Mike Shea of Alternative Press speaks APMA’s, bands you should be watching for and advice to the music industry!

My next interview is definitely something so different from the normal on this website but it was quite possibly one of my favorite interviews I’ve done this year so far. It’s with the man that inspired myself and many other young journalists around the country. He also gave the chance to bands to be covered that are now killing it like Falling In Reverse, Pierce The Veil and Sleeping With Sirens. He started Alternative Press in 1985 and has remained the head of the magazine ever since. His latest venture though has been the Alternative Press Music Awards taking place in Cleveland later this month. It’s the second year of the event and gives alternative artists the unique opportunity to get rewarded for the hard work they put in that doesn’t get recognized as often it should. Read on for this rare interview opportunity and watch to see if your favorite acts get that trophy!

You’re going into the second year of the APMA’s. How long has the second one been in the making?

Right after the first one, we were like wow that was a much bigger thing then we thought that it was going to be. So then we started talking immediately and started working on it. Getting the artists is the hardest part because so many bands now plan out their touring schedules roughly two years ahead. So we’ve learned that we have to work out way in advance now so we can kind of get into their schedule. Especially for a good number of the artists, the show is like a fly-in date. So they’re not necessarily on tour and things like that. So yeah we started immediately after and we’ve already sworn that for next year we’re going to start even earlier. We are really already starting booking bands for 2016. Like we’re already that far ahead because we have to for a bunch of the bigger names.

Perfect, and then maybe you do have a lot of bands that are playing that do tour steadily. I know Warped Tour plans their routing around it. They play the Cleveland date of Warped Tour the day after the APMA’s but you do have bands like Sum 41 and Simple Plan who obviously haven’t played in awhile. Were they bands that you really wanted to play the show in particular?

Yeah! We did actually and the other cool thing is that it’s really an honor and it’s also something where these bands reached out to us and said we want to make the APMA’s the first show. That is really an honor to us just because that means the show to artists has the stature that we were wanting it to have. It’s a good event for bands to kind of come out and blow it out the door because it’s a media event. It’s not just a concert and so it’s really a media event. Last year, we had some artists come out on stage and they really hadn’t planned it out very well what they were going to do. So they kind of ended up coming out just doing one of their songs but the bands that got it were the ones who came out and made something of the moment. So we’ve been working with the artists on this show for a while now on it. That’s the best part about this whole thing is that so many of these bands they now get is what they get out of the show is what they’re going to put into it. You know if they put some really great, quick, crazy wild or powerful moments up on stage, it’s going to go viral. It will be all over their socials. It will carry out for them for years. So we still see that. The Oli Sykes speech, the Billy Corgan speech, Joan Jett and Slash. All Time Low with Yellowcard, New Found Glory, Pierce The Veil. Brendon singing Sinatra. It’s still all over the place.

And then obviously there have been music award shows in the past but not unfortunately ones where a lot of these alternative acts that you’ve always covered were nominated. Maybe how long have you been wanting to even do this. Like have this awards shows. They can go up there and have their acceptance speech and win like best album.

I thought of the idea about three years ago and then our friends at Hopeless Records hit me up literally a couple months after I was kicking it around. They were like hey have you ever thought about doing one? I said funny enough. We were going to do it in 2013 because I actually got the idea the end of 2012 but we weren’t ready. Just internally we weren’t ready. We really had no planning so we needed almost a year worth of planning. So we got it moving by September of 2013 and it literally was almost a full time job by the time we hit February of 2014. Then it was pretty much evenings and weekends and days from about March all the way up to the show date. It was a lot, a lot of work.

Perfect and then considering this is the second year you’ve done it, are there things that you wanted to work on. Like considering how last year’s event went. Things you wanted to change going into this year’s award show.

Well, yeah. The first thing we wanted to do was bring it indoors. Doing it outside in a park was beautiful but we completely lucked out with the weather. It was raining not more than two days prior. We just happened to have lucked out with the temperature outdoors. Beautiful weather. Cloudless sky. The outline of downtown, everything but we were putting on an award show within a festival and the festival is what killed us. It was just way too much work. We basically built that show from scratch on that park and it was the biggest stage that had ever been in that park. We were spending so much of our time on the Porta Potty count and bike racking and it was too much. So we decided right out of the bat, we’re indoors and then it was the matter of meeting with some of the Cleveland business development organizations and the promotion organizations. We were able to work it out to be at the Quicken Loans Arena which I still can’t believe we’re in there. So now it’s reduced our work load by fifty percent. Just because the Q already has so much of the stuff that we need. Then the other thing is that we don’t need sound or lights for an outdoors show. We don’t need lights for a daytime sunlight and nighttime. We only need one set of lights now. Then just some production stuff. There was never a full rehearsal for the show because half of the artists showed up that day from Warped Tour. So there were so many parts of the show that were kind of first time run throughs that day. So we were able to smooth a lot of that out this year. Now we know, the orchestra conductor will actually get a head set. So now she’ll be able to like be cued. Last year, she was being cued by sight by somebody standing off to the side of the stage telling her play now.

Little less stressful. Perfect, and then I wanted to ask you. Maybe how are the nominees picked out of these countless touring bands? Is it kind of a nomination process within AP staff, do you bring in other people to vote on it? How do you normally go about that?

It’s primarily AP staff. We have some input from like Kevin Lyman too but it’s primarily AP staff. We literally just go through each one of the categories and we go through the past year. It’s very drawn out, a passionate debate. I actually went through and watched over like two weekends probably almost two hundred music videos. So many that I just missed. The thing that’s tough is that you’re trying to squeeze in so many sub-genres within one category and it’s virtually impossible. So you’re always going to be leaving somebody out and artist of the year, there are ten nominations. That saves our butt so many times because we can actually get a nice diverse group. We can put in the rock bands. We can put in the hardcore bands. We can put in the pop-punk bands. We can put in the pop band. We can put in the post hardcore bands. So everybody has kind of gotten the best of the best. When we get into the other nominations, it’s only six spots. As a category, that’s really difficult. You’re leaving out people and it’s just really, really tough. Then sometimes for somebody, what most people based it off of is if that put out music in the previous year but there’s a couple that are kind of left open based upon if they had a really great year. Those are tough. Those are really, really tough. It isn’t easy. I wish we could do like ten across the board for all the categories. There are some uncomfortable moments where you’re just like crap, couldn’t fit everyone in.

Perfect and then I know during the APMA’s you’re also doing the thirthieth anniversary gallery presentation. I attended the one in NYC for I believe the twenty fifth anniversary. I know as well as having a lot of Atlernative Press memorabilia, you had artists that you cover have their artwork displayed. Maybe is that something you’re going to be doing again this year. Maybe what can people look forward to with attending that?

We are actually going to be announcing something very soon that’s going to be an exhibition here in Cleveland. Wrapped around thirty years of AP and that’s going to be in one of the upcoming press releases and it’s really another one of these moments. Really an honor and we’re just completely blown away by it. So there will be something wrapped around that definitely. In a way, it’s been a little weird because the show has become such this important thing. So the thirtieth thing is almost an afterthought sometimes in my head because I’m just looking at the show. I was just thinking about it this weekend. Thirty years ago at this time, I was typing, retyping because I was editing the magazine as I was retyping. Stories that were given to us to appear in the first issue and I typed them onto a floppy disk. On the old PC in a floppy disk. Then I had to take that to our printer and then they would format that into a galley to type. That took about a week for them to do that so I think we were all still collecting artwork for a few ads that we had got. The first issue came out on June 6th, 1985 so it would have went into print four days I believe if I’m correct before that. Then it took us about a week and a half to lay it all out because it was the first issue and we were kind of going back and forth and tweaking things. We also kind of didn’t finish our logo until about a week before. So my friend Marty was doing this pointerism black logo. He had done one version and I asked him to kind of punk it up a little bit more and he did it over again.

That’s awesome! And then like you said, June 6th is obviously only a few weeks away but you’ve always kind of given a chance to new bands to be covered. You kind of see that in the award show nominations this year. Picking out bands like State Champs then The Hotelier and Pvris who are just really getting started. Maybe what are three bands you think kids should be looking for this year. Maybe bands that are starting to really do something or new bands coming out.

In general?

Yeah, in general.

Well Pvris is definitely one of them. If anybody is ready to be the next Paramore, it’s them. I really believe that.

I do too.

In the end, it’s just because they’re just so dynamic. They’re essentially a pop rock band but they’re just so dynamic and Lynn the singer is just so amazing. Her vocals are great, the songs are just awesome and they stick in your head. One of those records you can’t get out of your head after you play it. I can’t wait for the orchestra to play their version of that song in the overture. It will be awesome. Another one that’s blowing up right now is Set It Off. Those guys are again one of those bands who’s records are just catchy as hell. Their live show is really incredible. It’s so much fun and they’re a little bit of a kind of secret. Overseas, they’re blowing up like crazy in England and so forth. Here in the states, they’re definitely hot but it’s just a slight delay here. So I think that between Warped Tour and our show, it’s going to really kick them into gear. So they’re another one and I’m kind of torn with some of the third options. I would probably say it’s a toss up between Neck Deep, State Champs, Real Friends, Knuckle Puck. Like that whole new generation of pop punk stuff. It’s just so good. Man Overboard and all of that. I think that all of those bands are really just the new generation of artists. The lyrics are really good. Songs are great to sing along with and each one of them is just really representative of the times we live in. They’re all great. All of those guys are great.

Perfect then maybe to end it off, obviously the music industry is more of a passion industry, not exactly the most money making industry. Maybe advice to bands just to keep on working at it, the writers to keep on working at it, record labels to stay positive. Maybe advice to keep on gunning at it?

Yeah it’s definitely not a money making industry right now. I think we’re kind of in a state of flux. The business models really haven’t been figured out. We kind of still have the major portion of the industry trying to figure out how to hold on to the money that they were making before or get back the money they were making before. Kind of have everybody else left to their own devices. So they’re all kind of either working on some sort of donation system or they’re working out some kind of new project. Like a Kickstarter or GoFundMe or whatever. I really do think it comes down to passion because we need it. We need to do it. Even if you’re working at a coffee shop or you’re going to college or you’re having to work two other jobs and you hate it, but you have this passion to write or perform or paint or whatever, you have to do it because it’s the one thing that provides balance in society. For all the creatives and for journalists, journalism will never go away and just because things right now are all about listicles and about short form doesn’t mean it’s always going to be that way. We’re already seeing push back against this so called death of print. Print isn’t dying and it was the same argument that was said in the nineties about the movie theaters when cable television really started to kick in. They said that music was going to go away once downloading happened. Distribution platforms have changed but it’s still there and people want that. People want to go to the communal experience in a concert hall to see a band together. They want to go to the movie theaters to see movies together. Laugh together. Same thing with print. People want to hold on to print. There’s a study that people did research about who was buying digital books and they thought that it was going to be teenagers and as you got older, they were going to stick to traditional books. It was exactly the reverse. People that were buying digital things were the older people and teenagers and early twenty somethings were buying more print because they liked the romanticism of holding onto a book and putting it on their table or putting it on a shelf. Just so proud because they have that book or whatever the deal was. It’s the same thing with print like ours. So print is like vinyl. So it has to be better produced. Will be more expensive. There’s just no way to get around it. It may not be everywhere but it’s going to be collectable and people want to hold onto it. So us guys in print, we have to make sure that whatever we’re producing is something that people want to hold onto. It’s something that we’ve been doing for the past thirty years and we’re evolving that. So people like you have to keep going because we need you. We need you guys out there interviewing bands, writing about stuff. Spotify playlists aren’t going to replace the power and the ability to inform as much as the journalists will. It doesn’t matter how big bites get. It doesn’t matter how funny Buzzfeed lists are. People still want to read pieces and stories and interviews that are good quality and by people that know what they’re talking about. That aren’t doing it for page views or drama or write headlines. Like you won’t believe what they said next. You know what I mean? I would just saw across it all do what you got to do to pay your bills but definitely got to keep going. The models of how we’re all going to make money in this world are continuing to evolve and we’re going to figure this out. There will be ways for people to make money. It will come from an app or it will come from a website or whatever the deal is but unless we try, we’re not going to know. I guess that’s a really long way to kind of answer your question.

Well, thank you so much for taking the time Mike I know you’re a very busy man.

No, it’s all good! Thank you for your questions.

As It Is talks Warped Tour, the full length process and being signed to Fearless!

 

With Warped Tour in the thick of its’ second week, we’ve been highlighting bands that we think you should be checking out with Never Shout Never, Mod Sun and now As It Is! Our date is around the corner, okay in two weeks, but we’ve been working hard to secure interviews with a lot of the acts we feel should be on our readers’ radars.

We were lucky enough to sit down with Andy of As It Is on their first full US headlining run. We took some time away from the craziness of a packed crowd outside of the venue and spoke really everything As It Is has been up to lately as well as what’s to come in the future. While we hope to secure a quick interview with the band at Warped, I always appreciate getting to have a quality interview with bands outside of the hyped Warped atmosphere. Here you can find everything from Andy’s tour essentials to the quick process from being signed to Fearless to putting out their first full length album. Read on for our interview and catch the dudes on the rest of Warped Tour this summer, with them in Nashville tomorrow!

Maybe to start it off, the three things you must have with you while on tour to survive?

Hand sanitizer to stop the spread of any coughs, colds, worse things than that. Toothbrush and I suppose toothpaste has got to be with it. You got to keep your hygiene levels up because otherwise it just gets disgusting.

Then I from reading your Facebook and that kind of thing, I know you only have one more show left on the GK Tour but it is your first full tour or first full US tour. How has that experience been?

It’s been amazing. It’s been really incredible to see the amount of a response we’ve gotten from fans and from kids. Like we came over here not expecting a lot because it’s a UK band’s first time in the US. It’s like okay well if anyone’s there who knows us, it’s great and the fact that we’ve actually had quite a few people who actually know us and have been like waiting to see us, waiting for us to come over has just been pretty incredible. Yeah it’s been really cool.

Perfect and then considering that and considering the success that a lot of British pop-punk bands have had here, who have been like touring here for like six years like You Me At Six, Enter Shikari. What have you realized is the biggest difference here, probably the drives I’ll take a wild guess.

Yeah, you took the words out of my mouth there.

How has that experience been kind of having those really long drives compared to six hours being like the longest?

I’ll tell you what, it’s been mentally challenging to try and keep your sanity. I think the longest drive we’ve probably did was about sixteen hours and I think that you reach a point after about nine or ten hours where everyone’s just lost the plot. Yeah it just gets a bit ridiculous in the van. So yeah the drives have been hugely different. I mean on the average UK run, you play maybe what eight to ten shows in the UK and that’s the size of Florida and we play three shows in Florida. So that puts it into perspective so it’s just vast size difference of the US. Show wise, I don’t think there’s a huge difference between UK fans and US fans. I feel like once upon a time, there probably was but I think the internet has helped sort of because you can have friends you’ve never even met in completely different countries and discover really obscure bands from like the suburbs of any city around the world. Just through searching Facebook or searching Google or whatever. Any sort of differences sort of don’t really happen because people know so much about music worldwide. Rather than sort of specific pockets, scenes so much.

Perfect than I wanted to ask you. I know Fearless has signed international bands and they do still have them but it’s pretty much you, Chunk (Chunk! No, Captain Chunk) and Tonight Alive. How did that signing come about considering it mostly is American bands that get signed?

I feel like we’re probably a little bit in the dark of the behind the scenes workings. It was a case of we sat down when we first decided to go with our current manager. We sat down and sort of discussed first of all, whether we wanted to think about signing to a label at any point in the future. Like we weren’t big enough to even go like these are the labels we want to approach, blah, blah, blah. Anything like that. If an offer comes along from anyone, like who we would consider going with. It was maybe a list of like two or three labels with Fearless being at the top and it was like okay cool it was the end of that. Then a few months later, we just got a message over Facebook from our manager just going like Oh Fearless is interested. It was like, okay but that was basically the extent of that. Then okay, Fearless are really interested, they’re thinking about putting in an offer. Oh, okay, they’re actually interested! Not fake interested. So yeah that was basically pretty much the start of that. The whole talks process was we said to our manager who we wanted to sign with and Fearless were apparently interested.

I’ve heard that before that they’re super casual to the point where it like doesn’t seem real. Like where they’ll hit you up like over Facebook, they won’t even hit you up like over email.

It’s a good thing. I mean it doesn’t need to be like a massive sort of fan fare, pompous sort of congratulations you’ve got an offer from us! Don’t you feel amazing? It’s two likeminded, for lack of better word, entities or groups of people both wanting to achieve this same thing together and that’s what our experience with Fearless has been. It’s been great in the sense that we have likeminded thoughts about like the music industry and how record label/band relationships should operate. It’s a case of working together to create something really good. They’re helping us and they seem to be liking what we’re producing for them. Which is good. It’s always handy.

Then speaking of the things that you’re producing for them, it is your Fearless debut and it comes out in the UK April 20th then it comes out here the 21st. Maybe to start it off, why the title “Never Happy Ever After”.

So that title comes from one lyric of one of the songs. It’s a song called “Sorry” which is track number three I think. We basically went through the lyrics and just tried to think about what like the themes of the record were. The sound of it. Trying to find something that summed up like the record as a whole. I think we’ve tried to make a quite diverse record. I mean there aren’t any like reggae tracks on it but it’s not like all three minute pop songs and it’s not all ballads but there’s a bit of diversity to it. So we wanted to try and find something that sort of summed up everything. We felt that it was a nice little play on words that sort of took the lyrical tone of the record and was sort of summed up in a nice little short package.

Nice, I like that and then how do you go about the writing for this one. Was it one person, was it more collective, did it kind of change every time? Were they all new songs, older songs, like how did you go about the choosing for this album?

So it was completely collective. We got one song on the record which we recorded before which we thought was like a good way to bridge older fans with newer fans. They can all latch on to that one song but then the rest of it, it was a case of fear of how it came about. So we had the message from Fearless that they wanted to work together and then it was a case of our manager going right, so we want to try and get this record out before this time next year. Thus talking in 2014 which means we need to have it completely done by this time early 2015 which means over Christmas, it all needed to be recorded. So we recorded by the end of the year. Okay which means it needs to be written before like fall and this is a conversation we’re having maybe like a year ago. It was like okay, we can do that I think. So we were all working at the time and we knew from how we had written the EP was a case of sitting in a room together and writing. We knew that the EP was a massive step up from anything we had done previously. It was like okay, this works for us. We’ll do the same again. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We’ll do the same again but we all had jobs. So okay, that’s going to be a little bit of a snag. So basically, we all decided to jump in and do it. We get a second chance at getting a debut record done so let’s just do it. Quit our jobs, moved to Patty’s parents house and I basically lived in their attic writing the record over about three months in the summer of 2014. Basically every day. I think we had one tour in the middle of it which was like five dates which was a nice little break. Then had a few days off here and there but it was pretty much rock solid all the way up till we flew out to Florida to record the record. Yeah it was just a case of everyone sitting in a room bouncing ideas off each other and everyone has input on everything. Like Foley, our drummer, helped write a lead line for one song. He was just like I’ve got this idea in my head from what we’ve worked out. I think it should go like this and he just sang it. I was like brilliant, sounds great to me. Then Patty and Ben both play drums as well. I don’t play drums but still try to have my input on the drums and just basically try and craft all the songs as best we can. If it’s something where some people are really unhappy with something, then everyone has the right to say no I don’t like it and we go back and re-look at it because if they don’t like it, there’s got to be a reason behind it. If they can articulate the reason, and we can discuss it and work through it then we’ll probably get a better song out of it. So that’s sort of how we do it.

Perfect, then this is pretty soft compared to what we’ve been talking about. Maybe the first CD or first cassette you ever remember buying as a kid and the first concert you ever went to?

The first CD I ever bought was Eiffel 65’s “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” if you remember that, do you remember that?

Yeah I do.

I remember it said on the front cover the Italian international super hit.

The one hit.

Yeah, the one hit. So yeah that’s quite embarrassing one. It’s a bit of a tune. Yeah I only bought it because my favorite football team growing up, well still is was Chelsea and they play in blue. As a little kid, I loved the title and always wore a lot of blue attire. I think the first ever concert I went to was a band called Status Quo with my dad. Have you heard of Status Quo?

Yeah!

So good old dad rock.

Good experiences.

Yeah, god they were getting on a bit then so they’re really old now.

Then to end it off like I said, you’re still very new to touring in the states and you’re on this US label but what is coming up for As It Is once this album comes out?

So after this, we do the Warped Tour kickoff party. That’s why we’re cutting this tour short, to fly over to LA and do that. Then we’re going straight from LA to Europe to Germany to do a European tour with Silverstein. Then once we finish that, we play our record release show in London on the day the record comes out. As soon as we get back, very busy. It’s been a solid two months of touring which is by far the longest we’ve been away. So that’s when the record comes out. Which will be great because we’ve been done with it for ages. I keep forgetting that it’s not out yet. So that comes out and then we do a UK co-headline run with This Wild Life and have a couple festivals. Hit The Deck festival and at the end of the UK run, we’ve got Download Festival. I’ve been going to that for the past five years just as a fan so to get to play that is quite cool, it’s like we can tick that off the band bucket list.

Yeah exactly.

Then we come back to the US for Warped Tour. We’re doing the whole of Warped Tour. Which is going to be I think another amazing experience.

Only the best tour that exists in the summer. It will be my sixth year covering Warped Tour. The tour is such a great opportunity for you as a smaller band here. Just a huge opportunity.

Absolutely and it’s also growing up in the UK, Warped Tour is this mythical thing. Like I always wanted to go to the Warped Tour growing up. You see the lineup come out every year growing up and you’re like, right well seventy five percent of these bands I love and how am I not getting to see this. I only ever wanted to go and this is the first time I’m going and it’s to play the entire thing in my band. Which just is crazy. That’s a real dream come true there.

Well then maybe to end it off, are there bands that you are excited to see on Warped Tour or maybe bands you haven’t met yet that are maybe playing the tour with you?

The Wonder Years, super excited to see them. I’ve seen them loads of times but always enjoy seeing them. Who else is in there?

I think most have been announced besides like some main stage bands maybe but I think the majority of it has been announced.

And if they haven’t been fully announced, they’ve probably leaked. Motion City Soundtrack I’m excited to see because I’ve never seen them before and I can’t wait to see them. Man Overboard, they’re just great songwriters so I’m excited to see them.

You always have a good Fearless representation on the tour.

Yeah there is! It’s one of those things too when your mind just goes black. Silverstein, I’m excited to see. All the bands that we seem to be touring with at the moment are going to be there. We did the European tour before this with Trophy Eyes who are on Hopeless and they’re from Australia. Such great lads. So it will be good to see them again. Silverstein will be really cool, never seen them. Obviously I’ll get to see them when I’m on tour with them and then This Wild Life who we’re doing the UK run with. We’re excited to see them. Set It Off are playing it as well.

It will be a good time.

Yeah! It will be nice going into Warped Tour knowing people. Like Neck Deep is on it. We’ve seen them before but they’re always good to watch.

You’re going to be a happy camper.

Yes, very.

Brings Music to Life!