Episode 9 Building a Culture That Works : When you are motivated you are always looking up to to the next big thing.
When you are in an international touring band there is always some sort of silent race going on with other bands. It’s not really a race because there isn’t really a finish line so it’s really a one up competition. Bands are always looking up to do the next bigger and better thing. Something better than what you buddies band is doing or has done. If you are touring a lot you want to get exposed to as many people as possible. You want new fans. Which mean you have to go and play for people that would not normally come to see you play. This is looking up.
I remember seeing Clutch on tour with Sepultura in 1993. Clutch was one of the openers and they were playing for a total metal crowd. See how it works is they would come through as a supporting act and hopefully gain a bunch of new fans at that show and then they would come through as a headliner and hope that the new fans would come see them at their headlining show. This is how a lot of bands grow. This is also how a lot of bands die.
We talked in the last episode about starting a band and how I got my feet wet and gained some playing experience. Today we are going to talk about what it’s like when something takes off. How does that affect you and your relationships.
So my best friends in the world and I started this band called Spit. I was in 10th grade. This band was awesome because these were my friends, my boys, we did everything together. We went skateboarding, we went to theme parks, we went recording shopping and to shows. We did it all together. It was awesome!
Playing in band with people you know well is pretty awesome especially if you are on the same page musically. There is this every running band encyclopedia of terms and feels that will never end as long as music continues to be written. It’s about referencing music when writing music. All great artists steal we know that. But what people may not know is that other bands names are throw around every single day in studios and practice spaces all over the world. When a band is writing a song it’s not uncommon for someone to say something like “give me more of a Bonham type beat” or “let’s do a prince type vocal break right there”. And when you are in a band with your best friends and you all listen to the same music together because you are together every day you can almost play it before they say it because you just know. The idea that I have enough space in my brain to remember 6,000 different drum parts that I didn’t write but can reference at any time just blows me away. Music and rhythm is powerful and it sticks in our brains like the craziest of glue!
So in 1994 Spit recorded and released our first cassette that we called “Blue Collar”. It was a lot of songs that were kind of angry talking about things like getting kick out of class at school or how our families worked these blue collar jobs for pretty much nothing.
This was the first thing that I had ever recorded that had any kind of feelings or emotions behind it.
There were things that our singer Dan wrote about that were relatable to any 15,16,17 year old kid going through their days trying to navigate their emotions and just figure it out as they went. We were following that same trend that Jive and Melancholy Buzz did. We recorded a tape, we made shirts and eventually also did a live radio show at WFBE.
We eventually started to draw kids to shows in downtown Flint which was kind of weird because normally it was just our friends that would come see us and then it was like friends plus 10 then friends plus 50 and so on. When other bands would come to town we would often get on the bill and be asked to play last so the out of town bands would have kids to play in front of.
This was the courteous thing to do. If you drive 3 hours to play a show and everyone leaves after the local band and you play for 10 kids that stuck around that sucks for you as the band that traveled. This goes back to what I was saying earlier about Clutch it’s really the same thing just on a much smaller scale. In Flint though it was weird because we were young and I feel like it happened so fast. There was nothing cooler to hear than the promoter saying that “you guys have to play last because everyone will leave after you guys play”.
It’s a weird things to hear and it can definitely get into your head.
This is where you see a lot of bands start to demand stuff and more money and larger guest list and whatever else. We were kids and we just wanted to play. I don’t know if people stuck around because they genuinely liked the band or if it was just the right music to get out their aggression out or maybe we were just up there being pure and honest and playing music that we loved and people gravitated towards that. Either way it was an amazing experience.
We also released a 7” through some local label then then eventually a CD. The CD was called Buckham Alley and it came out in 1996. It was great to finally have a record out but the way that it all came together was kind of unusual.
Spit for the most part was a punk band we liked the misfits, minor threat, the descendents and bands like that but we also loved bands like Sepultura, Slayer and Clutch. All of the earlier stuff that we had written was very much in that superfast punk style. That’s what we knew and liked so that’s what we did. 1994 was also the year that the Punk in Drublic record came out from NOFX and we bought that CD and just wore it out !!
We all loved metal but never wanted to be a metal band because at the time metal bands were a lot of hair and leather and things that weren’t us. We were skater kids that just played music. We wrote and then recorded a bunch of songs with our friend Marc Hudson. Marc is the same dude that loaned us all the gear to record the Jive record. Marc worked at the local music store called Bogners and he also had a recording studio on the side. We recorded stuff with him all the time. So we had these songs and It wasn’t enough for a full record so I don’t remember exactly what the plan was but we had probably 6-7 tracks done and in the bag.
Everyone in the band had this metal itch in them and eventually Eric and I started writing some more metal sounding stuff kind of for fun. They were riffy and super influenced by the Clutch. These songs were awesome and super fun to play but didn’t really fit in with the Spit punk type stuff but they were so fun to play that we just started writing more of them.
This was also about the time that we discovered the band Earth Crisis. They were a vegan straight edge hardcore band from Syracuse that were talking the underground hardcore scene by storm. They were signed to this record label out of Chicago called Victory Records. Victory has a slew of bands that were very much where we were in the punk meets metal genre but they were doing it differently.
The stuff was heavy and angry and had heart to it. This was totally a bridge for us. How can we play more metal type stuff but not have to look like metalheads. There were all these bands that we had never heard of that opened us up to other bands. It was like this crazy worm hole just opened up and we were all sucked right into it.
All these bands like Strife, Integrity, Snapcase, Hatebreed, Bloodlet and more opened us up to even more bands like Quicksand, Orange 9mm, By The Grace of God and more. It was absolutely crazy. At the same time all this was happening we started playing shows out of town and in places south of Flint where we discovered local bands there that all sounded like all these new bands we just kind of found out about.. It was happening right under our nose and we just fell into it. Bands like Cold As Life, Earthmover, and Tank we all just 60 miles south of us and now we were playing shows together.
To these bands it was cool because we were this young punk band from the streets of Flint and to us it was cool because this was like the eye to the whole new world that we had just discovered.
I remember the first time we played in Detroit with Earthmover it was at a place called the 404 Willis. This place was in the Cass Corridor not too far from Wayne State University. I’m not going to lie it was a little creepy and pretty scary. We were from Flint so there wasn’t a lot of things that scared us but this was different.
This probably isn’t the reality but I don’t feel like anyone was really in charge.
There were people drinking 40s inside the show and it was pretty dark. It was winter so everything was kind of wet. I remember my drums were set up right behind the door and at the time I was playing shoeless and My feet were like ice cubes because they were probably wet from being outside and cold from people coming in and out while we were setting up and playing. This was probably the 4th or 5th show that we had played out of time and I feel like everytime we ventured out there was always something that strange.
Once we played a backyard BBQ somewhere down near Detroit and there were all these drunk backyard moshers circle pitting around this giant bonfire as we played Minor Threat songs. I remember someone throwing something on the fire and me just feeling flames very close to my face while I was playing. It’s crazy sitting behind the drums can sometimes be the best seat in the house.
Anyway now that we had been exposed to all of these new bands that were basically our bridge from Punk to Metal we were so stoked! We started writing song after song and they all sounded like they could have been released on a Victory Style Sampler.
Everything was written with a lot of influence from Earth Crisis and Snapcase and now Earthmover. It’s hard not to let things influence you but we were young we didn’t have “a sound” we just played what we liked and now we liked all these new Hardcore bands that changed the entire game for us.
After we wrote 7-8 songs we decided to go in a record them. Mike from Earthmover had a studio at his house in Detroit and he was recording a lot of cool bands at the time. We struck a deal with him to go and lay down some tracks. It was cool for us younger kids to be down in Detroit hanging out with a band that we were heavily influenced by. It’s almost like seeing someone in a movie that you really liked and then you got to go to their house and hang out with them and they helped you work on your movie career or something.
So eventually the we release all the recorded songs that we had on a CD called Buckham Alley. It was just a mix of different recording sessions. Some were from Flint with Marc some were from Detroit with Mike and 1 or 2 live tracks that were featured on other compilations. The CD was a joint release by Joel Rash’s label called Union Made Records and Derek Grant’s label called Sluggo’s Old Skool Records. We were pretty stoked that anyone was even entertaining the idea of helping us put out a record. We were really stoked to be working with Derek. He was the drummer for The Suicide Machines and it was just a really cool dude, amazing drummer and he liked our band. It was pretty awesome.
Actually the first time that we played our out of state was at the a sold out show at the Metro in Chicago with The Suicide Machines, Square One, and The Broadways.
The Suicide Machines had just released a record on a major label and they were on this tour and they were selling out shows all over the country.
I remember I borrowed my Dad’s big blue Chevy Suburban and we loaded up all of our gear and headed to Chicago. I was 16 or 17 and had never driven out of state once minus the one time that I was driving to East Lansing from Flint and got on 69 East instead of West and ended up in Canada. So we were in chicago and I remember where being a Cubs game happening. So Wrigley field doesn’t have a parking lot so everyone just takes the train in or if they drive then they just park on the street and whatever pay lots they can find. So we get to the Metro and our name in on the Markee. Like frickin’ cool is that! There is no where to park because the game is going so we drove like 20 blocks away and then walked up to the venue. We were early so we just wanted to walk up and check everything out. We walked up and one of the guys at the club said hey where did you park and I told him and he just laughed and said there is a parking spot right out front that’s coned off for you guys. We were all like all man. I walked the 15 or 20 minutes back to get the suburban and drove it up to the club.
I remember playing this show like it was yesterday, It was a sold out show at the Metro and we were just on top of the world. I remember we played about 6 or 7 of our songs and it was going ok and then Dan said “does anyone like NOFX” and the place went nuts to we played the song “BOB” and people just lost it. It was the most amazing thing ever.
Spit went on to play a bunch of shows with some amazing bands. We sold shirts, CD,s Tapes, and patches and as most bands do Spit eventually fell apart and we all went on to play in other bands. We never made any money or gained any fame from it but we learned so much from those years playing together. I think at the age everything falls apart. We are so heavily influenced by the next thing it’s hard to stay on course. It’s like clothing styles, hair styles and anything else that is fad related while growing up.
Funny this is a review from discogs on the CD:
I bought this CD back in 96-97 while seeing Spit perform with The Suicide Machines at Flint Local 432 on Buckham Alley in Flint Michigan. The album is obviously named after the Alley the club’s door was on, and the first track “187” is about a shooting that took place there. It’s a great song and a great album. Don’t know if you can find it, but if you can, grab it. Slow than fast, true hard core, from real hard working guys. You’ve likely missed your chance to see them live, but I can tell you after seeing them at least three times in Flint, they sounded even better live than on the record. So much angst and energy. If you wanted to just get the song “187,” it is available on Amazon, off of an album called “The Michigan Compilation.” Costs 99 cents, and well worth it. p.s. Blue Collar rocks hard too…
But let’s talk about what did I really learn from all this?
I learned that when you are 16 and people think your band is cool it’s hard not to let that go to your head. I don’t think I let it get me but I’m sure at some point or another I probably thought I was too cool for school.
This is why you see young music stars always getting in to trouble. Driving fast cars and just being all kinds of wild. It’s like Jay Z said you were celebrating the minute you was havin dough!
We were nowhere near that level or anything but it’s the perception that other people have of you that can create pressure and under pressure is where people blow it.
I learned that most motivated people are always looking up. Always looking to create and to move forward. We are always looking and do the next thing bigger and better than the last. It’s always a push or a grid or a hustle. There isn’t and end, there is never end. I was having this discussion a few weeks ago about if I won the lottery would I come into the work the next day. I think I would come to work because I love what I do but If I didn’t it would be because I started 10 new companies that day and I am doing that now.
It’s funny looking back on this 25 years later. Spit worked well because we were friends first and band mates 2nd. We built a culture between all of us that just worked and we are still all friends to this day.