Sitting on a path outside Trillians, Faye caught up with frontman Kevin Seconds of the legendary 7Seconds, following their show in Newcastle. They got talking about still going at it 30-years later, his issues with the hardcore scene, going acoustic, and a lot more!
Faye: How did you find the show tonight?
Kevin: The show was wonderful. I think it’s our third show here and they’ve always been really fun. I just love Newcastle, I love the city and have friends here, so it was great. I’m not feeling that great though, so I was really struggling to try find the energy, but it was great. We ate some weird pasta stuff and it was really spicy, I think it just hit me the wrong way, and the travelling, sleeping up in the van, I think it all just caught up today, it surprised me.
Faye: How come 7Seconds is playing these shows and fests this summer? Is it a 30th anniversary thing?
Kevin: Yeah, this whole year we’ve been playing quite a bit because of the 30th anniversary thing, and we’ve got a few releases, which were scheduled to come out, but we’ve pushed them back just because we want to do more touring and not put anything out until we know we’re going to go out to play. We had hoped to come over sometime this summer and do as many shows as we can. The other guys have some kids and stuff, so it’s really hard for them to just take off and my brother, the bass player, Steve Youth, he’s doing a bunch of stuff with his family, so he couldn’t come and we couldn’t cancel, so we got our friend to fill in and he actually played with us in Europe with Sick of It All.
Faye: Do you listen to much hardcore nowadays?
Kevin: I find myself going back to a lot of the early records because I love the production of it and I’m all about what’s new and freshness, I’m not one of those old guys who are like, “Keep it old school, it’s got to sound like a crappy record!” There’s a lot of stuff that’s considered ‘hardcore’ now and it’s like, I don’t mind, call it whatever you want, but I think there has to be at least some connection to at least what it once was. If there’s not, then it’s sort of not genuine and it doesn’t feel right, and that’s just my take, I don’t think that everyone else should feel like that. I’m always looking out for new stuff and I get excited when I hear a new band that kicks my ass, that makes me happy, because that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Unfortunately, not many new bands kick my ass, but I do like hardcore. I didn’t like when people started bringing metal into it, it wasn’t my cup of tea, but at least it’s still aggressive and fun. Now everyone applies the word ‘core’ to everything and it doesn’t have any real meaning.
Faye: How do you feel about other long-standing hardcore bands like Sick of It All and Agnostic Front, who still tour relentlessly?
Kevin: We’ve played a number of shows with Sick of It All throughout the years and they’re great guys, they get ‘it’, they’re on the road and they just put everything into their show, and whatever you’re paying to get in, you’re getting your money’s worth, because they give a shit, and the same thing with Agnostic Front. I’m really happy that those bands can come over here, because I think in America, kids take them for granted, they don’t get as much love as they do over here and South America and stuff. I’m all for bands like that, they work hard, so good for them.
Faye: Is it weird singing songs from 30-years ago? Do you still feel as emotionally attached to them?
Kevin: Yeah, I don’t think I would do them if I didn’t feel emotionally attached to them. Sometimes, it’ll strike me when I sing a lyric and think, ‘That’s really funny, that was written 25/30-years ago.’ and is talking about spray painting the walls to rebel. [laughs] I used to have a problem with it and I used to try to change it around, and we didn’t do it for a while, but for us, we try to keep things relevant, it’s like looking at a small history book, like this is what we’ve done, this is where we’re at and this is hopefully what we’ll do – not everything can be completely relevant. Like 99 Red Balloons, that’s not even one of our songs and people are like, “You must really hate that song”, but I don’t – in fact, I still love doing it and I love that people love that song, because it means so much to us and it was such a weird poppy nu-wave song, but it was an anti-war song and we did our own version of it. It’s also one of those songs if we haven’t played it, then people get really upset and they write us letters, “I can’t believe I paid $10 and you didn’t play 99 Red Balloons, I feel cheated!” If I’m not emotionally connected to it, I won’t do it, I won’t even know how to do it correctly.
Faye: 7Seconds is known for its positive lyrics, but I used to read your blog, and you came across quite cynical, are you as positive now as you were then?
Kevin: [laughs] I’m cynical, but I also don’t take myself seriously and I’m just a big, loud-mouthed, opinionated fool as everyone else. I think that’s the difference, if there’s a struggle, I try to think, ‘I can do this’ and I don’t ever want to use my energy to destroy things or bring things down. When I write stuff, people go, “God, you’re so negative!”, but it’s just another side and I’m a real human being. I get up, I get on the Internet and bitch like everybody else and I like doing it, it’s fun.
Faye: I read somewhere that you used to be embarrassed that 7Seconds is still going?
Kevin: I don’t know if I feel embarrassed, but I mean, I still go through this thing where you get in the van and you’re like, “Wow, we’re still at it after all these years?” and we’re one of these bands that never broke-up, we’ve just took long periods of breaks and stuff. I’m not ever embarrassed about playing in this band, sometimes it’s a little strange that I’m 49 and I’m still playing youth music, I’ve come around that quite a bit in the last couple of years. We still get a lot of young people coming to our shows, which is really cool. If it was just us playing to a bunch of 40-year-olds then it might be a different thing, but there’s still a lot of kids who are interested in us and if I feel embarrassed about it then I’m kind of turning my back on people who love to still see us. I still love it, it’s fun for me. I look forward to it and like I said on stage, I love playing with the guys I play with and we get along really well, we hang out and stuff, we’d be doing that even if we didn’t play punk rock music.
Faye: I’ve read lots of recent live reviews of 7Seconds and they all say you’ve still got it, so that must be nice.
Kevin: It’s good, I hope so. There’s a lot of older bands who are so past their prime and they’re only doing it because that’s all they know how to do, and we decided that we’d have other things going on in our lives, so we don’t just depend on the band.
Faye: Why is it that hardcore bands these days seem to last only a few years and release a couple of records?
Kevin: When we first started we were pretty young, I was 17 when I started this band and it was what I wanted from when I was about 14, playing music and being in a band, and then I got into punk rock and it was so possible, because it was music I could play. Back then, being in a band, it was something you really worked for and, keep in mind, we didn’t have MySpace or the Internet, we didn’t have access to stuff and trying to get a show for your band was so impossible, but I think kids, nowadays, have so many options, for entertainment, to earn a living and I think people just dabble and they think they’re going to like it, then they realise how hard it is. It’s a hard life, you’ve got to be a little crazy to want to do this stuff [laughs], especially when you could be doing other things that are a lot more comfortable and safe, but if you love the music and really love what you’re doing, then it’s almost all you can do. When we go home, we have our own lives and do other things, so when we know we have shows coming up, that’s what we look forward to, we still get excited about it.
Faye: So, you think it was harder for you starting as a band back then, than bands starting out today?
Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. We relied on postcards and being on the phone, and calling people. Punk rock wasn’t a big business as it is now, bands weren’t getting paid much money, we were driving in 20-year-old vans, nobody had money, nobody was able to take care of anything and after 2/3 months on tour, you came home and didn’t make enough rent money. I think that’s what really separated the people who were really down and the people who were just doing it for a fun little thing, and I think that’s the way it is. I talk to a lot of younger musician friends and they’re like, “We’re just trying so hard, we can’t get a break!” and it’s like they’ve been around for two months, what do you want?! They get on the road, then they complain that someone can’t sleep in the van, it’s like, don’t tour, you’ll never make it. Kids have got a lot more going on, but we were focused and being in a punk band was all we wanted to do.
Faye: Is there anything else you see in the hardcore scene today that you don’t like?
Kevin: Well, I’ve never liked the overt, masculine thing, ever. I’ve never been big on the tough guy thing, and I have a lot of friends in bands that are consider ‘tough’ and I like them a lot and I know there’s a lot more to them than just that, but sometimes I think it sends a signal that this is what it’s about. We were really lucky at the early stage, because a lot of women would come to our shows and a lot of our friends would give us shit like, “Oh, the band that all the girls come for”, but it’s cool. Why not be a fun party with women and guys instead of a bunch of dudes taking their shirts off and showing off their tattooed chests? So, that’s a part I’ve always had a problem with a little bit. The straight edge scene has had its weirdness, with the militant, “How dare you drink a beer!” I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, but I don’t believe in telling other adults what to do, as long as you’re in control, doing your own thing and you don’t cause problems for me, why should I care?
Faye: Is the rest of the band still drug free/straight edge?
Kevin: No, not everybody and that’s a common misconception that we’re a straight edge band. We had some lyrics on some records that were pretty overt and were good friends with Minor Threat, we used to play a lot of shows together, we love that band, so people piled us into that straight edge group, but I’ve never been comfortable about being a spokesman for it. I’ve turned down a hundred documentary films, because I really don’t have anything to say about it. The other guys in the band, they do what they want, we’ve got guys in the band that drink occasionally or smoke pot and our agreement is that, no matter what we do, whenever we get on the road, everybody just behaves and keeps it together, because we all depend on each other and people come spend money to see us, we don’t want to suck. I’ve seen that happen and it’s horrible, I’m so against it. We may have made a few mistakes and whatnot, but there’s never been a time where we did that because someone in the band was drunk or something like that, that would just never happen. That would be one of the few times we’d get in a fight about something.
Faye: Have there been many fist fights over the years?
Kevin: Well, I’m in a band with my little brother, so there’s been a few, but not lately, we’ve been pretty good over the last 10-years. During at least one tour there’d be a stupid fist fight in the hallway of the hotel, but we’re pretty mellow and we’re not crazy, partying fools. After a show, we like to hang out, talk to friends, go get something to eat, do interviews and go take showers. [laughs] We’re not a big partying bunch.
Faye: Do you see 7Seconds still playing shows in 10-years or do you not think that far ahead?
Kevin: [laughs] Oh my goodness, I don’t know. 10-years ago, I would have said, “Absolutely not! You’ve got to be kidding me, we’re too old!”, but I’ll never say never now. If we still love doing it and have fun, and if people care to come out to see us, we’ll still do it, that’s how it is for us.
Faye: You’re still very creative and a lot more active doing your acoustic thing, is that easier for you?
Kevin: Oh, yeah, it’s a lot easier. I like to be on time and I like to get into a town early to walk around, but these guys suck, they like, “Let’s go to the hotel room!” [laughs] It is easier because I can have my own schedule and you’ve just got a guitar you plug in, play for 45-minutes, it’s a pretty easy deal, you don’t have a bunch of gear to carry around and stuff. I just did a Midwest tour for two weeks and it was just me, nobody came with me and it was really draining, I was like, “I don’t feel like driving any more!” So, I’m up in Wyoming and there’s nothing out there, you’re just driving for miles, it’s insane, so that part gets a little hard.
Faye: What made you want to go solo?
Kevin: I’ve always loved that, I’ve been a fan of song-writing, like Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel since I was a little kid and there was a few years where I couldn’t admit that because punk rock friends would give me shit, but I grew up listening to that stuff and it resonates in a big way that punk rock does for me, especially protest music and that kind of stuff. You listen to stuff like Johnny Cash, it’s just like pure raw real life and his voice, I really love that stuff. I love trying to make songs that aren’t covered in volume and drums and distortion, I like to see what I can do with it. I’ve been doing it for a long, long time and I’m not sure what it’s like over here, but in America and some parts of Europe, the acoustic stuff is really starting to take off, which is nice, because people will actually book you. That stuff kind of excites me because I feel like it’s still new and even though it’s been done before, it’s nice to see people travelling around with guitars and hear people singing along, it’s great.
Faye: You recently released Good Luck Buttons, and it’s kind of got a little country tinge to it.
Kevin: Yeah, my mom was really into Motown and my dad was into country and western stuff, and when I was a kid, I hated it, but I always loved Johnny Cash. When I was a little kid, I was afraid of Johnny Cash, because he was this big scary voice and when you’re a little kid, you think he’s been to prison his whole life, but there’s a little twang in there , I guess.
Faye: You do a lot of splits with friends, is that to help them with your name?
Kevin: No, if anything, it’s to help me. [laughs] Honestly, though, it’s either people who hit me up and say, “Hey, want to do a split?” and I always say yes, or a friend will ask like Kepi Ghoulie, and I’ll say yes. It’s kind of fun, because it always brings up the possibility of playing shows together and I love vinyl, so it’s great getting to do split records. You get a little bit of everything, so if you hate me, you might like the other person or vice versa.
Faye: I came across a website [here] and it had a screenshot of you bitching about BrokeNCYDE on your personal Facebook, what do you say to people who think BrokeNCYDE are actually punk rock, because they go against the norm and piss people off?
Kevin: What happened was I posted that, then somebody – who I actually know in Sacramento – took it and sent it to them, because he’s a smartass and they created this silly little thing, and I get it, some old fart bitching about music that’s more relevant now than maybe music I make, but it wasn’t about that. I guess my point is that there’s so much emphasis on flash and style and the way they look, and I also speak from experience, because 7Seconds did a couple of festivals and I did a solo thing inside a tent for this big festival in California and all those bands played, so I went to listen and gave them a shot, and I was just standing there, the kids were going crazy and I didn’t get it. I realise there’s a generation thing and that’s ok, but to me, it just didn’t sound sincere to me and, for me, it’s all about sincerity. I don’t care about what kind of music you make, if you believe in it and it’s sincere. I think these guys are probably having a great time, they’re probably getting girls, getting laid, making money and that’s great for them, but the videos are so horrible. I’m an asshole for saying and opening my mouth, but I still stand by what I said. It’s not going to make a difference, they’re going to be successful, but I can still have an opinion and it doesn’t mean that what I think is amazing or that my opinion should mean anything. I say it all the time, at some point, I’ll see something new that’s happening and I’ll go, “I’m not supposed to understand this.” When I was young, my mom would go, “That band’s called the Sex Pistols?!” She didn’t understand it, she wasn’t supposed to understand it. That’s one thing I used to struggle with because I didn’t want to be old enough where I didn’t get what’s happening, but that’s what happens in life, you’re not going to understand everything. You’ve got to accept the fact that not every thing’s going to make sense, you just move on and listen to your Chuck Ragan records and be ok.
Faye: Do you listen to any poppy, mainstream stuff?
Kevin: I listen to everything, honestly. You know Kepi Ghoulie? We travel a lot together and he loves like The Ting Tings and that kind of stuff, and he’ll be like, “You’ve got to listen, these guys are so great and catchy!” Of course, I put it down at first, but at the end of the night, it’s in my head and I’m tapping my foot to it. I’m open to anything. I have an iPhone and there’s an app on there called Shazam, and if you hear something, you put it up and it always freaks me out, because I have no idea who that is.
Faye: So, does 7Seconds have any more plans after this?
Kevin: Yeah, we have a lot of new songs, we’re trying to come up with a creative way to put out new music without being like, “Here’s another CD!”, because if we do that with the label we’ve been with, SideOneDummy, and rightly-so, they’ll want us to tour a lot and we can’t really tour as much as we like to. We’re going to do a bunch of vinyl stuff, because we’ve got two whole albums that we never officially released from like 1980/81, and it’s really just for the fans, it’s not like we expect to sell a ton of records. For years, the cassettes that we recorded on a boom box, they’ve been getting bootlegged and they sound like hell, it’s horrible, so we just want to record it and get it out there, so anybody who wants it can have it. So, yeah, there’s definitely new stuff and there’s talk that SideOneDummy wants to do a collection of old stuff, new stuff, unreleased stuff, and I like that idea. That was supposed to be done this year, but we just kept pushing it back
Faye: And you’ll be carrying on with your solo stuff?
Kevin: Yeah, definitely. I love doing it and I think that, realistically, I can do that as much as I want for as long as I want, it definitely takes a lot less out of me. I’ve been working on a lot of new material and I get home for three days, then I do another two week thing in the US. I want to come back over here, I’m trying to figure out the best way to do that, and then in between, just trying to get these goofballs together so we can get out to do a few shows here and there. I think we’ve got another five shows left over in the States for the year, then that’s probably going to be it for now, unless somebody calls. So, yeah, I’ll be doing that and trying to come up with a new record for the beginning of next year, and just keep busy. I’m always writing. It’s hard to get people’s minds in the hardcore punk scene wrapped around the idea that I’m doing it, but slowly but surely people are coming around to the solo stuff.
Faye: Change the record, who should we be listening to?
Kevin: I’m trying to think of bands I’ve heard recently that I like a lot, because it always turns out that they’ve either broken up or they just break up after I say them. There’s a band out of my hometown, Sacramento, that I love called Pressure Point, it’s like street punk, but it’s got all the same elements that The Clash had, the sincerity and the power, just great songs. Set To Explode, they’re a great new hardcore band, I think they broke up and now they’re back, I think they’re from Washington DC, and it just sounds amazing, it’s just loud. Keith Morris from Circle Jerks has a new band called OFF!, which is really, really good. Admittedly, I do listen more to the singer-songwriter stuff than I listen fast stuff, but I drive a lot, and if I listen to hardcore music, I just drive like crap, so I listen to some early rhythm and blues, but acoustic stuff, I love Frank Turner, Austin Lucas. I love Mike Scott’s stuff, I think his stuff’s great, we got to do another tour together over here, it was really fun. There’s so much stuff, there’s a woman named Audra Mae, she’s on SideOneDummy, she’s touring with Chuck Ragan quite a bit and she’s got the most amazing voice, it’s like Patsy Cline meets Janis Joplin, if you like that stuff, it’s really, really solid. I’m sure there’s a lot of other stuff, but I can’t think off the top of my head.
Faye: I think that’s about it, is there anything else you want to say?
Kevin: Thank you, it was a great interview. I appreciate it.
– Faye Turnbull.