"When you haven't put out a record for, like, five or six fucking years, it definitely weighs on your shoulders."
With the 2015 release of their third LP, Death Magic, LA noiseniks Health offered vinyl buyers the chance to win prizes, ranging from T-shirts to pressings of their first LP to personal gifts. It was a scaled-down, less-demented version of the 'Golden Ticket' extravaganza they staged for their last record, 2009's Get Color, which came out so long ago the tickets came in CD copies. Those sweepstakes included posters autographed in members' blood, drunken craft sessions, locks of Health hair, and hilarious ephemera ranging from childhood Little League jackets to scarves and paintings made by members' mothers. And then there was the winner of the Golden Ticket itself.
"The Golden Ticket winner, we flew him out to LA," recounts Health bassist John Famiglietti. "We hung out for a whole weekend, took him to In-N-Out Burger, to Six Flags, to Magic Mountain. We smoked Salvia with him, which is a really shit drug to all smoke together. It was hilarious. We still have the video we made [of it all], we just haven't put it on the internet yet."
"We smoked Salvia with him, which is a really shit drug to all smoke together. It was hilarious."
Famiglietti was the one doing the filming. As evinced by another Get Color prize — a copy of his student film — he moved to Los Angeles after high school, from his San Diego hometown, to do a one-year film course, and get an early foothold in the biz. "I worked on all these knitting and crafting shows," Famiglietti recounts. "I started as a production assistant and moved up to production coordinator. The shows were low-budget, so we'd shoot three, sometimes four episodes in a day. It was really hard work. I had thought I was going to work in the film industry, but then I realised: this is a fucking horrible lifestyle."
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So, Famiglietti and his friend Jake Duzsik, Health's future frontman, formed a band to ease the pain of their day jobs, inspired by early '00s post-punk types like Ex-Models, The Chinese Stars and The Rapture. "We thought: maybe we could make one cool record, go out on tour, and then we'd be done with it," Famiglietti remembers. But soon Health were entrenched in the "really, really weird fucking music scene" of Los Angeles, one whose bands — like No Age and Mika Miko — gathered at all-ages haunt The Smell.
Health recorded their noisy, self-titled 2007 debut in The Smell itself, but over time their music grew more electronic, ambitious, and massive ("we really felt that, around the turn of the decade, there was a really big jump in the way pop music and club music sounded, just this audio arms race"). And having taken half a decade to follow up their last LP, Health felt extra pressure to make Death Magic a 'next level' album.
"It's never a good idea taking that long to release a record," Famiglietti says. "It was really miserable at times. There was just this constant, nagging, horrible fear that you were pissing away everything you've done [as a band], as the time just kept going on longer and longer. There were so many times where I just felt: 'this is going to be it, we've just fucked up'. When you haven't put out a record for, like, five or six fucking years, it definitely weighs on your shoulders. You can't go away for that long and just put out a record just like the others. You have to come with something new."