Interviewed by Brian Rademacher
Date: October 8th, 2005
Let’s start off with your youth. Tell us the first instrument you played and at what age?
I guess I was about seven, and I turned everything that I could get my hands on into a microphone… a jump rope, a fireplace poker. But the first musical instrument I played was piano. I guess I was about ten or eleven when I started taking lessons; I took them for about a year and a half. I was really bad (sigh) ha-ha. I wouldn’t practice, but I had a really strong ear so I would listen to the teacher play the piece and I would pick it up that way. I was lazy and I never really learned how to read properly. I had one recital experience that cured my parents of ever wanting me to play piano ever again. So that was the end of my piano career. My grandfather and dad always played guitar, so there was a guitar around the house and I picked it up- I guess because I didn’t have to -and I played the hell out of it.
Growing up in California what kind of kid were you in school?
I actually grew up in Orange County. I was a really good student, a geeky smart kid; and the glory of it was that I did not know I was kind of a social outcast until I hit high school. I think I survived junior high school on ignorance alone. High school was really tough for me. I had a big mouth and I was a really small kid, so I got trash canned and beat up a lot in PE [gym class.] I was actually a kid actor for a long time. I did a bunch of sitcoms during high school. My junior year I went to LA County High School for the Arts, which was a conservatory-style high school. I studied drama. I was a social success there because I was surrounded by a bunch of fellow artist-freaks who also wore black. My senior year I went back to my old high school and it was a much more humanizing experience the second time around.
Were any of the sitcoms popular?
Yeah, I guess Caroline in the City, Rosanne, and Sister Sister.
Did you take vocal or guitar lessons?
I did, I took guitar lessons from a guy named Tony at Rockit Music for about six months. But my real education was just listening to records and trying to play what I heard. Once I figured out the five or six or seven chords of rock and roll I started writing my own stuff. My vocal training was actually touring with the All-American Boys Chorus, from about age ten to fourteen. I’ve since taken a few voice lessons with Roger Love, a local L.A. coach, who is absolutely incredible. In college I studied classical guitar for 3 years.
Who was your favorite artist back then?
In high school, my big three were R.E.M., Oingo Boingo and They Might be Giants.
Did you have a dream back then of whom you would like to be like?
I was pretty convinced I was going to be a movie star - and music was always such a part of my life that I took it for granted. I was in a cover band in high school for three months, and when I left I stole the drummer. My bass player, Carlos, and I have been playing in bands together for ten years. I met him my junior year at LACHSA, when I formed a ska band - he was going to play organ until he heard the music and gracefully declined. Then in college we bumped into each other and started writing and writing.
What was the first guitar you owned?
A Hondo III imitation Strat. My dad was in the music business for a long time - he used to work for Fender. He collected a closet of instruments hoping one day I would discover them.
What is your favorite guitar now?
I play Daisy Rock guitars. My baby is a Retro-H: it’s a semi-hollow, dual mini-humbucker setup.
Tell us how did you get an endorsement from Daisy Rock Guitars?
[Tish Ciravolo (Founder & owner) and Ron Manus (co-owner.)].
I met & befriended one of the owners, Ron Manus, through his ex, with whom I worked on a horror film. Ron came to see my band play and we became friends. Ron is an amazing songwriter. When he bought into the guitar company he called me up and said, “You gotta come and check out these guitars.” I stopped by the Daisy Rock offices and met Tish, who is a Rock Star in her own right, and they treated me like a Rock Star. I was very skeptical... I didn’t want to play a “girl guitar.” But, once I got my hands on it, I just fell in love with it.
Do you remember the first album you bought and first concert you attended?
Yes! The first album I bought was the soundtrack to ‘Back to the Future.’ The first concert I paid to see was Dramarama at Cal State Fullerton. I remember No Doubt were supposed to open for them that night but didn’t. I remember standing in the back of that room, watching John Easdale swagger around the stage with his guitar and a cigarette. I said, “Holy Shit, that is the coolest thing I have ever seen!”
You met Carlos Rivera (bassist) in your school days. How do you keep your friendship with him?
Gosh. It has definitely been challenging at times because we are very different people. He tends to be very laid back and flexible and I am kind of a control freak. When you’re a partner in an artistic capacity, you place your dreams in the other person’s hands - and that is true with Corey and David as well. We trust each other with so much. We spend thirty hours a week outside our day jobs to make this happen. Unless we trust each other with our lives, all that work is just masturbation. You have to surrender your ego when it means that much to you. It’s like a marriage.
Your mother or father was a magician. Was that exciting for you?
My dad used to perform magic in addition to a wide variety of entrepreneurial day jobs. He doesn’t do it much anymore. He is a member of the Magic Castle in Hollywood and, when I was a kid, we use to do benefit shows and I would be his ha-ha magician’s assistant. My dad has definitely been a major influence on my life as an artist. Both my parents are amazingly supportive and encouraging.
Your vocals are pronounced with expression. You have the presences of Ed Kowalczyk of LIVE and even flair of Cat Stevens. Would you ever consider doing an acoustic set?
That’s so funny, I got that comparison to Cat Stevens when the band first started. I’m a huge Live fan. My three biggest ‘adult’ influences are Live, Elvis Costello and Nirvana. We’ve done a few acoustic sets in the past – but the venues & circumstances we’ve played in Los Angeles don’t really lend themselves to acoustic performances. I expect you’ll hear more of that from us in the future.
The band gets airplay and does in-store sessions. Are you getting interest by major labels?
At this time we are not seeking label interest. Part of the challenge of being an independent rock band is that labels can buy you cheap, throw you up like spaghetti on the wall, and see what sticks. It’s really important for somebody who wants to be a career musician to get some bargaining power. Bargaining power means some album sales under your belt and a built-in following, so when the label approaches you, you have leverage. Otherwise, they can just name their price. We’re really in this for the long haul. I think we’re a band that’s going to be around for a long time. We have never been on the road before; this November is going to be our first real tour. I think we are road-testing ourselves in different areas. Los Angeles is a tough market. It’s a great place to be from as a group – but when you go out and play a show, you’re just not competing with 350 other bands; you’re competing with every first-run movie and more live theatre nightly than New York City. We love LA and the people; this is our home town. But, as we get farther out of town into places like Riverside and Yucaipa, it’s really amazing to see the reactions of people that do not have access to all that entertainment. They really soak it up and it’s an awesome vibe to be in.
Why the name 7K?
Carlos and I were in a band before called Catharsis. It was heady, quiet a mouthful, and people could not spell it properly on the marquee. So we decided on something simple, and I think we sensed that our sound was going to change and we didn’t want a name that would tie us down to a certain kind of genre. We came up with a huge amount of names, but they all sounded like a metal band or a punk band. I sent an e-mail out to all our fans and said, “name our band and win a prize.” One girl responded with one hundred and fifty different names and we said, “Damn!” Some of them were good, some of them were really bad, but 7K just stuck out. It felt timeless like U2. I drew the logo that came out really cool. After we chose it we called her and asked her what it meant. She said “Seven is the most powerful number, it’s a prime number it’s lucky and mysterious. K is the most powerful consonant.” and it seemed like a good combination, so we went with it.
What other names were you deciding on?
Oh geez... Fair Warning, A Fine Disaster... I was pushing for Rake Daylight early on, but that got rapidly nixed by my guitar player. We just ended up with 7K and it seems to click. When you hear a band name for the first time, it really doesn’t mean anything until you hear their music; like, when you heard the name Hoobastank, who knew what the hell that meant? But once you hear the music you make attachments. So I think 7K really works for us in that regard.
The new CD “Through the Windshield,” Why did you pick that name?
It’s from the song “The Wrong Girl.” Lyrically, it’s a very visual song. The line is “but through the windshield we are melting mannequins / oil and rain refracted light on human skin.” I was trying to evoke the image of two lovers in a car seen through a rain-soaked windshield – the last half of the line is meant to mimic the way artists denote the medium of their painting, like “acrylic on canvas.” David actually suggested it as the title of the record, and it resonated with me. When I think about growing up, I have many memories of driving at night, listening to music – so the idea of viewing life “through the windshield” is nostalgic and powerful for me.
How long did the CD take to record?
Six months to track it and another four for post production. We bought this little digital recording console and we hooked it up in our rehearsal studio and we borrowed as many microphones and cords and all that crazy shit as we could and hooked it up. We are sitting on top of each other in a small room and mic stands are everywhere. We did the tracking at the studio, and the guitar and vocals we did in several places - some at David’s house and some at Carlos’s house, in the closet. My guitar player did most of the post production. He was the real engineer/producer, he was amazing.
What is your favorite track on the CD?
For me, it is “Who Dies First.”
Do you have songs ready for a follow up release?
Yeah, actually we started working on new material about a week ago.
Tell me what you’re feeling towards each member of the band?
David: Before David joined the band we were a three-piece. We never had a lead guitar player. I was very defensive about my position as the only guitarist - but I’m a crappy soloist. David and I were in an acting class with Dean Dinning who was the bass player for Toad the Wet Sprocket. After seeing the band play, Dean approached me and said, “Have you ever considered adding a lead guitar player?” It kind of freaked me out, and the next day David came up to me and asked to audition for the band. I gave him a CD with some songs. He came down to the studio, and he had written these amazing guitar parts that totally elevated and changed the material, and it just grew from there. My feelings toward David are immense gratitude and I just love the guy. He’s an incredible spirit. He feels everything deeply.
Micah: Micah is no longer in the band. Micah is a killer drummer, and we all miss him, but he never fit in personality-wise with the band. Carlos, David and I are dirty rock and rollers and Micah is very religious and I don’t think he was ever terribly comfortable with us. He left to tour with another band, and to play worship music with his family. We wish him the best. What’s up Micah!
Corey: Is the machine. He is like a cannibal. He energized the whole band when he joined. He’s so hungry, passionate and powerful in his personality. I credit him for getting us out on the road. He is a great time keeper, no ego. You can ask him to wear a dress and play with bells and he will do it. I’m so glad fate drew Micah away and made room for Corey.
Carlos: Is a brother to me. I was the best man at his first wedding. He has been there for me through my Dad’s heart attack and every fucked up thing that has ever happened to me. He has grown so much as a musician - and he has a master’s degree in bass performance from USC. He will always be an inspiration to me. He’s a brick.
What was the most exciting part about being the founding member of 7K?
I still see through the eyes of an actor, because that is what I trained to be for so long. For me, playing in this band is like being cast in the Oscar-winning role of my life every time I step on stage. I get to be exactly who I want to be, say what I want to say every time we play. It’s so satisfying. I have big plans for this band and I will never give up on our dream.
Who would you like to tour with?
We would love to open for Jimmy Eat World, Weezer, The Foo Fighters. Those are the big ones. But we have been playing shows in LA and Riverside, closer to the desert-side of California, to all-age audiences. If there is one thing I could impart after a 7K show it’s that you have to live your destiny. I think so many people are walking around with an un-lived life. You guys started this website and you are clearly passionate about music and you are doing what you believe in. So many people aren’t - they are going to a job, they have a mortgage and they’re paying off a car. They lose track of what it’s all about. Our show is kind of reminding people of that you have to do what you believe in.
What is the wildest thing that has ever happened at a 7K show?
Laughing. I want to go back to pre-7K. We played at a girl’s catholic school end-of-the-summer party. On the very first song I broke a string - and back then I only had one guitar so I had to restring my guitar on the spot. During on the second song, my amp exploded. Smoke was literally coming out of my amp. So I had to borrow an amp from another band. Another one? The last show we played in Riverside. These two kids came up to me and asked if I want to start a mosh pit. We started moshing. Later, after we had left, some rappers started a fight and there was a stabbing. So I think we stir up the pot and get the hell out.
What is your feeling about the state of the United States at this time?
You’re going to get political on me. I feel very powerless about the state of the country. I am an intense anti-Bush guy. I really think that the United States is being run by a reign of fear and short-sidedness. I feel frustrated being a leftist freak, but I feel that American politicians use the media as a tool to breed complacency into people so that they do feel powerless. I’m very ambivalent about American culture- I think the government is way too influenced by big-business money. But, at the same time, this is the only country in the world where you truly have the opportunity to go from rags to riches, to be whoever you want to be, and as an American I am so proud of that. I have really strong feels of pride as an American and I also have feelings of shame. I guess the only way I know how to operate in this system is to do what I love and encourage other people to do what they love. I wouldn’t say 7k is politically active, not yet anyway – but when something like Hurricane Katrina comes, we try to put our money where our mouth is. The entire month of September, every dollar we made as a band went to hurricane relief. We believe we put our passion where the need is and I hope it does some good. I am a hopeful and optimistic person.
How do you feel about downloading?
I’m very ambivalent about that too. It is definitely hurting record sales - but, on the other hand, people are getting access to music that they would have never have heard otherwise. I am a big believer in information exchange. I think musicians have to go with the flow of technology. If you want to compete with downloading, you have to make your record something special to buy. I feel the record industry fucked up - they failed to train a whole new army of consumers. When I was a kid I was trained to buy CD’s. Sure, you made tapes of albums for your friends, but for the most part, that was how you got music, buying records. The record industry reacted to mp3 technology out of fear because of Napster’s success, instead of branding it and putting a price on it, like Apple did with iTunes.
Downloading free music is much more difficult now than five years ago. Five years ago, you could get on Kazaa and get anything you wanted. Now, the record companies have doused the servers with all these fake files so, for some listeners, it’s really easier to go to iTunes. As a musician/businessman you have to build an empire around your band to succeed financially. U2 is not suffering from downloading. They built something that people want to be a part of - not just “I want to buy the record.” I think some musicians are suffering, and there are a lot of good musicians out there that just want to record good music, and they don’t want to participate in building a merchandise/image empire. It’s definitely raising a new type of artist to the top.
What do you think of MySpace? We at Rockeyez love Myspace. This is a venue that helps us search for new bands such as yours and get a taste of what you sound like. Myspace helps sites like ours and in return we can help artists to achieve a goal if they are willing to work hand and hand with sites like Rockeyez. We get to hear a sample of the music that the band brings to the media and even though we determine what will be published on Rockeyez it gives us samples of knowledge of the bands. What is your take?
Myspace is the best thing that has happened to the promotional side of this band. It’s incredible. All the shows we’ve played in the last four months we have booked by networking with other bands on Myspace and talking to their fans. I am a big believer in it. Like you said, it is a way to connect with a band halfway across the country. We are not being played on the radio on the East Coast - you would have never found us without Myspace.
What are the future plans for 7K?
We’re going on tour in November. We are going to promote this record like madmen. The struggle for a band like us is to get big enough to make a living doing it. That means playing as much as possible and creating more opportunities for the band, while somehow keeping our day jobs and paying the rent. The good news is - we are having so much fun. There is nothing more important to us than what we are doing, and we are big believers. The plan for us it to do this tour, road test the material, and get out of town and build a following that spirals around Los Angeles. By the end of 2006 I want to have 6,000 fans at Myspace. I want to sell out of our first pressing of our record and work on a second album. I want record labels to notice us before we submit our material. I want them saying, “who are these guys and why are they successful?” Mostly, I want more people to hear our music. Our audience range is from sixteen to forty-five. There is nothing like the high of seeing someone in the audience mouthing the words to your song and having it mean something to them. There are so many songs I listened to that changed the way I grew up and change the person I’ve become. The first time I heard “Smells like Teen Spirit” - I remember that moment. I want to create those moments for other people.
Jeff, Rockeyez would like to thank you for taking the time to talk with us and we really enjoyed listening to the CD and wish you success and the band success. I hope everyone will give 7K a chance and check them out on Myspace. Would you like to say anything in conclusion?
Thanks for finding us and I look forward to seeing it posted on Rockeyez. It’s really exciting for a band like us. It’s awesome to get reviewed and it’s an even more awesome experience to get interviewed. Have I overused the word Awesome? Thanks Rockeyez.
Rock Eyez Review of 'Through The Windshield' by 7K.