Symbol Six have come a long way since their formation in the early 80s. They are one of the few Los Angeles bands who have stood the test of time. The band’s dedicated following continues to flock to their shows and to embrace their evolving sound. By the Barricade reached out to Symbol Six to find out what has kept them involved in the local scene. Find out all about their new single, future plans, and the secret to success in the interview below!
Tony Fate: Guitar
Evan Shanks: Bass
Phil George: Drums
Symbol Six formed in 1980 under the name Gaudy Trash. What was your trick for keeping original members for almost 30 years?
Phil George: Staying alive. It was not for 30 years. It was for 2 years and then a 27 year hiatus, then getting back together. So, the secret is don’t hang out with each other.
Eric Leach: Right! There is no possible way it would have lasted 30 years consecutively. Good Point! The trick is don’t hang out with anyone for too long.
Phil: Take at least a 20 year hiatus.
Eric: Yep that will keep a friendship for at least 21 years.
Phil: Boredom and schedules.
Eric: New Year’s Day, it’s the dawn of a new day and a new year. Let’s do something different. And to quote the famous John Belushi and Dan Akroyd, “Let’s get the band back together!”
Phil: Cause we’re on a mission from God.
MONSTERS 11 was released on your label Symbol Six Music in 2010. What was the best part about being on your own label?
Eric: Being able to put out a record. Releasing new material and getting engaged in the whole songwriting process again.
Phil: With all the original members.
Has Jailhouse Records reinforced some of those characteristics or brought anything to the table you were not expecting?
Evan Shanks: Not that I was expecting, but Jailhouse brought more. The built in distribution opened up new channels, that would have taken Symbol Six quite a while to build up on our own label. Tony?
Tony Fate: Yeah, I agree with that.
Eric: Dave Johnson and Jailhouse Records has brought a larger sense of independence, stability, and a trustworthy, solid bond to the table. Not only regarding releasing new records but also in support. Great to know they have our backs as a band. Jailhouse has always delivered on their promises, been honest, and provided realistic expectations. A perfect fit for Symbol Six and they are lucky to have us.
Jailhouse Records has put out your splits with Rikk Agnew and Fang. Can we expect any more splits in the future?
Phil: I would assume that.
Eric: We’re split on that.
Evan: Symbol Six is definitely open to split! We enjoy them and the bands we have done splits with. It’s always a good thing. Putting out new material with bands we love to listen to.
Tony: It would be interesting to do one where we play each other’s songs.
Phil: Yeah, That’s a great idea!
Eric: So if you’re a band out there and we want to play each other’s songs, let’s do a split!
Your released the single “Superfine” last October and it sounds faster and more dynamic than any of your past tracks. Was there a particular evolution you went into the studio hoping to incorporate in the next album?
Evan: There has never been any intentions. Everything Symbol Six has written over the last five years has just grown organically, and I hate to say that, but it’s true. There was never any concept that we need to sound like this or this is the target. It‘s has always been us just working together.
Evan: It’s all the influences we each bring in. Superfine as actually one of the first products of being a four man unit.
Eric: Stripping down
Eric: I would say “Superfine” is more indicative our turning the page on a whole new songwriting process and our abilities to let other things in and what it has become. A great example of how Symbol Six is today, at this point in time.
I heard you collaborated with Nick Oliveri of Queens of the Stone Age and John Denney of The Weirdos on a video project. Can you tell me a little more about that?
Eric: We really like Nick a lot! He a really nice guy and accessible. He has had some amazing success with Queens of the Stone Age and on his own and continues to. It was a fun night at one of Lemmy Kilmister’s favorite strip clubs in Hollywood called Cheetahs. Nick came up on stage with Symbol Six and we did some Turbonegro song. Nick is good friends with those guys and Symbol Six considers Nick like a brother.
Tony: I think we should play more strip clubs.
Eric: There is an infamous story of how Tony left both of his babies (his pride and joy guitars) behind after Symbol Six played Cheetah’s. Which if anyone knows Tony is unheard of! Both guitars by the door!
Tony: Enough said.
Eric: The Weirdos were a major influence on Symbol Six in 1980. I had seen John Denney perform many times in Los Angeles, at the Starwood and The Whisky, He was always just an amazing frontman! We did a version of “The Hideout” back in 1981, has always been one of my favorite songs. So flash forward, years later, we decided to do it again. We think we do a pretty good version of that. We knew The Weirdos we coming through town and we asked John if would like to do a cameo in the video we were making. To my surprise, he was more than happy to do so. We went down to the Echoplex during sound check and had an area cordoned off. John was willing to do whatever we asked and for as long as we needed to. It is one of the crowning achievements my music experiences. Getting to meet him, work with and be able to consider him a friend now. That was an amazing day!
Eric: The Weirdos were a major influence on convincing Phil to join Symbol Six. Phil was, like many guys back in the day were influenced by a lot of Rock, Progressive rock, which I hate. He was a big Rush fan, which I hate. It was getting impossible to get this guy to play drums for us and I knew to start a band you had to have the best drummer on the block, so when that guy wasn’t available, I when over and asked Phil.
Eric: Just kidding! Phil was the best drummer by far and was recruiting him because I needed him to cover up my tracks of inefficiency in music. Phil keep saying, “No, No, NO!” He didn’t want to play that punk rock shit. I figured he wasn’t hearing the right kind of stuff that was out there. So, I dragged him out to the Starwood in Hollywood, Ca. and went to see The Weirdos. Phil turned to me and said, “Yep, I get it. I’m in!” and there Phil was. We thank John and The Weirdos for this, always! Stay Weird!
Can we expect any other singles before the release of your next album?
Eric: Expect at least 9 or 10 more. You’re gonna hear them all!
Phil: Then we are going to release a K-Tel record.
Evan: Rock of 2016
Eric: Phil, nobody’s gonna ever know what K-Tel is.
Phil: That’s why it’s brilliant
Evan: I’d say at least one more single before Symbol Six next album drops.
Can you tell us any more info about your upcoming fourth album?
Evan: It’s another step in the evolution of Symbol Six. When you listen to our other albums, even from the first one and especially from Monsters 11.
Eric: If you like “Superfine” then you’ll like the album! As for evolution, if you start dragging your knuckles on the ground they start to bleed. You need to evolve and get your knuckles off the ground.
Evan: When a group is constrained by labels and genres you are not going to get much of that, which works out great for some. We continue to produce the same time of music and their fans like it but album by album it really doesn’t differentiate. Mere influence and collaboration lends itself to that kind of evolution.
Tony: The goal of people is to evolve. You decide at some point in your life, well, I like to eat this food and that’s all I’m going to eat the rest of my life. If you are a musician and you just play the same shit all the time, you are not going to advance as a person. You are lacking any abstract thought and probably boring as fuck.
Evan: Yeah, pretty boring.
Tony: You might be the greatest guitar player on Earth but if you are doing the same thing constantly, day after day. The same notes, the same music. That’s fucking boring, man.
Phil: You don’t make a conscious effort to change, you just do.
Tony: You should try to eat new and different kinds of food you’ve never tried before.
Evan: I’ll never really be on board with a disco album but there is always the possibility. Seven albums in it may be, “You know what…?”
Eric: I think the bottom line is if you are playing the same old stuff you have some sort of fear of failure. The only way to be successful at whatever you do, for your soul to be successful, you have to take risks and you have to fail. You have to know and not be afraid of what failure is and don’t let it dictate what you are going to do. It’s all about unlimited space, use it!
Phil: Copy that Captain!
Evan: Yeah, what he said! Ditto!
Eric: Bottom line, there has been an amazing door of non-constraint that has been opened recently. A true democracy, as long as Evan, Phil, and Tony listen to me, it’s all good!
Phil: What do you call a potato with nuts? A Dictator.
Tony: Here’s where the interview goes right down the toilet!
Eric, I’ve heard you are the creator of “The Bass Caddy”. Can you tell me a little more about that?
Eric: Basically, if you are familiar with baseball and carrying bases onto the field, there are three of them. It’s a very awkward situation. You are fumbling around with these bases. Me, being super pimp, I like to look cool and glide to my destination, you know what I’m sayin’? I was gliding but the shit was falling out all over the place and I wasn’t looking cool. That’s where I got the idea and went ahead and built a prototype to see if I could get it sold on the open market. My patent attorney told me not to get my hopes up and that in all likelihood something like this would already exist but would do the background check. The results came back, and not to my surprise, there was no such invention. Long story short, I am proud to be have a small footnote in the history of America’s favorite past time as the one and only inventor of The Base Caddy. The biggest thrill is knowing that in over 150 plus years I am the first person to invent this device that is use from the Little League to the majors. I now hold the U.S. Patent # #USD502304 and been given the all-important title, Inventor. Which no doubt adds to the annoyance of my fellow band mates!
It was and is a statement I wanted to make to taking an idea and following through with it to the end, no matter what. It’s exactly what we do in rock n roll. Symbol Six believes in what we do and for those of us that have the heart and courage to follow through on are touched by the universe and its light!
Is there anything else you want to say to the readers of By the Barricade Records?
Eric: I would personally like to that By the Barricade for showing your interest in Symbol Six and taking the time out to ask us these interesting and well researched questions. We would like you all to keep enjoying our music and support Symbol Six. Come out to see us whenever we are in you town. Thank you very much and cheers!
Phil: Buy our records.
Phil: Please, buy our records.
Evan: Thanks for the interview, it was fun.
Tony: Everyone should support their local animal shelter. It will help you become a better animal.
Phil: Have your pets spayed or neutered. Thanks Bob!
Eric: Check out Symbol Six at www.symbolsix.com, Facebook, Youtube, everywhere!