Evan: I felt we were clicking as a trio most of the time and clicking with the audience about half the time at the O.K. I thought at the Sit 'n' Spin we were pretty on. That was the first real club show we had done since our very first gig [with Michael Manring] at the Backstage.
When was that?
Paul: May 2nd, 1996. The earthquake here in Seattle that night really punctuated that date.
Yeah, I bet! At the Sit 'n' Spin it looked like you were under a lot of pressure because of where you were at and the size of the audience. Personally, I liked the O.K. show better. You seemed to be much more relaxed, even though it's hard to get a good crowd response at the O.K. because of the way the lounge is set up. People are forced to sit at tables, there's not much room to move around or feel like you're participating and not just casually observing.
Paul: Yeah, well, it's designed for drinking; definitely not music appreciation. It was a toss up...those 3 nights were a blur for me. When you're improvising there's so many things that happen and there's so many split-second decisions that you have to make. It's almost like you're not able to talk fast enough to keep up with what your brain is doing. You have to concentrate on communicating with everyone in the band as well as the audience. I just do my best, and when I hear the audience go "woo woo!" I know I've done something right.
I played solo shows at the O.K. for a year back in '97 and there was no way to accurately gauge if it was successful or not because people were just there to be slammin' drinks. Even though you're working your ass off they weren't paying attention. So it's difficult to gauge your performance.
photo by robert blaylock
Yeah, working your ass off and not even a tip jar.
Evan: I think our chemistry is really staring to gel. These were the only shows we've played since the shows at Bumbershoot (Fall '98) and the Backstage. I'm finally starting to understand how we can effectively write music and what needs to happen in order to connect with the audience. It's starting to feel more natural.
It's real different playing with Michael than it was playing with Skerik. With Skerik you could just often rely on sheer volume and intensity, but with Michael you have to ride the dynamics a little more, be more rhythmic...be more sensitive with the music. We're not a balls to the wall rock band anymore--which is sort of what it was with Skerik. With Michael--to connect as a band and to connect with the audience--Paul and I have to go to the next level as musicians. Which is great! It feels really good. It's getting to the point where we don't have to second guess one another.
So you're finding your comfort zone then?
All three: Yeah.
I remember the first time I saw Sadhappy play, back in '92. A friend insisted I see you, and at the time I lived just five blocks up from the Backstage. On a Tuesday night in the middle of September I walked down to the show, not knowing quite what to expect. Halfway through the first song my jaw hit the floor with a big *thud* and I had to grab my head to stop it from spinning, and I spent the rest of the night tripping over my senses trying to desensitize, describe...just figure out what that incredible sound was.
Evan: That was a live recording.
Yeah, my favorite album of yours, btw (for obvious reasons). The only summation I could come up with for that night was a fictional headline that read: "PUNK-METAL-JAZZ TERRORISTS HIJACK SUPER-SONIC LOCOMOTIVE!!"
Paul: Heh heh.
So how do you/how would you describe your sound to someone who hasn't heard you?
Paul: I usually just say punk-jazz and leave it at that. If that doesn't work I just say we're a big poodle-hair band and we're only in it for the women and the coke! You don't want to be discourteous, but after awhile you just... When you have to answer that question all the time...
It's funny because different people are going to get a different take on what you do. Someone walks in the door and they hear any swing at all they might go, "Oh, you're just a jazz band!" If they hear something too pretty, "Oh, new age...AHHH!!!"
Evan: Or even if they see bass, drums, and sax they're going to think it's jazz, even if you're playing heavy bass and metal riffs.
Paul: Yeah, even if you're playing "Iron Man." Heh heh heh...there's no getting away from it sometimes!
I just have a hard time explaining it with any certainty or definition. So instead of trying to, over the years I've found myself passing around your recordings and going, "Check this out--you've got to hear this!" I've even go so far as to mail your albums far and wide to friends around the globe. South America, The Netherlands, Italy. I had a Russian friend on the East Coast who was mailing copies to his friends back home in Russia.
Paul: Wow...that's great!
Evan: Hearing the live album, does it sound as intense as that night? Because you're just listening to it on your stereo speakers...
Well...I really like the production. It's very clean and the sound definitely bumps. But it's hard for me to accurately measure it because it was the first time I saw you play, so it holds a soft spot for me. The sound on it could be complete shit and I still would think it was the greatest thing I had ever heard.
Evan: My favorite part of that album is the bookends: "Spock in Morocco" and "Before We Were Dead."
You hear about simliar trios as and you know what to expect from them--what their sound and style is without really having to listen to them. With Sadhappy it's different. You've always defied that norm.
Paul: We always try to make music we haven't heard yet. It can become quite a hair pulling affair after a while. It's been something since Evan and I first started playing together back in '89. We'd both done our time in run of the mill rock bands, and for better or worse we decided to create something new; come up with a new genre or style. So far we're still keeping people guessing. Must've been a good call, I think.
Do you feel you're keeping yourself challenged?
Paul: Oh yeah. As a band we're a total democracy. I come in with a tune, give it to Evan and Michael, and let them cut it up any way they want. I don't have a final vision of what a song is supposed to be--not like Frank Zappa, who can imagine every last note.
Evan: Even though Paul writes most of the songs, he's still very humble. We're pretty egoless when it comes to this stuff. Everyone's ideas are valid.
[Zulu comes walking through the room; weaving his way between everyone's legs and looking for an eager hand to scratch the itch behind his ears.]
Rob [photographer]: Is that an Abysinnian?
Rob: My girlfriend's dad has one of those cats--they're fucking crazy!
Evan: Yeah, this guy's definitely that.
photo by robert blaylock