I HAD JUST REVIEWED THE NEW FULL-LENGTH DEBUT ALBUM FROM STELLASTARR* WHEN INSANE WAYNE CHINSANG ASKED ME IF I WANTED TO INTERVIEW THEIR DRUMMER, ARTHUR KREMER. I’D NEVER DONE AN INTERVIEW BEFORE. I WAS NERVOUS. BUT ARTHUR WEARS AN ASTERISK MADE OF ELECTRICAL TAPE OVER HIS RIGHT NIPPLE AT EVERY SHOW. AND I REALLY LIKED THEIR ALBUM. THESE THINGS CALMED ME, SO I DECIDED TO GIVE THE INTERVIEW A SHOT. THE RESULTS WERE,.. UM,.. WELL, MY SKILLS AS AN INTERVIEWER MAY COME INTO QUESTION HERE, BUT I LIKED TALKING TO THE GUY...
D.J.: Alright, so--
Arthur: I'm sorry. Where did you say you're from?
D: tastes like chicken.
A: Oh,.. tastes like chicken.
D: I wrote a review of your album. You read it and replied back to my editor.
A: Right, right, right. Yes. Thank you for your support.
D: Oh, I really enjoyed it. The more I listen to it, the more I enjoy it.
A: Oh, good.
D: Actually, when I wrote the review, just to give a base of reference, I compared you guys to The Cure and The Smiths.
D: But, the more I listen to it, I think I was kind of off a bit. I mean, there's a little of that, but I hear other things, too. I was wondering what influenced you guys.
A: You know, we really don't have,.. First of all, each member is really different, as far as where they're coming from musically. But we really don't have a core influence. I think we just,.. the sound we compare it to, it just comes subconsciously. We just kinda get together and write a song. We don't really think, "Okay. We want it to sound like this, or like The Pixies, or like The Cure." We just write a song, and that's what comes out. You know what I mean?
D: Yeah. I think, they're favorable comparisons, but you have an original sound that's a combination of all of those.
A: Cool. I mean, a lot of the bands we do get compared to, most of them I don't know until someone suggests it.
D: (laughs) Really?
A: Yeah. I checked 'em out since, but, you know...
D: That's so funny. It's just an easy way to do reviews, I guess.
D: It happens all the time. So, I was reading stellastarr*'s bio and it's interesting. The three original members-- Shawn, Amanda, and yourself-- all went to art school in Brooklyn?
A: That's true.
D: And you majored in graphic design?
D: So how'd you guys get together and decide to start a band?
A: Well, we were in a band back in art school--
D: Was that Ghistor?
A: Yeah. Ghistor. And that was more of a,.. not a serious kind of band. It was more of a joke band; everyone was all pretty much a novice, as far as playing our instruments goes. They wanted a female bassist, so they found Mandy because she had a bass. They weren't serious. I mean, they'd go through drummers like once a week.
D: Like Spinal Tap?
A: (laughs) Yeah. And I was just hanging out at their rehearsal space. I didn't know how to play drums. I was just very into the band, very enthusiastic about the idea of a band. So when the drummer would go take a piss or something, I'd start playing. And I eventually convinced them to give me a shot.
D: Oh, man.
A: Give me a shot on the skins. And then we broke up at the end. Afterward, I kept in touch with Shawn because we were both into theatre and acting at the time. I kept telling him that we should start up again. We should jam. And he said he'd only be interested if Mandy was on board. So we gave her a call after school, and she was interested. That's it. And the way we found Michael (guitar) is that he moved into a place where I used to live. I went back to get some old mail, and Michael was there living in my old room. I was talking to my old roommate and said, "We're starting a new band. Tomorrow's our first practice." And my ex-roommate was like, "Michael here plays guitar." I asked him what he was into, and he said he liked The Jesus & Mary Chain and The Pixies. So I asked, "Do want to come by?" He came by the next day with a huge amplifier and a million pedals,.. it was a match made in heaven.
D: I was going to ask you about that. That's funny.
A: Yeah. Our first ever rehearsal, and it was the four of us together. Plus, when we first started, we thought about having a female singer. So Shawn wasn't even going to sing.
A: Yeah. We tried out different girls, but we really couldn't get what we wanted because they were all,.. I don't know. They didn't quite give us what we were looking for, because we wanted some attitude, I think. We wanted some punk, and they were more Broadway, soulful types.
D: Show tunes?
A: Well, yeah. They had those kind of voices, and we wanted some attitude. Shawn did sing backup in Ghistor, but he really didn't set out to be a singer. But he, I think, turned into a great frontman.
D: Oh, yeah. His voice is really interesting. So you just went through different lead singers, even in Ghistor?
A: No. In Ghistor we had a different lead singer all together. That was pretty much keyed in. But there were some dynamics that were off in Ghistor. We had some good songs, but there was something just wrong. Something just didn't fit, and we ultimately broke up. Maybe for the better.
D: And stellastarr* was born. Like the phoenix from Ghistor's ashes.
A: (laughs) Exactly. Me, Mandy, and Shawn really worked well together, even back in Ghistor. So we knew if we got together again, that it'd be cool.
D: That's excellent. So, you taught yourself to play the drums, right? At first you were just playing around?
D: It's gotta be hard to play the drums. I mean, I don't have the coordination between my hands and my feet. Did you really intensely study it?
A: No. I mean, I played piano before, and it was kind of a natural transition because piano is a percussion instrument as well. You do all sorts of things with your hands, and you have a pedal. I'd like to think I have a good sense of rhythm.
A: I mean, I'd like to think-- I don't know how this is all going to come out. I'll probably come off like an arrogant asshole.
D: No, no. I'll write that you're not an arrogant asshole.
A: I've always thought,.. I never liked the drummers that they had. I always thought they were not interpreting the songs right, and,.. I don't know. I just started playing, and, obviously, like I said before, everyone was a novice. Mandy hadn't played bass very long at all, and Shawn didn't play guitar. So we were all learning and growing together. I mean, I was the most inexperienced, and I still feel like I'm learning. But we weren't too far off from each other. And I think that's the best way. As a band you grow together, and as a whole everybody is better than each individual.
D: It's more of an organic feel.
A: Absolutely. Definitely.
D: Also, in addition to the drumming, you do all the logo and album art, bringing your graphic design into it.
A: Yeah. We all are. Everybody in the band has an artistic background, so everyone partakes. That's a very important aspect for us, because we like to think of ourselves as artists, although music is a huge aspect of it. To me, they're all just one thing. Art, theatre, music, and literature-- I think everybody likes to exercise their artistic creativity. Shawn is a painter, so for the new album we have coming out, he did some paintings. He did portraits of us, and we used them throughout the album booklet.
D: The case I got-- it's an advanced copy, so it's only got a little sleeve-- but I really like the artwork on it. I'm looking forward to checking out the booklet.
D: Another thing that goes with the art or aesthetic of the band: I got your group photo here, and you wear big glasses and have an asterisk on your nipple. Is that electrical tape?
[ARTHUR DOESN'T APPEAR TO BE AS AMUSED AS D.J. THOUGHT HE WOULD BE. NOT ANNOYED, JUST NOT TOTALLY CRACKED UP OR CHUCKLING LIKE D.J.'S HOPED.]
D: I don't know about you, but I have a lot of hair around my areolas, and I think that'd hurt to tear off.
A: It's incredible how often I get asked this question.
D: Oh no! I thought this was original.
A: I know, I know. But it doesn't hurt at all. (laughs)
D: Oh, really?
D: Well, it must get pretty hot onstage up there.
A: I sweat like a pig up there. Actually, that's part of why I take my shirt off in the first place. It gets incredibly hot up there under the hot lights.
D: (defeated) So that's that.
A: So it hasn't been a problem. And the glasses are kind of like my Spinal Tap moment, you know? I started to wear them because they're funny and whimsical to me. It's ultra rock star. I don't feel like I'm a rock star of any sort, but it's kind of ironic to me to wear them. They're so huge I feel like I'm in a helmet. It's like my security blanket.
D: Protective gear.
D: That's cool. And I guess it's fun to see at the shows, too.
A: Yeah. I take them off sometimes, too. During the songs that are really crazy, they fly off.
D: Oh, man. (abruptly, awkwardly switching gears) I read your live shows get pretty hectic.
A: Yeah. That's how we try to make 'em.
D: We're in Milwaukee now, so if you're ever in the area I'm gonna try to check you out.
A: We're doing a big tour with The Raveonettes in September and October. I'm sure we'll be going to Milwaukee sometime.
D: I read you're going to tour in England.
A: Yeah. We're going to England next week.
D: I know you've toured a lot, all around America, but have you been to Europe yet?
A: We haven't toured that much. In fact, most of it's pretty new. But we have toured England before. We went there recently. We went with The Raveonettes. We just did a UK tour for maybe two weeks or so. And they (The Raveonettes) were really awesome. We really got along with them, and I really got to admire them as people-- their music and their show, and just we really hit it off. They were doing a big tour in the US, and invited us to support them. We were all over it.
D: Oh, cool. Now you have allies in the industry.
A: Yeah. That's a good thing to have.
D: Makin' friends. Sharing music.
A: Yeah. And I think that our sounds are very different. I don't know if you've checked them out or not, but I think our sound is different, but there's a nice crossover in our fan base. I'm pretty sure our fans will appreciate their sound, and vice versa.
D: I've heard The Raveonettes-- their single "Attack of the Ghost Riders"-- and I really enjoyed it. I've almost picked up their album several times.
A: Oh, you should. Especially their new album. It has some freakin' killer songs, man. Some really good stuff.
D: I'll have to check that one out, too. I wouldn't compare you two together, but the sounds do compliment. Seems like you'd be a good bill together.
D: So, back to your new album. It comes out in September?
A: September 23rd.
D: Are you excited or nervous?
A: We're very excited. We've really worked hard for this. It's been a process of finishing this and getting it done, because everybody in the band is such a perfectionist. There was mixing upon mixing and remixing, and we re-cut some tracks because we felt they didn't quite capture what we wanted. I'm just really happy that we're finished. I'm really excited, too. I think everybody in the band is really excited to get it out. Plus, another thing is that we play all these shows, and people want the music. It's really frustrating to do all these shows with no way for people to obtain the music. People are like, "Where's the album?" I just can't wait until it's out.
D: Absolutely. So, most of the interviews I've read with you guys were done by Shawn. And he was saying it was because everyone else had day jobs. Do you still have your day job?
A: Well, I was kind of freelancing.
A: But nobody has a day job anymore. (laughs) I still do some design stuff as a freelance designer. I hope to always be doing that, because it's something I really enjoy. It's important for me, personally, to try to incorporate as much of the arts-- to try to let one discipline influence the other. I hope to always be a designer. And I'm sure Shawn will always be painting.
D: Yeah. There's no reason to just do one thing.
A: Exactly. It's all one thing to me-- all of the arts.
D: I agree. They all influence each other.
A: Can I ask you if you have any favorite tracks on the album?
D: Let's see. I never know the names of songs on albums because I always listen to the whole thing. But I really enjoyed "Untitled".
A: Oh, nice.
D: Yeah. I'm starting to get sappy in my old age.
A: It's a ballad. That's good.
D: Yeah. I really enjoy it. And "Jenny" was pretty exciting, too. That's an excellent song. But I can really listen to the whole album. That's when I really like an album; when I can listen to the whole thing all the way through and not have to skip a track. And that's how I feel about this.
A: Awesome. That was a big part: to really bring some dynamics to the music and not be bored. Because we get bored playing the same thing and having songs that all sound alike. We really wanted to have the peaks and valleys. I'm pretty impatient, and I need some stimulation. And everybody tries to top themselves. Whenever we write a song, everybody tries to better themselves. Like, "I already did this bass line, so I'm going to make this one better this time around." Some people found the album really eclectic, and we're interested in that.
D: They all sound like stellastarr*.
A: Cool! That's awesome.
D: So, I read that you and Shawn both did some acting. He mentioned theatre, and I read that you have had some film roles.
D: Is there anything that our readers or I might have seen you in?
A: I think Shawn did a Priceline commercial. He did a bunch of plays and actors' showcases. I did a whole bunch of plays myself, and a movie for A&E. It's called The Lost Battalion.
D: The Lost Battalion.
A: With Ricky Schroder.
D: Wait. You worked with Ricky Schroder?
D: Silver Spoons?
D: Was that fun?
A: Yeah, it was great. I ended up going out to Europe for almost two months.
A: Yeah. We got to shoot in Luxemburg. It was fantastic.
D: And Ricky, was he a good guy?
A: Yeah, Rick is cool.
D: Ricky Schroder. That's pretty fun.
A: "Rick", actually.
D: Oh, I'm sorry. That's right. He's been "Rick" ever since NYPD Blue.
A: I don't want him to sue me.
D: No, no. He's a pretty avid tastes like chicken reader, though.
A: Oh, really?
D: In my mind anyway.
D: I imagine he reads it a lot.
D: (laughs alone at his fool self) Well, I'm going to wrap this up, but I've had a great time doing my first interview. I appreciate it.
A: It went smoothly, I think.
D: Really? Thanks. Oh, one last question that I have to ask. I don't know why, because no one has ever explained it to me. But, do dogs have lips?
A: (pauses) Do dogs have lips? That is a strange question. I would say no.
D: No? Any reason, or is this just your gut reaction?
A: Well, uh,.. hmmm. I think it's partially because we developed lips for a purpose-- for sensitivity and to help identify things. I think dogs use their nose for stuff like that. I think dogs' noses serve some of the same purposes as our lips. I'm just talking out of my ass, really.
D: I don't know. You've convinced me, because I used to think they did have lips. Now I think they don't. You had a well thought out answer.
D: Well, I really appreciate you taking the time for the interview.
A: And thanks for your time. Try to catch one of our shows.
D: Oh, definitely. I'll be on the lookout.
VISIT STELLASTARR* HERE.
PURCHASE ITEMS BY ARTHUR KREMER