First of all, thanks so much for agreeing to chat with me!
JS: Thanks for having me!
You have a new solo album coming out. Could you tell me about what inspired you, and how you decide which material best suits it, and which songs you are likely to use for your band, The Soviet Machines?
JS: I’ve been recording “solo” material for a few years and finally decided to lump it all together as a body of work. The song “Animal” could definitely be a Soviet Machines track. The rest of the album is me in the studio trying instruments, musicians and different types of songs than I’ve ever done with a band!
Speaking of The Soviet Machines, what’s the origin of the name, and has it caused any confusion about your origins?
JS: People always seem to like the mystery in the name. Really, it was a phrase I heard while I was in high school history class.I wrote it in my notebook full of bad names, and we circled it and never looked back!
Your newest single Animal sounds like an embrace of modern rock, but it also captures the raw sound for which your band is known. Did that happen naturally, or did you have a roadmap for the record?
JS: Animal was the most rock-sounding thing I’d recorded on my own. It really stands out from the rest of the album, which was definitely intentional.
What music were you listening to while making the record?
JS: I was listening to Pete Yorn’s “Music For The Mourning After” and a lot of early Bob Dylan.I wanted lots of different vibes within one album to be the overall theme.The record expresses each year of my twenties in order and really means a lot to me personally.
And, who got you started? What was the music that inspired The Soviet Machines?
JS: I started the group in high school as a punk project for fun.It took off because we wrote great songs and had as much fun playing live as possible.
Did the recent absence of live shows affect the making of the record and The Soviet Machines’ plans?
JS: It made us focus more! It was like being in the late Beatles or something. Only studio recordings every day was a lot of fun for me!
Speaking of live shows, The Soviet Machines’ songs, usually, are pretty heavy-duty rock n’ roll. Does that require that you be in shape, and on your toes? Or, is this music that can be played after a few beers.
JS: I need to be on my game for this band.I have to play all guitar parts and sing, not to mention be the frontman and songwriter!
We hope live shows will return soon and safely. What are some of your contemporaries that you admire and with whom you’d love to tour, or share a stage?
JS: There are so many great bands!I personally admire bands like Bully, Pup, The Dirty Nil, Meat Puppets, and Starcrawler right now to name a few.
You recorded your recent solo album with the legendary Jack Endino in the production chair. What’s the experience like? And, does he randomly break into old Soundgarden, or Nirvana stories? I am hoping that he would.
JS: There have been some great stories for sure! Not just those bands, I personally love Afghan Whigs and Mudhoney as well…stories for days!
What’s the most challenging part about recording songs with the kind of dynamics that feature on Animal?
JS: There was a lot of cool guitar and vocal layering that I did after Bob Joslyn laid down the drum track.It was a fun way to build a song from the ground up. Then I brought my friends in for the group vocals at the end!
Let’s play pretend. In a parallel universe, you’re asked to either open up for The Replacements or Prince. Who do you choose and what will the folks in Minneapolis think?
JS: I gotta go with the Replacements. They are my favorite Minneapolis band of all time! HUGE influence on TSM!I would hope Minneapolis fans would dig us?!
Let’s play pretend. You’re asked to record your version of a rock anthem for Minneapolis. What song do you choose and how do you approach it?
JS: That’s a good question.”Darling Nikki” by Prince would be fun…try to make it even more raw and sexy would be a fun challenge!
Finally, could you tell us more about your plans for the new record, and any future activity for The Soviet Machines?
JS: We will do a single next month and hopefully figure out shows down the line!
Cheers, and hope to see you playing live down the road sometimes!