If you check out the sleeve of Midtown's current
album, 'Living Well Is The Best Revenge', on Drive Thru/MCA, not only
are the usual lyrics, thanks and album production info on there, but
a plug for the PETA organisation. PETA stands for 'People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals'. Above that is the quote 'Midtown fully supports
the animal rights movement'. The fact that this album is awesome was
one very good reason to interview the band, but the fact that these
guys are so into animal rights was probably an even better one.
Regular readers to Black Velvet will know that we're hotly into animal
rights ourselves. So far though, we've not actually interviewed a band
about the subject. Not in great depth anyway. So here we go
little history in the making. Tyler Rann, Midtown's guitarist/vocalist,
from New Jersey, USA, is on the phone to do the honours.
the only vegan in the band - Gabe Saporta (vocals, bass), Heath Saraceno
(vocals, guitar) and Rob Hitt (drums, backing vocals), his fellow members,
are vegetarians but not quite fully-fledged vegans. What is very interesting
though, is that the band make their tour crew become veggies when they're
out on the road. How's that for conviction?
Tyler explains "The way I look at is when we're on tour and someone's
working with us or for us, we need to pay them for what they do. It
seems that everyone gets paid but me now! If I'm paying them and they're
going to buy meat or something like that, it's kinda like me indirectly
purchasing something like that. So we say, if you want to come on tour,
that's part of the agreement. I don't want to be around when someone's
eating it as well. I just feel like that's our rule and there are enough
people that want to come on tour and they understand that so
I can't stand over their shoulder all the time, but most of the people,
most of our friends, are vegetarian anyway. I think a lot of people
in the underground music scene understand those things. That's where
I got it from.
"Usually even after tours end and maybe they don't come out on
tour with us again they still remain vegetarian which is kinda cool."
been vegan for almost four years now.
"The entire time we've been touring I've been vegan. On our first
tour I had no idea what to eat. I did months of touring just like that,
y'know. But now I've found the best vegan restaurants that exist in
every city and we kind of route our tours around that which is pretty
He originally became vegetarian when living with a friend who was one.
"I didn't understand why he was vegetarian and I don't think he
understood why he was vegetarian either. I think it was the influence
of his girlfriend. I used to bust on him and make fun of him and eat
meat in front of him and what not. Then once I started to actually read
I saw some videos, read some information about
really what it's all about, I realised I wasn't acting, in my opinion,
like a moral person, and that certain things have a right to life, they're
alive. I have a pet dog. It's the same way I look at that, and at any
animal. It's just cruel. So I became vegetarian. I was vegetarian for
a while. Then I realised I wasn't thinking about what I was doing. If
I want to make a commitment to something then I want to make a full
commitment to it. I didn't feel like I was going out of my way enough,
thinking about my cause, and I wanted to take it a step further. I can
people say 'never' and I think it's a terrible word,
and I'm so young that I can never say never, but I can never imagine
myself now not being vegan. It's something that I don't even think about
any more. It's just the way that I am."
It must be hard reading all the ingredients on everything though
"Yeah but I'm totally a pro at it now! It's great - and I can do
it in all different languages as well! Of course, the first few months
when I was eating there were certain things that I didn't know weren't
vegan, like in certain breads there are certain chemicals. But I got
this little book that has a list of things that I could not eat, so
I carried that around with me for a while when I went grocery shopping
and on tour and after a while it just becomes second nature.
tell Tyler I've been vegetarian for 13 years but haven't managed to
stop eating cheese yet because I like it too much (I'm a fussy eater
- there's not much I like but cheese is one of them). I do eat vegetarian
cheese at home though
"I like doing a lot of things but I'm sure some of them I could
do without. I've never killed anyone but maybe I'd enjoy doing that!
But I don't do it. I know that's a terrible example and really extreme
in the same sense, it depends how much you really care about
something and how much you love eating it. If you love eating cheese
then eat cheese. If you don't eat meat then you're doing more than most
people and you're still making a difference.
"That's the other thing; I don't want to sound like a preachy person
because I'm really not at all and I respect everyone's right to make
a decision more than anything else. I'm not going to force myself on
anyone else because they won't get it for the right reason."
vegetarian movement is slowly but surely expanding. If you look back
at history there are a lot more vegetarians than there were a while
back. Tyler has noticed this too. "I see a lot of people who are.
Times have changed. In the three years I've been on tour and vegan,
during the first tour it was very difficult to find things, but now
almost all the fast food chains have a vegeburger - it might not be
vegan but it's vegetarian. That's just happened in the last few years
and the awareness is starting to grow. I don't know how many years it's
going to be but it keeps growing and growing and growing and within
certain areas of America, like the Midwest, it's a little more difficult,
but on the coast, people are definitely
there are great vegan
restaurants I could tell you about all over. In New Jersey as well!"
Go on then - name a good one!
"Back To Earth
or Down To Earth. It's either Back To Earth
or Down To Earth and it's in Red Bank, NJ. It's like a nice restaurant.
Everything is vegan and the food is amazing. Every time I'm home I like
to go eat there just to support the place and make sure it stays in
business. There's another place called Zafra, in the town that I actually
live in and went to college, that just opened. It's so unfortunate.
It's a vegan restaurant and nobody ever goes there. I'll eat there all
the time. I'm the only person eating there. I have to go every time.
Every single day that I'm home I have to go and get something there
just to try and help and keep it in business. That's in New Brunswick,
Of course the main reason Tyler, and most people, become vegan - or
vegetarian - is to stand up against cruelty to animals.
"There's cruelty to everything and of course that makes me upset.
To animals and people."
One thing Tyler really can't tolerate are people who wear fur.
He says "I can't understand why people would wear fur. I think
that's just really barbaric and ridiculous.
"I like clothing a lot and I'm a big fashion person. All those
magazines I know about and the different designers and it's terrible
when you see these people bringing fur into a collection or you see
people wearing fur. There's no need for that. I equate that to living
in a cave. It's really terrible".
I remind Tyler that one of the Deconstruction shows is in a bullring.
The Madrid show was taking place at Bullring La Cubierta a couple of
days after this interview.
"Yes I know. I didn't know about that until just a few days ago
when I looked at the tour book. No-one told us that. That's very ridiculous.
I don't like that at all. I'm sure we're going to say something. Our
bass player Gabe was born in Uruguay so he speaks fluent Spanish and
I'll make sure he says something. You can watch the news and see if
any bulls escape. If they're there that day we'll find out. That's cruelty
to animals. It's like having dog fights or something. It's so ridiculous.
It's the year 2002 and they're doing something like that?"
I tell Tyler how a member of The Vandals is into bullfighting and asks
what he thinks of other musicians such as Ted Nugent, James Hetfield
and 3 Doors Down who claim to be into hunting.
"In my opinion someone who listens to 3 Doors Down and Ted Nugent
have no business listening to music that I make, or even music that's
good, if I can be so bold as to say that. It's a very different mentality
and I'm not interested in Ted Nugent's fan base and the people that
like that and I think that's a terrible example. We're a band and I
realised one day that we're more than that. When I'm up there on a stage
and I have all these people's attention, that's really a responsibility.
You have to give forth something more than music, some sort of message
that's positive. I don't think these people have done that. They've
failed in that sense. Maybe Ted Nugent and all those bands have sold
records and people know their songs better than they'd know mine but
I feel like I'm making more of a difference than they are because I'm
taking on that responsibility and doing something good with it, something
So you don't think a band can just entertain?
"They can but that's not the kind of band that I want to be. Britney
Spears - she's a better dancer than I am. I'm not a bad dancer or anything,
but she is, and somebody writes great songs for her and it's very pleasing
to the ear but I equate that to something like candy. There's no nutrition
to it. There's no value to it. I'd rather be some sort of nutritious
vegan meal. That sounds so corny, I can't believe I just said that!
But you know what I mean. I couldn't be satisfied at the end of the
day knowing that that's what I do. I need something more. Unfortunately
we don't write songs about animal rights - I wish we could. That's something
that we've tried time and time again but it's hard to not be preachy
and say the right thing, but we certainly talk about it and have our
PETA information there and every interview we mention something about
it. What we do is definitely something deeper and something more real.
That's the goal of being in a band for me."
There are a lot of animal rights organisations around. One wonders why
Midtown chose to promote that particular one.
"Well that's the biggest one, I would assume, in the United States.
They have just so much information. They're everywhere. You can't ignore
their presence. So that seemed like a good one for us to start with.
We support all animal rights organisations but they really do help out.
If we need to talk about something, then people will listen but they
need to see it and they need to read it and they need to take it home
and PETA have been very nice to us and given us lots of pamplets and
information and all kinds of things."
In England we have a lot of other organisations as well as PETA. The
one that has been sending Black Velvet a lot of information longer than
any other is the BUAV - the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection.
Vivisection for anyone who doesn't know is testing upon animals. Something
else that is extremely sickening. Tyler hasn't heard of the BUAV but
is of course against animal testing as well.
He says "That in a way is the same thing to me. I can't understand
the mentality behind it. I'm not saying that I'm a superior person or
have superior intellect but as a human being I have certain rights and
I think that animals are alive as much as I am and they have certain
rights as well. It's really terrible and you can obviously do without
it. There are enough groups and companies that don't test on animals
so it can be done, and that's just a responsibility and I would love
to find out more about this and when we come back and do our tour I
would love to be able to support that."
Tyler takes a marker and piece of paper from the desk he's sat at and
asks about the BUAV again. I repeat the name.
"I'm going to find out about that!" he says when he's written
it down. "Just to get heads up on something that's great. It's
so difficult because we've been on tour for so long and you kind of
miss out on all these things and it's good to know about more things.
Especially in England when you had that Mad Cow's Disease, I guess a
lot of people turned to vegetarian options and I was hoping it was going
to catch on. I just had dinner with some people in a British style pub
where I could eat vegan there and the rest of my band could eat vegetarian
so I thought that was pretty cool.
He asks how things have been since Mad Cow's Disease. I tell him that
I personally haven't noticed that much difference. I also mention how
some people sympathised more with the farmers when foot and mouth broke
out. Not me of course.
"And not with the animals that are being slaughtered," Tyler
adds. "Yeah, that's ridiculous. Once again I can't even begin to
understand that mentality at all. I agree with you. I remember seeing
it on television and seeing thousands and thousands of animals being
killed. So terrible
"And I have a cow now as well. Every year for my birthday my brother
adopts an animal for me that was to be rescued from a slaughterhouse
or something. I look at that as the same as like having a dog. You can
put human characteristics to something. You can do that to any animal.
I don't understand how people can have pets at home but can then go
out and eat animals. Terrible."
of the good things about being in a band and having fans is that sometimes
the message you want to get across does actually do that. It's nice
to hear that some Midtown fans have actually become vegetarian thanks
to the band.
"Absolutely, and that is the best feeling. It's the same as when
someone goes "Oh your song helped me through this time" or
something like that. I've met so many people that go "Oh I didn't
understand what vegetarianism was all about but I came to your show
and I read something about it in the booklet of your CD and I checked
it out and I've been vegetarian for this long". It really feels
like you've made a difference to someone's life. That's an amazing feeling
to even think that even if I haven't, y'know. It's great. Once again
it shows you how you have to be responsible when you get up there because
you have everyone's attention and they're really listening to you. You
can't abuse that."
He also knows what it's like from a fan's point of view.
"There was a band called Propagandhi, I think they're still together.
They were a crazy political band and every time that they would put
out a new record, half the fun was listening to the record but the other
half was just reading the booklet. They would go off about their animal
rights and about anti-Capitalist whatever and this and that, and of
course I'm talking to you on a phone from a Universal office right now
so I don't know if I can agree with that! Just joking! But bands like
that. Bands like Fugazi. They opened you up to so many different things
and different kinds of people. And growing up in New Jersey as well
we had such a strong underground scene. There would be a show in someone's
basement and there would be local bands; all of my friends playing in
bands and there would be 400 people in a basement in someone's house
while their parents were eating dinner upstairs. There'd be bands playing
and talking about this and talking about that, and booths set up by
people from Anti Racist Action to PETA to this animal rights group to
this. It was more than just music, it was a community. I'm very fortunate
to have experienced that and grown up where I did and done the things
that I've done. It's almost like my responsibility because I was touched
by those bands. I learned from those bands that I should do the same
and try and bring it to the next generation of people."
can learn too! If you're interested in animal rights or becoming vegetarian
or vegan, visit www.peta.com, www.peta2.com (PETA's music/entertainment based site), www.buav.org and www.vegsoc.org for starters.
Midtown play Reading and Leeds on August 24th and 25th. Let's hope that
they also return to these shores for a full UK tour soon. In the meantime,
buy 'Living Well Is The Best Revenge' and visit www.midtownrock.com for more info.
NB. A few months after this interview... October 5th to be exact (yes,
I remember the date)... I gave up cheese, dairy and animal by-products
and became vegan. One of the best things I ever did.
Midtown graced the cover of issue 35 of Black Velvet, with another interview with Tyler Rann inside. Since the issue is now sold out from Black Velvet, below is the interview in full.
One Last Time
Taken from issue 35, Feb 2003 By Shari Black Velvet
New Jersey rockers Midtown headed back to the UK towards the end of 2002 one last time (to quote one of their songtitles) in support of their awesome MCA released ‘Living Well Is The Best Revenge’ album. Black Velvet caught up with the guys in Birmingham and chatted to guitarist/vocalist/vegan/man of many opinions, Tyler Rann.
The band had just completed an extensive tour of the US and upon its completion, while barely breaking for breath, they jumped on a flight and hit the UK.
“If I’m going to be on tour,” Tyler begins, “I’m in that mode of touring and I’d rather just continue touring for a while and get it all over with. If you take an amount of time off you’re not going to be as good, you’re not going to be as focused. I’m used to touring now. We did 60-something days straight in the US and after the last show I packed my clothes and went on a plane and came to England. So I had a day off. But on another positive note I did quit smoking 15 days ago today, well 15 or 16, I don’t know… I’ve lost track with all the flying and stuff. So I feel good actually. For me this is the first time on tour that I’ve been able to be healthy and I can play better – just in 15 days. I’m not trying to preach to anyone ‘cause I smoked for so long. And oh my God, I miss it so much and it’s the greatest thing ever except for the dying and the being sick thing, y’know. So because of that I feel good and I could keep doing this for a while. And these shows too – something about it is making me really happy to be here. To come to another place and see kids ‘queuing up’ – I’ve got your lingo now – and coming to see us. In another country I feel such amazement and awe from that and it makes me want to push myself further and play better, which is probably wrong because I should do that every day and in America as well… but for some reason just being here and seeing the kids it just feels really good. I’m really excited to play.
The band have been playing small clubs, which is a step up from the last and only time they’ve headlined the country, and the turn-out’s been good.
“Yeah. I’m so amazed. The only times we’ve ever played… we did a little tour where we played bar type places last time and now we’re playing actual clubs and there are hundreds of people. It looks packed when we play. And people sing the words, it’s unbelievable. It’s very cool. It excites me. It’s a whole opportunity to kick some ass to people who haven’t seen you before. In America people have seen us so many times. It’s like ‘Oh you did better than you did last time’ or ‘you didn’t do as well’ but here all these people haven’t seen us before. Or they saw us at a festival where we were super far away.”
One of the down sides of playing a small club is the small stage that goes with it. Although the band play in slightly larger venues in the US, the stage is still pretty small, which meant that the tour was not without its casualties as band members found themselves flying into the photo pit more than once.
“The singer of one of the support bands, he fell off the stage and dislocated his hip and cut up his face and all of this stuff and they had to cancel the whole tour. The whole time I was thinking about that, like ‘wow that’s really terrible’ and I’d seen it happen. Then we were playing in Florida and there was a really high stage. It was so hot and so sweaty and the floor was really moist. I was right up at the front and there was about a foot space between the stage, which was about 6 feet up and then a metal barrier with all the kids behind. I do like to have a drink every once in a while and unfortunately on that evening I’d had quite a few drinks so when I got out there somebody grabbed at my foot. I don’t know if people do this all the time, I’m not really sure, but they pulled at my sneakers and with the drinking and the wetness of the floor I did fall 6 feet down to my head. The weird thing is that from that point on I don’t remember anything for about 6 or 7 hours. But I guess I got back up and I continued playing the show. I think I played the right songs. I played something – I was having a great time. Then afterwards I went to the hospital – they made me go to the hospital and I don’t remember any of it. I have no idea where I was. It was like the craziest, scariest thing. I just discharged myself from hospital. Next thing I knew… it was like I fell off the stage and then the next day I was in a hotel. It was like ‘woah, what’s going on?’ So I’m being very careful about that, trying to be. My head hurts really bad still actually. I have a huge bump on my head still. It’s been 2 ½ weeks or something, so that’s weird.
It seems that touring is quite hazardous to one’s health. A couple of years ago Midtown were involved in a road accident which saw the animal lovers swerving to avoid a deer – only to crash the van and injure one of their friends on board, Stacey Smith.
“I think when you’re in a band and you drive around a lot, you’re gonna get into a car accident. It’s inevitable. So it’s like ‘get it out of the way’ kinda thing. We were very fortunate that everyone survived. It’s a weird life, travelling from day to day, and it gets very depressing. So as soon as the show is over ‘let’s go party and drink ourselves to excess’. I could definitely be an example of that. Sometimes you just have to take it easy. You never want to lose focus of what you’re doing and I’m really glad that’s never happened to me. I’ve never not wanted to play. I’ve never said ‘oh let’s get the show done so we can go out and do something’. But yeah, I guess accidents of all kinds can happen. It is, it’s a weird lifestyle but it just goes with the territory.”
It does seem like there has been an increase in road accidents lately. Quite a few bands have had them. In 2002 Alien Ant Farm and Ash were just two well-known acts to have crashes.
Tyler says, “I know the Alien Ant Farm one had to do with the driver. I guess he died in the accident – the bus driver. And that was the most terrible thing that I’ve ever heard in gruesome detail. It’s really scary. And every night when I go to bed, I’m in this bunk that’s like a coffin. I couldn’t get out of it real quickly if I wanted to. So it’s like you put your life in someone else’s hands. It’s scary, but if you don’t think about it so much you’re ok. It’s part of what you have to do. It’s much better than driving. If I was tired or the roads were icy or something… it’s really weird, you just have to make sure your driver is someone who’s trustworthy and responsible, I guess. And the weather. That’s why we always come to Europe in the winter because we don’t want to tour America and drive around because it gets so icy. Here the drives are so short that you can take your time and be careful.”
Stacey Smith, the girl injured in Midtown’s crash, has since recovered, thankfully.
“Stacey’s great actually. I just saw her. That’s what I was saying. She’s completely recovered. You’d never know. She looks great. What happened was I guess her scalp got torn back or off in the accident. But you’d never know, she looks great. She looks like a normal girl. She’s wonderful. It’s funny because after the accident we were so worried we were helping her pay the bills and do all this stuff. I felt so terrible. Then we were playing in Florida, she flew down to come see us and while she was in Florida her apartment back home blew up. And I realised maybe it’s HER bad luck and not ours. We almost killed her once but then we saved her life another time by making her come to Florida, so now we’re kinda even I think! I don’t want to hang out with her too much ‘cause there’s something scary that surrounds her! But she’s great. We saw her the night before we left for England. Her boyfriend and her are still together, he was our merch guy in the past.
Midtown brought over a band from Texas to support them in the UK. They go by the name of Recover and were out on the road with Gabe, Tyler, Heath and Rob in the US also.
“They’re just a good rock band” says Tyler. “It drives me crazy how good they are. It makes me jealous. They are the epitome of everything. They can take everything to an excess but they can also take their music to an excess. I love that. It’s just more the kind of music that we listen to and like. I listen to their band. We have them on tour and they’re just crazy guys. The more drunk they are the better they play. And they’re more fun offstage than they are onstage. But their music is amazing, they’re really gifted in what they do. It’s awesome. And great guys. This tour takes us four months together. It’s really cool. You’ll enjoy the music. I can’t really describe it. It’s rock. It’s like a heavier Foo Fighters or something, maybe. Heavier than that though, definitely.
With a smaller band under their wing, so to speak, you wonder if Tyler and his bandmembers have noticed - or ever do notice - any kind of mistakes that maybe they made when they first started out. Can they see themselves in their support bands?
“Yeah, I think so. Sometimes you notice some of the naïve things. But I don’t think it’s as much the things they do wrong. Like any band starting off they want to look to the more experienced band as to what to do. Before they jump they’re gonna look and make sure you jump, kinda thing. Definitely like the way that they look at everything and get excited about things. If anything I like that, I miss it. This is Recover’s first time ever leaving the country. Maybe even ever just to be out of the country. ‘Cause they’re from Texas. People in Texas are just different! Long story! …And to see how excited they are makes me more excited but at the same time I wish I was still. To me it’s like ‘ah, we’re back on a plane, back in England, oh we’re in wherever, I know where this is, this and that…’ because I’m so used to it. This is our 6th time being here this year or something like that. I do miss that. So there are good things. But also we made a lot of mistakes as well and I think bands have learnt from that. We talk about them all the time so… I’m glad they don’t make some of the mistakes we did. But I certainly see them wide-eyed and excited. It becomes part of you as well. When you’re surrounded by them I act even more ridiculous than I would because I’m surrounded by them and at the end of the night we’re all boys, screaming like we’re 15. I probably wouldn’t normally be that way because the rest of my band wouldn’t act that way but when we’re around other people it’s totally infectious. It’s good, that’s the nice thing. It keeps everything from getting stale”.
In contrast Midtown themselves have supported a lot of other bands such as Blink-182 and Jimmy Eat World. What kind of things, if anything, did they learn from those guys?
“Oh lots, so many things. I think Jimmy Eat World… I always equate that to going to school. On that tour I learned so much about what makes a band really a great band, and continuing to be a great band. There are so many things to learn from those guys. They still have a good time at what they do, but I love their music, I love the presentation of their music, I love the way they actually play their music. I love everything about it. Every night I would watch them and I would learn something else. I’d be ‘oh, that’s professional’ or ‘oh wow, that’s really great’. The way they rock out but are still so perfectly tight. Or the way they are off stage and the way they’re interviewed. They’re the epitome of the band I’d want to be in because they can really go in all different directions and still keep their fans and they still do it the right way and they continue to do it the right way. Like Blink-182, that was really cool but I couldn’t relate to it. I don’t know what it’s like to walk around with security people always and having your own tour buses and trucks and crews and flying for the day to this place to hang out and playing in front of 20,000 people with fire and explosions and stuff. It was a great lesson in ‘wow, maybe that’s a possibility one day if we get real lucky’ but you can’t really relate to it. And I can’t really relate to their music also. To play live music is fun but lots of things are fun. I don’t spend my life and make my career out of… what else do I enjoy? I don’t even do anything else. But if I did other things that were fun, like playing video games… I do music because it’s a passion to me, it’s an outlet to me. I don’t know if it’s the same for those guys. Maybe it is, I can’t speak for them. They’re super nice and really cool and that taught me a lesson that you can be some huge famous celebrity in some huge successful band and still be down to earth and a nice person. And that not everyone is jaded and fake. I expected to never see Blink-182 and never talk to them and if I did they’d be ‘get the fuck out of my way, who are you?’. But it was completely the opposite. They knew all the words to our songs, they invited us backstage into their dressing room as soon as they were done while they were getting changed to hang out. It’s like ‘woah, tiny bands don’t do this, what’s wrong with you!?’ It’s awesome and that made me feel really good about what we’re doing and it’s ok to have success because you can still keep yourself real and grounded. But Jimmy Eat World I learned so much musically. It’s about the integrity. I want our next record and every record to go in the way we want it to go and not what somebody else is telling us or what’s going to be popular or what’s going to sell. I don’t give two shits about that. At the end of the day I have to look at myself in this mirror and if it’s like, am I making myself happy on tour all the time then what have I done? I’ve achieved nothing You can have all this money but what am I gonna do with it? You can’t buy happiness. You can come real close but you can’t”.
Midtown, as mentioned, have been over to the UK quite a few times now. So far though they haven’t really taken England by storm. They haven’t become Blink-182.
“I have no desire to be a superstar for an army of people who don’t really get it. I think there are certain people that ‘get it’ and those are the people I want to play music for. And then there are certain people who don’t get it but it’s like ‘fun’, and it’s not really what I’m aiming for. If someone likes the music that’s good, that’s fine… but I’d rather go for the specific people that have that passion and really understand the music. I don’t know why we’re not like that. Maybe because our record label didn’t put out a single for our album, that could be a reason. We don’t have all this money behind us to push it. Money can buy you a hit easily. But we’re not ready for that yet. I’m enjoying this. I’m not going to walk out to a crowd of 300 people or whatever it turns out to be tonight and be like ‘oh, only 300 people’. I’m gonna be like ‘fuckin’ shit, 300 people!’ I don’t care, I can play Reading festival to thousands of people but that’s not personal, that’s not intimate. That’s like I’m performing FOR someone. Tonight it’s like I’m playing music WITH people. We’re all there. Every person there is just as important as I am, because if they’re not there rocking out then I’m not gonna feel like rocking out. I wanna see it in their faces that they’re having a great time. Maybe when I don’t feel that way anymore I’ll get on the ass of my record label to spend some money. What is that show? Teen Idol? Pop Stars? Pop Idol? Whatever… Get us that guy to sing a song with us or something! Another thing I notice is really weird in England is that every classic song ever has been redone with a beat behind it and it becomes a hit. So maybe we’ll do a song and put a beat behind it and we’ll have a hit. But for me, this is taking England by storm in the best way that I want to, and the right way. And the next time we come, if there’s 300 people tonight, there’ll be 500 people. And the time after that it’ll be 1000 people. We’ll just do it the right way. I don’t want to go leaps and bounds because then you miss out on what’s important – and what’s important are these people that come to these shows. I’m just very fed up with a lot of things at this stage of the game right now. This is the one thing that I’m not fed up with. I’m very jaded with a lot of bands and people who don’t say anything anymore. Everyone’s so PC and friends with everyone. Whatever happened with someone in a band having something to say and being normal people? I don’t want to be someone’s role model. I want to be me and I have opinions and I’m going to say them. Nobody says anything anymore and I think that’s a bit of a flaw with music. What’s the difference between rock music and pop music? Pop music is faultless to me. Rock music… someone like John Lennon – you like him 70% because of his music, but the other 30% was because of his ideas and the things he says. You don’t have to agree with them but you respect him for saying things like that. That’s what makes someone really special. That’s what makes you connect with that person. And that’s why John Lennon’s been dead for 22 years and people still worship him. That’s something I think about constantly, it drives me crazy.”
Wow, can you feel the passion in Tyler’s words? I sure as hell can.
We start talking about the next album, which Gabe stated in another interview would probably be out in early 2004. Tyler jokes that they’re going to call the album ‘Cut Your Kids In Half’.
“I thought of that the other day, I thought ‘what a weird title that would be for something’”.
One thing he’s certain of is that he wants the album to be much more real.
Don’t you think that up until this point you’ve been real?
“Oh yeah. But I think I’ve been tapping into something… As of recently I’ve started tapping into something else, which is a whole other energy, a negative energy. I know it sounds bad but all the things that upset me, that keep me up at night, that I wake up from nightmares all upset by… what if I tap into that? I don’t have to make everything sound so happy. So I’m curious as to what that will do. And I have a wealth of ideas for songs. And I can write lyrics that are saying things that are so profound. I’m wording them right in my head and I’m like ‘wow’. I stay up hours. That’s why we sleep in the afternoon, because I stay up so late thinking and thinking and thinking. I know we’ve been real on the last album. I’m so proud of it. And the title has so many things to do with went on with us and continue to go on, but I don’t know… I want to tap into some more darker things because that’s what’s real for me right now.”
Gabe commented previously that the next album is going to be darker and heavier…
“See, that’s weird… When I heard him say that I was like ‘I don’t want to be a heavy band’. I’m not like ‘Oh, all these bands that are heavy now are getting popular, so let’s be heavy’ – no – fuck that. If anything I want to do the opposite of what’s popular.
Do you think that’s what Gabe wants?
“No. I asked him about that and he was like ‘no, no, that’s not what I mean’. I’m like ‘do you mean you want to sound heavy and dark like Thursday or heavy and dark like The Cure?’ And he was like ‘like The Cure’. ‘You mean you just want to talk about ideas that are heavy to use a 60s terminology, like ‘woah, heavy’, like deep’. That’s kind of just more of the lives we are living now. I’m happy to do what I do but it’s weird. I get much more emotional about things when I get upset about them than when I’m happy about something so I want to see what that’s about. So that’s what he meant. We’re not going to have some album with screaming on or big metal guitars. No, nothing like that.
“There are certain things that will always be part of what we do; harmonies and guitar parts that come from listening to Led Zeppelin and Blue Oyster Cult and Queen. It’s going to always come through in the music but maybe instead of singing about something that you have and it hurts you, you can sing about something that you can’t even have and it hurts you, by just looking at it in a different way. That’s what I’m thinking about.
“We wanna make the next record ‘the record’, the next one. I’m very happy with this last one and I think we can top that again, so we’ll write the songs and then we have to go record them. Writing takes a long time and recording takes a long time and by the time you’ve done recording and you hand in a finished product it takes x amount of months before it comes out. Our last record was done four or five months before it came out… everything, done. So we figured based on that it probably won’t come out till 2004. It’s not like we’re taking time off for something. I know it sounds weird but it’s not, it’s standard.
The band’s two albums, the current ‘Living Well Is The Best Revenge’ and their debut, ‘Save The World, Lose The Girl’ saw the four guys working with producer Mark Trombino. Rob Hitt once said that Mark knows ‘tons of tricks to get great sounds’.
“The thing is, Rob talks about drums because that’s what Rob knows. He knows drums. And Mark Trombino is this amazing drummer. He was in this band Drive Like Jehu. He’s just so good it’s insane. So he’s a drum guy so he gets Rob’s drums to sound awesome. Me – I can’t tell the difference. Drums are like banging something.. Someone’s banging something, I don’t care. It’s really loud! That’s what I care about with drums. I’m like ‘wow that’s really loud’”.
Can’t you play the drums?
“Yeah, well that was my first instrument actually. Instead of just banging something… I had all this hyper-activity so my parents were like ‘please get him some drums’. I have videos, it’s the funniest thing. I have a video from 1985. My brother is doing his homework and my dad walks in to see what I’m doing and I’m just standing there banging a big stick on the table, having a great time. That just sums it up perfectly. I was like Animal of the Muppets or something. The thing is with Mark we bought all kinds of effects and gear and he sat in the studio and played with everything. And I sat in the studio and played with everything and that’s how we got great sounds. And then we’re like ‘ok, we did some weird stuff on the record, how are we going to duplicate it live?’ And I think we do it very well. It took a long time and we had to get some effects. I don’t use effects, I’m like ‘fuck that’, a guitar and amp, that’s what you need. But Heath’s with his board of effects and all that stuff. And I’d like to use more things because it makes things sound a little bit cooler - in the future but not right now.
“I don’t think we’re going to do our next record with Mark because he’s a great guy and our record sounds good but I don’t see it growing from that. I think we have the best Mark Trombino record we could have and now it’s time to find something else. And I’m going to send the word out to Jimmy Page because I know he’s produced all the Led Zeppelin records. That would be awesome. I just want to hang out with him. But I’m not worried about it. I think live there’s the sound, but it’s also the energy of the people actually physically playing it, in-your-face, kids singing it, nobody cares. We probably sound like shit. We rent different amps here than we use in America. We play with them for a couple of minutes and we’re like ‘ok, it sounds good enough’. It’s the songs that are important, not just the sound. The record you can listen to every day but there’s nothing to see. But this has every sense… from the smell of all these sweaty people and smoke, to seeing it, to hearing it, people crushing you around. That’s the show. CD is just audio.”
One thing the band are keen to do is challenge the listener. If you’re not sure what that means, Tyler gives an example.
“Tell me a band that makes a record that sounds exactly the same as the record before, and the record before that. Like The Goo Goo Dolls, ok. I don’t know why I’m choosing them, but from what I know of the Goo Goo Dolls, every fucking song sounds exactly the same. Whether they have a new album out or an old album… you can buy any album and it sounds the same. Or Aerosmith nowadays too. What the fuck!? Every song sounds exactly the same! They figured out some formular to make all this money and they just do that. And people go ‘oh I like this so I’ll like this other one too’ and I’m like ‘whatever, it’s monotonous and boring’. That’s safe. Then there are bands that challenge themselves and have some sort of respect for the audience and the listener to challenge them. Like Radiohead, perfect example. They’re like ‘Ok, we’re this huge ass band in the world that everyone loves. We just made this record called ‘Ok Computer’ and we’re so big and you know what, we could make an album, anything we want, that sounds just like ‘OK Computer’ if we want to and everyone’s going to buy it. What do we do? Instead we go completely in another direction and we take music that isn’t necessarily in the mainstream and we play music like that to bring that music into the mainstream and challenge our audience’. And that is the coolest thing. They actually have respect for people who listen to music. They go ‘well if you like that then this is challenging’ and see what they think.
Of course not everyone in the world wants to be challenged when they listen to music.
”It depends on what your goal in music is” Tyler muses. “For me music is not a way of paying my bills like Aerosmith, who ‘well I need another castle’ or some shit. No, music… I want to keep it interesting for me and interesting for whoever listens to it and I want to keep it relevant and changing. It’s like a person. You keep growing or just dying – it’s one or the other. And I don’t want to die. I want to grow, and as a band. Keep challenging yourself. If you don’t you have no respect for anyone. They’ve already heard that shit. They want to hear new shit. You want to turn them on. There’s so much responsibility. People just don’t expect it. Remember the first time you heard your favourite record, whatever your favourite record is, and how cool that feeling was. It’s like ‘oh my God, this is my favourite record’ and you’d never heard it before and you were so excited to get to the next song because you don’t know what it is. Keep doing that for people. You don’t want to get records that always sound the same. And that is the goal of music for us. Not only to challenge ourselves and thus challenge the listener but to keep it relevant and keep it interesting. Keeping it real in a sense of not writing songs about things that were important to us five years ago. It’s what’s important to us now.”
One thing that is important to a lot of people right now is the state of the world with terrorism and the like. Plus prior to this interview a sniper had been on the loose in America, although thankfully he’d been caught at last. Midtown try not to let the problems in the world get to them though. And it doesn’t affect their chosen career.
“To me everything has to do with music. I wouldn’t fit in doing any other kind of job. Seeing terrible things on the news… We were actually in one of the town’s playing the night the sniper killed somebody in that town while we were playing – so that was pretty weird. It was very scary. I’m glad they caught him though. But I’m not doing the world’s greatest job to help humanity. If I wanted to do that I could be out feeding starving people or being like Mother Teresa or someone like that. I don’t think that’s what anyone thinks that’s what we’re doing. But I don’t think it’s hard to be passionate about things. I’m a passionate person. Things bother me and upset me and excite me every single day and I can bring that to the music. And when we play the music it never feels old. It never feels like ‘oh we’re playing this song again’. It feels like ‘oh we’re going through this experience again’, what the songs about, and for each person it might be a different experience but it’s still there. It’s never like ‘let’s play track 4’. It’s like ‘let’s play the song about being this way or when this happened to you’. But yeah, there are so many things going on that might put you in a bad mood and you can amplify that bad mood into an energy to conquer it or go along with it in a set. But I’m not going ‘wow, people are getting killed everywhere in the world and we’re making music about what it’s like to be heartbroken. No, I don’t do that.”
Do you have any positive thoughts for any reading who is maybe down and depressed because of the state of the world though?
“I think the best thing you can do is… you can sit around and feel sorry about things and think about how terrible everything is or you can go out and do something about it., whether that’s just making yourself happy or making someone else happy or just doing something that you know is good. Have you ever seen that film Hommalie? It’s a French movie, it’s fucking amazing. You have to see it. I’m not a big movie guy. I used to like all these action movies where everyone gets killed and I’m like ‘cool’. But this movie is about this woman who does these acts of goodness to people without getting the credit for it. It’s like doing something special to someone just for the sake of doing something for some stranger. The movie was apparently such a success in France that people started doing this, weird things that made a difference. And the movie is so good. Do something like that. Go out and do something good for the sake of being good and not getting credit for it. Go out and be a good person and be proud to look at yourself in a mirror. I’ve learned this. If you sit around thinking about your own death, all you’re going to do is waste away until it happens. Or you have to accept certain things, accept that the world’s not a perfect place and that there are fucked up things that go on but just don’t let those fucked up things happen to YOU and the people you care about. Take action where you can. You can’t go in the past and change things. Just focus on tomorrow and today and what you CAN change. And then you should be happy.”
One final question for Tyler. What does he think is the biggest misconception that some people make about Midtown and how would he like to put them straight?
“A lot of people apparently think that we are real assholes” he responds. “Real opinionated and stuck up. People think we’re rich kids, which is not true – and I don’t need to go on and explain that it’s not true. And I hope I’m not an asshole. But I think that some people are so used to everyone having nothing to say except for ‘I love this’ and ‘I love that’ that they’re just so shocked to hear someone actually be honest. And be like ‘no I don’t like this band’ and ‘I don’t like that’. Like ‘I’m not interested in that kind of music’ and you taking it as being an asshole, I’m just a normal person. We’re all just normal people with opinions, and I want to express them. Why don’t I get to? That’s wrong, and I’m sure everyone who’s reading this has opinions and doesn’t like things, so it’s just the same thing. I hate that, it drives me crazy. I wish people were more real often, y’know. Especially when you’re playing music. How are you supposed to feel a connection to someone if you don’t know anything about them. If I was to be like ‘I love Britney Spears’ then you’d be like ‘I’m really confused by this guy because he makes music that’s emotional music but at the same time he has no soul. I don’t understand that’. I’d rather just be honest. To anyone who thinks that I’m an asshole or Gabe’s an asshole, come over and talk to us. If anyone has a question, we’re people, come and ask me instead of reading something on the internet that doesn’t know any of us. I loved reading this 9 page report about my past and Gabe’s past written by crazy people who hate us. That’s gonna be real honest! Why don’t you go right to the source? We hang out at shows. Come over and ask us. I always have time for that. I always have time to talk. That’s the most important thing – human interaction. It’s just fucked up. And people love to believe that. If someone hates someone, let’s all hate them. Let’s gang up on them. Then you just miss the point. I’m not saying we’re doing anything so profound or so great but at least we’re honest about what we do.”
And I can vouch for the fact that they’re definitely NOT assholes.
Visit the official Midtown website at www.midtownrock.com