d.A. Sebasstian Interview
By Julie Johnson - gothgirl
Jan 9, 2000
Julie Johnson- Hey d.A., wow you seem to have been very busy the last couple years with recording Organica and setting up Iregular Records. What kind experience were these past years, and what have you learned from it?
d.A.-After the KsK tour in 1997 I was burned out. I had spent the last three years promoting Kill Switch..Klick day and night, playing shows, doing interviews, performing on TV shows it was 24 hours a day. I have an intense personality and when I commit to something everything else doesn't matter, and I was committed to Kill Switch...Klick. But I pushed myself too hard. I wasn't letting other people around me help. I was even doing the CD mailing promotions for our first Cleopatra release, Beat It To Fit, Paint I To Match. This is something most bands ask their record labels to do, but I wanted to do it. It paid off in a big way, making Kill Switch...Klick one of the best known acts on Cleo's roster but I had paid the price. After I got back from the tour I had a major bout with anxiety and depression. I decided to take sometime off touring and playing shows and concentrate on starting my own label. I felt it was time to do what I had always wanted to do.
Julie Johnson- What kind of departure did you have with Cleopatra Records?
d.A.-It was decent, I mean they put out four CD's for us and put us on shitloads of compilations. The problem with Cleopatra is they don't have the capital to develop bands, their resources are very limited. You get a few split adds in national magazines a little tour money, and your CD's being available to the bigger chain stores and that's about it. The rest is up to the band. After the last CD ALT. came out I started talking to Triple X Records and then it hit me, what am I doing, I need to start my own label. And that's what happened.
Julie Johnson- After you left Cleopatra Records what were you doing with your music? Can you still get your releases from Cleopatra Records?
d.A.-Oh yea...I still get my royalty checks and they still sell all of the disks. Nothings gone out of print yet, and when it does I'll just put it out on iRegular. I just landed a distribution deal last year for iRegular, so my new stuff is available at most major stores. It's a lot of work doing your own label, but being semi-famous helps open a few doors.
Julie Johnson- In 1997, ALT. was the last album released till Organica. Do you feel your fans thought that the band was no longer, because I know I did?
d.A.-Rumors get started, people expect electronic and industrial bands to break up because they don't have a very long shelf life. The difference with Kill Switch...Klick is it's all me...good or bad it's d.A. Sebasstian, so it can't break up. The listening audience never knows what to think in-between the releases, it's like a drowning man coming up for air every 6 months, telling you a little story then going under again. When he's under the water the listening audience starts wondering "Is he dead...is he coming up again?" I hope my new website will change all that, I'm designing it myself so it'll constantly be updated with current goings-on about my recording life.
Julie Johnson- What is your relationship musically with Faith & Disease?
d.A.-I've recorded them quite a bit. They also co-wrote a Kill Switch...Klick song "Eventually" off of my deGenerate album. It's always good to work with like minded individuals, and I feel Faith & Disease are like minded. It's easy to get a finished excellent sounding song without extreme effort. Eric Cooley, the bassists and major component of Faith & Disease, and I just finished up a song under the project name The Ginsberg Files. The song started out as a bassline of Eric's and then I built it up from there. It's coming out on a new compilation put out by Tragick Records in 2000.
Julie Johnson- Why were you so interested in doing the Johnny Cash Tribute? How has that sold? Did you meet the man himself?
d.A.- Johnny was supposed to do an in-store book reading of his biography at this bookstore I worked at in Seattle. When he canceled because of illness I was bummed, I had always been a fan of his music. I started talking to other guys at work, most of which are musicians, and they said how they loved Cash too. These are like Punks and Rockers and not the typical people you would think of as liking Johnny Cash. It blew me away, and I started thinking that it would be cool to do a non-country tribute CD to Mr. Cash. I asked bands and got an immediate response, and that was that. Sales wise, it's paid for itself and some advertising, which is good for an unknown labels first release. I was disappointed with Seattle's lack of enthusiasm for Americana: A Tribute To Johnny Cash, but very surprised to see the international music communities embracing of it. I mean we got airplay in England on the BBC and commercial radio in Sydney Australia, but the local piss ass college stations just barely played it at all. That's the music biz. I never met Johnny and that was why I was so bummed about his in-store cancellation, I was friends with the stores promoter and could have easily got to shake his hand if he had shown up.
Julie Johnson- Organica has a totally different approach from past records, so why the change? Why do you feel people might not like it?
d.A.-Organica was an experiment. I feel as a musician you have to try new things. During the recording of Americana: A Tribute To Johnny Cash I came across a very cool acoustic guitar sound, and I thought, "man it'd be cool to reinterpret the older Kill Switch...Klick songs in an acoustic instrument format." That's what I did. Originally, before I jumped whole hog into my own label, I had talked to Triple X Records about releasing an acoustic Kill Switch...Klick album and the last two tracks on Organica are part of a quick demo I threw together for them. While I was waiting for an answer from them I decided to put it out on my own label, especially since we had had a fair amount of success with Americana. Through all my experimentation I know how fans can be. When I released my first solo CD "One Minute Endless" it was so different from "normal" Kill Switch...Klick material that the regular "fans" relentlessly slammed it, but people who had never heard of Kill Switch...Klick seemed to love it. Organica is as different from "normal" Kill Switch...Klick material as "One Minute Endless" was. But so far the reviews have been very positive.
Julie Johnson- Will we hear more Organica type material in the future or will you bring back the more electronic style?
d.A.- Well, now that I've ditched my constraints I can do what ever I want. The newest material I'm working on is like Texas Blues meets Trip Hop. I've been getting into slide guitar and this new little synth module I just bought called a Korg Electribe A. It's quite amazing for such a little box. It has this old synth sound with knobs for tweaking sounds real time. Very expressive.
Julie Johnson- What made you experiment more sounds like with the trombone, banjo and acoustic guitar?
d.A.-One of the main parameters of Organica was, "No Synths or Drum Machines." I wanted an organic sound. So I had to come up with other sounds to fill out the album. Since the songs were based on the acoustic guitar, that was a given. The banjo a friend loaned me for a track and I've played trombone since I was in 5th grade. For bass sounds I glued an old acoustic guitar to my electric bass and recorded single notes into my sampler. The acoustic guitar body naturally amplified the sounds so a regular mic could record it. I did use my sampler quite a bit, so I could loop and manipulate sounds beyond their original context. This gives the album a modern feel.
Julie Johnson- On track five called "5 Hotwheels in my box" you have a guest vocalist which is your son. What was that like for him to be on his father's CD? Are you encouraging him to be a singer? Is this part of you being a family guy?
d.A.-Sid's been on several of my CD's including deGenerate and One Minute Endless. When you record in a studio in your home, inevitably the kids invade the studio and grab mics and talk and laugh and if the tapes rolling you get all kinds of kiddy nonsense. Sometimes you get some really cool stuff. Sid was telling me about his 5 hotwheels in this box he was holding (actually there were only 3). I had the mic on and used that as the main sampled bit of vocals for that song. As far as understanding what's what, he's only 4 and as long as he can remember, daddy has always been on CD's and TV and it only makes sense that he too should be on CD's and TV. He doesn't realize for example, the difference between a videotape we make at Christmas or a tape of a TV show I was on broadcast to hundreds of thousands of people. It's all just on the TV. We bought him a drum-kit, a guitar and hand drums. Both me and my wife, who is a percussionist and dancer herself, work with him and my daughter on music studies. We don't push them too hard, I mean if they want to be a musician they'll have the background. If they want to be a cook or doctor whatever, we're behind them 100 percent. Music is a wonderful thing to know about and enjoy, but a hard way to make a living.
Julie Johnson- In what ways have you been influenced by Gary Numan, and David Bowie?
d.A.- I first saw Gary Numan on Saturday Night Live. It freaked me out. I had never seen a performer like him before. His futurist stage show and that Prophet 5 sound changed my life. I was just getting into Punk and New Wave and this pushed me over the edge. I went out and bought "The Pleasure Principle" and the albums before that and played them over and over, digesting what he was doing. For a teenager it can have a more dramatic effect as it's also your learning curve. At a certain point influences become less relevant because you've already learned how to write music by listening to your earliest influences. Bowie was a later influence. I was always impressed by his stage persona and how well he mixed that with such a high level of song writing. It wasn't gimmicky like Marilyn Manson. Bowie has influenced so many artists, I think it'll be years down the road before his full impact is felt.
Julie Johnson- It must of been a great honor to know that an X-files show called "Kill Switch" was part of your music. Some of may not know about the show and how it came about it, so can your briefly describe what it was like having the show named after the music and how it came about? You are a big Sci-fi fan, what is your favorite? Do you now watch the X-files?
d.A.- I went to a book signing & reading of William Gibson, one of my favorite writers. After the reading I got to talk to him and I gave him a signed copy of KILL SWITCH...KLICK's deGenerate. I told him that he was an influence on my music and that sometimes when I was having musical writers block I would read one of his books. He pointed to the cover of the CD, which is a picture of me screaming into a virtual reality headset, and says, "Yea I can see the influence." Anyway he thanked me for the CD and that was that. A few months later a friend of mine at work who is a major X-Files fan, and knew about my giving a CD to Mr. Gibson says, "Hey- I saw your episode of the X-files on TV last night." I was like- "huh." He told me that last nights episode was called KILL SWITCH and was written by William Gibson. I was like-"No way!" He told me the show was about this CD called the KILL SWITCH that had a virus on it to destroy this Artificial Intelligence. I was happy to know that the influence Gibson had worked on me, had run full circle and come back to him. It felt right. As far as Sci-fi, I like mostly cyber-punk stuff like Gibson, Bruce Sterling and Neil Stephenson. I love Star Trek Next Gen and Kirk era but I'm not a trekie. I've only seen like 3 episodes of the X-files, including KILL SWITCH. I'm not a big X-files fan.
Julie Johnson- d.A., you have had many recording studios during the past few years like The Tea Room, Da Bunker, and The Shop. Is there any special story one studio that remains with you and any one recording studio more special than others?
d.A.- My favorite studio was The Shop. We called it that because it had been a motorcycle repair shop at one time. It was a four car garage-building that was part of a house my wife and I rented in Seattle. The Shop had a shower and separate bathroom and a huge main room. The only problem with it was it was damn cold in the winter. It wasn't well insulated like a house is and only had a blower style heater at the far end of the room. I got a second electric heater but soon my electric bills were $150 a month! Still we recorded all the Americana: A
Tribute To Johnny Cash and Organica out there. When the owner told me he was selling the house I was upset, but what can you do. Renters always get the short end of the stick. I went from this huge space into a single upstairs bedroom for my next studio! Man, I'm gettin' a cramp.
Julie Johnson- In what ways is your poetry difference from your musical lyrics or are they the same?
d.A.- They all come from the same place. Some poetry gets used as lyrics or sometimes reformatted into a song. I have boxes full of old poetry and little idea notebooks, so there's never a shortage of potential lyric material. The biggest difference between poetry and lyrics is the timing. Poetry rely's on its own internal timing, the rhythm of the words. Lyrics have to work with the music. If you have a big droney synth sound you can recite any poetry on top of it because the two don't have any potentially conflicting rhythms. Once you add melody and rhythmic structure to a song the lyrics have to work with that. In turning poetry into lyrics you usually have to do a lot of word cutting and pasting.
Julie Johnson- When did you become interested in Art and what artist do you enjoy the most and why?
d.A.-I've always drawn little pictures and illustrations. When I was in Elementary school I used to draw these car comics called HotRod Harry. All the way through High school I drew car pictures. I had a drafting teacher who had a mini-gallery on the wall above his desk of the best student drawings since he had been a teacher. Some of these pictures were 15-20 years old. Many of the drawings were of cars. I decided I wanted to get one of my drawings up there. While I was at the art shop buying colored pencils, I heard this strange music playing on the shops stereo. I asked the counter guy who the band was. He said it was this art rock band from Athens, Georgia called the B-52's. Now you gotta remember before this day I listened exclusively to hard rock like UFO & Aerosmith. I went out and bought a B-52's tape and changed my musical interests instantly. My friends hated the B-52's which made me laugh and go out and buy more New Wave music. A few months later I was into Punk and had changed my career goals from becoming an automobile designer to being a musician. So actually it was Art that made me a Musician. My favorite artists are Max Ernst and Yoshitoshi. Max Ernst creates ultimately vivid landscapes out of seemingly random shapes and textures. I heard he used to trace the wood patterns in his floorboards for inspiration. Yoshitoshi is demented. He was the darkest of the Japanese wood block print makers. His imagery is truly disturbing.
Julie Johnson- Go Man Go, is more acoustic now on Organica why is that? Where else have I heard this song? Sporting events?
d.A.- The biggest reason is the acoustic guitars. I really went overboard with the layering of the acoustic guitars on that song. There have been several other versions of Go Man, Go out there but this is my favorite. It's also one of Kill Switch...Klick's most enduring songs, so I wouldn't doubt if someone hadn't used it for a sporting event. A friend of mine said a commercial San Francisco radio station was using part of it for it's station ID.
Julie Johnson- Do you feel Seattle has been a successful for your music?
d.A.- It's been fair. Seattle is a pretty nice place to live, but in the last five years the influx of new people and business has created new problems. Housing has gotten out of control. You have to pay $200,000 for a house that would have sold for $100,000 just five years ago. It's crazy! And traffic is really bad. This town wasn't made for as many people as are living here now. I've thought about moving to Vienna, Austria or down the Oregon Coast. But I'm stuck here for now. The music scene has dried up. Like I said before it was easier to get my new CD's played on major commercial radio stations in Europe and Australia than it was on little Seattle college radio stations. Seattle has a habit of ignoring its local talent. That's just how it is here.
Julie Johnson- Iregular is your very own label. In what ways do you hope to be breaking new ground with the label?
d.A.- With the website, I hope to have more exclusive mp3's available, and possibly mp3 only full length releases. I'm also planning on releasing more short films, possibly in DVD format. I'm getting very interested in film making and multi-media possibilities. A few years ago I did some film work with Brent Watanabe. I starred in this short film of his. Then we booked a night in a little cafe style club and ran the film live while me and Jeremy Moss, my old bassist, played live to the film. It was very cool. I want to do more of that sort of cross breeding between the different medias on iRegular.
Julie Johnson- I know I heard of Dank before or is that Dink? What is Dank?
d.A.-Dank was my old nickname in the 1980's. It was kind of corny but it worked. I used to sign some of my artwork as "Dank."
Julie Johnson- some bands don't like to say what equipment they use, but you are very open with it. What is your favorite instrument that your are currently using? How is technology helping you?
d.A.- I've always thought it overly competitive for people to guard their equipment lists. Some bands do because their so afraid someone might reproduce some little squeak or squaw of their latest hit single. My latest loves are my Korg Electribe A sound module and my new guitars. I bought two DeArmond guitars and had them custom set-up as baritone guitars. This gives them this incredibly low sound. I love old drum machines. I think besides the overused Roland TR-808 & 909 there's alot of really unique sounding machines. Picking one up can give a band it's own signature drum sound. I also just picked up a Roland DR-202. it covers all the vintage Roland sounds including basses. A killer beat box.
Julie Johnson- What are you currently working on? I hear that you have some side-projects going on might have a song out on a compilation at Tragick Records?
d.A. -The Ginsberg Files is a side-project with me and Eric Cooley from Faith & Disease. The song we did for the compilation is very moody and atmospheric. I'm also doing a thing called The Flathead 5, which features 5 drummers, an upright bassist, another trombonist and found sounds. It's also going to feature various vocalists. I've finished all the basic tracks. I just need to finish the lyrics and do the final mixes. I hope to have it finished by early this year. My new album is in the works. It's kinda Texas bluesy-gothic-trip hop. It sounds eclectic but really it works well.
Julie Johnson- Any final comments about KsK that you would like to all of this or maybe something about the Video?
d.A.- Just for people to check out my website- http://www.iregular.com I"m adding new pages daily and with the new catalog section I hope to get interesting bands from all around the globe some deserved exposure. That's it.