Interview with Monster Truck guitarist, Jeremy Widerman

MonsterTruckJeremy_byMattBarnes-223815-edited.jpg4-piece hard rock band hailing from Hamilton Canada, Monster Truck are known for not compromising their values or music for any one. This steely eyed determination, gritty honesty and hard work has seen them come from small town beginnings playing their local bar, to international arena tours with Nickelback and soon Deep Purple. During their sold out headline UK tour guitarist Jeremy Widerman took the time to chat with us about what ‘The Truck’ are all about and life on the road...How did you come up with your name?
“It really came to me after talking with our singer Jon Harvey about what kind of band we wanted to be and had talked about starting for a long time. I was in this other band that was taking a long time off due to a legal battle, we were all at a house party together and I came up with the name as it would best reflect the kind of music we wanted to play. I mentioned it to Jon, he was super excited about it right outta the gate as was drummer Steve Kiely. It was really kind of a joke as originally we were just gonna get drunk and play in our home town and not really take it or ourselves too seriously. The music we were gonna play was gonna be heavy, simple, fun and in your face. When things started taking off we thought about changing the name but it just seemed to suit the music so well that we thought better of that.”

How did you guys get together, how it works and what common influences do you draw upon?
“The nexus of it was me, as in I knew everybody beforehand. Steve and I were in a band together and Jon was dating the sister of one of the band members. I’d known Jon for years anyways and we had this party I mentioned and the first thing Jon said was that we needed to have a rock organ player, which I hadn’t thought of before. I had just met Brandon Bliss from being on tour with him and got along real well with him so figured if it’s gonna be anyone, it’s gonna be him plus he’s a killer player. The day after the party I called Brandon up at like noon, he had been at some other party so had a hangover like me and I asked ‘Hey, we’re gonna start this band called Monster Truck, do you wanna come and hang with us on Monday and meet the guys?’, so we went out for brunch, chatted and the very next day we had our first rehearsal and worked on our first song. It went that quick from an idea on a Saturday night to our first song being written on the Monday.”

“I’ve always been really keyed in on tightness and really understanding what the other guys are playing all the time so no one is drifting off course or combative. There’s where you get messy otherwise. There’s lots of bands where everyone is doing different things but it all comes together in a cool way, but that’s not for me. I really like everything regimented, straightforward and in unison, which is at the heart of Monster Truck. Tonight at the show you’ll notice that Jon and I are basically playing the same thing all of the time, we’re locked in. I’m really playing bass but on guitar, you could say, and we use the organ as kind of a bed for everything to lie on. We’re really a collective in the way we have 4 strong people in equal share roles which is the hardest way to do a band as everyone’s got an opinion, everyone’s got a vote that matters and counts, everyone cares and you get the most amount of fighting that way! As stakes got higher and the shows got bigger, the fights get more frequent and serious...sometimes it’s about who cares the most. The best way to negotiate that is to not always be that guy. If someone else in the band really cares about something more than you, let them have it as at the end of the day, you can’t always be right and if you think you can, you’re an ass. I’ve learned both ways that you have to let everything go unless you’re damn sure. I’ve been wrong as many times as I’ve been right and realised the real value is picking your battles. Part of the strength of our band is that we find a way to make it work with all of our ideas, influences, opinions and directions. I think that our sound, is our sound. We don’t sound like Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Soundgarden, Led Zeppelin or whoever but are influenced by them but you couldn’t say that we sound like them. We’re a Monster Truck sounding band.”
There seems to be a stigma attached to some artists of an ideology that you need to start really young to get anywhere…
“Well, I’m 36 and we started the Truck when I was 27/28. Firstly there’s no rules man. One of my favourite bands when I was in college was Veruca Salt who started in college and had never really played up till then; they did really well back then and came later to it. As for me, I started playing guitar when I was 14. I couldn’t find any bands that needed a guitar player as f****** everyone plays guitar so I started playing drums just so I could be in a band and make music. I’ve done everything since then really; played drums in someone else's band, did what I was told, got my own band where I wrote all the songs and told everyone what to do, then got into playing in multiple punk bands where I was the front man but then got sick of that and being around people that didn’t really know what they were doing or where to go with it. I think starting playing young has given me a huge advantage in seeing all the roles you can be and play in any band. We’re lucky in that we had made all of our mistakes with agents, labels and all that before Monster Truck, gotten out of them and learnt from them.”

Tell us about your relationship with your label and how that works for you, was it all DIY to start…
“We started out very DIY to an aggressive degree where we were like “F*** labels, f*** promoters, f*** agents, managers...f*** everyone, we’ll do it all ourselves’. That lasted for about 7 months because we realised that we didn’t just have a small town bar band as we were all of a sudden getting tour and label offers with people expecting us to go to the next level when we didn’t have that intention in the first place - we just wanted to play our music. So, we sat down and talked it through as we had all had pretty negative experiences working in the industry prior to that. Brandon and I had learned the hard way dealing with a major labels and agents where we had been told we were gonna be the next big thing, make this amount of money etc and all we ended up being is in a lot of debt and stuck. When Monster Truck started we made a pact to never let that happen to us. We decided to go on tour, get an agent, label etc but the main thing we stuck to was never putting our own money in after doing so for our first EP. We each put in $400 of our own money to get that recorded and we vowed that if that EP didn't bring us to the next thing which was someone else paying for the album or the shows covering all the costs for gas, van, food and everything else then that was it and we would go back to playing like once a month in our local bar in Hamilton and forget about ‘making it’ in the music industry, whatever that means. We knew when to say no to things - we said no to a few tours, no to management companies, no to a bunch of labels and we waited until everything happened in the right order for us so we didn't jump the gun likes some bands do and disappear real quick. This had a huge role in turning the band into a profitable band quickly and asserted ourselves in the industry so that people knew we weren’t f****** around, that we weren’t to be pushed over or have the wool pulled over our eyes and that we were on the up and not to be taken advantage of. Meanwhile, we took our first really great support tour opening for The Sheepdogs across Canada at the same time our single was popping of the radio stations. A lot of fortunate timing, hard work and we eventually settled with a label that we trust, who trust us and respect us for who we are and what we do as we ain’t gonna change for anyone.”

You tour a great deal, what is it particularly about touring that you dig and what lessons have you learned along the way?
“Never would we of imagined that we would be over in the UK playing sold out shows...the funny thing is on the Facebook event tonight it says there’s 26 people coming, but it’s sold out! You know, I gave up on those things a long time ago and the Facebook event crap should be stopped entirely as it does not represent anything within the realm of reality, it’s a waste of everyone’s time, it’s not the way human beings work. It was a good indicator right when Monster Truck started but now it isn’t. Under promising and over delivering shows is a good idea in that if you can get 100 people, play the 50 people club, if you can get 200 people, play the 100 person bar...create the mandate for your fans to get their tickets as they know the show is gonna sell out. It sounds horrible for the fans that don’t get in, but look at what Nintendo do. They release a new console and for every 10 people who get one, there’s 20 that don’t. They then all get on social media and talk about it which creates a buzz and an urgency for something and a bit of a premium sense.

“Something like the 1000 to 2000 capacity shows and smaller ones like tonight we really enjoy, but also the larger ones...really, it’s anytime the fans are getting really excited to see us play is good for me. I can’t really complain as we’ve had so many great opportunities to play to people, it can be tough opening for somebody when the fans don’t really know who you are where you’re trying to convince them that you deserve to be there. Playing to our fan base where they’re excited, that gets me off every time. If I’m having a tough show ‘cos we’re opening and there’s one fan in the front row that’s giving it their all and there for us, then that’ll do it for me. I’ll key in on them, vibe off of them which makes me play better and have a real fun time.

“For me, I really enjoy playing the shows and the other 22/23 hours of the day are all geared towards playing the best show that night. I try and make sure I’m taking care of myself personally, mentally and physically, as I haven’t done so as much in the past. I try to make sure that my gear is taken care of; I have enough sleep, have clean underwear in the bag, eat enough fruit and vegetables and stay hydrated. You know, I was f****** my whole touring life up by not staying hydrated when I was younger, not drinking enough water and too much Jamesons! It’s such a simple thing but easily missed if you’re getting caught up in everything else going and you’ve gotta kill it every night on stage for the amazing fans that have paid and travelled to see you play.”

Any more advice for our students?
“In the last band I was in, I had this realisation one day where I was listening to our CD, I had this sudden moment where I felt ‘Holy s***. I wouldn't listen to this’. I mean, if I had got knocked on the head, woke up from a coma, had amnesia and you had played the CD for me, I wouldn’t like it...yet I was in the band. I quit immediately as how can I be in band that I don’t like the music of? That’s not the case with Monster Truck. It’s about loving your own music and being passionate about it. It’s a reciprocal energy when you’re playing live to people, constantly giving out your energy to the crowd and you want to feel it back. With Monster Truck, we share everything, all of our experiences and if it starts with love and that passion that your band is great, that will spread like wildfire. Having lots of fun is infectious and people want to be a part of it. Just love your music that you play and don’t worry about what is hot, what is not, whether someone thinks it’s cool or not and find a way to really be a fan of your own band. That may sound arrogant but what can be more motivating and attractive to an audience than seeing someone playing music that they love themselves?”