11 Questions: Sean Spain
interview by Brent Cole
courtesy photo: Sean (middle) with Jay and Silent Bob
In January of 1998, I got a call from Sean Spain asking if I wanted to start a music magazine. I’d toyed with the idea before, but getting the call from Sean cinched it – I said yes without hesitation (of course, this back before the internet, email and cell phones were the norm, so a music magazine was the only way to spread the word about what was happening in town). I’d become friends with Sean a few years earlier – he was in Superfly 2000, who were fantastic, and booked shows in town… he was also one of the nicest guys I’d met in the scene and someone who genuinely loved Bellingham and its music.
So, I was excited to work with Sean on the magazine; we were going to do amazing things in this town. In the end, Sean left after five months, he needed to actually earn an income (I understand!), but the magazine wouldn’t have started without him (and Amy Marchegiani, who will do an 11 questions in a few months).
Whenever I run into Sean these days, we have a good laugh, talk about the Seahawks and bullshit about things back in the day. He still books shows and stayed in music, veering away from local music, opting for bigger shows and bigger productions. And, I’m forever indebted to him for that phone call.
Ladies and gentlemen, Sean Spain is this month’s 11 questions.
Who are you and where did you come from? Please tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Yakima and moved to Bellingham to go to Western back in the early 90s. Had a blast playing in bands, booking clubs and writing about music. Eventually I started a concert booking and production company that produces concerts and events for casinos, corporate events and festivals. I have an amazing wife and two beautiful boys named Eli (5) and Isak (2) who keep me grounded and make me laugh and smile every day. I still love Bellingham and enjoy running into old friends [like Brent Cole] and reminiscing about “back in the day” when I used to be cool.
What do you remember from those early days working on What’s Up! and what is your favorite memory?
I remember being really broke and having to borrow change from you so I could buy a bagel and a Mountain Dew from the coffee shop down the street from our office. That was my standard breakfast at the time. I also remember producing the first issue of the magazine at the computer lab at Western because we didn’t even own a legit computer at the time. When I look back, I’m amazed that we actually pulled it off. My favorite memory was probably the day we picked up the first issue of the magazine at the printer. It really felt like we had accomplished something. I was pretty proud of it.
Would you say the day I brought five AC/DC discs to the office was one of the best days of your life?
Oh wow. I totally forgot about that. That was pretty bad-ass! We rocked out pretty hard. I also loved the Bryan Eno and Buckethead phases as well.
Of all the shows you’ve booked, what are your top five?
After doing this for so long, it’s hard to narrow it down to five. I’ve done a show with Sammy Hagar every summer for the last four years and it’s always a great show. Michael Anthony plays with him and they do a bunch of Van Halen tunes. I listened to a lot of Van Halen in my younger years, so it’s fun to relive the glory days. I was a child of the 80’s so I always enjoy doing shows with the acts I grew up watching on MTV like Billy Idol, Huey Lewis, Go-Gos’s, B-52’s, Pat Benatar, Joan Jett, etc. It’s always a bit surreal talking to people you used to watch on TV when you were a kid. I also book a lot of comedy and one of my favorite comedians to work with is definitely John Oliver. The guy is so down to earth and an absolute freakin’ genius. I recently booked a live podcast with Jay & Silent Bob (Kevin Smith & Jason Mewes) and I kinda geeked out a little bit. I really respect Kevin and they were both super cool to work with.
Are you a bigger music fan or Seahawks fan?
That’s a tough one. I’m probably a little burned out on the music side of things these days. I probably get more hyped up over the Seahawks.
After leaving What’s Up!, you eventually moved to Seattle. What brought you back up here?
I just really missed Bellingham. This is just such an amazing place to live. I always knew it was, but sometimes it take leaving to make you realize just how special it is. Now that I have kids, I’m really glad we moved back here.
What would be your ideal Saturday in Bellingham?
Probably just doing something fun with my wife and kids. If it’s summer, maybe hitting up the Farmers Market then playing at the park or going swimming somewhere. Then dropping in at Goat Mountain Pizza for dinner and the world’s best root beer. If it’s winter, probably spending the day up at Mt. Baker.
What is your favorite memory of a band you played in?
Man, it’s too hard to come up with just one memory. I just really enjoyed the adrenalin rush of playing up on stage in front of a bunch of people and feeding off their energy. I don’t know if I’ve ever found anything else that makes me feel quite the same way. I also really enjoyed the camaraderie of being in a band and having that “us against the world” mentality. When I look back, I can’t believe how naïve we all were, but that’s kinda what made it special.
Do you think it’s shocking the magazine still exists?
Yeah, I actually am. I still get excited to pick it up and read it every month. Honestly, it makes me very happy that it’s still out there and I’m extremely proud of the job you’ve done with it over the years. You’ve done an amazing job growing the magazine while still “keepin’ in real” and staying true to the original vision we had to promote the local scene.
What Bellingham band from “back in the day” would you love to see again and why?
Probably Loaf or their later incarnation as Bali Girls. They were just so amazing live. Randy was probably one of the mightiest drummers I’ve ever seen in my life. I could just sit and watch him play for hours. I would love to see Eureka Farm again as well.
When was the last time you picked up a bass?
My niece Sadie, who just turned eight years old and lives in Telluride, CO plays in a band with her sister Tia who is nine years old and we bought her a new Fender bass and amp a few months ago for her birthday. I “accidently” unpacked it early and played it a bit before we gave it to her. It definitely felt good to play again.
What is on the horizon for you within the next few months?
I’m leaving for a big family road trip to Colorado in a few days and I’m really looking forward to some quality time with the wife and kids. Lots of fun stops along the way including camping in the Moab desert. After that it’s back to the grind. Booking shows and hopefully watching the Seahawks get back to the Superbowl!
What are you top five desert island classics?
I always revert back to the albums that in some way “changed my life” or changed the way I viewed music. Gun’s N Roses’ Appetite for Destruction was the perfect marriage of hard rock and punk. They were so freakin’ dirty, they made all the hard rock bands I was into before them like Ratt and Motley Crue look like posers. Plus the songwriting on that album is just phenomenal. Pink Floyd changed my life in profound ways. They didn’t really sound like anyone else and they were constantly evolving.
I wouldn’t be able to pick just one Floyd album, so I would probably need the box set. Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation changed my perception of what was “punk.” Before that I though punk had to be three chords and a wall of distortion played at breakneck speed. Sonic Youth constantly pushed boundaries and played by their own rules. Jane’s Addiction’s Nothing’s Shocking was the first album I heard that blended hard rock and punk with a psychedelic vibe. Nothing’s Shocking and Smashing Pumpkins’ Gish were both big albums for me around that time of my life. Runners up include Black Sabbath’s debut album, The Cure’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, The Melvins’ Ozma, No Means No’s Wrong and Nirvana’s Bleach.
Any last thoughts?
(Editor’s note: That was fun!)
Published in the October 2016 issue of What’s Up! Magazine