Thursday, May 04, 2023

SuckerTrap at the Centre of the Universe (but also at the Fox): concert and video shoot this Friday (a Pinto Stiletto interview)

Pinto and, uh, Mr. Smith of SuckerTrap by Patrick Powers; no content on this blog to be used without permission, thanks!

The last time I ran into Pinto - I still think of him as Pinto Stiletto, but to some he may be Pinto Bonito and other people might know his actual last name - I thought I was talking to Rob Matharu. Ouch! 

I'm a bit embarrassed by that, but, like, he doesn't come into town very often and I hadn't seen him for at least a year or so before that (I'm also apparently not the only person who makes that mistake, either, but he looks more like Viggo Mortensen, truth be known). He's a hell of a stage presence - I'd loved the first few Wett Stilettos shows I saw, even wrote a pretty enthusiastic article around the band for Big Takeover online, with some great photos from Bev; but the last time I caught them - at Pats Pub shortly before COVID hit - you could tell it was fading. I haven't seen his newest project, SuckerTrap, with Betty Bathory on board as a vocalist; but there is enough evidence online - bandcamp here, video here - to ask some basic questions. Which I did, via email; the interview is below, with myself in italics and Pinto not. 

SuckerTrap plays this Friday at the Fox Theatre. There will be a video shoot, so you might appear in a crowd scene, I guess! More information on the event page

The Wett Stilettos had a ton of potential, but it kind fizzled. Can you give me an internet-friendly sketch - what happened to that band?

It rusted! Sorry. lol There was some issues with lack of interest and work ethics. We came blazing out of the gate with the first album and then things gradually fell apart for many reasons. With me moving four hours away things got increasingly difficult and it was time to call it. Still in contact with most of the members and very good friends.

Well, I'm glad you're back, anyhow. SuckerTrap is a great name - where did it come from?

Thanks. Inspired by an incident at the checkout line at a liquor store. There was some gimmicky bottle of something there and my wife said, "Ooo that looks good! What is it?" And I said, "it's a trap for suckers!! It's a suckertrap!!" And she said, hey that's a good name for a band. The song "Dressed in Black" gets a little bit more into what it came to mean to me after a while. Our public and personal lives are plagued with various manifestations of traps set for suckers. Consumerism happens on many levels. Economic, psychological and spiritual.

For people who have missed your past performances, what do we need to know about SuckerTrap? Who is in the band? Do you have any unifying conception or mission? How did the band form? (Are there any other members of the Wett Stilettos involved?).What's the involvement of Adam Payne?

Ooof. Okay let's just start with Adam Payne. After Wett Stilettos disbanded I still had all these songs I wanted to record. But I had no band. So I got a hold of my good friend Adam (we were in the Bonitos together) and asked him if it was possible to pull this off without a band. Just a studio project. No intentions of ever getting an actual band together. Adam was up for the challenge. We had to do it all. Bass, drums, guitars. Keys. We started recording and it started sounding pretty good, to our surprise. We could do everything but we couldn't sing! And so the search began for a singer. We looked high and low and couldn't find the right fit. So one night, feeling totally defeated, we went to LanaLou's for a drink and guess who was working the bar. I played her one song on my phone. She came in the next day and knocked it out of the park. I literally had tears of joy in my eyes within the first line she sang. Later on we it was more than just me and Adam, we've had Tony Koelwyn on drums and one track and Bob Petterson on bass on two tracks on the release, and we have Dave Troutman on drums on upcoming EP with the rest of the band members contributing on specific tracks.

SuckerTrap by Patrick Powers

So who the heck is "Mr. Smith" exactly - I see the name mentioned on your bandcamp as the singer, but the only singer I see is Betty... so is that Betty's persona, here? (Why regender her?). Or is there someone else called Mr. Smith...?

Who is Betty??? Our singer did not want to start another band since she was already in two (Daddy Issues and Paranoid Romantic, I think he means; she has a few one-offs like she does, too, like Weener Issues, covering Ween at the Railway with Daddy Issues, later this month). I promised her that this would only be a studio project and no one needed to know who was even singing. So we came up with a fake name. She wanted Mr. Smith and I thought MrsMyth would work too. There was never any intention of playing live or putting a band together, so it didn't matter. Until the music started getting some attention and label interest. One of the labels out of U.S expressed a lot of interest but didn't want to sign a studio project. They wanted a live band. So we decided to sort of put a quick band together just to shoot a little footage and send it to them to see if they were serious. Adam flat out refused to get involved LOL. Mr. Smith suggested Jayme Black from Rebel Priest. I've known Jayme a long time and love him dearly so that was easy. I initially got my friend Tony Koelwyn on drums but he quickly backed out as possible permanent drummer due scheduling complications. So I decided to take a chance and call Dave Troutman from our old band Crystal Pistol. I didn't think there was a chance in hell he'd do it but he said yes!!! And that was amazing. So we started jamming and decided to book a show. We didn't have a keyboard player so I went and got a synth pedal and was playing guitar and synth at the same time. Jayme and Mr Smith thought that looked silly. I was so busy pressing buttons and pedals and this and that . . . it was ridiculous. One day I was setting up in rehearsal and in walks this young lady. I thought the room was double booked so I said "oh SuckerTrap is scheduled for this time" and she said, "I know. I'm Melissa, I'm your Keytar player." She plugged in and knew all the songs. I was blown away. Apparently Betty had mentioned to Melissa in passing that we could use a keyboard player and never told me LOL. So that''s Melissa Lee on Keytar and we love her. She's amazing. The talks with labels went back and forth and before our first gig we ended up signing with Sodeh records out of Montreal. Keeping it Canadian Eh?

SuckerTrap by Patrick Powers

Some of the songs on the bandcamp are identified as "by Pinto," others aren't - some are just by the band, and for some ("Blood Alley") there is a co-credit with Betty for lyrics. How are songs written? For "Blood Alley," did you give Betty a demo for her to provide words for, or did she bring lyrics to you to set to music, or...?

Yeah that's all a real mess. I need to go and clean that up. I'm a writer first then a guitar player. I'm always writing. But I think too much attention is wasted on that. At the end of the day no one cares. And it doesn't matter. The song wouldn't be what it is without the performances there. I don't know who Betty is but Mr. Smyth and I did co-write "Blood Alley." The music was there and I had some rough ideas with the lyrics. Mr Smith stepped in and fixed it all up. Normally we don't get a chance to write together. But we are planning on doing more of that in the future. The fact that I live in another town makes collaborating challenging. I consider Mr Smith my primary partner in crime. I couldn't do this without her. She's an inspiration. I couldn't do it without Adam. I can't do it without Dave, Jayme and Melissa. It takes a whole village. Everyone brings something extremely valuable to the table. I love these guys and am honoured to be in a band with them.

SuckerTrap by Patrick Powers

"Celestial Psychos" completely threw me off guard, because the band it brought to mind was Dio-era Rainbow - say, "Tarot Woman," for example. I wouldn't have thought of Rainbow in regard to any of the previous things I've heard of yours, ever. Are you consciously expanding or altering your sound for this project, or have you always been a Rainbow fan, or what?

Thanks! That's a great compliment. We LOVE DIO!! However, I wasn't so much specifically thinking of Dio as I was Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath is a huge influence on this band. Consciously and subconsciously. It really came out obvious in that particular song. But it's always there. It's there in "Apocalypse Now" too and other songs, just not as obvious. A lot of 70's, 80's metal, punk and even some new wave influences dominate the music but Black Sabbath is the most prominent one. I had Duran Duran on mind when writing "Sexbot." But by the time it's all done it usually becomes its own thing. I used the Cure as an inspiration for "Bleed," and there's some new stuff coming out that has a little of Randy Rhoads style of writing (not playing; I could never play as good as him) in mind. Judas Priest is another band that is always present in mind when I write, and Platinum Blonde and Concrete Blonde and sometimes Fleetwood Mac, Sisters of Mercy, Twisted Sister. Oh god the list goes on and on. LOL

Do you have to restrain Betty from some of her more outlandish hijinks onstage, or is she in a different persona, or...? I am assuming YOU are the bandleader here - is she eager to follow your lead, or do you have clashes, or...? Do you also "direct' her performance, costume, etc?

 Who??? LOL no one tells Mr Smith what to do! Definitely not me. She's a performance Goddess. Mr Smith does what Mr Smith wants and we love it. We don't clash. We work extremely well together. We seek each others advice all the time. It's true collaboration. You must understand I have been a long time fan of Mr Smith. I love what she does and who she is. I'm a Daddy Issues Groupie!

It's cool that you have references to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (and Waiting for Godot) on your bandcamp and Nosferatu in the video... are those particularly meaningful to you? I am more surprised by the Beckett reference - figure people might not know him now. Do you have a lit background, or a theatre one, or film, or...? Scrolling for Godot is also a pretty fun title.

I have a degree in philosophy. I was obsessed with Sartre, especially his plays. [Editorial insert: cool, I'm a big fan of "No Exit" myself.] But Beckett is a step beyond as far as I'm concerned. He transcends existentialism and gives us the theatre of the absurd. That's where my heart is. That's my religion. Waiting for Godot will always and forever be relevant to the plight of human existence. [Note: people who do not know Godot should click that link and read it; it won't take long - it's a play, not a novelScrolling for Godot just relates to a digital realm that was not present then but is now. But it doesn't change the plot.

[Thanks for giving me an excuse to run the first ever image of Samuel Beckett to appear on this blog, Pinto!]

Do I gather that you have a sort of "rock opera" or something in mind for the Fox performance?

LOL no. Not that I'm aware of. Unless Mr Smith is up to something she hasn't told me about. However, before our first show I dreamed of SuckerTrap not being a live band but a theatrical play incorporating the songs live. I have a manuscript already written and have discussed pursuing this project with some friends in the Theatre Department at UBC. But like everyone else they wanted to see a live band first before we could proceed. So who knows. One day that might happen.

Ah. I must have misunderstood something Dave told me. But I think I have this next question right - that you're shooting a video at the Fox, as part of Friday's show? What song are you shooting a video for? How do you want people to dress for that?

"Centre of the Universe". Release date with video by the amazing R.d Cane on May 8th, three days after the show at the Fox. Wear whatever makes you feel good! That's my policy.

Anything else to say about the gig or the band or upcoming releases?

We are super excited to be playing with some awesome bands Ophelia Falling and the Getmines. Important dates: 2nd Single release May 8th for "Centre of the Universe". And looking ahead past that to July 7th for "Seven Sisters", our third single release off our upcoming EP.

Thanks, Pinto!

Photo by R.d Cane, graphics by Jayme
For more information about the gig, go here

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