Hustle and Thrash
In the mid- to late ‘80s, D.R.I.’s Crossover album comes out, Slayer’s Reign in Blood was annihilating everyone and the “Night Stalker” Richard Ramirez was finally behind bars. All over California, skateboarding and thrash metal were influencing young punks like Jeff Salgado and his friends, who would eventually start Psychosomatic.
Today, the band members live in Sacramento, and they’re really doing it. With more tours ahead than anytime in the past, they are a testament to “stand by your band.” Or van, for that matter.
Salgado is the band’s founder and vocalist/bass player. He looks like the older, metalhead dad at the skatepark, who’s really patient and encouraging, but looks sort of alarming to the other parents because he has long hair.
I met up with Salgado last Friday. His role as the band dad felt apparent right off the bat. He annotates most of the things he says with how excited he is, and how grateful he is for opportunities that have been presented, and that stuck with me. The band dad is in charge of morale; he has the grey hair to prove it.
“It’s been non-stop since June,” Salgado said. “When I’m not working or spending time with my family, I’m working on the band … We did a video, contacting people … And when you’re booking a tour you have to touch base with people. You don’t want any of your dates to fall through, and if they do, you have time to scramble to make something work.”
Salgado sees the band as finding its stride now more than in the past, with a solid, committed lineup, a new record, even Psychosomatic skatedecks.
“It’s a new birth, a new band. Since then, we got the right pieces as far as band members go, and it just clicks like it never has before.
So it does feel like a new band and we’re all equally excited.”
Part of Psychosomatic’s shifting dynamic is due in part to Toby Swope, who had been the band’s drummer since 2001, taking on a new role as the band’s lead guitarist. Swope is also new drummer Jared Klein’s half-brother. Dan Mills rounds out the group on guitar.
“In the past we had members that were not 100 percent committed, now we do,” Salgado explains. “I am so grateful that I have these guys to play with me. I told them, ‘Don’t just play in this band; own it. Make it your band.’
I know that Jared’s really happy to play with his little brother.
“Toby can do anything musically, he’s just unbeatable,” he continues. “He just did a North American tour with Revocation, he’s written 90 percent of the guitar parts and music on this new album.”
Sacramento’s BuriedinHell Records is releasing Psychosomatic’s newest album titled Clicking Sound of a Hammer Pulled Back, an effort Salgado sees as darker and more serious than previous recordings.
“We’re older now, we’re more mature,” he says. “It’s serious and darker, whereas the other albums were more wider range with the skateboard-party feel. This one is more reclusive, and serious. There’s one song at the end where I really went deep in my own insecurities, and I put it on a song where I had never done that before. It shows that I’m not just a shell of hardness, I have vulnerability, which I don’t like to express. But in doing so, I felt better about the song.”
The album is a jarring meld of metal and punk in a simple format that can be appreciated by fans of other albums, like Hoods’ Pray for Death album or Diseptikons’ Solutions Supported by the Angry.
Taking shape in the fertile soils of Salinas, the band played locally, mostly parties, traveling to bigger cities to play to more people. By 1998, they all made the move to Sacramento where they soon found footing in the local music scene.
“We were just a bunch of skate kids back in the day that started a band. We had played the Bay Area, but we had never played in Sacramento, so we didn’t know what to expect. Coming from Salinas, you had to drive to Santa Cruz at a minimum to see a good show. Otherwise, it just seemed like we were playing parties, and it wasn’t worth it; we had to get out of there. I was 28 years old, and I came here with pretty much nothing but my band equipment. I had to start over from nothing, and it was totally worth it,” Salgado recalls.
These are not some, fly-by-night, wango-tango boys. These guys have been ripping the heaving bowels out of the soft center of California with their thrash metal assault for nearly 30 years, with four U.S. tours, soon to be five, as well as several other package tours yet to be announced.
Thirty years worth of driving to local shows and numerous tours can destroy any one van, or two, or three. It takes a certain kind of love to keep the same van purring warmly.
“One of my best friends is a diesel mechanic, so he services it every time we go out,” Salgado says. “The Ford van is nothing to him, he works on diesels, so this is like cake to him. He can figure out anything having to do with the van, so we’re lucky.”
Over time, the desire to make things more functional in a tour van may lead to some modifications. One common tour van amenity add-on is a wooden bunk/loft which can serve as a sleeping platform and storage shelf.
“We had a loft at first, but it ended up being a hassle more than anything, getting the gear out. So what we ended up doing was getting a trailer, so we can spread the gear around. If you’re driving a full U.S. tour, you’re gonna be spending a lot on gas anyways. We keep it really simple and basic, and accessible anywhere you need to be.”
Before he left, I asked Jeff if there was something that the 2015-him would tell the 1988-him just starting a band, and he said, “Get over your personal shit, and work your ass off. Period.”
This is fitting advice for any budding musician, or artist in general, from someone a little older. Get your shit together.
Psychosomatic are headlining Blue Lamp Sept. 18, 2015, for their tour kickoff/CD release, with Kennedy Veil, Jack Ketch, Solanum and xTomHanx. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased through Bluelampsacramento.com.