The Kaje talks dynamics to The Ex-Senators

The Ex-Senators first came to The Kaje‘s attention with their politically charged romp “Start A Fight”, but really won our hearts when he heard their sincere and diverse eponymous album. Having hung out with D-Mac and Van in Central London for an acoustic session in the park, we decided to use the opportunity to also find out a little bit more about what makes The Ex-Senators tick, and how they source inspiration for their songs. BE WARNED: The Ex-Senators are far more than just a riotous political act! Exciting!

First things first-how have you pieced together the record?

D-Mac: Some of the songs on the record are started with Van, who is really my writing partner, he will throw down an idea. Several songs on the album start with him writing something.

Van: I will send D-Mac my demo and if he likes it, he will get back to me right away with an idea. If he doesn’t like it, then I show up to rehearsal with my head hung low. They will just act as if I am not there.

D-Mac: Generally I like what he sends me, so the songs that work like that are always the same. They start with what he sent me, usually a guitar loop and a drum part, then I write the verse, the chorus and together we come up with a bridge. I often write a lyric in my car. I write a lot in my car. When you are driving, you are thinking about the road, then your mind gets loose and all of a sudden lyrics just start to flow. That is one way that I write.

Some of the other songs, like “Start A Fight”, they just appear. I wrote one of the songs, “Disappear”, the last song on the record, I wrote that the day after my best friend past away. I wrote it in a hotel room. The demo I did on my phone is almost exactly the song that is on the record. We just re-recorded it and added bits in.

Some songs come to us in five minutes, others we are constantly working on and reworking as a group.

There is no defined method. Would you say it is more a reactive process?

D-Mac: There are a couple of songs on the album where I would say that happened. They are very immediate reactions to things. Consciously sitting down and being pissed off at something I saw or read, then writing my response. I try to find a solution. Those songs come out very quickly.

The interesting thing is that those songs tend to be the most open to interpretation. What I am saying is not always what people are hearing. They interpret what I say in terms of they feel. That is one of the most interesting and exciting things about music.

You have all worked in the industry in various forms over the years, what prompted you to get together on The Ex-Senators?

D-Mac: Va and I have played together in various things and we did an acoustic thing together, which we recorded in a hotel in LA and toured for a while. But the impetus for this band came in 2008, we were writing some songs and he had just moved back from LA to Chicago. A mutual friend of ours, my best friend, Kyle, had passed away unexpectedly, he committed suicide. So we had an Irish Wake, Kyle had a hell of resume from playing with people, everyone from John Mellencamp to Dinah Carter and George Jones, and everyone showed up in this club. So the core four guys in the band-all knew this drummer so we got up and jammed.

A few months later Fabulous called me and said let’s do this. So we were all in, then Brian came along a little later on. We went through a couple of guys playing bass, and Brian just fitted in. We had already recorded half of the record, then he came along and we went back in to re-record and made a huge difference. It was an organic thing. It all rose out of a tragic situation.

It is very easy for us doing this together, and it is nice that everyone already has a career outside of the band. We are not all competing.

Van: We all come from different musical places. We are not going to approach it all in the same way. We are not bloodhounds playing for attention.

Does the friendship at the core ensure there is no room for ego?

D-Mac: There is no one wanting to write all the songs. What I love about “Angel” is that it is the first song that everyone wrote together. It was just a matter of throwing things around and it locked in.

Van: With the other players in the group you have to have respect for where the others are coming from.

D-Mac: What I love about being in this band is that in rehearsal everyone will do something that makes me laugh as it is just so good. I am just a basher, I can do things with my voice, but not with the guitar. I just look to the others to make things good.

With the album finally released, will you be heading over here again for some live shows?

D-Mac: We will be over again in October for a full tour with the whole band. We want to do most of the UK and try to figure out Ireland as well. We are talking about Dublin and Cork.

“Ex  Senators” is out now.

Interview and Photographs by Jeremy Williams

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ALBUM REVIEW: The Ex-Senators “The Ex-Senators”

There is far more to The Ex-Senators than first meets the eye. The Chicago based fivesome may be represented in comic form and carry superhero-esque pseudonyms, but their songs are meaningful anthems.

Having kickstarted it all with the political surge “Start A Fight”, “The Ex-Senators” has much more to it than musos making a change. Filled to the brim with enlightened social observations (“The Kids Are Trouble”) and moving personal tales (“Angel”).

While The Ex-Senators more than showcase their ability for the riotous romp, charismatic frontman D-Mac is at his finest when he channels his emotion. Without question the album peaks as it draws to a close with the tear-inducing, spine tingling ‘Disappear’.

“The Ex-Senators” proves the old cliché; never judge a book by its cover. The Ex-Senators could not be further from 2D.

Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jeremy Williams

The Kaje Sessions: The Ex Senators

The Kaje Sessions presents The Ex Senators. Having been blown away by The Ex Senators  latest single “Start A Fight”, The Kaje could not resist hooking up with D-Mac and Van when they hit London for a brief visit. With a promise that they will return later in the year for a full-blown UK Tour, we jumped at the offer to record an exclusive performance of album track “Angel”, a number which immediately highlights the group’s versatility. With the album set to hit in August, we hope you enjoy this spine tingling rendition…

Where did you record The Kaje Session? 

At St James Square in London. 

What made you choose to use this location?

We needed a quiet space in London and St James presented itself quite nicely at the time. 

What is the most unusual live date you have ever played?  

Too many to count. But most recently we played an acoustic set at a club while the Semi final with Spain in the Euro’s ran long And we had to start the set while the giant screen was on above us.  So in mid song the whole crowd yells Oi!  Or a big “aaaaah”.  And you kind of look over your head to see who scored.   

What made you choose song title for the session?

Since The Kaje so kindly featured our first single “Start A Fight” last month we thought it best to play the next single “Angel” which kicks off the album.  Incidentally the album kicks off August 7 at online retailers everywhere (shameless plug there!). 

http://www.theexsenators.com

The Kaje talks who, what, where, when and why to Ex Senators

The moment we heard Ex Senators riotous single “Start A Fight” and followed through to their colourful song clip, The Kaje knew we had found an act that were far more than simple chart fodder. While the Chicago troupe clearly know how to write a hook and are more than a little bit addictive, the group have more to say that simple ‘you look fly tonight’. While we may have to wait a fair few months before we get to hear an Ex Senators album, we are happy to make do with a quick chat to Dmac about the who, what, where and why of the Ex Senators…
Let’s get the formalities out of the way, please can you quickly introduce the Ex Senators…

Introducing The Ex Senators! All the way from Chicago in the United Corporations of America, we present to you a rock / funk / punk extravaganza of global proportions.

Comparisons to The Clash and Bruce Springsteen are being bounced around-how do you relate to these?

Wouldn’t it be nice to be related to Bruce or Mick Jones?   Seriously though, a few journalists have made those comparisons, Considering the way social and political observation in music and the arts have devolved we take it as a hell of a compliment.  But the only way I can relate to where that comes from is in the sense that we are collectively not afraid to speak our minds. Through different roads we all come from blue collar beginnings and have that DIY spirit that embodied that punk ethos of The Clash, The Banshees or The Damned (who are so often overlooked… love The Damned).

If you had to select your own comparisons-who would they be to? 

I’ll leave comparisons to the musicologists out there.  We are what we are.

Why? 

I don’t think we sound like anybody else.  You can hear the influences across the record.  But comparisons are just a way to put yourself into a box artistically.   Van and I said early on when we were writing songs for the album that there were no rules other than letting the songs take the direction that they wanted to take.

Who/what have been your biggest influences?  
When I was growing up my mom played lots of Elton John, Billy Joel and The Beatles, so I learned to play piano, while my Dad (a very Irish Chicago Cop)  was always playing stuff like Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, The Clash and the Stones…. so I learned to play guitar.  There was always music around the house.  One of my first jobs in music,  I was working in a recording studio with bands like Ministry, and R&B artists like R.Kelly.  (Crazy combinations of experience).     For the whole band the influences are varied from The Police, Joy Division, George Clinton & Parliament, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jay Z, Guns N Roses (original lineup),  Miles Davis, The Jam and The Beastie Boys.   We have to take into account the people we’ve worked with through our careers (Bowie, Janet Jackson, Mary J Blige, Sting, Ministry)  as those are very strong influences as well.  It’s hilarious and fun playing in this band because there is a constant musical conversation going on.

Can you tell us a little about your current single ‘Start A Fight’? 

The song came about as a way to say “piss off” to all the politicians, commentators and blowhards on TV and radio and blogs constantly ranting but really saying nothing.  People like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin were jump off points, but both sides of the aisle are in the sights.  Its just that the hard right nutters have a lot more sound bytes while the left are windbags and don’t fit in a three minute song.   These people serve up their hyperbole as fact,  then reporters report on what was said as fact and all of a sudden what was a completely insane thing to assert has somehow become a  “factoid” because its in the news.   That is insanity and its one of the biggest reasons people like Rupert Murdoch have grown an empire on quasi newstainment.  People love a good show, and a bunch of people arguing makes great TV.   So why have any substance there right?

How did you choose it as the introductory single from your upcoming album?    

We had considered leading off with a single that was less political because the album is not all one note.  There are 3 or 4 tracks that definitely hit some of these political themes and the rest of the songs are more personal tracks.  But the timing was right to kick the door open and just say Wake Up.

The video is very colourful-what were the thoughts behind it?

The song started as a reaction to absurdity and we decided it would be fun to take that a step further with the animations and blowing up the characters as much as they do themselves.  MTV censors asked us about the pin on Michelle Bachmann’s outfit that says “Slavery is a sound financial policy”  but insane as that sounds, she actually said that and tried to backpedal the next day.  She also said she wanted everyone in Minnesota Armed and Dangerous. (but that’s not inflammatory rhetoric right?).    So we gave MTV all this information about it and they let it pass.  Which was in itself hilarious that they were reading every button and sign in the video. ( They go by kind of fast).

Is ‘Start A Fight’ an insight to the upcoming album? 

If you’re asking does the whole album sound like “Start A Fight’,  then no.  It’s definitely a taste of one facet of the band which shows very strongly in about a third of the album.   We chose the flow of the songs and the material carefully so as not to be a one note yawn fest.   Even if you’re rocking out at warp speed, at some point that gets boring to a listener and we really wanted to make an “album” in the sense of it being a body of work, so there’s a little ska influence and some funkiness thrown in for good measure.

Tell us a little more about the record and the thoughts behind it…  

There is a theme running through the record. Questions about authority, about life,  and not always finding answers.  The songs tie together for me because it was my own experience as a songwriter coming through.   I’ve always believed that the best songs are the ones that felt honest and a little like the writer put some blood into the tape.  There is a bit of social and political observation or commentary and there are songs that are much more intimate.  The last track was written in a hotel room,  the day after my best friend had died.  The track is “Disappear” and was the toughest thing I’ve ever worked on in music.  It was hard to finish but I’m glad we did it.

What are your hopes and intentions for the record?   

The Ex Senators intend to make a lot of noise,  and our hopes are that people will join us for the ride.

What is the overriding ambition of the Ex Senators?
Global Domination.  Or at least a few square blocks of beach-side property to start.
And the one goal you’d like to achieve by the end of 2012?   
I’ve always wanted to learn to juggle.   Seriously our one goal is to engage people in a conversation that is meaningful and musical and since we’re already doing that I’d say 2012 is off to a roaring start.
Interview by Jeremy Williams

Single of the Week: The Ex Senators “Start A Fight”

Are you in the mood to shake, jump, shout and stomp? Well here at The Kaje we most certainly are! Having had a riotous weekend, we can’t let it end quite so quickly and easily. Thankfully The Clash inspired Chicago troupe The Ex Senators are on hand with the raucous riot that is “Start A Fight”. Complete with a genius video, “Start A Fight” does everything a romping rock track should do, while adding so much more to the pot just for good measure…

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