Having formed in Los Angeles in 2005 as a noise/no-wave band, Health has evolved massively in the 17 years since. It’s all been very organic; the band has retained an experimental, neo-industrial identity and a beautifully dark vibe, throughout.
“We weren’t a proper, album releasing, touring band for about two years,” says main man Jake Duzsik. “We came out of an insular but incredibly fertile underground warehouse noise scene that was centered around Downtown and Echo Park, at venues like the Smell. Lots of warehouse spaces that closed many years ago. One of the amazing things about Los Angeles at that time was, it was not considered a viable place to be a credible musician in the underground world. It was very sort of derided by the indie music media. You wanted to be from New York, Chicago or places like that. Somehow, the proximity to the traditional music industry and what was considered as superficiality relegated Los Angeles to not being considered a serious place for music, which was fucking fantastic for being young and in a band.”
That mid ’00s L.A. noise rock scene, detailed beautifully by Drew Tewksbury here, is often overlooked when reminiscing about the city’s rich musical history, but it shouldn’t be. The fact that experimental, unblinkered musicians were creating something fresh at a time when L.A. was out of the mainstream spotlight in terms of musical relevance is impressive. Of course, L.A. never really went away.
“It was totally under the radar, and the noise scene in L.A., not dissimilar to the first waves of punk rock in New York and then SoCal hardcore punk, the playfulness, what was there,” Duzsik says. “Noise music at the time on the East Coast had a bent of academia to it. It was connected to art schools and a formalism. Maybe even music training. In L.A., people were making incredibly experimental, avant-garde music, but they weren’t up their own asses about it at all. There wasn’t any condescending posturing. So it was really fun and that’s the scene we came out of.”
Duzsik moved to SoCal from Seattle to attend college initially. It was there that the germ of Health came to be. After college, armed with a literature degree, he decided to stick around and form a band. Side note—he tried to land an internship with LA Weekly, but that didn’t work out. Sorry, sir. Still. The band thing certainly did work out.
“The noise scene centered around the Smell exploded,” he says. “We knew that there was something unique going on in Los Angeles, largely because I think it had been allowed to grow without any attention or any credibility in terms of how people thought about it at that time. Sure enough, it did explode. Not even just in the countrywide press, but international press, about these bands playing this unique venue downtown called the Smell, etc. When that happens, and you happen to be one of those bands, suddenly you get to play huge European festivals, do interviews, get a record label, and all these things. That was, I think, what allowed us to start having a career as a band. Where we’re at now is incredibly different to what we came out of, but there’s no way the band exists without being a band in LA at that time and place.”
Health has released a string of excellent albums, but as we said at the beginning, the sound has certainly evolved.
“That first record is like a no-wave record,” says Duzsik. “It’s much more indebted to post-punk, no-wave, and free noise than anything else. It’s largely amelodic. Extremely experimental. For a lot of our fans now, I don’t even know if they are aware of that record, or if they are, they probably don’t listen to it. The current iteration, I would say, is along the lines of a neo-industrial band. I would consider us an industrial band, but not in the sense of being a throwback. In the process of doing that, I think we’ve written a lot of poppier, song-based music. Verse, chorus. More traditional in that sense.”
The new album is Disco4: Part II, which, as the name suggests, is the second part of a collaboration project. This one sees them work with artists as prestigious as Poppy, Lamb of God, and the mighty Nine Inch Nails.
“When we’re thinking about making music with a collaborator, we’re always selecting someone that we think has components, elements, to their musical palette and their production aesthetic that will mesh well with ours,” Duzsik says. “Even if it were an artist that we really respected and admired, if we didn’t conceive that the styles could complement each other, we wouldn’t pursue it. So in the process of making these records, even if there are bands that didn’t directly influence our sound, in the process of creating music it almost invariably happens because you end up thinking outside of your own creative process.”
Duzsik says that the first part of Disco4 was largely completed pre-pandemic, but this time there were challenges.
“Once the lockdown hit, we had to figure out how to finish enough songs to comprise a body of music for a record,” he says. “Then it just fucking dragged on and on and on. As I mentioned, I have a young son. He was born on 1/1/2020, so he may well be the antichrist. There were certain elements to my life that made it even more paramount for me to be careful. The first record came out, and then a lot of bands were just making a new LP which made sense – you had that time. But we weren’t in a place where we could all be in the same room making music, and I didn’t want to try to write a new health record over Zoom. But the way that the collaborations work fits with everybody being trapped in their houses. The track with Nine Inch Nails—we were never in the same room but we were all in Los Angeles. Pretty surreal, but very fitting of that moment.”
With that record out, Duzsik can afford to look forward into 2022 and there’s a new album on the horizon.
“We are currently writing material for our next LP that we hope to release early in 2023,” he says. “For the remainder of 2022, we have a considerable amount of touring. We have a full U.S. tour and another full European tour. I don’t like hyperbole, but I do feel like we’re in a place where I actually feel optimistic and happy about the record we’re currently trying to write. We’re positioned to write a record in a way that I hope will make us feel satisfied.”
Health’s album Disco4: Part II is out now.