Yeah, mine’s got a metal plate glued to the back from where we were recording a while ago and the engineer guy tripped over the bass and landed on it and ended up sitting on it, putting a nice crack in the back where the soundpost tried to escape. I was like shaking fist
Vic: My bass back home, my soundpost is a drumstick!
Yea, I saw that, cos Nekroman was posting his weird adjustable one..... They should definitely have character, they need to take a bit of a pounding or you might as well be in an orchestra or some shit. Screws and tape. Spray paint.
You've got a pretty individual vocal style going on. Did you practice that? It reminds me a little bit of Faith No More, the contrast between the "singy" operatic almost parts, and the shoutier stuff.
Vic: That all came like trial by fire. I never set out to be a vocalist and it was one of those things where we weren’t finding any, Tommy couldn’t sing. We’d sit down there in the basement and be like "we're gonna have to sing." and I just kind of took the reigns with it because it was just easier that way. As far as any type of training, I never sang in school or anything like that, people ask me “You must've had vocal lessons.” and I’m like “No, no." I’m just learning how to not do it wrong, I guess. Over enough shows, you know, you just, you ask me to sing anything else other than Koffin Kats, it’s barely going to happen but as long as it’s in the realm of what I know, I can do it.
It’s like the punk thing again, just get on with it. What was the transition like from being a band and having jobs and then being able to be like "Kill this, we're doing the band full time now."?
Vic: It was very gradual. It used to be we'd go off for a couple months a year on tour but that’s all we could get away from our jobs. We were fortunate in that Tommy and I worked at the same place and Eric worked for the post office, but we always busted ass when we were working so we’d be able to suck up and go “Hey, can I have three months off next year?” “Hey, can I have four months off?” and then finally it got to the point where our jobs were like “Hey, you guys are gone for half the year, we’re going to have to knock you down to part-time.” We were doing that for a while but then we decided with being able to tour in Europe and tour North America, we could tour all year round! So we eventually made the decision to go “Okay, well we’re going to have to let our jobs go and we’ll focus mainly on just touring.” and that’s why we do so many shows a year because it’s not like we’re getting rich doing this! We play for three months and we’ll take like couple weeks off and then we go hit the road again because all the savings have been used up.
Nice, just like a gradual thing, you got to the point where it made sense.
Vic: It was, yeah, we go out a little bit longer, go a little bit longer. And the other thing too is we were always very fortunate where we never took any major hits to put us behind so we had to go back to work and remake all the money.
We actually would come out, we'd break even on the tours. So, we saw this, we break even and then sometimes we even have a little pocket money afterwards. But we saw this as a good thing and that pushed us to keep going out more and more too. We’re like, “We must be doing something right here because we’re not losing money doing this.”
Are there major differences between touring the States compared to coming over to Europe, and is the UK different to the rest?
John: Yeah. Yes, yes, and yes, and yes to all those questions. This is the first touring band that I’ve been a part of. I quit my job though in early 2008 and I moved across the United States to get my degree in audio-engineering. My whole thing was I’m going to be a freelance audio-engineer, focus on that because it was getting to the point with my job where I was turning down clients to record because I had to go work in a store and make less money than I would be making in the studio. So it’s like, “Okay I quit my job.” I did that right before the economic downturn in the States so I was like, “Ah!”.
But anyway, I went out, got my degree, came back to Detroit and I’ve been a freelance engineer since. You know, we come out here. We tour the States, it’s cool, everything’s good, I'm finding my rhythm as a guitarist and we get over here and it’s like, bang, there’s a whole new world with a whole new set of challenges and learning experiences and not only that but, the languages are different, food’s different, the culture’s different, it is a different experience. But it’s not bad, it’s good.
Lufthansa broke my pedal board, so the first show over here, we found out an hour before we go on and it’s like "shit crap!" so then we're scrambling to get an effects pedal, and then the next day, we have another show so we go to the music store and buy another effects pedal and it’s faulty right out of the box and it's like "Arg, what are we gonna do!?". So, other than gear issues, everything’s been pretty smooth. He (Vic) had a horn blow in his speaker cab, we had to replace that. Other than gear it’s just been pretty smooth but really the crowds are just as big, they just react a little differently here than in the States.
Yhen again, as I say it out loud, I feel like the crowds that are our age, they’re just hip to just stand there and nod their head and drink their beers, but the younger crowds, well I guess it depends on how many beers they have in them because the more beers you get in you start getting wild! One of the things over here is that a lot more venues made of stone, vs when we're over in the states.
Yea, we've got more old buildings than you guys.
John: Yeah but the thing is we play small places, we play big places, we play big stages, we play small stages, and we’re going to put on the same show every night regardless. So, you know, people ask me, “What do you think of Europe?” I’m like, "You know what? I’m sitting in the backseat of the van and we get to the place and I load in and I play the show just like I do over in the States", so it ends up kinda evening out, but the biggest difference coming from Europe to over here is I grew up watching a lot of British TV, I got my little killer rabbit......... I watched a lot of British stuff and like I’m really into British humour and comedy and what not. And so it’s refreshing to hear some of the jokes, everything translates like "Yeah, just like that, in the movies I've seen!", So, that’s pretty cool. And then, driving on the left side of the road isn’t as much of a trip as I thought it would be. It’s nothing.
Do you find it weird, I’ve heard other bands complain about how even when they’re touring Europe or Japan or wherever, it’s like it’s still being in America because there’s McDonald’s and KFC and etc everywhere?
John: We don’t really do fastfood.
Vic: One good session of shitting your pants and “Oh yeah that’s why we don’t do that.”
John: Yeah. I haven’t eaten fastfood in almost two years now and it’s like, I feel like now with the internet, you have all this information out there about what’s bad for you and what’s good for you and if you’re not using it, it’s like being ignorant, I guess. We try to eat healthy. Though we’re kebab crazy over here. Magnum bars have changed my life.
John: Yes. They’re fantastic!
Don't go for the silver ones! They've got some anniversary thing going on.
John: Yeah. I bought the silver one, the champagne one, it’s not good. I’m looking for the elusive double caramel. I’ve had one of them and it’s my favorite. And I haven’t been able to find one since.
Yeah, they’re around somewhere, someone's stockpiling em.
John: And mint, also very good.
Vic: He's becoming a Magnum connoisseur!
Vic: Back to that original question though, the biggest difference between touring the States and here, we go coast to coast in the States, and you’re always going to have pretty much the same culture. And you drive two hours in Europe and you’re in a completely different culture, different customs and everything. And where people that hear rock and roll no matter what it is, in some of these countries that we go to, they just go nuts for it, whereas in the States a lot of times the crowd’s are just kind of jaded. It seems. I mean, for us we’re very fortunate, we have a really awesome fanbase and we have a crowd that consistently comes back to our shows. So, it’s always gotten better and better for us in the States but I can definitely see a huge difference though with how people appreciate music in Europe compared to how they do in the States. Just having live music, it seems much more appreciated. That and the arts in general over here there’s just more appreciation.
Yeah I think we go through fits and starts. At certain points we kind of push live music and art and stuff and then it kinda dies downagain.
There’s a few all ages shows on your tour list, do you find kids go a bit more nuts than "grownups" do?
John: It depends how much alcohol is served!
Vic: If I had my way every show would be an all ages show. I mean I love to play for a young fan base because those are the people that are going to spread the word and tell all their friends and all that.
John: They're the future.
Vic: Yeah. And they’re going to be there fifteen years later coming to the shows still.
Yea, these are the kids that are going to be in the bands that you go see in a few years.
Vic: Growing up it was always the worst, especially being into Reverend Horton Heat and stuff like that, to be looking through the papers when I was a kid and I was like, it felt like I was under eighteen forever. Because all the bands I wanted to see were like eighteen and over shows or twenty one and over shows. Because in the States you have to be twenty one to drink and especially a Reverend Horton Heat show, it seemed like it was never an all ages show. So I had to wait a long time to see the bands I wanted.
How have you seen things change? It's been ten years since Koffin Kats kicked off. It seems the whole music industry is still in a process of change with record sales vs merch and distribution and the internet-
Vic: The record sale thing doesn’t really affect us because we’re one of those bands that most of our sales are done on the road. Our distribution has always been delivered from our hands to your hands. I mean we would have CDs go out through distributors and all that, but we’ve always been able to just offer our CDs at our shows and things like that, so we never really felt the huge shift of everything going over to digital. Though it does suck, but it’s a double edged sword because with everything being digital now, it’s way more accessible for a band like us that doesn’t get huge distribution, it was hard to get any of our material and now you can get it on iTunes. At the end of the day I think it’s actually better for us.
Good! This seems to be like a bit of a thing now with everyone doing vinyl.
Vic: Yeah and we’ve started pressing vinyl again.
Yea, you've got that limited edition aluminium one!
John: To that point, at this point in time we’ve had over a hundred years of recorded music. And over half of that time was dominated by vinyl because it was essentially the only option. And then you have the cassettes, eight tracks and obviously those went the way of the dodo. Cassettes you know, for portability, you can play it on the car and then the car started to become where people listened to music, you know, instead of on their hi-fi system. Then CD's, then you got the portable digital MP3 players and whatever now and people are realizing that we’ve had MP3 players for a decade or what have you, or more, and people are realizing “Okay, I like the portability of this but I like the quality, the sound quality of vinyl.” And so what I've seen, vinyl sales are up this year fourteen percent over last year and what we’re seeing now is the trend of artists that they don’t make CDs anymore. They'll just make vinyl and then include a coupon in it for a digital download of the album in any format you want. So it’s like, I get my quality and I get my portability, you know what I mean? And plus with the vinyl you get the artwork and what not.
Vic: It’s like why am I going to pay twelve bucks to download an album when I can pay like fifteen to get the actual vinyl record, you know?
And you get a thing to hold. I remember buying CD's and getting home, one of the first albums I bought was Guns n Roses, Use Your Illusion 2, and you get home and you put it in, and you sit there with the little book and you read along-
Vic: That’s the one sad thing is, I think. When I was thirteen, fourteen, I’d save like ten bucks up and ride my bike to the CD shop and get a used punk rock CD. I'd just go and pick one that had a cool cover just to find new bands and stuff but I would, for that whole month, I would just sit there and check the liner notes out. It was generally, if it was an Epitaph band, I would buy it. If it was a Fat Wreck Chords band, I would buy it. You actually had to put the CD in, you had to listen to it, you couldn’t skip through everything. I mean, you could but not like the way you can now. So I think that’s one big issue today is a lot of kids don’t understand the whole format of listening to an album from front to back and taking the time to appreciate the album.
Yea, people don't sit down with headphones on and just listen.
Vic: Yeah because a lot of my favorite records weren’t my favorite records right off the first listen. It took a while for it to soak in but I think when you have things on your iPod, I’m guilty of it now, I have a lot of good shit on my iPod but I skip over it or haven’t even had the time to really listen to it because it’s always on shuffle. It’s on shuffle. Bouncing from one genre or artist to the next.
John: It’s hard to stay committed.
I often just go ->Koffin Kats and play everything on random, or whatever, I just want to listen to this band.
Vic: Yeah. It’s weird like I just got that new Morrissey album came out, and it used to be if I got a new album like that, that I’ve been waiting to hear, I would sit down and listen to the whole thing. I haven’t even like listened to it front to back yet. I’ve had it for like two weeks.
Your last one, I got that, I think I probably put it on while I was pottering about, doing the dishes or whatever, and I was like "No, you need to actually sit down and listen to this at some point." And that took until just a few weeks ago, not doing anything else, just that.
Vic: That’s the beauty of vinyl is that you’re committed to it and you actually have to go over and flip it over.
It's like committing to the process of listening to music rather than just having some background noise going.
John: Oh, radio changed the way we listen to music too because my dad was a DJ for twenty five years and right in the mid nineties, radio flipped over when a company called Clear Channel started buying all the radio stations out, or the broadcast companies out, and they switched from having DJs that would find music in records stores themselves and play stuff, and that stuff they like or they picked, maybe they wouldn’t play the hit single from the album, maybe they'd play one of the deep cuts or whatever. After the song they talk about the song or talk about like the concept of it. It wasn’t just “Hey, so and so’s coming out with this tune” or whatever. You know, like it is now, it is very formatted. They have a playlist. You can only play these songs, you have to play this one every two hours...
Yea, like you can listen to twenty different radio stations and hear the same forty songs.
John: Exactly. That, you know, in the seventies and eighties and early nineties, it wasn’t like that, man. You can play whatever you wanted and if you were good... DJs were rockstars, you know. And now, DJs are just personalities that are on the radio.
John: Yup. Exactly.
I think it was a bit different over here, because we are like this big Making pinchy gesture with fingers, and America's huge, so we had, in the fifties, sixties, we just had FM radio, so you could sit in your little studio in London and reach the whole country. So I think we didn’t have such a range of radio stations and personalities and stuff.
Vic: Yeah there’s a lot of different markets in the States.
I spose we had the pirate radio thing, people in little boats, broadcasting from international waters or whatever.
Vic: Yeah. It was that pirate radio, the movie?
So, yeah. I think our radio's a bit different over here.
Vic: You feel me though?
I get the general idea, yeah. Now there are very few shows that run on the actual radio that are worth listening to. With the internet, internet radio is a big thing now. I think it tends to be very specialized, like if you know what you’re looking for, you can just go and be like "I just want to listen to psychobilly" or whatever. And that’s all you'll get and you won't get that random song I guess. You lose some of that chance discoverability.