Interview with Chris Davis of Ockums Razor
St Louis Music Press interviewer Angie Knost got to sit down and talk with Chris Davis, vocalist of the St Louis band Ockums Razor. Chris is also a St Louis Music Press contributor and one of the organizers and stage managers of the Rock U Fest, at 12-hour 3-stage local music extravaganza that will be held at the Atomic Cowboy on September 24, 2011. Read on to find out what he has to say about the festival and what’s going on with the band…
Angie: In addition to your band playing at the upcoming Rock U Fest, you’re also involved with the planning of that event, correct?
Chris:Yeah, I’ve been working diligently with a few different people and different bands, for example, John Harrington and Mike Zubienia from the Midwest Avengers, also Shawn Telkamp from Buxom Space Fish and one of the many diehard local music fans in St. Louis named Denise Coad. Also, LC promotions is one of the sponsors. Lori Coachman of LC Promotions, she’s come to the meetings to go over the angles for the charity we’re working with, and she’s the one that’s coordinating that. It’s been interesting. It’s been a long time coming, having meetings since March. Now it’s September, so it’s exciting to be on the tail end of it. I’m excited.
Angie: The concept of Rock U Fest is a little bit different than some of the other festivals that have been around.
Chris: …When John and Mike invited me over to talk about it, they asked me if I was interested in potentially working with them on the event. One of the things that sold me on the idea was that it promotes unity in the rock scene, and these types of events have been talked about before, and have been attempted before, but I don’t think at the level of intensity that we’re presenting it. We’ve done our best to present it in a fair fashion. All styles involved, all genres of rock involved, trying to include as many as we can and keep a certain quality level… All those factors involved, trying to find a balance that will work, and pull it off. And not only is it about trying to promote unity in the rock scene, also we’re promoting unity in general. Acknowledgement and acceptance of others, whether they believe in “this” or “that”, whether they’re of ‘this’ race or creed…It’s unique in that sense…
John has done these sorts of events before. He really knows what he’s doing. So when I heard about that and the whole idea behind everything, I was down with it….
Angie: Around 40 bands. That’s going to be massive.
Chris: Yeah, we’ll have around 40 acts…
Angie: What’s the estimate of the crowd number you’re expecting, how many attendees?
Chris: The estimate was 1,000, that’s we’re working towards. We’re in crunch time now. It’s fun to watch it grow right now, the level of interest. I think we’ll achieve that goal when it comes to the day of the show.
Angie: On the the subject of your band Ockum’s Razor, specifically: I know that you guys have a new-ish drummer. I don’t know how many shows you’ve done yet out with him. Tell us what’s going on with the band.
Chris: We have a lot going on that’s new…Actually, Pat Burgart, he’s actually our original drummer. And unless you followed us when we first started, those first few years, or unless you just happened to pick up the name on the CD, like if you have some of the first couple CDs, you might not even know, unless you really read into our background. It’s awesome to be playing with him again. To be honest, it’s never been the same without him…
We’re in the middle of wrapping up our newest recording. It’s nice to be doing it ourselves, for the first one, as far as the first full-band electric recording that we’ve attempted to do on our own. Our guitar player Mike Viner does all the technical stuff. He actually did the recording on our acoustic album that we did a couple of years ago, and then my friend Mike Ryan , the last band he was known for was a band called Social Slave, he’s continued on doing recording and stuff, under the name Mikelize Media. As far as St Louis acts that he’s done recently include Sicfaist and Fighting Mad.
We got about five songs that we’re wrapping up, then we recently got the opportunity to go to UMSL performance art center, and just do a session there, while the place is empty, with the different people who work there, who are students there. That’s basically what it’s for. They need acts to come in to do a performance. In turn, we got some raw audio tracks that are live. Then you can mix them and refine them. And that’s what we wanted, going into it. They’re some live tracks that have never been recorded, and we’re going to throw it out there as a live track version.
..I have some vocals to finish up on one song, then Mike’s got a few backgrounds he’s got to do, and then we’ve got some instrumentals and some additional horn players that we need to record. We’re getting all the T’s crossed and the I’s dotted, and turn it over the Mike Ryan to mix and master it. We’re just kind of taking our time, not setting a date right now. Doing it as we can and trying to get through this period with Rock U Fest coming, and trying to record and play shows and keep up with everything.
Angie: Are you going to preview some of the new material at Rock U Fest?
Chris: That was initially my personal goal. As I said, this is the first time we’ve tried to do our own recording when it comes to full band electric, it’s a lot more difficult than doing something acoustic….different things can set you back, but that was my goal. I knew that was pushing it a little bit, but I always make goals to push it, almost to the extreme but not quite. Sometimes it’s a little close. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve realized we might not be able to make that, but that was my goal, to have something ready. But I wasn’t really telling people that.
Angie: Which stage will you be playing on at Rock U Fest?
Chris: We’re going to be playing on the Foxhole stage.
Angie: I should back up and ask, for those who maybe arent’ familiar with the band, when did Ockums Razor form? How long have you guys been together?
Chris: …We started playing shows in August of 2002. Our first show was at Mississippi nights, when that was still open. We’ve played shows with Pat [the original drumer] for a good two years, and each year we released an EP kind of thing. We got a lot done those first two years, and we had a lot of steam going, until around 2005.
Towards the end of 2004, that’s when we released that second EP, and we changed the name officially to Ockums Razor… we used to play under a different band name. Going into that, Pat had recorded on the CD, and the way everything kind of happened…basically, in a nutshell, we ended up doing the CD release with what was going to be our new drummer [not Pat]. The situation, going into it, I was like, we might need a backup going into it, just in case things go downhill, which it felt like they were at that time.
The thing with that drummer in particular, I played in a band before with him, he was in a band with this bass player that he was still working with, and he was still loyal to him, so he was like, “I could play drums, but I want to bring this bass player”. We were talking about the idea, me, Mike and our original bass player who’s name was Mike also. He was like, “If I had to, I could play guitar, it’s actually what I play in my free time”. So he actually went out and got a new rig, got a guitar rig, a nice guitar amp and stuff, and we just basically released that CD under the new name, just kept pushing forward and everything. We played shows for about a year, and in between that year, that bass player basically moved on. He was wanting to do something heavier or moving further away or whatever. So we got another bass player.
At that point, you could tell it was straining on Mike, the bass player who had now switched to rhythm guitar. He was just kind of like not into it at that point. The new bass player, he was kind of at a crossroads all around the board, in life. It felt like we were getting the crap end of the stick. Even like with our drummer Chad at the time, he was just kind of mad that the thing didn’t work out with the bass player and was kind of unsure where he was at with stuff. So I kind of saw it coming. Everything was coming to a head. So we were coming into this show at Pop’s, and at that point, they were frequently inviting us to open up for national acts. Once a month we’d play at Pop’s and then the other part of that month was coming up to our next show where we would be playing at Mississippi Nights. We could do that and still be able to sell the 100 tickets or whatever. And we weren’t afraid to throw in small shows in between there. We played wherever we could play. Just because we loved playing. And people always came. It was great.
2005 had different members doing different songs. There were new songs that we had worked on, but we hadn’t done them live yet. So then, thrown in with songs off this new CD…it just got really taxing trying to promote it. We were doing a good job promoting it, because people have always known, we’ve always been around, you know what I mean? But that time in particular, it was pretty frustrating, because we were basically coming into this Pop’s show…I think it was Shattermask’s DVD release..it was a good show. Going into it, I just basically put it out there to the current drummer…I just said, “Let me know before the show what you want to do”. Because I already know what these two are doing, you know? I could tell where it was going. The day of the show, we’re getting set up and I was like, “So, what do you want to do. And he said, “I think we’re good”. I’m like, “Alright”. So we had a good show, got rid of a bunch of CDs to the crowd. Gave out some shirts. Then me and Mike just gave it a couple of weeks to give each other space, then get together to figure out what we want to do. That was going into the beginning of 2006 or so.
Mike had just gotten a digital board. We just took some time and layed down a bunch of ideas for new music. Then we had the idea of doing some acoustic stuff, too, because we were trying people out and recording demo tracks and stuff. We tried out I don’t know how many people, between bass players and drummers. Nothing worked. Nothing that was in the direction that we felt like we wanted to go. Months went by doing that. It just takes a lot of time. Going into the second part of that year…we felt like we weren’t going anywhere as a band. We felt like we had to do something. So we decided to keep doing this, but also start writing a bunch of acoustic stuff, and let’s go into it with the mindset of trying this out and see if we like it….basically Mike Viner and I were pretty vulnerable at that point to each other, because we watched the band just fall apart. So is that where you let it go, or is that where you stick to your guns?
We got to a point where I started to work with a friend of mine I used to be in a band with…reconnected with him and started working with him…. But that didn’t work out in the long term…
We continued doing acoustic shows, which caused us to play with a lot of different bands we normally wouldn’t have played with, and at places we normally wouldn’t have played at. We felt like things were coming back around. It was different, but it was a good different…
We ended up finding Ryan at that point, and at the time he was seventeen. He’s 21 now…He’s been with us ever since that point. After we added Ryan, going into 2008, we were working on the acoustic CD, spent the year recording that, and we found a drummer, and did our first full-band show since 2005. At that point, it had been years…time kind of flew by. That lineup lasted for about a year…then we started working with, what was at that point our fourth drummer, Tony. That lasted until about the fall of last year or so, and we reunited with Pat. It had been years since Mike and I had seen Pat. It seemed like the right thing to do. Enough time had gone by. Things were in their right places again. Things kind of come around full circle like that. I personally never would have thought that would happen. But it happened that way. Pat hadn’t been playing drums pretty much all the time. He was focused on his family, and he just needed to take a break from it…
We’ve spent some time working on new material with him, and played quite a few shows, also showing Pat some of the back catalog and kind of fitting it to his style… If things keep continuing the way they’re heading, it’s gonna get really interesting.
Angie: I know that there are a ton of things you’re looking forward to about Rock U Fest, but what is the most exciting thing, for you, about the upcoming festival?
Chris: The best thing will be seeing all the bands involved, the comeradery among the bands that are playing. I want to experience the unsaid part of it. I’ll be managing a stage and performing as well, so I’ve got a lot to focus on. But on the few minutes I have in between when I don’t have something to do, to step away, and just soak it in. I think that’s what I’m going to appreciate the most. Just watching everybody experience that and have a good time.
Angie: It should be a great time.
Chris: I’m looking forward to it!
Angie: So many people are! Let’s pack the place.
Chris: That’s the goal!
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