Interview with SODA by Dave Wolff
How long have you been recording and releasing material, and what compelled you to pursue it as a career?
I started playing instruments on and off when I was really young and I was always singing. As far as releasing music, I started to do little box radio tapes from my basement when I was real young. I would pass them around, bring them to school, and even sell a few for a couple of bucks. The little radio I had at the time really captured my voice and guitar. When it comes to recording, I don't claim to be much of an engineer. In a studio setting I produce more and do some assisting at the desk but it's not full blown. However, my new release coming out on October 13, Therapy Sessions, was recorded mostly by me and done right in my home. It was exciting. What compelled me to navigate toward music was the band Extreme. The second I laid eyes on Nuno and Gary a weird switch clicked. Not to mention that I was already in love with larger than life personalities like Boy George, Prince and Jon Bon Jovi.
What genres were direct influences on your playing and songwriting? Did you start with one instrument and progress to others?
In general I am a mixed bag. I've always gravitated toward anything that was a bit different or off the beaten path. But that's not to say that I don't get into totally commercial stuff either. If I like it, I like it... it's as simple as that. I started with piano, then drums/percussion and eventually leaning toward guitar and singing most. I can make a decent racket with just about anything.
Do you still have any of the early tapes you recorded in your basement? Would you ever re-release them at some point?
I have tons of tapes, and a bunch of them are unlabeled. Re-releasing them would be a fun project someday I'd imagine. I haven't heard what is on them in years.
How well has the D.I.Y. approach to promoting and distributing your material worked for you?
It has been good, fun and sometimes fruitful. I realized more and more that was a better way for me to operate due to a majority of reasons. Plus, I'm not really a "dick" so to speak and that quite honestly is the better way to be when it comes to this type of stuff. I've seen a lot of people use others as stepping stones and advance farther, but that's just not me. I do my thing and I'm fine with it.
How many bands were you involved in since you began? How many releases does each band have out?
As far as I would consider them to be anyway, I guess nine. In relation to releases I'm lucky to have a large catalog. On my website there is a "releases" section. I'd tell anyone to head over there if they were really interested.
Have you always worked solo or have you worked with other musicians during your career?
I honestly prefer to be in a band situation, but at times it's just difficult because it's often large personalities and I usually try to take the lead. I've always kinda had the luxury or being able to easily revert to a solo situation when I was not full time in a band. However, at this current moment not being in a band has been a bit of a relief quite honestly.
How many different musicians have you worked with altogether? Were they mostly based in Long Island or were some from Queens or New York City?
I'd say I've lost count at this point. I've worked with super indie local guys and gals from Long Island, NYC, Queens, Brooklyn (Shinobi Ninja, Spookey Ruben, Lord of the Lost, Acey Slade, Sponge, Rob Szabo) all the way up to singing with Darren Hayes and Nuno Bettencourt. I and the people that I have worked with have covered lots of ground as far as musicianship; we've used dulcimers, all sorts of guitars, bells, piano, basses, drums, toys, and even up to glassware on my new release.
How much creative freedom does writing, composing, playing and recording solo provide?
Endless. I have to worry about no one. No drama or issues. I work at my own pace and make and break all the rules.
Did all that solo work help you develop your approach to songwriting? How much does it show so far? How much farther do you have to go in that regard?
For the most part I'd write alone on an acoustic guitar and bring the ideas over to band practices. That how most of the foundations were built for the blossoming songs with the various bands I've been in. I don't need to go any farther to find my own identity, I was born with it.
Does self-promotion include running an independent label or social media channels?
When I released my first solo EP many years ago when I was very young. It was in between records from my band Violet Daydream who also had a production deal. It was a cool time. My goal was to start my own label, I did release that EP under my little indie label at the time which was Melancholy Kid Records. I do have all the social media stuff going on, It's not always my favorite thing but I do understand it is a necessary evil.
Are there clubs in Long Island, Queens, Brooklyn and NYC where you prefer to perform?
Not really... it's different now. There are lots of nice newer places. I do think that Long Island has a lot of good stuff going on.
Describe Violet Daydream's production deal. How did you end up releasing an EP on your label?
Kelly Price who used to sing for Whitney Houston had developed her label and scouted us at an In-Store performance. She shopped us to larger labels that would use her subsidiary, Big Mama Records, to release her artists. Fred Durst, Sylvia Brown, and Busta Rhymes were all involved. We were promised a lot. My EP was not released by Violet Daydream but A Boy Called Soda, I don't want to confuse the readers. I had a bunch of songs that did not fit into what Violet Daydream was doing, so in-between records I cut my own thing. I learned a lot.
How long were you running Melancholy Kid Records? What led to the label folding?
MKR was ambitious and lasted a few years. It stopped existing because I was not prepared to keep it going and make it more. I did not know as much about the business aspect of this stuff as I've learned over the years. I've always done everything on my own, a little help here and there but as you know you can't count on people.
Were you running MKR on your own, or was there a staff working with you? How much promotion went into it? Did you consider singing other New York bands?
MKR was all solo. The promotion that went into it was mainly my A Boy Called Soda EP and my website at that time. As far as other New York bands, for a long time I've wanted to get into producing a band or two.
Who are the bands you’re thinking of helping produce? Are these local bands you have corresponded with and have you approached them with the idea?
I'd love to work with a band called Sadartha, they are from Virginia. We've talked about it but the distance makes it challenging.
Is Sadartha a new band or have they been active for some time? How often have you discussed the possibility of producing them?
Sadartha has been active for over five years I think. The singer Johnny Noxious started it a while back. I think now is their time to do some stuff. Working with them has been discussed between me and their bass guy Mello. Life is crazy and time is hard to get a grip on. Who knows what could happen with that or anything else really.
How long has A Boy Called Soda been an active project, and how many releases are out?
I did the A Boy Called Soda thing for about four years and we have one EP out.
Describe A Boy Called Soda's EP and how it was made.
It was my first time recording solo in a studio with only an engineer. I still had a lot to learn, and I learned a lot. It's a very introspective kinda coming of age recording. It was once called by Hawksley Workman, "Naked and Confessional".
Describe how introspective ABC Soda was, and why you consider it a coming of age release.
It was heavily based on relationships and sexuality, super personal. I can barely listen to it now for a number of reasons which would be a whole other interview, haha. I was really young and it just helped me get stuff out that was getting packed away, and that is never a good thing, so really, the whole experience was positive although the end product was a somber one.
What songs on that EP do you personally consider your finest work at the time?
Probably "Never B Whole", "Gabriel" and "Goodbye". I still perform those.
Tell the readers about your other band Nox Cult. You released a live album a while back and from what I remember it's far from mainstream friendly.
NOX CULT was three strangers that came together, made some amazing music and built a literal CULT type thing... and then burned out like a supernova. I'm so proud of that band, it's just a shame we didn't get a chance to release more. We had started a studio record and have a few more live cuts recorded, so that could easily surface one day. People ask us all the time about that band... it's pretty amazing.
Who was in the lineup of Nox Cult with you? How often did you perform and how does the live album represent your show?
NOX CULT was me, Fox on bass and backing vocals and Monkey on drums and some programming. Really talented guys, playing with them invigorated me. We played a lot and tried to spread out as best we could. We really built that from the ground up and it was incredibly organic. Our ideas and how the band was presented was very special, it came very easy and we really started to get that vibe out into the crowds. It really started to feel like everyone was a part of something that was the ultimate goal. When you have a Cult, you really want to spread that shit out, haha. The "Fucking Live" EP we did was a good example of what the band was just slightly capable of. It was loud, hungry, raw, urgent. Our songs were well written and well thought out with important lyrical content. It's probably some of the best guitar work I have ever done as well.
What songs on Fucking Live have the most energy and which of them got the biggest response from your audiences?
That whole thing is energy. "Maniacs" was certainly a crowd favorite.
Why did Nox Cult disband? Do you see them reforming to release new material at some point?
In short, strained relationships and issues that sadly could not find resolution. My patience for any kind of drama or nonsense is mostly gone. Any leftover stuff could find a release in the future.
Provide some information about the new release you are planning for October.
My new release, "Therapy Sessions: An Experiment In Sound and Word" is a very stream of consciousness recording. Spoken word, storytelling, weird sounds and arrangements and a few songs. A very non-traditional "record". Limited editions will be available Friday October 13th.
Describe the recording of Therapy Session and how the stream of consciousness comes into play for the spoken word tracks.
Aside from two tracks. I did it all on my own, which was new for me. It was fun and I learned some new stuff. I only worked on it when I was 100% invested in contributing to it. I didn't scrutinize any of the components. If I was getting into three, four, five takes... it was too much. I've been saying to people who ask, if an abstract painting had a voice this could be it. The title stems from the fact that it was a therapeutic process for me and also an experimental one.
Who else worked on Therapy Sessions with you? Was it recorded in a professional studio or did you use your own equipment?
The only other musician involved was my drummer from NOX CULT, Monkey. He played on one track. It was not recorded in a professional studio. I did 80% of it on my computer at home with all of my own noisemakers.
How many CD copies have you made of Therapy Sessions? Will you upload it for streaming on Bandcamp and other social media sites? How do you intend to promote the new album?
"Therapy Sessions" will have a VERY limited release of twenty which comes only in a five piece bundle that I made. Then yes, it will be digital. iTunes, CDBaby, etc and eventually Bandcamp. As far as promotion goes, it will be minimal. This whole thing for me is just meant to be completely unconventional.