Dark Beauty Music had the chance to go deep finding out more about this Los Angeles musician. Hear the stories, discover the person and become inspired. Take a trip to his world of Drums, Hardcore Music, High Fashion, Tattoos, Motorcycles, Celebrities, Pop Music Videos and big arena tours.
Interview by Meikee Magnetic
I like to go deep into the beginnings of what makes the artist who they are today. Where were you born and raised? Well I was born in Sacramento California. I lived in LA for a bit then Cerritos and moved to San Jose. I moved to Korea for 2 years when I was 5 then moved back to San Jose. In the 4th grade I moved to New Jersey and spent most of my early years there. After high school while getting a stupid Associates degree I moved to NYC for a while. I ended up in Seattle for 2 years, then back to NY, then Los Angeles, as well as on and off in Australia. I’d say I’m definitely an east coaster since I mostly lived in NJ but I feel like a New Yorker. Let’s just say I’m an east coaster and I got that attitude for sure. I’m very thankful that I grew up there. I’d probably be a different person if I grew up in this perfect weather, laid back attitude and stupid circle pitting of CA.
As your ears began to develop and beautiful sounds began to resonate and reach your soul, what were those sounds? The first time I heard Michael Jackson and saw the way he moved that for sure changed my life in the 3rd grade. I heard Duran Duran when I saw “The Reflex” video on MTV and that was my first favorite band for sure. I mean I loved the Monkees when I was even younger than that but they don’t really count cause they were made for TV. Duran Duran was legit! What really truly changed me was when I was in 5th grade and my friend’s older 7th grade brother Louis was lifting weights, I heard Twisted Sister coming out of his boom box. I was scared, intrigued, curious, and felt very attracted to this new sound I was hearing. I made my mom take me to the record store and I bought the “Can’t Stop Rock N Roll” album. I couldn’t find any of the other songs I had heard on Louis’s boom box. I didn’t realize bands had more than one album. “Stay Hungry” was the album I was looking for.
As far as instruments, well my mom made me play piano for a couple years when I was five. I can’t remember shit now. I think in the 4th grade I had to pick an instrument in band and I saw the clarinet. I was like it’s black, looks cool, guess I’ll play that which turned out fun. Until I heard that Twisted Sister album! Very soon after I got into all kinds of hair metal that was out then like Motley Crue, Kix, Kiss, Dokken, Skid Row and Guns N Roses. It made me want to grow my hair out and be in a rock band! I was like fuck, how can I rock out with a clarinet? I saw Tommy Lee smashing drums and being super flashy and that was what I wanted to do! I didn’t give a fuck about singing, or dealing with wimpy guitar strings. I just wanted to smash! My mom said she would get me a snare drum and lessons but I had to keep playing clarinet which I played for 4 years. I hated it the last two yet I kept up with the drums and got a full drum kit soon after. They thought it was going to be a phase, it wasn’t obviously. In 7th grade, my friend Luke, super big trouble maker, and I got arrested for the first time, RIP. He handed me a cassette copy of a band called Metallica “Garage Days Re-Revisited” EP that came out in 1987, not that other shit that came out in 1998 “Garage Inc”. Anything after “And Justice For All” can go fuck off in my book. At first I didn’t like it, I didn’t understand it and it sounded too crazy with a lot of yelling and speed. With more listens it made sense and hit my heart and soul much different than “Girls Girls Girls” and “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn”. I started skate boarding hard by the 6th grade.
All the older skaters had Metallica tapes and I had always wondered what they sounded like so I was hooked. I watched Head Bangers Ball religiously and would go out to buy new tapes every week. I was really into the BIG 4 as they call them now: Anthrax, Slayer, Megadeth, and Metallica. Anthrax was my favorite, still is and I got into too many bands to even list. On the “Garage Days” record were all covers and eventually I started to like these two songs by the Misfits. I ended up buying their tape just seeing what these metal dudes were into. I got into the same music as them. I went out and bought Exploited tapes, D.R.I., Cromags, Leeway, Agnostic Front and Suicidal Tendencies. Basically a lot of thrash and cross over music. What really changed and shaped me was hardcore. I always listened to a little bit of it, but when I saw Sick Of It All open for Napalm Death, Sepultura, and Sacred Reiche. I was changed forever. In my mind I though “damn these dudes with shaved heads were playing just as hard as Slayer, but none of that pentagram silly shit. It had a street level of honesty, I could relate to what they were saying, and they didn’t give a fuck about mainstream. It was punk yet more hardcore. I was so hooked, that became my life forever. I did fanzines, put on shows, played in bands, kicked a lot of people in the face in the pit haha. Through all this though I was still a mega Motley Crue fan. I just think they’re one of the best and most exciting band of all time. I saw them twice on this last tour and I have tickets for NY in August and their last show on New Years in LA! You’ll see me at most punk and hardcore gigs that matter to me today. To this day The Clash and the Ramones are very important bands for me as well, really high up there.
When did your love for playing instruments start and what were those instruments? Besides the drums, I eventually learned how to play the guitar in my late teens. I always wanted to be a shredder but never put the time and passion into that. I’m still a bar chord guy for the most part. About 2 years ago I decided to be a singer and took lessons so eventually I got a lot better at it. I Started my own band and actually wrote almost all the music on guitar. This had me playing a lot more guitar making me better at trying to figure things out cause no one was gonna write songs for me. The singing actually triggered me to get better at guitar as well as song writing. It comes real fast and easy to me I think I’m not just a bar chord guy anymore. I wish I took this path a lot sooner although I have no regrets because I believe that’s no way to live. I wish I chose the saxophone over the clarinet, big regret! Maybe I’ll get around to it someday.
Your a professional drummer and a great one at that. Who are some of the drummer icons that influenced you as a player? Tommy Lee and a guy named Drew Thomas from a band called Into Another (Go check them out). They’re way ahead of their time even today definitely one of my favorite bands in every way possible. Drew also played in Bold and Youth Of Today to name a couple of others. Topper from The Clash is huge as well. He’s just one of the best and most interesting from that era of punk. Tommy and Marky Ramone for the eighth note wall of sound. Dave Wagenschutz from Kid Dynamite, Lifetime, Good Riddance, etc is a big time favorite! That dude is insane! Charlie Benante from Anthrax, Dave Lombardo from Slayer and Mackie from Cromags/Bad Brains are big time influences for me. Earl from Bad Brains obviously, Sheila E! Prince, Stewart Copeland… The list is pretty endless.
You played the main role opposite Ellie Goulding in her “Anything Could Happen” music video. I can imagine this was a special shoot for you, I think you did an excellent job, bravo. What kind of impact does this have on you as an artist and what was it like having that role? I still get to this day a text from a friend, recognition in the streets, email or a Facebook message about that video from strangers. I don’t think it’s helped my music career much, but I guess any attention is good. Funny, my agent said this director and chick want to meet you for this video. So I met Ellie and Floria Sigismondi, I had no clue who either of them were.They made me try on a bunch of clothing and Ellie said: “Can’t he just be shirtless through the whole video?” My friends tease me because I’m literally shirtless in every video I’m in. The day of the shoot I instantly thought it had a lot of money behind it. I was with Ellie all day shooting, I asked her “So is this your first video?” She responded “No I have a couple of others and Floria did my favorite White Stripes video.”
In reply I said “Oh damn, I didn’t know that.” She said to her assistant “You reckon Steven will be famous after this?” Again my reply: “So would I have heard any of your music?” Ellie’s response “Yeah I’m number one on the charts.” Me: “huh, what charts?” Ellie: “The pop charts.” I immediately text’d my best friend Robby and asked who the fuck is Ellie Goulding? He responded, beats me. A few minutes later he texted “Dude she has millions of hits and is dating Skrillex! You’re in a big ass video!” I had no idea! Floria was very cool to me and I love Ellie though we don’t talk much these days. I mean you see how big she is now, I got nothing bad to say about that girl. I’m real happy for that talented lady.
You seem to have many projects, your the drumming octopus with talented tentacles for everyone. Go deep into some detail on these projects: I’m really focused on just one drumming project right now. I play drums in a band called Down Town Attraction. We release our first single off our new album Feb. 17th on itunes! So go get it, it’s a hard rocker! I actually took a break from drums for a couple of years because I was so burnt out. Somehow these guys pulled me out of retirement. The music was cool and the guys in the band were becoming really good friends of mine which to me is more important than money anyday. Especially the singer Jack, who actually plays bass in the band I sing in now. The album is produced by Mike Clink. He’s produced albums for Guns N Roses, Metallica, Motley Crue, Megadeth, and so many other big records. So it was an honor to record with that man. Lots of exciting things in the works so get that single and be on the look out for us because we’re coming!
You toured with Lil Wayne on the “I Am Music Tour” as Porcelain Black‘s drummer not to long ago. I heard from your bandmate Daniel Merlot it was an intense experience. From big stadiums to performing LIVE on David Letterman.Man, that was one hell of a ride for sure and was a good time. I was with my boys Zach, Nils, Daniel Merlot and of course Porcelain. I’m thankful to her for choosing me for that cause she could’ve asked anyone, I didn’t even audition. That was the first time I was getting paid real money, touring on a bus, hotels and all that rock star shit. We played all arenas and I had only done punk rock tours really at that point. (Porcelian Black Video) It was the first time I played live with a click and backing tracks.
It was actually way easier than no click track and we had dancers too! It was fun! I didn’t have to load or unload equipment and I didn’t pay for anything. It was almost too easy cause I was so used to it being so hard, even though hard never seemed too hard either. Everything was planned and taken care of so it was nice. This particular Hip Hop thing wasn’t really my scene though. We went to some parties and they were making it rain with money all over the floor. Me, Nils, and Zach were like, fuck we are broke I wish we could pick up some of this money on the ground but they’d probably kick us off the tour so we didn’t. I mostly hung out with the Travis Barker camp and I got along with Yelawolf the best. We did some skating and even went back to his house in Atlanta. That was way better then being in the da club wit da money on da floor bullshit. I’m too punk for that nonsense. One of my favorite memories is when Bam Margera invited us to his house for a couple of days. We swam, skated, rode dune buggies, drove Lamborginis, it was crazy fun! Man there’s so many good stories and memories on those tours, I’m glad I experienced it. Dave Letterman was HUGE! I mean millions watched me play that night! Harrison Ford was on our night! I was insanely nervous, I had a shirt on and Porcelain said “Why do you have a shirt on?” I’m like “It’s Letterman I thought I should wear a shirt?!” She then said “I told you from the beginning you’re not allowed to wear a shirt when you play!” Oh man, I think I might be one of the only people to have ever played shirtless on Letterman! That was truly monumental in my life. Super stoked to have that on my bucket list.
You have a strong presence, a natural frontman. Any projects where your the vocalist? Yeah, The High On Lows is the name of the band.We have an EP out called “Cerbral Neurosis”. 5 punk songs combined into one 7 minute concept song. It’s crazy! It goes through a roller coaster of emotions from beginning to end. I never really heard a punk band do a concept EP like this. It will never be a hit or get on radio. I wrote it to be creative and challenge myself. It gets real suicidal tendencies, Black Flag, Dead Kennedy’s, Bad Brains, a lot of melodic type hardcore styles, even angry groove mosh, and some rock n roll too. Go buy it on itunes or if you’re broke it’s on Band Camp, Sound Cloud and Spotify. I’m really proud of it, I think it’s really fun to listen too!
When tracking live drums in the studio what best suits your sound? Do you like recording drums with analog or digital? Man I love analog the best for sure, it’s rare and expensive now. Digital is so much easier to deal with as far as editing. You don’t need as much talent with digital because you can fix things so easy in it. I mean you see it all the time especially with singers lip syncing and shit live shows. I don’t even know whats real anymore man. It’s all got something missing for me now a days listening to all this processed bullshit.
Think back and bring take us on a journey to some of your musical triumphs and greatest musical memories: The most recent was River City Rebels, who toured a lot and was one of the most important bands in my life for sure. They opened me up even more as a song writer, music lover, and musician. We toured with Flogging Molly, Warped Tour, Street Dogs, and many more. We recorded a perfect album called “Keepsake Of Luck”, best thing I’ve ever done. Those guys are my brothers for life. After that I was in a band called The Art, from Australia and we toured with Manson, Pixies, 30 Seconds To Mars, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Pixies was my favorite tour, it was the first time I ever watched a band every single night. I still can’t fucking believe I toured with the Pixies and I’m still in touch. Manson was fun, man I got along with him so good. He’s one of the funniest guys ever, I have the same exact wise ass humor and I laughed my fucking ass off. The first time I met him at an after party, think it was after our second show, my singer is sitting with him and they wave me over. My singer says look he has a bunch of tattoos and unbuttons my shirt. Manson goes holy shit you sexy motherfucker get over here, grabs my ass and pulls me into him. At this point he sucks on my stomach really fucking hard and it hurt! That was my first experience meeting him. We talked plus emailed for a while, I even whipped girls at his house a couple of times (that’s a whole other story), but we kinda lost touch. He’s a busy guy and I’m a straight edge man with no vagina, boobs or a coke connection (not saying he does coke). It wasn’t meant to be though he’s one of my favorite people I’ve ever hung out with. Glad he’s still alive doing music, doing sick art and branching out into acting more. He’s loved by so many, what a talent.
A true renaissance man you don’t limit yourself to one thing, you have a modeling career as well. I’ve seen you on a few Lip Service campaigns. Would you say your a rockn’roll fashionista or how would you describe your fashion sense? I’ve been modeling a long time starting in NYC many years ago. I’ve done work for GQ, Dior, Helmut Lang, True Religion, Xbox, Odyn Vovk, so many magazines, runways, commercials, etc. I got the long hair and tattoos so I guess you could say I’m a rocker guy or whatever. The heavy tattoos comes from guys like Harley and John from Cromags, Roger from Agnostic Front, even Josh Todd from Buckcherry, and of course Motley. I get inspired looking at guys like Lyle Tuttle and definitely all those rad looking Yakuza body suits. All the heavy tattooing comes from the hardcore scene for me. The hair is mostly cause I got straight ass hair and don’t know what else to do with it. I ride motorcycles so I’m not trying to fuck with hair products and a real hair cut. I usually shave it off, grow it, shave it, grow it. Oh yeah fashion, well I’m so trashy that I like to dress classy. I love a good tailored suit, I love ties, ascots and bow ties, etc. Like I said I only ride motorcycles so I can’t fuck with flowy shit or drop crotch. All my clothes are rugged high fashion moto-ish? I love riding my motorcycle in a suit because it makes me feel like James Bond. Whatever makes me feel manly and bad ass I guess but also I’m a bit of a label whore. I wear a bunch of Odyn Vovk, Rick Owens, Lost and Found, Undercover, Belstaff, Dior, Diet Butcher, Thinple, McQueen, St Laurent, Maniac, Number Nine, lots of Japanese shit I dig and so much more. Between the modeling and retail jobs I’ve kinda fallen into this trap. Like I don’t really fuck with stuff made in China really. It’s insane for me to dress like this cause I don’t have much money but oh well too late the addiction has set it’s teeth into my closet. Lots of boots and skate sneakers too. When I work out all I wear is Iron Fist. I’ve done some look books for them as well and they own Killy City, Widow and Lip Service now, who I’ve modeled for all of them as well. All great people to support! RIP Drew Bernstein.
What’s in your ipod? Anything from Morrissey to Slayer, Prince to Suicidal, R Kelly to Teenage Fanclub, Impressions to Wham, Death to Britney, T-Rex to Wutang, KRS to Pantera, Youth Of Today to Diana Ross, Negative Approach to Mariah Carey, Municipal Waste to Olivia Newton John, Ghetto Boys to Waylon Jennings… Man I just like it all! Anything that’s good I’ll dig it. Well except some of my guilty pleasures probably arent’ too good.
Look into the crystal ball and tell us what you see for your future: My integrity will always be intact. I will never stray from my morals and ideals. I will always go hard with fear never getting in my way. As far as everything else, I don’t know, I just try to live in the moment and be as present as possible. Only time will tell.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you? I was in your last issue as a model and now you’re interviewing me. This is a beautiful magazine, I’m very honored you guys were interested in me and I’m very excited to be apart of this. Thank you so much xo
Photographers Amanda Rebholz, Gretchen Lanham and Jana Cruder
Art Director Thomas Dekker
Hair Sarah Ault
Makeup Kelly O’Leary
Jewelry Wolfe Boudoir
Clothing by Rick Owens