Tony Sly Interview | ThePunkSite.com
|Band: Tony Sly
Fat Wreck Chords
New City, Edmonton, AB
|Date: June 3rd, 2011
||Interviewer: Dustin Blumhagen
Alongside their peers in NOFX, Pennywise, Rancid and Bouncing Souls, No Use For A Name helped bring skatepunk into the mainstream during the 90’s. 21 years after releasing their debut album, the band is still going strong, even while frontman Tony Sly pursues his successful solo project. The 41 year old father shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, he unveils yet another new musical project that he is working on with a couple of high profile friends below.
How’s the tour going so far?
I’ve only done one show so far. Last night in Calgary, then up here to Edmonton. So far it’s just been a long drive with one stop.
Oh right, you didn’t make the Vancouver show. Well, as long as you are here. So you toured a lot with Joey Cape and you guys both come from the 90s skatepunk scene. Is it different touring with Dave Hause, who is from a younger band?
Not that I’ve noticed so far. He seems like a guy who has been on tour a lot, his experience really shows. It’s not really like he’s a rookie. I don’t know how old he is, but in touring years he seems old. Touring with him is like touring with anyone else. He’s a really cool guy, really funny, I like having him in the van, he’s entertaining. Mikey, who I knew before, is pretty cool too. I’ll tour with anybody. I don’t like to have bands open up for these acoustic things. It kills the vibe of the show. Having these two guys is perfect.
You guys are travelling together?
Yeah, we have a van. It’s like a little Mazda. We are driving it all the way across to Winnipeg and then back home.
How is that different than touring with No Use For A Name?
NUFAN is more luxurious because we travel on a bus. This is more of a DIY thing, which is nice to get back to. It helps you remember where you came from, loading in your own stuff. It makes sure that you are doing your job. It’s rewarding in that way. These acoustic tours are short. I try to keep them that way. I have two kids at home and it’s hard to be away from them. If I do these in portions I can handle more, rather than burning myself out. When I burn myself out, I start playing bad shows and I don’t want to do that.
Talking about your kids, I recently heard about the documentary “The Other F Word.” Are you in that?
What is it?
It was started because of Jim Lindberg’s (Pennywise/Black Pacific) “Punk Rock Dad” book. It has interviews with a bunch of punk rock fathers, like Fat Mike and Jim.
I did hear about that. I should have been in it because I do more with my kids than any of those guys. I go to the park. I’m the full on pick them up from school dad. My wife works 14 hours a day, so I’m a full time everything when I get home. I should have starred in that movie.
Is it weird going from tour to going home and being a normal family man?
It takes a day or two to adjust to both. Right now, I’m still in dad mode adjusting to the tour. It’s nice not to have that responsibility on your shoulders all the time, looking over your shoulders wondering if someone is writing on walls or grabbing a pair of scissors and running down the street. Touring is a bit more relaxed. It’s a double edged sword, when you are on tour you want to go home, but when you are home you want to be on tour. I think that the key is to embrace the freedom you get when you are on tour. When I come home and I’m a full time dad, it’s hard coming home from a long tour, it’s not easy, but it’s what I have to do. It’s who I am.
Have you have recorded any songs for the new album?
Yeah, I have finished a full LP. I know I just put one out not too long ago, but the solo thing is making a lot of sense to me right now. I just wasn’t done writing for the solo thing. I gave it a lot of thought about how I could make it different from the last album. The answer was really simple. I hired like 11 outside musicians to come play on it. It cost a lot of money to have it done, but it was worth it in the end. It sounds expansive, where my last album sounds more stripped down. It’s orchestral in some ways, not like a symphony, but like a full band. It’s nice to work with musicians who can read music, not just punk rock. In a way it expands your mind. I recommend it to anyone who is in any kind of band, not just punk, broaden your horizons as a musician.
Do you think you will continue to do both?
I want to get more into NUFAN stuff. I have a lot of punk songs that I’ve been brewing up and I don’t think they could necessarily be acoustic songs. I’m not the kind of guy who takes acoustic songs and makes them punk songs. I think on my new album you will really hear that none of my songs can be easily converted to punk songs. I’m on tour right now, but I feel like I need to get my shit together. I feel like I should be home writing. My head’s not here. I don’t know how to do both at the same time. I don’t know how to be on tour and write songs. When I get home it’s all about writing songs in my little studio that I have set up.
With NUFAN, you tour Europe and quite large markets. Do you take the acoustic show there too?
I do, but always separate from NUFAN. I try not to mix the tours. It’s not really fair to make the other guys sit around while I do an acoustic show. I will try to stay in a country to save money on plane tickets and jump onto another acoustic tour. We have a lot of things planned for this year, but my main focus is writing. We have to get a record written. I didn’t used to tell people because of the pressure. I thought I would explode if I did that to myself. But now I find that it helps. I wrote the acoustic albums telling myself I didn’t have more than a month to get them done. I spent more time recording, but writing was a breeze because I let it be. Try not to be overcritical of yourself.
The whole Epitaph/Fat thing was huge in the 90s. Looking at Epitaph today, a large part of their roster is screamo bands. Do you think the scene is still alive?
I think Epitaph changed with the times, while Fat stayed true to putting out punk music. That probably has a lot to do with Epitaph’s success. Punk bands are back where they used to be when I started, where you didn’t sell a lot of copies and you couldn’t get people out to your shows. Then it exploded in the late 90s. It was easy to get people to the shows, people were buying merch left & right and you came home with tons of money. Things have completely changed now. I feel sorry for new bands. I don’t feel that they shouldn’t do it, but I feel sorry for them. It’s an uphill battle, records aren’t selling so that won’t help. MySpace and Facebook make it so anybody can have a band. The playing field isn’t level anymore; it’s full of bad bands. Listeners have to really search for the good ones to get through that. If you don’t have something within five or six years… Well, I don’t want to say you should give up because it took us seven years before anything happened. I think now it’s so different. We were one of the few bands in our city when I was growing up. Now there is such an influx of bands and I can’t even tell them apart. People are like “I’ve got a record.” Everybody is handing you their demo calling it a record just because they made some pretty album art on their computer. That’s not a record, that’s just a really nice looking demo. You have to work to make a record. You have to be good to make a record. You have to be recognized for your talent for someone to want you on their label. That’s what Fat Mike is like. You never hear the word demo anymore. That’s not a record.
Are there any new bands that do stand out in your mind?
I don’t go to the record store a lot. I should, but I don’t have a lot of time between kids and writing songs. There are bands on Fat that definitely have that old sound like Teenage Bottlerocket and Pour Habit. Whether people will like them or not is a different story. I think people like the downstroking Ramones-y stuff these days, like Screeching Weasel and Cobra Skulls, which is cool, but I think there was a time and place for our kind of poppy punk music. I still like writing songs and my stuff will always sound like NUFAN. I can’t get away from that. I’m sure there are a lot of great bands out there that I don’t know yet.
How about This Is A Standoff?
Steve is my friend. We toured Eastern Canada earlier in the year with him and Russ Rankin (Good Riddance/ Only Crime). NUFAN has done a lot of shows with Standoff. He’s definitely a DIY guy and I respect him for that. I can’t believe how much time that guy puts into his band. If we had a guy like that in our band, I would be so happy. We would be so much bigger too. Steve tries.
I find it’s weird that around home where they live, they are relatively unknown, but then they travel to other countries and have a strong following.
Every country but the US is open to music. The US these days is pretty jaded. It’s hard to tour there. South America, Europe, Japan… we can tour there any time of the year and do well there, so we keep doing it. I think if another guitar player quits our band, I’ll ask Steve Rawles to join our band. I like him a lot.
What are you up to besides touring these days?
I’m writing new NUFAN songs and I just finished recording my next solo album. I’m working on a new record with Jon Snodgrass and Joey Cape called Scorpios.
Do you each contribute songs?
It’s like 2 of our own songs, outtakes from each of our own records and then we are recording 3 songs that we wrote together and then our friend Brian, our piano player, is helping out too. It’s a band name that came about because we all Scorpios. We were on tour in Europe and we were like, it’s weird that all of our birthdays fall during this tour. Jon is like; we should start a band called the Scorpios. But I was like, let’s call it Scorpios, cuz the Scorpions use the “the.” We don’t want it to sound too much like that. It comes out four months from now. We decided on self titled because some of the titles were pretty dumb. It makes sense, it’s our first record. It was either going to be called “Sexual Creatures” or “Born Under A Rad Sign.”
That’s a great name.
That was my idea, but everyone decided they were too serious for that. Stupid. Sexual Creatures is funny because if you read the astrological sign, one of the things it always says is that they are very sexual. Another thing is that every year we are going to get a new member and they have to be a Scorpio. You wanna join?
I’ll come play washboard for you guys.
If you can play washboard you are definitely in.