By Shawn Sixx
With a name like “Dirtfest,” I wasn’t really sure what to expect as I rolled into Birch Run, MI. I didn’t see any dirt, mud or fields so I wasn’t really sure if I had the right place. I mean the venue is in the middle of town! After getting out of the car and partaking in a customary trunk beverage, I started to notice just where the name of this long running festival might come from. These music fans really get down and dirty when they put on a show. They take this shit serious!
Now I have been to a ton of music festivals in a lot of different states but there is something about the Mid West that reassures you that there is still the love of heavier music out there. Hell, any style of music for that matter! Some fans drove 6 hours from the “U.P.” just to be part of it. Trust me, Google Map it. That says to me that even though the industry has change drastically, times are rough and people are broke, the love of this event is still strong.
As I walked around the festival grounds taking in the bedlam, I had the opportunity to talk music, life and the industry with some of the artists playing. In between my Bud Lights, of course. Here is what they had to say…
Interview with vocalist Norman Matthew
Tell me about Murder FM.
Other than we are the greatest band on earth? (Laughter) Let’s see…
Okay, shameless. (Laughs)
You know, we have to be. My parents were old rockers. I grew up on bands like Mötley Crüe, Guns & Roses and Kiss. Bands that had some fucking nuts! Bands that weren’t afraid to say what the fuck. I think a lot of that shit is missing.
Do you really think people have gotten scared to do anything different?
Most definitely! Because I produce a lot of bands too and I just see bands on tour with us and constantly looking for new music and I just feel the space between bands that are trying to do something different has widened.
Being the frontman, do you feel bands have lost touch on what it is to be in a band, what a real frontman is?
Most definitely. It is something our band is trying to bring back hence the name. Murder FM is “Murder Fucking Music.” We are built for music and we aren’t shy about saying it either.
Now the showmanship and the theatrical seem to be gone nowadays. People seem to be scared to put on a show?
You know that seems to be missing. I see bands that act like they just got out of bed. I mean, that’s cool, that’s your thing but we are gonna lay our nuts on the line. We are gonna be different.
You mean you don’t want to play 7strings, wear cut off black skinny jeans, have choreographed dance steps and forget what a hook is?
Hell no! That crab walk dude!! Really, Really?! The thing is we kinda grew up in the hood so we kinda don’t care about the shit we say. In some circles we have been labeled the “New Bad Boys.” I mean we get in trouble everywhere we go. It’s pretty much what it is. We have gotten kicked off a couple festivals for inciting a riot.
How does that even happen now?
(Sigh) it’s amazing. It really is. I mean, I was like OK. I’ve been dragged out. I’ve been kicked out. I’ve been told, “you guys are too crazy.” You can’t use profanity. First of all this is a rock show. You know what I mean? I mean if I was taking to the crowd a certain way, I get it but…I mean that is what our band really is about. We aren’t consciously trying to bring it back. That could be a little more difficult for people to chew on.
Everyone thinks there is a theory, a plan about how a band works?
It doesn’t work man. ‘Cause if it works, everyone would be working. Everyone complains about things like technology, piracy and blah blah blah. I call it your band fucking sucks!
So what was the first band you ever saw?
I bet it scared the shit out of you?
(Laughter) There were two pivotal bands that shaped me. Kiss when I was five, and I heard “Paradise City” in the 5th grade. My friend brought it class because our music teacher let us bring in something we liked. She cut it off two minutes into it. But nonetheless, I heard that hook, dude, and I was like “WHAT!” I love Poison, Ratt, but seeing Guns & Roses cut through and not giving a shit and Axl with the duct tape on his boot…to me that was like “DUDE, YES!” There was realness to what they were trying to do. Like you could feel it. That what it is with us. We don’t know what it is, but it’s working.
Tell me about what is going to happen next for Murder FM?
We are jumping on tour with Fozzy, then after we are with Avatar and then Rob Zombie.
So are you going to arm- wrestle Chris?
I’m actually a wrestling nerd. I’m really psyched about the tour!
Interview with Elias Soriano (voca: lust) as Elias puts it….
Tell me about music in general.
It’s forever changing.
Has it really been like that throughout your career?
Oh yeah. It’s always changing. It’s done a lot in the last ten years but it’s really done a lot in the last five years. They way you get music, the value of music and what music has become for bands. I don’t the people who first started it ever thought it was going to become this.
Do you think the change has been a detriment?
It’s just different. You can’t really say it’s a detriment. It hasn’t been around long enough to say, “What happened to the good old days.” As a species goes we have only been selling records for like 60 years. So I got 15 GOOD years of that. Granted it was a hot commodity when it first comes out, but so was the Snuggy. They aren’t selling a million a year anymore either.
Has it been tough for Nonpoint to deal with that change in the industry?
Ahhh… yes. I’m sure it’s tough for any band. For me it’s more about “’how do I keep my restaurant open?’ as opposed to ‘oh no, there are restaurants everywhere selling their shit online so how am I gonna make it?’”
So does the business aspect kick in a little bit at that point?
It changes, yes you got to get smarter, ah you have to be more aware of your decisions and how they affect you in the long run. I see these days you have to be a lot more honest about who you are as a band and what you are putting out.
The fans are a little more fickle now maybe?
They can smell bullshit. You know when you got a million bands being thrown at you can pick the good ones out.
It’s who really brings it for the most part?
Exactly and that makes all the other ones look like shit.
So looking over the last ten years and how Nonpoint has approached the industry, what do you do specifically to combat that?
We are not scared to do what we know is right musically for us while not giving up, but I’m not gonna write the Statement record again just because that is not what music is doing these days. It’s not what I’m doing these days. I’ve changed just as much as music has changed. I’ve grown up, I’m singing about the same college dorm room situations that I used to sing about back then. Now I’m singing about things that affect me a lot more, the world in general. As I get older those things affect me enough and it’s those things that give me the best material because I believe in those things the most.
It seems for most bands that the first two albums are the most artistic…everything they wanted to do. Then they get sucked into it.
It happened backwards for us. I will tell you why. We never worked with a producer until our last record just now. So throughout our entire career it was “just” us. We were getting into our own niche. We are now at the place where we are experimenting. Back then we were just throwing it to the wind and playing what we thought was cool and fun. Now we are more methodical and scientific about what I am actually saying and what the guys are actually playing because it matters even more to us.
Looking at your new music, how hard was it to keep creating new music thinking about how the industry has become?
We think about the fans and that show.
Do you think that is a lost art?
They get too selfish with their song writing and don’t consider who they should be considering. Which is their fan base. I consider them to certain point though where I won’t compromise what I do for the sake of what a fan want us to do. For example, when we set down and got the question from the label “Do you wanna sign with some song writers?” I said I am always willing to work with some professional no matter what it is. But… I’m not saying the fucking word lollipop or cotton candy. I can only get up there and feel good about doing it if it is something I would say and if it’s not then I won’t do it. I think that is something that has held us back a little bit even throughout our years but it’s also survived us.
It’s funny the bands that have held onto their values that have been held back.
That’s the second side to that word. That is the value to us.
You have a new album, The Return. What does Nonpoint want to do from this point forward?
Ride it till the wheels fall off?
Oh, yeah man. We are Aerosmith man.
Interview with vocalist Spider One
Tell me about being from Massachusetts.
Well…there is no place on earth like Massachusetts! You know, I hear it’s changed a lot. I don’t even know if I would recognize it these days. The old tire building where we used to rehearse, BCN (WBCN), is gone right? The whole landscape of the city is different, yeah know. I have fond memories of Boston for sure. What I tell everybody is that when people move away, like to L.A., is when you return you see it with an entirely different set of eyes. You know, it’s amazing.
Looking back at the old school club days in MA, how do you feel it has changed?
I don’t even know what clubs are there anymore, but when we were there…you know it’s so funny when I think about Boston and I remember our days, we were a RAT (Rathskeller) band. We were the house band at the Rat. Cambridge, which is like a half- mile away, seemed like a world away from us. In other words, there were the Middle East bands, which are kinda like the modern day hipster. We were Kenmore Square, Rat, Knucklehead, FSU idiots (who) would show up and then things got strange.
It seems like a New England attitude thing then?
I wouldn’t change it for anything. I feel like it has served me well after moving to L.A. because no matter how far removed Boston you are you can always switch to knucklehead mode any time you want. You know what I mean? But yeah, you are right…I’ve never been any place else, with maybe except Scotland, were everyone is ready to fight at the drop of a dime. I mean whatever…it’s that attitude.
It’s such an incestuous scene, Boston. Everyone knows everyone else and everyone is in everyone else’s band…
It is. Boston was such a savior for me before I lived in Boston…I lived in Haverhill, MA. I would literally hang out with my friends in… I remember this so clearly… Haverhill where there is nothing. At one point growing up in high school they built a parking garage in the downtown area. It was big for me. Me and my friends craved something urban so bad that would hang out in parking garage because it felt like we were sorta in the city. It’s so pathetic, but when I was able to go to Boston, I would go in on the weekends to go to the Channel to SS Decontrol and all these bands. A whole word opened up.
Flash forward 25 years, is it still the same excitement getting up on stage? Does it still feel like you are playing at some shitty little club in Boston?
Yeah, sometimes. I wouldn’t do this if I was hating every minute of it or felt like I was faking it. You can’t fake it because people can see right through it. I still love it. I mean I made this new record and get excited about it and you get that same feeling. What’s changed is the results are different, yeah know? It used to be like you had this promise of…but now…I mean…I don’t mean to sound like a downer, but now you kinda know what you are in for being in a rock band. The industry is not what it used to be for us, which is fine. But yeah, we are out on tour and there are some nights that you’ll play and it’s sold out and you are like, “Fuck this feels like day one.” You are so excited. Then there are nights where you are like, “I wanna kill myself. Why did I ever do this in the first place?”
Do you try and not forget what it was like to be that kid saving all his money just to go out to a show?
I never forget what it was like to be that kid and how exciting it was. That is what you always have to remember. You always have to remind yourself. You may not be in the best of moods or whatever but you have to remember that person. Like last night we played in Kokomo, IN and it was not the greatest night of the tour but I was like, “holy shit!” There was a girl who drove four hours to be there. She is standing in the front watching every local band because she is such a big fan and I was like, “OH YEAH!” You have to get up there and remember that. I don’t really have to convince myself though. Every night is different and even though you are playing a lot of the same songs over and over, the audience makes it different every night.
So you come out to Birch Run, MI, which I will say is very different for me since I have never done the whole MI thing. What do you do different?
See the thing about out here is that people are so nuts about music. I mean they are really supportive. You come out in this part of the country and there really is such an enthusiasm just to be a part of it. It’s exciting. So, you don’t have to try that hard here even though I will. I will give it everything I have but they are just ready to have fun.
So tell me about the new music… corporate questions now.
New record came out in May, Builders of the Future and I’m really excited about this record. I feel like we established ourselves as a certain kind of band and I kinda rejected for a while. I did some other things and I came back to it on the record before this and I was like, “Holy shit, this is us!” Having done that this new record is that we did it much better and I feel confident about every song on it.
Did you almost go back to your roots, so to speak?
Not so much the roots of the early, early PM5K which was very stripped down and distortion. That whole electronic, metal, 4 on the floor, sifi thing, that’s really what we do. I am happy to do it.
Interview with guitarist Jaxson
So what do you think has changed in music?
Oh my god! It’s amazing. I think technology is one of the biggest factors in music.
Do you think it hurt it?
With so many people using it, I’m sure there are certain situations where it is being abused. That isn’t unique to music, though. If you find that nice balance it’s good, but I’m sure that certain scenarios where too much usage of technology has taken away from it.
Kinda like you can’t sing so let’s auto: tune the shit out of it?
I mean that is the obvious one but now it’s gotten so much of a point with that there is a particular example where it’s not even a crutch anymore. It’s become a style. But…at the same time people can say it’s a style. When really it’s a crutch. You know what I mean? So yeah, there are certain situations, but then there are situations where it is being used right, yeah know? I mean actually something like its function.
I grew up on classic rock and 80’s rock. Has the energy disappeared?
A lot of the kids aren’t playing blues or paying attention to soul anymore it seems. I love neo classical playing, I have nothing against it and I have a lot of respect for them, but there is so much more out there to expand on. I love SLASH- that guys guitar playing! Guys like Sammy Hagar, Eddie Van Halen yeah know? I like guys like Tony Iommi, Stevie Ray Vaughan. Dude are you kidding me?! I think this is the stuff that is missing. I also know music works in waves and we are in the wave where technical playing is at the forefront. Which is awesome, but I eventually think it is gonna move back to soul. It is gonna come back around, it will eventually change like it always does.
How does (HəD) PE approach that?
(HəD) PE has more of classical approach to it. We play rock, yeah know, no backing tracks. It’s raw and aggressive. That’s all we know! That’s how we do it. You know it’s actually more of a pain in the ass to do any sort of tracking, you know what I mean? Just get up there and play! Get up and play and make people enjoy it. That’s kind of our approach. Especially the newest album we put together, Evolution. It’s out now. It has a Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin feel, sort of influence to it. Those are like our heroes which has let it show in a little more of an overt way.
Is (HəD) PE coming back for a big resurgence?
Who knows? We could. Either way we are just gonna go out there and play the best we can, play the best music we can and let the results be what they are. Let the chips fall where they may. We are just gonna shred our asses off and have fun what we are doing for as long as we can do it… and be thankful for what ever comes of it.
So as you can see, there are some strong views out there in regards to the music world. One thing for sure is, it is still about the fans and having a kick: ass time. Oh, and Middle America is also damn rabid about their music festivals! I can barely stand the smell of beer and Detroit Coney’s still. Now stay tuned to www.newnoisemagazine.com because I will have more interviews from the road about music, life and the industry coming soon! Check it!