SAIGON KICK – Coming Home To The Peppermint Tribe

By Carl Begai

In March 2013, Saigon Kick put to rest months of speculation surrounding news the band’s original line-up, who recorded the classic self-titled debut and epic follow-up, The Lizard – had reunited. Guitarist Jason Bieler and vocalist Matt Kramer had stated numerous times in the press since parting ways in 1993 that they’d never work with each other again, and neither one was shy about the wording of those statements. Tempers have cooled in recent years, however, and in early 2012 both Bieler and Kramer revealed in separate interviews there had been discussions of possibly and hopefully burying the hatchet, and not in someone’s forehead. At the same time, Bieler was breathing life into his Owl Stretching studio project, which has since taken on a life of its own, and Kramer had released his second book, A Book Of Poems From The Smallest Of Towns. So, there was no lack of creative juice to fuel a Saigon Kick reunion, and in the end the diehard fans have gotten what they wished for.

Saigon Kick 1

“It’s gone really well considering the potential for epic disaster,” says Bieler. “It’s gone far better than we anticipated. We’ve been very, very selective about what we’ve done – and I think we spoke about this before – because we didn’t want to do one of those Will Work For Food kind of tours. We did seven shows in these cool markets, and the response from people who are really passionate about the band… it really exceeded everyone’s expectations. And I think because we’ve been staying in really nice hotels and not seeing each other, there’s no friction (laughs).”

Call it a case of being older and wiser, maybe?

“Nobody’s got the energy for those kinds of fights anymore. Strangely enough, Matt and I have been getting along better than we ever have. I think you just get to a point in life where the negative stuff just isn’t worth fighting about. In the early days of Saigon Kick, anybody who didn’t see my point of view had to be doing it on purpose as an attack. There was no other way I could wrap my brain around why someone could not see my logic. As you get older and hopefully a little bit more mature you realize that different people on the planet have a different opinion of things, right or wrong. I learned not to take differences of opinion quite so personally. Yeah, Matt and I have been getting along much, much better, and I think a little bit of maturity on both our parts didn’t hurt.”

Saigon Kick’s volatile history had some fans holding their breaths waiting for news of the band’s reunion going to hell, but the quartet wrapped up 2013 as a complete unit with something resembling a plan for this year. Bieler says keeping things small scale with a ‘baby steps’ approach was the best thing they could have done, and it paid off.

“I think because we were really careful not to say ‘Okay, this is the We’re Visiting Every Venue On Earth Tour 2013/14’ we were able to take the commitment in small chunks. Obviously everybody in the band has busy lives and other things going on, so we could really only do it for the sake of enjoying it. We didn’t go out there saying ‘Please fund our nine million dollar DVD project’, we made sure we didn’t have any of that baggage. We had to make sure we felt like doing it and it’s been fun. The most impressive thing to me is that we didn’t realize how important some of this music is to some of these people. That’s been the exciting and refreshing thing, discovering that. It’s encouraging meeting people and hearing why a certain song or album is important to them.” Continue reading SAIGON KICK – Coming Home To The Peppermint Tribe

BIELER BROS. RECORDS – Independently Healthy

By Carl Begai

During a recent interview with guitarist Jason Bieler about the possibility of a Saigon Kick reunion (found here), he also discussed his independent record label Bieler Bros. Records – now in their 10th year – and his new Owl Stretching project. With regards to the label, it remains surprisingly low key in spite of the fact bands like Slaves On Dope and Nonpoint were a part of the roster and acts like Deathstars and Karnivool are now part of the family. It’s fair to say that being dubbed “independent” isn’t synonymous with “disposable” in this case given the artists that have signed on over the years.

“We’ve been so passionate about finding amazing records and working with these artists and figuring out what we can do with them that we sometimes forget how to tell the story about what we’re doing,” Bieler says of the label’s underground status. “Even I look back sometimes and go ‘Holy shit! We’ve done some really cool stuff!’ The label portion of my career has been around as long as the Saigon Kick portion of my career, and sometimes I have to get away from it to actually see it for what it is. Having a band like Karnivool… we’re so proud of being involved with them. And last year we had one of the biggest alt records in the use with a band called The Silent Film. Nonpoint did well, and Skindred’s doing well in Europe right now.”

Bieler Bros. was launched out of a love for music, and as such the label roster isn’t restricted to heavy material as some might expect. Artists like InAshton and Look Right Penny can be found in amongst the metal-oriented bands, and Bieler makes no apologies for throwing that curve.

“The diversity issues we have are funny. It would be much easier for if we tried to be a Nuclear Blast or a Victory Records who really focus on genre-specific stuff because everything we did would be going to the same journalists, the same radio or marketing formats, so everything would be geared to that one audience. People who like Deathstars would probably boil Censura alive in their own urine given the opportunity, and vice versa. The label has a lot of the same identity issues in that we just want to do great things with stuff we find amazing, and there’s not necessarily any rhyme or reason behind it.” Continue reading BIELER BROS. RECORDS – Independently Healthy

SAIGON KICK – Jason Bieler: Water Under The Bridge

By Carl Begai

I recently caught up with original Saigon Kick vocalist Matt Kramer to discuss his newest project, A Book Of Poems From The Smallest Of Towns. During the conversation we addressed the rather persistent rumours of a Saigon Kick reunion looming on the horizon, which have been gathering strength over the last year. Kramer revealed that he and his former bandmates have in fact tossed around the idea of getting back together, which came as a complete shock given that the mere mention of original guitarist Jason Bieler’s name 10, or even five years ago, was enough to blast open Kramer’s well stocked crate of derogatory adjectives. It turns out there are certain finance-oriented requirements that need to be resolved with Bieler before Kramer will commit, but in a nutshell, if they can come to terms Saigon Kick’s return goes from being a pipe dream to a definite possibility.

A day after the story’s publication – found here – I received a polite email from Bieler stating that, if I had the time and interest, he’d be open to telling his side of the story. It was a surprising offer, and accepting it a no-brainer, particularly since Bieler rarely speaks to the press. Between co-managing his own label, Bieler Brothers Records, and working on his Owl Stretching project there isn’t a lot of time that can be dedicated to rehashing the past. Or at least there wasn’t until now.

It should be noted that Bieler didn’t set out to shoot down Kramer’s claims, nor did he take potshots at his former bandmate. In fact, like Kramer, Bieler didn’t display even the slightest animosity. On the contrary, Bieler is all for working with Kramer again.

“I think Matt has his own perspective, and maybe his life has gone down a different path than mine, which has given him his feelings on the way things went down,” Bieler offers. “Do I think that I hold partial responsibility for making bad decisions in Saigon Kick? Absolutely. I think everybody shares that responsibility, though. Matt and I have spoken a few times over the last year, and things have been really civil, so that’s a healthy place to be. When everybody was on the phone talking about the possibility of a reunion, I told the guys that I don’t care if they want to draw up contracts, it was cool with me. I don’t want anything more than my share. So, whatever Matt wants to do, if he wants to do it, I’m fine with it.” Continue reading SAIGON KICK – Jason Bieler: Water Under The Bridge