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Exclusive! Brand New Sin: A New Drug For Rock N' Roll Addicts

By Sefany Jones, Contributing Editor
Wednesday, May 29, 2002 @ 5:20 PM

Brand New Sin Brings A Breath

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Rock addicts and critics alike: Prepare yourself for some revitalized good old-fashioned rock n' roll from newcomers, Brand New Sin.

With their self-titled debut album ready for release, and a bunch of great shows with Motorhead and Prong under their belt, Brand New Sin prove they are much more than a new trend. With their own brand of blues-driven rock, BNS dig their heels into the muck of metal and make no plans on ever leaving.

I sat down with all six members, just before they went on stage to rock the House of Blues in West Hollywood, on May 20th, 2002, as openers for Lemmy & Co. Brand New Sin consists of: Joe Altier (Lead Vocals), Slider (Guitar & Vocals), Kris Wiechmann (Guitar), Ken Dunham (Guitar), Chuck Kahl (Bass) and Mike Rafferty (Drums).

I then stuck around to watch their set: BLEW ME AWAY. Raw, energetic power ensued, as their hardcore-yet-catchy tunes belted unexpecting metalheads across the skull. This band is definitely one you want to check out!

KNAC.COM: So you’ve got your [debut album on Now or Never Records] coming out June 4th… self-titled. It was produced by Pete Walker…
JOE: He’s a local guy from back home [in Syracuse, NY]. He’s never really done anything on a national scale…it’s all been local stuff back home. He’s played in bands that have toured all around… and he’s lived out in Arizona….
SLIDER: He’s been out in London. He was like a hired gun guitar player for a lot of people also… but we heard of him though a bunch of our friends who were in bands, and they played the shit that he was doing for them to us, and we were like ‘Man this is good shit,’ and we thought we’d rather stay home, and -- we had to work anyway -- rather stay at home, take our time on the record, have an actual producer, instead of, ‘You’ve got two weeks -- throw the songs together’ and with him, the songs are a lot different then they would be probably.
JOE: We pretty much started in October, with pre-production and arrangement, and by the end of December it was ready to go, and we went in and basically cut the album in three weeks, start to finish.
SLIDER: Alot of our friend’s bands had him [produce them], and we listened to the production of it, and it was great, and they raved about how well he worked with bands, and how he pulled out your-- pulled everything out of you, where you didn’t think you had it in you.
JOE: He did exactly what a producer’s supposed to do… and connected with us.
KRIS: He’s a good friend of ours.
JOE: First impression of him… you’re like, he’s kind of an eccentric dude, but once you get to know him he kind of grows on you a little bit.

KNAC.COM: You also worked with Michael Barbiero [who mixed three tracks on the album]… he’s done some big albums! (ie, GNR’s Appetite For Destruction, Tesla’s Great Radio Controversy, Metallica’s …And Justice For All, Anthrax’s Persistence of Time, etc. etc.)
JOE: To say the least!

KNAC.COM: Did you actually get to work with him, or did he just do his studio work?
KEN: In New York City, he saw us [play] at CBGB’s and he loved us and then…
SLIDER: And he wanted to work out a deal where he could do the whole album, mix the whole album… but the point we were at and money wise…. We didn’t see it and the record company didn’t see it as that it wouldn’t have been that beneficial to redo the whole album. So we picked 3 of the tunes that we are going to consecutively send to radio, and, me and Joe went down and had to work for 3 days, and that was wicked awesome!
JOE: …Pulled stories out of him about Guns N’ Roses and Tesla…
SLIDER: …And Kiss!
JOE: …And Metallica and everybody. He’s probably one of the nicest guys I think ever met. I mean, someone in his position you’d think… he’s this big guru -- he doesn’t want any input from you, and just going to do this and do that…
SLIDER: …Total opposite of that…
JOE: …And he would get done and ‘What do you think about that?’ and he’d ask us suggestions…
SLIDER: He asked us questions…
JOE: We worked great with him. It was a lot of fun.
SLIDER: Me and [Joe] were up at the board we’re like, ‘I don’t think… that… and we don’t think… that… and we should do this…’ Normally, when we first got in there, we were like, ‘Let’s sit in the back…’ and [Barbiero] was like ‘Come up here… let’s work this out.’
JOE: And especially someone in his position could just say, ‘You back there, I’m going to do this.’
SLIDER: But he was totally cool…
JOE: And we’re really looking forward to getting to work with him next time. He wants to, I know that.

KNAC.COM: So what single do you guys have out right now? [KNAC.COM] is playing “Broken Soul…”
JOE: Oh really?

KNAC.COM: But that doesn’t seem to be what other people are playing…
KEN: You know what’s funny, is that everyone is playing different ones.
SLIDER: What we’re pushing is “My World” -- that’s going to be the first single. But we sat down, and you listen to the records and… any one of these tunes could [be a single].
JOE: “My World” is obviously getting more of the spins, because it’s getting a little more of a push… but it’s really surprising to hear some of the other songs that are actually getting spins…

KNAC.COM: “Broken Soul” sticks in your head all day long!
JOE: THAT’S what we open with! That’s our opening song. That’s the song we just kinda come out with and hit ya in the face with it! That was the first song that was done.

KNAC.COM: Speaking of songs, what does “SPP” stand for?
[Lots of “Aaauuugh’s” and evil laughs echo around the group. Must be the dreaded question!]
KEN: It’s a secret! Can’t tell!
KRIS: Yeah! Can’t tell!
KEN: That’s another song that a lot of radio stations are playing.
[Everyone’s saying simultaneously, “That’s a question we just can’t answer!”]

KNAC.COM: Come on! Do you want me to improvise?
KEN: Pretty soon… we might have like a… we’ll have like a signed guitar or something if you guess what it is.
"Our album is like the first drink an alcoholic takes after walking out of rehab -- it feels fucking great." - Kris
JOE: No, actually I wanna see what people come up with. What it actually goes for is... uh… [Slider starts hand signaling across his throat to cut the guys off.]
KEN: No clues!
JOE: We want people to figure it out for themselves!
SLIDER: Believe me, it’s nothing you think it is!
[Everyone laughs]
JOE: That’s right!

KNAC.COM: Alright, alright…! Well, then the next question is, what IS the ‘brand new sin?’
SLIDER: The style of music of the band… that’s the brand new sin. We wanted to have an impact in music where you can’t-- you can’t deny the band, you can’t deny listening to it. It’s like a drug. It’s like alcohol -- you have to have it. It’s something that you’re going to abuse. It’s something that you’re going to listen to so much, that you feel bad doing it. That’s what we want to come across… That’s the band -- that’s brand new sin.
KEN: We want everyone to do bad things! [laughs]

KNAC.COM: [To Kris] I have a quote from you: “Our album is like the first drink an alcoholic takes after walking out of rehab -- it feels fucking great.” Does that pretty much sum it up?
[Lots of evil “yeeeeaaahhhs” fill the room]
KRIS: [Shaking his head ‘yes’] It’s the birth of something bad.

KNAC.COM: Now, before Joe came along, you guys were originally [named] Godbelow? What type of music was that? You said you had a specific reputation and wanted to change your direction…?
SLIDER: Yeah… I guess you could lump it into a metal-core… We still had the three guitar players, and actually we didn’t really did get to show that off on any recordings, except for a split we did with a band called Ringworm, where we did two originals and a cover, but I guess it was like basically thrashy metal guitar playing with a screamer…

KNAC.COM: …And you wanted this to be more… blues-driven rock…?
SLIDER: Yeah, heavy blues-driven rock and roll, you know, hard rock, metal. It’s got all touches of what rock and roll comes from.
KRIS: This is the kind of music we’ve been wanting to play for a long time.
SLIDER: When we started Godbelow we had a vision, we used the players that we had at the time, and we came out with Godbelow… and we wanted to progress, and we tried with the people we had in the band. All the guys… they guys we don’t have in the band anymore… knew, it was a clean break. It was time to move on, and we wanted to do this. And so to give respect to Godbelow, we don’t play any of the tunes, changed the name, and so this is a new band.

KNAC.COM: So do you think this music you’re playing now is a little more classic and timeless?
[In unison, the entire band agrees heartily]
KRIS: Godbelow was totally the kind of thing where all the musicians in the band had to write around the shortcomings of the other members of the band. This is the kind of stuff we’ve been wanting to play for a long time. But we’ve never had a singer that could actually sing. We never had a drummer that could actually just lay it down.
KEN: We had limitations. [laughs]

KNAC.COM: So the rest of you were in Godbelow?
SLIDER: The four of us [himself, Chuck, Ken, and Kris]. The three guitar players, and the bass player.

KNAC.COM: Why three guitar players?
SLIDER: That’s how it happened, as in we [had] two guitar players, and actually Godbelow consisted of me and Kris and Chuck and the lead singer and our old drummer, and Kris ended up leaving Godbelow, so we set out to find a guitar player, ala Kenny, and Kris was always with us hanging out, partying still, part of the family, but he had shit to take care of, and it was cool, like, “You got to do what you got to do,” We knew in our hearts and in our minds -- and he felt the same way -- he didn’t really want to be out of the band, just circumstances in his life made it be that way, and he was like “I want you guys to keep going…”
KEN: We were at a party at Chuck’s and I could just see it in [Kris’] eyes… I was like, “Dude, this is your last chance – I’ll give you your spot back. It’s yours!” I was gonna give it back to him, ‘cause it wasn’t mine to begin with.
SLIDER: I went to Chuck, and I said, “Dude, Kris wants to be [back] in the band, I know for a fact… and Kenny’s fucking awesome and he plays great and is a great guy…" I mean, it’s a no-brainer. We listen to Allman Brothers, Molly Hatchet, Lynyrd Skynyrd… three guitar attack…What the fuck, man! And Chuck’s like, well let’s fucking talk to everybody and so… we hit all the other members up first, then we talked to him, ‘cause I didn’t want to step on his toes, and [have him thinking], “They’re gonna squeeze me out, man.” And he was like, “Fuck yeah!” So then we brought it to him, and he was like, “Let’s do it.” So, that’s how it got started. So, basically it wasn’t on purpose. [And now] I couldn’t see it any other way.

KNAC.COM: So where’d you find [vocalist Joe]?
SLIDER: Our tour manager Chucky kept on bugging us, saying, “Dude, don’t pick a singer until you hear my friend!” He’s from Syracuse, too, but he was living in Baltimore at the time. And he was friends with our old lead singer, too. It’s kind of an evil web thing…

KNAC.COM: Six degrees of separation?
SLIDER: Exactly! Three phone calls away.
JOE: I was moving home anyways. And Chucky calls me at 4 in the morning in the middle of August, and says, “Godbelow needs an singer – you’re the guy!” and I’m like, “I can’t sing Godbelow, it’s not me -- I’m a singer [not a screamer],” and he’s like, “Well, that’s what they’re looking for. They’re doing something different.” And I was like, “Alright, whatever,” and kind of blew him off, he was drunk, and he’s always calling me at 4 in the morning. And then I got up the next day and I was, “Alright, this is what I’ve been waiting for.” This is my first band, and I had never been in a band until this one, and I guess I kinda lucked out to step into a situation – I’ve kind of held back on joining bands because I if I was gonna do it, I wanted to do it 100% and have everyone behind it.
KEN: He was an angel sent. Couldn’t have found anyone more perfect.
KRIS: It took us a while…
KEN: You should’ve seen some of the goons that came in there, man… [everyone laughs]

KNAC.COM: You guys have been out with Prong, and now you’re out with Motorhead and Morbid Angel, then you’re going out with Fu Manchu…
JOE: And Speedealer…

KNAC.COM: How soon?
JOE: July 2nd.

KNAC.COM: And then you have a couple of release parties you’re doing…
JOE: Yeah, that’s pretty much of all of June.

KNAC.COM: Then you’re heading out to Europe in October.
SLIDER: [Hesitates] Uh… ideally.
JOE: We’d love to go over there.
SLIDER: We’ve learned these past few months with getting on tours that we’re not going to say anything anymore until we’re [actually] on the bus, on the way to the first gig, ‘cause we’ve had a lot of things happen to us where it’s like, “You’ve got tour!” and we’re all “Yeeeaaahhh!” and then two days later: “You’re not going.”

KNAC.COM: Can’t take the heartbreak?
SLIDER: Yeah, so I’m not going to say anything. I know Fu Manchu is a definite because our booking agent is their booking agent, blah, blah, blah… so it’s cool, but you know, with tours in advance, especially that far away… you never know what’s gonna happen…

KNAC.COM: How’s [the touring] been so far?
[Everyone replies with, “Awesome!” “Great!”]
SLIDER: Fun – a blast.
KEN: Real easy!
KRIS: The bands have been awesome. Everyone loves us.
JOE: We’ve done three tours inside this one month -- we’ve been out with Chimaira, 36 Crazyfists, Diecast, and a band called Hemlock, from Las Vegas, and we went out with them first for about seven dates, then we went with Prong for three, and to this one [with Motorhead/ Morbid Angel] for eleven dates – and this has been a dream come true.
KEN: And we came out with out a soundman, and those guys are doing our sound, and they’re just doing an awesome job!
SLIDER: Every band that we’ve played with -- everybody’s been fucking great! Awesome dudes. No attitudes…

KNAC.COM: Is there anyone you’d like to go out with specifically [next]?
[Simultaneous responses of “AC/DC,” “Metallica,” “Zakk Wylde” “Lynyrd Skynyrd”]

KNAC.COM: So these are obviously your influences…
SLIDER: Oh, yeah!
KRIS: We can pretty much hang with any band, I think. We could go on tour, and go over well with most any rock band.
JOE: And we proved that because in the beginning of all this, because we were lumped into hardcore and the very, very, very heavy side of the metal… it’s been tough for us to find a place, because right now there is really isn’t something right along our lines -- there’s kind of a void right we’re hoping to fill in rock and roll -- so we’ve kinda got stuck playing some of the heavier hardcore shows, and we’ve been able to win over fans on that side, but then able to come over to the Motorhead side of it, and do well, if not better, so it just goes to show that we can grab a wide range of the hard rock and heavy metal fans and bring them into one.
KEN: Yeah, there’s people with Morbid Angel and Deicide shirts on in the front row, groovin’ to our stuff -- that’s a good sign!
SLIDER: But then we’ll have 50-year old guys – loving Lynyrd Skynyrd and Allman Brothers …

KNAC.COM: Hanging in the back with their scotch and rocking out…
SLIDER: [Laughs] Exactly! And they’re awesome!
JOE: And then we have their 16-year old kids are coming up and loving the same thing, so we’re running the gamut on ages and in genre.

KNAC.COM: You’re album is real -- I hate reiterate myself -- but it’s just very classic, down-to-earth rock.
JOE: I mean, I kinda guess we knew what we we’re going to come out with, but when it was done and we listened to it, I don’t think that there’s not one of us in here that didn’t go, “Holy shit! I can’t believe what we just did” -- and in a very short period of time. I came in, in September, we were in the studio and started pre-producing in October, and recorded and done at the end of January… so I mean, we did the whole album in the course of three months.
SLIDER: And it was a new dude [Joe] -- we didn’t even really know him. It was like, “Here’s a tape, come back, sing a song, you’re in the band -- tomorrow we’re in the studio for the next four months….”
JOE: They’re [telling me], “The record label’s going to be here in two weeks so hurry up and get the fuck ready!” [laughs]
SLIDER: It was funny…
JOE: But it’s exciting to think what the potential of this band is. If we could do that in this amount of time… If we could sit down and really bring out every aspect of every body in this band… it’s going to be a lot of fun… it’s going to be a fun little ride.

KNAC.COM: Now [Joe and Slider] write the lyrics… is that going to stay that way?
JOE: Yeah [we write the lyrics]. Yeah, it’ll probably stay that way -- I mean we’re not the type of guys who aren’t open to letting everyone else do it… I’m willing to do that…
KEN: I mean, we’re always talking about subjects and things to write about. But to put it into words, you know…. [points at Joe and Slider].
SLIDER: [Joe and I] really just vibe off each other, it’s really cool. If I’m stuck, he’s got something, [and] if he’s stuck, I’ve got something. All the songs, except for maybe one or two, are a combination of our lyrics. Maybe we’ll have one song of just his lyrics, and one just of mine, but all the other songs are a combination.
JOE: It’s not like in the band, we don’t sit down and say, “Well, me and Slider wrote the lyrics, and Kenny wrote the music…” and won’t list it that way – everybody’s got a part in every song.
SLIDER: I don’t know if you’ve seen the album, but it says “Music by Brand New Sin.” … I listen to the music, and I might have wrote the lyrics, but the music made me feel this way to write the lyrics, so Kenny told me the story through the guitar playing… or Kris told me the story… not through words, they just made me feel that way to give me the ambition to write those words.

KNAC.COM: And your lyrics are pretty broad, too, so anyone can relate to them.
JOE: We’ve got specific meanings behind them from our point of view, but we don’t want to force that on the listener, we want [the fans] to listen to it and take it in and find something [themselves], because I think in every song there is something where everyone can relate to and find something in their life, whether it be a broken heart, or just being let down, or feeling alienated or something… I’ve had people come up to me -- and I know the literal meaning behind “SPP” is -- but I’ve had other people come up behind it, and lyrically and say, “Well is it about ‘this’ or is it about ‘this’?” and I like that because [they] are already starting to grab on… Kind of the way we want it to be.
SLIDER: You can just make it whatever you want it to be -- whatever makes you feel. Why tell you what it means, man? You paint the picture!
JOE: That’s what music is… your favorite songs growing up or songs that mean something to you… not because the singer of the band was forcing that image into your head, it’s something that you found in that song… [those are] your favorite songs, the songs that you hold close to your heart. Well, I guess that’s where we come from…
KEN: And if someone doesn’t like it, there’s other music out there that they can go to.
JOE: Exactly.
KEN: It’s still not going to stop us. [laughs]

KNAC.COM: I have one more question for [Slider]: You thank all the Kiss guys on the album… any particular reason?
[Slider laughs, then he shows me the Kiss tattoos all over his right shoulder]
SLIDER: My favorite band!

KNAC.COM: Ahhh…okay. Inspirationally?
SLIDER: Yeah, inspirationally. Actually, it’s kind of a little running joke with my friends from the band Ringworm that we did the split with…they do it on all their albums, so I said fuck it! It’s just a little joke I guess.

KNAC.COM: There’s a good tour for ya!
SLIDER: That would be GREAT, but with the Farewell stuff… who knows…
[We do some Kiss gossiping]

KNAC.COM: Well, I think I’m done here… anyone have anything to add?
MIKE: I’m Mike!
[Everyone laughs]
JOE: Every interview, that’s how we end it! [laughs]

For more info on Brand New Sin, visit BrandNewSin.com or visit NowOrNeverRecords.com.

(Photos by Sefany Jones/ KNAC.COM)

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