Interview with Andy Demirjian of Stickmen

Andy Demirjian of Stickmen was kind enough to answer a few questions I had, regarding their latest release Life Colored Green, their appearance on the WARPED tour, and more. Here are his responses.

How would you describe your songwriting/recording process?

I wish this question would get asked more in interviews I read with artists I like, 'cuz it's really interesting and I'm sure everybody does something different.

For this last album Steve and I would listen to riffs we liked that we had come up with and then 'scat' nonsensical words over the parts. Steve is really good at this. We try to really let ourselves go and get hit by the music to tell us what to do. Then we'll take a look at some of the lyrics or song titles that we have lying around and try working things into the scats or write for the annunciation of the scats with topics that are interesting to us. (does that make any sense at all?). "This sucks" from the CD was done entirely like this and it's one of my favorites. We would also work with cool products like Digital Performer on our computer's but the process would pretty much be the same.

So what's the connection between you and Wall of Voodoo? That's a rather obscure band for you to cover [the band covers Mexican Radio]? Have you heard the Celtic Frost version of the song?

That was a song that came about because the label was putting together a compilation album of new and veteran bands covering one hit wonder bands from the early '80's (I think it was gonna be called Wonderama). Well, they were suggesting stuff like Oh Mickey by Toni Basil and then Eddy (our bass player) came up with Mexican Radio. I had always really liked the song and it came together over 3 weeks in may when we were practicing in oakland for the warped tour. It was recorded a couple of months after the rest of the CD was done, we had a relaxing blast in the studio working on that one. Im especially proud of all the kooky guitar stuff going on in that one. I haven't heard the Celtic Frost version of the song; I really like the lounge-y vibe that Steve came up with.

What were your lyrical inspirations?

Mostly things that go on in our lives, so a pretty wide variety. We focus more on personal politics 'cuz I think it gets more at the root of the problem: Human nature. Whereas someone like Rage ATM might take a more global perspective I feel like you get a chance to practice your beliefs everyday. Peaceful politics isn't about waving banners, it's about how you treat the cashier at Burger King when they mess up your order. Thats what Peace Pipe is about on this disc.

It seems to me some of the lyrics are a bit deeper than the stantard "alternative" fare. Is this your intention? I mean besides your musical ability, would you also like to be known as a lyrically-solid band?

Actually, to me the lyrics are most important. We really slaved over all of them making sure they work in lots of different ways, making sure it says what we mean in a cool creative way. A lot of it comes down to getting the angle on the song that hopefully hasn't been done before. I'd love people to know they can always rely on getting cool off balanced lyrics with the music.

How was the Warped tour experience? I know a few people who say they skipped the Bosstones to watch you. That must make you feel good?

That was the coolest thing about that tour. And kind of started to almost give you faith in mankind, that there are people out there that dont need to see something on TV to like it. That people were still out there that wanted to make thier own qualitative judgements. Playing to those people is a blast, when people are really into it who have never heard you before, theres a definite energy rush. Although our music is a little askew from the typical warp fare people dug it with an open mind, they understood the different kind of bounce that we lay down!

Do you prefer doing tours with a bunch of performers or prefer a conventional 1-3 band shows? Which one helps more in terms of your music reaching more people?

The 1-3 bands was far and away better, I think most musicians tend to be guarded on first meetings but when you know everyone's going to be together for 30 days or whatever people lighten up a bit more. And the chaos of doing a ton of bands a day tour even if it was better exposure (which might not necessarily always be the case) I would forego for a good 1-3 band bill. Just because the others can be so frantic it takes some of the fun away. (but i'm not the last word in these decisions)

The big tours with lots of bands can go either way for any band (i.e., they could be completely embraced or totally ignored), but you seem to have won over the audiences. What do you attribute this to?

I think the majority of people can sense the difference between something authentic and something fake. When we play we are IN THE ZONE, like a trance, 'getting hit by the music' David Byrne used to say. So when people see us they realize we're pretty much out of our minds and can relate to it.

Are there any plans for a tour of the U.S., particularly the west coast?

Plans are in the works, hopefully for early summer. We all love the west coast and cant wait to get back.

What's your favourite music? That is, what music does the band listen to and currently like? Who would you cite as influences?

We listen to a really, really wide range of music. You really dont want to get pinned into any 1 style on a 14 hour drive from Tulsa to Gallup. A lot of new pop really irks me, all I can hear are marketing ploys and 'lets try to be like' and not enough 'let's try to be like anything people have heard before', which was our goal when making this last cd. We listen to alot of Latin, jazz, rap, funk. as well as rock.

Lately I've been totally consumed by Miles Davis' work from '69 - '75. Albums like Pangea and Live Evil. A period I typically had ignored and dismissed from his career. For Rock albums I think Prong's Rude Awakening is great, Tommy did great vocal work and great riffs on that album and it should have gotten much wider recognition it was a pleasure to tour with that music night after night.

Influences: to me influences really means inspiration. who makes you want to write songs. A full list would be way too long but here's some works we like Talking Heads ('78-81), Pantera (vulgar display), Cypress Hill, X ('79-82), Chili Peppers, PJ Harvey (rid of me).

What's your view on the current national music scene, MTV, the Boston music scene?

The boston music scene is just like the national music scene thanks to MTV. Mostly just stuff I talked about in other questions already so I wont repeat it. Boston's a great city, and the fans have been awesome to us here, and all the local show DJ's are very supportive and cool.

What are your future plans and where do you see yourself in the year 2000?

Thinking about my future has never been my forte. I love the challenge of writing music that doesn't suck.

Music ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || || March 16, 1998