Flying solo at GMA Music Week 2008 to talk with media about the latest with his band, MxPx, vocalist/bassist
Mike Herrera sat down with John and Amy from Jesusfreakhideout.com and discussed his 3-piece punk band,
the Christian music scene, his side project Tumbledown, and more...
This interview took place on: 4/21/08.
Jesus freak Hideout (John DiBiase): What have you been doing since Secret Weapon came out and are you working on something new?
Touring a lot. Just this year alone (2008), we've been to Japan, Indonesia, Hawaii, Australia, Russia, the UK, obviously the US,
and we will be going soon to South America.
JFH (John): Are any of those places first-timers?
Yeah, in Russia we went to Moscow and St. Petersburg. We went to Helsinki, which we've never been to before.
That's in Finland. And Indonesia; we'd never been there before. We're going to Alaska this summer, which will be cool,
and we've never been there. Bands don't usually go there too often.
JFH (John): Over the past sixteen years of being a band, what was one of the hardest lessons you've had to learn?
Good question. I think one of the main things I've had to learn is kind of trusting your instincts, going with your gut…
not letting record labels and managers and all these people that are sort of around you as you grow and go and live your
life and have your career… don't let them dictate what you do, because it's so easy to kind of just let everything just be.
And we've done that a lot in the past and I think a lot of mistakes were made because of that. So probably the hardest lesson was
that you have to be in control of your own life because, in the end, everyone else is gone and it's just you.
JFH (John): When you started the band, did you see yourself making music as MxPx for as long
as you have?
*laughs* No. Definitely not. It was one of those things where I didn't look too much in the future.
It was just more about "Ok, this is what I want to do." We set short term goals like "I wanna start a band." Ok, we started a band.
We got Andy together. "We need a drummer." We found Yuri and started playing shows. "Ok, we have shows. Let's record a cassette tape,"
which literally was with a boom box in the middle of the garage and pushing record with the cassette. So our album was all live.
We had two live recordings before we ever got signed. We shopped around. That was like our short term goals. "Let's do more shows."
It wasn't really about getting signed. We weren't trying to get signed back then. We were approached by people, which I guess was
the way it usually was back then. It wasn't so much about you shopping for a label; it was more about bands being discovered.
But those were those times. Now is completely different, of course.
JFH (John): How do you feel about the climate change and the digital age and stuff like
that and the fact that it's not important to have the product anymore? When we were younger we got the CD with the artwork and the
disc and it was something special to hold that package. Now it's like, you can just download one song and have it immediately.
Mike: Well there's definitely the nostalgia. There's something about even just vinyl because
I collect vinyl. I like the fact that almost all of the records that we have for MxPx are on vinyl. It's just kind of one of those
things where we have a million websites. We have all the latest MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, PureVolume… there's a gazillion. We
have all that. But we still kind of embrace the classic ideas of rock and roll, which is a record on vinyl and touring and the
basics of where we started. It's not like we invented it or anything, it was just the way it was done. I think it is what it is.
You can't stop the momentum of technology. It's baffling how the speed and the rate of the music and industry has changed from 2000
JFH (John): You can tell the industry doesn't really know what to do.
They can't catch up with the way it's evolving, and it's kind of sad to watch how certain things have evolved in that way.
Mike: Yeah, you sort of find new things. You find ways to adapt.
JFH (John): When you guys started out you were teenagers. Do you find it difficult to
relate as a punk band with the younger audience now that you're married and starting families?
Mike: Yes and no. Sometimes we feel very disconnected with the young kids. But at the same time, there's
something about MxPx that if you're a fan, you really love it. There's not much in between. You either hate it or you really
love it. Although there are a lot of people that have grown out of loving MxPx that were like "Yes, I grew up with MxPx and I love
it, but I listen to different styles of music now," but still have it as part of their past. You know, we all have bands like that.
In that aspect, I feel like we're always gonna connect with people on a certain level no matter what age we are or what
age they are.
JFH (John): Are there any bands right now that get you excited about your music?
Mike: Yeah. It never ceases to amaze me that every time I listen to Tom Petty, it's just so good,
you know? Just everything about his music to me is very classic and timeless. We're by no means like that. We try to be hopefully
like that for our genre. There are all of my favorite bands like Elvis Costello and The Who. As far as punk-rock bands,
The Descendants. I put on a Descendants record and it gives me new inspiration for an MxPx record.
JFH (John): Where do you draw most of your inspiration for the lyrical songwriting?
Mike: Everything. And it changes as I grow older. It's funny because people expect you to be the same person
that you were when you were 15 writing Pokinatcha, which was our first album. It was very one-dimensional, or maybe
two-dimensional, I don't know. It was very much so coming from a kid that was in youth group and had a certain set of friends
and was taught certain things and went to church and went to high school. I didn't really know a lot about the world I guess,
you know? Fast-forward 16 years and it would be impossible for me to write like that. But I've always tried to be honest, so
wherever I'm at in life, that's what I'm writing about. It's like why Panic was kind of a dark record. Those were dark
times, in my opinion, with our country. I think it was just two years after 9/11. We were fully in Iraq and that was on the
forefront of everything in the news and then all these natural disasters with Hurricane Katrina and all of these earthquakes.
Every other day there were thousands of people dying somewhere in Peru. It was just like "What is going on here?" So that kind of
pushed me to a darker place in my songwriting. I personally wasn't going through any crazy rough times or anything, but just being
part of the world… that affects me. With Secret Weapon, I don't like to repeat those ideas, so I changed my tune and my
focus on what I was writing about and went to more personal things rather than worldly, current affair things. I wanted to kind of
encourage people to go "Ok, we're still here. Yeah, people are still dying in Iraq, and politics are not doing too well right now
and the economy is horrible, but MxPx has always been about turning it around and figuring it out and doing what we can in our own
lives to press on."
JFH (John): What do you feel is the next chapter for MxPx?
Mike: I don't know yet because I haven't really started working on new MxPx yet. I have a few little tiny ideas,
but mainly I'm working on a Tumbledown record. It's very much not MxPx, lyrically. It's just fun lyrics and a lot of it is
just for the 21 and over crowd. It's not really for kids, per say. It's more me being an adult, you know what I'm saying?
MxPx is when I'm not being grown up because I am like this man that goes on tour and doesn't have to do anything for myself for the
most part. I get driven around everywhere, walk into the club and I get handed a bass guitar. So it's hard to go on tour
sometimes being MxPx with that life and in that studio. But with Tumbledown, it's more like I'm starting over and I do everything
myself. I feel like that's me being an adult because I've gotta do everything myself. I don't know if that makes sense, but
MxPx next… I don't know, it could be anything. I definitely go with themes. With Tumbledown, I write about fun stories
and ideas and I'll even make up stuff. A little bit of that has crept into MxPx with the song called "Chop Shop." It's like a story.
And it's a little bit not for kids because it's about some guy that killed his sister.
JFH (John): Where did you come up with that song?
Mike: It's a true story about this guy in Bremerton, my hometown. I was reading my home paper and they always
have these crime stories. And we have the craziest town. You go online and read the police blotter. There's always weird,
weird stuff like people breaking into somebody's house over and over but just stealing their underwear. Or like these two
neighbors get in a fight and one of them gets shot with a bow and arrow or something. It's always drugs and just bad news.
Just weird stuff, but that stuff happens in all major cities. But that stuff happens almost daily.
JFH (Amy DiBiase): It's a good thing I don't work there. I work in a hospital in the trauma center.
Mike: *laughs* We have a horrible hospital too. It's really not equipped for trauma. So yeah,
long story short, that's where "Chop Shop" came from. *laughs* So it's a true story, I'm not just making it up.
JFH (John): I actually wanted to talk to you about Tumbledown. Are you working on a full record?
Mike: We are, yeah.
JFH (John): I got the three tracks that were offered online. They're good.
Mike: Oh, thank you. Yeah, we're working on a full record and I'm pretty excited about it. It should be fun.
JFH (John): Do you know when it's coming out?
I don't know when it'll come out, but we're definitely going to record it this summer.
JFH (John): Do you think it'll be a Tooth & Nail thing?
Definitely not. Mainly because content-wise, it wouldn't fit with the Christian bookstores I don't think.
JFH (John): Why's that?
Mainly because most of the shows we play are in bars and stuff. There's no swearing or anything, but it's real traditional country.
It's spiritual, but there's songs about drinking and hanging out. It's not meant to say 'drinking is cool.' It's more of like…
a culture type of music. I don't know if that makes sense, but I know that some people are gonna have a problem with it. I want
to be honest about it. I don't think there's anything wrong with the lyrics at all. They're pretty clean.
JFH (John): Do you feel that Tumbledown is a little more personal for you than MxPx?
Yeah, definitely. I'm just writing fun songs, basically, you know? I'm trying to think of "Ok, when we're playing this show,
what are people gonna enjoy and sing along with and stuff?" We talk about the county fair and stuff like that.
JFH (John): That's good! It's not usually my style. It's cool because your voice is so different than what goes normally with that style.
Right, it's no twang. *laughs*
JFH (John): Right, and they actually go together.
It's actually going to be pretty punk-rock. I started out where the first songs I released were purposely a little slower.
I didn't want it just to blend in with the MxPx sound. Most of the songs that I'm writing are pretty fast in that genre,
but still country sounding. So it'll be like punk-rock country. It'll be cool.
JFH (Amy): You're gonna start a whole new genre.
I don't know. I'm sure it exists, but it'll be a little edgier than what the normal big bands are.
JFH (John): How's you're clothing company Legionnaire going?
Really good. We're slowly, slowly growing. My partner Joe does a lot of the designs. I don't know, it's really
actually fairly spiritual designs. A lot of what he does is based on the fact that we're both Christians and everything.
But it's not like gospel at all.
JFH (John): They're not like things you'd see in a typical Christian bookstore.
Right, but they do have good messages. Kutless wears our stuff, and The Almost, and The Classic Crime. A lot of bands,
but I'm just trying to think of the ones on Tooth & Nail. Yeah, so it's been cool.
JFH (John): What do you think of the way that Christian music has evolved over the years?
Do you think there's a place for Christian music? Do you think there's a use for it?
I think there's a difference between gospel music and what people call Christian music. And there are blurry lines in there
of course. I think that there are worship bands where that's their purpose. And then the entertainment bands are a lot of
times just these kids like us that just want to start a band. They have Christian beliefs. All people are different.
Some people are much more outspoken, and some people are less. In my opinion, there shouldn't be a dictatorship where
"This should be like this, and this should be like this." I think artists should be allowed to be who they are. Music's always
gonna be better if, like I said, you let the artist be who they are. I know a lot of Christian bands. I've spent a lot of time with
the bands that are more like harder rock and punk. Christians assume that everyone's so perfect. Like, if you're in a band, you
should sort of be like a politician. But think about politicians. They're just lying. I think a lot of the Christian bands are
lying. Not because they're bad people, but because they're made to, almost.
JFH (John): They're put up on a pedestal.
Yeah, and when I was growing up, we were on Tooth & Nail and starting our tours. The older bands that were out on tour with us were
Christians. They would smoke cigarettes and have beers and stuff. We were too young, so we didn't do that or anything. But,
I always thought "Wow, I never would've thought that being from a small town and stuff that they would ever do that." But they
were totally, totally good Christians though. I was like "Ok, I guess that makes sense." Why should there be a set standard or
whatever? But I think we just need to let people be who they are. I think Christianity would be a lot more accepted. Christian bands
are getting more accepted. But I think Christianity as a general rule is getting less accepted by non-Christian people.
There's a widening gap between basic Christianity and non-Christianity. But there is this weird dichotomy of Christian bands
being more accepted. That's so weird. I don't know how that's even possible. But I think it's more of we're talking
politics and social issues and now we're talking music…two different things. Although, in my opinion, they all intertwine.
I just hate to see Christians getting the bad wrap that they get, you know? Because not all Christians are the same. They all may
believe very, very similar core values which I do as well. But there's definitely a difference between the south and the north.
Honestly, I went to church down in East Texas in the middle of nowhere and they were straight-up racist. And they didn't know they
were. They were God-fearing people. But they were racist. It was obvious. And it was crazy because I can understand that.
They're in this little bubble… this little microcosm of their own culture. And I think Christianity gets like that as well on a
MxPx's latest album, Secret Weapon, is in stores now. The band will release On The Cover 2 on Tooth & Nail Records in 2009!