Latest Release: Plans Within Plans (Rock City)

American pop punk trio MxPX are no strangers to our wide, brown land. In fact, they want to tour again after this upcoming tour in March, as revealed in our chat with bassist, front man, producer and now rather busy new father Mike Herrera. He speaks his mind about the industry, is assured in his approach to music and is also aware of delivering pure energy to punters seals a quality touring reputation from solid, hard work.

You’re coming to Australia again soon. Do you prefer headlining gigs or festivals?
I enjoy festivals but I wouldn’t want to only do festivals. We were doing Soundwave for a few years and hopefully still will but I thought we should go back and do a club tour. I like doing both and that’s the bottom line. Australia is definitely one of the great places to tour for a rock band. You guys kind of live and breathe rock’n’roll in a way that a lot of other regions or countries don’t quite as much. You can always count on Australia as they get the music and they understand the roots. I just love it. Anytime you can tour to a place where most people would go for a vacation is always nice.

The most recent album Plans Within Plans from last year took five years after the prior release. What were the main causes of the delays?
There was really no delay. We’ve gotten to the point in our later years where we’re not touring as much. Yuri [Ruley – drums] was having children and I actually just had my first child. It is just mainly that life starts getting real. Being a touring musician is mostly for young people. It is very tiring and hard on your body if you’re partying all the time. So as bands get a little older, some of them start dropping like flies. It was an album I knew we’d do but I didn’t know when. I was doing my other band Tumbledown and we were touring a lot which also gave me a break from doing MxPx style pop punk and melodic punk songs. So when I started writing MxPx songs again, it was fresh and fun. I started talking to Tom [Wisniewski – guitars] and Yuri about it. So I wrote the songs and then we got into the studio to record. It was a long time between albums because we were doing other things and didn’t want to force it.

It is interesting in context of a lot of punk bands that knock an album out every six months or so.
Yeah and that’s great. For us, we definitely did that but I kind of felt like I was trying to force some of the ideas or songs. So now, waiting and letting those songs come on their own made a big difference with this new album.

Are there many things that you’ve learnt over the years with dealing with different labels on how you would approach the industry if you were starting out now?
Well yeah, one thing that has changed in the music industry lately is everything. It is always going to be easier to sell an established name. You’ve got all sorts of reunion tours coming back every other year. MxPx has taken breaks but we have never announced a hiatus, we’re just doing other things. What I’ve learned is to go with the flow. It depends on who you are and what you want in life. Big pop acts have to take advantage of their fame and demand right then because people are going to pay them money to do it so they are just constantly on the move. We have a less demand than that. I’m at home producing in my studio [Bremerton DC] so when I’m not working on my own stuff, I’m working on other band’s stuff. Bands are funding their own albums almost all of the time now. Of course there are exceptions but so many bands fund it themselves which I think is great because that is what MxPx has started doing. You then have so much more control. Technology allows us to steer our own career paths.

In that context, what is your opinion of Blink 182 or Greenday who, because they are on major labels, might have creativity stifled by production pushes sales of units?
When bands are at the top, doing what they do best and love to do, I respect that. People are going to take advantage of those opportunities. A person like 50 Cent is talking about drinking Bacardi and smoking weed but he talks about how he calculates his image. He portrays a certain image but doesn’t drink or smoke weed, all he does is work. Somebody like Mike Tyson would look at what other people were doing and train twice as much. I understand a Beyonce, a Justin Beiber, Greenday or Blink 182. They are working 24/7. I feel like that but I’ve allowed myself time to enjoy life and have a less busy lifestyle than those top tier people.

So does a hit single like ‘Responsibility’ set a template that you have to follow?
A lot of times it does and sometimes artists do get away with changing. Blink-182 is a perfect example. Their self-titled album sounds completely different to the album before it but the vocals are there so you know who is playing. If bands are truly being artistic it is not always motivated by greed, record labels or fame. Sometimes it truly is just and artist being an artist. Go back to Bob Dylan. He started out acoustically with a Woody Guthrie vibe or folk songs and then when he introduced the full band with electrics, everybody was pissed but he wasn’t doing that for fame, he was an artist. As long as it is coming from an honest place, you should follow your artistic or creative ideas.

What are your thoughts on the Christian punk scene where you’ve got HM [Hard Music] magazine with their stance that it’s either hard-line evangelical or over to more subtle approaches?
In my experience it is fine but in some cases it is silly. I’ve never quite fit into that scene even though we have been in it quite a bit but people know that. If our fans choose to know what MXPX is about, they would realise that we don’t fit the mold. I just live my life the best I can and try to treat people well. Hopefully that comes across in the music as well as how I’m treating people on tour, in the clubs and with the fans. That is what is important to me, not so much the Christian scene thing although there are plenty of great people in there. No matter what the scene is, there are always jackasses and really cool people. In any scene you’re going to have personalities. Just because you’re known for this or that doesn’t mean you’re just like the other person from that scene.

I agree. I’d guess that the way you carry yourself would have helped gaining equipment endorsements to some extent. The thing about that is that it shows punk has got some respect. You’ve got Takamine guitars, Hartke amps and Mesa Boogie – that’s pretty big.
Yeah, it has been amazing and sometimes I take it for granted. For Ernie Ball I asked for this amazing bass that has three different pickup combinations of active and passive. It just does all of this stuff that I was into to try out for my studio.  So I emailed Brian Ball of Ernie Ball and it showed up a week later at my doorstep. I though, ‘this is so cool, I have the best job ever, I just got a free bass, it is like Christmas’. I try to take every moment or opportunity and be grateful for it. Takamine happened when I was at NAMM convention for the guitar and amplifier companies. I ended up calling them and they sent me some guitars. It doesn’t always happen but when it does, it is a very good life.

How about Mesa Boogie amps? That is more your Steve Lukather and Dream Theater type equipment there. Serious top end amplification connoisseurs.
Mesa Boogie is great and it is a very MxPx sound. There a few different Mesas we use. They are a great, socially minded company based in a small town and for the most part their amps are handmade. All of the companies I am endorsed by such as Ernie Ball and Vans shoes are companies that started with a family. That is kind of how I try to run the band. So, with MxPx and with my other band Tumbledown it is just being a family and treating your fans with the same respect.

How was doing that 15th anniversary shows of the 1996 album Life in General?
Oh that was great. People loved just seeing Life in General. Maybe next time we come to Australia we’ll just do a Life in Generaltour because people loved that album. It’s funny because you end up doing the songs we’ve never played for obvious reasons like the less popular, random songs on the album. But it’s like, ‘oh yeah, I remember the songs on this album. I totally know this song.’ I loved it so we’d maybe like to come back to Australia to do a Life in General tour. That’d be sweet.

MxPx tours Australia in March:
6/3: The Zoo, Brisbane QLD
7/3: Manning Bar, Sydney NSW
8/3: Fowlers Live, Adelaide SA
9/3: Forest Lodge Festival, VIC
10/3: Corner Hotel, Melbourne VIC