Slowly the Syracuse, New York band Brand New Sin has been building a following up and down the East Coast with their unique brand of punk-flavored rock & roll. With original guitar player taking over the lead vocal spot a few years ago and with the addition of new guitar player Tommy Matkowski, BNS is finally seeing all their hard work and hard-headed determination pay off with more touring dates, even more fans and a new CD called United State.
Featuring such songs as “Goddess Of War” and “Bed Of Nails”, which harken up subtle Slayer and Rob Zombie similarities, drummer Kevin Dean and bass player Charlie Kahl storm a locomotive rhythm that slithers behind Weichmann’s bordering on a sneer but oddly melodic vocals and Matkowski’s youthful energetic fingers. But then just as quickly turn a song as “Rotten As Hell” into an acoustic number with kick. Add in some southern rock style via “All My Wheels” and some Ramones-y New York spit to “Elbow Grease” and you have a recording that rocks in many directions.
On a recent late Monday afternoon, Wiechmann called to talk to Glide
about being in a band that is gaining momentum one show at a time. Having opened Motorhead and Black Label Society, they recently secured a few sweet spot slots on the Slash mini-tour. Brand New Sin has been around for a while but this is only your second album doing the vocals.
The band has been around about ten years and I’ve been in the band since day one, before day one, really. Charlie, my bass player, and I were in a band before it actually turned into Brand New Sin. But this is my second album that I’m the singer on. I’m really the singer by kind of default because we just figured it would be better off if I kind of took over that duty since most of the time I was pretty much writing all of the songs anyway and working with whoever was willing to be the singer. It just wasn’t something I was really interested in right off the bat but something I kind of fell into. And here we are the second album into that. It’s going pretty well, I got to say. It’s really changed my perspective on music in general a lot and I really dig doing it and I’m having fun.
We had three albums with our old singer and we just recently wrapped up our second album without him. We actually had a singer in between that we never recorded any albums with and I think that it was right around that time we were realizing it wasn’t going to work out with him that I just kind of stepped into the job.Did you sing in bands when you were younger?
I think – or I like to think anyway (laughs) – that I was always able to do it. Most of the bands I was in all the way up till I was about twenty-four or twenty-five, were extremely brutal metal hardcore screaming type bands. That was just the music I was into growing up and I’m still into it. It’s just not the way I want my band to sound. When we started Brand New Sin, it was really the first band I was ever in that had a real singer singing real melodies. But I was always able to sing. I was into all types of music but I really started singing when we started Brand New Sin. We wanted to write more rock & roll songs with hooky melodies and that’s how I got into it. But at the time I wasn’t the singer for the band. I wasn’t even doing back-up vocals back then. It was something that I was slowly getting involved with, you know.So you’re comfortable now up front?
Yeah, I’m actually really comfortable with it now. It kind of came pretty easy to me. I think there must have been quite a while where I was starting to realize that maybe sooner or later I might have to take this job here. I think I had a fair amount of time to prepare for doing it but, yeah, I feel really natural doing it and really comfortable doing it.How would you describe your music to someone who may not be familiar with Brand New Sin, who is reading about you for the first time in this interview?
Oh man, I guess I would describe it as far as the music quality of it, I guess I would say we’re just a simple hard rock band. But if you go deeper into maybe the subject matter of the lyrics, I think my lyrics come from a very personal place. I came up going to hard rock shows and the hardcore scene in the local area. A lot of that good hardcore music really comes from the heart and it’s really self-reflective, I think, and that’s what a lot of my lyrics are about. I try my best to give it a lot of attitude so I guess I would kind of say maybe a hard rock band with a punk rock edge and a little bit of hardcore maybe. That’s the way I’d describe it. Oftentimes when I find you ask band members how you would describe your sound, it’s always way off (laughs). You’d probably be better off asking somebody else but that’s my take on it.Tell us about Tommy Matkowski, your new guitar player.
Tommy is our newest guy. He’s been in the band a couple of years now. He’s a younger kid, younger than the rest of us, but I think that kind of served us well when we first started jamming with him. Just the fact that he’s younger and he’s still got that little bit more fire than the rest of us have left, you know. We still got to yell at him sometimes, he gets into trouble and shit (laughs) but he’s a pretty fun kid. We couldn’t be happier with him.BNS is still in that so-called larvae stage where you haven’t gone over the hump to be doing this full time yet.
That’s really the ultimate goal; I think that’s the ultimate goal for any musician. You’re trying to do an original band or you’re trying to just kick around your local scene playing covers or whatever. We have an acoustic side project we do where we do like Johnny Cash songs and Tom Petty. We do that to try and make money. We do our original band but we have to have normal jobs on top of that. It’s hard to scrape a living playing music. It really is. I don’t think that that’s ever really going to change. In fact, I kind of fear that it might even get harder. But yeah, we still have normal jobs. The ultimate job is to become rich and famous but that hasn’t happened yet (laughs).
But I think that’s kind of the paradox. Hypothetically, if a band did ultimately achieve the ultimate goal, which is to become rich and famous, they’d probably end up making shitty music because of it. Once you lost the desperation and the hunger, you kind of just become a watered-down drink, so to speak.BNS has opened for or played with some pretty big name bands already.
Oh yeah, I think that that’s really the ultimate payoff from the philosopher’s point of view. That’s something that is worth more than money; just the privilege and honor to share the stage with some of these bands that we’ve been lucky enough to tour with. You’re talking about bands that I grew up idolizing and never would have believed one day I would be able to meet them on their level and not as a fan. Like when we toured with Motorhead twice in the states and it was just perfect to be able to meet somebody like Lemmy not as the overly crazed fan.
You can sit there backstage and think to yourself, I’m out here on the road working with Lemmy, you know, doing the same show he is doing. There is something about that that really is worth more than money. The experience of doing stuff like that, it’s the kind of stories you tell your kids about. And Motorhead is just one of the very many bands that we’ve been lucky enough to play with. Already, if the shit hit the fan tonight and it was over with tomorrow, the experience has been priceless.
From playing with all these bands, what do you think you have learned the most from about performing or the business or touring?
To be honest with you, most of the knowledge I have of personally being in a touring band and as a touring musician, I should have more of it but I’m not like some of the other guys in my band. Some of the other guys in my band are smart enough to really pick the brains of some of these gurus that we’ve been lucky enough to play with. I’m more the type of person that keeps to myself. But I’ve been touring and playing in touring bands since I was about seventeen years old and I can’t even really put a finger on it or tell you exactly where I learned the things I know. It’s really just etiquette.
There were days even in the beginning of BNS where it was like, why not try and live this life up as much as we can, where you go through the phase where you want to trash the dressing room or trash the hotel room, party and try all kinds of shit that normal people don’t have the luxury to try. But I think after that gets old you’re able to look back on it and you won’t find yourself doing those things as much. You come to have a greater respect for all the different realms of the business as far as respect the promoter, respect the club, respect the headlining band, respect the opening band, respect all around. When you’re a kid, you don’t think about those things as much but after you’re in it for a long time you start to think about those things a lot moreso than some of the younger guys.It comes down to maturity and knowing the ropes.
Yeah, it’s like, kind of a vague example would be if you ever woke up with a hangover and the first thing on your mind was “Who the fuck do I have to apologize to today?” As you get older, you try and go out of your way to avoid that situation. A lot of things can happen. Ultimately you want to be asked again to go and open for Motorhead. You want to be asked to come back and open up for Black Label Society or Clutch or whatever bands you’ve been on tour with. You want to have the reputation that you’re professionals and you’re not going to step on toes or make a bunch of noise or make a fuss or a bunch of trouble for anybody that’s kind enough to take you along for the ride.
When I was younger I didn’t think that way either. That’s why with our new guy Tommy, we get a kick out of him because he’s younger than us and he still has a little bit of that in his blood, wanting to come out like the incredible hulk (laughs). That’s just the way younger guys are, younger people in bands, but I just turned 37 and I’m the next youngest guy in the band. You’re never too old to rock & roll.
Yeah, it’s all really a state of mind anyway. We got to be young and stupid enough to keep doing this shit, you know (laughs). We ain’t too grown up.Where did you grow up and what kind of kid were you? Were you always into music?
I don’t have any memories before music really. My father was into music. He played guitar. By the time I was old enough to walk and talk, he had kind of given up the guitar for motorcycles. He was a motorcycle builder and he used to build Harleys from the ground up. So by the time I started to walk and talk he had already kind of given up guitar but he had a huge record collection and he had his guitar and his amps filling up the house. Anybody was welcome to play it. I’m the middle of three brothers and I played around with it quite a bit and was able to mess around and listen to his records. From his collection I got into Van Halen right off the bat, Black Sabbath, ZZ Top, Bad Company, a whole bunch of music that immediately I took an interest in. I really want to say it was when I first heard ZZ Top that I really wanted to do music and from then on I fantasized about being a rock star I guess.
By the time I got into Junior High, I played in my first band within Syracuse, which is a small city but if you were around Syracuse in the early 90’s, the hardcore/punk rock scene around here was booming so big and it was real easy to get into a band, easy to play shows and play shows in front of a fair amount of people. I was lucky enough to have been able to do that. As a kid in school, I really kind of kept to myself and that’s why I was really lucky to discover that scene, that hardcore scene, which really got me in touch with a lot of people that were, at the time I guess, I had a lot in common with. But I made a lot of friends and I was able to play in a lot of bands and I had a lot of fun doing it and I got a lot of experience doing it too. I was just lucky, you know. I know there are a lot of kids all over the world that don’t have any music scene where they live and it’s hard. I mean, if you think about what you’re trying to do when you’re trying to put a band together, get four or five guys all together on the same page, not bicker about stupid shit, or who is banging who’s girlfriend, or stuff like that. It’s really an impossible undertaking to have a band and to have it last. I really consider myself lucky that I was able to do that. What was your first band?
My first band I’ll skip over (laughs) but what I really consider my first real band was a band called Solstice and it was probably around 1992 maybe, 1991 or 1992. I live right on the outskirts of the north side of the city, in Syracuse, and there was a band that was already established and they were looking for a guitar player. They were based in Baldwinsville, which is probably about a half hour away from Syracuse. I remember my mom had to drive me over to the kid’s house who was the drummer, cause they rehearsed at his house, to try out for the band. The drummer was a real rich kid. His house was really, really nice and I remember feeling really nervous going over there trying out for the band. But I was able to make it in and I became really good friends with the guys in the band. That band went for a few years and then split up and some of the guys got in new bands. It’s like any local scene. I consider it my first real band because right when I got into the band we had a show like two weeks later and it was actually in Buffalo, which was an immediate road trip. I remember thinking, wow, this is awesome. I’m in a real band and I’m in Junior High school here. It was just a good feeling.What kind of music were you playing?
It was hardcore type music. We were really inspired by like Sick Of It All and we covered a Burn song; I don’t know if you remember the band Burn but the guy from Burn later went to start the band Orange 9mm. But we were definitely a hardcore band from the hardcore scene.What was the first band that really made you want to be in a band yourself?
Probably when I was in Earth Crisis and I was in Earth Crisis for about five years I think. I did a few albums with them and around here they were the biggest band. When I landed that gig playing in that band it was a really big deal for me. Because of them I was able to go tour throughout Europe, tour throughout Japan. It was a big deal cause they were already established and they already had some success. They’re still a band today, they still play. So that was probably the first professional band that I was in.What was the first concert that you went to?
The first concert that I went to was at a bar on the north side of Syracuse that my father took me to and it was a guy named Jimmy Thackery, a blues guitar player that played around this area quite a bit. It was kind of a hassle to get me in there. My old man knew the guy at the bar and gave him the lowdown like, “Listen, my kid is really into playing guitar. I’m not going to feed him beer or nothing so don’t worry about that. Just let him watch Jimmy play guitar.” I was obviously under age but that was the first concert I had ever been to. I can still remember the first time really hearing loud guitars through a sound system, really ripping guitar leads and solid bass and drum sections. That was my first concert and it had an everlasting impression on me big time.You said your father had a lot of albums. Was there one in particular in his collection that you were drawn to the most?
I definitely have to say that first Van Halen record. Like so many others that I have talked to over the years, that album really just blew anybody away that listened to it. I think I actually wrecked the album from playing it too much. I remember buying the album two or three times. It was the same thing with Metallica’s …And Justice For All. When I had that I just sat and must have worn it out like four or five times. But that first Van Halen record really stuck with me. When I think about my father’s record collection, that’s the album I think of.You mentioned that you have an acoustic band also.
Yeah, we got this project, a side project, going on right now. It’s an acoustic band but it really kind of rocks hard. It’s really almost kind of punk rock acoustic. We got this idea in our heads that we want to make an EP with the band. It’s called Hobo Graffiti and we want to make an EP and make a seven inch vinyl. I know that there is a place not far from here in Rochester where you can still get vinyl records made, but I don’t know financially what it’s going to cost us. It’s something I’d like to have done. I really love the sound of a record on a record player.When did you first start writing songs?
I was probably in about sixth grade/seventh grade and me and my best friend, who I am still best friends with, we lived on the opposite sides of the neighborhood and we were both into skateboarding and we were both into the Misfits, Metallica, Slayer and those types of bands. I got to say Metallica, first and foremost, and then Slayer was a big influence to me too with the lyrics they wrote. With the Slayer stuff it was just so heavy that I couldn’t help but love it. When I first started writing lyrics it was along the lines of like Slayer’s Hell Awaits, the type of shit that if my mom had ever found it she would have had me in therapy (laughs). But we had a band and we could never find a drummer or bass player. It was just me on guitar and my friend screaming his head off in my bedroom. We wrote original songs and everything and if we would have had a drummer we would have had a real band. We wrote real songs and we had probably upwards of twenty-five or thirty of them. I’m sure, when I think back on it, obviously I wouldn’t be happy writing that shit now but for two young kids it was pretty impressive, I guess. I was real young when I started and I guess it started off as poetry but that’s all lyrics are anyway until you put them to music.A lot of people tend to misinterpret Slayer’s lyrics. They want to immediately jump in and think the worst instead of actually paying attention to what they are really saying.
I think so too. The guys in Slayer, they all wrote lyrics for some song or another. They all had a talent for it and I think that prior to around Reign In Blood, they started writing some songs that had some deeper meaning. I agree when you say that. A lot of people kind of assume that it’s all about satan all the time and it’s all about extreme shock value shit and it’s not, never. They had some really thought out lyrics in their songs and to this day I got to say, as a lyricist, they were one of my biggest inspirations.Have you had the opportunity to meet any of the guys in Slayer?
Briefly. We were able to open up for them a couple shows, some kind of Jagermeister sponsored shows. It was the kind of thing where, like I said before, especially with my heroes, I’d like to meet them on their level. I was lucky enough to be able to meet Kerry King and just kind of shake his hand and real quickly say, “Thanks for having us on the show, we really appreciate it, we’re big fans, thanks for all the great music.” But those guys are busy. If we had been on a longer tour with them, I’m sure we would have been able to connect with them more. Who was the first rock star that you ever met?
I really don’t have a funny story when it comes to that because for some reason or another I’ve always been the type of person where sometimes I’ve had people approach me that have gotten one of my records and they are just kind of over the top with the enthusiasm and it’s a little creepy sometimes. So I can only imagine what it must be like to be Jack White, for instance. It’s got to be kind of a scary feeling sometimes. So I’ve always kind of gone out of my way to try and meet my favorite musicians on the proper level. One time I can tell you that I failed at that was at the first Ozzfest. My band Earth Crisis played it and Danzig was also on the Ozzfest. We were walking around and mingling after we’d played and I wound up shoulder to shoulder with Danzig and not knowing what to say (laughs). Not being able to say hi, not being able to even introduce myself, and basically he just went on stage and I never got to meet him. I’m afraid to come off as kind of a suck up. It’s like, “I want you to know how much I love your music, how much I appreciate it, and how much of an inspiration you are” but I’m not like a fanatic. I’ve never been like a fanatic. I think maybe if I ever met James Hetfield I might freak out, put it that way (laughs). Aside from that I don’t know if I’d really allow myself to freak out on anybody else.
Then on the Type O Negative tour years later, BNS was on tour with them. It might have even been Peter Steele’s last tour that we were actually on and Danzig showed up at the show in LA and I was able to meet him then and it was a really good meeting. It was not a fanatic type meeting so I was happy. I grew up listening to everything he’s done. He’s been like a larger than life character to me. He was friendly to me but I’ve heard lots of stories about how he’s not friendly. I’ve seen him live a number of times and I did meet him officially that one time and he seems like nothing but a down to earth nice guy to me.
And these musicians are normal people too. It’s easy to catch them on a bad day and they can be pricks but that doesn’t mean they are a prick every day.The new CD is called United State. You have played on all of BNS’s previous releases. How does this one differ from the others?
This one is different in a lot of ways for a lot of different reasons. The main reason it’s different, and the only reason it matters, is that I’ve gotten to try some new things that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. There is a track on the album that is one of my favorites and it’s called “Rotten As Hell”. It’s an acoustic song but it’s upbeat and it’s real heavy and my buddy does a little bit of slide guitar on it. There is another song on the album that’s also one of my favorites called “Elbow Grease” that is a real bluesy thing, bluesier than pretty much anything we’ve ever done and then it gets heavy. There are some of my best lyrics on this album, I think, and I’m really happy with that. The song “Elbow Grease”, I don’t usually get political with my lyrics and from a reader’s perspective you could read the lyrics to this song and not think anything political about it. It really is kind of elusive but it’s really about being born into a class and this is probably where you’ll end up, where you’ll live your life. There’s not really the opportunity to become rich or become higher class no matter what you do. It’s kind of me getting a little bit political and I’ve never done that before. It’s kind of a step in a new direction for me and I’m happy I was able to do it. I don’t know if I’ll do stuff like that at all ever again and this may be as political as I ever get but it’s something that is new to me and I’m proud of myself that I was able to do it and do it well enough to where it’s not too political.
It shows that you’re growing.
That’s what I’m basically getting at. Even if it’s a different band all your life if you’re doing CDs or making records, if your new stuff isn’t your best stuff then there’s something wrong. You should be pushing yourself to try new things and that’s what we do. And we’re able to do that because of the guys in the band. The guys in my band wouldn’t discourage me from trying something new and I wouldn’t do that to them. That’s how we’re able to continue going. If we were putting out the same kind of shit we were doing in the beginning, I would have long ago lost interest in it completely.Let’s talk about a couple of songs. How about “Bed Of Nails”?
“Bed Of Nails” is a good one too. That’s actually about a friend of ours from Long Island who was one of our biggest fans and we wrote a song specifically about him and for him and it totally suits him perfectly. Charlie, our bass player, actually wrote the lyrics to that song and it came out awesome. Our buddy loves it and knows it’s about him.What about “Infamous”?
Yeah, that’s a good one too. You know, we play that with our acoustic band too. We do a really cool acoustic version of that song and it’s actually a pretty old song. It was one of the first songs that we had shortly after Distilled, which is the record prior to this one. That song kind of came to us. I had the lyrics a long, long time ago and Tommy on the first tour he did with us, cause when we got Tommy in the band we were all basically, we got to break this kid in so let’s book a run, go down the coast and come back. So we went out with our new line-up and our friends in Born Again Rebels and we did the East Coast and somewhere on that tour we wrote “Infamous” (laughs). It’s so funny how that song came together because I had the lyrics for such a long time and I think we were out at some campsite or something and Tommy started messing around on the acoustic guitar and I started singing the lyrics over it and then we came up with the chorus and next thing you know we got the song together. I really love that song a lot. We play that live all the time.What is one of your live shows like? It seems as if it would be very energetic?
It depends. With me, personally, I can’t speak for the rest of the guys, but I need a lot of give and take. There’s shows that we play where’s there’s hardly anybody there and it’s hard to get into it but when we play the Slash shows it’s so easy to play. It’s so easy to play in front of people; it’s when you get the turnouts when there’s like ten people there and it’s kind of tougher to play in front of them. But if there are at least ten people there, it’s pretty energetic.What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
We’re going to do the run where we have the five Slash dates. That goes from the end of April till at least mid-May, if not to the end of May. They’re still trying to fill in dates. After that, we come home and we got a bunch of summer stuff lined up for our local acoustic project. What we really want is to be able to go throughout Europe but we need to have an opening slot with a bigger band to be able to do that. We’re in the process of keeping our feelers out there and see if there is anybody willing to take us and we’ll be more than happy to go. But in the meantime, after the Slash run, we’ll come home and get back to work on probably writing a little bit and playing whatever local or regional festivals there are around our local area.Next week we explore the childhood of Megadeth’s Dave Ellefson and the following week we introduce you to another new band, this one from Las Vegas and featuring the extraordinary vocals of Roxy Gunn.