Systematic proves a pleasure
By Naughty Mickie
Photos courtesy of Elektra Records www.elektrarecords.com
If you read our Guts and Glory columns, then you probably know that a lot of less-than-exciting music gets put in our hands for reviews and hopes that we will want to feature the band that produced it in our publication. When I got the Systematic release, "Pleasure to Burn" (Elektra Records), I was hesitant- the CD had a plain pre-release black and white J-card and, honestly, I couldn't recall the group even though I had seen them at OzzFest in 2001. Bravely, I put the CD in my player and cranked up the volume... It was good! The first cut, "Not Like You," grabbed me and, after listening to the entire release several times, has become one of my favorite tunes.
Oakland-based Systematic consists of vocalist/guitarist Tim Narducci, guitarist Adam Ruppel, bassist Johny Bechtel and drummer Paul Bostaph. The group not only did Ozz Fest, but also opened on 2001 tours of Staind, Godsmack and Disturbed, supporting their debut album, "Somewhere In Between." They recently shared the stage with Salvia, Hed pe, Breaking Benjamin and Stereomud on the Jagermeister tour, while their latest single, "Leaving Only Scars," graced the airwaves.
"We started the band back in '95," begins Narducci. "I hooked up with Adam, he and I started writing songs for a couple of years and then we decided to put a band together. We looked for additional members and we started playing out through '97 and '98 and here we are."
I asked the guys to tell me about their childhood.
"My family is very musical," says Narducci. "My dad always had bands that would rehearse in the house, so I was kind of forced to listen. It was just something that was always around. I knew that this was my destiny really to get out and be in a band.
"I picked up a guitar when I was nine. I started singing in my teens in earlier bands that I played in. I didn't really dive into it, making it more of my main instrument until probably '93 or '94."
Narducci also had about one year of vocal training.
"I've been playing for 16 years now. I started when I was nine too," Ruppel tells me. "At that time it was all about the rock star-ism, I kind of fell into that and wanted to become a guitar player. I asked for a guitar for Christmas and I got one."
Narducci and Ruppel worked a regular jobs while launching their music careers.
"We both worked at a car parts dealership and that's when all the anger started because we had a boss who was like the biggest dickhead in the world," Ruppel says. "It helped the band come together and be more together and more on the same page. You know how when you have one guy in the band who has this great job? When you get an offer and he signs, the guy thinks, 'Do I give this up?' But for us, we all hated our jobs. We all wanted to do this forever, so let's do it."
When they're not making music, the guys in Systematic do, well, guy things. At least that's what it seems when I ask them their hobbies.
"Women, drugs, alcohol." blurts Ruppel making me giggle. "You're laughing, we're being serious. No, I'm joking. Believe it or not, we're all into music a lot. I'm into doing movies and art and Tim's into outdoor activities, fishing and barbecuing. But we all have out own things."
"I just bought a gas grill for Christmas," says Narducci.
We compare gas and charcoal grills and discuss smokers as well.
"I barbecue so much it's just easier to have a propane tank. You just put it on the grill, it's done in an hour and there you go," Narducci concludes.
Ruppel tells me how Systematic creates their material, "We write many different ways. Somebody will bring in a guitar riff and we'll write a song around that. Or somebody will bring in a vocal melody or a song title or a concept and we'll write around it. It always starts with an idea. The most common ideas are from a guitar riff or a concept or a title."
As a good researcher, I have done my homework and heard the differences between Systematic's two releases. I ask Ruppel to tell me what he thinks changed.
"It's better," Ruppel states. "In my eyes, our first one was more like some individuals writing and recording an album. This album, I feel more is a band, it sounds like a band and it has that band vibe to it. It has unity on it. That's what we were always going after and we pushed ourselves to step outside of what we normally would do. I think it comes across. You can tell on the first album to the next album, songwriting-wise, it's a huge step forward for us.
"The first is not bad, it's not bad at all," Ruppel continues. "It's just that we know where we were at that time, we know where our heads were at that time and we knew how unexperienced we were at that time. That's why we feel that this one is much more mature for us."
What about the music scene? I query.
"I'd say it sucks," replies Ruppel. "I think that it's just really sad that the industry is having such a hard time. I really don't know what it's because, I don't know if the industry is not taking a step forward or I don't know if it's the Internet. I just know that because of the economy having such a hard time and the music industry having such a hard time, it's just really hurting the creativity of music and being able to sign new acts; take chances. The industry is being more selective and they want winners, so it's more reserved than taking chances nowadays. It's kind of killing the creativity with it.
"You're finding more bands that stay on the normal path, do the normal things. You're not seeing many bands that come up that are really creative and take chances. There are bands that come out that take chances, I'm not saying there aren't, it's just that it's a lot of things." Ruppel goes on, "You're not seeing big arena shows with like two bands on it. You're not even seeing good theater shows with two bands on it. When you go to a theater show or an arena show it's got to have at least five bands on it. It's just really sad. I just wish it would get back to, 'Hey, so-and-so and the other band are playing the biggest place in town this weekend and next weekend this other band's coming through.' It's not like that any more, it's just big package deals and a really hard time in the industry. It's sad. I wish rock and roll would come back. The billing to play big shows and a lot of bands selling a lot of records would be really awesome right now."
I steer him back to his mention of the Internet.
"It's really weird, I think the Internet's great and I think that it's really bad for some things," says Ruppel. "It's really great for getting information, I think it's great the technology side of it, the only thing I don't like about the Internet is that I think it's ruined music. Kids don't get this because they're young and all they know is the Internet, but for us, we understand that it's taking the surprise away, it's taking the fan aspect away.
"I remember you'd hear about the date that your favorite band's album would come out and you'd run to the store and try to be the first one to see the artwork; try to be the first one to hear the songs. And nowadays, a month before it's going to come out, you know the artwork, you know every lyric to every song. It's taken away a lot of the true band aspect of music."
"What I try to do, is when I hear about a band coming out with an album and I'll just really stay away from going on the Internet, listening to the songs and seeing the artwork. I'm really excited about the new White Stripes album coming out Tuesday. I haven't seen anything about it, so I'll pick it up." Ruppel continues, "I do go on and download music to find bands. That's one thing I use it for, but when I find a band, I go out and buy the album. I think it's great for that. But otherwise, if you're a fan of a band, I say stay away from it and support your band."
Systematic has a long road ahead of them-- literally.
"A lot of touring," Ruppel answers when I ask about their plans for the future. "On the last album we toured for a year and a half and with this next album, we expect to do the same thing. We're a touring band. A lot of our mind-set comes from the old school ways of tour, tour, tour and build a fanbase. So we're just looking to do that."
The tour won't just be parties city to city either, as the band plans to record while out on the road.
"We're really really really great with our fans when they come out. We like them to check a live show out and hang out with us after the show. We spend a lot of time with our fans. We really love to have people come out to our shows," adds Ruppel.
If you still didn't get it-- be sure to say hello to Ruppel, Narducci and the rest of Systematic when they visit your town. Oh, and tell them that Naughty Mickie from DaBelly.com sent you...
Find out where Systematic is now at www.systematic1.com
Return to DaBelly