I've had loads of fun interviewing
musicians for XMFan for five
years now. Frankly, I tend to
interview people that I
personally admire and whose music I enjoy. While interviewing artists
I've followed for many years, I often feel like any other fan who almost
beleives they know the members
of the band. Let's take Mike Herrera of MxPx, for example. I bought my
first MxPx album in 1996 and have
been a fan ever since. I'm happy to say that Mike, as well as all the
others I've interviewed, were nothing but
first-class when it came to donating
their time and telling their experiences. Mike and the boys are a little
older and wiser these days, but
continue to create the same kind of high-energy rock and roll they were
playing fifteen years ago -- and to me, that ain't a bad thing.
Here's to celebrating five years of XMFan interviews!
where are you hanging out today?
Mike: I'm calling from Monkey
Trench Studios, which is my studio in Bremerton.
XMFan: Are you there recording
for yourself, or producing another act?
Mike: I just got back from
Chicago, doing a few songs for a band there. Right now I'm working on my
solo album, which is with my side-project band called
Tumbledown, and finishing up the
MxPx On the Cover II album. It's
turning out really cool, and I'm really excited about it. (The
MxPx website is:
XMFan: The first On the Cover
album is the first MxPx album I bought... Is it kind of a secret which
songs you're putting on the second one?
Mike: Not really... There will be
a track listing out soon, if it's not out there already. The whole idea
behind this is that they're all ‘80s songs, and from all the genres we
like - from punk bands to new wave, to rock to pop. We're doing a U2
song, a Ramones song, Dead Milkmen song, a Descendants song. So it's a
combination of some very well known bands and a few smaller bands that
are our favorites.
XMFan: So like the first On the
Cover, you guys got together and brainstormed a bit to figure out the
Mike: Yeah, exactly.
XMFan: Speaking of the other
guys, how close together do you actually live?
Mike: We're all in the same area.
Tom, our guitarist, lives in Bremerton - probably ten minutes away from
me. Yuri lives in Port Orchard, which is the same county... Probably
fifteen or twenty minutes away. Some bands live in different states, so
you know... We're doing okay.
XMFan: Do you have any guest
spots on the new album? I remember on the first one, you guys brought in
some friends to play instruments.
Mike: We do actually have a lot
of guests, and it's kinda ridiculous how many we have - maybe six or
seven off the top of my head? We're holding off on some of the
announcements as far as guest spots go, but one of them is Matt Hensley
of Flogging Molly. He played what I call a "squeeze box."
XMFan: Any plans to hit the road
in support of this album?
Mike: It kinda depends. It's been
so long since we've done a cover record, and even though it is actually
a full studio album, I don't think we're going to treat it quite the
same as the others. The process of making this record was
more intense than making a
regular record, but as far as touring, I think we're going to play
some shows, but not a ton. We
would really like to get back in the studio and work on some original
material... So we'll see.
XMFan: I know you've recently
started to diversify your time and talent. You already mentioned the
studio in Bremerton, and you're also part owner in an apparel company.
Apparel started in 2007, and is really the brainchild of Joe
Moxley in Medford, Oregon. I had run into him at some shows, and we
started hanging out and talking shirts. Joe was already making them, and
would throw stuff my way. I'd give him design ideas and told him I'd
wear some of them at my shows. That's what got him thinking about a new
clothing line, and he asked me if I wanted to be a partner. I had
already been thinking about doing the same thing, but at the same time,
don't have the time do this type of thing on my own. So Joe's the
perfect person for that - being the day-to-day guy - and is definitely
the driving force behind Legionnaire. I'm more on the side to tell
people about it and give my two cents about things.
When it really comes down to it, we make clothes we like to wear -
that's the most important thing, and the main reason why I wanted to be
a part of it. What could be cooler than being your own clothing
designer? (Laughs) It's cool to
spread the word and see how people react to the designs. And to make
people happy too - Joe is really great at giving deals to the loyal
customers, he sends shirts to the troops in Iraq, and has really done
his part to spread the word about what we're doing. (Legionnaire's
XMFan: It sounds like Legionnaire
is run the same way you run the band.
Mike: MxPx has always done lots
of benefit shows. We just did one on January 31 for a friend who
recently passed away from brain cancer. I think it's a myth how most
bands are in it for the money... Maybe some bands start out being in it
for the money, but I think most of them just want to be a part of
something bigger than themselves - and I think that's where Legionnaire
comes in, and MxPx has been going with that idea for a long time.
XMFan: I heard that your clothing
designs took off pretty well from the start, and several bands and
celebrities wear your stuff?
Mike: We've actually spent a
minimal amount of marketing money, and things just kinda spread using
word of mouth. What kind of better advertising can you get than that? If
your friend tells you to check something out, you're going to listen to
that more than if you heard the same thing from an infomercial or
magazine ad. So we've really tried to use our money wisely, and mainly
focus on investing in the products - I know Joe is constantly focusing
on making a better product.
XMFan: It certainly seems like
you've got several things on the burner.
Mike: My new band Tumbledown is
picking up any slack time that I have. You know, Yuri has a kid now, and
MxPx isn't touring a ton. So I'm kinda doing the Tumbledown thing, and
we're doing things like food drive benefits and other things for the
community here in Bremerton.
XMFan: I know it's tricky in the
musical sense for a band to still be around after so many years, because
it seems like you're damned if you change your sound and damned if you
don't. But MxPX has never really changed their sound much, as personally
as a longtime fan, I'm glad you haven't.
Mike: A friend of mine works in
the music business and is a big fan of lots of the newer bands. He told
me that one of the cool things about MxPx is how the sound can really
just be modern, and regardless of the album, it just sounds timeless -
simple music with an edge to it. If you strip down the cords, melodies
and layers, there's not a whole lot there that dates it. It could be
from the early nineties or 2009. I think it's maybe the
sound of the record that dates
it - you know, our first album of course being really sloppy and pre
auto-tune, as well as a style of production where everyone's just faking
it. Nowadays, just from the fact that we've been playing so long, we
really don't have to fake it - we'll say, "Alright, let's play this
again and make sure that its right"
- and that's our whole idea behind recording now.
XMFan: What are a few random
bands we'd find on your MP3 player?
Mike: Well, they're all bands we
don't sound like. (Laughs) Black
Flag, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty. When I listen to music, I like to get into
the band, you know? If it's not happening, I don't force it. I guess I'm
a "traditional-style" music fan, because when I get into a band, I get
into everything they do - or quite a bit of what they do - and listen to
XMFan: You're a band that became
popular before the internet was really a household item, so can you tell
us if anything really changed for MxPx as the internet and other
technologies became more popular - both as a group and you personally as
Mike: The internet is definitely
a tool, and what it comes down to is convenience. There's good and bad
with everything, of course, and I definitely think things would be
different for us if the internet hadn't gone over so big. When we
started out, most bands didn't have websites; I think most
labels didn't have websites. The
reason we wound up with one is because one of our fans was a
total computer geek, and was in
on the ground floor with the internet. I think it was probably also true
for other bands with early internet sites—it wasn't the
bands doing it as much as it was
Everyone has GPS satellites now, instead of calling on the pay phones to
get directions... The first half of our careers we literally had these
large books filled with faxed or mailed directions and phone numbers.
When we first started out, a few people were using those big ‘80s cell
There's no doubt that technology has hurt album sales, but at the same
time you try to utilize the good things - so it's a give and take. It's
easier to market yourself and you don't have to spend as much money,
because the internet is almost free. If you don't change along with
progress and technology, you're not going to be around for long in this
When is On the Cover II going to be released, by the way?
Mike: I think it's coming out in
late March, and it'll be from Tooth and
XMFan: Before I let you go, would
you tell me a little more about Tumbledown?
Mike: Tumbledown is my side
project that I've been doing for a while, but we haven't released a full
record yet. We have one single release, a picture disc on vinyl. We're
also dong a split-7 inch on Anchorless
Records, and ten percent of all the proceeds is going to charity.
The full-length record will hopefully be out before summer. Lots of MxPx
fans already know about the band, and we're excited because it's
something completely different from MxPx, but it has the same energy -
it's more of a fast, acoustic style rockabilly. You can hear several of
our songs and see some videos on our site. (Tumbledown's
XMFan: Speaking as a longtime fan
of MxPx, I have to say it seems like you're pretty content with the way
things have gone.
Mike: There are always things you
wish were different about the band, or wishing you could've changed the
past, but overall I'm really happy with the style of music we've done
with our straight-forward rock and roll... And it's been fun.