One of the hardest working and most proficient musicians working today, Sin Quirin brings ReGen up to date on his latest endeavors.
An InterView with Sin Quirin
By: Ilker Yücel
In less than a decade, he has become known as one of the hardest working musicians in the alternative music scene. A stylistic chameleon and a versatile talent, he’s been hitting the keys and slinging the six-strings for some of the hardest hitting acts around, joining the lineup for American Head Charge in 2011, performing on the 2010 Sextreme Ball Tour with Lords of Acid, and becoming an integral figure in the Revolting Cocks for the Sex-O Olympic-O and Got Cock? albums in 2009 and 2010 respectively. But it is for his work with the industrial metal giants Ministry that many will likely know the name of Sin Quirin. Having been a key writing and performing member of the band for the 2007 album The Last Sucker, the 2008 Cover Up compilation, and the subsequent C.U.LaTour, Quirin would receive two Grammy award nominations. As well, he co-wrote and performed on ‘Double Tap,’ the first single from the recently released Ministry comeback album, Relapse. With a new tour and album with American Head Charge in the works, as well as joining Ministry on the DefibrillaTour, Quirin is certainly a busy man and takes time out of his schedule to bring ReGen up to speed on his various endeavors. As a longtime user of Schecter guitars, we get a little gear talk as well as some insight into his collaboration with electro-pop/rock chanteuse Sarah Greene, and the ultimate fate of The Great AmeriCon, his band with Stayte/RevCo members Josh Bradford and Clayton Worbeck, plus his views on the beneficial and debilitating effects of technology in the music industry today.
You just came off of doing a tour with American Head Charge, the latest band that you’ve been involved with. What can you tell us about the experience of playing with them? How has it differed from some of the other bands that you’ve been associated with up to now?
Quirin: I actually got together with Head Charge through Karma Cheema, who played bass in my band The Great AmeriCon. He’s been in Head Charge for a year now, so when he told me there was a regroup and they were looking for another guitar player, he suggested me. I’ve been a fan of Head Charge for years, so I checked it out and met all the guys and, you know, hit it off with them, and so it went really well. After that, I flew out to Minneapolis and we rehearsed for about three or four days and did that little Midwest run and then we just did a short West Coast tour, and we played at NAMM. It’s been going really well, man. We’re actually in the process of releasing an EP that should be out hopefully within the next month or two and it looks like Head Charge will be going out on the road with Mushroomhead. That tour should start in mid-April, I believe. And that’ll be a full U.S. tour. Actually, on that Midwest run, we stopped off in Cleveland and we went into the studio on a day off and we actually tracked a handful of songs there and that is looking like what is going to be on the EP. So I’ve already been in the studio with them.
Excellent! Are you doing the whole tour or just a few of the shows for the Ministry tour?
Quirin: I’m doing the whole Ministry thing. We’re actually only doing, I believe, five shows in the States, and then flying to Europe for six weeks. But I’ll be doing that whole run.
How do you find the energy to tour? You do it pretty extensively; you toured with Lords of Acid, you do shows with American Head Charge, The Great AmeriCon, and now Ministry again. You’re like a touring machine. Do you have any kind of routine to prepare for that kind of rigorous activity?
Quirin: I just eat my Wheaties in the morning. Actually, to be honest with you, I think the last time I toured extensively was like in 2008. Every year after that, I’ve only done about two or three months out of the year, so it’s actually been sort of mellow for me recently. This year it looks like it’s going to be busy because of Head Charge and then Ministry, and on that Head Charge tour, it actually looks like I’m only going to be able to do about half of that tour before I have to fly to El Paso in mid-May for Ministry rehearsals. So, basically, I’m off on one tour, Ministry rehearsals, and then the U.S. dates, and then Europe. So, it’s going to be a little bit busy this year, but it’s not typically that busy for me. I mean, usually…like when I did the Lords tour, I did a month and a half or so in the States, and then the year before that we did the Revolting Cocks tour, which was also about a month and a half in the States. So it’s fairly quiet.
It just seems like more, because there are so many of them. You mentioned The Great AmeriCon a little while ago, and that was a sort of an offshoot of you working with the guys from Stayte and RevCo; you started Capt. Bigshot, and The Great AmeriCon kind of stemmed off from that. What’s the status of the band now?
Quirin: We’re actually putting that on hold until 2013, just because my schedule got so busy for 2012. So we already have shows lined up for 2013, but this year is mainly going to be Head Charge and then Ministry.
Regarding Ministry, you pretty much did most of the work on ‘Double Tap.’
Quirin: Yeah, I wrote the music for ‘Double Tap’ in…I want to say 2007. It was actually intended to be on The Last Sucker, but it just didn’t end up on that record. So we kind of just held onto the song and put it on Relapse.
You were very well entrenched in Ministry for the writing of The Last Sucker and only contributing the one song for this one, although now it turns out it was from The Last Sucker. Without getting too personal, what are your thoughts on the way Ministry has developed since you joined, especially pertaining to how The Last Sucker was supposed to be the last record, and now he’s come back, and now Al is saying this might be the last record. What are your thoughts on the Ministry legacy and your place in it?
Quirin: Obviously I’m a huge fan of the band, so I don’t really want to see the band go away, whether I’m in it or not. I know that Al in the past has said, you know, this was going to be it, and he told us that for a while and…I mean…we all really thought that, because he was saying it for the last three years. But it turns out his health was really, really bad—a bunch of stomach ulcers, and he was just passing out and throwing up blood. He was just in bad shape, and that’s no way to be touring and to be on the road, because it can get pretty grueling, man, and so we all understood why he was kind of over that. And so we took some time off. Now, you know, going on four years and he just got better and he’s healthy and now he’s just ready to do it again. Who knows for how long? And you never know. He does a lot of producing and does a lot of soundtrack work and stuff like that and working with other bands. I know he loves being there; he loves being in the studio, but I guess he wanted to get the band back out again. We’ll see how long this lasts and if this is in fact the last run. But yeah, I was out with Head Charge when they were working on that album, but then when I got the got the call that the song was going to be on there, of course I was happy that it made it on there. I’m all about writing for Ministry, and doing the last record was a blast and also working on the Revolting Cocks albums. I’m hoping that we can knock out a few more albums.
Regarding your writing, because now you have been involved in so many different bands (Ministry, Head Charge, RevCo, etc.), what’s your process for writing? It’s kind of a silly question, really. I mean, ‘How do you write a song?’
Quirin: No, no, I totally get it. You know, there’s a process for every band and every project, and when I’m approached by somebody to write stuff for them, I really try to go back and really study the entire catalog of that particular project, and then I ask the main writer or the main guy in the band what exactly he’s trying to achieve or what he’s trying to go for, and I try to apply all those things. Sometimes it’s just trial and error, and it’s really hit or miss. Sometimes you do some stuff and you show it to them, and they’re like, ‘Well, I’m kind of looking for something like this or that.’ And you just kind of keep working at it. I’ve been really lucky with the bands that have asked me to write for them that I’ve kind of been on the same page with them. But it definitely takes a lot out of you, man, because I just get really into it. I just submerge myself in that music and don’t really listen to anything else while I’m doing the writing for somebody. It affects you mentally, physically and everything. It’s tough when you get asked by a bunch of different bands with different styles, because you really have to kind of have your mind set on that one particular project, and then you need to walk away from it and kind of start from scratch with the other. Let’s say I have an electronic band or something; I will really submerge myself into that music and won’t listen to anything else, because I don’t want to kind of get clouded with any other thing, you know?
Has it ever been a consideration just to do something on your own? Obviously, you work best with certain musicians and whatnot, but has it ever been a consideration to put out like a solo record?
Quirin: Absolutely. That was actually the idea behind AmeriCon, was to kind of do my own thing, and we’re actually going to be going through some personnel changes with AmeriCon as well, but I’m looking at that project as sort of my own. I hate to call it a solo thing, because I look at it as a band effort. I encourage everybody to kind of write and collaborate with me and stuff, but that will probably be the project that’s closest to me doing my thing and incorporating all of the styles and influences that I have gone through over the years. If I want to do like a real heavy double kick track, I’ll do that, or if I sort of want to do an electronica track, I’ll do that. I want that band to kind of have that freedom and not be pigeonholed into one thing. I just know I’m going to get the, ‘Oh, that’s the guy from Ministry,’ or ‘Oh, that’s the guy from this, that or whatever.’ I want to defeat that with every song. I want it to be very different on that record.
That’s interesting that you mention all the different styles, because you have worked in all those different styles. Many people know you primarily as a guitarist. And you started out as a keyboardist, and you did a lot of the keyboard and guitar work on the RevCo albums and pretty much anything that you’ve touched. These days, a lot of people are starting to sort of question pigeonholing music. Everyone is coming up with a new label for their own music. In your opinion, what is the validity of labels anymore? Not even just from the mainstream point of view of radio stations or MTV, but what do you see as the future of music with regard to the labels that people keep giving them?
Quirin: I’ve always hated the whole ‘what kind of music, what style of music.’ For me, that’s kind of like the name of a band, because that’s what kind of sets me apart from everybody else. There are some bands that are obviously always going to do thrash songs or speed songs or whatever, but for me, a true versatile musician is just going to do whatever he feels and whatever comes to him. I always hate it when they say, ‘Oh, he’s just this kind of band or that kind of band’ or whatever. I think that’s just so boring for me. That’s why bands that are out there that can kind of cross over, I think, are just exciting, and the type of bands that I really want to listen to are those kind of bands, you know? Not somebody that’s going to do the same fucking song on the same record over and over again.
Besides the bands that you’ve worked with, are there any newer bands or up and coming artists that really break the mold and that, as far as you’re concerned, have excited and interested you?
Quirin: Man, you know, they possibly wouldn’t be bands that are even heavy bands, because I listen to a lot of different stuff, and the newer stuff that I’ve heard or the bands that I listen to on my own are nowhere near heavy or even rock really. I’m a huge Sia fan, and it is more artists like that that I tend to listen to right now. So, I haven’t really heard any new heavy bands that I can really even say now. Everybody should go out and listen to Sia; she’s unbelievable. She used to sing for a band called Zero 7. Her albums are unbelievable, and any Zero 7 record is also just amazing.
Speaking of female singers, you worked with Sarah Greene.
Quirin: Absolutely! She’s doing well. We’re working together again, and she went through some management changes, and we started writing very loosely just within the last few months, just because I’ve been really busy, but we’re still pushing forward with that. We are still working together, and she has some really, really cool music that should be out towards the end of the year. That’s another thing I’d really like to still kind of do, is maybe some light producing and arranging and writing. I love writing, so writing I think I’m always going to be doing.
To switch it up for some gear talk, you’ve been playing Schecter guitars pretty much for the past six years, since you joined RevCo and Ministry, or maybe even longer, right?
Quirin: No, I think I started playing Schecter in 2006.
Schecter has kind of become this huge company. They’ve been around for decades, but in the last few years they just got really big, and I think a lot of that has to do with that artists that endorse them—or that they endorse, whichever way it works—including you. What are your thoughts on them as a company?
Quirin: First of all, they’re amazing guitars. They play well, they’re well made, and they’ve been perfect for me in Ministry and in RevCo. I’d been looking for a Flying V that felt really comfortable for a long time, and when I went to them in 2006, I said, ‘Hey, I’d really like to play a V,’ and they actually brought out this blueprint of this V they were working on. So, I was actually the first guy to play their Schecter Vs. For me, for that Ministry tour, I think they did either six or eight guitars that they custom made for me and I’ve been playing those ever since. I mean, I’ve gotten others from them, but those are the ones that I use live. They’re outfitted with Seymour Duncan pickups, and everybody there at Schecter is unbelievable. Michael, Mark, all the guys there are just really, really cool people. They take care of their artists. If there are any issues or problems, I can just give them a call and take the guitars over there, and they help me right out. So that means a lot to me, as well. They’re a good a good company, and their personnel is really cool. I’ve worked with other companies in the past, and it had just been a nightmare to get anything done and trying to get them to call you back or anything like that, and these people are very, very friendly.
Dave Grohl at the Grammys had a big speech talking about it’s all about the artists and not the technology and a lot of people have been sort of praising that speech. What are your thoughts on newer artists and the way that they are kind of going the other way with that? Do you find that it is becoming a major problem with people who are just using the technology and having absolutely no skill?
Quirin: Yeah, I have mixed feelings with that, I guess, because I am so old. I grew up actually having to learn how to play an instrument. So there’s a part of me that likes people to just pick up an instrument and learn how to play it and shit, but at the same time, there’s another part of me that is like ‘Well, you know, these cats are creating music in today’s world, and in today’s world, this is what’s out there, so they’re using what they can.’ So to me, if you’re creating, you’re creating. My hat does go off to the guys that actually pick up an instrument and learn how to play it. So I’m still kind of a little biased with that, but to me, if you’re creating, you’re creating. And more power to you.
The debate about Internet piracy has been going on since the Napster days, and recently the SOPA and PIPA acts got handed down, and now we have ACTA and CISPA. It’s still a raging issue.
Quirin: I see both sides of it, but to me, you know, if the artist wants to release things free, then it should be up to the artist; it shouldn’t be up to somebody that just wants to take shit for free. That’s how we pay our bills and how we eat and shit like that and it shouldn’t be…if somebody wants to release an album like Radiohead…I mean, their last record was free, but it has to be up to the artist. I’m not really down with somebody taking shit for free.
In your opinion, what could or should be done to encourage people to be on the right side of that argument? Or do you think that’s even possible now?
Quirin: It’s a tough thing, man, because it’s so easily available nowadays to just fucking take shit, and aside from just cracking down on sites and stuff like that…that’s really the only thing I think that can really be done. I mean, everybody always trying to outsmart everyone and find a way and shit like that, but unless that were to happen, I don’t know how it’s really going to stop. So hopefully something can be done in the future where it just stops, or there’s going to have to be some kind of repercussion, you know? This shit’s just completely out of hand right now. To answer your question, I don’t honestly know what can be done.