The new 7Seconds album is awesome. It’s one thing to hear kids singing exuberant, straight-from-the-heart punk songs about walking together and rocking together. It’s another to hear adults who not only cling to the idealism and activism but rip at the art of hardcore after 30 years. Songs like “Exceptional” and “Slogan on a Shirt” are at once tangible and humble yet experienced and intelligent. And while certain lyrics hint at being weary (“Who wants to be sequestered in Another State of Mind?” ), there are no signs of being jaded. I love the dream sequence in “Heads Are Bound To Roll” in which The Clash plays one last show and Kevin gets to sing “Death or Glory” with them. Meanwhile, the hyper melodic title song “Leave a Light On” can be as literal or poetic as you want–perhaps a side effect of Kevin Seconds’ acoustic gigs between 7Seconds releases and shows.
Needless to say, I was all over a chance to ask Kevin about the new 7Seconds LP, his most recent acoustic work, and just plain making passionate, powerful music for 34 years and counting. Maybe next time I’ll ask him about his painting…
MW: I feel like you’ve answered a lot of the obvious questions in “30 Years (And Still Going Wrong)” but are the lyrics that you sing indeed that close to your feelings, opinions, and experiences? Are you still that confident about and stoked on about the hardcore band that you, your brother, and your childhood friends started in 1980?
KS: Absolutely. No one is as surprised–and pleasantly so–as I am at us still loving and being passionate about playing together as 7Seconds. It feels both amazing and ridiculous.
MW: After playing together for so many decades, and growing up and having families, is it still possible for you and the dudes to still feel like kids when you’re playing music?
KS: For about 30 to 50 minutes every time we get onstage, we feel like kids. Then we get in the van or on a plane or try standing upright in the shower without pain and that’s when we are cruelly reminded of our decrepitude.
MW: You and the band have hardcore chops from here to the moon. But I’m wondering if you listen to new hardcore bands, keep up with the scene, and all that?
KS: Honestly, I don’t listen to or go out and buy new music as much as I would like to. I try to keep my ears and eyes open because I still tour quite a bit on my own and I’m always hearing new stuff. But it’s hard. The last couple of hardcore and punk bands I remember being super excited about were bands like Paint It Black, Champion, The Copyrights, and Off With Their Heads. Lately, it’s been a lot of singer-songwriter type stuff like John Moreland and Louise Distras.
MW: As a guy who travels the world, tell me why you’ve chosen to reside in smaller towns like Reno and Sacto instead of a big city. Does that philosophy inform your music in some way?
KS: I prefer living in cities that aren’t too big. I’ve spent enough time in places like New York and L.A. and, while I love both, I think I would just get too overwhelmed by everything going on there. I’d probably hunker down like a lunatic and never come out of my house! Plus, in a town the size of Sacramento, you still have opportunities to make waves and make cool things happen.
MW: I loved your acoustic show at Amoeba, and thought it was cool how your short, fast punk blasts really informed your folky efforts. In the other direction, have your acoustic experiences affected your work with 7 Seconds?
KS: Definitely. I’d say that 5 or 6 of the songs on the new 7Seconds album were written on an acoustic guitar and were initially planned to be quieter, folkier tunes. Then again, I’ve written some of the best 7Seconds tunes on acoustic guitar so, it’s not all that new.
I would say that it has definitely affected my voice. I look to try and sing much more than I have in the past because I have more confidence now, as a solo singer-songwriter. It’s pretty fucking fun.
MW: “Leave a Light On” is a great song, and I’m pretty sure you previewed it at Amoeba. Why did you decide to choose it for the title cut?
KS: Right from the start, that song resonated with me more than all the others. It was a lot faster when I first wrote it and I demo’ed it for the boys and would listen to it while jogging around the park or driving to the post office. It is really the only song on the new album that is somewhat of a project into itself. I can’t explain how or why. It just has great meaning to me at this point in my life and I wanted it to be the centerpiece on this new album. Luckily, the guys agreed with that.
MW: You’ve played some pretty great covers over the years, from Nena to Sham 69. What are some other ones that you’ve considered taking on but didn’t make the cut?
KS: Back in the ’80s and ’90s, we covered “Roam” by The B-52’s and “For What It’s Worth” by Buffalo Springfield. We almost covered Madonna’s “Borderline.” Thank God we didn’t!
MW: You were just in Europe with solo gigs but are going back with the band. What’s going on over there? Any surprises?
KS: It’s going. We’re there the first week and a half of July and we’re very excited to be getting back there. There’s nothing like what’s going on for hardcore and punk bands in Europe right now. It’s very strong and passionate. We love it over there. As far as surprises go, about the only thing I can think of is that I’m playing second guitar on a few songs, live. Oh, and I may get my haircut before then.
MW: You’ve got a couple of California shows lined up with Channel Three! Got any stories about those guys?
KS: I was once taken out into a dark alley in San Diego and beaten up by three members of Channel Three. It’s amazing that I still like them as people and as a band!
Follow 7Seconds on Facebook for the band’s latest dates, news, and thoughts, and then buy the great new record from the merch table at a gig or your local record shop. Kevin Seconds is active on Instagram, too.
And Mike Magrann from Channel Three says, “As I recall it was Kevin who beat the three of us up–bully!”