"Sean McGuinness is an American musician living in Philadelphia. He has played with Pissed Jeans, Utensil, The Great Collector, Bazhena, Technician, Navies, Go to Sleep, Like Language, Ready Set, Air Conditioning, Oil Drum, Birth Control, Rat Fist, Des Ark, Dark Blue, STREET STAINS, and Remote Places, among other sit-ins, sessions, and general groupings of friends and strangers," Sean "On The Drums" McGuinness' newly-minted Bandcamp Bio simply reads. As you can see, the long-time Pissed Jeans drummer has his hands in a lot of pots... even the brewpot at Ardmore-based Tired Hands Brewing Company, where he bartenders a few days a week, when not recording or touring with Pissed Jeans. Although, McGuinness is fresh off a handful of local dates with Pissed Jeans, he also played on STREET STAINS self-titled self-released debut with long-time friend and collaborator Chris Richards, formerly of Q and Not U and currently of The Washington Post. And even though I just recently met Sean behind the merch booth at WHY LOVE NOW?'s March 10th Record Release Show! at Boot & Saddle, he somehow forgot to tell me he was planning to release a 2013-16-recorded solo tape, READY TO BE RICH, under his Sean On The Drums moniker.
I'm guessing it was either just that ill-planned or he simply decided to release it on a whim. I'm going with the latter, as READY TO BE RICH was haphazardly announced on @yumsean's Instagram page at the top of April and seemingly rushed out ahead of its planned April 29th release, once McGuinness unexpectedly received the tapes last week. READY TO BE RICH is best described by Sean McGuinness himself as "real weird" World, Ambient, Funk-Punk music that's neither exactly in, nor out. I'm happy to have finally gotten a chance to interview McGuinness, as I've previously interviewed his bandmates Matt Korvette (Pissed Jeans) and Chris Richards (STREET STAINS,) and most recently, "The Bar Is Low" music video director Joe Stakun. Now, all I need to do is score an interview with professional wrestler and Hardcore frontman Ultramantis Black to close off the proverbial Punk/Hardcore "Circle Jerk" I've been unknowingly creating; so, without further ado, I invite you to pop a copy of READY TO BE RICH into your cassette deck (or Bandcamp player,) sit back, relax, crack open a Tired Hands brewski, and delve deep into my latest comprehensive interview with Sean "On The Drums" McGuinness!
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
Founder & Editor-In-Chief
I. Are you currently working on any additional outer-Pissed Jeans projects- be it solo material, newly-formed bands, or anything else of that nature? If so, when might we be able to hear some material from these projects?
Chris [Richards] and I are working on making some STREET STAINS shows happen later this year. I just finished at tape of solo material [READY TO BE RICH] using the name Sean On The Drums. It's more than just drums—there are a lot of loops and some bass. I threw a bunch of vocal ideas at it and to some extent, I think they work. It's real weird, but I am very proud of the fact that I started and finished this thing. I had a lot of help from people that I have a lot of respect for. I have a fantastic friend named Mike Petillo that lives in [Washington, DC] and he and I have been working down there in his synth hut on some new wild and exciting tunes. Hopefully, some of that will see the light of day soon!
II. How long ago did you start recording the material that ultimately ended up on READY TO BE RICH? When exactly did you decide to compile your amassed recordings into a proper self-released cassette? It seems kind of sudden, as even after we met at Boot & Saddle and speaking at length via email, I still had absolutely NO IDEA about READY TO BE RICH!
The tape has stuff from when I first started messing around with microphones and recording on my computer that Happy Mike [Sabolick] set me up with and that was close to six years ago. The songs on the tape cover all of that time up until January of this year, when I decided that it was done. Some of the material, I started and then, hit a wall on and came back to it two or three or four or five years later with the mindset that I was gonna get as much as I could, to a point where I could consider them finished. Some of it just kinda came out all at once. Some was painstakingly edited and looped and deleted and then, put back in. A lot of whatever I considered to be vocal tracks were one of the last things to get done. I figured out a bassline kind of last-minute and some tunes I just never figured out, so I deleted them once and for all.
I had been picking and poking at a bunch of different things over the last year and not really getting anywhere on anything and it was making me feel crappy about myself. I decided that if I was ever gonna get anywhere on them, I had better set a goal; like no one is gonna make a finish line for you and rarely do unfinished ideas just let it be known when they are all good, so I needed to set some deadlines. I missed all of them in the process. Every one, but the tape was the finish line and I crossed it. Last December, I realized that in my attempt to finish everything up, I couldn't see the forest through the trees. I took it to my friend, Happy Mike, and asked him to tell me what he thought was done and what could use work. Without his input, I would still be chasing my tail.
III. When we last spoke at Pissed Jeans' recent Boot & Saddle show, I made my particular affinity for your "Bob The Builder" cover no secret (if you haven't heard it, GO LISTEN NOW!) How, if in any way, did the demos, song sketches, rough cuts, etc. from your Sean On The Drums Soundcloud influence your first proper solo tape, READY TO BE RICH?
The "Bob The Builder" thing I made for my son for his 3rd birthday (he's 5 now). I think that was the second or third track that I attempted with a clear intention to to finish it. It's a little easier when it's an already written song. The curse of the home studio is knowing when something is finished. As a creator, [it] is very easy to keep chasing that high of creating layers and adding to excess. As a listener, I don't think you need as much complexity as you would think to continue to stay engaged. [Those] Soundcloud tracks are early attempts at trying to figure out if and when something is finished. Even that "Bob The Builder" track has close to 100 guitars, or something absurd like that, on it.
IV. After having released a seemingly endless (and ever-growing) catalog of recorded music with Pissed Jeans, Utensil, The Great Collector, Bazhena, Technician, Navies, Go to Sleep, Like Language, Ready Set, Air Conditioning, Oil Drum, Birth Control, Rat Fist, Des Ark, Dark Blue, STREET STAINS, Pontera,and Remote Places, etc. what ultimately made you decide now would be the best time to unleash your long-awaited solo "debut," READY TO BE RICH?
I can't really say that it was a "long-awaited" release. Not a single person has ever begged or pleaded with me to open up the vault of unfinished tunes that I have in my basement because they deserve to see the light of day. That said... a little bit of shame and a little bit of trying to keep up. When is a good time to do anything, really? No time like the present? It's way easier to put stuff off than put stuff on? I'm not sure what the exact spark was that lit the fire, but a big part of it was that I just wanted to prove to myself that I could. [Pissed] Jeans were putting together a record, the STREET STAINS stuff was coming together, and I tried to time it a little bit around those things coming out. We are currently fur months into 2017 and there are three records out that I have varying degrees of direct, hands-on involvement in their coming to be; for whatever reason, I'm feeling pretty good about that!
V. Sub Pop's recent WHY LOVE NOW? "Pissed Jeans Individual Unearthed Mix" contained nearly 11 minutes-worth of "home recordings from each band member, including work-in-progress song ideas, found sounds & more;" would you care to briefly detail your contributions to the mix? Where might we see some of this material properly released?
We all contributed a song for that thing and mixed it with some audio of interviews that we have done over the years—just bits chopped up and looped as a little bump between tunes. I think the order was [Randy] Huth, [Brad] Fry, [Matt] Korvette, and me. I really dig that all of us make tunes on our own time. At the the risk of offending people, Huth usually has the best sh*t. He is pretty prolific in a sense that he will get real streaky and pump out a legit song per day for a two-week stretch. It’s nuts! I think it makes for an interesting dynamic when we all get together to play.
VI. What would you likely cite as some of your greatest sources of inspiration, as an "aging" Punk/Hardcore drummer? What were you listening to during the writing and recording processes attached to Pissed Jeans' latest WHY LOVE NOW?
I resent the use of the word "aging," but maybe that is to say I resent the truth. It's tough to say specifically what I am inspired by. I've been subscribing more towards the thought that pure concrete inspiration is pretty rare and could strike at any time, so you had better be ready when it does. I don’t really remember what we were listening to in the studio, [Black Sabbath's] Technical Ecstasy, for sure. Lydia [Lunch] had some young Hip-Hop prodigy she was pushing. I’m usually always listening to [Brian] Eno. Lydia worked with Eno in the 80's and it took me 10 days to work up the courage to ask her about him, kind of already knowing she didn’t think to highly of him. She was leaving the next day, so at dinner with [Matt] Korvette and our friend Mary, I brought it up and she just eviscerated him.
VII. What was it like working in-studio with Philly Metal legend Arthur Rizk and 1980's No Wave pioneer Lydia Lunch WHY LOVE NOW? How did their creative and recording processes differ from Pissed Jeans' past producers?
Arthur was so professional when it came to keeping the session moving, tossing around ideas, and helping us dial in some insane sounds! He has a killer ear and what most people don’t know about Arthur is that he is a very good guitar player. Lydia is a motivational poet and naturally gifted vibe primer. She was super-encouraging and incredibly Jazzed the whole time. She extinguished a cigarette on my neck on the very first day. Truly, an unforgettable experience!
VIII. What's the story behind WHY LOVE NOW?'s utterly hilarious, yet oddly fitting cover image? It almost evokes a late 90's-early 2000's "boy band" kinda vibe, for lack of a better term! Whose idea was it to shoot and lay it out in such a tongue-in-cheek, provocative manner?
Matt [Korvette] is so often the creative visionary. He is really great at conjuring up and idea and turning out a finished, fully-formed concept. It was pretty much his idea and I think we pulled it off pretty well!
IX. How did you initially come to form STREET STAINS with former Q and Not U frontman and current Washington Post writer Chris Richards? How did it serve as an outlet for your ideas that you might not have been able to bring to Pissed Jeans?
The first time I can find us talking about playing music together is on May 5th, 2008. It was on G-chat. I went back and dug it up, here it is:
"Chris: I would kill for a band practice to go to!
Sean: Dude, get a band. Come here once a month and you and I will play in my basement.
Chris: Can I just sing while you play the drums? It'll be like Bobby Valentino x This Heat!"
Honestly, it was started as an outlet for the two of us and nothing really past that. It almost seems accidental that over the course of seven years, we managed to come up with anything that remotely resembled a record. A lot of that I attribute to Richards—he is a talented writer and singer. And he’s handsome. My thought is that we pretty much stumbled our way through those tunes and ended up with an unintentional "record" and what to do when you lack intent, other than share that happy accident with your friends.
X. I loved Justin Gellar's 2016 Remote Places EP, Nights & Weekends, which I know you drummed throughout. Justin's told me he's currently working on some new material. Are you involved yet again an if so, would you care to elaborate on it a bit?
I'm glad you like that. I was flattered that he asked me to play on that record; it was an incredibly enjoyable experience. I really enjoy working with other people to help interpret there ideas, make what they hear in their head an actual thing, and we did a lot of that with this band. I’m stoked that he is working on new tunes—its about time!
XI. Are you still currently working with Rat Fist, your critically-acclaimed project with No Age founding member Randy Randall? I know you played on their inaugural RF 1 7-inch EP (which was awesome!)
I haven’t been involved with Rat Fist for a few years. I’m not sure if you can call Rat Fist "critically-acclaimed," but we did make a 7-inch, which I don’t recommend doing—it's really expensive. Randy came to Philadelphia a few times and we recorded a whole bunch of stuff, but nothing ever came of that. Rat Fist still exist(s)ed without me, though. I like all the music that I wasn’t involved in!
XII. You previously mentioned that you were into "deep dome techno" and I remember you recently posting about Omar-S.'s 004 FXHE Records 12-inch on Instagram; would you care to elaborate on your interest in this genre?
Yeah, I like Omar-S! My buddy was jamming some Juan Atkins the other night—that guy is pretty dope! Atkins has a few deep records that he did with Moritz Van Oswald. When I said "DEEP DOME TECHNO," I think I meant the really dubby Electronic stuff, specifically Rhythm & Sound. Mark Ernestus' Ndagga Rhythm Force's [Yermande] is probably a desert island record for me, at the moment. I can get down with just about everything that L.I.E.S. (Long Island Electrical Systems) had done, Gary BEATO. Korvette pointed me towards the Whiti.es label from the UK and I've been jamming [to artists] Reckonwrong and Avalon Emerson. There is a sick label in DC called 1432 R and I have loved everything they put out, so far. Demdike Stare to Shackleton to Future Times to Mood Hut. So much damn music exists, I'll take all that you got!
XIII. I hear you're a craft beer aficionado, Mr. McGuinness; with that said, what style or brand of beer would you recommend drinking while listening to Pissed Jeans' latest blood-curdling album, WHY LOVE NOW?
I roll with the eat what you like and drink what you like philosophy. Personally speaking, I like a light, dry low ABV Blonde beer with a medium-bitter finish. Braumeister Pils and Taras Boulba come to mind... Augustiner Brau Lagerbier Helles. Logan Plant, son of Robert (yes, that one) has a Brewery in North London called Beavertown. [Their] Gamma Ray APA is delicious. I like Coniston Blue Bird Bitter and Half-Acre Daisy Cutter, too. I could also go on and on.