posted: 07-31-04
interview : tadah
Please introduce yourself and tell us what your function in the group is.
MaxOne: I'm the emcee. I write songs - come up with concepts, etc. - usually with BassSickLee aka Byron. But everybody in the group contributes. I also like to give way too much input on the sequencing, arranging, sampling, singing and playing (smiles).
Kait: I'm Kaitlyn Cassels, the sole female of Sackcloth Fashion. For the album I write melodies and sing and for our live shows, I sing and also play keyboard.
MaxOne: We've been trying to get her to throw in a bit of interpretive dance but so far she isn't going for it.
Byron: My name is Byron and I play guitars, bass, sing and write songs.
Brandon: My name is Brandon Musser and I am the keyboardist, drummer, and vocalist. I also dabble in producing and engineering.
Rocdomz: I write lyrics, arrange songs, produce, record, mix, play a little drums, play a little keyboard, and anything else I can get my hands on.
Tell us about the meaning of the name.
MaxOne: My moniker is a way of saying I'm trying to be the best I can possibly be and remain level headed and humble in the process. Byron came up with the band name.
Kait: The name Sackcloth Fashion comes from the Old Testament of the Bible because priests and others would put on sackcloth to mourn and to humble themselves before God. As Sackcloth Fashion, we're saying that we want that attitude of humility to become a 'fashion' or a pattern in our lives. So, many times musicians can become proud and arrogant, but as a band and individuals, we want to give glory to God and not ourselves.
Brandon: Like Kait said: In the times of the Hebrews, wearing sackcloth was a sign of humility. We try not to be big headed.
MaxOne: Brandon has no problem with the big head thing - take a look at his picture - it's quite the opposite.
"The Lone Flower" is very different to "Something For Everyone To Hate". How would you describe the differences?
MaxOne: The main difference is that one was recorded in 3 weeks and the other was recorded over several months. On "Something For Everyone To Hate" we tried to give glimpses of the direction we were going, but weren't able to fully explore while recording due to time constraints. Luke Geraty and I did the majority of the vocals on the first one. Luke returned to his solo gig and the rest of the group got to be a lot more involved vocally and musically on the 2nd album. Last time it was just easier to get the album done fast with 2 emcees and SirRoc on the MPC. We also matured a lot as men and as writers, producers, singers... whatever. I really don't think they are that different though…it seems like the natural progression a band would have over 4 years.
Kait: Nah, "The Lone Flower" is definitely different from "Something For Everyone To Hate" because it has a lot more singing and other styles mixed in with the rapping. I think with "The Lone Flower" we took hip-hop as a foundation and wove other genres through it to make an original sound.
Brandon: "The Lone Flower" is musically more developed. There are more instruments, melodies, and harmonies. It is also more diverse. It's a salad bowl of musical styles.
Rocdomz: In my opinion the albums are very similar. It's like you start with a slab of meat. And you use that as your foundation. You know that you like garlic, butter, and soy sauce, so every time you make a steak - or a song/album - you use different percentages of Garlic/Butter/Soy Sauce. Sometimes that gives you a down home feeling steak dinner, and other times it makes a more international tasting meal.
The non musical factors that make "The Lone Flower" different, is that we are all at different stages in our lives, and are much more polished.
I don't know if that last paragraph accomplished anything other than making you hungry, but at least I tried.
Okay, let me disagree: I really didn't like "Something For Everybody To Hate", but love "The Lone Flower"; it's a 'best of 2003' pick of mine after all. To me the first sounded like an amateur band, this sounds like musicians that have found their sound. Even though or especially as you move through many different genres. What had you do that?
MaxOne: You should go back and listen again (smiles). It really is the natural progression from one album to the next to me. But then again I'm in the group so I'm biased. We try really hard to make our music represent us both as a group and as individuals. Take the style and influence of each of us and make it into a healthy flavorful stew of triumphs, struggles, smiles, frowns, excitement, depression, insecurity, confidence and carne asada fries.
Kait: Each member of Sackcloth has an ear for different types of music. We all have a love of music and we each bring a different sound and genre that we favor and draw ideas from to the table. We wanted to create music which is truly music, in that it does not discriminate between styles by keeping them separate, bound by 'rules' of what defines hip-hop, or what defines any other genre. By thinking 'outside the box' and incorporating different styles, we feel that we've created something innovative and beyond that, interesting to listen to because no two songs sound the same.
Brandon: Simply because that is what we like to do.
To me the album sounds like the collection of all Southern Cali sounds. Kinda like what we, not from the area, would expect to hear when we'd go to a Souther Cali festival. How much do you think that's true?
Byron: I don't think our music could be classified as a collection of Southern Cali sounds. There are some wonderful Latin American sounds in SD that aren't captured on the album. I'm not so sure it can be classified by location.
MaxOne: I'm also not sure. I don't know that any of us are really into music based on region so even if we totally had a Southern Cali vibe I'm not sure we'd notice. I grew up listening to mostly east coast hip hop. Most of the hip hop here in San Diego is either really wack gangster rap or scientific sounding underground stuff. There is a lot of punk music as well but I'm not into it and don't know much about it.
Do you cater to any audience in particular?
Kait: That's the beauty of Sackcloth Fashion: there are so many styles and sounds integrated into our music that it has the potential to grab the attention of any music lover.
MaxOne: We still make something for everyone to hate. We have a pretty broad audience. A lot of heads really dig what we do but then again a lot of heads hear what we do and are very turned off by our music. What I like is that our listeners range from heads to moms with a big collage like chunk of people in-between.
How much time do you spend listening, performing, etc. with each genre? Is it mainly rap or something else?
Brandon: I think mostly we bring to the table what we grew up on. Some of us in the group grew up mostly listening to rap, soul, hip hop, and R&B; I grew up listening to Rock and alternative; and you will also notice that we have some jazz influence as well.
MaxOne: We're basically a live hip hop band with some folk, dance vocals and other music meshed right in there with the boom bap…or not.
Byron: I'm a heavy Jazz fan
You mentioned before that there's more instruments. But I find the music to sound less live, like to me, the live instrumentation is very less dominant on "The Lone Flower".
Rocdomz: I felt there was more, but that would be due to the fact that we have our own studio now, and didn't have to worry about the clock, or the three week time frame we had last time.
MaxOne: Well, actually, there is a lot more live instrumentation on this record. It hopefully is balanced more with the samples and programming, because we are more polished and had a lot more time to work on "The Lone Flower". The last record was almost all MPC 3000.
Byron: I think that it's a good thing that the instruments are not overtly noticeable. I play a lot more on this album than I did on the other one. We didn't really want the instruments to stand out and Tim mixed this album together so good that it came out how we wanted it to.
At the same time, the album is also kinda a rap album, why?
MaxOne: Hip hop is our foundation musically. My first EP in 92 was hip hop and our EP back in 96, before Luke Geraty was with us, was SirRoc [Rocdomz] on beats, me on raps and Byron doing a lot of the bass and all of us doing retarded background vocals.
Plus I'm bigger than everybody else although SirRoc is catching up; luckily he's a head as well, so we were like 'our foundation is Hip-Hop' and they were all 'whatever you big moose like beasts say.'
I think it takes the rest of the group combined to equal the immense size and strength of SirRoc and I combined. To put it simple: they don't want none! I'm the oldest in the group so they try to play it off like they are just being respectful and junk. But it was about time I let them know that I know the truth…I'm a friggin' beast. Not really but I like to pretend.
Speaking of 'they don't want none.' As you mentioned, you're two pairs of brothers with one woman in between. Does that help, not matter, or cause some family feud friction?
Brandon: In some ways it helps because we know that we love each other and our relationship with each other is more important than the band.
MaxOne: I also think it is a good thing. We are all pretty tight. I think it'd also be good to mention we have an additional member that isn't related to anybody else in the group by blood or marriage: Sam Hart. You can hear him a bit on "The Lone Flower" and on Redclouds album, as well as some Def (led) Shepherd songs.
Kait: I think that sometimes being the only woman is hard, especially while on tour. But the guys are great, we're like family. Also, the fact that there are brothers and it is within family, it makes it easier because it makes communication between us better since we're comfortable with one another.
MaxOne: Again: I think interpretive dance would probably resolve any and all possible issues.
Rocdomz: It's very tricky. Because in addition to my brother being the rapper, the Musser boys are my brother-in-law's.
MaxOne: That is your fault. You married their sister thinking it would keep the band from breaking up.
We talked about you being from Southern Cali before. You kinda said it doesn't, but does your area, the weather, etc. influence you and what you do?
MaxOne: I'm sure the great weather affects us but we all grew up here so we don't have much to compare it to. We tend to be pretty positive people and we are all Christians so I think our beliefs have a lot more impact on our music's lyrical content.
Byron: The weather makes it hard to leave for tour; especially winter. But that's cool because we get to learn things like how to put chains on our tires. I don't think it influences our music that much.
Brandon: The weather here prevents us from getting stuck in snow storms.
Do you think it's easier to be happy when you liven in an area where it's warm and where the sun's shining?
MaxOne: I'm pretty sure it makes it a little easier to be positive. From what I've read the suicide rate is always higher in cities that rain a lot. San Diego is beautiful and the weather is comfortable almost all year. I love it but I do think that with the lack of drastic changes we miss out on the seasons a bit. I wouldn't trade it though!
Byron: I like the rain.
Brandon: Indeed I believe it helps, but even San Diegans get depressed. Much of our happiness comes from our beliefs, attitude, and way of life.
MaxOne: Respect!
Tell us about Syntax.
MaxOne: A hobby gone mad. Braille, Othello, Luke Geraty, Redcloud and Man of War!
Rocdomz: I don't know how to say it all in a nutshell. I would just say, check out this label, it puts out incredible music. You will have to figure the rest out at or something.
Tell us about your Distribution company.
MaxOne: Junkyard Distribution ( is basically an online store that keeps Syntax up and running.
Did you ever consider to separate the operation of putting out your own records, and have someone else do the behind the scenes shenanigans for your music at least, while still putting out everyone you do?
MaxOne: We go back and forth on this. We would probably lose some creative freedom but then we'd be able to focus a lot more on performing, recording, writing and producing. It's a toss up. If a good deal comes our way we would prayerfully consider it and possibly take it. We have turned down some good deals in the past and sometimes I think it may have been a mistake…not sure.
How do you manage to release so many releases? Your label must have quite a fan base.
MaxOne: We have slowed down a lot on releasing projects but we've certainly put out our fair share over the last few years. We have a small fanbase but it is ever growing and the fans often turn into friends over time because of the kind of fans they are; they want to help and will really get out there and help us promote. A good portion of the people I talk with on a daily basis I met online discussing Syntax or some of it's artists. Even most of the artists we've worked with we met online including Luke Geraty, Braille, Othello, Coleon, Future Shock, E-roc; pretty much everybody except the locals like Gibraan, Dirt, Tonex Prophetics, POD and Man of War.
Rocdomz works with a lot of people: so tell us about that, some accomplishments you and also you other guys have, uhm, accomplished and some other nice little info tidbits.
Rocdomz: I've done some stuff with P.O.D., Tonex, programming on Nappy Roots and lots of other things. Those are probably the biggest artists. We've had lots of our music used on television and in movies. Our song "Pulling A Fast One" has been used in so many things now it's hard to keep track. With all of that we still have had very little exposure and very little radio play. Except in Europe where we had a top 10 hit supposedly. There are still a lot of things that are in the works so hopefully we will get to work with a lot more artists and starting getting more exposure.
MaxOne: We've been able to work with everyone I've ever wanted to work with within reason. There are some huge mainstream artists that I'd like to work with but even some of that has came very close to happening and may happen still. "Fashion Expo" [a double CD compilation Syntax released] was a great experience. Hopefully on number 2 we will get to work with some of the same and several new people. And Roc already drop the 411 on the movies that have used our music. And then we also won some awards.
As Christians, is Christmas a happy time, because everyone is kinda more religious, or not, because, well, everyone is kinda more religious?
Byron: That's an interesting question. Christmas is a 'happy time' because of the time to relax with family and friends and the giving and receiving of gifts. But along with this, for me, Christmas carries with it the deep undercurrents of mystery and wonder. Like the song Silent Night says: "Shepherds quake at the sight; Glories stream from heaven afar, Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia! Christ the Savior is born." That is what makes Christmas wonderful to me.
Brandon: Well Yes, It's a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. I think the book of Matthew in the Bible best explains the meaning of Christmas. But of course we celebrate the gift giving like everyone else, which is also known to represent Christ's 'gift' to mankind; his offer for salvation of our sinful lives.
Kait: As Christians, Christmas is a very special time of the year because we celebrate and remember the birth of Jesus Christ. It is always exciting to see people becoming 'more religious' if it is to acknowledge God and know more about Him and His love for mankind. Thus, I would say that it is a happy time, but it would be even greater to see those same people who become 'more religious' around Christmas time, to keep that same sense of faith and awareness of God throughout the year.
Rocdomz: Well, to me I don't get 'happy' at Christmas for the reasons you suggested. In fact, if anything those things irritate me. In the same way I hate how our country turns patriotic when 3000 people die, but when everything is going 'smooth' people are complaining about how terrible this country is. In the same way that our president is a hero, after Saddam is captured, but in a few months people will forget about all of that, and start hating him again. Fickleness gets the 'bah humbug' from me.
During this season you will find a bunch of heart warming stories, and people start helping each other, but as soon as the holiday hoopla is over, everyone is back to yelling obscenities to each other. The actually real Christmas has roots in pagan culture but, like early Christians, I use Christmas time as a time to remember and reflect what Jesus Christ did for me, and the rest of human kind. In all honesty though, I think it's sad that we decide to do this once a year, and would rather that Christians would treat every day the way 'religious' people treat Christmas. Christmas is not about 'being with the family'. But I tell you what, is sure is a fun being with family in this cozy time of the year.
MaxOne: I love holidays. I love getting a little break and getting together with relatives. I love celebrating the birth of Christ, but I try to do that all year around. I don't think we would describe ourselves as religious, but we do believe that Christ is the Savior so obviously the celebration of His birth has a lot more meaning to us than the exchange of gifts, Santa Clause, mistletoe, and eggnog. I tried to take the good things that occur as a result of the season and it's tradition and enjoy it, but It is very important in my family that we won't make that the focus. My children will understand that even if we have no gifts to exchange that we still have a reason to celebrate.
How can one be a Christian, but not religious?
MaxOne: I guess it depends on what definition of religious you use. But when I say I'm not religious I'm basically saying that I don't practice rituals, that I'm not to concerned with Church tradition and Church rules. I'm not spending my time trying to be of service to 'religion.' I'm a Christian! I'm more concerned about a relationship with God rather than being religious. I know some very religious people that don't even believe the bible to be God's Word. I guess I want to distinguish my beliefs from those that are more concerned with tradition than what the Bible actually teaches and what Christ would actually want from them.
Brandon: What he said.
I'm not sure if I want to start to discuss your suggestion of Bush being worthy of support, as that would lead us too far away from the task at hand. So let's put a more general twist to this: Have you ever be tempted to tone down some aspects of you, may they be the strong Christian presence in your lyrics, or your support for Bush, in order to not alienate potential listeners?
Brandon: I try not to make public my political views because I do not want to limit my fans. To me and many other people, politics can be a very touchy subject. I may be public with moral and religious views, which sometimes are connected with political views, but I would never write a song telling people to be a certain party, or support a certain president.
MaxOne: Off the top of my head I can't think of anything on the album that implies that I support Bush. I do, but I think we removed all the political content from the album other than "Grains Of Sand" which we considered putting a disclaimer on that clarified what the song was about but then decided against it and figured: who cares? (smiles)
That song is basically saying that we - humans - spend a lot of time focusing our daily energy on huge global things that we can't have a visible direct impact on when there are issues with in our own homes that we can visibly affect but we are neglecting. I support and pray for our President but I supported and prayed for our last president as well.
The key difference would be that I voted for Bush and I didn't vote for Clinton but once he was in office he was my President. Leader of the most powerful nation on earth. He deserved my respect and in my belief needed our prayers. Bush is human just like the rest of us and he will make mistakes. Obviously we all won't agree on which things are mistakes. That is one of the things that makes his job so difficult. He is supposed to be a President of the people but the people don't all agree.
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