I discovered Saigon Kick quite by accident, through a rock magazine (I forget which one it was) that came with a split 45 featuring “What Do You Do” on Side A; no idea who was on Side B. As a punk fan I was immediately hooked, and I picked up the album the next day as it had just been released. Fact is I love this album to death and I could write a 5-page essay on everything that’s right about it; this one and follow-up The Lizard are two of my favourite records of all time. From the Middle Eastern vibe of opener “New World” to The Cult-isms of “Love Of God” and ‘”ICU” to the Brit-punk vibe running all the way through…. man, it never gets boring. But “My Life”… that song takes the cake and leaves you wondering what the hell just happened.
Ten songs into what is a wonderfully obnoxious listen comes a song I – and nobody else – could have anticipated going in. From the get-go it sounds like The Beatles have joined the party as Saigom Kick turn out music suitable for a Sesame Street soundtrack. It’s entirely too happy by half, but the groove, the vocals, the over-the-top chorus… somehow it all makes sense for a band that clearly had no interest in catering to the hair band scene they were (unfortunately) lumped in with. But that isn’t even the best part. Nope. It is the iconic, mindblowing KAZOO SOLO in the middle of it all that binds everything together, making you realize (a) only a special kind of creative madness could come up with this, and (b) there is no fucking way you cannot like this song.
The album is artistic chemistry at its best. “My Life” is one of the most original songs I’ve ever heard. Love it.
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
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
For the uninitiated, Saigon Kick was a band that could have and should have made it big. By no means did they take the world by storm with the release of their self-titled debut in 1991, but anyone with an open mind fortunate to stumble across it was instantly hooked. A rabid cross between The Sex Pistols and The Beatles, with occasional stomps through the Orient, a truckload of attitude and tongue planted firmly in cheek as required, Saigon Kick sounded like no other artist on the scene. They quickly became a cult favourite. It was their second album – The Lizard, issued in 1992 – that put the band on the map, but for all the wrong reasons if you talk to vocalist Matt Kramer. When he quit in 1993 while recording their third album, Water, it was essentially the beginning of the end. The band went on to record three more studio albums with guitarist/co-founder Jason Bieler up front, but they were never able to recapture the magic of Saigon Kick’s early years.
Kramer has gone on record as saying that he and Bieler don’t see eye-to-eye on certain issues, making a reunion nearly impossible. An attempt was made in 1997, but things crashed and burned after only two shows. A follow-up tour in 2000 – without Bieler – held promise for some kind of future, but nothing materialized. Then, in 2009, word came down the band would get back together at the Rock Gone Wild Festival in Algona, Iowa. And once again, things fizzled out before they got off the ground.
“We were supposed to do the gig, but it went belly up,” Kramer explains. “The organizers went bankrupt before the show went down. It would have been a great show. We had Tony Sales from Tin Machine to play bass, we were looking at a couple different cats for guitar, so it would have been a really cool line-up. Sadly, it didn’t go through, but on that note maybe I can give you some interesting stuff that might have happened on the Saigon Kick road (laughs).” Continue reading SAIGON KICK – Matt Kramer: Lizards And Lore