You’rNext (Small Stone)
An interview with guitarist/vocalist Sina
By Craig Regala
Bottom are a three piece (expanded to four to cover all the parts on tour) that’s been out there on the killin’ fields for years, with a gig count numbering well into four figures. Over three albums, they’ve roared through all sortsa journalist’s “hard music” categories – metal, nü metal, power punk, stoner rock – without a goddamn care. You set ’em up, they mow ’em down. So go see ’em and find out what Melvins, Rollins Band, Warped Tour, and Emmisions have know for years: Here be the rock.
You guys seemed to pop out of the egg fully formed. Was there a selection process of band members or a focus on a specific sound or approach?
Bottom’s been the three-headed-turtle that everyone’s come to know for nine years now. Clementine and I played together for a year longer under a different name, which evolved into Bottom. We were just waiting for Nila to show up to the jam space on her little purple scooter.
Are you the only three musketeers as Bottom members?
We’ve been a lean mean fighting machine for almost a decade, which has been awesome and raw. However, there are guitar “extras” I play on our records that can’t be pull off live cuz God didn’t give me a second set of claws. So, starting this tour, Bottom has an additional player on stage, Gretchen, who’ll be joining us for live shows as a second guitar player, and we’ll see how it goes from there. I’m totally thrilled on how thick and monstrous it’s sounding. We can’t wait to hit the road and riff it up.
When did you all decide, “Damn, we’re gonna Rock The Nation, and that’s that!”?
We put a first payment to our Ford Econoline 150 (aka Vanna) on April 1, 1999, mastered the Made In Voyage record that evening, and started touring that weekend, every weekend that year, plus an October U.S. tour. On a long drive back from Asheville, North Cackalackie, one of us postured “what if we could do this all the time?” There was a long tense silence in the van (as we each scanned our lives, brains, and dreams to play music). Then came the unison “OKAY.” That was December 6th, 1999. I got back to NYC and called a recommended booking agent and told him we wanted to do “perpetual, never-ending, marathon touring.” He laughed and suggested four to eight weeks, I replied “start booking from now until at least June, we’ll tell you when to stop.” He said we were crazy and that he’d call back with an answer. Brian from ToughGuy Booking booked us 300+ shows that year starting February 11, 2000. It was a glorious adventure.
Three records, all well-produced by good people in good studios. Did you guys decide early on that you weren’t gonna “just put somethin’ out,” or are there four-track demos on the Web I’ve missed?
We’ve worked with excellent studio gurus to co-produce our past records. However You’rNext was done completely on our own, which was a marveling and liberating experience. We found a cozy studio to record in our rehearsal building in San Francisco called GetReel. Rob is the owner and engineer there, and he engineered You’rNext. He’s really laid back, knows his stuff, and technically made this record possible. But there’s no big names like Greg Gordon or Billy Anderson on You’rNext. It’s just us three. Just Bottom at the helm with the help of Tecate Rob Preston.
It was a really freeing experience for me, in more ways than I can mention here. Just following the ears and say “hey, let’s try this.” The second track on You’rNext, “By a Thread,” was gonna be purely acoustic, but then after stepping out to work on the vocal part, I realized it CRIED to go scary and dark. Clem wanted to use the acoustic style drums and tympani rolls we already laid down to an acoustic guitar track, so we just worked it from there. The contradiction of anti-rock drums to creepy guitar feedback and flute and pained vocals give it great tension. I don’t know if we would’ve done that without having ultimate freedom.
As for demos, there are lots. We have two albums of material called I Hug Myself All the Time that we’ve demoed. It’s riffy, loud stuff: Brutal, rage-filled angst-driven metal. Frankly, I had a turbulent 2004, which made for great artistic fodder, and it’s all tracked in the demos. For better or worse, we’re hoping to record them fer real soon. It’ll be sweet to put them to tape after putting some live muscle on them and working out the kinks.
Are they available?
A couple of the demos can be found from links off our web page.
What gear are you using? Is it holding up? Would you switch for some free sponsored stuff, or do you really like your set up?
I play Gibson Guitars. I got a killer SG for Christmas, although I play Les Paul Standards during live shows. I like the heavyweight on tone. For amps, I run two half-stacks: A Marshall JCM 800 and a Carvin. Once in a while, I’ll use a Hendrix wah. For my feedback cacophony in the front of our sets, I’ll use a loop pedal or flange. I’m pedal shy cuz they hack out tone. And that makes my skin crawl, so I’ll unplug them during parts of our set.
Oh, yeah: I have a D’Addario endorsement, and that’s rad cuz I eat strings like Cookie Monster does snicker doodles.
What’s in your rider? Sox? Strings? Bushmills? A shower? Power bars? What’s the one thing you’d like most to be at the club that never seems to there?
I was once told that our rider had enough liquor on it to keep GNR happy. I dunno. I would love to see some awesome vegan eats. I used to be extremely carnivorous, but am trying to keep that fang-toothed demon on it best behavior. I suppose, a professional massage therapist would be the ultimate dream for everyone, but not some creepy clam-handed metal dude with a vile (ahem, vial) of “essential oil.” Let’s face it: Neck thrashing ain’t good for the spine. But it just can’t be stopped.
What would a Bottom cartoon show be like? If I may be so bold, I suggest those cool Viking hats. Nothing like a Viking hat for swooping down and sonic pillaging.
You should ask me about this in a few months. I need more time before breaking it. But it definitely involves volume addiction.
When you tour, you really get after it. If you could, would you rather play a three-day run in each city at a modestly-sized club, or a bigger place once and move on? Do you ever do “weekend trips” and maintain a location for a while?
Yes. That all sounds good. We just want to play.
Okay, this new CD has a drifting tension and malevolent bite in place of your general grape-stomping, ass-kicking groove. Are you gonna tour on it? Gonna bring the flute and trumpet?
Don’t expect flute or trumpet, but hell yeah, we’re definitely gonna play stuff off You’rNext. Expect some guitar feedback sections circling like ravenous buzzards at a feast. To even it out, we’ll also be playing lots of the heavy riff stuff from our Feels… disc, and metal stuff we’ve recently written. We’re hoping to play a different set each night, so there’s plenty of modes we can cover. It depends on the venue and vibe each night.
Which song of yours would you like to be broadcast at nine o’clock tonight over the whole country. And why?
I’d hate to hear any Bottom songs on the radio. Radio is crap these days. Music on the radio is too safe, unpassionate, sanitized, dehumanized, and censored. Radio is for the dull and dim. It currently wanks off to the watchers of Elimidate, or those who want to be on it.
What freaks me out is when I meet smart, well-rounded people (in circles other than music) and I find out they listen to “Thong Song” or “She Bangs” or they’ve just picked up the “newest U2” – or, even worse, old U2 – and it’s on continual repeat in their iPod. It’s as though music evolution for the general citizen has stopped. It trips me out that Counting Crows or novice players like Avril Lavigne or the Simpson sisters actually have “music careers” and do AOL-sponsored broadcasts, while 20-year music veterans and innovators like Melvins or Fantômas are barely heard outside of our music web. Not to dog Paul McCartney (credit where credit’s due), but isn’t it sad that the only rock ‘n’ roll acceptable for a Superbowl audience was performed by a 60 year-old man? Gore factor is not the issue here: The players on the field are out there, sweating blood and cracking skulls, but the half-time show is milked back to the ’60s. Last year was Britney, and let’s not even go there. It’s so sad.
The only way to stop this from continuing is to turn the radio off completely. Shut it down. Bury it already. It’s all ads for zit and foot cream, anyway.
Until then, if one Bottom song did get played, I’d hope it’d be “Got Meth” from Feels So Good When You’re Gone. It’s an anthem of how easy it is to “love to hate and hate to love.” Musically, it’s simple yet filled with doom and passion. I would just chuckle for an eternity as folk turned their volume knobs up to hear the whispering intro, maybe even leaning into a speaker a bit, and then like a suckerpunch after reeling ‘em in, we drop into the sonic boom to pummel their mind as I scream “hurts like… FUCK!!!”
Who are your musical heroes/influences?
Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley: For passion and emotion in the delivery and lyrics. Phil Anselmo has the pipes of a General leading an army through battle. Dimebag: The riffs and the love of rock. Nick Drake: Acoustic and lyrical poetry. Lou Reed, Leonard Cohen, and Tom Waits: Never a better storyline. Zeppelin: They got the groove. The Rolling Stones: They taught us how. Rollins: Someday, I’ll be a bigger bad ass. Slayer: They got the power of riff and focus second to none.
You guys ever do any covers?
We never did the cover thing much until this year. We started a side project in which Bottom plays Led Zeppelin, called Zepparella. Visit www.zepparella.com for details. It’s the original Bottom line-up (Sina, Nila, and Clementine) plus Gretchen on guitar while I belt out Plant vocals. That’s how Gretchen joined us. We’ve been doing Zepparella shows for about four months, and it’s going well. It’s fun and light-hearted. Eventually, we’d like to play two nights in the same town: Bottom one night, Zepparella the next. It’d be ideal touring: less gas, less driving, more rock.
Like I said before: We just want to play. We love music and that’s all we want to do.
Name three bands from any time in history you’d like to take out on an all expenses paid tour of the world.
Led Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin, Slayer, oh, and, of course, SLAYER!