'Merican Chemicals: An Interview with Smile Empty Soul's Sean Danielsen

We recently gave a thumbs up to Smile Empty Soul's newest album, Chemicals. The album was released two days ago and we had the opportunity to chat with the band's lead singer and guitarist Sean Danielsen before the guys head out on tour to support their record. Here's what Sean had to say.
PWC: You’re about to release your 6thalbum as a band, this one on your own label. How did that come about and how has it allowed the band to put out an album like “Chemicals”?
Sean Danielsen (SD): We decided to form our own label (Two Disciples Ent) because we've had a hard time with labels in the past and we wanted to run the campaign our own way. We formed the company with a long-time friend as a business partner and got distribution through some other good friends at Pavement Ent, and here we are. It's great because “Chemicals” was done exactly the way we wanted (a lot like the last bunch of albums), but we are also controlling the marketing, promotional, publicity, and radio campaigns as well, so pretty much everything is overseen by us.
PWC: Here at Playing With Chaos we’re guitar nerds, so we’re really into gear. What does your live/studio rig consist of?
SD: . I'm using the same stuff live as in the studio (especially on the new “Chemicals” album, which was actually recorded with my exact live rig). I play Schecter C1 elite guitars with Seymour Duncan JB pickups in the bridge, a small Boss analog pedal collection with Chorus, Flange, and Delay, a Mesa Boogie Stiletto Amp, and a Mesa 4x12 cab.
PWC: How does the songwriting process work in Smile Empty Soul?
SD: I write the chord progressions, lyrics, and melodies. Then I bring them to the guys so we can work up the arrangements together.
PWC: You are currently a three-piece band. Does that effect how you adapt your songs in a live setting, and are you looking to add another member or are you going to stay a three-piece?
SD: We're a three piece band and always have been, except for a short period in 2006 when we added another guitar player for a little while. It just didn't work out with another guitar player in the band and felt completely right to return to a three piece, so we'll never mess with that again. And no, I don't have to adapt the songs to a live setting because the songs are not so overdone in the studio that I can't pull it off live.
PWC: Your first album was released in 2003. What have you noticed in terms of changes in the music industry since then? What new realities does a rock band today face that they didn’t when your first record came out?
SD: I don't even know where to begin with that question. It's changed so much that's its unrecognizable. It's a much different world in all of music, but especially rock music, which is pretty much forgotten about these days.


PWC: Some guitar players are super regimented and practice scales, etc. every day, while others show up at a gig and just go for it. What sorts of things do you do, if any, in terms of practice routines, etc. and how do you approach your musicianship? Were you all self-taught, did you take lessons while growing up, etc.?
SD: We were all self-taught and none of us have some strict refinement when it comes to practicing our instruments. When you tour as much as we do, you stay in pretty good playing shape no matter what happens. I personally do play the guitar every day, but I don't have scales or exercises that I repeat. I just play whatever seems fun at the time.
PWC: “False Alarm” is getting quite a bit of airplay on Sirius’ Octane channel, and the feedback on the song has been positive. What inspired the song?
SD: I actually like to leave it up to the listener to interpret what they think the song might be inspired by. One of the greatest things about a song is how it can mean so many different things to different people.
PWC: What kinds of bands do you guys listen to and who have been your biggest influences?
SD: I can't speak for the guys as to what they're listening to lately, but I've been real big on "Fair to Midland", and "Karnivool" lately. We all grew up listening to a wide range of music as our parents were all huge music fans and musicians, but I think we were all at that ripe young age when the 90's alternative scene was hitting and we grew up on that stuff.
PWC: The philosophical question: Rock music is often cited as being “dead” in our current culture. What do you think about the state of rock music today?
SD: I think it is dead right now, but I think it will come back. People are gonna get tired of all this pussy shit that's so huge right now and start craving something with balls. Part of the problem is that rock music today is lacking melody and dynamics. I think when the emphasis in Rock returns to writing great songs it could swing back around.
PWC: If you could send a message to your fans as “Chemicals” hits the airwaves later this week, what would it be?
SD: It would be to check out the new record and come see us live on our “’Merican Chemicals Tour” that we'll be on for the next 2 1/2 months!
A special thanks to Sean for being so candid! You can catch Smile Empty Soul near you as they tour in the upcoming months. Check out their Facebook page here for more info about the band and to see when they're stopping in your town! You can also help support the band by requesting their current single "False Alarm" to be played on your local, internet, and satellite radio station. Go do it now. Support real rock'n'roll people!