Jonny Santos - Silent Civilian

April 2, 2006

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For people who live under a rock like me, when did you leave Spineshank and why?

That seems to always be the first question lately. Nah, I fully expect it.

Ha, I'm not the only one under a rock.

I left Spineshank in January of 2004 and I left for a number of reasons. I think the main reason I left is I felt this band had pretty much run its course. Even though we got nominated for a Grammy and everything, musically I wasn't happy with how things were going. I don't think any of the other guys were too happy with the way things were going and I just said "you know what? I'm going to cut my losses short at this point. We had a great run. I think it's time to take a little time off and move on." That's exactly what I did. I wish the guys the best of luck in whatever they do.

At least you left on good terms. That's always a nice thing.

They were shaky terms. I mean emotions were definitely high. Our record had only been out for three months when I left the band. I talked to Rob, that's their new bass player now, for a few minutes for the first time in two years. It was cool. I haven't really talked to the other guys yet. I started this band a year later and I've just been putting all my focus and all my energy into this.

How did Silent Civilian form?

I left Spineshank and basically took a year off from playing professionally. I started jamming with a bunch of friends and I was in a couple of garage bands just having fun. Maybe play a fucking local bar once a month or something and just have a good time. People would show up and go "oh shit, there's Jonny." You'd see people on their phones going "Jonny from Spineshank is here right now. He's in this other weird rock and roll band." I jammed with three other bands during the year just screwing around. Just having a good time. That was the thing about doing Spineshank. I wasn't having fun anymore. That's a huge thing. If you're not having fun playing music, then what's the point? That's what rock and roll is all about. It's about playing music and having fun. That's why I think people call it the good life. You get to make a living doing what you love to do and having fun at it. It just wasn't happening and I wanted to have fun again. I really wanted to have fun again even if it meant never touring again or never making any new records again. I wanted to go back to being a musician and having fun doing what I love to do. I was a guitar player for 13 years before I was ever a singer. I started playing guitar when I was seven and I wanted to go back to playing guitar again. Playing guitar believe it or not was always my first love. I became a singer on accident. Sheer accident. I was originally a guitar player for Spineshank, not the singer. When I became the singer, it was a whole new thing. I started out playing and singing and then they wanted me to just sing. They just wanted me to be the frontman and that was totally cool.

They didn't want you to play any guitar at all?

No. I wrote a lot of the music though in Spineshank. I wrote a good handful of the guitar riffs and I was really hands on with the arrangements and stuff like that. I really missed it. I missed it all the time but now I'm back to playing and singing. I just started this band. When I started Silent Civilian, through that whole year I got really comfortable with playing and singing again. I felt really confident and got my life back together again and I decided to start a thrash band. I grew up on Death Angel and Megadeth and Testament. Those are my heroes so I decided to start a thrash band. There are a lot of "metalcore" bands out there right now but I don't think there are any real thrash bands out there.

It seems like metalcore is a big thing right now and that's not a bad thing. You're right, there isn't a lot of thrash out there right now.

No, there isn't. There are no bands out there doing the punk beats anymore. That's what thrash was. I grew up as a kid in the thrash scene. That's why I started playing guitar. My heroes were guys like Kirk Hammett and Alex Skolnick. Even Guns N' Roses I loved. Not to say that we're anything like Guns N' Roses but I was a huge Slash fan. What happened to the days of violence? I wanted to make a modern thrash band. That's what I wanted to do. A good handful of the riffs that I wrote on this record I wrote when I was 13 years old and never used them. I had this down when I was 13 years old. That goes to show you this is not usual. I saw the end of thrash, well not the end of it but I saw Seattle happen. I was in high school.

The cooling off of thrash.

I was 13 when "Smells Like Teen Spirit" came out. I saw it. Back then I was a kid with long hair listening to Sacred Reich and of all a sudden Seattle happened. I feel with the whole metalcore thing happening now, I think nobody's really carrying thrash flags. The only bands that are carrying the thrash flags are a lot of the original thrash bands. I saw Kreator the other night.

Oh, yeah!

Oh my God, we were in Springfield, VA and we got in the night before. I went to the venue to see who's playing and they said Napalm Death and Kreator. I was like you've got to fucking be shitting me. I haven't seen Kreator since I was 14 years old.

Oh my God, I've seen Kreator twice when they came through town. It must have been last year and I got to talk to Mille. That guy is just fucking amazing.

Yeah, and it was really cool to see Kreator. This place was probably a 700 capacity venue. We're talking sold out shoulder to shoulder. There was probably about 800 people in this place.

The first time I saw Kreator, they were on tour with Destruction. That was so fucking cool. As a matter of fact Destruction is going to be here in a few months.

That's so awesome. Craig originally from Forbidden is a good friend of mine. He was in that band Manmade God for a while. He said people are asking for a Forbidden reunion tour and I was like dude if you do that, I'm so taking us out man! Ted Aguilar from Death Angel. Death Angel is probably my favorite band as a kid. Frolic Through The Park, The Ultra-Violence, Act III. I worship that band. Not just because they're Filipinos. I really truly love the band. Silent Civilian actually covered "Seemingly Endless Time". We don't know when we're going to release it but we did it. Ted Aguilar hit me up on MySpace and he told me he was Ted Aguilar from Death Angel and that he absolutely loves my band. I was like and I worship your band. I know Ted's not an original but still you know, it was a really cool thing to have Death Angel hit me up and tell me they like my band. That's basically all I'm trying to do with this band. There's no fucking master plan. There are no gimmicks. There's no nothing. I just wanted to start a modern thrash band. I want to carry the thrash flag like nobody else is right now.

Well, I tell you what. You did a pretty kick ass job of it tonight. That was awesome.

Well, thank you.

I came into this not knowing what to expect and I was very pleasantly surprised.

Thank you.

You told everybody in there you were releasing your record on May 2 which is called Rebirth Of The Temple. Tell me a little bit about the record.

The record is a rollercoaster of brutalness, emotion, and melody. Lyrically I really took a different direction on this record. I did a lot of different things. Promoted a lot of free thinking on the record in spite of world issues and politics. There are a couple of songs on there where I definitely speak my mind.

Oh my God, we're at a point where you can't help doing that.

Yeah, exactly. There are songs on there, the actual title track on the album is a great song. It definitely denotes positivity and it's a song about reinvention. It's a song about rising from the ashes as a person. You can't change what you've done in your past. Nobody can. Nobody can ever change what's happened but you can change your future.

That's what making mistakes in the past is about. You learn from them and it makes you stronger.

The scars are there and you will have them but I wanted to put out a different message this time. I didn't want to be wishy-washy about it. Complain about how my daddy didn't treat me right when I was a kid type of thing. There are songs of pure hatred on the record. I still think that anger is a gift in a lot of ways. I don't consider myself a violent person. I grew up in a lot of violence but I do believe that anger just like any other emotion can transpire into creativeness. Same as when people say misery breeds creativity. I think anger does as well.

Anger cleanses the soul a little bit. I let a lot of shit build up and then when I reach the last straw, I have a nuclear meltdown. After that you go off on someone and you feel so much better.

You do. It's nice to speak your mind. I just really wanted to put a different message out there this time. I didn't want to do what Spineshank did and lyrically, this record I had full creative control on. I was able to really say what I wanted to say and talk about what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to make a dangerous record. Nobody makes dangerous records anymore. Everybody is scared.

Ever since Bush got into office it's about fear and tyranny and now we have to be all serious and we're going to promote freedom and liberty all over the world while we crack down on people here.

Yeah, we're going to promote outsourcing the jobs of the middle class American man to guys in India that are going to do it for less. Yeah, I know. Yeah, totally. I'm not a dummy and I spent a lot of time really researching my stuff. For any hardcore conservative out there that thinks they can sit there and tell us different, hit me up at the show. Come up to me at the bar. I'll sit down and I'll debate with you for hours. I will go round and round with you.

These folks don't realize that this guy is in the pocket of multi-billionaires and the little guy, well fuck you. By the way, is your kid old enough to put on a uniform?

Exactly. What we're doing is turning our country slowly into a third world country. There is no middle class. I come from a middle class American family.

I do too.

My guitar tech lost his job because it was outsourced to India. That's why he's out here working for me. The war, I lost a buddy over there and for what reason I really couldn't tell you sometimes but I know that he has a wife and two kids now that are going to grow up without their dad. I don't want to hammer too hard into the politics of the record. I think with the handful of songs on there, people are definitely going to understand where I'm coming from. If they don't like it, don't like it. Fuck them, whatever.

Eh, the truth hurts sometimes.

It's music and it's my American right to express myself.

And I served in the U.S. Air Force to make sure you keep that right.

I come from a very heavy military family.

Both of my parents were in and I was in.

I don't agree with what's going on. I don't. I won't change.

It's so fucking in your face. I was never a political person but when that asshole got into office I had a feeling something bad was going to happen. You guys are with MediaSkare Records. How did you get signed with them?

Well, Baron Bodnar, the owner and president of the label is a good friend of mine. He started the label right around the same time I started this band and we got to talking. He told me he really wanted to put this record out and I said well it's a new label. I asked him what he can do for me and he told me what he could do and I told him what I wanted to do. He said okay and the staff over there, between Baron and all the staff at MediaSkare, have been so excited about this record. It's not a matter of label recognition. It's an indie label but they've done everything. We're obviously out on tour and there's a record coming out. I have a great publicist. I have radio. I have everything that I wanted. I've got to give the label credit where credit's due. I feel like they gave me total and complete creative control over the album. Baron told me to go in and do my record. Then he said he didn't want to fucking see me until the record was done. Hand him the record and I said okay, awesome. I went in and made an hour long record. They let me do it. That's awesome. I'm so tired of bands putting out 25 minute records. Jesus Christ, if you're going to go out and pay 18 dollars for a fucking CD and people wonder why kids download these days. If you're going to go out and pay 18 bucks for a CD, give them their money's worth. That's what I did. I made an hour long record and the video is on the record. There's a 10 minute documentary on the making of the record. I want to make sure that when little Joey goes and saves his lunch money all week long to go buy my record that he doesn't feel like he just got ripped off. The label had no problem with letting me do it. There are a lot of really cool bands on the label that I'm hoping the success of this band will help fund a lot of the other bands that helped put a lot of promotion into it. Baron is really into discovering young new talent and I agree with him on that. That's why I have an A&R job at the label as well.

I think these indie labels are kicking ass and taking names. I think they're doing so much better than these major ones. With these really big ones, you get lost in the shuffle sometimes if you're not selling 5,000,000 records. Who the fuck does that anymore?

Totally. I'm hands on with Baron. I talk to Baron three times a day. The guy is one of my best friends. He's also the owner of my record company and I like that. I think it's an awesome thing. We'll see where it goes but as of right now, my hat goes off to MediaSkare for sure.

How has the tour been going so far besides getting lost?

The tour has been amazing. I really just got to say on this tour we're doing a lot of secondary markets, playing for metal kids who don't really get to see bands all the time. Most bands go out and they just do major market tours and that's it. We've been hitting so many secondary markets on this tour. It's just been insane.

I wish the turnout had been a little bit better tonight.

It's Sunday night in Dallas and Deep Ellum. What are you going to do?

Hey man, if I'm going to go out, everybody needs to go out.

It happens. It just depends. Tomorrow night presales are at 400 so it's just a crapshoot. You don't know what's going to happen. Bottom line is every night you've just got to get up there and put on a show. You've got to do whatever it takes. Get up there and play our hearts out. One night on this tour, we've been playing to 300 or 400 kids a night, and tonight we were playing to 50 kids. It just depends. You just got to rock the house and do what you've got to do. Welcome to the heavy metal show. Let's do this.

It's nice to be able to stand up front and jam without being half killed like some shows I've been out to. I notice you have a lot of tattoos. Do any of those have any significance?

Tons of them obviously. First tattoo, got to have a skull. It's a prerequisite for being in a heavy metal band. I've got Spineshank. That was the original Spineshank logo obviously. That's there. This is a symbol of balance but the real reason I have that is because Snake Eyes in G.I. Joe had it when I was a kid. It's a symbol of my childhood. K.T.S. are my daughter's initials. Some really cool biomechanical stuff I got into for a while. There's something really artistic about it. I loved it. Nobody drew it on me. I got this one when my grandfather died. The roses are just my newest one right here. I wanted to get some traditional work. I don't really have any and the guy, John Hall, did it for me. He's an amazing tattoo artist. I've got someone here sitting on a spark plug with the checkered flag. My passion for motorcycles and fast cars. Yeah, I'm a tattoo junkie.

I love NASCAR. The race will be here next week so I'm really excited about that. That's some really beautiful work though.

Thank you.

Any other thoughts or comments?

I just really want to thank all of the fans out there that stuck around and still support me and all the people that are coming to the shows. I know a lot of people are still discovering that I'm in this band. Whoa.

Oh my God!

People show up to the shows and see me and go "you look like the guy from Spineshank." I do want to thank everybody that comes out to the shows and I just hope people see my new band. New ride. Here we go.

Silent Civilian