Interview w/ Susan Yasinski and the Surftones
MuzikMan: How long has Susan and The Surftones been in existence?
Susan: I started the group as
The Surf Tones in Rochester,
New York in the fall of 1993.
After working with a few
bass players and drummers
Dave Anderson joined the
band as the bassist.
"Without A Word", our first
CD, was recorded in 1993 -
early 1995. Brian Goodman
played drums on four of the
tracks. "Without A Word"
was released by Gee-Dee
Music in November, 1995.
Gee-Dee changed the name
of the band to Susan & The
SurfTones at this time. In
April, 1996 we made our first
trip to Germany.
Dave was the bass player for
the first tour.
"Thunderbeach" was recorded in June of 1996 and was released by
Gee-Dee in September of 1996. Dave, Brian and I went to Germany for
the second tour in February, 1997. Brian and I were now living in Albany,
NY....(not together). Buck Malen joined us as our bass player at this time.
Kim 13 soon joined on Vox organ. "Bitchin'", our third CD, was recorded
in Albany, NY with this line-up and this line-up went to Europe in January
- February, 2000 for the third tour. Our first vinyl release, "This Ain't No
Beach Party" was
released by Surf Waves Records (Belgium) at this time. Shortly after the
tour Dave Anderson re-joined us on bass. On April 1, 2000 we recorded
up-coming full-length live recording in Rochester, NY with the current
line-up. (Brian, Kim 13, Dave and me)
MuzikMan: Can you explain some of the experiences that you have
had that could shed some light on the darker side of the music
industry? Music is a beautiful thing yet the business side of can be
cold and unfair, do you agree?
Susan: I learned a long time ago to stop expecting things to be fair. I also
learned, for the most part, that the world is a cold place. Why should the
business side of music be any different? Business is business no
matter what the product. Something that does bother me about the
music industry occurs both in the business side and the creative side of
music and that is the break-down in honest communication. It happens
between bands and small label owners, it happens between band
members and it results in the break-down of good working
relationships. People in this business tend to be creative and volatile.
Sometimes expectations get out of line with reality, sometimes financial
problems are a factor,
sometimes personal problems get in the way. I think there is a tendency
for people in this business to just shoot from the hip rather than think
things through, discuss things honestly and rationally and work toward
a solution. I have seen many good working relationships end abruptly
over something stupid.
Also people in this business can very rarely admit to over-reacting so
therefore the damage stays done.
MuzikMan: You were once a practicing lawyer, what made you decide
to leave that life behind and pursue music as a career?
Susan: I never really enjoyed being a lawyer. It wasn't difficult for me to
leave the profession and pursue music. I'd rather do something I really
enjoy than something that makes a lot of money. At some point I may
find something that allows me to use the legal
education and experience without actually practicing law.
MuzikMan: Do you see yourself playing something other than
surf-instro music in the future? Did you ever want to go into the studio
and cut loose and experiment with different sounds and styles?
Susan: No, I don't see myself playing anything other than instro-surf. I
like the way the music has evolved bringing other influences into the
genre. The genre has expanded greatly since its inception and, to me,
that is a good thing. I think the blend of other influences with what is
deemed traditional instro-surf has kept the "Third Wave" alive and has
attracted new listeners.
I am really pleased
with the direction our
band has taken. We all
instro-surf but there is
a heavy garage
influence there now.
What Kim13 does with
that Vox organ has
made a big difference
for us. Brian's
aggressive in the style
of '60's garage and
British Invasion. He
also has some late '70's garage/punk in there. Dave's got a great
garage/surf feeling on bass. I think our music has a edge to it.
MuzikMan: Were is Susan Yasinski and the other group members
Susan: I was born in Hudson, New York. I have lived in New York City,
Rochester, NY and Albany, NY. I am currently on the West Coast
(Portland, OR) for about a year. I plan to return to New York City in the
summer of 2001. Brian Goodman is from Rochester, NY. He now lives in
Albany, New York. Kim13 is from Albany, New York. Dave Anderson is
from Rochester, New York. Dave owns Saxon Recording Studio in
"Without A Word' and "Thunderbeach" were recorded there. The
upcoming live release was recorded by Dave. Dave did the mixing and
mastering at Saxon. Dave and Brian were in a Rochester-based garage
band called The Projectiles. Brian and Kim13 were
in 1313 Mockingbird Lane, an Albany-based garage band.
MuzikMan: What makes you tick Susan? And what makes you stop
ticking? (creatively and in life)
Susan: I am a calculated risk-taker who needs something to look
forward to. I have a difficult time sitting still. If I see something I want I go
after it but I don't want what most people want. My personal philosophy
is summed up in the lyrics of Elvis Presley's song "Viva Las Vegas".
A cluttered personal life that distracts me and diverts my energy makes
me "stop ticking". I haven't had that for some time now.
MuzikMan: When the group goes in the studio, do you try to capture
what you do live with no fluff or do you prefer to accentuate your
creations with available technology? Surf-Instro doesn't seem like the
kind of genre that would use much overdubbing and high tech tools, is
this a good assumption?
Susan: We record as much live as we can. I can usually get the lead
track in one or two takes. If there is a rhythm track I over-dub that track.
We like the "no-frills"approach and we keep things simple.
MuzikMan: What do you feel is different about instrumental music
opposed to any other? What are the advantages and disadvantages?
Susan: Without lyrics connecting with the listener is, of course, done
without the benefit of words...much like visual art. There are no words to
direct the listener to any particular emotion or feeling. Instrumental
music requires the listener to connect to the music without the "guide
posts" words provide. Audiences unfamiliar with instrumental music
sometimes find this too challenging...I guess this would be a
disadvantage. However, when you do connect I think the audience has a
very intense experience and this can feed back to the band making a
a thing of beauty for all involved. People who buy instrumental
recordings "get it" and the connect is a given....the advantage is you
play for people who really appreciate what you do.
MuzikMan: What direction do you think music will go now with the
advent of the Internet and the self-support it encourages for artists?
Susan: I think the Internet has been a good thing. It certainly makes
conducting business easier right from marketing the music to setting
up tours to doing interviews. I think the Internet has certainly helped the
"Third Wave" stay alive. Bands can find each other and communicate,
people can buy the music easily, people can get information easily and
when they can get new information they stay interested. Radio stations
that play instro-surf can reach a much wider audience through the
Internet. I am not fond of things that allow people to obtain the music for
free. Bands and labels should be paid. CDs and vinyl don't just
appear without time and money being spent let alone the creative effort
that goes behind every recording. Compensation for those who expend
time, money and creativity is not an evil thing.
MuzikMan: What would be the five CDs you would want with you on a
1) Elvis Presley - "Sunrise"
2) The Beatles - "Anthology One"
3) Robert Gordon / Link Wray - "Fresh Fish Special"
4) The Ramones - "All The Stuff (And More) Vol. 1"
5) The Clash - "London Calling"
1) Fever and Smoke- The 3 Suns
2) Some Lyres (Best Of The Lyres) -The Lyres
3) The Squall $ The Squalor- Annabel Lee
4) Best Of Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
5) H.P. Lovecraft I- H.P. Lovercraft
1) Wally Tax & The Outsiders -1st LP
2) The Real Kids - 1st LP
3) The Lyres- On Fyre New Rose CD
4) Goo Goo Dolls - Hold Me Up LP
5) The Ventures - Live IN Japan '65 CD
MuzikMan: The Surf-Instrumental community has always been small
and not particularly lucrative for the performers, do think this is going
Susan: I know people like instro-surf when they hear it. Many don't know
what it is. Very often someone will hear it for the first time, ask what it is
and then comment that they like it. Instro-surf certainly has the potential
to grow and reach a larger audience if it is ever given the
opportunity. The question is will it ever be given the opportunity to reach
a larger audience. I guess it would if some music industry decision
maker decided to take a chance on it.
MuzikMan: What are the plans for you and the group the rest of this
year and beyond?
Susan: We are looking forward to the release of our live recording. We
are also looking forward to another European tour early in 2001. We had
great time on our last tour. Freddy Spaepen and Jens Pruditsch did a
great job booking the last tour. We really had a lot of fun with Freddy on
the road. We are really looking forward to doing another tour with
Jens. If possible I'd like the band to do a short West Coast tour while I
am out here. We are excited about working more with Freddy and his
new label, Surf Waves. Freddy released the EP on Surf Waves and
everything went really well with that.
MuzikMan: Do you feel in your heart of hearts that you will always
have a home in the music industry? Is there an ultimate goal that you
wish to achieve through the music?
Susan: I certainly
hope I will always
have a home in
industry. Music is
important thing in
my life. I think the
ultimate goal in
music. We grow
certainly aren't a
band that "sits still". People seem to like our music. People who come
to see us play live seem to have fun. I am very proud of the
accomplishments of this band and to continue to be able to say that is
my ultimate goal in music.
MuzikMan: What's on your mind right now Susan? Is there a message
that you would like to convey to all the readers out there in
Susan: At the advice of Brian I'd better not say what is on my mind right
now as it probably shouldn't be printed on the Internet...yes...there is a
message I would like to convey to one particular reader in
cyberspace.....please get e-mail......