Soothsayer Hot Sauce | Interview with founder Kyle Janis | By Bridjet Mendyuk
Kyle Janis is a fan of three things: punk rock, hot sauce, and stuff you can put hot sauce on. Basically, he lives for hot sauce. After exploring hobbies like music and art, he realized hot sauce was his thing after critiquing the hundreds of bottles he brought back from his job as a tour production assistant for the band, Chicago. From showing off one bottle at a Chicago—the city—burger joint to collaborating with bands like Less Than Jake and Old Wounds, Soothsayer Hot Sauce has become a hit in the national punk scene. However, deciding to team up with bands to perfect their own sauces was not something Janis originally planned.
“The first sales date we ever did was Dummer Fest in 2015,” Janis says. “I played around with it and talked to [members] of Direct Hit! at a Beat Kitchen show [prior to Dummer Fest] about it. I said, ‘Hey, Domesplitter is a great name for a hot sauce, and I’m a big Direct Hit! fan.’ We put it out at our Riot Fest Pizza Party, and we’re now in year three. It went over really well. We went down to FEST a couple months later, and a bunch of bands said, ‘Can you do a hot sauce for us?’ We kind of backed into that. It’s been a cool thing, but it was a Bob Ross happy accident.”
Now, Soothsayer is a staple at fests around Chicago and an increasing number of punk festivals around the country. They also won four titles at the 2017 International Flavor Awards in July. Their three staple sauces—Perdition, Harbinger, and Omen—are available online, while the band sauces are always in rotation since Soothsayer is a one-man show. While getting his peppers from local farms and creating each sauce by hand isn’t easy, Soothsayer true believers are always there to assist. Taking help from friends in the test kitchen and as merch booth volunteers, Soothsayer is a punk scene family affair. Eventually, Janis would like to open a punk rock hot dog joint and make Soothsayer a full-time gig.
Currently, he is working on a hot sauce with his favorite artist, Jeff Rosenstock. “We’re still working on the Jeff Rosenstock [plans],” Janis says. “He’s my favorite musician; I’ve been trying not to geek-out about it. He’s stopping through Chicago for Pitchfork [Festival], and we’re looking to create something really different from what we’ve done. It is going to be something really unique and really cool.”
There are some rules to the Soothsayer Hot Sauce club, and the first is: no ketchup. According to Janis, the tomato-based condiment loved by many—except for Chicagoans—will “never, ever” be a featured sauce for Soothsayer. Also, no tabasco, which Janis says is a “bland, flavorless insult to hot sauce.” Luckily, he won’t be serving it at his hot dog-eating contests or “Tony Hawk Pro Skater” tournament where Soothsayer will fill a kiddie pool with nachos. And yes, there will be Malört—lots and lots of Malört.
Gringo Bandito | Interview with Dexter Holland of The Offspring | By James Alvarez
“I’ve always been a fan of hot sauce,” Dexter Hollands says matter-of-factly. Holland—the leader of punk rock icons The Offspring, PhD scholar of molecular biology, and founder of the ever-burgeoning Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce brand—grew up devouring the stuff like most Southern California natives: subsisting on trips to local taquerias, Taco Bell, and everything in between. “I was sitting around pouring hot sauce on my taco one day and thought, ‘You know, it would be cool to make my own hot sauce,’” he reveals. “I spent a couple years working on the recipe, but once I got it together and kind of passed it out to friends and stuff, they were like, ‘Man, this is serious. You gotta put this stuff out for real.’”
And thus, Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce was born. “I approached it the same way I approached my band when we started, which was DIY,” Holland says proudly. “We make it ourselves. We go into a kitchen ourselves and make the bottles. Seeing all the bottles going across the conveyor belt, it’s really cool to see. I got to design my own [bottle] label; that’s like designing your own album cover!” he says fondly. “Nobody’s going to do it for you or have any interest in you until you’ve got something going, so we just went out there and hustled. We went to markets and restaurants and very slowly built a distribution network. I think now we’re in, like, 5000 supermarkets in the U.S.”
“I spent two years developing the recipe,” Holland shares. “I wanted it to taste good more than I wanted it to be hot. On the scale, it’s a bit more over on the tastes-good side than hot side, but it’s still got a pretty decent kick.”
That decent kick has helped propel Gringo Bandito from the streets of Huntington Beach, California, to the global marketplace, lining shelves in Australia, Japan, and Germany to name a few—not to mention appearing in the dressing rooms and tour buses of the finest American rock bands traversing the globe. “We took it to the Warped Tour,” Holland recalls. “I knew the bands and the catering people really well, and a ton of bands tried it from that. Bands can be competitive, but what I’ve seen is somebody in a band will come up to me and go, ‘Dude, I tried your hot sauce on the Warped Tour. It’s awesome, I’m a huge fan,’ and that’s rad. I had James Hetfield [of Metallica] come up to me backstage in Australia, and he’s like, ‘Hey, dude, you got some more of that hot sauce?’ So, even he knew about it! That was very flattering [and] super cool.”
As Gringo Bandito grows and continues its inevitable conquest of the hot sauce underworld, Holland has learned to strike a balance between his sauce and his beloved band, The Offspring. Holland’s DIY punk rock juggernaut smashed through the underground and achieved massive success in the 1990s and have remained one of the loudest and most entertaining rock bands of the last two decades. Firing up crowds and crafting insanely rockin’ tunes since the Reagan administration, it seems like nothing can stop The Offspring at this point. “I think there’s two sides to a band,” Holland says. “One side is recording, where you’re trying to make the best songs you can, and you’re making this record, and that’s a real creative process. The other side is getting out and playing it and connecting with fans, and I love both of them. I think the whole band does.”
The Offspring are heading out on a U.S. tour alongside Sublime With Rome in September, on which Holland plans to melt faces onstage every night before decent-kicking mouths open with Gringo Bandito afterward. “We tour pretty consistently. I mean, we’re going to be on the road for about four months this year, but we don’t go out for, like, four months in a row,” he explains. “We do a few weeks out, a few weeks home. We definitely touch home base quite a bit so I can work on hot sauce.”