Interview: Musician Brian 'Boots' Factor

Interviews at Magnet Cat feature discussions between myself and other creative professionals. My good friend Brian 'Boots' Factor and I were flatmates in Scotland while studying at the University of Stirling. Enjoy! -Dan Redding

Photo by Elmo Thamm

Dan Redding: What bands do you perform in?
Brian Factor: My main band that I’m in full-time is called Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers. I am a Sixer. I also have a side project called Trevor Jackson with my friend Kyle Riabko.
What instruments do you play?
My main instrument is drums, but I also play mandolin, banjo, and guitar.
For those who are unfamiliar with Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers (SK6ERS), how would you describe the band?
My first intuition is always to say rock band. It’s a rock band with a singer-songwriter quality, and that comes from Stephen. Our main influence is the alt-country genre, like The Band, early Wilco…
What’s the most exhilarating moment you’ve ever had onstage?
There’s been a couple times where we played in front of our own audiences and sold out the joints, like the 9:30 Club in D.C., a couple places in Boston where we have a good fan base, and actually, the Bowery Ballroom, a couple years ago, where we kept on ending our encore and they just kept on demanding more and we’d go out-
How many encores?
I think the Bowery show we were out like three times and we ended the show in the audience, in the center of the audience, playing acoustically. That was probably the coolest. There was a night at the 9:30 club when people just kept cheering and we just had to wait for them to die down. It was great. Yeah, there’s been some moments.

Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers.
Photo by Elmo Thamm.

How come drummers are always late and they all smell?
(defensively) Um, I’m actually a punctual person. I’ve got about three or four clocks in my apartment.
Overkill, no?
Well, my point is that I’m punctual. So that’s your first wrong about drummers.
Is it true what they say: ‘a broken clock is always right?’
At least twice a day it’s right. So if the broken clock says 6:20, then twice a day, AM and PM, you’re gonna-
But why not just use a clock that-
(angrily) My clocks work! (laughter) And as far as smelling, um, I hear you on that… I guess naturally drummers probably do smell more than, say, keyboard players. Pheromones in drummers are significantly stronger. But I don’t agree with you about them being late.
SK6ERS recently performed for soldiers abroad. Were you ever in any danger?
Not that we knew of. We did fly commercially everywhere from the Mediterranean to the Middle East. When we were on the base in Kuwait, at no point did I ever feel nervous, because you’re probably in the safest place in Kuwait. The looks that I got in the airport being a white guy in Bahrain or the Kuwaiti airport, compounded with the fact that in my head, I think they know that I’m Jewish… I got a little freaked out by the looks, but I never felt danger.
Are you sure they weren’t just turned on by your beard?
Well actually, to them, it is a religious sign, so maybe they were like, ‘Oh, he’s with us,’ or something. But no, I never felt threatened. Although one time we were driving through the desert in Kuwait at night, and once in a while these cars would shoot out of nowhere in the darkness in the desert and you’d see headlights. Maybe that bugged me out a little bit.
And you were with military escorts at the time?
Yeah, they hired contractors, they weren’t part of the military, but they were security guards.
Would they comment on those other vehicles, or let you guys know the status of your location?
They never explained why there were cars going on and off the highway in the desert in the middle of the night. But looking at them, if they didn’t look nervous or seem to notice or care, then I didn’t care.

G.I. Joke.

I’ve seen photos of you holding a large gun during the tour. What kind of gun was that and what were the circumstances around the photo?
It was an M dash something, and that was in Kuwait, it was after a show… I guess I was on a high of the show, I was very demanding, and I basically demanded to hold a soldier on duty’s machine gun. After much back and forth, finally he gave in and I got a chance to hold a real machine gun.
Was it loaded?
It was not loaded and the safety was on, but it was heavy. I picked it up, and I guess the nozzle of the gun went up a little too far, and three people jumped at the gun to push it down. Loaded or not, you have to be careful how you hold it.
Why did you want to hold it so badly?
There’s a child in me. There’s an eight year-old kid that lives in my bosom, and that kid likes to play with G.I. Joes and play war. I’m nearing thirty years young, and when you see all this army shit it just comes out. I’m not pro guns, and I’m not pro war, but I’d love to shoot a machine gun.

Kyle Riabko and Boots Factor are Trevor Jackson.

Who would win in a drum-off: Keith Moon versus John Bonham?
John Bonham.
Neil Peart versus Dave Grohl?
Dave Grohl.
Tommy Lee or that guy from Poison?
Is Tommy Lee in the cage?
Tommy Lee. (laughter)
Here’s a drummer joke for you. What has nine arms and sucks?
I dunno.
Def Leppard.
Ooooh…. But Def Leppard’s pretty good.
I know, but they also suck.
They suck, but when you break down their formula, they’ve got great melody, and it’s anthemic, and you still hear their music…
Plus, any band that wears sleeveless British flag shirts is a band that wins.
True. People say ‘fashion faux pas,’ but I say ‘hurrah.’
What’s the lamest instrument?
If you walk into a show and you see a bass player playing a five-stringed bass, what would you think?
If it’s Les Claypool or Victor Wooten, I’m into it.
I think it’s lame. You have these sub-divisions. A drumset with the toms that are on that metal rack that was popular in the nineties - some guys tour with the rack and it’s totally lame.
Rack equals hack.
Yes. Saxophone in a rock band in a rock band is also pretty tough to swallow.
Yeah, but saxophone is jazz. What about castanets or the triangle?
Cool. In context.
They’re percussion so you’re defending them.
Well, the triangle is-
It’s like an avocado – it just doesn’t belong in any group. It’s its own group.
The triangle is the avocado of musical instruments.
If God put a gun to your head and demanded that you banish one musical genre from existence, which genre would you banish?
If I had to? For the good of mankind? What is it, like, rap metal or whatever it is? Linkin Park? That should probably just go. If God put a gun to my head, and I said that, it probably wouldn’t hurt too many people.
What if God turns out to be a member of Linkin Park? You’re fucked.
If I know he’s in Linkin Park, I’m not gonna choose that genre. I’d choose commercial country or something.
SK6ERS are a very popular touring band. What’s the secret to building a strong fan base?
The secret is to get in front of other bands’ audiences first and foremost. Get the opportunity to win people over. And really commit to touring. Play the right places, and make sure your live show is enjoyable so that people come back. Give it your all every show – don’t blow off one fuckin’ show. Our band, we play just as hard and try just as hard if there’s fifty people or five hundred people. You have to have that attitude to even have a chance at winning.
I think that’s really good advice, and everything you mentioned was about performing live. Do you think that now more than ever, the live show is the most important element of being in a band due to the changes in the music industry?
It’s huge. It’s the one thing that a band can control. It’s almost like the band’s own entity. Most bands don’t sell enough records to see money accrue to them from album sales. There are companies that have what are called 360 deals – they want a piece of everything: merchandise, touring, record sales. Record sales aren’t enough these days. But if you’re smart enough, you probably won’t get involved in that.
Ozzy Osbourne once had sex with a bat onstage before diving into a mound of cocaine. What’s your craziest tour story?
On the last night of this one tour, we were completely bombed out of our minds, and we were all onstage. I played the drums in just my boxers, a sailor hat, and aviator sunglasses, and that was in front of over ten thousand people.
You can play drunk?
Mm hmm! I don’t know if I can keep time well…
What was that you said about giving every show your best performance?
The alcohol just fuels it!


Jenni said...

i love avocados.

Jenni said...

i love boots, too! :)