December 2002 - SMOKING BIRD
For mostly all Germans, Spain is one of their favorite countries, where they spend their holidays. But aside of that, it's a country where you can find a very interesting underground scene. There are small independant record-label, as the Punk-Rock oriented label Safety Pin or Alone Records, that's more known for its heavy 70's sounds. And of course, their are some interesting bands as Sex Museum, The Hot Dogs and...SMOKING BIRD. Finally this year, the guys have released their debut album "Sunset In A New Town", that's got nothing in common with Doom but it's full of 60's and 70's influences from the Stones to Motorhead, mixed up with a bit of bands as Alice In Chains or the Stone Temple Pilots. My questions about the past and present of SMOKING BIRD and music in general were answered by bass-player Ray Kurtz and lead-singer Pablo Lalanda.
Hello, Ray! Finally, SMOKING BIRD has released the debut album "Sunset In A New Town". You've searched for the right record-label in the middle of the year. Have you found any or will you release the album by your own?
RAY: Well, I think is still soon. Of course we're looking for a good label to work with, but what I see is that the labels are working with styles of music, not bands. What the people buy is not great bands with their own personality, just nu metal, stoner...and it's sad for me. In Spain there're a lot of good Rock n' Roll bands and any band can live with this. It's hard they can take the chance to play outside, it's hard to find a good label, etc... Anyway we've got pattience and sooner or later, I think we'll do.
Why was it so difficult to find a record-label and what for experiences have you made during your search?
PABLO: It's a cultural problem,rock music is really underground here in Spain.Small labels have little money to support bands.You have to strongly believe in what you're doing because there are not great amounts of money to share. But that's the game we want to play! And I think that rock music is gonna get bigger in the next 2 or 3 years.
RAY: I agree. Now is a new era in the music history. But I'm not sure what kind of bands will be bigger...
What kind of response have you received for the album?
PABLO: It's been very well-received by everyone who's listened to it, especially by people who have seen the band live.It catches our live vibe.
In opposite to your last CD-EP "Losing Touch", the album sounds much thicker and stronger. You've also added more up-tempo R 'n' R songs on it as "Eight Days More" for example? Where do you see the main-difference between both releases?
RAY: The new album is cool. Better songs, a great producer, better studio, more time to do it. When we recorded "Losing Touch" we didn't think so clearly about the band. Now we know what we want and how to do. In this time we're played a lot of gigs, we've test a lot too. We've listened a lot of new music. Everything is different except the fact that we still want to play Rock n' Roll. We're better musicians now. In my opinion "Losing..." is just a sketch, and "Sunset..." is a good Rock 'n' Roll album.
The melancholic "Brown Mountain" is one of the songs, that have you've also released on the EP, together with "Last Bird" and "Fire Always Works". Why have you chosen this three tracks for the album and have you re-recorded them ?
RAY: Because we think this songs are the best of "Losing Touch" and obviously the sound of our demo is not so good. There's another songs of this era in "Sunset...", that we can't record like "Dreams" or "Breakdown". Anyway, I like the other songs too, but I prefer all the new songs and we didn't want to record more than ten songs. Also we use to play this three songs in the gigs, but the others there's a lot of time that we just don't play.
How much time have you spent for the recordings and are you satisfied with the final result?
PABLO: Sunset was recorded,mixed and mastered in one week.We are very proud of it. It's our first baby,what can I say about it?
RAY: Ha, it was mastered and mixed in one day!!
I've noticed, that you're playing bass and guitar on the album. What are you doing, when you're playing live and are you searching for an additional bass-player or guitarist?
RAY: Hahaha, nah...I just record a couple of occasionally guitars, in "Eight days more" and "Lost for the most". I don't want to play the guitar, man, but whe you're in the studio it's cool to do something like this. Gigs is another thing, we sound so strong with one guitar, and we don't need any guitarrist more. Anyway we'd love to work with an organist, like Deep Purple or The Faces. I like this combination.
As on the EP, you've combined different styles on the album, that ranges from 60's Garage to 70's Bluesrock, but there's still a "modern" vibe over the whole sound, what keeps SMOKING BIRD apart from being just a simple retro-rock band. How would you describe your music and what's important for you, when you're writing songs?
PABLO: Well,It is hard to describe your own music...We don't believe in music tags like pop,grunge or stoner.They are useful in certain situations but that's not what music is all about.We listen to a lot of music from The Faces to Unida,from Muddy Waters to The Who you know what I mean? There's a kind of sixth sense in the band that guides our music...We play something and then it works or it sucks. I hope we'll never pick up what it sucks,je,je. R- We're fans of the music and we want to do the best.
We just try to make good songs, simple or complex songs, it could sound like 60's, 70's, 80's, 90's or 50's!! We're working in a song that reminds me the magic 50's. We just try to make good songs. When I'm composing I just need a beer and some Humble Pie, or some Aerosmith, or some New York Dolls, or some Gene Vincent. I like to hear albums to solve the typical problems when you're composing a song, and is always an inspiration. We use to talk about the songs to try to make it better and we try to be autocritics.
Which period or decade of music-history is the most-influencal for the band?
PABLO: Like I told you, it's more about music not about time.I like fucking timeless music...But, hey, it was more timeless music done in the late 60's and in the 70's! Je,je...Anyway, milestone recordings for us like "Electric" or "Appetite for Destruction" were recorded in the mistreated 80's
What have you released before the EP and are you still playing with the same line-up as in the early days of the band? Please, give us a short insight in the bands history?
PABLO: We began as a five piece band but our bass player went up in smoke.Then we did some acustics shows and rearranged the band...It was 2000.We did a couple of demos before "Losing Touch" but this was our first serious movement.
Where do you've got the band-name from?
PABLO: Uuh! There's a reason for it, sure...But the only thing I hardly remember it's a strange hazy paint and someone calling it Smoking Bird though it wasn't a bird at all and definitely it was not smoking.
Where have you met your excellent lead-singer Pablo LaLanda? I think, that his expressive and emotional voice is one of the trademarks of SMOKING BIRD.
RAY: In the school. We all went to the same school. After this a few years before the beginings of the band we comparted a house and we started to play togheter, and thought about to create a band. The most funny thing is that I used to sing when we played in this days. Hahaha, the world has lost another shitty singer!!
You're coming out of Spain. How is the situation for a band like yours in your country? Do you play a lot of gigs in your hometown and are there any other rockin' bands in Spain aside of yours. I ask for it, because you've recommended the great Sex Museum to me.
PABLO: There are a lot of great Rock'n'Roll bands in Spain. Fernando Pardo, Sex Museum guitar-player and "Sunset..."producer use to say that they're not a Spanish band. They were born here and we were born here but what we do it doesn't have to be seen as Spanish rock.Turbonegro is not Scandinavian rock or something, it's kick ass old R'n'R. So we've got here a bunch of bands that really rock:Mermaid, The Blackberry Clouds, Rip KC, ...We all are fighting hard to keep our bands alive and making music from our hearts. It's not the most comfortable job and what's more,touring become very hard.Gigs are more a weekend thing.Even bigger groups like Sex Museum plan his touring making two or three gigs a week when they release a new album.
RAY: I like Biscuit too or Rock-a-Hulas.
Have you played any gigs together with Sex Museum?
RAY: Yes, we play with them last May in Valencia. A dream came true!
Sinyou've got any kind of fanbase in your hometown?ce the birth of the band, have you ever played outside of Spain and do
PABLO: We've never been touring out of Spain but we're getting more attention here. Like I told you before rock is an underground thing and we're like a family both musicians and fans.
What can people expect from a SMOKING BIRD gig? Do you play any cover-versions of band as the Stones or the Yardbirds?
RAY: Only Rock 'n' Roll. Actually we use to play some covers of The Who, Stones, The Afghan Wighs or Neil Young, but we've played a lot of covers like Whitesnake, Ted Nugent, The Cult, Kyuss, LA Guns, Mad Season....We like to do it, but maybe when we need to choose our songs in a gig, we've to play only one. That's what we do when we must do a short show.
In September 2002 was the Serie-Z festival in Spain. I wondered, that you weren't part of the billing.What was the reason for it, and have you visited it. If so, what were your impressions about it?
PABLO: It was such a party! An absolute Rock'n'Roll celebration! Everything was focused on music.I really freaked out with bands like Five Horse Johnson, Bellrays, Nashville Pussy or Hanoi Rocks...Well,I've got no words to tell you,two days of hapiness and craziness. Supersuckers were there, Southern Culture On the Skids were there...Unbelievable! We can only hope the festival last a long long time and maybe take part of it some year.It would be a dream come true.
How much time do you invest in the band and what are you doing in life aside of the band?
RAY: We try to play everyday, and we work in another jobs but trying to have free time to play.
What are your future-plans for 2003? Will you make a European tour next year or something like this?
RAY: We'll do it if we have the chance! We haven't plan an European tour, but we'd love to do it. It would be a dream. Tell me if you have any suggestion, man!! hehehe...Hey promoters, we're a Rock'n' Roll machine...Book us, bastards!
Thanks for your time! I wish you the best for SMOKING BIRD.Anything you like to say to our readers?
RAY: Thanks for your interest and I hope we see you all in the gigs. Sooner or later we'll play in your town. Keep on Cosmic Lava and keep on rocking!!