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Interview with Systematic

12.18.99

In a cold parking lot about a half hour prior to what would be an amazing show at Doug Weston’s Troubadour in West Hollywood; I had the pleasure of speaking with Nick, Adam and Phillip from San Francisco’s Systematic. Not only are Systematic one of the best bands to have graced my sense of hearing all year; they are some of the coolest guys you’d ever want to hang out in a parking lot with…

So – state your names, ranks, and serial numbers for the record, would you please?
Nick: Nick St Denis, bass player
Adam: Adam Ruppel, lead guitar
Phillip: Phillip Bailey, with two Ls, oh yeah, and drums. Some things are more important. I’d hate to have the real Philip Bailey sue me.
Have you really had trouble with that?
Phillip: All my friggin’ life.
You’re kidding. Hmm..Wierd.
Phillip: Just the double reference.
Because you’re both in the same industry and what not?
Nick: His whole life people have thought he was an easy lover.
(laughter)

So, how excited are you about being signed? Are you freaking out?
Adam: Nah.
Nick: No.
Phillip: Not at all. Feels like another day, another place to play, another business guy to talk to and it just feels like another day to us.
Nick: It’s almost like there’s more things to do now. Before we were just going to practice, you know, coming home from work and practicing, maybe setting up a few shows. Now it’s blown up so much and there’s so much more to take it’s like we can even sit back and enjoy it, really.
More pressure? Less?
Nick: No, no pressure I think it’s ..it gets stressful sometimes.
Adam: The only pressure I have is like, what chicks to fit in on what dates.
(laughter)
You stud. When did it [getting the record deal] actually happen?
Adam: The announcement was like two weeks ago?
Phillip: A week ago. Last Friday night.
Adam: Yeah, we announced it and it happened really fast. I think that’s maybe why it hasn’t really hit us yet.
Phillip: We’re not riding around in limos or anything.
Nick: Driving limos maybe.(laughter)
Adam: None of us have quit our jobs or anything. We all have our day jobs and still doing the same thing that we’ve been doing.
Phillip: Yeah.
Adam: There wasn’t some big balloon drop or anything.

What are your day jobs?
Adam: Aww man. We’re allowed to say that?
You can say whatever you want. Pimps?
Adam: Wow! If I was doing that I wouldn’t be going into music!
(laughter)
You’d stick with pimping?
Adam: Yeah, of course. No, me and the singer (Tim Narducci) work in the car industry. Parts, body shops, stuff like that.
Nick: I work at a custom plastics, injection molding company.
Adam: Heh. Heh. He said injection. There goes that pimp thing.(laughter)
Ohhhh, so you’re in the “injection” business. I knew it!
Phillip: I’m the producer for a website.

That’s cool. How do you know Lars? (Lars Ulrich of Metallica)
Adam: Uhhh..
Nick: I tune his drums.
(laughter)
Adam: No. He came across someone playing our CDs and he took them and listened to them for a while and gave us a call and said he liked the stuff and came out to a couple shows, hung out with us a couple times and got to know each other and you know, contracts were in the air.

Any hints about what to expect from the new release?
Adam: I’ll tell you this, this is what to expect. It’s not rap-metal, make up wearing – there’s nothing fake about this band. It’s gonna be straight up real. It’s gonna be music that everyone’s gonna like. It’s gonna be heavy. It’s gonna be melodic. It’s gonna be what music should be. Right now it’s so dead…
Nick: The thing is… I don’t wanna say we’re bring back songwriting, but we’re really focused a lot on songwriting. I don’t think we’re a real image-oriented band, you know? I think that’s kind of gonna be our banner that we’ll carry.
Phillip: Imagine a really heavy band that you walk away from singing the lyrics, singing the melody to, and you can’t get it out of your head. When was the last time you heard a band like that? When does that happen anymore?
Adam: We don’t mean to put down any other bands, I mean, we all listen to and we’re all fans of a lot of different bands but the thing is that all of us grew up with the influence on great songwriting, from the 70’s and 80’s, just a lot of really good, strong, songwriting and uh.. you know .. we’re not fake. It comes out of our roots and we’re strong songwriters.

Are you going to be doing any remixes or new versions of the stuff you had on the demos?
Nick: As far as arrangements? There could be arrangement changes, but we’re re-recording everything.
Adam: Yeah. It comes down to producers, too. They might have ideas, so..
So, how much brand new stuff are you planning to use as opposed to the material you already have?
Phillip: We already have like 5 new songs.
Nick: There are like 20 new songs
Adam: More than that actually.
Phillip: Yeah. There are still a couple that we haven’t put down and there are a couple that we just started to play live. Others we’ve dubbed those off and gotten those out to producers right now.
Nick: I was just thinking today, there are so many songs, I mean we just played “Bitter Apple” today and I was thinking “God, I love that song” and I’m wondering if it’s gonna make it on there.
Is it going to be on the set list tonight? Please!?
Adam: No.
Nick: Nah.
Dammit, you’re killing me. I made a special request with my pal, Phillip over here, but I guess that got passed over.
Adam: There’s gonna be 3 new songs in the set, and we basically it’s just us getting together with Lars and putting a dart board up on the wall with song titles..
Nick: Take the Winger picture down.
(laughter)

Why the name Systematic?
Adam: Actually, it was really cool because it was a group decision and we had a song called “Systematic” and we were throwing around so many names and some of them were taken and stuff like that, and finally somebody called somebody and said “Hey, you know, we love Systematic”. It kinda took a couple days to grow on us but it grew on us, and it was really cool because it does represent the music. It does represent like, this futuristic – not futuristic like, loops and machines, not the industrial stuff – but more of a sound that’s…
Phillip: Contemporary.
Nick: I like to think anyway, that the music makes the name. Like Korn, I mean.. it’s more the music that shapes what people think is Systematic when they hear it.
Phillip: This may be getting a little too far out there, too, but if you think of it like this well-oiled routine, something that is really put in place and it’s going. That’s how we’ve all lived as long as we’ve been in this band. We rehearse four or five nights a week. We’re always working as hard as we can making sure there are no like, weak spots in what we do.
Nick: We do things ourselves, as much as we can do for ourselves.

That basically answers my next question, which was as a band, are you as methodical and regular as the name Systematic defines?
Phillip: Definitely.
Nick: Absolutely.
Phillip: I don’t want to toot our own horns, but I don’t know any band that works as hard as we do right now.
It shows.
Adam: Like he just said it is a system for us. We get up in the morning and we think about it and we get to practice and we’re doing it and when we get home .. we live, sleep, breathe, eat.. everything around this band.
Nick: Yeah, we were talking the other day about how, at work, I’ll be there thinking about it and I’ll be fucking things up because I’m thinking about the band, you know?
Isn’t that weird how you have this day job and you know where your passion is, and you work hard all day at a job you don’t really care about, but at the end of the day, you just get this second wind and the energy for what you’re passionate about just comes? It just comes from somewhere.
Nick: Yeah, we all work 9-hour days and rehearse another four whole hours.

What are your individual reasons for wanting to pursue this project as opposed to the other bands or things you’ve done?
Adam: (long sigh) Women.
(laughter)
Adam: For me, playing music has always been a dream. And that dream is coming true, but, on top of that, you know, you get to meet three other guys and they get to become your three best friends and you get to have all the fun in the world with them. If somebody said “Hey, I’m gonna stick you with three guys and you’re gonna go around the world and play music”. I’d fucking have a hard on for the rest of my life. We go through bad times, too, but I look at these guys and lately, I’m learning that everybody has a different personality in the band and you don’t try to change that. You let that person be, you take that personality and you learn. If everyone had the same personality, it would be boring. I mean if there were 4 of me, then no one would be talking, so.. it’s really a great melting pot.
Nick: When I first heard the band, uh, Ahrue from Machine Head played it for me. And he played the tape and I heard Tim’s voice and that was the first thing that jumped off for me. I’ve always kind of prided myself on having a decent A&R type of an ear for stuff. I’ve been into bands before all my other friends were and then by the time they got into them I was like, “Damn, everyone likes them now’. But, when I heard this, it was one of those things that really jumped out at me. Like I though, I really wanted to be a part of this thing. That’s how it was for me. I was blown away. I consider myself lucky that the journey I took into music was something that I found right here in my own backyard that I could be a part of..

If you could choose a single right now..
Adam: Oh my god.
(laughter)
..what would it be?
Adam: This is gonna be a personal question, for all three of us.
That’s fine. We’ll see who wins.
Adam: For me, I’ll go out on a limb here. There’s a new song that we have, we’re gonna play it tonight, called “Liar’s Dice”. It’s kind of straightforward but I’m noticing a lot of people are hooked on the chorus because it’s very catchy. But I’m thinking back to Metallica, like when “Enter Sandman” came out, it wasn’t meant to be commercial it just came out. It’s was straightforward, straight to the point, it had a great chorus…
It had a hook.
Adam: Yeah. A hook. And a lot of people are gonna hear this song and go “Wow”! So I’m thinking for a first single, it’s perfect. For a second, maybe throw in all the melodic stuff and I don’t know, that’s my favorite.
Phillip: Yeah, in a sense as far as that song goes I have to agree. We really worked hard to trim all the excess fat off , like everything is to the point. That’s the best thing. When you’re talking to somebody, you hate to hear somebody just ramble on and on…
I don’t.
(laughter)
Phillip: But you know, that’s what we’re going for with that song,.but as far as my but as far as my personal choice goes it would have to be a battle between “Deep Colors Bleed” and “Thickskin”.
Ahh, those are a couple of the heavier ones then.
Adam: I think we definitely wanna come out heavy. We’re not coming out like, “Hey we wanna be this commercial, sell out band”. We’re gonna be true to our roots and come out heavy. It’s just a matter of which song we all feel. There’s even songs like “The Company You Keep”, uhh, “Dopesick”..
Nick: I think that’s what sets us apart. I mean, I think we’re a pretty damn heavy band, with melodies and I wanna make sure that right out of the gate that we are a heavy band., not just this.. rock band without that aggressive edge to it, you know? I don’t wanna lose that.
So, do you have a choice?
Nick: Deep Colors Bleed.
What do you guys think Tim would choose?
Adam: Bedsores.
Phillip: Bedsores.
(laughter)
Adam: He just needs to get laid.
(laughter)
I’m writing that!
Adam: I think what would happen is that we would all three sit him down in a room and say “This is what you’re choosing”.
(laughter)

What type of thing would be left on the cutting room floor?
Nick: We’ve come up with some really great riffs. We’ll bust our balls trying to put it with something, but .. it just sticks out like a sore thumb. And nothing seems to attach to it.
Like, it’s too good?
Adam: Totally.
Nick: Yeah. And because of the songwriting, we don’t want to write a song around a riff. We want to write a song because it’s a great song. There a lot of stuff that’s been sitting around that hasn’t been used because of that reason.

What was the last thing that blew your mind on the 5 o’clock news?
Adam: Hmm. I could tell you the last girl that blew my mind.
(laughter)
Nick: I just like all the violent stuff. Anytime I can see something that’s unedited, like when they warn parents that it may be too disturbing for sensitive viewers, I’m like glued. Anything involving something twisted.
Adam: I really try not to watch the news, so…
That’s probably better anyway.
Adam: There’s been a couple band practices that could have made the 5 o’clock news.
(laughter)

What was the last CD you bought?
Phillip: The last CD I bought was the new Foo Fighters album.
Really?
Phillip: I am the new biggest Foo Fighters fan in the world.
I love his voice.
Phillip: Dave Grohl is a genius. He’s a genius.
Nick: Even when he was still in Nirvana, I thought he was the wiggiest guy, just funny and insane. The guy was cool. Then he comes out and he’s a great singer, great guitar player, writes great songs. It’s like “Enough, buddy! Come on! Give someone else a chance”!
(laughter)

Do you guys still go to concerts then?
Nick: Oh yeah.
Adam: Sure.
Phillip: Yeah. We love it.
Because I’ve done interviews with people who have said they can’t handle the idea of going because it’s all they ever do…
Nick: I’ve got this weird thing, like people go to concerts and they get inspired by bands but I go to concerts and get as inspired by bad shows as I do from good shows. When I see a good show, I’m into it because I aspire to be that good, but when I see a bad show, it’s like “Damn, those guys suck. I wanna get up there and kick their asses.”
(laughter)

What gives you more inspiration to write, good experiences or bad ones?
Adam: For me, I don’t really look at an experience like it was good or bad. I kind of go off of my emotions. Dark emotions, happy emotions, whatever. Take “Paydirt”, it’s a very dark riff and that’s how I felt. I listen to Slayer and Machine Head and all the dark stuff but then I listen to the lighter stuff, too, so I guess whatever I feel at the time. I mean, this band doesn’t just write, Tim does a lot of writing. I do a little bit of the writing but, for the most part we come in as a band and we all go “Okay, are we all feeling that same emotion about the song. Are we all vibing on the song”?
Huddle.
Nick: That’s where we all have trouble at the same time, because we all know when it’s not working. We can try and try to make it work, but we all know.
Phillip: Our best songs that we write, we write in a day.
Adam: Right.
Phillip: We’ll write the music and Tim will have the lyrics and the next day is put together and we’ll never have to touch it again.
Adam: Right. There’s a great vibe there, and it’s like if that vibe is there, and it moves me and it moves the band that means it’s gonna move a million people, so… what the Hell.

What would we find in your refrigerator if we looked right now?
(laughter)
Nick: I think I have some cinnamon raisin bagels that have been there for like, 6 months. And the cream cheese that goes with them.
(laughter)
Getting a little furry, huh?
Adam: I have the arm of my last girlfriend.
Uh – oh.
Phillip: I’ve been living on Safeway brand strawberry preserves, Safeway brand wheat bread and Nutella.
Adam: So, basically he has the worst craps out of us all.
(laughter)
Nick: Clears the room.(laughter)
Well, maybe this will put some food in the refrigerator then.
(laughter)
Nick: Yeah.

Okay, last question. Ginger or Mary Ann? And Adam, I’m asking you first. Ladies man.
Adam: Oh that’s tough. You know, Ginger was the slut. You know she’d put out a lot faster. But Mary Ann was the wholesome girl, that you know when you’re alone with her and she’s naked, she’s just gonna go off. So, I dunno. It’s tough for me. I’d take either or. You know what? I’d take Gilligan! That’d be awesome.
(laughter)
Adam: No. I’m just kidding..
Too late. HAH! Nick, Ginger or Mary Ann?
Nick: Mary Ann, easily. Mary Ann because she always wore the belly shirts, she had a really flat belly. And a nice ass.
Phillip: I’m not into the wholesome girls because the wholesome girls don’t know what to do in bed. Ginger had class. That’s what I’m into, you know.
Right.(long pause)
Adam: Get the fuck outta here! (laughter) Class! RIGHT! “I can’t date you, you don’t have enough class for me”!

(Everyone loses it.)
Phillip: It’s the truth, man! Plus, she was tall. And she had red hair. You know what red hair means…
Adam: I gotta go take a …(murmur murmur)
(more laughter)

Ohhhhkay. I think we’re done here!

Lesa Pence (who is 6 feet tall with red hair.. )

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Systematic at the Troubadour – 12.18.99

I knew it would be good. There was no doubt in my mind about how things were going to go....

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