Q+A with The Spiders

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Known for their spectacular live shows, metal-heyday guitar crunch, and sneering glam vocals, the Spiders have been trimming the lightheartedness (slightly) in favor of sphincter-tightening waves of raw rock bombast. The foursome from Austin, Texas arrives in Lawrence Sunday supporting their new release on Acetate Records, "Glitzkrieg." Lawrence.com spoke with vocalist / guitarist Chris Benedict (far right) on his CELLPHONE!

LCOM: What did you get for Christmas?

Chris Benedict: I got a bunch of clothes, which is really good 'cause all my clothes are becoming threadbare and holey, and I needed new clothes. And new shoes--that was real important, too.

L: Any toys?

CB: No.

L: Any musical equipment?

CB: No, I wish.

L: Did you make any New Year's resolutions?

CB: Yeah, I'm just trying not to be an asshole. Not that I was one before, but...just trying to be more conscious of other people and trying to get healthy, I guess.

Past Event

The Spiders / Ike Turner Overdrive

  • Sunday, January 18, 2004, 10 p.m.
  • Replay Lounge, 946 Mass., Lawrence
  • 21+ / $2

More

L: Are you gonna stop smoking?

CB: Yeah, I am, as a matter of fact, and trying to cut down on the drinking too--things that happen on the road.

L: Good luck.

CB: Thanks.

L: Tell me about the new record (Glitzkrieg, out now on Acetate Records).

CB: It's our first record with a label, and so it has really, really great production. And it's very big sounding. It's quite different than the first one. A lot of people said we were glam rock, and I can't blame 'em, but the first record is more tongue-in-cheek, and the music was a little more... it wasn't as heavy. Whereas this record is very heavy.

L: It's very evocative of an era, but it doesn't steal, I don't think.

CB: That's the thing everybody tells us. We get the same comparisons--the Cheap Trick, the Black Sabbath, the Devo, and Alice Cooper. And like you said, it's representative of an era without necessarily stealing from it. And I think that's just great, 'cause we're paying homage to our heroes, our forefathers if you will, and just doing it in our own style.

L: What's the appeal of that era?

CB: When we do the record we don't sit there and say: "We wanna make this sound like Sabbath, we wanna make this sound like Cheap Trick." It's all subconscious, I guess. And I think that the 70s... I think that there was a lot more freedom and a lot more bands doing new things, and these bands were in the public eye. So there were so many genres going on within rock and roll in the 70s, and I don't think it's ever been the same since then. So within six years, think about all the bands--Cheap Trick, Black Sabbath, punk came out, Big Star was around. To me those were the most fertile years of rock and roll. I don't know if it'll happen again. And the age where I remember all that, and when you're first getting into music, those first memories of music are really important to you, and influence you for the rest of your life.

L: You're starting a Midwest tour, coming through Lawrence on January 18th at the Replay and The Brick in Kansas City on the 23rd, and there are four shows between, stretching the length of Illinois. That seems pretty grueling.

CB: It's really not that bad. We're doing Sunday night in Lawrence, which is real important 'cause we love playing in Lawrence, but we wanted to play Kansas City on a Friday night. We just wanted to make sure we were playing Kansas City and Lawrence on good nights. We feel like we've made a real impact in those cities and wanted to follow up on a good night. We love Lawrence and Kansas City. They've just been so good to us.

L: Give me a little background of the band.

CB: Our guitar player (Eric Shaw) and bass player (Karl Toft) were in a band called the Kevourkians, and they were a punk rock band that was just incredible. I loved them, I thought they were great, and I wanted to play in a band with them one day. When their band broke up and my band broke up, I approached them with the intention of putting a band together. We found a drummer (Gary First) who played drums in the 70s--the guy's 47--and he loved the Kevourkians too. And when he heard that Karl and Eric were looking for a drummer, he got a drum set, he got us a place to play, and the best thing is he's badass--he's incredible.

L: Does he have a lot of hookers 'n blow stories?

CB: I wouldn't be able to tell you, you'd have to talk to him about it, although I hear it all the time, "This ain't like the 70s."

L: What's it like for a rock band in Austin?

CB: Most cities have one scene... Austin has multiple scenes. You could throw a rock and hit a musician here. I think that each club has a scene, and I have so many people come up to me and say, "Have you ever heard of this band from Austin?" No. "Have you ever heard of this band from Austin?" Uh, no. And that's because of the sheer numbers. It is hard, because on a Saturday night, you're fighting a hundred other clubs. Any given night you can go see between 20 and 50 bands. On a Monday night. So yeah, you do have to fight. You really have to push booking agents to not only get a show, but a good show. It's a tough town to play in. We've been at it for 4 years and we still don't have the notoriety that we'd like to have, but we're still havin' fun and we still pack the place that we play, so it's fine.

L: Any thought of relocating?

CB: We've joked about it. Our label's in Los Angeles, so we've mused about going out there, but I don't think we'll do that. I think that we're just gonna hang here. We've all got girlfriends here. We don't have investments or houses or anything like that, but I think we're all too rooted here to move anywhere else. And one of the things about living in Austin is that it does keep you on your toes. You realize that you've got to keep pushing because everybody else here is pushing and pushing. It's real cutthroat and I think that keeps us on our toes.

L: You're playing South by Southwest (SXSW) again this year. How many years is that for the Spiders?

CB: This is our fourth year in a row.

L: You hooked up with Acetate at SXSW.

That was our first SXSW, in 2001.

L: Do you think that that kind of thing is getting more rare?

CB: We're definitely not a Cinderella story, and I heard somewhere that the Spiders were one of the few bands that ever got signed at SXSW. I don't think that's true at all. And it's not a Cinderella story--I mean, we're not on a major label. We're on an independent label. It's a big deal for us, but as far as us bringing in millions of dollars and having a huge budget for our record, no, that's not the deal at all. I don't know how many bands get signed here. I'm sure it happens, but I personally don't know of any, and I don't know if representative from major labels actively go out to see bands anymore at SXSW. I think it's a shame, 'cause I think a lot of good bands from Austin get shafted for bigger name acts that really don't need to be here. I mean, why do the Black Crows need to play SXSW?

L: I'm not from Austin, but I don't see a problem with opening it up worldwide if it's limited to independent bands.

CB: Yeah, exactly. I went to the SXSW awards about 7 years ago, and Tony Bennett's playing... I'm like, "What the hell is this?" I just wish Austin would pay more heed to independent bands out there... to the small bands that are struggling to try to make a name. And I think that they do, but I don't know if I'll ever be satisfied.

L: Don't ever get satisfied. Satisfaction breeds complacency.

CB: Yes indeed.

L: You can quote me.

CB: I will.

L: Did Acetate dictate anything on the new record?

CB: They wanted us to put two songs that were on the first record on this record. They're called "School Night Out" and "Terrorism." Those were on "Sex is Thicker Than Blood." They wanted to re-record those 'cause they wanted to make those the singles... well, they wanted to make "School Night Out" the single. That's one thing. They wanted to re-record those and release them again so they can get a wider audience. The first record we released on our own.

L: Does "Terrorism" have anything to do with September 11?

CB: Nothing at all. That song was written like seven years ago. I actually played it in my first band, so this is way pre-911. It's totally tongue-in-cheek and there's no political agenda with it at all. It's just about a guy who has a crush on another guy who happens to be a terrorist. It's different subject matter. I get kind of bored with the boy meets girl / girl falls in love with boy kind of B.S. and this is just a nice twist... a nice violent gay twist.

L: The spanking with a hairbrush is a beautiful image.

Thank you. Thank you.

L: What does the future hold for the Spiders?

CB: We're gonna tour as much as we can this year. We're gonna do a West Coast swing in April and we're writing frenetically. We're kinda burned out on the record 'cause we've been playing it for so long. We always play a show and have a ton of fun, it's just great... but we're just ready to move on and see what we sound like for the third record, and it's a really hard process 'cause it's been so long since we've written. So those two things are important right now... writing and touring.

L: Are you playing any new songs on this tour?

CB: We'll see. We've got two or three that are ready to go and I would like to play them. Maybe two new songs that we can play.

L: From your liner art and new website photos, it looks like you and Gary have cleaned yourselves up a little bit.

CB: That's just coincidence. I had the long hair and then I just got bored one night and told my girlfriend to shave my head, so she did. And then Gary... yeah, Gary did clean up. He came to practice one day without his goatee and we're like, okay, cool. I don't remember when he cut his hair. That's just coincidence. I don't think we were trying to go for anything at all.

L: I see band haircuts and I immediately start thinking Metallica and U2... but you guys aren't big pussies.

CB: (laughs) Thanks. No, man, my hair is getting longer. I have no plans to cut it so I might be going for the hippie look again. I'm gonna start wearing Birkenstocks onstage and start playing a tambourine pretty soon.

L: Very nice. That'll add yet another dimension to your sound.

CB: We're gonna try to delve into the whole Phish crowd. We're gonna try to get into that demographic.

L: Well, you'll be in a fertile delta here in Lawrence.

CB: Oh, good.

L: Is there any confusion remaining surrounding your name? You've got the New Orleans R&B; act of the 50s, the Japanese country cover band turned Asian Beach Boys in the 60s and 70s, and the Anton Fig hair band that was called simply "Spider" in the 80s.

CB: Anton Fig had a band called Spider? Oh, I didn't know that. We knew that Alice Cooper's first band was called the Spiders, and we knew about the Japanese band... the Japanese metal band and the Japanese Beach Boys band... and we also knew about... Cliff Burton's first band was the Spiders. Is there confusion? I don't think so anymore 'cause there's no Spiders around... Oh! We actually played with a band called the Spiders in St. Louis. The promoter found out we were coming through and booked both of us. It was hilarious! They're a straight up punk band and they were really cool. They said they were gonna change their name, but I guess they haven't yet. So that was the first time that we ran into an existing band called the Spiders, and we were like, "Alright, we're gonna have to have a throwdown. We're gonna have a rumble outside the club." But it was really cool. As far as confusion... in some ways I wish that we had a different name, but also I think in some ways I think it's really cool because there's been so many bands with the name that it kind of has a history... and of course a lot of people compare it to the Spiders from Mars... the name has a lot of history with it, but nothing's ever stuck to it.

L: It's kind of like Menudo. The name stays the same and the personnel changes. Maybe you guys didn't choose the name at all... perhaps it chose you.

CB: Maybe, man. I've not really thought too much about it. I'm not too philosophical about it. I've never been compared to Menudo, but sure, I can understand that. But Menudo sucks.

L: And yet it spawned such gifted performers as Ricky Martin and... okay, Ricky Martin.

CB: But I don't know if there's any confusion anymore. People don't give a shit about it.

L: Nobody's coming to your shows and shouting...

CB: (interrupts) "Hey, these guys aren't Japanese." No, I don't think anyone's ever come to see another band called the Spiders. And most people are very open-minded about it, and if they're open-minded about it, that's great. I'm still waiting for litigation, but until then we're the Spiders.

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