Eugene S. Robinson on New Oxbow Material and Reviving Black Face
Photo: Craig Murray

Photo: Craig Murray

In addition to his duties in whacked-out heavy metal band Oxbow, Eugene S. Robinson continues to keep busy these days with his side-job as an amateur MMA fighter and professional jujitsu competitor — but he’s also delving into other musical and non-musical forms of expression as well. He just released Sal Mineo, an abrasive spoken word/electronic album with Xiu Xiu and has gained notoriety in France for his sexually-charged playsA Long Slow Screw detailed psychopathic gay men and his newest, The Inimitable Sounds of Love, which is about threesomes. Hive spoke with Robinson about some recent fights he’s been in, what’s next for Oxbow, and the rebooting his Black Flag side-project, Black Face.

I heard that you got suspended from your fighting club for … fighting.

Not suspended. I got kicked out.

How do you get kicked out from a martial arts club for practicing martial arts?

They came out with the world rankings and apparently I’m ranked 35th in the world. There’s a guy on the team who has pro-aspirations and he came out lower than me, so we all began mocking him. He took a shot at me. It was all good-natured and joking. We started sparring. I was okay with that. But, the coach said stop. I was in the type of situation where I know if I put my hands down, he’s going to take one last shot. So, I kept my hands up. The coach said, “stop!” In this instance, I just kept my hands up and kept fighting with the guy. The coach said, “You’re 86’ed. You’re out!”

How did you get back in? Did you call up the coach and apologize?

No. I would never ask. I waited a certain period of time and I did what all people do in uncomfortable situations like that. I came in and acted like nothing happened.

If I’m in situation where I have to brawl, how should I approach it?

I go back to grappling truisms. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been so effective because you do the opposite of what you normally do. Usually, in a situation, you move away. The best way you can deal with it is get as close to the person as possible. You minimize the amount of damage that he can cause you and you maximize the damage you can cause him. Even if you over-power me, as long as I can get a hold of your leg, I’ve got an advantage. I’m holding on.  If it’s biting or crushing, I’m damaging you. You always want to get close.

Speaking of getting close, you just had a play run in France that was wildly popular. It was about threesomes.

The Inimitable Sounds of Love: A Threesome in Four Acts. It’s about complicated adult relationships. It’s a departure for me. It could have been written by Harold Pinter if he was as poor as a writer as I am. It got a good reception in France and was picked up for print by Southern Records, which was started by Crass.

Why is the threesome something that you are interested in investigating?

It wasn’t the whole issue of sexual politics, which is in a minor way, interesting. It has to do deal with love and romance and inter-relationship issues. How we perceive ourselves. How we perceive others. I think the hermit’s life is a tough one. We are social creatures. I bought hook line and sinker, the rule of the radical individual. Later, I realized that if you took 100 babies and put them in a field, three weeks later they’d all be dead. None of us make it in this society without the cooperation and assistance of fellow humans. I haven’t done anything worth a damn, individually. I haven’t done Oxbow alone. I didn’t even do my books alone. I had photographers, editors, and truck drivers. It’s collaborative. People will go for the cheap seat laugh of three people fucking at the same time, but it’s more complicated that that, while at the same time, being as simple as that.

What’s happening with the new Oxbow album?

It’s called The Thin Black Duke. We are working with producer, Joe Chiccarelli (U2, Beck, the Shins). But, Joe is huge and we represent a small project to him, so we got bumped — recently by Jack White. I don’t mind getting bumped for Jack White, but we also got bumped for Alanis Morrisette, which was painful. But, his higher profile projects allow him to do charity projects like us. We’re going to try to get to a studio in France called Fabrique and record starting September 16.

Do you have any song titles?

There’s “A cold, Well Lit Place.” That’s a song that we broke out of our mold by playing it live. We did it live with a string quartet and French horns and all that. We’re not the Beatles so we didn’t pay anyone. We got them all from schools. There’s “Ecce Homo,” from the Nietzsche book. There’s also a song called “The Gentleman’s Gentleman.”

You were in the short-lived Black Face with Black Flag’s Chuck Dukowski before it disintegrated last year. Black Face was supposed to cover a few Dukowski penned Black Flag tunes. This summer, there have been two bands touring with a Black Flag background. What are you thoughts on the whole thing?

Anytime I get into a fight at an Oxbow show, people don’t realize that I’m fairly lucid when making a decision to fight. When it happens, I’m looking at [Oxbow guitarist] Nikko Wenner for a reality check. Is it them or is it me? Anybody who is analyzing, this would realize that the real trigger is Nikko. I used this to make a parallel. Anything and everything Black Flag related, I look to Henry Rollins. I waited before I made my emotional take. Henry came out and said that he is done with music and didn’t feel the music in him anymore. Henry removes himself from any questioning. It was a pretty fantastic move. But, it’s not a move I will make. What was special about Black Face was that it was not a tribute. We had a distinct percentage of new songs. As such, it managed to not be a retro act.  Black Face never sat well with Chuck. I like that seven-inch that we did, but that’s the most I can say about that. Hey, want a scoop?

Yeah, I want a scoop!

I’ve been listening to [Black Face drummer] Tom Dobrov and resisting and resisting and resisting and finally I have agreed. Tom came out with an idea so insane that it actually made sense. After this summer of Black Flags battling it out, Tom Dobrov’s idea, which as of last night I have signed onto, is that we’re going to revive Black Face without Chuck. We were really enjoying playing that crazy, dark music. It won’t have any Black Flag songs on it, but it will be us in our style. We’re talking 2014.

Who else is in that band?

I won’t tell you right now, but when we reveal it all, you will go “fuck!”

Sal Mineo is out now on Important Records

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