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Interview

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Official Music Publication on The Web 
Representing The Bay Area for over Thirty-Five Years


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UNION UNDERGROUND



 
Q: So Union Underground on Video Machines in the Malls. Slick idea. Technology is so awesome nowadays.
A: Right. How would we would ever get by without the internet.
Q: I remember the big deal was when MTV started putting people on video and it excelled their careers, but now you can just go crazy.
A: Yeah. It's neat. You can do a lot with it. They're the gate keepers
Q: So. Texas huh. San Antone. If you had to be from any part of Texas, San Antone wasn't that bad for music?
A: You know you never know when you're born and raised, you're kind of like it's real easy for people to say screw my city because they've been there forever and they're not getting what they think they need, but one thing San Antonio was, is really big. It's one of the biggest cities, and there are resources. Not much of a hard rock city in terms of bands breaking out of there. We work with adversity, but it's kind of paid off, because when we were faced with that adversity we had to invent ways to network ourselves to try to figure out how more people can get into our band and make ourselves more vulnerable and exposed. We didn't have a CD GB or a Roxie, or whatever. So we would print tapes and hand them out and do kind an underground, if you will, kind of way of doing it.
Q: Basically you've been together since '94.
A: Ron and I go back to junior high actually. And it wasn't until '96 that we kind of more of a vision of what the name of the band should be and what we should do with it.
Q: I love reading how you guys were recruiting your members. It was like one bass player you would listen to the group and - kind of reminded me of the movie Eddie and the Cruisers when they were kind of going around looking for people in groups and grab them .
A: Yeah. We just pick our favorite guys and steal them. We never could get two other guys that were on the same page as us that had the same vision. There was always something detrimentally wrong, fundamentally wrong. Even if one area was good another area wasn't happening. And we were never the kind of guys that were going let anybody get in the way. It's like all or nothing. You got to do it, or what are you doing. And it took us finally to get those two guys. Yeah. It took awhile to find four guys with chemistry to make it happen. Now we work so well together for so long that we have very high standards about who we were going to bring on. So, I mean, we tortured some people.
Q: Metallic did the same thing when they lost their bass player. Here is the test. Back then, they said you sold like 5,000 cassettes?
A: Actually, we used to give away cassettes, kind of like a street team thing that we did ourselves originally.
Q: You had a couple of singles on them?
A: Yeah. We would do three or four songs and print em up. We didn't have much money, but money we did have went into cassettes and people were responding to it. And then we got so excited about that and started drawing a small fan base there. We decided okay, it's time to release an independent CD. In the course of touring around regionally and selling that CD, we started getting more fans and finally, lo and behold after networking the hell ourselves, we started to see management opportunities and label opportunities.
Q: You know, timing is the key to a lot of things.
A: Yeah. You have to make yourself open for things like that. It's not going to come to you, because you really have to go to them, but you have to make yourself available. Q: Do you have a goal, like of what you're striving for?
A: Longevity is the first thing. You know the music business is designed to churn out things and in a second that something's not cool or hip, they pull it away - or whatever happens, and just to stay in there doing what we want to do like bands like Metallica - I can't even imagine doing something like that. Their attitude is definitely really cool and effects a lot of new bands like us to. Yeah. We're not the type of band that's going to - you know we don't write like top ten pop songs and you know we're not going to just blow up and sell millions of records out of nowhere. Our music doesn't accommodate that kind of blow up and we're not that kind of band and we'll definitely be around to just kind of torture America for hopefully 10 - 15 years and make many records and never go away.
Q: Your CD "Education In Rebellion," every song is incredible. Usually, if somebody puts out a CD, you just have one or two and you fight your way through it.
A: That comes along with having such a saturated market and you're real conscious of that. Me and Brian go way back and our emphasis was always on the songs first. And one thing the band is never short on is songs. So, we kind of were able to pick a bunch of - what we thought were the best songs for Education.
Q: Did you have quite a library?
A: Yeah, with the independent record and we have our own recording studio - we have a lot of songs actually. We were able to kind of crème de la crème it. And that's always the biggest compliment and thank you for that because you know that's totally what we strive for and hope to have a great a album and not just have a single that would push the band and the rest of the stuff is just filler and you know who really cares and they're just trying to make money or gain fans by one song and then get in and get out. Get out TRL or something. We don't want to be about one song. We don't want to be about one thing. We want to be about that fans, drawing our own crowd and holding on to them.
Q: How long have you've been touring?
A: We've been out here for about 8 months with only about 2 weeks off.
Q: You have the Oz Fest coming up.
A: Yes - that's about a 3 month tour. We're doing the European Oz Fest. Right before Oz Fest, we're going over to the European Oz Fest and a bunch of festivals in Germany, London and Paris. You know it's funny. It's surreal to me. Right now it's just words and not until we pull up and see 20 buses and a bunch of the bands we toured with and that's when it'll sink in.
Q: I understand your favorite influences was- Alice in Chains?
A: Hands down, best Seattle band in our opinion - easily. Sound Garden is really good and Nirvana did there thing, but Alice and Chains was it for us.
Q: The song, "Turn Me On Mr. Deadman." Maybe you've already answered this 2,000 times, but Mr. Deadman, is that any particular person, or anything like that?
A: No. People always have that misconception. Like they think it's about a certain rock star or something. Really it's just about the whole image of that and how some people take it a little too seriously. You know, we're kind of making fun of ourselves and making fun of other rock stars and just kind of the whole life style and you know, it's just kind of giving a little stab you know - not taking it too seriously. You know the title itself came from - you might know this if you're a Beatles fan - there was the big rumor back in the day that if you turn Revolution No. 9 backwards.
Q: Well done - that's right.
A: It was "turn me on deadman." It didn't have the Mr. - we added the Mr. to it because that's a little cooler sounding. So, that title stuck in my head for years. I just thought that sounded so cool. So the lyrics don't have anything to do with the Beatles or that, but that's where the title came from.
Q: A lot of people don't realize when you actually start talking to a lot of these bands that a lot of the words are really harsh, being it Satanism or whatever, does your band have kind of like a message you want to send ?
A: We're definitely not here to pass moral judgment, lyrically or lifestyle living wise. A lot of people get the wrong impression because it's much easier to talk big thoughts negatively, and that's fine. It's human nature. But half the time, a lot of people just into this righteousness, think that one song's about something when it's technically anti-something, when it's actually a more positive song. Whatever. As long - it's more about the music than about worrying about message to us anything. We're not political or religious standpoint at all. Yeah. There's not like a big political message or social issues. The songs are about personal experience and how we lived our lives and things we've gone through.
Q: Are they all considered individual - every one of your songs, as far as your meaning about any particular subject?
A: Yeah. Obviously, some things kind of intertwine here and there because you have the same kind of things on your mind when you're writing. Maybe you wrote a couple of songs in the same week, so you just kind of had the same things flowing through you and a lot of the same ideas kind of pop up in different songs. Generally, there's no overwhelming message. An "Education in Rebellion" is kind of a personal thing with us. You know when we were 14 - 15 years old, we just decided that this is what we're going to do with our lives regardless what anyone around us says or wants us to do. We just stayed completely focused on that and that's really what that's about. It's not about fuck your parents and fuck your teachers and tell them all to fuck off.
Q: Some people would read into something like that. I know that Slayers in court right now over this and Judas Priest was in court awhile back.
A: It still amazes me that people think they should make money off that. Isn't that funny. They're trying to find a scapegoat when the heart of the problem is nowhere where they're at.
Q: So when you hook up with a label is it all up hill ?
A: You know we have always been guys that put what little money we had back into the band and a lot of people think - the misconception is - that when they get "signed" or they "get a record deal" that it's an answer to something, but really the truth is that's the time that you really start working. Now you're in the limelight of all these other bands and so what you have to do is even take the attitude that got you there further, which is what we're trying to do. Via the internet. You know on the Marilyn Manson tour we had a second tour bus that was all lounges and we would get contest winners and bands for the shows would hang out on the bus and let me tell you, that makes fans. There's nothing better than getting in their face and it's wild fire on the internet. Then you know, money really only gives you the power to kind of get the things done that you need to get done and excel the band and put the band on the next level. You know luxuries and monetary value and shit like that - it really doesn't mean anything cause we're always out here. It's not about "oh, let's do publishing deal and buy a couple of Mercedes and a house," because we're never home. Maybe 5 years down the road we can enjoy some of those things, but right now we're just all about being out here and working and meeting as many people as possible.
Q: That's another misconception too. Fans automatically think you're rolling in dough. A: Tour buses cost money. You make a little bit more money. You spend a lot more money. Touring costs a lot man. You got a crew, you got techs, you got people to promote it. We had an idea of that coming in and it'd be silly to go, oh you know it's so much work and everything and blow it off. That's not even an option. This band could actually make quite a bit of money touring if we got into a van, stripped down our group, stripped down our show and just went up there and played our songs and then left the stage. But, we we're all about long term investment with our fans. We don't want to sell them short. We want to put on a show. We want to give them an experience beyond just us getting up there and playing our songs and saying good night.
Q: It's good you have a strategy and you have a goal already, instead of just going with the flow of what the record company says.
A: You have to treat this whole thing like you don't have management and you don't have a record company. You know what I mean. You just have to act like they're not around. Yeah. As soon as you start relying on everybody else's way - we have never been one to sit back and go "let's see what they do." It's about us working.
Q: Now this CD here, you had a couple of singles - it that you had before the CD was actually made?
A: "Turn Me on Mr. Deadman" did hit radio before the record came out. It kind of set up the record if you will. And now, we move on to the second single which is "Killing Spot."
Q: You know how heavy metal has a tendency to just have this incredible intense feeling that a lot of people get. Now was that you goal from your music?
A: Oh definitely. We grew up and still are huge fans of great bands and we want to effect people the same way - I was 13 going to see Metallica or whoever - that's what we strive for.
Q: Do you do anything special before you go on the stage ?
A: Actually, in terms of that kind of thing, it's funny you ask, because we have a policy if you will - we hang out in our dressing room, and our bus, or whatever it is at that time, about 30 minutes before we go on and it's just the 4 of us and we POW-wow together because we're so busy doing stuff like these interviews all day and at that point the band does that kind of stuff. Like "what were you playing on that, or we should try that." We hash things out. It's like a family vibe. And we do the same thing about 30 minutes after the show and it keeps the band healthy is what that does. Because there are so many things to distract you from what you are actually here to do once you are on the road and being a healthy band is very important so we actually do that.
Thank You for this interview, "Keep on Rocking"

By Randy Cohen

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