SALEMS LOTT lead guitarist Jett Black grilled.
Salems Lott is an American Shock Metal band formed in late 2013 in Hollywood, California. They are known for their high-energy and crowd pumping stage performances and an explosive new sound that captures the audience from start to finish. The band has played infamous Hollywood stages such as a sold-out show at The Roxy Theatre, a sold-out show at The House Of Blues, The Whisky A Go Go, SIR Studios and many more. The band is quickly climbing the ranks of the Los Angeles Rock Scene and is one of the most prominent live acts to see in Los Angeles.
How did you first get in to music? Who turned you onto rock/metal?
I mostly started just listening to video game music like Zelda, FF, DBZ etc. I didn’t like rock/metal because I assumed the pop-punk, post-alternative, emo and death/screamo metal bands of the time were indicative of all rock/metal. The video game music at the time was very well composed, with strong classical influence, and a lot of them were using guitar driven rock in their OSTs as well. It was very melodic; so I found that attractive, whereas the genres I mentioned above sounded whiny, annoying, boring or indiscernible to me.
For rock/metal, the gateway artists that got me into the genre would be Michael Jackson and a little later AC/DC. I was listening to MJ at the same time as the video game stuff and classical music; but EVH’s guitar in “Beat It” definitely sparked something as well as Angus Young’s “Thunderstuck” intro which really pushed my infatuation with rock into high gear.
How did you become a guitarist and are you proficient in any other instruments ?
I’d say “Thunderstruck” was one of those big moments that drove my inspiration, in addition to what I described above. Through ACDC I started finding other bands and more technical guitarists which helped proliferate and continue my interest in the instrument.
I consider classical guitar a different instrument. Ultimately, classical guitar, piano, bass and vocals. I can play some other instruments like the trumpet and flutes but I wouldn’t add them to the list.
What was the local scene in Hollywood, California like in the beginning? Was there a particular band you aspired to be like, favorite local bands back then, favorite local bands now?
There is no scene in Hollywood. It’s basically anything goes with most opting to play the stereotypical genres (post-grunge, screamo, death metal). The young bands are usually not that serious, garage band level that still live with their parents even in their 20s and run off to do ego-driven tours with a following of 5 people and then quit 9 months later. The old bands just keep doing the same pay to play circuit desperately soliciting their day-job colleagues and friends to pay for a ticket to come see their show for the 100th time and are clearly 25 years too old to still be failing at the club circuit. We don’t and didn’t aspire to be anything like any of the local bands here. In fact, we purposely set out to be the complete opposite.
Has there been times when drugs and alcohol were beneficial to the band.
I don’t particularly care for either but they have their uses at times.
How would you best describe your sound?
Familiar but new. Heavy but melodic. Hook-oriented but aggressive.
Is doing pre-sales the same thing as pay to play?
In a sense, yes. There’s a benefit and pitfall. More control is given to the band, but at the same time, more responsibility. Bands are basically 100% their own promoters and counting on the venue or any ‘promoter’ to do anything is just naïve. It’s a complicated issue. P2p is necessary in its own way but also a catalyst in the local scene’s demise. Currently, the ends don’t justify the means but inevitably the live scene’s death creates new and exciting avenues for bands and artists to utilize.
What was the first music you bought and what have you bought more than once?
DIY forever or signing with a label at first opportunity?
We’ve had offers but it depends on the offer. It would have to be a label with some balls, as most are too cautious to approach us since they can’t sell us to their pre-packaged highly specific dwindling sub-genre audience. You’ve got the Core labels, alt rock labels, the edgy ‘real’ metal labels, the nostalgia labels: all of which are divided and sub-genre specific and none of which we fit in with.
A lot of the industry and labels just really hate us and what we represent which is simply put “the return of the Rockstar”. It tells me we’re on the right path since everything they’re putting out is so generic and mediocre that it insights the same response. It seems the fans are also tired of the same mid-90s styles of rock and metal on perpetual repeat since the sales and attendance seem to reflect that.
A lot of people who currently listen to hip hop or edm could easily find a voice in rock music if it provided something intriguing for them. Unfortunately, so many modern bands are a repetitive snooze-fest that everyone tends to write off all new rock music or bands as “sucking major ass”. I think we’re on the precipice of seeing a big intriguing industry change so I’m keen to see where the industry goes.
Whats the biggest show you have played so far and do you still get nervous before a gig?
Not sure, either HOB or Rocklahoma. The last House of Blues show was great. It felt like the audience and the band were connected in one unified animalistic ritual.
Is commercial rock radio dead?
Yes. A lot of people are sensitive to this type of topic and tend to close their eyes and ears to reality and all empirical evidence. It’s a complicated topic, too long for me to explain here, but doing your own research leads to an obvious conclusion. Anecdotally, I can say every time I get into an Uber if I don’t feel like driving, 99.9% of the time the only thing you hear on the radio is the same regurgitated generic trash called pop, edm and hip hop (same with stores, restaurants, and bars). The radio stations are owned by the same few companies so they use radio as one giant music fast-food advertisement. That’s why you’ll hear the same soulless song come on 3-4 times in the same day.
Then you’ve got rock radio. If you happen to put on a rock radio station, they play the same 10 bands over and over. They’re basically like the classical music channel with an eternal boner and inflated reverence for the same 10 ‘classic rock’ bands and have no ability to regenerate with the youth. Essentially, it’s not completely their fault, that’s what the people want to hear and what keeps their shrinking audience tuning in time after time. Not to mention, the whole industry has an unspoken checklist of ‘respected’ vs ‘disrespected’ bands and genres. But all in all, it needs to die to give way to a new system so I actually see this as a positive.
Favorite songs on the new finished album and why?
It constantly changes but I’d say right now “Royal Desperado” and “Shattered to Pieces”. Both are very different from what we’ve done, with the former being very groove driven and the ladder being a lot softer and exposed.
Out of all your songs which one touches you the most when you perform it?
Based on live performances I’d say “No Choice to Love”. Ironically, it tends to touch me in places it shouldn’t. 😀
Are there any political or social issues hidden in Salems Lott songs ?
We don’t have any hidden political messages in any of our songs. We’re not a political band; but in the present day, given every facet of life is distorted and politicized, it’s impossible to comment on social issues/behavior, philosophy and culture without it being misconstrued as political. I don’t care for any ideology; I find them all dangerously narrow-minded, one sided and collectivizing. I’m against using art to inject a purposeful political propaganda agenda and I dislike shallow thinking, mob mentalities and the demonization of nuanced and abstract thought or criticism.
I write songs to figure out myself, ask questions and grow. When I see glaringly obvious hypocrisies in social behavior, modern culture or altruistic philosophies, I feel compelled to point out the BS at times. Especially since most rock/metal bands and other genre artists discussing these topics currently just repeat the same dogmatic Marxist pseudo-intellectual propaganda for the sake of virtue-signaling and fitting in comfortably with industry-accepted opinion.
Because of our current culture’s obsession with identity politics: where everyone’s politics are attached to their identity and everyone’s identity is attached to their politics, it seems any balanced criticism is taken as a political statement or taking sides. There’s really no room for nuanced thinking or balance, which seems ironically and eerily similar to religious dogma and zealotry. If there are any hidden themes, I find the values of individualism, revived profound masculinity, self-responsibility, aggression, free speech and real non-ironized rebellion are recurring naturally. Mostly, they are recurring themes because those values have tragically become so disparaged and lost.
What was the process of putting the songs in order?
It’s based on the themes of each song and giving it a flow like a story. I like to imagine myself as the listener and envision myself making the journey though the music. In this instance, it felt right to shock the listener into a state of attention with something like Enigma opening. An abrupt awakening or a distortion of sleeping consciousness. With part 2, it will have a different approach.
What endorsements do you have and what endorsements do you still want?
I’m all for more free stuff. Send some more my way, I won’t stop anyone.
Bands you would love to tour with and musician or artist you would like to meet and interrogate?
I’d rather the band headline, there’s not really anyone out there that’s young that I’d care to tour with. In addition, I find I have a similar perspective to Eddie Van Halen: I don’t get star struck or really care to meet certain musicians. I respect their work and craft but I don’t have a fanboy attitude towards my influences.
Song to be played at your funeral and 3 albums to take to your grave?
No funeral. I’d prefer to have my body cremated and tossed into the ocean.
As far as 3 albums, I can only decide on two. “Mask of Morality” and as a guitar player “Invasion Of Your Privacy”. The 3rd is a tossup between many so it’s too hard to decide.
Final thoughts, shout outs, dirty jokes?
I think a lot of what I said above might be misconstrued as negativity. I don’t actually view the death of rock/metal in its traditional forms of consumption as a bad thing. I believe a lot of the old formulas, and over-played ‘modern’ genres need to burn to ash so that a new phoenix can reemerge from the flames. But in order to do so, new bands need to adapt to a harsher environment, take bigger risks and fans need to actually give new bands a shot rather than sticking with the same old ‘legendary’ bands.
Make something of your own generation that you are proud of, stop parroting typical industry bias with this whole passive aggressive attitude that everything remotely daring is ‘cheesy’, ‘edgy’ or ‘cringy’, and have a band that represents you and your generation rather than safely worshipping bands that are 30-40+ years your senior. Rock/metal needs to come back as real cultural force again, not an underground irrelevant elitist circle-jerk.