INTERVIEW WITH THE MIDNIGHT DEVILS MEMBERS SAM “SPADE” MORRIS, CHRIS “SNIPER” HINELINE AND JIMMY MESS
Date: May 8, 2022
Interviewer: Jeff Onorato
Photos: Jeff Onorato
Every so often, I stumble upon a cool new band that’s either opening for the national headliner that I’m at a venue to see or appearing as part of a multi-act “event” type of billing. In either case, it’s that very rare occasion when I spot new talent that immediately grabs me by the throat and commands my attention. My introduction to The Midnight Devils was one of those times. When I attended the M-Pre Party back in 2021, I was largely unfamiliar with the Nebraska via Chicago trio. My rock n’ roll fanaticism would be quickly won as the glamorized but ghoulish cyclone that is the band hit the stage with an impact equated with the eye of a hurricane. As faithful music fans themselves, the band proudly wear their varied classic rock influences on their sleeves that they tightly roll up into one composite representation that’s glittery but also galvanizing. As the band prepares to release their new album ‘Never Beg For It’ through Pavement Music on July 1st, I spoke with singer / bassist Sam “Spade” Morris, guitarist Chris “Sniper” Hineline and drummer Jimmy Mess who were in the midst of a cross-country trek with The Quireboys.
Sleaze Roxx: You guys are out on tour with The Quireboys right now. How’s the tour going?
Sam Morris: It’s going incredible. It’s the continuation of a tour from two years ago. The Quireboys took us out on our first kind of national tour and then Covid hit. And so now, we’re back two years later to continue and finish the rest of the dates.
Sleaze Roxx: And how have the shows been going so far?
Sam Morris: They’ve been great. They’re an incredible band. They’ve gone through all these obstacles to get here and everybody’s expecting something and they’re delivering above and beyond, bringing the goods every night.
Sleaze Roxx: The band has come under a little bit of flack, parting ways with their singer [original vocalist Spike]. Everybody has their opinions. How has the crowd reaction been in light of that?
Sam Morris: I’m telling you, I’ve seen a lot of posts where people go ‘Oh, it’s shit, it’s shit. Without Spike, it’s nothing.’ But we watch it every night and I’m telling you the band’s better than I’ve ever seen it. The songs are great. The songs stand alone as great rock n’ roll songs. As a great rock n’ roll band.
Jimmy Mess: You could have me up there with a harmonica in a clown suit singing those songs and it would be good. The songs are great dude. And they’re a great band. You know it sucks that Spike’s not there, but Guy Griffin’s a fucking awesome singer too and, like, it’s just great to hear the songs. We all love The Quireboys too.
Chris Hineline: They are very focused, very tight and very polished. They’re great.
Sam Morris: And think of the obstacles that they had to overcome. You know, they could have cancelled the tour easily. But they didn’t, and they’re here. That speaks volumes.
Chris Hineline: And not only that, they’re funny and British so they’re awesome.
Sleaze Roxx: So we’re here at M3, of course with The Quireboys. Do you have any plans to possibly get up and jam with them tonight?
Sam Morris: Probably not tonight. We’re still feeling each other out, I think. We’re getting to that point where now everybody’s in the van riding for 12 hours and laughing their asses off, so I think it’s really cool. And to be able to hang out with them and hear the stories, I’m good standing on the side of the stage and letting the pros work.
Jimmy Mess: [Laughs] Yeah. If they can put up with my fuckin’ farts for the whole trip up here, that’s….
Sam Morris: A feat of endurance.
Jimmy Mess: [Laughs] That’s jamming enough.
Chris Hineline: It’s his feat, it’s his feat. It is.
Sleaze Roxx: Just taking a look at the new CD which is ‘Never Beg For It’, which is about to be released on Pavement Entertainment, what is the official release date for the record?
Sam Morris: July 1st is when the record comes out. The first single “Highway 69” drops, I believe, June 5th. That’ll be the focus track, the radio track. And then the first video single is “Working For The Weekend”, the Loverboy cover. That’ll come out July 1st as well.
Jimmy Mess: Yeah, we’ve got a video for that. It’s gonna be cool.
Sleaze Roxx: What made you decide to cover that song?
Chris Hineline: We were in a van, and Chip’s like ‘Bro, you need a cover’. And we’re like ‘Alright’, and we threw out a thousand and one ideas, and Sam had this shirt he had already made prior [the design] with the dancing devil and I said ‘Hey, what about this song? What about “Working for the Weekend”?’ And it all hit us that would be the perfect song for that dancing devil, for the video to be and that’s what it was. We were in a van, going to eat at The Hat in Chicago. In fact, we were. And I said ‘What about “Working For the Weekend”?’ and everybody’s like ‘That’s the song, that’s the song’. So we learned it real quick and then went to Chip’s the next day and we started recording it.
Sleaze Roxx: Cool. How do you think ‘Never Beg For It’ compares to ‘Something Bigger’?
Jimmy Mess: Yeah, I think it’s fuckin’ way better. ‘Something Bigger’ is cool, and it was a great album, but I had just joined the band at that point. So a lot of the songs on ‘Something Bigger’ were songs that Sam and Chris had already wrote and I was coming in and learning them. Whereas this album was all three of us kind of putting our heads together and I feel like this is a better representation of what we sound like. Although of course, ‘Something Bigger’, I’m really happy about. I’m really proud of that album too. But I feel like….
Sam Morris: The production’s better, we had Chip as the producer.
Jimmy Mess: This is the album that we’ve been wanting to make for a while. And we got to make it, so that’s cool.
Sleaze Roxx: Working with Chip Z’nuff, who is pretty legendary in this genre, how do you feel like he steered your sound for this album in comparison to the first one?
Sam Morris: I didn’t even know when we were laying it down until we listened back, but it’s got the Chicago sound. It’s got the “Enuff Z’Nuff”, that Power Pop sound.
Chris Hineline: Sonic landscape.
Jimmy Mess: You know, the typical Chicago sound. The Cheap Trick, the Enuff Z’Nuff…
Sam Morris: The REO Speedwagon, bands like that.
Jimmy Mess: It’s got the harmonies.
Sam Morris: What he did is, we brought the songs in and he goes ‘Jimmy, play no fills. Play all the songs straight through’. And we’re like ‘WHAT’? And then we listened to the playback and we’re like ‘This guy’s brilliant’. He knows what he’s doing.
Sleaze Roxx: With eleven songs, one of those being a cover, how long did it take for these songs to come together for ‘Never Beg For It’?
Sam Morris: Two years. Right when we got off tour with The Quireboys, we decided that we were going to sit down and start writing songs over the quarantine.
Chris Hineline: It was one year man. Me and Sam were writing at my house in my basement by the cat boxes and the cat shit and the smell, and we’d get ideas, and we’d tape them on his phone, and we’d email them to Jimmy Mess. We worked from probably March to November and then we hired a studio drummer just to kind of give Jimmy a sample, the tempo of the songs and so forth. We emailed them to him and then he came up with his own ideas. And then, I’d say it was by the following March right at a year, we were at Chip’s studio starting to lay down the basic foundations of the album.
Jimmy Mess: Yeah, when we were on tour with The Quireboys that year, we came up with the plan that after the whole year of touring, after 2020 and all that stuff, we were going to go in and start doing the album. Actually, we were planning on starting it in like, February of that year. Then the pandemic happened. And we kind of decided ‘Well, we can sit here on our asses and not do anything or let’s go ahead and just start doing this record now’.
Sam Morris: It was like fate.
Jimmy Mess: Yeah. It actually worked out really good. Now we’ve got the record all locked up and ready to go, and shit’s opened back up and now we can start hitting the road again and we’ve got a pretty good, solid set of dates from now until November.
Sleaze Roxx: One of the things that I like about Pavement is that they’re helping to keep rock music alive. They’ve been home to Tantric and Puddle of Mudd. How have they been to work with, with this being your first release for the label?
Sam Morris: Incredible, and I go in not knowing quite how to talk to the label or talk to these guys and I’ll bounce ideas off of them and they’ll hit me back immediately. It’s almost like a one-on-one thing where Tim at Pavement, or Mark, they’ll email me or text me back immediately. That’s the kind of love that I’d think that you’d want. Guys that actually care about the release that they’re putting out.
Jimmy Mess: I’ve been in other bands and on other labels, and there have been times where I’ve been signed to a label and never even met the A&R guy or even talked to the person that’s in charge of my career so to speak. And to be able to actually, not only get a hold of them, but they get back to us to take care of stuff is refreshing when you hear about all of the stories. It’s really good.
Sleaze Roxx: They’re also known for giving their bands a very strong push at radio. With “Working For The Weekend” being the first single, are there plans to release more videos from the album to support it?
Sam Morris: Well right now, it took so long to do all this, we’ll likely be working on and releasing more videos as the tour progresses. As the year progresses, we’ll keep doing videos and there will be a vinyl release. But the thing with Pavement was, we got turned down by five or six different labels. You know, the big ones too. And we’re like ‘We’re right up your alley’. We’re an American glam rock band. And they’re like ‘No. You guys are too wild, too out of control. This is not what we want’. And Pavement Entertainment was like ‘We get it. We get what you guys are doing. This is what we’re about’. We see the heart and soul. So it’s a cool thing. It’s exciting.
Jimmy Mess: They didn’t tell us to grow beards. They didn’t tell us to cut our hair and finally start dressing like normal people. They were like ‘Do what you guys do’ and that’s kind of rare these days.
Sleaze Roxx: One of the titles that jumped out at me right away is “Glitter Connection” which seems like it would be about the connection that you have with your fans. What were some of the inspirations behind the songs?
Sam Morris: “Glitter Connection” was kind of something that, it’s almost a ballad but there’s not really a ballad on the album.
Jimmy Mess: It’s the world’s fastest ballad.
Sam Morris: And it’s really a true story. It’s about people that we’ve come across in our lives. It is about our fans. It absolutely is but…..
Jimmy Mess: It’s about our fans, it’s about us, and the connections that we’ve made in this glittery fucking life.
Sam Morris: And it’s a play on words. The connection. The connect, you know? The plug [laughs].
Jimmy Mess: The glitter connection.
Sam Morris: Right.
Sleaze Roxx: A lot of the titles have a double entendre such as “Party In The Back”, “Highway 69” and “Sound of Domination”. I still recall the first time I saw the band live. I was floored by the sheer energy that you have onstage right out of the gate. Where do you get that energy from that you just pummel the crowd with?
Chris Hineline: For Sam, I’m gonna say it’s the 65 Red Bulls that he drinks right before he goes on but actually, Sam and myself, we’ve played in bands together for about 10 to 15 years and we always admired the Paul Stanley, David Lee Roth and Michael Monroe [performance style]. The whole ‘Go out and grab them by the throat on the first song and don’t let them go’, and Sam is so good at doing that and working the crowd. And Jimmy does the same thing from behind the drum kit. I just kind of do my thing and I jump around like an idiot but, you know, Sam has the ability to weld all three of those guys into one and just captivate the audience with his antics and his jumping and his in-between the song stuff. Last night, he gave his bass guitar to this little 12 year old girl and she’ll never forget that as long as she lives. I was on the stage watching it happen and this girl almost had tears in her eyes and her mom was crying. They wanted all these pictures later after we were done playing. They came out and probably bought $200.00 worth of merch from us and wanted all these pictures and there’s that one moment in your life where something changes, you profoundly or you’ll never forget. It was really, really fantastic and I was overwhelmed. And then…. the energy in the crowd [after witnessing that]. I just play guitar and turn my amp up and jump around.
Sam Morris: We’re excited. We’re excited to play.
Jimmy Mess: This is what I’ve wanted to do my whole life and the fact that I still get to do it at 39 years old, that’s fuckin’ awesome.
Sam Morris: We don’t take it for granted ever.
Jimmy Mess: Not after Covid. I sat in my fucking filthy apartment in Chicago for two years going ‘Oh man, I hope we get to do this again and I hope that wasn’t it’. Now it’s not, and it’s cool, but there might not be a tomorrow and we’re gonna go out there and play every show like it’s out last and it’s fun. That’s where we get the energy from. It’s fuckin’ fun.
Chris Hineline: We might not be the best players, but the chemistry between us is pretty magical and I’ve played in a lot of bands, Sam has played in a lot of bands and Jimmy’s played in a lot of bands, but the chemistry is undeniable. Me and Sam write songs together and when Jimmy adds his parts in, it just adds the icing on the cake. The chemistry we have on stage is like nothing we’ve ever had. I might be going out on a limb here, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a bad show with the three of us as the line-up.
Jimmy Mess: Even when we have a bad show, it’s fuckin’ not bad.
Chris Hineline: We’re pretty consistent. The energy is there, and the drive is there. And we’re very driven to take on the world and do whatever it takes.
Jimmy Mess: We always appreciate the crowd that’s just sitting there and doesn’t want to get up and doesn’t want to do anything. Me and Sam talk about this. It’s almost like a challenge.
Sleaze Roxx: To win them over?
Jimmy Mess: Yeah, and how many times have we went to a show and been like ‘Man, I wish these guys would fuckin’ move around a little bit’ or ‘Man, I wish they would pay attention to the crowd’. We’re not gonna be that band. We’re gonna be the band that you’ll wish would play a few more songs.
Sleaze Roxx: Back to the new album, the cover really jumped out at me. Who did the cover art for you?
Sam Morris: It’s Rico, he’s out of Omaha, Nebraska. He works at a company called 11:19 Productions I believe. But Rico was the one that did it. I told him what we had. We even had another working title before, and he came up with this art. So, we tweaked it a little bit and then we had the title. And the title fit exactly with the inspiration for the artwork. It worked together really nicely.
Jimmy Mess: One of my friends in Chicago, a graphic designer name Eric Loud at Loudwork Studios did the whole layout of the album, the art that’s on the CD, the booklet. It came out really good.
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, it looks great. Where will fans be able to purchase a copy of the album when it comes out?
Sam Morris: Physical copies will be available on our website but it’s available through Orchid, I believe is the website. But it will be out on all streaming platforms — Amazon, Google, Spotify. But don’t go to Spotify because they don’t pay the artists. But, it’s available anywhere.
Jimmy Mess: When all else fails, just look at www.TheMidnightDevils.com. It’ll have all the links to where you can buy or stream our digital product, CDs, t-shirts, fucking whatever. You can always go to Pavement, too.
Sleaze Roxx: I’m really looking forward to the release of this album. Anything that you want to say to your fans out there?
Sam Morris: We love you and we can’t wait to see you. We’re gonna be on the road all year long. We’re finishing this tour with The Quireboys and it ends at the Whisky A Go-Go in California in a week, and then we go out with Enuff Z’Nuff and Pretty Boy Floyd all through June and October. And we’re heading overseas in November, so I mean, it’s set up. We’ve just got to make it happen. RockFest, and then another big festival that we can’t talk about yet.
The Midnight Devils‘ “Pink Halo” video: