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 it’s 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. It’s 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 that’s the origins there.

Isn’t 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 “oh yeah, I love that dude.”

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 shouldn’t be throwing stones at you. Sometimes it takes a while until what you’re doing finally reaches the ears of people who might actually care about what you’re doing. That’s cool. I understand that process. It just sucks when you’re young and you’re a teenager and you want people to understand and you want people to like what you’re doing but it’s just not the way the world works.

I think when we’re all young, it’s very hard to take criticism and you react pretty violently to it.

Yeah, but that’s part of being young. I think if you’re young and you’re full of conviction and you’re full of belief in what you’re doing, of course you want to defend what you’re doing and you’re going to knee jerk react to people’s criticism of things. I think it’s 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 don’t really give a fuck what other people think. That was my epiphany at that age.

Sure, I completely understand.

I’m going to turn 40 next month so there’s no telling what epiphany is going to hit me then.

The one thing I found was when I hit 30, I enjoyed my 30’s much more than I enjoyed my 20’s. I think 30 because you really don’t care anymore. Thirty is sort of that age belongs to you and you can do what you want with it. Just don’t give a fuck what anybody thinks. In the 20’s there’s still a little bit of that high school hangover still in your head.

When you’re in your 30’s, you’re comfortable in your own skin. You’ve developed your own style and you know who the fuck you are. It doesn’t matter.

Yeah, and I think most of the weekend warriors who were hanging around in their 20’s have all disappeared into the suburbs and the armchair critics have all disappeared. They leave the scene and leave the music world behind and they’re gone. You’re 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 it’s supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be anything ground in stone.

You would think so. Unfortunately what I found especially with hard music and aggressive stuff, whether it’s hardcore or it’s metal or punk rock, the majority of audiences I’ve always found want things to look a certain way. They want things to sound a certain way and they don’t want anything to deviate outside of their version of what that type of a box might be. You’re always up against that and it’s 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.

They’re 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 it’s like oh, my God.

I understand.

I definitely wouldn’t want to be a younger chick right now because that sucks. In ‘95 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 he’d ever done. I shouldn’t 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 ‘95, 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 that’s a little odd is, we certainly never considered ourselves to be an industrial metal band and we certainly never wanted the tag. We didn’t 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 didn’t 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 don’t 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 aren’t 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?

It’s 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 wasn’t simply write up an e-mail and hit send and get it to 1,000 people in one shot. It wasn’t 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 we’d come home to nothing and it was time to walk away from it for a while. Nine years later we feel like we’ve recovered from it.

Now you have the Internet in place and you can reach so many more people. I didn’t 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 don’t think any of them really understand how easy they have it.

They don’t 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 wasn’t really responding to us so the only option that we had was to go on tour for years at a time.

Play in everybody’s 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, what’s funny is I completely agree with you but if you ask any of these bands today, they think they’ve got it hard.

Oh, I know.

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

It’s 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 doesn’t know what she’s going to do without one. I was like well, honey when I was your age we didn’t 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 I’ve been playing with him for years after Voodoo. I just told him that I was going to do it and what we thought we’d 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 90’s lineup. So here was the early 90’s 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 didn’t 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. We’ve got about half the new record already written. Some of it is demoed and we’re going to start playing shows. Hopefully by the end of the year we’ll have the record done.

That sounds cool. How is it going to differ from the one you released in ‘98 and how is it going to be similar?

I think what we’ve done is we’ve gone and taken a look at everything that we’ve done since the very beginning. Instead of it just being me because usually it would be me who would walk in and I’d say this is the direction of the record, end of story. I’d 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 you’re like “oh my God, that sounds fucking awesome.”

There’s definitely a lot of that. The coolest thing is that we’ve definitely come up with a bunch of songs that sound like Voodoo Monster Machine but they don’t sound like they’re stuck in the 90’s. They definitely sound like they’re written in the year 2007.

You’ve got more fresh ideas flowing in.

Everybody in the band still plays with other people and we’re all very, very prolific writers. So it’s not like we’re 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 they’d 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, it’s been fantastic. We’ve been very, very lucky.

Are you guys doing any touring right now?

We won’t be doing any touring probably…I don’t 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 I’m not entirely sure how we’re going to work this kind of touring at this point.

Lacuna Coil is a cool band. I’ve seen them before.

Great people to work with but it’s killed all of my free time.

Well, at least you’re 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 we’re going to do is we’re going to try to have it finished by maybe November or December. The plans are that we’re just going to put it up on the Internet and give it away. There won’t be any physical CDs right now. We’re 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 record…

Well, to be honest with you I’m 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. We’re fortunate that we’re in a position now where we’re not dealing with publishers and record labels and those types of things. We’re 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 it’s 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. It’s been a real shame because we used to enjoy getting down to Texas all the time. It’s 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