September 1, 2010
By Terry Walsh
AM Taxi's First Headlining Tour
An Exclusive Interview with Adam Krier
Chicago based rockers AM Taxi are out on the road in support of their Virgin Records debut We Don't Stand A Chance. The 5 piece band delivers a loud, punk influenced album with a mix of heavy hooks and infectious harmonies. JAM Magazine chatted with frontman Adam Krier as the first AM Taxi headlining tour swung through Dallas.
JAM: Are you looking forward to your show tonight?
Adam Krier - Yeah, it should be good. This is about our third trip through Texas. We came through back in May with the Spill Canvas and another time with Billy Talent, but this will be our first time headlining.
JAM: How did you go from new band to major label record deal in only two years?
I'm not really sure. Most of us have been playing music for awhile in different groups. We sort of did things differently. We recorded before we did anything else. I had these tunes that I'd been working on with Chris, our drummer, and Jason, our bass player, who I've been playing in bands with seemingly forever. We got together and weren't sure what we wanted to do, but I had some money saved up and said, "Let's go into the studio and record these, and you guys be in my group". I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do with them, but I knew I wanted to record these four or five songs. Once we recorded them we said, "Fuck it! Let's come up with a name and be a band". So, we set up the web pages and all that and almost immediately got a little bit of specialty radio airplay and some pretty heavy gig opportunities right out of the gate. Instead of doing the club scene for awhile, then putting out a demo, we did the recording thing first which kind of sped things up quite a bit.
JAM: One of your early guiding hands, so to speak, was Sublime producer Michael Happoldt, and you list them as one of your influences, but I don't really hear that influence much on the record...
We jump into the Sublime mode a little on a couple of the songs, but not too deeply. The sublime thing came into play when producer Mike Happoldt out in Long Beach was curious as to what I'd been up to, and he also wanted me to get a drummer, come out to Long Beach, and help him out on a project. That's basically how we got our rehearsal place in Chicago. I told him we needed a place where we could play together and record, so we could get tight as a unit before we recorded with him. He called Chicago and got us a rehearsal space and said, "I don't care what you do. Work on your own songs or play covers, but just play every day." So that's what we did. When we were done working on the project for him, we came back and demo'd up the songs. But without that kind of initial push, and him supplying a place for us to jam every day, I don't know if we would have gotten going as quickly as we did. He also gave me a lot of advice on what to do in terms of the business side of things, and how to get going on our own. He was a really good 'go to' guy for advice and that kind of thing. He told us to do this or do that, and make sure we had a good lawyer.
JAM: Is that the first thing you should have when you get into the business? A good lawyer?
It depends on your motivation as an artist or musician. If you're serious about trying to get a record deal, it's important to have a good entertainment lawyer.
JAM: What is your focus as a band?
We were never a band that made long term goals. I don't know if we have the attention span to have that. We always just took it one step at a time. We never planned from the get go to get on this record label and sell this many copies. It was more like 'This is cool, let's play this club.' or 'Ok, let's go up and play Milwaukee.' That sort of thing. It was the little steps that eventually led us to where we are now. In the grand scheme of things, it's probably only a small step further than where we could be, but nonetheless....
JAM: It's been more on your terms then?
I think so. The music industry is a strange place these days. We're pretty happy doing what we're doing, and pretty fortunate too. I think the opportunity to travel on tour is the best part of it for us.
JAM: When you mentioned touring and your live set being one of your strong points, what should one expect from the show tonight?
It's very energetic. We're not bouncing around or anything. We just try to connect. Whether it's a small crowd or a large crowd, we just try to lay it down, and hopefully by the end of the show, we have some connection. The best case scenario is that it's therapeutic and that the listener gets something good out of it.
JAM: You guys play your instruments and actually write songs with hooks and harmonies.
I'm a sucker for a good pop song. When people say "pop" music it kind of conjures up the wrong image. I love Elvis Costello and the Attractions, that sort of thing. Well written songs, you know what I mean? I don't necessarily like it much when it's all polished up and clean. I like a well thought out melody that's dirty and delivered in a rough way. I think that's what punk rock music was about.
JAM: That would explain your influence of the Police then...
Absolutely. Take the second Weezer album. It was sort of overlooked, but it was recorded in a really kind of rough way that gives the songs a little bit more of an edge, which they wouldn't have if it was polished up, and it seems more real. Songs that are dressed up with all these bells and noises are distracting to me. It should be more black and white.
JAM: I was having this very discussion with a friend of mine. He cited Guns N' Roses' Appetite for Destruction as a good example of a perfectly produced album and Use Your Illusion as a great example of something over-produced with its string sections and all of that.
It's fine for the artist to want to keep things interesting, but you have to be real careful not to over do it. Appetite is good; AC/DC's Back In Black is a great record. I mean, if you put that on and ask a 15-year-old when it came out, they might not be able to tell you.
It sounds like it could have come out anytime between the late 70's and maybe 5 years ago because they avoided any sort of trend of the moment. They just laid it down and recorded it correctly. I think really good records are recorded dry. Like Appetite or the big Green Day record.
When we recorded, we wanted to try and avoid any of the trends of the day or anything that would sound like it was recorded at a particular time.
JAM: That's a good goal to have. Look at half the stuff that came out of the 80's...
That was one of the worst times. Look at any of the artists that survived the 80's. Take a Bob Dylan or Bruce Springsteen. They all suffered from a cheesy 80's recording style.
JAM: Exactly. Drum machines, that kind of thing....
It was like the disco period of the 70's. Even the Stones and Clash fell into that. We're trying to avoid that. The messed up thing about that is that some reviewers don't like the fact that you don't try to sound like the 'flavor of the moment'. They either want something that's happening right now, or something they've never heard before. We're not reinventing the wheel or anything.
JAM: What was THE moment when you decided you were going to be a musician and make this your life?
I don't know if there was an actual moment. It was always something I did. I've been playing in bands for fun since I was 12. Actually, the very first song I ever played we just recorded last week. It was "Rush" by Big Audio Dynamite. We just recorded some late 70's, 80's and early 90's punk and rock songs for a series of 7-inch singles we're going to put out, but I started doing gigs seriously around 18. It was really the only thing I was good at. I didn't really do anything else. I was lucky enough to be able to do this. I was on the road for about 9 years before this band, and I'm lucky that this band came along.
JAM: Well that pretty much says it. If it's what you were good at and it came easy to you, then it's probably what you were meant to be doing.
Hopefully! We're lucky that we're able to do this. It's easy to bitch about things now and then, but I wouldn't want to be doing anything else.
JAM: That comes through in your record and I'm sure it will come through in the performance.
This will be interesting for us because we've never done any headlining show outside of Chicago, and it's good to see, after touring a few times, if people come back.
JAM: How has headlining been?
It's cool. It's really fun. It's been small crowds, but they're not too small. I remember going to shows in Chicago when I was 15 or 16 years old and seeing my favorite bands in small clubs. They're may have been only 85 people there, but I never even though about the fact that there wasn't anyone there. I just thought about how much I enjoyed the show. Anytime we ever find ourselves in a situation where there's a small crowd, rather than get bummed out, I just think about that.