The Power of East Coast Surf

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November 2003



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Band Name:  The Howlin’ Thurstons
Genre:  Surf/Punk Instro Rock
Geographical Area:  NY City Metro Area
Interview with:  The Howlin’ Thurstons (responses from various band members 
have been edited to appear as a single interview) by email on 10/23/03.

    1.  What is the current line-up of your band, The Howlin’ Thurstons?  

“Hacksaw” David "DJ" Janowski – Strat guitar
Peter “The Stump” Russell – Tele guitar
Kevin “The Crippler” Holmgren – Rick bass
Dave “Fang” Marinello – Ludwig drums

    2. How and when did you get started with your band?

Peter and DJ met through "The Studio" musicians group in 1999. Peter claims the reason he wanted to start the band was that “after the accident where they put that plate in my head, I had to do something to drown out the voices.” They formed The Howlin' Thurstons with another bass player and drummer (who left the band in 2001). Finally they teamed up with Dave and Kevin (other Studio members) in 2002.

(“The Studio” is a full service musician's networking club and a rehearsal/recording facility located in the recording and rehearsal arts building in New York City at 251 W. 30th St, 3rd floor – 212-967-6124, club hotline – 212-239-7054, email: The website is Basically it is a place to pay dues, hang out, jam, and network with other part-time musicians and rock-star wanna-be’s.)

    3. What bands or music have influenced you most? 

As a band, they draw a lot from Link Wray and all guitar driven bands from the 50’s/60’s through the present. Dave the drummer lists some of his influences as jazz legends like Papa Jo, Baby Dodds, Buddy, Gene, Max et al to Rock stars like Earl Palmer, Al Jackson, Hal Blaine, Ringo, Dave Clark, Moon, et al. DJ (guitar) listed some other influences, like Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo, AC/DC, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Iggy Pop, Henri Mancini, and The Ventures.

    4. What is the break down of cover vs. original material in your live shows and/or recordings? 

Up to now, their strong point has been their uncanny ability to take the familiar and twist it to their own perverted ends (their words!) Their song writing endeavors are just getting under way. Only about 10-20% of their current repertoire consists of original material - however, they expect this to increase to at least 50% over the next several months.

    5. What recording have you done? 

They have a 4-song EP out that was produced by a good friend J.P., who was recently written up in Guitar Player Magazine. They expect to start work on a full CD this spring.

    6. What is your band’s favorite food/beverage?  

“What is this…16 Magazine??? “ (Oh – you shouldn’t insult anyone giving you free publicity!) After some arm-twisting, various answers included steak at Peter Luger’s Dixie Beer, Bushmills Irish Whiskey straight up, Guiness, Bass, Dr. Pepper, candy from The Studio machine, and licking the sweat off a grape.

    7. How do you get gigs? 

Two votes for “begging”, and one for “convinced of the absolute righteousness of our cause, our powers of persuasion are considerable”. Yeah – sounds like begging…

Seriously, they say finding venues in NYC and the surrounding suburbs is not difficult. Finding venues that will do the right thing and treat you fairly is a different story. The big problem is convincing a promoter to give you a good spot. There’s an old vaudeville adage that goes something like “never be the first or last act on any given night”
. This holds true for the showcase bars in NYC. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a good reputation or you have no track record with the booker, this is where they’ll put you. It’s next to impossible to draw well when you go on at 8 pm on a Tuesday or 1 am on a Sunday night/Monday morning, and if you don’t draw, the booker won’t want you back. So it’s a Catch 22 situation.

They’ve been able to get around it somewhat because of personal relationships. Peter (the one with the voices in his head?!) established these relationships with some club owners during the first incarnation of the band, and they’ve managed to build on those relationships and establish a reputation (the “word of mouth” method) for the band. And, they do the standard supplying of press kits and CDs to venues where they’d like to play.

    8. What are the difficulties you find playing your kind of music in your area? 

They say they can't play loud enough or long enough! Also, the club owners are often upset because of the amount of blood they have to mop up after shows…

   9. What positive attributes does your band have that sets you apart from other bands (of any genre)? 

They feel they work harder than any other band. They rehearse the entire set, not just the songs in the set. They rehearse segues from tune to tune and plan when to insert banter (usually to cover someone retuning or correcting some other malfeasance), all with the purpose of projecting the highest energy level possible. The result is a set that comes at you like a freight train at full speed. From the first chord to the final crash, the audience
is bombarded with hard-hitting, in-your-face rock ‘n roll with no chance to regain their precious composure.

Also, they are not "retro", and are not jumping on the latest bandwagon. They walk the fine line between reverence of past musical styles while trying to break the mold of the "instrumental rock band". 

    10. What have you found to be the single most effective promotional tool you’ve used to further your band’s musical path?

Hands down, the Internet, including their website at, a Yahoo user group, and email. It’s an invaluable tool whether you’re contacting venues, managing a mailing list, or sending press kits to various e-zines or traditional print media. It’s also a two-way street. Through the Net, radio stations as far away as Australia have contacted them, and they’ve even heard from a record company in Germany. The Thurstons are achieving a worldwide presence, if in a somewhat limited way. The Yahoo & MSN mail groups have been very useful in a number of ways. Through these they’ve been able to network with other bands, gain information and knowledge, all while putting their name out to a wider audience. 

    11. What’s the most interesting performance experience you’ve had?

It could be the one that didn’t happen. Due to a personal emergency of one of the band members, they had an 11th hour cancellation of a gig at the Lakeside Lounge (NYC). The venue had no time to find a replacement, they had no time to notify their fan base, and so it became an exercise in damage control. The remaining band members went to the venue, greeted the arriving fans, apologized for not playing, and convinced them to hang in the club anyway. The end result was that they maintained good relations with their fans (it was their best turnout to date – they seem to draw better when they don’t play!) The club owner was happy that his bar was crowded and had a good take at the end of the night, and they were able to book another gig there (coming up on Thursday, November 20—9pm).

Or - it could be the one they played in the pouring rain at a suburban street fair - a crowd of people not only gathered in the rain to watch, they supported the band by buying merchandise and cheering for more.

Or - it could be the one with all the rats…

    12. What do you hope to get out of being a NESMA member? 

Mostly networking with other bands, sharing ideas and learning from other bands, maybe some roundtable discussions, and exposure to others playing in a similar genre. They believe we can make NESMA a tool to help us all expand our fan bases and, in turn, our earning potential. They are looking forward to sharing & promoting gigs with other members, perhaps being involved in a CD compilation project, getting radio stations involved with NESMA, and maybe securing some kind of corporate sponsorship. They have many great ideas for further NESMA and their own band goals!

(See more information & photos of the band here.)



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