Musicscan: Could you please introduce the band. What are you guys doing when you are not involved with All Systems Go?
All Systems Go!: My pleasure. John Kastner is our guitarist and vocalist. When he's not busy with us he runs a distribution label called Cobracide, and he does soundtrack scoring sometimes and he recently wrote a bunch of little 10 second surf rock ditties for Comedy Central's little station IDs. Cool stuff. Mark Arnold is the lead guitarist, he likes to surf and he does sound for the Breeders as well. Thom D'Arcy is the bass player, he plays in a band called The Carnations also, and he DJ's in a Toronto nightclub on Wednesdays. My name is Dean Dallas Bentley and I play the drums for All Systems Go!, and also for a band called Lindy. I'm also into snowboarding, I have a 6 year old son I love hanging out with, and I'm a goalie for a hockey team.
Musicscan: How has the response to your new album "Mon Chi Chi" been so far?
All Systems Go!: Fucking amazing. In the less than 2 weeks it's been out in Europe we've read nothing but glowing reviews, and what we're the most happy about is how almost every review says the same thing about us: that we don't cater to the whole current "garage rock" scene of music, we're not lumpable into that Blink 182 or Sum 41 genre (we're way too old for that shit anyway) and yet we're still strikingly relevant in music today as a punk-influenced band. That is precisely where we wanted to fit in, so hey, perfect. We couldn't be happier with the reception.
Musicscan: Why did you postpone your European tour or why are you hardly doing any touring at this point? It would seem like a logical step to promote the album now, shortly after the release.
All Systems Go!: Yeah, yeah, I know. I'll say this and try to be as honest as possible!: to tour in November and December would mean that we could only do 2 or 3 weeks because of some long-standing personal commitments some of us had. We decided rather than go all the way across the ocean to do a little mini tour when we knew a big one was around the corner we just decided to make the big one a little bigger to compensate. This way too the band saves a little in travel expenses, we have time to make a video which we haven't had time or money to do yet, we're not rich rock stars here, you see. We'll also get to let the first single sink into people's heads a little, and by February when we finally get over there, people will actually be familiar with the songs on "Mon Chi Chi." Did you ever go see a band touring a new record and get kind of bored because they played all this new material and you didn't know the songs yet? I have and I don't really enjoy that, so for that reason alone I see it as a good thing.
Musicscan: Please tell me a little bit about the process of finding the right bass player to fill in after Frank left the band. I think Frank was quite an essential part of the band and it was supposedly very hard for you guys to find a suitable person and musician to fill his tracks.
All Systems Go!: You're referring to our "year and a half of limbo"! Yeah it was pretty dismal for a while there. I mean with me it was being in the right place at the right time that got me into this band, and it happened not long after the old drummer quit. Finding Thom took, well let's see, if Frank left in the spring of '99, and Thom came around in the summer of 2001, then, oh wait, OVER TWO YEARS! Now that is a perfect example of not "settling" and just waiting and saying "no thanks" to a whole bunch of people in order to find the perfect replacement. The truth about Frank is he was never into doing any tours with us, for him a perfect world would be one like The Beatles had, where you could just put records out and do maybe one live show every 6 years or something, and this was known about him before he ever joined, so we knew it was a limited experience with Frank. The first record would have been totally different without him, but he never fully wanted to be there. He was just sort of lending a hand to the project. Mark and John were the driving force behind ASG! There are people out there who believe that he was really into it and hope he rejoins, but it's not going to happen. Frank would always be into coming out and recording a song with us, that I can assure you. But that's it. He's still a dear friend but he's retired from the road life. And we have Thomas now, who's very anxious to get out there. Thom is not Frank, but it doesn't matter because he's Thom. You'll understand, trust me.
Musicscan: What do you look for in a person that you have to share a van with for a good part of the year?
All Systems Go!: Okay, there's definitely van etiquette, and there's room etiquette as well. I'll explain: van etiquette is like "would it kill you not to fart until the next rest stop?" or " we've heard that story before about four times, thanks though." or maybe "obviously you didn't shower this morning". You get the idea. In room etiquette the same rules apply, only there's a shower there, so you can easily remedy that problem. There's also "you know, you can see a doctor about that snoring. There are things you can do about it." and " what do you mean you can't find the key?" These are all things that will occur no matter what, we're human beings here. What makes a band truly work is if you care about and enjoy the company of these other people, roommates in a shoebox, enough to put up with it. Either that or you're so damn successful that you all just start taking your own goddamn bus. I've seen that happen many many times.
Musicscan: What was it like working with "celebrities" such as Greg Dulli or Melissa auf der Mauer? Did you know them personally before you asked them to be on the album or did you respect them solely as artists?
All Systems Go!: Everyone who guested on this album was there because of a personal connection, we wouldn't just hire some celebrity we didn't know. That's cheap, don't you think? We asked all these friends of ours to come in and guest yeah because they're notable people, but they're also friends of ours and they're notable because they're proven musicians and they only help to broaden the horizons of the sound of the record. Sorry if it sounds defensive, it's not. I just don't want anyone to think that we're totally capitalizing on the names of these people. Oh and working with them was a lot of fun by the way. It's fun collaborating with your buddies.
Musicscan: What are your major musical influences? Would you say that they translate into your music as well?
All Systems Go!: I just bought the new Sigur Ros record, and holy fucking shit is it ever good. I saw them live recently and they blew my fucking mind. So they're a major musical influence on me, although their influence doesn't cross over into ASG!. Generally I'm into really atmospheric stuff like them, a band from Canada called Sianspheric, who are friends of mine, they're great, old stuff from the Verve, I love Swervedriver, all of us are big fans of theirs actually. I'd say they're a noticeable influence on us. Other than that, John's into a lot of old mostly American punk and bands like The Stooges and Rocket From The Crypt, he listens to all kinds of shit though. Mark really likes new wave, so in the van we hear a lot of really old Cure, Kraftwerk, Devo, The Wedding Present, bands like that. Thom is really into Television, The Pixies, Weezer, The Beatles (of course), and a lot of 60's mod rock and early 80's post-punk. All these influences will pop up somewhere in our music, it's totally inevitable. Listen to Tell Vicky and those subtle keyboards and that old Cars-like riff in the chorus for a good example of how we wear our influences on our sleeve!
Musicscan: What is your goal with All Systems Go? What do you want to achieve with the band?
All Systems Go!: We're going to take over the world, one country at a time and turn you all into mindless robots, hell-bent on doing nothing but listen to All Systems Go! from the moment you wake up, taking only occasional bathroom and food breaks, until you finally fall asleep at night, only to get up the next morning and repeat the process. Eventually you'll wear your records out and will have to go back to the record shop and buy another one. By the time you all have gone through 3 or 4 albums, we'll release you from your spell, leaving you going "what the hell's going on here? And what're all these records doing here?!" That is, unless that damned Spider Man comes to your pitiful rescue.
Musicscan: Could you describe your songwriting process a little bit? Do you all equally contribute to the songs or is there one major songwriter? Are the lyrics written after the song is all set or do they come up independently from each other?
All Systems Go!: If the initial idea makes it past the first week of banging it out without tons of second-guessing leading to you realizing it was a dumb idea, then you have something to work with, usually a very skeletal version. Then you play it over and over again, throw in a bridge, take it away in place of something else, or you might realize that everything sucks ass except the verses. I've heard songs change completely except for one part!!! Maybe it was even that bridge you threw away last week. Then you finally get something workable, with working lyrics, then the lyrics typically start changing. Then you demo it, see how it sounds on tape, and more changes and more second-guessing might take place. When you get to the studio to record it for real, if you're working with a producer, such as the almighty Daniel Rey for example, they'll have already heard the song through and made the appropriate changes, which can be either the voice of reason or they'll make you cry in the corner like a baby. Then you wipe the tears away, admit your wrongness and keep working under the new guidelines. Eventually you might say at this point "hey that part would sound great with, like, banjo or something" and you'll add some banjo plucking deep in the mix. Now hopefully you'll have this nice, shiny song you'll all love, even after all the crap you went through making it that way. That's usually how the process goes. Sometimes though you just bang something out in rehearsal and go "Wow. Let's go record that right now.", the complete opposite of what I just told you. Or something in between.
Musicscan: What can we expect from All Systems Go in the near future?
All Systems Go!: That whole bit about us taking over, as I already mentioned. You'll be completely oblivious, don't worry. No, we plan on taking the show on the road this February, Europe being the first place we go, you lucky dogs!! Early February we hope. We'll do Europe for 6 weeks, then we'll probably do some North American touring, and after that who knows? I know we'll be busy people for most of 2003.
Musicscan: 3 favorite records, books and movies?
All Systems Go!: Me? Okay. Records. Swervedriver's "Mezcal Head", The Verve's "A Northern Soul", and a tie between The Weakerthan's "Left And Leaving" and Last Days Of April's "Angel Youth". Books. Steven King's "The Shining", and two books by a friend of mine named Peter Gault: "Goldenrod" and "Knucklehead". "Goldenrod" is about growing up, sort of a modern day "Catcher In The Rye", and "Knucklehead" is about a lawyer who leaves everything behind to go sailing, and things go seriously awry in the process, sort of in an "Alice In Wonderland" sort of way. Good readin'! Movies. Memento, The Big Lebowski, and a three-way tie between Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Warriors and The Shining (I'm huge into The Shining in case you didn't notice)
Musicscan: Last words, comments, ideas?
All Systems Go!: Share. Communicate. Be honest as much as possible. Forget how to hate. Don't forget to floss. Save energy and put on a sweater. Have lots and lots of sex. Accept things you can't change, and change something for the better. All Systems Go! love you.