that time. I grew up in Wareham, an insulated town like most of America. I liked typical rock music but started hearing David Bowie and Iggy [Pop] and that got me thinking outside the box. I was primed for when I first heard punk rock. I knew I had to go to Boston to hear those bands, and when I got there, within weeks I knew I wanted to play in one of those bands. I saw Roger [Miller] and Clint [Conley]’s band, Moving Parts. They were on the arty sound of punk. When I got kicked out of my band and Moving Parts broke up, I was like, “I gotta play with those guys.” I tried out three times until they broke down and they took me. It was a very nurturing environment.
i/O: Mission of Burma broke up after four years and then came back nearly 20 years later and have been playing for 10 years since. Why did you get back together?
PP: Something in it was unfinished. I don’t know why. Here we are now with 10 records out. Occasionally we put together an album and the band will come alive again. We just put out a record a couple of weeks ago. We’re happy [with] the way it came out.
i/O: Is the music still heavy?
PP: We’ve never been the punks with Mohawks or anything. But it’s pretty intense music. It probably always will be.
i/O: What do you think of music today?
PP: Technology isn’t always kind, but it marches on. It’s like the Wild West right now. Record labels don’t necessarily own things. No one’s in control, really. But it would be nice to hear really young bands that rock. It’d be nice to hear something that really shocked and surprised me. But kids aren’t here to surprise a 54-year-old guy. That’s what motivated us in the first place. There’s going to be stuff in the rock world that will blow people’s minds but they’re trying to figure out what they like now. I’ll even say in the next 10 years, we’ll hear some fresh stuff.