Interview With CHIEF COMMANDER

Where are you from?
Technically from U.S.S.R. but legally from Belarus
Members and their instruments?
ALEX SHUMILA Lyrics / Vocals / Guitar / Bass / Theremin

JASON SALZMAN Guitar / Bass / Keys / Percussion / Theremin
SEAN MICHELSEN Drums / Guitar / Bass / Keys / Theremin
Jason and Sean produced this record. Jason also did all the mixing and sound design. David Roman of 4130 MASTERING in New York mastered everything for us. I’m looking forward to working with these guys again on the rest of the Chief Commander albums

SAMI MICHELSEN Backing Vocals
CHELSEA MATCHETT Backing Vocals
ARIANE GAINES Lyrics
What does your band name mean?
It’s what Bob Dylan called God
What genre do you consider yourself? Why?
alternative / indie / space rock

Chief Commander is an otherworldly alternative reality, so seems to be fitting
How long have you been together?
Since 2016 or something like that
What brought you together?
Everyone performing on THE GREAT DICTATOR record, I have known for a very long time. Jason was my guitar teacher 15 years ago. Sami & Sean have been doing music as long as I can remember and we have been friends since high school. Chelsea and I used to work a couple dead end jobs together so it’s good to work with her on something that is not soul drenching. Ariane is a good friend with all the Gemini qualities with an excellent music taste
What drew you to music?
About 7 years ago my luck started to change for the worse. Music was not on my mind at that point. A good friend passed from leukemia, I had my first mental breakdown, got divorced, lost another close person to breast cancer, lost my drivers license because of a DUI all in a period of a few months. I was consuming whole lakes of alcohol and trying to drink myself numb. But as time went on I began to see that despite everything collapsing around me, my music kept moving forward. I wrote the “Y Try” song, which is now the 5th song on the record, and Chief Commander project was born. Now it’s my escape from reality and I want to help others escape, even if it’s for a little while
What are some of your most influential bands? Why?
I owe most of my sound to Jimi, Jim, Janis, Bob, Mick, David, Lou, and Kurt. They help me escape
What was your first song together?
Transcendental. It’s the 6th song on the record. It was the first song we started recording in the studio and it was the last song that we finished. Everything comes full circle
What is your song writing process?
Repetition is hell as I get bored easily. I try to do things a little differently or better every time that I play. My songwriting process is very non-linear so I am usually working on a lot of different songs at each practice. Almost like writing in batches of 4 – 6 songs at a time until they are all finished and then moving on to the next batch. There are 5 different records in the Chief Commander project with 5 distinct moods so sometimes I end up writing melodies in the same day that will end up on 2 different CC records. I am very A.D.D. but everything somehow gets done. It just takes me forever and my friends are always giving me crap about that
How has your music evolved since you began playing together?
Well, this first Chief Commander record was gonna be mostly acoustic though that was mainly due to financial reasons. The idea for the sound was always the same, but my vocals have significantly improved over the three years of recording. This is my first time singing so I know I’ve come a long way. And eventually the record began playing us and it evolved into the sonic cloud that it is today. After years in the studio, the final product is close to how I envisioned it
What songs do you perform the most often?
Liberal Guilt, The Wrong Seeds of Goldman Sachs, Man of Reason and a couple of songs from the upcoming records
Do you play any covers?
I do some covers that are consistent with the Chief Commander imagery. Some U2 songs, Bowie, Lou Reed, but I try to stick to playing original material most of the time
Do you have a set play list?
There are many layers to every Chief Commander song. It is never what it seems. Double meanings, otherworldly messages, LSD trips, mental issues, it’s all in there
Is there a secret meaning in any of your music?
There are many layers to every Chief Commander song. It is never what it seems. Double meanings, otherworldly messages, LSD trips, mental issues, it’s all in there
What is your favorite part of working in music?
No one can tell you what to do. Or take your music away from you
What is your least favorite part of working in music?
Music industry is a very male dominated field, but the next big rock movement is FEMALE. I think that every girl and woman should be a rocker. We need more of that female energy right now to balance some things out and help save the world
Have you ever dealt with performance anxiety? If so how?
I seem to get a few minutes of shaky hands whenever I perform in from of others. I can’t help it, even if I am not really nervous. I always try to begin with an easy song whenever I start playing in case I’m sloppy because of that. I try to hold it together when I get on stage, but I bet I just look like a shaky, sweaty mess.
How old were you when you started playing your instrument?
15, but I played some piano before we moved to America
in 1999
How do you describe your music to people?
Bob Dylan meets Ziggy Stardust, meets 90s rock, with a sprinkle of psychedelia
What image do you hope your music conveys?
Freedom from everything oppressive
Where have you performed?
Around Atlanta
Do you have any up coming shows?
Nope, I’m going back into the studio to record the second
album – P E A S A N T U P R I S I N G
What is your greatest achievement to date?
Riding solo. Don’t know why I wasted so much time playing with others instead of working on my own melodies. Being a solo artist is the way to go if you are a controlling person like me
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a band?
I’ve had a lot of health problems over the last 3 years. Mainly neurological stuff related to Autism and Epilepsy. Seizures, migraines, depression and a skull tumor have definitely slowed things down for me. Music helps me not think about the physical pain and that’s my biggest obstacle right now for sure
Are you happy with the current success of your band?
This is a new beginning for me, so not sure how it ends yet, but I have a hunch
What is the ultimate direction for your band?
Get on the radio as much as I can to transmit signals into space. Radio signals travel forever through space and that means that someday, somewhere, somehow, somebody will hear the noise that’s coming out, and I want to be part of that noise. I mean, some alien race could hear Chief Commander songs one far away day and realize that there are dumb creatures just like them out there in the universe making the same ol’ mistakes.

But in all seriousness, I am tying my music to different causes related to Autism, child trafficking prevention, creating green spaces, and creating better public transit options for Atlanta residents. I am donating 20% of all music sales to charities dealing with these causes so I would like to be successful enough to make a lasting difference in those areas. Eventually I would like to open after school centers that teach kids about music production, video/tv and editing, different art mediums, cooking, screen printing – with performance spaces and areas for unisex sports. Music is just a small part of the larger plan
What steps have you taken to get there?
Writing. Writing. Writing. Practice. Practice. Practice. Meds. Meds. Meds.
What steps do you still have to do?
There’s a lot left to accomplish. Currently I am working on costumes for the next round of photos for the Chief Commander story. I have different characters that are related to certain songs, so I’m really trying to create strong visuals and an entertaining live act. I will be working on that for the next few months but going back to the studio is more of a priority for me right now. I wanna keep it rollin’
How do you feel about the internet and the music business?
Internet broke the music industry, which the anarchist side of me really likes. It also gave us a whole new way to listen to music. All the sudden we have access to all the recorded music in history and that’s really cool on so many levels. But the best stuff always stays the best no matter how much time passes. Some songs are just always timeless like they have always been there
What is your favorite concert you’ve attended?
It was a Sonic Youth show on their Sonic Nurse tour at the Earthlink Live in Atlanta. Thurston Moore was doing some crazy stuff with his guitars and eventually one guitar ended up in the crowd. When he was climbing over the crowd to get the guitar, he accidentally rubbed his armpit in my face. The whole show and the set were great. I was wearing a shirt from that show the other day and thinking how perfect that show was
What do you do besides music?
Cooking helps me zone out so I enjoy it. I paint when I can.
Right now though I’m pretty much all about Chief Commander
What is something you would like to tell your younger self?
That. Girl. Is. Crazy.
What is your favorite song? (not by your band)
“I FOUND A REASON” by Velvet Underground
What do you wish you spent more time doing 5 years ago?
Not drinking
What advice do you have others wanting to start their own bands?
Find your way and you will know. And it’s never too late to make art
Any last words?
” I’ll just say fare thee well ”

 

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