CircleswitchAn interview with Milwaukee hard rockers, CircleSwitch
by Mike Huberty
Milwaukee is a hard-rock town. Fueled for decades by album rock radio stations like Lazer 103 and 93QFM, as well as being a stomping ground for local bands who weren’t afraid of crunch like Realm, Doc Hammer, or Bad Boy, there’s an entire generation of musicians who grew up loving whiskey-soaked party bar rock n’ roll that’s nasty and fun. Circleswitch carries on that proud tradition with Danny Rodic on guitars, Kenny James on vocals, Eddie Gunz on drums, and Johnny Wahlen on bass. We had a chance to talk to the band about their new album, “Ritual”, and their upcoming performance at The Blue Pig (formerly the mighty Cudahy live music mainstay, Vnuk’s Lounge.)
Maximum Ink: So, what’s the inspiration? How did you all get started in music?
Kenny James: My aunt’s boyfriend noticed I was having a hard time with my parents’ divorce. I was 8 years old and a little ignorant about life. He gave me an acoustic guitar and told me to feel through this. Music and writing has been my self-therapy ever since.
Johnny Wahlen: My dad plays guitar and both my parents pushed me into playing musical instruments from a very young age.
Danny Rodic: When I was very young, I used to sit and watch my oldest brother sing and play the guitar. He is the one who got me hooked on Rock music. At age 12, I saw Van Halen “Live ithout a Net” on home video, and the rest is history.
Eddie Gunz: My parents started me out on the kit so I would stop beating on the furniture and my sister. (MI - Is that the perfect drummer answer or what?)
MI: What are the themes that tie together your music? What’s some of the inspiration behind Ritual?
KJ: The theme that ties everything together on the new CD is its examination of the human condition. A therapeutic study of the soul and the “Rituals” we go through with each emotion we feel. Be it love, pain, forgiveness, lust or social understanding of the world we live in. Some of these experiences are personal and some of them shared. Either way they’re experiences that come from some place real and necessary if we truly wish to have a life well lived at the end of our journey. Sounds like some philosophical hippie crap right? (laughs) But music started as my self-therapy to better deal with the all the bullshit and at the same time examine or celebrate the events that matter most. I make no apologies for that. (MI - Now that’s the deep songwriter’s answer.)
EG: Lots of writing about bad relationships and ups and downs of life. Don"t forget the sex too. (MI - Now, that my friends, is another exemplary drummer’s answer!)
MI: How do you feel your hometown has affected your songwriting?
KJ: The Miltown is the biggest-yet-smallest city in the Midwest. You’re in the middle of the trends that come from both the East and West coast, but we’re conservative enough not to bite on everything that gets thrown our way. We have a tendency to hold on to our roots just a little bit longer, which is both good and bad. You never want to live in the past, but you never want to live for just the present, either. In order to stay ahead of the curve you have to adapt. Be creative by being yourself and stay open-minded enough to accept the trends without completely sounding like them. That’s what this city has taught me.
DR: For me, my hometown has not affected my songwriting. Inspiration comes from just about anywhere or anything.
EG: It didn’t… yet. Have some nasty ideas brewing, though.
MI: What do you feel separates you from other hard rock bands?
JW: I think the attitude of the guys is so down-to-earth and the song writing is a perfect blend of simple and complex.
EG: Our willingness to keep our feet on the ground and keep a personal connection with our fans.
KJ: I wouldn’t say “what separates us”. It sounds too elitist and misses the point, I think. I’d say more “unified” with other bands. Everybody that writes music and shares the stage does it because they love what they do. A curse in some respects, because it stays in your blood and never leaves. The band is all about community and creating a scene. Being an army of many as opposed to one. I met a band once that really needed to let go of their ego and realize we’re all in this together. Practicing a sense of modesty will get you a lot further and being humble goes a long way. You don’t have to like what we do and vice-versa, but the foundation of support should always be there. If you see one of our shows, and you like one of the other bands on the bill, then half our job is finished. The other half is making sure we were just as entertaining as well!
DR: Being able to stay grounded, yet not being afraid of success in any way, shape, or form that comes our way.
MI: Any last words?
JW: I’m just grateful for every opportunity I’ve had in my music career and looking forward to the future. I’m also thankful for all the people that have supported me along the way and the band for taking me in as one of them. This is the best group of guys I could ever have hoped to work with.
KJ: Support your local music scene where ever you’re from! Remember the music lives or dies with you. It can be the soundtrack to your life as well as to the band who plays it. Be a part of it. Have fun and let the music inspire you. Sounds cliche’, but honestly the power of influence is stronger then you think. Spread the word or even volunteer to advertise for your favorite band. Treat every show like a reunion of good times and great moments. Hopefully, Circleswitch can be a part of that.
DR: In today’s day and age, the music scene is what you make of it. From my point of view, the independent scene is thriving. To make it thrive at any level, it all starts with believing in what we do, and support not just your own endeavors, but support the other bands and help unite and strengthen the independent music scene.
EG: Yeah! America needs more Rock and Metal with less Bieber….‘nuff said! (MI - once again, we are not let down.)
And Milwaukee hard rock fans can see Circleswitch deliver the goods live on April 6th with Katella and Lost In A Name at The Blue Pig in Cudahy.