PZO: What do you think your best
qualities are as a band?
Stephen: Iíd say the fact that weíve known each other for quite a long
time. Adam, myself, and J.R. have been friends since middle school and
the three of us have sort of been in all sorts of different bands with
each other from that time. None you would have probably heard of or any
of your readers, so I wonít bother mentioning any names. But I think thatís
a pretty rare quality to find especially nowadays where you hear about
a lot of bands sort of being thrown together by labels, and youíre not
really sure how genuine the dynamic in between each band member really
is. You sort of question if they really are happy to be playing together,
or if itís just some sort of label manufactured thing. And with us weíve
known each other for a long time and as a dynamic that kind of really
sets us apart from some other bands that we know about.
PZO: You played at the Reading Festival a couple
of weeks ago; what do you think were just a couple of the best parts of
the whole festival?
Stephen: I think as a whole itís really rare to find such a different
roster of bands all playing together in one festival. You donít really
see much of that here in the states. I mean, you have Ozzfest, but in
one way or another itís all really aggressive music on one bill together,
with the exception of Andrew WK of course. <laughs> But I think
thatís cool to have such a diversity in a music festival. You canít really
find that here. And just the size of it is gargantuan. I mean, youíre
talking between 100,000 and 200,000 people at these things. You saw what
happened at things like Woodstock here in the states. I mean, people just
donít know how to handle themselves. The audiences donít appear to be
as mature as they are over in England at those big festivals. I mean,
here you had people setting things on fire and women claiming to be raped
and that shit is just garbage and doesnít sound like fun at all for anybody.
PZO: What do you like the most about your live
Stephen: Um, you mean what do I enjoy the most about playing live, or...?
PZO: No, more like whatís the best part about the shows that you put on.
Stephen. Oh, okay. Well we have a really good soundman. <laughs>
So at least it sounds halfway decent. Well I think...geez, I donít know.
Stephen: I mean, youíre lucky if you hear maybe 5 words out of me when
we play live just because Iím not really much of a crowd interaction type
person. So for people who like to just go see bands bang out all their
songs and play the music that they want to hear... <sound check
starts in the background> Do you wanna go outside or something?
PZO: Yeah, itís getting kind of loud in here.
Stephen: Sorry. I know itís hot, but itís probably the only place thatís
<we go outside the venue>
Stephen: I guess we could sit in the shade still.
PZO: Alright, this is good. So, the live performance...?
Stephen: Well, like I said Iím not much of a words person onstage, so
if people wanna come see a band perform their songs and not hear a bunch
of bullshit in between, then thatís pretty much what happens during out
PZO: Do you have a favorite 80s band?
Stephen: Yeah, I probably have a few of them. Gee, what 80s bands do I
really like a lot...I guess you could say Nirvana. I think they began
around 1987. Um, I think Yes were even around in the 80s. They werenít
doing progressive rock anymore and they were singing "Owner of A
PZO: Has what happened on September 11th changed
you as a person, if at all?
Stephen: I think the biggest way that itís changed me is probably that
I donít really feel protected by national security anymore, or any sort
of security. Itís interesting because on ABC last night they had a big
report about these guys that worked at the station who inserted a uranium,
not a bomb per se, but some sort of device that had a bunch of uranium...
Random Guy: Sorry, but can I get tickets here? Is there anybody here...?
Stephen: I donít know.
Random Guy: Alright, thanks. Are yíall waiting for...?
Stephen: No, Iím part of the crew, but I donít know what the ticket situation
is, Iím sorry.
Random Guy: Okay, thanks anyway.
Stephen: Sure, no problem. Sorry for all the interruptions. <laughs>
PZO: <laughs> Itís okay.
Stephen: But basically they had this suitcase that was, inside of it there
was this uranium type of...it was a container that had uranium in it,
but it wasnít a bomb. But it had enough so that you should be able to
detect it. You see X-Rays of this suitcase they put it in...it looked
obvious that it was something sort of suspicious. I mean, it was the only
thing that was inside the suitcase and it was shaped just like a pipe
bomb. They assembled this in Istanbul or something, and they had it go
through all these different countries, it had gotten shipped overseas
and actually went through a couple of different ports in New York City
and ended up on a ship that was destined right for downtown Manhattan.
U.S. Customs and no security devices at all had detected it or had even
thought of it as being some sort of being a suspicious item. It was really
kind of frightening and they actually had the guy, the head of U.S. Customs,
on television and they were questioning him about it and he was obviously
getting kind of defensive about it and sort of irritated that the whole
thing was happening and he didnít really have any answers as to why such
a device had gone undetected through all these different countries and
borders. Itís pretty frightening. It was a very sort of truthful news
report on basically the current status of our security, which doesnít
seem to be very good even after a year and all this bullshit about September
11th being obviously a massive thing. So I think maybe thatís just the
biggest thing. I had a pretty good acquaintance of mine whose father was
in the first plane that hit the first tower and obviously this is a tough
time of the year for him. So those are the biggest ways that it pretty
much affected me.
PZO: Which decade do you think had the best
Stephen: Probably the...I wanna say the 60s, but when you think about
it thereís a lot of bands in the 60s that were just total crap; total
flower power kind of garbage that I didnít really like. A lot of bands
that are remembered for the 60s, there really arenít that many, itís a
select few that put out a lot of great music more towards the end of the
60s. It seemed like a really exciting time for music anyways because when
The Beatles sort of sculpted that verse-chorus-verse-bridge-verse-chorus-whatever
type pop formula it seemed like this whole new thing that rock bands could
sort of stretch and morph into different kinds of songs. I feel like it
would have been a very exciting time to not only be a listener and just
a fan of music, but to be someone playing music at that time with all
these sort of new unexplored things being first tapped into. So Iíd probably
say the 60s, although I think a lot of bands from the 60s still continued
to write great music even into the 70s, the ones that survived, like Pink
Floyd and Yes.
PZO: Are there any bands you wish would call
Stephen: <laughs> That would account for about 85% of the
music thatís current today.
Stephen: Yeah, Iíll leave it at that. <laughs>
PZO: What was it about RCA that made you want
to sign to them, as opposed to just any other label?
Stephen: Well in terms of major labels it was pretty much a no-brainer
for us to work with RCA for many reasons. We happened to sign to the label
with the head of the A&R department whoís been at RCA for a substantial
amount of time. And in that sort of business itís pretty common for people
to jump from job to job, going from label to label, and thereís not much
staying power. So that was something we were afraid of because we didnít
want to be working with someone for a year and then have them shipped
off somewhere else and be left in the dust. That was pretty much the biggest
reason that we did it, and we had a significant number of choices as far
as major labels that we could have signed with, which also helped us a
lot because it gave us a little bargaining power. Eventually we narrowed
it down to two different choices, but if we hadnít had that many choices
to begin with I donít think any of us would have felt comfortable even
signing to a major label period.
PZO: Every time you go into the studio Iím sure
you learn something new; what were a couple of things you picked up this
time around that you were recording?
Stephen: That the time it takes to make a major label record is very elongated
and long-winded. Gee, I donít know. Well, something that was new for us
was pretty much making each part of each song sonically different from
one another. There could be as many as six or seven different unique guitar
tones that caters to each different part of the song and in the past we
never had the time or resources or money to do that. So that was cool,
that was a new experience for us.
PZO: What do you enjoy the most about being
in the studio and recording?
Stephen: Well the perfectionist in me would say that it allows you to
really get the best performance out of you, as opposed to if youíre playing
in Bumfuck, Texas, for one night and itís a bunch of people that havenít
seen you before and letís say you have a really bad show, thatís always
going to be a lasting impression on those people until you can sort of
come around and redeem yourselves again. Whereas with a record it should
be the best elements of all members of your band and the best performances
and the best possible sound that you can make it. Thatís something that
people can listen to repeatedly over and over again and thatís a little
less stressful than a bad performance per se, and having that be the final
impression upon a bunch of people as far as your band and music go. But
if they buy your record and itís something you put all your heart and
soul into, and they end up hating it, then that can sometimes be worse.
PZO: How much does the audienceís response to
you affect your performance?
Stephen: For a while I tried to make it seem as if I didnít give a shit
about what anyone in the audience really thought of our band. I mean,
we could have been playing to a bunch of palm trees and it would have
been the same thing. But I think in the past year Iíve been affected a
little bit more by it because a lot of the touring that weíve been doing
have been for bigger bands, you know, opening for bands like Jimmy Eat
World and we also opened a 2-week slot for A Hundred Reasons which is
a very popular band in the UK right now, and on those touring experiences
we got to play in front of a significantly younger audience of people.
When kids go to shows theyíre more excited just to hear loud music and
theyíre there to have a good time and jump around and do whatever they
do and spend their parentsí money on bandsí merchandise <laughs>
so, you know, there is more room for crowd participation and there is
more, I donít know, youíre definitely affected a little more by the audience.
For us itís sort of a new thing because our main audience has always been
more of a college-age type crowd and usually the reaction is a bunch of
zombies that are sort of staring at you like ďgreat, weíve seen this a
million times before,Ē you know? And younger kids arenít that jaded and
theyíre a little more enthusiastic, or at least theyíre less self-conscious
about showing it. So itís definitely changed our music a little bit. The
way we write stuff is a little more geared towards the audience where
itís more groove-oriented and itís less abstract. Youíll hear that on
our next record.
PZO: Whatís your favorite childhood memory?
Stephen: Hmm, I guess it was when I was first learning, I was first being
taught to be potty-trained by my parents. I remember they took me into
a department store once. I think it was a K-Mart or maybe a Zair, I think
Zair has gone bust, but anyways, but yeah I remember I had to go to the
bathroom real bad and for a brief moment I was separated from my parents,
I donít know why, but there was a bunch of display toilets just in the
middle of the store and I pulled down my pants and took a crap in one
Stephen: And then a minute later my parents came and found me and saw
what I had done and I was kind of looking at them and going ďIt wonít
flush; I donít know whatís going on. Ē
Stephen: And I was pushing the flusher and they sort of freaked out and
pulled my pants back up and ran out of the store with me on their shoulder.
Stephen: And since then Iíve never seen display toilets in department
stores; itís kind of interesting. I wonder if I was responsible for it.
PZO: I canít believe you actually remember that!
Stephen: Yeah, it was a while ago.
PZO: Is there a question or questions that youíre
tired of being asked in interviews?
Stephen: Why did you change your sound; you used to be a heavy metal band
and now youíre not anymore? What inspired the change? Hearing that question
is like fingernails on a chalkboard.
PZO: If you could be any video game character,
which would you be and why?
Stephen: Oh man, Iíd probably be... thatís a good question...wow, I would
say Shaman from Metroid, but all those worlds in Metroid seem like really
scary places. Metroid is a hard game to complete in itself. So I would
probably opt more for maybe Hudson...well his nameís not Hudson, but itís
the main character in Adventure Island, have you ever played that on Nintendo?
Stephen: Itís this really amazing game and a lot of the levels are set
in tropical places and Hudson in order to keep alive, he has to eat all
kinds of fruit or else the timer starts ticking away and eventually you
die. Itís a great game, you can get a skateboard and do jumps on the skateboard
and you can also get hammers and fireballs and use those to smash your
enemies. You can get milk bottles and that gives you more time and life
and like I said, all the worlds are really colorful and sort of psychedelic-looking,
so Iíd probably be the main character in Adventure Island.
PZO: Out of all the albums that youíve put out,
which one do you think has caused the greatest impact and which one do
you like the most?
Stephen: As far as the one that caused the greatest impact it was definitely
the Jupiter record because that record pretty much turned away a lot of
fans that we had and at the same time we made a lot of new ones. It really
leveled our audience, too, in terms of gender. I really noticed that our
audiences were always very male-dominated up until we started playing
material from that album and then when the album got released the ratio
between males and females was far more balanced in our audience, which
says a lot in terms of playing heavy music, which is what we used to play
more of. And like I said, it turned a lot of people off from our band.
We were called fags and homosexuals for not playing heavy metal anymore
by a lot of people. Weíve gotten numerous amounts of hate mail and e-mails
from people. You know, as if not playing heavy metal anymore makes you
less of a man, you know? So, you know, it was weird, it was sort of like
this cleansing of our audience. We just purged all this fucking garbage
and shit out of our audience that we didnít really know was there to begin
with, and weíre certainly happy that itís not there any longer. Not to
say that everybody that comes to see us is perfect and well adjusted;
I wouldnít even want that anyways. I like to attract as many misfits and
fucked up kids to our shows. It just seems that in general our audience
has become a little more open-minded as our music has sort of taken less
of a pigeonholed sound.