I had the chance to ask Yotam Ben Horin, lead vocalist and bassist of the long-standing Israeli punk rock band Useless ID, a few questions this week about their brand new best-of album, Most Useless Songs. As well as what the band has planned for the future of touring and even got told a funny story about Propagandhi's Chris Hannah from the two times Useless ID performed in Winnipeg in 2003 and 2016.
Going nearly thirty years as a band, you have got many fan favourites in your catalogue, but what made you pull the trigger on a greatest hits compilation?
Y: We started making a list of songs we thought should go on this compilation and started narrowing it down to the songs that stuck with us most throughout the years and ones that have been constants in our set as well. At any point in your career, did you ever expect Useless ID to be dubbed "the most successful Middle Eastern punk rock band"? Y: You know how it goes, if you’re lucky your band makes it past the five-year mark 'cause most bands break up before that especially, in Israel, people go to the army, change life interests. With us, we found a home in punk rock. It keeps us young and excited as we were when we just started out. We always get hyped up about writing a new record, recording it and see it come to life.
With your greatest hits album, Most Useless Songs, which was released last month, you included two previously unreleased tracks. Could you elaborate on what the two tracks are about and mean to you? Y: On "Same Old Revolution," I wanted to touch on Global Issues. So much was happening in late 2019, leading into 2020. I tried to capture the feeling of the world. Basically, we're all going through so much, and this was all before the global pandemic.
"Into The Exquisite" is more of seeing change as something positive. We always tend to fear doing something, and then when we actually do it, it's much less than what we thought it would be and much more rewarding, that's the idea here, and musically I wanted to revisit our melodic hardcore roots.
Were "Same Old Revolution" and "Into the Exquisite" freshly written for the album, or were they pulled from the band's unreleased archive?
Y: "Same Old Revolution" was an idea I had, or more so, a chorus I had since September 2019 when I started fiddling on ideas for a new Useless ID album that was the intention there. The songwriting stopped at around ten songs, and then I found myself living with Fat Mike for four months in the U.S. working on other projects, so I put the songs on hold. During that time, he mentioned releasing a "Best Of" for us and adding two new songs to the compilation, so it's not just an album comprised of released material. With that in mind, I eventually flew to Israel for a visit and kept writing, one morning I spoke to Ishay after hearing Lagwagon's Railer album, which has many fast songs on it, and he was like, "I feel that we haven't said our final word with fast melodic punk." I took a shower, and that sat with me, got out and wrote "Into The Exquisite."
Were there any songs from your back catalogue you or the rest of the band wanted on the album but didn't make the cut to be on the album’s tracklist?
Y: There are so many more songs we could've added, but I think with the current state of the world these days and the short attention spans, we did good by putting on the amount of songs we did with the two unreleased songs. I just listened to the record with Johnny (Old Man Markley). It was kind of like a reintroduction to Useless ID for me. I was trying to listen to the album from Johnny's perspective since he wasn't that familiar with all our releases, and he absolutely loved it.
I could imagine at some point or another during the last year that the band has been writing new tunes for the next Useless ID album?
Y: Yes, it pretty much started with the tunes on Most Useless, but I like to move forward with songwriting, not backwards. We decided that these songs would be for this release, and for the next album, we'd start from scratch. The writing process has been different with this one. For one, I only started writing around September 2020. I wrote for three solid months and took a break, then wrote another batch in a month and took another break. I send all the songs to the guys, and it's like when I get the "three stars" from them, I know that it's probably a song for the album. I have my opinions of which are the more stand-out tunes but getting the excitement from them makes the songs better once we get together and play. I'm trying to tackle subjects I haven't yet, trying to enter some new musical territory as well, but it's all under the Useless ID umbrella. It's not like we're playing Jazz all of a sudden. At the moment, I started the third batch of writing, which will go on for a few good months. Hopefully, we're ready to record by the end of the year.
With the world slowly reopening, you must be eager to hit the road again when it's permitted? Do you have any plans in place to return to the stage? Y: Yes, we have some European dates set up for 2022 with Descendents and Good Riddance. Since some of us live in different corners of the world, and it's like everyone is hitting the road at the moment, we're gonna wait it out for a bit, keep writing our next album and hopefully hit the road with new music.
How has it been releasing a brand new album of any nature amid a worldwide pandemic?
Y: I think it turned out great for us that the album we release is a best-of album, so it's not like "We have to tour the new material now." It's more like, "Hey world, check this preview out of our musical life's work and enjoy two new songs we've written, more to come!"
Given the website is based out of Winnipeg, Canada, I believe you have only been to the city once in 2016 with NOFX and PEARS. Do you have any fond or even funny memories from that show you are willing to share? Y: We played in Winnipeg with No Use back in 2003, so there's this ongoing thing with Chris Hannah from Propagandhi. The first time around, they told me he would come out to the show, so I was all excited to meet him. No Use finish their show, and I ask Tony, "Is Chris here?" "Oh, he just left, but he said to say hi to you guys," and I'm thinking, "Was he even here?" I mean, my eyesight is pretty good, and I didn't see Chris. Fast forward to the show in 2016, Todd shows up and hangs out with us, he says, "Chris is gonna show up later." Same thing, I don't see Chris. Someone then mentions, "He was at the bar having a drink and went home after your set." I tell this to Todd, "Oh yeah, Chris is like a ghost, you never know when he'll show up or leave." Missed him again. When we opened for Propagandhi a year later, I finally got the chance to tell Chris how much he inspired us throughout the years to what he replied, "You guys got your own great thing going on," so that brought a big smile to my face.
Lastly, are there any other plans for Useless ID for the rest of the unforeseeable future?
Y: To keep writing our record, record it, and hit the road next summer.
Thanks for taking the time! Is there anything else you may want to add before you go?
Y: I just finished recording my next solo album, so hopefully, that's going to be released soon. And to everyone who is reading, we hope to see you all very soon!