It’s a post-apocalyptic world, and you’ve just been invited to it. You’re in a city of fire, ruled by a gang called The Horror Squad and you have to do whatever it takes to survive these terrifying streets. This is how an Arson City concert feels. Arson City was formed in July 2013, fronted by Patrick Wilson (AKA “The Mayor”) and held up by members Matt DiBaise (lead guitarist, AKA “The Dealer”), Mark Beckenhauer (guitarist, AKA “The Doctor”), Matt Oliver (bassist, AKA “The Con”) and Matt Denker (drummer, AKA “The Enforcer”). The band started with the desire to try something different, and get fans involved in a rock show that would bring them into a new form of reality. It has taken on a life of its own, with people from all over the Midwest coining the term “Citizens of Arson City” and creating their own characters.
Arson City brought themselves from Omaha, NE to join with Pop Evil in Sioux Falls 8/11/2016 for a show at The District. Shockwave was honored with the chance to sit down for an interview to learn about this city of fire and the Horror Show that keeps bringing the citizens night after night.
Shockwave Magazine: I really want to thank you guys for taking the time to sit with me. I saw your show in Sioux City at Awesome Biker Nights…
Patrick: Which one?
The first one. Friday night, June 17th.
Patrick: Oh yeah, the one where everyone else got cancelled!
I know! Yup, but I was thoroughly happy. I got to see your whole set, and I’m really excited to see it again. When I heard you guys were coming to Sioux Falls, I jumped on my manager right away and said I just had to have an interview with you. So what I want to accomplish is getting to the back story of what Arson City is, essentially.
My first question: When you guys were forming, Patrick had come up with the idea for the band. Despite everyone else’s thoughts, they didn’t really want to go with what he came up with. How does everyone feel now that you’re here and come this far?
Patrick: You know, it really didn’t play out that way. There was another member of the band, Eric; who left, he was called “The Barber.” We were spit firing different names and Arson City came up. It was something that I really liked and I was like “That’s the one I want!” and nobody was super against it, like “That’s not gonna happen.”
Mark: They never really went in depth. They had this vision, but they never really explained what the hell they were talking about. “Arson City? What the hell is that? Who cares about that? That’s not a regular band name.” So..
Patrick: I was picturing imagery, which I wasn’t necessarily translating well to them. 24 hours later, we all talked about it and everyone jumped on board. They had no idea when they joined up that I was going to make them all dress up and fucking wear makeup. (band laughs)
So how does everyone feel now that it’s all gone forward?
Matt Oliver: It’s taken on a life of its own, so it’s great!
I heard Sioux City calls themselves Sioux Citizens?
Patrick: The thing about Citizens is cool! It wasn’t something that we coined, I mean, it just all of a sudden – one of our friends was like “I’m so proud to be a citizen of Arson City.” And we were like “That is so cool!” and it just caught on. It’s really cool that the fans took it upon themselves to do it, rather than us saying “You guys are gonna be called Citizens!”
Mark: The thing with nicknames, if you give someone a nickname – like your own nickname, that’s lame. They gave themselves that and dubbed themselves “Citizens”
Patrick: And it’s dope, man. I mean, people make their own characters too. People come to the show like “the firefighter” — all these different people wear costumes and come to the show. Especially in Omaha, because we’re from there and that’s where it started to catch on the most. It’s pretty cool and humbling that people are really into it as much as they are.
What’s the most interesting costume that you’ve had come to the show?
Patrick: I like the twins! Like the psychotic twins. There’s these two twin brothers that have these strait jackets and they are tied together.
Mark: And they literally stay in these things the whole show!
Matt Oliver: The entire night!
Patrick: Yeah, if somebody wants a drink they pour each other’s drinks.
Wow, that is crazy good! So what is kind of the back story behind Arson City? What brought on that vision? I thought I heard it called the city or horror at one point?
Patrick: Well, “The Horror Show” is the name of the album. We reference it as the City of Fire/Arson City. We wanted to do something that was different than what we’d ever done before. We wanted to have a little more fun, write some good music – which we sure hope we are doing, and make it more of a theatrical performance. We wanted it to be where people can come and see us, if they’ve heard of us or haven’t heard of us, whether they like the music or not. Say you like country music, you could come and leave saying “There’s these guys that blew my ass away” … Hopefully…
I like how you guys each have a character, “The Mayor,” “The Doctor,” “The Enforcer,” etc. Can you tell me what brought about these personas and their stories?
Mark: Characteristics of personalities, really. They really do come through with our characters. Like, I think I’m super smart (band laughs) and that’s why I’m The Doctor! “The Dealer” (Matt Dibaise) we collectively came up with that because he’s our lead guitarist. He just kinda…
Matt DiBaise: Deals out the tunes!
Mark: Those tasty riffs! Denker, our drummer, he’s “The Enforcer.” He’s just huge man, you don’t want to cross him.
Patrick: I don’t know about The Con (Matt Oliver). You’re not really a “Con.”
Mark: He conned his way in this band! (band laughs)
Matt Oliver: I don’t steal anything, I don’t fucking take things from people! But that’s just sorta the back story to my guy. It’s cool, it’s fun!
In addition to your personas, you have a “Horror Squad.” How do they support your characters and what are they in comparison to everyone?
Patrick: Well, the back story to “The Mayor” goes like this. He was brought up in the streets, was in and out of the orphanages and when he got released to the streets – he was just thrown out there and he joined up with this gang called “The Horror Squad” – eventually making his way through the ranks to become the top dog. So all the members of The Horror Squad are part of The Mayor’s gang. That’s how they fit in the story, we’re just a big ass gang. We have bandanas, and hats that we sell for merch that fans can wear as well to be a part of the Horror Squad. Fans are citizens, but they are part of The Horror Squad out in the crowd as well.
That’s a really great way to make your fans feel involved and connected. Like, I want to be part of this Horror Squad gang. Sign me up! Yes, doing it!
Mark: It happens just like that, it’s really neat! They come along and just join right in.
So I know Alex from the Horror Squad and Matt DiBaise, the twins. You two are also in Save The Hero.
Matt DiBaise: We’ve been in Save The Hero for quite awhile. It’s basically how I was able to join Arson City. We played a show together and they had been talking about getting a new guitar player and I was like, “Well let me come try out.” The rest is history. It worked out. After I joined Arson City, Alex was looking to be a part of it in some way. So now he plays drums in The Horror Squad and he loves it. We feed off of each other.
How do you guys balance between the two bands?
Matt DiBaise: It’s really hard because we try to schedule as best as we possibly can. There’s of course going to be conflicts. Everything’s worked out so far, so we’re just gonna keep doing it.
I like the dedication! Patrick, you had mentioned you had visions for Arson City and what that all would look like in a show. Can you tell me what a dream show would look like to you?
Patrick: Having a lot more money to bat (band laughs). We want Blue Man Group, but Arson City style. Any large venue, arena rock, more lights and more people banging on crap. We want it to make it bigger and larger than life.
Mark: Every dime we make goes into purchasing something new that’s going to bring another element to the show. We found the stands that the Horror Squad stands on at the dump. We refurbished them. We are always looking for new ways to bring new elements to the show.
I mean, you guys are part of a gang so don’t you have loads of money coming in?
Matt Oliver: It continues to get bigger and bigger every show that we play
Matt DiBaise: Yeah, we’re gonna need some roadies pretty soon (laughing)
So April was a big month for you guys! April 30th you won the road trip to Vegas. I know that’s not scheduled yet, can you tell me what you learned from a battle experience like that?
Patrick: I learned that it made me a better performer, honestly. I had always done what I did naturally, and I liked what I did, but you’re competing and so I had to go “What can I do different?” and what I did different turned out really well. It made me better than I was before, I got a lot out of it.
Mark: We don’t get nervous before shows, most bands I know don’t get nervous much, but this made us really nervous. We knew we had to prepare…
Matt Denker: There was a lot of competition, and Sioux City has a lot of amazing bands and artists. Knowing that only made us play a lot harder. Even though you’re competing, we made a lot of friends and a lot of fans. It was a great experience.
Matt Oliver: One thing I would say is it turned out to be a really professional, well done, slick show. There were no hitches, everybody was accommodating. Everybody treated each other with respect. Venue wise. Band wise. Between bands. It turned out to be a really professional experience.
What are you looking forward to most in preparation for your Vegas show?
Mark: Going to Vegas…. and gettin’ the money (laughing)
Matt Denker: We’re guys, I mean, we like to hit the road! We’re brothers, we’re going to Vegas. Have you ever seen The Hangover?
Matt Denker: I’m guessing… I’m guessing it’s going to be a lot like that!
Please record this! The Citizens demand to see it.
Is there anything that you’d like to plug through our Shockwave surfers that you’d like them to know about?
Patrick: Citizens Ball. October 15th. Every year we put on a Citizen’s Ball, right around Halloween Time. It’s a masquerade ball, so everyone comes with masks on. This will be our 3rd Annual Citizens Ball. That will take place at The Waiting Room in Omaha. That’s one of our favorite shows to play, that’s when all the Citizens really come out in costume. If people are looking for a different kind of experience, a little more full blown with other citizens, make the drive and check it out.
Mark: It is our ultimate show of the year, every year!
Matt Oliver: It’s not just a show, it’s an experience.
Patrick: Last year we had ballroom dancers doing the waltz, and then jumped into our show. We haven’t discussed what we’re doing this year, but it’ll be great!
Fantastic! I want to thank you again for chilling with me today. I look forward to the Citizen’s Ball!
Photo credit belongs to Matt Downing with Matt Downing Photography