interview by Guitar Doug
photos by RJB PHOTO
Back in December of 2006, when I first met Chuck foster, publisher of The Sinner, it had nothing to do with writing. I was simply looking to place an ad in the magazine, but after talking I found out we had much in common. Namely, the fact that we are both a little nuts and both share strong opinions we are willing to share with just about anyone willing to listen. Chuck, it turned out, was a freak for free speech and I happened to be a musician who was constantly bitching about local music coverage.
By the end of the conversation, I was somehow on board as a rock music writer for the magazine and was looking forward to having my first story appear in the January 2007 issue. Unbeknownst to Chuck, I had no journalism experience, was a stoner in High School and was not sure if I was going to even be able to deliver on the thousand words of writing I had promised. I hated English class in high school almost as much as phys-ed and usually skipped both. After High School I was off to Rhode Island College where I majored in Grateful Dead with a minor in psychedelic studies, and graduated still unable to put together a coherent paragraph.
The only thing I had to offer was a life-long love of rock music, including the bands that currently make up the Seattle rock scene. I was a kid who followed rock music like others followed sports or collected comic books, and being offered a chance to cover rock was like winning the lottery. The music magazine Creem was a bible to me growing up and I was constantly in trouble for reading it in class. When Chuck suggested I write a column for a magazine that had almost no music coverage, I figured if I could somehow structure my column along the lines of Creem, that I would somehow muddle though. My first meeting with Chuck was around Christmas of 2006, and we have become good friends who watch each others back, but will also flip each other shit when called for. He, too, had no clue of what he was doing going into this writing gig, so I had a good role model to follow.
When coming up for a game plan for my column, I decided to focus on only one band each month, who would be the "Rock Artists of The Month". That way I would be covering the best of what Seattle has to offer, without wasting my time or the readers time writing about a band nobody has ever heard of or likes. Besides, how much trouble could I get myself into covering the best bands in town every month? "More than I could shake a stick at", would turn out to be the correct answer to my own question, and as Jerry Garcia once said "What a long Strange Trip it's been". That is an understatement looking back, but I am only looking back in this issue and will have twelve killer band stories and interviews in 2009 for you folks. I also hope to get my interviews digitally recorded in 2009 and posted online on sites like YouTube. If you think some of the conversations that go on in print here are crazy, you are only seeing a small part of what goes on. Audio and/or video is the next logical step, which I hope to coincide with my print work in the upcoming year.
Some of the past Rock Artists Of The Month in The Sinner have been bands like The Valkyries, The Spittin' Cobra's, The Bloodclots, Emeralds, Skelator, Betty X, Seeing Blind, Neon Nights, The Boss Martians, HIMSA, The Valley, Thee Emergency, Mos Generator, The Greatest Hits, Witchburn, The Pleasure Elite, Drown Mary, Space Cretins, Evil Twin, Charlie Drown, Go Like Hell, Los Bastardos, and many more. These are only the ones featured in the column, and the list of bands given smaller write ups, album reviews, show reviews and band updates are too many to even remember any more.
I would like to thank the models and photographers who have worked so hard on the many promo ads that have graced my column here and on telephone poles throughout the city. Personally, I prefer the ad to the actual story half the time, but who am I to say? I am just the guy writing the thing. Below are a few of the bands and some cool quotes I thought you rock fans would dig in this two year retrospective. It's a huge body of work to sort through it turns out and every band I have covered I am still a fan of, and I thank those bands for the honor of working with them.
Tony Reed of Mos Generator was a favorite interview of mine. After discovering we were both fans of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin we used almost the entire interview to talk about the two bands. We delved into things like which band actually founded of Heavy Metal and took an in-depth look at the lyrics of both bands.
"Zeppelin's lyrics were still pulling from the blues and adding Lord of the Rings type imagery. Sabbath lyrics were very descriptive and they wrote about some really heavy topics for their time. The Paranoid album has some of the scariest lyrics ever written. The fact that the topics were real issues made the totally effective. Songs like Hand of Doom, Electric Funeral and War Pigs were meant to be the death of peace and love for sure."
Around the time Evan Foster of The Boss Martians began his interview, the band was having incredible luck on all fronts. The groups song "Hey hey, yea yea" was chosen as the theme song for a new E Trade television commercial and was played three times during the Superbowl. The band had also just finished recording a song for am upcoming album with Iggy Pop, which was then produced by Jack Endino here in Seattle. Here is what Evan Foster said about his experience dealing with Iggy Pop:
"I flew to Miami and met up with him at his house. I brought along a mobile Pro Tools rig and tracked him in one of the rooms where he feels the most creative. I then returned to Seattle, right after the session, and went right into Soundhouse to mix the track with Jack Endino. Jack and I were both like, "Holy Shit, that's the Ig!!!!" It was cool and I think Endino did a great job on the mix. I know he was stoked to mix Iggy".
I never knew what kind of answer I was going to get from lead guitarist Lou Molitch, who has a reputation as a sort of rock-n- roll wild man. Based on that information, I was not sure if I would actually be able to get the interview done and had a back-up band in place going in. One question I was never able to get a straight answer for, was how he learned to play guitar so well, without ever taking a lesson. This answer is about as close as I got:
"If you want to get really good on the guitar, you should go down to the Crossroads and make a deal with the devil. Make sure that it's really what you want to do though, because once you sign the contract...." Lou Molitch
Paul Ace Diamond Blow of Space Cretins chose to use my column to come clean about past heroine dealing and use. We knew the heroine angle is always popular with rock music readers who never tire of Keith Richard tales, and knew we were on to something with this piece before it ever hit the street. This is my first very story, which was conducted exactly two years ago.
"I managed to stay clean for a while. Eventually, I started using again. I got totally strung out again. With a $100 unemployment check, I started my own heroin business. I actually made some serious cash for a while. The only problem was that I was a strung out dope addict with a gram-a-day habit, I had abscesses all over my ass from shooting dope, and the cops were all over me like flies on crap".
Figuring Pauls heroine tale went over so well with readers, I figured I would try my luck with Tre of Evil Twin a couple issues later. After going through the bands music and discovering a song called Slave to The Needle. I asked him if the song had to do with drugs and here is what he had to say:
"Everyone assumes it's about drugs. I wish I could say it was because that would make it seem 'Cooler'. It's about vinyl records. I'm an avid collector of vinyl records."
The story instead ended up going into the time CNN News announced the bands show at the Central totally out of the blue stunning the band who had no idea how CNN even knew they existed.
This interview with Nils Forever, covered everything from the state of Glam to what it was like to open for The New York Dolls. It also went into to a frightening tale about some time he spent in King County Jail.
"When I got to the Jail, the cops opened the door of the police van. One of those arrested who was probably high on drugs, jumped out of the van and lunged towards a cop. I couldn't see what was happening, but everyone in the van could hear the police just beating the crap out of this guy. I remember looking at a grate on the ground while I was sitting in the police van. I saw blood draining into it. I've seen some fucked up shit happen to people while they are locked up or being transferred inside King County Jail".
Charlie had just put out an Industrial album produced by KMFDM that was a fans type of record . It sounded great but I was clueless how to discuss it in an interview. The minute someone plugs in anything aside from traditional rock instruments, I'm totally lost. I was not about to tell Charlie this fact. Luckily for me, she had a very controversial video produced for one of the songs called "Beta Switch" and figured we could get into the video. Here is how one of the questions and answers went which reflects the adult nature of the story.
Guitar Doug: The man in video has a fetish for teen bondage, S&M, knife play, and mild cutting of teenage girls. A sign of an underlying problem?
Charlie Drown: Whenever there is something beautiful growing, there is always someone who would like to trample all over it. Especially when you are not watching. Pay attention, because abuse is not just a problem with teenage girls. It happens to people of all ages".
This interview was one of my riskiest and only my second one ever written. I had no idea how the public would handle a music story of this type, but figured I may as well roll the dice. The worse they could do is try to run me out of town, which was an old hat to me at that point in my life anyway.
The first time I saw The Valley at a club, I had never seen a band turn up the volume so loud that half the audience were wearing earplugs. I knew I had an artist of the month on my hands immediately. I asked guitarist and singer Dan Beloit the following: "Dan, why exactly does The Valley play so damn loud?" Here was his reply:
"It's all about the SPL or sound pressure level. That is what you feel when you come see us. The pressure coming out of our speakers is sound and air, and that is what vibrates your spine, and hits you in the gut. You can't do that with a combo amp or even a drum set. It only comes from an amplified sound source such as a guitar amp and cabinet"
The answer probably sounded great to all the sound engineers who follow my column, but went totally over my head. So, I took a second crack at it by asking how the staff at the clubs were enjoying the volume. Here is his unapologetic answer:
"Every sound man in town hates us already. We where actually asked to turn down at the Showbox when we played the KEXP Yule Party back in December. The sound man had us registered at 110 decibels, a jet plane is about 130 decibels. I think we are banned from a couple of clubs in town already. Fuck em, Yak know? They just don't get it".
Betty X is a Sinner favorite but she keeps a tight lid on her personal life. Getting her to open up about her formal education was an eye opener for me and probably lots of Sinner readers. When asked if she had any formal education in the arts she said:
"I graduated cum laude with a BA in Arts from Cornish College of the Arts, studied art and the Czech language at Charles University, Prague, and currently finishing a BFA in Video/Performance Art". Eventually, I plan on getting an MFA in video and film art."
"Well, that answers that I guess. It sort of made makes me feel like a dummy for even asking" I thought to myself at the time.
This was a tricky story for me to write because Punk is not my field of expertise. After talking with Terri Heretic of the Bloodclots, I proposed we use my column to announce him and his girlfriend's, Tiffany Shimmers, new baby. She is a well known model, so why not pull in her fan base while we were at it?
Terri agreed and the first question of the story is "Terri, what's this I hear about a new member of the Bloodclots family?"
HIs response was as cheesy as you could hope to find in a Punk story but went over well with readers. It appeared in the magazine as follows.
"I'm a daddy now! Saturday August 23rd my girlfriend Tiffany Shimmers gave birth to Vivian Danger, a beautiful baby girl! She's a healthy 7 pounds, 21" long, and she's got her daddy's long legs. We're hoping she will get her mom's boobs and she'll be set for life!" was his response.
It might have been corny but it's not easy getting people to read a music column rather than use it as a beer coaster or de-seed a bag of pot on.
These were just a few of the highlights I pulled out from the last couple years worth of stories. Most of the questions and answers I have in my vault have never even been seen by the public. Some answers were so incriminating, illegal, shocking, or over the top, I chose to keep them from ever being published for the sake of the artist and The Sinner itself. Maybe some day those questions and answers will see the light of day, but for now, look forward to 2009 and twelve more new tales of rock n roll excess and mayhem.