Incubus – Interview [1998]

Incubus

The crossbreeding in styles of music has become increasingly popular in the late 1990’s. Bands like Sublime, Limp Bizkit, and the Beastie Boys have all crossed over into the spectrum that many bands would be afraid to step into. The West Coast groove outfit, Incubus, has also been unafraid. They create a sound that can be heavy, yet melodic and emotional at the same time. They are strong, both instrumentally and vocally, and possess a knack for writing soulful tunes that allows them to integrate the elements of various musical genres. Their sound is recognized as thick by metal standards, while it is considered smooth by those in rap circles. Landing a slot on Korn’s “Family Values Tour” has given them an opportunity to play for a large audience. The response has been overwhelming. They’ve just been added to the huge Black Sabbath Reunion tour, sharing the stage with Pantera, the Deftones, and, of course, Sabbath. I had a chance to chat with guitarist Mike Einziger about the relatively young group and about their imminent success.

How long have you been on the tour?

We started the Family Values tour in Michigan. I think that was the 26th[of October].

Had you played with any of those guys before?

Yeah. The first tour we ever did was with Korn in Europe about two years ago. We’ve done quite a bit of touring with Limp Bizkit. We were with them at the Ozzfest.

What’s it like playing for so many people?

It’s fun, but it’s very different. We’ve been headlining clubs for the past seven weeks and just to jump up to arenas is pretty fun. There’s more room on stage and you can breathe.

Are you getting a good response from the fans?

Yes. It’s been amazing.

Did you expect this kind of exposure with just one major release?

I don’t know. Things just happen the way they do. We don’t really expect anything or not expect anything. We just kind of let things fall into place. I guess we just have fate on our side.

How would you describe your sound?

Our music is a mixture of different sounds and textures. Very funky, a good groove. It’s up and it’s energetic. Sometimes it’s heavy, at times it’s mellow. It’s got a lot of different faces.

Are you playing anything new on the tour?

No. We’re just sticking to material on the album.

Do you have any plans to record again?

After we’re done with Korn, we’ll have a few weeks off and then we’ll start a headline tour of the West Coast. We’ll probably spend a good amount of time while we’re home writing music. I don’t know if we’ll be doing any recording, but we’re going to start writing music. After we’re done with that headlining tour, we’ll go home for Christmas. Then we go back out on the road with Black Sabbath.

You’re doing the Sabbath tour?

The big Sabbath Reunion Tour. That’s going to be awesome, but we’re not really sure what’s going on after that. We’d like to make a new record sometime in ’99. We just don’t know when that’ll be.

Do you try to incorporate anything different into your live shows?

Yes, but when we’re not headlining it’s more difficult for us to do because we don’t have the stage time like we would when we’re playing our own shows. Between songs we do a lot of kind of weird drum and bass jams. We have this thing where I come out with an electric sitar and do this strange jam. We have little breaks where our DJ messes around. There are a lot of things we like to do, but we can’t when we open up for other bands. Plus, when [we’re] playing in front of a crowd where ninety percent of the people don’t know or care who [we] are, we like to stick to our material that’s on the record.

How long ago did you record SCIENCE?

It’ll be two years ago this March.

What did you try to draw from when you recorded that, lyrically and soundwise?

Well, soundwise we didn’t really rely on anything too much, except our own intuition, you could say. We’ve been working in this studio in Santa Monica, CA since we were sixteen years old and we really like the vibe of the studio. We know it really well. We know how to get sounds that we want, so we weren’t spending much time listening to other records. We just did a lot of experimenting with a lot of different things like microphones and that kind of stuff. We have a lot of confidence in our own taste and ourselves. Lyrically, Brandon writes the lyrics and they’re pretty much based on his experiences in life and his own views on society. Different mindsets, I guess. Most of it is based on a positive outlook or ideology. You know, unity, all that good peace and love stuff.

Has it been pretty much the same band since you started? I know you have a new DJ.

Yeah, the four of us, we’ve been together for seven and a half years. We started when we were fifteen and still in high school. Then we hooked up with a DJ after about four years together. We had our first DJ in the band for about two years, then we parted with him about ten months ago. Now, we have DJ Kilmore with us and he’s amazing. We’re really looking forward to writing music with him.

Was it a clean split?

There were problems in the band that were solved when he left. Things weren’t cool for a long time and then as soon as we did the thing we needed to do, everything went back to being cool. Everything’s wonderful now.

There are rumors of a live disc. Is there any truth to that?

No, actually there’s not. I haven’t even heard that one yet. They’re started all summer and on other tours throughout the year. This is the first time we’ve done anything with Rammstein.

What do you think of that group?

I think they have one of the most amazing live shows I’ve ever seen. We get kids trashing them on our web site, but you know it’s funny, when you’re a little kid, just listening to music, it’s more about popularity and perspective. When you’re a musician, you see what goes into a performance. You have a whole different respect for it and those guys definitely have it together.

Do you see the next big thing being bands crossing over into various genres?

I think bands like Korn and Deftones have blown a door wide open. I mean, we’ve been through thick and thin as far as styles of music coming and going. When we first started, Primus and Faith No More were in their prime. Then that all went away and grunge came in. We’ve just done the same thing. Punk rock came back and got huge, then ska. Korn had nothing to do with any of that and when they came out, we weren’t even signed. They just blew the door open to a new realm of possibilities, a different style of music. It wasn’t punk or ska. It was hard, but it had a groove to it, not like hardcore thrash music. We’ve always had the problem [that] we’d get stuck at a punk show or a ska show and we always just stuck out like a sore thumb. I think both musically and lyrically between [the Deftones and Korn] there’s a world of difference. I think that the difference between those two bands, and even us, is so big. [It’s] lyrical content and music. I don’t think you’d see the Deftones bust out into a funk breakdown. There are big differences, but people just feel the need to lump things together. There’s just a lot of crossing over.

Where would you like to be a year from now?

It’s really fun opening up for Korn and other bands, but we’ve spent a majority of our time headlining, so I think ultimately we’d like to be doing our own shows. Make a really big production of it doing our own thing.

I’d like your perspective on some bands. Can you give me your opinion on a few that I name?

Sure.

Soulfly

Their style of music is not something I’m very into. I’d prefer mellow music, but I respect what they do and what Max (lead-singer of Soulfly) has done.

What about Clutch and Fu Manchu?

I’ve barely heard Clutch, but everyone we play with loves them. I listened to Fu Manchu and I really dug what they’re doing. They’re so not like everyone else. It’s almost like Hendrix and Black Sabbath, but not sounding anything like them. I really like what they’re doing, though.

Jamiroquai

That’s one of my favorite bands. That music has flavor. It has soul. That’s the kind of music I like. Whether or not it’s heavy, I like it. I’m just not into the all-out, hardcore screaming. It’s just mindless what to me.SabbathI grew up listening to them, and now, it’s a huge honor for me to play with them.

That’s about all. Anything else you’d like to add?

No, but thanks. Good questions!

Thank you and good luck on the road.

+ rick hinkson

Usher – Interview [1998]

usher

Since the release of the single, “You Make Me Wanna,” Usher has done nothing but increase his celebrity. He credits his mother for more than genetics. “My mother introduced me to singing through church, then after that I did talent shows.” More impressive was his mother’s sacrifice in moving them from Chattanooga to Atlanta. “That is a great place to get recognized.” Once in Atlanta, he continued to do talent shows. It is at one of these shows that Bryant Reid, brother of LaFace Records co-president Antonio “L.A.” Reid, recognized Usher’s potential. Bryant arranged for Usher to meet L.A. Reid and, as Usher likes to tell it, “the rest is history.”

After his 1994 album, which was mediocre by his latest standards, Usher looked to make a change. He found it in executive producer Jermaine Dupri. A host of other top name producers (Sean “Puffy” Combs, Babyface, and Teddy Riley) added variety.

As an artist begins to pack away a few hit songs and a couple of million dollars it’s not unusual for heads to swell. Usher owes his ability to maintain a level head to his mother’s guidance. “She was the leading force in my career and she was always very supportive.” She is his mother, his manager, and his mentor.

Where did you learn to dance?

Studying. You have to study. It’s not all about getting up there and just freelance. A lot of people can do it, but it also helps if you have an eye for what is hot and what will be hot. I’ve been studying people like Michael Jackson, Bobby Brown, Fred Astaire, and Gene Kelly.

What’s up with leaving your shoes on the floor when you finish?

The ‘Shoe Man.’ I’m the shoemaker. (Laughs) They call me the king of the stage, so I’ve got to leave my shoes on the stage. They call me the ‘Prince of New Jack.’

Who are some of your musical influences?

The Jackson 5, Miami Sound Machine, Heatwave, Parliament, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder to name a few.

What was it like to work with the amazing group of producers you had for this album?

Well, some people have a lot of ego with them. Fortunately, I’ve worked with a lot of successful people and I’ve noticed the more successful you are, the less ego you have. I’m not gonna say that about everybody, but Babyface has definitely taken the time that was needed to make my record what it was. Maybe it took like a month to get it, but he did it. Jermaine and Teddy Riley took the time that was needed to find out what I like. Then they brought in Babyface for the mainstream and Teddy for his own crowd.

With your new career as an actor and model are you too busy for a social life?

I talk all the time.

Is there a significant other to speak of?

No particular girl. I talk all the time. (Pauses to laugh) I’m like L.L. Cool J. I need love.

What do you see in your future?

I’m in it for longevity. I want to do more acting, producing, choreographing, and even directing.

A new album is being outlined and it doesn’t seem he’ll stray too far from the formula that has insofar won him celebrity. Usher hopes to enlist some unusual collaborators like Elton John, Dr. Dre, and LeAnn Rimes. With Light It Up being shot next month, the premiere of his movie, The Faculty, and an opening spot on Janet Jackson’s Velvet Rope tour, Usher is a very busy man.

+ sam conjerti

Third Eye Blind – Interview

Third Eye Blind

Rewind to 1997!!
“I want something else to get me through this.” As much as the band struggled to decide on their first single, they weren’t prepared to pay the price success would bring. Speaking to Arion Salazar, it’s clear the band has realized the price of a semi-charmed kind of life.

If you dismiss Third Eye Blind based solely on their sugarcoated pop song, “Semi-Charmed Life,” you’ll miss out on a really good rock album. It “was a kind of scary thing coming with [Semi-Charmed Life] out of the box,” said Arion. “Because we all knew that there was a chance of getting dismissed as a disposable pop band…That is really the only song that sounds like that on the record.” The other songs on the album are a rock-punk hybrid, with catchy choruses galore. But in a year of songs like Sugar Ray’s “Fly” and Smash Mouth’s “Walking on the Sun”, you quickly feel burned when you buy their albums and discover you’ve became a victim of the old bait and switch. Sugar Ray’s not a ska band, and Smash Mouth is. Third Eye Blind isn’t a pop band, rock is more this band’s flavor. But for the sake of radio and MTV, bands elect to give the masses what they want. Arion agrees, “Everybody wants a little MTV.”

Third Eye Blind has been thrown into a group of pop-rock bands that are constantly churned out by record labels. Most fans let these bands slide by, dismissing them as a made band. Still, more often than not, these bands outsell any band that fans see as real. Third Eye Blind is in a unique situation: they have a huge hit, a great story, and are a real rock band. “I think we have a Third Eye Blind sound and I don’t think we have a lot in common with the bands we get clumped together with. I don’t understand it, but I’m at the point where I believe in our record and I’m proud of it and if you don’t like it, it’s no big deal.” Arion spoke with a real passion, one that only comes with putting a lot of hard work into something and then having it taken apart and criticized piece by piece, based solely on one aspect.

So what made this a strong album? “The album is a combined effort,” Arion began. “We worked hard as a band to get all these songs together. I guess I attribute [the fact that there are no throwaway songs] to the fact that we had label interest on and off for the past four and a half years. We had showcases that were our big chances to get signed with mister bigwig in the audience and we fucked them all up. And that was really good because at that time we didn’t have those fourteen songs yet.” During that time, the group put together a strong demo tape that consisted mostly of the songs that appear on their self-titled album. This demo was the driving force behind Electra Records CEO Sylvia Rhone’s interest in Third Eye Blind, not to mention the interest of many other record labels. “She was a really big supporter. She flew out to see us in LA and then flew us out to NY to showcase for her people. I’ve got to say…that’s the biggest reason we went with Elektra.” It’s not every day that the head of a major record label goes out of their way to sign a band. But more than that, Arion said it was Sylvia’s real approach with the band that won them over.

On the road and along the way they have opened for some of the world’s biggest bands: Rolling Stones, U2, and Oasis.

So how’s the tour going? “Really, really, really good. Outstanding,” Arion seemed reassuring, but added, “It’s been really tough this last week.” The weeks really start to add up when you’re on tour for almost a year straight. So what about the Stones? “We met them.” A meeting was arranged on the last night that Third Eye Blind was to open for the Stones. Arion continued, “We were herded into their dressing room moments before they were going to go onstage. So… we all lined up to take a shot with them and we just talked to them really briefly, and I’m standing next to Mick Jagger and I heard him say, [Arion imitates Mick Jagger] ‘Come on, hurry up, take the picture, let’s, let’s do this.’ ” So their attitudes held true to form? “Mick Jagger is definitely right up there with his whole…reputation that he has.”

“U2 on the other hand went out of their way to hang out with us and was popping into our dressing room at any given moment.” Arion said all eight shows spent on the road with U2 were great. How would you sum it all up? “Really fucking cool!”

Arion saved the best tour story for last. During the time record labels were tripping over each other to sign Third Eye Blind, they decided to use some of their leverage to get an opening gig for Oasis. It worked. At the time, “We didn’t even have a real big following in our hometown and then suddenly we’re opening up for Oasis, playing in front of nine thousand people.” Arion didn’t stop there, like many others; he had a funny Liam Gallagher story. “I almost got into a fight with Liam and so did Kevin [Cadogan].”

And so the story goes…

“It was around sound check and Liam was play sparring with some of the dudes in the band, [he was] jumping around and he didn’t see me. And he kind of backed into me and turned around and I said, ‘Watch it, bub!'” Bub? Laughing, Arion says, “I watch too many cartoons, but that’s what I said. So he looks at me totally shocked that any little peon would speak to him. Then he turned back to his band and said [attempts a Liam-esque brit accent], ‘Did you hear what he just said to me?’ And he walked away bewildered that I had spoken in his presence.” Neither of us could help but to laugh. But you gotta take it in stride. He called [George Harrison] a nipple!” Arion added laughing.

So, seriously, what is the best thing about being in a band? “The chicks!” Really? Oh yeah, and there’s the part of “doing what you love and getting paid for it,” Arion said, cutting back from his initial joke.

Finally, what’s better about being in a big rock band than you would have guessed? “The accommodations are better. The bus is like a yacht. We’ve got the satellite channels and stuff. This [bus] is better than my house. Traveling on the bus is great!”

So what’s worse?

“The fact that you’re away from friends and family for a long time.”

I’m not listening when you say goodbye.

+ charlie craine

Sugar Ray – Interview

Sugar Ray

Rewind to 1997…

In some cases, a meager beginning builds character. You have to work and work for every chance you get to move ahead. Like their namesake, Sugar Ray Leonard, the band named Sugar Ray started with little, only to kick, scratch, and claw their way to the top.

Bands dream of reaching the plateau of rock stardom. The guys in Sugar Ray are no different. In a chat with Rodney Sheppard, lead guitarist, I learned that they had “to play parties for years and years,” but only after realizing that they were going nowhere did they get serious about music and get a major label recording contract.

With a sound much their own, Rodney told me that the band’s musical influences vary, everywhere from “The Jam to The Beatles and a lot of English punk. All of us like the Sex Pistols and Ted Nugent. We also admire Rage Against The Machine and Korn.” Sugar Ray was able to play with a few of the bands they admire, but none as special as when they opened for the Sex Pistols. “It was awesome. It was a thrill of a lifetime. It was all the original guys, minus Sid Vicious, and in the same year we also opened for KISS.”

Where did the track “Fly” come from?

That came out of a broken rehearsal. The band was fighting, and Mark, our singer, left, and we started getting ready to pack things up. Murphy just started playing bass and our DJ had a drum loop and then everyone pitched in and in five minutes we had it. And when we got back to LA, Mark wrote the lyrics and the verses. We took it our producer and after that we had a really excellent song.

Why did you guys make two versions?

Atlantic Records felt a lot of radio formats wouldn’t want Super Cat rapping through the whole song, so we wanted to include both because if some people heard one of the versions on the radio and bought the record they wouldn’t feel ripped off.

We all know how it is buying a record and getting the shaft.

Yeah, I got that once with a Breeder’s single.

What is it like to have a hit song?

It’s exciting. It’s everything. It’s everything we always wanted all of our lives. It’s not like the money, because nobody is really making money. We’re just having the greatest time.

How did you shoot the video for “Fly” with Mark walking across the ceiling?

That’s actually taken from an old Fred Astaire movie from the ’40’s or ’50’s. It’s a square room and all of the furniture is nailed down and the room itself is in a giant circular thing almost like a ferris wheel. It spins and they mount the camera and the room spins. It’s an optical illusion.

What’s up with this Sweet Rain band trying to rip you guys off with a cover of “Fly”?

I know. I heard Kurt Loder on MTV talking about it, but I’ve yet to hear the song. I’ve gone to every music store to try and buy it.

So much for their stealing your fire?

[Laughs] I know.

I actually heard their cover of your song and of Smash Mouth’s “Walking On The Sun”.

Was it good or bad?

The cover of “Fly” was really good, but the Smash Mouth cover was exact. If you didn’t know any better, you wouldn’t know better.

You see, they’re banking on the fact that we haven’t released it as a single. They just released a single for the people who hear “Fly” on the radio and go to buy the single. But honestly, it is a bit flattering that someone wants to cover our song. I know they have other reasons for doing it, but it’s still flattering.

A few years ago you guys took on a challenge by Howard Stern to any band out there listening to try and cover two songs he wrote as a child.

So we took him up on it. I guess Atlantic got a version of “Psychedelic Bee” and “Silver Nickels” (the two songs written by Howard Stern) and we had them while we were touring. So we listened to them and I decided we should cover “Psychedelic Bee”. We went into the studio in Denver and recorded it in like five hours. The next day we sent it back to Atlantic and they gave it to Howard. He played it for a week and a half, every single day. And then we got to New York and he asked us to come to the studio and play it for him.

What was it like when you finally got in there?

It was great. We still have a relationship with him. After “Fly” came out, his daughter got it and loved it, and liked the video and Mark, so he had us come back in again.

What is Howard is really like?

He’s a nice guy. He’s not at all like the character he projects.

What is the band’s future?

Relentless touring. We’re gonna tour China, Australia, and then more in the States. Then we’ll get another album out.

Will the next album convey the same Sugar Ray?

We’ll have to see how this year has changed us.

+ charlie craine