Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Posted by Anonymous |
Although many of you have probably never heard of Aaron Silberman, his bands Mission Impossible and Downer or his Cause & Effect zine, I wanted to interview him because he is one of the few people that I know who grew up in the '90s hardcore scene and then went on have a professional career in the music industry. And, of course, there's also the simple fact that it's always the people who you DON'T hear about or that much about who tend to be the most interesting interviewees and Aaron Silberman is certainly no exception in that regard. Enjoy the interview. - Andrew Jacobs

How did you get into hardcore?

It all started when I was in or around the 8th grade. My brother Bart was very pivotal in my musical taste. He was playing me all the SST stuff like Black Flag, Bad Brains, Dinosaur Jr. along with bands like Minor Threat, X and TSOL, which I really connected with. We would always go to Music Market, Zeds and Bleeker Bobs to discover new music. This basically paved the way for me entering high school, which lead me to discovering Straight Edge or Hardcore, however you want to put it. I was the "skater" type so to speak and had a great circle of friends that embraced the hardcore / Straight Edge philosophy and way of life. At that particular time, Uniform Choice (basically all the Wishing Well stuff) and obviously all the early Revelation releases were so inspiring and personal to me. It also didn't hurt that we were surrounded by so many creative people, musicians, artists in general across Orange County at that time. It was an incredible time to grow up and for music in general. I personally don't believe there will ever be anything like it again.

Discuss your zine Cause & Effect.

I think I was about 16 at the time and I was always taking pictures at shows and had great relationships with the bands. I became friends with a DJ at KUCI and the first issue was born shortly thereafter. Every issue had different contributions from people that I love and respect. It incorporated the same ideals we were living by at the time - support the scene, support art, fuck racism, expose new bands and showcase the bands that were touring through So Cal at Spanky's, Fender's, The Country Club, Anti Club, etc. It was all about music vs. being militant and / or preaching. We covered everything. It was an incredible experience for me. I'd love to do something like that again one day. Unfortunately, there's not enough good new music out there that I would care to cover.

As somebody from the hardcopy paper zine world, what are your opinions on the current digital only zines?

Great question. I'm personally constantly reading and looking at content on the internet. It's arguably priceless to have instant access to basically anything you want. At the same time, like the CD, vinyl, magazines, etc., I prefer a physical product. I'm actually still involved with the music business and this is a double edged sword for so many of these outlets. Yes, there's an incredible worldwide audience that has access to and / or has the opportunity to stumble across the content. Then, on the flip side, there's just as big of an audience that isn't wired into the internet, so you're potentially not reaching a ton of people that could be the target of this information. That being said, I hope to see more new physical magazines in the future and the online content continues to expand. The sad part is that it's no secret that everyone from the daily newspapers to Alternative Press are having a really difficult time getting advertisers, which is the key to their longevity and success.

Your band Mission Impossible's 1991 EP Killing Us Softly received mixed (to put it nicely) reactions from the people of the early '90s Orange County, California hardcore scene. Why do you think that is?

Since we were on Workshed, we knew were going to be scrutinized. If we did something on Conversion, would anybody have even said anything? Probably not. The reality was, like it or not, we were part of a very intimate and elite group of bands on Dan O'Mahony's label. That was all the support we could ever ask for. I never in my wildest dreams thought that we'd do a 7", let alone with Dan O, and record at Westbeach. Every release from Hard Stance to Headfirst to all the Dan O projects were really important records at the time and, to me, still are to this day - we were fortunately part of that.

But more specifically, to answer your question, we were against the grain in the sense that we had a long haired / metal drummer that smoked and drank, he played a chrome double base kit, which I don't remember anyone else having (outside of Sean from Yuckmouth) and Spencer, vocally, was left field from everything out there at the time. We didn't claim anything - Straight Edge, vegetarian, vegan, militancy, whatever. We had a ton of fun and that's what it was about. Our record had a guy giving everyone the bird, so if that's any indication for anyone, we never really cared what people thought. That may have rubbed kids the wrong way.

How did Mission Impossible hook up with Dan O'Mahony and Workshed Records, who released the EP?

It was really a combination of things. We were selling our demos thru Zeds and at shows, which we played with 411, I had Cause & Effect going and I was always around the Hard Stance and Headfirst guys. Plus, I was always hanging out with Drew Traulsen, who designed and did the layout for the 7". I saw Dan at Zeds one afternoon and he was like, "hey, I think I want to do a Freebass 7" and do one with you guys". I basically shit my pants. Definitely a critical moment in my life as a musician and for me personally.

After Mission Impossible broke up, you were in a band called Downer with John Scott from Headfirst on vocals. Discuss that band.

At the time, I was still hanging out with Drew regularly and was discovering a lot of new music through him. We were really into where everything was headed musically around 1992-1993. Sub Pop was on fire, majors were releasing records by bands like The Melvins, alot of very heavy guitar driven music was taking over the mainstream. Mission Impossible and Headfirst had just broken up and the scene was going into the post hardcore movement, which reflected this change. Mike Rosas, who was the guitarist for Headfirst, had just started Smile, Zack de la Rocha had started Rage Against The Machine and there were other bands like Quicksand, Orange 9mm, etc. that were branching out from the hardcore sound while maintaining the same intensity, passion and integrity.

John and I got together with Drew's roommate Rob and we did a 3 song demo, which got Igby, who had just started Ammunition Records, into us. We ended up doing an EP and a full length for him. We also did a full length for Roadrunner Records. It spanned basically a decade of our lives. We toured with Earth Crisis and Ignite in '94, which was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. Then we came back and recorded Wrestling With Jesus in a night. Many years, shows, bass players, drummers, 2nd guitarists and managers later, we somehow finished a record for Roadrunner and then we broke up shortly after it was released in the summer of 2001.

Looking back at all the opportunities that we had, it blows me away and I feel extremely fortunate to have had these experiences. For better or for worse, all of this made me who I am today. I actually believe Drew came up with the name Downer, which is a song on Nirvana's Bleach album that we were listening to religiously at the time. Still one of the all time greats.

Were you in any other bands besides Mission Impossible and Downer? If so, what band(s)?

I briefly played in Zoli and Brett from Ignite's side project Bon Zoli. I was also going to play for Strife at one point and even sat down with Andrew Kline to learn everything, which I regret not pursuing more at the time. I love those guys. What a great band. I might have exploded Spinal Tap style if I made it on stage with them!

As a musician, who/what are some of your influences and why?

At different times, like most people, different bands and artists played an important role in my day to day life. If we're talking about today, bands like The Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah and Cloud Kicker definitely get me psyched, but I find myself listening to stuff like Led Zeppelin and Nine Inch Nails more often than not. I also have become a huge fan of street art and people like Shepard Fairey, Kaws, Jeff Soto and Faile are now just as influential to me as any band.

You currently work for a living in the music industry. How has growing up in the '90s hardcore scene affected or informed this, if at all?

It has absolutely played a major role in my career. Outside of my family, what I experienced from being a part of that scene / movement has easily been the biggest factor in my profession and life for that matter. PMA. I've been very fortunate and have been all over the board within the industry over the years. Like anything else, it takes alot of work, time and determination. Ironically enough, my last two jobs were working for labels that were built on punk and hardcore and they are still around 20 years later.

Discuss your professional career in the music industry.

I actually started in a mailroom at a major label when I was in Downer around 1995. After Downer had broken up, I worked in management, production, marketing and licensing for several companies over the last 10 years. I've been primarily focused on the publishing / licensing side of the business but have been involved with everything from merch to strategic partnerships. I've had the pleasure of working with everything from the X Games to Guitar Hero, so it been a great run for me. Hopefully, the business is still around in 5 years. We'll see.

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