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INTERVIEW WITH JUSTIN VYNN OF SNAKESKYN WHISKEY
Hailing from Montreal, Canada, Snakeskyn Whiskey are a quartet with a bright future ahead of them. With the release of their debut album, 'Payments Made In Madness', released in 2012, the band proved they have what it takes to go to the next level of success. I caught up with lead guitarist Justyn Vynn to get an update on the Snakeskyn Whiskey story so far and what the band have planned for 2013.
Justyn explained that the band started back in 2009 with Matt Dibi (vocals/rhythm guitars), Jordan Dibi (bass guitar/backing vocals) and himself in the band. They played their first shows that year, but were struck by the curse that seems to follow many rock bands around – the 'revolving door of drummers'. Luckily it wasn't too long before they happened upon Tommy Tarantilis (at the end of 2010), who turned out to be the final cog in the Snakeskyn Whiskey wheel. The band have been a solid unit ever since continue to go from strength to strength.
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The band members all have their own musical influences, of course, but their shared influences range from good, solid rock bands like Motley Crue, Guns N' Roses and AC/DC to some of the more heavier Metal bands like Metallica and Pantera. This melting pot of influences makes sure that there's something for every rock fan to enjoy in the Snakeskyn Whiskey sound.br>
First off, I asked Justyn about the Rock and Metal scene in Montreal itself, which he explained is "a plethora of bands from every conceivable genre. It's really rich with talented bands, any night of the week you can go out and find at least one good band or artist playing somewhere".
The downside to all these bands competing for the same venues and fans bases, however, is that the area is a bit of a "battlefield" - with a distinct lack of any A&R people willing to go see bands live.
"Being in a band in Montreal is definitely tough, but it spurs you on to play better and to learn how to promote yourselves as a band properly", he explains.
The band are certainly not shy to play with bands out with there own genre, though, "we've played shows with Death Metal bands, Black Metal Bands, and Grunge bands all in one night, so you're fighting to get the attention of all these fans of other genres", as he says. "You really learn how to read a crowd because Montreal has such diversity with music – the thing is that most of the time the crowd will appreciate your music, but even if they don't they'll appreciate what you're doing."
Talking to him about the song writing structure within Snakeskyn Whiskey itself, Justyn explained, the band's song writing ideas don't always come the same way.
"Most of the time", he says, "it builds off of a riff one of us has. With (their debut album) 'Payments Made In Madness', for example, one of us would show everyone the riff and then we'd sit down and work it out".
Lately, however, it seems to be more a case of whoever comes up with the initial riff, would go on to write the rest of the song, but Justyn is keen to stress that it's still a group process because "once most of the parts are in place, we'll meet up, see what we like together and see how we could make it (the track) more dynamic."
He sums up the song writing process this way by saying: "In a sense, we each wrote our own songs, but in another, it was all of us together that brought out what we have". Certainly each band has their own system, but this seems to bring the best out of the band and the individual members at the same time.
The band also writes together, not by sitting round a table thrashing out ideas, but by sharing the ideas and passing work amongst themselves.
"'Under The Knife' [again from their debut album], was like that", comments Justyn. "I had written a story, and wanted to make it into a song, so I wrote some lyrics down and handed them to Matt, who only made them better! Matt seemed to capture the urgency that I wanted but couldn't quite put down in words" he continues. "I also had most of the musical content laid out, and then worked with Jordan on it, and it was he who came up with the rest of the material."
The big intro to 'Under The Knife' was just an one-off experiment on Justyn's part to see if he could write something like that, and it seems that he had no real intention of using it in a song.
"It was Jordan", he adds, "who insisted upon using it for 'Under The Knife', so the initial idea I had, came out to be even better than I expected, and it's definitely one of the songs I'm most proud of."
As Justyn notes the new EP, 'Vicious', was written by the latter method and the band have agreed that this gives the tracks a more varied feel which in turn gives the EP more diversity because of it.
Returning to the subject of the band's debut album 'Payments Made In Madness', I ask Justyn what kind of reaction the band had to it from fans and critics.
"I guess you can say it was mixed to positive", he explained. "It's been reviewed several times, and it's always gotten high ratings (5/5, 9/10). When it comes to just listener taste, most people agreed they liked it, but everyone's a critic, so they always had something to say. I know a Radio Host who interviews all sorts of bands in Montreal, who told me he hasn't been able to stop listening to it since he got it!"
Justyn also mentions that the album has changed the perception of the band in some people eyes. As he explained to me: "We were always seen as some 80s Hair Metal revival band and we do take some influence from that, but for the most part we play darker, heavier stuff than the 80s Hair Metal bands. Once the album was released, though, people stopped referring to us as a Glam band. I'm happy about that!"
Bringing the story up to date, the band have already released a video for the new track titled 'Before I Fall' (available to view below), which is from the forthcoming 'Vicious' EP which will be released on ITunes in Mid-March. Justyn explains that this is an easier way to get their own material released as he, like a lot of musicians, doesn't seen record companies surviving much longer if they continue to operate as they are doing at the moment.
The band also is turning to mediums like Facebook and Twitter to increase their exposure and ultimately their fan base.
"There are thousands of bands who are doing the same, so already we've cut (record) label support out", he says defiantly, "I think if labels want to survive, they have to take chances on bands again, and be prepared to spend some cash on them to really thrive. I don't really see to much social media advertising from labels, I think they really gotta get involved with that instead of letting the bands (or their minions) do it!"
Snakeskyn Whiskey are about to embark on quite an extensive tour of the US in March/April supporting Swedish Hard Rock bands CrashDiet and Crucifying Barbara which is a big step up for them.
"This is truly a dream come true for us", says Justyn excitedly. "I've personally loved CrashDiet since 2007, when I found out about them when I was in High School. For years I was telling everyone about them, since I knew no-one knew them. I mean when I first met Matt and Jordan, that day I showed them CrashDiet, and today they love them even more than me! So to get this opportunity with one of the bands that's inspired me the most, it's just unreal man!"
Touring with big bands like that is a learning curve for any smaller band though. Bands never stop learning and Snakeskyn Whiskey are no exception. Justyn is very philosophical about what he's learned so far, though.
"One of the things we learned from other bands we've seen was keep the talking to a minimum! In the early days, talking was a big thing for each of us between songs. Looking back at the videos of those days, I see it just gets all over the place and just kills the vibe. So we stuck more to just introducing the song, and talking at the end of the set to let people know who we are, you know!"
So what, I ask him, can someone attending their first Snakeskyn Whiskey show expect? "We play a show like we're getting in the ring for a boxing match", he says, "The audience can expect a lot of ferociousness, spent anger, definitely stage presence! We play our music like it's a Thrash show, with lots of energy – we save whatever pent-up anger we built up (during the week) for a show. It's the best way to release it short of getting in the ring!"
Despite what they have achieved with the band since it's inception in 2009, Justyn's very honest about what they want to achieve.
"We've actually written down our goals and aspirations, and have it pinned up at our jam space. From the biggest dream all the way down to what we do next", Justyn explains. "Realistically, we want to be able to do this for the rest of our lives. To be the band that kids think of when they remember the days they were still at High School. We'd love to headline our own North American Tour, and play with our biggest idols, and like I said earlier, with the upcoming tour, one of the dreams is coming true already."
Finally, I ask him to describe the band in a word: "Vicious!" he says, "that's what we called the E.P., because it pretty much describes us, and our music in every way."
"Vicious to us means, you're straight up, you stick to your guns, you never back down, and you're ready for war all the time! Don't get them wrong, though, if you hang out with the band, we are very cool guys", but as a final note, Justyn confirms: "We just wanna have a good time, and we always get along with everyone. But when shit hits the fan, we're always the first to stand tall!"
You can watch the official video for 'Before I Fall' here:
You can catch Snakeskyn Whiskey live here with CrashDiet and Crucified Barbara:
Saturday 23rd March – San Diego, CA
Monday 25th March – San Francisco CA
Tuesday 26th March – Las Vegas NV
Thursday 28th March – Jerome, ID
Friday 29th March – Salt Lake City, UT
Saturday 30th March – Arvada CO
Tuesday 2nd April – Kansas City MO
Wednesday 3rd April – Minneapolis MN
Thursday 4th April – Chicago IL
Friday 5th April – Detroit MI
Saturday 6th April – Toronto ONT
Sunday 7th April – Ottawa ON
Tuesday 9th April – Montreal QUE
Thursday 11th April – West Chester PA
Friday 12th April – Pittsburgh, PA
Saturday 13th April – New York NY
Monday 15th April – Springfield VA
Tuesday 16th April – White Marsh MD
Wednesday 17th April – Spartanburg, SC
Thursday 18th April – Atlanta, GA
Tickets are available from: http://www.crashdiet.org/index.php/tour
Snakeskyn Whiskey are:
Matt Dibi – Vocals/Rhythm Guitars
Justyn Vynn – Lead Guitar/Back Vocals
Jordan Dibi – Bass/Back Vocals
Tommy Tarantilis – Drums
Snakeskyn Whiskey Online:
Official Website: http://snakeskynwhiskey.com/