Archive for the ‘Austin’ Category

Words with Chadwick Salls

Posted: November 26, 2014 by Soda in Austin, Chadwick Salls, Interview, Kazi, Seed

Prepping this installment for MSG was really amazing for me…and kinda crazy at the same time. Amazing, because Chadwick Salls has been a huge influence of mine and played the major role in making one of my most favorite records of all time. Crazy, because it’s been 20 years since I discovered said album that would go on to be one of those life changers for me.

You see, Chad was in a band called Seed back in the early 90’s, they released one record in 1994 called “Ling”. I was a young kid and my palette for music was always vast. Late one night on 120 Minutes I caught their video for the first single off of that album, “Rapture”. I loved it, right away, loved it, so much to the point where that weekend I walked to every record store near my neighborhood to hunt it down. I finally came across a promo sitting on a used shelf in one of those local shops. And well, the rest is history. “Ling” influenced every aspect of my life, especially the musical one. Vocally, Guitar wise, songwriter wise…everything. I turned everyone in my life onto this record.

Time passed, my obsession with Seed only expanded and in 1995 they came to a small club on Long Island. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was losing my mind. Not only was this magical band that I worshiped playing close to my home, but…I was not old enough to get in! You had to be at least 18 and I however, was not. The night of the show came and my Mother drove me, my older Sister and a close school friend over to the venue, she waited upon dropping us off because she was quite sure we would not get in. Five minutes of vast lies and borderline begging we were let in, I was shocked; we were so obviously young kids and crazy nervous. I remember everything about that night. The guys were amazing and approachable; I had a homemade Seed shirt on that they loved, still have it to this day. It was one of the best nights of my life; I was on a high from that show for months after. That moment lives on infamously for me.

A few years would pass and Chad and I would somehow reconnect, he remembered my shirt and me from that night, and all these years later I’m honored to call him a friend. Would I have thought 20 years ago that I’d develop a cool relationship with one of my musical heroes? Nope. Would I have thought 20 years later I’d be writing about it, reliving great memories through my own music based blog? Not at all. But, here we are, and I have had the honor and esteemed pleasure to conduct an interview with him.

So, here we go, my interview with Chad Salls. Kinda sorta 20 years in the making. Hope you enjoy it like I have!

Chadwick Salls

Chadwick Salls

MSG – Hey Chad, thanks for the Interview! I know you’ve been in the music “business” for a long time now, starting at a young age. Can you give us some insight on how you’ve managed to make it a sustainable lifestyle? Lots of artists find it hard to make it a living, what pearls of wisdom can you share with us?

CS – I’ve always had a good work ethic so I just tried to be pro-active and find jobs that have to do with music. After Seed broke up I taught guitar, bass, piano and music theory at a music store but now I teach out of my house so I make all of the money (not just 30%)! I’ve also produced bands, played guitar, bass and piano on sessions in the studio, co-written with bands and I’ll pick up live gigs only if I like the band as people or if they have catchy songs. For the last 10 years, I’ve also played every Sunday at a church. They pay better than anyone else and the guitarist and drummer are probably the most talented musicians I’ve ever played with.

MSG – 20 years ago you released a very ambitious record called “Ling” with your band at the time, Seed. It’s hands down one of my most favorite records ever made. It transcends style and time. That record was incredibly mature when you released it in 1994. You were only about 21 when you wrote it mostly on your own. Can you recall what influenced you at that time? And how you put that stuff together on your own first and brought to your fellow band mates?

Seed - "ling" album cover

Seed – “ling” album cover

CS – Thanks for the love! Seed started out writing songs together and it was heavily influenced by Grunge and Gabriel had more bluesy melodies. I’m a huge fan of melody and hooks, so I started writing poppier songs and the band liked those as well. I grew up on Classic Rock, New Wave and Punk from D.C. and I think all of those bands influenced my writing. I can definitely hear The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jane’s Addiction, Japan, Siouxsie And The Banshees, Lush, Fugazi and Bad Brains in my writing with Seed. Before we got signed, we played 4-5 times a week and we’d just try out new tunes every practice. However, half the record was songs I wrote in pre-production a week or two before we recorded.

MSG – You guys did a lot to support that album, late night TV shows and even played MTV’s Spring Break. “Ling” was released on a subsidiary of Giant back then called, Mechanic, which seemed to be the home for lots of different types of Alternative bands that didn’t quite fit elsewhere. How did you partner up with that label? Was it easy for you to get interest, and were there other labels knocking on your door at the time?

CS – We were also courted by Atlantic but Howard Benson, our producer really wanted for us to go with Mechanic. Steve Sinclair, the owner of Mechanic whole-heartedly believed in our talent and we had complete control of the recording. We didn’t even sign our deal until AFTER we started recording. Oh, how times have changed!

MSG – After Seed you took some time out of the so-called spotlight and returned a few years later with another project called Color. That band seemed way more radio friendly and focused on more of a straightforward rock sound then the obvious artistic approach you took with Seed. Did you make a decision to come back with a more viable sound or did your songwriting just morph into that stylistically as you grew as an artist? Looking back on those projects could you honestly say that you preferred one over the other or does each kind of stand on its own?

CS – In Color, I wanted us to sound more anthemic like The Who, Cheap Trick and U2. I actually had a lot of weird chord changes and parts like Seed but I think I grew melodically and lyrically. The main problem with the second band is that we had a producer who over-produced the record and a singer who had no personality and was cheesy. If Gabriel had sung them, I would’ve liked the recordings just fine. However, the demos that got us signed are pretty awesome. Neal Avron produced them and the singer’s ego was in check. I still play people our demos before our record! There are things I liked and disliked about both experiences. I like both bands’ songs, I prefer Gabriel’s voice out of the 3 of us but both CDs are pretty dated sounding to me.

MSG – After Color you went on to work with other bands/artists as a songwriter and producer. Is that something that came easy to you or was it somewhat difficult to step back a bit and let someone else take the reigns as a leader of a project while you were more behind the scenes?

CS – It’s easy and fun when there is no ego (including mine). I remember a band hired me to help with melodies and lyrics and together, we made the first verse and chorus way more original and stronger lyrically. Then the singer said “you changed this and that and I want MY lyrics for the second verse”. I told him I didn’t care who wrote the verse, just as long as it was good as what we changed. Luckily, his band members agreed with me and together we bettered them. I’m the type of guy who loves coming up with parts. If you don’t want to use them because you didn’t write it, I’m happy to take what I wrote and turn it into a new song for myself! That’s happened a lot! Anyhow, for the most part the bands and I had a blast and were proud of what we did together.

MSG – I know you also give bass and guitar lessons. Your bass work has always been something that stood out within your projects. Especially on the Seed record. Lots of fretless bass on there, which was impeccably performed. It really added a layer to that album which made it even stand out more as an original piece of art. Are you a self-taught musician? Also, what made you decide to approach the fretless bass for a majority of your first release?

CS – Thanks! I am a self-taught musician but my fretless influence came from Mick Karn of Japan. They were like Duran Duran but with more of an off-kilter sound. Anyhow, it took two tries to have them sound “impeccably”! I remembered recording and thinking I nailed it but when we added piano and guitar, I realized my intonation was awful! Now I know to record other parts before I record fretless! If I remember correctly, the Seed record was pretty even between fretted and fretless. If the parts had lots of slides and I played with my fingers, I usually grabbed the fretless.

MSG – Over the past, well…almost 10 years you have been focusing on and off on a project called Kazi. I know it started as somewhat of a solo venture and you turned out a ton of demos but within the last 2 years or so it has morphed into a full-fledged band. What made you finally decide to bring those songs to the stage? Was it difficult finding people to play with based on the Sonic, uber pop sound and style you were going for?

Kazi logo

Kazi logo

CS – Kazi has been the most fun and exciting for sure because I am going about songwriting in a way I have never done before. Now, my lyrics are just as important and my melodies. I had a producer say “you are such a sarcastic asshole…why don’t you write lyrics like the way you talk”? It made me be more descriptive, original with my rhymes, and now most of my songs are short little stories. It’s a lot of work but the end result is much more gratifying. So Kazi started as a “solo” venture because I was recording everything at my studio but I always wanted another band of brothers. I got very lucky finding the members. My singer and drummer are very young but they are both so talented and optimistic. It’s great to find members that have the same vision and quality control. I’m still writing all of the songs but the singer adds his personality vocal embellishes in his delivery and my drummer can be inventive like Kyle (from Seed) but can also be a groove drummer like Van (from Color). We are going for a groove based, cleaner but raw sound like soul and rock bands from the 70’s to New Wave bands from the late 70’s to early 80’s. What I love is that we sound like a simple pop band but if you really listen we have great lyrics and crazy chords changes!

MSG – A couple of years ago we also saw a little bit of a Seed reunion back in your hometown of Austin, TX. I know it was for a radio station that was supportive to you when you were up and coming. After almost 15 years what was it like to stand side by side with Gabriel Ordonez (Singer/Guitartist of Seed) after all that time and play those songs? From the clips I saw online it seemed pretty magical and almost bittersweet at times.


CS – It was such a great experience! They wanted the full band at first and Gab wasn’t into that idea because he only stayed friends with me after the band split. I told him it would be a goof and a blast, so he and his wife came and stayed with me for the week. It was magical harmonizing with him again and the whole experience brought us even closer together.

MSG – And after all these years of playing, writing and traveling what do you see the future holding for you in the way of music? Will we ever see a Kazi record or perhaps a solo one? Anything you’d like to share?

CS – I’ve stayed happy and healthy and I still play and write every day. I’m the most proud of the songs I’m writing currently and I hope to get another deal. However, the music business is so flawed that I’m not sure what to expect. I have my old producers and my old music publisher who still believe in me and want to help, so now all I have to do is make enough money for proper demos in a real studio. We’re in the studio recording four songs right now, so once it’s done, I’d love to share! Thanks for staying in touch!