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April 30, 1999

Friday night at the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, an hour or so after Skinlab has left the stage, standing at the bar next to us is none other than Steev Esquivel, bassist/vocalist extraordinaire. We chat for a bit, and agree to meet up later for drinks and a possible late-night Metal Update interview. Fast forward a few hours to the vending area on the balcony above the second stage. Once again, we find ourselves talking metal with the Skinlab leader. Hours drunker but with renewed conviction, we decide the interview has to happen, and we head downstairs for a round of drinks and some metal banter. This time, we got it on tape:

Metal Update: Here you go, Steev. (passing a drink) And here's to fucking metal! (raises glass in a toast)

Steev Esquivel: Here's to metal in and of itself. Fuck Skinlab, fuck any other band that's sold out. To metal itself.


MU: Here we are at the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival. Which one is Skinlab, a metal band or a hardcore band?

SE: A metal band.

MU: Clearly a metal band, right?

SE: Straight up metal. I don't give a fuck who you are. You're Earth Crisis, you're Crisis, you're fuckin' Crumbsuckers, you're Pro-Pain. You are METAL, BABY!

MU: That's right! That's fucking awesome, dude.

SE: I think every one of those bands will respect me when they hear me say that.

MU: You said from the stage tonight, "Here's to Century Media for supporting a San Francisco band." You said, like, "We may be the first, but we're not the last." But you're not the first metal band, it's a long tradition, right? San Francisco metal, bay area bands . . .

SE: No, no, no. This year. I didn't say '99, I skipped that part. I meant to say that we were the first band out this year, in '99, from the Bay Area and we're not the last. Machine Head, I just heard the other day. Fuckin' Dave played it to me on the phone, and, dude, it was the most crushing shit you've ever heard.

MU: Was it metal?

SE: Is it metal? Dude, it's amazing. I mean I'm serious, bro. When you hear it, I mean - (mouths several bars of music) - I mean, dude, it's brutal.

MU: What about Ross Robinson? I think that his production style lended a certain sound to a lot of music for awhile. What do you think of that?

SE: Ross is a good producer, man. I'd love to be able to afford to work with him. I'd love to hear what he does with the new Machine Head. I only heard it over the phone, man. But I tell you what, man. Andy Sneap is the best producer in the world because he's my buddy, he's my friend, and it takes that to get through 21 days of grueling, wake up at 9 o'clock in the morning 'til 12 o'clock at night participation. No one does that - Andy Sneap does that.

MU: When you're listening to the new record, you hear Andy Sneap all over it. Did he come over here illegally to produce your album?

SE: No, he didn't. I mean, we didn't pay him shit. We paid him too much on the first record. (laughs)

MU: When you think back on the bay area tradition and all that. What are the bands that lead the charge?

SE: Machine Head.

MU: And what about before Machine Head? What about Vio-lence?

SE: We went on tour with Vio-lence a couple years ago. Whatever Rob has to do with is the shit. And it's been proven. But I'll tell you what, fuckin' Exodus was my first fuckin' gig. Death Angel, I grew up with Death Angel, man, in South San Francisco on the same hill as Andy when he was 12 years old, you know? I mean, I used to be a drummer and shit, man. Andy crushed me - god, you little punk.

MU: What are those guys doin' now? What's Death Angel up to? They still hang around?

SE: They're in a new band, and they're called The Swarm. And they're a little too happy for me, but . . . They should turn back to Death Angel. (laughs)

MU: Who's The Swarm trying to sell albums to?

SE: The Swarm is tryin' to sell albums period. They're fuckin' Death Angel, man. And they're my roots, they're everybody's roots in the Bay Area. I have a strong feeling, and you could put this on record, that they' re going to try to create a whole new thing in the area, and it's not, man. I mean, hey, you're either heavy for the Bay Area. . . Be Death Angel, baby, and get back to the roots! That's where I started. I would not be here if it was not for Death Angel.

MU: But why aren't they playing as Death Angel?

SE: They don't want to. They're happy where they're at.

MU: Just because the name carries certain connotations?

SE: I mean, dude, come on now. Death Angel was the shit. Death Angel was the best band.

MU: Absolutely. What's the best Death Angel record? The first one?

SE: 'Ultraviolence'.

MU: And then after 'Act III' . . .

SE: 'Act III' ruled.

MU: And what do you think of 'The Organization'?

SE: 'The Organization' rules. The Swarm fuckin' rules too, but they, you know? I love the bay area bands. I love Death Angel. (laughs) I want DEATH ANGEL! (laughs and mouths Death Angel riffs) Don't tell me you don't want 'Ultraviolence', baby, that's the shit!

MU: What about the reformed Exodus? You went on tour with them, right?

SE: Yeah.

MU: Did you party with Paul Baloff?

SE: I love Paul.

MU: Is Exodus still relevant in 1999?

SE: Well, if you haven't heard, Exodus is broken up. But they have a new band. Gary, of course, is pullin' through. He's got a new band with Tom Hunting and they're called Wardance, or they might not have that name. But alls I know, is his baby, my baby and our merchandiser's baby were all born within the same fuckin' couple weeks. So we're havin' a birthday party when we get home, in Richmond. And, who gives a fuck? And me and Gary . . . I' ve been gone four months, dude.

MU: You guys tour like motherfuckers.

SE: We tour, dude. We tour to sell records - Motherfuckin' record sellin'.

MU: Tell us about that, tell us what's happenin', man. How many records?


SE: I'm really happy because you guys are so cool. I mean, seriously, man.

MU: Thanks. But, dude, how many albums do you expect you'll see this new album sell?

SE: We've already shipped about eleven thousand. We already outsold our first record.

MU: And how many copies was that?

SE: Come on now, you're a journalist. It's like talkin' to fuckin' channel 7 news. (laughs) I mean, seriously, we fuckin' have outsold the first record, we're on our way to double right now. It's goin' so good, man. And if you have access to fuckin' SoundScan, well, welcome to America.

MU: I saw in Metal Maniacs that you wanted to play Ozzfest.

SE: Like I said, what the fuck does it take?

MU: What does it take? Do ya gotta grease some palms?

SE: No, no. It takes to be real. And they're gonna fuckin' see us, whether or not we're on there or we're off.

MU: So you'll be there next year.

SE: Dude. I mean, we're causin' controversy, man. We're not fuckin' goin' away silent. You know?< This is my wife (lifts up sleeve and shows tattoo on his arm), this is my life, you know? I've got my baby at home, I've got my wife at home, everyone else has something at home. This is our life, you know what I'm sayin'?

MU: But I think the new Skinlab album is heavier than the last Skinlab album.

SE: Absolutely.

MU: So what are you thinkin'?

SE: I think it's doin' pretty good.

MU: Do you think there's a market for the heavy shit again?

SE: Oh, it's been proven. Time and time again. Yes. New bands like, fuckin', Hatebreed. They crush you, man. Who the fuckin' hell do you know that came out with that much power in the last fuckin' three years?

MU: Besides Hatebreed, who else are you excited about?

SE: Soulfly. I think my favorite band right now has gotta be Spineshank. Fear Factory.

MU: Look at a band like Fear Factory. Did you see when they played on MTV at the Spring Break Beach Party?

SE: Yeah. You know, they got ripped off, dude. They cut them off on that last song. That was weak.

MU: Do you see Skinlab doing that some day?

SE: Nah. We'll fuckin' break their cameras.

MU: RoadRunner was promoting Fear Factory as an alternative act on that bill.

SE: Good for them. They should be. Fear Factory can do whatever they want to.

MU: What about Skinlab?

SE: Skinlab will stay true to whatever we think is ourselves.

MU: Metal?

SE: Well, who knows? I mean, come on. I mean, tomorrow's another day, right? I guarantee you I won't be fuckin' Ricky Rockett tomorrow. (laughs)

MU: Do you feel an obligation to deliver a certain kind of . . . You know what your fans want to hear, right? How much of it is you just doing whatever the fuck you want to and how much do you have a sense of what is expected of Skinlab?

SE: I'll tell you what, dude. I don't know if you've seen Skinlab or - well, I know you have, not to insult you or anything. I don't know if you' ve felt - I don't mean to be egotistical or anything - but, dude, when I go up there, I'm not me. Who I am right now, you know. I'm somebody else and that's my character and I fuckin' jump into it, man. And that's what I do. It's my life, dude. When the fuckin' lights are off, well, it's time to be fuckin' Steev, you know? (laughs) I mean, I'm a nut when I get up there. I don't jump around or creep pigeon-toed up on you when I'm offstage. That's my thing onstage. But, hopefully it's amusing and it's an extension of my personality. Let's just say that.

MU: What about on "Second Skin", we were talking about before the interview - the clean vocals - how do you know when it's time to sing like that? I mean, you've got a voice - you could sound like Eddie Vedder if you wanted to, man. You're holding back, right?

SE: I mean, we talked about that actually, that little fucker took my job. (laughter) You know, it's emotion and my whole thing is when I want to sing a chorus everyone should feel it.

MU: So you're from Oakland, right? As opposed to San Francisco.

SE: Skinlab rehearses in Oakland. We live in Richmond and San Francisco.

MU: I'm a huge Raiders fan, are you into that shit?

SE: Fuck yeah. Jim Plunkett's my fuckin' third cousin, bro'. Jim Plunkett, baby!

MU: When you were a little kid and he was winning Superbowls, were you in contact with him?

SE: Nah. I've never met him. That sucks.

MU: You gotta send him a Skinlab CD.

SE: I'll make sure my son meets all his cousins. Right? Like you, and you, and you, you know. My son's gonna be here the next couple tours, believe me.

MU: That's gonna be awesome. You're way into your son, right? Your son's named Noah?

SE: Noah.

MU: You've got a tattoo on your arm?

SE: I've got a song on our record about him. "Noah". (laughs) It's on the 'Eyesore' EP.

MU: You're livin' for that shit right now.

SE: You know what? I am, man. I miss my wife and I miss my fuckin' son so much. We just bought a house tonight, dude.

MU: Congratulations.

SE: Me and Snake and my wife. Our guitar player. We just found out tonight. We just got fuckin' approved.

MU: Snake's gonna live with you guys?

SE: Snake's my nigga'! (laughs)

MU: Tell us about Snake, man. He used to play in a band called Skrew, right?

SE: Well . . . partially. We met him through Skrew, but Snake is way beyond Skrew. He is . . . Snake is the most beautiful person in the world. He's, like, better than this music (referring to the band on the second stage about 40 feet away), he's more ambient in personality than any of that fuckin' bongas and fuckin' little shitskas . . . He's got a real vibe goin' there that is so beautiful. He's like my soulmate, you know what I mean?

MU: He's got tattoos on his fingers. How does he play the guitar the night after he gets that done on his fingers?

SE: Because he lives and dies Skinlab. I'll tell you what, how many motherfuckers do you know who have fuckin' flames on their middle fingers? Let's end this interview like that. Skinlab says fuck off!


MU: In the future, what is Skinlab gonna do? You're gonna tour with Napalm Death, you're gonna tour with Neurosis next?

SE: Man, Pantera, Slayer, all them guys want to take us on tour, but they don't. What's their problem? They know we're available. We have money. We love the bands. What's up?

MU: What's the next shit gonna sound like, Steev?

SE: Do you know any new blast beats? We're gonna beat you down like a gang of brothers.

MU: What do you think of Century Media?

SE: I tell you what - on the record, off the record - Century Media, fuckin ', is behind Skinlab. Me and Marco have been friends. The personnel there is fuckin' great. Excuse my language, but everyone there is professional. They're ready to work. They know the bands who are there for work. They can decipher who the people are that don't want to work. That's a beautiful thing. We shine, Century Media shines. Amen!


-- LINKS --





Interview: Eric German [] Brant Wintersteen
Editor: Brant Wintersteen []
Webmaster: WAR []
Photography: Cynthia Pelzner []
Update Support: Laura German

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