STUCK MOJO Guitarist: 'I Have Become The World's Busiest Mail-Order Clerk'

MetalSucks.net recently conducted an interview with STUCK MOJO guitarist Rich Ward. A few excerpts from the chat follow:

MetalSucks.net: How is everything going right now with the band and the new record "Southern Born Killers"?

Rich Ward: It's been an amazing process. I went from a musician who toured full-time for a living, making one or two records a year, depending on how busy I was. STUCK MOJO has always been the #1 band, but I have a side project I do called FOZZY, and I just put another record out with them last year. Through all that stuff the priority has been always to make the music for the folks, and then turn all the music over to a record company who would distribute, and sometimes even decide to market it and promote it. But this time with this new STUCK MOJO release we decided the course of action would be to release it ourselves and sell it only through mail-order, and now I have become the world's busiest mail-order clerk. (laughs)

MetalSucks.net: You guys have attracted a lot of attention by making the album available for free download. Are people buying in addition to downloading? Can you talk a bit about your motives in making the album available for free?

Rich Ward: It's been amazing. I really thought that we would sell OK because a lot of people nowadays, they live on their MP3 players or they put their music on their home computers and play it. So I figured we have two options here; either we give the music away for free, or if you'd like to support the band with the music if you buy the album mail order directly from the band, you know that the money goes straight back to the guys that created it. It goes to pay off the recording costs and to basically allow the musicians to actually receive a few dollars per record as opposed to zero cents per record. Even though in our past record deals we were supposed to receive as a band about one dollar per CD, that's before recoupment cost of production, recording etc, and bands never see any money unless you're into literally multi-platinum sales… bands never see any money. What I just said, maybe it's like the honor system that we used to have years ago where you go into the club house at the swimming pool and they'd have a box of candy bars, and you know, it's not a vending machine, just a hole you put some money in. And it felt like it was the right thing to do. And to give it to folks if they believe in the band, they believe in the product, I believed they'd buy it. And I didn't think they'd buy it by the tens of thousands, but on the route that we're going right now it's headed that way. Which is incredible, because my plan was to package it all up here at the house and send the product out and just take care of the bulk of it for the first couple of months, but I'm literally sitting on the floor of my office and it's literally stacks of envelopes filled with CDs. I'm numbering them and trying to give a personal connection with the fan-base, making them feel like they didn't just support the band but they're building a relationship with some musicians who are really passionate about what they do and really appreciate the support that they're getting from the fans.

MetalSucks.net: Does the lack of audio quality on mp3s bother you?

Rich Ward: Well, it used to bother me quite a bit because I'd spend so much money and you'd sit there — and this wasn't much different, we flew to England to track drums and bass with my buddy Andy Sneap who's doing the new MEGADETH record. He was a groomsman in my wedding, we're best buds, he's spent Christmas and New Year's at my house many, many times — but still, it's not like it's free (laughs), you know just to get studio time at his studio it's expensive, and his rate isn't cheap, it's expensive. So we did that, and we mixed at the biggest studio here in Atlanta with the producer Shawn Grove… he mixed the past couple of SEVENDUST records and COLLECTIVE SOUL. We spent the money. He's amazing. So I made sure that I spent the money on the product. And I spent months and months of doing the things that it takes to make a great album. And yeah, when you take all of that into consideration and squash it down to 96k, you say hmmm, because of the washy cymbals and noise and stuff. But what I hope is that the song is good enough to the point where people enjoy the song. And maybe those people don't have as discerning an ear for that kind of stuff. I think that the majority of people who listen to music are casual listeners who enjoy a great melody, a good rhythm, a good riff, or whatever it is, and at some point, if people are really concerned with audio quality those people are not going to nitpick over spending $12 + $3 shipping to get a good copy of the CD. If they don't mind having the downloaded version, and having it compressed and sound a bit odd, then they can get it for free. And now I'm OK with that because I ultimately recognize that once the album got out into people's hands it's gonna be free anyway. I'd rather be the guy who gives it away and says, hey, this is my music, I wrote it, I spent $40k recording it, I'm going to be the guy who gives it to you and at least I will be in charge of the destiny of my music. Other than, you know, some guy at a record company who we send a copy of it to, and he makes copies for all his buddies, and then before the album ever gets out it's up on the net. I felt like there was a bit of pride and integrity involved in knowing that through every step of the way I controlled the destiny of the product. Whether people got it for free or not, it was still the creators who offered that option, that still, as I said, it kind of gave it a sense of "It's OK."

MetalSucks.net: Do you think that the industry will shift towards bands making more money from tour-based income? Because, like you said on your website, all the musicians you know are eating microwave burritos three times a day, and with record sales tanking it seems like that's less and less of an income source.

Rich Ward: Yeah… I always made the majority of my money touring. Always. It was always great because from the very beginning we started off in a van and we stayed in a van for multiple years. So when we started really doing well and we were selling out every night and we were able to start playing bigger venues and getting big guarantees, we didn't say "Well, we should spend all our money on a bus, and 18 crew guys to wash our ass and do everything." We just said "Hey, we're already used to roughing it." I was always the driver of the band anyway. When we were done with the show I'd get in the driver seat and I'd drive to the next place. So we always were able to make money because we never spent it. We would put it away. We were all living in big houses and had nice cars, but touring was how we paid our rent and how we drove our pretty cars. We were able to do that even though we literally made zero dollars off albums. I mean, zero. So really you're talking about touring and merchandise as a big part of it. And I'm now finding that if I had been a little smarter on the way that I had recorded this new album and cut some corners… it's public knowledge that I recorded this album twice with two different vocalists, so that added quite a bit of extra cost to making this album. So, with that in mind, if I had saved a little bit more money in the recording process, the guys in the band would have at this point been making really good money. We're just now starting to get into profit margin. All the expenses are covered. So we're saying oh my god, we're really to the point where every guy in the band is starting to see a little stream of income off this album. And it's done. And sales are still coming in, a good steady stream. We haven't spent one dime on advertising. And it's all been word of mouth so we're really pretty happy about that. And it's allowing us to take some time, get into rehearsal, really knock these songs around and prepare a show. Once again, we're gonna be playing small clubs. I'm realistic that at some point we're gonna have to earn our keep. We're not on a big label where there is some kind of advertising budget, and without having product on shelves you can't do co-op advertising with Best Buy to promote your concerts. So we're gonna have to play small rooms… but I'm bringing video screens, I'm bringing full pyro rigs for rooms we can do it in, and full production, lights and PA. And we may lose money every show. But I wanna give people the feeling once again that they got value when they spent 10 or 12 dollars to come see STUCK MOJO in a small club, that they got destroyed and blown away and felt like here's a band that really cares about the product, and they care about the music, and they care about the fans. And maybe that will continue to create an environment where our audience can grow with us and will continue to be a part of a little microcosm success story.

Read the entire interview at MetalSucks.net.

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