Q: What made you decide to call your band 13-Monsters?
A: I was riding in the car with my son who was 6 at the time. I told him that I was going to be starting a band and asked what he thought I should call it. After a couple of silly names that a 6 year old would think of he suggested in a very off hand matter that I name the band after his favorite Lightning Bolt song which we were listening to at the time “13 monsters”.
I’m friends with Brian Chippendale of Lightning Bolt so I sent him a message and asked if we could use it, keeping in mind that we would never attempt to do a Lightning Bolt song, out of respect. Brian liked the idea and the seal of approval was given. I decided to add in a hyphen in the name to ease confusion somewhat in search engines. (in hindsight the name LegoFight that my son first came up with was pretty neat though. I know Brian would approve of that one too!)
Q: For those who have not heard your music, how would you describe your sound to them?
A: That’s a tough question. The thing about 13-Monsters is that it seemingly can’t be put into any specific genre by anyone. We have had countless people comment that our sound is so unique they can’t categorize it by saying it’s alternative or psychedelic or metal or post punk. The influences that I’ve amassed over time encompass everything from jazz and math rock to punk pop to doom and sludge metal. I draw from Boris and The Melvins as much as from Smoking Popes, Superchunk and Human Waste Project (Go look THAT one up and it’ll make sense:).
When asked about what we sound like I like to return with the question ” What do you like?” when given an answer of (insert band name here) I usually say ” yeah..there’s some of that in there.” But if asked specifics I’d have to say a mashup of Rob Zombie, Dinosaur Jr, Nirvana, Bob Mould, and Mazzy Star. You decide :)
Q: How did the band come about?
A: I quit smoking a couple years ago and was driving my wife ( and everyone else) nuts. I needed yet another outlet to keep me busy. My wife asked what it would take for me to drag out all my guitars, amps and drums to make music again. I replied honestly with this ” Everything. I would want to play all the instruments, own everything and start it my way so that I never have to deal with the pitfalls of the music business again. I’d have to be the label, the producer, the social media director, all of it. Last time there were to many people and it ended in disaster. ” So, after my 10 year hiatus from music and the college radio rock scene in Chicago, my wife Melissa bought everything I needed to have a digitally driven home studio. She basically held my somewhat hesitant hand, took some sound and engineering courses with me, and set me up to be in a spot where I don’t have to answer anyone about what I write, play, produce and release.
I’ve had a couple of really good singers, and of course the definitive singer of 13-Monsters, Adrienne. I’ve since added our live drummer, John to broaden out the live shows and add a huge element that was missing live. My manager Deb is the rudder that steers the ship because at this point I admit I have to relinquish some of the responsibilities.
Q: Do you find it harder nowadays to get people to support the music scene? Why or why not?
A: Oh god yes! That’s a big reason I took a hiatus. My decision to walk away for 10 years was in part due to feeling that no one cared about what we did. And quite honestly I’ve come close to quitting my present day projects for that same mental stumbling block of a reason. Getting people to support indie artists is a constant battle with one side being “I’m not saying enough” to the other side of “I’m saying too much and people are getting annoyed.” However I believe that initially you can’t say enough. My philosophy is this; ‘If you stay quiet and keep it inside, no one will remember who the hell you were when you die. So be loud. Say what you think. Let people know who you are.’ I think it has worked for 13-Monsters quite well. It has helped us greatly to be heard, get on radio, and put people in the seats at shows.
That brings up another sub topic though: Live shows. THAT is the nail in the coffin to most bands, especially in a market like here in Chicago or other major markets. Sure, we have the world’s 3rd largest music market in our own backyard as our playground. We get to play major venues in Chicago that 10,000 other bands will never set foot in even though they deserve to more than us. BUT, at the same time we have to guarantee people in the door. That’s the tough part. There are literally thousands of bars, clubs and venues in Chicago. On any given night there are a couple dozen other amazing bands playing in a multitude of places. Getting people to choose ours is indeed a challenge. People can pick and choose with no urgency to catch a band tonight when they can easily wait until tomorrow and see and equally fantastic indie band, jazz quartet or symphony orchestra. To make it in a place like Chicago, New York, L.A. you really have to fight for support while at the same time supporting the other artists in the room.
As Chicago media personality Ted Brunson said of me in an interview ” You are relentless on Twitter.”. Exactly..it got me in that interview, didn’t it? And it gets people to support the music scene.
Q: What is your opinion with the turn in the music industry regarding how the rosters of festivals are built, (meaning contests and voting versus talent)?
A: I’m not a fan of major contests or large-scale-event-voting without merit. I hope that with any poll or contest we have been in the people who choose 13-Monsters are actually listeners. Blind support is rather hollow and meaningless. If we were to be voted on to a main stage event at a major festival by blind support votes it wouldn’t mean much if there is no listening fan base to show up. It’s like buying twitter followers or false facebook “likes”. I would rather be up there because of talent and a true demand. But that’s the music industry. They push Justin Beiber and other nearly talentless flavors of the month on us while bands that I have seen play for 5 people in a bar could blow away 99% of any major acts that we are forced by the media to accept as good…and alot of the “artists” forced on us got that big because of some stupid contest or a singing talent contest on tv showcasing people who have never cut their teeth in clubs night after night. They waited in line outside a studio, sang 1 audition and got on TV.
Q: If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?
A: I’d do away with the very TV talent shows I mentioned earlier and recycled terrestrial radio. I think we would be much better off if internet radio stations and sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud were mandatory on all computers. That’s where the talented people are. That’s where true artists are trying to be heard. That’s where you can really find true talent being showcased. I’d love to see the music industry get away from the forced structure of big business that demands we here R Kelly 10 times a day. But then again I’d also like a magic lamp with a genie inside of it too.
Q: If you could share the stage with any band/artist who would it be and why?
A: There are so many. I really can’t pick just one without being disrespectful to the others. I will say this though; We have been extremely fortunate to share stages in the last 8 months with some of the best bands on the road today. If you would have told me a year ago that I would share a stage with bands like The Wheelers, Greywall, 10,000 Light Years, In The Aisles and a legendary artist like Paul Cary I would have said you’re crazy! I am more than proud to now call these people friends and peers. I mean..c’mon…I got to open for The Wheelers and then stand next to the stage and watch them play “Tarantino” 6 feet from me on a thursday night in Chicago. That’s the kind of stuff musicians dream about.
Q: Where do you draw inspiration from when creating the music?
A: This will be my shortest answer: Personal stories. And I’ll leave it at that :)
Q: What is the music scene like for Indie/Underground artists in the Chicago area?
A: Like I stated before it’s a battle sometimes. But it’s a wonderful battle and a big playground that we are fortunate to be able to take advantage of. I wouldn’t want to be one of the bands trying to “make it in the business”. Then it’s a rough ride around here with a ton of heartbreak over a long duration just because you’re going up against other really talented bands who are filling a multitude of spots here as well. But for bands like us who have jobs and families and a sense of security in not having to do this for a living, it’s a wonderfully thriving scene that is very user friendly. The venues are legendary and accommodating to artists. The real neighborhood festivals here are abundant and always showcase true talent. Most of the bands are supportive of all others ( we have personally amassed a stable of bands that we tour with locally who we now consider closer than family), and the local internet radio outlets are quite wiling to showcase bands like us.
Q: What does the future hold for 13-Monsters?
A: Right now we are on a break for a couple of months. I’m going to record some new things under 13-Monsters and have a small local tour planned for my solo project GOALIE. I don’t anticipate doing alot of things differently. If it’s not broke don’t fix it, right? But I do anticipate taking more of my own advice that I suggested before “…be loud, Say what you think. Let people know who you are.”