10 Years Singer Jesse Hasek Talks Touring, Music Industry, ‘Minus the Machine’ + More
10 Years are known for vigorously touring and they have been on the road nonstop promoting their latest album ‘Minus the Machine.’ Whether they’re headlining or offering support, 10 Years tend to bring it onstage every time.
Prior to their recent gig in New York City, we caught up with the band’s frontman, Jesse Hasek, who talked about touring, changes in the music industry and more.
With all of the touring 10 Years has done, do you have any interesting touring stories so far for this year that you can share?
Right now, it’s just us getting back into the swing of things, we had a little over a month off and we haven’t been doing any support touring for almost two years. We’ve primarily been doing headlining shows for a long time, so it’s getting back to making a smaller set and getting in front of crowds that might not quite know you. It’s that whole thing of trying to win over new fans.
Headlining is a different ball game, we’re allowed to create multiple energy levels. When we do support we have 30 to 45 minutes and it’s just the pedal to the floor because you’re trying to make a moment in that short amount of time.
What is one thing that you have learned about this industry from when you first started out to now?
Be very aware of your surroundings because in this industry there’s a lot of people that are fancy talkers. There’s a lot of dinners and wining and dining and they’re able to make you feel like they’re your friends but it’s a business. If you don’t keep your eyes open the wolves can consume you for sure. We had some growing pains and learned lessons from ‘Division’ to ‘Feeding the Wolves’ to now. Pretty much ‘Killing All That Holds You’ and ‘The Autumn Effect’ were untainted, we could just do what we wanted to do.
When we had success, you have more cooks in the kitchen, you have the label on you more and the sound to be a certain way. That’s why the  record was called ‘Division’ because internally we were being pulled in different directions, integrity versus commercialism. You need both, you need the McCartney and the Lennon, there’s a balance between the two.
You don’t go so far with integrity to where you just shoot yourself in the foot and then you don’t go so far with commercialism where you’re shallow and you’re at room temperature. We did learn that the tighter you can make your band and the stronger you can make your band, the better chance you have of surviving.
Was this outlook one of the reasons you decided to go independent with Palehorse Records for ‘Minus the Machine’?
Yeah, that whole departure with Universal – Universal was good to us, they put support behind us for three albums and they did a good job at it. The reason the last album was called ‘Feeding the Wolves’ was because they really put the pressure on us to keep up with whatever was currently popular on rock radio. We didn’t write ‘Wasteland’ because we knew it was a smash hit, we wrote ‘Wasteland’ because it was just a song that all the guys got in the room and created. It was personal for me, the lyrics and most of these songs are personal.
When you start trying to put outside writers into our picture and they come in and are like “Okay we’re going to write a love song, or an angst song and this is going to be the title.” I just can’t do it, in this day and age more people do that than not. We played the game as much as we had to play the game on ‘Feeding the Wolves’ just to get a budget and get the record out to get it finished. They knew that we weren’t happy, there’s a lot of that record that I’m really proud of and there were a few spots in there where I was pushed out of my comfort zone.
That’s what ultimately led to ‘Minus the Machine’ on Palehorse Records and Universal was cool enough to just let us out. They were like “We want to go more co-write, we want to target the mainstream more” and we’re like “We want to go less actually.” I mean just the way technology is and the internet is, the big major labels are still spending money the way they used to and these poor bands will never see a dime from it. We’ve made more money on our independent record sales than we have all our others like ‘The Autumn Effect’ that sold a half million records. We didn’t see a dime from that because their budgets for things are astronomical and unrealistic in this day and age.
With ‘Minus the Machine,’ you recently put out the single ‘Dancing With the Dead.’ What’s the next song you’ll be promoting from the album?
We started doing our own DIY style of videos so we’re currently editing a video out for [the title track] ‘Minus the Machine.’ Lyrically with ‘Minus the Machine’ the chorus says “We want the world in the palm of our hands / So incomplete / Minus machine / Dying to know / And control on command / So incomplete / Minus machine” and then it goes “Kill the lights forever.” I’m a little older in the sense that I grew up before the Internet and this technology wave took over.
I grew up when you look forward to full albums coming out or you look forward to reading a book or you look forward to going outside as a kid and playing with sticks in the woods or on a playground, building stuff, getting scars, falling down. There’s just screens in front of your face everywhere you go now, your phone is everything and I think if you get consumed by it you miss a lot. It needs to be balanced, technology has perks and there so many great things about it but it can just consume you. Kids are too caught up on all the social media now.
What is one thing you must have on tour with you, no electronics?
That’s easy, I have a massive box of Sharpies where I do drum heads – the sharpies and sketchpad stuff and my skateboard. I’ve been skateboarding for about 20 years, I still do tricks and try to act like I’m not getting old, no more hand rails.
What would you say is the weirdest thing on this tour bus?
That’s a good question, we try to keep it clean except there’s dirty show clothes. We have started a new thing as a joke and it actually has its own Instagram page called “Crew Chicken.” It started as a joke, one of the guys friends were supposed to bring me a rotisserie chicken from the store and now it’s evolved into what we call crew chicken and they just end up on the bus. Photos get put up on the bus of different people eating it, us and our crew guys and stuff.
So it’s a random rotisserie chicken?
It’s just a random rotisserie chicken on the road that just show up on the bus. The crew chicken is sort of a celebrity with its own Instagram and even a couple of followers. [Laughs] Go follow “Crew Chicken.”
Our thanks to singer Jess Hasek for the interview. 10 Years are set to release a new EP ‘Live & Unplugged at the Tennessee Theatre’ on Oct. 29. You can pre-order it at iTunes.