CARMINE SCARINGI (EX-SNAKESKYN WHISKEY) INTERVIEW – PART 2:
July 11, 2015
Part one of Sleaze Roxx’s exclusive interview with former Snakeskyn Whiskey guitarist Carmine Scaringi covered the axeman’s time within the band and some of the problems that began to plague the Canadian group. Part two of the interview picks up where we left off, and will provide Scaringi’s perspective of what led to the break-up of Snakeskyn Whiskey.
Sleaze Roxx: Were there any other problems that you think led to the break-up of the band?
Carmine Scaringi: I believe that yes, you got to be with the times as far as certain things go but at the same time the most important is the music. Once you’ve got good music, then you can drop all that. I’ll give you an example. Pantera — when they started, they were dressed just like Motley Crue but then when they got bigger, they were dressed however they wanted. Van Halen did the same thing. Eddie Van Halen plays auditoriums and stadiums with 50,000 people wearing sweat pants and t-shirts and the people are rocking out hard! I’d freak out because the band always put a lot of time into all of these things, and to a certain extent that’s fine, but I think that it’s a little bit too much. For example, I have a guitar pedal and that thing has stood the test of time. Sometimes I have to put a piece of paper to fix a problem but these are my ‘issues’, these aren’t their problems. These guys were constantly at me about this guitar pedal. I’ve played every gig and never fucked up — nothing has ever happened on my end. If you’re going to bed and you’re not worrying about how this could go wrong on your end, you’re worrying about what’s going wrong on my end? You can lose time thinking stuff like that! It’s better to focus on the big picture.
Now, we had this new guy and he makes these changes. Matt [Dibi, frontman] dropped the guitar and it changed the way some of the songs sounded but that wasn’t a big deal. We decided that he could pick up the guitar for certain songs and as far as future writing, he was going to write them all and eventually he would write a full album to replace ‘Against The World’. And then we were going to reinvent ourselves correctly. We were planning on doing an album with three times better quality but when we did the pyrotechnics, I think that we established ourselves as a band that takes leaps. We could not repeat that reputation. We got offered to open up for John Corabi in Montreal but we had to turn it down because we could not fit in the building — and we couldn’t reduce ourselves. People have that impression… I saw that at Snakefest. Pyrotechnics? That can’t be? That became expensive and it didn’t mean it was wrong, it just meant that now was the time to seek support from industry and the people that are supporting artists.
I’m not going to name names of local bands in Montreal and Toronto that are getting support, but they’re not that good and I freaked out. I went, “What! This does not make any sense!” I was telling Matt, “How the hell does that guy get the gig to open up for that band? Who’s fooling who here? Who has your phone number and who’s phone number do you have. These are the questions I want answered!” That’s what I said to Matt and that’s why I started to say, “No more playing games. Tell me where this band is! Where are we? What connections do you really have? How did you get the Crashdiet tour to work? What are the details? How much money was generated?” And then the reality came out because there is no guarantee on your investment. I’ll give you an example. Last year we invested about $100,000 — the four of us invested about $100,000. Now, you know as well as me that with an average job after taxes, at the end of the year, you’re left with $20,000 to $30,000 — less probably. To put out $100,000, that means that the four of us pretty much went all in with everything we had and it was time to get something in return. Now what happened? This is the part where I start to wonder. In fact, I don’t know for sure 100% if it was the change that we made after the second Snakefest to go single guitar or whatever. I don’t know if that changed their vision. I don’t know if they [Matt and Jordan Dibi] talked. I don’t know if they thought to themselves that maybe they were changing from what Snakeskyn Whiskey was to something else and they wanted to remain what it was. I was hoping that wasn’t the case, because we needed to go this way. These kinds of things had to be done — there’s no doubt about it. Every time we would do a concert people wrote reviews, so most of us knew what was really going on, what really needed to be changed, and what good elements we needed to get back. It’s 2015, a few weeks after the New Year, and we’re having meetings about how are we going to proceed and Matt says, “If we’re going to do 2015, we need this much money.” My eyeballs dropped!
Sleaze Roxx: So what’s the number?
Carmine Scaringi: It was a very high number! I mean if you’re going to spend $10,000 to $15,000 on a major CD then you better revamp the stage. We needed a new drum kit as well as amps, I mean it was going to get crazy. These festivals… you got to fly here, you got to fly there, and you need money for expenses. You want to put on more Snakefests, but to do a Snakefest it costs thousands of dollars and what are you getting in return? What’s our revenue? Our revenue is our merchandise and our CDs and we were giving away ‘Against The World’ for free. We were the only band in Montreal giving away their CDs for free because we know that you’re not going to buy it. No one is buying CDs, no one is paying bills with their CD sales — that’s not happening!
OK, so give the CD up — give it up! What are you going to do? You’re going to have 1,000 copies in your bedroom like all the other bands have? Anyhow, give that thing up! Give it up… and then what? If you want to sell them, you are minus the cost of everything. You would only get $5.00 or something. What are you going to be left with — some quarters, a dollar? You can’t keep track of that. At the end of the night, you give them away for free. If we spend that kind of money and then at the end of it all nothing happens in return and it’s all wasted, then it’s like fuck that… that was a lot of money! What I lost that year, what I lost the year before, and then the Dibi brothers, they’re not looking at what they lost those two years, instead they’re looking at the years they lost before I was in the band! You start to think, ‘I could have bought a house. I could have bought this. I could have bought that. This is how old I am. This is how old I’m going to be. I have no girlfriend. I have this. I have that. Where am I going to go? Am I going to get married? Quit my job?’ You spend so much time focusing on becoming a big rock star that you leave work, or you keep a regular job (part or full time) but it’s for minimum wage.
So that’s what it comes down to — industry support. So we had a big band discussion. How are we going to look? Really? How are we going to look? How are we going to sell our music? There were two avenues that needed to be attacked. We had to spend a lot of hours writing songs as well as individually go and maybe get some lessons. Bass lessons, writing lessons, music theory lessons — not because we suck and we don’t know anything, just to get better because you can always get better and we needed that. We needed to learn something we didn’t know. We don’t have anybody that’s investing in us but we’re going to invest in ourselves. We had to attack that area — the music. We had to attack that as far as recordings, as far as changing up the budget to do the video, the album, promoting it, launching it — all that stuff right there. How much that would have cost us?
Carmine Scaringi: Thank God that we had a couple of companies supporting us. We had a company called Peinture Europe and a company called Céramique Métropolitain. They wrote us some pretty hefty cheques to cover some costs. We had a giant vodka company called Signature Vodka — they have one of the more expensive vodka bottles on sale in the world. They were even featured in the Grammy’s magazine. They had a full page — the preferred vodka of Keith Richards or whatever, something like that. They endorsed us… they were our sponsor. So people have been nice. People have tried to help but what are people like the Céramique Métropolitain company going to offer me besides a cheque, you know? So that had to be attacked. This was all part of the music part that had to be attacked and then there was another part that had to be attacked and that was changing my adaptor piece, devising a perfect hairstyle piece. We got to get different kinds of clothes that co-exist for our image, social media, and that whole other side of it. Now, the way it should work is the band should tackle the music side of it and the band’s entourage and support should handle the other side of it — after all, musicians are musicians. So we had to pick what we were going to attack first. The drummer Tommy [Tarantilis] and I picked the music first and the brothers picked that other stuff first. That created a tornado and that’s what happened.
Sleaze Roxx: So did the issues of image versus the music come to a head?
Carmine Scaringi: The brothers came to a band practice one day and Matt was very serious and said, “Listen, these are the things that we have to get done. Next week I want to come here and I want to see that you got a new adapter.” He told Tommy, who was using an electrical drum kit for certain rehearsals, that he wanted to have him change the wire or something that Tommy didn’t think was an issue. He also said that he wanted us to each provide an article of clothing purchased to showcase what our ideas were as well as have our hair in a certain fashion, which I thought was ridiculous. We just spent all of our fucking money last year and now you tell me to go buy shirts, hairspray, adapters, and this shit that does not matter? We needed material and then we were going to have to fucking write a $10,000 album and we needed money for that — I didn’t have time for $400 photo shoots. It was retarded. So we had a photo shoot and we spent a fortune on that because we spent all day taking pictures. For what? I don’t understand. They’re cool, but we didn’t need to take those pictures. The energy should not have been focused there, the energy should have been focused on kick ass rock ‘n’ roll music — and I was focusing on kick ass rock ‘n’ roll music.
I came to the practice the week after, ready to fucking say I forgot all about the adapter — I was busy working on kick ass tunes. It was Tommy who called me and he said, “Did you get any of that shit? You know, Matt was saying the shirt, the adapter…” I go, “Oh sure, the adapter!” What is he talking about? I have and like good stuff but I’m not one of those guys. I hate, hate, hate those fucking zebra pants! I have nothing against them doing it for themselves for whatever reasons, but for myself I don’t like that. I like going all the way. A lot of people don’t know where the real rock stars get their clothing. However, I did major research because I’m a guy that goes to places like Vegas all the time and I found stores where the real rock stars find their clothing. They are crazy stores and the price tags on these articles of clothing are retarded. I was not interested in going to the stores on the fly to grab something quickly to make my singer happy so that I would show up there wearing a black shirt or whatever the fuck it was — something that they all spent a $40 budget on when I already knew that if I had to attack it properly there was an outfit for $1,600 waiting for me. But I was definitely not going to buy this tomorrow just to impress them. When the fuck did we become a girl scout band where fucking band practices became about how your hair looked and shit like that? Yeah, it came down to rock ‘n’ roll.
When the brothers walked in the room, my ass was already on the line. I was playing so loud that Matt was telling me to lower it and I didn’t know he was saying that to tell me and Tommy that because of the fact we had accomplished nothing on his list that he was walking out — that he wasn’t sure of anything anymore, just that me and my drummer had to really work out what we wanted and what page we were on. And then when they left, the bass player Jordan, Matt’s brother — his posture said, “Fuck! Don’t tell me this is the end of it!” It was like him and I saying stuff like, “Ah fuck! I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be in this band.” We all knew we were probably never going to take it serious but he had this look in his posture that said, “Fuck man! Now!” Who knows? And then when he left and I said goodbye to him and shook hands, something told me that I wasn’t going to see this guy anymore. I had this feeling that I was not going to see him ever again and even though we left on good terms and said that we were friends and that everything was good, it was like I said, “I’m not going to text him. I want to see if he texts me.” He probably thought the same thing. I never texted him and he never texted me and that goes for his brother as well. I’ve never spoken to those guys again. I have remained friends with the drummer still to this day.
Carmine Scaringi: We had to find a new rehearsal space anyway, Tommy has a house complex that belongs to his parents, so we took over an entire apartment and used one of the large rooms in it to set up. Because we were in a house, he was playing an electric kit and that created a problem on two levels. One, because by playing on an electric kit, he got used to playing on pads and then he would only play on a real drum kit when we played live where he switched to skins… so it’s different. It’s like playing on one guitar all week and come show time somebody passes you a brand new guitar that you’ve never seen before. It bothered him and it bothered me and I was like, “Hey, if you guys want to be a professional rock ‘n’ roll band, these are the problems that need to be tackled — making sure that your fucking goddamn drummer has a good kit to play on and is comfortable on stage in front of 1,000 people!” Another reason was because we were using the apartment and Tommy is a very nice guy. He was making us pay him $50 each a month to stay there, but an apartment like that can bring in up to $600 per month in rent for a family. It was so dumb to be staying there so we had to evacuate that. We were there for two years, or even more than that. The brothers had this concern, “Oh no! Now, we’re going to have to find a pad. Where are we going to go?” They made this big deal of it saying, “We searched everywhere, we couldn’t find anything.” Through my phone I wrote on Google, ‘Rehearsal space Montreal’, and within ten seconds I found a guy, made an appointment, and went and visited it. A couple of days after the break-up Tommy and I were already in that room with a different bass player jamming it up, trying out what the new songs that we were writing with the brothers were sounding like. We were ready to land on our feet in case they were going to pull a weird move.
Sleaze Roxx: So, how do you feel about what went down?
Carmine Scaringi: Well, I am not happy! The reason I am not happy is because I told these guys, and they fucking know it, that no matter what I was not going to fucking ditch them. I told the bass player, we had some late night conversations just him and I, “I’m never going to leave this band. I’m going to stick in. We’re going to do this. We’re going to get over this hump.” I said that and I told myself, “These are going to make for great stories when we write our book in 20 years.” We’re already at that and now you want to break up? I started to think to myself, “Fuck it! If this is the fight that we’re having right now, what kind of fights are we going to have when we’re big timers?” These are supposed to be the times when we’re supposed to be ripping, dipping and partying. What’s going on? Why are we having these arguments? Why can’t we just write some fucking tunes and go play some shows? Why the fuck couldn’t we make a phone call to some top guys? Why couldn’t we get some lawyers involved? We had plans to meet with an entertainment lawyer but that didn’t happen. We had plans on several occasions to hook up with certain promotion companies but for whatever reasons that didn’t happen. We would get offers from certain promoters to come and play gigs but we had to turn down a lot of them — we then became known as ‘that band’ in promoters’ eyes. “Don’t call Snakeskyn Whiskey because they’re going to turn us down because they’re too big for us.” That’s never what we were trying to put out but we know how it works. These promoters, they’re all start up guys — they’re not really anybody and they’re all trying to make money by putting together gigs and bringing in bands. They all know that we’re going to bring in a crowd and that’s why we got the phone call in the first place. Don’t call us because you need us to supply 200 people to your show so you could pay us $100. We’re busy trying to grow our band and not trying to grow your little promotion company. Do you really understand where I’m coming from with that statement?
Carmine Scaringi: You know what, some musicians might be a bit more aware than others, but I’m telling you, nobody has talked about it the way I am right now. It needs to be said because the promoters need to immediately stop the false hopes of big gigs. They keep making up these bills with seven bands in pubs for a half an hour set each and everyone’s bringing twenty guests — I want to play a big gig! What they are doing is bad, it’s really bad — that’s not how it should be! I did it in the past with a buddy because we needed some money. It took us two seconds to put a couple of bands up on the internet — we drew in 10 bands. We rented out a small place for a couple of hundred bucks, we left them a deposit, we put each band on a contract to sell 40 to 60 tickets minimum, and we pocketed all kinds. In the end, we rented some equipment and used our own to put together a stage. We took $1,000 of the proceeds and gave it to whoever we thought was the best band — and that’s what they’re all doing. Reality check — we can’t do that any more. We’ve been doing that for seven years — but now we know the game. We know what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to use each other. It’s like we’re trying to use you to put us on big with the major people and you’re trying to use us to headline your small gigs to that we can bring in people so that you can make the bands believe that you successfully did a big show by yourself.
That is exactly what we started doing with Snakefest — to prove to everybody that we don’t need to be promoted by you and your ten bands at that bar to have 200 people show up. The proof that the 200 people show up on their own is that when we go and do our Snakefest, people came in droves and there were more people that were in the audience when Snakeskyn Whiskey was playing then when the Pantera tribute band Goddamn Electric played after us. The reason for that is because Pantera fans like Snakeskyn Whiskey but for a Snakeskyn Whiskey fan, Pantera might be a little bit too heavy with the singing and stuff. When we got on first, we had all of our fans there to watch us and we had all the Pantera fans that were there and arriving to see the band right after us. Normally, what you do is you watch a song or two of the opening band and then you go and have a beer and you smoke a cigarette and you don’t come back until the band you want to see is on stage. So we made sure that the second our show started, fireworks went up raging and that made sure no one was going nowhere. We destroyed that crowd and then when we were done — all of our fans left. I wanted to focus on getting help — on getting real help with doing interviews, finding out contacts, getting opening gigs for real big bands, start playing bigger places, start getting real gigs — you know?
Sleaze Roxx: What happened?
Carmine Scaringi: What happened is that we hit a brick wall. I’m pretty sure some of them gave up — I understand. I’m sure if you go talk to one of the guys from the band and say look, Carmine said that, “You didn’t do anything to bring the band into the attention of major people,” they’re probably going to reply, “Well, what did he do?” Yeah, well I was not the leader of that band to make those kinds of calls. I did what I could do here and there but the bottom line, the decision had to be made by them so it got to a point where I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get myself involved. I’ll give you an example, we played a gig and then what happened is a promoter came and offered us to open up for the band The Last Vegas. Now, The Last Vegas isn’t a big band but they are under management with FM Music. So even though their gig is only going to have 100 people there, there is going to be two guys in the crowd that are there on behalf of the band — the band’s management, that are serious. I want to play the gig for them — not for the 100 people — so I accepted the offer. Then the bass player [Jordan Dibi] confronted me upset about that and told me that we were not taking that offer because that band sucks and is small and we probably will embarrass ourselves playing that 100 person gig. At that point, I was like, “Fuck it! Why am I even bothering? Why am I even bothering?”.
The drummer liked the direction of the new music — so did I. I know my fucking singer did. I know that they all thought we were right there and we were. I do not understand how it all got fucked up like that — I don’t get it and I don’t understand. You gambled the whole future on something miniscule like an adapter or an article of clothing, which means that the amount of energy that you had left for that band was so small that something that little would cut the last thread. And than I’m telling myself, “Okay, so how long have you been leading me on for?” Because in my eyes, I was aware of the fact that I was going all in and that every penny I had was going in and that we were going all in. I was telling these guys forever that I have contacts in Vegas and that let’s fucking quit our jobs, leave our girlfriends and get on a plane as we are in the wrong scene. I was like, “Fuck! Do you know how much money we’re wasting because evidently the band is nowhere.” Glen Robinson, the guy who made our record, told me, “You want to know. Your chances in Montreal are probably zero. It’s like probably nothing. You got to get picked up and get the fuck outta here.” I told the guys that so many times. How do you not understand what needs to be done? My drummer was ready to pack his bags. You know a band that needs a guitar player? Fuck! I hope they’re in Russia. I don’t care where they are!
Carmine Scaringi: Well, to be honest, the bassist had been saying crazy shit like he’s having cold feet. As well, the drummer in the last two to four months was starting to feel a little bit too much pressure from the boys and felt like he was wasting his time a bit. I must have said ten times that I am having second thoughts. However, none of us were ever going to actually quit. It’s a very selfish move, especially when there are three other guys in the band affected by that kind of decision. When the brothers Matt and Jordan stormed out on the day of our last jam, Matt said that he was not even sure if he was coming back next year. I saw the look in the bassist’s eyes and I had a gut feeling that I would never see these guys again… and I haven’t since! I was surprised. Bands fight. I thought that this shit storm would pass in a few weeks of well deserved time off and we would go back to finish out the next album full force and full of new ideas. I’m still kind of pissed! I have not spoken to the Dibi boys since they walked out on practice five months ago. I noticed that the website, Facebook fan page and Matt Dibi’s Facebook page are also gone — I have no idea why they disappeared. They never contacted me and I’m sure that they have wondered why I never contacted them either. I miss singer Matt Dibi very much — he was one of my best friends.
Sleaze Roxx: It has been a couple of months since Matt Dibi walked out of the rehearsal and since you have seen the Dibi brothers. What would you say to Matt and Jordan if you saw them right now?
Carmine Scaringi: I would say that I miss them and that I wish it didn’t end that way. However, the brothers have been doing the Snakeskyn thing for the better part of a decade so they got their fix and fame. In some ways, I can see why they went their own way. They had their vision and a plan and it did get them pretty far. When I joined, I had a different vision. Well, at first, I thought that we all had the same vision. If I was in the band for two to three more years and hit the better part of a decade and still no serious support from the industry, I would have also pulled the move the brothers did. I do understand them — I really do. I am just sure that it could have been handled differently. The proof that the vision needed to be seen in a different light lays in the band’s progress in the last few years.
Sleaze Roxx: Since Snakeskyn Whiskey has not officially broken up, do you think that Matt Dibi is just sort of just laying low waiting to start a new project?
Carmine Scaringi: I spoke to Tommy and he goes, “Matt said that he’s actually probably taking time off” because I was telling him, “Why do you think he took that website down and that Facebook page down? Do you think it’s because he’s got something cooking knowing that he’s going to come back?” Tommy responded, “I don’t know.” I do know that Matt Dibi is not 20 years old. I know that Matt has invested a lot of time being in Snakeskyn Whiskey and that just like me, it’s going to be hard to just start over unless he was planning on doing what I’m doing and just joining a new band altogether and kicking ass. If he was planning on replacing Tommy, his brother Jordan or I… we’re talking about three line-up changes in two years. You are putting the last nail in the coffin. What are you going to do? There’s no tablature for my guitar writing for what I’ve written. There’s nothing on paper. There’s no instructional videos on YouTube of a guy demonstrating in slow motion. How the fuck are you going to learn everything I played note for note? You are going to get taught the riffs by Matt, but solos? No! We encountered the same problem when I joined. Now, If Matt is going to continue with Snakeskyn Whiskey down the road, you’re going to have to get a guy that’s going to come in and rerecord the same songs and change the solos for the third time around. That is ridiculous! If Matt calls me one day and tells me that he has a gig lined up for Snakeskyn Whiskey for 1,000 people or whatever, I’m there — I’m going to show up and play the gig but that’s it. Then I’ll go back to my hole. I’ll be in another band. If I have time off and I can take the gig, sure, I’ll come play the gig. I would definitely come and play the gig. The worst part is that we have five or six songs that will melt your face off that are just sitting. I don’t even know the rights of who owns what because we all kind of wrote a bit of them.
Sleaze Roxx: What are your music plans going forward?
Carmine Scaringi: I will always keep walking towards the light in the middle of the stage and I will get there. There is no stopping me (laughs)! My guitar is way too loud! If you’ve got a band and need a serious guitar player, call me! I don’t have plans to move forward. I am always moving forward. I will find another band that needs me I guess. When I was in Snakeskyn, they always said that I was too loud. I need a band that wants it louder (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: Last question for you — what are your top three favourite records of all-time and why?
Carmine Scaringi: I love [Motley Crue’s] ‘Too Fast For Love’ because I can’t believe they did it. They said, “Fuck it! We are doing it!” They wrote all those songs using the same guitar solo for all of them and it was raw and you can hear many things wrong with that album. But I love it because when you hear the songs live like “Live Wire”, you smile and say, “Of course they made it! These guys kick ass!” My second is [Motley Crue’s] ‘Dr. Feelgood’ because they said, “You see, told you we would be the biggest rock band in the world!” And third, I like ‘The Best Of Pantera’ from Pantera because if you don’t know, that album kicks ass and you don’t deserve to play music. Also, every Van Halen album!