An interview with my favorite band (Ultra)Spank!

Jerry, Dan, Pete, Fed & Neil of Ultraspank

I interviewed Pete, Dan and Neil of Ultraspank over pizza on the eve of their second record's release, just before they went out on the road with Static-X for about six weeks. I tape recorded the hour plus interview which came out garbled at best in some places, so I had to fill in the blanks a bit.
It was great catching up with the guys... if you are reading this and don't live in Santa Barbara, you aren't going to know some of the people we are talking about, so I made the following key:

GC/Giancarlo: My then-boyfriend and always brother...who fronts Nogahyde which now features original Spank drummer Tyler Clark. GC used to lead Creature Feature, a staple heavy act in SB for about 10 years. Also plays with me in This Ascension.

Kevin Ireland: Santa Barbara rabble-rouser and frontman of Romper Room.

Kronix: This band featured Danny from Spank and Mikey from Snot/Soulfly.

Parry: Parry Gripp fronts Nerfherder and for severeal years wrote about local music for the weekly paper here, The Independent.

Ugly Kid Joe: Prolly needs no introduction-- after Toad the Wet Sprocket, the second rock band to get signed to a major label from S.B. Their most famous song was prolly "I Hate Everything About You." Their singer Whitfield Crane ended up in Life of Agony, but I dunno if he's still with them.

Angus (Cooke): One of the proprietor's of Orange Whip recording studio, also plays cello. Used to be in the bands Woodburning Project and Ghoul Brynner

(Mark) Casselman: SB soundman, engineer, ProTools expert, etc., who's prolly worked with every band in town. Is famously humorous for his perculiar, pseudo-geek manner. Now at Orange Whip.

JJ (Atkinson): JJ was in lots of bands in SB at the very end of the 80s and throughout the 90s. In fact one, Under the Weather, was a big influence on my band, as they were dark and groovy and had a beautiful frontwoman/bass player Anna. He went to work for this management company in L.A...

Frank Corsetti: best soundguy around, now pretty much giving it up to be married and teach Geology at USC. Tour managed Ultraspank in early days, loves my band and Nogahyde. What can you say, the guy's got taste.

Charlie (Dennis): Bassist of This Ascension and co-founder of Nerfherder. Had mutual falling out with The Herder about the time we got back from our last U.S. tour (very beginning '98).

(Dave) Hanicek: regular DJ at our local alternative station who also has his own show that focuses on local music.

Marko (72): Marko joined Dave's show as co-host a while ago. Marko is also in 5000 other bands, most notably GQ popsters Sugarcult.

Also, I really learned something about my interview skills doing this-- they suck. Count how many times I turn the conversation back to me and my band! Duh.

Dru: It seems you guys are a fairly large band for not as many people in town knowing who you are...

Neil: At this point in time nobody really pays attention to bands of this nature–that is, heavy music in general.

Pete: It gets the ‘eye roll’… no one cares.

Neil: Back in another time, it was really going on, Snot was out, Summercamp was out, Dishwalla was big at the time… people in Santa Barbara wanted to go out and see music.

Danny: We were the last band to come out in that group of six or seven bands that got signed to a major in 1996-- we were the new band in that group and everybody kind of had already become a dedicated fan of one of the others.

Neil: You know I watch bands like Nogahyde and Pressure 4-5, bands doing heavy music, and those guys are working hard and it’s just not how it used to be. You could go to Toe’s Tavern and people wanted to be there and wanted have fun. It was packed every time, and it’s just not that enthusiastic around here now.

Dru: I think at the time I probably made fun of the place but, that place was really going off, actually. That’s where I learned about you guys, Snot, lots of other bands.

Neil: Yeah, those were the good old days.

Dru: Well, don’t say that, because you guys are going on tour again tomorrow for another six weeks or whatever… you mean just locally speaking.

Neil: Yeah, exactly.

Dru: I think if there’s only one place to play in town, even if that place is okay, it’s not a good thing.

Pete: It’s not fully equipped for a band with as many toys as ours. We’d just blow the power in five minutes.

Dru: Things might be better off there now, I don’t know. But we played the Hi-Bar and the same thing happened within the first song. It’s like "Sorry!"

Peter: For me personally I’ve noticed that when I come home I kind of just want to sit on my ass. I don’t really want to play anywhere. I want to relax since I’m supposedly not working.

Dru: Does it feel more like work now since you’re doing it all the time?

Pete: No definitely not.

Dru: Okay, good.

Dan: No, it’s getting more fun, because we’re playing for better crowds–it’s definitely fun, it’s not like work–

Neil: We just get tired!

Dru: People catch you when you stage dive now.

Pete: I’ve never hit the floor

Dru: That’s good. I wouldn’t know how to judge that–you’re just like, "Well? You think they’re going to care?"

Pete: You see who’s watching…

Neil: I would definitely like to see crowd enthusiasm come to Santa Barbara like it was at one time. When we go out there and play other places… we could go to a place and play it for the first time in front of a thousand people and they’re stoked. They’re there and want to see some action.

Dru: It’s almost as if the people of Santa Barbara have become apathetic then?

Neil: I don’t know, maybe they all just want to sit on their asses too (looks at Pete).

Pete: Sorry.

Dru: Should I ask some of these questions I have for you? When I first heard you guys, I heard you came from Indica, so quit making a face, and tell me a little about that–you have to.

Dan: That’s where some of us came from.

Dru: No, I know, I know that… Sorry. I want to hear about everybody, but I knew that one, so…

Pete: We all have to start somewhere. It’s a skeleton hanging in the closet. No, it was, you know… kind of an immature speed metal band.

Dru: Don’t be lame, okay so it was you, Chris (Ferranti), Tyler…

Pete: Dan after a while…

Neil: Indica was a great band in their day!

Pete: It’s where we started, it’s where we grew from.

Dru: Who was the other guy?

Pete: Oh Kirk. I don’t know what happened to him. But Indica was cool for its time. Luckily it led to this.

Dru: Was that the first band you were in?

Pete: Yeah, the first one worth mentioning…

Dru: Was that the first band you played around with?

Pete: Outside I.V., yeah.

Dru: I’m not going to get anymore about that am I… (band laughs)

Pete: I did the bluff top thing with some lame cover bands. Although, Crud did feature Kevin Ireland. Kevin played drums. That was a looooong time ago.

Dru: Really I didn’t know that. I’ll have to put that… I’m sure Kevin will appreciate it. Okay, so you (Neil) were in D.O.G. We (This Ascension) used to practice at San Marco storage, so I knew that.

Neil: And you never came ever to say "Hello?"

Dru: I didn’t know you yet…

Neil: Well you could have…

Dan: I practiced over there, too.

Neil: Yeah we practiced right next to their band.

Dan: I was in Kronix.

Dru: We played with you guys once, it was some stupid battle of the bands at Carnaval. There were like 12 bands-- they decided by lot who was to play with whom, and they competed against just those bands for that evening… so it was "Tonight: This Ascension and…Kronix!" We thought "Oh great, why’d we even show up?" And you guys were all "Hey that was really good! Good job!" then proceeded to kick our butts.

Dan: Arial took that. Arial, they were a band from Ventura.

Dru: Noooo, really? I didn’t even remember them. How do you remember that?!

Neil: Danny always remembers those crazy things.

Dru: So was D.O.G. your first band?

Neil: Yeah, my first one here…I’m from Solvang.

Dru (to Dan): And you were doing Kronix, and then…

Dan: Then Kronix fizzled. I joined Indica, and that fizzled. Then we formed this band.

Dru: I remember when Kronix was on the front of the paper. I was like "Wow! There’s actually a gnarly band on the paper!"

Dan: We were probably the first metal band to nab the cover of The Independent.

Dru: Who wrote that, was it Parry?

Dan: I don’t remember, I have no idea…

Dru: When did you guys add Jerry?

Neil: Jerry came into the mix about two years after we formed.

Dru: I never saw you without Jerry, so I was a late fan.

Neil: There weren’t many shows without him.

Dan: I think we only did like two shows without him.

Neil: I was in another band with him at the time–Good Mourning.

Dru: Was it like "M-o-u… mourning?" Was it like "mourning at a funeral?"

Neil: Yes it was.

Dru: Ha-ha.

Neil: He and I had good chemistry and things were going well with us, so I said, "Dude, why don’t you ditch that bass and play some guitar…" He was a hard core fan and was in another band called "H" at the time.

Pete: The only reason why I cringe when people talk about Indica is because on a personal level I wasn’t doing anything. I wasn’t pushing myself, I wasn’t trying to go anywhere.

Neil: He was a goddamn alcoholic.

Pete: It was kind of a waste of time–no it wasn’t a waste of time, obviously, because I got to where I am now through that band. It’s just I don’t know what the hell I was thinking back then.

Neil: I thought he was good, I wanted to be in a band with him!

Dru: A lot of people thought you were good.

Pete: If I drank less I could have been a lot better.

Dru: Giancarlo told me that one time they were supposed to do a show out in IV-- but they showed up and watched you guys play and just said, "No way we’re not playing. We’ll look ridiculous." It was the first time he’d ever seen Indica.

Neil: See that’s funny, because what most people don’t know is that he was in mind for the original line-up of Spank. When we all met to do it, the phone conversations were: Dan, Giancarlo, Neil, Tyler and Pete. And we had some cool jams, you know…

Dru: Yeah, it’s hard to imagine for me, but sometimes when we listen to Ultraspank, he’ll say, "Oh yeah I remember how to play this song…"

Neil: Maybe he thought we were too heavy or something.

Pete: We’re lame.

Dru: No! But he wants to do music like Soundgarden and be the front man. Everyone asks him to play with them, and he just wants to do Nogahyde…

Neil: He totally has his own thing, I understand.

Dru: And a few This Ascension shows when he can work it in… I want to know how Indica got really big, though. It was kind of a weird thing, if I remember…

Pete: We were around for a long time.

Dru: There was a "Battle of the bands" out at UCSB, it was organized by MTV…

Pete: That was the third show I’d ever played with Indica.

Neil: (laughs) that show ruled, man!

Dru: So you were kind of shocked?

Pete: We were brand new… well, with me in the band…they had been around for a while before that. It was like a total random accident, basically. It was total luck. But we were new and very enthusiastic, and that’s kind of what did it.

Dru: But you just kept advancing though…

Pete: Yeah.

Dru: But you won the whole thing!

Pete: We won the whole thing.

Dru: But then what happened?

Danny: Nothing!

Pete: Absolutely nothing.

Dru: Besides partying in Florida for MTV’s Spring Break with Ugly Kid Joe?

Pete: We watched it all go down the toilet. That was about the height of it. We had our 15 minutes and that was it.

Dru: Weren’t they supposed to give you a record deal or something?

Pete: No…I think the only reason we actually won that was because we were so outrageous compared to the rest of the bands.

Dru: But you know what? It’s such a good thing that that didn’t go further.

Pete: Hell yeah. I think someone was looking out for us.

Dru: If that had gone further, things could have ended and you would have just been like, "This is so screwed. Forget it."

Pete: Everything happens for a reason.

Neil: It’s tough. Even what we’ve learned being in this band-- it can be a really bad thing if everybody’s not on the same page. You can get trapped into a business. When my band was doing stuff, D.O.G., we got offered a publishing deal from this small company…

Dru: No, did you do it?

Neil: No, but at the time there was nothing else on the table, and we could have seen like $10,000 a piece for our efforts. But thank God we didn’t do it because they would have trapped us.

Dru: I’ve known a lot of people that happened to. Woodburning Project, etc…

Pete: But like I said everything happens for a reason. Now Angus is running a killer studio.

Neil: And he played cello on our new record, too.

Dru: Really? He played on our last record, too. What track?

Pete: "Feed."

Dru: That guy is great, he’s an under-appreciated hero of Santa Barbara

Pete: He’s awesome. He’s gnarly.

Neil: He’s insane… Mark Cassleman is on the cover of the new Independent!

Dru: I know, isn’t that funny?

Pete: He let his hair down for the photo.

Dru: It was rad! I didn’t recognize him when he’s not all, "Dude I’m on the 49th level of Everquest!"

Pete: (in Mark Cassleman voice) Dude, that’s gnarly!

Dru: Anyway, a similar thing happened to "A Band Called Horse." They got a development deal, recorded a bunch of songs, told things were "in the bag," and it was shelved.

Pete: It’s a brutal business.

Dru: It’s enough to make me go want to live with my parents the rest of my life. So when did you guys say, "No more Indica."

Dan: We went about four months without a band before Spank formed.

Pete: Yeah, Indica came to it’s logical end–

Dan: To a screeching halt… with a fight. Not a fist fight, but an argument.

Pete: We weren’t going anywhere.

Neil: I remember like a year before Indica broke up Danny asked me to join their band, and I was like, "Dude, I play in a cheesy rap band–I don’t even know how to play that music." But a year later, things took their course.

Pete: We were treading water for a long time.

Dan: Indica wasn’t what we wanted though.

Dru: Well how was it different?

Dan: We wanted something heavy going on, groove-oriented…

Pete: That basically happened with the exciting guitar playing of Neil Godfrey. That was the difference.

Dan: We just weren’t happy. At the time, I couldn’t stand the guitar player. That’s why I went to Neil-- just to see if he would say yes. Because if he was going to say yes, I was going to say to these guys, "Look, let’s boot shithead and get Neil in the picture here."

Neil: And the thing that I thought when I first joined the band was that Pete was a killer singer… that all these guys were insane musicians, but that the music was so constrictive it didn’t give him a chance to really shine. As of now, it’s totally different, which you’ll hear on our new record.

Pete: For about 8 months I was out of the band. I got a hernia operation, took opera lessons, got away from things…

Dru: You’ve been taking opera that long?

Pete: I haven’t been doing it for the past two years, but yeah I started like five years ago. It’s been a while.

Dru: Before I forget, where’d Fed come from?

Dan: Snot.

Pete: He’s been around, he played with Romperoom for a little bit. He was just a really cool guy…

Dan: He was in Snot near the beginning, just before they went in to record their record.

Neil: That’s so funny we’re having this conversation because Mikey and Sonny just asked him today to do a song on the "Strait Up" record.

Dru: Is that the unfinished Snot record they are having different performers on?

Neil: Yeah, but I don’t think he’ll be able to do it, because he’ll be on tour.

Dru: It seems like Snot is ten times bigger now than before Lynn’s death.

Pete: They were like right on the verge… this record would have been really big.

Dru: I was watching the Rock Show on VH-1, and the VJ was talking about Ozzfest. He was saying something like, "With the advent of bands like Snot, System of a Down and Static-X…" I was surprised to hear him talking about them as if they were more of a household name.

Pete: You could tell at the Ozzfest though, the excitement level of people coming to see them… you could feel something about to happen for them. It definitely struck me pretty hard. I watched them everyday.

Dan: Yeah.

Dru: Let me shift to songwriting. In the past or the present, who does what?

Pete: It’s a joint deal. With five people in a band, the creative cycles kind of spin, so one month some people have more ideas than others, but in the end it all has to be bounced of each other… I do all the lyrics…

Neil: I do all the guitar playing (laughs).

Pete: That’s why all our songs are about gladiators.

Neil: In speedos.

Dru: How many songs on this album are ones where you (Pete) first just came up with weird keyboard things while you were uh…

Pete: Dorking off?

Dru: Yeah…

Neil: We wrote a few songs on this record like that.

Pete: Actually yeah, we finally got enough equipment, all the shit at my house, so we just sit around…

Dru: You mean the sampler that’s as big as me?

Pete: Yeah, that, and a digital recorder… it’s just easier to write sitting on the couch at a lower volume–we did a lot of that for this record.

Dru: I remember when I came over for 4th of July that time you were like, "Check out what Neil and I just did screwing around…"

Pete: Totally.

Dru: Ended up being your possible hot hit or whatever.

Pete: We’ll see.

Neil: It’s a cool thing because we’ll come up with an arrangement of a song and make a tape, give it to Danny, and he’ll come back with a sick bass part.

Pete: It was fun the way it happened.

Dan: It’s a lot easier when you take a tape home, you can think of anything and take as much time as you want with it. You’re not on the spot.

Neil: It’d be grueling at times because somebody would hear something for the first time, they’d be like, "I don’t know about that…," but eventually people start putting their own parts to it, and it gets rad.

Dru: You probably use that method all the time now.

Pete: I don’t think we’ll ever do it any other way.

Dru: When you’re writing new songs you don’t get together to just jam.

Pete: Nah…

Neil: Too many cooks in the kitchen.

Pete: It’s more efficient this way. But there were a few songs that happened with you guys just standing around jamming.

Neil: Track 2 ("Crumble") on the record pretty much happened like that.

Dan: So did "Feed."

Pete: It’s about a half and half mixture probably.

Dru: When you guys started getting a lot of attention as Spank, how did people take notice? Were you playing a lot in LA at the time? What’s the first thing that happened?

Dan: When we were Spank that was pretty much all Santa Barbara. We did maybe like one LA show.

Pete: Everything kind of happened for us when we got a tape to a friend of ours at AGM (Andy Gould Management).

Dru: That’s Concrete, right? You mean JJ?

Pete: That’s the man!

Dru: Another guy told me he helped with that–Doug Tulle?

Pete: That’s right. Doug was a freelance scout for Epic. But the Jayj…

Neil: You mean Goldie?

Pete: We call him Goldie. He was EF Hutton for a while. When he talked about bands, people would listen.

Dru: Yeah, he didn’t seem to be very happy at Concrete after a while.

Pete: Yeah, well that’s because JJ is a drummer, he’s not into management.

Neil: We love JJ.

Pete: Once we got management, we played a show for 150 industry people.

Dru: Was that the night at Mogul’s?

Dan: No but we did play at Mogul’s once

Pete: That was the night we got signed to Epic.

Dru: I remember that night because JJ wanted us to play that show. I was like, "JJ we’d look so stupid up there with three metal bands."

Neil: No you wouldn’t.

Pete: Absolutely not, that would have been a lot of fun.

Dru: Yeah well anyway, we didn’t because-- I can’t remember why. We were just afraid.

Pete: Because you had no confidence.

Dru: We wanted them to see us not with three metal bands.

Pete: Right, in your own element.

Dru: …without people throwing napkins at us. So anyway, JJ, thank you.

Pete: Thank you, JJ! It was weird because Snot had a big LA following first, and we didn’t have that. It took all of 1999 to get us to the point where we could actually go down there and have a lot of fun.

Neil: We couldn’t get a gig in LA, we used to get so pissed. We’d be in practice going, "What the fuck are we going to do? We can’t even get a gig in LA…"

Dru: So you guys never looked at any other management.

Pete: No we didn’t. But they made everything happen really fast and in a big way.

Dru: I remember, it was really fast. What bands were on the roster at Concrete at that time?

Neil: White Zombie and Pantera. That’s all we needed to see.

Pete: They had a bunch, then they scaled way down, and got really big again. They split between the east and west coast.

Neil: At the time White Zombie and Pantera where two of the biggest metal bands in the world to us.

Pete: Little did we know that our careers wouldn’t cross even remotely. We had visions of opening for Pantera, and that certainly wasn’t going to happen. But we met them at the Orange Pavillion and they proceeded to get us really drunk. I think I fell off the wagon that night.

Neil: Our manager was so wasted that night he was standing in a trash can dumping shots on his head.

Dru: Who Rob?

Dan: No Andy…

Dru: Oh, Andy himself. I remember one time he bought the entire Toe’s Tavern drinks.

Pete: Yeah, for like a couple hours. A year later we ended up paying for that.

Neil: We got the bill…

Pete: Nothing’s for free.

Dan: I think we drank the majority of it anyway.

Dru: In what way did Concrete split up?

Pete: East coast got Pantera, west coast got Rob Zombie, then Stabbing Westward. East coast picked up Fear Factory…

Dru: But Fear Factory’s from here.

Pete: Yeah, it’s weird. East coast has a lot of west coast acts, so does Concrete west.

Dru: I like Fear Factory.

All: We do too.

Dru: When we were stuck at Ozzfest last year we went to the second stage just so we could actually see bands, and they were so rad… really good. So why’d you guys change your name to Ultraspank? Is it really because Rob Zombie said to?

Pete: No it’s because there was already a Spank.

Dan: We were trying to avoid a lawsuit.

Pete: We were trying to think up other names but they all got shot down.

Neil: So Pete was watching that "Girl 6" movie and came up with the new name.

Dru: What movie?

Pete: There’s an Ultraspank quote in "Girl 6," do you remember that movie?

Dru: Really? What is it?

Pete: Naomi Campbell goes, "And then, finally, the big one, the Ultraspank."

Dru: No way!

Pete: I have to rent the movie and sample it for our live show.

Dru: You know what’s great about your name? If anyone looks you up on the Internet, they’re not going to get 5 million other things that don’t relate to you. It’s good to be unique.

Pete: That’s true. But occasionally you get those gay porn site advertisements. I have run into that.

Dru: How’d you guys happen to pick Epic? You had some other people interested. Did Epic just seem like they’d be quickest to jump on it?

Dan: Epic broke Korn and Rage Against the Machine, so that was huge thing at the time. They were a humongous label doing ground-breaking things with really heavy bands. They helped start this "trend" if you will–I don’t like that word, but–it kind of got the ball rolling again for heavy bands.

Pete: The president of the company at that time basically told us, "We want to do for you what we did for Korn and Rage, which is put you out on the road for two years straight…"

Dru: Then that guy got fired…

Pete: He got fired very shortly there after and they annihilated the whole hard rock radio department that broke Korn and Rage Against the Machine. Things really fell out of alignment really fast.

Dru: How do you fire a president? I’m just curious.

Dan: Sony’s a corporation just like any other…

Dru: So "things fell out of alignment" is good neutral way of saying they forgot about you.

Pete: That clarifies a lot of things, though. The new president came in, and she wanted to bring in all her own bands. She didn’t know who the fuck we were, she didn’t care… I understand her myself. She wanted to start a new thing.

Dru: What happened to her?

Pete: She’s still there.

Dru: But you have some vice-president backing you…

Pete: Yeah. The people who were still at the company and near the top knew who we were… they had seen us, they remembered the enthusiasm and had held on to us. She didn’t dis us or anything but her concern was for her own bands first.

Dru: What like Destiny’s Child or something?

Pete: I don’t even know.

Neil: We actually got into a conversation with some guys at Epic who broke it down to us and said that in the beginning, once the president left and all, they called us a test tube band. Basically we were a band that just got thrown out in the mix. "Let’s put them out there and just see what happens," they said. Here we were a band that had spent really hardly anything-- we got in our van, got out there, and basically killed ourselves.

Dan: They figured there’s no cure for the Ultraspank disease, we have to do something with them.

Neil: Yeah. We did better than a lot of bands that they had dumped a lot of money into.

Dru: I’m sure that even at the time without label support, you were doing better than 90% of the bands signed to majors.

Pete: Even with the album sales we did, we were in like the 98th percentile… we sold eight times as many records as a band they spent two million dollars on. We put 104,000 miles on a van, so we went around the country five or six times.

Dru: Neil, is your van still running?

Neil: Yeah it is, but it’s beat. It kind of goes like this (hums a goofy cartoon song).

Pete: But we did manage, you know, and they recognized this it at Epic, without very much support we actually did get out there.

Dru: When you’d be out I’d look at your guys’ message boards and they’d always be full.

Pete: Totally, and Epic noticed that.

Dru: I think it says something of the power of ordinary people to mobilize and make a difference… all those kids…

Pete: Absolutely, Ultraspank was almost completely word of mouth.

Dru: I know that there is a big place for heavy music on college radio, did Epic even take that avenue?

Neil: Yeah, we did college radio…

Pete: …and we’re going to do it again, at first. It’s all part of the master plan. College radio is strong, though.

Dru: What was your first tour then, and was the album out?

Neil: The Ozzfest (98). Before that we did some small little stints that don’t really add up I’d rather not even say what they were…

Dan: That was before the album…

Neil: But the Ozzfest was our first big tour.

Dru: That must have been pretty exciting. Plus you were with Snot, you were with Whit...

Neil: We played a show for 38,000 people, and all the other ones were for at least a thousand.

Dru: There was one time when the second stage bands got to share the stage with the main bands, right?

Dan: Yeah, that was Somerset Park, Wisconsin.

Pete: It’s basically Minneapolis. We had one of those rare shows where everyone felt like they had played well. Well it was rare then, but it’s standard now.

Dru: Wasn’t there a show where they combined the Warped Tour with Ozzfest?

Pete: That was it. It was right over the hill.

Dru: So you could go to both?

Pete: Yeah, but I tried once and you couldn’t get through the dust. I could hardly breathe. Then it started to rain.

Dru: Why do they always have those things in the dustiest places in the world? Ozzfest last year was that way, too. I guess it’s the only places people will fit… so you had a fun first tour, despite the fact that you were lugging your own equipment around and the only band in vans.

Pete: Correct.

Dru: Was Frank Corsetti still tour managing?

Pete: No, he did the early days. We actually went to Europe with Frank.

Dru: Was that before Ozzfest?

Dan: Yeah, it was right before Ozzfest.

Dru: Well you should mention that! That was a big deal…

Neil: I forgot, I thought that was after Ozzfest.

Pete: Yeah, those tours were okay, we toured with Life of Agony, we toured with Stuck Mojo.

Dan: We toured with Incubus after Stuck Mojo.

Pete: Those tours were small but there was the occasional night that was big. Places like Atlanta we can still go to and go off.

Dru: So your first tour of Europe was not super fun.

Neil: It was, but it was hard. All our first tours were really rough. We’d play a show, pack up our gear immediately following the gig, then drive ourselves sometimes 700 miles. We’d all be taking shifts until 6 in the morning, then sometimes play a show at noon. It was unbelievable.

Pete: In Europe we shared a bus with 17 people. That’s all you need to say about that. There was no air-conditioning. It was horrible.

Dru: Was it a Nightliner, a double?

Neil: Yeah.

Dru: How do those things not tip over?

Pete: I don’t know, I’ll have to think about that going over the Alps.

Neil: It did with Metallica.

Dru: This was with Stuck Mojo? I saw you guys with them once, I think. Did you play LA?

Pete: No…

Dru: Oh, I’m thinking of Sprung Monkey.

Pete: Yeah, we did a few dates with Sprung Monkey. That was the end of Ultraspank I.

Dru: Ultraspank I, huh? I like it! Now itt’s like Ultraspank Mach II… who else played that show, was it Clutch?

Dan: No, that was the Sevendust tour. That’s what you saw.

Dru: I saw you also at the Glass House.

All: That was Static-X.

Dan: That Sevendust tour was there also.

Pete: For like 8 people, because Family Values was playing down the street.

Dru: Oh my god. That’s horrible. You guys are like, "Alright Pomona!"

Pete: The Pomona show you saw was good.

Dru: I know! It was super good! That was the first time I saw you guys do new songs.

Neil: (laughs) that was when Lit opened for us…

Pete: and look where they are now!

Dru: I hate that band. Can you say payola? There’s no way that band could ever be on the radio without someone paying millions of dollars. They’re awful, I’m sorry.

Neil: I know, they were judging some Karaoke thing on MTV the other day.

Dru: They’re huge…

Pete: They’re not, though. They have a hard time selling out relatively small venues.

Dru: Well they’re still on the radio every five minutes.

Pete: And they’ve sold 800,000 records.

Dru: Another band I don’t understand being so big is Buckcherry.

Neil: They opened for us at the Yucatan!

Dru: I know, Creature Feature played that!

Pete: And look where all these bands are now!

Dru: They already have a Hard Rock live thing on VH1 with Buckcherry…

Pete: Dreamworks dumped a lot of money into them.

Dru: Okay so your touring obviously improved, once you weren’t sharing a bus with 17 people and driving yourselves.

Pete: Yeah but everything has improved. It’s on a completely different level.

Neil: Our new music has shed a whole new light on where we are with the people that take care of us.

Dru: I know we should be talking about your music and not things like the video game soundtrack you did, but before I forget, is there anywhere you haven’t been that you’d like to tour?

Neil: We want to go to Japan at some point, and Australia.

Dan: England, France, Spain…

Dru: So where’d you guys play in Europe then besides Germany!?

Dan: Germany, Austria, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland…

Dru: Frank said you had a really awesome show somewhere in Italy… that people were totally freaking.

Pete: People were giving us the shirts off their backs.

Dan: In Viela.

Neil: We saw cool Lagwagon posters there.

Dru: Aw. See they have been touring for so long, but they always do the heavy merchandise thing. You guys have a little bit, but I want a beanie. Get on the stick!

Neil: We did beanies before, you didn’t get one?

Dan: We’ll do them again next winter. It’s too close to summer now for beanies. We need wife-beaters.

Pete: Yeah, now we need summer gear.

Dru: Is it feasible to tour Australia? There are like five cities.

Pete: You get a huge reaction. Same with Japan. Tours are bought ahead of time–you don’t go to Japan and play for eight people because you’d be losing a hell of a lot of money. But if the record is released in the right way over there, someone will buy your tour and make it viable for you.

Dru: How’d you get Dave Bottrill (the producer of the debut record)? How the hell did you get that guy? Did you just say, "We want him," or send him a demo?

Pete: We met with a couple people before that… but I think we asked ourselves that same question the whole time we were recording with him. David had a very difficult task. He did a good job.

Dan: We were really green. Our attitudes weren’t what they needed to be, our songs weren’t where they needed to be.

Pete: We were bitches.

Dan: I just can’t imagine that we were that fun to work with. I think Peter (Collins, the new producer) genuinely had a really good time with us, I don’t think David did.

Pete: He did sometimes.

Dru: There’s a web site called Six Degrees of Santa Barbara that promotes Santa Barbara bands done by a girl in Michigan. She is totally into Spank. That’s a great testament to her, but what does that say about the music scene here?

Dan: The music scene is fluxuating and diverse here. For a town of it’s size there is a lot of different things going on.

Neil: I think it goes back to what I was saying earlier about the enthusiasm level here, though. I mean here’s someone that lives 2000 miles away so jacked on what’s happening in SB, we don’t understand the people here kind of. It’s just not quite the same.

Pete: We feel taken for granted, perhaps.

Neil: We love Santa Barbara, and personally I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. The music that we do comes from here (the heart) and what we live through.

Dru: Yes, so you want to share it with people here...

Neil: Our music is real. It is. It’s very true to the mind and soul.

Dru: Well Jenni (Six Degrees) is going to see you in Grand Rapids.

Pete: The place we’re playing is really funny. That’s the place with the sewer line going down the hallway.

Dru: You and Nerf Herder are totally following each other around. They’re playing the Palace in LA with Bloodhound Gang like two nights after you. So Jenni is totally excited she gets to see two Santa Barbara bands in one week.

Neil: They’re playing with Bloodhound Gang?

Dru: Yeah, they toured with them for the last record, too.

Neil: Wow, that’s awesome.

Dru: They’re a funny band because they were like a one hit wonder, then nothing, and now they are a one hit wonder again.

Neil: They’re pretty popular.

Dru: Whatever, that works. It’s a funny song.

Pete: How’s Nerf Herder doing?

Dru: You know, they’re doing way better because--

Pete: They’re on a smaller label…

Dru: Yeah, their label is rad, and they have a song about Courtney Love that’s on the radio all the time. Stations that never played Nerf Herder before such as KROQ are playing them now, whereas they got no attention before. They kind of got shafted by Arista.

(some crazy person wailing in background)

Dan: I feel like I’m at my old job.

Pete: Yeah, I know…

Dru: They had all these songs ready to go and Clive Davis, who’s about a thousand years old was like, "No, I don’t hear a single."

(More wailing)

Pete: Danny, go restrain that guy will you!

Dru: They got out of their deal, which was good. I still think they were better with Charlie, but I understand why they "parted ways" too.

Pete: Kudos-- you should print that.

Dru: I wish I could say that, but I can’t, that’s lame. I mean I love Nerf Herder but I wish Charlie was in the band still.

Pete: Charlie is a good bass player, he’s exciting.

Dru: I want to know how the video game thing happened, because that became vital to keeping things going.

Pete: It came out at a good time.

Dru: It showed that you were able to make things happen on your own. I would have been impressed if I were your label.

Pete: That happened with the help of Frank Corsetti. It kept us alive for most of last year. That game sold over 400,000 copies.

Dru: What’s it called?

Dan: 3Xtreme. That game sold a hell of a lot more copies than we could ever have hoped our first record would.

Pete: It’s like an Ultraspank ad.

Dan: Kids can watch our video (included w/ the game) whenever they want.

Dru: How’d they get the character in the game to wear an Ultraspank shirt?

Pete: We know the designer of the game and he backs Ultraspank. We’re very grateful.

Dru: Is it a friend of Frank’s?

Pete: It’s Frank’s cousin-- Joe Brisbois of 989 studios.

Neil: Joe’s a cool head, too.

Dru: I was going to ask you what’s up with the one-word song titles, but you broke that.

Pete: On songs with no lyrics I break that. But I think that with one word you can say it all.

Dan: The ones that aren’t one word, they are always programmed, or intros...

Pete: They’re uncharacteristic of Ultraspank.

Neil: They’re screwy stuff. I think my favorite song title that almost made the record but didn’t was "Jib."

Dru: Gee, and why didn’t that make the record?

Pete: It confused the shit out of everybody.

Neil: It did, but it came out with a different title.

Dru: Can I ask what song was to be called "Jib?"

Neil: "Maybe Tomorrow."

Pete: "Jib" was it’s working title, because it was just a little jib.

Dan: Kind of like "new song." Every band has had a song they’ve called "new song" for like…

Dru: Two years?

Neil: We had new song 1, new song 2, new song 3, disco song…

Dru: We finally stopped calling the new song "New Song" and started calling it the "2 1/2 year old song", then we shortened it to "2 1/2," Now it’s called "2.5."

Pete: And everyone’s going to speculate as to the title’s significance.

Dru: (Looks around Deano's Pizza...) You guys wanna play some video games?

Pete: What time you got? I’ve got to get home to my wife.

Dan: (whines) I have to go visit my mommy! You think I’m kidding, huh. I’m serious…I have to see my mom before we leave town again.

Dru: Let me skip some stuff. I won’t ask you about your lyrics…

Pete: I printed them this time, and it’s going to be pretty obvious what they’re about. This record totally captures a moment in time for this band. There isn’t hiding much, but we went through a lot to even get to do another record, and that’s what it’s about.

Neil: Straight up, the record is about struggling, striving, and surviving.

Dru: I just want to beat up that person that broke your heart!

Pete: That’s not what it’s about, it was never really about that.

Dru: Really? I guess I was just reading into it.

Pete: That’s why I don’t like going into super detail about my lyrics… it leaves it open for you to decide. But these lyrics are printed, and it’s pretty obvious what’s going on. We basically climbed Mt. Everest to get this record out.

Neil: I have a hard time listening to it sometimes. It brings me to that moment, I’ll be sitting there, and I get choked up. I have to shut it off or walk away. I don’t know how many times during the recording process either he’d walk out of the room, or me, or someone would have to leave.

Dru: I think that’s a great sign of the music being good, of making someone feel.

Neil: There is a lot of heavy shit in there.

Dru: So there is a musical shift in the records-- was it just that you guys aren’t green anymore?

Pete: Quality. Well you always hear bands say, "We toured and we got better," but it’s true, we did. We traveled around for over a year.

Dan: If you don’t get better playing a show every night–

Neil: We learned a lot about this business, we learned a lot about everything, through trial and error.

Pete: Fed joined the band, brought something new to the party. He added a freshness and kicked everybody in the pants. It was new for him so he was always stoked on even some of the smaller things. It woke everybody up to actually see it as a great opportunity.

Dru: It’s funny because Fed’s drum set isn’t fully gnarly. It looks like a toy when he’s behind it.

Dan: It’s a very basic kit.

Dru: But his sound is so fat. It sounds great.

Pete: He’s an amazing player.

Dru: How’d you get into the sequencing more? I don’t know anything about that. I remember you used to play live with your keyboard.

Neil: Probably got sick of bloody knuckles and finally had to stop.

Dru: Were you bleeding?

Pete: I used to… I think it was too restrictive to be back behind that thing.

Dru: I know you are way more dynamic now.

Pete: But I still love programming. Everyone’s backing it all.

Dru: So no one is like, "Oh this is disco," or "this is pre-recorded." When I saw you after the SF show back in the bus everyone was like, "Cool the new Underworld! Shh, be quiet!" So everyone is into that groove.

Pete: Yeah, everyone likes everything. But the thing about the way we run things is that if the machines broke down, we could still play without it.

Neil: We’ve done shows without it.

Pete: There are certain bands that have so much stuff on tape that if their tape machines broke you wouldn’t even recognize them. We’re not there yet.

Dan: We don’t ever want to be one of those bands that’s 85% programmed.

Neil: The only stuff that’s really programmed is ethereal noises and mood stuff that you can’t capture on a guitar or vocals.

Pete: It covers another range of the sonic spectrum. You can get some really cool shit out of it that you can’t with other instruments.

Dru: It’s really much more of an addition.

Pete: Fed can’t stop playing, wipe his face and you’d still hear drums… we do have a drummer!

Dru: You still taking vocal lessons?

Pete: Yeah. Well I didn’t this spring. I was up until we did the record.

Dru: More opera (pounding table)!

Neil: You haven’t really heard to new record, have you?

Dru: No, when I came and visited you guys at the studio I heard maybe four or five songs and then whatever you did at the San Francisco show.

Dan: But you haven’t gotten a chance to sit down all by yourself and really listen to it.

Dru: I can’t wait.

Neil: Pete’s really singing.

Pete: You can hear the opera lessons…

Dru: I noticed that at your last live show. Somebody was saying to me how you have so much more happening now vocally. I think your more melodic stuff really sets you apart from the pot of other 90’s metal bands, if you’re going to be thrown into that pot, I don’t know.

Neil: Yeah, we’re part of that pot.

Dru: Well it makes you distinct.

Neil: We definitely have our own edge I think.

Dru: Do you have some favorite new songs? Live ones or just how they came out on the record?

Pete: There are some songs that we’ve played live that no one has heard on record yet that people have really grabbed onto.

Dan: "Push," "Crumble," "Click," "Thanks." For our next run (out with Slipknot) "Thanks" and "Jack Ass" are going to set the vibe.

Neil: It’s going to be a heavy set. I asked Hanicek about it, because he’s a big Slipknot fan, I said, "What do you think about playing ‘Click’ on the Slipknot tour?" He said, "It definitely drives killer, it’d be a mistake not to play it."

Dru: That’s a more ambient piece, right?

Pete: It’s the sequel to Wrapped. A little disco.

Dru: Oh, I started call that one the Depeche Mode song for no apparent reason, I don’t know why.

Pete: The demo version of it sounded kind of 80s.

Dru: That’s the one you played for us 4th of July. So do any of your fans know your new songs yet?

All: Yes!

Dan: It’s Streetwise, the marketing team. We sent out 50,000 demo tapes. In all, three different little cassettes have gone out.

Pete: We’re using a street team to reach kids. The first show we did with Incubus, kids knew words to the new songs already.

Dru: When you guys throw cassingles out, people totally fucking maul one another to get them.

Pete: Yeah, we’re fortunate Sony gave us that opportunity because it makes a big difference.

Dru: Can you guys describe your music? I know that’s the lamest question ever, but I want to know how you see yourselves fitting into it all.

Dan: Hydraulic rock.

Dru: When I first heard you guys, I had never heard anything like that before. It changed my perceptions of music and melody.

Pete: Our producer described us as ‘melody with balls.’

Dru: Even though there’s music that is kind of like yours that is prevalent right now, you guys are kind of avant-garde actually.

Dan: Melodic, hydraulic rock.

Neil: Our music is an emotional roller coaster. Each song has its vibe and basically makes you want to hang yourself.

Pete: I like that, that’s good.

Dru: Not from the crowd’s standpoint. It might make you because you’re playing it and have a lot of emotion vested in it…

Neil: But a lot of the people I’ve been talking to–because I’ve been looking for feedback from people I’ve turned onto the album–have said that it makes them feel very trippy. Even Hanicek pointed out that it’s really emotionally involved.

Pete: We’d like to take this opportunity to thank Dave for his undying support. From day one, he’s been one of those guys…

Dru: One night Marko and Dave had the night off and there were these two girls doing the show. They played Spank. They played "Five." That was a good pick.

Pete: Nice. That was a good pick.

Dru: I’d like to know your opinions on how this music style has gotten so huge. Some bands are household names.

Pete: It’s been the same cycle as long as I can remember. It goes heavy, then gets kind of soft. It’s weird right now actually because you have super heavy artists on the top as well as Brittney, Backstreet…

Dru: I’d say those are the two driving forces in music right now, though they are very different…

Pete: But they’re crossing over, too. There are a lot of kids out there.

Dru: I would say that your average nine-year old could just as easily ask for a Korn album as a Backstreet album. It’s pretty trippy. It can’t be all bad, because at least the music is getting out there. So what was the last heavy movement in music, Nirvana and stuff?

All: Yeah.

Dru: Have you noticed that people have stopped caring about Marilyn Manson? He’s not the name he once was… his fan base is probably as big as it was years ago before he was on TV every second.

Dan: Come and gone…

Pete: Too heavy on the gimmick. The second record was too much about him, not music. There were a few good songs on the record, but he detracted from them by trying to be such a freak.

Dru: Do you think that even though bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit are so big they are not gimmick driven? That it’s still essentially about the music?

Pete: Well their non-gimmick became a gimmick. But at this point I wouldn’t say that about Limp Bizkit.

Dru: I know Fred Durst is the biggest opportunist in the media and now he runs a record label. Might as well elect him president.

Pete: That says something about the state of the music business. He makes $750,000/year just for his Interscope job.

Dru: Are you guys going to ever be on MTV going, "Yo, this is Pete helping out at the MTV "Wanna Be a VJ" auditions?" That’s what Fred did, he was on MTV every five seconds.

Neil: Yeah, that’s what we’re going to do. When we get to MTV we’re going to become suburban white trash, and talk like this, "Hey yo, whassup?"

Dan: We’re all going to say we grew up really poor…

Pete: And when we’re not dodging bullets in the streets of SB…

Dru: Or eclairs in Solvang…

Pete: What cracked me up about the Incubus tour was that the first time we tried to tour, everyone was like "You have to tour with Limp Bizkit, you need to tour with Limp Bizkit," but after seeing us with Incubus, no one even cares about Limp Bizkit anymore.

Dan: Heavy kids are not backing Fred Durst.

Dru: I can see why he’d turn some people off.

Dan: He talked a bunch of shit about all the Slipknot fans. Said they were all ugly or something. I forget what he actually said.

Neil: Enough about Fred…

Dru: Oh, sorry.

Pete: Fred actually backs us.

Neil: He’s been really cool to us

Dan: He wouldn’t recognize any of us right now if he saw us.

Neil: I know. Whatever.

Dan: He was cool to us while we were on Ozzfest.

Pete: It’s kind of important not to talk shit about people that don’t talk shit about you…

Dru: You guys actually have a super good attitude. Even though we’re talking a little bit right now, I would never think, "Oh those guys talk so much smack." You guys are super nice. You can talk, though… you should be able to. It’s frustrating… can you think of anything else? I really want you guys to play Santa Barbara or Ventura.

All: We will.

Neil: KJEE is talking about having a big CD release party for us when we come back.

Dru: I’m glad you guys went out with Incubus. That was a great combination of bands.

Neil: They were so cool.

Pete: They treated us awesome.

Dru: Someone told me they used to live here?

Dan: Alex (Dirk Lance) used to live here, in IV. The bass player.

Pete: But the singer was going out with someone in town here for a while.

Dru: Can you think of anything else, you guys?

Neil: I know something that I want to say–the artwork for the record is very bizarre. It’s a photo of a mouse with a human ear growing out of its back. People are going to be like, "Where are they going with this?"

Dru: Yeah, but the title of the reocord (Progress)!

Neil: Some girls have seen it and said it’s disgusting. I think the vision of the cover ties in with the music in sharing the underlying theme of creative experimentation.

Dru: Where’d you find that picture?

Pete: Well we thought of the picture, and Sony made it happen. The art director of this record is awesome.

Dru: You guys are really eloquent. I don’t think I speak so clearly when I’m interviewed.

Pete: We’re doing an interview with the New York Times next Wednesday, so it’s good practice.

Dru: Are you really? Are you serious? You guys are awesome!

Neil: It’s a big piece of press. Things are better each day than they were yesterday. We have a new bus! It’s about five feet longer, and has better air circulation.

Pete: Everyone got sick after the first few hours on the road in our last bus because of fumes coming into the bus.

Dru: That happened to us, too! Does it have a shower?

Neil: No but it has a kitchen.

Dru: Lots of room for your weights?

Neil: We’re caring about 350 lbs. in free weights. Fed and Jerry are into the most, then Pete.

Pete: Anyway, we’re trying really hard not to dwell on the past.

Neil: People ask why we didn’t bail our label. But thank god we didn’t, because right now they are putting a lot into us, and everyone has a positive attitude. Why dwell on what could have been when what’s happening now is way better?

Me, Pete and Alyssa, who thankfully turned me on to Spank (she also designed the Ultraspank Message Board)


Since this interview took place, Ultraspank has had terrific shows throughout the country w/ Static-X, Slipknot, Coal Chamber and others. Neil's wishes of local crowd enthusiasm returning to the level it was when they used to play every Friday at Toe's Tavern came true as Ultraspank played their first Santa Barbara show in over a year and a half to a packed and ecstatic crowd (this considering that there was about one week's notice that they were playing is almost a miracle).

Kevin Ireland has since been banned from the Yucatan/Hi-Bar, leaving his band Romper Room literally no place to play in town.

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