INTERVIEW: Suicide Machines
Interview with Erin (drums)
By: Alex Steininger
Alex: First off, the question that just always has to be asked, what are some of your musical influences?
Erin: Well, we all come from different backgrounds. Obviously, we all listen to punk. A lot of styles...bands like Bad Brains, and the Dead Kennedys are a big influence on me. As far as drums, I listen to a lot of jazz and funk fusion. That's just my personal taste, but as far as ska, it's the Specials and old time Skatalites.
Alex: What are your band goals for the rest of 1998?
Erin: Tour, and keep on touring. Get out there and promote the fact that we did a new album. Get out and tour, just stay on the road. That's basically the plan.
Alex: Are you happy to be back on tour?
Erin: Actually, to be honest, this is my 7th show with the band. The old drummer left, which is something people should know...Derek is no longer in the band. He wanted to do other style of music, and do his own record label, Old Skool Records. So he threw in the towel, so they recruited me to do drums.
Alex: Do you have any previous band experiences then?
Erin: Yeah, with these guys actually. I've been in a few different bands with Jay and Roy. So, it's basically just keeping it in the family.
Alex: Since the plan is to tour, what do you guys do on the road for fun, or what have you been doing for the past seven shows?
Erin: The other night we pretty much...we don't get a lot of chances to get out, but the best night we've had so far was when we had a night off in Seattle last night, so we went and hit a few bars and stuff. Boise, Idaho of all places was great. All the bands stayed at a hotel, so it was the first chance we had to get piss ass drunk, so we did that. And it was great. Other than rare instances like that, basically we just crack jokes and stuff to keep our sanity.
Alex: If you could tour with anyone, who would you tour with?
Erin: As far as the band goes, I don't know...we all love touring with Telegraph. They're a great bunch of guys from back home, in Detroit, so that's cool. This is the first time I've met Limp, and it's been fun. But for me personally, I could say the bands I'd like to tour with. My ultimate band to tour with would be No Means No, but I can't see that as ever being a possibility, so I don't know.
Alex: Anything significant happen in the past nine days you've been on tour?
Erin: Boise, Idaho...Drinking and Wrestling. We got kicked out of the hotel, because they thought there was bodies flying out the walls.
Alex: Have you had time to pick a favorite venue as of yet, or are they all just another stop?
Erin: No, there are differences. It wasn't the best show, it was really hot and all, but I liked Salt Lake City. It was called, I think, the DV8. It was a tiny place. By the time we got on stage it was just soaked in sweat. It was way over packed. To be honest, I can't believe that many kids stuck around. It was just too ungodly hot. For me, it was a real fun show.
Alex: Is La Luna one of the bigger clubs you're playing on this tour?
Erin: Size wise or capacity?
Erin: So far the biggest show we've done is 1,600, but that was back at home. On the road the average show we do is about 500-600. There was one 300 show, but that was downstairs in Salt Lake City. That was a tiny place to be, though. Last night in Seattle there was about 800 people.
Alex: When you play home do you always sell out shows?
Erin: Oh yeah. A lot of friends back home. We end up having to sneak them through the back door.
Alex: Personally, what does into good making for you?
Erin: For me, just jamming. Just getting in a basement and locking into a vibe that everyone has. Someone will come in with something they've been thinking about, and then we'll eventually realize it's a good tune and roll with it. But through that process you also get ones that are stale as hell and then you realize there is no point in continuing it. But a lot of times you get rockers and realize you would love to play this one.
Alex: Since you've been in the band, have you ditched any?
Erin: No, we haven't worked on any new tunes. As far as ditching tunes, there are a few on the album we won't do, and there was a few on the old album they don't want to pursue. They just got tired of it, and realized it wasn't the greatest song to have in the set, so we've moved on. Sort of getting rid of the stuff we didn't really like, or were tired of, and expanding the band in a way. Time to move on and try other things.
Alex: What do you enjoy and hate about the music business?
Erin: For me, I'm green, this is my 9th day on the road, but I've already seen myself on days when I'm not in the best of moods. Then I began to miss home, but as far as touring, that's just minimum. I can't ever going back to working in a factory, I'm ruined on that, I will NEVER go back to that. I'm spoiled in that aspect, and I love what I do, but there is an aspect of missing home and wanting to sleep in your own bed. Waking up and seeing your own neighborhood, you know. But as far as the other side goes, signing bands and putting stuff out, the down side to that is not every band gets to do that. They don't get the opportunity handed to them, but this band has been fortunate. So you take what you get and roll with it.
Alex: Ever toured with any of your other bands?
Erin: Nope, this is my first tour. It's always been about local stuff.
Alex: If you could change anything since you became a drummer, a band you wish you hadn't been in or an opportunity you passed on and wish you'd taken, would you change anything?
Erin: No. I've taken every opportunity I've been given. Or at least I've tried it. I didn't join every band I've gotten an offer for, but I sat down and tried it, and figured out if I wanted to do it or not. But as far as my drumming goes, I just keep on playing.
Alex: Was your highest point musically when they offered you the opportunity to join the band?
Erin: That was a definite high point. I wouldn't say that was the highest, because I realize there is so much more to it than being offered a spot in a band or joining the band, but I would say my highest point was when I found out I could actually play drums. When I sat down and was able to play, that was my highest point. From there I met friends and started being asked to play in bands. And that's really a good feeling, when people realize you can do it.
Alex: Ever had a low point?
Erin: Bad shows, that's the only low point. When you realized you fucked up.
Alex: What made you want to be in a band?
Erin: The fact that I started playing drums. I started seeing everyone else I knew playing instruments and starting bands, and I wasn't doing it, so it was a natural progression once I started learning to play.
Alex: As a whole, do you know what inspires the band to write songs?
Erin: For me, it's just jamming. It's a very guttural feeling. Are you talking lyrical or musically?
Alex: Both the lyrics and the music. Every component of the song.
Erin: Jay will tell you the lyrics come from seeing what happens in the local town we live in. A lot of songs on this album deal with ill found feelings towards factories and everything. We live in a factory town, so our environment. Also social and racial issues. There is hatred out there, and we write about the downside to that kind of stuff. As far as Dan and where he comes up with stuff, I really don't know.
Alex: What do you guys want the listener to get out of the music?
Erin: As far as listening to it at home...there is definitely a different between listening to an album at home and then seeing the band live, but as far as the CD that's up to the person. I can't say what they should get out of it. That's up to the listener. As far as the live show, I would like people to respect other people there and have a good time. It's good to see circle pits, it's good to see people shouting back the lyrics. It means they're listening to the music, but I really can't say how they should take it when they're at home. Live have a good time, and at home, get what ever you want out of it.
[enters Jay, vocals]Jay: It's all about the lyrics.
Alex: You've listened to the new album, right?
Erin: Oh yeah!
Alex: Then how do you feel the new album and the old one are similar, and how do they differ?
Erin: The new one is definitely a lot harsher. Also, there is no keyboards and no horns. They stripped it down to what they could do on stage.
Alex: So the whole hardcore sound was all about stripping it down to be able to play it live?
Jay: Pretty much. A lot of the music reflects how we are feeling at the time, that's why some parts are harsher than others. We haven't been in the best of moods on a lot of things for the past couple of years, be it personal or being socially aware of the general problems in our area.
Alex: The average song on the album is two minutes or less. Is there a reason for this?
Erin: Short and sweet!
Jay: If you really realize it, the last album songs were pretty short too. We have really short attention spans, so if we can get it said and done in that short of time, we do it. That's what I'm used to hearing. That's the way I grew up. All the bands I listened to were like that, they said what they wanted and the song was done.
Alex: What do you think the biggest problem facing society is today?
Jay: Man, that's such a broad question. There is too many problems. Too many big problems. I mean, there is something that really got me fucking angry, and it isn't even as fucking big as something like racism or something. I just got fucking pissed seeing a nuclear reactor cruising down I-5 here. It's scary looking. Churnoble could happen all over again. What makes us different than them? It could happen here and we'd be screwed. Look at them, they're still suffering. I mean, it could even get worse. They're fucking saying now that lava might come...nuclear lava may come rolling down through the basement floors and that's recently. Just little things like that, it's such a huge question. We could go on for hours.
Erin: One thing that bums me out is that I don't think people think about their actions and their reactions. People just do without thinking, and don't put enough thought into what they want out of life.
Alex: Do you have a few hints or suggestions, ideas if you will, on what people can do to help even the smallest of situations?
Erin: Start taking charge of your own personal life.
Jay: Change yourself before you try to change the world.
Alex: What are your current thoughts and reactions to the current attention media is giving anything with the word ska attached?
Jay: I don't know. I think it's kind of dead now. Maybe not here on the West Coast, but in the Midwest you don't hear ska on the radio. Maybe the Bosstones, but that's about it. Even on the East Coast it's not that big of a deal, but here on the West Coast, for some reason, it's different.
Erin: For me, the music I listen to the most is guttural. Music goes through phases, from 60's pop to what they're playing on the radio now, but if it sticks with me, I'll listen to it until the day I die.
Jay: There are records now that still can hold up to other records of today. It's all about music that can hold up. Something may become trendy for awhile, but it soon dies off, and then it gets tossed aside because it couldn't hold up. Whatever it is, the bands that are truly in it because they love it and play for the music, they'll be around once everything dies off. They're the ones that will hold up, no matter what it is.
Alex: That's why I'll take any old Replacements album over all this modern rock crap of today.
Erin: Oh, you like all the Old Replacements stuff?
Erin: Because, they went through a lot of different changes. They went through "Tommy Got His Tonsils Out" to some other stuff, then they went through some personal changes. But I can't stand bands who make five albums that sound exactly the same. There is no need for that.
Jay: That's true. That's another reason why we make each album sound different. We didn't want each album to sound the same.
Alex: So for the next album, will there be a new sound?
Jay: Yeah, country. No, there will always be the ska and punk elements in the music, but we've got a new drummer now, so we're really excited. We think that is going to change it a bit, but of course we'll always be ska-punk. That part won't change. As for more ska, less ska, more punk, more hardcore, who knows?
Erin: The base root will always be the same. But the music will change a bit.
Alex: So you'll possibly be more punk, more ska, or whatever on the next album?
Jay: Who knows what we'll be feeling in a year or two. Who knows how things will turn out. I mean, the last two songs I've written are basically scraps from this new album, so it makes me wonder if we'll even use them or not. We'll see though.
Alex: [pointing to tattoo on Jay's arm that reads "Motown"] So, you listen to a lot of soul?
Jay: Not really. There are a few songs I like, but growing up you have to listen to this stuff. It's all around you. My dad listened to it, my mom did, and so did my aunt and uncles. Everyone listens to it, so you can't avoid it. Growing up in the Motor City, it's on the juke boxes, it's just all around you. It's everyone, so yeah, you have to listen to it.
Erin: There are a lot of good soul bands. But of course, Detroit has a lot of great bands of all styles. A lot of people don't know this, but Detroit is the birth place of Techno.
Jay: Weird, isn't it?
Erin: If you go to Europe, people just rave about it!
Alex: Are you two into Techno?
Jay: No, I don't listen to it, but some of it isn't bad.
Erin: No, not really, it's just a fact.
Jay: It's just really strange. Birth place of techno, birth place of soul, and all that. But, of course, there is a lot of great bands in all genres. I go to other towns and realize how shitty our city is, but then I realize we have a huge music scene compared to a lot of other cities.
Erin: Hey, ask him that question...[points to the one about favorite place to play]
Jay: Um...I just like to play at home. Playing at home, in front of the home town crowd, is great.
Alex: Do you have a favorite venue?
Jay: No...no certain venue. I just love to play. Certain venues around the states...I'm trying to think of venues I've come across that I like...there was a nice one in Boise. It was great. The manager was so hands on, and that was nice. I wish more managers were like that. Thee O, over the bridge [here in Portland], was great. I loved that place. It's a damn shame it had to close down. The Trample Theater in Detroit, totally D.I.Y., it's just great! I love it there. It's just a great place for shows.