Adam Sewell - Monster Voodoo Machine

July 19, 2007

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Tell me a little about Monster Voodoo Machine, like how you guys got started.

Well, it was a long, long time ago and it feels like it may have been in a galaxy far, far away.

Yeah, I guess 1991 would be.

Some days it feels like yesterday and other days it feels like itís a lifetime ago. It was definitely a different time and a different place. Musically the climate was very different then and at the time that we put the band together, we did it to try and experiment and find different genres of music and different instrumentation and strange things. Itís cool that all these years later what we were trying to do then is almost very much commonplace in the music world today. Back then we got a lot of ridicule and a lot of flack. It was difficult to make a living doing it but in a nutshell thatís the origins there.

Isnít it interesting that whenever anyone tries something new, people always sit there and bitch about it and make shitty statements and then six months later everybody is like ďoh yeah, I love that dude.Ē

I think the thing is when you first find yourself in that situation, it really sucks. It always sucks to be on the receiving end of things. Then I think as you get older, you realize that pretty much everybody is living in a glass house anyway. People really shouldnít be throwing stones at you. Sometimes it takes a while until what youíre doing finally reaches the ears of people who might actually care about what youíre doing. Thatís cool. I understand that process. It just sucks when youíre young and youíre a teenager and you want people to understand and you want people to like what youíre doing but itís just not the way the world works.

I think when weíre all young, itís very hard to take criticism and you react pretty violently to it.

Yeah, but thatís part of being young. I think if youíre young and youíre full of conviction and youíre full of belief in what youíre doing, of course you want to defend what youíre doing and youíre going to knee jerk react to peopleís criticism of things. I think itís a sort of mellowing with age thing where you realize that sometimes it just takes a while before again, it finds the ears of the right people.

I realized when I turned 30 that I donít really give a fuck what other people think. That was my epiphany at that age.

Sure, I completely understand.

Iím going to turn 40 next month so thereís no telling what epiphany is going to hit me then.

The one thing I found was when I hit 30, I enjoyed my 30ís much more than I enjoyed my 20ís. I think 30 because you really donít care anymore. Thirty is sort of that age belongs to you and you can do what you want with it. Just donít give a fuck what anybody thinks. In the 20ís thereís still a little bit of that high school hangover still in your head.

When youíre in your 30ís, youíre comfortable in your own skin. Youíve developed your own style and you know who the fuck you are. It doesnít matter.

Yeah, and I think most of the weekend warriors who were hanging around in their 20ís have all disappeared into the suburbs and the armchair critics have all disappeared. They leave the scene and leave the music world behind and theyíre gone. Youíre free to do what you want to do.

Yeah, anytime you do music or acting or whatever, all of that is an experimental thing and itís supposed to be. Itís not supposed to be anything ground in stone.

You would think so. Unfortunately what I found especially with hard music and aggressive stuff, whether itís hardcore or itís metal or punk rock, the majority of audiences Iíve always found want things to look a certain way. They want things to sound a certain way and they donít want anything to deviate outside of their version of what that type of a box might be. Youíre always up against that and itís amazing seeing how it can sometimes take a good number of years before the scene has changed and tastes have changed and people do start to accept things. It kills me picking up music magazines and the majority of the bands all look the same and all sound the fucking same. They know they can play right into that scene.

Theyíre all shaved heads, crotches hanging down to the knees, and three chords on the guitar. I always feel like I would really hate to be a young chick right now. Back when I was a younger chick guys had hair and their pants fit tightly and you could tell if there was something fun to play with up front or not. Now itís like oh, my God.

I understand.

I definitely wouldnít want to be a younger chick right now because that sucks. In Ď95 you guys got to go on tour with Marilyn Manson.

Yeah, we did about two and a half months on the road. That was his first headlining tour that heíd ever done. I shouldnít say him because it was still Marilyn Manson the band at that time. It was a lot of fun and we did a lot of shows in Texas. We did a lot of shows in the southern states. It was just crazy. It was really, really amazing. We actually just put on the Monster Voodoo Machine MySpace page today a video from Trees in Dallas from that tour.

That venue is closed down now and that was my favorite venue because it was a two story building and you could get some awesome shots off the second story of people on stage.

The night that we played there was ridiculous. I think they crammed 500 more people than they should have in the club and there was another 1,000 people outside the club trying to get in. It was nuts. It was just absolutely amazing.

I remember the very first time that I saw Marilyn Manson perform. This friend of mine was reviewing the show and I went with him. It was so weird. In between songs he would disappear I guess to change outfits and it was so quiet. This was in Reunion Arena which was a very huge place and you could hear a pin drop. Everybody was so silent. It was the weirdest thing. I saw him a few years back and he totally grew into a really good showman. I think people were more into the show at that point.

His shows that we did back in Ď95, it was in small little clubs. It was chaos. It was just absolute chaos night after night after night. That was a lot of fun.

You are guys are listed as industrial metal which is a genre of music that I totally love. Ministry is my most favorite band out of that genre. When you guys had first gotten together, how did you decide what musical direction you wanted to move into?

The thing with us thatís a little odd is, we certainly never considered ourselves to be an industrial metal band and we certainly never wanted the tag. We didnít want people to think that Monster Voodoo Machine sounds either like Ministry or Fear Factory or Skinny Puppy or something like that.

All those bands sound different.

Yeah, I get that but we didnít want people to think that it was going to be big drum machine sounding drums all the time and that overly aggressive tone. Really what we wanted to do was to take big hardcore riffs from bands that we grew up with whether it was Agnostic Front or it was Quicksand or something like that and mix some of those guitars with big dance rhythms and hip-hop way back in I guess it would have been 1990 or 1991. It was the first time I actually heard The Prodigy and I think they only had a single or two out at that point and I just thought this was the new face of punk rock. This is insane. I wanted to experiment with some of those things. We just left it open-ended and I donít think we really have very much in common with Fear Factory or Ministry. I think if anything, we probably have more in common with bands like Neurosis who just do whatever they want to do and arenít really part of any one scene. Or maybe we sit somewhere between Neurosis or The Prodigy where you can just genre bend and do whatever you feel like you want to do at the time. We really have never belonged to one particular scene at all.

You guys released your last record in 1998 and you split up. Why did you guys split up?

Itís kind of hard to explain to people now and maybe you certainly might remember these days but when we did everything, we came out of this tiny little scene in Toronto, Canada. There was no e-mail. There was no Internet. Mass communication was very, very difficult to do. It was years and years and years of all night faxing to people to get press releases out. It wasnít simply write up an e-mail and hit send and get it to 1,000 people in one shot. It wasnít that easy. After a good number of years of busting out and doing everything and really at the end of 1998, we really felt like we were spent. Our record label had dissolved. We really felt like weíd come home to nothing and it was time to walk away from it for a while. Nine years later we feel like weíve recovered from it.

Now you have the Internet in place and you can reach so many more people. I didnít get on the Internet until 1996 and when I got on, I realized how frigging awesome it could be for bands to get shit out to people. Now you have the whole MySpace thing and YouTube.

Yeah, bands today have it so easy. I donít think any of them really understand how easy they have it.

They donít understand the days of the dinosaurs.

Between the State Voodoo/State Control record that we put out and the Suffersystem record, those two tours were 500 shows just to get out there and promote those things. There was no Internet and mass media wasnít really responding to us so the only option that we had was to go on tour for years at a time.

Play in everybodyís backyard.

Yeah, now you can just put up a video on YouTube and send out a MySpace bulletin and get everything out to everybody right away. I think that really burned us out and really killed us in a lot of ways for that period of time.

Sometimes I wonder if people should really have it that easy at first or if they should have to work a little bit at first. It seems so unfair to bands that had to sweat and bleed.

You know, whatís funny is I completely agree with you but if you ask any of these bands today, they think theyíve got it hard.

Oh, I know.

Theyíve got no sympathy and no empathy for you whatsoever. Call your grandpa and go back to working on Facebook.

Itís so funny. I had this one girl tell me that she was just absolutely devastated because she has to wait for a new cell phone and she doesnít know what sheís going to do without one. I was like well, honey when I was your age we didnít have cell phones. Well, I guess there were those big clunky things.

Big clunky things. I remember spending hours and hours and hours standing at the pay phone. It was just ridiculous.

What made you guys decide to get back together and do some shows?

What actually ended up happening was last December I decided that I was going to make a Monster Voodoo Machine record and so what I did was I got hold of Dean the drummer who Iíve been playing with him for years after Voodoo. I just told him that I was going to do it and what we thought weíd do is just go in and put down some tracks and then invite the other guys from the band to come in and play on the tracks if they wanted. Just by coincidence which was very, very bizarre which was months after that conversation that I had with Dean, all of us ended up at a party together which was the first time that the five core guys had been in the same room together in 15 years so that was really bizarre. The last incarnation of the band had gone out and then almost a totally different lineup then the early 90ís lineup. So here was the early 90ís lineup was back in this room together and we ended up just having some great dialogues and we spent the next months just meeting up and having coffee and talking about what we wanted to do. We agreed that we didnít want to just go play a handful of shows. What we were going to do was focus on making a record and then once we had that underway then we would go play some shows. Weíve got about half the new record already written. Some of it is demoed and weíre going to start playing shows. Hopefully by the end of the year weíll have the record done.

That sounds cool. How is it going to differ from the one you released in Ď98 and how is it going to be similar?

I think what weíve done is weíve gone and taken a look at everything that weíve done since the very beginning. Instead of it just being me because usually it would be me who would walk in and Iíd say this is the direction of the record, end of story. Iíd put my foot down and be the musical dictator. What we did this time was something really cool where everybody came in and said this is what I liked about Monster Voodoo Machine songs. These were my favorite elements. So we tried to create a number of songs that really just play up our favorite elements of past Monster Voodoo Machine records and then throw those into songs that take things into the new millennium. It really seems to be working.

I think sometimes it works a lot better if you have a more democratic approach to things because you never know what somebody does where youíre like ďoh my God, that sounds fucking awesome.Ē

Thereís definitely a lot of that. The coolest thing is that weíve definitely come up with a bunch of songs that sound like Voodoo Monster Machine but they donít sound like theyíre stuck in the 90ís. They definitely sound like theyíre written in the year 2007.

Youíve got more fresh ideas flowing in.

Everybody in the band still plays with other people and weíre all very, very prolific writers. So itís not like weíre reaching and scratching our heads trying to come up with ideas. The stuff is flowing very, very easily right now.

What were you guys doing while the band was on hiatus?

I had a couple of bands that I played with that were just fun. Everybody had their own different bands that theyíd been doing. I actually moved into more of the music industry side of things. I was working for Sanctuary Records and ran the Canadian operation for five years. Now I run my own record label called Stereo Dynamite and I manage the band Lacuna Coil. Everybody is very, very busy.

I can imagine. Everybody was able to keep doing music.

Yeah, itís been fantastic. Weíve been very, very lucky.

Are you guys doing any touring right now?

We wonít be doing any touring probablyÖI donít know how expensive the touring will be I guess I should say. The plans were for us to actually go and do a couple of weeks later this year but then just about three weeks ago I started managing the band Lacuna Coil. My schedule all of a sudden has changed so Iím not entirely sure how weíre going to work this kind of touring at this point.

Lacuna Coil is a cool band. Iíve seen them before.

Great people to work with but itís killed all of my free time.

Well, at least youíre going to be a really busy boy between managing a band and doing the record. When are we going to have the record in our hot little hands?

What weíre going to do is weíre going to try to have it finished by maybe November or December. The plans are that weíre just going to put it up on the Internet and give it away. There wonít be any physical CDs right now. Weíre just going to make it, throw it up on the Internet, and give it away to everybody.

In the hopes that everyone will dig it and then when you go to do the next recordÖ

Well, to be honest with you Iím more interested in just letting people discover it and let people pass it around and find it.

Like in the old days when people used to trade tapes with each other and then get people interested in other bands.

Exactly. Weíre fortunate that weíre in a position now where weíre not dealing with publishers and record labels and those types of things. Weíre very much free to do whatever we want and experiment with different ideas. Right now to me the thing that makes the most sense is to try and reinvigorate people and to try to get people excited about Monster Voodoo Machine again. That seems like itís probably the fastest route to do that.

Get people at least excited about music again.

Yeah, absolutely.

Any other thoughts or comments?

Just thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it. Itís been a real shame because we used to enjoy getting down to Texas all the time. Itís honestly our favorite place to play shows. I miss it so much. We have the fondest memories of playing there. The crowds were always the most insane.

Monster Voodoo Machine