As important, or sometimes even more important, than bands themselves, are the people behind the scenes making things happen. Whether they are pressing records, booking shows, or just keeping everyone in line, they are integral aspects of the music community and don’t deserve to go unnoticed.
Kate Hiltz has dedicated much of her time and energy over the past couple decades to managing The Bouncing Souls and running Chunksaah Records. In our latest 10 Questions interview she tells us her advice for up-and-coming bands, describes her love of touring, and lets us know what the near future holds for her and the Bouncing Souls.
My dad had some really great 50’s rock and roll compilations and some Eagles records. Also, I really loved The Muppet Movie soundtrack (still do). I basically listened to top 40 pop music (luckily my youth coincided with new wave and the new romantics) until i discovered Duran Duran. I listened only to Duran Duran for about two years and then I discovered The Cure and The Smiths and it was all on from there…
My brother Jon did punk shows in our basement in New Jersey for about ten years starting in the late 80’s so that was a really big deal in terms of punk bands and culture and figuring it out. I also went to a lot of concerts in New York City that I would learn about in the Village Voice and then wait on line outside the record store to buy tickets when they went on sale. At some point, I figured out that there was almost always a Sunday matinee at CBGB and would just go. I’ve always just loved live shows and will still go to almost anything at anytime.
3. Chunksaah Records has been around since 1993. How has it evolved and what do you think has been the key to its longevity?
It’s evolved so much and also not at all. The Bouncing Souls started Chunksaah as a DIY label for their own records when they couldn’t find anyone else interested. Back then it was a post office box and in between tours they would mail out 7”s and t-shirts and answer fan mail. In the mid-90s I took over doing the mail as they were away so much. Around 2000 I started trying to put out records again. It’s still basically a place for the Souls to put out records when they want and for me to do what I want as well. It’s very tiny and very family-oriented. The key is that we never tried to be a big deal and therefore didn’t fall into a lot of the traps that ruined a lot of indie labels at the advent of the digital age.
4. What advice would you give on maintaining business relationships and promoting bands in a constantly-changing music industry?
5. What is the best piece of advice you’ve gotten in terms of following your passion and moving ahead creatively?
Easy. It’s from a Bouncing Souls song: FIND WHAT’S GOOD AND MAKE IT LAST.
I can’t decide because it is all so difficult? Haha. I think logistically, the biggest problem is always money. There’s never enough and it causes so many collateral problems. But really, I think the thing that is the most difficult (and I would think this doesn’t apply to a lot of bands and that we are extremely lucky to care about and value each other so much that it is such a challenge) is to take everyone’s preferences and schedules and ideas and needs and form a compromise for the greater good. This concept applies to the smallest thing (where should we stop to get food?) to the biggest (what tour/show/stuff are we going to do and how?)
I love touring. I love long drives and seeing other places and visiting friends and seeing bands all over the world. Sure, you can be tired and hungry and dirty for weeks on end, but it’s a choice. I’m sure if I thought about it, I could list hundreds of nightmares but at the end of the day… I just love it.
Communicate. Be clear and honest with each other about your dreams and goals and other commitments and preferences and relationships… and come to an agreement/compromise… and then keep talking about it. I think a lot of bands fall apart or are unhappy because they stop talking to each other and the dynamic just sours. It’s hard to face challenges and disappointments if you’re not a united front.
9. The Souls celebrate their 25th anniversary this year which is an achievement for you as well. What stories and accomplishments stand out the most from your involvement with the band?
I’m so proud of them and us everyday. I’m the luckiest girl around, even when things are difficult. It’s hard to pick out any particular events only because there are SO MANY. Years ago we had a conversation about what anyone’s goals for the band were and we’ve long accomplished them (anything from being on TV to making our own documentary to playing certain venues or with certain bands to starting our own mini-festival in our hometown) yet we are still here, dreaming more dreams and making them reality. That is the accomplishment. Still being here and happy to be here.
10. What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Speaking of personal goals….. next up is Riot Fest in Chicago and Denver where we will play with The Cure (who is my favorite band of all time and I am basically freaking out). We have basically been taking it really slow this year, only a handful of shows and getting together to rehearse and write and hang around them. After Riot Fest we will play one or two other shows (shhh still secrets) and then it’s time to party at Home For The Holidays!!!
Portrait © Angela Datre/How We Are 2014 and Live Photo © Andy Jimenez/How We Are 2012
Singer-songwriter Derek Zanetti, also known as The Homeless Gospel Choir, has been traveling the U.S. sharing his folk-punk protest songs since 2009. His new album I Use to Be So Young was released on A-F Records on July 15th. We caught up with him for our 10 Questions series and talked about his writing and record process, the social and political issues that matter to him most right now, and what his plans are for the rest of the year.
1. Tell us about your earliest musical memories and influences.
I can remember listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas Album on my grandfather’s old turntable in 1987. I remember crying when I found my father’s copy of Ozzy Osborne’s Bark at the Moon. The image on the front cover was so disturbing; I had nightmares of it for years to come. One time when I was seven, I was at my Uncle’s house at a summertime outdoor BBQ and Dazed and Confused by Led Zeppelin came on the classic rock radio station and I remember hearing the lyrics “the soul of a woman was created below”. I think that was the day when I stared to lose trust in women.
I am heavily influenced by conservative talk radio and my ever so reoccurring battle with mental illness. I love pretty music that has satirical, angry lyrics. I’m a huge fan of punk music, and would probably say that it is the closest thing I relate to.
2. Describe the writing and recording process for your new record. As a one-man band, how do you tackle creating new music?
I love taking long drives to places I’ve never been to. I’ll put a tape recorder in the passenger’s seat, and clip a lapel microphone to my collar, and just talk to myself. When I get home I’ll put on a Woody Guthrie record and pick the best things I said on the tape of a congruent theme and slam on my guitar for hours until something develops.
3. How has the experience of collaborating with A-F Records and its founders (members of Anti-Flag) been?
A-F Records is fucking awesome! Chris Stowe is a very dear friend of mine and he loves what he does. He really believes in my music and wanted to help me make something extra special. I think we accomplished that with this record.
It was amazing working with the Anti- Flag boys on this record. Chris #2 and I worked very closely with one another to sort out all the songs and make them the way we wanted. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Not to mention the huge signing bonus they gave me. I was able to buy a new house, a decent used car, and I even had a bit left over to take my lady friend out to the ice cream parlor.
4. What is the best piece of advice you’ve gotten in terms of following your passion and moving ahead creatively?
The best thing you can do for yourself is remove your safety net. If you want to make music or art, and you always have a fall back in case it don’t work out, more times than not you’ll revert back to it. But, if you say to yourself that I’m going to make music, or art and that’s it, even if I starve to death, chances are good you’ll make opportunities for yourself to show your art.
5. You describe your recordings as “protest songs”. What social and political issues matter most to you right now and how can people get involved?
It’s hard to just pick one or two or three things that I care about and talk about them in length. But if I have to mention something that is directly affecting me at this moment it would be the dangerous and hazardous ramifications of fracking in Pennsylvania. There are people what live within an hour drive of my house that can’t drink their water because of the fast and foolish rush to frack. Land is being destroyed and natural resources depleted in the name of profits for these wealthy investors. Our Governor, Tom Corbett, had deregulated many of the standards that drillers should be held to as to allow them to make quick profits, while not holding them responsible for careless, reckless pollution that is nearly impossible to reverse. Even though voting has been seen as an enormous waste of time, especially on the national level in regards to the president, local and state representation is something I believe that can be influenced by my direct action, petitioning, and involvement. I’d like to say I’m going to handcuff myself to a fracking drill and go on a hunger strike ‘til they stop polluting Pennsylvania, but I’ll probably just talk a bunch of shit on Tom Corbett and make a funny anti-Corbett t-shirt around voting time.
6. What effect has your hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania had on you musically and creatively?
Pittsburgh is the best city in America so naturally it’s easy to write the best songs in America while I’m living there.
7. What do you do outside of music and how have you balanced that with being a musician?
I also make art, and I write a good bit. I have one book out in the world already, and I’m working on my second. When I’m not singing with my guitar, I take my book out on the road and do reading from that. People seem to like it pretty good, so when I get too old to be punk, I’ll just write more books, I guess.
8. Touring is often perceived as having a certain grandeur although that is not always the reality. What have been some of your highs and lows on the road?
I’ve toured pretty heavily for the last five years. I don’t have many complaints. I’ve never broken down, I’ve never been robbed, and I’ve never had to sell any of my ethics to get money for gas or food. Obviously I’m not in Guns N’ Roses, so sometimes I sleep on the floor at someone’s house, or in my car, but I lived in basements and on recliners for most of my adult life, so I’m always grateful for any kindness someone shows me. Touring isn’t for everyone, but I’m glad it is for me.
9. If you could be remembered for one song you’ve written, which would you choose?
That’s a hard one to answer. I guess I’d say I hope if you like my songs you like all of them, and even if I get forgotten, I think I’ll be fine with that too. Because when you’re dead I don’t think you care about people who are living. You’re too busy being dead, and enjoying the nothingness.
10. What are your plans for the rest of the year?
I’ll be touring quite a bit. I’m working on a few splits to be released early next year. I’m going to Europe this December, touring the south east in November with my best buds In Listener, hopefully finishing the new book I’ve been writing. I’m planning on playing a bunch of shows with Anti- Flag and traveling and touring with them. There is a lot on my horizon. I’m excited.