INTERVIEW WITH TONY V AND STEVE MONETTE OF SHOCK (PART 2 OF 2)
Date: September 11, 2015
Photos: AJ Pascas (1st photo); Wayne Archibald (2nd and 4th photos)
PART 1 OF SLEAZE ROXX’S INTERVIEW WITH SHOCK CO-FOUNDER AND FRONTMAN TONY V AND BASSIST STEVE MONETTE COVERED THE BAND’S UPCOMING NEW ALBUM AND DRUMMER CHANGE. PART 2 TAKES A TURN TOWARDS A SERIOUS AND VERY CANDID CONVERSATION ABOUT HOW THE MUSIC INDUSTRY HAS CHANGED FROM WHEN SHOCK FIRST STARTED BACK IN THE MID TO LATE 80S AND WHAT IN PARTICULAR MONETTE THINKS OF THE CHANCES OF A BAND “MAKING IT” THESE DAYS.
Sleaze Roxx: One of the things about Shock is that the band tried to get signed back in the late ’80s. That didn’t happen and an album was never released. This time around, you were able to release an album. How do you feel about finally releasing an album, its reception and what you think of the music industry at this point?
Tony V: We are more confident about what we have done with the last album and what is to come out now. Part of the problem back in the ’80s was that I was not part of the negotiating and I should have been. I was told by a friend that I should have been there. As the singer, as the lead guitarist, I should have been there right from the beginning to you know, promote myself — but I never did. Now, it is going to be a little bit different. I don’t know how fat the music is going to go but I have more confidence about the music that we have recorded, and how it sounds, and how it’s arranged than I have ever had before.
Steve Monette: Well, I think that it has been well received by the people that have heard it. I think that it would be considered successful in relation to what makes an album successful. In terms of critical reviews, they have been all very positive. We haven’t received one negative review towards the album. We have had a lot of reviews from all around the world. We sold it to people all around the world. Have we made any money on it — nope! Have we recouped our money on it — yep! So I think that alone is successful for a lot of bands. You know, the state of the music industry now is that really all of the major bands in music either don’t release an album and just tour because that is how people in music make money now — it’s from touring and selling merchandise. Or they release an album purely out of habit or almost as a vanity project to say “Look. We have a new album out.” and then they tour and play 99% of the old songs that people actually want to hear anyways. So you know, the reality is that for any bands that are new or trying to break out, they are not going to.
Sleaze Roxx: (Look of concern)
Steve Monette: Well, they are not! I think that any band — any young band out there — that thinks that they are going to have a career playing music is just kidding themselves. That sound harsh but that’s the reality because there is not enough money out there for somebody to support themselves or a family or maintain any kind of lifestyle other than driving around in a van pulling a trailer playing to fifty people in some jerk water town and calling it a tour and thinking that somehow, this is going to break them into some stratosphere or level in the music industry that they will one day be able to support themselves with. Because it ain’t going to happen! It is just not going to happen! The music world is now not geared towards album sales. It is geared towards selling stuff one at a time or even worse, just streaming it using Spotify or Apple Music or what not. And those services are known to short change the artist and unless you have a back catalogue like U2 or the Rolling Stones, you’re not going to make any money off it.
Taylor Swift can dictate to Apple Music what terms that she wants but any band out there that is at a lower tier than her can forget about it. It’s just not going to happen. Music is going to be listened to and enjoyed for free everywhere you turn on the internet and you are not going to monetize that so it’s going to be very difficult for bands to tour at any kind of level where they can have promoters pay them the kind of money that they are going to need to make to actually survive. That’s reality! Like I said, it sounds harsh but there’s lots of people living in some kind of dream land right now thinking, you know, that they are going to hit it big. There is no hitting it big anymore especially in hard rock or heavy metal. It just doesn’t happen. You are going to be able to release albums — sure! You are going to be able to tour — sure! You’re not going to make a lot of money on it unless you control the publishing, unless you release it yourself or have a distributor that gives you a high percentage of that. You know, they are very few and far between.
Sleaze Roxx: Since the release of ‘Once Denied,’ the band has really just played a handful of shows — I don’t know if you want to say in support of the album. What are your plans in terms of future gigs?
Steve Monette: Well, there’s not going to be a lot of them. That’s the reality once again because we don’t make any money from it. It’s a labour of love. This whole thing for us is a labour of love just as it is for every other band out there. The only difference is that we know (laughs) what is at the end of the road on this for us and that’s the satisfaction of having recorded music that we really love and that we are proud of. That’s the one thing that we are going to get out of this and we already got it! By releasing this next album, it’s the same thing. It’s a labour of love. We are paying for it out of our own pockets. We really like it. We hope that people like it. We know that there are people that are really going to like it and people that it’s not going to connect with — and that’s OK too. But for us to play shows, when we came back, we started off — you know — we opened for Helix. We had a few shows here and there. We have opened for Blaze Bayley. We have opened for Annihilator several times. We played in Montreal again. We headlined there. It was a lot of fun and all of those shows…
Tony V: (Laughs)
Steve Monette: Well, if you added up all the money that we made on all of those shows, we would have almost covered our expenses — almost! Is that something that we can maintain? You know, we are going to play shows that are fun and are something that we know we are going to enjoy. But for us to do the grind, like I said, of packing up into a mini-van or a cube van and pulling a trailer or something, that’s not going to happen. We are going to pick and choose the shows that we play. We get offered opening slots on local shows quite often and we turn down a lot of them because we don’t want to over expose ourselves first of all. Ottawa is a very small market. It’s even smaller for metal! And for us to play six, seven, eight times per year — we get offered the opportunity to do that but what’s the point? You know, we don’t get paid for it. Nowadays, it’s rare to almost never that you are going to get paid any money for an opening slot. Most of the time, promoters now want to have four or five or six bands on a bill. The reality is that the first band will be the headliner that they are bringing in from out of town and maybe, the second band is another band that is touring with them and the other bands are just there to sell tickets. And the only people that they are going to be playing to are their friends and family. And they are probably selling their $20 or $25 tickets to those people and half of them are going to leave before the headliner even comes on anyways because they only play four or five shows per year and that’s the only opportunity that they get the chance to see them. That’s the state of live music nowadays and that’s the truth (laughs).
Tony V: Geez. I don’t know (laughs)!
Steve Monette: That’s why we are not playing a lot of live shows. No band wants to play to a half empty house. Nobody wants that. I mean, it’s great if the people there are into it and you have those nights when you don’t play to a lot of people but the people that are there love it and that’s great! But when you are not making any money on it and are doing it solely for the love of doing it, if there is nobody there to appreciate it, then it does not really make it seem like it’s worthwhile in all honesty. And on top of that, we have no interest in being ticket sellers. It sounds kind of aloof maybe — I don’t know. If we were 20 years old and that’s the game now for bands — they have to agree to sell a minimum amount of tickets and if they don’t sell those tickets, then they have to pay the difference themselves. In essence, they are paying to play. We didn’t have to do that. When Shock opened for Megadeth and Motorhead and Metal Church and Anthrax, there was no “How many tickets can you sell?” It was never a question. It was “This band is coming. Would you like to open for them?” And the answer was “Yes!” The band got treated nicely. Didn’t get paid but generally got a case of beer, got a great experience, got some great exposure and got to meet those bands and potentially network ourselves that way which made it worthwhile for us. But now at the age that we are at and the point where the band is at, for us to be offered a show and asked to sell tickets with a requirement of a minimum number of tickets to sell, you know, we have no interest in that at all.
Sleaze Roxx: Alright. Last question for you. We have covered a lot today but do you have anything else to add?
Tony V: When I become prime minister, I will unite metal into one genre — heavy!
Sleaze Roxx: (Laughs)
Steve Monette: Yeah. And he has as much of a chance of doing that as he does of being prime minister!
Tony V: (Laughs)
Sleaze Roxx: (Laughs)
Steve Monette: This interview — the second half of it obviously — has taken a turn to the dark side. I don’t want to come across as being bitter because we’re not! That’s just reality and most bands know that already but they don’t say it because either they don’t want to come across as being bitter or they don’t want to offend someone but the reality is, it’s the truth. We’re fine with it because we’re realistic. We know exactly what we’re going to get out of this and we still did it! We already did it once. You know, we released the album. We did the promotional push for it. We released it ourselves and it did well and all that. We know full well what is going to happen when we release this album too and we are fine with that. We just want to make the album. We did and we’re really excited about it and we’re really happy with it! We can’t wait for people to hear it but I don’t want to come across sitting here talking to you that we have some illusion to the fact that this is the one that is going to do it for us and this is the one that is going to break us out big and the music world is finally going to take notice of what they should have taken notice of in 1985 — because we know that isn’t reality and we know that isn’t true. We’re just excited for people to hear the music and say “Wow! That was good!” That’s all.
Tony V: One more comment — when I think back to all our demos and stuff and I think of bands like Razor, Sacrifice and Piledriver getting signed, I think “What the hell was the matter with our stuff?” It just boggles my mind and when I listen to our stuff now, I am blown away that “Wow. If we could have at least performed and recorded in that way, things might have been different.” Or not, I don’t know (laughs). I think that in general, if you are going to sign stuff like that, what the hell was the matter with us?
Steve Monette: Well, my opinion on that is you say that about those bands but those bands also, nothing ever came of them. They got signed and they released albums and all that which Shock was not able to do then but at the end of the day, we are in the same place.
Tony V: They get to play festivals!
Steve Monette: (Laughs) They get to play festivals — that’s true — in Europe. I am not a “could of, should of, would of” person. I don’t worry about what could have happened or whatever. It is unfortunate that you know, it took this long for us to get it out and the quality that we wanted it to be but at the end of the day, we’re happy with it. You can’t say what would have happened then because we would not be releasing this now the way it is now. So whatever — maybe this would have been a greatest hits package to try to help pay the mortgage or something. We’re paying the mortgage with our own jobs.