Saturday, July 20, 2019

STRIKER Is the Road Crew (conclusion)

[This is the conclusion to the Striker feature from a couple of days ago. Please scroll down to the text below the first set of pictures, that's the new part. Of course, if you didn't catch the first part, that's here at the beginning.]
This publication caught up with the Canadian good-time heavy metal rockers Striker before they went on stage at their show in Seattle on July 5th, 2019. The band began some 12 years ago and issued a demo in 2008, an EP in 2009, and then they have followed up with an impressive list of six studio albums, the last being October 2018’s Play to Win. Besides being an easy and interesting band to interview, they put on a fantastic show with professionalism that night at the Funhouse. They tour as much as they are able to, building their name the old-fashioned way of performing for the people. They are on tour now until early August.
The spring and summer of 2019 has been a busy time on the road for them, according to guitarist Chris Segger and singer Dan Cleary. Back in May they were touring with Death Angel, but things did not start out well for the Canadian band. They had a problem at the Canada-U.S. border and they had to leave behind their merch because of U.S customs rules at the particular moment. Not to worry, though, because, as Chris explains, “This [July] tour we're fine. Where the issue happened was on the Death Angel tour that we did in May when we first crossed into the States on our current visa.” The U.S. customs officials found something problematic, “I think we had a very small amount of merchandise that was made in China, which at that week the tariffs were raised in the States,” continues Chris.
They left the merch behind, but in Phoenix, Arizona they found a place that printed some 50 shirts in a hurry, thankfully. With some experience and creativity a band can solve such problems. It’s no use whining, anyway. “We made it work. Your merch is how you pay for stuff. It's tough because you can prepare as much as you can and have a different experience every time you cross the border. You can't complain to anybody. You have to deal with it,” explains the guitarist.
That’s one example of the problems that bands on tour encounter. The road becomes a good teacher for bands learning to survive. Dan gives a bit of insight into some practical things that they have learned over the years. “We drive around in this (pointing to the vehicle parked outside the venue where we're talking) van and trailer. One thing we've done is minimize our gear and stuff like that because the stuff we have to take in and out of venues, up and down the stairs and drag all over the place, it'd be a lot after a while. Touring is a definitely a grind. A lot of it is just waiting around. That's the hardest part. I bet it's easier now because people have phones” to entertain themselves. Musicians on the road often have to figure out what to do with time on their hands. They have to “just kill time on social media. Stuff like that. We listen to podcasts and stuff like that to kill time in the van. We have a DVD player so we can watch movies.”
Dan talks about the toll on the body, too. This can range from pain in the body, hands, or it can be vocalists having problems with the voice going out. Your attitude about life on the road is crucial, too, as the singer emphasizes, “One thing that we have thought about. You have to change your mindset from 'I have to do this' to 'I get to do this.'" Chris adds, "It's everything that you make it to be. Instead of being like 'Oh, man, this is a real grind. I mean, we stay in hotels now. On the first couple of tours that's not a thing that happened. It was sleeping in the van. I could always be way worse. You have to focus on the positive. Every single day on tour I get to shower. That wasn't a thing. It's wherever you put your headspace. There's days where it's harder to put your headspace there because it is a grind, doing 15 shows in 15 nights, and you're driving, but you wouldn't do it if you didn't enjoy it. To make a conscious effort to always enjoy it. There's no point to it if you're not having fun."
Another important thing they have done is to release their own recordings on Record Breaking Records. Dan goes a bit into detail. "When we talk about our label, we're the only band signed to our label. It's a way to contain our business deals. We were signed to a label for two albums. At the time we were that young band that didn't know how it was going to work. We figured you get signed to a label and they get you on tours and promotion and all this stuff. What it really is that it gets you to another level of distribution and reputation and stuff like that. Really, that's it. A lot of the rest is up to you still, and that's something I don't think we understood when we signed to the record label. So that was a learning experience. Eventually we thought, we are not obligated to sign, so we figured, let's try, we had a meeting, we said let's do an independent release and see how it goes and it went really well.”
However, that has been a learning experience, too. Dan smiles thinking about what is like to do thing yourselves, “Lots of work. Lots of work that we used to pass along to someone at the label, but in the end you get more reward, too. We make more money now than we did before. That's one of the reasons that we have been able to put albums out so consistently. We do get a return on the investment we put in. It doesn't disappear into labelland. It comes back and we have money to use for the next record.” Naturally, the balance between having a band and having a job is a challenge, especially when there are opportunities to tour. They’re not millionaires, after all. Dan continues, “We have been working. That's the stereotype of musicians who don't work. Where we're from, we have worked since we are able to. Having said that, coming home with no money can be brutal, especially if you lose money.” If you come home broke or in debt after doing tours, that complicates things. “We had people who leave the band. Sometimes it becomes too stressful. It's hard to find a job, and finding a job that lets you go on tour, it can be really difficult.”
A question that comes up is the matter of having a job and touring. Does Striker have a secret to doing that? Both Dan and Chris say “Luck!” at the same time. Dan adds, “Absolute luck. Pure Luck. We try to work hard when we are at home. Once you have the motivation, OK, I have this job because I want to be able to afford to go on tour. You work hard, you work harder than you normally would if you're working for the weekend. I think we try to do a good job at our various jobs when we are home and then hopefully they're ok with having us back. Give them some value in return so that we have the ability to come back to work.” Chris jumps in, “It's basically the same thing [for me]. It's a mix of just luck, meeting the right people who allow you to do it and try to do the best when you're there, be as valuable as you can when you do it, and you hope that by doing that, it works. It's worked out for us. We've been lucky working for the right people.”
Striker has established a reputation for being reliable about making albums on a regular basis. When asked about the prospects for a new album, Dan says, “We've got some new ideas,” but he points out that they want to do some things differently this time around. Like what? They are seeking a more “collaborative spirit. More than just me writing music at 8 in the morning. That might different than the music you make at 8 at night with the band. Collaborative, more than just using a computer to write,” because at this phase of their career, after six albums, they are thinking about how to keep things fresh for themselves.
Perhaps they are feeling some pressure to deliver a great album. They needn’t worry. The discography so far has been getting better and better! There’s no need to worry when you have the work ethic, the experience, and knowledge that Striker has in making fun and memorable albums.
facebook.com/strikermetal

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