Hard Talk

Interview with Jonny Santos of Silent Civilian

Many of you may know the name. Jonny Santos. Vocalist/front man for the grammy nominated band Spineshank. No need to say anything more.

That was then.

Jonny is now vocalist/guitarist for what may possibly be the future of “thrash metal”. Silent Civilian have just released their debut album, ‘Rebirth Of The Temple’ on Mediaskare Records and I’ve got to say it’s off the fuckin’ hook. Getting back to his “thrash” roots while having complete artistic control over the album keeps the “thrash metal flag” flying. And if this is what a year worth of work produces, I can’t wait to see what five years will bring. Maybe ten. For Jonny Santos, Silent Civilian is the future.

And this is now….

JH: First off, the million dollar question. Why did you leave Spineshank?

JS: Well, there was a lot involved with that. I think mainly I just felt like basically the band had ran it’s course. Nobody was really having much fun anymore. To be completely honest with you, if you’re not having fun doing this, then why the hell are you doing it. We weren’t working well together and I was not happy with the last record we put out. The band had just gotten nominated for a grammy and I thought, if there ever was a way to go out, this was the time to do it. Instead of sitting back and watching the ship sink. I wanted to do this and the other guys had things they wanted to do as well. It was pretty mutual.

JH: After you decided to leave, did you have a plan of what you were going to do next?

JS: I had no clue what I was gonna do. I took a year off and played in a few other bands. Just some fun straight up rock bands. Playing guitar. And that was another thing. I was so desperately wanting to get back to playing guitar because I was a guitar player for 13 years before being in Spineshank. And that band was not allowing me to do that. About a year after I left is when I started this band. I woke up one day and thought, I’m gonna start a heavy, thrash metal band.

JH: So how did Silent Civilian come to be?

JS: I put an add out for a drummer and my drummer actually sent me a video on myspace and was like wow, you’ve got to be kidding me. I had him come down to the studio to audition. First guy to audition, first guy to get the job. We started writing and got the other guys in the band soon enough. Did the record and within a year of the bands conception, we had finished the record and now we’re out on tour.

JH: How about the name?

JS: First of all, I didn’t want us sounding like every other band out there. You know with dying or bleeding or that. I wanted an interesting name that also was fairly easy for people to remember. It’s kinda like symbolic of how many people in our society are so afraid to speak their minds about what they truly believe. Whether it’s politically motivated, religiously motivated just beliefs in general that we’ve been handed down or force fed over the years that you have to believe in this or that because you are told to. And if you don’t you’re bad. So many people out there, even some of my closest friends are guilty of it, like why do you take that shit. Why don’t you tell them how you really feel. And they’re like hey that’s not right.

JH: Cause when you do like me, you’re just a jackass.

JS: Yeah, so sometimes I feel that I live in a society full of silent civilians. Think for yourself. Have a fuckin’ opinion.

JH: How about the new album? Can you tell us a bit about that?

JS: Well it’s an hour’s worth of ass-kicking. I really took my time with this record. I had complete control, creative control over it. There was no one from the label sticking their heads in saying hey we need a single, we need a song that’s 3:20, blah, blah, blah. I didn’t have to deal with any of that. I was really the most amazing experience ever. Also I’m so sick and tired of bands putting out 30 minute records and charging kids $20 for it. That’s bullshit. With this record you get an hour’s worth of music, you get a video and there’s a 10 minute documentary on the making of the record. You can get it at best buy for $13.99. I’m so tired of bands out there ripping off kids. So I didn’t want to do that shit.

JH: What about the overall lyrical theme of the album?

JS: There are so many different subjects I touched on with this record. I didn’t want to pigeon-hole the band into being one type of thing. There are songs on there that are motivated and inspired by positivity, perseverance. There are songs that are motivated by straight hate, there’s a song on there that’s about my distaste for organized religion. Falling Down was inspired by the movie. Rebirth of the Temple, the title track is about moving forward. You can never go back and change the past, but you have control of your own future. I wanted it to be colorful.

JH: Are you happy with the turnout?

JS: Oh hell yes. Extremely.

JH: So how are the fans warming up to it?

JS: Fucking insane. The records doing fabulous. The video has been in full rotation now on Headbanger’s Ball. I actually hosted The Ball this past weekend.

JH: Sorry, didn’t catch it.

JS: But yeah, the fans have been going crazy over it. Every night we come out and start playing they’re like, what the fuck? And then violence ensues.

JH: Now I hear since touring has started, it has not been very kind to you guys. Care to elaborate?

JS: Well it’s been okay. We lost our guitarist and our bassist. We lost our original guitarist because, it was nothing personal and we wish him the best, it’s just touring isn’t made for everybody. He’s a guy just hitting 30, owns his own business, family. He was pretty set in his ways. And I totally respect that. When you go out on the road and stick 9 people in an RV, and all of a sudden, you have no personal space. So he quit. He respectfully finished the Nothingface tour we were on bowed out. Our bass player, god honest truth, broke his ankle and said I’m gonna go home and rest. Okay. Haven’t heard from him since. Can’t find him.

JH: That’s crazy.

JS: Yeah. It’s the most insane thing ever. I’ve had some friends call me up and say that they’ve seen him somewhere. At a store or something at the mall. He won’t return my calls so whatever. Right now we’ve got some fill-in guys and you know, we’ll see if they work out. They’re really talented musicians. We just don’t want to make that same mistake again. I want to know that they are in it for the long haul. I don’t want to be like a Soulfly with a constant, ever changing band for every album.

JH: I believe he does that on purpose. To keep things on the fresh side.

JS: Yeah that’s cool and all, but I don’t believe in hired guns. If you’re going to be in the band, I want you to be a full fledged member.

JH: So what’s the summer tour schedule look like? How long have you been out so far?

JS: Five months. It looks like we’re going to do this with Droning Pool till the end of July. And after that there are a few things that are questionable. But this band will more than likely be out on the road till the end of next summer.

JH: I’ve seen some mixed reviews on the new album. Have you read any? Whould you like to comment on any.

JS: You know I try not to. Almost everything I’ve heard, about 90% has been positive. Then I hear some negative comments about the band too. If I actually read into that shit, then it’s just going to bum me out. I’m happy doing this. The fans are great and the record is fucking selling great. So we’re doing something right.

JH: Your hardcore fans don’t like the change.

JS: Oh well.

JH: Who are some of the musicians who have influenced you the most?

JS: Growing up I got into metal at a very early age. I was a huge into the thrash scene in the late ‘80s. I grew up on bands like Death Angel and Sacred Reich, Testament, Exodus. Bands like that.

JH: Yeah me too. I was a roadie/sound tech with Death Angel for a while.

JS: Are you serious?

JH: Yes. I was 16/17. Somewhere in there. Part of their tour before they went in the studio for Frolic and a few shows after that.

JS: That’s fucking awesome. I know Ted , there new guitar player who replaced Gus. He actually hit me up and said he loved the band. (tour, tour)

JH: Yeah, it was great seeing them the year before last at the Milwaukee Metal Fest. We were able to shoot the shit for a bit.

JS: I think they’re going out with Armored Saint this month. So yeah, bands like that. As for actual musicians, as a guitar player guys like Randy Rhodes, Satriani, Slash was a huge influence on me as a guitar player. Kirk Hammet and I’d even say a little bit of Yngwie. I really dug Rising Force when I was a kid. It’s like wow, that guy can really play that?

JH: So what made you decide to get back to your “thrash metal” roots?

JS: I really wanted to have fun. And be in a band that I always wanted to be in. By the time that I had became an adequate guitar player who sounded descent at what I did, thrash was under the blanket. The whole Seattle movement killed it. I was 14 and was watching my favorite music die out. I had no expectations of this band. I already did it. I made 3 records. Sold almost a million records worldwide, nominated for a grammy and I’m still in my 20’s. So I said fuck it! I’m gonna go out and have a good fuckin’ time.

JH: So is the music you’re playing with Silent Civilian truly the music you love playing?

JS: Definitely.

JH: How do you yourself describe the bands sound?

JS: I would basically say that our band is a modern thrash band.

JH: Modern thrash? Ah ha! You just started another new genre.

JS: Yeah no shit. But there’s a lot of metal bands that are metal-core, thrash-core. Core this core that. Nobody is really carrying the thrash flag anymore except the original thrash bands.I don’t see any of the bands today doing the punk beats with the metal riffs which is basically what thrash was. It’s a mixture. Thrash is not about all screaming. It was about loud, fast punk influenced metal. I really wanted to incorporate a lot of that into the band. These are the things I really enjoy doing. So when asked, I tell people we’re a thrash metal band.

JH: Where do you see Silent Civilian in the next few years?

JS: Still making records and still touring. I want for this band, longevity is the word I’m looking for. I’m not about becoming the next over night sensation. I want to see this band do what Slayer has done and Metallice has done. Build a career. Build a solid fan base. And be around. And not compromise our artist integrity for radio stations and shit like that. I would rather sell 500,00 records in the next 15 years every time we put out a record than sell 4 million records right now and have no one care in a year.

JH: Well that’s about all I have for you. Anything else you want to add?

JS: Well, I obviously want to thank all the fans out there. Old and new for their support and know that we love you and will definitely be in a town somewhere near you soon at some point cause we’re not going home. I want to thank you for taking the time and interest in the band to come down here and help promote the band as well.

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