An interview of Sam Lewis by drummer Garrett Smith
I have decided to ask Sammy Lennon 20 questions regarding his career, music, gear etc.
1. When was it that you decided that you wanted to be a song writer per se?
Per se, this is merely a question of which came first: The chicken or the egg? In this particular instance, the song or the songwriter? Put it this way, I wrote a song once...it was my first song. I ended up with it stuck in my head weeks to follow, humming it non-stop. That's when I first thought to myself: "Sam, you are really, really, really, ridiculously good at writing songs"...those were actually the original lyrics to the first verse, but soon changed to be about a girl who pissed me off.
2. Who are your influences?
Many, many, many influences…too many to list. The key musical influence in my life is the Beatles. I remember learning to play acoustic guitar with a fat book of all the Beatles songs, handed down from the Hartman, that I refused to return to my buddy Ian. "Hey Sam, mind if I get that book back?" "What book are you talking about? I have no such book!"
Then there was always Queen, ELO, Wings, Zombies, Black Sabbath, Stevie
Wonder, Pink Floyd, Kinks, the Bee Gees, the Beach Boys, Jackson 5, Dizzy
Mizz Lizzy, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots,
Smashing Pumpkins, Lemonheads, Jellyfish,
Drums: Glenn Graham (Blind Melon) Matt Cameron (Soundgarden/Pearl Jam)
Bass: Paul McCartney, Jason Falkner (Jellyfish/Air)
Guitar: Eric Dover (Jellyfish/Imperial Drag), Tim Christensen (Dizzy Mizz Lizzy), Prescott Kagan (Dolari)
Keys: Roger Manning Jr. (Jellyfish/Imperial Drag), Alan Lewis (Dolari)
Vocals: Paul McCartney, Andy Sturmer (Jellyfish), Freddie Mercury (Queen)
3. What was your first rock concert?
My first concert was at age 11...it was the Fat Boys with Salt n' Peppa opening. I thought it was amazing. I mean, they played "Protect Yourself" and "My Nutz". Hahaha! One of my first rock shows was the Smashing Pumpkins...moshing, sweating, body surfing and all.
4. When did you get your first guitar?
Softmore year of college, I did pretty well in a round of blackjack. The guy was short on cash so he gave me this Lotus guitar and a small amp. I turned up the distortion and pretended I was Kurt Cobain. The neighbors were angry.
5. Knowing you and how you are a very colorful person with words, how do you go about writing them?
I like to sleep with a package of Crayola under my pillow. Actually, I used to write a lot, but over the years, my free time has migrated to being spent writing melodies and songs. Many of the lyrics I write come from impromptu on the spot lyrics while playing a song. The rest are pulled together painfully like trying to complete a grade school homework assignment. The songs usually comes first, then the lyrics. Once in a while, I'll experience something profound that it will naturally get written about. "Gee, this thing practically writes itself".
6. Did you take guitar or vocal lessons?
The only official guitar lesson I got was when my brother showed me how to play a power chord. Later, I learned everything I needed to know from the Beatles.
As for voice lessons, I took some with my mom's vocal trainer for a few months. I decided that I was going to take drum lessons instead...but that fell thru. I'm considering learning how to play the glockenspiel.
7. Speaking of guitar, would you take us through your gear list? What are you playing through? axes, pedals etc.?
I primarily play an Epiphone Sheraton Guitar, modeled similarly to the
Gibson ES. I enjoy the feel and playability of this guitar, not to mention
the diversity of sound I can get out of it. Plus it occasionally tucks
me in at night. I also use a Gibson Firebird cause it smokes:
"The bird's the word!" -Pee Wee Herman, Back to the Beach
My pedals, all strategically velcro'd to the Furman SPB8 pedalboard, are a VOX vintage wah-wah, Boss Turbo Overdrive, MXR Phase 90, Danelectro DJ17 PB & J Delay Pedal, Danelectro DJ-5 Tuna Melt Tremolo and the ever so important Boss TU2 Chromatic Tuner pedal.
I am playing out of a vintage 50 watt Marshall head. No distortion switch, just turn it up loud and rock out. I run it through the Marshall JCM 4x12 cabinet...mmm, cabinet.
I play on D'addario electric strings (10's) most of the time but have tried the new Electro Harmonix electric strings and I dig 'em. I only pick with Fender "heavy" picks. I'm picky.
Back up gear include a Fender '72 Thinline Telecaster, Brownsville Thug Sparkletop Guitar, Fender Deluxe 40 watt combo amp, Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, Danelectro DJ-8 Hash Browns Flanger and Morley AB switch pedal that I haven't decided what do with yet.
8. What brought you to LA?
The beach. If I told you anything else, it would be a lie. Of course the music scene was what made me choose LA over San Diego and the weather was what made me choose LA over San Francisco.
9. So tell me.....When did the idea of Feathergun really come about.… (even though I kinda know when it started)
The name came about in a conversation with Angelo and Jesse at a bar
on Sunset. It was our first night in LA after Jesse and I moved out here.
We asked ourselves, "What would be the best band name ever?" After much
brainstorming, eureka...Feathergun! Best band name ever.
10. When is Feathergun going to play live?
Friday July 12, 2002 at the Joint…midnight. We rocked or we're gonna rock, depending on when you read this.
11.What are your thoughts on how LA treats bands that want to play?
I try not to think about it too much otherwise it depresses me. I come from a town (sweet home Chicago) where people enjoy going to see bands and the bands enjoy getting paid.
A band paying to play.... what the?!
12. What are your thoughts on the music industry today and where it's headed?
It's definitely headed somewhere good...it can't get any worse. The bands are lousy and the songs are worse. But that's really just the majority of the mainstream. There are a TON of incredible bands out there worth checking out - with mp3's and file sharing, exposure to all this new music is finally at our fingertips. Can't find anything good? Just email me, I'll set you up with a nice list of bands to check out. It's actually very exciting to be playing music at the brink of a technological revolution. We're in the process of turning the industry upside down. Soon people will no longer settle for the crap modern radio shoves down their throats. The major labels are nervous as the ground beneath them begins to rattle...and that will be us, banging on the ceiling of the underground, ready to emerge!
13. Do you like 'NSYNC?
14. Do you like Britney Spears?
15. Where did you meet Jesse McCabe?
In rehab...or was it an AA meeting? Actually, I did some demos with my friend Andy at the University of Illinois in 98. We decided to put a band together. I took my seat on the drum throne, Andy played guitar and we auditioned bassists. After jamming with this Danzig lookin dude, Jesse strolled into the room with a grin on his face and his pimp lookin bass. That day was the honestly the most fun I ever had playing music with anoyne. So he was totally in the band and the rest is history.
16. What are your plans for the future with Feathergun or Sam Lewis solo?
Rock until I drop. I love writing the hooks and as long as I am willing and able, I shall continue to write and play. Hopefully one day i can quit my day job and just write. I’ve got some plans for a musical or 2 somewhere in the future.
17. Tell everyone about how much you hate your day job?
Cubicle hell. I'm like totally quitting soon.
18. What's the deal with Feathergun soap and when will it be available to the public?
I'll have to point that question to the beautifully talented Jaime Ferdinand.
19. Are we going to see the 70's handle bar (fu man chu) or the John Lennon mustache anytime soon?
Totally, Jesse was thinking about growing his out again.
20. In a few words, describe what music means to you. Describe what gives you the "goosebumps"....
Music is freedom. It clears the mind and lifts the soul to another plane of existence. Good hooks make me cry. A good solid album is the ultimate form of expression and there is nothing else like it. My favorite album of all time is Jellyfish's "Spilt Milk". Some of the best songwriting and production, musically and vocally. If I accomplish anything in this life, it's to complete an album that I can look back on and say "Now that's a great f-ing record!" After that, I'll worry about the musicals...
Well folks there you have it. In Sam Lewis' own words.