Interview with 13th Sky by Kris Hex
“Hailing from West Hollywood, CA, 13th Sky have influences ranging from the Dead Boys to Christian Death back around to early Californian punk. They’ve played multiple shows in their home state, Mexico as well as gigs in Texas, and Nola. They’ve got something to say.”
- For starters, you guys mind introducing yourself?
Hi, I’m Steven Jennings, I play guitar or bass depending on our live setup.
Hello, my name is Richard Coal I play guitar and sing backups as well.
Hello, I’m Douglas Peyton and I sing and play keyboards.
- Steven, you and I have been in contact for a long time and had a lot of conversations about the issue of bands not toughing things out and giving up instead of working out their differences, do you think young bands these days just don’t want to settle things like adults or maybe it’s just general apathy? I know from about 2000 and on, there has been hundreds of young deathrock and punk acts who had real potential but broke it off in as short as a year, sad state of affairs for sure.
SJ: I feel it could be a mixture of things. If either it’s the hearts not into it (you have to have that passion, patience and team work ethic) or it’s just being tough to survive in a world where music truly is alternative. Steady shows, tours and recordings require obvious money. Shopping music to labels is dust and anyone that claims to be is usually fluffing themselves like its 1987. Being in a band isn’t for everyone that claims to be and in some ways almost nostalgic.
RC: Yes! A lot of bands have come and gone in the LA area. I don’t have enough fingers to count the ones I know of, let alone the countless others that have not heard of… There are several reasons for that. First of all there’s no caring or fostering for the scene either you have to kiss ass to certain promoters or you have to take the pay to play route. Where the hell is the underground radio or zines to help local bands? This is exactly why we choose to play out of town a lot…
- You guys have been knocking around the scene for over 17 years now, that’s one hell of a ride considering as I mentioned before most bands don’t even survive past the year mark; I know the bands line up has changed a few times, how did everything get started?
SJ: 13th Sky was originally formed in the San Francisco bay area in 1999. It was started as a side project to the band I was in at time (The Winter Chapter) As that band fell apart I instantly started to focus on 13th Sky and built the band into a live act and eventually relocating to Los Angeles in 2001.
There have been quite a few incarnations and musicians involved with 13th Sky over the years. Of course there have been lots of ups and downs, and blocks of downtime. We have always been a DIY act and would be impossible to be active nonstop for 17 years.
Richard has been with me now for about half the time and Douglas has been with us since 2012. Things really solidified when I hooked up with these guys and helped the band’s sound evolve. We could of easily changed the band name but instead we decided to use it in a new apocalyptic style. It was 2012, the end of the world right? I believe musicians can call their band whatever they want but they are still “that guy from ….” Unfortunately this era is about brands and trademarks and this late in the game I will always be Steven from 13th Sky. If I choose or not.
RC: When I first started playing in 13th sky I was at the young age of 19 and fresh off the bus. The core lineup was Steven Jennings, Gennifer Shelby and myself. Those were some wild years! We played in and out of town, starting getting club and radio airplay and accomplished a great deal in a short amount of time. We also took on Sebastian Bleak as our new manager who has been with us every since. Over time if you like it or not like it or not things change, people change or get burned up by excess. If you really stick to it you can bounce back.
- I’ve seen that the musical landscape out in your neck of the woods has been doing well as usual even with the other facts putting the squeeze on everyone, i.e. bad economy, high housing costs, politics etc. Does it ever make it difficult as a live act that plays often to deal with these factors from day to day? I know it’s hard to focus on writing and playing songs when while at the same time you’ve got land lords to deal with, family obligations, the fact that most people suck and so forth.
SJ: We just roll with the punches. Its all what WE make out of it. Without a label or financial backing we take pride in our accomplishments and adventures. All of it! From the early days when we worked with Barry Galvin (ex Christian Death/Mephisto Walz) to the new stuff we produced ourselves.
Being a D.I.Y. band it’s truly up to us to make that noise and deliver it.
Los Angeles is our hometown and base of operations. There is always something going on for almost all styles of music. If either Financial hard times or rough economy reasons people still want their wild night out.
- I remember when the band came down to play Houston and made a side stop in New Orleans to explore, were there a lot of differences you noticed in the scenes just from seeing it in person?
SJ: Every time 13th Sky has played in Texas it has always been a blast! We most definitely feed of the audience live and have had a good response. The people we met along the way have always been great and we usually become lifetime friends with the room. I personally look forward to any trip of the south and the road antics along the way.
- Given that your area is known for deathrock and a lot of punk , what is each of your personal opinions on stereotypes regarding your scenes or what things would you like to clear up that you commonly hear about that you know for a fact are complete bullshit?
SJ: As sad as it is the whole vampire vs werewolf politics actually exist. We are the musicians/entertainment though and by far are not interested in taking sides or stepping into club drama. Our bands circle is friendly and supportive but not into the 24 hour Club Kid lifestyle. We love to support our friends and we will be there for you but none of that 7 days a week nonsense. I’m sure that’s how we kept it together this long…
D: I don’t really care about the ideas of stereotyping. It’s too much of a wish washy, grey area, opinionated type of thing. We all do it in some form or fashion as well as fall victim to it. They can be chains that hinder you and, or a crutch that injures you. They can also help us categorize things we might like or dislike to hopefully further our interests and experiences in this world. There is really nothing to clear up in my opinion about scenes. People are going to think what they will. As far as bullshit is concerned, there is a long list of bullshit here in Hollywood. I’m not going to concern myself with how people box things in.
I do admit though on occasion I’ll notice feeling stereotyped and thinking…wait, we are so much more than just this little slice of life..
Then I say Fuck that, what do I care!?
I got more to worry about than someone’s label. I want to live and enjoy my life…
- I know the band is considering quite a few out of state gigs at the moment, any in particular that you are excited about or that you feel could do a lot of good for exposing the band’s music to a new audience? The more the merrier!
RC: We are definitely planning on doing more out of state or even out of the county gigs as soon as our new CD is released. I always enjoy hitting the road it’s been interesting to travel and meet new people from other scenes the great way to exchange ideas and how to see the other side thinks. I usually have more meaningful conversations on the road than I do at local clubs and bars in my own city.
D: I would love to do Wasteland Weekend! I know it’s not out of state for us, but I think it would expose us to a variety of people from different musical tastes in a fucking great desert post apocalyptic setting.
It might be way more fun than a band should have, but I’m game!
- Lastly, what music do you have out at the moment and what are you working on? Also if there’s anything you guys would like to discuss in an open format sort of way, let it fly, no such thing as censorship here!
SJ: We got a new EP that is getting wrapped up really soon It’s simply called “demolition” It’s raw demo takes and tracks from over the last few years. A solid, raw & furious project it actually is coming on quite nice. There is enough new polished bands out there so we are keeping this one dirty- intentionally!
Here’s a brief breakdown of the tracks:
I don’t want to know you”- This is the newer of our songs on Demolition. This time bringing in names of people/characters of Los Angeles that we have encountered. It’s the backside of glamorous Hollywood. A disturbing tale of smut, drug dealers and living fast/ dying young.
“Self-inflicted” – This heavier, fast paced song was actually inspired by the mid-nineties David Cronenberg cult classic movie called “Crash” It’s all there… Cults, fetishes and high speed car crashes… “Maybe the next one!”
“Behind your eyes”- an updated version of a song I originally co-wrote about 20 years ago with my ex band the Winter Chapter. We figured to add this one in for a more ethereal twist on this project.
“Frontline”- A modern day war song, upbeat and in your face.
Question our leaders
remember the fallen…
“Night terrors”- This song is our apocalyptic song, full of discord and rage!
“The end is near but I don’t fear it!”\
RC: This new ep on the way is by far our most stripped down recording to date. A straight up knife to the heart! I always wanted to create music that just hits you like note strangling you as they come out the speaker. That’s what I believe this next CD will be like!
D: I’m super excited about Demolition!
Steve actually just hit my favorites.
I Don’t Want To Know You, Self-Inflicted, Frontline, and Night Terrors have incredible energy. They’re a fucking riot to play live. Those four songs really get the band moving, and when the band is moving, the audience is moving. They pick up on that electricity, amplify it, and send it back. It’s really incredible. I’m excited to bottle that up on our recordings.
It’s going to be one of those you turn up loud and drive fast to!
RC: You can always find our previous material on iTunes or YouTube, you can always contact us on Facebook as well.
Cheers and thank you Kris!