ACIDIC ~ Up-and-Coming, Up Close and Personal

Written by on June 3, 2010 in Interviews, June 3, 2010 - Comments Off on ACIDIC ~ Up-and-Coming, Up Close and Personal

All Access Magazine meets band members on their own Westside turf

AcidicOn a mellow Friday afternoon in West Los Angeles, All Access Magazine met with local rockers ACIDIC for a friendly chat at the band’s rehearsal space – a nondescript shoebox called a “lock-out,” in an unassuming building on an ordinary side-street, parallel to the San Diego Freeway. Well, actually, three-fourths of the band was in attendance, while bassist Ted Dubrawski was off in San Diego on an unexpected matter. Drummer Matt Whitaker and road manager Andrew Untersee showed up first, with guitarist Michael Thompson and lead vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Michael Gossard following soon, ready for music, fellowship and conversation. A phone call near the end of the interview made sure that Ted wasn’t left out. With instruments at the ready for practice, the lads took time to reflect on ACIDIC’s progress, success and plans for the future.

All Access Magazine ~ Michael Gossard, we see that you turned 18 this week, so how do you feel about reaching this so-called age of consent and maturity?

Michael G. ~ Right, so I can join the Service and get my head blown off in a foreign land, but not in a bar!

AAM ~ So since you’re not quite old enough to buy a brew, how did you spend your birthday?

Michael G. ~ Let’s just say that it was an insane night – you know, when you turn 18, ya gotta go the whole shebang, and I went the whole shebang – it was a thoroughly wholesome time!

AAM ~ Well, it has certainly been a time of milestones for you and the band in the past year. It seems so recent that you were releasing the “Ironic Dreams” CD, and now here you are showcasing another release, “Getting Lucky,” which you did at the Whisky A Go-Go in April. And now we’re hearing how the last cut on that CD, “Maybe,” is climbing up the charts on the Adult Contemporary playlists, that’s awesome. And we saw that in performance, you’ve been taking the opportunity to step away from front-and-center on stage, heading out into the crowd like you did at the Whisky, getting closer and mingling with the fans. Tell us, have you done any actual “crowd-surfing” yet?

AcidicMichael G. ~ Not yet – I’m working on it!

AAM ~ Matt, something else we noticed at the Whisky show was when you guys played “Retrograde” from the new CD. It came off so strong at the club, and we see that both live and on the record, it has a powerful Led Zeppelin vibe ~ so what do you think, could you see maybe doing a pummeling solo in the middle, like John Bonham?

Matt ~ That would be awesome! No, I haven’t taken the time to do it yet, but maybe I should.

AAM ~ Have you ever played with four sticks, like Bonham did?

Matt ~ Yeah, but not on stage

AAM ~ And Matt, we heard that you’ll get your braces off in a couple of days, right?

Matt ~ Finally! Yeah, it’s been a long time, and I plan to eat an apple – you know, something really difficult like that.

AAM ~ So let’s take a look at some ACIDIC music now. We see that you’re having some good success with that song “Maybe,” which is kind of like a power-ballad, wouldn’t you say?

Mike T. ~ Yeah, sort of like Coldplay meets old Red Hot Chili Peppers … it’s got a real harmonious feel. And now we’re getting airplay in Wyoming, Colorado, Illinois, various cities around the Midwest … and we’ve gotten some play in New York, and around the country.

AAM ~ So this band has come a long way, since we first met an earlier version of ACIDIC about three years ago. Michael Gossard, when we first saw you, you were teamed with the brothers Kyle and Chris Lynch, yet you had already been pals with Ted Dubrawski for a long time before that, but you didn’t start ACIDIC with him, how’s that?

Mike G. ~ You know, he was “standoffish” at first, because I asked him to play! He always thought I was a little bit strange, I was “that kid” in elementary school, the little alienated one, I was always getting into trouble. And then finally, a couple of years later, I came to him with these tracks I had recorded, and asked him to be in my band, and he was just slightly un-weird enough for me to be cohesive with. So we got together and jammed, and we were cool. And I had this string of five songs that I wrote, that became the first CD, and we took it from there.

AAM ~ Okay, now Ted’s a surfer, so how about you – did you ever surf?

Mike G. ~ I tried once, and I got really rolled, like right into the wringer, or whatever they call it. I tried to stand up, but then I was trying to belly-surf that badass wave all the way to the shore, but then I fell sideways, and that was it.

AAM ~ So you’re not a surfer, not a skater either. But back to music, with your look and demeanor, it seems you could almost have gone in an “emo” direction, no offense intended, what do you think about that?

AcidicMike G. ~ Yeah, I could have, almost – but my hair has a curl to it, it’s not straight, so that wouldn’t have worked! But you wanna know why I didn’t go that route? Seriously, my path was clear when I saw that movie with Val Kilmer about The Doors. I saw it and said, “That guy was awesome!” And from there I was unequivocally, irrevocably launched in that direction, I saw his swagger, and I knew that I wanted to be that person. So I started listening to that music, and it just came out of me. I suppose it could have been different if I had been listening to 30 Seconds to Mars or Fallout Boy.

AAM ~ So now, speaking of the music that has been coming out of you for the past few years, we see here on your new CD that you did re-workings of two songs that appeared on the first disk, “Strata Red” and “Move On.” What was the incentive to re-do those tracks? “Strata Red” and “Move On”?

Mike G. ~ Well, our producer, Andrew Bojanic, helped us with that. You know, he’s one-half of “The Wizardz of Oz,” our production team for this new CD, and Liz Hooper is the other half. Well, I was walking down the hall with Andrew, when I was talking to him, I said there were two songs I thought we could do better with, and those were “Strata Red” and “Move On,” and he said, “Okay!” And we had a really interesting time, because we had 13 songs prepared, and we nailed just about every one, the first time every time, for the album cuts, and that’s really something. Because normally, you know, bands will write 25, 35 songs for an album, and we had 13, and just one of them got rejected because it wasn’t fully ready. But it was incredible, we just walked in there one day, and we started playing, and it was the next step up, with this new batch of songs, beyond stuff like “Break Me Down” and “Ironic Dreams” on the last album.

Mike T. ~ And wasn’t it just like working with a rock-’n’-roll coach? Occasionally he’d look at Matt and say, “You need to tighten it up on the high-hat,” or at me and say, “You need to switch to another effects selection,” or at Ted and go, “You want to go an octave up.” And then with Liz, she’s like “the voice,” she was so much fun to work with, it was crazy. She has this accent, like “straight off the boat” Australian, and she’d say stuff like, “That was rockin’ – that was just amazing!”

AAM ~ So as good as that experience was with The Wizardz of Oz, are you intending to work with them in the future, on collaborations to come?

AcidicMike G. ~ Well, we haven’t talked about anything officially, but we’d very much like to. It’s all unofficial and up in the air right now, but we do continue to work with them on an unofficial basis, and we had a business meeting, and we played one of our new songs we’ve been writing, and Andrew had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen, he was so happy, he said it was great –

Mike T. ~ And I definitely think we have his interest for the future!

AAM ~ And so, Michael Gossard, talking about writing songs and being musical, well, you’ve been playing music since you were a toddler, we hear, but how and when did you first start writing your own songs?

Mike G. ~The first song I ever wrote, when I was 13, was “Lost the Will,” which became Track 2 on “Ironic Dreams.” You know, I had like a hundred riffs, I’d been playing since I was three years old, but I wanted to flesh out. I didn’t want to just be the kid playing “Iron Man” or all the other old standards. I wanted to try my own progressions, and it really came out all right the first time. And then I wrote “Move On,” which has gone through a lot of different versions.

AAM ~ When do you think “Black Box” came along?

Mike T ~ Oh, yeah, “Black Box” came along before “Move On,” but about in that same period, when I was struck with inspiration. I was so happy, playing my own music.

AAM ~ And when you play, the red Fender in your hands seems to be your main “baby,” but on the CD we see this clear Lucite axe. Which is your favorite?

Mike G. ~ I play them both about equally, but this is my  “basic babe” –

Mike T. ~ The one you rely on for those shows –

Mike G. ~ And then I have this black Telecaster, it’s kind of the runt of the family.

Mike T. ~ My “basic babe” would be this guitar right here, the “Iceman” here [the white Ibanez]. I also have a Gibson SG, which is beautiful. But it’s also more complicated. The thing I like about the SG is that it’s so light. It’s not as much weight on the shoulder, to slow me down, so I should have more freedom to move around. Yeah, the Iceman is heavier, but it’s comfortable. So right now I’m kind of on the fence about it.

AAM ~ And as for you, Matt, what brand drums and cymbals do you use?

Matt ~ This is my “basic babe,” the Gretz Renowned. And I have two floor-toms, a 16-inch and a 14, but I really only use the 16, because the 14 is kind of temperamental. You really have to tune the whole kit to that one tom. The best drum I have is the snare drum, the Ludwig “Black Beauty,” I can’t tune it bad, no matter how I tune it, it sounds great.

AAM ~ For the uninitiated, what do you mean by “tuning,” for something you’re basically hitting with a stick to make a loud sound?

AcidicMatt ~ Well, it has to do with the heads, how tight I make them with these lugs on the sides, to sound higher or deeper. Now, about cymbals, I have a Zildjian here, but I do also have a Sabian. And I have a Neil Peart signature gong, and a Sabian Oriental chime, among other items.

AAM ~ Michael Gossard, going back to the history of the band, how long have you known Ted Dubrawski?

Mike G. ~ I knew Ted in grade school, so we’re talking like 13 years or so.

AAM ~ And Matt, how long have you known Michael?

Matt ~ About three years. I was around when the Lynch brothers were still around.

AAM ~ And still later, Michael Thompson, we understand the band was doing a search for another guitarist, to round out the sound. How were you found?

Mike T. ~ I had played guitar for a while, and I had some friends I used to hang out with and practice with, like once a week, but I wanted to practice every day, to be in a real band. It was something I wanted to do for a career. I wanted to go places and do things. So I went onto Craigslist and started to reply to any ad at all that needed a guitar player, bass player, I even went in once as a drummer! And I found a Nine Inch Nails cover band, and I’m a huge Nine Inch Nails fan, you could name any song of theirs and I can play it. So I found out that these guys were great musicians, but … after a while, it turned out that the lead singer and I did not mesh well at all, so I ended up splitting. And I bounced around, and found some really good acts – with music that I just could not stand. I’d find this group, all great, nice guys, super kind, good on their instruments, but the music they played just made me want to kill myself. So then I found another ad on Craigslist, for a band that was looking to fatten their sound, I think it was actually ACIDIC manager Mary Lyon who posted that one, and I replied. Now, I had gotten so desperate in my search that I thought it could be more effective if I posted myself playing on YouTube, so acts would know what they were getting before they brought me in. And Michael Gossard apparently really took to the video I posted, a song by System of a Down, and the rest is history.

AAM ~ From Nine Inch Nails to System of a Down – that’s a pretty wide range of tastes, like apples and oranges!

Mike T. Well, I didn’t start out as a fan of Nine Inch Nails when I listened to their studio recordings. But one night I saw KROQ’s “Almost Acoustic Christmas,” and the lineup included Rise Against, Avenged Sevenfold, Korn, Fallout Boy – I don’t know why! – System of a Down, and Nine Inch Nails, up last. Now, I only wanted to see System of a Down, and when Nine Inch Nails came on, I was really skeptical. But they took the stage, and afterwards I was a fan for life. They were something else entirely, a whole ’nother group, live. But then again, when I first met Matt, he was so resistant to Nine Inch Nails. But I told him, keep listening, and then one day you’re gonna find one song you like, and from there it’s gonna be downhill, you’ll find another song and another, and you’ll be a fan.

AAM ~ What happened with that plan, Matt?

Matt ~ Well, I started listening to them live, and I really dug the drumming, and then they played “I’m Afraid of Americans,” and I just loved it, and it’s like he said, just downhill from there, I hate to admit it! I can listen to it and not cringe. I don’t like it all, but I like some.

AAM ~ And how about System of a Down?

Matt ~ I like some of it.

Mike T. – It’s really funny, System of a Down was my first love, it’s what really got me into music. I worked their music into the ground, and I still do, and yet at the same I can completely understand how you can not like them. They are weird, they are off the wall – and that’s why I like them.

Mike G. ~ That’s something I’ve always loved about some bands – they can have a certain distinctive sound. I want that to happen for us – for a song to come on the radio, and someone to say, “That’s ACIDIC!”

AAM ~ Now, speaking of playing live, it’s great how you got so much coverage so far this year at the Whisky, following in the footsteps of Jim Morrison and The Doors, among others. So during your promotional efforts lately, have you gotten to know any other bands that are also on the same “local loop”?

Mike G. ~ You know, everybody and their mothers want to play there, and we got know a lot of bands, that was really cool. But there’s conflict, angling for the better time slots, and definitely a divide between what should be and what it is. Still, the Whisky is a landmark with a draw, that’s for sure.

AAM ~ And on another local note, during the Memorial Day weekend you’re playing Six Flags Magic Mountain, right?

Mike G. ~ Yes, two sets.

AAM ~ And then comes the summer! So where are you going to go with this new, improved version of ACIDIC?

Mike G. ~ I’ve been talking about this for the past three years – New York and Philadelphia, for starters. We want to do it right, not just on a whim, and so we’ve been talking to touring agents, seeing what we can do, seeing about festivals and clubs, aiming ourselves, in light of our radio play, towards having a Fall Tour.

AAM ~ When do you guys see yourselves going to Europe?

Mike G. ~ Uh, hard to say –

Matt ~ We want to go to Australia!

AAM ~ And speaking of foreign countries, we see that on the ACIDIC Website, there are photos of how your stickers are getting stuck up on roadsigns over in the Netherlands – what’s up, do you have a fan base over there?

Mike G. ~ We have sold some CDs over there. And not only that, I don’t know why, but I’ve heard talk about India!

AAM ~ And since we hear you’re already looking forward to more recording, about how many songs do you have in the bag?

Mike G. ~ About six – about half of a CD – and I have a lot more in the closet!

AAM ~ And while you work on more, tell us again, what are you doing this summer?

Mike G. ~ We’re going all over. We’re gonna be playing a lot of clubs, like in Illinois, and we’re gonna do private parties. And we’re just gonna branch out, we’re gonna do a lot of different stuff. We’re working hard on that push, to be playing in bigger places.

AAM ~ We want to know, what are you doing about school?

Mike G. ~ I’m going to Musicians Institute. Ted left there about a month ago.

Matt ~ I’m not going to Loyola next year, I’m probably going to go to a community college. And if I actually have to get a job, yeah, maybe I might give lessons.

AAM ~ And finally, courtesy of Road Manager Andrew, we now have bassist Ted Dubrawski on the phone from San Diego, to round out our band interview of ACIDIC. Ted – how are you doing down there in San Diego?

Ted ~ Things are going good! Sorry I couldn’t be there.

AAM ~ Well, we didn’t want you to feel left out. So tell us, Ted, are you looking forward to summer?

Ted ~ Yeah, all four of us want to get out there on tour. We have a lot of time and resources, so we’ll see what we can make of it.

AAM ~ We were just talking about education, and we know you took some coursework at Musicians Institute, where Michael Gossard is also planning to study. Tell us more.

Ted ~ I was in the Luthier Certification curriculum, which teaches you how to build and repair and service stringed instruments, and it was about six months, and I got all the skills I need, as well as the tools. I can highly recommend that school.

AAM ~ Obviously you learned about guitars and basses, but did you learn about any other exotic instruments, such as mandolins, dobros or banjos?

Ted ~ No, the coursework I took was specifically for electric instruments. They do provide another section for the other instruments, but I was unable to take it.

AAM ~ Well, Ted, have you done any fancy work like abalone inlay yet?

Ted ~ Man, I am almost there! I am collecting tools right now, and I want to get into that – abalone, mother-of-pearl, any kind of inlay, really.

AAM ~ So do you feel like a luthier now?

Ted ~ I can’t tell. But I sit in my room with my guitar, and now I know every single little detail and flaw in my instrument. So if I’m not one hundred percent a luthier yet, I’m almost there.

AAM ~ Both a musician and a technical master of your instrument, that’s beautiful. Ted, we’re all really glad we got in touch with you today. And just to let you know, in your absence, Michael Gossard took a stab at filling your shoes, playing bass on “Black Box” and “Maybe.”

Ted ~ Sounds good!

AAM ~ Yes, it did! Hey, everybody, let’s give a good “rock-and-roll” shout-out for Ted!

Michael, Michael, Ted and Andrew ~ ROCK AND ROLL!