More than ‘Spiteful’: In-depth with Sonny Vincent Pt. 2

Sonny Vincent in the recording studio
Sonny Vincent in the recording studio

Sonny Vincent in the recording studio

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last week I posted the telephone interview I did with Sonny (part 1 is here). After the call he wanted me to send him some questions to round out our interview. Below is a small segment of our conversation…the rest will come in later posts. Enjoy! Oh, first, here’s an mp3 track Sonny sent me from the new Spite album, Spiteful, called Dog on the Subway!

EDPR: With the advent of these higher forms of electronic communication and the constant stream of information, do you think communication has been helped or harmed?

SV: It will all probably run its course and be somewhat chaotic for a while, until people figure out what has the most value for them. Or not!! Maybe they will all turn into faceless little sheep and fall into the slots the Illuminati have planned for them to dwell in!!!! Also, if you ask me that question on another day, I will inadvertently have a totally different answer.

There are some elements that are very beneficial from my viewpoint. I’ve always had some hope that people could radicalize and get more informed and in that regard I am thankful for electronic communication. An example is when a swine pig of a cop abuses my brothers and sisters and another person videotapes that and it goes out there, for all to see.

Speaking of day to day communication, I feel there is a lot lost in the absence of voice, when writing, the tone and inflection is hard to replicate in a text. Sometimes I see a communication I sent getting way off the track and then I call the person on the phone to let them hear my voice! Then, they understand a lot more about me and what my motives are. But it’s a complex subject!

Sometimes it’s a trick to not send out a communication or at times it’s best to send out a contradictory communication. I’m a very confused person for the most part in terms of interfacing with society. People who have similar problems often write me. A few years ago I was boarding a plane and the lady at the gate took my boarding pass and gave me a giant fake smile and said “How are WE today?” Well, I told her, “I’m reading a book by Jean Paul Sartre and I’m getting to the point of thinking that he is probably right about his estimation of humans and now I’m very bummed out!” She just looked at me. Sometimes it’s easier to not share. Although in the music anything goes!

EDPR: I saw somewhere online that you recognize the possibility that once your recordings hit the Internet there’s a good chance people won’t pay for them. My opinion, which shouldn’t be controversial, but for some reason is, is that we, the music listeners, must become more aware of the harm we do to our future choice in music by not supporting independent musicians today. I think we need to buy the records and go to the shows of artists we want to see and hear more from. Does that sound radical?

SV: You are right. Usually, I don’t give a shit. I never really concentrated on all the royalties and stuff like that. Actually, though, I would like to give rewards to the people who helped out on this new album. I’m not talking about some 60’s Rock Star scenario where they could give each other castles in Scotland. I would simply love to be able to send a few bucks to everyone who helped out. Even the Mastering guy in Los Angeles, Bob Lanzer, gave me a killer discount once he saw we were operating on heart and soul. So yeah, it would be nice if a few loyal reflective people out there bought the album, enabling me to pay people who gave a lot. But that’s not why I have made music all these years. I never think about money as a motivator.

EDPR: What strategies do you use to maximize the involvement of your fans, while mitigating the losses to what the music industry calls piracy?

SV: I’m not doing much in that way. Often I tell friends that I wish I could go into a pharmacy and get me a syringe full of “business smarts” to shoot up. I do care about money in a way, but, like I said, there are other aspects that motivate me. I’d rather get no money and make music how I do than get all rich and make jingy jangey bullshit music. Sometimes you can almost puke listening to commercial music. I don’t mind a sweet song or a catchy song, but some of the stuff out there lowers my quality of life. Usually stuff they blast in stores/shops.

EDPR: I read a bit about the lengths you’ve gone to in recording Spiteful and I’m curious to know if you find it disheartening to know that the majority of the time people listen to music, it’s through a crap speaker on a cell phone or on mp3 through earbuds. I haven’t heard the new vinyl yet, but the difference in quality from your analog recordings to the street-level compressed file can’t compare. There it is, my “you kids these days ought to go buy a turntable” lecture! But seriously, you put your heart, time, and cash into creating something remarkable…do you see the mp3 as a corollary to the cassette culture of the 70s and 80s, or a demonic force bent on the destruction of rocknroll?

SV: It’s always a struggle, even the first time, in the early days, where we went into studios. Every album has been tons of effort to make it speak the language I want it to speak. You are a bit younger than me, so maybe you were lucky when you went into recording studios to find engineers who were at least partially aware of what your music was all about. In 1975, it was quite a different story. Lots of people heard the rawness of the music and dismissed it as crap, unprofessional. Here, below, is an excerpt from a screenplay I wrote around 10 years ago. The scene is Testors first experience in a recording studio:

Int. recording studio on Broadway-night NYC 1975

The band waits in the lobby of the recording studio, reading magazines.  On the walls are framed photos of commercial Pop stars and a big logo “Premiere Studios”. Someone takes them into the studio

SONNY

Guys! This studio is cooler than I thought. If we do it right we’re really gonna wind up with something to show! More than a demo.

GENE

Might wind up with a killer tape we can get somewhere with!

(The Studio owner/engineer Mr. Abrams enters)

 MR. ABRAMS

 Hi, boys!

 (They all shake hands)

 GREGORY

 This is really a great place.

 MR. ABRAMS

 We try.  We’re set up in the booth, you guys get organized.

 (They set up, plug in, and put the headphones on)

 MR. ABRAMS

 O.K. if you’re ready, play a song about one quarter through.

 (They play part of the song, “Primitive” and then stop)

 MR. ABRAMS

 Try it again, soft and quieter.

 SONNY

 O.K. But that ain’t how the song is meant to be.

 MR. ABRAMS

 Yes, but you do want to get your songs out there, right?

 SONNY

 Yeah, sure we do. But this song is supposed to really burn, it’s about being angry at the world.

 MR. ABRAMS

 Trust me, I’ve been in this business a long time, I know what I’m doing.  It sounds like a bunch of noise.  You have to turn down.

 (makes direction to studio assistant)

 MR. ABRAMS

 Put some towels over those drums, they’re ringing.

 GREGORY

 Oh God.

 (Gregory hits the drums)

 SONNY

 (holding his headphones)

 Well now they sound like cardboard boxes.

 MR. ABRAMS

 O.K. now turn those amps down a bit more and try another take.

 (the band records)

 SONNY

 Mr. Abrams in all due respect this isn’t our sound.

 MR. ABRAMS

 You have choices in life. Here you are choosing to have a bunch of noise on your tape or something clear and sellable.  Now go ahead and try another song.

 SONNY

 (speaking to Gene off mic)

 This is blowing my mind, it actually hurts, like a crucifixion.

 GENE

 Let’s just see what happens, maybe it sounds better in the booth.

 SONNY

 No, Gene, this is gonna suck.

 (They play song after song, Sonny takes off his headphones.)

 SONNY

 O.K. that’s enough, we can’t afford to go much longer, let’s just get a copy of what we did.

 GENE

 Yeah, six songs are enough, we’ll pay for the time so far.

 MR. ABRAMS

Sounds good, I’ll make a quick mix and make you guys a 2-track tape. You can listen to the playback in here as I mix. Do you want some dubs?

 SONNY

 Just one is good.

(They go to the control booth and listen.  Tears are visibly running down Sonny’s face as the music plays.  They leave the control booth and go to the lobby and pay $500)

MR. ABRAMS

 Well here’s your tape, boys. I hope we helped you out.

 GENE

 It was really nice here, thanks!

 SONNY

 Hey, thanks, Mr. Abrams. Bye. 

In the elevator, Sonny is holding the tape, tossing it around, holding it up to his face, looking at it cross eyed, dropping it on the floor, ‘accidentally’ stepping on it, putting a booger on it, putting a lighter to it, throwing it up in the air and catching it. The elevator door opens, they walk out to the sidewalk on Broadway.

 SONNY

 Guys the shit on this tape has nothing to do with us, this sucks!

 GENE

 This is awful, why did he make us turn down so low?

 GREGORY

 Towels on the drums? Yeahh.

 GENE

 That was so fuckin’ weird.

 SONNY

 Man I really thought this was our big chance, not just for clubs but like this demo would change everything. 

GENE

Me too.  I really thought it was going to be something.

SONNY

I want to make it but from now on the integrity of the music comes first, nothing is more important. 

(Sonny takes the tape out of the box and with the motion of a bowler throws the tape down Broadway. A good fast roll.  The tape unwinds and spools out into the wind as it travels down the boulevard leaving a trail of tape.) 

GENE

 What are we gonna do for a demo?

 SONNY

 I’ll compile a tape of my group ‘Liquid Diamonds’ I recorded with in Tarrytown before I went to Florida.  There was some good stuff made on a Teac in a guy’s basement.  I’ll put that together with the songs I made alone in Florida.

GENE

 But that’s not us.

 SONNY

 It’s a lot closer to us than what we just did in there.  I swear to God from now on I’m not gonna ever let anyone try to steer the music in the wrong direction.

 GENE

 Waste of time and money.

SONNY

 I wanna call Darla.

(Sonny goes to the telephone booth.  While he is on the phone Gregory hails a cab and leaves.)

______________________________________________________

______________________________________

SV (continued): So you can see it was difficult right from the start and it still is, although maybe a bit easier these days, considering some studios are more aware.

I can honestly say that to get the sound “right” on this album, Spiteful was a real war.  I’m fucking tired and my sword cut through all kinds of bullshit. Three motherfuckin’ years!! And that constant work, not a hobby or side project.   Maybe a nice way to say it is, “For three years I shepherded this album to a beautiful harmony, to a Zenith of Love and Destruction.”

Over the three years there were a variety of people trying to do the mix. The intentions were good but there was a point where it sounded absolutely gigantic, when the production was coming at you it sounded so professional and huge that it screamed “Money!!” Really loud. That made me super sick, very nauseous, because the production became the album rather then the songs. The “communication” was the production and not what I wanted the songs to convey. After finding the right people to work with (Larry Ramirez), I finally arrived at the best result in town. It’s got kick where I want it and passion where I need it.

Click here for part 3!

About author View all posts Author website

eldorkopunkretro

I'm the leader of the punx over at that other crappy blog, Punk Retrospective and punk promoter in Northern California at Seismomatic . I sing, write and play guitar in the frightening and enlightening 3-piece punk outfit, Pug Skullz. Once in a while I drop a video on Blip or an mp3 on my Punk Retro Facebook page. If you want a lot more info go read my Manifesto. Doug Skullz Instagram Don't be scared...

Post a Comment