Interviews

Interview: Steev Esquivel of SKINLAB

SKINLAB has released their brand-new video for single “Amerikill.” The single is from the band’s latest record VENOMOUS, that was produced by Ulrich Wild, and released on October 25th, 2019, via Art is War Records.

“We are excited to release our new video for “Amerikill.” This will be the first of many videos the band shot ourselves with the help of our bud Karl Whinnery who did an awesome job with his added storyline catering to the inner paranoia developed through isolation. The message is real…. know your surroundings” says Steev Esquivel.

Amerikill ( Official Video ) Venomous Album – Skinlab: https://youtu.be/86lpzaa5IGs

One of the Bay Area’s most prolific and enduring dynamic musical authorities in the world of bludgeoning heavy music has been Oakland’s own Skinlab. For nearly a quarter-century, the quartet has endured numerous ‘flash in the pan’ short term music scene trends with steady composure and now sit poised to break through 2019 with the force of a raging groundswell. With new brutal music on the horizon, a reinvigorated rhythmic lineup, featuring the exciting return of longtime axemen Steve ‘Snake’ Green and Marcos Medina, as well as upcoming live road dates set forth to take precedence in 2019, Skinlab are on pace to set the record straight and blaze a new trail into the near future. For fans of the group, the undeniable mark of Skinlab begins and ends with the return of unflappable frontman Steev Esquivel who’s tone historically prepares listeners for all-out war both live and in the studio. His moody drawl and sunken vocal grind opens up the needed space for the artillery style grooves of drummer Fabian Vestodto who pounds the group to the frontline of every rhythmic chug. Dating back to their early ground-breaking catalog of mainstays like Bound, Gagged and Blindfolded and _Disembody: the New Flesh to crushers like ReVoltingRoom and *The Scars Between Us_*, now as before, Skinlab is truly here to set the record straight.

I had the opportunity to catch up with Steev Esquivel.


ANTIHERO: How are you personally coping with the situation in the world at the present time?

Steev Esquivel: You know, the angst within, obviously, where I’m from, the Bay Area, everyone’s a little wary of everything and questioning a lot of stuff. But for the most part, it’s controlled insanity, it seems like. Everyone is baring with the issues at hand. And trying to be as responsible, myself. But yeah. It’s getting a little crazy, and I’ve got to admit, I’m a little scared. With the end of the month, too, how are we going to survive this? But you know, not one to give up, and definitely got to dig the claws in a little bit deeper.

ANTIHERO: Are you still doing music full-time these days? Are you still working as a professional musician?

Steev Esquivel: Oh, I’ve never stopped working. Skinlab has been … Most of us are painters or construction workers. Snake is a producer. Yeah. I mean, I run my own company and always have. So, we’ve always worked, and music is right there alongside it. So, yeah. We have to survive, and we don’t survive off our music, that’s for sure.

ANTIHERO: Yeah. I was actually quite surprised that the band was still around. Obviously, you’ve had some periods of inactivity over the years. I think I actually saw you a couple of times in Northern Ireland way, way back.

Steev Esquivel: We love playing Ireland, man. Some of our funnest tours were actually there. Yeah. You know, we’re blessed to be back with most of the original band. You know, my bros, Snake and myself. Our original drummer, we just parted ways with him before we started recording this record. But for the most part, the core of the band is here. And to hear people that are surprised that we’re back is actually really cool. Whether it’s a good or bad thing, we are back. And we never stopped believing in our band. We just haven’t really had the vehicle, meaning label and support, to get out there.

So, you know, flying under the radar for the last seven years, we’re fortunate to be with Art is War Records, and now we have some love behind us, and it seems that the fans are enjoying the new record. So, it’s great being back.

ANTIHERO: And of course, you released the video there yesterday? “Amerikill” from the new album?

Steev Esquivel: Yes, sir.

ANTIHERO: Just wondered if you could maybe talk a little about the video? It seems, just reading the press release, the subject matter seems particularly relevant at the current time.

Steev Esquivel: Yeah. But we didn’t plan on that when we were originally shooting it. You know, this is the first video that the band has kind of taken on ourselves. We’ve been busting some cameras and stuff like that. And the day after our record release show, we all decided to go down to our studio fucking hungover and do some stuff ourselves, you know? Start recording some stuff, and we connected with Karl Whinnery. He’s a great director, so his storyline just suited. You know, he asked what our guidelines were, and we were basically like, “Dude, we wrote the record. We recorded the record. We did our job. You do yours. Have fun. Do your art.” You know? And he was able to blur the lines between what’s going on right now, reality with the little bit of storyline behind it, obviously fantasy. You know? Yeah. It is really relevant today and to what’s happening right now. And yeah. Pretty cool. We’re excited about it. It’s the first video that the band has done on its own with a little bit of outside help, and we’re really happy.

ANTIHERO: You mentioned there it’s the first video from the new album, or the most recent album. Just wondering how that had been received so far?

Steev Esquivel: The first video was actually a digitized version of the song “Overkill Me”. And we’re about 88,000 hits away from hitting 100,000 views. So, it’s been received really well. You know, to be honest with you, bro, we’re kind of waiting for some bad reviews on this record. I guess we shouldn’t whisper that, but to be honest, the response that we’re getting and the reaction we’re getting from the fans, from fanzines, and webzines, and stuff, seem to be pretty supportive. So, we’re really, really excited about that. And it’s an honest record, and that makes it a little bit … It’s a little more gratifying, knowing that it’s something that we really know that we tried to stay true to yourself and people are enjoying it.

ANTIHERO: How would you describe the sound of the band Skinlab to anybody that’s maybe not familiar with you?

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Steev Esquivel: Well, obviously, we wear our influences on our sleeves. We’ve always said that and we always will. You know, we’re fans of music, and whatever we listen to, we live through, kind of bleeds through our system, you know? You know, Machine Head, Crowbar, Acid Bath, Metallica. All that stuff still breathes in our music, you know? All heavily influences it. And of course, we’re been inspired since we entered the last, let’s say, seven years. We’ve been inspired by a lot of new music that’s come out, Power Trip. I mean, there’s just tonnes of new … Kublai Khan. Tonnes of new bands out there, man. And we felt that… I mean, that’s why we’re so excited about our new record, is that we were able to incorporate a lot of these influences that we’ve acquired over the last seven years. 10, really, since our last record. And yeah. It’s really cool to breathe fresh air, and with a few new flavours in our system.

ANTIHERO: Have you had the opportunity to go out and play the new songs live? Obviously, things are up in the air in terms of live shows for the foreseeable future. Just wondering if you’ve had the chance yet to play any of the new material before a live audience.

Steev Esquivel: Yeah. We actually just got off tour. We did two tours before everything got shut down. And really, we had just gotten off tour with King 810 and gotten home, and a week later, everything got shut down. So, we were pretty fortunate to get out there and promote our record for a couple months. And now, everyone is figuring out new ways to promote while everything is shut down. And really cool to see a lot of bands thinking outside the box. So, our new video is our first attempt at doing that and staying relevant while everything is kind of shut down, but there’s more where that comes from, man. We got all kinds of stuff in the toolbox.

ANTIHERO: You mentioned there earlier the return of a couple former members, your two guitarists. Just wondered if you see that as a rebirth, maybe a resurgence, of Skinlab as a creative force musically?

Steev Esquivel: Absolutely. While we started the writing process of this record, Paul, our original drummer, was there. He was with me. Snake had left the band for about a good two years, but we hadn’t really done anything. We had done about one tour. We’ve never recorded without Snake, so he’s a huge part of the band, and he’s one of my best friends, and we work just really, really good together. So, when things happened with Paul and we parted ways … I mean, we parted ways on great terms. We’re still best of friends. So, I mean, we still had the blood of Paul in there when we were writing. And we welcomed back Snake because he’s just got such a great ear, and you know, he’s been there for the last three Skinlab records. So, to answer your question, yeah, it was. It was rejuvenating. I had my brother back with me on my side. And this is Marcos’ first recording, first album, with Skinlab. But he’s actually been in the band for going on about four or five years now. So, we welcome him to the recording. And then, our new drummer, Fabian, he was a breath of fresh air because, basically, he came so welcomed. And Paul, our drummer, and him are good friends. And it was just kind of seamless. I mean, Paul actually helped him learn some of the old songs for touring. And it was hella supportive for the new release. So, we’re all family, and I think the fact that all the good vibes are there is what makes it strong right now today.

ANTIHERO: The music industry has changed quite significantly since you first started out. I just wondered if it’s actually easier or more difficult being a professional musician in 2020?

Steev Esquivel: To me, the songwriting never gets easier. I try to let what music I contribute to Skinlab just flow as easy as possible, and sometimes that’s why it takes so long, but yeah. You know, every day is a different trial. You know what I’m saying?

ANTIHERO: What in your life, looking back, would you be most proud of? Would it be something that you created? An album, maybe? A particular gig? The level of achievement that you’ve achieved through the band? Or maybe something even outside the band?

Steev Esquivel: First and foremost, my relationship with my wife. We’ve been together for freaking 28 years. My children, who are now … One’s in the Navy and one’s about to start doing his touring. He’s an awesome drummer. And the fact that we’re able something like this while being in a crazy band, touring the world … My boys have been right with us. My son took his first steps on a tour bus. So, that is my greatest achievement right there, my biggest and everything. But I would definitely … I mean, we’ve had so many great opportunities and so many … You know, when we were on Century Media, all the tours we got to do and the bands we got to meet. I mean, we’re literally still fans, you know what I mean? Really big fans of all the bands, and just music in general, of all genres. So, being able to be in the position that we’ve found ourselves in the last 20+ years, we’re really grateful for.

ANTIHERO: Do you have any sort of career goals that you haven’t yet fulfilled? Hopes and dreams, maybe, that you still have for the band?

Steev Esquivel: Oh, yeah. Yeah. We have lots. We want to get out to South America . We’re hoping to do one world tour, like, hit every place we can on this album. We have to get back to Ireland. We have to get back to the UK. We have to get back to Europe. But for the most part, we want to get back out there. And we’re all running on … We’re a little bit older. We’re a little bit wiser, and we’re much more of a sober band these days. So, our eyes are wide open, and we’ve learned to not take anything else for granted. You know?

ANTIHERO: You mentioned there that you’re no longer  with a major label like Century Media. Would that therefore not be difficult  to put together  a world tour like you mentioned,in terms of finance.

Steev Esquivel: Yeah. Obviously, those guys, their black book is endless. They can open it up and spread their wings, and next thing you know, we’re playing … I don’t know. And we’re on tour with all the big bands. We like to think that along the way, we’ve played it cool and made friends along the way. And I think that’s why we are still able to stay alive, but there’s no doubt the big support through Century Media. I mean, we had anything we wanted. They did great for us and we’re very grateful for that.

But nowadays, we do all right because now we have a booking agent, and we work directly with them. We have our management; we work directly with. So, when we get out there and work, when we make money, it works out all right. You know, it’s a double-edged sword. Of course, we love the big machine, but we’re very grateful to be with Art is War right now. It’s gearing up to be a force to be reckoned with. It’s a good label. We’re very comfortable here.

ANTIHERO: That’s great. Thank you very much. Hopefully, when all this is behind us, we’ll get to see Skinlab back in the UK again.

Steev Esquivel: Let’s do it, man. We can’t wait. I cannot wait. Thank you very much, bud.

ANTIHERO: Cheers. Thanks.

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Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time.

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