“The Dream I Never Knew I Had” - An interview with Kevin Seconds

Today we bring thrilled to bring to you an artist on artist interview by Justin Conigliaro of Brooklyn based punk band Up for Nothing with the almighty Kevin Seconds of 7 Seconds. The two sat down and spoke about the band's break up, being a band for 38 years and much more. Check it out below.

The Dream I Never Knew I Had

“Just people living on with different hearts and different minds, if we live in the same world, why can’t we stand in the same line? A label is a label, definition nothing more and because of labels we have placed we live in constant war. Destroy all that tradition and live before you die. Let’s rock together from now on and never be denied.” That was a quick excerpt from the timeless classic “Walk Together, Rock Together” by 7 Seconds. A true song of unity and hope. A song with a message that never loses relevance and one that very closely aligns with our current state of living. The innocence and simplicity of the idea that music can bring people of all walks of life together to celebrate our individuality and our differences is something that truly personifies the essence of 7 Seconds and is part of what really separates them from many others.

I first heard 7 Seconds while watching them play on the New York date of Warped Tour in 1999 when I was 13 years old. They were fast, fun, positive and melodic. Those are the key elements to most bands that I have fallen in love with over the years and that’s exactly what happened in this case. I fell in love. Their positivity and authenticity resonated with me most of all. They were an unwavering light through my adolescence that just burned and burned for an additional twenty years.

In 2018 the legendary 7 Seconds announced a formal break-up after 38 years of being an integral part of the punk scene. In that span of time they helped people of all ages, genders, races, and status understand that who we are and what we become really and truly is up to us. A message that will never in my lifetime leave me and one that I cannot be more grateful to have engrained in me. I had the recent pleasure of running some questions by the great Kevin Seconds. We touched on the band’s breakup announcement, the difference between playing shows through multiple decades, equality, finding ways to stay creative, personal quarantine experiences among other things. A little something to help us all get through our current confined living situation.

If I could summarize 7 Seconds into one word, that word for me would have to be “equality”. There was always a feeling of unrivaled equality at 7 Seconds shows. What elements do you think helped create that feeling?
I'm not really sure. I know that when we first started out in Reno, we had a lot of girls coming to our shows and that really messed with us when we started playing out of town to mostly male crowds. Also, we had all types coming to our early gigs - new wavers, stoners, Rocky Horror Picture Show kids, bored and rowdy native kids who lived in the nearby indian reservation and colony. We always kind of related to a mixed bag of people.

I have been following your work with Riving Loom Arts. I’d love to hear some more about that space and specifically about your artwork / canvas paintings. Can you talk a little about how/when that part of your life started to take form and the difference between being creative with designing/creating an image vs. being creative with song writing?
I've been doing art since I was a kid but wasn't too serious about it until maybe 20 years ago. I started showing my stuff at art galleries and cafes around Sacramento but I always felt a bit put off by the local arts community because it seems a bit snobby and clique-ish and that turned me off. When my wife Allyson and I opened our cafe here (True Love Coffeehouse) and since art was a big part of our identity, it just felt natural to make it my home base and that kind of helped my self-confidence too. After we closed, I really missed having a place of my own to show my art whenever I wanted but I also missed having a space where I could set everything up and make art. In 2018, I had a cool job where I made decent money and I decided I would take a chance and lease out a space where I could use it as my art studio, as well as my recording studio and also do occasional singer-songwriter-oriented live shows. I came up with the name Riving Loom and it's helping em stay productive.

I’d love to hear more about what you are doing acoustically and any other musical ventures you’ve been involved in lately.
I haven't had the best of luck starting and keeping a band outside of 7 Seconds. I've made a handful of attempts to form side bands but they never last too long. I start feeling restless and end up losing interest. I'm currently doing a band project called Gimme An F. We're a power trio that plays loud, fast punk rock that is pretty no frills. I'm enjoying playing with the guys (Jordan and Matt) I'm playing with but they're both in other bands and have lots of stuff going on so who knows what will happen. The solo acoustic thing started as a necessity. 7 Seconds was taking these long breaks and I missed being on the road so I asked Margie my booking agent if she'd book me a solo tour back in the late 90s and it just kept going from there.

We are living through a historical time currently with Covid-19 paralyzing cities states and countries across the world. Lots of artists have been doing live stream shows from home to either raise money for various causes or to just stay connected to their followers and fans. Have you taken part in any live stream performances during this time and if so, do you see yourself continuing that trend during the pandemic and/or even after it passes?
Well, I've been big on live streaming for a long time. I stream most of my shows when I'm on tour. So yes, I'll keep doing it especially as I get less enamored of tour life as I get older, It's been really great doing them during this difficult time though especially the benefit streams t help raise money for music venues who are hurting.

For the last couple of months, I have been seeing you post about 7 Seconds t-shirts that you are recreating the images for. Can you talk a little bit about those and where that idea came from?
I've always wanted to re-do some of the artwork I did for our old records. Back in the day, I would draw or paint them and do a lot of cut and paste copy work at Kinko's to finish everything. I didn't have access to computers so I would turn it over to someone who did and it never quite looked like how I wanted it to. A couple of years ago, I started sketching out some of the designs and sharing them over social media and people really liked it so I just keep messing around until I came up with stuff I could put on t-shirts and what not. It's been a lot of fun doing it and people seem into it.

Countless people either play or have played in a bands in their lifetimes but so few are to able to do so with any type of longevity. It is an understatement to say that 7 Seconds had longevity after being together for 38 years. What was it about that band that kept you all inspired to keep it moving for so long? And can you describe the feeling of NOT having it in your life in an active way?
I loved being in a band with my brother Steve. There's not much better than getting to live out some sort of crazy teenage rock & roll dream with your little brother but being in a band with a sibling can make for the very best and worst of times. It helped having our drummer Troy who is like having a non-blood brother. Troy has always been our stabilizer and peacekeeper between us. It is still hitting me that it's all done, probably once a week, at least. I'll see a video or photo of a great gig we played and it pulls at my heart strings. Or I see something like a Riot Fest or Punk Rock Bowling lineup and I think, 'damn, we should be on that!". I think it would have been much easier had we all just hated each other or the shows and tours had started sucking but that was the case at all. Show-wise, we were having the time of our old, middle-aged lives… hahaha.

As an outsider, there aren’t a ton of bands that sound like 7 Seconds. To me, you guys were always a hard band to categorize into a sub-genre (which is one of the things that I loved about the band). There were elements of hardcore, skate punk, pop punk, and pretty much every other kind of “punk” mixed in with everything that you guys did; yet perhaps not enough of any of it to be labeled as “that”. A true testament to that is the variety of festivals that you guys have played over the years that could tend to be hyper focused on one sub-genre or another. What do you think it was about 7 Seconds that allowed you all to be so successful across multiple scenes and cultures and where did you feel most comfortable or welcomed?
We just always did what we fucking wanted to. After the initial backlash of kids hating our mid-period material (New Wind, Ourselves, etc. etc.), a whole new flock of fans embraced what we were trying to do and that helped give the band a whole new life. After that, we just said, fuck it, and did whatever we wanted to. We were never a critically-acclaimed band and we were never a huge selling band so the pressure was off for us.

Although 7 Seconds had such and impactful and influential run as a band, I always felt as though there was an underlying layer of being underrated and often not getting the credit that it deserved for the influence that it had on so many bands. I’m curious to know if that has ever been brought up to you before and/or if that thought ever crosses your mind?
It gets brought up all the time and I'm not ever sure what to say or how to feel about it. I suppose there is some truth to it but at this point, what does it really matter? You know? The funny thing is that we got lumped and even considered progenitors of the original straight edge hardcore scene and that was never our bag. The 'Posi'core' thing…I'll accept that because we had to have been one of the first bands in the punk rock scene with that sort of openly idealistic and positive message but I was never comfortable with the 'straight edge' tag.

I have seen 7 Seconds countless times and even had the pleasure of sharing a stage with you all out in Brooklyn some years back. Watching you guys play “Not Just Boys Fun” from the stage that night may very well be one of my favorite live show experiences… ever! That song to me is such a perfect representation of the band. Is there a particular song that just never got old for you guys in terms of playing live?
Personally, I never grew tired of playing any of our songs. For the past 10, 15 years of us playing, we trimmed our sets down to mostly the "hits", the songs from our "peak" era and we'd sprinkle in blasts of newer material. I even still loved doing our version of "99 Red Balloons" every night.

There was a nine-year break between the release of Take It Back, Take It On, Take It Over (2005) and your latest and final release Leave A Light On (2014). What did the time in between those records look like for you all? And what was it like to get back in the studio after such a long recording hiatus?
We kind of always took long breaks between records. We still played and even toured quite a bit but we were never just completely dormant. Everyone else in the band started having kids and most of us were still working regular jobs so we were pretty much focusing more on family and real life stuff during those breaks. I will say that getting back into the studio to do the Good To Go album in '98, '99 felt like a very big deal because we hadn't really set foot in a studio in some time and the last time we had, we were signed to a major label and were trying to acclimate into that whole weird world and it just wasn't that fun or interesting. Making a new record, on a new label with a new producer (Steve Kravac) and recording it in Hollywood was just a whole new experience and a lot of fun to do. It felt like we were a new band again.

7 Seconds got to play through the 80’s 90’s 2000’s and 2010’s. Can you share any thoughts or stories about the differences (positives and/or negatives) in playing shows within various eras and how the band was able to withstand changes in trends during that span of time?
We toured so much, played so many places and met so many people, it's all mostly just one big magnificent blur now. Of course, there are tons of memories and stories but I couldn't really pinpoint them specifically at this point. I suppose from the outside, it looks like a huge epic accomplishment and I would never suggest that it wasn't in many ways but for us, for me, I was just cut up in the energy and creativity and I didn't stop to think ponder or reflect much in all that time. I just kept working. I STILL just keep working.

I started my first question with what comes to my mind when I think of 7 Seconds. I would love to end this interview by learning about what comes to yours.
The gist of the band all came from my brother Steve and I's crazy childhood and upbringing. Being young, poor, frustrated and surrounded by hopelessness and no sense of future whatsoever does a great deal to young hearts and minds. At 18, I was looking around at all of my friends beginning to kill themselves with drugs and booze and violence. Some of them were getting girls knocked up and forcing themselves into starting families early. Some of them were joining the military. Some of them were getting sucked into the Reno gaming industry vortex and were never able to escape. None of that even remotely appealed to me but punk rock and starting a band sure did. That I was able to do so, with my brother and best friends, and spend almost 40 years getting to tour and make records and make a living doing it all still puts a gigantic smile on my face. I keep saying, 'I got to live the dream I never even knew I had' and that about sums it up.