Fucked Up are one of my favorites. From their occasionally bloody, always ecstatic live shows and smart-ass/smart politics to the fist-pumpers packed onto Hidden World and the charged, sex-workers’s-rights epic “Year Of The Pig,” the Toronto hardcore quintet (sometimes sextet, etc.) nail the things that move me most about music. (How did Pink Eyes not win Mr. Indie Rock?)
On the socially conscious front, they along with Xiu Xiu, were one of the bands who took an active response after being included in Camel/Rolling Stone’s “Indie Universe” advertisement. Check out the post about the fiasco at their blog. Fitting well with that defiance and the band’s blue-collar vibe, Fucked Up guitarist/backup vocalist 10,000 Marbles, aka Mike Haliechuk, works at a light bulb plant/factory: He describes the atmosphere like The Machinist, his coworkers like “crumbs of people.” Definitely one of the dirtier jobs featured in Quit Your Day Job to date (though, not to give things away, but we have someone who works in a mine coming up soon).
Post-discussion, take a listen to “Crusades” and “David Comes To Life,” the first two tracks from Hidden World. 10,000 Marbles wrote the lyrics for “Crusades.” In February, Fucked Up go on tour with super cool Epitaph punks, Gallows, throughout the UK. If you’re over there, don’t miss it. Also, FU just released their David Christmas 7″, whose proceeds go to the George Herman House, “a transitional housing program for women living with mental health issues” (to quote the band’s blog). According to Fucked Up — who swear this isn’t a joke — the b-side involves a huge cast of guests, “We Are The World”-style:
James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem), Cole (Black Lips), Davey Havok (AFI), Kevin Peterson (What’s Your Rupture?), Faris Rotter (The Horrors), Mike Fellows (Rites Of Spring), Matt Sweeney (Chavez/ Zwan), Dave One (Chromeo), Jacob Thiele (The Faint), Morag and Ursula, Jay Reatard, Dan Romano (Attack In Black), Trevor Keith (Face To Face), Jason Green (Panthers/ Orchid), Jerry A. (Poison Idea), Shenae Grimes (Degrassi: The Next Generation), Scott Vogel (Terror) and Nelly Furtado.
Poor Matt Sweeney to forever have Zwan affixed to his name. Furtado seems a stretch, but she is Canadian… More on the 7″ soon. In the meantime, take a walk into the factory.
STEREOGUM: How long have you worked at the light bulb factory?
10,000 MARBLES: Three or four years. Or like six decades, it’s hard to keep track.
STEREOGUM: Where’d you work before?
10,000 MARBLES: Just more temporary work. Most summers I was the guy who made shapes out of balloons at baseball games.
STEREOGUM: How’d you get the current job?
10,000 MARBLES: I got the job through my friend David. After the band started I needed a job that I could work hard while I was here, and then take time off to travel with Fucked Up. Working in a factory is the perfect thing because you can plow through days on end working if you have the stamina.
STEREOGUM: Did you know other folks employed there?
10,000 MARBLES: There are a few people I know. It’s mostly older people, crumbs of people, so I try to just keep my distance.
STEREOGUM: Can you tell me more about the coworkers?
10,000 MARBLES: Imagine a lightbulb before it’s turned on. No one wants to work in a lightbulb factory — so you can imagine the paths people took to get there. Good people but not the types you’d want to get too involved in.
STEREOGUM: What’s the atmosphere like?
10,000 MARBLES: Hazy. Have you seen the movie The Machinist? It’s like that. It’s a real trip because lightbulbs are one of those elemental commodities that have been in production for such a long time, with the same essential design principles — the lightbulbs that were being built 100 years ago are basically the same ones being built today. Which means there hasn’t been a lot of updates in machinery at the shop either — my plant was built probably 60 or 70 years ago and there are parts of it and machines in there I really can’t think about. It’s gassy, there are sounds you hear that you can never figure out where they come from, there are chemicals everywhere. It’s a really tentative place — people act like every day is the last one there, after years of days like that. Making lightbulbs needs a lot of corrosive chemicals, so there is that too. Remnants of arsenic, mercury, you know they are there. It isn’t a healthy place.
STEREOGUM: I had a friend who worked in a d-hook factory in Fort Eerie. She mentioned long shifts, these same sorts of older coworkers, lots of smoking. How long are your shifts?
10,000 MARBLES: It varies. There are lots of ways to configure your schedule. As I was saying before, while there are administrative types that keep the 9-5 thing, the deeper you get into the plant, the darker it gets, you get people who seem like their feet are cemented into the ground, you start seeing cobwebs in the creases in their clothes. If I know I’m only going to be in town for a few weeks I put my head down and work. Sometimes I do the “Da Vinci” rep, where it’s a 16-hour shift, followed by 11 hours off, followed by a 16 hour shift, 11 hours off — for as long as i can stand it, usually about 6 or 7 shifts tops. You really lose track of time obviously, but you start to oscillate through society even — taking the bus the wrong way through rush hour traffic at 5am on the way home, asleep at 5pm — you can really lose your footing if you aren’t careful, just become this unhinged lunatic floating through some strange semblance of of time.
STEREOGUM: Is it tough getting off to tour?
10,000 MARBLES: Naw. You just work when you are around. I know in advance when I need time off so I can front-load things. When you work enough Da Vinci shifts you get a lot of leeway.
STEREOGUM: What are your duties?
10,000 MARBLES: Different things, but usually I’m fitting filled bulbs into their screw bases. It’s really boring. Top bulbs come along the line and I make sure they get placed into the right base so they can be fastened properly down the line. I get in, sit down and wait for the bulbs. I have no idea where they come from, or where they go. I know that we get a lot of the individual parts outsourced — filaments, sleeves, vitrit, those are made in Bangalore or something, and probably assembled somewhere in the plant here.
STEREOGUM: Are you able to zone out at all, or does it require constant attention?
10,000 MARBLES: It’s hard to say. When you think you are paying attention you wake up and it’s four hours later. It’s this Zen thing almost; you can zone out while paying attention. I just need to place the bulbs in the bases, bulbs in the bases, bulbs in the bases. I zone out paying attention to that mantra for hours and hours.
STEREOGUM: Does the factory specialize in one particular kind of bulb?
10,000 MARBLES: I’m not sure. All the bulbs I work on are the same.
STEREOGUM: Do you like your job?
10,000 MARBLES: Well, to a certain extent — but it hasn’t turned me into a vampire yet. I try to arrange my shifts so they end early in the morning so that when I leave everything is already bustling and it forces me to immediately start to re-connect — get a coffee at a busy shop, get the paper in the morning. It isn’t like the plant is this giant room filled with blinding light. It’s the opposite — it’s gray, dark, dingy. You’d imagine if you didn’t know otherwise, that we were making broken lightbulbs, because that’s what the place looks like.
STEREOGUM: As a result of all this work, do you have any sort of negative reactions to light bulbs in your daily life? Like, bad flashbacks.
10,000 MARBLES: Ha, no! Everyone needs lightbulbs! Please buy lots of them.
STEREOGUM: Are name-brand lightbulbs really better made than no-name bulbs?
10,000 MARBLES: Ha ha. It’s all the same bulb.
STEREOGUM: Do your coworkers know about the band?
10,000 MARBLES: Hell no. Most of the people I see at work I have never seen before. There are some people I know who know that I tend to take time off in chunks, but don’t really ask why. There are a lot of creeps who work at the plant, so you learn not to pry.
STEREOGUM: Finally … it’s almost Christmas. Do you deal with holiday lights of any sort?
10,000 MARBLES: Ha ha. No. Unfortunately…
UPDATE: I just received this email:
thanks a lot brandon. by the way i don’t really work in a lightbulb factory (if those even exist), i work at a food co op! thought that might be boring though, mike
Talk about fucked up! Well played, Mike. I’ll have to start checking references in the future.
[left to right: G beat, Jase Minger, Pink Eyes, Gulag, 10,000 Marbles, Mustard Gas, Young Governor]