This is an interview that I conducted with Kansas City noise rockers Season To Risk many years ago.
Season To Risk started their debauchery a little over a decade ago in the seedy underbelly of what is the Kansas City underground. At their show on March 18th @ the Green Door in Oklahoma City I got a chance to sit with the guys for a couple of minutes and discussed life, music and what’s in store for the S2R Army in the future.
How long have you been together? When did the band get started?
We got together in the fall of ’89. You do the math. I always get it wrong. Of the original members only Duane Trower and I, Steve Tulipana, still exist. We have had four bass players and ten drummers. The current rhythm section is Billy Smith (bass) and Chris Metcalfe (drums). We recently added a second guitarist, Wade Williamson to round out the sound of the new album.
Where did the name SEASON TO RISK come from?
Season To Risk was the title of one of our songs. We had our first show coming up and couldn’t decide on a name so we went through all the titles of the first batch of songs. It (Season To Risk) was a song about how your life can take immediate changes when someone leaves or dies. Your whole world is upside down and instead of wallowing in it you have to step outside your personal definition of what you are. We actually tried to change the name when we got signed. We wanted something simpler and easier to remember. Could not come up with anything, so Season To Risk stuck.
How did you get started in music? Were any of you in other bands prior to forming S2R?
We all have played in numerous bands prior to Season To Risk and throughout its history we have all had side projects.
What side projects are those?
Well, Shiner is basically a full time side-project for all ex-members of Season To Risk. That’s a joke, kind of. Duane had made an album with a band called Quitter’s Club that just smokes. Very bizarre math/art. They did an awesome cover of the Swans‘ Half Life. Billy and Wade are together in a band called Dirt Nap that basically wrote the book for Shiner. Wade also plays in an awesome band called Stella Link that you should be hearing more of soon. I have a punk/porno rock band called the Pornhuskers (I play bass) very fun with fire breathing dominatrix dancer girls. All four of us have a live electronic band called The Tang! Trials that also includes a member of The Get-Up Kids. And Duane and I played in a hard-core cover band called Grand Punk Railroad, all Black Flag/Cro-Mags/Flipper, etc.
What are your influences, what bands or artists made you decide that you wanted to get into a band? Or were there any other ulterior motives that made you want to get involved in music?
All of us got involved in punk rock way back in high school. All pretty much self-taught. Duane did study some theory in college. I think it really just came out of boredom and a desire to create and perform. Punk rock told us that anyone could do it. So we did it. Now, I realize the Season To Risk sound isn’t your everyday punk rock but the DIY attitude has always been one of our tenants. Bands like Scratch Acid, Bad Brains, Big Black, Sonic Youth, Black Flag, even early Soundgarden showed us that there were no boundaries to punk rock and the goal was to make your own sound. Be as creative and original as possible.
What is the first record you can remember buying?
Queen’s The Game.
What bands are you listening to now? Are there any that you would recommend?
Every one of us in the band has different tastes. Wade and Billy have been raving about Cornelius. I love Gang of Four and have been listening to a lot of Brian Eno lately. As far as new stuff, oh my god Out of Chicago blew me away recently. I have been listening to that one a lot.
Have you ever heard anyone compare your band to Big Black?
Would you ever consider having Steve Albini record one of your albums/Have you ever approached him about that?
David (who played drums on the last two albums) has worked with Albini and we have mulled it over a few times but it seemed like too obvious of a choice. I love his stuff but we also were way stoked with Jason Livermore at The Blasting Room who did the Shattering w/ Bill Stevenson helping. Awesome experience.
So how did you guys hook up with Bill Stevenson and Owned and Operated Records?
Years ago Duane booked All here on their first tour and we become acquainted. This was when Dave Smalley was the singer. Chad, their current singer has been with them for quite sometime is originally from Kansas City. He turned Bill and the rest on to our first album and we have done several tours together. They actually offered to put our third record out but we had already committed to Thick. When this opportunity arrived to leave Thick we thought it made sense to go to O&O.
What was the experience like with Columbia Records? Would you mind going over a few of the details surrounding the split with them? Would you ever consider signing with a major label again?
It was somewhat of a fluke signing to Columbia. We had signed on with Red Decibel, an independent out of Minneapolis. While we were recording our first record for them in Chicago, Red Decibel made a “development deal” with Columbia. Red Decibel was to run all their new projects by Columbia A&R and they in turn would release at least 3 projects per year, or something like that. They came to check us out at the studio and signed us before we had even put anything out. We were stoked but taken aback and were very weary of not “selling out.” There were some great people there at Sony/Columbia and some bullshit artists just like anywhere in life. They promised us they were in for the long haul. That we were an inexpensive band with tons of future potential and that they would stick behind our artistic integrity and grow with us. I can’t remember which A&R person it was. Hell, it could have been Donny Einer (president at the time) to tell you the truth. He even went on to mention how Aerosmith started out small and grew into what it is today. I add, what a giant heaping pile of overproduced shit. Anyway, they dropped us, as well as a ton of other bands, after the complete financial shipwreck that was Michael Jackson’s history album. Nonetheless, Columbia gave us the opportunity to not have to work day jobs and get out there and tour solid for 9 months out of the year and make somewhat of a name for ourselves that 6 years later we can still tour in a van and make it somewhat worth our while.
What were your best and worst live show experiences?
All live experiences are both. Lots of people/no people (sometimes the no people shows are the best). Blood, broken fingers/broken bottles/broken amps. Lots of drinking, lots of driving, lots of people. So many shows I really couldn’t quantify it.
Do you guys all have your personal favorite songs to play live, if so what are they?
I don’t think any of us do. We just like to try and keep it fresh and interesting for ourselves which in turn keeps it that way for the audience. Needless to say, because of this, we have given up on some of our best songs. (“Mine Eyes”, “Snakes”, “Dogs”.) It just goes back way too far. We do pull them out from time to time but it really depends on who is drumming for us that week and which songs he knows.
How do you guys write your songs? Is it lyrics first or music first or do you kind of write it all at the same time?
Kind of all at the same time. Riffs come up first then we work together on arrangements. The words generally come last. Phrases make an appearance during arrangements but it usually is sitting down with the finished project before the really materialize.
The new album, The Shattering, how would you compare this album to your others?
It slays them all. We are incredibly happy with this one. Production is awesome. You can hear the vocals. It has low-end but isn’t woofy. All around really stoked.
What is the story behind the band member’s nicknames on The Shattering?
To amuse ourselves. We had an underlying theme/story to The Shattering. It isn’t really obvious unless it is pointed out. The idea is that there is a cult headed by an over-educated, over-read paranoiac. He is called the filter because he takes all the information he culls from books/tv/religion/conspiracy/philosophy/science/etc. and edits it to make his own plan. Which is really what we all do, no? Anyway, he filters the information and disseminates it to the followers. The concept of The Shattering is taken from the ideas of the kabbalah. Original light/energy separating into many facets, thus shattering out into life. But also, in there, there is a convoluted concept that it is the sun that all life shattered out from and that the sun is sick as far as human needs go and we soon will be enveloped in its outward motion/shattering. It is all just a false mish-mash of ideas, really. A concept about lunatics and information/dis-information. Enaud is Duane backwards. We always thought it sounded alien backwards. Dvivid is a name David has used as a signature on his art forever. Serpico is proof that Wade is an infiltrator–the new guy, undercover. Read to bring it all down for the glory of whatever alter cause he is fronting aka his other bands. Billy Z came from a joke on the road concerning Billy’s cock. Lots of cock jokes when you are stuck in a van for so long.
What kind of movies/books are you into?
Lots of books/movies. I collect b-movies. I have tons of them. All the Troma stuff. All the Russ Meyers all the Emmanuel series. Soft core shit and horror stuff tons of movies. But I do respect the work of Jodowrosky (El Topo, holy mountain, Fando y Lis) a ton. He is probably my favorite director after David lynch. I read a lot of nonfiction. Duane loves the fiction stuff. Jim Thompson, Harry Crewes. Etc.
What is your family life like? Are any of you married? Have kids?
I am the only married guy in the band. No kids. I think we all have had average lives. Your average traumas and dramas. People leave, people die, life goes on.
I saw a movie a few years ago called Strange Days that I could have sworn I saw you guys in, playing a band in a club. How did you get involved in that project?
It is a weird story. We were in NYC at the time working on In a Perfect World, getting ready to take a break because Duane had contracted tendonitis. We got offered the job to write a song for the movie and appear in it after the music producer from the movie ran into two separate people who were familiar with us. He was at the Sony studios in L.A. working with Juliette Lewis on the PJ Harvey songs she covered for the movie. Anyway, this guy was asking the receptionist at the studio if she knew of any really heavy new bands that he could use for a scene. He was in negotiations with The Cows and Suicidal Tendencies at the time. She says oh yeah there is this new band we have called Season to Risk. At that moment another woman who worked at the studio in the tape-duping room (and also dated our drummer at the time-Chad Sabin) walked by and heard our name. She says what is Season to Risk? He explains and she says I just happen to have the rough mix of their new album, do you wanna hear it? Done deal. We got the contract and rough script of the scene. We wrote the song and stayed up all night (on acid) 4th of July 1995, I think mixing it. A car picked us up in the morning drove us to the airport. We flew to LA, they picked us up in a limo, took us straight to the set for costuming. Let us wear what we were and we spent two weeks having the time of our lives on a huge Hollywood set. Very fucking surreal.
This one is for the tech-heads, mainly directed toward your guitar/bass player, is there any particular type of equipment that you use religiously?
Duane uses hi-watt amps/speaker cabs only. He loves vintage synths and has a Roland 9. He customized his guitar himself. Can’t remember what it was we have traditionally only used Mesa/Boogie stuff for bass but that has changed recently.
And who would you consider some of your personal influences?
Personal influences? A few are Bastro, Brainiac, Bad Brains, Kraftwerk, Buzzoven, Polvo, Devo, Trans Am, Table….basically anything that seemed creative in a world dominated by generic formulaic music.
Who made you want to play guitar?
When I was 7 years old I took guitar lessons and made the teacher teach me all Johnny Cash songs! My mother had me practice in the front yard, while the neighborhood kids played football across the street. I finally quit so I could join in on the neighborhood fun. From the 7th to 10th grade I played cello in the school orchestra. From the 8th to the 12th grade I started playing in the school’s guitar class. After high school I was a music major in college for 3 years. I changed my major after thinking I really didn’t want to become a teacher. I also took lessons from a local rock guitar guy for about a year.
What does the future hold for s2r?
World domination of course. Hell, who knows we have been doing it so long on such an underground level. Sometimes it feels like it is time to give up. Start something fresh. But then we keep having opportunities that just keep prodding us along. And then we make something fresh. I think The Shattering is our best album and it will stand the test of time. Well, that’s my opinion.