VQDM Interview with Brian Smith, Drummer for Hemlock
VQDM: Your band has been around for twenty plus years how do you feel 2016 is going to be different?
Hello, I'm Brian Smith the drummer for Hemlock. Thanks for contacting us! I'm excited for this interview!
Well the biggest thing that we are doing different this year is the tour we are on right now. For the first time ever we are not only taking a band on the road with us, but we did some remodeling in the bus and are doing a bus share with the band Ektomorf from Hungary! We built a couple more bunks in our bus and have doubled up in our benches. It's elbow to elbow close quarters for sure so luckily not only are the a great band but also great guys. We are all getting along great and no one has killed each other yet. We've been out for 2 weeks at this point and I'd say the biggest complaint would be their drummer Robi's farts! He can clear a whole room! I don't know what this kid eats, but he smells like death! And then either later this year we are gonna go tour Europe as direct support for them. I'm gonna have to eat lots of beans over there so I can return the favor! hahaha
VQDM: Taking a moment to look over your very impressive tour schedule in your opinion do you feel it is necessary to stay on the road for as long as you guys do at a time?
I'd say yes. We hit a lot more markets than a lot of bands do. We are able to connect with more fans that sometimes are not able to travel to only the big cities and big markets. Less drive time in between and more shows also equals more money at the end of the tour too. I don't mean it to be rude, but I laugh at some bands tour dates when it is called "Big Epic Tour of the Year" and it's only 2 or 3 weeks long. That's just getting warmed up to me! Any tour less than a month or 2 is just a little "run" to me. I know some bands may not be able to tour for long periods because it can be hard. Maybe we're just road dogs. We have definitely made lots of sacrifices in our lives to be able to do what we do.
VQDM: How do you all handle your band's internal differences on the road?
We all get along pretty well for the most part. You definitely get to know someone really well when you tour. Small spaces, being together all the time, yeah it can get old. We do have our moments but we've also learned to get over petty stuff really quickly. If someone is being a bitch or a dick everyone else will call them out quickly and someone will make a joke and it usually ends before it escalates. And we've definitely learned to respect each others personal space. We each have our own bunk and bench and storage spaces. And little things like making sure your shoes don't stink and cleaning up after yourself and taking out the garbage etc. helps.
VQDM: What do you feel is going to be the most beneficial thing for this band in the long run?
The most beneficial thing that could ever happen for us would be for someone from within the music industry side of things step in and actually help us out. We appreciate our die hard friends and family of course but it would be nice to get a little help and move to that "next level." We will get a toe in the door once in a while but 99% of anything we get or achieve is from our own hard work. Our singer Chad is very hands on with everything we do. It does get aggravating to see newer bands come from out of nowhere and blow up to an extent but then it's crazy to me that most break up within a few years later. Very few bands actually stay in for the long haul and persevere. Hemlock ain't going anywhere!
VQDM: What has been the hardest challenge for your members over the last two decades to overcome?
I think the hardest thing has been finding the transition and balance in life to actually be able to this full time. We've all been though relationships and made several sacrifices to be able to play music and tour. I personally learned to lower my overhead back home. Anyone that asks for my advice on how to do this I tell them to either be single or have a very understanding/ low maintenance girlfriend, don't have kids, don't have a huge house or car payment. Less bills = less stress.
VQDM: If you could all be super heros or villans who would be what?
Well I know Chad would just clone himself so he could actually just work harder on the band. That way he could go ahead of the tour and promote more. I think I would be Orgazmo! Jezy would probably be someone with stretchy arms or legs so he could play basketball even better. And James would probably be Batman.
VQDM: On a marketing side it has been said you are one of the hardest self promoting bands out there, do you think it is due to social media or being in the public's direct bubble with shows and personal contact?
To me social media is just a small part of it. We are old school, hanging posters, handing out fliers directly to people and putting em under windshield wipers on cars. Back in he early days in Vegas we'd put up an average of 100 hand painted signs all over town and hand out easily 20,000 fliers for our shows.
VQDM: If you could choose one band dead or alive to tour with who would it be and why?
Personally I'd love to tour with Faith No More. They are a huge influence on me and I love the band!
VQDM: Do you have any plans for a future album or video within this year?
Our album "Mouth of the Swine" was released late last year so no new album this year. But we do have 2 more videos that are ready to be released in the near future.
VQDM: When it comes to kids how do you feel about the younger generation and do you feel it is important for them to be at live shows?
I definitely believe that it's important for kids to experience live shows. Especially these days because everyone's face is always buried in a phone! Get out and enjoy something other than electronics! My dad took me and my brother to our first huge concert when we were kids and it changed my life.
VQDM: Does your band have one song you absolutely despise playing live? Why?
Haha there have been a couple songs I was sick of in the past. For the longest time I was tired of playing "My Eyes Itch" live so I would purposely leave it off the set list but people would always request it! I actually add it again now and enjoy performing it again now. The other thing I do is I always mix up the set list every night. It keeps it fresh for me and if we have friends or fans that travel to multiple shows, it keeps it fresh for them too. You'll never see the same show twice! I know almost all bands tour on the same set for a tour. Unless we had some huge stage production or pyro or something that needed to stay consistent for cues I will always mix the set up. We have so many songs at this point in our career and we are currently rotating 60 plus songs. I make sure we touch on each of the albums and also like to mix up a good flowing and entertaining set each night.
VQDM: Is there a Dad persay of the band or a specific member who is the nonstop prankster?
Chad and his wife Jilynda (our merch girl, den mother, mechanic, direction giver, online gal etc.) are definitely the most organized and responsible but we all kind of have found our groove, rolls and jobs within the band. None of really pull pranks that often but we all make jokes, talk shit or will do something wild in the bus (naked dance party or whatever.) For a while Jezy would mess with James sometimes. The first story that comes to mind was when he put a whole bunch of golf balls under James mattress. James woke up with a sore back each morning. He'd pull several out each day but it took a bout a week for him to finally find all of them!
VQDM: Who in this business has been the most helpful to you and would you want to give them some shout outs?
We have had several people step in at certain points and helped to an extent but I couldn't pinpoint a certain person that helped immensely or completely changed our lives or changed us a band. I'm gonna give Chad the most props because he has worked harder and longer on this band than anyone else ever has or ever will.
VQDM: If your band was able to tour anywhere in the world even during all of the ups and downs politically where would it be?
One place we haven't been yet that we would love to go tour would be Australia.
VQDM:To close it out, there is something to be said for the years you have been playing metal and do you feel that your band will continue down this road or do you see yourselves changing styles in the future?
We are constantly changing and growing and pushing ourselves on each album but we have always maintained the Hemlock sound. So no, we're not going to go commercial radio rock tomorrow or anything. We play what we love to play and have been lucky to find a dedicated fan base that loves what we do as well!
Brian Smith- VQDM-2016