Interviews

Scotty Sandwich (Almost People, the Sandwich Shoppe, Death to False Hope Records)

I was/am in a band called Rain Over Battle from Virginia Beach. We formed some time in middle school. The members are Bennett Wales, Bryan Meader, Nic Mirenda, and I. When I say we were in a band, I mean we were part of a 4-man cult set out to seek and destroy all that was wrong with the world. Our friendship has been unbreakable since those days and we still get together to play shows every now and again. 

In 2010, Scotty Sandwich offered to post our music on his website Death to False Hope Records. This was a major step for us as a band. We were featured alongside some great acts like Arliss Nancy, Direct Hit!, Bomb the Music Industry, This Is Your Life, and Hold Tight; all some big influences for us.

We even got invited to play at DTFH Fest 2010 in Durham which was my first trip outside of Greenville as a new North Carolinian. 

I wrote this interview to be featured in my cooking zine, Snaxx, but since there are only 100 copies being made, I wanted other people to get a peek at what's behind the mixer at the Sandwich Shoppe. 

First of all, Scotty, you're a legend. How did this all happen for you? From your first instrument to your most recent studio upgrades.  

I don't think there is any rhyme or reason for the little level I've gained from being a producer/mixer. I'm just really stubborn and just constantly kept learning and pushing myself to get better and better at what I can offer. As for history I got my first guitar when I was 6. I was obsessed with Guns N' Roses, Huey Lewis, Mötley Crüe, and Eddie Money.

Obviously, at that age, at least in the mid-'80s it wasn't so easy to find an easy way to take lessons outside of a real life teacher, and most of those metal guys around Chicago that taught wanted nothing to do with a little kid.

So until I was in 6th grade I kinda just dicked around and used it as a physical air guitar. In 91', when I heard Nirvana and Metallica, I was taught how to read tabs from one of my step dad's friend. From there i was able to learn some basic chords, then some Nirvana riffs and then some Metallica fiffs. Then in 94' it all changed for me. I was gifted a tape that was "Energy" by Op Ivy and "The Longest Line" by NOFX on Side One, and Don't Turn Away by Face to Face, and "Wiggle" by Screeching Weasel on Side Two.

It was over at that point. I was obsessed with finding everything I could about punk rock. I started my first band, Mind Cancer (what a horrible fucking name!), my freshman year and we played some covers at a local JCC and broke up shortly after. Sophomore year I ended up meeting a few more punk kids at the school I went to and I joined their punk band which formed into a ska band Junior and Senior year.

Late into Senior year I left the band cause my music tastes were growing up into bands like Hot Water Music, Avail, Boysetsfire, Converge, Coalesce, and the ska thing just felt silly (which is funny cause I don't know if nostalgia or long enough removed that I've actually been rocking a ton of good Two Tone and 3rd wave stuff lately.).

After high school I moved around a ton and filled in as a touring guitarist for a ton of acts, started and broke up many bands in tons of different genres until about 2011 when my best friend moved to North Carolina from Chicago so we could start Almost People. 

Tell me a little bit more about where you come from and your musical background.  

I was born and raised in the Northwest Chicago suburbs, which in the '90s had such an incredible scene. Just off the top of my head, Slapstick, Braid, Capn'Jazz, Fall Out Boy, Rise Against, Lawrence Arms, Alkaline Trio, and Plain White T's all came up playing a little Knights of Columbus hall a few miles from my house.

In addition to that the city had Pegboy, Ambition Mission, My Lai, Charles Bronson, Los Crudos, Naked Raygun, Articles of Faith, 88 Finger Louie, and so many more. It wasn't until I moved out of Chicago that I realized that not all cities had scenes like that.

How and why did you become a sound engineer? 

From the time of my high school ska band, I've always been intrigued by it. We used to have a 4-track andjust mic up everything and record the drums bass and guitars to one track, vocals to one, all the horns to one, and then guitar solos to one. It sounded like shit, but it really taught me how important tones and eq are. After that I did some schooling for it but it was such a weird time cause they were still teaching to tape, but we all saw the emergence of Pro Tools coming and I think money could have been better spent since I had to learn digital recording by myself.

So, I got an early version of Cubase around 2001/2002. Let me tell you, it was really weird trying to mix 8 channels of audio on a computer with less than 1 gig of ram! Around this time I was also doing live sounds at punk clubs,which turned into bigger and bigger venues until it turned into festivals and touring acts.

When Motorco opened in late 2009 I started working for them as their Production Manager after their first hire didn't work out. I did that until February of 2019 when I decided to do recording full time because I had been doing a ton of freelance mixing and mastering work in addition to working with Nikki Sixx on his radio show creating custom music production beds.

In your opinion, what are the major elements and abilities required to be a good sound engineer? 

Patience, knowing basic levels of psychology so you can help bands make good decisions when they are down each others throats. A healthy liver for the bands that want to party afterwards [laughs]. Keeping up to date on current production techniques, sounds, etc. Know how to fix and set up any gear that may come through the studio.

Tell me about your other musical adventures. You play in Almost People, the Sandwiches, and a few newer projects. What else do you have going on? 

Ya, Almost People is the main project. We have about 20 pre-pro demos we are sitting on that hopefully will get recorded this summer. In addition to that, Halloween Year is a newer punky/hardcore thing we've been doing to keep busy and have fun. Also did two Ska albums under the name Skapocalypse Meow which were benefits for Covid relief.

Then there is a dancey '80s thing called Mathwords that should have an EP out soon, and for the last few years been doing some recording with my friend Lauren under the name Pink Drinks. Oh, and the Rentiers which is a solo project for Joel from Plow United.

Since you have traveled all over the US touring, tell us what a typical day on tour is like. 

Lot's of sitting. From vans to bus pretty much it seems the same to me only the comfort level changes. My favorite though is going to cities where we know a lot people. We try to show up early and go see friends, and hit up record stores or cool regional food and stuff. Normal stuff. It's not exciting as it's made out to be. That being said, I still love to do it.

What kinds of fun and unexpected things must happen on tour? 

Fun things are days off in other cities. We went and saw the Cubs play the Yankees once which I think only happens every 20 years or something. Went to Bouncing Souls stoked for summer last year on a day off and they gave us all passes, so we got to watch the show from the stage with a ton of old touring buds.

Any sound engineers out there who inspire/inspired you? 

It's a huge variety but my favorites in no particular order are: Matt Allison, Kurt Ballou, Mark Trombino, Steve Albini, Jimmy Iovine, John Agnello, Kevin Army, Rob Cavello, Ryan Greene.

Death to False Hope Records put so many artists on the map. Tell me about that. 

Back before Bandcamp and Spotify, easy ways to download or stream artists were hard to come by. I loved what Jeff Rosenstock was doing with Quote/Unquote, so I asked if I could borrow his idea and he was super into it. It was really cool to be able to provide a space for fans to download albums from bands for free and donate directly to the band if they wanted to.

What are some of your favorite releases either on Death to False Hope Records or through the Shoppe.  

So many. But the ones that really have stuck with me over the years are Arliss Nancy, Mixtapes, Direct Hit!, Make War, Rain Over Battle, Haverchucks, Captain We're Sinking, Scandals, Elway.

Lastly, if you could give a few words of advice to the kids out there wanting to be musicians/engineers/etc, what would you say?

Wear ear plugs, drink lots of water, don't be pretentious about what people listen to, when in doubt your producer or tour manager is always right.

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