Yotam Ben Horin has been conquering the world for over 20 years with his punk band Useless ID. Already armed with previous solo material and a new full album release recently titled California Sounds, Yotam is once again travelling the globe to spread his heartdriven music. Even Joey Cape of Lagwagon fame noticed Yotam's hard working ethos and enlisted him on his One Week Records team of artists. So when the One Week Records tour recently passed through Ostend, Belgium, only a day after the recent Brussels terrorist attacks, we at RMP took some time to sit down with Yotam and discuss his new album and more.
Hello Yotam, welcome to Belgium and congratulations with your latest solo album California Sounds. How has the response been so far?
It's been great. I think for this solo album, unlike the other i released on Hardline Entertainment, Distant Lover, i'm actually really out there on this album. I'm promoting the hell out of it, i'm on tour probably more than i should be. So i think people are slowly catching up on that. That they see that some guy is just out there constantly touring the States, touring Europe. Now i've been invited to tour Russia to do a few shows. It seems that it's slowly picking up. But it's very hard work, it's full on devotion.
Currently you are on the Stitch Puppy tour with Joey Cape, Laura Mardon and Walt Hamburger as part of the One Week Records crew. You also recorded with Joey for One Week Records recently. What may we expect?
Yeah, Joey wants to do a One Week Records with me. But we couldn't really find the right time to spend a week at his house. I've had like a bunch of breaks in between my tours where i could go to San Francisco for like four days or three days. And everytime Joey was like working on someone else his records but he said come by and hang out. So i ended up playing shakers and tambourine on this guy Seth Anderson's record. And doing some back up vocals for it. Last time i recorded a bit for Stich Puppy on three songs. Eventually we're going to come round and record a One Week Records for me. I'm looking forward to it, i'm writing songs right now.
Next to your solo career, most will know you of Israeli punk band Useless ID. The band has been on a hold but i believe a new album is coming soon for Useless ID?
We prefer to keep it quit for a while. We didn't have anything really big to talk about. We're already a few years after Symptoms came out. We didn't have any tours lined up so i ended up doing the solo thing. But when i got back from the first US tour we said let's get in a room, let's start writing, let's see what's up. We had a few songs laying around, but it was like OK. Then things started rolling really fast. We dedided to record another album at the Blasting Room. It's called Status Burning, it's going to be out later this year. We're going to be back on the map once that thing is out. We're lining up things right now but we're not talking about it untill it's like big news.
In the past you were active in many different projects. What are some of you current activities?
I have another hardcore band called Spit, it's like a side project with my brother. He's the singer in this band. He has a band called Mondo Gecko, it's like thrash core, i think they toured Europe a few times. And two of the other guys play in a band called Kids Insane, they toured Europe a lot.
So it's like this hardcore thing, whenever everyone is in Israel we put a few show together. It's an inside project most. That's pretty much all i have.
Any Israeli bands we need to keep an eye out for? Like Not On Tour…
Not On Tour are doing great. I think they are touring a lot in Europe. Kids Insane is also doing great. In Israel it's like a wave that is going up and down all the time. Useless ID used to do pretty great at shows years ago and then there was like a sudden break in interest in this sort of music. And then it came back around, and now every time we do a show in Israel it's packed. But we don't play a lot. I'd say as far as the punk scene, it's small but people know how to appreciate. It's a small scene. There's the main city Tel Aviv, there's another main city Haifa and there's Jeruzalem. There's not much of a scene going on there. They might be bands coming from ther but everyone goes to play Tel Aviv. And you don't want to play to much because the place is so small and whoever saw you the first time a month ago will be saying i saw them already. You have to spread it out a bit more. I guess that's how it goes.
California Sounds is a tribute to the Californian lifestyle and of course punkrock. But you also recorded a different version titled Colorado Sounds.
How did you hear that?
I noticed on your Bandcamp.
That was a joke at the Blasting Room, i recorded a version for Guy from Useless ID, after the Blasting Room he went for a vacation to Costa Rica. So i recorded a version Costa Rica Sounds just for him. And while i was recording i was like, hey Bill, i'll record a version for you. So i made up lyrics as i went along. It was like a joke and a small thank you to The Blasting Room.
One of your track is titled Young Man Bones, can you define that expression?
The thing is, i'm a bit over my mid thirties right now. I thinks the more you grow up and the more you still have that inner naive thing that you are desperately trying to hold on to. The world has it way of just ruining it for everyone, just putting you in like this cube of work and then you're just like working the whole 9 to 5 thing. So you kind of get lost in that and then you find yourself at older age and oh my god i'm an adult already. And i have to provide a family. I'm not against that way of life but for me. I kind of reached a conflict where i had a job set up for me and i was doing Useless ID tours along with that. Life was just moving, just going on. I was like, i got to stop this race. I don't want to live my life racing to pay bills and having my little fun with Useless ID and then going back to work life. I want to have fun with Useless ID then i'll do a solo tour, i'll be with my guitar untill we do more with Useless ID. With that song it's kind of my way of talking what i'm going through. I feel both inside and out that i'm not old. It's like a general feeling of myself.
I've got like friends my age that are like i'm too tired, my back hurts, i'm too tired to hang out. Many times i'm just left at home listening to records and writing, i'll totally go hang out with someone but everyone is like sleeping.
Another thing with this song is the recording of the album is like recorded through a video camera.
I just finished writing the songs and it was in the middle of a tour, so i was sitting at like 3 AM in a van. And i liked that version so much that in the studio i wasn't able to get that feeling. So i just left it the way it is. Very lo-fi.
My favorite track on the album is definitely Tony Sly. A fitting tribute to a great artist. How did Tony and No Use For A Name have for an influence on you and your music?
It's crazy, i discovered NUFAN around the time that Green Day blew up with Dookie. I would watch Headbangers Ball late at night and just watch whatever. And then this colourfull video comes up with this guy wearing a backwards hat and the guy with purple hair or something. I was like, wow what is this. I pressed record right away, i thought, this is great, i wonder if these guys have any more. And then Fat Wreck ut out Leche Con Carne. A lot of years later like in 2002 we did the Warped Tour and like two days in the tour i came up to Tony Sly and told him how much of an influence he was to me and how much we loved his band. He heard of Useless ID, we were about to record a new album when the tour was over. I asked if he wanted to produce it or give some tips.
He is like one of my all time favorites. Him and like Joey Cape, Elliot Smith, Kurt Cobain,…
I like to include them. They are the songwriters of our generation. Tony agreed and i worked a lot with him on the bus. We became friends, a long the years NUFAN took us on tours, always treated us great. In 2003, 2005 they also came to Israel and showed up to my 30th birthday. Tony was singing Gorilla Biscuits, we did like punk rock karaoke.
It was tragic one night, it thought it was a joke when i heard about it. It was like one Facebook post, i was like, this is like so Tony. He would totally post himself, i died. But someone called me up that Tony passed away, it's true. It was a life changer for everyone.
Any last words?
I'm very happy to see anyone coming out to any shows, whether it's on the Stich Puppy tour or some other place. I'm very thankfull for people liking what i do. Much much more to come…
Photo by Niels Duytschaever
Interview by David Marote