Talking with Sergio Michel is always a pleasure. We already had him a while ago and it’s always great to talk to him because he is one of the most hard-working musicians in the business and a guy 100% committed to his craft, which can be seen in his new album, Tropical Depression.
A mix of Punk, Rock and Metal with a little bit of Pop thrown here and there, I was positively surprised by this album and I think it shows how much Sergio has grown and evolved as a musician throughout the years. So it was a great experience to have him here and discuss about this new album, how it was made and a couple of little fun anecdotes.
Glad to have you here again, Sergio. It’s been almost a year since the last interview we did! How are things going for you during this pandemic?
Hello! All is well. Took time to complete my new album Tropical Depression and plan the coming year’s touring etc.
You’re obviously a very active musician and entrepreneur. What are the different challenges and perhaps even opportunities that musicians are having during these crazy times?
Well, I personally disregard the challenges and only focus on the opportunities. My goals and plans remain the same, regardless of what is going on around me. That has been one of my strengths over the years. Right now is a good time for artists who think outside of the box to get far ahead.
Okay, let’s focus on the main topic, your album Tropical Depression. For people not familiar with your work, what would be your sales pitch about the album?
The album is a double vinyl 19 track all singles concept album. “All singles” in the point that all the songs are A sides. No filler on the album at all. Also, the songs run the gamut in sound and type. It was simply written to rock. It’s loud, well produced, well played and it is one of those albums you can play from beginning to end and do it again! I am very happy with it.
Of course, one of the first things that stand out from the album is how straightforward it is. Almost Punk-like. Were you a Punk fan when you were younger?
Yes! I was never a “Punker” per se, but as a teenager who frequented CBGB, L’Amour and Stingray’s in the New York and New Jersey area, I got to see great punk bands like Raw Power, The Misfits, The Clay People and more. I also grew up with the bands who would become the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania Hardcore bands. That is my native sound, however, I always gravitated more to the Thrash side of Punk as opposed to proper Punk.
Was the songwriting process for Tropical Depression any different to previous works of yours? If so, how?
Yes, very different. I intentionally focused on creating great hooks and lengthy meaningful lyrics. I usually go for a simplistic lyrical arrangement on my recordings, but this time I wanted to do everything on 11, lyrics included.
Kick Rocks is a song that, at least from my perspective, really showcases the album’s nature. It has a very interesting combination of Punk with Metal. What can you tell us about that song?
That song is very 90’s Rancid-esque. It perfectly captures who I am as a music fan. It’s very fun to play and was very fun to create.
I have to be honest with you, lyrically speaking, some of these songs are hilarious. Art Deco Freakazoid, White Girl Needs, Captain Save a Hoe… as someone familiar with your sense of humor, I can almost see you laughing while writing these lyrics. Do you prefer these types of lyrics or the more serious ones?
(laughs) I was laughing! This is all so hilarious to me. Art Deco Freakazoid is based on a real person. I knew this guy in South Florida who went to all the monthly “Art Walks” in Fort Lauderdale and Miami. He lived in a 3 million dollar beach house with millions of dollars’ worth of fine art in it. However, he didn’t have a dime to his name and basically, because of his art reputation and position in the art world, would have everyone buy him food, drinks and pay for everything just to curry his favor. Little did they know he only went out to get free stuff (laughs).
White Girl Needs is also based on a true story. I went out on a date in Santa Monica with a famous Hollywood actress I had known a few years. She basically put her foot down and gave me a list of very froofy demands, and said if I wanted to be her boyfriend I had to abide by these rules. I declined and she freaked out. It was hilarious.
Captain Save A Hoe was what my uncle called me once. Many years ago, I told him some relationship horror story and he simply retorted with “Man, you’re a real Captain Save A Hoe!” and I simply had to write a song about it! (laughs)
Was Tropical an album that you planned before recording or it came out that way as you were working on it?
I was working on this album for 5 years. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. I even released 3 re-records in 2019 in the interim/delay (laughs). After I finally finished the vocals and instrumentation in early 2020 in California before the Soulfly Tour, I wound up getting Rob Tucker from Jason Newsted’s Chop House Band to lay down the drums in January in Florida and voila.
A fun fact, about some of the songs, like Right Now for instance, I wrote as far back as 2004. That song, I actually shared with Joe Lynn Turner when I was song writing with him in his house. Turned out to be too heavy for his style and he did not buy it from me. So, I kept it, the rest is history.
You’re obviously a seasoned musician and that helps a lot when recording. Before you start recording, what are the things that you need in a studio to make a high quality record?
I only used my laptop and interface to track vocals, bass, guitar and keys for Tropical Depression. The drums we did at a really great and fully equipped recording studio named Echo Beach in Jupiter, FL. Then, I mixed and mastered Tropical Depression on my laptop.
I don’t need much but a means to get a good signal to tape. I’m a mastering engineer so I can fix and improve the recording a lot in post if I have to.
Which equipment do you use on Tropical Depression?
I track on Cakewalk Sonar. Been using their product since 1998. I used all the guitars I owned at the time to track the album. Inyen Vina, Ibanez with an original (no label/large lug) Seymour Duncan Invader, Epiphone all with different pickups and different tone to add spectrum. I also used an Inyen Vina bass for the whole album.
Do you have any interesting anecdote of the making of this album?
Yes, I did all the drums myself using a great Simmons electronic drum set. However, as clean and nice as they sounded, I needed a real drum sound, and that’s where I solicited Rob Tucker, who is a very organic player.
Another anecdote is, this is the heaviest kind of music Rob has ever played or recorded. Ironic, as he has been playing with Jason Newsted of Metallica for so many years.
One of the most interesting and unique songs on the album is definitely Midnight, where you also allow yourself to shred and slow the pace. What can you tell us about that song?
That song’s moral is don’t go “jodiendo en la noche” (laughs). Nothing good happens after 10pm. Stay home (laughs).
I’m actually curious: as a guitar player, do you prefer doing rhythm guitar or soloing? And why?
I like them both, but leads are where I have the most fun. I really like playing the fastest I can while retaining “soul”.
Your singing is surprisingly varied in this album. You seem to add different layers to each song. Was that a challenge in the studio?
Oh, I had fun recording the vocals! I have a very “Mutt Lang” approach to mixing, mastering and producing. In the past though, I went for the rawest most simplistic arrangements and didn’t utilize my potential as a producer like I did on Tropical Depression. This time, taking everything to 11, I varied the vocals and harmonies and came up with a harder version of the famous Def Leppard style gang vocals.
Considering the different issues that we have due to the pandemic, what are the plans to promote Tropical Depression?
Of course, speak to media and seek out venues all over the world who do not have restrictions. I believe a situation like this is a golden opportunity for the adventurous in any career and sphere. I intend to apply myself during this time, not shrink back.
I’m also curious to know if you have ideas for a follow-up album. Tropical Depression is quite eclectic with many different interviews. Can we expect a more concise album in the next one or do you plan maintaining the same musical approach?
The next album will be great! I like this mixed bag approach where everything is different but cohesive. I will push the envelope even further.
As usual, thank you for this opportunity, Sergio. It has been a pleasure! Any last words for our readers? Where can we follow you on social media and buy your music?
Thanks you! As usual, a pleasure to speak to MusikHolics! I will be back sooner than a year next time! I’d like to tell the readers to spread the word on Tropical depression which premiers world-wide on all digital stores and streaming services February 26th! I would recommend following me on Instagram and Facebook, and YouTube, all of which are sergiomichelmusic. Thank you for covering Tropical Depression!