And, uh, oh yeah: this is easily the longest interview we’ve ever done. Fair warning.
Hey Steve, it’s Axl from MetalSucks.
Hey how’re you doing there dude?
I’m good, how’re you?
Oh, I’m doing good, just talking with this crazy French guy about trying to make sure that everything is set for our tour. It starts this weekend.
You’re going to Europe this weekend?
Yeah. I’m actually leaving Wednesday to start a tour on Friday in Amsterdam.
Yeah, I’m super excited about it man. We just completed like a 53 day tour of the United States that was super rocking and then now I’m going to take off on this for about 46 shows I think. So it should be pretty good.
When’s the last time you guys played Europe?
I think about 2 years ago . . . 2 1/2 years ago for a bunch of festivals during summertime.
So it’s been awhile.
Yeah it’s been a little while, so first time back since Supernova Records got started.
And how did the US tour you just finished go?
That was fucking amazing. I had a great time. We rocked a ton of people. Supernova Records spread its message throughout the land and I could not be more happy with the end result.
Not a lot unless it’s somebody I like. I mean, obviously we won’t take anybody we don’t dig what they’re doing or whatever.
It’s a collaborative effort between me, our booking agent, and our promo guy. We all three kind of banged our heads together about who would be appropriate to do the touring, you know.
Got it. And this tour, you were also breaking in a new drummer, is that right?
Well I guess you could say a new old drummer. Mike Rosswog’s been a friend, and he played on Kiss the Pig and right after he cut that album and did some live shows with us, he started a web company and got involved in it where he couldn’t really do touring and stuff. So we ended up playing with another cat or two since then. When we got ready to go back out on the road this last fall, we asked Mike to do it again because his band Complete Failure was going to do the tour with us too, and Mike’s the webmaster for all of our and friends. So for the most part he’s playing drums with me and Today is the Day and did quite an amazing job.
Is he going to do the European tour also?
Yeah, he is. He’s going to be sharing double time with Today is the Day and Complete Failure and Jucifer is in the middle… in a sandwich between us and them.
That’s a pretty sweet lineup.
You know, I’m really proud of it, man. I mean, I hate to call it this, but in my opinion, this is the more DIY tour. This is the last stand for the underground in the United States of America. And I say that because, you see, all of these shit tours going on sponsored by energy drinks, all kinds of people, and they have all kinds of shit bands on them, and they don’t really stand for anything. It’s like “We’re a big corporate mockup of how to make money.” And that’s not what we’re all about, but we still want to have the tours exposed and be able to be heard and seen by as many people as possible. So doing it on our own terms, with our own non-corporate background, I don’t know of any other record label or bands that have been doing what we’ve been doing over the last two tours of the United States and the ones that we’re doing over there, because all of this shit is 100% DIY and not controlled by the man and absolutely not corporate in any kind of way. But yet, we have the same power as Slayer in the sense of putting records in Best Buy and Circuit City and blah blah blah, in the sense of getting sponsors for the tour like Guitar World, Revolver, friggin’ MEINL Cymbals, friggin’ PRS, Mesa Boogie. And I think that it’s really special what’s going on right now, because the underground is very different place than it used to be a long time ago. Even a band just being able to get into a van and do a tour period is a miracle these days, let alone have the kind of support that we have from all the different folks and music and what not.
The previous owner of Relapse – he still is the owner but is now he’s a silent partner – Bill Yurkiewicz, he made it clear to me after he left that there’s a “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” at Relapse Records about money and royalties. Meaning that there’s tons and tons of bands that have been through the Relapse cycle that have put out one album or two albums and then break up, and basically if they don’t call up and ask about royalties to get them, those guys don’t give [the royalties] to them. They take advantage of young bands. They offer record deals to people who don’t have very much money, who are poor, or have nothing at all, and in trade they offer exposure. The only thing they don’t really explain is that you’ll get exposed and you’ll sell a shit load of stuff and you’ll never ever see a dime from any of it. So, needless to say, I don’t really fucking like Relapse Records as an entity, and I especially don’t like this fucking homo named Gordon Conrad, that’s the one who ruined it for Relapse Records in the first place. Relapse Records, from the people who work in mail order and the people who work in the other departments, all those people are good dudes. They’re underground dudes and just dudes trying to enjoy some music, trying to enjoy some metal, trying to do something with their heart behind it. Unfortunately, all it takes is one corporate fuckhead and then it can ruin the whole thing, and that one corporate fuck head was the guy that I just mentioned.
Because they’re not loyal about anything. I was told by the guy that owns Relapse Records that kids are fucking stupid and that they only care about what’s brand new, that they don’t care about quality. That they care about two different things: brand new shit and volume of shit, meaning the amount of shit that comes out every month. And I said “You know, that’s kind of fucking crazy. So you’re trying to tell me that a band being good at what they do is not as important as the next trendy or hip band that comes down the block.” And he said “Yeah, that’s right.” So I’m like “Wow that’s a nice little formula on how to ruin a fucking record company.” Meaning that I will never ever do that. There’s this shit called honesty, and you have to have it going across the board. Some people are going to sell a million albums, some people are going to sell five albums. If you choose to take their time up by signing them to some kind of business agreement, you should really go about trying to help them… the idea of a label is to set the trend, to create the trend, to make shit that’s something brand new that people follow. Not to just get in line and fucking like turn out a bunch of shit that’s shit that’s going on right now or whatever. I don’t really have too much to say about them. I tried to commit suicide twice during the time I was on Relapse Records because my career was being held hostage and I was not able to be myself and do what I do. So I’m extreme case of this shit. I really fucking hate them, and I don’t hold anything back. I’ve created a world, and if you notice in all the interviews and all the shit that I’ve done, there has never been one retort of anything about anything I’ve ever said.
So how does a smaller label like Supernova compete with labels that have that kind of money and that kind of thinking behind them?
Well, that’s the amazing thing about working your butt off. See, I got four people total: me, a promo guy, a graphics dude, and a lab dude… well I really have five people, ’cause there’s a shipping and receiving person. So we don’t have that many people, but the people we do have are amazing. For instance, Curran Reynolds, our promo and publicity dude, he worked for Earache. He actually took Gordon Conrad’s job after Gordon left [Earache]. He worked for the The Haunted, Deicide, all kinds of bands, and he really helped expose and make all those bands’ careers. So a few years ago when I was starting my record label, I was trying to figure out, you know, “How are we go about doing this? Are we going to be like all these other fuckheads who think like ‘Oh wow check it out, I can buy a domain. I can hire a webmaster. Holy shit, I’m a record label, check me out. I can do online sales.’” And then really it’s like some kid in his bedroom hocking some albums. And I have no problem with that because I think bedroom labels are important in exposing underground music, but for u,s I just felt like we could probably do a lot better and not only compete with labels like Relapse Records, but fucking kick their ass.
So the first thing I did was I hired Curran Reynolds, the guy who took my former shitty promo guy’s job, who does an amazing promo job, and right off the bat, me and him started talking about future, direction, vision, and we got on it. We started contacting all the right people about distribution to get the right deal. We signed the number one distribution deal in Europe which is with Cargo Records. We signed the number one distribution deal in Canada which is with FAB, and in the United States it took like a year, and it seemed like it was going to fucking take forever, but finally we got a distribution deal with Sony MRI Red, which is distribution that’s just as big or bigger than Relapse Records.
So then the next part was money. How the fuck can you compete with a bunch of money grubbing capitalists who have been doing this shit for a long time and ripping bands off since the early 90s? Well, we got to fucking come up with a way to do it. So, fortunately for me, I’ve been recording since like 1995 and have produced bands like Lamb of God, Converge, and Fade, and all kinds of shit like that, and so I saved my money and I bought a gun collection. I had a gun collection that was valued close to $200,000. So little by little, one after another, I liquidated my gun collection down to about $50,000 worth of guns. The other $150,000 was liquidated into buying me a home in Nashville, buying me a building to put the record company in, and fucking paying for stock that we had to have on the shelves. But this is the best bite that really sticks a big dick up, say, like, my former label’s asses – we have a fucking deal where our manufacturing is not even paid for by us, it’s paid for by fucking Sony
So, translation: I have no limitations. I can fucking put record after record out, and as long as that shit is good shit and it’s making it out there and it’s hitting and sticking, then everything’s cool. And so far, after doing it with Sony and them for a year, they are totally fucking thrilled and psyched right now. So, the little guy can do it. It ain’t that easy, and it definitely takes a long time, and it definitely takes getting the exact right people because if I didn’t have Curran Reynolds and if I didn’t have Missy Collazo and Sony MRI Red, it would be impossible to do what we do. But with those people on our side, it’s like having the same people that put out Slipknot albums or Ministry or whatever, putting the same stuff out for us, and all we have to do is be professional and get the job done well. And so far, again, I mean, the results have definitely been there.
Now I assume there’s some provision in there that Sony can’t interfere and say “We don’t want to distribute this” or whatever?
If something was really really crapped out they could say something, but so far, even with all the controversial shit we have, nothing has come up. Our new album has like a page with a hit of acid and fucking every other fucking psychotic thing in it and nothing was said to me about anything.
Now how do you feel about… obviously technology starts coming into play a lot with music in the past few years. On the one hand, it seems like a lot of underground bands can get out there with a little bit more ease. On the other hand, it seems like with illegal downloading, it’s the small underground bands who are hurt the most.
Well, you know it’s like this: we are at a nexus in society. We’ve reached something that’s so big that almost no one, and I mean no one, really knows what twenty years from now is definitely going to bring. The reason why I say that is we’ve reached into a realm now where digitally with binary code of 0’s and 1’s, there are many things that can be bought and sold digitally that you don’t have to put your hands on physically… intangible items that sell by digital code. So one thing’s for sure, you’re never going to stop that medium. The real reality is, people like Apple computers; they’re at the forefront of understanding the digital medium and the digital distribution world. And I say that because, obviously, they fucking started iTunes and WebTV. And that’s going to be the venture from now on, meaning: fuck DVDs and fuck going to a rental store or whatever. You’re going to sit at home and when you want to see a movie, you’re going to fucking pay for it and download it on TVs just like people do right now but in limited numbers. And then with iTunes, you know, same thing, half the people I know don’t even buy CDs anymore. They do digital downloads either illegally or legally. So what we got to do as a business, because money does have to be made – I’m punk rock all day fucking long – but the bottom line is, for us to be able to supply the party for the underground community, we do have to take a little something at the door to make it happen. And to me, I think that’s what it’s all about. Does it have to be $15.99? Does it have to cost so much? Do you have to take that much money at the door when people can get it for free? Aren’t there other ways? I mean, to me it’s genius, people who are handling the digital revolution like Nine Inch Nails and fucking Radiohead, and the reason why I say that is because Nine Inch Nails put their new album out a couple of weeks ago, and they put it out where if you want to download it, you can download the whole fucking thing, minus a few songs for free. If you want the whole fucking thing, then you pay five bucks and you can have the whole rest of it including graphics. Then if you want a t-shirt and the rest of it…
I think he made it be like $20 gets you the whole shindig including a physical copy of the album. So some people would be like “How are you going to make any fucking money when you’re only charging five bucks to download a fucking album?” But here’s the deal: we can’t control this format right now. We cannot control the digital format, so if you get five dollars, that’s five more dollars than you would have gotten from the other person who just fucking took it for free.
So where are we headed? This is where we’re headed, and I’ve told people this a million fucking times. We are headed towards a music being free. Not only will music be free, but the goddamn shows and clubs are going to be free too, and it’s all ready changing like that right now. When it’s like bars, people who put on promotional events, people who put on rock shows and stuff like that, they’re not fucking paying huge guarantees. We’re living in a day and age where gas costs almost five bucks. So people are doing shit like, “Here, come down, so and so band is playing, it’s free to get in.” But then people blast out money on alcohol. It makes the bar like loaded or whatever and that makes the band sell like tons and tons of merchandise.
Like Ozzfest last year with it being free. Whoever came up with that idea was right on fucking target because it’s gotten to a point we have broadband internet. We don’t give a fuck about leaving our fucking chair or futon or couch, and we don’t want to go outside the fucking house period because it’s a dangerous fucking crazy world out there. So why wouldn’t somebody want to get like a bunch of beer/weed/whatever and sit in their fucking living room and fucking watch whatever they want to watch at their will on demand with music or video or TV? I mean, we’ve got to restructure. Record companies are dying. Record companies are going to be like the dinosaurs before you know it, and it’s mainly because the big business element of it is just not working. I think the bands that they blast loads and loads of money into, that are your big number bands, that will always be. There’s always going to be an audience of idiots out there that are going to buy the next big thing or the next trendy thing. We can never stop that. So it doesn’t even matter if downloading occurs and if you get the next big thing for free. There will always be a moron right behind that other person that will plop down fifteen bucks for some gay band that sucks or whatever.
But the way to look at the future is to look at like “Maybe this is a good thing.” Maybe once we get everything straightened out.. I was saying to someone the other day that my son, who I think is a genius and he’s six years old, you know, one day he’s probably going to say to me “Dad here’s my new album.” And I’ll be like “Where?” And he’ll be like “On this USB drive.” And then I’ll play it, and then I’ll be like “Don’t you have any graphics for this?” And he’ll be like “Hell no. I don’t need no fucking inflated packaging to sell my CD.” And then I’ll be like “Well do you have any visuals or enhanced audio or enhanced video or any video on this shit?” “Hell no, I’m a real artist. I only play fucking music man. Take it or leave it.”
But how do people find out about it?
I think in like 10 years, at the moment that an album is released, the big deal is not going to be just about the audio part, it’s going to be about all the other merchandise shit that goes along with it. All the new art designs for t-shirts, there’s some shorts, jackets, hats, mood rings, whatever else type of Kiss memorabilia insane shit…That’s the future, because you cannot stick those things through a USB port. So officially trademarked, licensed merchandise is the future of asshole music. I really do believe that in five years someone will like laugh if you tried to charge them for like a CD or something like that. They would be like “Are you kidding me?”
So, to switch gears… I’ve got to ask you a couple of questions about, you know I would kill myself if I was on the phone with you and I didn’t ask about your creative process a little bit before I let you go.
You can ask anything you want.
So obviously traditional song structure and all that kind of shit is of little to no importance to you.
No. Today is the Day and music, to me, is all about a feeling. I started playing guitar in a way of like, you know, I saw other people emulate and copy other bands of play shit and that really wasn’t my deal. And the instrument itself, the guitar… it seemed to me that there’s got to be lots of different ways to play this thing other than just the normal way it’s played. And so I made up my own chords, I made up my own phrasings, I made up my own the notated type of shit and stuff, with an idea in my mind that I just want to play what’s inside of me and not let style or shit like that come through like when I’m playing. A lot of that has to do with turning away from all other music and not really becoming some big fan of whatever bands that blah blah blah. The idea is to create music that I would personally listen to. And in my demented, dysfunctional, fucked up, terrible insane life that I live, like there’s not really that many bands that are the soundtrack to the day that I live through.
So I kind of like sit down and whatever is moving through me, I try and transcribe it and write it down and catch it in musical form. For instance, one song from our new album Axis of Eden, one of my favorite songs, is called “Free at Last.” I got into a big fight with my woman about a bunch of shit, and I was just really fucked up, one of those lower than normal fucked ups where you wanna take an axe and start running through a department store and start chopping people up or something. And so I went out to the studio and locked the door because I felt part of my mind, and there was a piano sitting there and a Macintosh laptop and I just started jamming out, and the next thing you know, I had written that whole song from beginning to end on piano. You know, if someone had asked me while I was doing it like “What kind of shit is this or whatever?” I would have been like “I have no idea because it’s just some bullshit that I’m feeling right now.” But in the end, it turned out to be a pretty epic, psychedelic metal song. But at the time when I was doing it, it just seemed like the worst thing in the world, because it really reflected how I felt inside, which was suicidal, violent, wanting to kill someone and just wanting to die.
It’s like… it sucks because… It’s funny, on your website awhile back you had a kind of a comical thing about me and [former Today is the Day drummer] Derek Roddy and whatever. I thought that was great because there probably couldn’t be a better description from afar of what happened [with that situation]. And not to pound anybody into the pavement, but Derek too represents something that I think needs to be talked about. He represents the fucked up side of music, and the reason why I say that is this: Derek Roddy is an immensely gifted artist. He can play drums like they’re fucking going out of style. There is no doubt in my mind that if that dude can get his head straight, he could become one of the greatest drummers of all time, but there’s more to it than going “rat-a-tat-tat” on some fucking drums and stuff. There’s this shit that’s called heart, H-E-A-R-T. There’s this shit that’s called integrity, and you have to have both of those things to make it last and to make it work, and with Derek… I feel sorry for him. He’s been worked through the metal machine for so long with so many different bands that like he just simply does not have it together as far as understanding the concept of the friendship of being in a band. He’s jaded, he fucking hates music, he hates record labels, he hates bands, he hates the whole question mark of playing music where the unknown is always in your face when you play underground music. Nothing is guaranteed, and we came to him as an underground band and we were totally like, “Hey man,we play music that’s from the heart. We travel around in a van. We don’t have that much money. We’re trying to do this shit. We’re trying to make this record label a big thing, but at the same time just understand that we’re not a corporate band. We don’t have a tour bus, decisions are made internally. We don’t make like $5,000 a show, and if you’re into shit like that then come jam with me.”
And at the beginning he was like, “Yeah dude! I fucking hate the music industry and independent rock and underground and hell yeah!” And I was just buying it all the way. I was like, “Wow, this guy is blowing my mind, like he fucking is the real thing. He’s talking like some I don’t give a shit about record labels. I don’t give a shit about people kissing my ass.” And the next thing you know, we get ready to do the actual real part of making an album and that’s when I realized, “Boy oh boy, have I made a big fucking mistake.” Because we were scheduled to cut the album at January, and he rolled it back. So we rescheduled to cut the album in February, and he rolled it back. We rescheduled to practice and cut the album because we never even played together in March, and he moved it back because he said, quote, “My snakes are being born, and I cannot leave Florida until my snakes are born.” And so the whole band, including the engineers who we’d hired to record the album, were all put on hold, on call for a bunch of black headed python snakes to be born, and when they were finally born, we were allowed to cut the album. That was with two days notice. He basically called up on a Friday and said “I will be there Monday to cut the album.” And we had never even played with him before. And so then he shows up on Monday, sets his drum set up, since I owned the recording studio we already had it all mic’ed up and everything.
And I thought that we were going to jam and practice, but instead of jamming and practice, Mr. FuckingRockStarSunglasses comes in at 8 o’clock at night, sits down behind a drum set, plays with me for 3 hours and records every single song on Axis of Eden.Then the next morning I said, “So, ready to cut the album?” And he said “No, we did that last night,” and then said, “By the way I got to leave later today.” And I was like “Wait a minute, like you mean that’s the album? Like the jam from last night?” And he’s like, “Yeah.” And I’m like “Wow, that’s fucking crazy. I’ve never done that before.” So that was just the beginning of it. It’s like we were supposed to rehearse with him for a tour, he never did make it. When we finally did rehearse with him, and not to make him sound as gay as possible but I’m serious, we got ready to rehearse with him, he called me up and said “Steve, I’m going to be in Nashville tomorrow.” I was like “I can’t get the bass player down here by tomorrow.” Then he’s like “That’s okay, just me and you will play.” So he comes down the next day, but what he didn’t tell me was that we were going to use my recording studio for a fucking a MEINL photo shoot for MEINL Cymbals, and so yeah they had like 4 fans set up blowing through Derek Roddy’s gay hair, making him look like a giant homo in my studio. It’s me with my amp plugged in, and me fucking going over the songs with him for a tour while a fucking photographer was firing off strobes and taking pictures of him the whole time. End of photo shoot, he packs it up and takes off back to Florida.