Metal Meat. Especially hard rock and metal.
So many music artists have to go through many transitions to get where they want to be. If not through personal changes and direction but
through personnel changes. Many bands go through personnel changes. Even the biggest bands in the world experience it. Look at bands like
AC/DC, Megadeth. It happens. As long as the vision and determination are in tact, all that can be overcome.
Here we talk to a guy who knows very well about the challenges of personnel changes as well as anyone and the passion to make things happen.
Meat Alex Stiff, Frontman and Founder of a band based in Charlotte, North Carolina called “The Fill Ins”.
Why the name "The Fill Ins"?
That came from a brainstorming session between a group of friends of mine when we were talking about
forming a band. At one point or another, the first lineup of the band had played in every other band we
had been a part of in one way or another.
So as an example, I joined a band shortly after they had gotten a new bassist; Jason. Over time, we
became friends the 2 of us left the band and I joined up with a punk band... about 3 months later, they
fired their bassist so I asked Jason to come play bass. Eventually the band imploded for a while, leaving
Jason and myself without a band. By that point, the first band had fired their drummer, so we called him
up to start jamming. A month or so later, Jason decided to move to guitar and to find a new bassist. We
found a guy, and later found out he was the same bassist Jason had replaced in band all 3 of us had
played in. Someone threw out "we're just a bunch of Fill Ins playing music, aren't we?". From then on it
Moving a band from one city to another presents it's own set of challenges, but after reading the
band bio it's clear that there was a man on a mission. What can you tell us about that?
Moving the band was a lot of different things combined. Jason and I were writing all the songs, but we couldn't
find good musicians to play with. At the time (or at least where we were looking), no one could play the sort of
music we wanted to play in Roanoke VA. I was born in Charlotte NC and lived there off and on in my life, and I
always knew I wanted to move back as soon as I could.
I told Jason about this when I was about 8 months from turning 18, and he agreed to move with me and restart
the band in Charlotte. Though when time grew closer, he started getting cold feet and through some personal
disagreements, decided not to go.
We left on good terms and I let him know that I was still going to pursue The Fill Ins and try to make something
of it. Later on, some other ex members made a stink about it.. but I don't see them trying to start a new band,
so I think it was just sour grapes. I'm in a much happier place now.
With so many line up changes. How do you keep
Jason was very important to the start up of the band. We
wrote songs that we still play today; No Strings Attached,
Let Go, STFU.. but since it was so early on, I can
comfortably say that since everyone practiced in my
basement, the sound and image (including logo) was all
guided by my vision; The Fill Ins has always been the "Alex
Stiff Band" from the start. Once I got relocated to Charlotte
and went through a few short lived lineups; we get a very
solid drummer (Matt McCoy), an old friend of mine on bass
(Steven), and a mutual buddy of ours on lead guitar (Mikey
Black) and it turned from the "Alex Stiff Band" into "The Fill
Ins" because everyone had the same vision I did.
So the continuity has always been there due to me wanting to make a kick ass rock n roll band, it just took me a while to find a
few months of real playing due to being a new father, that lineup recorded 2 full albums and a few EPs. James fit perfectly
because he was a fan of the band after seeing us play live (before any recordings), I was playing Bass due to Steven leaving
(due to being a new father) and James just moved to town and wanted to play guitar in a band.. we told him if he played bass,
he could play with us... a few weeks later, he had a bass and rig and we off once again.
We've been blessed up to this point in playing, because with long time drummer Matt McCoy leaving earlier this year, another
fan and long time friend Adam Patterson has now joined the band and I feel that we are even closer to our goal. Everyone who
joins the band adds their personal elements to the band, all the wile keeping it the same "vision".
There is mention of punk and hardcore bands as part of your earlier musical experience. We can still
hear the punk influence, and some 80's hard rock and party metal elements seem present in the
songs we have listened to off your website. There is definitely a "feel-good" vibe from your music, is
this intentional or just a byproduct of what you do? What are your thoughts on this impression?
Playing music is fun! My favorite bands tell you to have fun, rather than be depressed. We also don't have a
political message. We sing about stuff that everyone can agree on, at least on some level; drinking, partying,
women, love, hate, the annoyances of every day life and social media. Through that, we need upbeat music to
play, and that's all my brain knows how to write.
I started out playing in punk bands (growing up around members of ANTiSEEN and their family members, it gets
ingrained in you at an early age I suppose) so I always wanted to be in a punk band. Once I got to do that, I
realized it wasn't a lot of fun, we played way too fast, I couldn't move around because if I did, I'd mess up.
Then I was in a slow sort of metal band.. and that was no fun because it was all dark and gloom; the riffs would
be there, but it was too slow.
So when I write, it may start as a punk riff, but have a rock melody to it, but almost a ska beat for the drums. My
brain works in weird ways.. ha-ha.
What can you tell us about the song “Hit The Gas”?
Hit The Gas has been a long time coming... HTG was the 2nd song written after the release of our album '5th
Time's The Charm', and it started with a riff Mikey would play to warm up. Eventually (late last year) he brought
us a demo with that riff as the main hook, I took it and re-organized it, showed it to Mikey, he tweeted a few
things, then we showed it to the band.
hashing it out and James was adding cool bass licks to it.
That song along with about 3 or 4 others we were slowly working on were to be part of a new EP to be released
mid-this year, but that never came to be due to internal issues that eventually led to Adam Patterson joining us
on drums in June of this year. Matt's scheduling was getting too hectic and was not able to give the band as
much time as he would have wanted, and suggested we get Adam.
Though Adam quickly learned our live set, we weren't going to throw new demo stuff on top of it, though we
made sure he had a copy of it. Once day he goes "let's work on some of the new stuff... how about Hit The
Gas?"; so we started working on it again and it just came alive and has a whole new vibe to it. We knew we had
to get it recorded, so we went to a new studio (Trap Door Recordings) and cut the track in about a day, had the
mastered track back within the month. During that time, we also recorded and released a new single we had also
been working on titled "Saturday Night" (at Knothole Studios); making that the first release of new material in
over a year.
Hit The Gas is a new start for us, and we have a lot of faith in the band and the direction we are headed.
We are also releasing a Split 7in Colored (blue swirl) Vinyl of Hit The Gas, due out Spring of 2017 through No
Profit Records.. our very first vinyl release!
Do you have a particular songwriting process? If so, please tell us about it.
In the beginning, about 90% of a finished song would be me. As time has gone on and I've found the right musicians to play with, I'm not as strict about the song writing and that
has made us a better band.
Our 1st album (Hipster Killers) for the most part was a compilation of songs written with the various lineups throughout the years, finally on one disc with Mikey, Matt and James.
After we got that recorded, we started playing around with some new songs. At first, Mikey didn't really know about song writing and how things flow, leading his song writing
credits to just "Give It To Me" and his solos on all the songs.. but once it was time to start writing for the follow up (5th Time's The Charm), he had grown expediently in song
writing and playing, so he had a much heavier hand in writing from that point on.
James has always been a riff man, so he's always throwing out cool ideas, and if it sticks, it sticks.
It doesn't matter if it's kinda punk, a little metal, kinda rock-a-billy, or a little pop; as long as it's still kick ass rock n roll, we'll play it.
Songs can be written in full demo form and shown to the band to be learned, or like in the case of the song "Morning After"; Matt was tuning his floor tom drum head and started
doing this really cool beat on it while pounding it to make sure it stays in tune. James started playing a bass riff over it, I added a Chuck Berry esq' guitar rhythm over it.. and by
the end of the day, we had a rough idea for a new song. When that happens, it's the most fun.
Anything that makes our foot tap. We all have different places we pull for songwriting; I still have a very Johnny
Ramone, Supersuckers, AC/DC influenced song writing.. but Adam is a classic hardcore drummer, James grew
up on MC5, Thin Lizzy and Motörhead, and Mikey loves all things Metal.. so if you put off of that in a pot and
give it a good shake, you have THE FILL INS.
Where do you see The Fill Ins going in the near future? What about distant future?
I have high hopes. We understand that we will never be as big as the "pop stars" of today, so I think that gives
us a bit of perspective and keeps our feet on the ground. We have a lot of faith in Hit The Gas, and all the new
material we've been writing. For the near future? We all want to tour, and we've been talking to some folks that
could help us out with that, it's just a logistical nightmare financially. But it's going to happen.
The distant future? That's a bit harder to tell. In my mind, I'll be playing music until the day I die in one way or
another, so I can say that my distant future will always be music related.
I believe The Fill Ins as a group today has what it takes to reach a mild cult success (or more if all the stars aligned and the masses wanted rock again instead of rap or pop), we
just have to be smart on how we do it.. and sadly, that's not 100% up to me or the group as a whole. We all have our real life responsibilities to deal with, and sometimes those
have to come first.. that has a large reason to do why we haven't been able to do more with the band; we're all just broke dudes wanting to play some rock n roll and get people
excited to party again, so all our free time and disposable income goes into the band (if there's any left).
We're still a DIY band from the ground up; everything we do is on a small scale, so we hope to one day reach that next step.
Hmm. That's honestly a tough question, because that would mean having to axe one of my current members!
Ha-ha. I'll cut myself.. I'd stop playing guitar and dedicate myself to only singing if I could get Metal Marty of The
Supersuckers to join. He just has that rock n roll look, sound, and song writing talent that I personally admire... or
If somehow you were to come home to find Lady Gaga and Angus Young (of AC/DC) fist fighting in
your front lawn, what would you do?
Haha. Oh my! In the real world, I would be standing in shock with my mouth wide open unable to speak or do
anything, my brain would be trying to comprehend what in the world was going on. Though in a "play this out in
my mind" scenario ; I'd pull out my phone, film Angus give Gaga the final blow for our new website,
www.AngusYoungSavesTheRock.com ... because he clearly heard our battle cry and came to save the day!