Duzzing Up From Downtown Manhattan

Fixer are rock stars. We're probably not the first ones to write it and damn sure won't be the last, but the New York City-based quartet proves it with each new track and every time they take over another stage.

Regulars at downtown institutions such as CBGBs, Continental and The Knitting Factory, as well a venues across the tri-state area and up and down the East Coast, Fixer has established themselves as a top live act whose music draws on the best hard rock sounds and styles from the past twenty-five years. A band that would be equally at home on the Sunset Strip as the East Village, their shows are always "see and be seen" events drawing energetic and hyperactive crowds populated by rockers, hipsters, models and misfits, where the beautiful people mix with the druggies and everyone rocks hard and makes it home alive to tell the story - what they remember of it, at least.

The band has recently released two new tracks for digital download, following-up on two successful EPs, 2004's "All The Pleasure That You Crave" and last year's "Mixing In With My Blood". The later disc, featuring four tracks, is still available and gives a great snapshot of a band at the top of their game and pushing themselves hard.

Fixer is frontman Evan R. Saffer, Wilson on guitar, J Brown on bass and The Reverend Diamond Tim Newton on drums. Chorus and Verse caught up with Evan, Wilson and Tim - J "Bird" Brown was unavailable for comment at press time - to talk about life on the New York City rock scene, their plans for releasing new music in the near future and great rock and roll.

You've just played a show at CB's Gallery and CBGBs is home turf for you. What do you think about the whole situation with the club and its lease problems with its landlord, BRC?

Wilson: It's hard to be mad at a group that's dedicated to helping homeless people. The CBs guy's probably going to start up in Vegas and make a killing, so good for him. And Vegas needs more seedy places.

The Reverend: The place oozes authenticity, plus a lot more, I think (laughs), and you can't beat the history. But who knows, maybe it's time to look to the future.

Do you remember the first time that you performed on the CBGB stage?

The Reverend: I definitely remember the first time playing CBGB; there was puke all over the stairs on the way down to the bathroom and there was a kid passed out, sitting in a chair in the front, with his head on the stage.

Were you always comfortable being on stage and up front of a crowd? Are there any nerves now before a set begins, or do you look forward to being under the lights?

Evan R. Saffer: I have always had a lot of visions when it comes to playing live. One of them is always to [perform for] huge audiences, and it's sort of a test to myself. Am I nervous? Am I completely fired up to be there? In the dream I storm out onto the stage and the crowd erupts. It's all nerves, and all heart. Fear is a part of everything exciting and I never back down.

Let's start off by talking about the New York City music scene. Where are some of your favorite places to play, and are their crowds that you really look forward to getting up in front of?

Wilson: I'm partial to CBGB. I love the scuz-vibe, and the fact that it's such a rock institution, so you get music loving-tourists coming in who see the band and go back to wherever to spread the word. That's why we're huge in Nigeria.

J likes that CBs is 16 and over.

How would you describe the general state of live music in Manhattan these days? Do you find that there are more or fewer opportunities for a band to get out there and find an audience?

Wilson: Music is alive and well in NYC, but there's such a glut of it, it's hard to make your mark, especially if you're not playing the flavor-of-the-week.

The Reverend: There is definitely an issue with clubs closing, with some of the best small music venues closing their doors. Brownies closed a few years ago, which was a great venue. Continental is closing in the spring, and then CBs on Halloween. There are always more clubs and new ones opening, but these ones really have driven the scene in many ways. They have/had personality. But bands will always find a way to get out there and play for an audience, whether it be in clubs, at loft parties, on the street. If there's a will, there's a way.

You've recently released two new tracks that fans can listen to on your website, or purchase through digital download. Are these tracks the start of a new album release and are you continuing to write and record new tracks?

Wilson: Those were preview tracks/demos from the album we're working on right now. Those songs will have transformed a bit by the time the album is complete.

Evan: There will be new tracks that were written over the last few months. We've taken a turn creatively and a lot of our history came together in pieces and on the road. Recently, it feels like things have had more of a spontaneous flow. The songs will tell you more about who we are and you will discover a few secrets. Some are darker than others.

Do you feel that bands still even need to release manufactured CDs anymore to promote their music, or is digital distribution going to be enough to get the music out there? Do you think the day is coming where a band can hit Myspace, iTunes and other music services and break in the same way that radio airplay or placement in record stores used to do in the past?

Wilson: The music industry geniuses haven't figured it out yet, and neither have we. Anyone can make their music available to everyone now, for free or a fee, but what bands still need the big machines for is the publicity. CDs are on the wane. Who knows what's next?

The Reverend: I remember when I first got iTunes; I bought a few albums digitally, and it's a lot less satisfying. Which is weird, because I live in a small, New York apartment which is already overflowing with CDs, so you'd think I'd welcome the opportunity to save space. But I still would rather have the actual CD. Digital radio seems like it could really make an impact, though, especially since regular radio sucks so bad these days. Rock radio especially; it just seems to be in such a dismal state. I mean, shit, there's no modern rock radio in New York City anymore! That's just fucking ridiculous.

In other Fixer news, Evan is starring in "Out There," an independent short film directed by Cristobal Montiel, which also features Fixer's song "What it's Like" in the soundtrack. How did you become involved with that project, and do you feel that additional film and television placements are in the future for your music?

Wilson: I hope so. I love the way directors like Cameron Crowe make music such an integral part of their films. I want Fixer to be involved with that.

The Reverend: This is Evan's second or third film appearance; the guy is just an all-around celebrity. (Laughs.) I'd love to think that film and television placements are in our future; there's no shame in that anymore. I never had beef with it to begin with, really.

Evan R. Saffer: From time to time I have auditioned for different films. Usually independent films, short films that are somewhat strange and unusual. The roles have to fit who I really am, so I wind up playing the villain or the psychologically disturbed. I have a vivid imagination that amuses me. We've been fortunate that all the directors who have cast me love Fixer and have put our music in the films. Short films are fun, they do not take long to make and do not conflict with the band. We always make a party of going to the premieres together as well.

There are often a number of fashion designers at your shows and the band has performed at fashion events. What do you think is the relationship between music and fashion and do you put yourself in the tradition of New York bands like the Ramones and the New York Dolls that made a fashion statement as much as amazing musical statements?

Evan R. Saffer: I have always had a vision of combining theatre with rock music. Some of my favorite experiences have been rock operas like Hedwig and the Angry Itch, Rocky Horror and other dramatic artists like Marilyn Manson. Fixer is doing our own thing inside of that influence. The spectacle and energy of live performance is the epitome of what dreams are made of.

Lots of the press surrounding the band likes to compare your sound to "Appetite For Destruction"-era Guns 'N' Roses. Regardless of whether you agree with the comparison or not, do you think that Axl is finally going to release that new album this year, or you think that by the time he finally gets it out people will be asking him why his music sounds so much like Fixer?

Wilson: (Laughs.) I've been listening to the leaked tracks a lot, and they don't sound much like Fixer. Guns was huge for me growing up, so it's a trip to hear Axl's voice again singing new material. I hope the album comes out.

The Reverend: I think Fixer's sound has evolved since the early days, which is when we were getting more of those comparisons. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that Evan has a similar range as Axl, and really, who the hell has had a similar range since? It's something you don't hear very often, to say the least. We still do a lot of riff-based hard rock that has elements of Guns in it, but we've forged our own sound as we've developed and matured as a band. I'd be surprised if people compared the new Guns record to Fixer, but either way they're never a bad band to be compared to. (Laughs.)

In a recent blog, Evan mentioned that your March 9 show at CBGB was recorded on DVD. Are there any plans to release all or part of that show for fans? Are there any projects in the works that you want fans to be on the watch for in the next few weeks?

Wilson: The biggest project in the works is our album. We may release tidbits of the CBGB DVDs online. (We got the January show, too.) They're both raw recordings, one camera, so it's more of a bootleg thing.

What makes for a great rock and roll show? What has to happen during the course of a show for you to get off stage and really feel that you did something really special?

The Reverend: It's really all about the connection with the audience and the energy in the room that comes out of that connection. When you see people singing along, dancing, just cutting loose in whatever way they feel like, that's when you know you're reaching people. It also always helps when you see people making out to the ballad. (Laughs.)

Evan R. Saffer: My goal is to have an entire audience feel what I feel. I know I have already achieved it to some degree, but I can envision the experience even deeper, more profound, more powerful and more dangerous. The idea of mass consciousness is nothing new, I just think we can do it better, and we get better as time goes forward.

Describe where you would like the band to be a year from now. What you do see as the next steps in the band's career and how far do you hope the band can go, literally and musically, before it's all said and done.

The Reverend: The problem is: all these things cost money, and no one, including labels, seems to have it these days. So, we'll just have to figure it out. But there's way too many people who haven't experienced Fixer out there, and we certainly want to rectify that. We want to do everything, play every type of music, play everywhere. That's what makes it interesting - the journey. I know that sounds cheesy and cliché, but it's really true. Otherwise, what's the point? Experience everything, man, and never pigeon-hole yourself. And rock the fuck on. Word.

Wilson: Musically, our wish-list is long, so whatever we don't get to in this album, we'll get to next time, and the time after that.

Evan R. Saffer: In the movie "With Honors" Joe Pesci's character said it best: "Winners don't know they're in a race, they just love to run." I think that sums up my point of view.

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Matt Mrowicki

Matt Mrowicki founded Chorus and Verse in 2001. He is a rock star designer and technologist, Internet professional, content creator, and entrepreneur specializing in web development, IT consulting, branding, social media and online marketing.