When I first heard the Bill Mike Band’s first CD Better News, I was blown away by the furious grooves, tight yet somehow off-the-wall guitar playing, and the melodic vocals. I become an immediate fan.
While it would be easy to say that the Bill Mike Band is Bill Mike’s baby, he has some pretty good company with Chris Morrissey (bass, background vocals) and Steve Goold (drums).
Now with a new CD under their belt, the Bill Mike Band start phase two of their plan to dominate the world—and with Bill Mike’s optimistic vision and work ethic, anything might be possible.
The most interesting part of this interview might be on the question about revenue streams for full time musicians. I have yet to do an article about it, but these national companies that come in do “Battle of the Bands” for a nominal fee from each band, which can be up to $500 for a chance at a contract and some prizes. They very much seem like a well-constructed plan for someone to make a lot of money—and I don’t think it’s the bands who participate.
Anyway, listen to Bill Mike. You might learn something and hear some cool music to boot.
Rich Horton: Since your band is what is commonly referred to as a power trio, is there a power trio that influenced you more then others?
Bill Mike: For BMB the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Police would be the big two. We also appreciate Primus and Rush but love the songwriting of the JHE & The Police. They bridge musicality with memorable writing.
The band does experiment with sound a bit, but it always structures itself around a song structure. Was there ever a point in writing a song when things got out of a hand musically and you thought, “This is cool to us, but will anyone else listen to it”?
Sure, vocal melody is #1 for me. That’s the real subconscious connector. We are hyper in-tune [to] whether a song is A Squad or B Squad. Many tunes from the new record were axed because they just didn’t communicate this BMB formula….Great groove, interesting arrangement, memorable vocal melody, great individual parts, and lyrics with depth. The art process can be long and challenging, but it’s worth all the work because making interesting art that helps move or motivate people is our goal. Connecting with our shared humanity is at our core. Having high standards no matter what kind of band you are or level of experience isn’t a bad thing. That’s more punk rock to me.
Was there a difference in how Truce was written and recorded compared to Better News?
Yes, we had the luxury of a grant through Fur Seal Studios so time was on our side. I think we remixed each tune ten times over. Joe Johnson was our patient engineer and manifestor of the grant. I felt like that Tom Sholtz guy in the band Boston who spent 70 years recording their records. I’ve never had this luxury in my entire career so I felt really lucky and took advantage of the opportunity to really craft this record and get all three members happy with the tones and takes. Better News, our first record, was recorded pretty quickly. We played those songs out live for a year so they were all ready to go. We got the grant for Truce three months after Better News came out. I didn’t have any songs ready or written, so the three of us piecemealed the new tunes over a longer period of time. It was blissfully laborious.
How many guitars do you own, and what is your favorite?
I only have two because I spend more money on touring, gas, printing, web design, promotion, and paying my boys more than my gear. The life of a real indie musician, that’s just the way it goes. Real stuff! I’m actually borrowing a guitar for our CD release.
The Bill Mike Band play “Secure” at the Whole.
With the changing musical landscape, has that changed your life as a full time musician and are there new revenue streams that seem to make up for old ones?
Until all Americans value artists in a less conditional way, making a living being an artist could be a challenge. That’s the elephant in the room. Thanks to the Internet times are a changin’ but the old music system still dominates. Each year things open up but now there is a new type of predator on the Internet. Look at all of the “battle of the band” competitions online, contests, new marketing companies. Same shit, different system. Watch out young bands, most of these people and companies are just exploiters. Bands, at the core, want to be known and want to be popular. That’s human trait we all share at varying level of degrees. Thus, most musicians are susceptible to giving in and shelling out money at the risk of wanting to be known. Basically, you are contributing to the “artists get paid last” system that’s been set up since rock ‘n’ roll began in the 1950s. I’m open [to] this new music world, but you have to be creative and think outside the box. We have no other choice. We have to play and record to keep sane, keep balanced, and keep alive internally. Musicians will always be students of their craft and music business. I think a musician’s goal of making a comfortable living doing what they do best is realistic and noble, but in America compared to many other older countries, it’s harder.
With your connection now to Draw Fire Records, has that helped you grow a bit without having to do as much of everything yourself?
Dave Rachac and Holly Munoz at Draw Fire have been extremely helpful and enthusiastic to the Bill Mike Band. Bottom line, it takes a village. We’re more like an artist coop so everyone shares in all duties. Nobody is sitting back and drinking umbrella drinks.
Your live show is energetic, loud, and from the looks of it, you’re having a great time. Is playing live your favorite part of being a musician?
Yep, it’s my church, football game, and school all rolled into one!
Anything else you would like to say, or talk about?
Yes: Thanks, Rift, for keeping it real and keeping it cyclical. Musicians, music fans, music journalists, radio DJs, and music tech folks all need each other to survive. Nobody get on their high horse, it damages us all. If you’re a rock ‘n’ roll type in America, unless you are a commercial star, most have people have pity for us and don’t think what we do is real. It’s entertainment to most. That’s partially true, but everybody I know playing music, writing about music, recording music, or supporting music are very serious people with good intentions. We actually need to change the entire perception of rock ‘n’ roll in America. Glorifying the Jonas Brothers, who are good musicians and pop stars, as “geniuses” is going too far. Balance, balance my friends. There are so many genres of music, and subcultures of music that deserve that attention as well. Again, changing the music value structure of America is key and BMB is here to help! Thanks for letting me voice my opinion! It’s election time and I really value my freedom to speak openly. That is a true American gift that I cherish.
|Also in the Daily Planet, read Dustin Luke Nelson on the Draw Fire Records showcase at CMJ in NYC (October 2008).|