GLAM AND GRITI've made a resolution to stop writing about young, eager-beaver rock bands like FIXER "...chasing that rock n' roll dream". When you consider that rock n' roll entails spending months on the road, being in a different town every night, and living off of Dorito's and beer, one can deduce that rock n' roll is certainly no "dream" or a "fantasy". It's just life. "It's very hard on the road, and very hard for all of us and some people just aren't cut out for it." says FIXER's lead singer EVAN R. SAFFER. "...the label (RIKER HILL RECORDS) wants to keep us on the road, and we want to be on the road. That's how this is going to happen! This is a band that's going to stick around for years."
EVAN R. SAFFER AND TOMMY ZAMP OF FIXER
TALK TO ROCKWIRED ABOUT
THEIR DEBUT CD 'BEFORE THE SUN',
BEING ROAD DOGS
AND GIVING ROCK MUSIC A FACE AGAIN
INTERVIEWED BY BRIAN LUSH
Sure, rock n' roll ain't pretty, but a band like FIXER makes it look like a piece of cake. These fellas have just released their debut CD 'BEFORE THE SUN' on the indie label RIKER HILL RECORDS, yet they've managed to grab the attention of millions due to their exposure on MTV's top-rated series, THE HILLS. "It's a huge coup for the band." says SAFFER. "It's a very big accomplishment just because it is a demographic that we're trying to hit and it's a very competitive spot and we're an indie label band and the day before our record hit the shelves, our song debuted on MTV, and our website got thousands of hits. It's definitely translated into some buzz but no one thing makes a great rock band. It's a combination of things and it was another stepping stone and another confirmation that people really dig what we are doing."
Indeed, it is many things that make a band like FIXER great! The songs of 'BEFORE THE SUN' hit all of the necessary modern rock reference points. You have the punk rock slam-dunk of 'MIXING IN MY BLOOD', the BEATLES-sounding 'WHAT'S IT LIKE', the hard-rocking opening 'TELL NO ONE' and the 10-minute ZEPPELIN-styled slow burner, 'TUXEDO' (funny that the track doesn't come with a cigarette lighter!). Aside from the blistering guitar-work of TOMMY ZAMP and the solid rhythm section of J. BROWN on bass, and REV SWANK on drums, there is EVAN R. SAFFER, who is just the sort of frontman that rock music has gone without for a long time."...nobody connects with the crowd like he does. I can only dream and imagine about MADISON SQUARE GARDEN and how he's going to captivate the entire audience there." says guitarist TOMMY ZAMP. "It goes back to guys like DAVID LEE ROTH or STEVE TYLER and the charisma that they bring to the stage that is lacking in a lot of the modern rock bands that are coming out now"
ROCKWIRED spoke with EVAN and TOMMY over the phone. Here is how it went.
I hear you guys are in Cleveland this evening.
EVAN: Yes were in Cleveland. We're staying with some friends of ours in this dilapidated mansion. It's sort of like this EDWARD SCISSORHANDS palace.
Cool! So you haven't played yet.
EVAN: No. We actually don't have a gig tonight. We came here to cut down the drive.We're staying here with some friends of ours. Our first gig on the tour is tomorrow night in Michigan.
So you still have a way to go before the show.
EVAN: Tomorrow is actually a busy day. We have to be at the venue at one o'clock. We're doing a meet-n-greet with the radio station there. We're gonna hang up the posters and then we're going to rush over to a record store and do an acoustic set of three songs and hang out with some of the fans there and get back to the venue for the show.
So you guys will be up in the Great Lakes area. Rock n Roll country!
TOMMY: Absolutely man!
You guys have a great album in 'BEFORE THE SUN'. Now that it's behind you and and available for everyone to snatch up and listen to, how do you feel about it?
EVAN: I am so pleased that we have put somehting out that is competitive in today's market but it's also alternative and we're doing our own thing. I'm so glad that we can stand on our own two feet and be original, because the biggest turn off and the biggest way that anyone dismisses any new idea is by saying that "they've been there and done that", and I think our record is so dynamic. It goes in so many different directions. There are so many tools and I'm not even considering the live shows. It's great to have RIKER HILL RECORDS on board and the way that they've stepped up to the plate and helped us with our marketing and tweaking the images. I'm very happy with it.
How about you TOMMY?
TOMMY: I couldn't be happier. It's the complete rock n roll album from start to finish. A lot of album these days, you hear a band on the radio that's got a really cool song and then you go and buy the rest of the album and it pretty much fuckin' sucks and when you pickup a FIXER album, it doesn't. And for me, being the new guy in the band, it's really been an eye-opening experience for me because I had been searching for a band and going on auditions and did my own thing to find the right home, and I've gotta tell you there is a lot of shit out there. There is nothing like this album 'BEFORE THE SUN'.
So you're a new to the band?
TOMMY: That's right.
How did you get involved with FIXER?
TOMMY: My old band and FIXER played a show together at the RED PARROT CAFE in Lorraine Ohio and unbeknownst to me, that was WILSON's (FIXER's previous guitar player) last night and unbeknownst to FIXER, that was my last night with my other band. It was total coincidence and I'm a total believer in that things happen for a reason. After I had quit my band, FIXER had finished up their tour and went back to New York, and I went to Boston for a week and a half jamming with this other group. When I went back to New York, EVAN calls me and asked me to come in and audtion with them. Alot of people ask me how I knew that this was it. I've thought about it and gone over it in my head and the best thing I can say is it's like the first time you have sex and it's the most amazing thing in the world, but the second time you do it, it's that much better, and you get better, and better, and better at it and with FIXER, it was like a complete orgasm!
EVAN: I just wanna make it clear that he kept his pants on the whole time.
I'll try to find a way to work this into the title.
TOMMY: That's how it was and it was definitely an unbelievable experience, the way everything happened. It's definitely the perfect match.
EVAN: And BRIAN, basically the timing was right. WILLIE (the previous guitarist) didn't like the touring lifestyle and FIXER has always been very die-hard on the road. It's very hard on the road, and very hard for all of us and some people just aren't cut out for it. TOMMY was not happy with his band because they were not doing the stuff that we were doing - being road dogs. I had heard about TOMMY on the grapevine and I called him through another musician that we knew and then it turned out that the A&R guy on our label had heard of TOMMY and knew of him as well. At the time, RIKER HILL RECORDS was very interested in FIXER, but when we lost WILLIE, they weren't sure that the band was going to be okay. Then I found TOMMY and everything started working out again and now we've got this unbelievable momentum which everyone can see from our tour and being on MTV. It's going good and we're just keeping our foot on the gas.
Talk about this MTV thing. I haven't watched MTV since '94. You guys are on some show?
EVAN: MTV has this semi-reality show called THE HILLS. It's the number one show on MTV. It's got anywhere from four to five millon viewers per show. It's a huge coup for the band. It's a very big accomplishment just because it is a demographic that we're trying to hit and it's a very competitive spot and we're an indie label band and the day before our record hit the shelves, our song debuted on MTV, and our website got thousands of hits. It's definitely translated into some buzz but no, one thing makes a great rock band. It's a combination of things and it was another stepping stone and another confirmation that people really dig what we are doing.
You guys sound like you have a great label behind you in RIKER HILL RECORDS.
EVAN: It's an indie label, and a lot of people don't know what to make of that word 'indie', but I think the most important thing to understand with any business partnership is the motivation factor. With RIKER HILL, I think it's beyond professional. It's personal. Everybody over there really gets what we're doing and we have a mutual respect. We're just very grateful to be with people that are working for us from a point-of-view of passion, because you can't buy that kind of motivation and that's what is most important to us.
TOMMY: We're also very lucky because there are alot of bands that are signed to different labels and they don't have the label's CEO's phone number, nor can they call them at any time. We're very fortunate to be in contact with everyone and everyone calls us and lets us know about what is happening as far as commercials or any type of press that's happening. Everything is up-to-date. We've talked to other bands and they're like "Our label hasn't called us back in three weeks! We don't know if we're still fine." Being with this label is a situation that we are definitely happy to be in.
EVAN, talk about the rest of the guys in the band. What do you think that they bring to the table, musically, creatively, and personality-wise?
EVAN: I wanna start outby saying that J (bassist, J. BROWN) is a big asshole!
EVAN: No, I'm just teasing! We obviously have a really fun dynamic. It's really a fun band to be in and for everyone that hangs out with us, it's contagious and that's kind of the vibe that we bring to our live shows. Songwriting dynamic is a very important thing as well. I've written songs with a lot of other people and I really like collaborating with this group - including TOMMY, whose just come on with us. I like his vibe and he's very creative and very prolific. We're definitely a 'feel good' band. We're a band that definitely likes to have a good time, but everyone in the band will tell you that I like to work and I really want to be creative and produce, so when the party starts to overshadow how prolific we can be, that's when it starts to get un-fun for me. Thankfully, we're able to maintain a good balance and thats very important to me. Those other guys are definitely a part of it. It's gotta be a team, otherwise it's not going to work. I think we're a band full of personalities and J is a great songwriter and bass player and a solid friend . REV (drummer, REV SWANK) is the life of every party and the after party -
TOMMY: And the last one to go to bed.
EVAN: As far as myself - I'm the mom and the workhorse of the band, and I'm okay with that, and TOMMY is my boy.
TOMMY, what is it like having EVAN up in front of a band like FIXER?
TOMMY: It's very hard to put into words, because I've been out there and I've seen alot of other bands and nobody connects with the crowd like he does. Especially with where we're at right now. I can only dream and imagine about MADISON SQUARE GARDEN and how he's going to captivate the entire audience there. Every night is an absolute blast ! His professionalism comes through on stage and in how much of a pain in the ass he can be about wanting the monitors to be the way they are. It's all about making the show run smoothly when the time comes. Everyone knows that when you are onstage and you can't hear yourself sing, it sucks. It's the worst thing in the world. Everyone has their own little thing on the stage, but he really has a way of looking at one person and going "I've got 'em" and moves on, yet doesn't forget about them. It goes back to guys like DAVID LEE ROTH or STEVE TYLER and the charisma that they bring to the stage that is lacking in a lot of the modern rock bands that are coming out now. I heard EVAN say earlier that you really can't tell one from the other, because they all sound the same.
They're very faceless.
TOMMY: Yeah! And EVAN has a face and he'll get right up in yours if you don't believe him. That's what I love about him.
A face and gorgeous hair by the way!
EVAN: Thank you! I haven't washed it many weeks.
You kind of touched on this already but I'll ask the question anyway. Explain, if you can, the creative process. How does a song go from something you hear in your head to something one hears over the speakers?
EVAN: It's very collaborative and I think thats the beauty of FIXER, because it comes together only by force of four seasons coming together and making it. If I come up with an idea or a song, it's definitely not what it sounds like when it gets to the record when we all put our piece on it. TOMMY brings some great new ideas and some riffs to the table. We all contribute to every bit of the vibe and the message that we're sending out and I want to say that while we're creative people and pulled from different stories or imagintive parts of our brains, alot of what we write about is personal experience.
Are there any tracks from BEFORE THE SUN that stand out for you at this time?
EVAN: I've actually been asked this question before and at the risk of being redundant, I want to say that alot of the favorites that I've had, have evolved being on the road because I feel like I'm the shaman messenger of our people and I feel what the crowd feels and some of my favorites have changed because I can see what the crowd favorites are.
What are the crowd favorites?
EVAN: Because our record is so diverse, it's awesome to be up there. Earlier today, when I hadn't had any wine, I said that one of my favorite songs was DIRTY GIRL because its really rowdy and everybody gets up. Now, I'm thinking that one of my favorite songs is TUXEDO because it's a trippy nine-minute journey and if you get it it's awesome. I feel the songs on this album definitely allow us to stand on our own and TUXEDO is definitely one of them.
How about you TOMMY?
TOMMY: I pretty much agree with EVAN. What sets us apart from other bands is our live show and I'm actually starting to think that a lot of bands aren't going to want to play with us because they'd get their asses kicked when we hit the stage. It is a cocky thing to say, but you can see the momentum and the vibe that the people in the band have and as soon as we're done and another band gets up there, it's gonna be a tough act to follow. It's like you said earlier, all these bands now are faceles and each of the songs on this album has a different face to it and each song is going to grab you in a very different way. I think the music connects on all kinds of different levels.
How long did it take to record this album?
EVAN: This album took about ten months to record. That does sound like a long time, but I'd like to remind you that at that time, we completely self-financed the record. We were recording it with a friend of ours, JEREMY BORER. He produced the record with us and because we didn't have much money, we had to take the midnight shift in the studio and go work day jobs for almost a year. We definitely got great results, but we went at a snail's pace and then RIKER HILL RECORDS came along and picked up that record and it was remixed and remastered and we added one new song which is called 'WHAT IT'S LIKE' and that song is getting a really good response as well. That's basically how that record came together. One more thing to be excited about is 'what is the next one going to sound like?', because now we have the freedom to be full-time musicians and we have some financial backing and now we have TOMMY on board.
How long is the tour supposed to last?
EVAN: Before we signed with RIKER HILL, we had done two national tours. Right at the end of the second one, we had run out of money completely and were totally burned out. We were on the west coast.
TOMMY: As far away from home a possible.
EVAN: And we drove back and signed the deal and kept the ball rolling and recorded some stuff and then we went right back out. I mean, you're asking how long - I really don't know. This tour that we're on is two and a half months. It's just over forty dates with new ones being added all of the time. The plan is to wrap up in New York with a homecoming show, take a week off around the Fourth of July, and then there is whole other one being lined up. I think the idea is that the label wants to keep us on the road, and we want to be on the road.That's how this is going to happen! This is a band that's going to stick around for years.
What do you want someone to come away with after hearing the album or seeing you guys live?
TOMMY: I personally want people to have a long lasting memory of this album. Everybody has that song that reminds them of something that's happened. Today, we were driving in the van and this LISA LOEB song came on. It reminded me of ex-girlfriend and I was able to connect with that song and when you hear a song from FIXER, I want it to be more personal than saying "I went to bank one day and I heard this band on the radio." You want to have that personal connection with the fans and I want people to walk away with a fun, warm feeling.
EVAN: I like what TOMMY just said. I remember in high school where every couple had their own song. I think that is an awesome answer. I just want to add to that about the live shows. I want people to come away thinking that the next time we come around that they can't miss this band. I want it to feel like Christmas. I want it to be this event that comes around once ayear and that you have to make time for it.