Thursday 26 July 2012

20 Questions with -(16)-

-(16)- 2012. Bobby, Cris, Tony & Mateo
Hey guys!  So, it's time for your weekly dose of 20 Questions with... This week I'm excited to say that I bring you my interview with Tony Baumeister from one of my favourite bands.  The mighty     -(16)-. 

Funnily enough my first task when I joined the blog was to review the new -(16)- record, Deep Cuts from Dark Clouds, which was daunting enough, because I wanted to do my best to impress the guys enough to let me stay.  I think I did an okay job.  Hell, I'm still here, so I must be doing something right.   You can read the review here.

Anyway, enough of the BS.  In my eyes and perhaps some of you feel the same, but -(16)- are legends of a genre of music I love with a passion and over the years I feel they have been criminally overlooked perhaps in favour of lesser bands.  Anyway, when I first thought of the idea of doing this segment for the blog, -(16)- were at the top of my list of band to interview.  So here it is, my interview with -(16)- or rather 1/4 of the band.  Check it out.

You seem to have made the impossible possible, by eclipsing your last record and releasing the
brilliant ‘Deep Cuts from Dark Clouds’. A definite contender for my album of the year.

For those people who are unfamiliar with your band, could you tell me a little bit about the history of the band? Where you're from, band members, when you formed?

Tony:  Thanks!  The band formed in 1992 in Santa Ana, California.  Skateboarding, weed, and love of Melvins, Helmet, Unsane etc, inspired the formation of the band.

Is the band a full time project or do you have to work too?

Tony:  It's amazing that some people actually think that bands like us make money.  Quite the contrary - we lose money.  We literally pay to do this band.  We all have day jobs, and pay out of our own pockets to rehearse.  Then, every time we tour, we either break even, or lose money.  It's discouraging, but we enjoy making music together, so we continue...

Was it an easy decision to reform the band in 2007 and do you have a clear direction you wish to take the band? If so what is different now, than in the past?

Tony:  It wasn't a decision we really contemplated.  someone suggested a "reunion" show, so we basically said, "sure, why not?"  There's never been a clear direction per se, we just turn our amps on, and write songs the way we like. 

Do you think -(16)- were overlooked, perhaps in favour of the New Orleans Sludge metal scene? If so, do you have any thoughts or reason why?

Tony:  I don't think that we were overlooked.  We hardly ever toured, and I truly believe that's the main reason our following isn't bigger.

Where did the name -(16)- come from?

Tony:  It's a stupid story, really.  I didn't join the band until '93, so the name was already in place by then.  The short version of the story is that when the band started, Bobby (20) and Cris (21) had 16-year old girlfriends.  Whether that story is funny or disturbing is an ongoing debate... 

How would you describe your sound?

Tony:  I hate describing it, because i never feel like words adequately paint the right picture.  Heavy riffs played at mid-tempos?  Sludge rock?  Stoner metal?  I have no idea.

Is there a rock/metal scene in your hometown?

Tony:  There are many "scenes" here in LA, and -(16)- has never really fit into any of them  and even though "not fitting in" doesn't bother us at all, it also means that our hometown shows are poorly attended.

What's it like being a rock/ metal band there? Is it a struggle?

Tony:  iI's absolutely a struggle.  There's no money to be made, so you need to really enjoy what you're doing if you want to get anything out of it.

What are your influences musically and artistically?

Tony:  I can only speak for myself, but some of my favorite artists include:  Unsane, Sam Cooke, Led Zeppelin, High on Fire, Queens of the Stone Age, AC/DC, Melvins, Dax Riggs, Misfits, Thin Lizzy, among many others

Were you in any bands before -(16)-? If so, what were they like and how has your style changed since then?
Tony:  I was in a couple bands before i joined -(16)-.  Both were of the metal variety.

Correct me if I’m wrong, your current record is your 10th official release since 1992? Despite the changes in personnel, how has the band changed since then?

Tony:  I don't know how many official releases we have - I just count the full-length albums.  "Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds" is our sixth.  Over the years, the band has definitely evolved.  I like to think that the changes are primarily better songwriting.

Why should people buy your record?

Tony:  Because it's not nice to steal.

How does 'Deep Cuts..' compare to your back catalogue?

Tony:  I think it's our finest work.  I know every band likes to say that their latest release is their best, but I truly believe it in this case.  "Bridges to Burn" is a decent record, but when we finished it, i never claimed it was our best.  I always liked "Zoloft Smile" better than that one.  "Deep Cuts" is definitely my favorite now.

Your record appears be getting a lot of good feedback? What are your thoughts? Are you pleased with it?  Do People get what you’re trying to do?

Tony:  We've always gotten decent press.  Honestly, it doesn't really matter to me.  There's a misconception that good reviews mean that loads of people want to hear your music and see your show because of the favorable words they read in some magazine.  Unfortunately, good press doesn't mean shit.  iI's nice to read that some "critics" think you made a good record, but it doesn't translate to success. 

Do you and your band members contribute songs and arrangement ideas?

Tony:  Yes.  Bobby and I write all the music.  But we don't collaborate with each other in the "writing" process.  What happens is Bobby or I will write a complete song, and bring it to rehearsal.  So there are "Bobby" songs, and "Tony" songs.  Once we bring the song to practice, all 4 of us will debate the arrangement, and try different sequences to see what works best.  Sometimes arguments ensue, but we all respect each other, and no one allows their own feelings to get hurt.  Once the song is satisfactory to all four of us, Cris will write lyrics and do the vocal arrangements.

Cris Jerue is a brilliant frontman, what does he bring to the band?

Tony:  Cris is great!  Not only does he write all the lyrics, but he makes suggestions in the music arrangement that is often times better than my (or Bobby's) original instinct.  Plus, he adds a fair amount of comedy at rehearsal.

How did you hook up with the Relapse label?

Tony:  Relapse approached us about re-issuing our old records.  Then they found out that we were writing new material.  They asked to hear it.  We sent them a 3-song demo, and they basically offered us a record deal after hearing those 3 songs.

What are your ambitions for the band?

Tony:  Just to tour and see some parts of the world that I may not otherwise get to see.  I don't have any illusions about the band ever becoming popular.  If there was any potential for that, we would have seen it by now.

You got any interesting stories from your tours? Where you toured? Who are your favourite bands to tour with?
Tony Baumeister

Tony:  We haven't toured that much, and there aren't any great stories that come to mind at the moment.  Japan was amazing.  Europe was incredible as well - Hellfest being the pinnacle.  We had an absolute blast touring with Grief back in the day, and The Orange Man Theory (from Italy) are a great bunch of guys that we toured with in Europe (twice).

What are your immediate plans and plans for the future, any plans for new material?

Tony:  Right now, we're in the process of putting together a US tour.  We're not even thinking about new material yet.

What do you think about people downloading music for free? Would you consider releasing your album for free to get more people listening to your music?

Tony:  My thoughts are that it sucks in a lot of ways.  However, there's nothing anyone can do about it, so everyone might as well accept it.  As far as releasing an album for free to get more people to hear it?  No, i wouldn't do that.  Relapse allows people to stream it for free already. 

Having been kicking round for 20 years, what are some of your highlight during this time? Any

Tony:  Regrets:  not touring more in the early days.  Highlights:  playing 2 shows as main support for Slayer, touring Japan, touring Europe.

Finally, any plans for shows in the UK? 

Tony:  We'd love to come to the UK.  We have a booking agent in Europe.  Hopefully we'll be able hit the UK this time.  Most likely in 2013 and by the way, fuck Heathrow Airport.

So there you have it guys.  A brilliant interview as I'm sure you'll agree.  Just like to say a massive thank you to Bobby Ferry for helping me out and agreeing to the interview when i first contacted the band.  Also thanks to Tony Baumeister, despite drawing the short straw, I thank you so much for talking the time to do it.  Please check the links below for info about the band and where you can buy their stuff.  Thanks for reading