Monday, August 24, 2015

Band Interview: STOP SIGN RIOT

INTERVIEW WITH AUSTIN HURD OF STOP SIGN RIOT

Some time ago Stop Sign Riot did an interview for Obscure Chaos zine, which can be read at its online blog. How did you become acquainted with publisher Kat Chaos and what led to the interview?
We met her through online promotion as we are always trying to get our name out there. In fact, we haven't played a show in almost a year but we still get fans on all of our social media pages every week, which blows my mind. She ended up putting together an interview on Facebook. Due to scheduling the only person from the band that was able to do it was our former drummer who left late last year. 

How much information was shared about the band during her interview with you? How much promotion do you usually do to attract new fans on social media?
The interview didn't get as indepth as we would have liked since it was only one person answering the questions, some of which he could not answer. Mostly our style, writing, practice, shows, and influences. Usually we are sharing, posting, talking to people and basically just hustling trying to get the word out. The last few months we actually haven't done any promoting, since we've been on a break.

Was Obscure Chaos the band’s first live interview? How much more would you have wanted to reveal in the course of this interview?
It was, and we would have liked to have gotten into our style and how we morphed into it. Also where we came from, on an artistic level and a personal level.

How did the band come to choose Stop Sign Riot as their name? The story behind this was touched on a little in the Obscure Chaos interview; can you shed some more light on the subject?
I was with a former guitarist/vocalist having a writing session, and we ended up finding a stop sign in his dumpster. At the same time we had been bouncing name ideas back and forth. As a joke I suggested Stop Sign Riot, and it stuck.

I read the band has been searching for a new drummer since your previous drummer left. Can you tell the readers how the search has gone so far?
We have been searching for a new drummer and actually have not had very good luck finding one, which is weird because we have a lot of talented drummers here. Our former drummer decided to part ways with us due to personal reasons and creative differences. He left in the middle of our break, which has extended a lot longer than we originally planned. However, we have been working on a few of our songs acoustically and are in the process of recording them.

Why did the band decide to go on a break from playing live? How long had you intended the break to be at first?
We practiced every week for about five hours every time, on top of doing live shows and recording in the studio. Our former drummer lost his house in a tornado before we wrapped up the recording, and some new jobs and schedules were kind of stressing everybody out, so we decided to take a break. At first, it was only supposed to be a couple of months, then we just kinda took some time to think about everything.

Does the band usually do interviews for print zines or web zines? Which do you prefer reading between the two and why?
As of right now we have only done webzines, so I'm not sure about the print ones. But any interview that lets us connect with people is what we like.

What webzines have the band been interviewed for? Were they based in the US or outside the country? How much more exposure and fan support resulted from these interviews?
The only other one we did wasn't technically an interview, but we did have a couple pages of us covered for Omaha Fuse Weekly. It got us a headlining show at a local venue and definitely helped us get some other gigs.

Is Omaha Fuse Weekly a local paper from your area? What did the paper say about the band and how many shows did it help you schedule?
It is an online magazine, here in Omaha, and it helped us get two or three shows set up, by making us a featured band of the month.

How much material has the band released? Have you been placing ads for a new drummer? What new songs are you working on, and how do you go about composing without a drummer? Where is the new material being recorded?
We released a demo out of my home studio called "Runaway", and a single we did at a local studio called "Zombies". Both are on our Reverbnation page. We had six songs that we played at our shows, and a seventh one we were working on when he left. We have used online ads, and word of mouth. Right now our guitarist Blake and I have been working on acoustic versions of "Runaway" and "Zombies" that sound pretty good. Nothing "new" at the moment, as far as writing new material, but our writing style really only requires guitar and vocals, so writing is still business as usual. We are recording everything in my basement studio, which gives us the freedom to create without feeling rushed.

How much feedback do you get from fans and listeners on Facebook and Reverbnation? How many of your songs are previewed at your Reverbnation profile? Do people take the time to give you detailed feedback on your Facebook profile?
We get some pretty good feedback across all the sites, mostly Reverbnation where we have a really old, not so decent demo version of "Runaway" as well as our studio version of "Zombies." There is also some live versions and sound clips from some of our shows.

What are the lyrical concepts and verses of Runaway and Zombies? Who wrote the words to these songs?
I actually wrote all the lyrics for our songs, and I'm very proud of how the band was able to form the music around them. "Runaway" is kind of a love story, about two people who just want to be together, so they run off to be by themselves. The verses kind of play out like a movie, telling a story about why they are running away, and the chorus is the overall message behind that. The chorus for that is a lot of fun to play live, and has a strong meaning, "It's never easy when you're running away/But we got each other, baby that's okay/Don't wanna go back/Your home is the highway/’cause everyone loves you more/When you're a runaway." "Zombies" is just a song about zombies. Although, a couple people have pointed out a political comparison, as we are all zombies of the system. So, a different meaning for everyone, but the opening verse goes, "My brains are their desire/I try to run but I'm too damn tired/I cannot go any farther than this/I fall to the ground as they bite my flesh" which I thought was really twisted and fit the song I wanted to write at the time. It was actually written a couple of years before the band got together, right around 2006.

I can see how people would interpret Zombies as being a political song. How long have you been a fan of zombies when it comes to horror movies?
Since I was about five years old, and I saw the remake of "Night Of The Living Dead" which we actually used a sound clip from the original movie in the song.

Which line or lines were sampled from NOTLD and why were they chosen? How do you feel about the zombie genre having gone mainstream since the 2000s?
There was the radio broadcast about the dead coming back to life that we chose to use as the intro. At the very end, we used the line, "They're dead, they're all messed up." We chose that because we thought if fit for the ending. I love the zombie genre going mainstream; The Walking Dead is one of my favorite shows right now. It's amazing how much it's exploded into the main spotlight of entertainment.

In what ways does The Walking Dead expand on the original movies? What do you think of the movie World War Z? Do you prefer the movie version or the book?
I'm old school, so for me, The Walking Dead hit the nail on the head when it comes to how a zombie should act or look like. I've never seen World War Z; the trailer turned me off; and I have not read the book. The biggest turnoff for me was that the zombies were running. If I'm in the zombie apocalypse, I'm already outnumbered, and they don't get tired, so I'm already at a disadvantage. If they are running, I have no chance. True zombies are slow, which gives me a chance, and makes it more realistic for me.

Discuss the band’s other songs and what the lyrics were inspired by. What fan feedback have they received so far?
"Murderzine" is about all the killing going on right now, and the media cramming it down our throats, it gets people moving at the shows. "Suicidenial" is about not being allowed to go out that way, nothing in life is that bad that you need to resort to suicide. "Truthful Lies" is just a bad relationship, where the lies have been told so much, it's just the truth. We have a really good breakdown at the very end, which the crowds love, really heavy. My personal favorite is "Tattoo Heroin" which is about addiction. I had just gotten done reading Nikki Sixx's book, "The Heroin Diaries" and came up with the name out of the blue, and the song just came out of that. It's a faster song, pretty heavy, with an acoustic breakdown, and the lyrics have a lot of word play, similar to Nikki Sixx's writing style.

Was there anything in particular Murderzine was inspired by, or is the song a general statement? Why does the media sensationalize it as much as it does in your view?
It's just a general statement, with everything going on right now, it could not be about just one thing. Personally, I think the media sensationalizes it the way they do to make a profit. That's what the world is about, the almighty dollar. The more people watch, the higher their ratings, the more money they make. At least that's how I view it, when I hear the news covering a terrorist attack in another country, but can't hear about something good in my own city.

Granted the media wants to gain financially, which is the reason I turn to independent news to gather information. If you found an alternative to mainstream news sources that were less about sensationalism, what would you seek out?
Honestly, I don't mind that the media covers this stuff, I just think a lot of it could be a two minute filler story, instead of flooding everything with a two week report. News is news, but how it's presented is what's important, which is why I hate opinionated news shows. If your job is to bring the news to the world, don't bring your opinion with it.

What’s your view of television programs like The Jon Stewart Show and Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect?
Actually, I've never seen them, I don't have cable, but, I have friends that have watched them, and they would rather watch those, than the other guys.

What about Nikki Sixx’s The Heroin Diaries prompted you to write the lyrics of Tattoo Heroin? Why do you think so many musicians use hard drugs in the midst of their careers?
Honestly, I wasn't trying to write a song about it, it just kind of happened, which is why it's one of my favorites. But, reading it, let me see the world through his eyes, and having experience in character acting, I put myself into his shoes, and wrote about the feelings that I thought he was feeling. I think the drug use comes from needing something to fill the void, whether it's to stay awake, fall asleep, numb the pain, depression, or it's just something there that someone offers. I just think it gets out of control. Nikki said it best, "Once you've tasted excess, everything else tastes bland." And for someone with an addictive personality, ease of access, and financial funds to support it, it's easy for someone to fall into that hell.

Do you often read biographies of well-known musicians and artists who had issues with drug use? Name some others you read and remember vividly.
I try to, the one that stands out, was Ozzy Osbourne's book, "I Am Ozzy" which he talked a lot about his drug use. There was a part that he talked about going in to have a colonoscopy, and the knockout drugs didn't work, because he built up such a tolerance over the years.

What bands do the members of Stop Sign Riot cite as influences? How do you draw inspiration from said bands?
My personal favorite is Mötley Crüe, but Ozzy Osbourne is another favorite. Disturbed, Drowning Pool, just too many to list. Blake listens to a lot of different stuff; his riffs remind me of older Black Sabbath, only modernized. He is very diverse, as is Max, who also listens to classical, but we all have a common musical taste that we use to create our own unique style and sound. Which is getting a little bit of a makeover.

Besides Facebook, how many social media sites is the band on? Which of them is currently getting the biggest response?
We are on Twitter, YouTube, and Reverbnation. Not sure which is biggest, but Facebook and Reverbnation are the top two.

How many performance clips can be heard at your Reverbnation page? Were they recorded by the band themselves or people who came to see you? How would you describe the sound quality of these recordings?
I think only a couple, most were recorded by friends of the band, on digital cameras or cell phones, so the quality is not the greatest, but still fun to watch.

How long have you and Blake been working together? Had you known one another before starting the band?
Blake came in in April of 2013. We were doing some lineup changes, he answered our ad and we hired him on the spot.

How many lineup changes has the band underwent since you first got together?
When we first got together, I was the drummer, but my knees and shoulders were causing some issues, and I could not play regularly. During my time behind the kit, we had a guitarist/vocalist, which was replaced by a second guitarist/vocalist. We also had a bass change shortly after we picked the name, which we knew about beforehand. I eventually transitioned into vocals, then our guitarist left, so it was just Max and I working on music, until our former drummer came into the mix. About six months later, Blake came in, and we were solid for about a year and a half, until our drummer left. So, it's been a long road. 

What musical and recording equipment do you have in your basement studio? Was this studio built exclusively by you and does it prove more convenient than renting studio time?
As far as instruments, I have two electric guitars, one acoustic guitar, one electric bass, and a six piece drum set. Equipment wise, we use Sony Acid software to record. I have two mixing boards, a five channel, and a sixteen channel, different pedals, a lot of different microphones, amps, and a PA. Also, our bass player and guitarist have their own gear. I have spent the last eleven years putting this stuff together, and last year, I put foam paneling over the old school wood paneling, so we get a rich sound that has that older sound of acoustics. And it is way more convenient than renting time, because we can record anytime we want, for as long as we want, without having to worry about finances. We are a band on a budget, and not having to worry about how much recording is, lets us concentrate more on the music, and less on time. Plus, if we don't like something, we can spend as much time as we need to make it perfect. And having been to the studio last year, I picked up a bunch of different tricks and techniques that will make the finished product, that much better.

How much did the acoustics in your studio improve when you went from wood paneling to foam? What other tricks and techniques did you learn to improve your recording process?
The wood paneling is still there, the foam was put over it, so it kind of blends the sounds together. Some tricks we learned are microphone placement, and leveling, along with different settings on our recording program.

How have the tricks you leaned with leveling, microphone placing and different recording settings helped you as a band?
Well, we sound better. We sound like a somewhat professional band, instead of a group of guys in the garage making noise.

How much do you hear the differences in your material since you adapted the tricks learned in the studio?
We haven't played in full as a group, but the demo tracks we have recorded sound a lot better than they did a year ago, before we went to the studio.

Over the eleven years you built your studio, how much trial and error did you experience until you found the equipment you and the band feel most comfortable working with?
Oh man, there were countless times, and a lot of stressful, frustrating, and failed attempts to get it just right. Also, learning some tips from a pro at the studio helped me utilize what I have a lot better than before.

Who was this studio pro who offered you tips on running a studio, and what sort of additional advice did he give you?
He was actually our engineer at Rainbow Studios here in Omaha, Nebraska. I don't think he was giving advice or tips, but I would ask why he was doing things the way he did, and he would tell me about how it would help the sound. For example, using two different microphones in the vocal booth, and where to place them to get the most out of the vocals.

Was the band practicing at Rainbow Studios before you decided to build your own studio?
We have always used my studio to practice; we just went to Rainbow to do the single. My studio has been "usable" for years, but now it's something we can actually use as a recording option, not just for demos.

What have you and the band been learning about producing since you began using the studio to record?
Well, we have goals, but at the same time, we have fun, and make music that we want to enjoy listening to. Getting the music the way we want involves the right input settings, making sure the different instruments are all matched and leveled where we want them, and most of all, don't over mix it. Sometimes, less is more, I live by that when writing and recording.

How many albums out there do you feel are overproduced? How much more grounded does the less-is-more approach make the band?
There are a lot of albums that are overproduced, and those are usually the ones that flop the most. If you look back at bands that started in the 80's, their early stuff is raw, flawed, and imperfect, which made them that much better. Fast forward to now, bands are using all this stuff to sound "relevant" when they don't need to. Our former drummer was using my six piece kit, and wanted to hit every drum and cymbal in every song, and then faster and faster. It was ok in certain songs, but not for every song. Start with something basic, and add things where they are needed. Just because you have something, doesn't mean you need to use it all the time. And it's the same with guitar. In "Murderzine" we use a wah effect in couple parts, but we don't use it in anything else.

List some albums that have stood the test of time despite their flaws. Sodom and Bathory are a couple bands that come to mind for their early releases.
Obviously, Mötley Crüe's Too Fast For Love stands out for me. Anything from Black Sabbath's early years, or The Ramones, for that matter.

How do you go about choosing the input settings you want to record and match the level of your instruments?
We started using mono setting which is something I learned at the studio, and leveling is just something I have an ear for. It's not something I learned; I've just always have been able to see that certain things sound off. Even when I listen to a professional album from a top band, I hear things that sound off, and I think, "How did they miss that? I would have tweeked it, or cut that part out, or used a different effect." I call it the producer's curse, because you are always critiquing everything.

Do you know any specific albums that could have had a better production job done?
St. Anger; I can't listen to that thing straight through. The Fallout, from Default, has some things I would have done differently. Ozzy Osbourne's Black Rain, I would have taken out about half of the guitar squeals, I think I heard forty of them, in the first three tracks. It just got annoying after a while. Although that's more of a writing thing, I would have taken them out.

Would you ever consider producing albums somewhere down the road? How professional a job do you think you would do?
Actually, I have done some demo work for a few people, not with the new setup, but it gave me some knowledge on what I'm doing. But yeah, I'd love to get into it more. With my setup, you are not going to get the manufactured sound that you hear from the top bands, but you will get a raw sound, yet, mixed and put together with a quality sound that most people look for.

How soon do you expect to start recording a new full length? If any drummers reading this are interested in contacting you, where can they write?
It would be our first full length, we are going to star recording a couple acoustic singles in the next few weeks, then start on our first EP in the coming months after that. If any drummers are interested, they can contact us on Facebook, ReverbNation, Twitter, YouTube, or email. Facebook is usually the easiest, as we can access that on the go.


-Dave Wolff

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