Interview over the phone with sam from Since By Man in the spring of 2003, just after they’d learnt they’d lost a bassist and so weren’t going to be able to support Youth of Today. Appeared in Rancid News #3
RN: Well at least you’re still together as a band!?!
S: Yeah that’s kind of like uhh half way through trying to sort all of that out… that’s kind of where the direction of our concern shifted from trying to get to Europe to trying to be a band!
RN: So have you had any success with getting new bassists?
S: Well we actually had our first practice with a new guy last night and it went a… it went better than… I was pleasantly surprised, I don’t want to say it was better than I expected, but he’s a guitar player and it was really the first time ever for him picking up a bass. But the thing is that all bass players are crazy so we need to find a guitar player who happens to play bass…because the bass player that just quit is our fifth member!
RN: Oh so it’s a little bit like spinal tap, except it’s not the drummer, and they’re not dying!
S: Exactly…. it’s a curse… our problem is that we take out our aggression on the bass player so the four of us stay happy!
RN: That’s probably why you lose them!
S: That’s not even true! I don’t fucking understand what it is about bass players, we just can’t hold ‘em.
RN: So are you still friends with the guy that quit?
S: Uhh no. It ended very badly. Umm it’s very involved… the most that I feel most comfortable saying is that he had some major family, and personal problems that were pretty extreme and regardless of that he conducted himself very badly. So whereas I can sympathise with the situation that he’s involved with I cannot sympathise with the way that he handled it. Yeah that’s about as democratic as I can put it!
RN: OK going on with like the interview thing… what do you hope you can achieve with Since By Man?
S: Well there’s never been like an end goal for Since By Man. Like when we started it was all about having a good time and keeping things you know like exciting and interesting for whatever we were doing either tour wise or creatively like when we were writing and stuff, and then we’ve always tried to keep that on top. So yeah the most important thing to us has always been about having a good time rather than trying to sell alot of records or tour x amount of days, or read some sort of quarter, we’re just like, ‘No!’ and we enjoy just getting there. I mean every band that’s ever started wants to get out there. And if you deem that you’re saying something worthwhile like politically or socially the it’s obviously important for you to get out there, and connect with people, and not like spread the word, or even neccessarily change anything, but doing something that you think is worthwhile and getting people into it. And our main thing is just to push things, to push things as far as they can go, and connect with as many people as is possible!
RN: So there was no grand manifesto when you started out then?
S: No, not … only just to have fun. Because two of the guys Kevin and John had a band break up, and then they spent months and months working on this band that they kind of had all these preconceived notions of what it was going to be like, and how it was going to be operating, but it ended up falling apart before they’d had the chance to even play out. So when Since By Man started they knew to approach it differently, they were just like ‘fuck it’ and got together, and got some like minded people together, and whatever happens happens. And I would say that… we’ve always been confident about what we’ve been doing, and we’ve always been into what we’ve been doing, but if someone would have told us that we were going to be going out on like a six week tour to Europe, and would be on Rev and be putting out these records and stuff, and recording with Kurt [Ballou - Converge guitarist and producer]. If someone had told us that in our first practice we’d have just been like, ‘Yeah right’! So you know considering that things have come this far, we’re definetly interesting in making them go that much further, and making them go that much further!
RN: Did that make it even more annoying then that you lost your bassist…
S: Yeah I would have said that was really bad timing… It’s annoying because if this was a US tour then we could have just missed a few of the dates, but because we had no way of affording to adjusting our plane tickets, we had to either go, or not go, and that’s what it came down to!
RN: So have you lost like all the money for the tour and whatever?
S: Yeah pretty much… and then we owe a fantastic amount of money to the booking agent in Europe but… yeah we’re facing financial ruin at the moment (laughs) But yeah it’s annoying cause at the moment, the way things have been going so well, it’s really important for us to not skip a beat, you know, so we can’t just juggle around a bunch of replacements, we need someone now who will be with us to the end! And you know who can get ready for all the touring obligations that we have in the end of the summer. And then we’ll come home at the end of the Fall and we’ll write, and work on that for kind of like six months, and then we’ll be ready to hit the road after that. So yeah hopefully in 12 months time we should be in Europe!
RN: So 12 months Europe will be seeing SBM?
S: Yeah hopefully, like early next summer. Like our guitar player is finishing up his last year of School [uni] and then he’s done, and then everybody’s done with all their schooling, and then it’s all about the rock!
RN: So has having people being in School hindered you at all?
S: Not hindered… umm I mean that was part of the deal, when it started I was in school – I just graduated last year – Justin was in school, and then Brian, when he was in the band, was in school. So we toured in the summer, and then in the winter break, and that was just how we did, and that was the way it worked. In all honesty things might have moved quicker and like we might have covered more time if we weren’t going in school but that was never… the time that we were in school the band was operating at a much less involved level. Like it was pre-Rev and we were just putting out our own records…
RN: What’s it like being a band in Milwakee
S: We always recieve like the greatest support here. Like not only in shows, but also in like the situation that just happened to us, like so many of our good friends like stepped it up and helped us out, and like offered this, suggested this, let us use their practice spot, let us borrow some of their stuff, like just helped us out, and that’s really… that means more than people coming out to the shows in many respects. I mean we weren’t offering them anything, we were just feeling shitty and then all of these peope offered their support. But yeah I love Milwakee alot, but it’s a weird city. Like it’s big enough to support a healthy local scene, but alot of touring bands they’ll either skip it altogether, or they’ll come like once and they maybe don’t have a good show, which gives us a bad name and stuff. The thing is that it’s not geographically on the way to anywhere, you’ve gotta drive up to it. It’s not like between Chicago and Minneapolis like a lot of cities are, like alot of people play I don’t know De Moines, Iowa, because De Moines, Iowa is in between Denver and Chicago. So alot of people don’t happen upon us and then … up until very recently the local bands here have not got much national, and certainly no international, coverage at all! But I think because of that, because the scene is so isolated everything is kind of done the way that we want it to be done. It’s not a hardcore scene, it’s not a punk rock scene, it’s not a garage scene. It’s just all those things together! Those bands play together all the time, and most of the bands just seem to be really good. I like it. Because we go to other cities and we’re always coupled with a buch of generic mosh bands, because all the bands play what they think would fit the bill, and that really isn’t what happens here at all. And here people associate themselves partly because of what music they’re into, but also what else interest them, what their politics are, than what the sound of their band is, which is cool!
Because hardcore these days doesn’t necessarily mean politically or socially concious people so you play a show with all these rock n roll bands, and they see where we’re coming from idea wise than a lot of hardcore bands!
RN: I was actually going to ask you about this latter in the interview, but does that bother you that Hardcore has become almost completly apolitical?
S: Yeah it does. And not in the sense that I think that a band has to be political, or has to be whatever, socially concious. But I don’t think that it’s just a coincidence that all the greatest bands across the time happen to be like very socially concious, political bands. And not even outwardly so like Rage Against The Machine, but like a band like Radiohead right now, extremely political, extremely concious… and then like on a smaller level the early hardcore bands, all those bands that influenced the sound now. Like all, you know, knew what they were doing, knew what they were saying, they weren’t just singing about their girlfriends, and I don’t understand when that dropped out from… because I mean for me that’s always been so intertwined. There’s no removing it! And I don’t think… I don’t like really obvious hit you over the head type stuff at all but you can tell when you’re reading lyrics whether that person is thinking about it, and when they’re trying to tell people not neccessarily how it is, but like… I think some of the greatest lyrics ever written are questions and you can tell that the song writer is working through things on his own, and not him just being like [mock shouting voice] ‘This is how it is blah, blah, blah’ because I also hate the between songs hardcore speeches.
Actually I don’t hate them. I mean some people do them well, but other people it’s just like, ‘Dude I already heard this when I was fifteen!’
RN: I guess it depends how they get into it…
S: Yeah it’s like, ‘Dude I can’t sit around listening to you ranting on right now’. Yeah you’ve only got to be around for like a year and a half to hear like twenty of those! Yeah it bothers me, and yeah it confuses me because I mean all the bands that I got into, that I considered to be hardcore were more.. it was more like… well the sound wasn’t so specific. Now it seems that hardcore means metal influenced mosh, but when I got into hardcore it was anybody that was pissed off and screaming about it was hardcore! I didn’t divide it up into this is ’screamy’, or this is ‘moshy’, it was all pissed off and like exciting and that’s what I’ve always recognised as being hardcore and I think that we’re a hardcore band, but most of the bands that people consider to be hardcore bands [pause] I wouldn’t even recognise them as that so I don’t even want to say that we’re that! If that makes sense!?!
RN: Well one of the things that I noticed about your lyrics was that you weren’t singing about yourself neccessarily with your lyrics, whereas a lot of the hardcore bands at the moment seem to be doing the exact oppossite.
S: Well I mean I’ve never been able to relate to the introverted personal lyrics, like someone just singing a song about themselves. Even if they’re approaching like bigger ideas lyricists seem to rarely be able to make the connection between why they feel one way and the world around them. It’s like all these fucking songs about terrible relationships… Is it really just about individuals or is it about the fact that our generation, as a whole, has been raised, you know, by like broken families, and sex before conversation and all of this stuff. It’s not just about you feeling sad, it’s about things being wrong. And unless we talk about these things our children are going to be fucked up too, and we’re going to get divorced before we’re thirty-two and like that’s like… that’s just an example.
RN: From what you just said I’m making the assumption that you’re straightedge?
S: Uhh no actually… what did I say? Ohh the premarital sex and all of that, yeah… No I’m not edge. I was for like the first half of the band, but I’m not anymore. That’s funny, and when I was straightedge I never really tied up the pre-marital sex thing with it, but that’s just an example. It’s just I know so many people who are in all these really unhealthy relationships and I … it’s unfortunate… I don’t know that’s just a whole different story!
Like singers that sing about themselves just the whole time, it’s just there’s not much for a listener to actually be able to get involved with. It’s like, ‘OK’ you might be able to feel sympathy but that’s about it.
RN: So have you felt alienated then from what the hardcore scene has become?
S: Oh yeah for sure. You know I hate to be like the guy who’s like, ‘I can’t remember the last time that I bought a hardcore record’, but in a sense I can’t! And all the stuff that I end up liking, that I think is a really good record, all my friends that are into hardcore, like hardcore type hardcore, they’ll always be, ‘Dude this stuff sucks’! Like looking to go buy hardcore records, I don’t really do that anymore, I go buy records that sound good to me. I don’t feel alienated though because I feel confident about what the band’s doing and I’m confident of what I like, and the kind of music and scene I associate with, I just know that we’re discovering very rapidly, as a touring band, where we fit in and where we don’t, and we do not fit in at like hardcore shows. They don’t like us, and for the most part we don’t like them, there’s just way too much macho tough guy bullshit these days which I hate. So yeah I guess there is a certain amount of alienation, but I don’t feel bad about it, I’m figuring out where I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be part of that, so I’m not going to be. Since by Man doesn’t want to be part of that so we’re not going to be! It’s as much a concious decision on our part as it is them deciding that they don’t like us.
RN: Where do you fit in then?
S: (laughs) Yeah that’s the problem. I just think that… [pause] Yeah I don’t know. I just think that, I think there is a sort of scene for this, there are other bands that are doing what we’re doing, there are kids out there who can get into what we’re doing, it’s not like groundbreaking or anything, but is a little different take on things, and I think that those kids are there, and if it means that we need to travel around in relative obscurity for a while – which we’re not even doing – but if that’s what it takes to find the right place, to find the right audience, then that’s fine lets do it. It may well take a couple of extra years of touring to do that, but we don’t want to tailor our sound to fit in to a certain crowd because that would just never be satisfying!
RN: Yeah I understand that… I mean for me personally just turning on the record, and the intro, that kind of statement of intent was a real breath of fresh air.
S: Yeah the rant!?! Well that’s the thing we knew… I knew when I was writing that, I knew that for the most part this… for the majority of people that have listened to Since By Man that’s all they really know because our other releases are long gone, and altogether there’s probably about 3,000 of them, so I knew that this would be the first time that most people are ever hearing us, and we wanted to make it very clear that this isn’t fluff or whatever, but also that it’s not a bummer either. Like I wanted, it doesn’t mean to be finger pointing or… it’s supposed to be exciting and it’s supposed to make it clear where it is that we’re coming from. It’s not just some bullshit.
RN: The band I instantly thought of after hearing that was Refused, I mean I figure they’re gonna be an influence, but were they a major impact?
S: Well I mean we’re definetly Refused fans for sure, and like I am, and I think that’s obvious. And what I think it is, is that Refused is exactly the type of band that someone who got into hardcore, when I got into hardcore in the way that I got into hardcore, that’s exactly the type of band that somebody like me was going to gravitate to. I mean they’re doing exactly what I …. exactly what I was looking for and they did it extremely well! Like, it’s not negative, and it’s not positive, or ignorantly positive, it’s just inspiring, and then the music is just fucking rock n’ roll! It’s just something that you can get into. And I mean we never were one of those bands that set out to sound like another band but obviously if you’re really into a certain sound then you’re going to be influenced by it. I think our ideas, and our presentation sounds more like Refused than maybe our music actually sounds like, you know what I mean?
RN: I was going to ask about the presentation, who did the album artwork?
S: That was us. We do all our own design. That’s what Justin school to for, and that’s what… I’ve been doing that kind of stuff my whole life. You know like design and photography all that kind of stuff. The record concept was a group effort and we all sat in front of our computers for days on end… It’s like a package deal you know, we knew that we were really happy with the record, and we knew that the design had to match that.
RN: Do you think that music is a medium to make change?
S: I think that it can. [pause] Well, no! I think it’s definetly kind of a forum for like pushing out ideas and kicking things back and fourth, and just starting up dialogue, but it’s not itself going to change anything. It might inspire people, it may, it may get under people’s skin, or get at people more and more until they read about it or something. But it will take them reading the book, or doing the act to change something, it’s not like listening to the record is going to change the world, or coming to the shows will change the world. Unfortunatley. If they did then that’d be real easy. But I think it’s easy, if people can get into this music, or any kind of music, any music that’s pushing our approaches or our ideas, all it takes is that individual person to approach their day to day life in a slightly different way. And it’s like it doesn’t have to be some ultimate change. Like if everybody’s so unhappy, because alot of people are unhappy these days, like living in the suburbs, which is where I’m living right now – and it’s a bummer – but just little things like that, if you just grab onto something and use that to drag yourself out of something, that’s change right there you know? That probably sounds way hippy! (laughs) It’s just like, the world’s fucked up and if you can have a good time, and be a better person, and operate within that and not get dragged down by it, then I think that’s the most that you can be expected to do.
RN: You don’t…
S: Don’t believe the world is gonna change?
RN: Yeah… well I mean would you consider yourself to be an anti-capitalist band?
S: No I don’t think we’d stick ourselves to a strict title like that. Definetly not. I mean like… I just can’t find things that simple. I can never adhere to one of those kind of mantras I’ve never been able to.
RN: Well do you guys do protests, and actions like that?
S: Umm… No… Like I… We’ve all been involved, actually wait, no I’m only going to be able to speak for myself here, but it’s like I’ve been involved in protests and boycotts and I continue to on lots of levels, but when you’re an active band and you’re practicing, or touring, or recording, it definetly makes it difficult to be a part of a regular sort of protest or soemthing like that. It was definetly something that I was part of when I was going to school, and the band was slightly smaller and less all encompassing. So now it’s like… where I am right now, the main thing in life right now is to deal with it personally on a day to day basis, and then being in a band. I mean I never do the hardcore speeches, but when I get off stage and talk to kids, I’m always very excited when dialogue opens up, and I’m able to have a real conversation with somebody, and I often use that to go indepth on some of the stuff that I talk about on the record, because some of it is not that specific. So when I have those conversations is when… I think if you’re in a band you have a certain responsibility to, you know if someone wants to know more about then tell them more about it. Let him know what the hell you’re talking about, or screaming about!
RN: So you’re not going to be one of those bands to claim to not be a political band despite political lyrics?
S: Oh yeah we’re a political band. And we’ve gotten, there’s definetly been topics that we’ve picked up on that we’ve gotten flax for, and we’re not going to drop things because of that, and we’re not going to dumb things down so that people are going to get it, because we’ve gotten shit from the more political edge here, the more strict political people for singing about fucking, and stuff. It’s just we’re not going to mind our Ps and Qs to avoid rocking the boat.
RN: Was the name deliberatley choosen because of it’s ambiguity?
S: Yeah, well… Ok it was suppossed to be – when I presented it to the band – it was ‘Since By Man Came Death’, which is the Handel piece, like a choral piece, and it’s creepy and cool, and we had a show in two weeks so we needed a name. And then we all decided that that was too long, and just a little bit too metal, so we just cut out the ‘…came death’ part, and it was ‘Since By Man’, which is pretty much meaningless but has a nice ring to it. There’s really no greater anything behind it. It being totally ambiguous has the advantage that it’s difficult for us to get bored of it. It doesn’t have a meaning that we were really into four years ago but now we just think, ‘No it’s just dumb’.
RN: Yeah that makes me think of the name of this zine, but anyhow.. I was looking on your site and it said that you were thinking of doing some split 7″s with people, who were you thinking of?
S: Oh yeah that was going to be part of our European tour. Part of our European tour, we were going to record two days over in Germany for a split with Paint the Town Red, which is Marco’s band who help sort the whole tour with them. So we’re going to do a split with them, which we’re still going to do, we’re just going to have to record it over here in the states, and we’re just going to have to wait a little bit until we have money, cause we’re kind of fucked right now. And we’re also going to be doing a remix split 7″ which is going to be us, and this band called Temper, Temper who are just getting started and are fucking awesome. It’s gonna be remixed by a DJ here called Jason Todd who’s in a Hip Hop group called Death-Harmonic. So it’s kind of like a three way split, and we’re all from Milwakee so it’ll be like highlighting three Milwakee artists… It’s going to be crazy I think because Jason’s just going to rip the songs apart and then put them back together again. It’s not going to be like what either of the bands sound like ultimatley when it’s done. And we’re going to be putting that out ourselves, and it’s kinda going to be the start up of our own little record label too!
RN: How many do you think you’ll press of those?
S: Those will be limited! (laughs) No, no I think we’re going to do it on both vinyl and CD, with limited vinyl. Yeah we like vinyl, so we’ll probably do about 700 hundred of those, cause it’s only going to be a limited amount of people who are going to be into those, but we want to have them there for those people that are into it!