SEVENTRAIN DRUMMER JOEL MAITOZA INTERVIEW
Ok, for those who don’t know who you are, how did the band get together?
Well, first off we have all been friends for close to 20 years and played in various bands, but never together. I played drums in 24-7 Spyz (Eastwest/Atlantic Records), guitarist Eric Horton was in Cage (Massacre Records), bassist Dino Andino was in Tourniquet (Metalblade Records), vocalist Jon Campos from Dive Bomber and guitarist Jef Poremba previously played in a band with Kofi Baker (Ginger Baker’s son). We all came together to jam at a memorial show in San Diego, CA for a friend of ours named Big Vinnie who passed away unexpectedly in the fall of 2012. The chemistry felt good on stage so we decided to go into the studio and record an album together.
Your band dedicates the CD to Big Vinnie, who was he? What role did he play in bringing you together?
He was a staple in the local music scene, a bass player and he also mixed live sound at a number of venues around Southern California. A loud and obnoxious kind of guy with a heart of gold. We all miss him. If it wasn’t for him, we probably would have never played together or recorded this album. If he was around today, he would be our biggest fan so we dedicated the CD to him.
How did you come up with the name Seventrain?
Seventrain was a band name that guitarist Eric Horton came up with years ago. It was kind of a working title for a solo project he previously had so when we were trying to come up with a band name it was Seventrain by default really. It has no significant meaning necessarily. It just had a cool vibe to it. Eric and I actually recorded an album as Seventrain in 2003 with some other musicians, but never released it. The songs Bleeding, Trouble and Never on this new release were from the 2003 sessions. We just re-recorded the songs with the new members.
Seventrain was a project you and Eric Horton already envisioned. Did the three songs you re-recorded (Bleeding, Trouble and Never) change a lot from the original recording with the new line up?
Not really. The arrangements are exactly the same. We just changed the lead guitars and some of the bass lines.
I noticed you and the band produced your debut album. Is there a reason you didn’t go outside of the band?
We all knew how we wanted the record to sound and we got pretty close. We really didn’t have a whole lot of money to record it. The band did the whole thing for under $3000 and although we spent nearly a year recording it, the actual recording time spent in the studio was less than 10 days to track, mix and master the entire album. We were going for a real stripped down rock record like the albums we grew up on in the 70s and 80s. What you hear on the record is how we sound live. As far as Don Lithgow (engineer), I’ve done a handful of records with him before and we work well together so he was the obvious choice.
I have to say that it’s pretty amazing that you made a great sounding record under a $3000 budget. Was it important for you to record the album in the way you could reproduce it the same way live? Lots of bands, don’t take care to do that, adding more guitars or other instruments on the album but not necessarily when they play live.
We wanted a true sound. It bugs me when I see a band live and half of the instruments are pre-recorded or all of the backing vocals are sequenced. I know they want to put on a good sounding show, but that’s why they call it live music!
Your first single Change, seems like you are making a political statement. Are you specifically targeting an individual or group? It almost sounds like a call to action, I’m referring to the line, “Something’s gotta change these times, frustrated, yeah it’s time to draw the line”.
It’s basically about how innocent people become victims of political agendas for the government’s personal gain. Without getting too heavy, we weren’t targeting any specific group or person in general, but we did want to make a statement with the song to make people aware of their surroundings and open their eyes to what’s going on around them as well as other parts of the world.
Pain is somewhat similar in the political arena, with lyrics like “Tired of all this nonsense and useless killings of eternal beings in a world that’s screaming.” I’m assuming you are referring to the Middle East or something more general in terms of war.
The song Pain is about how the world is being torn apart by greed and corruption and how everyone tries to deal with it in their own way. Not so much from a political point of view, but just within society as a whole from a personal perspective.
Yet as I listened to the album it also seemed to me that it had some religious overtones in songs like Carry the Cross, Rays Of The Sun and How Does It Feel?
Not so much. Our bass player Dino was previously in a Christian band called Tourniquet before joining Seventrain, but he didn’t write any of the lyrics, nor did he play on the Seventrain album. He joined the band after the record was completed. Bassist Greg Rupp played on the record, but he left the band during the mixing process so he could focus on other projects he was already committed to.
I have to say when you see the titles of your songs and hear the lyrics, it all seems to come from the dark places in life. Was that done with intent?
Vocalist Jon Campos wrote all the lyrics on this record. While we were in pre-production for the album he was going through a tough divorce so I think writing about everything that was going on in his life was a therapeutic way for him to vent and release some of the emotions he had going on. Lyrics can be a very personal thing. People can interpret them however they want, but only the songwriter really knows what they are referring to.
Do you have favorite track on the record and why?
I love the feel of Change. I think it’s one of the strongest tunes on the record. I also dig Pain.
Seventrain is more of a heavy blues based sound, compared on your past experience, where it was more soul/funk type of sound. Why the change in music direction?
Mainly, different bands with different songwriters. Guitarist Jimi Hazel (24-7 Spyz) has always been the main songwriter in that band and all the songs on the Seventrain album were written by guitarist Eric Horton and vocalist Jon Campos. Since everyone in the band writes music, I think the next Seventrain record will be more of a collaborative effort, but will still have a lot of the same bluesy elements as this album…just a bit heavier.
Because you have had success in the past with 24-7 Spyz, how does that experience differ from SevenTrain?
Even though many of the members in Seventrain have previously recorded and toured with various national acts, this is a brand new band and we realize that. Everyone in the band understands that we have to go out and prove ourselves. We sent out over 200 promos to various publications and set up the interviews on our own instead of hiring a PR firm to do it. We’ve been booking all the shows on our own where before we had a booking agent. It’s tough, but we hope people will like the record enough so we can do another album next year or a label will pick us up.
You already have been opening up for some pretty well known acts like The Michael Schenker Group, Black Star Riders (aka Thin Lizzy) and soon Skid Row. That must make you feel good that you are stepping right out in front with well known acts.
Yes, but that is the only way for a new band to get exposure. We realize that we need to make every show count so we are trying to play with national acts so we can build our fan base. All the bands we have played with have been great and very receptive as well as the fans. The band is working on putting together a tour in the US this summer and heading over to Europe for a few dates in the fall.
I’m impressed that you and the band are able to do all of this yourselves and get the success that you are having. After this tour, maybe you could write a handbook on how to get started as a band. Did each of you bring something to the table to make this happen from marketing, to bookings, etc.?
I have had my own PR company for about 12 years now. I try to help local bands get on the map if I think they are ready and if I really like what they are doing. I was able to get a couple of bands record deals. It’s amazing to me sometimes. I can set up meeting with a band and try to help them and explain to them what they are doing wrong and what they need to do to get the biggest bang for their buck and they don’t want to hear it. I just walk away and say keep doing what you’re doing then. They either don’t want the input or can not take constructive criticism, but they initially ask me for help. Every artist is different. Some accept and some reject.
What’s the one thing you want the fans to know about the band that they probably don’t know and should?
The members of this band are all very talented musicians and really a great bunch of guys. Some of the nicest people you will ever meet. No egos or dudes thinking they are better than the other. No drama. It’s just about the music and the love we have creating it for all of you. That’s the best part.
I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview. For more information on Seventrain, please visit the following pages:
CD Baby: www.cdbaby.com/cd/seventrain