Saigon Kick burst on to the music scene in 1988 and released their self-titled debut in 1991. A very under-rated group of musicians, they toured the country building a following.
Here is an interview I did with Matt Kramer prior to a show in Pittsburgh.
It was published in The Indiana Gazette on Oct. 10, 1992.
According to Chinese mythology, this is the year of the monkey, but for the Miami-based rock band Saigon Kick, 1992 may be the year of “The Lizard.”
Released less than four months ago, Saigon Kick’s second album, “The Lizard,” is currently ranked at No. 40 on the Billboard charts, with the ballad “Love Is On The Way” burning up the radio airwaves.
Just last week, while spending several days in Boston, the band learned that MTV had moved their video for “Love Is On The Way” into stress rotation (it will be shown five times a day), and the cable station had invited them to perform on the Monday, Oct. 12 edition of “Hangin” With MTV” and also a segment of “Unplugged.”
“The response to the new album has been really great,” explained Matt Kramer, lead singer for Saigon Kick, during a telephone conversation last week while the band was in Boston.
They will be performing at Graffiti in Pittsburgh on Oct. 14.
“That song (“Love …”) just took off on its own on the radio. We didn’t plan to release it as a single, but when it happens you let it go and hope people will pick up on the other songs. People are sometimes surprised to find out that we’re a heavy band. We want them to realize that we put out all kinds of music.”
Saigon Kick recorded the album in Sweden, Kramer said, because they found an engineer there they wanted to work with and the band wanted to keep control of the production. Guitarist Jason Bieler produced the band’s sophomore effort.
“We wanted to get out of the states to have the freedom to do what we wanted to do,” Kramer explained. “We were able to record it in 13 days because we like to record live. Most of the songs on the album were done in the first, second or third takes. If it didn’t work by the third take, we didn’t use it. We also saved time because we recorded all the instrument parts at the same time in the same room instead of on separate tracks.”
Kramer and Bieler, who share songwriting duties for Saigon Kick, have two different personalities when it comes to creating.
Kramer explained that if Bieler is writing a “lyrically happy song, I’ll throw in a monkey wrench of ‘death and destruction.’ He’d do the same thing to me.”
Rounding out the four-man band are drummer Phil Varone and new bassist, Chris McLernon.
“Hostile Youth,” the first single from “The Lizard,” shows a harder side of the band, with thrashing guitars and angry, snarling vocals from Kramer.
The video the band made for the song showed Kramer in a very dangerous situation — dangling precariously from a helicopter as it flew.
“It was the director’s idea for me to hang out of the helicopter, but it was my idea to let go,” Kramer explained.
“I didn’t have a safety belt on, and neither did the guy sitting on my legs. Looking back, it was a pretty crazy thing to do.”
“My Dog” is a punk/thrash-sounding minute-and-a-half tune that Bieler wrote from Kramer’s true experience of having his dog die after being hit by a car.
As morbid as it sounds, Kramer’s deliverance of the song actually makes it kind of funny, in a twisted way.
“Chanel,” an off-beat love song delivered in a Beatlesque-style, tells of a lover lamenting his girlfriend’s infidelity.
“The song ‘The Lizard’ was inspired by a funny dance I used to do after the shows,” Kramer said, laughing. “Jason wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics around it.”
Life on the road for Saigon Kick often times is like a comedy of errors, as their recent jaunt to Boston proved.
Last Tuesday the band spent five hours stuck in gridlocked traffic and were sent to three wrong hotels before arriving at the right one.
Wednesday afternoon, as they were headed to the Ovation Guitar company’s headquarters to sign an endorsement for the acoustic guitar maker, which Kramer explained “is great because they don’t endorse anyone,” the bus was sideswiped in a minor fender-bender.
Tour manager Aaron Bieler (brother of guitarist Jason) explained that they called 911 to report the accident and told them no one was hurt, they just wanted to fill out the report.
Three firetrucks and an ambulance showed up and were very upset at the band (though it wasn’t their fault), for the false alarm.
Bieler said a policeman finally showed up and since no one was hurt, didn’t want to fill out a report.
Just another day, and maybe a song inspiration, for Saigon Kick.
After splitting up and re-forming the band several times over the years, Kramer and Bieler still are recording and performing together as Saigon Kick. They are on Facebook and Twitter.