10 Years guitarist talks From Birth To Burial

10 Years are one of those bands you usually know what you’re getting when you pick up one of their albums. Over the years they’ve developed a signature sound and they’ve stuck with it for the most part. Their latest record, From Birth To Burial, just released and they’ve already been out on the road supporting it since March, one month prior to the release.

FRR: The new album- From Birth To Burial comes out (at the time of this interview) in about 2.5 to 3 weeks? 2 weeks from yesterday, I think.

Tater: It sure as hell better be! Yea man, really, really excited. We recorded this one here at home in Knoxville, Tenn. with our old drummer and old band mate Brian Vodinh, he’s just an amazingly talented guy. I’ve known him probably since ‘94 or ‘95, we go way back. We actually started 10 Years in 1998 with Matt Wantland and a couple of other guys, our old guitar player Matt and Louis. Jesse our singer used to come watch the original 10 Years play at the Prince Daily. Actually, Brent Smith from Shinedown had a band that used to play there too so it’s pretty wild how long we’ve known that guy.

And now 10 Years headlines that place, that same venue and sells it out, so it’s always a good feeling going there. It was like my church, you know? I was raised in church but that place definitely felt like my church. The punk rock, the energy, the moshing, it was it. Every time we play there I go stand in the exact same spot that I stood when I was 14 and just remember.

And actually I still have the ticket and we did a festival with the Offspring and I got it signed. It was pretty cool. They were like “wooaah!” Noodles the guitar player was like, “I remember that show, Rancid was throwing ice at us!” And I was like “yes they were! Holy cow, how do you remember that?” I can’t remember yesterday on tour, you know? I actually got to meet legendary producer Bob Rock that night, and sat there and talked to him and I was like “Look at this Bob, I’ve got this ticket!” and he was like “that’s so cool, man!” So sitting there and rubbing elbows with Bob Rock just going “what is going on man?!”

FRR: You’ve got to pinch yourself, is this really happening?

Tater: And he was talking about him getting to working with David Bowie’s guitar player, he idolized him and he was sitting in the studio with him, it was like that camaraderie type thing so I’ve still got an in with Bob Rock if I ever run into him again.

FRR: Nice! Tap him for a future album maybe!

Tater: Yea, I don’t think we can afford him! Rock and roll budgets aren’t really what they used to be for doing records. Out of all the producers we’ve worked with Brian was more knowledgeable than every one of them. We’ve had some good engineers but as far as producers go they’re all a bunch of morons that have talked their way in to it and don’t know squat, and they play to young bands real well, all of them, every one of them. We had some engineers we really liked a lot but most of the producers are a bunch of con artists, as far as I’m concerned.

That’s why we worked with Brian. Brian built a great studio at his house downstairs. He’s so methodical, he knows what he wants and then we just went out there and wrote the music in about 2 weeks. Me and him have been playing in a band together for so long it’s a pretty quick process music-wise. Now Jesse, on the other hand, he’ll take 6 months! He takes so long I can’t be out there when he’s doing it, it’ll make me hate the song. He’ll listen to one chorus part 200 times in a row and I’m just like “nope. I’ve gotta go, you can have my cut of the money, I could care less!”

Poor Brian, he’s out there having to do it day in and day out and his brain works on a completely different level. He’s like a Dave Grohl type dude, obviously the patience he must have to sit there with Jesse. A testament to Jesse, everything that he does in the end is amazing. He does not settle for run of the mill, he wants to try every single thing and I’m always really happy and blown away. This record I think is my favorite one because it’s probably the only one I can listen to start to finish and be like “yea, alright! Yea, good!” When it goes heavy, it goes as heavy as we’ve ever gone. When it goes ethereal it just floats wherever, it goes wherever we want it to go, and is very natural and very, very good.

FRR: Mellow stuff?

Tater: Yea and I’m just kind of like, let’s just rock. I like all that stuff too. I love Radiohead, I love Mars Volta, I’m kind of all over the place. But it was good, you can kind of hear both of our ideas of the way we wanted the record to sound in the record. Not to say we didn’t argue about it because we did argue like “God man, come on let’s rock! Let’s play down-tuned guitars and be loud!” But it turned out great. Like I said, I’ve listened to it so much because I’ve got a CD in both me and my wife’s car and the kids have their favorite songs. I’ve listened to it a ton and I’m real happy.

FRR: And you’re able to do exactly what you want with it now, because this is the second album done completely independently. Does it get easier to do something on your own label the second time around?

The first time we were tied in with ILG which is like a Warner distribution, but now we’re tied in with this great label called Megaforce and they want us to go do whatever we want to do and then we’re gonna argue about singles. But argue about good singles not like a typical record company like with the Vision like “put out Beautiful first”, and it’s like “You can’t put out a ballad first! That’s not rock, we need credibility!” But you signed the contracts, so you’ve got to do whatever they hell they want you to, and there’s not really anything you can do about it.

But with Megaforce we’re arguing over the first single being “From Birth to Burial” which is one of my favorite songs on the album, and “Miscellaneous” and it was like “What a great argument to be having anyway.” It’s not arguing like let’s go with the one that’s the cross-over hit, we’re just going with the one we thinks rocks hardest and maybe gets the foot in the door, and I think “Miscellaneous” gets the foot in the door and I think “From Birth To Burial” will definitely, well you might have to do a little radio edit. If it doesn’t get to the hook before a minute it’s too long nowadays apparently. It’s insane.

Songs like “Stairway to Heaven” and all these wonderful songs like “Bohemian Rhapsody” would never be on the radio now. It’s just so sad. These bands would never have made it and it’s just so sad that you have to almost become a jingle kind of band to be successful on radio now. But that’s why there are bands that are headlining arenas that aren’t getting radio play anymore. There’s still art out there that doesn’t have to be wrapped up in three minutes and thirty seconds, you know?

FRR: Looking back on it it’s been a near 20+ career for 10 years-

Tater: 1998. Me and Brian knew each other and jammed together when we were in high school. I’ve known that guy since I think he was 13 years old, and he’s what, 31 now? We formed 10 Years when they were still in high school, so it’s been going a long time, a really long time.

FRR: Looking back on everything, like you said you’ve been through it all, you’ve had the massive success, you’ve played the big festivals, now you’re independent. What’s the one thing that sticks out the most from the last however long it’s been for 10 Years and kept you guys going the most?

Tater: I think we were so serious about it. We weren’t real serious people in our lives at all but we always worked really hard. That’s the thing people just do not get about this life. You just start working when you signed the record deal, but you’ve already put in 10 years to get there.

When I look back on it I’m like we were like the damn military, we really were. It was practice 4-5 nights a week, no drinking, no drugging, no nothing. You’re in there, you’re working, we’re working on new songs, we have a show in the month, so who’s doing fliers? Back then you had to hand out fliers, you couldn’t just send out a facebook request, so who’s doing that? Who’s on that? Let’s go here, let’s go there, and not being too cool for school to go hand out fliers. Certain guys thought they were too big of rockstars to go get in on the ground floor and work. And writing songs and trying to get better, trying to put on better shows, new ideas, new riffs, everything. And looking back and going “man. This is just crazy” it’s crazy that we were so serious about it.

I ran a Papa Johns. I would feed them, they’d call me almost every day to come get a free pizza and I don’t blame them. I could’ve been running a store as a general manager, but I was just assistant manager because I didn’t want to have to miss band practice. That’s how serious I was. I probably would’ve made $50-60,0000 a year and that’s not too bad for somebody with barely a high school diploma, but I was motivated because that money that I made there bought fliers, bought guitars, bought amps and it takes all of it. You want to sound good live. I remember doing albums and our first album and going “I’ve got to go buy a new amp, my amp is not sounding good.” I want to go spend two-grand on an amp to make it sound as good as it sounds on that recording because this is not working!

FRR: Looking back on those days you had to work so hard just to get by. These days there’s social media invites, bandsintown where you can just follow all this stuff. Do you feel like it was more work back then or has it kind of balanced itself out because album sales aren’t what they used to be?

Tater: Touring is expensive. Renting a bus is $400-500 a day, then you’ve got a bus driver and he’s got to have a hotel room along with his salary, so you’re probably at $1000 a day. Some of these shows you might get a good pay day, but some of them you might not. Some of them might make a bonus for a sell out, but some of them you won’t. So it definitely balances itself out with being able to do the social media thing but there’s just no money left in rock and roll. At the end of the day, record companies, major ones are not signing rock acts. And if they do sign rock acts they’re signing them with things called a 360 Deal which means you have to give a percentage of your merch money to the record label. That’s just insane!

That’s the biggest thing people can do to help a band is to buy a t-shirt. On an odd level to buy a CD is very helpful too but you get with some of these companies- We were with Universal on that third record Feeding the Wolves and they made us spend a half a million dollars on an album. There’s no way we’re gonna make that much money back! There’s no way! They’re like the Titanic. The Autumn Effect sold 500,000 copies, or almost, and we have way more fans that come out to our shows now than we ever did back then, but we can’t give an album away, and that’s the biggest thing that people can do to help to, is to buy a CD.

I got in a lot of trouble online for asking people to pay $1 for a song. It’s insane. How dare I get paid for my job, you know? Everybody got mad. Not everybody, a lot of people came to my defense. It’s like, look, you don’t know the struggles we’ve been through to try to stay afloat. I’ve almost lost my house, and it’s not like a big ridiculous house, it’s a normal, I bought it from my mom. It wasn’t like I was going out spending. I drove a junker car around for years it was falling apart because I didn’t have money to go buy or lease a car. I was on the road so much that I didn’t really care, but it was tough. I ran up credit card debt just to be able to keep my house. It wasn’t champagne and cocaine like everybody thinks it is. We all had rough years. There was a couple of years during the Division cycle where we were getting ripped off by managers and the well was dried up and there wasn’t anything left and it was like “Oh my god, is this going to be the end of the band?” and luckily we switched to another management firm and Universal let us make Feeding the Wolves but then we had to fight with them to get “Shoot It Out” to be the first single, because they wanted to go with “Fix Me” because “Fix Me” obviously is a hit. And it’s like, “We know it’s a hit, give us some credibility!” But the business machine doesn’t understand that. And that’s what happens to and these bands that are great bands and then all of these amazing don’t get a chance to be heard because they’re lumped into that jingle-rock category and it’s sad because a lot of great bands out there will never have a chance to be heard.

FRR: So what’s the rest of 2015 look like?

Tater: Tour. Jesse our singer is getting married Saturday, so he’s doing that, and just touring. I think we’re doing some shows in Europe with our good friends in Sevendust and Nonpoint. We’re gonna be going all over the world preaching our message of rock and roll. We’ll probably do that for a couple of years depending on if the singles are still popping in 2-3 years and then we had a great success doing the acoustic tour so we’ll probably do that again. It was fun and pretty easy, not really that physically taxing.

Being busy but we’ve got kids and families and stuff now so we’re not like Otherwise where they’re still hungry. I’m kind of hungry but I’m tired and old. I told our manager that 4 weeks is as long as I want to go out, and of course the first one was 6 and the next one was 5 and I’m like “You guys don’t hear me!” I start out going to the gym every day and by the end of it I’m grabbing a bottle of whatever I can get my hands on.

We’ve been doing it professionally for 10 years and we’ve done a lot of really long tours that were mismanaged, all kinds of stuff, but when it’s popping man, it’s great! But those days where you’re like “Come on man!” the promoter didn’t even promote the show at all or it’s in such an area that everybody left the area because it’s so run down, or even the local rock station closed and you can tell over the years where we were selling out rooms and it’s harder and harder to get people to come out because nobody has that local rock station they listen to anymore. It’s stuff like that we’re pretty much the hard working band, we go in, we go to merch and sign everything. A testament to our lead singer Jesse, he will shake every hand, he will kiss every baby you’ve got. He’s a good dude, he’s getting married!