One thing I’m learning from doing interviews is that you come up with lots of good questions that you don’t want to repeat, because every question is a fragile little gem, then you get a band that makes you dust out the best of those questions and beat them into service. Meet Brick by Brick.
Brick by Brick has a long and storied career which reads like a documentary on all that’s upstate and heavy as fuck. With five CDs and three 7” records out, (and a baby on the way,) they’ve opened for metal legends and became legends in the process. We sit down with Mike Valente, guitarist, promoter and, soon, secret Santa.
RRX: So Mike, million questions to ask. Let’s start with a roll call. Who plays what, and what gets everybody out of bed in the morning besides the need to pay the bills?
Well, we are all proud, blue collar guys. Working class schmucks. You got Jameson, our drummer. He’s a psycho. He teaches martial arts and is a barber. Then there’s Andy that plays bass. He’s mellow on the outside. He’s very technical in his approach to writing. Very versatile and talented. He does HVAC and has a family. Then there’s Ray, the nomad. He’s been fronting the band for four years now and is a powerhouse on vocals. He does cyber security in his spare time. Lastly there’s myself. I’ve got a love for music that is unparalleled. I sacrifice money, time and sanity for it. I’m a so-so guitarist that catches shoplifters as a trade. We like to have fun, bring the fun and ensure fun for everyone.
RRX: February 22nd. Hive Mentality. Sounds like it’s going to slam. Now I know you put out the vinyl for last year’s Thin the Herd earlier this year, and the compilation Upstate Records. But you guys are lining up a little heat for the late winter icebox. Tell us about the upcoming studio album. What can we look forward to?
It’s metal. We have always been the odd man out on Hardcore bills. We’re metal band with the Hardcore attitude, never claimed to be anything else. This record has the best production to date that we have done. All thanks to Jason Bourdeau. We have guest spots on this record from Tony of Municipal Waste, Vincent of The Acacia Strain, and Jessica of Alekhines Gun and she’s on the Netflix TV show Orange is the New Black as well.
RRX: As you just mentioned, you have a few some guests on the new release. And I’ve seen a lot of collaboration in your videos that are so definitive of the hardcore/metal scene here. What are the benefits, and maybe even the challenges, of working “across borders” like that?
It’s all about the attitude. There are some bands and some genres that are not Hardcore but have the Hardcore mentality. Take Johnny Cash for example; Hardcore as a motherfucker. The best part about having a hardcore attitude is that there are no prejudices. A lot of metal bands failed to embrace an open mind mentality. It seems that the more underground the bands are the more receptive they are to all genres. I never want to lose that.
RRX: Mike, everyone in the scene knows that you are one of the promoters of record here in the 518. And I sure hope that lots of starting-out bands read this article. What do new bands need to know about the old order? What do old bands jumping back in need to know about the new game?
Music is what you make it. If you’re lazy you’re gonna get lazy results. I rarely see bands going out and promoting their own shows. I am slowing down with booking shows because agents ruin friendships. It’s difficult to make money in this scene. Everyone thinks that there’s a boatload of cash to be made and there’s not. Bands need to realize that there is a process called paying your dues. What that means is you’re supposed to promote your shows and build up your fan-base, while cultivating friendships with out-of-town bands and trading shows. No one seems to get it.
I have tried numerous times to help bands and it just doesn’t happen. The only way to ensure that the Metal and Hardcore scene thrive is to keep bringing younger and newer people into this culture. Young bands just starting out, be prepared to work. Don’t expect anything to be given to you. I’m sick of the self-entitlement bullshit of social media. Paying your fucking dues like everybody else is done. Older bands that are jumping back into the scene, you have a sense of responsibility to the younger kids to help them and guide them.
Let’s relax on the agents. A lot of these agents bump up the price to where they are astronomical for a smaller market. A majority of the bands that I book, I’m friends with, and they know what the capability that the 518 has. It’s not New York City, so a thousand people are not gonna show up for Madball, However, in New York City they will. So why should I have to pay the same amount that they’re charging in New York City? So the help of the band is detrimental and can make or break a show.
RRX: You guys are having a Toy Drive benefit show at Chrome in Waterford on December 22nd. I’ve noticed you guys are always doing something to help people out. Whether it’s supporting family through a rough patch or putting in for the Smash Cancer benefit last year, you guys give back. Can you talk about the role benefits have in metal/hardcore culture?
The Madeline Hardcore scene is very family oriented. All the kids that come to shows, or in bands, or promote all have a sense of responsibility to those less fortunate. I am no better than the next person. We just have different paths in life. Someday I may need help and I would hope that’s someone would give me a hand in succeeding rather than kick me when I’m down.
The Acacia Strain and Brick by Brick have raised over ten-thousand toys for underprivileged kids in the past few years. We have raised thousands and thousands of dollars for kids … that need money for the help. We have donated literally a ton of food to shelters. These are the people that are in our scene. These are the people that need help.
I do whatever I can to have a positive reflection on music that is looked at as so negative. The lyrics may be negative, the pits may be violent, the riffs may be heavy, but do not be fooled, this is a real music. With a real message.
RRX: I like to ask people to give me they’re wildest road story. Some bands have played ball, so let’s see. Give me something, keep it beyond any statute of limitations – save us both a headache. Strange, bizarre, mind-blowingly messed up – all of that. What do you got?
There are hundreds of stories. There is not one regret that we have. We have been accused of inciting riots. We show up, we do our jobs, we party, we leave a lasting mark. One time in California, Ray decided to jump in the pit and grab a guy in a wheelchair and motor him through the pit. The wheel of the wheelchair broke off. He dumped his poor guy onto the ground like a sack of potatoes. There is so much more to that story but that is essentially the gist of what began the shit-storm following. Ask me in person it’s funny.
RRX: What else do you have in the works? Anything on the horizon that we haven’t talked about here?
We definitely have plans. I’m going back to Europe, the west coast, the east coast, and of course keep your eyes out for new merch.
RRX: Shout outs. We’re trying to build an upstate music Wiki on here. We can manage the names, but we’re looking for the grimy geniuses who never see the light of center stage. Help us spread the word. Who’s in the shadows?
Jason Bourdeau – producer
Overit Media – studio
Alan Douches – Mastering
Mario Cangemi – Upstate Records.
Catch Brick by Brick at the Toy Drive on December 22nd at Chrome in Waterford featuring The Acacia Strain, Recon, Kill All Betrayers, Year of the Knife, Vatican, Chamber and Beast. $15 with a toy. $20 without.
Be sure to also mark February 22nd off your 2019 calendar for the CD Release of Brick by Brick’s Hive Mentality at Upstate Concert Hall, with Dying Fetus, Ramallah, Iam, Snapmare, Assault on the Living and Close to Nothing. Doors at 6:30 pm – $25 at the show.