In the past few years, Tacoma, WA-based power violence band Sidetracked has churned out a damn near insane amount of releases. I’ve been following the band for about a decade now and have seen them play their signature blasts of speed and chaos live at least a couple dozen times. Truthfully, it always seemed to take longer for the band to set up than to play. That tends to happen when the average song is around 8 to 15 seconds long.
I spoke with Sidetracked founder, vocalist and songwriter Jay Tichy about everything from the increased amount of his band’s releases to his interest in creating memes.
How many Sidetracked albums have been released in the last couple years?
The last two years, 21. 13 CDs, six tapes, and two split 7" records. 306 songs total.
That’s insane. How many do you think will be coming out in 2019?
In 2019, I have 5 various CDs and CD splits planned, we're doing an LP, a split LP with an Italian band called Isolation As Cult, a split 7" with Savage, and another split 7" with The Seeker. That should do it for 2019.
Do you ever expect to play this material live?
For the most part, no. The last set we played, we did a quick block of songs from an EP called Annihilation Doctrine that was one to two-second-long songs. When we play live, which is rare these days, we usually try to do a little bit from our more prominent records. Certain 7” that stood out, I usually like to stick to that kind of stuff live.
When exactly did you start Sidetracked and was it your first band?
As far as it being my first band, it was my first band that actually played live and recorded. I messed around in high school with a couple of guys but it didn't go anywhere. When I started Sidetracked, I was really serious about it. I was like, “I’m gonna sing in this band, I’m gonna write the music and I’m not gonna compromise much of anything.” It was like, I’m kind of running the show and if you wanna join me, that’s fine. Which is probably kind of off putting to certain people.
That started in 2000. That’s when I came up with the name and wrote the first songs. We played our first show in December 2000 and Brian Skiffington joined the following month and he was kind of the only constant during the existence of the band, besides Andrew Gentz who has played bass for the past 9 years.
Brian recently left the band and you obviously kept the band going. Was it a hard process to go forward without the constant bandmate you’ve been working with over the years?
It was kind of bittersweet. He was in the band for 17 years and there were about 1 to 2 good years and about 15 years of me twisting his arm. Getting him to practice and getting him in the studio was pretty difficult. He didn’t get a lot out of it. That was really what I wanted to do most of the time was just record where he got more out of playing live.
If you wanted to whittle it down to one genre with Sidetracked, you tend to play power violence. What got you into that music? Did you start out with punk rock or were you a metal guy?
I was not at all a metal guy. When I was a youngin’ I was really into rap. I think my earliest musical opinion was I liked the sound of the spoken voice more than the sung voice, so I kind of grew up on Sir Mix-A-Lot and Public Enemy, but Beastie Boys were the band that got me into everything. I heard their hardcore punk stuff, especially seeing them playing it on Saturday Night Live. That was my big moment. They played the song “Heart Attack Man” and it changed my life forever. That was back in 1994. So that got me interested but I didn’t have anyone saying, “Hey this is hardcore punk. Check this out.” I found out about Minor Threat from this Beastie Boys VHS tape where they covered "Screaming at a Wall." And there were certain different milestones like hearing the Bad Brains song “The Regulator.” That was a huge thing. That showed me I didn’t have to follow a verse/chorus structure.
Then another big record for me was Agnostic Front United Blood. That showed me you could do back to back short songs that really have an impact. As far as power violence goes, the first band that I heard was Capitalist Casualties, the Raised Ignorant record, around the summer of '97. It was on some mixtape my friend left at my house. How I got into more bands like that was I had this Revelation Records catalog from 1998. Any band mentioned in there that was described as power violence, I would track them down. And I was a broke teenager, so I found some people on message boards in late '99 going into 2000, and I would just be like, “Does anyone have No Comment, Crossed Out, Spazz, Infest” and all these bands. Then I would get tapes in the mail. This was kind of before CD burners and a lot of downloading. There was that stuff and the band Straight Ahead. It was really blowing my mind getting all these tapes. That was all around the same time as Sidetracked starting while I was getting into all that music.
Thinking back to when you started Sidetracked and working on the project for 19 years, how has your outlook on the project changed over the years?
I think when we started, it was really fun and positive and then I think for different reasons over time it kind of became negative. Kind of focusing, or venting about things that were negative in my life felt more real to me. I didn’t really want to sing the positive lyrics anymore. I think our roughest time was ’03-’04 when I almost gave up on the band just because it wasn’t fun anymore. We had no label support or anything like that. But then in ’06 we started working with a label called 16OH and that really was our second wave and kind of gave us a rebirth. Then from there it was working with more well-known labels over the years after that.
I was really honored to work with a label like Deep Six knowing the guy who runs it had played in so many bands that were an inspiration to me (Lack of Interest, Low Threat Profile, Infest) So, as far as my outlook goes, I think it’s just the love of creating music that has kept me going. The most enjoyable thing to me is writing the music and listening to the music. That’s definitely my favorite part of it. Holding the finished product in my hand, that never gets old.
You recently played your first show with a new band. Can you tell me a bit about this project?
Me and Andrew, the bass player of Sidetracked, have a new band called Victims Panel. It has the primitive, plodding aspect of bands like Bone Awl and Ildjarn but through a hardcore punk lens like Poison Idea or Negative Approach. I play guitar.
In total how many projects and bands are you in right now?
Outside of Sidetracked and Victims Panel, I have 4 theoretical band ideas. One is called Reset and it'll be kind of that early '00s, choppy Bridge 9 sound. One is called Blind Solution that features songs written by my friend years and years ago that I adopted and edited. Short hardcore stuff. The last two, you all will have to just wait and see. Also, me and Brian's band Sojourner never really did break up. So, who knows with that one.
So, you’re a Tacoma guy. What’s your argument for staying in Tacoma and not moving somewhere else like Seattle or Olympia? What do you love so much about Tacoma?
I think growing up here, that’s definitely the appeal. I’m not really much of a risk taker so I was never really the type who was looking elsewhere. I’m really close to my family and I had certain friends that I wanted to stick by. Then playing in Tacoma it was like, “Ok this is going.” We’re a Tacoma band, all the members are in Tacoma, and it’s always been like that. And once I started going to shows, Tacoma is really central. Every major city is 30 minutes away. If you’re not from Washington and you’re looking for cities to move to, Seattle’s like, “Oh look at all these cool places to go to and to eat at” and Olympia in the last few years has gotten a lot of attention just for the punk scene. But no, I love Tacoma. I’m gonna live here forever. Now I own a house and have a family and all that so I’m established here. Also, MSM Deli has delicious sandwiches.
So, you have a day job working in music and it’s actually a Tacoma company. Tell me a bit about the company that you work for.
I work for a guitar pickup company called Lollar Pickups. It was based on Vashon Island for a while and it moved to Tacoma about four years ago. It’s downtown and I’m the shipping manager. It’s kind of a dream job. I plan on working there as long as I possibly can. I work with a lot of people that are involved with hardcore or at least adjacent to it. It’s just been a really cool environment to work in.
Over the past couple years you’ve become a bit of a content creator on the internet. You make memes, mostly hardcore and punk related memes. What does it take to create a great meme?
What does it take? (Laughs) I’d say it takes some wit, some music knowledge, and a mediocre amount of photoshop skills, which is something I sort of forced myself to do a few years ago to start doing band layouts. But really, I kind of just see jokes present themselves and say, “Ok, I gotta do that.” I love comedy and that’s what I immerse myself in when I’m not bashing my skull in with music. If you ever see someone sharing a meme from that stupid page Pick Your Meme, there's a 90% chance I made that. Sorry.
Tell me a bit about this new Sidetracked album, Hollowed Out.
Hollowed Out is the first full-length we have done since One Lane Road Ahead back in 2006. It was challenging to write knowing it would come out as a 12" so I tried my best to flesh out the songs as much as I could. I wrote 28 songs for it but ended up recorded 24 of them. Those remaining 4 songs will probably appear in a different band later on. There were a few thoughts running through my head while writing the record. I wanted it to be a fast record all the way through. I got pretty close but ended up including a stone-cold groover called "Suffocate" and the track "Unwarranted" has an intro that to me sounds like early Melvins meets Half Off but Andrew insists sounds like Green Jelly.
As for other influences, I really like how the Low Threat Profile 12" and certain Extortion albums play out as primarily fast hardcore records. Definitely within the power violence realm but at the end of the day are fast hardcore records. I think our record has that vibe. Another influence that has been a constant for years now is the chaos of Lack of Interest. There are definitely quick tempo changes and stops and starts throughout. As for other guitar influences, I would say the band Double Negative and the Chain of Stength song "Let Down." This record will come out on To Live a Lie in the coming months and we're really happy to be working with Will on this (our 4th release on the label).
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