Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Reader exclusive: Album stream of Mines' Just Another Thing That Got Ruined

Posted By on 05.28.13 at 01:40 PM

Mines Just Another Thing That Got Ruined
  • Mines' Just Another Thing That Got Ruined
Multi-instrumentalist Bill Satek has been a constant presence in Chicago's underground rock community since he first teamed up with drummer Ryan Scanlon to form experimental act Sen Di Na in the early aughts. Since then Satek has found himself involved in handfuls of local bands—Lechuguillas, Famous Laughs, Double Morris, Crisp Undos, Alien Shit—and in 2008 he started his own project, an experimental pop outfit called Mines. It's been about five years since Satek brought his band to life, and next week local label Lake Paradise will release Mines' debut, Just Another Thing That Got Ruined.

Lake Paradise cofounder Jake Acosta heaped a good amount of praise on the record when he first told me about it back in December, and he hasn't been the only one eager to talk candidly about Satek's band and album; in the passing months it seemed like I'd run into more and more people who would talk passionately about Mines' music as if it was a well-kept secret they were tired of keeping to themselves. It took one track off Just Another Thing That Got Ruined to convince me—the lush, swirling "Mom 'N' Pop (militia) aka Big Girls Cry," which has a knockout chorus that shoots skyward like a rocket.

I'm not the only one at Reader headquarters who admires the album—Luca Cimarusti is also quite taken by it, and wrote at length about Mines' LP for the band's record release show at the Hideout on Sunday. "On the new album Satek and company sound like a band that's touring the national festival circuit, not one that's been grinding in dank basements for the past five years." Want to hear it for yourself? Well, you're in luck! The Reader snagged the exclusive advance stream of Just Another Thing That Got Ruined. To prepare for the record's release I recently met up with Satek at Logan Square's Boiler Room to discuss what his musical catalog has in common with an iceberg, his career as a pipe fitter, and Will Smith's "Parents Just Don't Understand." Read part of our conversation and listen to the album stream below.

What's taken so long for you to put out this album?

Money. Essentially, it's money.

Basically I started playing music, like tinkering around with a guitar, in 1999. That's when it started. And then it took forever to find someone to get in a band with. And that happened about late 2003, 2004 was my first band ever [Sen Di Na]. It was like a guitar, drums, energetic duo. But I was in an apprenticeship for work for about five years, which started in 2003. So it took up so much time and energy that it was, like—it's hard to do anything when you're working full-time all the time, a lot of overtime, and going to school for this job. In 2008 I graduated and I could determine when I had free time now. I could say, "I'm taking off for this amount of time. I'm doing this," and I was making more money, so it was like
"OK." Y'know, everything just started to work out around then. And then I moved from the south side to up north. I had left—not necessarily leaving people behind, I still talk to them—it was like, "They're down there, I'm up here." And it was like, "I'm gonna start fresh."

It was basically me looking at my computer screen and having my instruments there and recording songs. And it took me two years to find people to play with—the right people. There's thousands of people playing around here, but it's hard to get the chemistry thing going. I think it's important. So that all happened and we recorded the record in . . . it's so rough to even think about—the record got recorded. It was recorded in 2011. That's pretty embarrassing right there. I still owe the guy who recorded it—engineer extraordinaire Brian Sulpizio—I still owe him some money. Jake took it upon himself to fund the thing, and I’m getting all this help because maybe people like these songs. And I feel like I put together a solid little intro statement for this thing, this little potentially cohesive record. So it was a lot not being able to fund the mixing, mastering, recording, all that shit because I didn't have a job. So I finally got the job and now it's like things are rolling now. And support from Mr. [Jake] Acosta.

How'd you end up linking up with him?

Well, I've known him for a couple years. I actually played in a band with him—his band Famous Laughs. He would ask periodically about what I was doing and I was still playing around, playing here, there, all over the place. He would always ask, "What's the deal with this record?" And I said, "Well, I'm kinda sitting on it right now. I'd love to get it out, but, y'know, I don’t know if I’m the right guy to, like . . . I just don't know, like . . . I was gonna wait longer. I was gonna put money into it, money money, not like emergency money. But, y'know . . . He just told me one day, "Me and Tom [Owens] are starting the Lake Paradise label and we wanna put your album out there. I was like, "That'd be lovely. I love that." So I'm into it.

Earlier you mentioned that you're putting together an album that you hope is cohesive.

There's a whole story line to it. I intended it with track listing and all this other stuff to be a story. There's that thing about how you can only do . . . I heard some people say, like rock critics, say, "You're only allowed one autobiographical album." Which, I don't know if I believe in that. Unless you're telling stories about other people, they're all autobiographical somehow. This one's about a situation, like two situations essentially, that I went through. I haven't really examined it so, y'know, crazily that I'm looking at all the details to see if it really makes sense. The broad strokes of it, I understand it to be a little story about a guy, his childhood, and a girl, and how they all interact.

And is there an arc to it all?

I don't know. Maybe. Sorta. If you hear it, it could be at the very end. I don't know—Jesus. The end of the record is, like, it's kind of weird.

That whole song is like . . . I don't even know how to explain it . . . boy-becomes-man-because-of-woman, but somehow loses his childhood. Or woman takes man's childhood away, and [man] says, where's my childhood and where's my woman? They're both gone now. Something like that. So that's essentially what the whole thing's about. I wrote some hieroglyphics on the album cover to illustrate it. Like, here's mom and dad, mom and dad have kid, kid has kid, kid meets girl, all that shit. Whatever, it's . . . That's what the whole thing's about, I guess.

It's a very expensive-sounding album, too. You're able to get through all this harsher sound and then get to these really beautiful moments on the album and balance it all out.

Yeah, it's something I attempt all the time. I came from making—I had the duo like I was saying, it was called Sen Di Na. We would play shows—very few of them—we would play shows and it'd be me playing guitar, my friend Ryan [Scanlon] would be playing drums and we would play songs and I would sing the songs. But the record we came out with . . . We're doing all these songs and then the record comes out, or this tape, that Jake also put out on Teen River. I guess I have this backlog of music that's like . . . I'm like an iceberg—there's a little on top and there's a mountain underneath, like all this stuff I have. The tape we made was live recordings. We would record live in this room in this house that we lived in. It was an apartment above a bar that seemed like a house. And we would just record all this music right in a row, like "Whatever happens happens, it's happening right now.”

So I take all these records, field recordings if you will, and send them through this computer machine and figure out, out of all this live recording stuff, what I liked about it, and make it into songs. Like piecing songs together from all this stuff. It's like all samples, almost, but they turn out to—I cut them to where they make songs. And half the time the stuff is just erratic, noisy mayhem, and all it is is a guitar and drums, but it's like the beauty of a computer. You can sit at your computer and go into your little editing program and make a little violin thing sound like 15 trains fucking falling off a plane.

So how'd you go from sound collages of cutting stuff up to creating the Mines album?

Well, that's funny, too, because the Mines album was . . . as far as those songs making sense together, the oldest riff on there is from like . . . I remember the day I wrote the riff, I was in a rehearsal space in an unnamed building in Chicago. And I played this riff and I was like, "Holy shit, this is the best riff I ever made." That's why I remember where I was when I made it. I made that in '05, and that's a song on the album—eight years ago from today, let's say. That's pretty goddamn old for coming out with new music these days. And then, on the other flip side of the coin, half the songs were just made even a month prior to recording. I know one, I was just playing guitar with Jeff Milam, who's playing drums in Mines. We were playing together, we were in my living room, and I'm watching my fingers do this other thing. I'm like, 'I gotta remember this. We gotta play this, we gotta record this right now, we gotta demo this thing right now." And a month later we're recording it to the record in full with every part done—vocals, all this. It's kind of unpredictable the way it happens. But it all ends up being about the same things.

We had like 20 songs. There's only eight of them or nine of them that made the cut to solidify the whole. It's about something. All these other songs on there don't belong with what the whole thing is about, but I still have them, they're waiting until the next one. Can't put out another record out yet. This one's not currently out yet.

So you are planning to put them out in the near future?

Yeah, I would like to do it as soon as possible. But I would like this to be the catalyst to get rolling. If the sophomore album comes out in 2020, I'll be dead by then. I’ll have to call it quits. Forget it, it's done. I understand the way things work these days with the access to media and all this shit. It's almost like you have to put out a single every week to keep up with all this shit. I'm not gonna do that either.

The idea is that this record, somebody will like the record and say, "Oh, I really like this," and say, "Hmm, would you like to make another one?" And I’ll be like, "I'd love to." I already have maybe, potentially five records I'm sitting on.

I'd love to play guitars or basses or drums, or whatever. I'll play anything. I just don't wanna work construction anymore.

Is that what you've been doing?

Yeah, yeah. It's great—don’t get me wrong—it is great. Get a construction job.

How'd you end up working in construction?

One day my dad said, "You should be a pipe fitter." I did the traditional thing of fucking off in high school, going to a college prep school, fucking off and not getting good grades—who cares, high school, whatever—and then having to being like, oh shit, I probably should've done good so I wouldn't have to pay for college. Now I have to pay for college. I also don't live with my parents anymore as a spring chicken 19-year-old. I'm like, "Well, I’m out of the house. I gotta work a full-time job and pay rent. And I gotta go to school full-time." I don't think I'm the type of person who can do that. Some people can do that. But I need to have a life. So I was like, "I can't do that." So one day my father mentioned to me, "You should be a pipe fitter," and I'm like, "What's a pipe fitter?" Six years later I'm journeyman pipe fitter. Like, "What's a pipe fitter do? I don't know." People ask me that all the time, and I just think of the same thing a long time ago. He just mentioned it to me haphazardly one day and I said, "Yeah, sure,  it's better than working at a shipping-receiving place ran by Gideons, nonetheless." You ever see a Gideon?

No.

No one has. Unless you work for them, that's the only way you can actually see them. This guy was selling medical parts, and in his catalogs every five pages was a quote from the Gideon Bible. I was like, "Oh, this is a little too creepy for me." It's up there on the creepiness, so . . . going from there to being a pipe fitter, it almost seemed like the real world almost. These guys were doing it for 25 years and supporting families, sending their kids to college, all this shit. It's a career. And they are the funniest, most foul-mouthed people ever, and I'm like, "This is so good." I felt like I finally belonged somewhere. So I just did it. When I took the test I passed with flying colors and got right in. And I’ve been one ever since.   

That's why I didn't put all my chips in the being-a-musician basket, because if—or when—that fails, or after it keeps failing, because it's constant failing, I can be a pipe fitter. But right now I just wanna play guitar in a shitty blues band in Chicago. Like, uh, JC and the . . . whatever, those. There's tons of blues bands in Chicago, like "JC & the Sunshines" or something like that. I could always be a rhythm guitarist for something like there. Gimme 200 bucks and a bar tab every week.

Have you done that before?

No, but I thought about it, just humoring myself in doing it. I think it'd be funny. Because I learned pentatonic scale when I first started playing guitar.

Are you self-taught?

Yeah, the first thing I did when I played . . . I was always the hip-hop kid. I thought about it today. I started out, the first allowance I ever had . . . allowance was sporadic in my house, it's not like there was always the chance to get it, it was like if the old man's doing good with money for a little while you can get an allowance. Otherwise, just do your chores, just normal. So I remember I had an allowance and I bought Appetite for Destruction, when I was like seven. I was, like, yeah, "Welcome to the Jungle," yes, so awesome! And then I think—I don’t know who it was, probably my ma—she noticed a parental advisory sticker on there, because he says, "That old man, he's a real motherfucker" on that song "Mr. Brownstone." And they're like, "You can't listen to rock 'n' roll anymore. You can't listen to that." They saw the videos and, like, "Welcome to the Jungle," Axl Rose is in a fucking electric chair, he's going crazy, Poison video, "Girls Girls Girls," Motley Crue, that's what they thought rock 'n' roll was.

So I was, like, "All right." And then I got, I think it was "Parents Just Don't Understand" by Will Smith, and I was like, "Yeah, parents just don’t understand." And then right after that, it was like Straight Out of Compton, N.W.A, and I was like, "Fuck yeah." And then after that I was a straight-up hip-hop head until I was 18 or 19 years old. So it was, like, ten years when I was just, all I listened to basically was east coast, like Wu-Tang, Nas . . . I was like 15 years old, and I was, like, waiting for Cuban Linx to come out. I'm like a little kid doing all this shit. I missed all the Nirvana, all these waves of rock 'n' roll shit. Then around 1999 it was just, like, hip-hop music was like, "Money, money, money, money, money," and I was just like, "Ugggh, that's disgusting."

And then I see my dad's acoustic guitar sitting in the house. And he hasn't lived in this house—my parents divorced when I was like 14 or 15, so he was never in the house, he didn’t live there anymore. But his guitar was in the house, and I was like, "I haven't seen that thing here in a while." And in ten minutes I had figured out the bass line for "Down on the Corner" by Creedence Clearwater. I was, like [hums bass line] "Maybe I can play guitar." I just started—I was 19 years-old, I had nothing but time for some reason. I wasn't going to college. I just had a job or whatever and I just started playing. Next thing you know, I'm doing all right, I'm not playing too bad. I met my friend Joe Starita—certain people change your life when you meet them—I just happened to . . . the chance meeting, meet this guy. The day I met him he was like, "Hey, you wanna go to a show?" I was like, "Yeah, fuck it, I’ll go to a show." I met up with all his friends and we hung out afterwards, and after that it was like, this guy's like a real musician. This is a guy who's been working on it since he was like seven. He's like the first person I learned, you could just sit here, and everything in this whole place . . . If everyone here wanted to . . . Anything here is an instrument. We could make a fucking Boiler Room backyard fucking extravaganza, like a big symphony, out of all this shit back here.

I saw, like, "Holy shit, what have I been doing? Fuck guitars, let's play this fucking ashtray. We can do anything. We can make sound out of anything." I was, like, it was just like one of those things that happened. It just changed my outlook. All of the sudden I'm in bands, I'm playing music with all these people. It just happened from there. Jesus Christ, I forget what the question was.

Teaching yourself guitar . . .

Yeah, it was all ear. All ear. It still is. I've learned that people have their own languages on these instruments. They talk their own little language on this thing. It's even sorta tethered to the instrument. Somebody who plays the trumpet is gonna sound way different from somebody who plays guitar, even if they play the exact same thing. It's like a different vibe. I played trumpet too for a while. Everything is by ear, and still to this day I don't wanna sit around and play bar chords all the time. Even though sometimes that's all I wanna play, I just wanna play one bar chord the whole song. It could be anything. I'm game for anything.

You mentioned that was your dad's guitar. Have you played him any of your music?

Have I played him any of mine? Yeah. I played him a little bit. It's pretty much standard—not even standard, it's what I expect from . . . When I played it for him, he fulfilled exactly how I thought he would react. "Oh that's nice, so what are you doing for work?" Like, "I worked on this! I've been working on this fuckin' thing!" "Oh yeah, what are you doing for your job? How's your money situation, you doing all right?" Yeah, I mean, it's his fault I made the goddamn record, y'know what I mean? Partly.

You mentioned fitting in really well with other pipe fitters. How do you fit in with other musicians?

Lovely. I was in a band Lechuguillas around here. It seemed like the day that word got out that they were moving to Texas, I had full voice mails, like, "You wanna play bass with me? Wanna play bass? Wanna play bass?" I'm like, "Fuck, I can't say yes to everyone." I'm, like, swerving in between all these scenes out here. The crusters, the emo guys, the hard rockers, the fucking drinkers, the uppers, downers, laughers, screamers, whatever. I like those people, and I'm sure they like me. We all get along just fine.

I think the most I've ever been in at one time was, like, six bands around here. Like six, playing shows, like this and that. A lot of those times I was playing bass because, apparently, it's hard to find a bass player around here. But I played bass in Lechuguillas, and people liked it, so I said yes to a lot of people. At one point, like early last year, it was, like, six bands, I'd play four gigs a week sometimes. These are bands playing original music, so four gigs a week—let's say it was four gigs a week, that means that paycheck is gonna be about 24 bucks a week. On a good week.

I still love it, I'll still do it. It's all about the environment for me. I'm pretty much happy anywhere. I'm not missing anything. I do that to shows sometimes, go see a band, basically watch someone until I feel like I've gotten my feel—15, 20 minutes, I'll watch, and be like, "All right, I'll go do something else now." I'm not scared to miss anything. There's always something happening, no matter where you go. Like, right now, look at all this back here happening. Who are these people?

You talked about just trying to find people to create good chemistry with in Mines. How did you—

That's the hard part. How that happened was how I hoped it would happen. It was just me and a drummer and I decided my duties in the band are singing and playing guitar and keeping the goddamn drummer in line because he's always doing something that I don't like. "You hear that, Jeff?" It was just me and him.

I had enough gear at the time where I could play a bass rig and a guitar rig at the same time—fucking wall of sound. And the drums, y'know, turn the drums up, whatever. So it happened how I would've liked it to happen, is we play a show and one of our friends comes up, Andrew Scott Young. You know him? The Tiger Hatchery bass player. He comes up, he's stoned out of his gourd, and I go, "What's up, Andrew?" And he says, "I wanna be in your band." Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. So, you're in then, it's done. You don't have to say another word. So he came and played and the only reason he's not in the band still is he moved to Seattle or Pacific Ocean, I don't know. He moved somewhere out there. He's out there still. We're hoping he's safe and comes back to play in this goddamn band, which he said he wanted to.

So he was in and we recorded the record and that was it. And he's supposed to tour with us coming up, but everything's up in the air right now because the tour is . . . it's inevitable, it has to happen. We have a stack of records right now, we gotta rid of them, we're gonna go play music and do what a working band is supposed to do. Will he be here for that? Hopefully, but I don't know.

Have you mapped out any of the tour yet?

We've mapped out the dates, I think, or the time frame of general dates, I guess. Like end of August, early, beginning of September? Something like that. We don't have a booked show yet, but it's inevitable. I already have people asking me, "When are you doing it? Let me know. We'll get it going." I just gotta get everyone on board because people have their outside life. I want them to only be about this band—quit your job, put everything you can into this band.

So you have the records already.

Jake has them. The bastard.

Now that it's finally happening [the record release], how does it feel having this thing out in the world?

I feel great about that.

Once the tour's lined up, it'll probably all sink in then. It hasn't really sunk in yet. No one has the record, no one has access to it until it comes out, so when it's—because Jake wants to release it on a special day or something like that—it'll probably sink in then. After that, it's kinda like, I wanna get onto the next one really quick. I wanna attack that one.

The idea for the next one is to make songs or do something that I would want to hear at a show. That's what I'm thinking of that I wanna make my next record be like, "What kind of music would I wanna hear at a show, at a live setting?" I wanna make that record so I can play it at a live setting. Something that's energetic and fun to listen to, as opposed to some introspective nightmare. I wanna do something that's a fun record, that's aggressive and, like I said before, I'm always attempting to inject beautiful things in whatever harshness is going on. I always want some little uppercut or sucker punch of some beautiful thing, like, "Oh wow, this is great." That's all I play when I'm at the house. When I'm at the house if I have a guitar in my hand, I'm trying to play the most beautiful things I can hear, like stress relief, whatever. I'm not gonna sit there and chug away a Dio song or something. I just want some cut-up, abstract, fractal, fucked-up things.

That's what I wanna do for the next, at least the next one. Like I said, I'm sitting on . . . I have a reservoir of a bunch of ideas that haven't hit the light of day. My original idea in the beginning of the year was, in 2013 I wanna put out the Mines record, a country record, and a hip-hop record, because I have a stockpile of beats that I made, too, all this. Because I was pretty heavy into that gutter hip-hop, raw shit. So I have some of that. I wanna do a whole bunch of shit. I'm not worried about any of that right now because I'd like to see where this thing goes. But it's all there, it's all waiting. So after we go one a tour, something like that, get the next record started, and start working with some other cats on some other types of music.

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