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Interview with Spineshank

Every act who’s ever hit the road can speak of scenarios they would have liked nothing more than to forget at the time. Invariably, those are the ones that eventually enter the band repertoire of nostalgic humor. Currently touring with (hed)pe and promoting their latest release, “The Height of Callousness,” Spineshank is more impressive than ever – even when having a less than perfect day. On September 30th, while traveling to San Diego from a northern California gig the night before, a wheel dislodged from their U-haul equipment trailer and proceeded to go flying down the highway somewhere near LA. When I met up with guitarist Souren “Mike” Sarkisyan, he confided, “This is the worst day I’ve had in I can’t remember how long! We could have been here hours ago, if our tour manager had just let us take the damned thing back to where we rented it and have it fixed. I finally overrode him. It got to a point where I just said, ‘Fuck it, and fuck you!’ We did what we wanted. We took it back, got it fixed, and here we are.”

Spineshank - Photo by: Brian MayAs Mike and I approached the tour bus, he discovered the door to it was locked, no one was inside and he didn’t have the keys. After glancing around for his bandmates and uttering a few more choice words on the day, he maneuvered his way though the front passenger window, opening the door from the inside – just in time for the cops to inform us it had to be moved as we were parked in a fire zone. “We’re being harassed,” I said. “Nope,” he corrected. “It’s been a really bad day and this is just one more thing.”

Eventually, we found legal parking and were able to discuss music. Near instantaneously, all traces of anger or stress on the man’s face were replaced with pride for his bandmates and a true love of his craft. “This record is ten times [what] the last one was,” he confidently offered. “The only thing is, there was so much work that I, personally, and the band put into it, I hope people will get that. This is as real as a record gets. It’s all us; it’s nothing but Spineshank. And, I hope they will be able to grasp why we did it [this way].”

“The Height of Callousness” encompasses every facet of what the band was feeling during the time it was written. While straightforward in many respects, the album is multi-layered, leaving plenty of room for ambiguity and individual interpretation by fans. “I think we’ve really grown as people,” Mike admits. “When we first got signed and made “Strictly Diesel”, we were just happy to be signed and work at NRG Studios. That place was like a palace to me. I mean, I’d never even been in a room with a big screen TV before. I think we took advantage of that in some ways. We got drunk every night, every day. At two o’ clock in the afternoon, we were hammered. We made that record on alcohol, basically. A lot of good things came out of it [sonically], but in the end I think the most valuable lesson we learned is that you can’t make a record drunk and get everything you want out of it, because you’re not able to put everything you have into it. We really concentrated on this record. We took a year to write it. We didn’t play anywhere during the writing time. We just locked ourselves in this 20’x20′ black box. It came out the way we wanted it to. We didn’t compromise on anything. We made it for us, and hopefully people will respond to it well.”

Mike is conscientious to credit the talents of GGGarth Richardson (Rage Against the Machine, Kittie) and his importance as producer on the project. “GGGarth didn’t talk to us, he talked with us. He asked what we wanted to put out there to represent our band to the best of our ability, and then he pulled it out of us. His insight and support is something that really helped us. I think, for the first time, we learned to put our emotions to tape.”

His favorite shows are the ones where everything flows, from beginning to end. “There are nights when it’s like magic; where everything you do just comes out so well and you’re playing things you never thought you could play. Then, if you get a really cool crowd who responds to what you’re feeling at the time, there’s nothing like it. And, there are different kinds of crowds. There are the people who just listen to music for what it is and kind of bang their heads to it. Then, there are the kids who really understand; they go in depth with it. Everything means something on this record. It’s that personal to us. Every snare hit is there for a reason. Music is mainly meant to be fun, but for us as artists, it’s also an outlet for all types of emotion.”

Spineshank - Photo by: Brian MayWhile working in the studio or just jamming, coming up with potentially new material, none of the band members is shy in offering opinions. Mike says, “I have no problem telling anyone in this band that they suck. We’re so close, I can just tell them, ‘Hey, you suck! You’re a horrible mother-fucker!’ and everybody can do the same to me. It’s actually really cool. It’s a healthy environment to be able to work that way. I really don’t have to care about hurting anyone else’s feelings, because what we are all there for is the music and we want it to be the best it can be.”

Mike also has definite opinions on all-ages shows vs. 21+ gigs: “Fuck 21+. I think they’re bullshit. Most people who are over 21 at shows, they’re so drunk they don’t even know who’s playing half the time. I meet people who only play 21+ clubs, and it’s like, ‘Dick! Fuck you!’ I remember when I was a kid and my favorite band would play a 21+ gig. I’d be really pissed because I couldn’t go see them. Or they’d play at some huge stadium and I was way up in the nosebleed section. That was me. I was that kid. I saw Guns and Roses at the Rose Bowl on that Metallica tour they did, and I saved up my summer job money to go. Tickets were like $110.00, and I was still way the fuck in the back. Axel Rose was like a millimeter to me. So, I’m totally down with all-ages, general admission, smaller venue fuckin’ kill each other shows!”

Spineshank is anxious to tour heavily with the release of “The Height of Callousness.” Their dates with (hed)pe end October 22nd and further choice opportunities are in the making. “Touring is the best! You’re in a different city every night, playing to different people. I love being on the road. I love playing, meeting the kids and talking to them – hearing what they think about us.” For updates, tour information and music straight from the band, visit http://www.spineshank.com and be sure to watch for “Synthetic”, the first single release, on MTV.

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