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A Conversation With Clint Baker, Dustin Stroud, Mark Johnson and Dave Keel
by Samuel Barker
June 9, 2002


Riddlin' Kids
The Riddlin' Kids

Samuel: Give me your names and jobs.

Dustin: I'm Dustin, I play guitar.

Clint: I'm Clint, I sing and play guitar.

Mark: I'm Mark, I play bass.

Dave: I'm Dave, I drive the van.

Mark: He plays drums sometimes.

Samuel: I know you guys have new album that is coming out, when will it hit the streets?

Clint: The exact date is June 2nd.

Samuel: The release we got said Spring 2002.

Dustin: They mean spring forward into summer.

Samuel: You've had the 4-song EP out for a while now, are you looking forward to getting a full length out so that people will know more of your songs?

Dustin: Actually, the full length was recorded before the EP was recorded. We recorded the album and they've been mixing and mastering it. They've been doing the single mix for the radio a bit different. After they did that, they rushed us into the studio to get the EP recorded so we could tour with it. Our first tour with it was with Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish. It just took off, we sold a lot of Eps. I don't know what the exact number is, but we've gone "multi" which Dave says means we've sold more than two. So we're multi.

Clint: We're definitely ready to get the record out. We keep going back to places and the kids know the words to only the songs on the EP. We've got several songs that they can learn when it's out.

Samuel: The band has been together since 1997, is this your first "real" full length album?

Dustin: This is the first full length. We did an EP a long time ago.

Mark: (snickers)

Samuel: What was the snicker about the EP?

Mark: If you call it an EP. The credentials on it are awesome. The dude who engineered it, Matt Mitchell, he's the guitarist for the Skatenigs, am old bad ass Texas band. Also, Chris Gates from the Big Boys and Junk Yard was the producer. It was great, but we were a young band with a completely different line-up.

Clint: We were a different band, pretty much. We have maybe one song from it on our new record. We had a completely different line-up. Our drummer was the bass player from Dynamite Boy. That's old and long forgotten. There was only 500 pressed, so it's almost not worth mentioning.

Mark: It was fun, but it got us turned down by every single independent record label and laughed at by a few. It was cool for what it was, it was great experience working with those two people, Matt and Chris.

Samuel: Well, seeing as that EP got you turned down all the indie labels, what led to you guys being picked up by Columbia? Was it from touring?

Clint: No, there was no touring. We were so stuck into our day jobs, we couldn't afford to pay our electricity, much less, pay to get out on the road. We had that old EP that didn't do anything, so we kept plugging away. Then Dave became our drummer and we went into the studio and recorded 5 new songs we had written with $6000 of our own money. The production on it was really great, especially when compared to what we listen to, mostly independent stuff. We thought 'Man, this sounds better than most of that stuff on Drive Thru, we're bound to get signed with this.' We started sending it out and sending it out and no one would take us seriously. Fastmusic was interested, but they left us standing at the altar. Then, I was driving around, delivering pizzas, and I heard them play Green Day and Blink-182 back to back and thought 'Dude, we could get our stuff on the radio. Maybe that could get us signed.' I thought maybe we could get on the radio. Short story, we contacted the program director and he was very unhelpful and kind of made it sound like a lost hope. I kept pursuing him and finally he said to drop a demo by and he'd listen to it. Well, he never listened to it, a month goes by and he got to it. He called us back one day and called us back and was like 'you've got some great songs on there.' So he worked us in some. He put us on 'Like it or Spike it?' which is where they put two bands up against each other and we won two weeks straight on that. Then, eventually, they added us to the play list. When you're an indie band with no releases, nothing for sale, nothing at all and your getting radio play and these major labels have bands they've spent thousands and millions of dollars on who can't get on the radio, their jaws dropped. We had many major labels, after that, taking us out and calling us up. It turned from really lonely, no one paying attention to us, we couldn't even get arrested to all these people after us. It was pretty cool.

Samuel: What were some of the things that made you choose to sign with this label?

Clint: We didn't know who to trust. Everyone tells us that you're going to get screwed. Everyone turns into a legal expert instantly. We were really scared with who to pick. We always looked at indie labels, where you had a relationship with the labels and now it's the big dogs who steal your music, screw you over and shelve you. You get a lot of horror stories. The program director from the radio station was friends with the guy from Aware Records, Aware/Columbia and he didn't tell us 'Hey! Go with these guys!' He told us to go with who we thought were the best, but 'I can tell you he's a good guy.' Basically, we went with him since the radio show that discovered us, Allen Smith from 101X. It'd be a slap in his face for a friend of his to screw us over, so we went with them. He's going to do good for us since his friend discovered us. We didn't trust anyone else.

Samuel: Coming from Austin, which is known mostly for Blues and "Texas Rock," did it make it more difficult to get noticed?

Dave: Yeah, everyone you talk to is like 'You don't have your regular Saturday night at Antone's there, so…' And you can't do that if you're a rock band.

Clint: All the business people there have their heads in their asses and their ears perked up for Blues/Rock stuff. It's not like the real world where you have real music and real entertainment lawyers, they don't understand that. Austin has it's own thing going on. You may be hated in Austin, but loved everywhere else in the world. Then they'll hail you and kiss your ass in Austin, but you drive 30 miles away and no one cares about you, it's totally fucked up.

Dustin: To elaborate on what they said, we paid a lot of money to go to a lawyer and she wouldn't even listen to the demo. Eventually she listened to it and was like 'Hey, this is pretty good.' She told us to go stuff the demo in peoples mailboxes at SXSW. They're used to dealing with Ian Moore, they're used to the staples and money makers. I don't need to name their names, they're all great artists, but they don't play the type of music we play. It's very discouraging.

Clint: ::coughs out:: Bob Schneider.

Dustin: Yeah, Bob Schneider. Everyone tries to be helpful but they don't really get it. They think Green Day is a fluke and Blink-182 is a fluke, but they thing this Blues/Rock will be around forever. It's just a real bummer. We were fortunate to have found the people who found us. The people who helped us out.

Dave: People also give you shit because you don't play at the clubs they think you should play at. They think you're nothing because you don't have an every Wednesday night gig at some place. You can't explain to people that no one will come out every Wednesday, maybe every four Wednesdays.

Dustin: And if you are one of those bands, it seals your fate. You're stuck.

Samuel: I never really got that. If you buckle down, you can't tour, you can't move on to new audiences.

Dustin: Right.

Clint: Last year we won an Austin Music Award and this year my mom asked me 'Did you win another Austin Music Award at SXSW?' I said 'No, not that I know of.' Which made me kind of glad. If you win too many of those, that means they like you and if they like you, you're screwed, because you're stuck in Austin. You're cursed.

Dave: Either you're going to fail in Austin or get killed in a plane crash.

Clint: I hope they forgot about us.

Dave: Do you think Bob Schneider even knows who we are?

Clint: No, we like Bob Schneider.

Dustin: It's not like everyone in Austin doesn't love him enough. He needs 1 or 12 people to say that hate him.

Clint: I like Sandra Bullock, who likes Bob Schneider.

Dave: It's like six degrees of separation.

Samuel: That's funny. We got a press kit on him and every single article and review about him stated he was with Sandra Bullock, like people who listen to music would buy the CD because of that. I felt bad for him because he's Sandra Bullock's fiancé now.

Dustin: Mr. Sandra Bullock.

Dave: And everyone probably tells him does all the shows and stuff because of her.

Dustin: Last year, it was my birthday when we won the award, so this girl gave me a rose, and I went over to Sandra Bullock and gave her the rose. Then, up on the awards podeum, we thanked Bob Schneider for not having a band in our category. He won almost all the awards that year.

Dave: He won Rock, Blues, everything.

Dustin: Yeah, we thanked him for not being in our category and it turns out he was in our category. Then, I went up to Sandra and asked her about that and gave her the rose.

Samuel: Anything you'd like to add?

Dustin: If you see we're playing come out and see us. Also, check out our record when it comes out. You can also go to www.riddlinkids.net. We have free mp3s on the website. You can check out our stuff and come rock out at a show.

Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at suma@rockzone.com.

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