In a windowless white box, a band that hasn’t played a proper gig in two decades is rehearsing in front of me. Their list of tracks explodes with staples from an era when experimentalism was valued—long before their professed genre trafficked in merch collabs and titles like “vocalist/pro wrestler.” After rehearsing a hardcore punk track that soundtracked my early 2000s, the virtuoso guitarist asks the band what’s next before turning to me: “Well, what do you want to hear?” Deer, meet headlights.

The band is Botch, and I am currently with the four founding members as they run through some songs in their recently christened space in Seattle. Unlike most spaces, the room is utterly bare-bones—no inspirational photos of heroes past and present, no gig posters featuring the band, no chairs, no storage, no boxes of merch or gear; only a hanging whiteboard with messily scribbled names like “Canada,” “C. Thomas Howell,” and “Mondrian,” barely legible. It’s clear that this is a practice space for getting down to business and business alone. Yes, Botch are back, but for how long and in what capacity?

“A lot of times reunions feel like cash grabs and they’re just gross.” —Brian Cook

It all begins the day before on a brisk early afternoon when an orange Jeep slides into SEA-TAC to scoop me from the airport. Despite my early a.m. departure, the driver, bassist Brian Cook, is eager to take me on a tour of Botch history—think Kramer’s “J. Peterman Reality Tour” but sub in a sane and even-tempered beardsman for the K-man, and dog hair in place of muffin-stump-filled trash bags. We drive by ratty music stores, run-down rec centers, and nondescript suburban homes, each bloated with anecdotes about Blood Brothers this, Undertow that; electric tales of Botch’s early days—or maybe just call them stories from high school. All four members attended together, devoting every spare moment to the band, which, believe it or not, was everyone’s first.

From behind the wheel, Cook recalls in great detail the craziness of the initial announcement of the reissue and new song release, the minor panic that followed, the discussions with the band, and ultimately the announcement of the reunion dates. In each case he adopts the unique perspective of being the only active touring member of the band. It’s a large burden, I can tell, but one he wears proudly, although with a certain amount of hesitance and reverence for what he’s accomplished so far both in and out of Botch. Reunions can be a tricky thing, whether in reality or perception, as he explains: “A big part of my apprehension is, a lot of times reunions feel like cash grabs and they’re just gross. Most of that is really tied more into my own cynicism.”

Hair gel, amirite?!? Botch and Undertow’s John Pettibone (far right) in 2000. Photo courtesy of Botch.
Hair gel, amirite?!? Botch and Undertow’s John Pettibone (far right) in 2000. Photo courtesy of Botch.

When I meet guitarist Dave Knudson the next day, I’m wearing a latte. Not drinking one—I did that for only about four seconds before pushing the coffee house pull door with so much force that my shirt became a makeshift tie-dye. It feels like perfect irony to meet up with a member of a band that has conjured complex polyrhythms and odd but precise time signatures while dressed as an utter slob, and even more perfect considering the jokey nature of the band that wrote songs like “C. Thomas Howell as the ‘Soul Man’” while covered in my own breakfast.

It was Knudson’s solo album that truly started Botch on their renewed path. After the dissolution of the long-running indie favorite Minus the Bear, Knudson settled in to bake his solo LP The Only Thing You Have to Change Is Everything—a cathartic process for the recently sober guitarist. While building what would become Botch’s “One Twenty Two,” something interesting came about. “I ended up wanting to write something heavy to get some ideas out, and then I’m thinking of collaborators on the song and the first person I think of to do vocals was Dave Verellen,” says Knudson with a laugh, recalling the initial idea for the collaboration. “Once he recorded the part, it just felt like I needed to call the other guys because it felt right. It was totally natural. I think the fact that we did this during COVID probably was a bit of a happy accident.”

The release would inspire more conversation regarding the dreaded r-word, as the new track found its way onto the We Are the Romans reissue in November 2022. Soon thereafter Botch would play a surprise set at friend/ex–Minus the Bear member/collaborator Matt Bayles’ birthday party, with the social video gaining massive traction and leading to eventual headlining dates in Seattle and Tacoma. The dates sold out immediately, to the shock of no one.

According to the band, this is probably them in Europe in 1999.
According to the band, this is probably them in Europe in 1999. Photo courtesy of Botch.

Musically, Botch were a force to be reckoned with in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Along with bands like Converge, the Dillinger Escape Plan, and Coalesce, they created a chaotic strain of hardcore that leaned into math and metal. Some called it mathcore, but Don Caballero might take issue with that, while others called it metalcore, and fans of Hatebreed would also shake their heads in disagreement. Whatever you labeled it, it was a genre that escaped the trappings of violence and chest-beating troglodyte attitude in favor of a new, smarter, and more challenging direction, one that the Dillinger Escape Plan would eventually prove to be a viable, Billboard-charting style for heavy music.

Botch always ducked the mainstream, whether in musical approach or presentation. In their time, the band was viewed as difficult and too complex, a fact that both bothered the quartet and was used as fuel to troll the audience. Song titles and themes could be tongue-in-cheek and outright mocking of hardcore punk of the time, attacking bands for being too militant, too political, not political enough, or just self-serious. Merchandise would poke fun at the toxic masculinity within the genre, with graphics taken from gay porn declaring that they were “the best boy band ever.” Even live shows were fair game, with the band regularly announcing that a show was “their last ever” while steam blew out of the ears of the next show’s promoter. The band’s outlook and persona as jokesters pushed back against the quietly conservative nature of the scene, and their unwillingness to “play ball” with bro culture not only separated them from the pack but also elevated their already unique sound and style as the years went on. “Looking back, I think Botch had a lot of uphill battles for a lot of reasons,” recalls drummer Tim Latona. “We weren’t the cool kids. We sounded relatively weird. We’re from PNW. We pushed some buttons. So we really fought to get to where we were and to stake a unique place in our world.”

Crouching Tigers, Hidden Math Riff
Crouching Tigers, Hidden Math Riff. Photo by Reid Haithcock

The earliest seed for Botch was formed in high school by Dave Knudson and Brian Cook, two kids from the same math class who took note of each other based on musical interests. One day, the pair decided to head to Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma to see local favorites Undertow, a band they would look to for inspiration countless times in the future. Cook grew up with a strong interest in the sounds of punk with Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, and Minutemen, plus a curiosity for metal, while Knudson was more interested in metal sounds like Metallica, Morbid Angel, and Sepultura, with a curiosity for hardcore. As the two learned about the outer reaches of underground music from each other, Knudson would eventually meet a drummer from the high school jazz band, Tim Latona, who would round out the musical core of the band. Latona’s musicality started by learning the piano, but his interest was more in modern alternative music, with Smashing Pumpkins, Helmet, and Rage Against the Machine forming a crucial component of the band. The classically trained drummer used his knowledge of polyrhythms to send them all into the further reaches of the musical canon. Tim’s classmate Dave Verellen eventually completed the band as vocalist, becoming one of the most recognizable voices in the genre.

“We’d get together and jam after school every day because in a lot of ways we were polar opposites and we were trying to sort it all out,” recalls Verellen with a smile. “You had Dave who was a classically trained guitar player, Brian was a semi-trained bass player with influences like the Dead Kennedys, I was listening to Metallica but was headed on a more underground path, and then Tim was a jazz drummer. So we were like, ‘Who are we? What do we sound like?’ Once we all saw Undertow together, we had a general idea of where we wanted to go. Eventually I modeled my vocals after hardcore and started syncopating syllables to what the guys were writing.”

It took their first LP, American Nervoso, released on Hydra Head (Aaron Turner of Isis’ label, home to Cave In, Torche, and many others), for the band to come into their own—writing it in the basement of a Tacoma house near Cook’s school, University of Puget Sound. Much of the band’s core sound came from that record, created in a spirit of intense one-upmanship between Knudson and Latona that would fuel a Lennon-McCartney-style fire, with the competitive nature of each pushing the other to greater heights and creating a better whole. “I remember writing the riff for ‘Hutton’s Great Heat Engine’ without a guitar in my hand, just sort of humming the riff and then finally writing it when I got to the basement. But that was very different from how we did most of the LP,” recalls Knudson about their songwriting process. “There was always a tension between Tim and I; we were just kind of butting heads all the time. It was more creative and unfortunately bled into our relationship, but we would almost compete with each other to make the song better. We were always focused on ‘How do we make this super memorable but super heavy?’”

American Nervoso and the follow-up, We Are the Romans, represented “exactly what we wanted to accomplish,” according to the band, and Botch spent the following years playing shows in support. But by the time Botch came back to the table, the writing process had become untenable, with the tensions between Latona and Knudson reaching a boiling point. In February 2002, Botch called it quits, releasing the Anthology of Dead Ends EP posthumously. By that time, Knudson was deep into Minus the Bear, while Cook was working on the post-hardcore band These Arms Are Snakes and the folk-influenced Roy with Dave Verellen and his brother Ben (Harkonen, Helms Alee). Latona headed back to school and never joined another band. After 10 years, Botch were no more. Cue the reunion offers. “I do feel bad because I was the one who sort of said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ because the writing was tedious,” says Knudson pensively. “I was just listening to all sorts of different music, so I wanted to do something different.”

The Botch split caused a shock wave within what was then a small community of experimentalists in the hardcore realm, from local youngsters Blood Brothers, who admittedly were heavily influenced by the band, to tourmates like the Dillinger Escape Plan, to like-minded folk in Converge, Coalesce, Cave In, and others. “I was really into them from the jump,” recalls Jordan Blilie of the Blood Brothers. “And I remember at some point around the early 2000s having this thought that I can’t believe how lucky I am that I got to see this band from the beginning, playing people’s basements and now becoming the most compelling live band in Seattle.”

Only slightly less embarrassing than when your mom wrote your name on your sack lunch.
Only slightly less embarrassing than when your mom wrote your name on your sack lunch. Photo by Reid Haithcock.

The Dillinger Escape Plan toured with Botch extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe, and in that time realized not just their greatness, but how much they could learn from them. “We quickly developed a camaraderie between all of us because we realized that we were all doing something kind of different,” recalls Dillinger mastermind Ben Weinman. “Seeing Botch every night really just pushed us further—there was a camaraderie but also a quiet competition that really made us want to take things further with Dillinger.”

The unraveling of Hydra Head, arguably one of the most important labels of the heavy underground and home to both of Botch’s LPs, started to come about in the late 2000s and early 2010s, eventually forcing the members of Botch to reconvene to decide the fate of their new classic recordings. And though Knudson, Cook, and Verellen had dealt with one another in various capacities—friendly, business, or otherwise—the original four-piece hadn’t conversed with each other since the old days. Through those initial interactions and the realization that time had healed some old wounds, the bandmates started to reignite their old relationships. But despite their then-fragile truce, they were still light-years away from anything resembling a reunion, in the studio or otherwise.


We’re back to December 2022 in icy Seattle, just an hour or so after meeting with Dave Knudson. I’m with Tim Latona at a bar, hoping for a cup of coffee to replace the one on my shirt but settling for a shot of whiskey and a Coke at noon, despite my better judgment and to fulfill my need to be a paying customer. Seattle is a coffee town, my ass. I settle in with Latona and we start by discussing some of the tumult that not only fueled Botch as a creative force, but hastened their demise as well. He confirms a lot of those feelings and takes a moment to get introspective, giving a glimpse into his motivation for signing on for the ride a second time.

“I don’t think I’m an easy person to get along with in general, so I do think that there was some tension, creative and otherwise,” says Latona about his mindset during the band’s initial demise. “I don’t think I was as open as I would have liked to have been as a 20-year-old, but I look back on that time in my life with a lot of regret. The things I would choose to get worried about, what was I thinking? I look back and I feel like I was probably being petulant. To this day, I am super proud of the creative output, as I was back then. But as we got toward the end, I reacted with anger instead of embracing the moment. For instance, after the last show there was a party and I decided to leave with my then girlfriend, now wife because I didn’t want to engage in that. I wish I was better about that toward the end.”

Every person in this crowd would eventually join Shai Hulud; at RKCNDY in Seattle, 1999
Every person in this crowd would eventually join Shai Hulud; at RKCNDY in Seattle, 1999. Photo via Botch

Latona shakes my hand and leaves, and another five minutes and shot/Coke later, I’m greeted by vocalist Dave Verellen. Verellen is both very intimidating in stature and very not—a 6-foot-plus figure with wide shoulders but a quick laugh and an inviting smile. He recalls a show where we first met in another state more than 10 years ago—a generator gig with his band Narrows during SXSW at 3 a.m. on the Lamar Pedestrian Bridge in Austin. We exchange jokes about being old and unwilling to give up punk, then launch into a back-and-forth about the band and its current state, but not before a recharge of adult bevs.

“We weren’t the cool kids. We pushed some buttons.” —Tim Latona

In contrast to Latona’s retrospection, Verellen’s viewpoint is strictly looking toward the future. Dave V. readily admits he was “gutted” when the decision was made to sunset Botch initially, though he understood the reasoning, which makes the current undertaking all the sweeter. “It was an inevitable thing, looking back on it—the tension and all of that was just not sustainable. That’s what makes this whole thing that much more special. It’s sort of like, ‘Are you serious?’ It just feels so great hanging out with everyone. I missed these dudes. Being together in a room—it’s fun seeing where everything has gone and thinking about where it’s going to go. For the longest time, though, the other guys would never consider getting back together. But I’ve always loved being ‘Dave from Botch.’”

Knudson’s opinion on the reunion falls somewhere between Tim’s regret and interest about righting the wrongs of the past, and Cook’s concerns over diminishing the legacy. But predictably, as the only member with current touring bands (SUMAC and Russian Circles), Cook’s opinion is more nuanced. In order for Botch to work, Cook needs to take time out from his active projects, which means a ripple effect for the other teams involved. And while he’s clearly proud of his accomplishments with the band, there is a hesitancy to look backward for fear of loss of forward progress. It’s a concern he encountered with the recent These Arms Are Snakes reunion dates. “Music is such a document of a time and specific circumstances, I think there’s just a part of me that wants to retain the image that people have in their heads,” remarks Cook pensively. “I’m still an active musician and touring full-time. That’s my livelihood, and this means I’m pulling time away from my active bands at the moment. I’m sure the Botch shows will put some money in my pocket, but it doesn’t put money in the pockets of the Russian Circles or SUMAC guys.”

Sex symbols on their own terms.
Sex symbols on their own terms. Photo by Reid Haithcock.

In contrast to Brian Cook and his full plate, Latona hasn’t played professionally since the Botch days. But he seems ready to go. “I don’t want this to sound bad, but I presumed it would be this massive uphill push,” he admits matter-of-factly. “But I played with a bunch of tracks on Spotify and realized that there are certain things that I can’t do anymore but also pretty quickly knew that I was in shape to practice with the guys. I was in no way in the same shape that I was when I was 20, but when we all got in the same room, it came together much quicker than I thought it would.”

Oh yeah, about that room. After a few moments of blanking with no answer, I finally and sheepishly tell Knudson. I want to hear “To Our Friends in the Great White North.” The band launches into the We Are the Romans LP opener with a fury, and suddenly that white box is flooded with memories from the era, but this time without all the bumps and bruises that come from stage diving. Because we’re all too old for that now.

Thanks for reading CREEM. This article originally appeared in our Spring 2023 issue. If you prefer to read in print, grab a copy here and subscribe to never miss another one.



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