Spineshank grabs their 15 minutes and more
By Naughty Mickie

SpineshankWhen I learned that Spineshank had been nominated for a Grammy award in the Best Metal Performance category for their single "Smothered," I knew I wanted to talk to them. I remember when they were just a bunch of local Southern Californian guys gigging the club scene like the rest of us. Then they managed to get signed and start playing bigger venues.

In September 2003, they released "Self-Destructive Pattern" (Roadrunner Records) and it obviously gained them some extra notice. Their lineup consists of vocalist Jonny Santos, guitarist Mike Satkisyan, bassist Robert Garcia and drummer Tommy Decker.

This interview was conducted when Spineshank's Grammy nomination was announced. Just prior to the Grammys, news leaked out that Santos was planning to leave the band. The band lost the Grammy to Metallica and it seems they will be looking for a new singer as well. But with their can-do attitude, they shouldn't be down for long. I had the opportunity to get two points of view to share with you.

Mike Satkisyan

DB: How did you form Spineshank?

MS: We got together in 1996.

Satkisyan adds that they met like many bands, through the Recycler.

DB: Did you have a musical childhood?

MS: I played guitar at 9 or 10. I actually played piano when I was like six=2E I took classical piano lessons. When I picked up the guitar, it wasn't where the notes were, it was about building technique, it wasn't

about learning what music is.

Satkisyan states that he attended Pasadena City College for a semester studying electronics.

Jonny Santos of SpineshankMS: Just because I liked to take my guitars and amps apart all the time and I decided maybe I should study that, know more about it, but not get a degree or anything, that was not my intention at all.

DB: What kind of work did you do before making it?

MS: I was working for an air conditioning company doing repair, maintenance, installation and all that. I did that since I was in high school and once our band got a record deal, I was like, "All right, I'm out." Satkisyan laughs: You have to go to work to make records.

DB: What kind of hobbies do you have?

MS: I wish I knew what one was, I'm never not busy with the band. I watch movies. I go to movies, but lately I haven't even been able to do that. I've been on tour or busy with the band. Even if I have free time, I'll still do band stuff.

DB: How does Spineshank write?

MS: Me and my drummer pretty much write the bulk of it and then my singer comes in and adds the vocals on. Sometimes it starts with a riff, mostly it starts with an idea, "OK let's have a song like this." Before

we even pick up our instruments we know what we're going to write. Once we pick up our instruments it changes into something else, it morphs, but it's all about having an original idea and talking about it before you ever pick anything up. Plus we record everything as we go along. It just lets you know what it all sounds like, you hear it right back and you're like, change this, change that or don't change it.

DB: What do you think of the music scene?

MS: I don't even know, there's so many different of things going on in music now to begin with. For the industry it's like a really weird time right now because people are downloading music and it's like everybody's running around like a chicken with his head cut off. People are really nervous about it, but I think the outcome of it will be good because there's more avenues for your music to get out there now as opposed to before. That's got to be a good thing.

DB: Does the Internet help with your fan base?

MS: You have the opportunity to sit in your bedroom or wherever and talk to a kid who's into your band or in the U.K. or ten thousand miles away. Who would not take the opportunity to do that? You would have to be stupid to not understand the power of the Internet.

DB: How did you react when you heard you were nominated for a Grammy?

MS: I shit my pants. It was weird because I was talking to our publicist the day before and she wanted this video of us from somewhere and I was like, "Yeah, I'll get that to you." The next day at nine in the morning

she calls me. I was like, "Why is she calling me that early?" I'm supposed to be asleep and I was waking up, so I answered the phone. I'm like, "Yeah." And she's like, "I want to congratulate you." I was like, "Yeah, whatever." I had no idea what it was even about. And she's like, "Yeah, you got a Grammy nomination." I laughed so hard. I was like, "Quit fucking with me." I never had known her to be a joker type, if it had been somebody else I would have been, "Yeah, hey, whatever." It took her about 10 minutes to convince me that it was real. She's like, "If you don't believe me, go get online and check it out." "I'm going to hang up the phone and I'm going to check this out and if it's not true, I'm going to drive to wherever you are and beat you up." I'm still shocked.

Satkisyan's family was surprised as well.

DB: What does the future hold for Spineshank?

MS: Keep going and keep bringing the music to people. That's all we want to do.

Tommy Decker

DB: How did you form Spineshank?

Jonny Santos of SpineshankTD: (Satkisyan) and the singer had an ad out years ago like "Drummer wanted to play in a band like Guns 'N' Roses and Ozzy" and at the time I was all about Guns 'N' Roses, so I called. We ended up playing bad punk rock music, we sucked so bad at our instruments. We found another guitar player in the Recycler. Our original guitar player had taken some time off and so Mike came in to fill in and we realized we liked him better than the guy he was filling in for. The rest is history.

DB: Did you have a musical childhood?

TD: In '84, when Motley Crue and all these bands came out, Def Leppard, that's when I really got into music. But in '87 when the "Appetite for Destruction" (Guns 'N' Roses) album came out, that really changed my life. I pulled the drums out of the closet and from that point on it was like everything I did was to try to make it in music. It was fun at times and then there's been times where it's like I should have listened to my dad and got a real job. But it's what I love the best though.

DB: What kind of education do you have; did you attend college?

TD laughs: Oh God no. If you're smart, you're going to work out a backup plan. If music doesn't work out like it does for most people, then you have a backup plan. But of course I wasn't that smart. I just went full force into music and luckily so far I haven't had to have a real job in about six years, so I'm OK right no.

DB: What was your last job?

TD: My last job was delivering pizzas. My son was just born and I was delivering pizzas and doing demos at night and praying for something to happen and luckily it did.

DB: What do you do when you have family time?

TD, explains that he takes his family on tour with him: We just finished a tour in Europe and they were there. It makes it that much easier. We had 20 people on our bus because we were sharing with another band. It was tight, but everyone really got along so it was cool. When you're in France for a couple of days, it's nice to have people around you that you like because people over there are pretty bad.

DB: What hobbies do you have?

TD: It's pretty much all music related. If I'm not doing Spineshank stuff, I like to record other band or mix things like that, the whole recording aspect. And then other than that, I'm an electronics junkie, so I'll either sit on the computer or watch TV, just anything that plugs in-- I'm your man.

DB: How does Spineshank write?

TD: I'm the leader, I'm the boss. No. (laughs) It always starts with me and Mike and we work really weird. I don't play guitar or anything so I have no idea about notes, but I'll have arrangements and entire songs in my head and I'll tell Mike, "Here, I need a riff like this." He'll play a thousand riffs for me and I'll pick it out, "OK that's the one right there." We'll put a song together like that. Michael can write the actual notes, but as far as arranging and just the whole vibe of the song, I have a lot to do with that. And then lyrically, I'll write a good part of the lyrics.

DB: Do you sing?

TD: No, God no. For the sake of the world I don't. When we started off I used to do some screaming parts, but our bassist Rob handles that so much better. It also looks so gay when a drummer sings, I'd have to wear one of those Britney Spears microphones and I'm not into that. I've never been a big fan of the drummer singing.

DB: What do you think of the music scene?

TD: I think like always there's a handful of good bands there and then there's a whole bunch of crap. I would really like to see it get back to the point where there's actual bands writing their own songs starting from the ground up, as opposed to being put together by labels. I think System of a Down is awesome. There's about 10 bands that are great out there, Weezer is one of the best bands ever to walk the earth. There's also a lot of crap and I think you're going to start seeing a lot of these bands fade away, so that's a good thing right now.

DB: What do you think of the Internet?

Jonny Santos of SpineshankTD: It's like a porn haven. The Internet's awesome because you can get anything you want in a second, but the whole download thing is obviously hurting music. When it started we had no problem with it; we still don't really have a problem.

When our second record came out we put out our own songs on there before the label even hit them. We were like, "Here, we want the world to hear." But when people are abusing it to the point where they just don't buy the records any more then it's obviously hurting. The labels are afraid to promote their bands and put them on tour because who knows if they're going to get their money back. It's coming to a point where it's very difficult to actually make any money or be successful right now because people are stealing everything right off the Internet.

But it's cool if you want to hear a band because I'm the first guy to say I hate buying a CD when there's two good songs and the rest is crap, so you can be sure you're going to get your money's worth. But if you like the music and the band you have to support them because otherwise they're never going to come to your town and they're not going to put out any more records. Me, I just like collecting CDs and I like to have them. Even if it's something I don't listen to any more, I still like to own that CD. I guess a lot of people don't care. You get the casual music listeners, the ones who just hear stuff on the radio, and you're kind of in trouble.

DB: How did you react to hearing Spineshank was nominated for a Grammy?

TD: Mike called me and I was still in bed and he was like, "You've been nominated for a Grammy." And he said "you," so I was like, "Me? What did I do?" I said, "What the hell are you talking about?" I thought he was joking. We're the only band in the history that's been nominated in that category who doesn't have a gold record. So to me it was yeah, right, there's no way. When it finally sunk in, it was amazing, a miracle.

It's completely incredible that the song shined through and people actually noticed it because there's so many other songs in that category you hear on the radio all the time. And the fact that we got noticed, it was mind blowing for me. I still can't believe it.

My mom was completely blown away. I think that she realizes what an honor it is and how rare it is. And my dad's first reaction was "Does that mean you're going to get any money?" (laughs) He was happy for me and he wanted me to be happy, but his mentality was that if it doesn't get you money, how can it be any good? He wants the best for me and he wants to make sure of that. So the way he sees it is if you get noticed for it, they should pay you, they should compensate you. I agree with him, they should send over a check for me.

DB: What does the future hold for Spineshank?

TD: Just continue writing music. That's what got us to where we are. We haven't had great success like Linkin Park where we've sold a million records, but we've been doing what we want to do and we've traveled the world and like I said, I haven't had to have a real job in six years. So I don't really plan on changing anything, the way we write our music and things, we'll just write the music that we think is good and try to progress and grow with the band and have fun with it. Because that's what this is, it's fun and if you're not having fun, why do it? When it becomes a business and you're doing it, to try to get on the radio or to make your record label happy, then things will be compromised and it's not the way it should be.

Find out what Spineshank's up to now at www.spineshank.com 


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