· By Rachel Clinesmith

Interview with Prolific Musician RYAN SHUCK (Julien K, Adema, Orgy)

You started out your career in a band with Jonathan Davis, right? Some of the bigger early Korn songs were co-written by you. What can you tell us about that?

 

My first experience in music was with one of the greatest singers on Earth, Jonathan Davis. That's something that I think really set the standard for me, and showed me the level that things could be at. The level that things SHOULD be at when you're doing this type of thing professionally. When you hear someone like Jonathan sing next to you in the same room, you get chills. He sounded like that even when we were kids.

Granted, he still hadn't become the Jonathan that's in Korn now, years and years and years later. Of course, we’ve all become so much better at what we do, but he was unmistakably exceptional and incredible then. I think that stuck with me forever. Later on, working with Chester Bennington, who was my best friend as well as my bandmate. We did a ton of work together. I think that singers with that kind of talent are what I've gravitated towards, and that's been a huge influence on me. I've been lucky enough to have that lead to success for me, and to be part of my success that also shaped me as a singer.

 

Chester was a great loss.

 

Yeah.


I was working with someone who was working with Club Tattoo, at the time he died. So we were in contact with Sean Dowdell, (who started the first band with Chester,) when he passed. And it was very emotional. I'm so sorry for your loss.

 

Sean is one of my best friends. Chester, Sean and I were “Three Musketeers” level of friendship and brotherhood. Chester used to live here with me. We recorded a lot of Dead by Sunrise and the Julien-K album in this studio. A lot of the songs were written on this couch over here. His passing was a catastrophic break-the-universe level event for all of us, but I’m still grateful to this day for everything I learned from him, and even just to have been in the same room with him for thousands and thousands of hours of my life. I'll carry that forever. So in a lot of ways, he still lives on, and his positive effects are forever.

 

Was Chester still doing recording with you after Dead by Sunrise? 

 

Yeah, we worked together for years. Obviously, when he would work with Linkin Park he’d have to focus on that, and when he worked with Grey Daze, he’d have to focus on that. But there's a whole lot of hang time, and a whole lot of in-between. When we worked on Dead By Sunrise, we all lived together here, and we focused on that, and the first Julien-K album. We're friends, so we weren't necessarily doing it as some big business venture. We did it because we wanted to make music together. We liked the songs that we were writing. So, we also really understood that, with Linkin Park being what it was, you have to be respectful of that and really accommodate it. So we would just take the time when we could to make this stuff happen.

 

That's awesome. You co-founded Orgy with Jay Gordon?

 

Yeah, twenty-two years ago, we created Orgy, sort of as part of a backlash that was going on in music. Korn was dominating, and I was really lucky to be part of that. I met the guys, Jay and Amir, who became Orgy. A lot of people knew about me because of my co-writing of “Blind” and some of the initial Korn stuff. Jonathan and the guys were all super cool. They connected me with Jay, and they wanted me to do music. I was a hairdresser at the time, and very much a fashionable-looking guy that was a musician. With Korn kind of dominating music, everyone kind of tried to look like Korn. They had a really cool, unique look. I think that we were all like-minded in that we wanted to look different. We wanted to make everything very different, but still be heavy. Given my background in hairdressing, and fashion, and design,and all of this worked together really well musically, and aesthetically, and Orgy was born.

 

Not just born, but genre-defining! It was such a unique sound, for sure.


Yeah, it really was. I recently did an international listening with a big podcast, and they had people, like pages and pages and pages of people, on Zoom. People from all over the world that didn't speak English, and they were all listening. We listened to the first Orgie album, front to back, and we commented on it, and we talked about it. Warner Brothers later pulled it down, of course, because you're apparently not allowed to play your own music for people. It's fucking insane. Still, it was so cool to see people from South America, Europe, Japan, Asia, and America. I was getting to watch them listen to the songs, and just completely know not just every word, but every guitar part, and drum hit. It really hit me because I don't go back and listen to that music a lot. I'm always making new music. I mean, sometimes we'll go back and listen to this stuff for albums. Like, for Harmonic Disruptor we really wanted to go back to our roots, and kind of recapture what Orgy had created because no one's doing it. So Amir and I obviously are a massive part of the way that sounds because we're the guitar players, and we program and produce, and I sing on the albums as well. We knew that we could go back and capture that, and deliver that in a modern format with Harmonic Disruptor. So, we listened to the early stuff then.

But listening to it with fans from all over the world, like 20 something years later, that was a really fun thing to do. It really made me feel really good, and it made me remember what it was that we did. When you're in it and you live it, sometimes you forget the effect it had on people and what it did for music.

 

Absolutely. That's amazing. Speaking of the fashion stuff that you were talking about, you also did some modeling with Calvin Klein while playing with Orgy, right?

 

Yeah, Calvin Klein, they had a really good idea, and that was to have a lot of the most genre-defining bands do a major shoot wearing Calvin Klein stuff and apply the clothing in the way that we would wear it, which obviously that's a bit of a long shot for Orgy. They picked Jay and I, and they were going to give us billboards in New York, and LA and all sorts of press. I still have magazines, like giant, really cool magazines in my lounge where I'm like, the centerfold. I mean, it's incredible. They put me on a Billboard in New York, and it's just incredible. When we got there, we shot with Stephen Klein, which is a major fashion photographer. They’d just shot a really famous shoot with Brad Pitt in the same studio, and Calvin Klein was there, and that was all really cool. We went to New York and shot with MTV, and then we went to shoot with Calvin Klein. Calvin was like, “hey, just go back to the warehouse and grab what you want.” I was like, “oh, you guys don't have an idea for me?” They're like, “No, just go do what you do.” So I'm like, “okay, well, this will be tricky.” 


So, I went back there, and then I came back out and I go, “do you have a girls section?” And they started laughing, and they're like, “well, what do you mean?” I said “I wear girls jeans because none of these jeans fit.” They were just like, “What? Okay?” So, I went into the back and I got low-cut jeans that fit like women's jeans. Now? That's really common. But back then? it wasn't.

 

This was maybe 2000. Because we started in like 1998. We were extremely popular. In late ‘99 to 2007, we had, like a ten year stretch where we couldn't go to a grocery store without being accosted by people.

Anyway, I put on those low-cut jeans, and I came out with my shirt off going, “hey, what should we wear?” And they were like, “that's amazing! Just wear that.” So we did the shoot, and I just ended up doing it shirtless with these low cut jeans on, and, boy, I saw Calvin and his people talking quietly and pointing. I don't know if that went into their calculus for later on, lowering waistlines, but I definitely noticed that over the years. The influence that bands like us, I think, had on bringing fashion in these full circles was apparent because, at the time, everyone was wearing Dickies, and sagging their jeans, and all this kind of baggy stuff, and everyone looked like they worked at a gas station. Then here we came out with eyeliner, and lipstick, and painted nails and low-cut jeans that were fitting, and looked like fashion androids. I definitely think that kind of showed people there's another way to be heavy.

 

Shortly after that is when they started having low-cut jeans, and the skinny jeans for men started coming out. I think it was definitely a huge influence. You had your own clothing line, “Replicant,” right?

 

I did, yeah. I started Replicant with a friend of mine, Shadow. He was one of the guys I met through the Korn guys. We initially started kind of just having some fun, and made a couple of pieces that I thought would be cool that I could wear on stage. At the time, Hot Topic was the big retailer. A lot of people don't know this, but they were bigger than everybody in the day, because of market penetration. They had, I think, 2 or 300 stores. I can't remember what it was, but it was some incredible number that just dwarfed Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom's, and all the other stuff that people would think that were bigger. Hot Topic just destroyed them. Hot Topic was who we were selling to initially, because that was the retailer you wanted to be in. They were really good, and they dug what we did, and they made an order. I went on MTV, and Hot Topic and I talked about it, and they got so many orders, that they had to pull stuff off the fucking press, and off the fucking tables to get it to them.

 

They ended up coming back, and making the bigger order. I mean, like a $100,000, or $200,000 order. We had a voice, and we were getting the free publicity of going on MTV, and doing all the commercial work that I could basically do for free. We created this brand, and then we got Chester involved. The funny story there is that the seed money to make our first order, that ten grand we needed, came from Korn. I mean, that was just nice. I think we went over to his house in Huntington and got the ten grand, and we made our stuff, and then sold it, and gave them the money back. That's how cool the Korn guys have been to us, and how family-oriented so much of the stuff that we've done has been.


I mean, think about how awesome that is? You just drive over to your Buddy's house, who happens to be the guitar player of Korn, and he's nice enough to just give you $10,000 to start a T-shirt line. They're just so fucking cool. They're just such good guys, right?


Absolutely. I love that. You also had an impact on Chester Bennington’s clothing line as well, following this, right?

 

Because Chester got involved in Replicant, for a while before we ended up not doing it anymore. I did go model, and help support Chester’s line. We did do some press. We got on a plane during a tour and flew some places to do launch stuff, and conventions, and stuff like that. Pretty much anything Chester did, I would always be first in line to offer my support, and just be part of it. He always seemed to include me as part of the look, or feel, or inspiration, or design for whatever it was he was doing. Likewise, him for me. That's what made things, in my opinion, so fun. Just being his friend, and being like-minded, and interested in all this kind of stuff, and wanting to make the clothing that we wanted to wear. Wanting to do more than music, wanting to make sure that we were actually friends through all of this because we both love playing with our friends and all cool stuff.

 

I mean, running a clothing line is a full time thing on its own. Tell me how Julien-K came about.

 

Julien-K was sort of an accident that happened as Orgy disintegrated. We were going to the studio every day to an expensive recording studio for Orgy, because we're a popular band that made lots of money, and we would go there every day with the band. Unfortunately, the singer wouldn't come. Ever. Just never came. The band would show up every day, and we would write music, and not really be able to do anything with it because we had no singer. They were kind of MIA during that period. At some point, it just kind of disintegrated. We're like, “why are we going to come do this?” It was probably a year, plus. Then we would try to get together, try to get stuff to happen, and nothing would happen. In the meantime, Amir and I kept writing music, and we really strongly felt that Orgy should really double-down more on what made it different. I know that, at the time, and just judging from the more recent few songs that Orgy has done, Jay seems to really want to go more in the direction of Korn and the heavier, screaming kind of stuff.

 

We were like, well, that's not really what made our fans like us. That's not what made us stand out. We had this extremely unique thing. We had extremely unique vocals and lyrics and extremely unique guitar tones, and we could actually continue to be genre-defining, and that's what we wanted to do. So, Amir and I kept writing electronic music, and then we'd go back to Orgy, and sort of what was becoming more and more like a live hard rock band with no singer. We wrote a lot of these initial songs hoping that Orgy would do them, and nothing was happening. So we were looking for a singer to kind of do this possible side project. We didn't know what it would be called, and then we figured maybe we could do these songs as an Electro act, and just DJ. That way, it wouldn't interfere with Orgy. A lot of time was spent not trying to interfere with Orgy and trying to make sure that we were available for Orgy. Then, finally Chester came in and heard the songs, and he's like, “These are awesome, you should just be the singer.” I was like, “oh, you're out of your mind!” Amir was agreeing with Chester. He was like, “Dude, he sings the Orgy stuff live, he sings on the albums.” He's like, “you should just be the singer.” He writes vocals. So I took a stab at singing it. Then, we got hired by Sega to do a really big song for “Sonic: the Hedgehog”. They hired us out to do, like, the video game theme song. So, I sang and everything, and they bought it, and it became really popular. We were like, “What?” But, Sonic the Hedgehog has a massive fan base, in the hundreds of millions.

 

From there, I started singing on legitimate Julien-K stuff, and we started getting label offers. (Go figure!) While, more and more, Orgy just wasn't happening. We would continue to reach out, and say, “Hey, guys, let's do this. I have a recording studio that I'm sitting in here right now. It's a really nice studio. I have everything. I have a beautiful house that everyone can come and work at!” and it was just a no-go. Still, we continued to develop Julien-K, and we finally were working with Chester on a Julien-K album, when he wanted to be in the band. Which was completely weird, but that's how Dead By Sunrise started. We were like, “why don't we make a band for you? Like Julien-K, but you get to be the singer!” So, we did this all during the summer altogether, living here at the house with my studio on my property. I think this was before 2007? Maybe, right after I moved in here, and had my pretty amazing set up here.

It was designed for artists to come live with me, and work, and stay, and create music. The entire house is wired. We have bays in the walls. Places you can slide open a door, so you can just record everywhere. It's really kind of amazing, and very self indulgent. Once we started touring, we started getting real offers, and one of the best offers was Project Revolution with Linkin Park. They took us out with them, and that led to tons of stuff. We toured with Evanescence, Mindless Self indulgence, Combichrist, and all sorts of bands. We went out there, and did a massive amount of touring. Unfortunately, the label situation that we were in, the company that we'd started at ended up having a whole lot of legal issues that weren't related to us, and they didn't allow us to release our album. So we really hit a bunch of bumps. Still, we finally got the album back, and released it through Metropolis and got back out there and toured and then slowly put a career back together. After all that crazy shit with Orgy, and then this company that we couldn't release our music on, and doing Dead By Sunrise, and all this crazy stuff that had happened, we finally, in 2022, have a pretty bulletproof, cash-flowing label, two bands, (Adema, and Julien-K,) a decent touring business and all of the above.

 

It's pretty rare for someone to have done what you've done, as far as finding success with multiple different bands over your career. Where something winds down, and you pick up something else, and it's big again. That's really impressive.

 

Thank you! Yeah, it is crazy. It doesn't happen twice usually, let alone three times, right?


You also did music with her Transformers game, right, with Julien-K.


We did Transformers. We did a lot of stuff. We did Underworld, which was kind of like a Dead by Sunrise/Julien-K thing. We scored that Transformers video game, which was really good and quite lucrative, actually. Scored a couple of movies too!


How did you get involved with Adema? I know that's more recent.

 

Yeah. I've known the guys in Adema since I started my first band with Jonathan. Dave, the bass player, was actually our bass player in our very first band, where a lot of this kind of music came from. Obviously, when Jonathan left and joined Korn, they really led the way and really broke open the way. Then, shortly after came Orgy, and then after that came Adema. Those guys are mostly younger, except for Dave, who is my age. They were Orgy fans. When I heard what they were doing in Adema, I really loved it. I thought it was really, really cool shit. It was like a really logical kind of progression of all the stuff that we were pioneering in Orgy, and things that Korn did. Then, they kind of brought this whole unique twist on it. They were all really good songs, and I just loved that they had hooks, and all this cool stuff. I was friends with them from the beginning, and even before the beginning.


I watched as they blew up. Then I watched the classic thing, where the singer brings the whole thing down. Drugs and alcohol. Kind of the same thing that happened with Orgy, where they’re just not showing up, and all that kind of stuff. It definitely got me in my heart, because I've lived it. A few years ago, I was trying to get them to come out with Julien-K on tour, and that was when Marky was singing with them for a very short period of time. I think Marky was sober, and  the guitar player is sober, and I was like, okay, this is like a good time now. They're all at a good place. I really wanted to bring them on tour with Julien-K. So, I talked to Marky. I spent hours on the phone, over multiple calls, and I started getting a little frustrated. I'm like, Why isn't this happening? Finally, on the last call, he told me that he just didn't really like that music anymore, and didn't really want to play it. I wanted to do this new music and wanted me to sing on it.

 

I was like, “okay, that's all cool, but you don't want to do Adema? I don't understand. You're in a band that gets offered money every fucking night to play, and you don't want to go play? It's good songs, and you wrote them!” I didn't understand it. Once I realized that he didn't want to do it, or at least he told me that, I was done. I hung up the phone, I called the guys, “I'm so sorry. Normally I can get anyone to see the light, because I'm pretty good at it, and he's just not seeing the light. I'm sorry. It looks like the band's done. I love you guys. Let me know if I can help you with anything else. Looks like we're not going to go on tour together.” About six or eight months later, Chris Coles called me and goes, “Hey, man, we got offered another big tour, and we really want to do it.” I go, “Man, I'm so sorry.” He goes, “Well, you sing.” I was like, “I don't know.” I called Amir, and Amir said, “Well, do you like the songs?” And I did. He was like, “Okay, well, you have to go see if you sound good singing them, and if you don't sound good, then don't do it. But if you sound good, then it might be fun.”

So, I went out to Bakersfield in secret, and went to a rehearsal with them, and everyone was kind of like, “wow, no one's ever really done it as good as you're doing it. It's really good. Fuck, people are going to like this.” I was like, Okay, well, people actually will probably hate it in the beginning, but after we do what we do, and they see what I do with you guys on stage and how it all works, they're going to start to buy it. They were like, “yeah, this will be fun!” So, we went out, and I agreed to do that tour. I figured, if it went well, then we could make some new songs and see how it goes. We went out on the tour, and I had people after the show coming up with tears in their eyes telling me that I did it right, and they were so happy I was doing this with this band. “We love this band, we miss this band. This band needs to be out here. It needs to be making music!”

I was sold.

So, we came home. I knew that, when you play a tour, you're only playing for thousands out of the millions of fans that buy their music. So, there's still going to be a lot of people out there that are undersighted, and people that hate Orgy, and hate Julien-K, and they hate that I'm some bisexual, or whatever it is they don't like. They call me all sorts of nasty names. So that's fine. But I was like, well, let's record a new song so we can kind of show all these fuckers what's really going on. We recorded Ready to Die, and a couple of other songs, and we shot a video and released it. The song is now the fourth most listened to song in their entire library. It fucking destroyed. I mean, it absolutely crushed. The comments went from like, “Fuck this, Sissy, we want Marky.” to “Holy fuck, this new singer!” I knew that would happen, but I had to ride the negative horse for about a year and a half while people were talking shit about me, and taking shots at me, before we could prove it. Now we've got a new release coming out this month. We're going to shoot a video tomorrow and it's going to be a more melodic song. I'm going to get a lot of hateful comments because the more melodic stuff gets the heavy crowd all agitated.

The fact of the matter is, Adema's biggest songs have all been melodic. The big, heavy stuff with all the screaming has never been their hits. It's kind of new for me to be in this world, but those fans are the most vocal, and the most unforgiving. They're extremely mean. Unless you're just screaming, they think you're a fucking Pansy. Of course, I think that's pretty lame because Lord knows, I scream all over their shit. Still, it is what it is to me. I think the new song that we're doing is very commercial, and very good. I think people are getting blown away.

 

I'm excited. I can't wait to hear it. Is there anyone you've always wanted to work with but haven't had the chance to yet?

 

I mean, I would love to work with Depeche Mode. That's my favorite band of all time. Given the recent tragedy, even more so. Martin Gore, I'd love to just kind of work on a song with him because he's such an incredible songwriter, and his songwriting is so complex. I've decoded it,  and figured it out, and played it, and done covers, and all that kind of stuff. His songwriting is so clever. It's simple, but it's very clever and I really love to be exposed to that. I guess I'll just have to settle for sitting with my acoustic guitar and figuring it out on my own.


Everything you do is so unique in sound. You mentioned Depeche Mode, of course, but what are some of your other biggest influences musically?

 

I always joked that I grew up on Slayer, Metallica, The Cure and Depeche Mode, and that's how you have Orgy, you know what I mean. It's sort of all over the place. I really listen to a lot of the Dark Side kind of stuff, and that world of music. I was very into it, and then I also had a very heavy streak from Dark Angel, Slayer, Metallica. When Soundgarden, and the Seattle stuff came out, that kind of started combining the two, and I really loved all that kind of stuff. Alice in Chains is funny. To be influenced by them, you have to be really careful, because the way they do what they do is so trademark, that if you do melodies like that at all, you're going to sound just like them, which I think speaks to the power of what they did. Soundgarden is really hard to sound like, because they're so weird. It's such weird music with weird tunings, and Chris Kornell has such a unique voice. It's actually quite difficult to rip off. But Depeche Mode and Metallica and Alice in Chains, you can kind of sound like them, and it's dangerous.

 

You've got to be really careful, but those are huge influences on me. Huge, huge influences. There's a lot of modern bands that I love. Korn is a massive influence on me, even though I'm so wrapped up in that world. Like, I know those guys and, and I came up with those guys. I think what they've done, and what they continue to do influences all kinds of heavy music, and that definitely influences me. Jonathan has been someone that kind of paves the way for everyone else. He's a hard singer. He can do all the growls, but Jonathan really almost everything he does is very melodic, and I think that gives a lot of us some solid ground stand on when we want to make actual songs, and not just guttural screaming from beginning to end to please a tiny fragment of the fandom.

 

Is there a particular song or music passage that never fails to move you emotionally?

 

Never Let Me Down is amazing. I mean, the song lyrics are so simple, and it's just so many statements. I'm a recovering addict, and all that really speaks to me. Policy of Truth from Depeche Mode has been super influential. Policy of Truth has whole lines that are really cool. When you continually implement this policy of truth. When you tell the truth about everything, sometimes things can come back to really bite you. Sometimes, you need to hold your tongue. I always thought that was a very clever thing, because what do people always say? “You should just be honest about everything. Don't lie.” All the best people are the most honest people.

Well, I disagree.

I think that there's an interesting tenant in AA, where you basically confess your sins, Right? But you don't just confess your sins to people that it's going to destroy. In other words, what if when you're drunk, and an addict, or using drugs, you did some terrible shit. Then, if you told your wife, or maybe you told your kids, it would fucking destroy them. They wouldn't be able to get over it? Who are you helping out? By being honest at that point, you're not helping them. You’re  actually being selfish. I think that that Depeche Mode song nailed it long before I ever heard that. I thought, “that's such a cool concept.” Fuck, I wish I could be that clever!

 

That's really poignant for sure. This is Vampire Magazine. What is your favorite fictional depiction of vampires?

 

Hands down, Anne Rice. All those books were astounding to me. Just such a super, super cool depiction of vampires with such a cool mythology, and a lot of the physicality and kind of, like, neoscience around the way that they are in those books, where it was just fantastic. That I just love it. Her stuff was just awesome. Something else someone was talking about. I think it was Neil Bloomcamp, who was talking about a movie he wanted to make? Because Neil Bloomcamp is an awesome director who made District Nine, and all these cool things like Elysium, and a bunch of those science-fiction things that people love. He had this insane Vampires in Space concept that was based on some story that I wasn't quick enough to write down. I guess I could go back and write it down, since I don't know what it was. I never thought about this kind of thing being cool at all. But the way this world works is, like, they're actually not this mythical, magical creature. They're actually a science-based creature, and it's like an apex predator that’s always existed. When you're in the same room with this predator, humans feel the way that they feel when they're in the room with a hungry wolf. Their skin will crawl a little bit. Humans have a physical reaction to these creatures, who have, like, a way their brains function different than ours. They're more perceptive, smarter, with a much higher intelligence, and a much higher IQ. They live much longer. There's all this incredible stuff. They're taller. It was just all this super cool stuff, but it was broken down into this, like, almost plausible scientific way, and I fucking loved it. If they make this movie, it's going to be the coolest thing ever. Basically, in the future, we know about these things. We know about this other species, and they're part of our world, and some of them are, like, Commanders in the space fleet, or whatever fucking madness. They have different eyes, and they can see things differently than we do and everything. It's just, oh, my God, it was the coolest concept ever. So obviously, I like stories that take that kind of concept and break it down into a little bit more of an almost plausible, understandable, or imaginable reality.

I think that that's a super cool way to deal with the mythology and the concept of vampires.

 

Right? That's super interesting. I'm going to have to look that up. I like that kind of thing, too, when it comes to vampires and mythical nature. You also own several restaurants in Orange County. What can you tell us about that?

 

Well, all in all, I've been very successful in that business, and all the businesses that I own and that I've created. It's been a really incredible run. It's been about 15 years or so that I've been doing it.

At one point, I had five locations, which is fucking crazy. I had like 102 employees. It's pretty nuts. I've been slowly trying to wind some of it down, because over the years, partnerships change and relationships change. The only way things like this can work is if you have a management hierarchy, and partnership structures that can help make it work, because one person can't do all that. It's just too much. When Covid hit, that's when it really made things very difficult. In California, (and I'm sure everywhere,) but in California, especially, the shutdowns and stuff were absolutely devastating.

We actually just sold one restaurant in Santa Ana called Lola Gaspar, and there's another one up in LA that I got out of. So now I'm down to three, and that's actually a lot more manageable and a lot better. Post-Covid, it definitely really made me realize what I want to spend my time doing, and that is largely music.

 

During Covid, we ended up starting Framework, our own label and artist services company. What does artist services mean? Well, it means that there's a lot of independent artists that make some great music, but don't really know what to do with it, and that's where we come in. We can release it like a label. We have a label. We have digital distribution. We have even physical distribution if someone wants it, although that's not typically as cost-effective for artists. Then we also can help with laying out how you market these singles, and how to sort of exist in the modern world and how to make money in the modern world of music. We started focusing on that. A lot of the music that we release, we also produce as Framework, which has Amir and I as producers. So, we have Human, which is Wes Geer from Hed PE, and Korn, and Clinton Kelton from a lot of amazing punk bands and some other friends. One of the guys from Train was involved in that, and that's been doing great. We have Tempered Suns, which has been doing amazing. We have Slaves to Humanity, which we produced, and they've had some hits on the radio, which is unbelievable. Obviously, also Adema and Julien-K, which both Amir and I produce and manage. I actually am the manager of both bands, I run the businesses, I even do the accounting, for fuck's sake. So it's become kind of this umbrella company that we operate all of our music out of.

It was sort of born out of necessity. No one out there really would give us the attention that we thought we deserved and needed. No one's really doing anything other than just taking your music in perpetuity. Then they just throw it out on their channel through their distribution and they call themselves The Label and collect the money. We just wanted more than that. So, we ended up starting our own thing. Believe me, we didn't want to. But here we are and we're getting more and more. Every single week I get someone wanting to do a release. So, it's pretty cool. We try to be picky. We try to cherry-pick. We try to work with artists that will do what you have to do to release a song these days. The band has to do a lot. You have to understand how to work your social media, how to tell a story, how to follow a promotion schedule. Because the days of the label, and 15 people in an office doing all this shit for you are over. You have to figure out how to do it yourself. That's up to and including choosing what interview you're going to give time to. Like, you guys, I've seen your magazine, it looks cool. I've seen it for a while, I've seen physical copies. So to me, that’s worth it. You guys are worth talking to, because you're putting effort into it. You're creating good production value. You've been around. But, when you’re a band, you got to get a feeling for all this kind of stuff. What to take. What not to take. What to give your time to. What to not give your time to. 

 

The most important thing that you can do in a band is speak directly to your fans, and do things that your fans love. I don't care if you have fucking five fans or if you've got 5000 fans. People are always shocked when I say that we only market to 1000 fans, and they're like, well, what do you mean? I said, well, we directly know, probably more like 850 that we have in our mailing base. We have their credit card numbers, their phone numbers, their working email address, their home address. We're in touch with them because they’re customers of the band, and we interact with them and we do the things they want, and they help us. So out of 800 to 1000 people that will spend $250 a year on the band, you can extrapolate that to a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year as your base-income for the band, right?

Are there millions more? I mean, I've got a whole wall of platinum records out there. I’ve sold millions of albums. So, why am I not trying to market to millions of people? Because you don't have the marketing spend to do that. The new model relies on you dealing with the 500 to 1000 super fans, the people that are really more like friends. Our best customers. The people that we’re doing this for. Of course, there's thousands and thousands more out there that get the music, and buy the music, and come to the shows. But those thousands and thousands, or even millions of people don't interact with us on our socials. They don’t private message us, and buy our merch directly from us and everything. It's really about 1000 people that do that. So, if you can get further than that, you're really doing well.

If you can get to around where we're at, you can really have a cash-flowing business that makes a ton of sense. You do that by focusing on what your fans love, and you make sure that it's something that you love as well.

 

I absolutely appreciate hearing your in depth analysis of how you're handling everything. That's brilliant.

 

I think that our fans like your magazine, too. So again, see, it's like this cool, synergistic thing. I think people would be stoked if I made a post that this interview happening versus a post for some other thing that they don't give a shit about. You know what I mean? So, it basically guides everything you do, right?

 

Of course, this is a question I always like to ask, too, but it's something people always want to know more about. Considering how much you do that you just mentioned. How do you balance everything?

 

Horribly. For a long time, it was everything, all the time. Especially when I was drinking. Drugs weren't necessarily my full time thing. I really drink, and I would drink, and work, and drink, and work, and drink, and work. I'm the kind of drinker that people can't even tell that I've been drinking. So, I'm pretty good at it. The bad part of that is that as you can probably guess, when you're reading, you're probably cringing reading me. But what I was doing was killing myself. You can't actually do everything all the time. I know that's why you're asking me the question, because it is a lot of stuff. I've gotten myself extremely over-obligated. Since I got sober, I really have had to sit down and try to reorganize and try to figure out what I really want to spend my time doing, and what do I want to pay attention to?

 

When I do these things, I do just that. I try to do that. My natural tendency is to pay attention to everything all the time, and to constantly be immersed in work. I'm very bad at relaxing. I'm very bad at doing anything that isn't “important”. If I'm not doing something that “matters”, I feel really guilty. That's all the fuel that drives an addict, you know what I mean? So this is all fuel for self-destruction. So I know that I am a classic workaholic, entrepreneur-artist. I know that. I almost committed suicide a few times, which is fucking crazy, right? I mean, that's why I ended up getting sober, because it was that or die. I fucking crushed it. I worked my ass off. I was successful at everything. I did it all. Then, I also burned myself nearly to death. So, getting sober has been a game changer. I'd recommend to anyone that's drinking a ton and having trouble managing things, to try to stop fucking drinking. Or stop using drugs. To take a year-long break and see how your life is. Get Help. Go to therapy. All that kind of stuff. When you can get that in line, you can start organizing all the important things that you want to do. You can actually start having fun doing what you're doing. I was miserable all the time. I like everything. I like music. I like the restaurants. I like business. I like doing it all, but I also was fucking miserable. Such a weird combination of feelings to live side-by-side.

Now, to be completely honest with you, I'm still pretty fucking busy. I still have to handle a lot. I still have to do a lot of work that people probably think is not that fun. For instance, yesterday I filled the Adema touring spreadsheet, and advance-sold shows, and I did everything that a tour manager does for $2,000 a week. I did it all in one day, and I did it for free. Then last night, after watching Stranger Things with my girlfriend, I got up and I laid out the marketing plan, and all the initial first content that we have to drop today for the single that comes out this Friday with a set of Perfection and Julien-K. So then I had to put my Label hat on, and be the label guy.

But I enjoy doing it. I can have fun doing it. I'm still doing a lot, but I'm kind of doing it more one at a time. I use a calendar religiously. Everything's in a calendar. I carefully follow everything in the calendar. I even book travel time. Like, if I have to drive up to Jiu Jitsu, which I do this afternoon. It's a half hour away, so I book a half-hour for travel, a half hour or an hour for Jiu Jitsu, a half hour back, and a half hour for shower. I do it all. So that's how I stay on-track. Then I look at those sections in my calendar where they're open and I can try to have fun there. I can go ride my motorcycle. I can go do things that I really enjoy that aren't drinking. 

 

I think that if you stop doing the shit that's kind of getting your way, like drinking or drugs or whatever it is, toxic relationships, then you're going to find out that you have a ton more time to do things that are important.

 

Another thing that I recommend to really be doing a lot and accomplish a lot to keep your head on straight, is to make sure that something you're doing every day is physical. I work out or do Jiu Jitsu every fucking day of the week. Do I take some days off? Yeah. Tomorrow I'm shooting a video, so I'm not going to go work out because I don't have time. I am going to go do Jiu Jitsu, though, because I'm going to test for my belt, I think, before I leave. So I want to get that. Seriously, go do physical first! Take care of your body, and your brain first, because you'll be able to do all that other stuff and manage it much better. Become powerful, and you'll be able to manage all the shit. You'd be very surprised.

 

Right? I want to say that nothing about that was cringe at all. I've been through almost the exact same process. I relate to everything that you said, and drinking was my thing too.

 

Many people do. I have, on the DL, gotten so many people into treatment, it's kind of astounding. I'll do a post for an anniversary of mine, and then I'll get, like, people that I haven't talked to in 20 years message me, and tell me they’re on the edge. And surprisingly, I've been able to really get some really amazing people into treatment, which is pretty awesome. 

 

I'm not anti-drinking or drugs. Drugs have played a great part in my life. I've had a lot of fun with them, and I don't know what my future holds, but I do know that since getting that out and putting time between me and it, I've been able to do a lot of stuff that I couldn't have done before, and I've been able to turn a business Empire and too much work into a lot of pretty fun work, right?

 

What can you tell us about tours that are coming up for Julien-K and or Adema.

 

Adema is going out with Hed PE, Crazy Town and Flaw. We leave July 2, and the first show is on the 6th. It's the month of July 2022. Should be a great tour. It's a bunch of the new metal favorites. In Adema, I've been working with the guys to really drill down on what made them Adema, and that was that sound. So what we're doing, and what we're putting our fucking force behind is that sound and playing with bands in that genre and delivering things that we think the fans want, but obviously making it new and modern and fresh. So, that's really cool. It's been very fun because I think that music is really cool and I think there's a lot still to be done with it. Julien-K just got done with an absolutely incredible run with the Birthday Massacre, which are very old friends of ours. That tour was, I would say, 50% of the dates literally sold out. I mean, the rest of the dates were at capacity. We sold out the first and the last show. It was just incredible. We sold out every California show. Almost every show on the West Coast was sold out. We just couldn't have been more blown away by the response. It was a financial success, and an accomplishment for both fans. It was just incredible. I built that tour after it had been initially canceled, and we’d had another tour in between that.

The financial model that was built was based on the old way, and then after Covid, it got rebooked, but it was just that tour. So, I built the model as an utter failure. I was like, oh, my God, we're going to lose so much money. Then, we actually went out there and the fans just absolutely made it happen for us, and we were just blown away. Julien-K is definitely looking for another opportunity later this year. Or Adema, it's totally fine. I mean, I'm available. If not, we're going to be creating new music and putting new music out in the meantime so that we can gear up for 2023 to be a fantastic year for both bands.

 

Awesome. You said that you're putting out a single. What else are you working on right now? What more can you tell us about that?

 

 

Well, the Julian-K single is going to be part of our alt-universe, which is this alternate universe concept that I created. That's where we get together with some of our favorite bands that are kind of in our genre, and we do a track where it would be like if we were in the same band. We collaborate on it like we're in the same band. We market it like we're in the same band. We do video elements like we're in the same band for that single. For all intents and purposes, for that single, we are one band. Like it was an alternate universe, or an alternate reality.

We did it with The Annex, and it turned out really popular. We did another song with The Annex, and that was really popular. So now we did one with the Aesthetic Perfection. We've got another one coming out with Lord of the Lost, and we have another one coming out with The Birthday Massacre. They're all different stuff. Some of them are tracks that we've released off Harmonic Disruption, and we went back into them to use it as a framework, and we redid it with the other artists, with them doing whatever they would have done if they’d been collaborating with us, and we make a new song out of it. The reason we started like that is because Harmonic Disruption came out right when Covid hit, so we weren't able to tour it or do anything with it, and it was one of our most successful albums. So, we figured that we could do some really cool stuff with the material by doing this alternate universe kind of collaboration with these other artists, and it's turned out to be very popular.

Interestingly enough, some of the collaborative versions are more popular than the original version, so we're really happy with it. It's been really fun, and it's brought us closer to the bands that we, our friends, that we love. It's just different than doing a remix or just like a kind of a run-of-the-mill collab, because we're treating the content as something that we're all 100% invested in top-to-bottom. Video marketing, all the promo, the music, everything, we basically work on it like we've been playing together for 20 years, and it's been really fun. We just dropped our first tease today. I dropped a little bit of a piece of the video that I created for the single, and people are clamoring right now wondering what the hell we're doing. Then, Adema is going to drop a long awaited single at the end of the month, just before we leave for tour.

0 comments

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published