Punk survivor, passionate songwriter and all-around good guy Kevin Seconds has long made a life of telling the truth and his seminal hardcore/punk band 7 Seconds was the soundtrack of many a young person's life. We chatted via email about his songwriting process, growing old, and being in a band with your sibling.
The new 7 Seconds single , “My Aim Is You”, sounds like it could have come directly off one of your early-to-mid 80s releases (breakneck tempos, woah-oahs, gang vocals)…was it an intentional return to that sound? Lyrically, the song is far more mature than what you probably were capable of in your teens and 20s…how has age informed your songwriting?
I don't think anything we do is very intentional…hahaha. But no, our last 2 records (Good To Go and Take It Back Take It On Take It Over) were back-to-basics, fast, melodic records. We've been playing this fast, melodic shit forever. We don't have to travel far to get back into it. As far as the songwriting goes, it's hard to say. For the past 15 or so years, I have written, recorded and toured as a solo singer-songwriter, just me and a guitar, and I have worked hard at fine-tuning my approach to songwriting. I'm actually having much more fun writing songs now than I did when I was 20, 30, 40. It's no longer easy to write simple songs about my frustration over things like inequality, injustice and brutality. But I still do. I just do it from the eyes and heart of a middle-aged man.
You’ve been at the punk rock game for more than half your life. How have you grown as an artist after 30-some years of writing and performing? Who inspires you musically?
I'm inspired by travel, the actions of people and my experiences in dealing with my own strengths and weaknesses as I get older and try and stay interested in life. It's hard as hell but the alternative is nothingness. Just sitting around and waiting for your heart to give out. I'm not sure how other musicians inspire me. I know they do. I just can't name anyone in particular at the moment.
Your work vacillates between 7 Seconds records and solo/side projects – how do you find balance between writing punk anthems and quieter, more introspective tunes? Do songs naturally group themselves into different albums or projects?
They almost all start out on an acoustic guitar. I've been writing on one for years. I think the main difference is between how I write for myself and how I write for 7Seconds is the freedom of movement. At some point years back, I realized that I was ok with writing super straight-forward message tunes for the band, more than ok. I prefer singing aggressively and banging my point across with it. Whereas, on my solo stuff, there's a ton of room to move, think and breathe and I feel limitless as to how to express myself, lyrically and musically.
For a genre that generally has an revolving-door policy with regards to its membership, you have been working with mostly the same musicians in 7 Seconds for the past 30 years…to what do you attribute the longevity of those working relationships? (I would assume having your brother in the band could go either way!)
No one else can stand us!!! hahaha. But no, we just love the hell out of one another and genuinely enjoy playing and traveling together. It's not always wonderful. We also feel like killing each other at times but for the most part, besides my wife Allyson maybe, I could never have as great a time, playing music with anyone else.
Though I’m sure you’re not one for nostalgia, are there any particularly fond memories you have of touring or recording either with 7 Seconds or solo?
They're all amazing memories, even the really bad shit that we've gone through. I hate to sound generic but I really mean this. Everything we have experienced, every city we've gone to, venue we've played and all the people we have encountered, it's all just made up this incredible book with hundreds of chapters. I seriously cannot pick out any particular memories that mean more than the others.
Asian Man Records made your solo album “Don’t Let Me Lose Ya” available for free download on ifyoumakeit.com – what are your thoughts on the free download distribution model?
I've been giving away my music on the Internet from day one so I'm obviously a proponent of free downloads. That said, I think it's shitty when an act of goodwill and kindness gets taken advantage of and becomes an excuse for so-called music lovers to de-value the hard work and effort artists and bands put into making and sharing music. We all just want our music and words to be heard and most of us would do this for free if we had to but you still hope people find worth in what you spend so much of your life making.
The band seems to be something you are lucky to have as a part-time concern…what is a day in the life of Kevin Seconds like?
I'm a lifelong insomniac so I rarely go to bed before 7, 8 in the morning. So, my day tends to start when most people are starting to wind theirs down. I'm currently not holding down a real job so I get up, hang out with my cat, play guitar, shower, roll over to my favorite coffee hangout to spend time with my wife, who is usually taking a break from her work, check e-mails, edit songs, design album covers and show fliers, start mini-flame wars on Facebook and that is the gist of my 'work day'. After that it's starting up new artwork, going into the studio to finish more music or making some time to buy groceries. I live an extremely simple life, as you can see.
What is on tap for you next as an artist?
I start another U.S. solo run next week. That'll run a month and Kepi Ghoulie will be out with me on most of the tour. 7Seconds plays the This Is Hardcore Fest in Philly in that time frame and has a 7 inch of new music coming out on Rise Records on October 1st. On that very same day and record label, I also have a new full-length called 'Off Stockton' coming out. After that, it's all about going back into the studio with 7Seconds to record our first album since 2005. I'll also have a set of trading cards of some of my favorite pieces of my artwork out in January which I've wanted to do for years now.