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INTERVIEW: RON SANTEE of The Battery Electric – January 2015

| 29 January 2015 | Reply

Tucked within a flurry of interviews, I am presented with a chance to speak with Ron Santee, lead singer and studio drummer for The Battery Electric, a cool punk-garage rock band out of Asbury Park, NJ.  If you aren’t familiar with their music, you might want to check them out.  This blend of rock, punk, garage, and soul is a cool mixture that shows rock is definitely not dead!!!


Toddstar: Hey Ron. Thank you so much for taking time out for us today.

Ron: No problem. No problem.

Toddstar: Let’s talk about this disc you’ve got coming out. The Battery Electric is releasing The Heart And The Thrill on March 10. What can you tell us about it?

Ron: It’s a 14-song record. It’s full of rocking, punk-rocky soul type tunes. It’s our second record. I think it’s way better than the first.

Toddstar: That’s good to know.  This is the second disc you are putting out on Little Dickman Records. In this day in age, why release a hard CD? You have so many people going to just downloads and stuff like that…

Ron: Actually, this year… I was just reading an article, CDs are up, more than vinyl actually this year. People want hard copies of stuff, especially for a band like us who tours a lot it’s good to have hard copies of things. Our first one we did, we pressed vinyl and that did really well, but CDs are cheaper and people buy more CDs. It’s always good to have CDs, especially to give to other bands and network with people and clubs and stuff like that. All those people want hard copies of stuff.

Toddstar: You are preaching to the choir. I still run out to the CD store once a week and pick up my load.

Ron: Oh yeah, of course. I personally collect vinyl myself, but with this one, with budgets and everything… right now we are not going to be pressing the vinyl just yet, but we probably will.

Toddstar: This album from front to back, you said 14 songs, opens with “Heathen” and actually closes with the title track, “The Heart And The Thrill.” It just seems kind of a roller coaster with the different genres that you guys have your own feet in, punk, you’ve got soul, you have some what I call garage rock. You guys weave in and out so seamlessly. How is it you guys can take those different sounds and create something so cohesive?

Ron: Well, we all basically listen to the same kind of thing. All of us in the band grew up listening to punk rock. That’s kind of our main foundation and then we add in hard rock here and there, garage rock obviously and the soul music, I’m really big on. We are actually going to be recording 2 different genre records within the next few months. One is going to be called, “Lose Control,” and that will be a 7-song EP, which is going to be all punk rock. The other one is going to be called, “Got Your Soul,” and it’s going to be a 7-song EP and it’s going to be all soul music. We like to vary it up and change it up as we can.

Toddstar: Sure. As a Detroiter, I’m glad to see in the past year you traveled with a band like The Detroit Cobras.

Ron: Oh yeah, man, love those guys. They are great.

Toddstar: Obviously a cult following here in their hometown.

Ron: Yes, I bet.

Toddstar: Let’s talk about the disc for a minute. Going through, were there any songs that just seemed to elude you guys, took forever to get from the writing process all the way through the recording and mixing process? Were there any songs that just didn’t want to work out for you?

Ron: Not really, no. Everything kind of went seamlessly pretty well. We recorded again with Pete Steinkopf from the Bouncing Souls and he’s kind of our producer. He produces it without you knowing that he’s producing it pretty much, if you know what I mean. That always helps.

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Toddstar: Going through and looking back at the album and obviously it’s not out yet, but you’ve had some time to digest it in it’s mastered form, are there any songs that still just hit you and say, hell yes, this is a great rock tune or this is a great song?

Ron: I think “Heathen” sticks out the most to me. It’s the first song on the record and it’s been our opening song when we play live. I think that one pretty much is a staple song for us now. That one and there is a song on there called “Key Party,” which we always play. It gets everyone all amped up. It’s a very party rocking tune.

Toddstar: One of the things that I liked about the album is it has really chunky, chugging riffs, especially when you get to a tune like “Hungry” or even “Crown Royal” has a different sound to it where you… it’s a chunky guitar in the background. How do you guys take a sound like that where you have something so chunky and then you get something like you said with “Key Party” where it might not be as heavy in the background but it still gives you that feel good sound? Is that something you… do you work hard at this or is this just something that flows?

Ron: That’s all Brent, really. Brent is the guitar player. He’s been playing guitar forever. He has a very… he’s very anal about his sound, as most guitar players are. He is very serious about it, so that’s all on Brent. He’s a great guitar player and probably the best I’ve worked with.

Toddstar: We will make sure we print that part.

Ron: For sure, yeah.

Toddstar: Vocally looking back, what’s the high point for you? What song do you think on this disc really points to your assets as a vocalist?

Ron: That’s a hard one. I guess I’d have to say, “Does He Love You” and “Crown Royal,” because I’m really influenced by a lot of soul singers, Sam Cook and Wilson Pickett and stuff like that. I guess I’d have to say probably those two stick out for me.

Toddstar: Very good. One of the most consistent things on the disc other than the different formats coming together is the heavy way that the rhythm section, yourself and Alexander Rosen, come together and just lay down that bottom line that kind of anchors each track, especially in something like “Deadman’s Trunk” where the guitar is all over the place, but you guys are still holding things down. When it comes to that kind of stuff, do you guys just go into it and say, hey Brent play us what you guys are going to play and then you guys say okay how can we approach this thing to make sure that you are not lost in the mix because you find that with so many bands nowadays; the guitar player is out there, the vocals are out there, but the rhythm section is just hanging out.

Ron: Yeah, a big part of it, I think, is that we all write everything together; it’s not just one person that comes and says, hey I have this idea, let’s do this song. We get into the rehearsal space and we all do it together. I guess that makes the highlights for each person cannot be drown out in any way.

Toddstar: That’s cool. When you are listening to this stuff, it’s a bit of a move from your last album, a little more mature sounding, definitely a little more road tested; you can hear it in the band. When you are out playing now, and obviously you are going to start pushing the new songs, what of the songs from the first album do you think are always going to hang around and be a part of the set list when The Battery Electric hits the stage?

Ron: There’s a track on the old one called, “Midnight Queens,” that we still play. There are a few on there. We are really not playing too much from the first album because we’ve changed a lot. I think on that one we were really… we were brand-new. We wrote all those songs in basically one sitting. We were kind of going for more of a Black Sabbath, Black Keys thing, which really isn’t really our thing, so I think on this one it’s more of us, of what we enjoy to listen to and stuff and not really trying to be anything else.

Toddstar: Let’s talk about you for a minute. Who made you want to sit behind a drum kit and beat the shit out of something?

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Ron: My dad. My dad was a killer drummer. He’s played with everyone. He played with Bruce Springsteen. He was in a bunch of bands. As soon as I could sit on the drum stool, he had me playing.

Toddstar: The beauty of your band is you have something that most bands don’t have and that’s a drummer that can sing.

Ron: Right, yeah. We do that in the studio. Live, I just sing now. When we first started, I was singing and playing drums, but we’ve now got a drummer; his name is Kevin, for the live shows.

Toddstar: What pushed you out from behind the kit in a live scenario?

Ron: I have always been the drummer dreaming of being up front, but more so I think for the crowd, honestly. The crowd wants a front man. They want someone they can touch, you know what I mean. If you are behind the drum set, you are in the back and you are still a front man, but it’s not the same. I’ve always idolized people like James Brown and all these singers that can get the audience psyched up. I look at my job as not just a singer but the hype man.

Toddstar: With that being said, you mentioned James Brown, any other guys out there that you try and I don’t want to use the word mimic, but influence from when you are out in front of a crowd?

Ron: Sure, like I said, the old soul guys like Wilson Pickett. I’m really into a band called, King Khan and the Shrines, King Khan and the BBQ Show. He’s one of my favorite front mans, King Khan; he’s kind of like a garage rock soul. He’s definitely one of my favorites. On the singing side and not so much the music, but I would have to say Brandon Boyd from Incubus. I love the tone of his voice and what he can do. He left so much of an influence on the band, but to me I think he’s a really great singer.

Toddstar: Okay. When you are out on the road, if you set your phone down somewhere and someone else found it, what would be the most obscure song that you might have downloaded to your phone that a fan might think, wow I didn’t expect that?

Ron: If they were watching our band and the craziness that goes on on stage and stuff and they picked up my phone, probably Townes Van Zandt, I guess. Townes Van Zandt, a lot of the 60s folk stuff I’m very into.

Toddstar: Very cool. With that being said, if you could go back in town and put your stamp whether it be playing drums or singing on any piece of music in the history of time that isn’t yours, what would it be?

Ron: I’d have to say the Sonics. It would probably be the Sonics.

Toddstar: Okay. Listen, I know you are busy so I’ve got one more for you before we cut you loose.

Ron: Sure. You know what’s actually interesting? I have to put this out there, I’m actually on set right now while they are filming Anthony Bourdain for CNN right now. We are trying to get him to go to our hometown bar after this.

Toddstar: Cool. Okay. Then I will really get going so you can do what you have to do. With everything that you guys have going on and you guys are getting ready to drop this new album and you have all this new material ready, for you at this point what’s the meaning of life?

Ron: Meaning of life, being happy while being able to make art. That’s about it. Keep working hard and never really give up, never let people get you down about how hard it is because it’s always been hard. You can look at something like the Chitlin circuit. None of those guys got any credit until basically after they were dead. That kind of gives me a little bit of home. Even like a band like the Ramones, they weren’t a huge band until they broke up and dead, really. Now, they are like one of the biggest bands, but I remember in the 90s even reading about how Joey Ramone was broke. All my idols pretty much are Iggy Pop and stuff like that. They all went through the hard times, probably harder than what we go through. Another Michigan native there, Iggy Pop; you can put him as one of my main influences as well, of course.

Toddstar: Definitely will do that. Listen, I appreciate you taking time out today. I cannot wait until this album hits the streets and everybody gets to listen to The Heart And The Thrill on March 10.

Ron: Thank you so much. That means a lot.






Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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