Brett, Levon, & Jason - Onesidezero

March 8, 2002

I had the opportunity to talk with three members of the band while they gleefully poured water over each other's heads at their PR rep's office. All in all it was quite entertaining. The first band member I spoke to was Brett.

You're one of the guitarists in the band.

Yes I am.

Give me a little background on the band.

The lineup right now has been together over two years. Jasan and Levon originally met and they went through various members. Different bands. I actually met Jasan and Levon from a band I was playing in and started playing with them and then found Cristian and Rob. As we are now, it's been about almost two and a half years. Basically once we had joined, we worked together for about a year. We did a demo. Things started going from there. Labels started calling us. Then the first year we signed to Maverick.

You signed with Maverick which I believe is owned by Madonna. Are you still with that label?

Yeah, we are. They went through some changes but basically Warner and Reprise are doing a lot of the marketing and radio promotion. Now they're basically more of an A&R source. More of a money source. They use Warner and Reprise's resources for promotion and things of that nature.

You guys have received a lot of press coverage in Metal Edge and Spin among others.

Yeah, it's cool. We've pretty much been on the road nonstop since last April. We're actually home right now for about a month. Our first real break to actually be home for more than two weeks.

You've been out opening up for a lot of national acts.

Yes. Incubus, 311, Sevendust, Adema. We just got off tour with Static X and Soulfly. Actually less than a week ago we got home.

How long were you out with everyone?

Since April it's been tour after tour after tour. We were just with Static X for a month and we were with Incubus for a month. We were with 311 for almost two months. We were with Adema for a month. Usually the tours are between four and six weeks. We've pretty much been going nonstop.

How did you get hooked up tourwise?

Just basically our management and our booking agent. They're a real strong team. They've gotten us some good tours. We've been real fortunate actually just to be able to stay on the road this whole time and for the thousands of people that we've been able to play in front of. It's been cool. I think we've got a good team as far as all the tours go.

I understand that before all this started happening, you guys were thinking of giving it up.

Yeah. It was getting to the point where we all basically had our own 9 to 5 jobs, our own separate careers, that we were doing. We've all played in bands for most of our lives. We were doing it but it was more of an evening thing. Get off of work and then go and rehearse until midnight or one in the morning three days a week. We love what we do. It was a hobby but it was to the point where we'd all been doing it so long that we wanted some gratification for all the years we put into it. It was getting to that point where we didn't know how much longer we were going to go on with it. Things started to happen for us.

You had put out a demo and came to find out that it was getting passed around.

Yeah, it was funny. We did the demo, I guess it was not this past summer, but the summer before. I think we made maybe seven or eight copies at the most and gave it to a couple of friends. Pretty much nobody had it. It was weird. Our next show we played at the Viper Room, Jasan asked the crowd "who has our demo?" A good portion of the crowd raised their hands which was kind of a trip. Just getting on Napster and all those websites, it kind of spread. It wasn't like we were selling them at shows or handing them out. It just got out. That's when labels started calling.

How do you feel about Napster? That seems to be a major contention with a number of bands.

For a new band like ourselves, a lot of the bands out there, I think it's a great marketing tool. It's free marketing. It's getting it out there. For a new band that's basically what it's all about. Getting your music to as many people as possible and I think a lot of diehard fans, if they really like it, they're going to want to go buy the record anyway and have the artwork. The whole thing. When it gets to bands say like Incubus, Metallica, or someone that's been around and has a few records under their belts, I can see it being more of a problem because all of those people that would be buying it, there's a lot of people that can't afford to buy albums. They just download it. They just want the music. For a new band though I think it's great. It's a great thing. A lot of new bands may disagree with that but for us it's only helped us.

I was doing an interview with a German band called Sodom. There are countries like Vietnam that are under some kind of communistic rule and people there can't buy certain official albums. They get on the Internet and Napster is how they get a hold of that material. Then the bands go over there and are surprised by how many people know the music.

Considering they haven't sold any records there. That's another thing too for new bands if people download. Just because they don't buy the record doesn't mean that they're not going to go to the show, they're not going to buy tickets, they're not going to buy merchandise, and they're not going to support the band. It's just basically with the record label. They just watch the record sales. I think for a new band you want more longevity. You want to establish your fanbase that early and have it for later as opposed to just blowing up right out of the box. I think it's definitely a good thing as far as that goes. You're still going to have people at your show. It's still going to benefit the band.

You probably make more of your money off the shows than you do off actual record sales.

Oh for sure. It's all about touring.

I was surprised to learn that people only make a couple of cents a record.

That can be ridiculous. It's all about your touring.

You put out a debut album called Is This Room Getting Smaller. There is a song on it called "Never Ending" which has a really cool tribal drum solo at the end. Where did you guys get the idea for that?

When we did the record everything just started coming together. We just did it. We didn't really think about why we were doing it. It just happened. Just one of those things.

Was it the drummer's idea?

Yeah, we wanted to have something like that on the record somewhere. Rob's got a lot of different drums and a lot of different stuff. Basically we had all these toys lying around the studio and we wanted to do something with them. Rob was actually in the other room and we were just recording the song. He was just playing his congo and we were like "hey just throw a mic in the room and see what happens." We just did it like that. We didn't really think "oh this song has to have some kind of percussion part at the end of it."

I was listening to the album and it kind of reminded me of Tool. Are you guys influenced by that band?

We all love Tool and we definitely respect them as musicians but musically I don't think that we're much like them at all. Jasan will get comparisons to Maynard here and there but it's his natural voice. There's a lot of bands out there especially these days that are trying to sound like Tool. I just think it's a natural thing. He has a very similar voice to Maynard but I don't think that we were necessarily influenced by them.

Who are some of your musical influences?

Growing up, I've been a huge Led Zeppelin fan my whole life. I love Led Zeppelin. I used to listen to Iron Maiden. I'm real into Failure and Radiohead and Sunny Day Real Estate. We all come from much different backgrounds. Jasan is more from a punk rock background and Levon loves The Beatles. Loves classical. Our bass player, Cristian, is from Mexico. He's into Latin Salsa and jazz. We all come from much different backgrounds. As far as me, definitely Led Zeppelin is probably my all time favorite band.

How long did it take you guys to do the album?

Actually it happened really fast. I think there's five songs that we re-recorded from the demos that we put on the album. We went into pre-production. We had about a month of pre-production before we were actually going to start the record. It was basically within that first week or week and a half that we were just in there and this music just started pouring out. It was a trip. There were some days we'd write five songs in one day. It was not completely finished but we'd have five songs in the works right there. It all just happened really quick. We were able to sort through and see which songs we thought would be good for the record. As far as writing the record, five of the songs we had previously. I'd say within just a few weeks, we pretty much wrote most of the stuff. Of course when we were in the studio recording, things evolved a little bit and changed here and there. For the most part it all came together really quick.

Why did you decide to use Jim Wirt at your producer?

Jim actually did all of our demos beforehand and he became our sixth member of the band. Levon is interrupting me.

Does Levon want to take his turn?

We'll give him the phone in a second. Make sure you ask him the most uncomfortable questions possible. Jim helped us to get to where we are now. As far as with the demos, he was so into the music. It was almost like he was in the band. He was our sixth member. We felt after doing the demos it just seemed right for him to do the record. The label wanted us to consider a lot of different producers and we pretty much had no questions in our minds. We all wanted to use Jim. It was almost like being at home when we were there just because we had already done our demos and it was a really good atmosphere as opposed to jumping in the studio with some guy you've never met before. For all you know he could be some crazy guy.

An ax murderer...

We knew that it had gelled and it worked so we figured why not go with it.

The next guy up was Levon, the other guitarist.

Hi Levon. You are the other guitarist.

I am the guitarist.

You are the guitarist. The lead guitarist then. How well has your album been selling?

Our album has been selling great. It's just amazing. I think we're near platinum now. Things couldn't be better.

When did you guys put it out?

It came out four months ago. Could you believe it?

It took a long while for you to get where you're at but once you got there it's been flying by.

Yeah. Sorry, everyone's going a little cuckoo around here.

Hey rock and roll's a crazy business. How do you feel about everything that's been happening for you so far?

Things are great. We've been on a lot of tours and we've just been learning from every little thing. Every tour's been a different situation and a different learning experience. We played at home and I think the best way to put it is like some of our friends here in our hometown came to see us when we played at The Paladium with Soulfly. That was our last L. A. show. The comments they were giving us were like "you guys look like pros. You guys look like it doesn't phase you. You guys just go up there and rock out and look like pros when you're doing it and put on a show at the same time." I think that's where all these tours for us...everything we've been doing, a majority of it was just tours. I think that's what's good.....aaaahhhhhh....I'm sorry I'm wet right now....aaaaahhhh.

Oh my.

Dripping wet.

Cold water?

Yeah. (aside) Can I have a towel please? I guess what comes around goes around but this time it's your turn. Can't wait until you're on the phone next. (to me)That was Jasan.

How did it feel to be on HBO's Reverb?

That was really cool. It was a crazy time. We just got off tour and we caught a redeye to go to New York. We missed our flight so we had to do it the following morning. We got there all tired and we thought we were gonna suck. We didn't suck and it was really good. It was a crazy day. It was raining. Pouring. Some of our girlfriends came out with us. It was kind of hectic. The great thing about it was like I meet kids these days. They come up to us and they tell us how much they like us. I like to spend some time with fans and talk to them. Find out how they found out about us. A lot of it comes from the HBO Reverb show. HBO Reverb did so much for us. I'm very grateful and thankful that they invited us to do that or however we got on that. That was great.

It was basically a live performance?

Yes. We don't have a video yet. We have actually an underground video that we did ourselves. Jasan, our singer, directed it. We all had our input in it. We just have it but it's not on MTV or anything. It's just for our own fun. Yeah, it's pretty much all been live.

Have you been approached by MTV?

Actually I think our staff has. Yes, but we don't have anything to offer. We don't have a video yet. I think sometime in the near future there's going to be a time set up for all that. We've been just on the road. We haven't really done anything regarding a video. We want to get together and do a whole video type of thing. We haven't had any time to do that yet.

That's something you're preparing for.

Yeah. The great thing about touring and getting fans without a video and just touring is you get all the loyal fans. You develop a huge fanbase and they're very loyal. It didn't happen from radio. It didn't happen from video. It just happened from them seeing you live and interacting with you and getting to meet you. That's the best part about it right now because it's all honest and it's real. When a video or the radio comes to play it, it helps a lot. The help's huge but it's good to see how the development process has been nothing but touring.

Did it blow your mind how many people knew about you?

Yeah, it's amazing. It blows my mind still. We've been on the road for nine months straight. We've done eight tours. Everything from 311, Incubus, Soulfly, Static X, and all kinds of zebraheads a few times.

Is there any particular tour you've done so far that is a favorite or stands out especially?

My favorite that I had a blast on personally was the 311 tour. My second favorite was the Soulfly/Static X one. Each and every one of them has been a different learning experience. Third I'd say is Incubus and the Adema ones were really great too. The Adema tours we did. The Boy Hits Cars tours we did. My top of the list is 311. I enjoyed 311 because their whole band and crew treated us so well. The fans were so amazing and so receptive. We don't sound anything like them.

Yeah, that's true. You guys have gotten a lot of radio airplay.

Actually yeah, here and there throughout the United States. I guess I haven't been really following up on that to see what the ads are.

Which songs do you have on the radio right now?

"New World Order" was our first single and then now, actually February 19th, "Instead Laugh" just hit the whole radio thing.

When you guys first started out, it was basically you and Jasan who were doing the guitars.

Exactly.

You brought a third guitarist on board. Did that help hone the sound better?

Yeah, actually what it was is that Jasan is the singer obviously and he plays guitar as well. Sometimes we would do things where I came up with an idea like "why don't you just do the singing thing most of the time" because when he sang alone he seemed to be doing a just incredible job at it back in the day. Brett was a good friend of ours. Good friend of mine actually and he would always be hanging out. I was like "Brett you know how to play the guitar. Learn Jay's parts and let's see how it would go." We just added that and then we started writing songs where Jay was playing guitar. It was like three different guitar parts and each and every one of us was doing something different on the guitar and that was just blowing us away because it didn't sound like a big mush. It didn't sound stupid. It sounded really good so we decided to do the two guitar and then at times, the the three guitar sound. It's awesome. Sometimes we get compared to Lynyrd Skynyrd because those guys had like 10 guitars.

Those guys have like 20 million people. That's one of the biggest rock bands I've ever seen.

It's crazy. Sometimes we get the whole Lynyrd Skynyrd thing because there's three guitars on stage. That whole "Freebird" thing. I don't know. I don't really make a connection because our sound is totally different fromt aht whole sound. It's more of a visual thing maybe. It's still five us up there. It's not like there's 20 of us up there.

You don't find yourselves falling over each other.

Yeah, it's just amazing how it happens. It just comes together naturally. If we love it we keep it. If we don't we trash it.

The producer you worked with, Jim Wirt, he's also worked with some of the bands you've toured with.

Yeah, Incubus is one of them definitely. He's worked with Incubus a bunch and I think he's worked with people like Fiona Apple. Some other punk/ska kind of bands.

We went on to discuss how they had recently been to Dallas and naturally had visited Pantera's strip club, The Clubhouse. Levon was quite taken with it.

I loved it. That's actually the best strip club I've ever been to. It's really beautiful. I like it. The girls were beautiful. Sometimes you go in a strip club and the girls aren't as beautiful. That place is definitely top notch. Very close to some of the places out here in L. A.

So there you have it. If you visit Dallas go to Pantera's top notch strip joint. We also discussed my birthday trip to L. A. So many bars, beers, and beautiful boys and so little time. Sigh. Last but not least I talked with Jasan, their vocalist. Unbeknownst to him he was going to get paid a visit by the water bucket.

You're the vocalist. Who does most of the songwriting in the band or is that a group effort?

We hire a couple of guys from The Backstreet Boys to write our songs usually. They do a pretty good job with rock. No. We write the songs collectively as a band. Either Brett or Levon or I will come in with a riff or someone will come in with some kind of idea. Then we just kind of go with it and let it grow. Keep jamming it to see how it feels. If it feels good for all of us then we continue with it. Sometimes you'll get into it and it sucks. We just try to keep it honest. All five people like the emotion. There's so many different influences in this band that one person couldn't write something that everybody would like I don't think. We're not that band. We work as a team or not at all.

You are "the rock band with an emotional side." Do a lot of your songs come from personal experiences?

Yeah, it's like personal experiences for us individually or collectively. Things we've gone through in the past year or so while we've been doing this. A lot of songs were written before the album in pre-production. It's kind of a trip. Oh he got me back. Fucker. Ahhhh, it's all over the seat.

Water?

He just got me back really good. (aside) That's way worse than I got you. (to me) We're bored obviously. We need to get back on the road. It's either personal experiences with the five of us or individual things. That's just basically where it all comes from. Like I said, we wrote the album in pre-production. We didn't have songs. A few of the songs that were on our demos made the album but the majority was new. We wanted to come out with a real fresh honest new album.

Did all the demo songs make it on the album?

Four songs from the demo made it on the album. We wanted to keep as B-sides stuff that we could release later on. See how that goes.

You guys have secured a spot on the second stage at Ozzfest 2002. How did you secure that gig?

That's right. I don't know. Some other publicist probably slept with somebody over there at the Ozzfest camp. I'm not sure how we got it. No. I don't know. We were supposed to deal with Merry Mayhem last year and with Ozzy breaking his leg, it worked out good for us to be home. Worked out good for Soil to stay on the tour. I think Ozzfest came up and they asked us to do it. We got lucky. I think that's how it worked out. It's amazing. We're going to reach a lot of people. A lot of people that we haven't met yet. It's amazing. We've been on the road for nine months. There's still all those people that we haven't met. When we announce that we're doing Ozzfest, kids go crazy at the shows.

That's one of my favorite music festivals. Are you touring before Ozzfest?

I hope so. Nothing's confirmed right now but we're trying to work out the Miller Genuine Draft tour. Miller Genuine Draft is having three legs of a tour this year. We're trying to get one of them for April. Like I said, we were on the road for nine months. We love to be on the road.

There's something fun and adventuresome about being on the road.

Definitely. You meet the coolest people that you would not have the opportunity to meet if you didn't do this.

Any other thoughts or comments?

I just hope people take what they can from the record. If they just like it, we appreciate it. We appreciate all the support we've been given from everybody out there. We hope to see and meet them soon.

Onesidezero