Interview: Kevin Seconds (7 Seconds)

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Some people see the punk rock scene as a springboard to stardom, a means to an end. Others see punk rock as a fleeting phase that passes when "adulthood" calls. Then there are some of us who who aren’t going anywhere. "Lifers" who see a greater good in a scene than what immediately surrounds them. Kevin Seconds is of the latter persuasion. With 28+ years under his belt in the punk rock scene, he and his band 7 Seconds have solidified their place among the punk legendary. What’s more, he’s "still on it" . LFR! Caught up with Kevin @ Chicago’s Riot Fest.





Dorian – So it’s been awhile since we’ve seen you out on tour, what have you been up to?
Kevin – My wife and I opened a coffee shop in 2001. We ran it for about 3 years and then we had a weird thing with the landlord, he didn’t renew the lease. Then just recently (actually about a year ago) we reopened in another place. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing for the last year. Just kind of being the boss and running the place. We do live music there and it’s kind of an art gallery thing. I committed to 1 full year of being there, now it’s kind of running itself. But everybody else (in the band) has kids and stuff like that. A lot of family stuff.

Dorian – After seeing you guys here at Riot Fest tonight you’re as tight as ever. Do you still get together and jam or what?
Kevin – You know, we just love it. Honestly, we don’t get a whole lot of practice. We all love each other and get along really great. The shows, there’s always something really cool about them. I think we’re at a good place too. We’re not doing this as our career anymore. We never meant to do that in the first place, it just kind of went that way. Now we have our lives and we get to go out and play music. We do shows we really want to do and it’s for the right reasons. You know, we just love to play this kind of music to this type of crowd. It’s what keeps us going.

Dorian – 7 Seconds had a lot of down time, then Take It Back, Take It On, Take It Over came out of left field. What brought you back to the studio?
Kevin – I think a problem with taking a lot of time between albums.... we’ve never broke up as a band, so when we come back out again people say "oh, they’re reuniting". We had always been writing stuff. Our problem is we write more on the road, we’ll get the rhythm going then we go home and get comfy with our lives. All of a sudden a year goes by and it’s like we haven’t toured in a year. Chalk it up to part laziness and part getting busy with life. I don’t know, we had been working a lot of material and I really wanted to try and record an album with just us in the studio. I’ve got a little bit of an engineering background now and some experience. We made the record we wanted to make and we didn’t have anybody fucking with us. We got a chance to have Bill Stevenson help mix it. I don’t know, it just seemed like the right time.

Dorian – Over the years you’ve witnessed the scene grow from it’s infancy into the financially viable commodity it is now. That topic came up in a song on Take It Back, ....(Where Is the Danger?). What made you address the situation?
Kevin – When you take some time off and then you go back out you sort of see what’s going on in the scene, everything is always a little different. The one thing we did growing up as a band starting from 1980 and having to tour and record the way we did compared to now it’s almost like...... I hated all the violence and the danger aspect of it, it was scary. But it helped us all band together and become stronger and vocalize our opposition to the way things were. Anybody out there that had a rebellious spirit, it gave them a voice to go out and do these things and make their own world. It seems like a lot of the younger kids today are just living on MySpace. I’ve got nothing against MySpace, it’s this great promotional tool and all this other shit. But bands form and I don’t think they appreciate what it means to be in a band and work toward that and be a part of scene and help build a scene. And it’s not their faults necessarily. But being an old jaded punk rock bastard I’m going to reflect on it. My worry about that album is that I didn’t want it to come off negative in a way that it just sounded like I was bitching and jealous and the whole sour grapes deal. We said in the beginning we were going to make a record that was purely for kids, old and young alike, that just love old fast hardcore punk rock. We didn’t care how many records the thing sold. We told the label that "you know if it sells, we’re happy. But this is just for the punk rock/hardcore kids". And not hardcore like emo fucking hardcore. But kids that know what it means and even if it’s a small scene and it’s dwindling, it doesn’t matter if the hearts are in the right place and there’s still a few of us who really love it and are enjoying it. Sorry, that was a little long winded.

Dorian – Another hot topic (no pun intended) that comes up is the debate over vinyl versus digital. Where do you stand?
Kevin – The vinyl thing, I still very much love but the digital thing has made it easier to put out music. I really think it’s great that people download music for free. I love that it’s affecting the big record labels and they’re admitting they fucked up by fighting it. I’m hoping these idiots, these big rock’n’roll musicians that have money coming out of their ass that took a stand against it and said college kids should be sued because they download music. It’s going to turn on them. The gist of it is of course if you put your time into a record and everyone should be payed for something they put work into. Why shouldn’t you make money like you were a bank teller or a construction worker. But the idea that these corporations that are filthy rich are going to starve to death or whatever is ridiculous. I think it’s great. I love the fact that I can... part of doing this last 7 Seconds record was we did recording ourselves and then shipped a hard drive over to Bill Stevenson in Colorado. You could have never done something like that in the 80’s. I love the communication aspect, although it has taken the personal thing out of it. I used to love writing letters but I’ve never been a phone guy. So for me to be able to e-mail or text message somebody is cool. I’m all or it. And the audio thing is great. I’ve learned a lot about recording because of working on a computer. I’m not as much of a purist as a lot of my old school friends. But I still get a kick out vinyl at the same time. I kind of straddle the fence there. I can see why it’s annoying. I still think CD’s sound.... there’s something different about them, comparatively. I love to be able to put my I-pod on and listen to like 4000 songs if I want.


Dorian – Shit. Don’t apologize to me, I’m digging this. 7 Seconds has always been an avid anti-racist band, almost more so than any other band. What made that such an important issue to you?
Kevin - For me, as a kid, I distinctly remember my mom getting into an argument with her father (my grandfather). It was a discussion about Martin Luther King being assassinated and him just saying some horribly racist shit and my mom just took a stand and said "you know what, this wrong and I don’t want my children near this". She didn’t speak to her own father for nearly 10 years until he finally had a change of heart in his life. But, I remember that being a big defining moment in my young life. You know I had black friends who I grew up with, and growing up in kind of lower-class-white-trashy neighborhoods you were always around it. Kids were always saying nigger and stupid shit. It just seemed so disrespectful and wrong. I couldn’t even imagine being the target of some derogatory term. It was just seeing all this ugliness. We were a poor family. We always lived in shitty neighborhoods and so I think the perspective was a little different. The thing with Reno was, as redneck and conservative as it was in 1980, the scene itself was very diverse and open. There were a lot of women involved, there were black kids and native Americans in the scene. We actually used to book shows with bands like Social Distortion right there on the reservation. So us being from Reno we’d go to shows in LA and there would be these white power dudes and we’d go "what the fuck is that?!? I’ve heard of that but I thought it only existed on TV." So anyway, it affected us in a big way. And early on we decided we weren’t content with just being a loud mouth angry band. If we’re gonna be an angry band let’s be angry about something that means something. Those are things me and my brother (Steve the bass player), got growing up with a parent that actually took a stand and said " no, I don’t want my children to be around that shit".

Dorian – Do you think 7 Seconds has had an impact flushing the neo-Nazi skinhead element out of the scene?
Kevin – Not really. I think early on we identified ourselves as anti-racist skinheads. But for us, I’ve always had friends who were skinheads and were some of the coolest guys in the world and they could be assholes just like anybody else. The whole idea of racism or any "ism" is just hard to accept. I don’t take responsibility for it at all. I think it’s cool. In the early days especially when our first couple of EP’s came out we got a lot of letters from people who were associated or called themselves skinheads and some of the oddest shit would happen, even white power skinheads would write us and say "We really love your band" and so on and I’d write back and say ’ if you love our band I hope you understand we have a song called "Anti-Klan" how much clearer can you be?!? We’ve got a song called "Racism Sucks". We’re against that shit and we’ve always been outspoken. There were times we’d go to like a redneck town in Florida and we’d get death threats and white power guys wanting to beat our asses or flatten our tires. There was a lot of scary shit. I would always look at bands like M.D.C and I was never a huge political band fan. I liked M.D.C and Dead Kennedys but they were a little too preachy than I liked. But, I really respected them because they would get out there and just keep talking about it and saying what they thought was wrong and they would walk the walk. They would get attacked and all. That takes a lot of heart and a lot of balls to just not let anyone silence you. I can’t even say that I’m that brave.
It’s an intense thing. In the world were in now there aren’t enough people who are willing to go through what it takes. And it’s not even a thing where what I have to say is so important. You can go out your door everyday and see so many forms of hatred or racism. It’s nice when you have a chance to be apart of standing up against it. Even in a small way.

*Steve Youth (Kevin’s brother and bass player of 7 Seconds) walks in, much friendly bullshitting ensues between the 3 of us. Steve is then called back into the other room*


Dorian – So how has it been being in a band with your brother all these years?
Kevin – It’s pretty fucking great actually. When we were younger it was harder because we were always clashing. But now, as adults we’ve learned how to steer away from each other’s bad moods. Troy are drummer, he’s like our brother too. He joined in ’82 originally, then he was out for a tour because he had to do other stuff . So we all kind of get how we work.

Dorian – Maybe it’s a common misconception but 7 Seconds name always comes up in conversations about the straight-edge movement.
Kevin – Personally I’ve never been comfortable with the tag of straight-edge. I don’t do drugs, I don’t smoke, I don’t smoke pot, I don’t drink. I’m not into into it. Whatever. But for me I was never into it as an action or a movement. I was never trying to prove a point. I’ve just had a really bad experiences with it. I’ve had a lot of alcoholism in my family. I’ve seen some really horrible things. I’ve had friends turn on me for no reason other than the fact they were just drunk. And then later they’d say "I love you man, I’m sorry". Then they’d do it again. Being younger your like " you can’t keep on coming back saying ’I’m sorry’. You have to change or fuck you." But we’ve never been comfortable with the straight-edge thing. I think that happened because some of the early stuff had some lyrics and people affiliated us with Minor Threat because we were friend s and we’d play together a lot. We were very influenced by them. But some of my best friends have been a big deal in the straight-edge scene. The message is pretty cool but it got so out of hand. I’m not into militant anything. I just think if you drink and you’re cool and don’t hurt anybody, who am I to tell an adult person that’s wrong. And at the same time if you don’t drink and it’s good for you, cool. For my life, I don’t think I have the personality. In high school I tried smoking pot, and I tried drinking but I didn’t get anything out of it. It wasn’t fun for me. I’m not comfortable with being called straight-edge though. I’ve turned down... I swear to god.... probably 20 straight-edge documentary, independent films and interviews because I don’t know what I could possibly say to strengthen the straight-edge thing and I don’t ever feel like I was a big spokesman for it. There’s other things I’d rather be known for.

Dorian – I’m sure some of the association comes from 7 Seconds being such a positive band.
Kevin – Which is fine. The positive thing I’m okay with.

Dorian – How have you kept on the positivity tip for so long in light of all the bullshit that goes on?
Kevin – It’s odd because I’m a pretty cynical person and I can be pretty judgmental but I think for us the whole idea is coming up from the background we’re from we just wanted to make our lives better. Steve and I had so many friends and people in our family that died way too young. Pretty bright people that let shit take over you know. So for us, getting to be in a band and all of a sudden people around the country knew who we were it was like "this is great". It’s almost like the kid who learns how to box or play basketball. It was our way out of a shitty situation. But at the same time it was really important to us to try and keep our heads together and stay humble and never to think we were bigger or better than we were. It’s a struggle when you have people going "your band changed my life" or "I love your band. Your the greatest thing..." when your young. You know it fucks with your head. I think going back home and working jobs and having Reno say "You guys aren’t shit", I think that helped out a lot. Or having your mom say "I love your band, but, your not that special". It keeps you humble. I don’t know if I’m really that positive but I’ve always said I didn’t want to be this 60 year old man saying "Ah, you fucking kids" or "When I was young..."

Dorian – How old are you now?
Kevin – 46.


Dorian – So how much longer do you think you can do it?
Kevin – I don’t know. Our last big US tour was about 2 years ago. We really pulled it off. For the longest time we’d go out for 2 – 2 and half months. That was our thing. This last one was about a month. It took it’s toll on us. We’re all older, none of us are incredibly fit. Luckily, there hasn’t been drug abuse or alcoholism. I think that’s helped. But it’s hard to say. I think we’ll always keep it open. I don’t think you’re ever going to hear us say we’re breaking up. Because really, we’ll do it as long as we love doing it. Like I was saying before, once you realize you know "hey, this isn’t our career". For a good 10 years this is all we did and it stopped being fun. It was almost like we had to put a record out and then do the tour. So it’s just open. As long as there’s a desire and we can all stand being in close proximity, we do get along great. There’s not a feeling of like... you know some bands make great music but they can’t stand each other. I never understood that. I couldn’t be in a band like that, even if we were making a ton of money and everything was going our way. I would hate it. I know we have an album in the works. We’re really wanting to get a record done. There’s probably 8 or 9 songs that are complete and another 20 that are waiting to be completed. So we’re definitely going to plan around doing some more stuff. We’re all going a little crazy because we don’t do it enough anymore. It was actually embarrassing when we were talking about it earlier. "Our last gig was last year playing here at Riot Fest. Man that sucks." That’s ridiculous, we have to play more.



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Inerview: Tony Kovacs (Shot Baker)

Shot Baker


                               
    Chicago has churned out it’s share of significant punk bands since the days dinosaurs walked the earth. Thankfully, the Windy City’s fertile soil has yet to grow barren. From the land of such bands as Naked Raygun, Screeching Weasel and The Bollweevils, I present the next generation. I got a chance to sit down with the voice of the outfit Tony Kovacs, here’s what went down



Dorian – So let’s start off with the band’s inception, how did you guys come together?
Tony – We were all kind of in the same circle of bands and all of our previous bands fell apart. Each member of this band were productive members of our previous bands and we all had a mutual respect for one another. So we started a band and it worked out.

Dorian – So give us some background on yourself and the rest of the band.
Tony – Well, there’s Nat Wright, he plays bass. We both work at the same pizza place (and have been for almost 10 years). Nat’s one of my best friends, he’s like my brother. Then there’ Chris Gach our drummer. He and I do most of the promotion, PR work, booking and all the bullshit. He and I are pretty much the brains behind that whole operation. It’s great to have another guy in the band that’s into doing all the promotion stuff. So he and I have a very strong respect for one another as far as business goes. We both have a lot of ambition on the promotional side of things. John Krohn, John’s a really a unique guitarist that will never be able to be replaced. He’s usually the voice of reason. When we’re whining about stuff and being little wimps about things, he’s usually the one who steps up and says "Shut the fuck up and get your ass in gear". He’s kind of the one who puts us back on our feet every now and then. He’s kind of the blood and guts of the band. Another thing about Nat is he’s a recording engineer. In addition to being a great friend and a huge part of this band, he does a lot of work behind the scenes as far as recording and those things go.


Dorian – Being a fan of yours myself, I’m interested in where your influences lie. Listening to Awake I’ve made a couple comparisons, but I’d like to hear where your coming from.
Tony – Musically, I don’t know.... lyrically..... I wouldn’t even say lyrically, spiritually in a way, I’m influenced by artists whose lyrics really speak to me, bands like Naked Raygun and Avail are a huge influence, but also artists like Cat Stevens speak to me (I get a lot of heat for that one though). Pretty much any artists who are writing with an aim to get to some kind of truth. Does that makes sense.


Dorian – Sure, I get the whole spiritual connotations, bands that transcend music and seem to be deeper rooted than the music itself. For me it’s bands like 7 Seconds or Operation Ivy among others.
Tony – Operation Ivy is another huge one for me. I loved that shit when I was a kid and that stuff just sweetened with age for me. When I was older and began to understand what they we’re going for. It’s one thing to be a kid and be into a song like Sound System. Then get older and really dive into the lyrics and the message. I just appreciate that band so much more now, lyrically and thought-wise, huge influence. Same thing with Minor Threat, they sweetened with age. The older I got the more it hit home. Songs like Minor Threat, just huge, or Salad Days; just hit like a ton bricks once I got a little older. Once I started facing like "holy shit, wait a minute, I’m not a kid anymore, I’m about to become an adult". I went through a crisis. All these bands I loved as a kid suddenly meant so much more to me. Because now I’m going through a similar crisis that these bands were going through when they wrote that shit. It just hit so much harder.


Dorian – Lyrically speaking, on your last album Awake, you brought the lyrics to a personal place. What song do you find yourself most drawn to and why?
Tony – Probably the song Awake itself just because the song kind of..... I don’t write any of the music, I just write the words and come up with vocal patterns. I mean I’ll come up with suggestions as far as arrangement goes but I don ’t come up with any of the riffs. But yeah that song probably means the most to me just because it’s my own personal eye opener. It’s a way to remind myself to stay in the present moment, to appreciate what’s going on right now and to not take myself to seriously.


Dorian – Where Awake is concerned, what do you think of the album?
Tony – To tell you the truth we’re really focused on our new stuff. We’re still really happy with the album. I think we wrote some good stuff that will hopefully connect with people. But we’re just focusing on new stuff. We have a whole album recorded that will be coming out soon on Riot Fest Records . I think the new album has a lot more grit, a lot more girth than Awake. It’s not quite as polished, but in a good way. It’s got a little bit more of a heavier sound recording-wise. It’s still fast and it’s hard kind of stuff but it just has a lot fuller sound, not as smooth and slick. We’re really happy with it. We can’t we wait for it to come out so we can start playing some of those songs live.



Dorian – You mentioned Riot Fest Records as in Riot Fest the 3 day punk festival in Chicago which as well as the record company, you’re also involved in. How did all that come about?
Tony- To tell the truth (should I tell the truth?), I guess I’ll tell the truth. I don’t know how Riot Fest feels about this but the first year they did the fest, it appeared to be like a corporate type of thing. The guys that put it on just came out of nowhere. Nobody knew who they were in the scene and they just came out of left field and put on this huge punk rock thing. It had The Misfits without Danzig (obviously) it had The Dead Kennedys without Jello Biafra, it had The Germs without Darby Crash (obviously). Off the bat, I just jumped to conclusions like a lot of people did. It seemed a lot more corporate than it really was. We got involved the next year because Naked Raygun was playing. I actually ended up meeting Riot Mike who runs the whole thing, got to talking to him a lot and realized it was really a very grassroots operation. It’s not what a lot of people think. There’s nobody in suits running the thing. It’s just a couple of guys that grew up listening to punk rock that just wanted to do a really cool big punk rock show. After working with them it became apparent it really was what punk rock should be. So our bond kind of tightened and they asked us to be on the record label. At that point they had Naked Raygun and The Bollweevils. Obviously we were like "Fuck yeah!" you know, I grew up listening to those bands and it was exciting enough that Naked Raygun was getting back together but to be on the same record label as them, it was totally unbelievable. So we jumped on that right a way. Slowly we became more and more involved (doing a lot of street team work for them and so on). This last year, 3 out of the 4 of us were actually working at Riot Fest.
Dorian – What do you mean you were working the show? Aside from playing?
Tony – Yeah, our bass player Nat was like assistant stage manager last year, and Chris and I were both extra hands to deal with any thing that needed attention. So we’ve really built a relationship with Riot Fest. It’s just amazing, today we think it’s the greatest thing ever where as a couple of years ago we were like "what the hell is this all about anyways?!?!" and now we love it. Now we’re like family.

Dorian – So where did the name Shot Baker come from anyway?
Tony – We were going back and forth for a long time trying to come up with a name and Nat had been really obsessed with this documentary called Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie. It’s a documentary about the history of atomic bombs. Every time the government would test nuclear weapons in the 50’s they would call it "shot" this or "shot" that and Shot Baker was one where they had put a nuclear bomb something like 80 feet under the Pacific ocean and they had put captured German and Japanese ships all around it. They loaded them up with farm animals just to see what would happen. I don’t know, Nat had suggested Shot Baker and it was the best thing we could come up with. But I wouldn’t call us a political band really. We occasionally we have a little bit of a political tone, but not much. It sounded halfway decent so we went with it. I guess we’re doomed farm animals.

check out Shot Baker @

Shot Baker