INTERVIEW: Easy Big Fella
Moon Ska Records
By: Alex Steininger
Alex: How did the record deal with Moon come about?
Mike (keyboards, vocals): We started working on a third record, and made a tape up of what we had done up until then, and sent the demo and some live tracks with a letter to Moon Ska Records. We had already made some connections with Moon by playing with Skavoovie three years ago in Seattle. They liked what they heard and so we went in and recorded the album ourselves and they took it.
Alex: What are some of your musical influences?
Mike: I'm into a lot of earlier ska, traditional stuff like the Skatalites, as well as stuff like the Wailers, James Brown, and since I'm from Kentucky I'm into some twangy stuff. As for the rest of the band, Jason is into jazz, Dave our bass player is into jazz and other various stuff, and Liam is the closet punk rocker in the band.
Alex: What are your band goals for 1998?
Mike: We would like to tour more, and do another CD. It will most likely be on Moon. So yeah, we'd like to put out another CD, travel and tour the East Coast, and basically do better than 97.
Alex: Tell me about the new material.
Mike: We have about four or five new tunes, and we're playing about half of them live now. One of the ones we're playing live is "Big Guns Down." I like it a lot. It's not on anything yet, so you can only catch it live. We're talking about playing the rest of the new songs live, but we don't want to alienate out the band. We don't want people to come to our next CD release show and go, "I've heard all these live before!" So if you can't win, join them! Alex: On the road, what do you do for fun?
Mike: It's hard to say. We like to drink a lot of beer after the show. We also like to go downtown record stores and look at records. We also like to go and find cheap clothing, as well as explore and get to know the town. We've been to Portland enough to know the town, and every time we play we get to more the town more.
Alex: What is your favorite city to play and why?
Mike: We love New York. We flew out there for a show just a month ago. They have a big scene. Also, Vancouver B.C. is nice. And of course Seattle, our hometown. Portland's good too.
Alex: What goes into good music making for you guys?
Mike: Well good songs and decent lyrics play a big part in making good music. You need to know your boundaries, and don't over play. Also, don't over simplify the music. You need to find the balance in between the two, which takes a lot of practice and hard work. But it all pays off in the end when you play live.
Alex: What do you enjoy and hate about the music business?
Mike: I really enjoy traveling and meeting people. The chance to travel and meet people is great, and we get to meet a lot of new people because they want to meet us. Booking shows is a drag. Rich and I book all the shows, because we don't want to deal with all those flaky booking agents. They don't cut you any slack for hard work. So we decided to do it all ourselves.
Alex: As a band, is there anything you regret doing or would change?
Mike: I'm not really sure. There probably is, but I just can't think of anything. I don't know. The last year and a half has been great and we've made a lot of good decisions. One time we gave...this is not really a big regret, but about four years ago we gave $500 to a guy for a video, and we never saw him again. We never saw him or the video. It wasn't really a scam, but he was a real flaky guy and ended up ripping us off.
Alex: What are the high and low points you've experienced as a band so far?
Mike: A really low point is when we make the same mistakes over again at practice. Or when we organize to move equipment and it doesn't work out. That's really frustrating. A high point would be playing with good ska bands. We've played with almost everyone except The English Beat. We just can't name enough bands. It's always fun for me and the rest of the band to play with other bands we love!
Alex: Do you have a favorite song you guys have written?
Mike: I wrote "I'm Possessed by Satan, Satan's Possessed by Me," so that's my favorite. As a band, probably "Lucky Donkey" on our first CD. No one grows tired of it. You can find the live version on a 7" that someone put out of Stockton, California. It's the same guy who put out the Devo tribute compilation CD.
Alex: If you could tour with anyone, who would it be?
Mike: I don't know, maybe The Specials. But that's just me choosing to play with my favorite band. Skavoovie is always great to play with, so maybe them. Also, Isaac Green's band is very cool.
Alex: Do you have a road experience that stands out in your mind?
Mike: A couple years ago we had a retardo bus, you know the ones that are half of a school bus and the special kids take it to school. But not only that but it ran on propane. Every fifty-five to sixty miles and we had to refill it. Once we were touring and we got to Vancouver, and Steve (original bassist) forget his bass. On the way back to get it the bus died! We then had to race back for our gig that night.
Alex: What made you guys want to create music?
Mike: Well I've always wanted to be in front of people, and I always wanted to make music. As a kid I was into theater. It's fun to record and play out in front of people, so that's what made me want to be in a band. The whole excitement of it all.
Alex: What inspires you guys to write songs?
Mike: I used to try and force it with political stuff and all that, before I played ska, and if you make it too forced it doesn't turn out good. Now I write songs about the moods I'm in. I used to be a joker and the songs were serious. I did enough love songs to think they aren't hoeky. But as for writing the songs, we include a bit of everything. We like to have humor, songs about love, and songs about emotions like boy/girl relationships. We try and find the balance of it all for humor and seriousness.
Alex: What do you want the listener to get out of your music?
Mike: We want them to get a good time, and not a headache. We also want them to feel that the CD is easy to dance too. And the lyrics can't be insulting. We just want them to get a good time and not take everything too seriously. We don't have any words of wisdom in our music, well...maybe some, but we don't do it on purpose.
Alex: How much do you feel your sound has traveled from your first CD to "Eat At Joey's"? Has it enhanced?
Mike: From our first CD, it has changed a lot. Our first CD was faster, and we were just a quicker band. It was more punk rock on the harsher side of things. After the first CD the original bass player left, so it opened up everything for more soul, and I don't know...everything changed a lot. We took a different approach than normal. Our first CD was third wave ska, our second CD was two-tone stuff, and our new CD is more traditional sounding stuff. We went the wrong way. But we like to mix our sound. Some fast stuff and some slow stuff. We try and find the balance for everything and keep it interesting.
Alex: Are you excited about your upcoming North by Northwest show?
Mike: Yeah, we've had some very good shows in Portland. Last time we played at Roseland they cut my mike instead of telling me to stop playing. I mean, they could have just told me to stop, but they went and cut my mike. I was pretty mad about that. But at the NXNW show we'll be playing with lots of good bands, so it should be fun. And for once someone else is playing last, The Skoidats. Now the kids won't be tired when it comes to our turn. We're playing from eleven to midnight.
Alex: How do you feel about the recent attention ska has been receiving from the media?
Mike: I like it. It will help people stumble onto ska, and not all these mixtures of ska, pop, and punk. Right now the attention is on hybrid bands, not on ska bands. Hopefully they will stumble onto the real stuff. I like having more people into the music. But I don't want it to get to the point where a bunch of frat boys get into the music. It's hard to play if nobody comes to see you, so with the recent attention we're seeing more and more people at each show. If ska wasn't big, we'd be stuck in Seattle, so it's definitely a good thing that it's getting some coverage.
Alex: Where do you think ska will be in a year? The next big thing or underground once again?
Mike: It will get bigger. I don't think they've overdone it yet! 1998 is going to be a big year for ska. I don't think it will bottom out anytime soon. But if it does we'll be there on the top (or the bottom), but hopefully on the top.
Alex: Anything I left out that you would like to cover?
Mike: Just the fact that I'm drinking Mountain Dew and have a problem with it...I need help!