By Tracy Dietlin
Arthur Seay is best known as the lead guitarist for the bands UNIDA, Apesh!t, HOBP and Death in Pretty Wrapping. He has also been a guitar tech and toured the world with bands such as Godsmack, Limp Bizkit and SlipKnot to name a few. His band HOBP just won the CV Music Award for Best Metal Band in June (they tied with ITNotD). Seay took some time to answer a few questions for us.
CVW: You currently perform in 2 bands: HOBP and DiPW. Tell us how each of those is different from the other and what it means to you to work with these musicians.
Seay: “They both consist of some pretty talented musicians, that’s for sure and they are different beasts. I like keeping busy, maybe a little too busy.”
CVW: Tell us about some of your recent shows that are standouts for you?
Seay: “We just did a short tour in Japan and it was amazing! I’ve always been fascinated with the country and its culture and it was really one of those ‘check off the bucket list’ type of things. I’ve been to Japan several times with SlipKnot and Limp Bizkit, but to go and play your own music and have people there knowing your songs and going crazy was amazing! I was really curious if HOBP and Unida’s music made it to Japan and apparently it did!
“We also toured Europe extensively and the Desert Fest in Belgium was definitely a big show for us, we received so much positive feedback after and hearing the crazy ways people described our set, one guy was like ‘you guys are a rock and roll slap in the face!’ and ‘stage monsters!’ Ya gotta love it!”
CVW: What is your songwriting process like?
Seay: “I pretty much come in with the riffs for a song and some sort of arrangement and I’ll get with Mike Cancino and we’ll fine tune it, then jam it with the rest of the band and go from there. I always have a vision for each song and try to capture that on tape… uh I mean protools.” (laughing)
CVW: Which song are you most proud to say you wrote?
Seay: “I am really proud of everything I have written, I don’t do filler songs, my goal is for everything to have that ‘stand the test of time’ aspect. But some choice favorites are: HOBP: “Straight Jacket Made of Lace” and “Panzram” (Twisted EP demo version); UNIDA: “Last Day” (For the Working Man Record); Death in Pretty Wrapping: “This One” and “Color of Passion” (EP coming out end of this year). Like DIPW, we wrote those songs what 15 years ago? And they still stand up and I am very proud of that. Same with HOBP or even Unida; nothing sounds dated.”
CVW: What are your favorite venues to play?
Seay: “HellFest in Clisson, France and Graspop in Dessel, Belguim.”
CVW: What has been the most important moment of your career so far?
Seay: “I’ve had a lot of important moments good and bad, it’s a shitty business but I paid attention to the business side of it and thanks to that it has helped me survive and continue to keep going and growing our brand! It’s a business people remember that!! Some stand out moments: Bringing our brand of original desert rock to Europe and playing festivals like Hellfest and Graspop. HOBP I think being the first local desert band to take the desert sound to Japan. Rick Ruben digging my riffs and signing us to Sony. Opening for Black Label Society and after our sound check having Zakk Wylde tell me ‘WHOA dude this is my show you have to take a couple strings of that guitar before you play.’ It was awesome. Going up to Jason Newsted’s house in Northern CA and jamming and recording all weekend was fucking awesome! What a great guy, no ego, just cool as shit. He’s a big UNIDA and HOBP fan. Having the honor of Paul Gray to tour and play in my band (UNIDA). Having the honor of filling in on bass with SlipKnot, to finish the last 2 weeks of a tour, because Paul had to take a leave of absence. That was insane!! I can say the first time I played bass live was with SlipKnot! I could go on and on.”
CVW: How do you define success in the music business?
Seay: “Being able to do what you love and being able to pay the bills by just doing that!”
CVW: Who are your influences?
Seay: “All the usual greats: Randy Rhoads, Dimebag, Iommi, Van Halen, Pepper Keenan/Woody, Weatherman, Life!!”
CVW: What music/bands are you listening to right now?
Seay: “Always Michael Jackson. For new artists ZZ Ward is pretty badass, love her!”
CVW: Who would you most like to work with that you have not?
Seay: “Ian Ashbury.”
CVW: Who would you most like to open for?
Seay: “The Cult, Metallica.”
CVW: What do you think are the biggest challenges musicians are facing today with the digital platforms?
Seay: “Spotify is killing bands for sure, they pay 0.006 cents per stream…….for an artist to make $10 like they would have if someone bought a full album, the album would have to be streamed by said person 1,190 times which most listeners cap out at around a few hundred at best.
Bands not understanding that this is business, and the fact you will never see a dime from any record sales and the only place you make money is MERCH and touring. Take SlipKnot for example, they have never seen a dime from record sales. They make their money from merch and tours; the music business system is designed from day one to rip the artist off.”
Here is an example if you sold a million copies.
First, let’s assume that the artist is expecting a 15% royalty. Let’s also assume that the full album retails for $11, which is the new reality for current releases. That’s $11,000,000. Not a bad start, right?
But if the artist assumes that means $1.6 million in royalties to him, then he’s in for a real eye opener. The record company sells albums at wholesale. And, considering that the current definition of “sales” is the price the record company receives after discounts, the artist won’t be paid on retail. So we reduce the $11,000,000 by half, which is roughly akin to what the record company will receive for sales.
Still, $5,500,000 is a substantial amount of money. Except the artist isn’t paid on that figure, either. The record industry operates on consignment, which means that retailers are constantly returning products for credit. The record company will not only reduce this figure by returns, they will also hold a reserve, usually 25%, as a hedge against whatever returns may happen in the future. They will also take out any amount that is uncollectable (for example, if retailers file for bankruptcy).
In addition, traditionally, record companies have taken the position that the artist is to be paid a percentage of the music, not the packaging it comes in. A 25% packaging deduction is not uncommon, although some record companies don’t do this anymore, especially in light of the fact that digital sales don’t use packaging at all. However, since the practice is still prevalent, we’ll assume it takes place for the purposes of this illustration. Now, the $5,500,000 in sales looks more like this:
Wholesale sales: $5,500,000
Less returns: $500,000
Less reserve: $1,375,000
Less uncollectable amounts: $385,000
Less packaging deduction: $1,375,000
Net sales: $1,865,000
Finally, we arrive at a figure that the artist can expect royalties from. It’s a far cry from the $11,000,000 the artist expected to start with, but at least there are $279,250 in royalties to split between the band now, right?
Wrong. While $279,250 is the figure that will be credited to the artist’s account, the record company will also assess the artist with a number of expenses. Recording costs are typically counted as advances against the artist’s account. Let’s assume the band spent $150,000 recording their album. One half of video costs are also considered advances against album royalties. Let’s assume they spent $50,000 on a video, half of which ($25,000) would be recouped from album royalties. If the record company gave the band an advance, that would be recouped, too. Let’s assume the band received a $150,000 advance either when they signed the agreement or when they finished the album. Even more alarming is that most record companies will consider half of all promotional costs to be advances to the artist, which means those get taken back from royalties, too. Let’s assume the record company spent $385,000 promoting the album, half of which ($192,500) would be deducted from the royalties. The math looks like this:
Less recording costs: $150,000
Less ½ video costs: $25,000
Less artist advance: $150,000
Less ½ promotional costs: $192,500
Net royalties to artist: -$238,250
Wow. For the artist that may have been expecting over a million dollars in royalties, this is a serious reality check. What’s worse, promotion will continue, meaning that cost is not fixed. The more albums that sell, the more promotional costs that will be assessed against the artist. And for the artist that signed a 360 deal, it is even more difficult to make up the loss with tour proceeds, music publishing income and merchandising, since record companies are now taking a significant piece of that, too.
Welcome to the big time. Hope you saved some of that advance.”
CVW: How do you feel the CV Music scene has changed over the last 10-15 years?
Seay: “I’ve watched it grow and crumble upon itself many times over, it changes, but it never changes lol, right now I think the most important thing we need in the valley is a viable venue that really cares for the musicians and the music. Seems there is way too much of taking advantage of the bands. If you pack the place you should get paid, if you don’t you need to build your following so you can get paid.
Example: 3 bands packing the venue and 100 to 200 people through out the night eating and drinking, bartenders are walking home with $300 to $500, bar is making $3,000 to $5,000, but the bands have to split $300 because the venue doesn’t want to do a small door charge to help pay the bands. That’s another thing; PAY THE $5 BUCKS PEOPLE… HELP THE BANDS! Lol…So 3 bands with 4 members each that’s 12 people so that’s $25 for each member, how sad is that? How fair is that? If anybody knows an investor so I can start my own Venue let me know! CV Weekly is kicking ass supporting the scene that’s for sure! You guys are doing a killer job and keep it up!”
CVW: Who would you pick for your 3 headliners for next year’s Coachella?
Seay: “Hologram of Michael Jackson, Hologram of Prince, Hologram of James Brown.”
Seay: “Hologram of Elvis doing country standards, Hologram of Johnny Cash, Hologram of Hank Williams.”
CVW: Who would you pick if they did another Desert Trip?
Seay: “Journey with Steve Perry! Led Zeppelin with singer of Greta Van Fleet (Josh Kiszka) on vocals because Plant can’t sing those songs anymore.”
CVW: What did it mean for you to win the CV Music Award for Best Metal Band again this year?
Seay: “We are all very thankful to the whole desert scene that voted and come out to our shows! I love the valley and always do my best to support and help build the scene in a positive way and to get some appreciation back is always very gratifying. We love you ALL!!
CVW: Let’s talk serious. We’ve lost a lot of musicians over the last few years; some have committed suicide, some accidental over doses, some from the repercussions of years of drugs and alcohol abuse, and others from natural causes, but way too early. How has this affected you personally? Especially the recent loss of Vinnie Paul?
Seay: “It’s a very sad thing. I lost a good friend last year also, Dave “Big Shirt “Nichols, who was SlipKnot’s Front of House guy since the Iowa record. He was one of the best guys in the business and I learned a lot from him because he was so damn cool to answer my questions about mixing live and in studio, it was so valuable learning tips and tricks from one of the best.
Vinnie Paul was definitely a shock, but not a surprise either, he was a fucking nice guy who loved music and loved life and lived it with positivity and spread joy and fun all the time.
One time on a Godsmack tour we had a day off in Texas on Memorial day and Vinnie invited us all to his house for a BBQ and it was one of those surreal moments where you walk inside one of your favorite drummers from one of your favorite bands and he hands you a beer and says ‘hey try this.’ it was a chile pepper stuffed with shrimp and BBQ’d, then a dab of jelly on top and you’re like wtf, but you eat it and it was delicious! Then it’s a giant pool party and everybody is jamming etc. and it gets crazy! Too crazy to tell here… lol. But why it wasn’t surprising is you cant live like that forever, you gotta stay healthy and exercise and eat right or as best as possible, touring is definitely hard trying to eat right, because you are constantly go go go!”
CVW: Anything you want to say to your fans that you haven’t been able to?
Seay: “Thank you for all your support… myself and the band love you all!!
New EP Twisted is out now via Heavy Psych Sounds Records and DEZLOWSUN Recordings Store.cdbaby/Artist/HouseofBrokenPromises.
New Video will Premiere in next 2 weeks for song “Toranado” Directed by Arthur Seay.
Australian Version of Twisted will feature 2 new cover tracks from HOBP: “Don’t Bring me Down” by ELO and “Stray” by LeafHound.
Death in Pretty Wrapping EP out soon with cover of “Beat It”
House of Broken Promises/Aug 4th 5 Star Bar Downtown LA brought to you by Metal Assault Bookings
House of Broken Promises /Las Vegas Psycho Fest Pre Party TBA
DIPW Aug 31st The Hood
House of Broken Promises
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Death in Pretty Wrapping
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