Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Getting to Know Shannon Perez

If you live in New Jersey and have even the slightest interest in music chance are you've come across Shannon Perez. Whether it's as the long time clerk at Curmudgeon Records in Edison, Hillsborough or Somerville. The singer/bass player for I Hope You Die and Strange Things Done in the Midnight Sun, Or the Promoter who's put on countless shows, often making a point a giving the younger bands the exposure they desperately need to grow and move forward.
I'm not exactly sure when I met Shannon. It might have been at Naked Raygun's Maxwells show when I kept, accidentally elbowing her while photographing the band. Regardless, I seem to be running into her more and more these days. 
So on  Thursday I headed south to her studio in Woodridge to talk to her about her experiences, contributions and plans for the future.
Here's what she had to say. James Damion

James: Tell me a little bit about this place.

Shannon: We're in my studio. I've been here for about ten years. I knew these guys that were in the band The Mean Mistreaters. Their band used to practice in the room behind us. After they started another band called Dehumanized.
We actually started to hanging out here.
I finally decided to start my own band,
Don Juan Destroyer. Then it became my bands room.

James: How did you come to work at Curmudgeon Records?

Shannon: After High School I moved out of my house and down to NewBrunswick.
It didn't work so I went to live with my Grandparents. Me and my Grandfather are driving down RT 27 to pick up my Grandmother. As we cut across Plainfield Ave. I see this record store with all these Punk Rock posters in the window. I'm screaming "STOP"!!! and my Grandfather, who's the best guy in the world pulls over. So I discovered Curmudgeon and met the owner, Bill. I became a loyal customer and eventually married into the Curmudgeon name. I worked in Edison and Hillsborough. I helped open the Somerville store.
We just closed the doors there in May.

James: What led to the closing?

Shannon: It was a number of things. The owner, Bill, lost his passion. Money wasn't being made. Competing with technology, the internet and not willing to work with iTunes or go on the internet to sell on Ebay. He wanted to deal with people face to face. We opened the store because we wanted to have a place where people would come to buy and talk about music. (A place where people could have a sense of community in music.)
That's what it became in essence. A place where people came to meet. Nowadays people and bands have a Facebook page, a website, a MySpace. The need for an underground record store isn't what it used to be. The need just isn't there. Back then people were looking for something different and that's what Curmudgeon was. It's sad that it had to end but we had a seventeen-year run. I started working there in 1994 when I met Bill. It was just a great experience.
I met so many great people there. People I would eventually start bands with.
I learned to play bass when someone asked me to make them a Bikini Kill mix.
I told him
"You teach me to play bass and I'll make you a tape." That was my start, right there.

James: You mentioned the sense of community and people communicating face to face. You also had a run when you had bands performing In Stores.

Shannon: Curmudgeon originally had some shows at the Court Tavern through Mike Polilli
of Buzzkill. They would promote the store a lot. They also had some parties at McCormicks back in the early days when they first opened. We started our In Stores in Hillsborough because it was such a huge shop. We started contacting labels about showcasing bands. Mike and Bill booked a lot of those appearances. It wasn't just one person.
There were so many people involved. There were Hardcore BBQ's, Static Radio played all the time.

James: The thing that really stands out in both of your bands is your ability to just flat out sing. When did you discover your voice?

Shannon: My Mom was a singer/songwriter and played guitar. She sang a lot of Folk.
She taught me and my twin sister how to sing. We would sing stupid kid songs like
"You are my sunshine". It just grew from there. Your family has you singing on Easter and they've got you singing at church. My Mom eventually started shifting from Dylan and Beatles stuff to more Christian focused Folk which became a pretty rough period for me.
So from the ages of five to twelve I hit a pretty rough patch. By twelve I had stopped going to church.

James: When did you pick up the bass?

Shannon: I started working at Curmudgeon and I was meeting all these awesome bands.
They'd come in and talk about themselves,
their bands, the girls and all these awesome shows they were playing. It made me feel left out.
This guy Steve Petras from Bernie's Fix, I.D.K. and The Lawn Darts would come in and talk about music. He asked me to make him a Mix Tape.
He told me if I made him a Bikini Kill video he'd give me some bass lessons. He gave me only two lessons and I had already written two songs. Then two songs became ten songs within a week. He was all excited, "We have to start a band!" That's when we started Don Juan Destroyer.
I had played music all my life. (The Baritone,
The Clarinet, (Drums in the Marching Band.)
But when it came to something like the Bass.
I was a late bloomer. My boyfriend at the time and his partner at the store (Curmudgeon) always made fun of me. They'd laugh "Come on, you'll never start a band." "You're too fucked up." It lit a fire under me. It got me inspired.
Even if it wasn't Hardcore or Punk Rock. Regardless of whether they were going to like it or not. I was going to do it. I sing from my heart and I write from my soul. I write about things that hurt me and influence me. Things that have made me happy. People that have inspired me. That's what my song writing's about. If people enjoy it, cool. If people don't, I guess that's cool too. There are people who really like it. That makes me pretty stoked. I can do a few things really well. Singing is one of them.

James: You're in two bands now. I Hope You Die and
Strange Things Done In The Midnight Sun. What are some of
the differences and similarities between the two.

Shannon: I was in Don Juan Destroyer for a long time. When we broke up I was really having a hard time finding a new band. I had done some things that just didn't work out.
In Strange Things Done I'm not the lead singer. I'm the backup vocalist and bass player.
John Matthews takes the reigns with the band. Where as, 'I Hope You Die' is my thing.
They're my songs and collaborations with people I really respect. We're serious about writing a good song and getting it out there.

James: You had mentioned a Tour and CD.

Shannon: I'm putting out a six song live CD with one studio track recorded by Eric Bennet and Marissa Paternoster (Screaming Females) at Hunt Studio by long time ago.
It was mastered by Charles Chaussinand. I was hoping to have a new release available in 2011 but it might turn out to be later than that. So in order to get the ball rolling and get something out there I'll be releasing this in the time being. I mastered it myself and it sounds great. We haven't booked the tour yet but Pat Clark (Mirrors and Wires, Degenerics,
I Hope You Die) is helping me with getting it together. I've done a few jaunts with bands before but I've never gone booked a full tour.

James: I wanted to talk to you about promoting and putting on shows. How did you get your start?

Shannon: I started doing shows just out of my love for music. I was a little Riot Grrrl who was in love with Bikini Kill. (I had seen them live at The Bank with all these other amazing bands.) When the band broke up and Kathleen Hannah started Le Tigre I was desperate to see them. They played their first Jersey show at a place called The Melody. This was also the first real show I had put on. It was an amazing rush. Seeing all those amazing bands playing together that night and hooking up after to work together. That was back in 1995 and I've been doing it ever since. I started doing shows at The Court Tavern. I booked some Hardcore shows where I had bands like No Redeeming Social Value. I had done a couple of the A.O.D. reunions. I was totally responsible for Detentions reunion at the Court Tavern with A.O.D.

James: You've also done a lot to promote bands that are just coming up.

Shannon: I've had a chance to meet a lot of people through Curmudgeon. People coming up and starting bands. Bands that are just looking for a place to play. Every band had to start somewhere. I didn't have any one giving me a break when I started out. There was the late Chris Barry of the Aquarian who used to put us up at a place called The Broadway Central. He would let Don Juan Destroyer and The Ergs play all the time. People like that who give young bands a break. Look what it did for The Ergs. Bands like Static Radio started like that.

James: How would you describe yourself and your personality?

Shannon: I'd like to think I'm a nice person.
I'm a bleeding heart and I'm always looking to help people. At the same time I don't like to be fucked with. I don't like people messing with my friends or family. Nobodies perfect and there's always inner turmoil. Sometimes I lack confidence and can over compensate by being overly aggressive.
The booze factor on some nights can make things pretty rough. I'm not one to back down from a fight and I always try to stand up for the good guy.
I've made mistakes but no one's perfect.
No one stays in love forever and there are always going to be people who are going to try to keep you down.
I have a lot of good friends and I've got some enemies. We've all had those times when we're crying and hating ourselves. While we've all had those times when we've been on top of the world. We're the best person ever and everyone's lucky to know us. Then there's times when I feel I don't matter at all and I don't matter to anybody.
Like it wouldn't matter if we were here or not.
I owe it all to Vic Castello for teaching me how to love again.

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