7 Shot Screamers
Vocalist Mike Leahy
7 Shot Screamers command a stage to a degree that I’ve rarely seen. Their conglomeration of rockabilly, punk rock, and glam rock have won over the hearts of such legends of music as X, Rollins Band and Morrissey due in no small part to frontman Mike Leahy’s grand showmanship. I called up Mike, who was home in St. Louis between tours, and got him chatting about meeting his idols, shitting in urinals at CBGB and well dressed popstars.
Morrissey has raved about your band. How did he end up at one of your shows and did you know he was there?
Yeah, I knew he was gonna be there but I didn’t see him before the show. We had talked a little bit with his guitar player, Boz Boorer, and he’s into us, so we were out in L.A. starting a tour and Morrissey and his band were out there rehearsing for the SXSW gig. It just kind of lined up, I invited Boz to come down to the show, they were staying in a hotel right down the street from where we were playing at the Viper Room, and he told me before the show- he gave me a list of people to put on the guest list and one of ’em was Morrissey. That was amazing- he’s like my all-time favorite! That was pretty far out. We talked to him afterwards and stuff.
You’ve gotten to meet and tour with some of the legends in music, have any of them disappointed the image you may have had of them in your mind?
I really don’t think so. Most people are surprisingly normal and cool and accepting of us as a younger band.
Have any of them given you advice on how to survive in the music industry?
Yeah, ya know, Exene has always given us all kinds of tips when we were on the road with her. And when we were out with The Quakes, Paul told us things that he did wrong and the best things to do as far as records labels and publishing rights, stuff like that. Everyone’s been pretty nice and tried to help us as much as they can.
Alongside Riverboat Gamblers and Legendary Shack Shakers, I think that you’re one of the best frontmen in punk rock today. I’m wondering who initially inspired you to want to be the man out front.
Wow, thanks!… Initially, like back when I was a kid, it was probably Michael Jackson or Axl Rose. As I got older I definitely liked the idea of a frontman who stuck out to a certain degree like Iggy Pop or something. Not necessarily a wild man, ’cause I don’t consider myself a wild man, but just the idea that if anyone’s gonna be watching you… I’ve always looked up to the guys who put on a real flopping, flailing show.
Does it effect your performance at all if there’s not a lot of people there?
No, not really. That’s something we’ve been complimented on pretty often- that it doesn’t seem to effect us if we’re playing in front of 10 people or… I mean, I’m not saying I’d rather play in front of a small crowd, but I do prefer the smaller venues as opposed to the 6-700 seat venues. We did some bigger halls when we were on tour with Exene and it kind of takes the life out of the room when it’s too big. The more amped-up the crowd is the better it is for us, but at the same time we completely amaze ourselves onstage no matter who else is in the room.
I definitely saw that when I first saw you play earlier this year at The Social.
(laughs) Yeah, you saw how we act!
That’s what drew me to you guys!… There were maybe 20 people there and you just took command of that stage! You seem to win over a lot of fans just by your live performance.
With our first two albums, I think we’ve been trying to capture how we sound live and our latest record shows that a little bit more. It’s still not 100%, I think you need to see our live show to really… that’s where it’s really at for us.
On your new record you do a song in Spanish. What made you decide to do that?
(laughs) We had talked about doing that forever! One of the places we do best is southwest America, from Texas to California. We’ll go a couple of weeks and it’s almost as if you don’t see a white person at our shows. All our shows are kind of Mexican greaser guys and girls. I don’t know, we love it. We’ve always been into Mexican culture, and that kind of Latin swing.
CBGB officially closed their doors recently. Did you ever get to play there, and do you have any stories surrounding the historic venue?
Yeah, we played there twice. The first time was a couple years ago with our old guitar player, who was kind of a young kid. He was a couple years younger than us and we were pretty young ourselves. He was kind of a wild man, not even like cool punk rock. He was into old rockabilly, like he started listening to Ricky Nelson and Elvis when he was 10, and never really dipped into punk rock and so didn’t appreciate CBGB- it was just another venue to him. He ended up getting drunk and poopin’ in the urinal. It was kind of the most punk rock thing you could do at CBGB, but it was even more punk rock to me because he didn’t even realize it. It was a very funny thing to do. He had to poop and he couldn’t go in the regular toilet for some reason. But, yeah, we don’t usually do stuff like that.
And then we just played there with Exene which was great. Vinnie Paul, the drummer from Pantera, was there. He really liked us, but he had such a weird perception of us. He was telling us that we reminded him of Disturbed, or something. And he was genuinely into it, he liked that we were kind of glam rock. I don’t know much about Disturbed except that they’re kind of metal. He compared us to a couple of people, he compared Chris to Cliff Burton, Metallica’s first bass player, which I can kind of see that. ..that was pretty cool. He gave us his card, told us if we were ever in Dallas that we could go to his strip club.
Recently Liam Gallagher of Oasis accused musicians like Pete Doherty and Eminem of being “pussies” for checking into rehab and not being able to handle their drugs. Where do you stand on the importance of intoxicants in music?
Let’s see. Well, of course, drugs can definitely be dangerous. We all smoke a lot of weed and drink a lot of beer, which I don’t really see as a problem. If you’re hooked on coke, or painkillers, or something I don’t think calling anybody out in the press and calling ’em pussies for getting help (laughs)… At the same time, if he’s got his act together enough where he can do things like take drugs sometimes, recreationally, then good for him- he’s a good, strong man.
What’s your onstage drink of choice?
Whatever beer that we don’t have to pay for! (laughs) Just beer!
I know it’s wrong of me, but when I see a band with beer bottles onstage, as opposed to water, I just get happy.
I know what you’re saying. When you see somebody and they go and drink water in between songs- even though that’s a completely good, normal, rational human thing to do- it’s like “ah man… he’s drinking water in between songs!”… I think it just brings the party onto the stage a bit more. It’s kind of something that will bring a room together. If you’re getting drunk and laughing and partying onstage, it definitely helps out a lot.
Do you think fashion and style are important in music?
Yeah, if it’s real. There are bands that are very, very cool-looking like- now, don’t misquote me on this- that band Panic! At The Disco or The Killers. Those bands are on the covers of SPIN magazine and they all are dressed very cool and have cool double-breasted suits and hats and makeup, but it just looks too, like they were in a makeup chair and someone did them up to look like that. I like to see a band that looks cool, but you can tell that they’re not just changing out of their sweat pants and into their stage clothes… I think that should come naturally.
Everyone in your band has a very distinct look.
Yeah, people assume all kinds of things when we walk into a bar. Esspecially playing rockabilly shows, or punk rock shows. I don’t know what they think we are.
Let’s say you’ve reached an arena-level of touring and can have an extravagent rider. What would your backstage demands be?
Probably be Red Bull and PBR, and our drummer likes soda and licorice. I don’t know, I can’t really think of anything radical. It always seems like a blessing when you walk into any green room and there’s free stuff laying around for ya. We’ve done tours where there’s more stuff than we can use, and I feel bad about that. They get a whole big thing of food and we just stick our fingers in it enough to where it can’t be used again. I bet we would have a pretty tame rider. I’m sure there’s something I’m forgetting.
You’re forgetting the strippers.
Yeah, strippers (laughs) and weed. We’ll just photocopy Snoop Dogg’s rider. It’d be pretty much the same party we’re looking to have.