Transcript Episode 618: Neil Gust (of Heatmiser)

We're experimenting with the addition of episode transcriptions. Note: the audio is transcribed with AI, via Otter. 

Neil Gust  0:12  
for like the last four years, I was going back regularly because I started playing with my other band called number two, a bunch. And we recorded a record and actually put it out almost a year ago today, tomorrow. So I was going back to Portland regularly seeing all my old friends, and they always come through here, quasi was just your last night.

Brian Heater  0:37  
What brought you out here?

Neil Gust  0:40  
Well, after the second number to record, I, I needed to like, make money. And I was music just wasn't, I couldn't make a living.

Brian Heater  0:55  
So you moved to the most expensive city and the

Neil Gust  0:58  
well it turned out. So like what I do as a for living. To make money is I'm a video editor. And I came out here to do that. And it was great. Like, I got a great job right away. And, you know, normally people when they moved to New York City, they have to pay their dues, and it's brutal. And it was really easy for me. I mean, eventually, it got brutal. You know, it's a, it's a relentless place to live. But it at first it was, it was so much fun and great because I had a killer job. And, like, was suddenly making money, which I never did as a musician.

Brian Heater  1:52  
I mean, I moved out here, right after college and did a few internships and that was a pretty where'd you go to school? I'm from California to school in Santa Cruz. Okay, that was a pretty miserable few years. But obviously, if you got a job lined up, you've got not only like, I didn't have it lined up, oh, you'd haven't lined up. He's now here. Okay, so you did do that?

Neil Gust  2:13  
Yeah, I just came out and got it. And I mean, it ended up being connected with people from Portland, you know, like, that's who I, they were my first freelance client, and then boom, it was great. It's really awesome.

Brian Heater  2:29  
Portland's becoming more and more like this. Obviously, I assume the case was fairly different in the, you know, like late 80s, early 90s. But this is a place where, you know, if you don't if you don't have like a, like a trust fund, or, or a nest egg, it's it can often be really difficult to pursue your dreams, because you can't, you can't not work here.

Neil Gust  2:53  
Yeah, for sure. The cool thing about Portland, when, when he miser especially right around this time of this record, was that it was really cheap. And at a certain point, both Elliott and I ended up unemployed and got unemployment. And Elliot got it for like, a year. And it was great, because it was, I mean, all you had to do is like phone in once a day, and you could answer the questions like, on a push button phone, you can answer the questions before they asked it, you know, it'd be like 11211. And then it was your through with your daily thing that you needed to check in with. And, and it was plenty of money to live to live by when you know, we were in our 20s and didn't have mortgages or kids or anything like that. So and it's actually why we could play in bands, because otherwise, it was, you know, worked all the time. As soon as unemployment ran out, and it eventually did run out. You just had to work.

Brian Heater  4:13  
I work in publishing, which means that I've been laid off twice, and I was freelancing, but I but I did the unemployment thing. And it lasted, as it often does. It lasted a lot longer than that I would have liked to like I like I actually like like working you know, and like I feel this is this is my own issues, but I feel like bad when I'm not working. Yeah, of course. And I feel like they go out of their way to make the process as miserable as possible. Who does the unemployment office? All right. For sure. I live in Queens and there's just like I remember for like, one of the low points in my life was you know, those you know, those school desks where it's a combination Didn't like desk chair. But that's kind of comes out of the chair. It's one piece. I just remember sitting in a unemployment office and I think Jamaica, Queens with with the neon lights sitting in this like tiny child's desk, and just feeling like this, this. This is as bad. Hopefully this is as bad as it gets for me.

Neil Gust  5:24  
Was it?

Brian Heater  5:26  
Yeah, I'd say, well, from a job perspective, for sure. You know, life is like that. I find I find, in my own experience is that bad things tend to cluster. I don't know if you've experienced that too. But bad things sort of come pretty close together. For me. Maybe it's a self fulfilling thing? I'm not sure.

Neil Gust  5:50  
I don't know.

Brian Heater  5:52  
Were you. So where are you editing video at the time?

Neil Gust  5:57  
Which time?

Brian Heater  5:59  
Sorry, to get to get back to the the sort of the salad days the early

Neil Gust  6:05  
Heatmiser? No, no, no, no, no. I when we arrived in Portland, in the summer of 91. I got a job at a coffee shop. That was

Brian Heater  6:21  
very early 90s. Specific Northwestern job.

Neil Gust  6:25  
Yeah. Except that it wasn't like Kinkos it was this place called T I 's Business Services, which stood for technical imaging services, business services. And it was run by Christian fundamentalists, which was really funny because I go there and my queer nation t shirt. And and they didn't say anything. And all the bike messengers who were you know, they were super punk rock, who were just hanging out in front of the, in front of the store, delivering all these, you know, blueprints to architects around town and stuff that we would run. So it was pretty weird.

Brian Heater  7:13  
I have a lot of cartoonists on the show. And the ones who have been around for a while. But the ones who were got their start in the 80s. They all had Kinkos jobs now, because you could run off your scenes there.

Neil Gust  7:26  
Yeah, Sam had Sam, who eventually joined he miser worked at Kinkos. I remember.

Brian Heater  7:35  
So you you moved to so you and Elliott went to college together? Correct? Yeah. And the two of you moved to Portland. And the plan was to just become full time musicians.

Neil Gust  7:48  
Yeah. That's Yes. That's why we decided it on the summer before our our final year of school. We were at a fourth of July party. And we were like, What are we going to do? And we just kind of looked at each other, like, why don't we be in a band and and then suddenly, we were really excited. And so we did, did it. It made the last year of school bearable because we had a plan. And we also started developing songs for the band, like that whole last year.

Brian Heater  8:22  
You know, it's one thing to say let's be in a band. And it's another thing to say let's let let's have the band be the thing.

Neil Gust  8:29  
I mean, we didn't know what the fuck we were doing. You know, like, it was like, we didn't know what it were just like, we'll go to Portland and we'll play music. You can do that there. He he was from Portland. So he would. And he knew he went to high school with a bunch of musicians. And we it was really important for us to have a great drummer. And he knew Tony and Tony was amazing. So it was and Tony was like producing poison idea. You know, like it was really great. Like so we we asked him if he would do it and he said yes. And then we were like, okay, all we need to do is move to Portland and find a bass player. And then we're which we did you can't

Brian Heater  9:19  
walk down the street without bumping into bass player. Oh, it

Neil Gust  9:21  
was hard. I mean, we were well we didn't even though Elliot was from there. He didn't know like, like, people our age you didn't know a lot of people our age except for the people who went to high school with nail left. So so we was just in going to see bands. There were a lot of bands in Portland a lot. And we were just go see bands and we went and saw this band called and 99 that Brandt played in and it was it was really good. They were very rock and roll And we were going to try to steal him from em. 99 I think maybe Elliott talked to him and then there they they parted ways. And that day, the day we found out that Brandt wasn't in an M 99 anymore. We got him in heat Heiser. And then back, we were off, that would have been

Brian Heater  10:23  
a much more difficult conversation went with him being Hey, leave this actually good band that you're in and our band that doesn't exist yet.

Neil Gust  10:32  
Yeah. Yeah, that wouldn't have happened it but it just it worked out. So we were off as soon as we had him.

Brian Heater  10:42  
The poison idea Connection is very interesting to me. Was there. Was there a Connection at all to the Hardcore scene at the time?

Neil Gust  10:52  
Oh, well, I mean, he miser the first two Heatmiser records are produced, CO produced by Slayer, the Slayer hippie, Steve Hanford, who's the drummer and poison idea. So I mean, they were the only hardcore band I ever saw there. There is Napalm Death, I don't was there, napalm Beach, a Palm Beach not Napalm Death. I don't really remember what they were like. But there was just a vast variety of different things going on there was like this sort of tribal band called hitting birth. And they would like sell out ballroom size places. And put on these really elaborate shows. Then there was like, like the leftover from like the Paisley underground bands like The Dharma bombs. And they would sell out huge places and and then there was like the beginning of like the alternative punk rock stuff like cracker bash. I'm known for getting banned. But then also, when we arrived, it was just right when subpop started reaching over into Portland, and they had signed pond, which was a three piece and it's not the same pond. That is like a, if you go to like onto Spotify, and try and find a pond, it's like, that's not the Portland band. But subpop signed them. And suddenly, they were like, a big deal. And we were actually rehearsing in the same house as them. And so we started meeting all of these same people and ended up going on tour with pond years later, but just started meeting people. That's how we found frontier Records was through the Dharma bombs. And

Brian Heater  12:58  
you know, you know, especially that time, Seattle really bubbling up, there's a lot going on in Olympia at the same time. A lot of bleed over

Neil Gust  13:10  
K Records was a big deal when we got there. And then like I had friends of mine were super in decay, and

Brian Heater  13:17  
especially that obviously, you've got this later can eat six degrees of separation.

Neil Gust  13:20  
They were they were later. So it was actually I don't know, when the first letter can you record, the very first one came out, but I mean, by the time Janet joined, it was much later. So the I don't I remember. I think we played Olympia. I don't remember. Here's the thing, I forgotten almost all of this stuff. In fact, Tony sends me these recordings, he started sending me mixes and I was like, Where did this come from? I didn't remember it at all.

Brian Heater  13:58  
I don't know how much of this is COVID I've never had a great memory. But I don't remember last week. Yeah. You know, like I when I asked when I asked you questions about stuff from you know, 30 plus years ago, I I'm not expecting the that that find a level of detail.

Neil Gust  14:18  
There was just the I mean, there was like a big it felt huge to me when we when we landed in Portland there is like the rocket and snipe hunt, and Willamette week and all these publications that would write about music, some were totally dedicated to just Pacific Northwest music, and they all were really opinionated. And and there was just pages and pages of stuff about hundreds of bands, you know, there's so many bands and you could play and then there will be like, places popping up to play all around and You could go in, you know, like some new place would come up and we'd just go play there. They'd call us and be like, yeah, we'll go play. And people would come. It was amazing. It's when I went back to do number two. And it's, you know, 30 years later, it was so completely different. And way harder.

Brian Heater  15:27  
You were established, at least, you know, yeah. And through the industry. And yeah, we

Neil Gust  15:31  
had records on everything, yeah, friends and all that stuff. But it was, it's just, it's not the same, there was something really special about the Pacific Northwest. And it and about the fact that so many people would just come out and go see music, and it was this, like, it was so culturally relevant. And people were really dedicated to it and very tribal about it, but they belong, you know, you had a sense of belonging? For sure. It was great.

Brian Heater  16:02  
I think with something like that, you know, when you're talking about the most recent record, and getting back into it, it's hard to untangle what is what the obviously there have been a lot of fundamental changes to Portland, and what is just that, like, you know, that people who are familiar with this stuff, you know, they're not the same, you know, 2021 year olds early on, and, you know, a lot of them have kids that are not coming out to shows like they used to,

Neil Gust  16:33  
right, I think our relationship to music is changed, you know, like the, because the, because of the formats have changed. And the you know, there's there's no gatekeeper anymore, you know, it's not calm, that's massive level playing field. And you're it's but it's your job to carve out your audience and find people and connect. And you know, you have to learn how to do that. And it's easier to learn how to do that when you're really young. And are used to doing it a certain way. But it's still it's still people, there's still so many people in Portland, who go see music, so it's still great.

Brian Heater  17:22  
Part of the question about a spillover or however I phrase it before from Seattle is from the standpoint of, you know, and this is all my what I understand, you know, from years and years later, I wasn't I wasn't in the scene, I wasn't even super conscious about music at the time. But I get the sense that once a Nirvana comes along the way that major label record companies and radio was set up at the time that they were just hoovering up like any buddy who was tangentially connected to that bands.

Neil Gust  18:03  
Definitely. And so there was a lot of competition. And, and a lot of skepticism about any band that suddenly appeared that sounded like that, which is what we did, you know, like, we didn't, we didn't know we move there, right before Nirvana, or nevermind came out, that came out this summer of 91. So it, you know, it was suddenly like, Oh, my God. This is there's like our groundswell. And, and that has benefits and also deficits, you know, like the it was competitive. You're, but when I look back at it, it's, it's also like, we're just, it's just kind of the nature of being of a bunch of artists, in a community who, like, are really intense about their art, and want to be good at it. And so you see people, you get blown away, and then you're like, You got to level up. And, you know, that's what it ends up being like, that's what it felt like, is, you know, you had to level up really, as fast as you could,

Brian Heater  19:24  
being in a bandwidth to songwriters. Was there a little friendly competition between the two of you? Totally.

Neil Gust  19:33  
I mean, yeah, for sure. There was there was we were really excited to be in a band. And so there was that wasn't really like the competition in terms of songwriting wasn't really the focus of our anxiety, you know, like, it was way more about like, I How are we going to do this? How are we going to get shows? How are we going to afford a van? How are we going to be able to rehearse enough? You know, like, is everybody committed to this? As you know, we're going to, how are we going to find a record label? How are we? You know, how are we going to get the next show? Well, that's, that's decent, that isn't, you know, playing the nobody or whatever. There was so much of that stuff going on. But then in the band, it was just fun, especially in the beginning, you know, it was really fun,

Brian Heater  20:35  
given the later stuff. And, you know, given what Elliot sounded like, solo, obviously, a lot of like spillover there from as far as the songs go. It sounds like the two of you were kind of going in different directions, musically toward the end.

Neil Gust  20:52  
Well, I mean, he got on his path and was like, you know, just went for it. And it was, it was so totally clear to everybody that that was, like creatively, the right way to go. But like, I didn't want my band to break up. And so I wasn't. And I, I like being I liked being in a rock band, I like drums, you know, so it there wasn't we were also loved bands, that changed dramatically from record to record, you know, like, the Beatles did. That's what Elvis Costello did. That's what David Bowie did. That's, you know, Rem did that. So we love that. And we embrace the change. I fully. So, you know, once Elliot started getting on a roll and found an audience that connected with his quieter music, the band quieted down, you know, like, it's, it was, there was no way to that was a natural thing to have.

Brian Heater  22:19  
It's hard to do, like a punk song and that like to go back. I

Neil Gust  22:23  
mean, I will say, there's unreleased stuff from my city suns, or it's Elliott's songs that are like, full on some of the faster stuff we've ever done. And it and so it's, it's not like he gave that up, or just, you know, wanted to shrink the the palette of music that he was making, he just wanted it to be better. And it the way that it got good for him was when he was by himself. So it was that was hard to deal with, because I didn't know if the the reason why Heatmiser didn't connect as well as Elliott Smith didn't connected was my fault. Because they're Elliott Smith songs and Heatmiser I don't you know, like, it's the same songwriter, but it it was a weird time, like that was a that was not easy to deal with, just because it would attack my confidence, and then I couldn't be creative. That's just that's where, like, the, at least the conflict inside me in the band was

Brian Heater  23:49  
something that I've had to work on is the very obvious realization that if you surround yourself, I like to surround myself with talented people, people who are really good at what they do. And then invariably, those people are gonna, you know, there's just a lot of like rocket ships sometimes. And it's, I'm trying really hard not to begrudge people who I really like for their successes, but you know, it can be hard. Yeah,

Neil Gust  24:13  
it can be I just I didn't want it to break up my band. You know, like, that's the thing is like, I didn't

those records that Elliott made were so fucking good that it was like, I mean, why I couldn't. I didn't. I didn't feel like I needed to be bummed about it, you know, like it didn't. The fact that his solo records were good. Didn't bummed me out. What What would bummed me out is if, like, he got a He was doing interviews one after another, and he got in a bad mood sort of talking shit about our band. And then it's like, you're talking shit about yourself.

Brian Heater  25:08  
Is that a hypothetical? Or is that something that actually happened at the time? Oh,

Neil Gust  25:11  
I mean, yeah, I mean, he would. It's hard for me to remember specific stuff. But I that I remember standing in a record store reading an interview with him where, you know, he was bemoaning essentially loud rock music. And it's like, well, then don't write it. It's like, that's, that's fine. I don't you know, I'm not the one I wasn't the one telling him he had to do that. Yeah, so it was it was a weird, He's weird. That but it was also I'm reading it in a, you know, a publication. It wasn't a conversation with him. When I when we were together, and we would talk about this stuff. He never said that shit. You know, he never gave any indication that he wanted Heatmiser to break up in any. It was more that he just wanted it to be good. And so like, how are we going to do that? And he was very opinionated about that. Which is which was the right thing to be opinionated about?

Brian Heater  26:27  
It's not that it wasn't good. Obviously. It's not that it wasn't good. But he wanted to be something different.

Neil Gust  26:32  
Yeah, there was there was a lot of there are a lot of there was a lot of creative people in a band. And, but then there was also like, it had more machinery to it, then then his solo stuff. Eventually his solo stuff had a ton of like, music industry machinery in place. What do you mean by machinery like a manager, a publisher of you know, a major label booking agent, people who have a vested interest in his success as a solo artist. And you know, like keep misers competition. That stuff became very tense. You know, like, the fact that there were simultaneous record labels and simultaneous tours. You know, that's just we're like, Well, what are we going to do? When we were making mics at suns, I spent months just by myself in our studio. It was weird.

Brian Heater  27:43  
This will happen pretty soon after the Virgin thing.

Neil Gust  27:47  
Yeah. So yeah, we're now at start talking about stuff that like happened. Bar after the music of Heatmiser. The thing that's coming out, so it's, it's like a, it's a really, it was a big change between the start of the band and the end of the band. And at the start of the bands, what, to me is interesting about these recordings is that we were having fun, and it comes across, because I was really surprised when I heard it. I was like, Oh, this is this is awesome.

Brian Heater  28:32  
As far as like as your your memories clouded it. Oh, for sure.

Neil Gust  28:37  
I mean, I it was, it was a hard breakup for me, because it went on for a long time. And it was unclear what was really going to happen. And then it ended. And band was over. Elliot called me up said, you know, I'm going to do this DreamWorks thing and they need to, the only way I can sign to DreamWorks is if we end the contract with Virgin. So I want to say that he visors broken up and I'm just said, Okay, I mean, we didn't have any plans to be doing anything. Then of course, we started recording together right after that. And he helped me with all the demos for the number two record. And I made his record covers I made either or, and so and so we continued to work together, but it was just I forgot the question I was answering. What does

Brian Heater  29:38  
it mean for it to take a long time for a band to break up?

Neil Gust  29:42  
We just didn't talk about it. You know, so it's like a relationship breaking Yeah. Oh, it's exactly like that. But it's more complicated because there's more people. And and I just can't say this enough. There is It never was like, you know? Elliott never said to me, this is the last thing I'm doing. And then it's over with the band. Yeah, I've never said anything like that. It was just kind of he might have said that to other people. But he didn't say it to me. And so, you know, like, it had gotten weird. But we made Mike city suns, and we were on a major label, we could make another record get more money could do that, you know, it. We weren't on a deadline. But it just didn't work out that way.

Brian Heater  30:47  
Is this the first time that you've reengaged? With?

Neil Gust  30:50  
Yeah, we stuff? Oh, yeah. For in, in like, decades. Because when it did end, I was like, Okay, I'm leaving this behind. But we just dropped it. And I threw myself into putting together another band and trying to write, trying to make a record. That was good. You know. And that's what I concentrated on. And so like, I just couldn't do that anymore. And then I moved to New York, you know, and then I wasn't a musician. Once I was here, I was an editor. And I just, and that was an I was successful at that, which felt really good after beating my head against the brick wall of the music industry. You know, like, that was hard. And so I just didn't ever listen to the visor. Are you a

Brian Heater  31:51  
when you look back and reflect on it? Are you able to see the successes? You know,

Neil Gust  31:56  
when I look back, I remember how it felt? And I don't remember, like, I don't remember any facts?

Brian Heater  32:06  
Well, it's an opinion question. Because, you know, the way I framed it is I didn't I wasn't successful as a musician.

Neil Gust  32:15  
Well, I mean, I don't, I, I don't want to say that, because I made five records. And that's a hard thing to do. You know, like, thank you. But it is true that there are people out there who continue to listen to them, and I, I'm very thankful for that. And I'm thankful I got to be in Heatmiser it was a, those guys are fucking cool. All of them. And I'm still friends with all of them. But you know, it ended and it it was a heartbreak, you know, like, it's like, getting divorced. Because it's your, your property is all tied up with each other, you know, your livelihood, everything and all that had to get unraveled. And then you start all over again. And just like, Fuck, I have to start all over again. And I was so young that I didn't know how to do it except by, you know, charging ahead, you rebounded really quickly. It sounds like so when did Mike citizens come out? Like 96 or something? And then number two, the first record came out in 99. Okay, so it took a while for us to pull it together.

Brian Heater  33:41  
You know, you started playing and obviously, it takes a while to make that first set

Neil Gust  33:46  
of songs going back and hearing it. Do I could I appreciate it now? Yes, I can definitely appreciate it. I can also hear it's really obvious to me like

especially these recordings that are coming out now. What's what immediately struck me is that I knew they were only done in the first or second take because we didn't have any money. And we were recording like 10 songs at a time. You know, I think we might have had two days in the studio. So that's how we sound it. There is nothing. There's nothing.

Brian Heater  34:33  
There's no studio magic.

Neil Gust  34:34  
Nah, you know, like, that's it. And as when we came to our first record that error, we ended up re recording everything, which was probably a big mistake, because it just it kind of drove out the joy and some of it. I like our first record especially like blackout and you That's one probably one of the My Favorite Songs of Heatmiser. I love that song and it that came after these after the set of recordings, but I do wish that we just use some of this stuff instead because there's like a lightness to it. There's a, an effortlessness to it that

Brian Heater  35:27  
feels good. I'm gonna be along the knows about it. But it's punk rock.

Neil Gust  35:30  
Right? It is. I mean, that's what it's all well, it's music because music is chemistry captured in a moment, you know? And it's. But at the time, I don't know why we redid it probably because we were all really into recording and we thought we could make it better. You know, I wanted to spend money on it. Like, oh, we need to spend money on this to make sure it sounds even better. We were very ambitious in the studio. I have

Brian Heater  36:02  
to imagine that Sam joining the band. That's got to be a nice little little jolt to the system.

Neil Gust  36:07  
It was it was a yes, it was. It didn't feel like a jolt it felt like like things like, chilled out because it by the time we parted ways with Brant, there is a lot of tension in the band. And that

it just ended when I didn't fully end because it just got built up with to read between different especially between Tony and Elliott. It got it reset. Yeah. But Sam, Sam came in and was like, one I'm not I'm just helping out. You know, he's, he didn't. He never. He never said he was our bass player. But we like we both LA and I knew that we weren't going to ever find anyone better than him. And even though we tried, we wasn't going to work without him. And he playing with Sam was he has like, he can access his ID, you know, like, it's intense. But he's not. He doesn't that intensity isn't like in the van when you're with him. You know, it's like he's not Henry Rollins. He's a sweetheart, and a fundamentally decent person. And he, it was just like, immediately a brotherhood.

Brian Heater  37:45  
What were those tensions? Is it just like regular dudes in their 20s band stuff?

Neil Gust  37:49  
It was fights over how stuff sounded about how things should be recorded. That, you know, it wasn't like, you know, Elliot wasn't saying that. Tony was an asshole. You know, like a bad person. He was, he would get really uptight about the way the symbol sounded. Or, you know, in a recording, or he would also get after he had made his second solo record. He just, he wasn't really interested in really a someone who could play so precise, which is weird, because he's really precise. Elliott was exceptionally precise. So it was just like this. I want you to be precise, but not in that way. Which is a ridiculous thing to say to somebody because they're just like, I'm just being who I am. And and I'll add that. Elliott came to understand that he was unfair. Later on long after we broke up last time I saw him he admitted that he'd been unfair to Tony.

Brian Heater  39:06  
And I think this is really important. You mentioned that Sam was a pleasant person to have in the van. And because there's no scenario in which you put a bunch of dudes in their 20s in a band for extended period of time, and there isn't some tension bubbling up.

Neil Gust  39:22  
Oh, yeah, of course. You're living in very close quarters. And but, I mean, we didn't tour that much. So the tension was really about how the records were going to sound. They not really all of us were very much wanted to make beautiful records.

Brian Heater  39:48  
Was there a honeymoon period at all with Virgin? It took a really long

Neil Gust  39:52  
time two. took a really long time for the deal to get worked out. It cuz, from the beginning of their interest of the time we signed, Elliott had become a successful solo artists. Yeah. And also we'd never signed our deal with Frontier. So the day we signed to Virgin was also the day we signed our frontier contract. And it ended up being we, I mean, we just signed two really bad deals, you know, so we now we would never do something like that, like, never sign away the rights to our master recordings or anything like that. But

Brian Heater  40:39  
it's the thing that people understand now.

Neil Gust  40:42  
I mean, we kind of understood it, but the thing is, is it's like, you know, the band was held together by momentum. And if we were going to slow down, that's when it would fall apart. And so it was just kind of like, charge ahead. That's just keep doing it. You asked if there was a honeymoon period. There, there wasn't, but there was a smooth period. And I remember it was late in recording like city suns. Where I, where it really felt like it smoothed out because Elliott and I had a ton of overdubs that we had to get done in this like, like a two week period. And it was just us in the studio. And we were working. And it it was amazing. It was great. We got a ton done, and there was no tension. And we just worked really hard together. It's great. We were excited about what we were making. And we were it was getting close to being done. And we were gonna go mix it and it's going to be awesome. And so there was a period there were periods where it felt good.

Brian Heater  41:52  
I asked partially because some of the clips some of the video clips that are floating around places like YouTube have a little like MTV to logo in the corner. So there was there was a push.

Neil Gust  42:03  
You mean like? You mean like the video for playing close man or something? Yeah. Yeah. I mean, Virgin kicked it down to Caroline, as soon as we finished the record, because they, they could see that we kind of were like, here's the record, where we need to, like, take a break. Instead of like, get on tour and go we did go on tour. But by then Tony didn't wasn't playing you

Brian Heater  42:35  
did the worst possible thing for your momentum? Yes.

Neil Gust  42:40  
Yeah, I think there was a little bit of energy put behind that record. But the band was just kind of like, I had to let go of this. It was difficult to make, and nobody wanted to stay in that atmosphere.

Brian Heater  43:05  
You know, again, we were discussing Sam coming in. And I partially asked because it was a case of a member leaving and a new element coming in. Was there ever any potential that there could be a Heatmiser? Without Elliott

Neil Gust  43:21  
mean, I didn't consider that I? What would be the point? I mean, just be start a band with sound.

Brian Heater  43:29  
It's a group of guys. You've been playing together and you like each other and you've been producing good music?

Neil Gust  43:34  
Yeah. I mean, none of us really would have thought that. I mean, they wouldn't have if I quit, they wouldn't have kept going as he Pizer. I mean, he was already a solo guy, so wouldn't have done it. But now,

Brian Heater  43:53  
did number two feel like a just a complete? Did you feel like you're starting from zero?

Neil Gust  43:57  
Yeah. Totally. I mean, I gave my I demoed songs and sent them to Virgin because they had an option to pick up. And they were like, well, we've got the Spice Girls now. And that's really the focus of the of the label. That's literally what they said our a&r guy, and I was like, okay, and and so I was free. And I actually did feel free like I felt, okay, it can be anything now. And I just went back to work, started hanging Christmas lights. eventually found a job at a design agency, which is where I learned to edit but that was fortunate that I got dropped from Virgin. And then I hooked up with Donna Drash, his chainsaw label, which is the one of the coolest punk rock labels in the Pacific Northwest as far as I was concerned because it was full of queer people. And that that first number two record, if we'd had a booking agent, like we might have been able to ride that record longer, but, you know, it didn't happen.

Brian Heater  45:34  
At that point in time. Was there ever a consideration that you just weren't going to do music? After the end of Heatmiser?

Neil Gust  45:41  
No, no, consider it not at all. It was 100% like start a new band.

Brian Heater  45:48  
Were you discouraged, though,

Neil Gust  45:49  
I was bummed. I had to start all over again, for sure. I mean, it. But I, I also had confidence that it that I could make something that sounded good. And

I wanted to do it, I've wanted to play in a band since I was so young, you know, I started guitar playing at eight years old, used to carry records around before then, like I played with seven inch records, I have them in my baby pictures. And it's it's just been the thing that I love to do the most. And there was no question that I was going to do that. But it was only after like, I was in my early 30s, and just had to confront the fact that I, I can't make a living doing this. It's not working. And that a lot of that had to do with just, we didn't have a booking agent.

Brian Heater  46:55  
I've talked to a number of people who had various points, a number of musicians who at various points just just stopped making music. Now, obviously, I'm talking to them. So in every case I started doing again, but like, for me, the only thing that I've ever really wanted to do for a living is be a writer. And I've been able to do that not not necessarily on the terms that I hoped for. But like I consider myself very lucky that for close to 20 years at this point that I've been able to survive in New York City and survive on being a writer. What surprises me are these people and I don't know, where you land on this, but are these people that like, it's their passion, it's the only thing they ever wanted to do. It's the one thing or the main thing that really brings them joy in life, and they're able to just stop. And I don't know how people just stop.

Neil Gust  47:50  
Well, I don't know how other people stop. But when I stopped, it was a big relief. Because I thought, you know, I love music, I love it. But I don't love this. I don't love the way this feels on a day to day basis. And there are other things that I want to learn how to do. And I was also very single and lonely. You know, like, all of my time, I would go to work, come home, work on songs go to practice, we'd have gigs on the weekend. You know, like there was no there's nothing else happening. And stopping. I also thought maybe I'll make a record when it's kicking and screaming inside me and needs to come out. You know, like, that's what I'll do. But I also have always loved the intersection of music and visuals. And I really wanted to develop the visual my, my interests and and how in making stuff that you could look at. And so I had to I was lucky enough to get a job at this at this design agency that was transitioning into broadcast design. And so they needed somebody who could combine sounds and visuals and I just learned how to do it became their editor met. It felt really good it it it felt good because I was a natural at it. And people were excited when they saw it. Which was not what was happening when we would go play shows on the weekend after I'd been in bands in Portland for 10 years. You know, like it was kind of like not it was hard To get people to come to see you play when you've been playing all the time. You know what I mean? You're asking like, how do you just stop? It was more like, well, to us that the horrible tech bro term was more of a pivot. You know, like it, it, it was just like, let's do some, it was more like, I'm going to reorient

Brian Heater  50:26  
the ship, I'm going to redirect my creative juices, and it fully

Neil Gust  50:30  
required music to be part of it. But it just wasn't writing song,

Brian Heater  50:39  
the way you described it kick when it when it's kicking and screaming, it's inside of you. Sounds like you were always anticipating returning at some Yes, well,

Neil Gust  50:49  
I didn't know. And I was, it was a relief, to just kind of

it was a relief to not struggle against against something that felt impossible. You know, like, I making enough money in a band, to pay everybody in the band, and to have to pay my expenses was just, I couldn't make it happen. And every single the, you know, we did the first number to record and then chainsaw was like, You need a bigger label, you shouldn't put your second record out with us. And then I couldn't find any label to do it. And it took a really long time before Alex Steinberger in, in Portland agreed to do it. And by by the time that record came out, I was just finished, like, you know, like I was, I was like this is if I don't get some help, if this doesn't generate some interest and some help, then I can't, I can't do it anymore. And it, it, I didn't get any help. So it was a relief, to develop other other interests, and to be excited about making stuff. And also to feel like a success at something. And so it was great. And there was a period around 2012 where I took a break from it and was like I'm gonna teach myself. Logic,

Brian Heater  52:45  
you took a break from editing. Yeah.

Neil Gust  52:48  
So I've been doing it, you know, hardcore for seven years or whatever, how long 3005 to seven years. And there was a chance for me to take a break, I'd earned enough money, I could spend a few months just concentrating on stuff. And so I did that. And I got, I just did everything that I could think of, and then I felt like I'd done it and emptied myself and I saw like, okay to take this to the next stage is going to take a lot of my time, and I gotta go back to work. So I went back to work instead. And then it would just keep coming back. Like I came to realize doing advertising and putting songs and ads was starting to make me cynical about songs. And and that alarmed me. You know, I didn't want this thing that I loved to be destroyed. And so I consciously was like, Okay, I'm gonna stop at making ads. And I'm gonna learn how to play guitar again. And I'm going to play every day and we're gonna write and and it helped that like Paul and Gilly were like, super into it, that the other thing that had happened is that I got the first two number two Records reissued on vinyl. And they sold out, like, Oh, my God, they did they did better on a reissue 15 years later than when they first came out. So it felt like I could, I could, I could make our records. I could play music. It doesn't have to be the way that I make a living. So that can take that that pressure can be taken off. And so now like what do you want to make what? What matters and it was In a beautiful experience, being able to do that, it was back to feeling joyful about making music and feeling the power of rock music and feeling like propulsion of it and levitating because of it feeling goosebumps, you know, it's was great. And that wasn't there. When I decided to stop, you know, in 2002 to 2003 that that visceral joy just was, wasn't there. So stopping wasn't hard.

Brian Heater  55:39  
So you had a record come out last year, you've got this. We're ostensibly talking about this Heatmiser issue. As we're recording this, what is your relationship with music?

Neil Gust  55:53  
Oh, I'm working on new stuff. You know, an open to possibilities. It would be fun to be fun to make something really killer, like the best thing that I've ever made. I would like to do that. You know, I would like to get better and, and make something that connects with people more than I have been able to in the past. That there's something so viscerally thrilling about that. Like makes life worth living. You know. I'd love to make another record and so I'm working on but it takes me a long time.