Interview W/ Susan Yasinski And The Surftones
By MuzikMan [06-04-2000]
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 our 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 appreciate traditional 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 drumming is 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 from?
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 Rochester.
"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 live show 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 dessert island?
Susan: 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"
Kim 13: 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
Brian: 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 to change?
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 Freddy and 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 the music industry. Music is the most important thing in my life. I think the band is continually achieving our ultimate goal in music. We grow with each recording. We 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 cyberspace?
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......
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