Sack Trick interview.
Finally. At Ďkin last. The Sack Trick interview. Iíve been promising this for a while, and well, itís finally here. Iíll explain why it took so long (aside from me being an utterly lazy bastard sometimes) when we get there. But for now, we have to start at the start in order to get to that point. So letís do it. Cast your mind back if you would to August of Ď98. Yeah, Iím hanging my head in shame at the length of time on this one. But anyway, if youíve cast your mind back, then itís a Saturday afternoon, and this evening, Sack Trick are going to be headlining downstairs in Rock City. Sack Trick are ace. Utterly refreshing. They mix it and match it. Thereís a sense of humour, and shh, if you say it quietly, itís a bit of an all star cast really. The main stalwart is Chris Dale on bass, whose waiting patiently over there for the interview to begin. Heís played bass in The Atom Seed and Skunkworks. Tonight, as most nights, Robin Guy from Rachel Stamp is on drums. Thereís also a second drummer this evening. The guitar spot tonight is occupied by Alex Dickson, formerly of Gun and also formerly of Skunkworks (ole Brucie Dickinsonís solo band), and currently touring with Robbie Williams - a fact that I learn for the first time and express surprise at later in the interview. Shit sorry, spoilt that little surprise for you and jumped ahead of myself. Sorry, Iíll try to restrain myself a bit more. Anyway, other guitarists to occupy the spot include Pete Friesen (ex-Almighty), and Jeff Stretfield (ex-Wildhearts). Is that your mouth I see drooling? So it should be. Come on, letís nip into The Rig and get this interview lark started shall we?
To begin with then, Sack Trick. Is it a full time band for you?
It's a bit of both really. It's full time for me and it's part time for everyone else, because they're all in other bands. Like Rob has got Rachel Stamp going, Alex the drummer has now got some projects in the States and Alex the guitarist is working with Robbie Williams most of the time.At this stage you can imagine me giving a surprised look like I mention in the intro. Well, if you know what I look like, otherwise youíll just have to imagine a total hunk giving a surprised look! Oi, donít look at me like that! So it's difficult to drag them away full time y'know. Sometimes we've got Jef from the Wildhearts playing with us, we've got another guitarist called Lee who sometimes plays, a keyboard player who used to be in UFO but sometimes does gigs but can't do this one. Yeah, it's full time for me and part time for everyone else. Just got to drag people around to the idea of doing it.
So it's whose available on the day.
Exactly yeah, and that keeps it all fresh and fun. I think the Atom Seed would've stayed together longer if we'd not been playing with each otherhe laughs. Steady now, you know what he means. Certainly after a while you do get bored playing with the same people no matter how good they are and no matter how much you enjoy each others company. It's always fun to get out with other people, and as Sack Trick that's what I do.
Have you done many gigs as a band.
Um yeah. I mean, I from Wales originally, so we went to Newport TJs."I'm going back tomorrow". Yeah, are you coming to see us in Cardiff? "No, I'm back on the Tuesday. Yeah, we did a couple of nights in Cardiff Bogiez and one in TJs and a club in London just to see if we could do it. Because I'd never done this business of standing up and singing. It's fine to shout along with other bands, but a different thing to be standing in the middle doing it yourself. So I had to see if I had the balls to do it, and yeah, it was actually quite fun. So now this is the first day on our UK tour which is all of how many days, 5! And we're covering the country quite well. We're doing Wales, Scotland, London, Birmingham and Newcastle. It's a shame we can't get everywhere, but then again how many bands do tours where they do like 30 gigs and don't do one in Wales, don't do one in Scotland, don't do one in Ireland. They don't even do 30 anymore. Well, some people do. The Robbie Williams tour that's just been done was huge. Ah, I don't know about that one. They didn't do a Scottish gig and they didn't do a Welsh gig, and they did a month around England. But a lot of people think that England is the UK.
Anyway, do you have any expectations for the gigs?
The ones we've done so far have been great, because we've had a couple of people who've heard the album and turn up cos theyíve enjoyed it, you have a couple of people who just seem to think itís funny from the outset and the vast majority just standing with their jaws open "what the fuck is going on here"he laughs. "What are these fools playing at?" Thatíll be me cos I canít dance or anything. Well as long as youíve got a grin on your face. There will be. Just watching other peopleís faces there will be. Absolutely. Just watching these blank faces. Alex the guitarist got up in a club in London the other week, like a jazz environment in West Ham. Basically tourists and stuff. And he got up and did Hiring Camels and a couple of Kiss songs.
Ah, Hiring Camels. Itís just one of a series of er, what you might call "strange" song titles. Time to try and find out more about them methinks. Any tales to relate about them?
Well theyíre all just like true life. A lot of people are saying itís a really silly album. Well, itís a funny album. I had some guy at Kerrang! say to me like "oh you canít be taking this seriously" And Iím like, well yeah I do. I really do play the bass,(I Play Bass) we all have had turds in our house that donít flush (The Turd That Just Wouldnít Flush) and I personally donít happen to think that tomatoes belong in a sandwich (No Tomatoes For Me Thanks). Great as a fruit to eat, great as a sauce, but not in a sandwich. Itís just what I really think. It would sometimes be nice to hire a camel (Hiring Camels). Blue Ice Cream Blue Ice Cream) did used to be sold as daygloís 32 flavours and all of a sudden you couldnít find it anywhere and it coincided with the cold war and I just put 2 and 2 together! And get possibly 3!
Ah donít worry about Kerrang! I have a bit of thing about them, and had a bit of a rant against them in the last issue(yep, weíre talking back in the days of ooo, issue 5 I think. Long since sold out.)
Have you seen the Kerrang! review of this album?No I reply puzzled. Though I dislike the magazine, I do actually peruse it, and I can remember seeing anything. Iím puzzled. Thatís because they havenít bothered printing it. What exactly do I have to do you know.
Ok, Iím going to go off on one now. This is nothing to do with Chris, but it pisses me off. I struggle to buy stuff for this piece of shit, but anything Iím sent I review. As a courtesy to those who sent it, those who created it, and out of respect of the fact that people who may happen to read this might just have different tastes to me anyway. The fact that magazines such as Kerrang! receive all their shit free of charge, and then canít be fucking arsed to review something just because they donít think itís serious enough is outrageous. And look, this is nearly a year old now. The albumís being re-released on Org records in August. With any luck it will now get reviewed, but just remember that Kerrang! attitude. Remember that around the same time this interview took place, the Famous Monster got a 3 page article. At the time they had no album out. No tour dates. They claim names such as She Devil and that theyíre from a different planet. Why did they get that space then? Anything to do with that White Zombie association? I mean, how many surf bands does the magazine cover. And theyíre serious enough. As are Slipknot with 9 people all wearing masks and going by numbers. A little bit of consistency wouldnít go amiss. Itís because of this kind of fucked up attitude that I take issue with the magazines and go on rants. They should support. They should present YOU with information so that ultimately you can make up your own mind Ack sorry. Pisses me off. And Iíve been festering on that for a year now. The Sack Trick album deserves to be heard by many, so that you can judge for yourself. Ok, letís get back to the interview now shall we?
Well I mean Iíve sent some messages to them, and the replies were along the lines of "well, weíd love to cover all these bands, but we donít have any space". Which is why they then waste it on the 100 coolest wankers.Well yeah, thatís just a complete waste. 100 coolest this, another chance to review Nevermind. Well, the next issue (the infamous #7) goes to the printer next week, and if they get hold of it, theyíll probably sue me. Excellent. They deserve a bit of criticism. There are stories made up there, thereís a lot of Nepotism. I mean the other week, that White Zombie bassist. 3 pages. Yeah, I mean it wouldíve been nice if they had an album out so that we could hear it. It would be good if they did that for a British band. Well yeah, they do have a very interesting image though. They certainly caught my eye. Sorry, I just tend to loose it every time that magazineís name is brought up. Metal Hammer have been great though.
So how do you find the British press in general? Do you feel they support the band?
Well, I got a review in Vox. I was very surprised at that. Kerrang! wouldnít review it, Vox would.Was it good? Yeah, yeah it was. The thing I found actually is that people really need to hear the album before theyíll buy it. It can get a good review, but because itís mail order people are reluctant to get the cheque book out, write the cheque and actually get round to posting it.
There seems to be a whole host of styles on the album. Is that a reflection of what you actually like?
Yeah, and itís writing stuff that fits the mood of the song. Luckily Iím not in that commercial scenario where I have to write hit singles or I get dropped. So yeah, I write whatever I feel like, and if it suits the style. There are some things that are just fun. You can make music where you can make people laugh through just an instrumental and then you put a few lyrics on. So the music has to chop and change to catch peopleís attention. Thereís nothing worse than albums that start and finish exactly the same way all the way through.
So what do you think of the music scene at the moment? Do you think itís varied and interesting?
Yeah, thereís certainly a lot of stuff out there. Not necessarily the stuff thatís charting. Iím a bit worried about the silence. I think that means I should be soundchecking.And with that, he does indeed proceed back into the smaller disco II, where he is required for the soundcheck. I have to leave to return later for the gig, and afterwards, we agree to finish the interview by post. Now, me being me, like I said earlier, Iíve been a bit of a lazy gig, and itís taken 11 months for to sort everything out and get the questions off. Yeah, guilty as charged. Iíll stand here so that you can pelt tomatoes at me if you want. As long as theyíre not in sandwiches though. So anyway, you know join us via the wonders of the Royal Mail.
So what do you think of the music scene at the moment. Do you think it's varied and interesting, or has it lost a lot of fun and imagination?
Thereís plenty of varied stuff out there if you look hard enough, but the music pushed by the music industry, as usual, is pretty bland. Many bands seem to have forgotten theyíre supposed to be there to entertain and interest an audience. It shouldnít be enough to strum a couple of chords and tell us your problems ovre it. Maybe this is why tribute bands are so popular, is that most original bands are so dull.
The album seems to indicate that you're a pretty big Kiss fan. What did you think of the Kiss reunion, and what do you think of reunion tours in general? Are they still able to capture the magic that they once had for you? There are rumours that theyíll be disbanding after a gig on New Years Eve. Should they?
Kiss are cool. The Kiss reunion was different to most reunions in that they tried and (depending on your view) succeeded in recreating the best of their 70s show. While others just seem to think a bunch of old blokes standing around playing old tunes is enough. The Kiss shows still held me totally captivated, maybe I would just be happy whatever they did. Iíve seen 12 shows since the reunion and everytime Iím like a kid again, all excited. Itís a shame if they call it a day now - Iíd like to see one more European Tour - but theyíve done what they set out to achieve.
How about Star Wars? A fan? Opinion on the new movie?
Obviously theyíre great films, but Iím not a trainspooter in this field. Iíve not seen the new film. Itís Dr Who for me - Pertwee and Tom Baker.
So, it's been a year almost since we started this. What's happened in the "life" of Sack Trick over the last 12 months?
Loads. Weíve toured up and down the country a few times and started building up a live following. Itís been a lot quicker than I thought. Everything surprises me along the way - I wasnít expecting radio airplay at all - we got Xfm, GLR, Rock Radio Network and some local stations love it. We even got plays as far away as Argentina, Czech Republic and South Africa. I wasnít expecting to be offered support slots purely on the strength of the CD - weíve got no booking agent to pull strings and buy tours - Bruce Dickinson, Tyla & Dregen from Backyard Babies and now Clam Abuse. Great. We had quite a lot of record company interest, but nothing we liked much - Iím afraid Iím very sceptical about record companies. 99% of them promise far more than they can deliver, and thus hire innocent musicians into selling their ideals and careers away. Been there done that. So weíve gone for distribution through ORG records, although the CDís still available directly from us. Weíve also started recording two new albums - the second Sack Trick album is called Penguins On The Moon. As a concept album following the tale of some penguins who go to the moon ... youíll freak - itís amazing! I canít wait to get it all finished.
Weíve also been asked to record a Kiss tribute album by another record label as a seperate one off deal. Being a huge Kiss fan its a dream come true to record a bunch of Kiss songs with the Sack Trick twist on them all. Weíve only finished a couple of tunes so far, but itís shaping up to be pretty odd ....
You did a couple of dates with Bruce Dickinson back in December. How was the reaction to Sack Trick?
The Bruce gigs were great. It took a few songs for people to get the idea. Sack Trick as you know is ot about conforming to simple cliches to make the pill easier to swallow. After a particularly lounge version of "Hiring Camels" we got dead silence back from a stumped sold out Wulfrun Hall. But by the end everyone was in on the game and rocking out awith us. We went down great and sold loads of CDs.
And as I understand it, youíre going to be doing the London gig with Ginger, or should that be, Clam Abuse. Do you think we need more people like Ginger in music?
Iíve not heard Clam Abuse yet. But from Iím told, Iím really looking forward to it.
Do you think that music has really changed and become more diverse and open minded with the current tendency for mixing say hip-hop with rock, and techno and all that gubbins? Any sign of future Sack Trick remixes?
Itís not me really. Probably ot. But this is Sack Trick and anything can happen.
If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
Thereís so much that needs changing but the first thing that comes to mind is that CDs could be cheaper and record companies a little less greedy. Out of a "normal" CD cover cost of £13.99, after the shop, VAT, record company, distributer, manager and finally taxman again have taken their share, a band is usually getting about 40p between them. This 40p then goes towards paying off the money the record company are spending on their behalf on recording, touring and advertising the band as well as wining, dining and flying themselves and their friends first class around the world on the bands behalf. The band get the rest.
Have you ever used the Internet? If so, or even if not, what as a musician do you think of these MP3 files and the fact that bands can, if they choose, release entire albums on the Ďnet for people to either buy or freely download, thus avoiding most of the music industry restrictions.
I donít use it a lot yet. Iíve only just got my first computer. Iíve had a look around the net, found your bits, nice one thanks. It all looks great. We should have our own Sack Trick site soon and any way of seling records while avoiding giving a 3rd party most of the money must be a good idea.
Has the search for Blue Ice Cream been successful yet?
Yeah, go back and listen to it. They found it in the third verse "but they didnít stop searching till they found it".
Maybe someone should tell Sean Org who still seems to be looking! (Nice recovery Dave. Yeah, Thanks).
The last few months has seen Offspring and Terrorvision both "storm" the charts. And then Terrorvision get dropped. Does that say anything to you about the industry or the state of music in this country?
Itís great to see more rock get into the charts and more fun getting into rock. But unfortunately singles donít make a lot of money for the greedy men in suits and it takes an awful lot of 40pís to pay off a five figure major label budget. If Terrorvision make another album themselves selling it through a distributor and their mailing list, theyíd make an album a lot truer to themselves and probably their following, and itíd be the first album to fully recoup its costs and put them back in the black. Unfortunately they wouldnít get the same press, TV and radio coverage theyíve had previously because the media is largely monopolised by the major labels rather than musical taste. Shame innit?
Is there room for politics in music, or is completely the wrong medium to try and relay a message and impact on people.
Sure, but it seems to me that a lot of bands just emulate only a musical style but also their heroes lyrical subject matter. Thus all soul singers tell us about their broken hearts, all glam bands sing about sleazy sex and all rap and rap crossover acts have to talk about politics and endlessly reaffirm their anti racism. Now Iím not racist, take it from me Iím anti racist and anyone who disagrees on this obvious issue is a dangerous cretin. But now Iíve said it once I shanít bore you with a career based on this issue. Donít get me wrong, thereís some very genuine bands out there preaching a very valid message, but also a lot of guys who find themselves fronting a crossover band because theyíve got a great sounding voice and have cool stage presence - all the right reasons for being in a band but not necessarily perfect qualifications for sharing your rhetorical politics with us. It made me laugh reading an interview with One Minute Silence youíd done, when they said their political idea was for a benevelant dictator, yeah right maybe in your dreams. Think first, write lyrics later.
Can anything be done to prevent situations like the Columbine tragedy in the States being repeated in the UK, given that we seem intent on following the US in everything they do? Can, or should music, or any form of "art", be it television, books, music, whatever, be held responsible or accountable.
Iíve no idea why Americans choose to blame the musicians who recorded the music the gunman listened to that morning or the author of the book he happened to have read recently rather than the gunman himself of the society that drove him to this act of desperation and armed him so freely. Please letís hope weíve more sense than to pick up on this particular American trend of shooting at oneís classmante, parents, heroes, or political opponents as a way of getting in the papers. Grow prize vegetables and be happy with second page in the local gazette instead. (While writing this the TV in the background tells me of a new shooting in Atlanta.)
My other serious question that Iíve been using loads in recent interviews relates to the whole Euthanasia issue, and the Jack Kervorkian case from the States, where he performed an "assisted suicide" on TV and has subsequently been handed a 10 year manslaughter sentence. Any views on the whole subject.
Heavy shit. I guess itís a question of making sure people arenít euthanised before necessary. There are always going to be mistakes. But in principle we do it to animals on the grounds that itís humane yet not to people on the grounds that itís inhuman which doesnít really add up.
Posh Spice and David Beckham Ė in love, or in love with the media?
Quite funny really. But I think theyíve had quite enough media coverage already without my comments on your page space. Sorry Dave, I just canít think of anything witty or worthwhile to say about a pair of quite dull celebreties getting married.
Did you laugh when Scot Gibbs scored that wonderful last minute try to beat England this year in the rugby?
I was so fucking happy. It was like a Kiss gig when the confetti comes down in RockíníRoll All Nite.
This next one is based on one of the questions from my beloved K! magazine. If you were trapped on a desert island, and you only had Kerrang! Metal Hammer or the NME to read, which would you read first?
I donít think thereíd be much between them after youíd read them cover to cover over the first year or two alone. I guess Metal Hammer would be the one most likely to have a soft porn shot which would be vital on a desert island. Shame itís not on a dessert island instead, all made out of jelly and marshmallows....
Time now for the inevitable Millenium question! Do you think it's over-rated? Any exotic plans for seeing it in?
Iím going to be shagging in a field on the stroke of midnight
Anything else that you want to add or say?
Yeah. Dear Reader, if you want to enjoy watching a band and laugh out loud listening to a CD, come and see Sack Trick live and buy the Mystery Rabbits CD. If you donít like it, snap it in two and send it back to us with "Chris, your CD is shit" written on both halves in permanent marker pen for a full refund. No Joke.
And if you did like Mystery Rabbits, then youíve not heard anything yet. Penguins On The Moon slays all opposition.
Mmmm, personally canít wait for that. Sounds appetising all ready. Anyway, that was it, but it didnít end there. Oh no.
See, another thing I also asked was this. Iíve read, and Iím sure you have to, countless times, tales of "we got shafted" or "the label just didnít promote us" or "the industry is screwed up / screwed us over". Mysterious quotes like that. And you just want to know some more of the real details. Well I do. Names named. Tales told. That sort of thing. Partly as a benefit to upcoming bands. Itís something Iíd like to get featured in here. If bands have been shafted and are prepared to put the tales down on paper. See, I go on endlessly about supporting bands, wanting to see the industry get behind them and all that. But Iím also old enough, ugly enough and cynical enough to worry as soon as I read a band say "the label believes in us so much". So, though I want bands to succeed on the one hand, I want them to be wise and wary on the other. It may be seen as a negative aspect by many, but Iím afraid you shouldnít trust anyone, cos theyíll all fuck you over in the end. You can place trust in people, but just retain a small grip on reality with respect to them. It may be a nagative viewpoint, but itís one thatís unfortunately held true from my experiences. So anyway, Chris also supplied this discussion about what happens (and happened ) to the Atom Seed. Ah, now thereís a band I remember. Along with The Beyond, Scat Opera et al. They were leading the UK scene. Loud were in there at some point. Ah yes, thems the days...
I donít know how much your readers are interested in the story of the Atom Seed on London Records or even if many of them have heard of the Atom Seed, but if theyíre curious, this is pretty muhc (give or take a couple of years, pounds and albums) the story of all your favourite dropped bands.
Atom Seed had that cursed "British rock bands most likely to succeed" tag in early 1991. We had an independent album that had sold moderately well, a good press profile in the Metal magazines, and a good live following. There was a "buzz" about the band as the industry say. Several labels bid for the Atom Seed but London Records bid the biggest with a £120,000 advance. EMI bid an additional £120,000 advance for publishing rights to our follow up album. We were up to this point on the (£35 a week) dole, but we had no second album, we had no new songs and no company had even asked to hear any demos. (Weíd also got our independent deal without that company hearing a demo either.)
London Records assuredly promised us a top 40 hit with a re-released single off our indie first album through their marketing and media abilities, extensive UK and European touring, a quick second album, world touring, spend some time making a class third album and world domination. Sounds good?
On the first single, none of the airplay or marketing support was there. It was released four weeks late and barely broke the top 100. The touring went great. But they didnít like the 10 songs we demoed for the second album. From then on they advised us not to tour and wouldnít release anything we recorded.
The next 18 months were spent demoing 36 songs, all but 5 of which were rejected, arguing with the record company, management and ultimately each other. Finally London Records gave us a further £7000 to go away with our contract void and our debts to them written off. Except that after nearly two years off the live circuit with only one new EP released, our live following had dwindled, won over by new bands such as Terrorvision as weíd won over Wolfsbane fans before. Other record companies are very wary of picking up a "dropped" band so getting new interest was difficult especially as the business "buzz" had long since moved on. The Atom Seed was over.
Boo Hoo! No, itís not just a sob story. I had a great couple of years on a good wage being drunk in various hotels and studios having a laugh. But it did effectively finish the band. If you canít gig and canít release anything itís a bit frustrating really.
The problem seems to stem from the record company making unrealistic predictions and financial advances on the bands future. Roughly speaking youíre going to need to sell the same number of albums as pounds youíre advanced by the record company to re-coup. So if, like Atom Seed, youíre advanced £120,000 but only sell 12000 albums then your new demos had better be pretty fucking amazing to encourage them to carry on. Ours werenít. To realistically re-coup you will need to sell world wide, but when you sign to a very enthusiastic UK company, you never really know what their sister companies abroad think about you apart from someone in the UK company vaguely telling you once that New York are "jumping up and down for you guys". In actual fact, American labels remain very sceptical of British bands in general and generally seem to feel that theyíve got more worthwhile homegrown bands to spend their time on and save the airfares. Unless you luckily get a college radio hit, theyíre not that interested.
The Japanese market has very different tastes to most UK signed bands. Helloween sell more than Nirvana. They might like you, they might not.
The European countries are all run by different companies, Italy might like you, the Germans might have a local artist theyíre putting their efforts into. European sales respond well to constant touring but your judgement days for counting up whether youíve sold enough albums to be worth carrying on with is only 3 months after release and ONLY 4% OF BANDS ON MAJOR LABELS RE-COUP. Those that do usually go on to sell and make millions. The rest are either "dropped" , "let go" or "amicably split"; or sometimes kept on for another go, this time with higher advance stakes and therefore sales expectations. All through this, the record company has "priority" and "non priority" acts. The priority acts get all the resources, the non priority acts may as well take an early shower. But of course from the start youíre told that youíre the most exciting band this labels had for years, until the excuses start Ė "sorry the albums delayed Ė itíll be all the better though.". "Sorry we canít afford to put you on the support tour Ė donít worry youíll get the next one". "Sorry the magazine adverts are a bit small Ė but weíre building an underground following" and on and on and on until theyíre not answering your calls at all.
At the end of the day, despite all the pitfalls, any musician offered thousands of pounds and promises of world stardom is going to be tempted. And why not? At the very worst you get a couple of years in the rockíníroll world with a bit of money around. But if you ever wondered what happened to Terrorvision, Therapy?, Wildhearts, Skin/Jagged Edge, Little Angels, Onlsaught, Menswear, Wolfsbane, Radiator, Stony Sleep, Feline, Stimulator, Catherine Wheel, Back to the Planet, The Almighty, No Sweat, Gun, Collapsed Lung and even the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, beware. Major labels at the end of the day are only interested in world wide platinum sellers.
There yígo. Took a while. An entire year for me to complete an interview. Shocking. But theyíre worth it, believe me theyíre worth it.
Contact: Sack Trick PO Box 16432, London, W6 0ZQ.
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