Drummer Kevin Amann of San Francisco’s Burn River Burn Interviewed
How did you first get in to music? Who turned you onto rock/metal?
I got into music basically on my own. I just wanted to rock out from birth. I was playing drums with chopsticks on couch pillows as a toddler. In grade school grade – I got a snare drum for school band. In Jr high I got a drum kit and got in my first rock band – 30 years later – I still just hit the drums like a kid.
I’ve always loved darker music. My brother showed me Pink Floyd’s The Wall, when I was like 6 and I was hooked. When I started hearing darker themes with heavier guitars and speed, I was just magic to me. Friends turned me onto the greats. I remember my friend Matt Zane (of LA band, Society 1) showing me Mercyful Fate in Jr. High. That was a game changer. So I loved European Power metal from the start. I got into thrash and other subgenres mostly by listening to local (upstate NY) metal radio shows and the early days of MTV’s Headbanger’s Ball.
How did you become a (vocalist / drummer) and are you proficient in any other instruments?
I play all the regular rock instruments: drums, guitar, bass and sing and write songs as well. I’ve played all those instruments in various bands and had my own projects writing all the material as well – but I always come back to the drums. Absolutely love the challenge of playing in BURN RIVER BURN – slow churning grooves are extremely hard to play slow and consistent, but when it works – it is really something special.
What was the local scene in the Bay Area like in the beginning, was there a particular band you aspired to be like, favorite local bands back then, favorite local bands now?
When I first moved the Bay Area from New York in 1996, The scene was not too dissimilar as it is now – but perhaps more venues for rock. But the bands still struggled with the high cost of living and low income of being a musician. Some of the bands I really liked in the bay area back then were – The Gun and Doll Show, Deadweight, and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. Favorites nowadays are the guys we often play with like The Devil in California, The Road Vikings and Swamphammer.
Has there been times when drugs and alcohol were beneficial to the band?
That’s an awesome question – Yes! Beer and whisky are our unofficial 6th and 7th band members. Our music would totally suffer without them.
How would you best describe your sound?
Post-grunge, heavy rock with some country, blues,stoner and prog sprinkled in
Is doing pre-sales the same thing as pay to play?
I’m afraid it is, but it seems to be the reality of the industry these days. Bookers and venues want to minimize the risk financial risk of a band not bringing in people, so they ding them ahead of time by making them pay or work to sell tix. It’s a natural evolution that I don’t complain about too much. If your band gets to a certain level – you invest in yourself, you buck up for bigger shows or publicity – and you hope to get it back in exposure, and ticket and merch sales.
What was the first music you bought and what have you bought more than once?
The very first thing I remember buying was the 45 single of Joan Jett “I love Rock n Roll” when I was like 7. Played that thing til the needle went to shit!
DIY forever or signing with a label at first opportunity?
Depends on the deal of course – we’re getting pretty savvy and doing some of what a traditional record label does, a la carte. But would still sign if it made sense. We have gotten some interest recently from a killer European label and we have started talks – so we’ll see.
What’s the biggest show you have played so far and do you still get nervous before a gig?
We played the Whisky on tour a couple years ago – that was a frickin thrill. We’ve done 3 shows at SLIMS in SF and all of those were just awesome. We played the Bone Bash battle for the bands for 107.7 the Bone, a few years back at the Saddle Rack in Fremont – huge place – pretty packed. You should be seeing us a The Great American Music Hall in 2018! Still get a little anxiety right before the big shows, but that a good thing – let’s me know I’m still being challenged. The smaller shows – I don’t really get any butterflies anymore.
Is commercial rock radio dead?
It’s still breathing. Seems to me the terrestrial radio will live on for a while – people still love the serendipity of a DJ (even though it’s all predetermined playlists from the parent company) playing songs for them and flipping through the dial to hopefully catch a song you love. Hard to discover newer bands that way – but the internet will always rule for that.
Favorite songs on the new album and why?
Really like them all fairly equally – but if I had to choose – Into the Vein, Sworn to Silence and The Rift.
Out of all your songs which one touches you the most when you perform it?
Sworn to Silence is really heavy when the mood is right. Stand – off our first record is always a crusher live- we play is nice and slow and it is impactful.
Are there any political or social issues hidden in Burn River Burn songs?
Our band name refers to the Cuyahoga River in Ohio, catching on fire – which prompted the beginning of the environmental movement in America. So, the song “Burn River Burn” off our first album is an environmentalists anthem. “Stand” dabbles in religion, “Burning Bridges” touches on free speech. We do like to keep all our lyrical themes fairly subtle and open to interpretation.
What was the process of putting the songs in order.
It’s all about flow, we find it crucial to mix up the songs by tempo, fast, slow, mid – repeat – type of an order. Easier to digest songs near the beginning, more esoteric songs near the end. I think it’s a formula used by many rock/metal bands in their album orders.
What endorsements do you have and what endorsements do you still want?
We are endorsed by Epiphone. We were featured on their website a little while back – big honor. Would be open to any endorsements – I’m talking to you TAMA!
Bands you would love to tour with and musician or artist you would like to meet and interrogate.
Collectively – we all dig Queens of the Stone Age, Tool, High on Fire, Clutch and many others of course. Personally, I’d like to sit down with Papa Emeritus of Ghost, that dude seems like quite a genius – I’d love to pick his brain.
Song to be played at your funeral and 3 albums to take to your grave?
I would actually like a song I wrote to be played at my funeral – one I wrote several year ago for my friend that passed away. It’s called “A Place that is Everywhere” it’s on my 2nd solo album called Standards. Can be heard on Bandcamp here if anyone is interested. As far as 3 favorite albums, how about:Rush – Moving Pictures, King Diamond – Them, and Bad Religion – The Process of Belief.
Final thoughts, shout outs, dirty jokes?
Thanks Capital Chaos TV – See ya live in Sactosoon! You can check us out and get to all our socials by way of burnriverburn.com. How many singers does it take to screw in a light bulb? One, but he just holds the bulb and the world revolves around him.