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Kids Rock

(Interview with Tony Lovato taken from Black Velvet 40 - May 2004)

By Shari Black Velvet

In December, Mest made it over to the UK for their first ever UK tour. It was as support to their good friends, Good Charlotte and saw them impressing crowd after crowd with their catchy melodic punk rock music. In March, the band - that's Tony and Matt Lovato, Jeremiah Randel and Nick Gigler - returned for a headline tour in which they truly cemented their now solid fanbase by putting on longer and even better performances. Black Velvet caught up with frontman Tony Lovato after the Birmingham Academy 2 show and chatted to him about the band's lifespan, the music industry, their hometown, Jagermeister… and farting.








Black Velvet: Issue 40 is Black Velvet's 10 year anniversary. I notice you said on stage you've been around for 8 ½ years.
Tony: That's true. A lot of bands say they've been a band for a certain amount of years, which isn't true. A lot of bands do that. We started in 1995.

BV: Are you amazed that you stuck together for so long or was it always the intention?
T: Things happened three or four years after we started as a band. Things started picking up and started progressing. So it's been a slow progression. It's always something new and exciting. If we'd have started and then two years later been the biggest band in America who knows if we'd be together right now, but it's always been a slow progression. Things happen one step at a time. It's always been something new and exciting and something to strive for.

BV: When you get to 10 years do you think you'll celebrate or have a party?
T: I think I'll be dead by then. Haha. I plan on dying nine and a half years in, just so we don't have a 10 year anniversary. We're going to hang ourselves simultaneously.
Nick: Ron's (tour manager) going to string us up!

BV: What would you say you've learned most throughout the lifespan of Mest?
T: How much I hate people! No… I think I've learned the most that with time, no matter how much when I was 15/16 I thought a certain way about life in general. And no matter whether you think 'ok this is the way I'm going to think for the rest of my life, I know it all', you'll always experience something that changes your mind and makes you see things completely the opposite of how you viewed something in the first place.

BV: Why do you hate people?
T: I do like people, it's just…
BV: They have to win over your trust?
T: Yeah… and it's… people are lame. No-one has a personality these days. Everybody's the same. Everybody follows the same thing. Nobody has the balls to think for themselves. I think that's why because of that I think I'm such an asshole. When there's people around I don't know and I'm with my crew I'm so loud and outspoken and the center of attention because if I'm not doing that, it's just like… If we're just hanging out at a party and there's a bunch of us and I know a lot of people and I don't know a lot of people, and I'm not acting like a complete moron and trying to talk to everybody and get everything going, it seems like I'm not doing that and I take the back seat and sit down and just watch people, it seems like it's so boring. And nobody's doing anything and nobody's talking to each other. So I feel uncomfortable in those situations so I feel like I have to be a moron. I guess I entertain people on stage a lot so I feel like when I'm off stage I still have to entertain people in some sense. I meet people all the time. I met this person in Hartford, Ct and she was one of the coolest people I ever met. Always laughing, always smiling, I just get along with her really good now. And it's like people like that who I'm attracted to - not physically, but attracted to as in 'wow, that person's cool'. Always happy, always… I don't like people who are sad, always emotional all the time. Emotions are cool but people who are too emotional. It's like they're looking for something instead of being themselves. People have it so much worse than you. No matter who you are, you can always find someone who has shit way worse than you. And to not think about that all the time and to be happy with where you're at, I think is taking advantage of your life."

BV: Who would you say you like - celebrity-wise?
T: Celebrities that I really like, that are amusing to me, the guys from Blink are always having a good time. They're always happy about shit. They're 30 years old and they're all poo-poo jokes and that's still funny. And I think that's funny. There's no way anyone could ever fart in front of me, I will just lose it and die laughing. I think it's the funniest thing in the world. As gross as it is, what's a fart? It's gas coming out of your butt. How fucking funny is that? Simply shit makes me laugh. The corniest shit make me laugh. It's a statistic that when you're a kid, kids laugh 600 times a day and adults laugh 200 times a day. And it's like, when does it change? When do things not become as funny? When you're too cool for it or too mature?

BV: But you have things like bills to think about…. Jobs to do.
T: So when you're done taking care of your responsibilities you can't… people just take things too serious. What point in our life do we stop acting like a kid? There's a time for responsibility and a time to act a certain way, as you said to take care of your bills and stuff like that, but when you've done taking care of your shit why are you not having a good time and acting like a moron? That's just how I feel. That's why I like kids. I love little kids. When I'm done with the band or whatever, or even if I'm still in the band, I want to work with little kids. They're so amusing. They've got blinders on. They don't know anything yet. Nobody hates somebody for the colour of their skin when they're born. You're taught everything you learn. So if people are products of their environment, I want to be that person's environment because I want to teach them the way I feel instead of having some schmuck who's an asshole try to influence them and influence them the wrong way. Little kids are so precious. A little kid doesn't take advantage of everything. That's why I love kids. That's why I hate people.

BV: How's your attitude to the band, your music and the music industry changed over the years?
T: That's three questions in one!

BV: Ok… one at a time… how's your attitude to the band changed over the years?
T: I've learned a little more about how to deal with these little fucks' attitudes! Like what bothers them, what doesn't. When someone's pissed off how to get over it and not care. Certain people in the band get pissed off all the time, they wake up on the rag. You just deal with it for the day instead of letting it get to you. I don't ever really get upset about too much stuff. It's hard for me to get angry and ruin my day so I've learned how to deal with people in general through the rest of the band, I think.

BV: How's your attitude to your music changed?
T: It hasn't.
Nick: We still like it.
T: Yeah. We're still progressing as a band.

BV: Are you still as ambitious?
T: We're still striving to make better music and to make better records.

BV: And the music industry?
T: That's rough, y'know. They do a lot for a band but at the same time you can do a lot for yourself. The label was nice enough to bring us over here as far as money-wise on the Good Charlotte tour but if weren't going to do that Good Charlotte tour they never would have put out this record. It was the fact that we were going to be touring with one of the biggest bands and associating ourselves with one of the biggest bands that they were like 'ok, now we have a marketing scheme' and that was the reason they put out the record. If we wouldn't have done it they wouldn't have put out the record so there's a double negative. I mean, it's positive and negative. It's cool that they believe in that, there's a reason for them putting out the record and you thank them for that but at the same time they're only doing it for certain reasons. It's mixed emotions. It's like a girlfriend - you hate them but you love them. The song 'Opinions' on 'Destination Unknown' is all about record label people telling me 'this is a hit song, this isn't a hit song' or 'this is a good song and this isn't a good song'. All I wanna be is… can you even play the guitar? I wanna hear one of YOUR songs that you wrote. How are you going to tell me what's a good song and what's not? There are songs that made our record that our label didn't even want on the record that eventually became singles… so at the end of the day they're just the people writing the cheque as far as I'm concerned.

BV: Have any of those problems been solved or are they ongoing?
T: If you have a good manager you can get problems like that solved. Not all of them have been solved with our band that's for sure. We're going through shit right now.

BV: So you don't have any more artistic freedom than you had in the beginning?
T: We've always had artistic freedom. We've never been told what to do as far as a sound. Whether or not they like the whole song is one thing, that's just someone's opinion. If your song isn't a single or your song is, that's an opinion. As far as doing what we want to do, we've always been able to musically do what we want to do, for sure. Otherwise I'd just quit. I wouldn't play music. It would just be pointless.
N: The only thing there is, is that the label gets to pick the single.
T: Which they did off our first record but the second and third record we pretty much had the say over which singles. In the beginning that was what fucked our career in the States; we didn't have too much control over the first single. They picked the first single and it sorta slowed our band down… but whatever, we're doing fine now.

BV: You've released four albums now. Is there anything about the early ones that embarrasses you now?
T: The first record's pretty cheesy punk ska but we were 16 years old at the time so whatever. The record 'Wasting Time' we wrote a hokey joke song 'What's The Dillio?'. Some people even take it serious now but it's just a joke song. It's about fucking some girl, sort of. NOFX writes hokey jokey songs. It's a hokey jokey song but the label was like 'this is a hit song' and we were like 'what?!' and they were like 'yeah, this is going to be the single so they sort of fucked themselves too. I don't know… Even 'Cadillac' sometimes to me is a little cheesy but we're not the most serious people so not every song's going to be serious. But 'Walking On Broken Glass' is about my grandfather having a heart attack and almost dying and then 'Mother's Prayer' is about someone's mother who's got a chronic illness and is going to die, so there are the more serious songs, but at the same time, you can't be all boo-hoo all the time; all emo-ed out.

BV: What are you most proud of out of all the albums?
T: 'Mother's Prayer' is one of my favourite songs. 'Rooftops' is one of my favourite songs. 'Fuct Up Kid'. 'Chance Of A Lifetime' is a lot different to other songs'.

BV: This is your second time over to the UK now. Did you have the mindset that you wanted to conquer your own country first before moving on to other territories?
T: For sure. I still like touring American more than any other country anyway. You're at home. It's different. You feel safe. You're over here and then you hear about the bombing in Spain and you're 10,000 miles away from home, it's scary.

BV: Do you think it'd be harder to conquer England and become well known in the UK? Harder than the US, for example?
T: It might be harder because if you don't get radio play or video play then your label's not going to want to pay for the tour support to play over here all the time. And in America that's what we did. We kept getting tour support to keep touring around America - and that's the way we conquered America - just touring and playing live. And I'd like to do the same thing here, you just don't know if you're going to get the label support and get the label from home to pay for it. But I don't think there'd be a problem with it. I think we could conquer any country, personally.

BV: You made a lot of new fans from the Good Charlotte tour. Do you think that was down to the fact that you've got a similar sound and style to Good Charlotte?
T: Any time you see a band you like and then there's a band playing with them or associated to them in some way, of course you're going to like it. People listen to punk rock music for a reason. They like that genre of music. People who listen to Green Day probably like Blink, or probably like Rancid, probably like The Offspring. That's the reason we toured with Good Charlotte and not Linkin Park. If we opened up for Linkin Park people would be 'what the fuck is this?' - because they like their rap-metal bullshit. But these people like punk rock music, so…

BV: Do you think your live show is a good representation of your CDs - and vice versa?
T: Yeah, I think we definitely play our songs pretty close to the same on the record. Listening to the record and seeing us live I believe are two different things. The live show is where it's at. That's what the band should be about, playing live, no matter what.

(Tony points out the name Enuff Z'Nuff on the cover of the Black Velvet lay on the chair)
BV: Were you ever into Enuff Z'Nuff - since they were from Chicago?
T: They were so gay, dude. One of the worst bands ever! They were a metal band but they were like hippies. They were so gay! I was into Mötley Crüe and hardcore and punk rock and rock n' roll. And Enuff Z'Nuff, I was like 'that's rough, dude'. Bad.

BV: Have you ever been tempted to leave Chicago at all?
T: Yes. When I was really young I talked about it. When I was 16 I talked to my parents and I was like 'I want to move to California, I was to do this band thing, I want to really pursue this', and my parents were like 'fuck, go!'. My dad was a musician. He always wanted to play music and he'd never got a chance to. So he was like, if his kid wants to do it he can't tell me no because he wanted to do it when he was a kid, so they supported it. But nah, whatever, we made it out of Chicago. We didn't have to move to California like a lot of other bands have to.

BV: Do you have fans ever come to Chicago and do Mest sight-seeing tours?
T: I've had people show up at my house quite a few times.

BV: There were some American girls at this show. Did they fly over just to see you play here?
T: There's a good chance. Kids do that a lot. I'll see kids before shows and they'll be like 'I drove 12 hours to come and see you' and then people will come out for a week straight on tour and follow the tour. Fans do crazy, crazy shit like that. But it's cool.

BV: Didn't you ever do that for a band?
T: Fuck no. That's a little too much for me.

BV: If you had to take your fans on a Mest sightseeing tour of Chicago, where would you take them?
T: I'd take them to Fireside Bowl and the Off The Alley. The Off The Alley is a southside punk rock club and Fireside Bowl is a northside punk rock club, because that's where we grew up and played a lot of shows. The Metro… is one of the places where we got our first break. And then the food joints that we eat out at and hang out at. And my block where I live. My cousin lives across the street. The Dead End block. That's where we spent every night, every Summer just getting fucked up and hanging out, just like 10-15 of us hanging out every night. That's sort of like the block that made us.

BV: You're touring with Fall Out Boy who are also from Chicago. Are there any other bands there that you think deserve a bit of recognition and success - or are you so busy on tour that you don't keep up with what's happening at home?
T: We're so busy it's hard to find bands. I heard of Fall Out Boy because they were coming on tour with us, not even knowing they were from Chicago. They were like 'there's this band' and I was like 'alright' and they were like 'they happen to be from Chicago' and I was like 'cool, that's even better' but you're so busy, it's so hard to keep up with the local scene when you're as busy as you are.

BV: Five quick silly questions, vaguely related to the word Mest. What was the last thing you MESSED up?
T: The toilet in the bathroom.

BV: What's the last thing you really MISSED?
T: My nephew. It's his birthday. What day is it today? It's his birthday on the 15th. I'm not going to be able to see him. I definitely miss my nephew.

BV: What MUST you do every day?
T: Jagermeister!

BV: What do you have MOST out of the band?
T: Penis.

BV: What have you MASTERED the art of?
T: Masturbation.

For more information on Mest visit their official website, www.mestcrapp.com



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