Sonny Vincent Q&A
With a long and storied career stretching back to the halycon days of CBGBs and even further back, NYC musician Sonny Vincent has worked with numerous well-known members of the punk scene including Bob Stinson (ex-Replacements) in the Model Prisoners, Captain Sensible and Rat Scabies (The Damned), Cheetah Chrome (The Dead Boys), and Rocket from The Crypt, as well as spending a number of years in Moe Tucker (from The Velvet Underground)'s band. He has also actively pursued a solo career both under his own name and with bands such as 70s CBGBs regulars Testors and Shotgun Rationale. Sonny has a new album out on the 17th September - 'Snake Pit Therapy' - as well as a book under the same title, and kindly took some time out to answer a few questions for the 'Ballroom Blitz's Man At The Back'.
'Snake Pit Therapy' is out on Svart Records on the 17th September and will be available in all the usual places. You can pre-order the album from the link below :-
There are obviously too many records that Sonny has been involved with to list here but I would suggest starting with Discogs and taking it from there!
Hi Sonny, thank you for taking some time to answer a few questions. How was it
recording and putting together 'Snake Pit Therapy' in these COVID straightened times?
Sonny Vincent (SV): It actually worked out well. All the basic tracks were recorded before the pandemic, but there was still a lot of work needed. There was a ton of work needed to complete the songs. Themes had to be visualized/ written (lyrical), important guitar parts were needed, and the vocals still had to be done. In former times I was adept and experienced at engineering in 24 track tape studios, but to make this album I had to learn digital recording. That was very rewarding. The freedom to work without interruption. After I did all my parts and finished the songs, I sent them off to my friend and engineer, Paulo Vieira, who I worked with on 'The Limit Caveman Logic' album. Paulo mixed the album. It was a long process - it took a couple of months to finish all the parts of the songs. That's not including the original tracking. Then we spent a month mixing
till I felt it was 'there'! Of course, in terms of the mix, Paulo got it sounding wonderful.
Where did you record the album? Studios where you had recorded before?
SV: The basic tracks were recorded in Florida, and also in Düsseldorf and Bremen, Germany.
Paul Blaccard (Drums) from Corpse Grinder and Jack De Angelo (Bass) play on the
majority of the album; how did you come to know those guys?
SV: I've known Paul and Jack for years. Jack is an amazing guy who lives a mysterious life.
We always keep in touch, but he ventures to all parts of the world. Last time I reached out to him he was living in a hut made from palm leaves in Thailand. Really! He is a unique
individual. Before that he was a croupier in Vegas. Also, he has been known to fill in playing bass on tours with some famous bands. I'm always lucky in finding him and locating his whereabouts because I know his sister and he gives me a phone call every now and then. Jack has played bass on a couple of my albums over the years.
Paul Blaccard is a very talented drummer as well as a modern day Renaissance Man! Many talents. At some point Paul and I decided to go into a recording studio located in Florida. This was a studio that he researched and organized. I don't remember exactly, but either The Black Crowes, Lynyrd Skynyrd (or was it Tom Petty! ughhh) had recorded an album there with great results, so that was a good reference to go on. The studio was a 24 track tape studio. Lots (tons!) of vintage gear. It was called 'Retrophonics', and it was in St. Augustine, Florida. Interesting also because St. Augustine is fabled to be where the 'Fountain Of Youth' is. I didn't have time to go to the fountain, but I did drink a bottle of the water I bought at a tourist shop. I don't believe in that sort of stuff, but I still feel quite fit for my age! LOL! Anyway, after we got the basic tracks with Paul, Jack and myself, Paul transferred everything to digital stems (tracks). That was great, because later I could load them up and finish them during these Covid lockdowns.
Do you have favourite tracks on the album? If so, which ones and why?
SV: It changes from day to day, which songs I like best. I also enjoy hearing the various
musicians playing on the songs. They play with such conviction and depth of emotion.
You've made a couple of videos for singles - 'The End Of Light' and 'Stick' - from the
album. Are videos something you enjoy doing or do you view them as a 'necessary evil'?
SV: It's always a tough process because it's very loaded in that it 'represents' you. So there is a lot of care brought forth. The second video, 'Stick', I did myself. As part of my formative development in art I was involved with filmmaking in NYC and Los Angeles. After many attempts with various video creators, I decided to just do the 'Stick' video myself. This saved a lot of 'back and forth'. I definitely made the 'Stick' video with a vision that employed images that expressed a narrative I wanted to explore.. No close up shots of guitar strings, no musicians in cars, none of the 'band video' devices and mechanisms.
You've also recently written an autobiography (also entitled 'Snake Pit Therapy'). Where can people pick the book up from?
SV: Yes! It's not an autobiography, but more of a collection of stories, childhood experiences, memories, prose, etc. One chapter does discuss the scene in the early to mid-70s (punk times in NYC). And another chapter is dedicated to Bobby Stinson, of The Replacements, who I had a band with. I had moved to Minnesota, and after they kicked Bob out of The Replacements, I adopted him. We had a close bond, I miss him everyday. Also, there is a chapter of my time recording and touring with The Velvet Underground's Sterling Morrison and Moe Tucker. Many tours, many insane stories! As well as those kind of chapters the book includes a few short fiction stories, and like I said, prose as well as poetry. People can order it from Far West Press or Amazon here:
Sonny Vincent | Snake Pit Therapy — Far West Press
Snake Pit Therapy — Amazon
How did you come to work with Moe Tucker in the 90s? And are you still in touch with
SV: I'm still in touch with Moe and visit her from time to time. When I was a runaway kid in
NYC, I was always lying about my age. I was tall for my age so I could do a lot of things that most kids didn't even know existed. At that very young age I witnessed/experienced a lot of the post-Beat scene in Greenwich Village. Poetry readings, art exhibitions, 'The Living Theater', clubs on both sides of the streets in The Village. I had run away and quit school. Although only 13 years old, I did get a unique education just hanging out in NYC. To be honest, these days, when I see a 13 year-old kid, they really look like babies to me. They're not fully grown, and I'm a little bit shocked that I was out and about like a street kid, staying with different people, crashing on couches, etc. But I guess I had an angel following me and protecting me, because I always had positive experiences. This was years before the 'Punk' scene. One night during these times I saw The Fugs at a small club and then went to 'The Factory' of Andy Warhol after the show with people I met there at the club. At 'The Factory' I met Andy, and of course he really was charismatic and had a unique magnetism. He was very kind to me as well. And like I said, nobody was scamming on me. But at that time in 'The Factory' I didn't run into The Velvet Underground. I didn't even know much about the people. I just felt the excitement and vibe.
Many years later, after Testors broke up, I left New York and was living in Minneapolis. I had a band there called 'Shotgun Rationale' which had a revolving line-up. At some point we decided to record a full length 'Shotgun Rationale' album and I was daydreaming about having a 'producer'. Someone entrusted to safeguard us by helping us keep a raw edge without pushing it into absurd histrionics. I called Moe. It was wonderful. She had this great Long Island accent. She produced that album and invited me to be her 'guitar slinger' on her upcoming tour of Europe along with the band Half Japanese. So while always still doing my own bands, artwork, films, I toured the world with Moe for nine years. Sterling joined us for the last three years. Sterl and I shared hotel rooms on these long tours. It was wonderful hearing all his stories about the absolute freedom and cool factor of being in a band in the 60s. That band being The Velvet Underground. Wow! We were quite close. Sterling was like the older brother I never had.
What would be the three favourite albums you have been involved with over the course of your long career?
SV: Too many, buddy!
1. It was amazing recording the 'Spiteful' album in Belgium with myself on guitar and vocals, Rat Scabies of The Damned on drums, Glen Matlock of The Sex Pistols on bass, and in particular, a beautiful soul, Steve Mackay (RIP) of The Stooges, on sax.
2.The recent album 'The Limit - Caveman Logic' with Bobby Liebling (Pentagram), Jimmy
Recca (The Stooges) and Hugo Conim and João Ventura (both of Dawnrider). That album
was really hard at first. We didn't know each other and it was like a psycho ward in the
middle of a war zone on LSD. Thankfully we learned how to work together and we were
blessed with an amazing album. We also now have very close, trusting friendships!
3. The 'Testors Complete Recordings' album. It documents all the recorded material of my 70s NYC band, Testors. We had our own sound and our own thing.
But on another day the list would be different. I've released over 20 unique albums playing with talented, desperate, sometimes insane musicians!
During COVID, did you try any livestreams or podcasts to keep in touch with fans? If so,
how did they feel doing them and are they something you'd continue with even though live shows are coming back?
SV: I wasn't into playing music or performing in that way, but I did keep in touch publicly
through live Zoom interviews, which came out well in the sense that they were very
spontaneous and honest.
Are there any bands / artists that you're particularly impressed with at the moment and would recommend to readers?
SV: I have many friends in bands, and there are just a lot of bands out these days that are
amazing, with very desperate musicians who are kicking ass. But I wouldn't want to list a few of them because I definitely would leave some out and that wouldn't be fair.
And finally, what plans do you have for the rest of 2021 and going forward into 2022?
SV: Due to the pandemic and travel restrictions, there are no pending tours or gig plans. But I will still be doing my artwork and recording songs. Nice questions, thanks! Best from Sonny