Interview with Billy Rowe & Michael Butler (American Heartbreak)° October 2003

Since the release of '97's 'What You Deserve', American Heartbreak have been at the forefront of the music scene and with the '03 release 'You're Not Getting Paid $', the San Francisco band has made this standing firm.

I had the chance to put band member's Billy Rowe and Michael Butler under the microscope and get their opinions on a wide selection of topics.

Q1. I found 'You Will Not Be Getting Paid $' to be very entertaining. What were your reasons for combining live, acoustic, and remixed tracks?

Michael A1. We had a live show recorded on Pro Tools from the last European Tour. It would have been good as a release on its own but we had been thinking about doing an acoustic record for some time so we just combined them. No real thought behind it. Perris Records did the 'What You Deserve' record and wanted to do another pressing so the idea just kind of came about to combine all 3 products into one low priced deal.

Billy A1. We kinda just started recording some acoustic tracks as it has been an idea of ours for a long time and as it moved along my friend at Perris Records wanted to re-release the first EP so we thought to make it more of a NEW and FRESH release was to add the live tracks we did on our last European tour than the acoustic (kind of GnR liesish) and a re-mixed version of the EP as we never were happy with the original finished sound. Perris loved the idea and here it is!!!!

Q2. The remixed tracks are the originals from the first EP 'What You Deserve'. On listening to the EP, I noticed the obvious difference. Was this something you have wanted to do for a while or was it done more out of necessity?

Michael A2. We have always hated the way that record sounded. We recorded it a couple of months after we started as a group and Perris Records asked to put it out for us. We did the tracks at our friend Bill Fraenza's home studio and mixed it at some other studio. I can't remember the name of it. The engineer didn't like our band. He was one of these metal guys who think that if it is not metal then it sucks. I am not sure if he has wised up yet or not or if he even knows that Billy and I both were in pretty heavy bands before this one. He mixed the thing awfully. We could have done a better job and that's just what we did.

Billy A2. Yes as i said in the last question we never thought it sounded right!! to wimpy so i re-mixed it and gave it what it needed which was way more guitars and a better drum sound, it came out great considering what we had to work with.

Q3. I personally find American Heartbreak's sound to be associated more with NYC than the Bay Area/California. How did this sound develop?

Michael A3. We were influenced a lot by NY bands, the Dolls and D Generation to name a couple. We really got most of our inspiration from what was happening in Europe at the time. Bands like the Wildhearts, Baby Chaos and the like.

Billy A3. Hmm, don't know- i guess it's just we all grew up on NEW YORK ROCK such as Kiss, Aerosmith, The New York Dolls ect... which was where all the great ROCK was coming from in the 1970's.

Q4. 'You Will Not Be Getting Paid $' is your fourth release. How would you rate your standing now, compared to that when you released your first CD?

Michael A4. Back then, in San Francisco, there was starting to be a strong rock scene happening. Bands were supporting each other and people were getting into going out and seeing these kinds of bands. Now there is not really much of a scene at all here. I think pretty much every San Francisco band that was around then has broken up. A lot of the clubs are shutting down and people don't have a lot of money to go out as much as they used to. We really try not to pay much attention to it. We are just trying to do our own thing right now.

Billy A4. As for a local scene here in SF....well i guess we are looked at by friends & bands we play with as more of a professional working touring band (because they don't), and we have done alot since our first release. It's hard to read your hometown anyway. Overseas is where it all happens for us!! which we love!!!

Q5. How important is U.S. airplay, if at all? Do you find it difficult getting airplay in other countries?

Michael A5. I would have to say that U.S. airplay means absolutely nothing to us since we are getting absolutely no airplay! I doubt we are getting any in other countries either, other than really small radio stations. Really the only way to get airplay on a major radio station is to be on a major label. Some college stations might play our music, I suppose, but our kind of Rock and Roll is pretty underground. Isn't it ironic that Hard Rock is now underground and Punk Rock is mainstream?

Billy A5. Well radio is a whole other thing!!! We get some local and collage radio but overall it's playing live and releases that gets our name out there. In a perfect world yeah-we would be all over the radio! and we should because our songs are catchier than most on the radio!!!

Q6. There's alot of controversy concerning Kazaa and file sharing at the moment. What are your personal opinions on this topic? Also, how important do you find 'word of mouth' to be in getting your music out to the masses?

Michael A6. I am all for File Sharing. The record companies fucked up the biggest marketing research opportunity ever. When Napster was going, CD sales were at an all time high. Now that the RIAA has shut them down, sales are at an all time low. They claim file sharing has killed their business.

I personally think it has absolutely nothing with file sharing and everything to do with overpriced crappy music. Also, they claim the artists are getting stolen from. Do you really think the labels care one bit about the artists? I have been on major labels and have NEVER seen a dime from record sales. I guarantee you most of the bands that are on the charts are making practically ALL of their money from merchandise and concerts. I would rather see people singing along to my songs at our shows because they found our music on Kazaa than having no one at our shows because they couldn't find our music in their local record store.

Billy A6. Well i guess if you sell millions you'll see an affect in your sales but where we are at it seems to be the way to do it. Do we want to make money on our music-well of course, they say until you make a lot of money selling records you don't know what it's like???

Q7. From what I can tell, local music scenes don't appear to be as important as they once were. I've noticed many Indie artists maintaining relationships with others over great distances and being able to support one another that way. One such example was a double CD you put out with Libertine. Firstly, how important are these relationships to a band? And Secondly, could you inform us how this project came about.

Michael A7. Well, it is good to have relationships with bands in other cities and countries, especially if you are on tour and need a place to sleep. Most tours are arranged by having friends in other bands set up shows for you. As far as fans go, we are far more popular in Europe than in the States. The Libertine thing came about because they were on the same label as us. (Coldfront) We played a couple of shows with them and became friends. It was pretty much Brett from Coldfront's idea to release the split. It is now out of print so If you find one in a store you should grab it.

Billy A7. I think it's great doing things like this with other bands which i would have loved as a kid with my fav's... you cross over fans and scenes etc... this idea came from the label and we were into it and it came out great.

Q8. American Heartbreak have covered tunes released by bands such as Angels in Angel City and Cheap Trick. Could you briefly discuss some of your personal influences and how they have brought about the American Heartbreak sound?

Michael A8. I was influenced by bands from the '70s like Cheap Trick, Aerosmith, Starz, Nugent, Angel City, AC/DC and a lot of the punk rock from that era. What I liked about those bands are the huge choruses. The groups back then were like superheroes to me. Also, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts were really influential to me. I think Billy and I loved pretty much the same kind of music growing up so our writing shows those influences, I guess.

Billy A8. Well those are just some the bands we are fans of as well as heavily influenced by. For me there are many bands that influence my style of playing and writing-mainly AC/DC, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Hanoi Rocks, The Wildhearts, Starz, Nick Gilder, Stones to name a few are my big ones!!! There are many more but to many to type!!! but that gets ya the idea!!

Q9. Anybody planning on running for governor? Any feelings on that whole topic?

Michael A9. I actually wrote a pretty funny article on my Blog about this. I like the recall thing. It is getting a lot of people interested in the whole process of how the government is run (or not run, in the case of Gray Davis). That being said, I think rock and roll and politics don't really mix.
Here is another contradiction: I am running for governor. My platform is the legalization of prostitution and drugs and eliminating the state income tax.

Billy A9. Nah.......just clean up this damn state in more ways than one!!!

Q10. What are your current top five CDs and are there any new artists that you would recommend keeping an eye out for?

Michael A10. I have all of my music on my ipod. The top five records on it at the moment (In no particular order) are:

1. D.A.D. - Everything Glows
2. The Wildhearts - Wildhearts must be Destroyed
3. Baby Chaos - Love Your Self-Abuse.
4. Tsar - Calling All Destroyers
5. AC/DC - Back In Black

I haven't heard many new groups that impress me that I can think of.

Billy A10. What I am playing this week - The Darkness (which I love), Wildhearts - Must Be Destroyed, Andrew W.K. - The Wolf, Butch Walker - Left of Self, Cheap Trick - Special One, Def Leppard - High n Dry. What to watch out for, how bout: The Darkness and the new Alice Cooper it is amazing!!! Just like the 70's albums!!! Very old school with great players.

Q11. Here's a few either/or questions for ya' (feel free to drop in a 'why' explanation if you wish).

East or West bay?
Michael. West. No reason, other than that's where I live
Billy. SF!!!!

Punk or Glam?
Michael. As long as the songs are good, I don't care. I like them both
Billy. What's the difference but a hair cut?

Tuuli or Donnas?
Michael. JOAN JETT
Billy. Both - I'm friends with both so it's even!

Pringles or Lays?
Michael. Fried Pork Rinds
Billy. Lay's

Burn Out or Fade Away?
Michael. Lasting forever
Billy. Burn out and fade away!

Underground Cool or Mainstream Fame?
Michael. I would like to have Mainstream Fame. Being poor is over-rated
Billy. To be underground cool with mainstream Fame!!!

Hanoi Rocks or New York Dolls?
Michael. New York Dolls
Billy. Both!!! Just different decade!!!

Reality TV or CSI?
Michael. Reno 911
Billy. CSI

Q12. What's the latest on a new studio album from American Heartbreak?

Michael A12. We have enough new material written for 2 studio albums. As soon as we get some money we are going to record the new record.

Billy A12. Waiting for $$$$$ to start it!!! Hurry up & wait!!!

Q13. Feel free to discuss/advertise anything you'd like related to the band and/or personally (tour dates/projects/etc).

Michael A13. Please go out and buy the new Live/Acoustic record. It is a great record and it is cheap.
We are working on the American Heartbreak DVD as we speak so look for that on the website soon.

People Like You Records in Germany is releasing the Live/Acoustic in Europe with special packaging and extra songs so look out for that soon. Also, we have new video footage up after almost every show so keep checking the site. Don't forget BUTLER'S BLOG, the almost daily rants from me (or just hit the BUTLER'S BLOG button at the AH site). Thanks for helping to keep Rock and Roll alive.

Interviewed by Lycan Davis

Visit the American Heartbreak Website