Spineshank are back and better than ever in 2012 with a just announced headlining tour in support of their latest, Anger Denial Acceptance (Out on June 19th through Century Media). Recently, guitarist Mike Sarkisyan chatted with The Blerd13 via phone to talk about the new record, the band’s reformation and the possibility of some acoustic Spineshank in the future:
1. As a fan, I was devastated when you guys split after putting out what I felt was your best album (Self Destructive Patterns) in 2003. With the Grammy nom in 2004 added to that, it felt as though you had a ton of momentum going forward. What happened?
Since our first record we were in this tour, record, tour, record, tour, record cycle. Even though between Height of Callousness and Self Destructive there was like a two year gap but those two years were basically spent touring, came home from The Height Of Callousness tour and went straight into rehearsal and writing and all that mode. Add to that a lot of pressure from labels and such…it was counter productive to the morale of the band. More like the psyche of the band. You’re stuck in this fucking wheel that keeps turning and you have no control over how fast it’s going or when it stops or anything like that. All that shit added up and we realized we just need to chill. You gotta realize when you’re in a band you’re like married to three other dudes without the fun part of marriage, you know? In a nutshell, that’s what happened
2. How important for you is it that Spineshank are back and releasing a brand new album in 2012?
Very. I’m comfortably content not being in Spineshank if that’s what was called for but the important part of it is: We had to do this record. We had something to say as artists. We hadn’t done our best work yet. We hadn’t peaked yet. That’s kind of what it felt like. That’s why we did this record. I truly feel it’s the best record we’ve ever done because if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t be a part of it. I don’t need to be.
3. Each album has been such a phenomenal progression for Spineshank, how is Anger Denial Acceptance going to sound in comparison?
It’s the next step, I guess, the next progression. Height Of Callousness was a progression from Diesel. Self Destructive was a progression from Height Of Callousness and this is just leaps and bounds higher than anything we’ve done previously. It’s more thought out. It’s way more focused. It’s definitely darker than anything we’ve ever done and that just goes back to the state of mind of the band at the time of the creative process.
4. You reunited with Jonny in 2008 and Anger Denial Acceptance is finally coming out in 2012, have you been working on the album the entire time?
Yes and no. We got back together in 2008 and just kinda started fuckin’ around in rehearsal. Me and Tommy (Decker, drums) had a few things written and we kinda got Jonny involved and we all started working on vocal parts and we had about three songs done, out of which I think one or two made it onto the final record. Then we went out on tour with Disturbed (Music As A Weapon Tour) in early 2009. From that point until about December of 2009. 2009 was spent doing nothing on the record…at the tail end of that tour we got all our gear stolen….it took months and months to recover all that. We got most of it back but it was just a a mess. So we didn’t really reconvene on the record until 2010. That year was spent writing, recording, mixing, and by January 2011, we finished mixing. 2011 basically was spent shopping the record, doing a little bit of touring, and getting things together as far as the business side. But the record has been done for over a year now.
5. After three albums on Roadrunner, what made Century Media the right home for album number four?
A few of the Roadrunner people are there. People we’ve known now work at Century Media. I think that helped a little bit. Also, as a label they’re very excited about things. They seemed like they get us, get the vision, know what we’re doing. They were content with not capitalizing off of “Oh, Spineshank were a big band at one time….”. In the year we were shopping (the record), a funny thing was we would get offers from certain labels here and there without them having heard a single note of the album. Formal offers from labels that didn’t even hear the album: Why are you even interested in this? Maybe we suck now. Maybe we’re fucking horrible. That just told you they’re into this nostalgia thing and we’re definitely not into this nostalgia thing. We respect our past but we don’t wanna live in it. We don’t wanna capitalize off it. I think we made the best record we can or we have, ever. That’s where we wanna stand. In the now, not in five years ago.
6. Are there plans to tour after the record is released?
Yeah. We’re in the midst of plotting a tour. It’s actually gonna be a pretty extensive tour. We’re gonna do all of our usual spots and then some. There’s places we’ve never been to like Australia and we’re definitely looking forward to doing that. Japan is another country we want to go and Russia…things like that. Obviously we’re going to tour the shit out of the US and Europe.
7. It was also just announced that Silent Civilian (Jonny’s post-Spineshank band) has begun work on a new record, how does that affect Spineshank?
Who? (laughs) It’s Jonny’s thing. He does it on the side and it doesn’t really affect this band. When you have time off there’s no writing or recording going on in the Spineshank world like this second so if you wanna keep busy, go ahead. We handle all the business things anyway.
8. It’s 2012 and a lot of your contemporaries are also set to release new records (Fear Factory, Filter), with the current climate in the music industry today, where does Spineshank fit in?
I don’t know. That’s a good question. We were always too light for the super hardcore kids. Too heavy for the radio kids. I think that we don’t really fit in with the current climate. I don’t wanna be lumped in to a scene. I think we were at one time and a lot of bands from that scene are active again. But are any of them making records and, furthermore, are any of them making their best records? I think that’s the question you’d have to ask.
9. That said, are there any bands out there today that you’re currently interested in who bring the same kind of intensity and diversity that Spineshank do?
Suicide Silence is a fucking awesome band. There’s bands that are older than us like Machine Head who are 7-8 albums deep into their career who constantly keep reinventing themselves and getting better and better. There’s definitely a lot of really good music out. There’s also a lot of shitty, cookie cutter “let’s get in the studio and use the same amp and the same drums” that everybody else uses, shit a record out and walk away kind of thing going on too. That has been forever and you’re not gonna change the model. You just gotta do what you do and we do it the best we can.
10. Since going back out on the road, how do you feel the typical Spineshank fan has changed from when you first burst onto the scene?
It’s been pretty damn cool man, to be perfectly honest with you. There’s a lot of people that still don’t know that we’re back and active and doing things. I think a lot of them are pleasantly surprised like, “Holy shit, you guys are making a new record? You have a new record coming out?” There’s that and there’s also a lot of people that think we’re a new band and then they discover that there’s three other albums out there. Obviously there’s people who liked the last record and don’t like whatever they’ve heard from this record but at the same time, we’ve done that on every record. When we put out Height Of Callousness there were a lot of kids who were like “Well it doesn’t sound like Strictly Diesel….”. Well, it’s not supposed to sound like Strictly Diesel. That’s not what we set out to do. People are entitled to their opinion and that’s fine. If you don’t like it, great. If you do like it, that’s great too. The important thing to the whole process is let’s be honest with ourselves. If you don’t try to mold yourselves after what you think people wanna hear then it never comes out the way you need to anyway. At the end of the day, you’re just kinda stuck with this thing that doesn’t truly represent you. We owe it to ourselves as artists to do what we think is right and then if people take notice, great, and if they don’t that’s alright too. At the end of the day we know we did what we need to do.
11. Spineshank is pretty active on social media (FB, Twitter), how do you feel those types of platforms have helped bands in today’s current climate?
People every fucking day are hitting our Facebook all like “Holy Shit! You guys have a new album coming out? I didn’t even know you guys were touring again”. It definitely creates a different kind of a medium to interact with people that like and appreciate your music. Back in the day, we’d literally go to Roadrunner and grab a bag of mail, like hand-written notes. There’d be some cool shit in there and some funny shit. I think that this is definitely more of an immediate connection with people that like your music. And that’s cool! Sometimes people freak out like “Holy shit! Is this actually somebody in the band posting?” And the answer to that is: yes. Ninety nine percent of the time, it’s me or Tommy (Decker) on FB or Twitter or whatever.
12. What’s something you know now about being in a band working within the industry, that you wish you knew then?
Wow. There’s so much. I can’t even pinpoint one thing. You gotta realize when Strictly Diesel came out (or when we got a record deal), I was like 18 years old. I didn’t know shit about shit. I was happy to get a record deal with a label that had some of my favorite bands like Sepultura and Machine Head. It was a different kind of excitement. There was an innocence about being a pure, dumb kid who didn’t know shit from anything. These days you make a few records and play a few thousand shows and things are different. You see things in a different way. We used to think, especially early on, that being on tour was all about drinking and havin’ a good time and bangin’ chicks. That’s not really the case. Now it’s all about the connection you have with your audience and putting on the best show possible. Now it’s like “How can we make this better?” As you get more experience, you get more focused. Things that don’t mean shit to you end up meaning something to you and the things that meant something don’t mean anything anymore. You just grow, mature, change…whatever word you wanna use for that. It’s a process. It happens to everybody in every aspect of life.
13. Album number four is in the can and there will hopefully be a tour coming soon, do you already have plans for the next record and will the gap be shorter than SDP to ADA?
Yes and no. We definitely don’t have anything written just yet. I’d say we have a few other ideas. I don’t know if you knew this, but we did an all acoustic show in Utah somewhere. The power to the club blew out and there were a few hundred people in there so me and Jonny just went up there and did an acoustic set of like four or five songs with no mics, no PA. Nothing. Like a true acoustic set like sitting around a campfire type of set. That kind of sparked an interest of maybe we’ll do a few acoustic things. See how that works out. That idea has been tossed around but it’s nothing that we’ve committed to just yet. As far as the next record: we’ll start thinking about it shortly. It has to be organic and at the same time it has to be another leap. Another progression. You know, I’m not interested in doing the same thing twice. Never.