Interview with John Malkin of Simple Radicals
By Mick Michaels
The Cosmick View: Hello, and welcome to The
Cosmick View/MBM Ten Pounder! Thanks for taking some time to chat with
John Malkin: Thank you for having me!
CV: Describe your definition of the band’s
sound and style and how does that definition uniquely describe the music?
JM: From a musical and stylistic standpoint, we describe our music as "retro-rock and roll" that combines sounds and styles from some of our favorite classic/alt-rock bands like Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam, Foo Fighters, Green Day and Cheap Trick. On a lyrical basis, I’m absolutely infatuated with the writing of Eddie Vedder and try to capture the messaging, passion and energy that he does in his songs. If I can even come within a million miles of what he does I’d consider it a success.
CV: Today, everyone talks about artist and
audience connection. Is such a level of connection actually achievable for an
artist and if so, how have you made the connection to your fans?
JM:It is and it takes time and energy. You have to do it both live and by staying engaged with your fans on social media. We love to perform live and our fans know that. We feed off their energy and passion and try to give it right back to them in the way we play our music. We also try to interact with the audience as much as we can since our songs are so personal to many. There is nothing more rewarding than watching people sing your lyrics back to you and lose themselves in your music. It’s intoxicating.
CV: Is fan interaction an important part of the band’s inner culture?
JM: Hell yes. Honestly, these days if you don’t engage with your fans and make them feel they are attached to you as an artist and performer then they will move on. We literally go out of our way to constantly interact with our fans live as well as stay engaged with them on social media.
CV: Can a band truly interact with its fans
and still maintain a level of personal privacy without crossing the line and
giving up their “personal space” in your opinion?
JM: No doubt there’s a fine line between personal and public space. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish since everything is fair game these days. But our fans are truly interested in what we have to offer musically. And they like to see us in more personal environments like when we release quarantine videos where we’re each playing in our own spaces.
CV: Is music, and its value, viewed differently around the world in your opinion? If so, what do you see as the biggest difference in such multiple views among various cultures?
JM: It’s not only viewed differently around the world, but it’s also viewed differently in your own town. There is so much music available at your fingertips and even different genres within a genre (i.e. so many variations of rock). Everyone has their own definition of music and how they define it in terms of what it means to them personally, emotionally and viscerally. For some, music takes on a much deeper value than others.
CV: Do you feel that a band that has an
international appeal, will tend to connect more so to American audiences? Would
they be more enticed or intrigued to see the band over indigenous acts because
of the foreign flavor?
JM: Since we’re from America, I can answer that from how international bands appeal to us in the States. There is a tremendous movement happening in our country in terms of acceptance, diversity and tolerance that definitely permeates into our desire to listen to music from different countries and cultures. I think people overseas feel that way as well with new American sounds and styles.
CV: Has modern-day digital technology made
everyone an artist on some level in your opinion? Have the actual lines of what
really is an artist been blurred?
JM: The music industry today has incredible opportunities but also huge challenges. From an opportunity standpoint, with such advanced technology and portability, you can create some amazing music in your bedroom and even collaborate with people without having to be in the same room. You really don’t even need a label anymore. On the flip side, there are thousands of songs being released on Spotify and other platforms every day so the ability to break out and get noticed is highly challenging. Unfortunately, the industry is not really looking to develop bands anymore. I think the first thing they ask now is “how big is their social media following?” No one is really investing the time and resources to develop bands and musicians. You’re on your own to develop your sound, talent and audience and then you can try and make it. And, there’s no money in the business like there used to be. You only make your money off of touring and selling merch and to do that you need a big following. Tough times no doubt and it’s only for the diligent and resilient bands that want to really invest in their music and build an audience. You constantly have to think and rethink what it takes to break out and get noticed.
would you describe the difference between an artist who follows trends and one
who sets them?
JM: Honestly. I don’t think you have to be a trailblazer or trend-setting pioneer to make good music and have fans like what you produce. For example, with our band The Simple radicals, if you love the combination of classic rock and alt-rock sound then I think you will really like our band. We try to convey a refreshing change with music and lyrics that aim to both observe and reimagine the current state of affairs in the world today. Our fans tell us that our music penetrates them on an emotional and visceral level, and they feel that they are not alone in what they are thinking and feeling today. And if it helps spark a new revolution in how we approach society in a smarter way…then so be it!
CV: Has music overall been splintered into too many sub-genres in an effort to
appease fan tastes in your opinion? And has such fan appeasements, in
actuality, weakened music’s impact as a whole by dividing audiences?
JM: You can certainly make the argument that sub-genres can do more harm than good. I don’t want to sound naive and say that there still can’t be tremendous creativity within a certain genre…and there is. But when you start sub-dividing and splintering music into too many sub-genres, the music could become too “sub” and too unreachable. And once that happens then I think it’s hard to attain and maintain a broader audience who just wants to hear just good rock and roll. Let them categorize and calibrate the music in their library. But you want them to at least keep it under the “rock and roll” genre. Not fifteen levels deep into a sub-genre of rock and roll where you’ve been delegated to the dungeon.
CV: What can fans expect to see coming next
JM: We have a lot going on and coming up. We continue to push our album, "New Revolution" (https://open.spotify.com/album/4rgBmqnv7h3p5gYPGjiXfU) which has the guitar-God Vernon Reid from the band Living Colour playing lead on the track "Medicate". We just released a song and video called “Rich Man Wanna Be King” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehjT9RZdpe4) which provides a scathing lampoon of Trump. It was just released on YouTube and it’s already racked up 100,000 views and climbing. Our video “New Revolution” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KY7cm3-1m7E) has already racked up over 60,000 views and climbing. We’re about to release a wicked cover version of Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” where we collaborated with an incredible husband/wife team called Che-Val. It was such an amazing experience to work with them and we’re really excited about the song. It’s a very non-conventional and unique take on this iconic song. We’ll be releasing a quarantine video to our song “The Optimist”. And, we’re about to release a podcast called “Music & A Brew” where we crack open a cold one with musical artists including Kenny Aronoff (drummer for John Mellencamp and tons of others), Todd Sucherman (Styx), Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Daxx Nielsen (Cheap Trick), and Jackie “the Joke Man” Martling from the Howard Stern Show.
CV: Thanks again for taking some time and
talking. It is greatly appreciated.
JM: Thank you for having me and we truly appreciate the opportunity to engage with your audience!
Check out Simple Radicals at: