Let's start by introducing the band. Tell us who's in Spit Like This, who does what - and why the world should sit up and take notice. Give us the instant crash course in Spit Like This for anyone who hasn't heard of the band before...
2009 consists of myself (vocalist / co-founder - Zion), bassist / co-founder
Vikki Spit, guitarist Cyndi Rott and drummer Vile Gilez. We all have
roles beyond playing music, as SLT is a very active entity! We are an
ever-expanding universe that is self-perpetuating. We dont sit
around waiting for people to come and find us, we go out there, find
the people and demand they pay attention!
I'd like to test a little theory of mine now. There seems to be a lot of humour in the Spit Like This approach - the live show is certainly a knockabout rock 'n' roll riot. I think rock music, particularly at the metal end of things, where it all starts getting crazily OTT, is inherently funny a lot of the time. But it's almost like the great unspoken secret. Nobody's allowed to admit that it's funny.
Well, we like to think that our stage show is just a reflection of life. There are exciting moments, dark moments, scary moments and, yes, fun moments.
Rock 'n Roll is funny. From Elvis wiggling his hips through the Beatles shaking their mop-tops, and on to Motley Crue barely able to stand up straight. Remove the cool element from all these people and you are basically left with highly comedic characters. It's only the cool element that stops them becoming something out of Spinal Tap.
And, youre right, it does seem to be an unspoken secret but come to an SLT show and you will have a laugh as well as seeing a very cool live band!
I remember seeing a Children Of Bodom gig on MTV a while back - a huge rock-gods-of-the-stadium extravaganza - and I genuinely thought the band were hamming it up, Spinal Tap style, for laughs. As the show went on I realised, almost with a sense of horror, that they were serious about every cheesy move. I was waiting for someone to raise an ironic eyebrow, to show that they were self-aware enough to realise how they were coming across, but it just didn't happen.
We are very self-aware and I think that is quite obvious to anyone other than the most retarded. A lot of bands take themselves too seriously. Its OK if youre Coldplay and youre mooching around singing about saving the seals but, if youre in a rock band singing about rock n roll stuff, chill out a bit! SLT is an escapist event, something to be enjoyed. We dont want to be lumped in with those bands where it is only about the pose and the swagger. Sure, its part of it but there is a whole other side too. Christ, even Metallica have a sense of humour!
I think the great thing about Spit Like This is that you are aware of the humour element, and you knowingly play up to it. And, of course, the audience is in on the joke all the way, which creates an instant bond between band and fans. Does my theory hold true? Is humour part of the art for you? As Frank Zapppa once asked, does humour belong in music?
Your theory holds true to an extent. There are a lot of people (posers) that either dont get it or dont want to get it. You are holding a mirror up to them but they arent ready to face their reflection. Thats more to do with the arrogance of youth though, more than anything else.
We often divide a new audience case in point: Hard Rock Hell. Nearly all reviews of our show at the Hard Rock Hell festival were very positive. They got what we were about and just joined in the fun.
However, there's a very small part of the media that does take itself a bit too seriously and they dismissed us, refusing to see the point. But that is their loss. There has always been humour in music even seemingly macabre acts like Alice Cooper have a lot of fun elements. And we had the last laugh as the people that matter the audience voted us 7th best band of the entire festival with only major name acts above us!
I've seen Spit Like This described as everything from metal to goth, while the handy three-word description on your MySpace page says 'Glam/Punk/Rock'. But it seems to me that Spit Like This basically have the attitude of a punk band.
You've come a long way as a totally DIY outfit, without any help from the music biz - the classic punk way of doing it. Is punk a big inspiration for you? That whole idea of getting out there and making stuff happen for yourself, rather than knocking on music industry doors, trying to find someone else to make things happen for you - was it your Inner Punk that made you go for that strategy?
I would say we are more about the punk ethic than 99% of the bands out there that claim to be punk. Thats not a deliberate ploy though, I believe the punk ethic is born out of determination, desperation and sheer hard work.
If you arent born with a silver spoon in your mouth and you dont have parents that are willing to buy you the latest amp and drive you to your gigs, you have to find another way. Personally, my family spent a lot of time and energy trying to convince me to give up my dreams and get a proper job and I am not alone in that. What it meant was that I didnt have the options that a lot of kids in bands seem to have.
Becoming a musician does seem to be an accepted career choice now - the rebellious aspect of it has been removed. This was not the case for me though, or Vikki, Cyndi and Gilez. All of us have, to an extent, turned our backs on the expected path and have chosen another route. I wont go as far as to say that we now all hate our families that is total rubbish but we have all had to persue this with only each other for support.
Being a band like us, in the UK, in 2009, you dont have many options. We arent fashionable and we arent likely to become fashionable. We are fashionunable, and that is fine with us. That doesnt mean that we cant carve out our own path though and make stuff happen. We are living proof that you can do that. Were not the first to do it and I certainly hope we wont be the last. There needs to be bands around like us that just do it.
Most bands start off as evenings-and-weekends projects, in the vague hope that somewhere down the line they'll be able to give up the day jobs. But Spit Like This jumped in as a full-time outfit right from the start. I hear that you've funded the band over the years by selling everything from knickers to T-shirts...
Working for other people has never really been an option for me. Im just not made that way. Ive always had an entrepreneurial spirit and cannot comprehend having a boss. That doesnt mean Ive always got it right, but it does mean Ive always been my own boss so have only ever had myself to answer to.
When Vikki and I met, we were both a very long way from any kind of financial stability. When we decided to put SLT together, we realised that we needed to do something that would generate a bit more than just food money. We needed to come up with something that would feed us, clothe us, pay our rent and pay for our share in SLT. That latter part amounts to a lot as we have always done things to excess!
So, to kick start everything, we sold Vikkis used panties on eBay! You may laugh, but it generated enough for us to record and manufacture our first EP and set up our clothing company, smell your mum.com. Amazingly, it is the latter that has kept us going ever since and it has actually become a fairly recognisable brand. Weve had over 10 million hits and have sold, literally, tens of thousands of T-shirts, all designed by me and hand-printed by Vikki (who has RSI as a result).
I literally work 24/7 on this. Everything I do, every day is somehow connected to this band and furthering its cause. Ive honestly never met people that work harder than Vikki and I. This is more than just a band, it is a way of life and we see everything as a potential opportunity.
I never have time off and I would never dream of having a holiday. Anyone that is not prepared to do the same shouldnt bother trying to become a musician as you need to have that kind of insane blinkered vision and commitment. Anyone that doesnt respect that kind of dedication to SLT or a chosen lifestyle can fuck off and die as far as I am concerned.
Was it a scary business, knowing that you didn't have the safety net of a regular wage packet if it all went wrong? Did you ever have second thoughts, and contemplate getting a day job along the way? There must have been times when there was no money in the kitty and you were basically living on fresh air - did you ever have one of those long dark teatime of the soul moments when you contemplated quitting music altogether?
Life is scary, if you think about things too much. No-one really has a safety net, as this credit crunch is showing a lot of people. We have all made massive sacrifices for this band: none of us has many possessions or a home that is ours or many of the other things that our contemporaries have.
I look at my brother who did the whole University thing and now has a great job, is married and is buying a second house and I wonder if I did the right thing. But then I imagine swapping places with him and, however proud I am of him and his achievements (which is hugely!), I wouldnt swap my life for his. Thankfully though, I know the reverse is also true!
I think every musician probably thinks about quitting music on an almost daily basis. If you look too far ahead, the mountain left to climb is daunting. I often think back to our very first gig and think how far we have come since then. It took a long time though and a lot more work than any of us expected. If I had known then what I know now would I have embarked on the journey? Well, yeah I would have, because this is my way of expressing myself to the planet. It is the whole 'journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step' philosophy. And, sometimes on that journey, you are running along with the wind behind you and, sometimes, you are climbing uphill all the way in a headwind in the pouring rain! But it is that that separates those that do from those that do not.
Is the band running as a viable business now?
That depends on how you define viable business! We are probably the poorest quite well-known band on the planet because everything we have ever made (and a lot more) has been ploughed back in to the band.
In 2009, most bands make their living from touring and their merchandise. Very few bands make a living from actually selling their music, which is sad. Like I said earlier, smell your mum.com has provided me and Vikki with a living for quite a few years now so, in one way, the SLT Universe has been a viable business for a while.
Also, because we have a name, opportunities arise that we can exploit. For example, I recently started doing DJ-ing at rock clubs. We are now in the process of creating new revenue streams which are more music orientated and, hopefully, it wont be too long before I can answer your question with an emphatic YES!
After several releases on your own label, the band now has a deal with Cargo, one of the UK's major-ish independents, and the debut album is out. It's selling rather well, it seems - I just looked at Amazon (now who says I don't do my research!) and there's currently 1 left in stock, which shows that someone out there is snapping it up. Do you feel like you've achieved something now? Do you look back over the long road you've travelled to get to this point, and allow yourselves a pat on the back? Or is this just another rung on the ladder for the band - no sooner have you stepped up to it, you're reaching for the next one?
You allow yourselves a pat on the back for about two seconds before you look at the next goal. Nothing is quite as it seems though when you are on the outside looking in. A lot of things we thought of as near impossible dreams are, once realised, frought with frustration and hassles.
Probably the happiest musicians are those that have the big dream fresh in their heads they are unaware of the pitfalls ahead. It is honestly much, much easier to be an unknown band playing for fun and beer than a band at our stage trying to break through. We are all hoping that the next stage (the one where we are bona-fide rock stars and kazillionaires) will be a lot more fun!
When I think about what we have achieved though and, more importantly, what we have done to achieve that, I am very proud. Most bands will never achieve 10% of what we have so, when you look at it like that, it is pretty cool! Go us!
Spit Like This is well known for making a stand against pay-to-play, which is a common way of putting gigs together around the UK gig circuit. One way or another, the bands have to pay for their own gigs, either by fronting up money for 'expenses', or buying tickets from the promoter to sell on, or some other method which basically forces the bands to fork out cash.
been told by many bands that it just isn't possible to avoid pay-to-play
gigs if you want to play live - sooner or later you've just got to grit
your teeth and accept those kind of deals. I dare say you'd disagree
entirely with that view - so how do you get to be a presence on the
gig circuit without having to grab the shitty end of the stick? What
would you say to those bands who claim you have to accept the bad stuff?
The practice doesnt stop at the low level though, and thats the biggest shame. There is a reason why we havent gotten ourselves on some big tours we cant afford the buy-on! Id love to tell you that the headline acts pick their touring partners on merit or because they love that band but, WAKE UP KIDS, they pick them because they pay.
Naming no names, we were offered a tour that would have been career-changing for us. It was with a band whose fans have a penchant for SLT. It was a relatively smallish tour of the UK maybe 7 or 8 dates in mid-size venues. Our excitement at this prospect dropped though when we were told it would cost us £7 grand!
fool paid it though. I hope that we can continue to avoid this practice
but I suspect it is just an inevitable part of this very shady business.
And talking of the next rung on the ladder, as we were a bit earlier, what's coming up for Spit Like This? Do you think you can afford to take your foot off the gas now that you've got an album out, and the band is that bit more established? Or is it going to be full speed ahead as usual - and where are you heading next?
No way can we afford to take our foot of the gas! We have to shove some nitrous into that motherfucker and ram our foot to the floor! People soon forget you if you keep your mouth shut for too long. Thats why we are always shouting about our achievements from the rooftops. Look at the other 9 bands that were voted the Best Unsigned Bands along with us in the 2005 Kerrang Readers Poll 7 of them went on to obscurity, never to be heard of again.
It is a tough, tough business and a tough world. Thankfully, it is a BIG world, full of amazing, cool people and we are beginning to spread our message across it. We recently signed with a German manager on a worldwide deal. He also manages NWOBHM legends Girlschool and his involvement will expose us to a whole new bunch of markets worldwide.
As I write this, a couple of bits and pieces have happened which, combined with a couple of bits and pieces of great news will mean bigger and better things for us.
Our album title IS our message to the world: We Wont Hurt You (But We Wont Go Away).
Watch this space!
Studio photos of Spit Like This on this page by Tina Kohornen.
Live photos by Uncle Nemesis - see more here.
Find a Spit Like This CD review here.
Back to the Interviews index page.