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Samuel Barker: How is the tour going so far?
Ryan Vandeburgh: It's been awesome. We've toured with Catch 22 before, back in 1998. The tour we did with Snuff and the Pilfers. Snuff had to go back to Europe because they had some stuff booked there. We went off to do the shows with No Doubt, and when we got back, Catch 22 picked up from there, so we've known these guys before. Poison the Well hasn't done any shows; they had to drop off the tour. We've never met them before, I've never seen them before, but I was looking forward to seeing them, so that was too bad. It's a short tour, only two and half weeks, it's good amount of time for us, you don't get burnt out too easily, not like being on the road for six or seven weeks. After this we go home for a week and then we're playing two weeks of shows with Sick Of It All. I'm looking forward to that, it hasn't gotten to the point where I'm sick of being on tour and have to get home. Including tonight, we've got 4 shows, so we'll be heading home after Saturday in Oklahoma City. We don't play our fist show with Sick Of It All until Valentine's Day, so that's about 10 days off. It works out really well.
Samuel: So you guys are taking things easy now?
Ryan: Yeah, you've seen our old schedules, go to Japan for two weeks, then come right home and do a six week U.S. tour, take two weeks off then head off for about three weeks with Less Than Jake. I'm the youngest and single and it's still hard on me, I couldn't imagine how it is for Jay, who is married and has a daughter. So, it's hard after a while. But so far this year, things have been perfect; hopefully we can keep it going like this for a while.
Samuel: How is Steal This Record doing so far?
Ryan: It's doing alright, but obviously, our record came out like two weeks after the terrorist attacks, and everyone, in general, had a hard time with the entertainment business. It wasn't an issue at the time; they wanted to focus on other things, especially when your band is called the Suicide Machines. You can see how certain radio stations wouldn't want to promote it. Surprisingly, the record is doing pretty good and what we were even more surprised about, on this tour, especially in Florida, which are numbers are usually below normal in, but this has been the best tour of the southern states we've done in a while. It was above expectations of what we thought we going to do, so I guess the record sales didn't really reflect our whole situation. It seems like people are starting to come to more shows.
Samuel: After the response to the Self-titled album, was there any pressure to make a serious record that sounded like a Suicide Machines release?
Ryan: Not really, just because we knew when we did the third record, it was our chance to be all artsy, to do some weird stuff we'd never done before like bring in all the orchestras and all that. We knew that was our one chance to do it because our producer was all amped about it, and afterwards, we were happy with it, but we realized after we recorded it, when it was too late, that it was cool, but it wasn't us. For another band, it'd be a quality record, but for us it didn't really work. I still like quite a few songs off of it, but there are some songs on it that when I listen to them I'm like, "God, that doesn't sound like the Suicide Machines." I think that was the biggest mistake of all. Of course, hindsight is always 20/20; you can't exactly go back and re-record the entire album after you spent all the money on it. I don't know. When we wrote this album, we went about it the same way we did the last album. With the last album, we wrote like 30 songs and we only ended up picking 13 of them, so there were a lot of songs from the last album that we never used for anything, but if we had used the remainder of the songs to make the record, it would have sounded totally different. So, I think it had more to do with the song selection than actually how we were about writing it.
Samuel: Well, one thing that is definitely better about this album is the lyrics; the Self-titled album gave the sense that lyrics weren't really thought through.
Ryan: Yeah, we tried to drop a lot of the cheesiness. There are still some lovey-type songs on there and everything. We're not a total political band, we don't really look at the things we do as political, there is nothing wrong with being a political band, but we like to be stupid every once in a while and sing about Vans and whatnot. I just think the new record fell into place really well. We didn't plan it that way; it just worked out for us. I was happy with the way it turned out.
Samuel: Why do you guys not play the older songs anymore, like from Green World and the Essential Kevorkian?
Ryan: Mainly, because 80 to 90% of the kids wouldn't know what the songs were. Those tapes never really made any circulation and the songs that are on Morphius or Napster, I think the quality of it would be so bad that I don't think kids would believe it was the Suicide Machines. I listen to the old demos, even Skank For Brains, and it sounds so different. I think even the earlier stuff would be very believable for people. Also, they played those songs for so many years that they're over it now. They wrote new songs and were like, "I really like these songs a lot better." They realized how much better the writing style was, so to go back like that would be a joke type scenario. I've asked about that before and asked about playing certain old songs and Dan was like, "That song is so stupid." I think he cringes when he thinks about playing certain songs.
Samuel: So, are you still playing with Nipon, or are you back focusing on the Suicide Machines exclusively?
Ryan: Actually, I’m doing a lot of different stuff right now. Royce has a studio in his basement; he’s got a really nice studio. I’m trying to get something together at my house. I pretty much just have a demo studio now with a 16-track. I’m actually recording a Nipon CD. We’re actually re-recording all of the earliest songs to embarrass ourselves, pretty much, just so I can get a feel for the recording equipment and everything. It’s just a fun little project to get things going. We’ll probably be making 100 copies or so. The sad thing about Nipon is that the newest song that Nipon has is almost 6 years old. Terry is supposedly writing some new stuff now, so maybe this summer we’ll have a second record out. I would actually like to do some touring with that band. Brad is moving to New York actually. We’ll try to compensate some how.
Samuel: What was the first album, Call of the...
Ryan: Call of the Rhino. That’s when they had the other drummer, Jeff. We’re re-recording all those songs. They recorded it, but it sounded like it was recorded on a boom box basically. We’re changing a couple things around. I was actually surprised myself, we’ve got about 7 songs finished, we still have to lay down the vocals, but the music is finished, and they are really cool. It reminds me what a good songwriter Terry was, even when he was like 15 years old. I’m doing that, and Jay and I are actually in another band, like a side project. It’s straight-up rock n’ roll, mixed with southern rock with a little bit of hard rock. Like AC-DC kinds stuff, a little metal, but not metal-hardcore type stuff. We’ve been working on that for a while with two of our friends from back home in Detroit.
Samuel: Are you playing drums in that as well?
Ryan: Yeah, I play drums on pretty much everything.
Samuel: Well, I know in Kidz On Krack, you played bass or guitar.
Ryan: Yeah, that was me and Terry, a friend of mine, T.J., and this kid Eric we knew. Basically, we used to hang out at Terry’s house drinking and there would be nothing to do, so we wrote 7 or 8 songs, recorded them on an 8-track, and it was a joke basically.
Samuel: Are you still working on getting your label together?
Ryan: I am, but at the same time, it’s still at the same low level it’s always been. I don’t have any distribution for it, and I don’t plan on it, because I don’t have time to do that right now. A friend of mine was going to help me out, but we never really talked about it too much. I plan on putting stuff out again, but mostly just around Detroit or over the Internet.
Samuel: Anything you’d like to add?
Ryan: Check out a band from Detroit called Fordirelifesake. Their website is fordirelifesake.com. They’re really a heavy, sceamy band. They’re friends of mine, they’re pretty good. They actually go out of state quite a bit. They’re good.
Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.