Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview by Keith McDonald

Seven Wiser is not a household name just yet. The Long Island based hard rock band is preparing to unleash their debut album via Wind-Up Records, home to supergroups Creed and Evanesence. With their blend of melodies and great guitar riffs, this band is poised to take on radio and MTV. I had the chance to speak with singer Jon Santos who gave me the history of his band.

How did the band start? 

I used to record demos at a local studio and the owner of the studio (Jim Sabella) had recommended me to producer Sandy Thomas, who at that time was looking to work on a new project. He and I got along great, I started to write new music and audition musicians. After about 2 years of that I found the band I love to play with.



How is the LI music scene these days? 

It has created more than a few big bands (Twisted Sister, BOC, Zebra, etc.) A: To tell you the truth, I have not been out in the LI scene in some time now, but to me it feels like tribute or cover bands have taken the clubs over. We had lots of stations that supported unsigned bands for 2 hours on Monday night, but I do know that some of my friends are still out there kicking ass.



How did you hook up with Wind-Up Records? 

We shopped till we dropped, sending CD's & DVD's to labels. Wind Up had the Seven Wiser CD and DVD floating around there and it was reinforced by a friend (JIM), who did work for them and he as well dropped some promos and talked us up. The week we showcased, they walked in with the whole damn label that night, then had us over the house for dinner and said we are signing you.



What are the tour plans? 




How hard is it to tour these days? 

Very hard I feel. The problem is not making enough cash to pay 5 guys bills back home.



I see you are into the 80's bands. How does that influence your music? 

It has an effect on how I may attack a vocal line or guitar part, much more then 80's rock has an impact on me. I grew up a piano player; I like everything from Yanni, Billy Joel to Bon Jovi, journey, Metallica, Sevendust, Disturbed and so on.



I see you handle the songwriting for the band. How difficult is that?

It's not too hard when you like to do something, but a song has to come when it comes, I can't force one out. Some times it will be my producer who will toss an idea at me (ex: a piano part or maybe vocal idea) and I build on that. The hard part of writing is when you have an idea at 3 in the morning and you say CRAP, I need to record this now. The thing is everyone is sleeping when you try to record, so it never fails when I listen back in the morning, the idea is there but it came out sounding like 2 cats on there death bed playing banjos.



Your songs touch on some pretty personal experiences as exhibited in 'Sick' and 'Losing Grip.' Could you explain?

"Sick" I wrote when I got home from a relative's funeral. He was killed at his job when someone was robbing the place. I tried to put in to words what everyone there was feeling, and for some it was pain and for other vengeance. That was the reason for that song to be picked for the PUNISHER movie sound track, it fit well. It's a shame that it wasn't used in the movie itself.



The major labels seem to be downsizing. Do you think this will help or hurt the band? 

I don't really know what it will do to the band or any band for that matter. This business is hard; I believe if a label signed you, they will do what they can to make it happen for you. Sometimes it works, sometimes it don't. As far as Wind Up, they may be the biggest rock label in the world but they are kind of a smaller label, and I think that's how they make it work. They can push harder on one thing they put out, rather then 100 things they put out.



How hard do you think it will be to get your songs on the radio?

It seems it's getting harder and harder. It's very hard to get airplay. We seem to be inching our way on the air, believe about 18 markets are playing our 1st single "Take Me As I Am". I do feel we have many cool tracks that fit certain radio formats, but truly when a band gets to a label, and if their fortunate to have a deal, you're in the hands of that label's promotion department. Shanna Fischer, head of Rock promotion at Wind-Up seems to be doing a good job, but I allow that load to be looked after by my management team....to much politics, and noise there man, I'd rather play my guitar, video games or be at the gym.



How did you get the song on MVP Baseball 2004? How much can that help the band?

We have a publishing deal, so they are the ones responsible for creating those opportunities. As far as if that helps us....tough to say, I think it's cool that we're on those video games, we have another track "life" being placed on the NASCAR Thunder 2005 video game in August, but that's a tough thing to gauge. I do see a lot of people parked in front of video games like myself, and they feel it's a great place to expose a new band like Seven Wiser.

It seems many bands don't get to do a second album these days. Do you agree, and how does that affect your debut release...any pressure? 

Fuck the pressure, not to sound ego filled, cause I'm not, but you can't take this too seriously. I have a great management team, an ass kicking band, you have to take one day at a time, what ever happens, happens. If we're dropped, we can move on, and see where life goes next. This business is too complex to try and predict the future. Too many peoples egos, just too many obstacles, I can tell you of 20 bands that deserve to be signed, but aren't. Then there are bands that are signed that never see the light of day; maybe the wrong song was introduced as a single, maybe the promotional push wasn't executed.... so much CRAP goes on, and so many things are needed to happen for a band to be successful. A band is depending on so many people, and personalities to come together to be able to make it happen. So we just take it day by day, just try and keep this band tight...and hope all these people that pledged all these words in the past, just follow through.



Anything you'd like to plug/promote? 

YEA LOL, "Seven Wiser" is in stores June 8th, "Seven Wiser" is in stores June 8th and oh yeah, "Seven Wiser" is in stores June 8th.



How do you think your band separates itself from the others out there now? 

Our music, and the guys in the band. On the radio, you hear a very Retro sound currently, bands like the Strokes, the Vines...it's cool, but sometimes the radio can become very homogenized, one band blazes an unique trail, then radio will play the next 5 bands that try and copy The Strokes, or the White Stripes, so in that way I feel it becomes boring. To me, Seven Wiser is different then what's on the air....is that good? Bad? Who the HELL knows, I write what I like....I know that's a silly response, but it's just too much to try, and judge. You can't fool yourself, and try to beat a trend, you just need to write, and create what you like. But Seven Wiser kicks ass live, I feel we have one of the best lineups in rock, Bobby Angilletta is one of THE best rock drummers FKN period! Tudor and Joe are killers on the guitars and Joe lays down a thick driving bass under it all...To me, it's the songs, the band itself, and our shows that set us apart? You'll leave the show, going, "Now that was worth the money I just spent"



What's the future for Seven Wiser? 

I plan only 24 hours at a time, sometimes not even that far ahead. Let's see when I was broke, and struggling 2 years ago, I rode my bike to the gym to get a work out. I was planning on riding my bike home after, though I get to the pole where my bike was locked, and it was gone...stolen. I looked at the empty pole (where they were nice enough to leave the lock for me) and said..."S**T...I was planning on riding that bike home". So I'm done with making plans.