Metalmouth sat down at the Camden Underworld and talk to Job For A Cowboy guitarist Tony Sannicandro about their immense new album Demonocracy and the band’s current UK tour.
Picture the scene. Sitting in the back room of one of the last iconic rock and metal venues in London, the Camden Underworld, I am currently plopping myself as I prepare for my first live interview. The band? Job For A Cowboy, halfway through not only the UK leg of their Demonocracy tour, but also what has to be one of the most explosive and exciting packages of the autumn, also featuring Cerebral Bore, Revocation and the immense Dying Fetus.
JFAC, of course are the Arizona deathsters, who after sheer legwork and self-sufficient promotion, managed to smash the American Billboards with their debut Genesis, follow-up Ruination and 2012′s aforementioned Demonocracy, an astonishing feat for such an extreme and brutal band.
So, dictaphone at the ready and with Metalmouth’s Foxicus Metallicus also appearing as my wing-man (I suspect I’m more Goose than Iceman), I settle down for a chat with JFAC guitarist and top chap Tony Sannicandro as we talk about politics, touring Japan, didgeridoos, understanding Sterling currency through American eyes, constructive cannibalism and whether or not I deserve a good kicking.
Metalmouth: Hey Tony, how are things?
JFAC: Yeah man, things are great.
So, you’re a third of the way through your European tour, how has it gone for the band?
JFAC: Good, good so far. The tour’s been a little bit longer, because we’re going to Russia after, so it really feels quite early in the dates. But sure, it’s been good because we know all the other bands, ther’s no ‘getting to know you bullshit, we’re all just playing and having a good time, so great!
Have you done the US leg of the Demonocracy tour? How did that go?
JFAC: Yeah, we’ve actually done a couple of tours, We haven’t done a headliner yet, well at least not a proper one, but we have been out there a few times supporting the CD. It’s been really positive so far.
Do you notice a difference between gigs and fans at home in the US, and over in the UK and Europe in general?
JFAC: Umm, Europe’s a little different than the US. Not so much the UK, we’re pretty similar; pretty much people hanging out, drinking and having a good time. Europe’s sometimes a little more demure, maybe? Not always, that’s a kinda like a stereotype, but sometimes it’s true. Still people are cool and come out and support us, it’s not to say it’s a bad crowd, but it’s a little different.
How has the reception been to the new record, both as a new album and as live tracks?
JFAC: Good! We’ve been playing a handful of new tracks so far and they’ve all gone down pretty frikkin’ good. Obviously you get those people who wanna hear the stuff we’re not playing so much these days, there’s always a gaggle of idiots online who kinda suck, but mostly the crowd reception has been really really good. We’ve got three CD’s now and it’s kinda hard to fit it in, and it’s cool to play the new crud, try new stuff, you know?
Yeah, you always get that element of people online who say “yeah, I liked them, but they suck after their first demo”… metal elitist twats. Probably never even heard the early stuff, the people who are never gonna be happy, you know?
JFAC: Yeah, you get the hipsters, I know what you mean. But it’s not like the Metallica thing, you know, where it’s like the die hard people who don’t wanna hear anything past 1991, but that’s the internet, it’s… you just gotta avoid it. I don’t want to portray it really bad, because a majority of the fan stuff has been really, really good and really frikkin’ supportive.
Tony, yourself and Nick joined around a year or so ago, do you feel you’ve both added a new dimension and flavour to the JFAC sound, or even taken the band in a new direction?
JFAC: The first gig I did for JFAC was in November about two years ago, Nick was a little later than that, probably a year and a half. But yeah, we have a slightly different direction, a little more… I don’t wanna say ‘progressive’, because that’s become really hack to throw out there, kinda lazy, you know? But there is definite new element in there, it’s a lot faster in places, and a few more kinda melodic pieces in there maybe, I think that’s maybe come from me because I did record and write a lot of the stuff, Nick’s basslines are often a little different to what we’re playing, almost like a third guitar, which is cool, instead of him fuckin’ ‘riding over the root note’ or something stupid like that. He’s frikkin’ good, and we come together collectively and it’s been a little bit different because of the new people, myself included.
Now for a question that is going to blow your mind, you are never going to have heard this question before… how did the band come up with the name Job For A Cowboy?
JFAC: Oh my god!!! Mind blown (chuckles). I honestly have no frikkin’ idea.
Nor do you care.
JFAC: Yeah, nor do I care, really (chuckles). I dunno, I think they were just frikkin’ around, it just stuck and now it’s just what it is. I don’t think there was some secret illuminati meaning or anything weird like that, it just is, so… yeah!
So, all is well with the world, no political problems, everything’s pink and peachy… what would happen to JFAC’s sound?
JFAC: Probably Nothing! We’d find frikkin’ something to complain about! I mean, the music would still be the same, but maybe Johnny would sing about… pizza or something different, I dunno. Luckily we don’t have to worry about that. I dunno what would happen.
Do you think metal as a scene is becoming better or worse when it comes to genre splitting, what with this core, that core, progressive the other… and is it narrowing new bands horizons trying to fit into the specific brackets?
JFAC: Do I think bands TRY do do that? I think that MIGHT happen, The GOOD bands try not to do that. I think a lotta bands fuckin’ TRY to copy someone else’s crud, that’s where all the Meshuggah spin-off bands came from, all that crud… Maybe, I dunno. I’m pretty sure there’s a handful of people TRYING to do that, think they start out trying to do that, but you know, if after a while you don’t realise that’s a bad frikkin’ idea, then… I dunno what to frikkin’ tell ya, your blowin’ it! (laughs)
I feel it’s definitely unjustified, but the band have come in for some flak sometimes, for instance about the Myspace origins thing, and you also went through that thing… you know, when an underground band gets a lot of success with sales and billboard charts and exposure, and the naysayers come out with the knives. Does that affect JFAC as a band or you personally? Do you read that stuff?
JFAC: The backlash from Myspace? I can’t even believe anyone still remembers Myspace!
I think that backlash was crud to be honest, Myspace beat handing out flyers when it comes to self frikkin’ promotion.
JFAC: For sure. I dunno, that was all so much before I joined. I can’t frikkin’ complain, I heard of the band from Myspace too, so I REALLY can’t complain… I probably wouldn’t be here now if that didn’t happen. It’s all online. I mean, nobody’s gonna come up to your face and say “you guys SUCK because of Myspace”!
Foxicus (magically appearing out of nowhere clutching a pint, while simultaneously making me crud myself in front of a death metal guitarist): “Well, no, not with your size, would be a bad idea..you would frikkin’ kill them!”
JFAC: Noooooo… maybe! But yeah, it’s all internet crud, which is fuckin’ stupid. But yeah, when you see stuff like that, we all kinda egg it on! It’s funny to us! I think it’s hilarious.I love it when people complain about small crud they don’t really care about in reality.
Job hit the ground running with their debut Genesis in the US; Top 50 on the Billboard charts (highest selling metal debut since ‘Slipknot’ in 1999), then debuted at 42 with follow-up Ruination. How do you think that happened? Because you have such an uncompromising and uncommercial sound, you know? Why does JFAC strike a chord?
JFAC: Well, I think the band were really young, they were doing something that was really well put together, I think, so the energy showed, plus Genesis was mixed by Andy Sneap, that one was really polished and it’s unusual for a new band to work with someone like that and have such a high level of production, so there’s all that crud, It helped that the band were doing well by themselves, without label support, which is what essentially what got them picked up. So we kinda did well on our own and didn’t need the company to throw a bunch of money at us right off the bat, so the label’s obviously gonna say ‘they’re trying to do something cool’, and then they hustled to try and get us out there, really pushed hard to promote it.
Plus, when you’re a sixteen year old kid and you see sixteen year old kids getting signed to a label, they wanna see what it’s all about, and do that too. Which kinda goes back to the question about fuckin’ ripping people off within a genre, you gotta weed out the weak, but yeah, think people just wanted to see what the deal was with the band, I think there’s a few things that contributed. The debut really just punched out…. I dunno really, maybe some weird voodoo happened or something. (chuckles) In all I think it was way easier to relate to because JFAC were also young kids making music, trying to promote themselves through the internet, and it caught on.
The industry’s changed, metal bands in particular tend to strive more from touring than sales, the labels really like to push that type of live promotion. Guitarist Al’s previous band Despised Icon split because they wanted stable lives, careers and generally get off the treadmill. What keeps JFAC as a unit and as individuals going, where others are taking stock of their lives and leaving the industry?
JFAC: Well… obviously we’re all still very young. I mean, I’m 23, everyone’s all in their mid 20′s, Nick’s the oldest, so i had the choice of I could be in school or I could be here, talking to you, playing guitar, being an twonk in front of people. There’s a lot of that, plus it’s fun, it’s not this huge grind. You can do so much touring you get burned out, but we try to break it up as much as we can so we can have nice breaks at home. We try to make sure that the tours we do are gonna be worth it and fun and we’re not gonna just burn ourselves out for no reason. But you know, we all just really like it. It’s a pretty unique situation to be able to have someone pay for you to see the world, to get to go to fuckin’ Okinawa or whatever and get to play for a bunch of crazy people, while playing songs I wrote in my living room. That’s pretty cool, and people are gonna give us money for it too? I’m not gonna NOT do that, you know?
Foxicus: Can I ask a question about Japan? How do you think you lyrically and thematically work there? They are as a rule very, very reserved as a nation. How do you think the Japanese audience will react when they enter the venue and hear the JFAC sound?
JFAC: We were just there a few months ago, maybe longer, we played smaller rooms, a little smaller than here, but they were packed out and the fans were friggin’ going nuts, they were really, really into it. I don’t know exactly how they feel about the lyrics, but musically they were way into it. I’m pretty sure the lyrics go by some people.
Leigh: Not me, I get every word, I’m like a death metal Babelfish.
JFAC: Oh, right! But yeah, I mean even here and in the US it’s seen as like simply kill everyone blood and gut lyrics sometimes, but if you want to think about it, you can and it works. I mean, I don’t really know too much about the lyrics myself, anyway, I don’t pay too much attention to that (laughs). No, that’s an twonk answer, sorry. But yeah, at least musically, everyone’s into it. I think that if you don’t get the lyrics, the music is still still accessible if you like that kinda stuff.
JFAC have one more record to deliver under Metal Blade, is that right?
JFAC: Ummm, it’s one or two, I think,
Foxicus: I think there’s one more left under the contract?
JFAC: Oh, right, I thought it was two!
Leigh: I don’t think you got the memo!
JFAC: Apparently not! It’s alright! (chuckles)
Anyway, now because I’m SO old, I remember when Brutal Truth were coming to the end with Earache, and they did some crazy frikkin’ album called Need To Control, it did stuff that sounded like didgeridoos on it, all sorts, they just threw everything to the wall and did what they liked. So, now your coming to that last album, how do you think you will tackle that? just do one nuts frikkin’ album and go all out?
JFAC: Umm, well we’ve already been thinking about the next album and that writing process, we’ve got it brewing a little bit, and the plan is to always go weirder! Maybe not as weird as didgeridoos… (chuckles), but hopefully we can go there, and not because it’s a last Metal Blade album…we just wanna go in that direction anyway. We just want to do DIFFERENT.
Foxicus: More cowbell?
JFAC: Maybe cowbell, or some space sounds (laughs)
Leigh: I don’t think you can get much weirder than that last ‘octopus’ video of yours I saw the other day… feck THAT.
JFAC: Oh yeah! (laughs) Hopefully more like THAT! But obviously more in a musical direction.
Foxicus: Do you have much input into the creative process for videos, or are you just presented with it?
JFAC: It depends. Sometimes it’s like that, but we asked the guy… he took the song and we just said do whatever the feck you want. Next time we wanna have a little more input, maybe, not for any reason other than we just wanna be involved… we have seen what he can do now, crazy crud, so if we can get together it will be waaay grosser, or weirder, or whatever the feck! We said do something weird, and he frikkin’ did!
Foxicus: The thing at the moment seems to be fan video competitions; Devin sex face Townsend and Tankard have asked fans to do their next video. Would that be something that you could throw out there?
JFAC: Nooooooo! That would scare me, I’d be fuckin’ afraid to see what happens with that! We have a wide variety of fans, put it that way! But hey, maybe. I’m not opposed to that idea at all, but we just wanna keep rolling with this guy, because he’s a frikkin’ psycho! At the very least, the next one.
After you have finished the promotion of Demonocracy, any festivals planned, and will the UK see you at a festival next year?
JFAC: Oh yeah, we’ll be back .I’m almost positive. I really hope so. I’ve never done those big shows, but I wanna be there for next year’s shenanigans. We really want to be back for next year, that’s definitely happening.
Foxicus: Are you just constant tour monsters? Do you want to be out there all the time? I’ve seen your history, and you tour like feck. Once you’re home you’re back out again! I think you have something like another 20 dates after this one.
JFAC: Well, I wanna be home, I like being home. We’ve just been grinding, all these opportunities to go places like over here, Russia… it’s all winding up nice, we are in a place where it makes sense to go to Russia, but after this batch we pretty much want to take time at home. I’ve just moved into a place and was only there two weeks before we have to leave, my girlfriend’s there straightening it out, but I just wanna go back and get a cat or something.
Foxicus: What would you call said cat?
JFAC: Chubbs. Like in Happy Gilmore. I dunno, we tour a lot, so that’s the moneymaker, like you said.
Once the tour cycle is over, and you’ve had the break, what’s the plan? EP? Album?
JFAC: LP, for sure. We’re just gonna write, we always are when we’re home anyway, just write and write and crud, because Al just lives down the street from me and we can get together and write real easy. So yeah, write more, hang out for a little while and then just bang one out. It’s the only real way to do it.Definitely a full one. The EP thing’s weird to me, i always think “why don’t you just write a full one?”
What’s your zombie apocalypse plan?
JFAC: I already got asked this earlier, ummm… okay…
Foxicus: Fuckit, someone nicked my question! Okay, hang on…
JFAC: No no, it’s cool!
Foxicus: Your plane crashes, and…
JFAC: Oh no no no… I hate flying!
Leigh: You’re not helping, the man’s got to go home at some point!
Foxicus: No it’s fine Tony… it’s all good… JFAC are all safe, you are on an island, but there’s no food… who do you eat first?
JFAC: When the savages come out, they are gonna want me alive, so we’d probably end up eating Al, Al tastes like smoked meat… he’s kosher too. Go for him.
If you did a Randy Blythe and ran for President, what would be your policies and your first task if you won?
JFAC: I’d never run for President. Ever. I hate politics. I would have every friday as pizza day.
Final question; this is my first interview ever. Now it’s over… how much have you wanted to, or now want to punch me in the face?
JFAC: No, man! I don’t want to punch you in the face…
Leigh: I’m pretty pleased actually, you are scarily huge…
JFAC: It’s all for show, I’m telling ya!
Thanks so much for talking to us!
JFAC: My pleasure!
And so it ends… or does it? My dictaphone turns after the interview and promptly dies, but we still talk about a myriad of things including not drinking onstage whilst playing, band members not adhering to the no drinking rule on this tour, culture shocks, Tony’s trips to Marks & Spencer for snacks and his bafflement at currency and why he gets so little change even though he doesn’t understand how much it actually is (high street politics, Tony).
Then of course, we have the show. Considering bill headliners Dying Fetus are known for absolutely levelling venues with their insane live show, JFAC do some demolition of their own and tear the building apart with a frikkin’ stupendous set that gets the room absolutely heaving. See you next year boys – remember, you pretty much promised to be back…
Many thanks to Fox for the wing-man duties (cheers, Maverick), and Tony for being a piece of cake to interview and a total pleasure during my first assignment; you’re a frikkin’ gentleman, sir.
DEMONOCRACY IS available everywhere now : http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/demonocracy
JFAC’s Tour with Dying Fetus is now over in Europe, but check out their Facebook Page for tour dates.
YOU CAN CHECK OUT THE GALLERIES BY MOOTOGRAPHY HERE!
Job For A Cowboy Are:
Jonny Davy – lead vocals (2003–present)
Jon “The Charn” Rice – drums (2007–present)
Al Glassman – rhythm guitar (2008–present)
Tony Sannicandro – lead guitar, backing vocals (2011–present)
Nick Schendzielos – bass guitar (2011–present)