Interview: Early Graves
Photo by Stacy Schrag
In the April '09 issue of Decibel (#54, Brutal Truth cover, order here), I did a feature on how the recession is affecting touring bands. I sent 20 bands a five-question interview regarding various aspects of band finances. Their responses were remarkably uniform. However, Makh Daniels, vocalist of Early Graves (San Francisco's answer to Trap Them; I reviewed their We: The Guillotine here), gave by far the most colorful responses. Here is his interview in its entirety.
- Cosmo Lee
How has the tanking economy affected your band and you personally? What is your day job, if you have one?
Since I started touring heavily back in '06, I have had something [like] over 30 jobs. Usually office admin kinda stuff, but there's been barback stuff and waiting tables and shit like that. Back then it wasn't that hard to find a job, but it's funny you mention the job thing, 'cause for the past month I've been looking for pretty much ANYTHING. The economy is just the biggest turd right now. Any time there's a job interview - and mind you, I have a pretty good résumé - there's like 10,000 goddamn people who've applied for it before you and have master's degrees in physics and psychology who are way over-qualified snatching my data entry or receptioning position. That's how bad it is. Those people are just scrambling and taking whatever they can get, which leaves the people like me, who forsaked [sic] being a college dude/jobber/chump to go tour, without any real options. I might get a job at my friend's bar being a bouncer, so that might be tight. Of course, I'll lose the job once the next tour pops up, but hopefully it'll get some debt taken care of.
When gas was $4/gallon, how did that affect touring? Now that gas has dropped to $2/gallon, how has that affected touring?
Man, back when gas was $4 a gallon, it was nearly impossible to have a successful tour without tipping in and out of the red. It seemed like the only smart thing to do was share a van with another band on the tour. Food was always free 'cause people we stayed with would cook up somethin' hella good, or we'd just lift groceries from Wal-Mart. I don't really know how much it cost per week/month for the other shit, but $100 wouldn't even fill the tank, ya know? Someone [was] always having to dig into whatever little bit of savings they had and have nothing when they got back home. It was so fucked up. During some of the worst parts of the touring cycles, when we didn't have any money for gas, and we were stuck in Knownothingtownfuckthisplace, North Carolina, we'd get all drunk and go to church parking lots, creep up to their "Christ is risen!" missionary vans and siphon all their gas and shit. Kinda fucked up, but whatever. I think we even mentioned boosting their fucking tires, too, but we're all, like, "Naw naw naw, what if the tires don't fit? Fuck all that! Hella work!"
But since it's dropped to $2 gallons, it's been, like, unbelievably successful tours. And I mean for us "successful" means not having to come out of pocket. We'd be sitting in the van after a few weeks of touring, looking at all the money we had in the cash box and just straight up STARING [at] it. I mean, there wasn't hella of it or anything, but the fact that there was even ANY money in the cash box made us all, like, "Is this real? Are we actually making money on this tour? WTF?! Has someone been kickin' it with Rumpel-fucking-stiltskin?!" Ya know? But seriously, [I'm] so glad that gas is super low now. You can actually buy some shit without trippin' hella hard.
Have people been buying less merch in the past year or two?
For some reason, people have been really buyin' tons of merch. I think it might be because we have shark mouths and nuns grabbing each other's butts on our shirts, but I don't know. The shows have been really good as of late. I don't really know what that means [as] far as the economy goes, but maybe it's the same as bars being prosperous during times of recession. Maybe it's worth it enough for people to get out of the daily grind of their lives and headbang and smoke a buncha weed and shotgun beers with some shitheads from SF. Who fuckin' knows, though?
Has your label's promotion budget decreased, or the amount of royalties you get? Are you seeing any money from paid downloads (iTunes, Amazon, etc.)?
Well, Ironclad/Metal Blade put out our records, do the distribution, give us a budget to record, and get the word out via press agents, so they do what they are supposed to, and I can't really expect that much more from them. So the budget has increased a bit mainly 'cause the record sales are doin' OK, so they don't really need to cut back anything (at least I hope not). As far as royalties: LOLOLOLOLOL. Being in bands like this, you usually don't see a dime til' like 10 years later, so I'm not holding my breath. Haven't really been seeing any money from iTunes or Amazon, but who knows. Maybe it's in a Swiss bank account somewhere.
Do you/your bandmates have health insurance?
I personally have medical insurance but...let's just say...it's free...and paid for by companies I don't work for anymore...unbeknownst to them...that's all I can really say without catching a fraud case. But the rest of my band don't really have any health insurance. Last tour Dan (drummer) got a crazy throat infection and had to go to this hospital in Seattle. Since he didn't have health insurance, he got them to agree for him to pay them later once he got home. All the doctor did was check his throat out and give him antibiotics. The bill ended up being somewhere around $900. That's fucking ridiculous. It's a basic human fucking right to get medicine cheaply if you are sick or hurt or whatever. I don't really get why that hasn't been implemented yet, but I imagine CEO's of medical companies everywhere need to buy their 2009 Mercedes, new mansions in the Bahamas, and generally be the biggest fucking dickheads this world has ever seen. But yeah, not bitter or nothin'.