[sic] Magazine

Interview – For Against

Nebraska’s intense, Dreampop act, For Against were one of the first to feature in a fledgling [sic] Magazine when we reviewed their strong 2008 album Shade Side, Sunny Side. Brett Spaceman and Ed Colavito caught up with returning axe-man Harry Dingman III


Brett Spaceman: Which bands from the late 80’s scene did you admire?

Harry Dingman III: From Nebraska: Playground, Tel Quell, New Brass Guns and Digital Sex. From Los Angeles: Red Temple Spirits, Savage Republic, Abecedarians, and Four Way Cross. In general, I really liked The Jesus and Mary Chain’s great pop sensibility with loads of feedback.

The Doors?

Jeff Runnings (singer), Greg Hill (drummer) and I all had a mutual admiration for the band Wire especially their singles -I especially liked the b-side of the 7” Map Reference 41°N 93°W. single, the song: “Go Ahead” with it’s repetitive bass line, voices talking and the abstract noises over the top –I wanted to make music like that! I liked the Chrome 12” single, Inworlds with the songs, “Danger Zone” and “In a Dream” –the songs had such a driving pulse yet were atmospheric at the same time.

We were also listening to music from the late 70’s to mid 80’s — Factory records and 4AD and a lot of early punk. Jeff and I loved the first Siouxsie and the Banshees record, The Scream, and we were also really into Cocteau Twins – for instance, The Spangle Maker 12” single. Robin Guthrie’s volume swells and feedback and the big build up at the end were a huge influence and something we consciously wanted to incorporate into the For Against sound.

Another influence was the picking arpeggios of R.E.M.’s, Peter Buck. Murmur is still my favorite record by R.EM. Murmur has great songs with simple melodies and a lot of youthful energy. To see them live back in the early days was quiet an experience! I eventually met Peter Buck when R.E.M. was touring for their Green album. We talked about music for a while and he said, “Have you heard of this band from Lincoln called For Against?” After the initial shock of his question I told him I was in the band. He then went on to say that he really liked our December album and said, “Your December album is on my turntable back home right now, It’s the last thing I listened to before going on tour!”

Harry Dingman III

Greg Hill really liked The Police (especially Stuart Copeland –I think you can hear that in his drumming). He was also into the band TSOL and always tried to get me to play like their guitarist. Greg’s all-time favorite band was The Doors. Greg was obsessed with the Doors and would refer to songs that For Against was writing in reference to their songs. He’d say things like, “This new song the middle section reminds of the Doors, ‘Horse Latitudes’.” He always thought we were borrowing elements from them.

Jeff was into just a ton of music. Sometimes it was hard to keep track of what he was listening too! Jeff had a huge record collection and would hand me a stack of un-opened records and say, “listen to these and let me know what you think”

Spaceman: Did you feel part of a scene?

Harry Dingman III: Yes and no. In Lincoln we played with a band called, Playground, (which included Steve “Mave” Hinrichs on guitar -he later joined For Against in the 1990’s). We also played with a band called, Holiday, and they later changed their name to, Tel Quell, which included Paul Englehard on drums (who also would join For Against in the 90’s).

We also felt connected to the bands on our record label back then, Independent Project Records, especially Savage Republic. We played live with them a few times and did two mini tours with Savage. We also played with the Red Temple Spirits and Fourway Cross. They were all great live bands. Savage Republic would burn incense and light their metal drums on fire and create an atmosphere –it was really fun –although in Lincoln, at the DrumStick (a local Chicken restaurant where bands played) the owners thought this had gone way too far and made them stop. I guess they were worried the building was going to burn down! Savage had great songs with a lot of energy –very primitive and tribal. The Red Temple Spirits had great songs and a really dramatic lead singer – he performed naked or close to it and there was this primitive energy going on with them too. These were some of the best shows I’ve seen, and people still talk about the Red Temple Spirits show in Lincoln.

Atlanta gig

Also in Lincoln, Nebraska at the same time that we had formed in 1984, there was a thriving hard core/progressive metal scene. For Against would sometimes play with these bands, band like: Baby Hotline and Power of the Spoken Word were our favorites. We were all friends and would all hang out and go to parties. For Against was not a part of their scene and most of the Hard Core audience did not like us. There was definitely a rift between the two scenes as far as the audiences went, but the bands for the most part always got along.

Before For Against was formed in the early 80’s there was such a cool punk underground music scene in Lincoln, Nebraska that had a HUGE influence on us. Bands like: dk’d Willies, Youngsters, Dick Tracey (later called the Click), and Ex-Machina played a huge role in what For Against would become – we all loved those bands and I think we always did and still do try to capture the energy and originality of the those early days. It always fun to go back and think about those days life was a lot simpler and all that mattered was music.

We also had great records stores in Lincoln in the 80’s. Dirt Cheap and Reliable Vacuum had great owners and employees that would order all the obscure records and not so obscure records you could think of. We had it all in Lincoln, Nebraska: early punk, post punk, experimental, Factory, 4AD, bootlegs, compilation albums, Ralph records out of S.F. etc. It was quite an experience to spend hours going through the bins at Dirtcheap.

Ed Colavito: What other bands from Nebraska do you guys admire from today/the past? Digital Sex are one of my other favorites. I exchanged email with Derrick Higgins, nice guy. What did you think of them?

The 'Runnings' man

Harry Dingman III: We played with Digital Sex a couple of times and had their recordings. They were fun to play with and nice guys. We became good friends with Steve Sheehan and had Steve come to Lincoln for a For Against recording session once. He sang backing vocals on the song, “Men of Pride.” This song was a favorite of Bruce Licher at I.P.R. and Bruce wanted it recorded. So we had Steve do these long sustaining backing vocals. And then the song was never released.

I still listen to Digital Sex a lot. My daughter who is 2 1/2 loves their sound. We can always get her going arms in the air and legs twirling to the “Essence and Rarities” album.

Ed: I read liner notes of The Millions CD that one Ryan Seacrest of
American Idol fame was credited? What was his role in this record? Better yet, can you get him to wear a FA tee shirt while he hosts the show?

Harry Dingman III: Ryan Seacrest was a friend of the band. I do not see him much any more, but when I do I’ll be sure to ask him to wear a For Against t-shirt. 😉

Spaceman: From photos, you don’t seem like Goths or Emo (21st Century Goth if you ask me) yet you often get lumped in with “darkwave”. Is there a risk you’re missing a potential audience?

Street gothic

Harry Dingman III: Yeah, for sure! We are looking at revamping our ‘look’ now! No, seriously, it would seem the Goth/dark wave crowd is our largest audience. And yet there is a connection we get from all different genres of music lovers, so it is hard to say exactly who For Against fans are. We do know that there are a lot of people who have still not heard our music. And people are always saying to us or writing saying they cannot believe they have never heard of us before. So, who knows?

Ed: You guys certainly look like corn-fed Nebraskans, aside from the Joy Division/early Factory influences, which seems apparent in the sound, how is that your largest fanbases are these odd goth pockets through Europe?

Harry Dingman III: In the early days our records were distributed in Europe through I.P.R. A few compilation albums came out overseas with our song “Amen Yves” and “December”. The first record deal we had was with an English label that put out, “Amen Yves”, on a compilation. I don’t remember the name of the label or have a copy. We have always had a good response from Europe. It seems now European DJ’s have picked up on our music. When we tour the audience knows our lyrics and is singing along and dancing. Words On Music, our current record label, has done a great job getting our music out there. It’s fun to get responses from countries like Brazil or Russia or be asked to tour Romania.

Spaceman: How are you able to take the For Against sound on the road? Is three of you enough?

Harrys game

Harry Dingman III: It’s easy – we with just three members we can still make a lot of noise! When we started in 1984 we had a fourth member, John Fynbu. John was our lead singer and quit early on and Jeff switched to vocals and picked up the bass guitar. At that point we experimented with a keyboard player also, but it felt like we had to tell him what to do all the time and like we had an extra appendage or something. So we just decided early on ‘3’ was the right number. Although, I must confess here in Nebraska, we get the request over and over for the ‘saw’ man and the wash-tub bass player.

Ed: I heard you guys sold every piece of merch in Italy. Is touring still a labor of love, or can you actually make some type of living from this? I once read an interview with Joni Mitchell who said the band is always the last to get paid, and more often than not it’s rarely a profitable venture.


Harry Dingman III: The people that came to the shows like our CDs and shirts; that is for sure! Which is gratifying because we design our shirts and CDs. As far as the band goes we are playing music to play music. If we can sell some merchandise to help pay for the cost of a tour that is great. It would be nice to always make more money, of course, but our focus has never been on the money – it’s on the music.

Spaceman:: Can I draw a little upon the circumstances that led you to leave, Harry?

Harry Dingman III: It’s really simple, like most problems that arise in a band or in life general – it was a lack of communication. Jeff, Greg and I were three young kids who had our own ideas and didn’t communicate with each other. We would blow up on each other and get in heated arguments, but we rarely sat down and really talked.

Jeff would disappear and Greg and I just had trouble tracking him down. Outside of band practice we did not see Jeff. We never even saw Jeff eat until we went on a tour – Greg and I wondered if Jeff ever did eat.

Greg, for his part, would never let his true feelings be known to Jeff. Yet Greg wanted to control a lot of what the band did.

As for me, I would get angry and just explode when we started to have problems. I thought by getting mad people would listen but everyone just kept being themselves and didn’t communicate.

This is the end

The recording and mixing of December (1988) was the end of the band. During the recording we all just gave up and didn’t care anymore for the most part. Somehow we managed to record the album anyway. We were all going in different directions personally and with the band. That album was not high on the priority list for any of us at the time it was recorded. The three of us, Jeff, Greg, and myself never did regain what we once shared during band practice when writing songs. December was the end.

Before December was even mixed Greg left to drum for another band. Jeff then started to play with a different drummer and bass player. Jeff had also switched to guitar and I played one show with the new line-up. I felt like I was second fiddle and the guy that really didn’t fit in. The band musically was not going in a direction I wanted to go. I never officially quit, I just stopped going to practice and didn’t talk to Jeff for over sixteen years. No communication: none. Like I said before, there was always a lack of communication.

Spaceman: And more happily, what enabled your return?

Harry Dingman III: After not talking to Jeff in over sixteen years, I moved from Fort Collins, Colorado back to Lincoln, Nebraska and the time to be back in For Against just seemed right. Mave Hinrichs had just moved out to the east coast and Jeff and Paul Englehard were not doing anything yet. I called Jeff up pretty fortified one night and mumbled something into his answering machine. Jeff did not return my phone call. Only through talking with Paul did we eventually get a meeting arranged with the three of us.

Ed: What’s Greg Hill up to these days?

Harry Dingman III: He lives in a small town in Genoa, Nebraska and works for the Nebraska Power district. He, unfortunately, does not play drums anymore!

Ed:Nick (Buller) your new drummer must’ve locked himself in his garage
and learned these old songs verbatim. The transition with him behind the kit seems seamless. Has that always been the case with the few other members of FA through the years?

Harry Dingman III: Nick has incredible energy and captures the spirit of For Against. He’s fun to work with and really open to new ideas. Nick also adds a lot to our sound. He’s really good at capturing the old drum machine based songs (from In The Marshes) with his live drumming. He adds so much to songs like “Fate,” ”Amen Yves,” and “Amnesia” –all which were originally recorded with a drum machine.

Spaceman: What drew you to the Section 25 song?

Harry Dingman III: We have played only a few cover songs (Section 25’s, “Friendly Fires”, the Names, “I Wish I could Speak your Language”, and Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You”). “Friendly Fires” was a song we performed at our first For Against gig back in 1984. We just decided to do it again and it sounded really good right away – we all have heard the song many times! In the recording studio we nailed the song on the first take – the mood was just right. You know when a song works it just works – the song plays itself. Eric Ostermeier at Words On Music liked our version a lot and wanted it on the album. We were not sure at first and then thought it fit in once we heard the album as whole with finished mixes.

Ed: Did you ever reach out to Martin Hannett about production back in the day?

Harry Dingman III: We definitely admired his production style. He was really great at adding subtle yet sometimes drastic production ideas that for the most part worked. It would have been interesting to work with him. But we never attempted any sort of contact with him basically because we did not know how to get hold of him. Lincoln was a long way from Manchester (especially back in those days).

Ed: What was it like working with Dino Paredes of Red Temple Spirits?

Harry Dingman III: When Dino mixed the December album we did not really know him yet – he seemed like a super nice, talented guy when we talked to him over the phone. Dino assured us that he knew what to do with the December album and had “vision” for the record. That was good because we as a band did not. Dino was very interested, accommodating and listened to what we told him; even when it came to the smallest detail. For example: having hiss on the end of a song or a track cutting out and making a “pop” that we wanted left in. He listened to it all and added his own “stamp” to the record – we knew he worked really hard. The raw tracks were OK but, after all, this was recorded on a 1/4” Fostex machine (not the highest recording quality). I later became good friends with Dino after December was finished and admired the many projects he was involved in. But it was the bond we formed with his work on our album that started that friendship.

Blue Jeff

Randy Watson, our producer and recording engineer, really helped with the sound and feel of December too. Randy basically told us to shut up and do it his way because we as a band were not communicating, as I said earlier. The only time I won out over Randy on that record was I insisted on using a drum machine on the song, ”The Effect” – the real drums just didn’t fit (in my opinion). Randy didn’t like it, but, in the end, we went with the drum machine.

Spaceman: What do you think of bands like Interpol, Editors, bands that these days seem to be running with that 80’s sound?

Harry Dingman III: I hear them played in shopping malls at the GAP or other stores. Let’s just say I won’t turn them off when I hear them on the radio, but at home I usually don’t put on their CDs.

Ed:I think your sound is much richer and atmospheric than the aforementioned newer bands, is there a certain degree of resentment that these bands have succeeded, while you guys linger in virtual obscurity?

Harry Dingman III: When I was younger I would lose sleep over stuff like that. When you pour your heart into a song, work really hard, and know that relatively few people will hear it, it’s rather depressing. And then you see all these other bands getting a whole lot of attention. Sometimes it just pisses you off! But it really doesn’t bother me like it used to. It’s not like I’m going around and saying these more successful bands have ripped us off because I bet most of those bands have not even heard of For Against!

Ed: And, personally, I thought the A&R folks of the 80’s were too lazy to travel to center of the country to snatch you guys up.

Harry Dingman III: Simon Potts at Capitol was interested in For Against but the band was not functioning then (Greg had just left and I was headed for the door).

Ed: It’s nice to see you guys getting more attention, even if from odd pockets around the globe.

Harry Dingman III: Yes!

Ed: Are there any other For Against hot spots outside of Europe?

Harry Dingman III: We have been getting more fan response from the UK, Russia, Romania, Hungary and Eastern Europe in general. And then there is interest from Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Brazil and Asia as well.

Ed:What will it take to get you guys a proper tour of the US?

Harry Dingman III: The right promoter, the right booking agent booking and the right tour.

Ed: You certainly have a decent fanbase in New York and the surrounding suburbs.

Harry Dingman III: We would love to play in the US more. The possibility of one tour came about in the U.S. right when we had finalized our European tour last year. We are open to all possibilities.

Ed: EC: How does your art differ from Bruce Licher’s? When I first saw
SSSS’s cover, I immediately assumed it was one of Bruce’s, but I saw that it was your design concept. Did Bruce have a design concept for SSSS?

Harry Dingman III: With Echelons, December, and In the Marshes – the process was this: Send Bruce art ideas: everything from rough sketches, to finished drawings, photographs and type fonts with finished logos for the band name. I had a lot of art ideas and Bruce helped to define my work. Having someone with a letterpress producing your album covers was also really unique process and special. Bruce was always accommodating and ran everything by us for final approval. We love Bruce’s work! Bruce Licher was the art director. On the Echelons album Bruce’s wife, Karen Licher drew the wheat on the front cover, otherwise all the graphics are mine on the first three albums. Jeff and Greg would have some input, but back then and now I like to do the artwork myself –it’s a challenge and basically a lot of hard work but it’s also fun to see it printed and hold the finished piece in your hands.



With the Shade Side Sunny Side album, the process with the artwork started out just the same with Bruce Licher: I sent Bruce about 30 photographs and he started to put together ideas. At our record company, Words On Music, Marc Ostermeier, really liked the “Snow Fence” photograph. Here’s some background info on that photo: The image was captured while I was walking home from the recording studio a few blocks from my house on a snowy day in Lincoln, Nebraska in the middle of January. We had just finished recording the basic tracks to the songs, “Why Are You So Angry?” and “Glamour.” We were having an unusually cold snowy winter that year and my fingers were freezing and my feet were cold as I snapped off about 90 photographs of the snow and snow fence. I had a hunch this may be our album cover. The photo of the “Snow Fence” Marc chose for the cover was accidentally underexposed so a lot of background detail was lost – which in this case worked: it makes for a stark, high contrast image of the fence with nothing else in the background.



Anyway, at this point Bruce had to stop working on the project because of personal problems. So I then worked on the cover with Marc and it turned out great. All of us were really hoping Bruce Licher could have been a part of the finished cover but it just didn’t work out.

Have you seen the new cover art to Springhouse’s From Now to OK (deluxe limited-edition 550-copies art-package)? It’s really classic Bruce Licher at his best. Check it out!

Ed: How is it that one of your old album covers (Echelons?) was nominated for a Grammy for artwork, but yet this type of music has NEVER been recognized by these same folks?

Harry Dingman III: I believe Bruce Licher sent the cover of the letterpress edition of Echelons to the Grammy awards – under the category: “Best Album Package Design” and we got nominated. R.E.M. were nominated also and Rosanne Cash won the award, I think.

Ed: What’s the next reissue (if anything) on the Words-On-Music label?

Harry Dingman III: Words On Music may just keep going in chronological order. They may also put out an album of unreleased For Against songs and live songs from the early days.

A year or so before we recorded Echelons we recorded 14 songs known as the “14 song Cassette LP.” We basically told people that if they came to a For Against show and gave us a cassette we’d record the 14 songs on their cassette, put a photocopied cover on and give it back. This was before free downloads, you know! (And there was no pay-what-you-think-it-is-worth option either). I also remember people I did not know showing up to my house with cassettes in their hands. And I would be like, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll have your tape!” I remember people bringing back the same cassettes that we had dubbed songs all ready and we would add just add more songs as we wrote and recorded them. At that time, musically we were going in a lot of different directions at once. We had songs like, “If You Go South Again,” that had an Athens, Georgia pop jangle to it. And then songs like, “Black Soap” and “Sex On Acid” that had a synth pop sound. “Falling Grenades” had the landscape of noise and then there was, “Amen Yves.” The original, “Amen Yves” is from this 14 song Cassette LP recording session, and it was recently released on the CD reissue of In the Marshes by Words On Music.

Music was not all we gave away back then. One of friends and biggest For Against fans, Shawn Michaud, would give away free applesauce at our shows! At my brother’s 18th birthday bash we rented out a vacant warehouse in downtown Lincoln. We painted huge backdrops on sheets and left blank areas to project images via a 16mm film projector. We worked with a local artist, Mike Lewis who constructed extremely large dinosaur sculptures that he suspended above the stage as we played, and we would then project arabesque type movie images on everything. We gave away tons of birthday cakes and food and then the birthday cakes started to fly midway through the show – frosting and debris was everywhere! I think a lot of people were also on acid for that one.

But Marc from Words On Music is currently mixing our newest recordings to be released in 2009 – so this will definitely be the next For Against release! They are the first recordings with Nick on drums.



Shade Side Sunny Side

[sic] Magazine wishes to thank Harry and For Against. Plus Eric at Words on Music. Ed Colavito appears courtesy of The Lost Patrol. For more info on Ed and/or The Lost Patrol please visit their myspace via the links below.

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