After a hard rocking set last Saturday night at The Stone Pony during Almost There’s Silver Lake release party, I met up with Paul Caffrey, Damion DeStefano, and Brian Winters of Tango Machina.
I don’t know much about the history of this band, so would you mind discussing the lore of how Tango Machina came to be?
Paul: We’re all friends from way back when, and Damion liked Rock N’ Roll, Brian liked Rock N’ Roll, and I liked Rock N’ Roll so we said hey, let’s fucking do it.
Damion: I actually worked at a gas station with Paul, so that’s how that happened.
Paul: BP, big pimpin.
Damion: BP, big pimpin, pumpin “g.”
Paul: This was before the spill so it’s okay.
Brian: Damion is a year older than me and Paul. Paul and I were in the same grade in high school and middle school, and we always knew of each other and that the other one was down and listening to good music. We were friends with the same people and we became closer when we were 20, that was that Summer of ’05 —
(Paul and Damion burst out in laughter)
Paul: Did you just mention the Summer of ’05?
Brian: Yeah. So, I knew Damion a little bit, but met I met him, musically, through Paul.
What went on in during the Summer of ’05?
BW: That summer was infamous. There was a giant party at four different houses that lasted 28 days in a row, I kid you not. One house one week, another house the next. You get the picture. It was fucking insane.
You mentioned that when you guys first met, you knew of each other through the music you listened to. What music did you bond over?
BW: I’d say that the glue, the band that we all love, is CKY.
PC: CKY, The Misfits, and Queens of The Stone Age we all share a common love for.
DD: Mention that I’m nodding in agreement at this point.
Speaking of Queens of The Stone Age, “The Combination Is Explosive,” to me sounds a lot like Josh Homme and company. That’s the band that popped into my head after the firs couple of listens.
DD: Did you really?
PC: I’ve heard that from people before and I don’t see it in “Combo,” I see it in, well, we didn’t play “Rock N’ Roll (Part 4)” tonight–
BW: I see it, in the lyrics–
DD: Yeah, because you’re [Paul] actually singing the words “Queens of the stone age.”
PC: Yeah, “I love queeeeeeeens, of the stoooooone age.”
BW: Honestly, it sounds like Josh [Homme] a little bit.
DD: Obviously we’re all big Queens of The Stone Age fans, by the way you can cut whenever you want, but, it’s funny to us when people say that because “The Combo” is the song we think is least similar to Queens. We try not to be derivative, I mean, we hope we bring something fresh. So, if you tell me that the song sounds Queensy, then that’s a huge compliment.
“The Combo” is the only song Tango Machina has out right now, so I’m going to stay on the topic for a minute. What is the song about, how did you come up with it?
PC: A lot of the songs I write, I don’t do a lot of straight forward story telling. I like leaving a lot to the imagination. So, I guess that’s one of the things I definitely do pull from Josh. So, I’ll say something that’s pretty vague and you kind of piece together what you want from it. But basically, what it’s about is addiction. I guess it’s about one specific person that ran into a lot of problems because of their addiction. That’s mostly what its about, and I guess making fun of that. I’m sure that sounds kind of fucked up, but the relationship didn’t end well, let’s put it that way.
“The Combination Is Explosive” by Tango Machina
Okay, so, when I saw you guys at The Gay Blades’ show at Asbury Lanes, I don’t know if this was true or not, but we had a conversation and I believe you told me something along the lines of, if you [Paul] had the chance, you would drop this whole thing and join a Sonics cover band. Is that true?
PC: It’s half true, why? Are you offering?
I am not offering.
PC: It isn’t uncommon for Paul to call me and say “Let’s go to Sonic,” which is really far and out of the way for us. So I never say yes.
BW: No, there’s one on Route 9 now in Howell so we can always go to that one.
PC: I love it, they have a happy hour for slushee–
DD: Actually you can get a slurpee or a slushee.
PC: Either way it’s delicious.
DD: I think we would be down for Sonics cover band, but only if it was a real offer, so get back to us if you hear anything. And tell James of The Gay Blades that he can join too.
I’ll Facebook him or something.
We’re kind of on the subject still. You’ve been talking about bands that you love, The Sonics, Queens, CKY, but I want to go a little deeper than their sound. What kind of messages did you take away from this music? What type of ideologies stuck with you that shaped who you have become as a band and as people?
DD: That’s a good question.
PC: That is a very good question.
BW: What happened to like, asking us about our favorite color?
DD: For me, the big thing with the bands that I listen to, and the bands we named earlier, CKY, Queens, all the bands that we’re really into, the main thing is not fucking the same old shit. We’re tired of bullshit Rock N’ Roll, I mean who doesn’t hate the radio, I can honestly say that now. I guess the whole thing is forward thinking, and doing as record no one has done, and being different–
PC: Rock N’ Roll is boring. That’s why we go see bands like The Gay Blades and Kid Is Qual. They’re rock bands that may not be trying to be the biggest band in the world or trying to change the world, but they’re out there doing their own thing, and not giving a fuck. And to me, that’s what real Punk Rock is, regardless of what the people title Punk Rock. The problem is when people form a band, a lot of the time they’ll say “this is my favorite band and I want to sound like them,” and then you have a million bands that sound exactly alike. And I hope we don’t fit that description. I think it’s way more fun to go out to a rock show and see four bands that are completely different from one another. But each one of them has something about them that you can really love. Like The Misfits, I’m a huge Misfits fan, and in their heyday you’d know all the words. Ther’d be a lot of “Woes” and “Yeahs,” and a sing along chorus…it’s really just about doing your own thing and wanting something respectable, rather than saying “We sound like this or that band,” so we can get to the next step. We’d much rather do our own thing, the hard way–
DD: You’ve [Paul] been talking for a really long time.
PC: I have been talking for a long time. I’m happy! Get me another shot! But, yeah, you get the idea. So, what’s next?
Let’s talk about the new EP.
DD: I’ll talk about the new EP. What do you want to know?
DD: Okay. We just recorded a new EP with our friend Joey Goldstein in his basement studio which is really legit. I know it sounds lame when you say “basement studio” but he’s put a lot of time and money into this studio, it’s in Piscataway, which is right outside of New Brunswick. We recorded “Rock N’ Roll (Part Four),” which I’ll tell you the story of in a minute, and we recorded “Skeleton Bear.” Our original plan was to do three, three-track EPs, maybe four, and then an album. But, we’ve taken long enough to get shit out, so we’re thinking now of doing a five-track EP to set it off. And those two songs came out fantastic, I can’t wait for everyone to hear them. And Brian fucking killed it, he did some really sick fills on these tracks.
The back stories of the songs, “Rock N’ Roll (Part Four),” it was the fourth song we’d ever written, so we just called it “Four.” And then, you know, “Rock N’ Roll (Part Two)” because it’s always played at football games, by Gary Glitter. And then Ozma, which is one of my personal favorite bands, Ozma is a huge band for me, they had a record called Rock and Roll Part Three (2001). So we called ours “Rock N’ Roll (Part Four).”
And they may never admit this, but we saw The Gay Blades when they first debuted the song “Rock N’ Roll” and that’s what it was originally called, just “Rock N’ Roll.” And I told them, we have a song called “Rock N’ Roll (Part Four),” your’s is like the the prequel, so it’s “Rock N’ Roll (Part One).” After That, when their tracklist for Savages came out, all of a sudden it was called “Rock N’ Roll (Part One).” So I’d like to think, although they’d never say it because they probably don’t remember, that we had a part in naming that Gay Blades’ song.
Regardless, It’s a good chain though. I mean Gary Glitter, you know, he might have touched kids, I don’t know, but besides that, it’s a solid chain.
And “Skeleton Bear,” we actually wanted to call the band Skeleton Bear when we started. But then we were hanging out with Chad Ginsberg and Matty J of CKY, and we asked them what they thought of the name, Skeleton Bear, for the band, and Chad hated it.
PC: Chad goes “SKELETON BEAR? SKELETON BEAR!!!? WHAT THE FUCK IS SKELETON BEAR!!!!?”
BW: I didn’t like it as our name, but I love it as the song name.
DD: But Matty J, he loved it. So we ended up with Tango Machina. I named the band.
BW: I originally didn’t like Tango Machina. I wanted a one word name like Pantera or Metallica. But Tango Machina stuck.
Well how did you come up with Tango Machina?
PC: It was this shitty drinking game that Damion and I used to play. We thought to ourselves, “We’re in a band now, so we need a cool name.” So me and Damion would drink beers and toss names at each other. Damion would be like “Broodwich” and I’d say “No, that sucks.” And I’d be like, “How about Vacuum Cleaner,” and Damion would say “No that blows too.” And we would go on for literally, like 45-minutes, just back and forth with band names, saying the craziest shit. And obviously it turned into a joke right away. We did this for about a month until Damion said “Tango Machina” and was like “No! Wait, actually, that’s kinda good.”
So Tango Machina was born from a drinking game?
PC: I guess it wasn’t a drinking, it’s just that we were drunk most of the time.
Is there anything else you guys want to add about the EP?
DD: It’s coming out sometime in October.
BW: I just want to say, that I was dancing around like a school girl when I heard the playbacks. Especially on “Skeleton Bear,” the producer Joey Goldstein was like “Let me do this,” just this little fix to the guitar riff and it just murders the end of “Skeleton Bear” so hard.
DD: If you’ve ever seen us live, you haven’t heard “Skeleton Bear.” It’ll be out on Jhento Records in October.
Tango Machina plays “Warning Sign” at The Stone Pony
Okay, so, I hate asking these types of questions because I find them stupid and childish, but I want to know, if you guys could go out on a tour with anybody, tomorrow, who would it be?
Paul, Damion, and Brian almost in unison: The New Volume.
DD: The guys we just saw tonight at our show, The New Volume, who are fucking awesome.
BW: They’re fucking great.
DD: Definitely The New Volume. Also, The Gay Blades, when are you guys taking us out? We’re your boys. And Kid Is Qual.
BW: My ideal thing would be us, Kid Is Qual, and Queens of The Stone Age. That would be ridiculous.
DD: That would never happen, but while we’re at it let’s resurrect Death From Above 1979. They can jump on too.
Queens and Josh Homme have come up a lot in our discussion, so let’s stick with it, what are your thought on Them Crooked Vultures?
BW: Best album of 2009.
DD: It’s one of my favorite records ever.
PC: I say GOD DAMN, GOD DAMN!!!
DD: That’s two god damns from Paul.
Other than The Vultures, what else have you guys been listening to lately?
BW: Honestly, all I’ve been listening to is Hip Hop for the past couple of weeks.
[Brian is wearing his tour t-shirt from Jay-Z and Eminem at Yankee Stadium]
DD: The new Kanye is sick too.
BW: The new Kanye is unbelievable. I’ve been listening to a lot of Em (Eminem) as well and I’m a huge Wu Tang fan.
PC: You [Brian] haven’t worn your WU Tang jeans in a long time.
BW: I fucking love Wu Tang man. That’s my shit.
DD: He’s not being sarcastic. Brian is honestly a huge Wu Tang fan. Lately, what I’ve been listening too, The Gay Blades new album, Savages, the tracks I have from it are amazing.
PC: Dude, he [me] has the whole thing? How does that make you [Damion] feel? Your friends with them.
I’d share it with you guys but James [Wells] told me not to play for anybody.
DD: What, did he yell at you?
I don’t think he was yelling. It was via e-mail so I guess he could have been typing really angrily but I don’t know for sure.
DD: Savages is gonna be fucking rad. I’ve been listening to a lot of Islands. Islands is one of my favorite bands, probably ever. Like we said, the new Kanye. And Kid Is Qual. I’m sorry to throw that name out there so many times, but no one knows about them. It’s the bassist from Jack’s Mannequin, two bassists and a drummer actually. The other bassist is from Alabama Thunderpussy, and they’re so innovative–
PC: Jon [Sullivan] uses a talk-box.
DD: John Hughes’ talk-box?
BW: [Quoting Uncle Frank from Home Alone] Beat that you little trout sniffer.
(Everyone cracks up and the tape was accidentally stopped)
PC: Kid Is Qual is pretty much the funnest band in the world. You can’t not have a good time listening to Kid Is Qual.
DD: It’s two bassists–
PC: And he rips shit. It’s sounds like a fucking guitar. Who else? The Paper Chase. You ever hear of The Paper Chase?
PC: They’re pretty sick.
DD: The Batusis EP is pretty great too. We just played with them at The Brighton Bar.
I was at The Brighton that night. It was a great show.
PC: I’ve been listening to The Distillers a lot too, for some reason. And Spinnerette as well.
Okay, moving on. I have some readers on this blog, a pretty decent following is growing.
PC: I’m in the Facebook Group.
Thank you, it’s much appreciated. Anyway, a lot of my readers are in bands younger than this one–
DD: I wish we were younger.
You guys aren’t that old. Regardless, these bands are young, they’re trying to to fill the Pony like you guys. What type of advice can you leave them with?
BW: Keep playing. Keep playing. If you argue…you will argue, Paul and I argue a lot–
DD: On the record, I just want to say that we hate Brian more often than not. But then he’ll do shit, like in the studio, and it just makes us love him more than we ever did.
BW: But for real, we put the time in. We just started, when was our first show?
BW: January was our first show. We put a lot of time in down in Paul’s basement, playing, getting it right, everything. I mean, we partied too. It got pretty repetitive but we worked through it and and the music evolved into itself. Everybody put their own influence in and it all came together.
DD: I just want to add that, a lot of bands give the advice to take any show you can. I disagree. Only take shows you think your band will fit into. We’re very selective. We did this show because Almost There asked us too and their our boys, and then we found out about The New Volume and they’re fucking awesome, and we want to play shows with them now too. What I’m trying to say is, don’t follow the advice to take any show you can because that doesn’t matter. If you believe in your music then things will work themselves out.
BW: Also, you gotta believe in yourself.
PC: Don’t try to fit in.
BW: Never censor yourself. Fuck fitting in. Do what you want to do and fuck everyone else. If they don’t like it too goddamn bad.
PC: Yes, thank you.
BW: [quoting Wayne Campbell (Mike Myers)] I mean Led Zeppelin didn’t write tunes everybody liked, they left that to The Bee Gees.
DD: No, they [Led Zeppelin] actually stole all their music from other people.
BW: Wait, what movie did I just quote?
DD: Oh, Dumb And Dumberer.
PC: But that’s your favorite movie.
BW: I walked out of that movie actually.
Alright, this is it, this is the last one I have for you.
PC: Don’t feel like you have to wrap it up.
I don’t. This is just the last one. You guys have gone above and beyond and answered everything I have. I appreciate it.
BW: Well, we appreciate you man.
Thank you. Here, it is. What is your favorite Jersey venue to play?
BW: The Court Tavern.
DD: For me it’s The Saint. Honestly, The court Tavern is a cool place to play and I love that it’s in New Brunswick, but The Saint has been the best venue to us as a band. It’s run by awesome people that are so cool to every fucking band that plays there. That place needs the support too. And I think everyone should fucking play there.
PC: I agree, The Court Tavern Basement is legendary. The Bouncing Souls came out of there, The Gay Blades were doing shit there. The Saint has been nothing but complete and utter awesome to us. Those people have given us so many opportunities. And, we have to go back to The Brighton Bar, that was a lot of fun. And, we’re really trying to play The Asbury Lanes.
DD: I just want to add one thing, because this is the end of the interview, keep fucking reading Speak Into My Good Eye, because it’s the best music blog in 2010.
That was Tango Machina on various subjects. I have more photos to go along with this interview from that evening that will be posted soon.
Tango Machina is performing with Kid Is Qual on Friday October 29 at The Court Tavern in New Brunswick. Go, check these guys, and go see other shows around the area. Support this thriving music scene that’s in your own backyard, because when it blows up, you’ll be able to keep the history of it alive with stories of legendary performances at some truly unique venues. Be a part of this.