Interview with TK-421 by Nailer & Band Bitch - Oct 2006.

Please TK-421...introduce yourselves:

Chuck Johnson - vocalist, wordsmith, guitar, orchestrater of chaos and disorder.
Steve Layne – Bass, vocals, band mommie

How long have you guys been playing together in the Southwestern Virginia area?

Steve: We've been annoying the hell out of each other in different incarnations since the early 90's. The TK lineup formed in '99.

TK-421 was the only Stormtrooper named in the original Star Wars. Did your name come from that and if so, can you give us the background story?

Chuck: The other guys are the Star Wars afficionados...I couldn't tell you a Boba Fett from a Gran Moff Tarkin. ;P

Steve: That is indeed where the name came from. The story behind it is pretty boring. We just wanted a non-comittal type name, something that wouldn't label us as a particular kind of band. I mean if we had named ourselves "Dorothy Bloodpool and the Spleeneaters", folks might get a pre-conceived idea of what we should sound like, and it could hurt any future Christmas album sales. Having several minor sci-fi geeks in the band, TK-421 was mentioned as a possibility and quickly stuck.

How do you think you've progressed from the "Hollow" ep to the "Disengaged" cd?

Chuck: Hollow was the sound of 4 guys getting in one room and seeing what the hell we could do without boundaries or rules. One big, loud learning experience. Disengaged was tighter, more restrained, more polished, more focused. We had a better idea of who we were as a band by that point.

Many of the songs on "Disengaged" are themed around adult relationships. Is it a reflection of anybody's personality or past?

Chuck: I guess if it's a reflection of anyone's personality or past, it would be mine, since I wrote the lyrics...that said, it was an observance of other people's relationship experiences as well as my own. But I always try to touch on other issues as well in my stuff, such as religious hypocracy (Saved) political diatribe (Home Alive) and general self-loathing (Digging a Hole, Rebel). But it always seems to be the more relationship-oriented stuff that people tend to focus on, like Bed of Stone and Burn Georgia Burn off the first album. But I'm not complaining...as long as they're listening. ;)

Steve: Some are direct hints at past relationships, others are hypothetically inspired. Chuck has an incredible (and slightly left of center) mind and does all the lyric writing. I think it's a form of therapy to an extent. Gives him a productive outlet to sort through his life. If he ever gets too complacent, we'll take a hammer to his crotch so he has some pain to write about.

You guys produced your own CD. What kind of trials and tribulations did you have to go through to make it happen?

Chuck: For me, it was a simple matter of keeping my guitar in tune and singing on-key before the alcohol caught up with me and I was unable to do either.

Steve: How much time do you have? The positive side of doing it yourself is that you have total control. Unfortunately, this also becomes the negative. You're always your own worst critic, so you end up obsessing about every detail. Troy was the main engineer behind the recordings, with me playing the role of "annoying assistant". We pretty much argued about everything from start to finish - drum sounds, guitar tones, vocal performance, etc.

Steve – Hmmmm, the snare here bothers me a little.
Troy – It sounds like a shoe full of shit being hit with a cat.
Steve – What if we blend in another different snare sound?
Troy – Then it will sound like two shoes full of shit.
Steve – So… what then?
Troy – I dunno. Go get me a beer so I can think.
Troy – (Glug glug tweak glug tweak tweak glug) Ok, how's that?
Steve – I can still hear the cat

To be honest though, I'd rather we go through all those battles to make it better than be apathetic about the process and accept less. The hardest part though is letting go of it. There's always more that can be done. Still, I think it's a fairly admirable job for essentially a basement recording.

How does the creative process--musical creation and writing duties--come about for your band?

Chuck: Sometimes, I'll come in with something complete, or near complete (As in the case of Georgia) and we'll just sharpen it and polish it from there. Sometimes, with something like "Information Overdrive", it will be something the fellas have built from the ground up and I'll just go away and write lyrics. I wouldn't say it's one hammered-in-stone process, really.

Steve: Depends on the song. We don't have one set way that works all the time. Sometimes a song begins as a simple idea that somebody has, and we all brainstorm on it together until we mash it into a full tune. Other times, somebody will have a complete song structure and we just hash out minor details. Some are written completely in rehearsal, while others come from ideas one of us has recorded to cd.

What's been the biggest obstacles so far to the band--professionally and personally?

Chuck: A lot of the same obstacles any other creative unit has, really...getting ears outside of our own market seems to be the biggest challenge. Once they get it, then everything else seems to fall into place, but actually getting heard is the biggest bitch...

Steve: Professionally – breaking out beyond the local scene. Local success means absolutely squat to anyone on the outside. It has become one mother of a hill to climb.
Personally – trying to balance home life with band life. The busier TK gets, the more sacrifices we have to make. Both sides demand attention, and it gets increasingly difficult to find a balance.

Would you say that Chuck's chameleon-like ability to sing a variety of songs is a pretty fair selling point for the band?

Steve: I don't think it's so much that (although it certainly doesn't hurt) as it is his ability to take anything he performs and sell it as gospel. If Chuck joined an "Electric Mayhem" coverband, people would be remarking, "Damn, that is one badass muppet!". There are great singers and great frontmen, but rarely do they reside in the same body. You only have to see Chuck once to realize that he's that rare breed. He oozes confidence, attitude, and charisma, and has a set of pipes that won't quit.

Have you started doing any writing for the next CD?

Steve: Yes actually. We have one pretty much done, "Thick as Thieves", and various other parts and pieces that are in the assembly stages.

What do you honestly think of some of the hardcore/emocore trends out there?

Chuck: It's like anything else that is sort of the "new, happening" trends of any genre of music...the good stuff is really good, the bad is absolute shit that will be swept away in the dustbin of time.

Steve: I honestly don't care. Personally I think the term "emo" is Latin for "crap", and much of the hardcore stuff just gets downright silly. Never been a big fan of those "vomit vocals". There's an audience for everything though, so more power to 'em.

Do you get any inspiration from the bands out there today? If so, which ones?

Chuck: A lot of new bands, actually, but two I'm personally digging on are Death From Above 1979 and The Von Bondies. Essentially I dig anything that makes me stop whatever I'm doing and go "whoa...what the hell is that?" I certainly don't want to end up like so many guys my age who stop listening to anything past their own timeline and era. You might as well put a gun to my head and kill me now if I get that stodgy. I don't NEED to constantly listen to Tool, Zeppelin, Jane's Addiction and G N' R...because I have 'em all right here. (points to head)

Steve: I don't know how much we draw inspiration from bands out today, but I'm sure we can't help but be influenced by what we dig. I can't speak for everybody, but I really don't seek out new stuff. I'll listen to whatever is on Satellite radio and every now and then something will catch my ear. Most of the time though I listen to either talk or sports radio. My ears need periodic breaks from music.

Switching gears here...

What one question would you like to ask these metal gods:

Chuck: How many fingers am I holding up?
Steve: I'm sorry, didn't quite catch that. Come again?
Rob Halford:
Chuck: Why couldn't I have been born with your voice?
Steve: Bring back the Turbo era mullet?
Bruce Dickinson:
Chuck: (see Rob Halford)
Steve: Bring back the Powerslave era mullet?
Ronnie Dio:
Chuck: Isn't it time you passed the torch? ;)
Steve: Exactly wtf is a "Holy Diver" anyway?
Gene Simmons:
Chuck: You're not seriously thinking of hiring 4 young guys to put on the KISS makeup and tour as KISS are you? Why should I pay $110 for a ticket to see a KISS tribute band when I can pay $7 for one at my local bar? (OK, that's 2 questions, but whatever)
Steve: Since you've marketed everything else, "Gene Simmons licensed dildos". Whattya think? Seems only natural.
James Hetfield:
Chuck: I remember years ago seeing you in concert and you saying, "hey, fuckers, Metallica's newest album is coming if out next week...and if you don't have the money, then fucking steal it!!!" Years later, you and Lars would be suing Napster. My question is: Irony much?
Steve: So…. "Some Kind of Monster"…. Betcha wish you had that one back?
Alice Cooper:
Chuck: With the exception of Glen Buxton (R.I.P.) do you ever keep in contact with the original members of the old band?
Steve: How pissed were you when "The Crow" was released?
Steven Tyler:
Chuck: What the hell is the song "Major Barbara" really about?
Steve: Can I get Liv's number?
Axl Rose:
Chuck: What the fuck were you thinking?
Steve: Would you kindly quit calling your new band "Guns n Roses"?
Marilyn Manson:
Chuck: How was Rose McGowan in the sack?
Steve: Mind if I call you Brian?
David Lee Roth:
Chuck: Did you end up giving the ass-less pants from the Diver Down tour to Marilyn Manson?
Steve: It's Ed, freakin work it out already!
Angus Young:
Chuck: How many SG's do you really own?
Steve: Uh, wanna have a drink on me?
Vince Neil:
Chuck: Years ago, you and Axl Rose were gonna have a get-in-the-ring style throw-down...still interested?
Steve: Be honest… you did Pam too didn't ya?
Ted Nuget:
Chuck: I gotta know, man...back in the day...how many?
Steve: Wanna go grab a couple veggie burgers?
Robert Plant:
Chuck: Was it really a red snapper?
Steve: Come on man, just call Page & John Paul… and get Jason on the line as well. It could still happen.

If TK-421 had a drinking contest, who would win? And what would be the prize?

Chuck: Depends on the night and the alcohol of choice. If it's beer, Troy or Steve. If it's whiskey, me or Bill. If it's Jager...check please. The prize? The right to tell whoever is the least hung over to go out and get us some damn food.

Steve: I would come in last cause I just can't hang. Bill would put up a good fight, but Chuck and Troy would tie for first because both have bulletproof livers and are stubborn and would refuse to lose. Prize would be a broken toilet.

Which of the guys has the crappiest day job?

Chuck: That would be me. Up in the morning at 3:30 am to do planograms for that store that shall remain nameless except that it's not Wal-Mart.

Steve: We all think ours sucks the most, but I'd have to say Chuck just cause he's doin that corporate chain retail thing.

"I certainly don't want to end up like so many guys my age who stop listening to anything past their own timeline and era. You might as well put a gun to my head and kill me now if I get that stodgy."
What pisses off TK-421?

Chuck: Apathy, complacency, the unwillingness that some people have to step out of their comfort zone and try anything new. Why do bands have to constantly give people what they want? Why not give them what they need every once in awhile?

Steve: Bar tabs, women who try to keep their breasts to themselves, motel furniture that won't break, the other members of TK.

Have any of you ever spent time in a shower together?

Chuck: See Band Bitch's photo page.
(link: bndgrl.com)

Steve: Yes, but not in the context you think. For some reason, when we get all good and liquored up, we tend to congregate in the tub, whereby Troy spits beer on everyone.

Is there anybody out there you'd like to apologize to?

Chuck: I'd personally like to apoligize to the two bands we played with at Fashion Rox in North Carolina (Autohypnosis and Stratocruiser) for totally fucking up their names on the mic...I blame Jack Daniels.

Steve: We're constantly adding names to the list.

What's the ratio of men to women at your shows?

Chuck: I'd say it's pretty even. the guys come to bang their heads and get stupid...the women come to see Steven (bastard)

Steve: Probably bout Fitty fitty.

True or False:
Men rule the world

Chuck-false We only think we do.
Steve–Men "think" they rule the world.
Pussy rules the world
Chuck-true. Abso-tively
Steve–Much more accurate.

We know some of you do Fantasy Football online. What other guilty pleasures (ie: sports, reality shows, hooches) does TK have outside of music?

Chuck: The guys would say my guilty pleasure is Japanese Anime and Manga...but for it to be a guilty pleasure, you would have to feel guilty about it...and I certainly don't. ;)

Steve: Bill fancies himself a Bob Villa type, always hammering a nail into something. Troy is a gymrat. Chuck is also a gymrat, a bookworm, and has a hard-on for Japanese culture. I spend most of my free time fishing. I have as much dough tied up in rods n reels as I do music equipment.

Would TK-421 have any issues if picked to star in a new reality TV show for four weeks centered around life in a cramped New York apartment? What 5 others would you want with you?

Chuck: Not at all...I actually know my way around NYC pretty well. Whoa...5 other people? It's hard enough getting along with these fuckers for any length of time, much less 5 others! Although having Tracy (Band Bitch) around would make things mighty interesting...

Steve: We'd cease speaking to each other after three days. Besides, we don't need cameras around debunking the illusion of cool we've worked so hard to build.

We're gonna try a section here called "HOT or NOT". We'll give you the names and you elaborate on each choice if you wish:

Chuck: Can I just qualify this by saying I wouldn't kick any of these ladies out of bed? And that includes Estelle, Condi and even Ann Coulter? (That is, until she decides to talk)

Jessica Simpson:
Chuck: HOT (pre-reality-show version)
Steve: Hot
Lindsay Lohan:
Chuck: HOT (Mean Girls-era version)
Steve: Hot
Paris Hilton:
Chuck: NOT (Just go away, already. And take Nicole with you.)
Steve: Not
Ann Coulter:
Chuck: NOT (fucking psycho...the male Rush Limbaugh)
Steve: Not
Faith Hill:
Chuck: HOT (Down-home country sweetness always has a place in hot-dom)
Steve: Hot
Courtney Love:
Chuck: NOT (her 15 minutes should have been over the minute Kurt's autopsy was done)
Steve: Eh… one shot, two shots, three shots… Still Not
Anna Nicole Smith:
Chuck: HOT (Playboy Playmate version)
Steve: Used to be Hot
Queen Latifah:
Chuck: HOT (Confident and a positive role model...to me that IS hot)
Steve: Hot
Scarlett Johannsen:
Chuck: HOT (do I even HAVE to explain this one? Although, for a long time, I thought she was British for some reason)
Steve: Hot
Nelly Furtado:
Chuck: HOT (especially post-pregnancy)
Steve: Hot
Chuck: HOT (Politicaly aware, bilingual AND an ass you could balance a drink on...the defense rests, you honor, your witness)
Steve: Hot
Estelle Getty:
Chuck: HOT (Throw in Bea Arthur and good times all around)
Steve: Hot (Although I'm a Betty White guy myself)
Lita Ford:
Chuck: HOT (The first lady of metal...much props)
Steve: Hot
Band Bitch:
Chuck: HOT (Tra knows I gots mad love for her)
Steve: Damnit…. Ok fine, Hot
Condoleezza Rice:
Chuck: NOT (She wins major points for coming from a poor upbringing and making herself a power player in DC...and then promptly loses them for being Dumbya's mouthpiece)
Steve: I defer to Chuck
The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders:
Chuck: HOT (Every once in awhile, the beer-swilling, alpha male in me surfaces)
Steve: Hot, although they should consider a different organization.

Switching gears back...

Who is in your opinion the single greatest individual contributor to Heavy Metal over the last 30 years-can be based on output, skill, influence, etc.--and why?

Chuck: I'd say Metallica's pretty up there...whatever you think of their latest output, their Napster diatribe or their 2 hour therapy session-home movie (Some Kind Of Monster) there's no denying their influence on a lot of bands who came after them.

Steve: My mother, for giving birth to me. Why? Because I'm super kick-ass.

What kind of touring do you guys have lined up for this year?

Chuck: Anywhere people want to hear our brand of noise, we're there.

Steve: The usual haunts, with a few new gigs sprinkled in. We have lines in the water on some other pretty cool possible opportunities as well, but at the risk of jinxing them, lets just leave those unmentioned for the moment.

What can people expect from a show by TK-421?

Chuck: Even if our music isn't your cup of tea, the entertainment factor alone is worth the price of admission.

Steve: It's a straight up high-energy rock party. We don't try to be all things to all people. We do one thing and do it well, balls out rock.

At your shows, you play everything from originals to 80s covers to country/biker hits. Would you prefer to play just your own songs? Does mixing in covers keep it interesting for you guys or is it done mainly for your local fanbase?

Chuck: Would we prefer to play our own songs all the time? Of course! But we're realistic too. At least the covers we play are close to our hearts and not dictated by Billboard or whatever the latest fucking fad is. If it ever comes down to that, we're going back in the garage...or in Bill's spare room, as it were.

Steve: I'd absolutely prefer to just do mainly our stuff, maybe slip in a couple choice covers. With most of the venues/areas we play, covers are pretty much a necessary evil. Well… if you want to make more than $20 a gig anyway. However, we try to do covers that fit who we are as a band. Even the couple country tunes have a rock vibe when we do them.

Which songs do you get the most kick out of performing live besides your own?

Chuck: My personal favorites are Bulls On Parade and Crazy Bitch...Bulls because I get to lay the guitar down and just rave Zach De La Rocha style, and Crazy Bitch because I like seeing the chics getting off to it.

Steve: I always dig Stinkfist & Devil Went Down to GA. But really, I dig pretty much everything we do. That's the beauty of calling our own shots with cover material, don't have to play anything that we ain't in to. Except for those few mega-drunks where we've launched into "Brick House" just to be stupid.

Any chance some of the cover songs will see the light of day on a future CD?

Chuck: We never say never...but in my opinion, we have too much to say on our own to rely on outside sources.

Steve: Honestly, I doubt it, just because that would take up space where we could put more of our noise. We did actually record an in-studio version of Balls to the Wall while we were in the demo stages of Hollow. We got smashed while recording the gang vocal tracks in the middle. Just collectively spat out a buncha slurred ridiculousness that we thought, at the time, was the height of hilarity. We dubbed it "Wild Turkey Balls". It was God awful, and no, you can't have a copy.

You have some pretty diehard fans locally. If you started touring elsewhere, who's gonna dance on your speakers and buy you all the free booze?

Chuck: That's when we put Tracy on retainer and just start hauling her around everywhere.

Steve: Even Band Bitch was a noob at one time, so new recruits are always out there. Besides, she never misses an opportunity to corrupt a fresh mind. We'll take her with us as a "chic consultant".

Where can people go to get a hold of your stuff and by stuff, I mean the new "Disengaged" CD?

Chuck: At a show, OR at CD Baby, and Amazon. That said, we prefer folks to purchase one at a show...not only do you save money in shipping, but you get to see us in all of our debauched, bacchanalian glory.

Steve: You could just mug me and take one… although I prefer the previously mentioned routes be utilized first and we are also avialable for digital download at most of the "pay per song" popular download sites... Apple iTunes, MusicMatch, MSN Music, Napster, Rhapsody, Sony Connect, Verizon Wireless, etc.

What does TK have coming up for the next year?

Chuck: More shows, more new songs, more beer...please.

Steve: Hopefully we'll get tunes solidified for, and get to work on the next cd. In the meantime, you'll be able to find us slamming shots and signing boobs at various locations around the Southeast.

Wanna send out some props for your favorite local bands?

Chuck: We got love for all our fellow soldiers, but especially our brohers in Drivn, and our new North Carolinian homeboys in Mudjunkie. Also, mad props to Trip 9, Torn, Burning Bridges, Chinese Fire Drill, the Pop Rivets and Cobalt Media.

Steve: If I were to attempt to name them all, I'd almost certainly leave someone out and piss 'em off. So just consider this a mass shout-out to all our partners in debauchery. You know who you are.

Any last words for the hard rock/metal crowd out there?

Chuck: Keep going out to support your local bands...and whatever you do, don't make live music a relic of the past. Oh...and before you stumble out of the local HoJo's the next morning...make sure you lose the number.

Steve: Go buy our damn cds! I got bills to pay.

TK-421Frank Hill, Tracy Morris10/28/2006

Kim Thore1/16/2007
Frank Hill8/5/2006

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