Sunday, September 16, 2018
A Sunday Conversation With Spacetrucker
What have been your musical epiphany moments?
Having grown up in a home with mostly the lighter side of classic rock, blues, and some soul (also with a backdrop of horrid 90’s country), Sabbath’s first album, Hendrix’ Woodstock performance, and Deep Purple’s Made in Japan all blew my mind pretty hard; those were some of the first albums I owned at a younger age and really had a heavy hand in me picking up guitar. All continue to influence me, but the real epiphany was a little later when I started digging beyond the radio selections of grunge, which was incredibly uncool around the millenium. I discovered bands like the Melvins, Dinosaur Jr, Mudhoney, and TAD and was simultaneously sad I missed most of this apparent golden era and delighted to have something that I thought sounded like I felt. Somehow I acquired a copy of Nirvana’s Live Tonight Sold Out but (although I knew the band from their radio singles like everyone did) seeing the attitude and performance of them made me think this was some way I surely wanted to live and express myself. I remember being especially entranced by the Live at the Paramount segments of that video...the complete raw expression of emotion. Everyone around me was buying 7-strings at that time and wanting to play energy drink music and most of it just didn’t cut it for me. Soon following that, a music fiend friend in high school turned me on to more of the less commercial Man’s Ruin family tree of bands, including Kyuss. Some of the oddballs like Barkmarket were especially brain boiling and they remain one of me and the drummer’s mutually favorite bands. Then the year I graduated high school, QOTSA came out with Songs for the Deaf and I was hooked on riff-phonics. I saw them live twice on that tour and after that I had a much more concise idea on a sound I’d like to produce.
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
It usually all starts with a riff. Most ideas are just little snippets I record on my Iphone at this point, though before all that I was a small portable cassette recorder like they’d use in an interrogation room. Half of them I don’t use, but listening back to them is when the light bulb comes on and I add to the ones I like. When it’s up to 2 parts that could be verses or choruses I usually show them to our drummer, Del. We typically build it into a little something with a skeleton structure without our bass player; Del and I have been playing a long time together and we have kind of a weird, rapid, unspoken back and forth that needs to just run its course before we’re excited to show it to Rob to add bass lines and finish structuring. Lyrics are my hardest part. I really have to clear the mind (this may or may not involve weed and/or whiskey) and even then lines usually only come in 4’s or 8’s. Once the concept is there though, I look back and much more easily build on it.
Who has influenced you the most?
This is a really tough one. There’s so many different aspects to Spacetrucker for me that I think of it in different terms for each one. With things like booking, touring, and practicing I look to a lot of old hardcore punk and post hardcore bands I read about who worked enormously hard on all those aspects. Writing rhythm guitar riffs is either in the more Melvins/TAD or the Kyuss/Sleep arena. I don’t really think about an influence for lyric content, I just put out what’s rolling around in my head which is pretty much a speeding freight train of frustrations that I just have to run alongside long enough to grab something. Vocal melodies are some sort of Kurt Cobain/John Garcia bastardization. Lead work begins improvisational in the beginning and spins off my early Blackmore/Hendrix/Iommi gut feelings and works itself into patterns, sometimes taking a slower a more concise Homme approach.
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
I love heavy riffs, but I think at the moment some pockets of the stoner/doom scene are starting to behave a little like the T1000 in the puddle of liquid nitrogen, but the positive side of that is it really makes the unique bands shine when they progress the riffage into new territories. At this time bands like Elder and Snail are making a lasting impression on my playing I think. I also often delve into types of music that are far from my norm for days at a time...I guess almost as a palette cleanser of sorts. Recently it's been some old eastern-european gypsy folk and klezmer music. I like the feel of the scale progressions and some of them invoke Homme’s later Kyuss and early QOTSA guitar work to me.
We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
I saw a t-shirt a few years ago that, in an overtly pleasant looking 1980’s tourism type font, read “Saint Fuckin’ Louis” and I think that summed it up pretty well. After enough traveling I’ve realized St. Louis is a strangely divided city with a decent portion of pretty crass and abrasive folks. Overall though it’s just another texture of the same fruit that is residing in much of “flyover country”, but every city seems to have it’s own little twist. I think for a lot of creative types around here, we may end up sarcastic and a little bitter but free from any degree of flashy or phony salesman-like conduct with our arts. It’s a no-bullshit city.
Where'd the band name come from?
The Deep Purple reference should be obvious, but aside from that, I’m a gearhead and
have been into vintage vans for some time now, not least because they haul the equipment so well. I’m also a member of one of the oldest van clubs in the country called Gateway Vans and a few times a year we attend (and sometimes host) private events with other van clubs that are historically called “truck-ins”. They’re typically a few to several days long and are a mish-mash of live music, camping, swap meets, burn-out contests, and many other pro-inebriation activities. We call it “vannin” or “truckin”. It’s all been going on since the early 70’s and I’m proud to be part of a younger generation keeping it alive. Good times, good people.
You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
Surely a post-apocalyptic dismal future flick. Though I can’t really say I’d ever aim to rewrite the soundtrack to an existing movie of this type that I like since I think they’re all pretty great the way they are.
You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?). You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?
If you can count them as one song like they are listed and akin to how they continuously play through, I think I’d go with A Bit of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning from Sabbath’s S/T. It’s such a dark, slow, broken rollercoaster journey with so many different elements for 3 instruments and a vocal...I think I could squeeze 1,000 words out of that.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
Well we’re up to 11 all of the time, sooo...
Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?
We are known for pretty intense and high volume live shows. Our drummer Del is a goddamn beast, and Rob and I simply just match his acoustic volume with our amps. It seems to be a good strategy so far. As for the energy, I can’t help but move around...I’m no young Angus Young about it but if I’m not feeling close to death after a set then I must not really be alive.
What makes a great song?
When someone actually wrote it and genuinely means it.
Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
It never even turned into a song really, I wasn’t even in a band at the time. I wasn’t singing yet so it never got lyrics either. I had a verse, chorus, and bridge worked out; it was sort of a Dinosaur Jr./Silverchair mashup but I had a whole 3 min organization laid out how I wanted it to go. I tried to play it with a couple of those aforementioned energy drink rockers and you can imagine how that went over.
A lot of the songs on the new record I’m really proud of, more so than anything I’ve made in the past. I really like how the structure of Hotbox Airlock came out and the lyrics are some of my favorites I’ve written; I don’t do ‘story’ songs too much but this tale of a time-traveling astronaut from the future bringing an otherworldly strain of bud back to modern astronauts to enlighten mankind and avoid our ultimate self destruction is pretty neat, I think.
Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
Red Fang writes great catchy songs that definitely kick the shit out of my ass. It’s like they’ve boiled down just the elements of the ass-kicking bands they like, which I think are also a lot of the same ones I like.
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
Digital is obviously super convenient. CDs are still the most durable and best sounding way to play a digital file. But vinyl is just cool. I love playing records, the mechanics of it are really fascinating to me, and I like the involvement it requires. You can’t do a whole lot else while listening to a record. Alas, there’s never enough time for me to make them the main medium.
Whiskey or beer? And defend your choice
Both, for sure. I’ll often double fist a good craft draft and a decent rye or Irish when chilling at my favorite bars. On stage I’ll likely have both too, but usually a more watered down can lager (usually whatever is on the house for the bands) and chase that with the whiskey between songs for the way the finish favors my vocals.
We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your hometown, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
Not just saying this because our bass player works there, but Euclid Records in St. Louis is the best in my opinion. Helluva Record Store Day bash too.
What's next for the band?
Well we have an exciting upcoming project with Italy’s Mr.Bison next year and we also hope, if CD and merch sales continue well for our newly released album Smooth Orbit, that we can re-release that ourselves by next August on vinyl since the initial was CD only. We hope to get on the road and make it to the west coast again in the spring or summer of 2019, so if you’re in pacific time, keep an eye out. To our midwestern friends and cohorts, we’ll see you sooner.
Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
Keep on truckin’.