For Against’s Jeff Runnings: “Do I Dare Make a Record?” | Feature Interview

Jeff Runnings owns two collections of music, two well-kept and -cataloged archives that surround and inform his own work as bassist and frontman of For Against.

One sits organized in dozens of crates, kept safe in a room at the end of a hallway in his Lincoln home. Among Runnings’ recording and stereo equipment — on which he’s recently tracked and would play his own new material during our interview — an untold number of songs live within grooves and as data in this collection.

Runnings hosts contemporary recordings by myriad groups such as Weekend and the Dum Dum Girls — “the best band in America bar none for me right now,” he says. He ensures that plastic protects albums from “that whole first wave of New York” in the late ’70s and the bands from Britain that followed: 999, The Buzzcocks, The Rezillos, X-Ray Spex.

“Then by ’79, everything changed,” Runnings says, hinting at his second collection of music. “By ’79 you had post-punk in full bloom, and it was the most interesting, exciting music and just blew punk out of the water.”

That other collection Runnings owns, you see, exists in his mind, a library built by electrical and chemical signals that contain decades of band names and album titles, hometowns and context.

He’s gathered this second collection ever since the beginning of his voracious music-buying days, frequenting Lincoln’s Dirt Cheap. The record store was a social hub for Runnings and his Southeast High School friends such as guitarist Harry Dingman III, who with Runnings and drummer Greg Hill would comprise the members of For Against on the band’s first three albums, Echelons (1987), December (1988) and In the Marshes (1990).

It’s those three albums that, thanks to Brooklyn’s Captured Tracks, live once again on vinyl for the first time in 20 years. In December, the label produced a limited run of 1,000 box sets featuring individual jackets for each of the three records recreating their original artwork, plus a 12-page booklet with full-color photos and liner notes written by Jack Rabid.

It was Rabid who invited For Against to play a 30th anniversary concert for his magazine, The Big Takeover, on July 31, 2010. Since then, the band as a three-piece has been lying dormant, though coincidentally, could have reformed for a show tonight at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. That concert’s headliner, Weekend, had hoped to book For Against, but Runnings says his band’s drummer Nick Buller asked to forego the opportunity. Busy with work at Porsche of Omaha, “He wasn’t able to do it and give it 100 percent of his time to make sure it was gonna be like we were on autopilot,” Runnings says.

Now, Runnings says, For Against is entertaining the possibility of other shows this spring and summer. In the meantime, he’ll keep working on new songs: “I really hope that this year is definitely the year — I’d really like it to be the year — that this gets fully realized.”

He’ll go to work early in the morning as a pastry cook at Le Quartier Baking Company, listening to classical music that reminds him of the Steinway piano his mother bought him early on. He’ll advise Brenton Neville of Lincoln’s Universe Contest on vinyl production, and he’ll continue to buy music: “Someone stop me. I really do need to join a fucking support group.”

Read on for our complete interview in which Runnings discusses the making of Captured Tracks’ box set, the potential for For Against concerts in 2014 and his attraction to “bleakness,” a term that has followed For Against’s post-punk.

Hear Nebraska: I’d like to start by asking how important packaging is to you, and in particular, how the box set’s presentation turned out.

Jeff Runnings: The box set turned out really well. [Gets up to grab the box set.] I’m really happy with it. I’m really glad that Captured Tracks were ready to just make us an offer, pretty much after realizing that it was me that was ordering records from them, it was just the darnedest thing ever. It really was. It was like, “Oh my god.”

HN: How did that happen?

JR: I was ordering records because I was onto Captured Tracks early, and I just loved their roster. And I still like a lot of bands, but not quite as much because the bands on Slumberland right now are just killer. He’s got Veronica Falls, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Weekend, Wax Idols, and I’m forgetting another one. Oh, and Girls Names from Ireland. His roster right now just slays. But in Captured Tracks’ defense, this is really good, this second MINX (Tides End), it’s totally different, but it’s really good. [Gets up to grab the record.] And have you heard Medicine, their ‘90s albums?

HN: No, I haven’t.

JR: They were on Rick Rubin’s label, but they got signed to Creation in England: very big deal. He was drumming with … Republic. She was drumming with Four Way Cross before Medicine. All of the sudden, they’ve gotten kind of catapulted. They did well. Anyway, they reformed and put that out. Well, they did a box, too. [Moves to grab the box set.]

The guy who runs Captured Tracks is very visionary in his pursuit of “I want this to be just so.” So it was really cool when he showed so much interest. Once they found out it was me, they said, “Well, do you have any vinyl that we could get from ya.” And I’m like, “For your personal use?” They said, “Yeah.” I said, “Sure.” That turned into “we want to do a box set.”

So we got really, really lucky. We’re extremely fortunate because there are so many bands that he could have chosen that have flown under the radar. And a lot did in the mid-‘80s and definitely in the ‘90s.

HN: What was the timeline like from when they said they wanted to do a box set to the point that it was out?

JR: It took a really long time. It took a year and a half. Took a year and a half, which was really disappointing to me because I felt like we were getting pushed back in order for them to concentrate on the records that they knew were going to move. Economically, that’s the right path to follow.

We turned down test pressings, and that pushes everything way back because it seems like more and more bands are pressing vinyl. There are only so many manufacturing plants available to do especially short runs because they have to do all the set up and teardown and calibrate everything and make sure it’s just so. So you kind of get pushed back to the end of the line, and that’s what happened.

The time between the first set of tests and the second was a long time. The good thing is is that once we got that part of it fixed, they were quick about putting it out, because I knew they already had the boxes printed, and I think the sleeves might have been, too. They were just waiting for the actual vinyl to show up, so they could go ahead and assemble them and send them out. So better late than never.

HN: If it’s not too technical, what was the issue with the first set of test pressings?

JR: [Gets up to grab an Echelons vinyl.] Well, they just don’t have the same cut because this (Echelons) came out in two versions. This is what they called the regular version, and when you do the original cut of the vinyl, it’s straight from the master tape. And instead, unfortunately what they had to use was, I believe, if I can find where they are, I think they were just using CDs as the source for the cut.

Yeah, see, I think they were going off this [shows the CD]. So as a sound source, it only has so much sonic information on it. When you do the first cut of a record from the original master tape, that’s going to have the best sound to it. So we just thought, if we’re going to do it, let’s do it right.

I kind of expected it to be not quite so shimmering, because John Golden cut that at K Disc in L.A., and he did fantastic work. And his son currently does fantastic work, but in any event, we thought if they’re gonna do it, let’s make sure they can do it to the best of their ability, because their fans are used to cool shit.

I mean, they do tons of limited-editions, and the limited-edition Dive is just gorgeous. The Clash the Truth that they did for Beach Fossils is really sharp. And they make sure and make it special and do the wraparound silkscreens. And to be associated with Captured Tracks is just to be in fantastic company.

HN: What did they change the source to from the first set to the second set of test pressings?

JR: What they did was we talked to Josh Bonati, who has become Captured Tracks’ in-house mastering lab when he has the time in his schedule, because I think he’s starting to get very popular and people like using him. I know Weekend, they cut their album Jinx on Slumberland. Josh did the master cut for them.

So we told Josh specific things to try to address on the second cut. And the guy totally knows what he’s doing because the difference is huge. So then it was thumbs up, and it was just a matter of telling him, “We’re looking for this.” And I think we were pretty articulate, and I think he just got a better sense after spending more time listening to the vinyl.

We made sure that he got the original vinyl to listen to and not just that (the CD). So he could try to get the EQ finesse that those people have to have to do that job. I think it worked out well. I’m just really glad it’s finally out.

HN: Could you talk about how much of the process was Captured Tracks, and how much was your direction? Were they the ones that wanted to do the first three, or was it your decision?

JR: It was Captured Tracks that wanted to do the first three, and those were the first three that they asked for during our initial contact. Once they figured out I was Jeff from For Against and they wanted vinyl, I told them what I had available. Everything after those releases is CD, which is why a second box is exciting.

It looks like somebody is going to jump into the ring and do one. That period is a cool period. Unfortunately, in the ‘90s, so much stuff didn’t get put out on vinyl, both indie and major. I’ve got a lot of Brit pop, and if you can find it on vinyl, it’s a fortune. But a lot of stuff just didn’t even come out on vinyl. So in any event… I’m sorry, I lost my train of thought.

HN: That’s OK. So if this second box comes together, that would be the first vinyl of those albums?

JR: That would be the first vinyl of those mid-‘90s records. One came out in 2003. There were four full-lengths, so it would be really nice to see those come out. I know that three of those just got into a digital distribution deal, which is great, because I saw advertising for it in one of the magazines I get. So I think it’s gonna happen.

It would be nice if it would because I really like that period of the group. This was a great period for the band (referring to the first three albums). It was wrong time, the timing for these records was bad. But to have them raised to this kind of status is really nice, because we were so swimming against the grunge wave.

HN: Could you talk about what it was like to be in Lincoln? Was it wrong time and wrong place, would you say? Nothing else was happening like what For Against was doing in those days.

JR: Nothing was really happening here. We did go out, and we did a tour for the first album, but by the second album, we were having differences within the band, but where we were exacerbated the entire situation because we felt so landlocked, and it was so far to go and play one show and hope that it gets promoted correctly, and we couldn’t secure management, anybody that seemed to have a clue about what was going on.

We got lucky and sometimes we’d get sought out, because once we played, oh, it was stupid, because it was right after Suzanne Vega had her first radio hit — that first hit, “Luka” — way back when, and we got asked to open for her at some big auditorium in Kansas City. It was really kind of cool when that happened. At the same time, no one knew who you were, so you’d be just petrified, but when we went on tour, it clicked.

It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if we stayed together. But I think that what is the third full-length by the band, because I don’t count that EP, because that EP is just six songs that we did mostly in my bedroom of my parents home, and it doesn’t qualify for LP length. So the third thing we did, I thought that was really sharp, and a lot of other people did, too, but I think that if you don’t go out and promote it, you’re screwed.

And bands that can do it right now, I applaud. It sucks for bands that I love that don’t. Wax Idols totally need to tour. They’ve got to do a U.S. tour. The money isn’t there, and it’s expensive. You don’t get guarantees all the time the way that you used to. Instead, they just offer you percentage, and then you’re at the mercy of, “Did they put any posters up?” Are there any flyers up for this show?” “Is it on Facebook?” “Are people finding out about it?”

When Weekend played here, and Eli Mardock opened… it’s like, you guys. Oh, and fucking, I was just listening to this, because it’s just bleak, but it’s brilliant (shows Disappears album). Disappears played that night. So it was Weekend, Eli, Disappears, you know, and there were 30 people there, and that included the staff.

Everyone, I just want to say, Weekend were cherry-picked by Wire to open on their European tour. Does that mean anything to anybody? Has anybody heard of Wire? Does anybody know what the fuck is going on? I have a soft spot for Weekend because every album they’ve made has been over-the-top brilliant.

HN: I’m curious also what kept you in Lincoln all these years? Do you have family here?

JR: I did have family here. My mother and father and sister all lived here. They’ve all passed away since. It was kind of weird because I came to a point in my life where I was definitely intent on leaving, and before I could kind of get my shit together, because this is right after when I got back from the last tour that we did, and it was the longest of the three times we went over. When we got back, I was intent on moving.

I knew where I wanted to go, which I still nag Sean [Applegate, Runnings’ significant other] about it, because I’d like to relocate to Lawrence. But in any event, it was meeting Sean that kept me in Lincoln. So I would have been gone not that long ago. I did stay in town largely because of my folks. I was really close to my folks and my sister, too.

HN: Tell me about the last time you played with the band.

JR: The last time that we played was in 2010 in New York. I think I’ve got the new one here (looks for a magazine). We first met the guy who writes The Big Takeover when he was at our CBGB show, and that was in ’87 (looks at a framed piece of memorabilia from the show). So we met him on August 6, 1987 (laughs), which was super fuckin’ hot in New York, and he’s been a buddy ever since. He actually penned the liner notes for the box set.

HN: What’s his name?

JR: Jack Rabid. I don’t know… how’d we get talking about him?

HN: Oh, sorry. Tell me more about that last show you played.

JR: The anniversary party of the magazine, so he had bands come in from all over. Avengers from San Francisco, which goes way back to Danger House, which was the first wave of L.A. punk. They came in for it. Mark Burgess with his version of the Chameleons. I think there’s some legal thing with that. I just got this (hands the Chameleons CD to me). He has to go under the name ChameleonsVox. They played.

They were outstanding. But this is a new EP that he just put out, and the guitarist was in a band called The Bardots in the ‘90s. The Bardots were brilliant shoegaze, but they got passed over. We played New York with The Bardots, and they were a blast. They hauled around all these old fans with them and had these marvelous confetti things that seemed like they’d just explode and everybody would be covered. It was pretty fun. And they had great tunes.

But that was the last time we played. Before that would have been 2009 making Never Been and practicing for that. The two big tours were in 2008 and once in 2007, if I remember right. I believe that’s how it went down.

HN: A couple months ago, you mentioned there might have been a New York show in the works?

JR: Yeah, actually a week from Friday (January 10, 2014), which really bums me out because Nothing are on the bill [gets up], which are from… no, Belong are from New Orleans, and Belong are just wonderfully bleak. Nothing, I forget where they’re from. They’re American, they’re on the bill.

I’m just sick that we can’t do it, but our drummer [Nick Buller] is busy with work, and he didn’t want to go all the way, because they booked the Bowery Ballroom for it, and I think it has sold out, which it should with Weekend headlining, if there’s any justice. This is just an outstanding record. I don’t know if you’ve heard the new Weekend yet. It’s just really impressive.

In any event, he wasn’t able to do it and give it 100 percent of his time to make sure it was gonna be like we were on autopilot. When we were on tour, we just got to the point playing every single night, and the Europeans want a lot for their money. They want value. You can’t just give them 40 minutes. No, no, no, no, no. This is For Against from America. We want an hour and a half. It got to the point where we were on autopilot.

He’s like, “That’s how I want us to be.” It’s gonna take a lot of rehearsal to get up to that autopilot point. I said, “You’re right. You’re absolutely right.” I don’t want you to go to New York and be totally stressed out because you worry that you’re not going to be at your optimum. And that’s important with a three-piece. You really want the drummer to be explosive. When Nick is good, he’s just frightening. I’ve never worked with anybody like him, that has that kind of kinetic energy.

So we put off January, but we’re waiting for a solid offer for Germany, and that’s in May… it’s in the summer, I think. Weekend asked us to do some shows with them in March and April. So we’re seeing if that’s possible. They’re going to tour again. They just got back from a huge European tour. I know they played Poland.

Fortunately, I was able to meet them. See, I met them and was just like a little girl and talked their heads off. They stayed at Trevor [Bassen]’s, so it worked out great. It seemed like after the fact, they were like, “You’re Jeff from For Against.” I was like, “Yeah, with Captured Tracks.” They’re like, “Fuck, we love you. Can you play this show?” And I’m like, “Thanks that’s very flattering.” But when their manager gets ahold of the record label, and they’re like, “They want to make you an offer to fly in and play the Bowery Ballroom show,” it’s like, “Holy shit, they’re serious.” It’s so flattering, it’s just wonderful.

And they were so good, even though it was the fucking lobby at The Bourbon, not exactly an ideal place. So it’s been awhile since we’ve played, but to get together to play that New York birthday party of sorts, we wanted to be spot-on, and it didn’t take us long. So if we do shows in the spring or the summer, we’ll be able to. It’s just a matter of scheduling.

song: “Shadow” from the album Shelf Life

HN: How often do you get together with Harry these days?

JR: I haven’t gotten together with Harry. And I don’t know if he’s doing anything with The Millions. I have a feeling he’s busy with the kids because I know Sonja is school-age, Alice isn’t, and Jay definitely isn’t. Holly works days full-time. So Harry is Mr. Mom. And he’s teaching guitar at night.

And then Nick just got gold certification. He’s got to be one of the youngest mechanics to get gold certification at Porsche of Omaha. So he’s busy with them, and I think they’re paying him a fortune. I hope so. I really hope so because I know how hard he worked to get that engineering degree. He’s got that finesse that you have to have to understand a vehicle line like that. I have a feeling they’re making it worth his while.

HN: Did you go to any of The Millions shows?

JR: I didn’t. And it’s me being a music snob and saying there was other stuff at the time that was better, and that’s why I wasn’t paying attention. Although some of it was definitely just envy and nothing but because I felt so confident that if were to get December out, that since the company writing the check to have December manufactured, they were I guess a subsidiary but not really not in an artistic way.

I don’t think Capitol had anything to say with who they signed, but anyway, the record went through another company, a bigger company, they were connected to Capitol. I know that we had interest from Capitol. Harry knew it, too. And I could see us definitely going to Capitol because Capitol’s always been very forward.

Right now, I can think of, they totally went out on a limb with getting Cocteau Twins, and they put out that fuckin’ CD box, which is just unheard of for an American label. But in any event, sorry, I always end up talking about records and bands. It’s ‘cause we’re in this room.

HN: Do you miss working at a record store?

JR: Yeah, I do.

HN: Is that really an option anymore [in Lincoln]? There are record stores, but they’re owned by people who work there all the time, so I don’t know if they hire.

JR: Exactly. And you can’t make any money doing it. And I make money doing something that I enjoy doing. There’s a lot to be said for that. There are a lot of people who hate what they do. Life is just too short to be a miserable bitch. It is.

And it’s not good for you, not only physiologically but emotionally and psychologically. It just wreaks havoc. And I know some people who are just stuck in awful places in their life where it’s not just their job. It’s all sorts of things. So I’m really fortunate.

But having a part-time gig at a record store would be great just because everybody still sends out promo CDs of everything. And at least you get to hear stuff all the time. That was a major perk of Homer’s. That’s why there are that many CDs up there on that rack because that was a perk at Homer’s. It was cost plus a quarter. So if you give somebody a dollar for a CD, you can take it home for a buck and a quarter. So we’d take home armloads. I mean, at that price! So yeah, we all went nuts.

HN: I’m also curious, you had to listen to the test pressings, but do you listen back through these first three albums, and if so, what are some of the memories that go through your mind as you listen?

JR: Well, we had to play a lot of that material when we played Europe because the Europeans were expecting it. We knew we couldn’t go heavy on the later things, the later two that we made. The one that came out in 2008, we were playing that material in ’07. The one that came out in 2009, we were playing all that material in ’08. And we knew that people were not going to be nearly as familiar with it.

Promoters pretty much said that. They’re like, “These are the ones that they worship over there, so you’ve got to draw from those.” And it was fine for us doing that. It worked out fine. Unfortunately, the reason why we lost our drummer, Paul [Engelhard], was because he would not play those old songs. And I don’t know if it was a pride thing, but it was really a shitty time for the band, when you have that happening.

Before we knew it, we had a new drummer two weeks before we got flown into play Spain, and it was a festival. It’s like, Deerhunter were on the bill, and Asobi Seksu and The Sea and Cake, and it’s like, “This is a big fucking deal, and we just got this kid at the last second.” And he worked out, but nonetheless, what went down really sucked.

And I felt like my allegiance was being torn between Harry and Paul, and I knew I wanted to play Europe in the worst way, and I just tried to make him understand that it’s only this one time. It’s not like we’ve got to play this set forever. It’s just to go over and play these shows and that’s it. And he just wouldn’t have it. So it’s like, “I’m sorry, I gotta go.”

Because the one show we got flown in for in ’07 was Athens, and it was just a one-off. They wanted us to do a consecutive Friday-Saturday. And they threw this outrageous number at us, and we said, “Fuck yeah, we’re on our way.” And I realized how cool it was to see the way the rest of the world lives because Athens to me felt much more like the middle east than provincial Northern Europe. Travel is just the penultimate. There’s nothing better than travel, even travel within the U.S. ‘Cause I’m just bored to shit here. It’s just unbearable, it’s horrible.

HN: Could you talk about what drew you to more of a European sound at the start, and what’s kept you with that?

JR: What we were buying at the time. Because we were following what was going on in high school. Everybody who liked records found each other, and with one really strong record store downtown to bond everybody, and have a place to meet and see and be seen, and hoping that so-and-so shows up, and you don’t see so-and-so. It was social. I mean, it was cool.

We were following what happened. Because it kind of started here [in the U.S.], and in high school it would have been the Dolls in ’74, but I would have been 11, junior high. It was like ’76 when I was 13, we were seeing Blondie and Television, that whole first wave of New York. And then Britain. We were just buying everything British because America didn’t have anything happen until about ’78, maybe ’77, first with New York and no-wave and in L.A. and their first wave of great bands. X was one of them, but a bunch of other great ones as well.

I stayed really British, and totally fell in love with Factory and post-punk. I liked punk, and I liked what I call the pop-punk that followed. A lot of bands from ’78: 999, The Buzzcocks, oh, there were a lot of them, The Rezillos, X-Ray Spex. Then by ’79, everything changed. By ’79 you had post-punk in full bloom, and it was the most interesting, exciting music and just blew punk out of the water. So that was a really exciting time.

A lot of those records have held up really well. I mean, the first Joy Division is pretty spectacular and still has that alien creepiness to it: fatalistic, monochromatic, wicked tone to it. It’s just shrouded, fascinating stuff. A lot of bands from that period I stuck with. I know that influenced Harry, too, big time.

HN: You used a phrase “wonderfully bleak” earlier, and “bleak” is a word that’s followed For Against.

JR: Oh yeah, for sure.

HN: What about that feeling of bleakness is attractive to you?

JR: I don’t know. I feel bleak so often that it’s just become absolutely commonplace. But I can say that I’m happy. I think when you go through a lot of loss with family, loss with relationships, because I drank like a fish, I mean, really bad. It took me forever to get my collective shit together. But along the way, I did lots of damage.

I have a feeling that maybe the ‘90s would have panned out better for the group if I wasn’t doing that all the time. I thought everybody else was doing it, too, all the time, and they weren’t. So that can make life really bleak. And then illness and going through the death of your parents. I mean, I can find any reason. When you’re an alcoholic, you can find any reason for life to be bleak. And I did. And I did that for a long time.

But I’ve always been attracted to that because it has so much more substance. And I just have this connectivity to it. I’m totally drawn to it and that not fitting in and not being right and I just completely connect to it. And my friends at the time did. And I knew Harry, I’ve known Harry since high school. He totally, I mean, a lot of people got it. They understood.

Everybody’s been telling you you’re a fucking misfit. Well, fuck them. If you are, then be one and be happy about it. You know? It was a punk rock attitude, but the music of the post-punk period stuck with us more. But the punk ethos really stuck with everybody.

I mean, the whole crew. Sara Kovanda, I don’t know if you’ve seen her painting. But there were a lot of seminal people in the scene that still live in Lincoln. It was a really big deal back then. It was a really big deal. I’d never seen anything like it. We had our own fanzine. I mean, it was rather brilliant for being in the middle of nowhere.

HN: Which high school did you go to?

JR: I went to Southeast.

HN: And what was the record store?

JR: Dirt Cheap, which everyone frequented. And luckily, the guys in charge of things there were crazy about the stuff that we were crazy about. And they were much smarter than we were, so they were bringing in insanely experimental things. Luckily, the owner was so open-minded that he said, “Bring it on, I’m interested.”

In Lincoln, we were bombarded with really obscure things. I mean, the first records by a San Francisco band called Chrome where the slick, you could see, was hand-glued onto some generic white sleeve. And you know, it’s just like, “Where the fuck did this come from?”

But they would go through these funky distributors and find all this cool stuff. So we were getting all these records in, and we were just devouring ‘em. Me and all my friends, we were really into music, really into everything until probably the mid-‘80s is when it was all pop in Britain, and it was stale empty pop like ABC and Culture Club. And here [in the U.S., grunge. We were in a bored-rock, pre-grunge, grunge-right-around-the-corner period, and I know that’s one of the reasons why we all started playing and trying to be serious about it and not just forming something that lasts just a couple of months at the most.

At this point, we knew that we wanted to try to do something that had some substance to it. It wasn’t like, “We know that we have something to say.” It’s like, “We know that we feel like other people feel.” That was really cool, especially when we went to a three-piece from a five-piece because the whole dynamic of the group changed because now I can be a lyricist.

And I was excited about it and realized that if I put my mind to it, I can get to the place I was trying to get to with words. And I think enough people would agree that I succeed more than fail generally, that I’ve been able to do it in the various incarnations of the group since a lot of things changed when Harry and [For Against’s first drummer] Greg [Hill] left, I was on my own and just had to start from scratch again.

And that’s why there were four years between the second album proper and the third, but the third album showed us to be in a really fun place, which was this dream pop, this British dream pop. We were doing it while it was happening. It’s like, “We’ve done that.” And it was a great feeling. It’s like, “This is right, this is right.”

Most of the records that I’ve made with For Against, it’s always felt that way. And when it hasn’t, it usually hasn’t been the band as much as sometimes the circumstances surrounding the recording environment and sometimes just personal things that are going on with people. It just doesn’t find them at their best.

So it can make for difficulty when trying to capture it because some people love to record. I don’t love to record. I kind of do when it goes fast and it goes smooth. But it doesn’t so often. And I’m lazy. Harry will plug away, and it’s like, “Nope, do it again, do it again.” The control room can sound like a parrot: “Do it again, do it again, do it again.” And he will. And I’m just like, “Oh, I don’t have the patience.”

But I have been recording.

Read a full For Against bio from Words on Music.

HN: I was going to ask what you’ve been working on recently.

JR: I mean, I didn’t know that they made these, but they make these (Runnings shows his 16-track recorder). This (a smaller four-track) is what we used when we made In The Marshes from the Captured Tracks box, just the most primitive four-track cassette you can get. Well, I didn’t know they made these. So now, I’m doing everything on this, and it’s really cool because as you can see, I’m writing. And I’ve written a lot.

So I really hope that this year is definitely the year — I’d really like it to be the year — that this gets fully realized. And if it means me fully realizing it by doing it on here. And I’m entertaining the idea that I might just go ahead and do it because I’m using electronic drums. I’m using the drums as a way to keep time and not as an object of interest, which is just a huge fucking dice roll. It’s huge.

But at the same time, there are so many songs where the drums take a frontseat over the atmosphere of the song, the actual tune of the song, a combination of both. Just the air that the song has, it just takes a frontseat. Other times, the drums are there to keep time because you’re trying to keep it spare, you’re trying to keep it small. It’s like songs from a small world. You don’t want it to be this big, bombastic thing.

That’s why I’m warming up to this approach more because I’m really happy with the results that I’m getting. I’m liking the economy, and at the same time, I’m taking it seriously, so I’m not just deciding to waste my time on shit. I’ll just move on and keep recording and keep writing, which is super important.

Luckily, I still buy shit all the time. Someone stop me. I really do need to join a fucking support group. I don’t know if there’s one in Lincoln or not. But I just can’t stop buying records. And there’s so many good bands right now. This band from Ireland, September Girls, oh, they’re so good. And they’re a part of the whole girl group thing: PENS from England, Dum Dum Girls, which are the best band in America bar none for me right now, they still are, and I can’t wait for the next album, which is next month.

Who else? Well, Savages from London who I adore, but Savages are, they’re brutal, just brutal post-punk, but fuckin’ brilliant. There’s so many good bands right now. Heather’s band, Wax Idols, in L.A. or Oakland, they made a fantastic record this year. No Joy from Montreal.

And again, that’s a double-edged sword because I’m listening to all this stuff, and I’m like, “Do I dare make a record?” And I’m kind of like, “Maybe I will.” I mean, do you want to hear a couple minutes?

HN: I’d love to.

Michael Todd is Hear Nebraska’s managing editor. He loved how notes skidded against each other like a ship colliding with an iceberg in Runnings’ new songs. Reach Michael at