12 Feb INTERVIEW WITH DECKER & RANDY OF STITCHED UP HEART
Stitched Up Heart performed at the Chameleon Club in Lancaster, PA on Friday, February 3, 2017. They are currently touring with Lacey Sturm, Palisades, and Letters From the Fire. James Decker (drums) and Randy Mathias (bass) met up with us prior to the show. We were in search of a quiet place and ended up sitting down cross-legged on the dark third floor balcony.
Rock Documented: Let’s start with Shiprocked. So, that was your second time on Shiprocked, right?
RD: What was your favorite part [of Shiprocked] this year?
Decker: Well, this year, I got to be, Randy got to be part of The Stowaways both years, and I got to do it this year. I didn’t get to do it last year. Just being up there with people that I looked up to when I was coming up and learning. Guys that I read about in magazines, like John Tempesta, I remember specifically reading articles about him in Modern Drummer. When I was playing “Welcome to the Jungle” with Ron Bumblefoot, who was Guns N Roses guitar player, John Tempesta came up on stage to fix my cow bell for me. I was like, “In what universe am I living in where I am playing a Guns N Roses song with their guitarist, and John Tempesta is my drum tech.” It’s just this surreal thing. Of course, obviously, playing the Stitched Up Heart sets was amazing too, but this was a whole brand new experience for me. For me, playing with The Stowaways was probably my favorite part of Shiprocked.
Randy: I gotta say The Stowaways too. It’s just like, playing our show, we play it like every day. Which is still amazing, don’t get me wrong, but when you get to go and experiment with other musicians or just play cover songs with other musicians, it’s kinda like what happens. When we’re doing The Stowaways, everybody else comes out. All the bands, everyone comes out to check out that part of the show, its pretty frickin’ awesome actually.
Decker: It is, yeah. Everybody on the boat is out there to see it. When else are you going to see Geoff Tate and Lukas Rossi singing “Space Oddity” while I’m playing drums and Dave Buckner’s playing my cow bell.
Randy: And the fact [that we’re] playing out in the middle of the Atlantic ocean on the top deck of the cruise ship. It was pretty frickn’ awesome.
RD: Yeah, you just have to step back and take that in. That was actually our first year doing Shiprocked and you just constantly forget that you’re in the middle of the ocean at a rock show. It’s amazing.
Randy: Last year…I remember they had us play day one. Well, the boat docked the first day. The second day we played at 1 pm on the top deck. I don’t think too many people knew who we were before that and everybody was out there when we played the main stage on the top deck. Then afterwards, everybody knew who we were and everyone was coming up to us, “Oh, you guys are so amazing, you’re so awesome.” What happened was, we ended up making a ton of friends and all the Shiprocked community…voted us back again. So, that’s how we ended up on [Shiprocked again].
Decker: They come to every single show, there’s always a group of them [Shiprockers] together and they make sure they come up and they’re wearing she shirts and everything. It’s just an entirely different thing. So, what I’m saying is, I can’t wait to see what’s going to come up next that will top that experience for us because right now, for me at least, that’s the peak so far. But I know something else will come up that will be even better.
RD: The next Shiprocked.
RD: Keeping along those lines, the very last show was Breaking Ben’s last performance. You came out with Morgan Rose of Sevendust and started taking down the drum set. Is there a back story behind that?
Decker: So, I hadn’t met Morgan before the cruise but day one I saw him and we met and we hung out a little bit and became friends. Then, during Breaking Ben’s last set, we were both standing side stage and we were just chatting, and he was like, “Hey, you wanna go mess with Shaun?” I was like, “Yeah, I’m in.” He’s like, “Alright, here’s what we’re gonna do.” And the plan was, we were gonna go up there and take his whole rack off the stage, and I said ,“You go first and I’ll be right behind you.” So he runs up there, and I run to one side of the rack, and Morgan sits right behind Shaun and just dug his hands right under his ass and he starts massaging his butt cheeks and I’m like, “What are you doing? This wasn’t the plan at all!” So, I just sat there for a sec and I’m like, “Oh alright, I’ll just start taking cymbals off.” Which I did, but Shaun has like fifteen cymbals up there I was only able to get like six or seven of them off before the song was over. But it was still funny. Then afterwards, Shaun came out and was like, “Aw, you guys got me good.” I wouldn’t have done it, except that I know Shaun from when we had played a few festivals with Breaking Benjamin. We did Pain In The Grass, Rock Hard At The Park, X-Fest in Boise, and the Backyard BBQ in Missoula. I also grew up with their tour manager, John Phillips, in Scranton, PA. So, we both came up together. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have done that.
RD: So, was this part of your traditional “last night on tour” prank?
Decker: We like to do that type of stuff if the other bands are cool with it. Some bands don’t really want anything to do with that so we just leave that alone. But other bands, we’ve run up and dumped baby powder on them during their set.
RD: Toilet paper on Sick Puppies.
Decker: Yep, yep. We toilet papered Sick Puppies.
Randy: Actually, the Sick Puppies I remember, we were all back there, I remember there was like thirty of us. Everyone just got rolls of toilet paper, and it was Exit/In, I remember and you go down this one corridor and then you exit out one more door then you go to the stage on the right, so we got through the first door, everyone’s in this hallway getting ready to run out there and all of the sudden, out of the door comes their tour manager, “Wait!” and he’s like, “Just at least wait until the second chorus.”
Decker: I mean it all in good fun, you know. We try. The rule is, you don’t want to screw up their song, and you don’t want to damage any equipment. As long as you follow those two guidelines, it’s all in good fun.
Randy: Although some people dump, pancake syrup and peanut butter. We won’t name any names…
Decker: Oh yea, that was at the end of the Like A Storm tour and Righteous Vendetta just got it bad. Somebody had, I think it was marshmallow fluff, no, no, no, what was it? Mayonnaise and marshmallows or something.
Randy: It was fluffer-nutter or something like that.
Decker: I don’t know, it just all, like he said, syrup and everything. It was a mess up there. So those guys got it pretty rough.
Randy: But we actually did clear it with the club owners first, so it was ok.
Decker: Yea, you have to do that ‘cause they get pretty mad.
RD: It’s going to be hard to top one of those too.
RD: You have Mixi, Lacey, Alexa all on this tour. All very strong, powerful, lead vocalist women. What’s it like touring with a group of women like that? It’s not traditional for rock so it’s a pretty unique experience.
Decker: Yea, I mean, I think we’re pretty much used to it.
Randy: Yea, I mean, we’ve been touring with Mixi for so long so it’s just like touring with other bands.
Decker: Icon for Hire was the last tour we did before this too, so with Ariel. And before that, even like when we were booking ourselves, we played with City of the Week, Neo Geo, Nearly Dead. It always seems to gravitate toward female-fronted bands and even the locals at different shows, like Doll Skin in Phoenix. We tend to get female-fronted bands playing with us all the time. It doesn’t seem any different to me really, but I know that they really try to put it out there and show that they’re equally as good as the guys who are up there. I think on my playlist on my phone I have mostly female-fronted bands. That’s mostly what I listen to.
RD: Never Alone has been out for about 8 months, what are your thoughts on the success of the album? It’s the debut album for Stitched Up Heart.
Randy: We’re really happy about it. We’re really happy it’s been doing really well and we’ve been working a lot. Constantly touring and as you guys can see, it’s kinda like go, go, go. Although we did get a couple of months off during the holiday break or whatever but we’re really, really pleased about it. The plan is just to keep on going, keep running on it.
Decker: What’s really cool is once the album came out, again, like with Shiprocked, people didn’t know who we were at first, and then they start to hear songs and as we’re playing shows we see more and more people singing along with them which is such a cool feeling.
Randy: I’ve actually noticed that on this tour a lot. There’s at least ten to fifteen people right in the front usually now. Before it was two or three people but now that number is growing.
Decker: Yea, and when you’re up on that stage and we’re throwing out everything that we can, and they’re giving it right back to us and they know the songs, and they know the words and that’s the whole point of what we’re doing. We’re trying to connect with these people with art and they’re so responsive to it. Everybody’s been responsive, we’ve got great support from radio, and all kinds of press and stuff, and we’re so grateful for that because we know that it’s pretty much the same struggle that we’re going through. It’s hard to get listeners and to get other people involved in your projects and what you’re doing. It’s like this whole community works together and we’re all just giving as much as we can and luckily we’re getting it all back too. It’s amazing.
Randy: “Catch Me When I Fall” just got picked up by a couple of radio stations too.
Decker: “Catch Me When I Fall” is the third radio single to come off the album. We’ve had maybe a dozen fairly decent market ads with like WJJO in Wisconsin, KTHQ in Spokane, some of our favorite radio, Wes Styles at QLZ in Springfield, who we’re going to go see in a few days, so it’s always fun to go and visit our friends in radio. We go to the stations and play an acoustic song and just hang out, chat with them and stuff. We love doing all that.
RD: And even acoustic is difficult as well when you’re so used to being up on stage performing strong. To break it down and go acoustic, I imagine that is difficult.
Decker: Yea, the first time we tried to do it we didn’t really rearrange the songs, we just played them on the acoustic instruments and it doesn’t really work out.
Randy: Yea, we got a couple calls on that.
Decker: So, we actually worked with Matt from Like A Storm because their acoustic set is just fantastic. He gave us some pointers and kind of helped us out a little bit with figuring out how to rearrange out songs for acoustic. It all culminated really at the Shiprocked pre-party where they hired us to do an acoustic set, a 30 minute set, and we were kinda nervous. We were in the bus ten minutes before we had to go on still practicing. Like, “We gotta get this together guys”
Randy: “Should we do this song? Should we not do this one? Yea, we gotta do that one.”
Decker: So we did it and that was another one, we had people singing the songs back to us. It was just amazing.
RD: And that gives us a look into your head, when nervous, just play a Katy Perry song.
Decker: (Laughs) Absolutely. I did that one as a, I do these covers for my YouTube, just for fun, and Mixi was like, “Hey, I really liked the cover you did, let’s do it live.” And I was like, “Ok, fine. Yea, let’s do it.” So it just kinda came together, you know. Plus, it’s Katy Perry, who doesn’t love Katy Perry?
Randy: Everybody does.
RD: With you song writing process, how exactly does that work? How does that actually work to bring together the lyrics, the music, the percussion. How does this work with you guys?
Decker: It’s pretty much spontaneous. We go into the studio, generally with a producer. Even if we have an idea, like “Let’s write this type of song,” and then by the end of it, it’s a completely different type of song then we originally set out to write. It just happens, you know. But usually, we all kind of work together as far as, somebody will come up with a riff and then we’ll just kind of go from there. Mixi is really good about writing hooks for choruses, catchy choruses, that’s pretty much all her. She’s so good at that. Lyrically, we all kind of talk about it. As far as the drums and the rhythm stuff, we’ll get like a basic something down and then it’ll just evolve over time. So, songs will start out as one thing but then kind of evolve into something else. Then even live, Randy and I will work out different stuff.
Randy: Some of the stuff that we do on the album just doesn’t sound quite right live and so we end up switching out kicks or certain patterns.
Decker: Like that one part in “Catch Me When I Fall” [guitar riff]
RD: I know it’s early, but has the band started writing new material for another album?
Decker: Just a couple of things so far. We are near the end of this album cycle, but our label management took another look at the record and they still want to keep pushing this one because they were like, “ I listened to the record again and it’s really good. So maybe we should just keep pushing this one.” And so we’re going to be doing some more touring this year, but we’re trying to write in between, which is how we did the last one too. We were touring so much but we kept writing. Every chance that we get we’ll go back to Los Angeles and we’ll get together with the producer and try to get a couple of things out. And then sometimes they’ll take the helm on that and run with it and just kind of finish the song up.
RD: This tour wraps up in just a couple of weeks. Do you have any immediate plans for touring after that? What are your thoughts as to how you want 2017 to go?
Randy: Well, that’s still to be decided. We have some other things that have happened that…
Decker: Yea, I think we can tell ‘em.
Randy: About the bus. Well, our engine on our bus exploded a couple of weeks ago [laughs], and so Mixi was driving down the road, I was sleeping, my girlfriends like, “Get up! I think we’re stopping right now, something’s wrong with the bus.” I look and all the smoke’s coming out of the vents in the front and then the doors fly open, Mixi runs out of the bus…
Decker: She thought it was going to blow up.
Randy: I was like, “What’s going on?” The cops were, I guess following us, I don’t know. But anyway, as soon as we pulled over there were like four cop cars there, the fire department was there. We were literally in the middle of nowhere in Alabama, Murder Creek, Alabama, was right where we were. We stopped right there and we had to have it towed 30 miles away from there to a Ford dealership.
Decker: We actually had to hide in the bus while it was being towed so that we could get from the side of the highway to thirty miles away.
Randy: Yea, when the tow truck driver showed up, we were like, okay, they only have room for two of us so the rest of us are all going to have to sit in the bus while it gets towed and don’t say anything.
Decker: He didn’t know so. I think legally he’s not allowed to do that. We all just hid in our bunks and everybody be quiet, just shhhh. For like 2 hours we were just sitting there waiting for them to secure the thing then actually tow it over there. It was an adventure. But the point is that after this tour, we’re still trying to get the thing fixed. It’s in Alabama, the tour ends in Pittsburgh. We actually have plans to go to Florida and hang out for a little while because Mixi’s family is down there. Until the bus is fixed, we don’t really know, what we’re going to do.
Randy: It’s kinda like on hold in a way.
Decker: It’s likely that we’re going to do a few shows in Florida in March after this tour…but nothing’s concrete yet. We want to tour more this year. Nothing’s set in stone yet.
RD: Well, that’s all of the questions I had. Unless there’s anything else you wanted to talk about. I see you’re still here. We’re glad you didn’t take the NASA jobs.
Randy: Oh, you saw that?
Decker: Well, we could have. We’re still debating it. I don’t think they really want us though.
Randy: They actually came and said, “You jokers, get the hell outta here.” [laughs]
Decker: It’s funny because our friend, Jeff, we met him because he’s a huge One Eyed Doll fan. He was their driver on the tour that we did with them, a year and a half, two years ago. He was just this quiet guy, and we met him and discovered he works at NASA and we’re like, “You work a NASA and you’re driving a band around?” He’s just a huge fan and they needed somebody to drive so he was gonna help them out . Then, we became friends on that tour. Any time we go to Houston, he lets us stay with him and then if we can, he’ll take us to NASA. The first time it was just to the science center type thing for the general public. But then this time he actually took us to where you have to get special passes. We went to Mission Control. We went to see secret stuff, the very first space shuttle that they had. They have it all deconstructed and you just walk around and check it out. It was really cool.
02/12 Crest Hill, IL – Bada Brew
02/14 Pittsburgh, PA – Diesel