Exclusive Artist Interview- 10 Years

Brian Vodinh of Alt-Rock Mainstay 10 Years Gives Us an Exclusive Interview from His Studio in Knoxville, Tennessee

10 Years (photo courtesy of Elizabeth Wiseman)
10 Years is coming to South Texas (photo courtesy of Elizabeth Wiseman)

Rob Gomez– Good morning, Brian. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
Brian Vodinh– Absolutely, man. Thanks for having me.
RG(how to live) AS GHOSTS. This is a huge album for you guys, especially since this is the first time you’ve written the entire album as a group. What was that experience like?
BV– It was fun! It was the first time that we had fun doing it. We had tried in the past to do that, but the personalities involved with the previous lineup made it a little bit too toxic and we weren’t able to write as a group because it always just ended up in a fight. This time around we had the right culmination of personalities to where it was a fun experience. We had times that were difficult and challenging, but the songs came together really quickly. I think we spent the most amount of time working through the vocals and then the actual music comes really quick for us. It was just a great experience. It also helped build a lot of camaraderie and unity within this lineup now.

(how to live) AS GHOSTS- 10 Years’ latest album

RG– And the vocals are definitely a change from what you’ve done on previous albums. Jesse’s (Hasek) voice is very unique and he usually uses a lot of different effects and echo. This is really is more of a straightforward rock sound, compared to the other albums, wouldn’t you say?
BV– Absolutely. The producer, Nick Raskulinecz, played a big role in influencing that. When we first met with him, he had listened to a lot of our older catalogue, especially the last couple of records that I produced. There are a lot of songs on those albums that have a lot of vocal layering and a lot of effects, and that’s the result of when Jesse and I are left to our own devices in the studio. We tend to gravitate towards those types of sounds. We like a really cinematic approach to production. Nick wanted to completely stray from that path this time and, like you said, present something that was a bit more of a straightforward, abbreviated, almost more vulnerable vocal sound for Jesse. I think the result was awesome. It was weird for us, at first, to try to understand that and that it would have the power that he kept telling us it would have, but the end result was great and we’re happy with it, for sure.
RG– As you guys grow older and deal with new life experiences, are ya’ll conscious of your fans going through a similar journey?
BV– We are, and it took us being out on the road and talking to fans a lot to truly understand how emotions are universal. When we were young, we wrote songs because they made sense to us, or maybe it conveyed something we were going through personally. It took us traveling the world and being places as far away as Korea or Japan where people would come up to us and say that they have gone through something that’s exactly the same as what’s in one of our songs. Then you realize that there’s only so many human emotions and no matter if you live 4000 miles away from where we do, we are all feeling those things. Now, we are very aware of the connection that fans can make to the songs. We are also aware that sometimes a fan can relate to a song in a way that is a little bit different from how we feel about the song or what triggered us to write that song, and that’s ok. The interpretation is open and we want it to be open! As long as the listener is getting something out of it and they find a way to relate it to themselves, that’s fine with us. To me, having people that have said that we helped get them through times in their life or if they’ve suffered some sort of tragedy and a song of ours helped them in any way… that’s really gratifying and it really does mean a lot to us.
RG– Since you guys created this album as a collective, does that make playing it live more enjoyable?
BV– It does. In the past, Jesse and I would kind of hole ourselves away and write and I would handle most of the musical duties. Then, I would always be concerned with how that would be presented live, because you have to figure out who is playing what parts and everybody has to get comfortable and familiar with the material. This time around, we didn’t even really talk about the parts. Someone would play something that would get everyone else’s attention and we’d say “Hey, let’s work on that! Keep going!” Then, all of a sudden, we have this song and everybody has their parts and we’ve fallen into a groove with it… and we don’t even discuss it. On the guitars for this album, Matt (Wantland) and I never talked about who was going to play what or how we wanted to approach the song. We just figured it out with our ears and by listening to one another. That’s about as close to any form of musical magic that this band has experienced. It’s really fun when the song dictates what we do as individuals and everybody falls in line in an appropriate place and we don’t even discuss it. It was really cool!
RG– You’re really the Swiss Army Knife of 10 Years. Your role has expanded and shifted quite a bit over the years. You were the drummer and you wrote a lot of the music, then you started to play the guitar more. You produced the last two albums and wrote a lot of the music on them. What has all that transition been like from inside the band?
BV– It’s weird, because I feel internally like I’ve had the same role forever. I started the band in 1998 with a Marshall half-stack and a Les Paul thinking I was going to be the guitar player. At that time, I didn’t even have a drum set. Drums weren’t even on my radar. What happened was that a guy tried out to be our drummer, but it didn’t work out and we weren’t really happy with his playing. He left, and he left his drum set at my parents house. So I just had this drum kit sitting there for a long time! All my friends back then were guitar players, so we had people that could play guitar if it wasn’t going to be me. I ended up sitting behind the drums just to mess with them and my friends were like “Dude, you can play! Why don’t you just be the drummer?” and I was like “Well…” My deal was I said I would play one show on the drums and that’s it! Then we would find a drummer, but it’s been basically our whole career…
RG-… and it turned into 10 or 15 years of drum playing!
BV– Exactly! I think the way we have things now works well. I still play drums on the album and the guitar, but then live, our touring drummer Kyle (Mayer) will be behind the kit and I’m on guitar. I think that’s working for us. Again, I started this band as a guitar player, because to me, the most important aspect of this band is the songwriting. I think that because I’m so dedicated to the songs themselves, and I can play drums, bass, guitar, or whatever, I just like to focus on the song writing. I can just be wherever I need to be, as far as the playing goes. It is fun to still get to play some drums, especially in the studio, because I think a big part of the band’s sound has become my drumming. It’s an interesting thing, because my drum parts are not really technical or challenging to play, but it’s just the relationship my drumming has with the sound of the band. It really works. Kyle has been great, he plays the parts perfectly and he’s an incredible asset to the band. Right now, everybody is in a comfortable place. I was just happy, on this last album, to not have to produce, mix, or master it. That alleviated a lot of stress and I was able to just focus on playing the guitar parts, playing the drum parts, and just having fun!
RG– Yeah! I’d imagine without that added pressure, it’s fun to just do what you wanted to do in the first place, which was play.
BV– Exactly!
RG– Like you said, your drumming has really shaped the way the band creates music. How do you think your style of guitar playing has changed the sound of 10 Years?
BV– Guitar-wise, I’ve always written the songs on guitar, from day one. I feel like there is a really specific relationship between what I do on the guitar and what I do on the drums. Even on all the albums before now, when I was the drummer, I still played guitar on every album. Going all the way back to the beginning, I feel like my sense of rhythm between the guitar and the drums has really always created a certain sound. If you couple that sound with Jesse’s voice and some of that textural, ambient guitar over the top of it, that’s really the signature sound of the band. It all starts, usually, with a riff or something on guitar. That’s historically been where we begin. A lot of times, if I sit down with an acoustic guitar I’ll just come up with some riffs and ideas and then the rest of the band builds off of that one thing, including trying to figure the drum parts. I kind of feel like that’s been the mainstay for me, the riff and then the drumming, those are always tied together. As far as I’m concerned, the drums and guitar are all one thing, because they have such a close relationship.
RG– On the Autumn Effect and Division, you guys had a lot of that ambient, ethereal guitar-playing and acoustic riffing that tied the tracks together and connected the album. It seems like on the last few albums, you’ve had less of that. Is that something you guys have grown out of or is it just not coming to you all organically?
BV– We do like that stuff. To be honest with you, one thing that has kind of bummed us out is how, now, people listen to music digitally and stream it. So the concept of an album, as a whole, now seems challenging to present in the way that we used to. If you put an Autumn Effect or Division CD in and listen to it all the way through, it’s presented to you in the exact way we wanted to convey that album, with all the little in-between things. I remember a while back, listening to our songs on a digital platform, like on Spotify or one of those, and I noticed that some of the in-between things are missing when you listen to it that way! So it’s challenging now for the songs and albums to be presented in that way. I think we’ve just focused on songs, mostly, but I’m sure that down the road we will go back to something like that, because that really is just who we are. We like the in-between things! I definitely think we will revisit that, but we also don’t want every album to be the same. We explore and we try different avenues and there’s going to be threads that weave in and out of the picture.
RG– That’s a bummer, that you guys feel confined by the digital way that we are all consuming music. You guys feel like your picture is not being portrayed the way you want it to be, because of those constraints. That sucks!
BV– It’s tough, because we didn’t even realize that until a fan came up to me and said “I remember hearing these in-between things on the album, but when I stream it, I don’t hear any of that stuff!” Then Jesse and I went and looked up some of the older material on these new digital platforms and I remember hearing that certain things weren’t there and I couldn’t figure out how in the world that even happened! We tried to make certain things connect to the songs, so I don’t know… not exactly sure what happened. It’s a bummer, but now we’re living in a 100MPH society and I think instant gratification is that three minutes of a song that they can instantly pull up. I almost feel like now music is less about the journey, so to speak, as it is that everybody wants everything at the tip of their fingers. I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong about that. But I do feel like society, as a whole (especially with technology and how it’s advancing so rapidly) is just changing, to where everything we knew about the music business when we first started is irrelevant now. Just like everyone else, we are trying to adapt and figure out the next step. I saw an article a while back that was talking about Apple trying to get rid of downloads, to where it’s literally all just streaming! I don’t know if that’s true or accurate, but the thought of it is terrifying!
RG– Yeah, the thought of not being able to own music!
BV– Yeah, it’s very bizarre! I grew up where I would save my allowance every week and clean the bathroom and help do laundry so I could go to the mall on Saturday, buy a CD, open that thing up and read the lyrics. Even just the feeling of opening up a new CD and smelling that new CD smell, that was so cool! The kids nowadays don’t have that. It’s weird, it’s a different world. There’s nothing I can do or the band can do to change any of that, so we are just trying to figure out a way to adapt.
RG– In a time where most music is streamed and downloaded, how does an artist even measure success anymore? If you look at “Wasteland”, it almost has 20 million hits on Spotify, but is it the same feeling of satisfaction as selling physical copies of an album?
BV– Oh, not even close! Plays are really nice, but you definitely cannot gauge success by sales numbers anymore. In my opinion, success is measured by how many people are coming to your shows, by how many people are buying tickets and buying t-shirts. The live show is such a crucial aspect of how bands can survive now, because unless you’re Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran, sales aren’t really going to provide you the lifestyle you want! You have to get out there and slug it away on the road. That’s crucial. For us, if we can go to a market one year and have 500 people show up and then go there the next year and have 700 people show up, to me, that’s success. Success is still putting people in a room that care about your music and want to see you perform it live. At the end of the day, we’re a rock band, and rock music is so much about the live show. As long as we can keep selling tickets and people still come to see us, that’s success.
RG– That’s a great way to measure success. You guys had the Autumn Effect go Gold in December, how does that feel?
BV– It’s unbelievable! When you’re a kid, you dream about that! You dream about being on a tour bus, traveling around and playing and having that record on the wall. I can say I’m sitting in my studio in Knoxville, Tennessee, right now with a Gold record over my shoulder. That’s kind of a surreal thing to be able to say. We’re thrilled about it. Nowadays, it’s kind of unrealistic for a band like us to think that we’re going to release (how to live) AS GHOSTS or an album we release in the future and have that go Gold. As we’ve been talking about, people are streaming more and buying less. I’m just happy we had one album, even though came out in 2005, that was able to capture that status. We came in on the tail end of the old album-buying generation, but now things are progressing in a different way. It’s really cool that we were at least able to get one to reach that milestone.
RGThe Autumn Effect and Division are landmark albums for alt-rock in the first decade of the 2000’s. Do you this album has that potential to be that big and influential in this decade?
BV– I would like to think so, but only time will tell. When we released The Autumn Effect and Division, we didn’t realize the importance of those albums. We loved them, we thought they were cool, but it took years going by for us to realize their significance. I hope it is. I hope this is the album that not only adds new fans to our stratosphere, but also becomes significant down the road, where it’s one of our “classic” albums. We’ll see. We are very happy with the record, and the success of “Novacaine” so far has been incredible. It’s the long-term that we’re really looking for. I think if we have a couple more singles on this album that touch people in a personal way, and people can find something in the songs that’s really meaningful, then I think the album stands a good chance of being that.
RG– It’s a very strong album. “Novacaine” is a strong single, and it’s great to hear 10 Years on mainstream radio and XM every hour again. Takes me back to my high school days!
BV– Yeah!
RG– 10 Years and Sevendust are two bands, to me, that are synonymous with consistency. Both of those bands never put out a bad album, there’s just good and there’s great. Is that something you guys stay mindful of or strive for?
BV– We are lucky enough to be heavily influenced, on and offstage, by bands like Sevendust and a lot of the bands we’ve toured with, like the guys in Disturbed. We’re good friends with them and they’ve been a huge influence in us, not necessarily musically (our bands sounds nothing alike), but in the way they treat fans and the way they work very hard and care very much about their music and what they put out there. We know that our fans expect something particular from us, but it all starts with us. We have to be happy with what we do first. Same thing that the Sevendust guys have told us in the past, which is you hope that the fans love what you do, but you also have to make sure you love what you do. That’s a big thing for us. There’s certain songs, of course, we’ll always like more than others, but we have to love these albums, and they have to mean something to us. As long as it’s real, it’s emotional, and we’re being honest, then I feel like we’re doing our job. If we do those things and we love the material, then I think that tends to translate to the fans. That’s the only way we know how to do it. We’re very fortunate in that department, in that as long as we keep doing what we do, the fans appreciate it and they feel something from it.
RG– What are some other bands that you feel are consistently good, or have been influential to 10 Years, both at the beginning and now?
BV– I would say that Deftones is one of those bands that we absolutely adore. They obviously have been through different phases, and they have some albums we like more than others, but they have set a bar for us. We admire those guys and, album after album, they keep doing what they want to do. They’re not succumbing to any external pressures or anything like that. We definitely look at them as a big influence. We love bands like Incubus and Nine Inch Nails. I think a lot of the bands we look up to are the ones that have had very long careers and have done what they wanted to do. It becomes challenging when you start to shape-shift yourself to try to fit the mold of what society thinks is popular at the time, because those trends will always change. Now, all of a sudden, you’re irrelevant if you’re doing that. It’s a matter of being yourself and being honest and not chasing trends all the time. Most of the bands that we love have never cared about trends, they just do what they do, you know?
RG– Shifting gears, what is it like playing in Texas compared to other places?
BV– Oh, man! Texas is an anomaly. We always talk about how we don’t know where all these rock fans come from! You go and you play in other states, and we have great shows all over the place, but there’s something about Texas… I feel like the fans are just a bit more rabid and I feel like there’s more of them! It’s very heartfelt and heartwarming when we go there, because the reception is not only good, but the fans sing the lyrics. They know the songs. You can tell there’s just a lot of support there. Texas is awesome, man, it’s like a second home to us.
RG– I think it’s just what they put in the water here, that has a lot to do with it.
BV– *laughs* Must be! It’s something, for sure!
RG– Any special memories of playing in San Antonio?
BV– Oh, man, a lot! San Antonio, even from the early days, the Autumn Effect days, has been a staple for us. Whether it’s playing festivals or… there used to be a place there (I don’t know if it’s still around) called Sunset Station. I remember playing there a bunch. Tons of good memories! I remember, in the early days, before we knew how significant Texas was going to be to us as a band, going there the first couple years of touring and quickly realizing that there’s something different about San Antonio and with Texas in general with rock music. Yeah man, we love it there. We appreciate all the people that come out. Must be something in the water, I guess!
RG– How about down here in Corpus Christi? I saw you guys here in 2008 for the Division tour and ya’ll just killed it! It was amazing.
BV– Oh, nice! Yeah, Corpus is another, man. It’s always a good show there, always good times… and of course, the Texas heat! *laughs*
RG– Oh yeah, being by the water, it’s lovely, isn’t it?
BV– Oh, man! I remember being at that Concrete Street Amphitheater before, multiple times, and being like “Well, now I know what it feels like on the sun” *laughs*
RG– That’s actually where I saw ya’ll. It was on the Pavilion and it was a hot night that night! So many critics say that rock music is dead, but obviously you and I know that’s not true. What do you think the status of the genre is in 2018?
BV– Well, when people say rock is dead, I think they are just basing that solely on sales numbers, and I don’t think that’s an accurate gauge anymore. I don’t think that’s an accurate gauge for anything in the music business. Maybe in the pop genre, but in rock music, again, it’s ticket sales! I saw statistics on the Metallica tour last year, and the amount of tickets that they were selling and the amount of people they had at each show was mind-blowing! So, tell them that rock is dead, you know what I mean?
RG– Absolutely! And Guns N’Roses. Foo Fighters. They’re selling millions of tickets, shirts, albums.
BV– Exactly. Going back to the sales thing, I just don’t think that looking at those figures is accurate. I don’t think that represents a true picture anymore, especially of rock music. Sure, sales might not be what they used to be, but people are still going to concerts and they’re buying tickets and buying t-shirts, so I think that’s a more accurate gauge.
RG– 10 Years is well-known and respected for their acoustic performances. You guys have toured acoustically and released 2 acoustic EP’s. Will we ever see an entire album of acoustic material for the band?
BV– To be honest, I would love to do that! We’ve talked about it, it’s just going to be a matter of making it happen. I think in the future, it’s very possible. No immediate plans for it, right now, but, it’s something we would like to do.
RG– What can fans expect at your 2018 Fan Summit on January 20th in San Antonio?
BV– Well, it’s going to be a good time. The Fan Summit is all about the fans and it allows people to have a little bit more of a hands-on experience. There’s an opportunity to go up and play or sing a song with us. We’re selling packages like “Roadie for a Day” and things like that, so people get a behind-the-scenes look. These Fan Summits are something we have always been interested in doing, because we travel so much and play the same cities over and over. This seems like a way to provide something different to the fans, a little bit of a different experience. You can play the same show over and over, even though you change the setlist, and it’s just another concert sometimes. This gives a little bit of a different perspective for people. The setlist will be a little bit different than usual, so I think it’ll be a good time.
RG– Definitely! With all the packages you guys are offering, the changes to the setlist, special songs being played, it’s definitely a good value for the fans out here. What does the future look like for 10 Years?
BV– It’s bright right now! Even just a couple of years ago, we weren’t even sure the band was going to continue. Now, everybody is in a happy, healthy state. I think the plan is no plan at all, other than to continue to make music. For us, it all starts with the songs and the music. Really, that’s the goal. We’re in our 30’s now, and I started this band when I was like a sophomore in high school. So, the goal is just to continue this on and keep going as long as we possibly can. I know for sure that we have a lot of music left in us and that will never end. So as long as people are listening, we’re going to be creating.
RG– That’s a great goal to have. Before we go, any words of advice for the new generation of rockers out there?
BV– Just focus on songwriting. Really, it all starts with that. The one thing I always tell people is that a good song will always be a good song. I can’t say that about the people that chase the fads and the trends. That becomes tough, because you make that song relevant for only a specific window of time. If you go back and listen to “Stairway to Heaven” or some of those classic, really good songs, it doesn’t matter if it’s 100 years from now, that’s always going to be a great song. So I think just focusing on songwriting, and of course, there’s the whole business side to it, but that’s just one of those things. Start with a good song, and then try and adapt to whatever the business looks like at the time to try and lift yourself up and stand out from the crowd. But, you gotta have those songs first!
RG– That’s great advice to give everybody. Thank you so much, Brian, for talking with us. We appreciate it. We look forward to hearing you and seeing you guys here in South Texas.
BV– Awesome, man. Thank you!

A big thank you to Brian Vodinh, 10 Years, Steve Karas at SKH Music, and my wonderful editor Amanda Lozano. Be sure to check out 10 Years live in your area and support killer rock music, live and in your face! Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to let me know what you think of the interview! Shoot me an email at robertgomez09@gmail.com!