DS Exclusive Interview: Mike LeDonne (Chaser) discusses life as a touring band, the SoCal music scene and hot sauce

Southern California melodic punk act Chaser have been a touring band for 11 years and show no signs of slowing down. After playing with some big names in punk rock, numerous tours and a line-up change, the guys still manage to put out some solid straight up punk rock releases (imagine the love child of Pennywise and Strung Out.) I recently sat down with lead singer Mike LeDonne at the Slidebar in Fullerton where we discussed touring, the departure of guitarist Cameron Denning, the SoCal music scene and hot sauce. Delicious hot sauce. Check out the full interview here.

All right, so for our readers that don’t know, tell us your name, position in the band and something about yourself.

My name is Mike, I’m the singer for Chaser. I am a father, I have two beautiful kids, a lovely wife and I work as an EMT driving ambulances for a day job.

So “Accion” just came out.

Yeah “Accion” is the 7’ version of the “Action” EP.

All right, so tell us a little bit about that.

The EP is comprised of 3 b-side tracks that didn’t end up making our last full length album “The Big Picture” and they’re actually really cool songs, a couple of my favorite songs that we’ve done. But they didn’t make it on the record, because the CD “The Big Picture” is kind of like a theme album where it all has one essential theme, and the lyrical content just didn’t quite fit. So we decided to save them, hold off from putting them on the record and save them for a release like this. And we wanted to pick a little more than 3 songs on an EP so that’s why we added 2 more acoustic tracks.

Then what’s with the Tabasco sauce guy on the front?

Tapatio

Ah, that’s what I meant

Yes. A lot of the people that know me, know I’m a hot sauce fanatic. I eat tons and tons of hot food and Tapatio is the iconic hot sauce everybody knows about so I thought it’d be cool to use his image and clean it up a little bit, we thinned out his moustache a little bit to avoid any copyright issues. We put the Chaser logo on top and he’s pretty sweet. It’s one of my favorite album designs we’ve ever had

How has the band been since Cameron left and Blake joined?

It’s been good, this is Blake’s first show, so we’ll find out how he does but he’s actually in another band, so it’s not his first gig, he’s played lots before. He’s definitely excited and we’re excited to have him. Cameron was a big influence on our musical direction, he wrote a lot of music, so I’d say the biggest change without him is the style of music. I think it’s gonna end up more towards our older style, like our “Numb America” and earlier material, because those are the songs I wrote, and now that I’m the main songwriter again, that’s probably how it’s gonna be from now on, unless Blake has a lot to say.

So obviously everything’s civil between you guys?

Yeah definitely. Cameron has two full time jobs and he’s going back to school and that’s what happens. We’ve been a band for 11 years and people grow up, get new responsibilities and priorities, it is what it is. We hope people dig the new stuff, we’ll keep writing if people keep listening and coming to our shows.

How do you guys kill time on the road?

I’m super busy with my family so whenever I’m not on tour or at work or with my band, I’m playing with my kids, doing domestic things you know, Dad stuff. Blake and Nate go to school, Jesse’s a business man. For me, the only time I go out is at shows so this is what I do for fun. That’s why I love playing live, I get to see all my friends, drink with them at shows.

You mentioned that when you weren’t on tour, you’re also an EMT. How do you balance your full time job and band?

It can be difficult. Luckily the company I work for is cool about me taking time off for a tour and leaving for long periods of time and coming back to a full time spot. They actually think it’s pretty cool that I’m a musician and pursue music aside from work. They’ve all been really cool with it, it’s worked out so far. I was pursuing firefighting but that unfortunately is all or nothing, it’s a full time thing. You have to fully commit yourself, so I had to put that aside to pursue music.

What is the best or funniest tour story that’s ever happened to you guys?

I’ll go with the best. It was actually with Authority Zero last spring. We did a West Coast tour with them and I’ll never forget it; it was the most memorable tour experience I’ve ever had. We had a full on acoustic jam session on a beach in San Luis Obispo from 12am all the way through the morning, just jamming out all night long. It was us, Authority Zero and a band from Sacramento called ADD. We’re all friends, we all get along really well, we all love punk rock, we all like to drink, and that’s what we did the entire night. Played guitar, sang our hearts out, did some punk rock cover songs like NOFX, Bad Religion. It was a really cool experience bonding with all these bands and realizing what you’re doing it for, the love of music. Why else would you be out there in the middle of the night around a campfire singing away?

You guys have done a lot of tours and shows with Authority Zero. Are you guys friends with them, good tour buddies, etc?

Yeah, we have been fortunate enough to be able to do a lot of things with Authority Zero, and we have become really good friends with them. We met them probably back in 2005/2006 playing in Arizona. We got on a show with them out there, hit it off and ever since, we’ve become friends with them. Anytime they come out here, we usually end up getting on the show with them. It’s a good mix of two bands. Our fans love Authority Zero, and their fans dig our sound. So we’ve been really lucky to not only play with them but to get to know them personally.

How do you feel about the SoCal music scene?

I don’t know if there’s so much of a scene anymore because it’s really hard for bands of our style to break the mold. A lot of people that are into punk rock are getting older and older, and it’s hard to keep the existing fans we have because they’re all getting older; they have Monday-Friday jobs, and kids of their own, and it’s harder for them to come and see us. But at the same time a lot of other people, it seems like they only want to go see the bands that they grew up listening to and don’t give the time of day to the smaller up and coming bands. Then the bigger bands, if and when they do break up, these are the bands that are gonna be carrying the torch. It’s hard to turn people’s heads. I’ll come out and say it because I’ve experienced it first hand, people are just completely jaded to new talent and up and coming punk bands. But on the same note, there are amazing kids out there that go to shows for the sole reason of discovering new bands. Blake is actually one of those kinds of kids and that’s how he was a fan of Chaser first before he was in the band. So, it’s hard, you just gotta keep at it. The way we make a majority of our fans is by meeting them personally. After our set, they come buy a CD, we’ll shake their hand, get to know them, just establish a personal relationship. We’ve been pretty successful that way, we have fans that keep coming out and tell their friends. That’s how we do it.

As far as the SoCal music scene, I’m gonna say that it’s non-existent. There are a few people out there trying to get people to go to shows but for the most part it’s just not rockin’. We’ve been doing this for 11 years and we’ve seen the scene come and go. We’ll play a Bad Religion or a Strung Out show and for the most part, people will want to see the bands they came to see, and it’s really hard to turn their heads.

“Accion” just came out. What plans do you guys have coming up?

We would really like to try and tour as much as we can. I would love to get overseas. We’ve been talking about getting to Canada, and Europe. But for a band of our size and income level it’s really hard to do that. We don’t have any financial backing, we have to save up our money from our day jobs and buy our own plane tickets, stuff like that. Any tour we do is completely a loss for us financially but we still do it because we love getting out there and playing for fans in different states and other countries. So hopefully we’ll be able to make it on the road sometime this year. Keep an ear out for us, add us on Facebook, get all our updates and tour dates.

Anything you’d like us all to know?

I would like everyone to know that we’re one of the few bands that still do it for the passion of the music. We’ve been out here for 11 years and are still at a very underground level and are making no money doing this. We could all be working pretty decent jobs but we’ve made a ton of sacrifices for the band and music in general. We’d love to have people check us out, check out our songs on Facebook and come out to a show, get to meet us. Tell your friends and let’s rebuild the scene.


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