Kevin Seconds on "4am In Texas" and Breaking Punk Rock's Rules
Lulu Goble Keven Seconds
Known for forming and fronting 7 Seconds, one of the seminal American punk rock acts of the 80's, Kevin Seconds has always been one of the hardest working guys around. Even today, besides occasional 7 Seconds reunion shows and his solo work, the guy is involved in at least six side projects.
Speaking from his home in Sacramento and in anticipation of performing on Thursday at Three Links, Seconds spoke with DC9 about his busy schedule and how he has never found it difficult to say no to drugs, alcohol and meat.
You live in Sacramento, but you formed 7 Seconds in Reno, Nevada. Do you still go back and visit friends in Reno?
Yes, my mom and brother live there. That's where the band is still based out of. That's where the rest of the band still lives. We rehearse up there. It's still our musical home. It's not super far, but it's still a long of enough drive that I don't make it up there a ton.
You have many side projects. Is that just to stay busy?
I think it's because I like a lot of music. I've never had any down time when it comes to writing songs. I could be cursed if you will. I have many side projects that maybe a hundred people have heard. I haven't gotten these projects out there as much as 7 Seconds or my solo stuff. I like to write and I like to play. It's something that I can't seem to stop doing. I might as well take advantage of it because at some point in my life it will all stop.
What are the pros and cons of touring by yourself or with a band?
I love to tour with the band even though we don't tour as much as we used to. I feel like I am still playing with three of my best friends. We enjoy being in each other's company. I like the camaraderie and I like having someone to help you drive. The time goes by quicker because you are making each other laugh or pissing them off. There is something attractive about the speed and the volume of being in a full band. The acoustic stuff is great because I like to do things my way. I like to be punctual. I like to be able to stop where I want to stop. The solo stuff means I travel alone a lot of the time. It makes things simple to do it all by myself. You do drive long hours and it's me doing all of the driving. You get a little lonely and you wish you had someone there to talk with when you are driving 400 miles. I think both kind of balance each other out. When I am solo, I can play wherever I want. I can play clubs, people's houses, record stores, art galleries. It is immediate and you don't have to worry about having a full sound system.
Do you write differently when you know the song is for a solo project?
Yes, I think so. With the band, I have built in rules for what I want to get across with each song. We've always been a message heavy band. I like us being that. I like to channel whatever anger and frustration I have into the songs. With the solo stuff, I think it is more abstract. I take stuff that I have written in notebooks. With the band, it's usually something going on in the world that I can't stop thinking about. With the solo stuff, it is all over the place.
Do you ever mix in any 7 Seconds material into the solo set?
About 20 years ago, when I first performed solo, I would try to do some of those songs. But they just sounded wrong. Our style has always been super straightforward and super-fast. There was a period in the late 80's that we slowed down and got more melodic. Maybe those songs would translate better. I write so much material that it seems kind of foolish to look backwards. Some people would be happier if I did those songs. When I've tried to play those songs on acoustic guitar, it just doesn't sound as good. You don't get a full sense of the song.
Will there be a new album from 7 Seconds?
There will be. We are actually finishing up one right now. We just have to mix it and it will come out in the summer. It will be on Rise Records, the same label that put out my recent solo record. We are thrilled. I think the new songs sound great. I think we still have something to say. It's punk rock made by forty and fifty year olds. We still play a lot. We play as much as we can. We've slowed down certainly, but we are still a band. I am always writing for the band. The new album is our first in seven years.
The album that you slowed down on was 1989's Soulforce Revolution. A few years after that album came out; it seems that every punk band found its melodic side.
[Laughs] Yes, we've always seemed to be a couple of years too early or late on things. When that album came out, it wasn't really appreciated. There has always been a slow brewing amount of support for that record. We hear from people who said they really loved those songs even though we were getting shit for slowing down. It wasn't until 20 years later that we got a sense of how much that era of our music affected people. Even bands that were super hardcore, members come up to me and tell me how great those records were. Back then, of course, the folks in the hardcore scene didn't want any part of it. We were just trying to have fun and make the music that we wanted to make. We wanted not to be too bound by whatever rules there were for punk rock and hardcore. Nowadays, the most requests we get are songs from Soulforce and the album before that, Ourselves. We don't do a lot of that material in our set. People have finally come around to it.
Being from Texas, I was drawn to the song "4 am in Texas." Did you really write that at the time and in Texas?
I did. It was from a journal entry. I was always keeping a journal. During that time, we were having a lot of band member changes. We had these long, drawn-out practices where we tried out new things. That's when the more quiet and melodic stuff came out. It was like having a side band. It was an interesting a period. We went from being the little darlings of the punk rock scene to being pariahs. People were saying, "What is this U2 sounding crap?" I am glad we did it. I am proud of that material. It's part of the entire run for us. If we hadn't done that, we wouldn't have stayed as interested in making music.
Have you ever thought about writing a memoir?
I have. For the longest time, I never did. Over the years, many people have told me to write a book. I felt that the story was already out there. Whatever I've had to say, I've said it. But for the last couple of years, I've been trying to keep things together. I've lived a pretty interesting and fun life. I think it would be fun to share it with whoever would be interested. Who knows? Maybe a little bit down the road, I will write something. I am always writing. It might be nice to put it all together in that form. I am not very disciplined or organized. Time management has always been difficult for me.
You've always maintained a drug and alcohol free lifestyle. Has that been difficult to do, especially touring so much?
No, not for me. I saw alcoholism ruin family members over the years. I tried to dabble when I was younger, but I never had the great experiences that my friends seemed to be having. I feel like I've never been big on labels. People have wanted to throw the straight edge label on me. I have never felt comfortable with it because I've never wanted to be defined by that. I've seen many friends in straight edge bands and that becomes their whole life. I don't want to be defined by the fact that I choose not to drink or do drugs. It has never been hard for me. I live life simply and I try to live people alone. I don't want to be too judgmental.
Are you also a vegetarian?
Yes, I am. It's funny when people notice that I have put on a few pounds and they wonder how I did that considering I am a vegetarian. Back in the 80's, the only vegetarian choices were bread and rice and pasta and fries. It doesn't take long to put on the pounds when that is all you are eating. It's gotten better over the years. You still can't find good food at truck stops, but it's better than it used to be.