Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: November 2010
Brian Rademacher: RockEyez would like to congratulate you on the new THE JERSEY SYNDICATE release and welcome to RockEyez. Tell me when the band first started and if you always played original music?
Mike Sasso: THE JERSEY SYNDICATE was formed in 2006. We were actually male fronted, but I replaced the entire lineup after the first show. The band has always done originals.
Brian Rademacher: Do you remember the very first show with the band and how it went?
Mike Sasso: The first show with the original male fronted line up was at "Jenks" in Point Pleasant, NJ opening for QUIET RIOT. The show was really bad, and I replaced the entire lineup the next day. The first show with the new lineup that featured Stevie Samay on vocals was Dec. 23rd, 2006 at the House of Blues in Atlantic City, NJ, opening for Twisted Sister. This show was fantastic. The crowd loved the new lineup and even Mark Mendoza, (bass player from TWISTER SISTER) came up to us to tell us he really enjoyed our set.
Brian Rademacher: Do you see New Jersey as a good place for original bands at this time?
Mike Sasso: I'm not sure New Jersey is a hotbed for original music. Don't get me wrong, there's a ton of "original" places to play, but only a handful of bands make it to the "Starland Ballroom" level, and even less go beyond that. Nashville is suppose to be a great place for original music, with a lot of scouts going out to the clubs looking for new talent.
Brian Rademacher: Tell me how each member was recruited for THE JERSEY SYNDICATE?
Mike Sasso: That's an interesting question. THE JERSEY SYNDICATE has had a lot of members over the years. Most guys answered ads I placed. Some I knew, others were referred to me. One of the biggest mistakes I make is taking musicians who play in cover bands and have never played the original scene. They find that in original music writing your own parts isn't that easy. Unlike cover bands, the music isn't laid out for you already. It takes a lot of work to be in a successful original act. Itís not just learning songs and playing them. There's so much more work that goes into it. And they don't understand the concept of selling tickets to play certain venues. When they play their covers gigs, people want to go out to hear songs they know. Basically any cover band has a draw. In the original scene, venues have no way to gauge how popular an original act is, so they have them sell tickets. It's no fun, but in order to prove to a venue you have drawing power, it's what must be done.
Brian Rademacher: The band has been around for a few years now. What would you say is the biggest highlight so far?
Mike Sasso: Playing the first annual "Rocklahoma Music Festival" in Pryor, OK was one of our biggest highlights. We were actually invited to play. Other original bands had to win contests to play. Not only did we play once, but two nights in a row. No other act, either local or national, has played any of the Rocklahoma Festivals two nights in a row.
Brian Rademacher: Have any well known musicians ever attended a JERSEY SYNDICATE show or played with you?
Mike Sasso: We usually play with national acts, so yes, well known musicians have seen our show. In fact, Nuno Bettencourt (guitarist from EXTREME) told me he was impressed with our set. And Brad Gillis (guitarist from NIGHT RANGER) went so far as to ask us for a CD!
Brian Rademacher: What comes first when recording a track, lyrics or music?
Mike Sasso: The way it works with us right now is that guitarist Shaun Cooney and myself get together and work on music. When we come up with a completed song we present it to the band. We usually give Stevie a copy of the songs and she works on the lyrics.
Brian Rademacher: Do you feel a New Jersey band can accomplish recognition outside of New Jersey? This is just an example AMERICAN ANGEL a great New Jersey band signed to Chavis Records, releases a killer CD in Vanity yet in a conversation with Record Company President Bill Chavis he said take AMERICAN ANGEL out of NJ people don't know them and thatís sad.
Mike Sasso: I believe that any band can make it out of their home state, providing they promote their music as much as possible. In the case of AMERICAN ANGEL, I don't believe the record company was behind them as much as they should have been.
Brian Rademacher: How do you separate family time with band time?
Mike Sasso: It's not easy, especially for me. Aside from just practicing with the band, I handle bookings, the website and the Facebook/Myspace pages, sending out press kits and CD's, the mailing list, etc.... Sometimes it feels like I neglect my family for the band, which I'm trying to work on. After all, family is the most important thing, isn't it?
Brian Rademacher: Getting back to the TJS CD you used Beau Hill to produce two tracks. How did that go?
Mike Sasso: Working with Beau was really cool. I had to keep pinching myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming every time I talked to him. In case people don't know who Beau is, he produced RATT's first couple of albums, he produced WARRANT first couple of albums, WINGER's first couple of albums, and has even worked with Stevie Nicks and Alice Cooper. I would love to work with him again, and in fact, were looking forward to it!!
Brian Rademacher: Overall, your album has a good vibe with diverse tracks from ballads, to some laid back tunes to a couple heavy tracks and trying to pick a favorite is not easy. I guess it all depends on your mood but Stevie what track(s) do you like to sing the most?
Stevie Samay: For me itís hard to pick just one. I can narrow it down to two. My favorite songs to sing are "Tell Me" and "Hurt Anymore." "Tell Me" because itís just a feel good rock-n-roll song. Also, itís about a certain time in my life where I was going through all these frustrating relationship hurdles. Itís a positive release song, and I love the pure energy. "Hurt Anymore" is a great song to sing live because itís so emotional. I feel so electric when I sing that song. When you can apply your pure emotion to a song and really feel the lyric, thatís a powerful thing.
Brian Rademacher: Were there any tracks that were difficult to sing?
Stevie Samay: The song that was the most difficult to execute at times in the recording process was "Driving." Itís the higher notes that can kind of wear your voice out at times., especially after working an entire day and than trying to record at night when you've had it already.
Brian Rademacher: How long did the recording process of the CD take?
Mike Sasso: The CD was recorded over the course of four months. Then it was roughly another two months to mix, master and produce. We had a lot of issues, which we hope to have learned from so the next CD moves along a lot quicker.
Brian Rademacher: Tell me about the CD cover artwork?
Mike Sasso: The cover is from a landmark hotel located on Route 9 in Howell, NJ. It is one of those hotels that anyone who grew up along the Jersey shore partied in as a teenager. (which I think they still do!)
Brian Rademacher: Mike as I see it the drummer is the hardest working man in the band what drummer do you most admire and why?
Mike Sasso: I was always influenced by Ringo Starr (BEATLES) and Bev Bevan. (ELO) They were very simple drummers that played for the music. I consider myself a very simple drummer. Then again, the music we play doesn't require a John Bonham type of drummer. Not to mention that we are a six piece band, so there's really not a lot of room to "show off".
Brian Rademacher: Same with you Stevie what female or otherwise vocalist do you admire? And don't say Bon Jovi!
Stevie Samay: Well besides my main influence (Bon Jovi), I'd say Pat Benatar. She flat out has an incredible and dynamic voice. At times, it sounds theatrical and then she goes and shows her grit as well with a rough edge. I also love Ann Wilson. Both women have so much guts and power in their voices.
Brian Rademacher: Stevie did you ever get harassed at live shows by male attendees?
Stevie Samay: Harassed? Nope, not really. Maybe once I had an older guy come up to me and he would not stop talking, so I had to just excuse myself and walk away. Then there's always some random guy who wants to buy you drinks.
Brian Rademacher: You have any special projects coming up?
Mike Sasso: We have a lot of things in the works right now, some very cool concert announcements, but we are waiting on some confirmations till we post them.
Brian Rademacher: Mike, would you change anything about how your career has went with TJS to this point?
Mike Sasso: Band wise, not really; I'm actually very pleased about where we are right now. The fact that we have gotten to be at this level in only 4 years is truly amazing.
Brian Rademacher: How about you Stevie?
Stevie Samay: As for my professional career right now; I could always use a little more money! I work two jobs besides being a member of the band. I could also always use a little more time in the day too...
Brian Rademacher: On a day off whatís unusually on the agenda?
Mike Sasso: What's a day off???
Stevie Samay: My days off are few and far between lately. I'm always busy doing something! If I'm not with the band, I'm working full time. I am also an artist and an avid drawer and painter.
Brian Rademacher: Being a NJ band what is it like opening for a well known band?
Mike Sasso: Opening for a well known band is cool no matter where youíre from. It's always great opening for a band you admire. And for us, we have had the opportunity to open for over 20 national acts, so every show is like a dream come true.
Brian Rademacher: Can I ask you guys about your day jobs?
Mike Sasso: I'm a union electrician by day. (and depending on what time of day I can be a cook, landscaper, maid, chauffeur, babysitter, etc..... oh the joys of married life!!)
Stevie Samay: I work at a office in customer service full time and I perform for children's birthday parties and corporate parties as various characters. I am also an artist and an avid drawer and painter.
Brian Rademacher: Mike what is the thing you most miss about your childhood?
Mike Sasso: I miss being able to get away with a lot of stupid shit that I can't get away with now!
Brian Rademacher: How about you Stevie?
Stevie Samay: I miss innocence. Itís funny how you view the world so differently when you grow older. Your dreams change and the world around you changes.
Brian Rademacher: Say this CD takes off what would a dream come true for the band be?
Mike Sasso: I'm not going to say the clichť thing here by saying fame and fortune. I would love to be able to continue playing with my friends and entertaining people. To be able to do that for a living would be a dream come true.
Stevie Samay: Hmm, to open up for Bon Jovi!! The chance to tour internationally would be amazing. Hell, just tour the whole United States would be a dream come true.
Brian Rademacher: Do you see TJS working with Beau Hill again?
Mike Sasso: Like I mentioned earlier, we would love to and are planning on it. We just hope that Beau can do the entire CD as well as some pre-production work with us.
Brian Rademacher: How can people buy the CD?
Mike Sasso: We have the CD available on our website. You can also get it on iTunes, CD Baby, and a ton of other internet sites.
Brian Rademacher: Is there another video in the making and if so what track?
Mike Sasso: We will be filming the new video to our second single, "Hurt Anymore". We were actually supposed to start filming in the beginning of November, but the date got pushed back.
Brian Rademacher: TJS were at the debut Rocklahoma show as you indicated. Tell me a little more about that before we go?
Mike Sasso: The whole Rocklahoma event was amazing. We were actually invited back to the second Rocklahoma, but we turned it down. (it was very corporate the 2nd year, and they were actually charging bands $5000 to play one 30 minute set! When we played, we didn't pay anything; in fact, we were given a free house to stay in for four days PLUS VIP Access to the hospitality tent for food and drinks for four days! And we played 7 - 30 minute sets in 2 days!!)
Stevie Samay: The whole Rocklahoma experience was incredible...one of the most exciting trips I've taken so far in my life. We were treated like family from the moment we set foot in Pryor, OK. We also got all access passes which was great. We met so many famous musicians...
Brian Rademacher: Well once again RockEyez would like to congratulate you on the new release. Would you like to say anything in conclusion?
Mike Sasso: First, I want to thank Rockeyez for supporting the band over the last couple of years. It's people like you and Rockeyez that help promote the original music scene! Second, I'd like to thank all the fans that contribute to support us and make us want to continue doing this. All the success the band has is due directly to our fans, and for that I thank you!!
Stevie Samay: In closing, I hope people enjoy our debut CD, and come check us out! Rock and roll...