Six Questions with Steve Kaczynski (guitar) and Aaron Kaczynski (vocals) of Jericho Theory
by Asya Yanyo
Here I am again, writing another Person or Persons Unknown about another Pittsburgh band member, but this time I decided to change things up a bit. This time I am focusing on two guys actually: Steve Kaczynski and his son Aaron.
While I have never really had too much interaction with Steve in the past, I have seen their joint band Jericho Theory and was impressed with the chemistry and talent they both posses. I must admit, doing this particular article was one of the main reasons for starting these interviews. In truth, I have known Aaron for a while now, and I’ve liked him from the first time I met him. He’s got an infectious enthusiasm that you couldn’t fake if you tried. I have gotten to know him better through this journey of Facebook messages, attending shows together, and also attending shows that his bands have played. I am not sure if I have ever met a more honest and caring person in our music scene. He is that guy that knows all your songs, and knows what shows you’re playing; he’s the kind of fan that makes playing in a band in Pittsburgh worth it. I don’t even think people realize what a positive and caring member of this circle he really is. He has a way of making shows I attend with him more fun — even with my weird habit of buying him a PBR at least once a show — it’s more a level of comfort and happiness when I know he’ll be attending a show. He’s kind of turned into an unofficial little brother for Eric and me, and listening to him tell me at least once during each show that this is his favorite band or his favorite song makes me happier then I could ever state — because his influence has actually made me want to be a better fan.
So with that, I figured that this kid with his infectious nature and love of music had to have an amazing musical role model just like I did. Now that I have the ability to figure that out, I was on a mission to do so — hence the reason for this interview, so I could see if my inkling about him was correct. I am very proud to call Aaron a friend, and I hope after reading this you’ll want to be friends with him and his dad too, and I hope it will make you want to see them in action this Saturday, March 30th, at the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern.
First up is Steve — the man, the myth, the legend. This dude has played in some bands I didn’t even realize! His musical story is more like a novel, and makes for an interesting read; it definitely explains one thing, that it’s no wonder Aaron is as cool as he is. With all this inspiration around in childhood, how could he not be?
Asya: Steve, you’ve been a musician in Pittsburgh for many years, with many bands. Can you please describe some of the bands and projects you’ve been involved in the past, the current projects you’re involved in, and anything that you’re looking forward to in the future?
Steve: I left high school with a road gig playing drums for Al Latta (formerly of The Duprees) waiting for me. I was a guitar player, but took up drums as a school band instrument, upon hearing a local kid by the name of Livingstone Johnson, then later Neil Peart, play. I couldn’t keep a spot in any school ensemble, but I landed this gig. They actually wanted me to quit school early to take it, and I said no, but then the timing with graduation turned out alright anyway, so I took it then. I shoulda taken notice while still in high school of my knack for getting tossed out of bands, because it has never ever stopped happening.
That lasted at least a year before I started joining Pittsburgh based bands like 11th Hour, Ron Obvious, Brownie Mary, PUSH, Vern’s Winnebago, Cloud, Abominable Honkies, and so many gigs as a drummer — usually in the side projects of those already in the blues scene around Pittsburgh.
Asya: Your son Aaron is currently in Jericho Theory with you; how much influence does his music style have on you, and how much of the writing and creative process do you find yourself doing together as father and son?
Steve: I don’t think Aaron and I do much as father and son. It’s really more as bandmates on a mission. It started without him, but now I wouldn’t dream of using the Jericho Theory name if he were not involved. Aaron writes some of our best songs. It’s also hard to say how much we may inspire each other, as we are coming from completely different styles and influences. We don’t ever seem to clash though, and connect in our own Fugazi/Nirvana sort of DIY world.
Also, Jericho Theory has sort of become a side project for everyone involved rather than a primary band. This was a real downer for me at first, but I came to realize that it can exist happily this way, and has to in order to keep all four of us together on any level. It’s a good situation where everyone can be himself without compromise and fit in. I also feel like I have the best front guy in town, hands down.
Asya: As stated above, you’ve been in several musical projects in Pittsburgh; what were some of the artists in your life that defined your musical style and direction? Is there anything in particular that really inspired you to want to play music? Anything that you still listen to today for inspiration?
Steve: 11th Hour will always be special, because they formed me into a streamlined hard-drivin’ type, musically. We got to be a regular opener for The Clarks (who used to open up for 11th Hour before I was in the band), and meet bands like The Cynics and Kelly Affair. With Brownie Mary came much bigger things. Big offers, bigger promises, and that whole elevated level of regularly opening up for an assortment of Rusted Root, They Might Be Giants, The Tragically Hip, The Smithereens, and Hootie and the Blowfish. It became somewhat of a “pop” world, although as old video with Mike Marks and myself in the band would show, [it was] an aggressive alternative to what the band would later become, which is likely why it didn’t work out for me in that band.
I personally started the band PUSH, with Albert Hill on guitar. Mike would follow and join me in PUSH. These were great times playing regularly with Dharma Sons, D.O.S.E., and Ike McCoy, but my theory of “start your own band and you can’t get thrown out” had some holes in it. It may, in fact, be true though, if you’ve got an extra twenty years to stick it out. PUSH is currently recording a new CD with all four original members (myself, Lonnie Schwartz, Albert Hill, and Mike Marks).
As for inspiration? My version of Spinal Tap begins with my mother teaching me to play “You are My Sunshine” on guitar, and I took it from there! As far as current music, anything that is able to elevate me into another mood, or somehow provoke me to get up and take some kind of action -– even if it’s just participating in the music itself, is to me inspiring. Locally, Long Time Divided and Vega have recently caused me to take notice.
Asya: Life can sometimes get in the way of music; what is it for you that keeps you coming back to it? What is it about writing, performing, and recording that drives you?
Steve: Great Question! I don’t think that life can get in the way unless you are wearing some sort of mask. The music is my life, but my life is often summed up in the music. Joey Granatti says, “be yourself, it saves time,” and I live by that. (Thanks Joey!)
This is a good question though, ’cause I have a career, and I’ll often get “are you still doin’ that?!” from friends and colleagues. Then I’ll usually laugh at them for golfing or whatever, so it’s all good. (I’m an avid gardener, too!) The point is, it’s my experiences in life, daily, that feed this “music” stuff.
Asya: You’ve been playing music for several years and have played with some pretty impressive bands. Besides the March 30th show at the BBT, who would you like to see Jericho Theory playing with in the future? Do you have any dream shows that you would like to do?
Steve: Something involving monster trucks! Or dirt track racing with local music before and after! Oh, I know — I want Jericho Theory to kick off the NASCAR season as the musical opener at Daytona next year! Or even pair up with Megadeth for something. Dave Mustaine is way into Formula One. He even wrothe a song about it on the Endgame album, “1320.”
For Jericho Theory, I REALLY REALLY have a deep need to complete an independent release that captures this fine line-up. (Randy Thomson on drums, Ken “Machine Gun” Walzer on bass, and Aaron and myself on vocals and guitars.) Every time I plug in to play JT stuff, I know that I must because I really do love this band.
And personally for me, there are a lot of friends and people that I admire in Pittsburgh music that I’d still really love to work with, like David Musick, Jeff Babcock, Rob Trackoffler, “RuDogg” (Chris Ruane), Mike Marks, my other son Steve, John Bechtol, something for Innervenus, and many others before I call it a life!
Asya: Can you describe your musical style in six words or less?
Steve: This should be fun. Okay; “Human and Guitar Lo Fi Noise!”
Next is Steve‘s protégé Aaron, bassist for Meth Quarry, singer for Jericho Theory, and a member of the Innervenus street team. His passion and dedication to the main love in his life, music, shines through. Even with his random mumblings of bands you’ve never heard of, or songs you’ll never hear, his heart and decication are omni-present. He often will describe himself as erratic and confusing, which at times may be true, but no one can deny his dedication and loyality to the things he holds most dear: his music, his friends, his bands, and his family. He’s one of the best people I know, so I hope you will get to know him too, just a little bit, even for just this interview.
Asya: Aaron, your dad is a musician, as are a lot of your friends, and you are very active in the metal, rock, punk, and alt-rock scenes here in Pittsburgh. How much of that was an influence on you wanting to play music, and which came first — playing music, or getting involved in the music scene? Can you describe the moment when you knew that you wanted to be in a band?
Aaron: I’ll answer the last question first. I think the moment I wanted to be in a band was when I was four or five years old. I had this little silver toy guitar and was standing on a festival stage during my dad’s band’s soundcheck — thrashing on the guitar while screaming. I’m pretty sure I was told to calm down and get off the stage, hahaha.
My dad is by far the biggest influence on me. He really taught me by living through it. I only had a few friends growing up that were very active in music. I never really got into the local music scene until about two years ago, when I joined my dad’s band Jericho Theory.
Asya: You are currently in two active bands, Jericho Theory and Meth Quarry, which are very diverse in style, and which do not necessarily appeal to the same fan base. How much writing do you find yourself doing for each band, and what artists do you look to for inspiration? Any projects that you have up and coming that you are looking forward to?
Aaron: These two bands are very different, for sure. I write a little bit for both bands. A lot of Jericho Theory material was there before I joined the band. I’m the third vocalist that has fronted the band! I’ve modified the lyrics on a few songs that were already written, to better suit myself, and I have written full lyrics to about two songs. That’s something you can get away with when you haven’t had an official release yet, though we do plan on recording our album this summer.
With Meth Quarry, we all have written a lot in the band. I’ve written some lyrics, some bass parts, and even given ideas to Kevin [Hogue] and Chris [Smith] on guitar. Those two are definitely the main writers in the band, though. Luckily, everyone seems to play what they want to play and has almost equal influence going into each song. We also plan on recording our album this spring. It’s all coming together nicely.
I also have a couple other bands that are in their infancy with a few different friends of mine. I don’t think I’m ready to talk about them yet. Both are very different from each other, and what I’m doing in JT/MQ. Songs are written and some things are recorded, so who knows. Watch out.
Anyhoo… When it comes to being an artist, I’m still very new to writing something and it becoming a reality. There is a lot of trial and error. Mostly error. I do think I’m learning and becoming better at what I do, though I wouldn’t say I’m anywhere close to being a professional musician and writer.
Asya: Your dad is the guitarist for Jericho Theory, and has been in several former Pittsburgh bands. How would you say this defined your musical personality, and how influential was he on you in learning to play bass and guitar? Do you find yourself encouraging him to branch out in style, as well as turning to him for advice?
Aaron: My dad instilled in me a great love of music. Music of all forms. Since my dad was most active in music during the 90s, I can’t help but love almost everything that has come out of that era of rock. I’ve even started to fall for some 80s metal that I used to try my best to rebel against. You can’t hate what’s good, though. He also purchased my first guitar when I was in elementary school, and did the same with a bass in late middle school. So I’ve been poorly playing music for a long time! I never really learned how to play either instrument. I took a couple guitar lessons and went from there, just playing what sounds cool to me and is simple enough for me to pull off.
My dad and I have traded CDs more times than I can count. I like to think I’ve influenced his playing style with stuff I listened to in high school and bands I’ve seen at shows. He also helps me with everything. I go to him for advice on gear pretty much every single time I make a musical purchase.
Asya: I know you listen to a wide range of music; do you have any bands in particular that you listen to that you feel are underrated? Any artists or albums that you find yourself coming back to for inspiration?
Aaron: That is an extremely tough question to answer. I really am influenced by everything I hear. I like so many different genres and sub-genres, that it’s nearly impossible for me to list even a tiny bit of what I like. It seems that every week I discover a new local or touring band to obsess over! Many don’t realize it, but I also love folk-punk, pop-punk, indie/garage rock, indie hip-hop, instrumental post-rock, industrial, emo, post-hardcore, gothic, Americana, and everything in between.
I’ll try to list some bands that I keep coming back to, though I may get some guff for it: Emery, Underoath, Against Me!, Two Hand Fools, Death From Above 1979, Rock N’ Roll Soldiers, The Vines, The Hives, Nirvana, Kerbdog, Sonic Youth, The Menzingers, Atmosphere, Glue(adeem), A Prior I, Queens of the Stone Age, Saosin, The Misfits, Samhain, Senses Fail, Taking Back Sunday, Gogol Bordello, Brand New, The Committee For Getting Attention, Dangerbird, Fist Fight In The Parking Lot, From Ashes Rise, Have Nots, Heartless, Hollow Earth, Nirvana, O’Death, Ok Go, Pagoda, Raunchy, Death Cab For Cutie, The Postal Service, Straylight Run, Boxcar Racer, Say Anything, The Smithereens, Soul Asylum, Soundgarden, Star Fucking Hipsters, The Suicide Ghouls, Whipping Boy, Zyanose…and sooo many more. It’s completely out of control. My brain hurts.
EDITOR’S NOTE: I don’t know whether he included Nirvana in that list twice on purpose or not, but I left them both in, just because it totally made sense to do so.
Asya: I know that Meth Quarry has already played with tons of bands (Heartless, Wrought Iron, Lycosa, Grisly Amputation, etc.) and Jericho Theory has also played with a lot of great bands (Lo-Pan, Fist Fight, etc.). Are there any bands you think would be perfect for each of your bands to play with? Any shows in the future you are looking forward to (besides Jericho Theory‘s March 30th show at the BBT)?
Aaron: With Meth Quarry, I really want to play some local shows with Complete Failure, Wrathcobra, and Oh Shit They’re Going To Kill Us! I also would like to play with some out-of-town acts like Protestant, Dead in the Dirt, Masakari, Old Wounds, etc. I’m looking forward to some amazing shows we have with Full of Hell and Exhumed. I’m still new to the underground world of hardcore and the more extreme metals — call me a ‘poser’ if you will — but I like what I’ve been hearing the last couple years.
With Jericho Theory, I’ve been trying to setup shows with Supervoid and Chux Beta for what seems like forever. Those bands are so elusive to me, even though I personally know them, hah! I’d also like to play with some other locals like Gene the Werewolf and Long Time Divided. Maybe LoveSICK again, whom we haven’t played with for well over a year, and are releasing their album in April. Also, I always want to play with Fist Fight in the Parking Lot. Jericho Theory doesn’t have anything planned when it comes to shows after the show on Saturday — it’s really hard to get the whole band together on a weekend because everyone (besides myself) has careers and families they are responsible for. So that can be frustrating at times, but we do what we can. Contact us at least a month ahead of time and we’ll see what we can do!
Asya: Can you describe your musical style in six words or less?
Aaron: “Erratic and all around confusing”