began with the name Magnified Plaid
. Initially, the group started out by playing music inspired by Descendents, NOFX, Black Flag and other Southern California skate punk bands. At the time the trio - Mike Herrera
, Yuri Ruley
, and Andy Husted
were classmates at Central Kitsap High School in nearby Silverdale, WA and were 15 years old at the time of the group's formation. Their debut album, Pokinatcha
appeared in 1994 while the band members were still in high school. Soon after, guitarist Andy Husted
exited the band and was replaced by guitarist Tom Wisniewski
. This trio would go on to record a succession of albums: Teenage Politics
(1995), Life in General
(1996), Slowly Going The Way Of The Buffalo
(1998), The Ever Passing Moment
(2000) Before Everything & After
(2005) and Secret Weapon
in 2007. In late 2009, MxPx bassist Mike Herrera formed The MxPx All-Stars while in July of this year, the group's long time drummer Yuri Ruley announced his retirement from the band. With so much happening in the MxPx camp of late, Joe Matera
caught up with Mike Herrera
recently to find out about all the happenings in the world of MxPx and beyond.
UG: In July of this year, after the band celebrated its 18-year anniversary, MxPx announced the retirement of drummer Yuri Ruley. The statement also mentioned that the band planned to scale back on touring but would continue playing select shows as well as, release new material
Yes that is correct. In regards to Yuri, he sort of initially decided to retire from the band and he is basically[sic] our official position is, he is retiring from touring. But if we do make a record, which we will do if I can find the time to go into the studio, then he is going to be playing on it. So he will be on the records and he'll be in the studio but he won't be touring with us any more. And that is why the MxPx All-Stars came to be born. Last year we did a tour in Japan and soon we're going to be doing our second tour of Australia to perform at the Soundwave festival there.
So with MxPx scaling back its live commitments, will the focus now be on the completion of your new live DVD?
Well, we do have an actual live DVD out that is available mainly on our website, which is called Triple Threat. It is three shows in one, three different shows all on the DVD. But yes, we are actually working on another new DVD which is documentary styled. It will include stuff with us on tour, and will have footage from Yuri's last show in Las Vegas and much more.
I hear there is a book planned as well?
Yeah along with that DVD, there is a photo book with tons of live photos and photos of us on tour. We have never done a book before so we thought we'd do it this time.
You mentioned the MxPx All-Stars which first came together late last year in which you teamed up with front man of The Ataris, Kris Roe and drummer Chris Wilson of The Summer Obsession.
Yeah Chris has been filling in off and on for Yuri as Yuri started having kids. In fact Yuri's wife was pregnant during one tour so Yuri had to leave from the tour and Chris Wilson came in and filled in for him. So Yuri flew home to deliver the kid while Chris came in to take his place. And Chris was coming in at regular intervals any way while Yuri was tapering down on the touring. As for Kris Roe, he has been with us for one tour and it all went great. On our last tour MxPx All-Stars tour with Kris, we got to do some Ataris songs, with him singing of course since they are his songs. So it was amazing to have this extra sort of element to the show. For the Soundwave festival in Australia what we're going to do is, since The Ataris are on the actual bill along with the MxPx All-Stars, we will be back to back every night on the festival on the same stage. And so we will just flip flop and we'll do MxPx songs, as well as, I'm going to play with The Ataris and so will be playing Ataris songs too. And I'll be on guitar with The Ataris, so I'll be playing bass with MxPx and then will switch to guitar for The Ataris stuff.
Having spent quite a number of years on a major label, how does it differ being on an indie label today, especially in the current musical climate of downloads and whatnot?
"Yuri Ruley will be on the records and he'll be in the studio but he won't be touring with us any more."
Almost everything about the music business has changed in the past five to ten years. We were on a major label for so long that we kind of got lazy. But now we're even putting out records ourselves. And a lot of our contemporaries in the same sort of genre are doing the same thing too, putting out record themselves because it is all digital. So you don't really need a record label anymore, you can put it up on iTunes, on Amazon, all the different websites out there. It is all about promoting yourself, being on tour and doing it that way. It is way more D-I-Y. In fact, everything is D-I-Y today.
It is actually going back to the basic work ethic of what the punk and hardcore bands were and are about, so in a sense D-I-Y is appropriately the accurate word to use.
Yes it is completely. Even though you are using the internet or using whatever companies online to help distribute your digital albums along with online web stores, you are still doing you are still doing it your self. And that still means, putting it up online, updating the websites, updating all the social networks. It is a lot of work, it really is.
MxPx made the successful transition from the Christian market into the mainstream and then back to the Christian market again, how has the experience been?
In the US we are pretty much part of the general market. There isn't really any difference, even though there are certain festivals such as Christian festivals that we do a few of, but that's it as far as that goes. We've always done our own regular shows and done the Warped tour and now will be doing Soundwave which we've done a few times too. We are just a band that reaches across all boundaries in a lot of ways.
Do you think being tagged a Christian band' has been detrimental to what the band has been trying to achieve musically?
Probably in a lot of ways it did because, people don't like religious punk which we were never really trying to be. And obviously now that we are adults, we definitely aren't. You change as people and how you see the world changes too. Now that we are a bit older and have been in the band for so long, people don't necessarily care as much. It is now about what the music means to each individual person.
Switching to the subject of gear, what are you using today?
I'm actually using Hartke now. I started using those amps about two years ago since we also use Samson tech wireless systems whom are affiliated with Hartke too. I found that after having used Ampeg for a long time, Ampeg got sold off to a big company and since they weren't getting made in the US any more, it kind of didn't make sense to keep working with them. And we weren't getting the same level of service any more from them. For me, it is not just about gear, it is also about who I am working with. I use the Hartke LH1000 head and I use whatever the new 8 x 10 cab is and it sounds just great. And if you need more EQ or whatever, there are a few different heads you can get as well. But I am pretty basic in my sound, I don't need a lot of EQ, I just need it to be nice and loud. When it comes to bass guitars are Ernie Ball Music Man Stingrays. I have a custom set up that I use. I have used Ernie Balls for as long as I can remember as they were my first endorsement actually.
Though you play bass, you have a passion for acoustic guitar as well. Did most of the MxPx material come from having been written on acoustic guitar first?
Yeah most of the songs did come across from the acoustic. In fact the new DVD will have some stuff about me sitting in the back lounge just strumming away as well as sitting in dressing rooms and writing songs. The acoustic is great as a songwriting tool because you can take it any where. You don't have to plug it in and don't have to be in a jam session. So as a single songwriter, in that I write songs by myself, it is the best way. And I'm now actually sponsored by Takemine guitars and they always take care of me in regards to acoustic guitars.
Is your love for the acoustic guitar one of the reasons why you formed alter-country band Tumblewood?
I don't think that was the sole reason, but it does make sense since as I get older I am writing some different styled songs such as Americana and roots music and folk music. In fact, I wrote a lot of those early Tumbledown songs on tour in Australia during the first Soundwave tour. That is what I like about traveling it, really inspires you to write really interesting things.
You've been writing country songs since the late 1990s, did you ever bring them to the MxPx songwriting table?
"In the US we are pretty much part of the general market."
There are with a few songs where I did that, but actually they never made the records. But one of them did make it onto Panic, the MxPx album that came out in 2005. The song was called Late Again and it doesn't really sound like country but the guitar player in Tumbledown Jack Parker - was a guest guitar player on that track, he did the solo. So it gave you a bit of hint of what Tumbledown was going to become.
Have you got an advice to impart to other musicians from all your years in this industry?
Obviously that it is about keeping up and in contact with your fans. Nurture those people because building a fan base is very hard to, especially outside your home town. But once you do that, keep them involved with what you are doing. Also, I think putting out music often is a little bit more important than putting out one big release like every two years. And that is changed too because it used to be where you could do that one album every two years. But that is not what people expect nowadays. You have to keep people interested more often now.
Finally, I want to ask you, you consider The Clash and The Who as two of your greatest favorite bands, why?
In regards to The Clash, obviously it was because they were huge in what they talked about, such as social injustice, especially in the lyrics they wrote. And also in just the way they did it. They did it with their own style and all their albums are amazing. With The Who, they are the ultimate rock n' roll band. In my opinion they kick The Rolling Stones' asses all over the states on any day. And I do like The Stones! But if you listen to The Who they're just kickin' ass. Every guy in that band is amazing at what they do. Or should I say, at what they did since, Keith Moon and John Entwistle are now no longer with us. The Who were the perfect rock n' roll band.
The MxPx All-Stars play Soundwave 2011 in Australia from Saturday February 26 March 7, 2011. Further details on Soundwavefestival.com.
Interview by Joe Matera