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.
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