Interview: Kevin Seconds of 7Seconds

words by Jackson Ellis | photos by David Robert and Shahab Zargari
| Monday, June 2nd, 2014

7Seconds | photo by David Robert

You know what’s cool? When you find out that bands that emerged in the early ’80s, like Minor Threat and Dead Kennedys, still resonate today with kids just beginning to dip their toes into the waters of punk and underground music. You know what’s even better? When you realize that bands such as 7Seconds, led by front man Kevin Seconds, have been plugging away almost nonstop for well over three decades, bringing their live shows to a multi-generational fan base.

Back in 2012, between songs during his band’s set at Punk Rock Bowling, Seconds announced to the crowd, “I’ve been doing this for 32 years, and I’ve played with everyone: Minor Threat, Youth of Today, Husker Du — yeah, I’m bragging! I hope I can keep doing this for another 32 years.” It’s that passion and unending enthusiasm that has endeared the band to fans — in addition to their massive catalogue of diverse, energetic, and positive music. In 2014, the band released its 16th full-length album, Leave a Light On. It seemed to me to be a great time to pick the brain of the guy behind each record.

7Seconds is heading out on a headlining tour during the summer of 2014, and I guess this will be your first headlining tour in quite a few years. Are there any towns or venues in particular that you’re really looking forward to visiting (or revisiting) that you otherwise wouldn’t get the chance to see?

Anywhere on the East Coast is always pretty special to me. I just love the energy and feel of all the major cities, and the shows are always great for us. I have a special affinity for Asbury Park. I can’t explain it — I just love the city. I’m looking forward to getting back there and playing the Lanes.

Not long ago, you finished a solo tour in Europe. In your experiences, what are some of the biggest differences between touring overseas and touring in the States and Canada that someone who isn’t a musician might not ever know about?

Promoters in Europe, especially in places like Germany and Belgium, know how to treat weary traveling musicians. They get a great show, feed the hell out of you, and make sure you sleep somewhere that is safe and comfortable. They really do everything they can to make you feel less far away from home and shitty. It should be mandatory that all American promoters be sent to Europe to see how it’s done correctly. (laughter)

I see that 7Seconds will also be finally making it to Brazil in September. Is there any other country that you’d love to play, but just haven’t had the chance to make it to?

Yes — Argentina has been a dream of mine to play forever. [Also] Russia, which we’ll be visiting in July, and Australia.

I’ve listened through your new album, and it feels like a really good, comfortable blend of various styles. Specifically, while it largely consists of the straightforward, 7Second-style hardcore punk that your band has become known for, songs like the title track and “Standing By Yourself” hearken back to poppier, somewhat more mainstream-friendly albums like my personal favorite, Soulforce Revolution. I was wondering, during the songwriting process, do you ever reflect upon different phases of your own huge catalogue of music and use it as an inspiration or template of sorts for how you’d like new songs to sound? Or is songwriting exclusively an organic, in-the-moment reflection of what you want to express? Maybe a combination of both?

I don’t think it over too much. When I do, I usually end up with crap that I hate the next day.

I think all of the solo writing and playing I’ve been doing these past few years has really helped tune me up as as songwriter. When it’s stripped down like it is with just an acoustic guitar, you sort of really have to focus on the guts of the song. If the song is good at its barest, it’s hard to go wrong when real musicians get their mitts on it and run it through some distortion and aggression. (laughter)

I didn’t really think about too much when I was writing songs for 7Seconds. Hell, I wasn’t even sure we were going to record another album ever again.
7Seconds | photo by Shahab Zargari

Sorry, but here’s a question I have to ask, despite the fact that there’s a damn good chance you’re sick of it: Do you think there’s any chance you’ll ever start up Positive Force Records again, or is operating a record label is an experience you’d rather leave in the past? What were the biggest hardships in running a label?

Positive Force as a label will never happen — at least, with my involvement. I loved doing the label and getting to work with so many great, young bands, but I had no clue what I was doing and, because of the amount of touring 7Seconds was doing at the time, I really had no business trying to sign so many bands and run a record label.

I’m not saying that I’d never do another label. I think about it often — but if I did, I’d just want something low-key and fun. Something I could easily manage and run from anywhere.

Continuing on the topic of record labels, I know you’re a friend and admirer of Ian MacKaye and Mike Park, both of whom run excellent labels. What, in your opinion, have been the factors that have allowed both of them to have such long-term success and ongoing credibility, both as sources of good music and good indie business practices?

They’re both just honest, genuine dudes who don’t seem too keen on the bullshit normally attached to the music industry. I don’t have any direct Dischord experience, but with Asian Man, Mike will straight up tell you what he can do and what he can’t do, and he genuinely seems happy for any of his artists who move forward and do well.

If it weren’t for Mike Park, I doubt that I would have made as much music as I have made in the last 10 years. I owe him a ton just for that alone.

What’s the best tip you can offer to younger musicians and bands or other artists just starting out? Despite the fact that you’re the guy who’s “gonna stay young until the day [you] die,” is there any bit of wisdom you’ve picked up over the years that you wish you could go back and pass on to your younger self?

Yes: Never make silly statements through songs, like, “I’m gonna stay young until I die” when you’re young. (laughter)

But seriously, I always like to emphasize how truly important it is for people to maintain humility and to not let your expectations climb too high. You can have confidence and you can have goals, but when you trample over people and everything else to reach that place that you, in your heart of hearts, believe you are owed, you’re done.

I will never give passes to asshole. Especially within this music community of ours. I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done. There is always somebody out there who has done more, had more of an impact, and is still cooler and more decent than you are.

Between staying active in a band for 34 years and counting, playing solo music, actively touring, having run a record label and a coffee shop, and being married to the love of your life, you’ve done and accomplished a ton. That has to feel pretty amazing. But in the back of your mind, is there anything else that you’d love to take a stab at? Maybe write a novel? Open an art gallery or a comic book store? Join the Navy?

Actually, I would love to finish writing the book I’ve been writing for about 20 years now. (laughter) I also would love to own an art space, and put more energy into screen-printing, tattooing, recording, filmmaking, and becoming a more evolved human being.

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