Interview: Ace (Houseboat, Skinny Genes)

Posted: March 13, 2014 in Small Talk

Ace (Azeem Sajid) plays in pop-punk super-group Houseboat, and has now started a new ‘solo project’ called Skinny Genes. If you have yet to hear it, I highly recommend you check the 7″ out. I asked Ace a few questions about his bands, the New York pop-punk scene and the difficulties of the recording process for Skinny Genes first 7″. So, read on, bitches.

Hello, Ace. Tell the world about Skinny Genes. What’s it all about?

Hey, Dave! Skinny Genes is a pop punk “band” that is comprised of just me. Thanks for the interview!

How and why did Skinny Genes come about?

Oh! There’s more. Well, I’d been tossing around the idea of starting my own band for years, but, honestly, I’m terribly slow with songwriting. It can take me years to finish a song, as is the case with the song “Worst” on the 7″. I wrote the first version of that song in 2008, while The Steinways were still together. It took me 5 years to turn a terrible song into a mediocre one. Anyway, I told Sam from Traffic Street that I was thinking of starting a band and he wanted to do a 7″. I realized putting a band together was (and still is) a huge pain in the ass and decided to do it as a solo thing. After procrastinating for months, I booked time with Chris Pierce in early 2010, realized the songs were total crap and promptly cancelled at the last minute. I sort of lost interest and when Sam shut down Traffic Street I thought, “Oh, there’s the missed opportunity I’d been waiting for.” I also got super caught up at my shitty job that prompted a complete creative rut for a few years.

I quit my shitty job and was bummed out for a while. It was the perfect time to try again and I dove headfirst into writing and re-writing. I was much happier with the results, booked recording time and just went for it.

Talk me through the recording process for “Meh”, your first 7”.

Honestly, it was really exhausting and a bit stressful doing everything myself! I was delirious and sore as hell when we were doing vocals and by the time we finished, my brain and ears were completely shot and I thought everything sounded like ass. When I got the mixes, though, I was super-happy.

Thankfully, I had demo’d everything at home on my computer, so I knew exactly what I was going to be doing before going to record; tempos, harmonies, song keys, lyrics, etc. The only “prep” I had to do was practice drums a bunch. Chris Grivet (of Triple Bypass and Panther Moderns fame) helped by playing guitar. I recorded at Sonic Iguana with Luke McNeill (Copyrights), who House Boat has done two LPs with, so it was pretty relaxed. Aside from another engineer, Philip, that stopped in to assist here and there, it was pretty much just Luke and I for the majority of the recording. Mass Giorgini also popped in once in a while to say hi and make dick jokes at Luke’s expense. I’m sure it got boring for Luke at times having no one else to talk to while I was recording, especially the drums, which I did without any reference guitar and totally from memory. It was literally just me playing drums for hours with no musical accompaniment. But, after we were done for the day, we’d proceed to get drunk and hang out. Sonic doesn’t have Wi-Fi, unfortunately, so, y’know, whiskey and stories during downtime. Luke’s a great dude to pal around with. Philip mixed everything afterwards and Mass mastered it. They both did awesome jobs.

Following on from “Meh”, what are your future plans for Skinny Genes? Are there are any more releases in the pipeline?

I recorded 13 songs but was only able to finish 10. 5 are on “Meh,” and another 4 will be on a future 7″ (as soon as I get the artwork done); the last one I have no idea what to do with yet. I’m also not sure when/if I’ll get ever the last 3 completed; if I do, maybe another band will wanna do a split?

Fortunately, I’ve been experiencing a creative spark in the last few months and have been working on a whole bunch of new songs, so Skinny Genes “The LP” is definitely in the works. I’m actually more excited about the new stuff than anything I’ve done before, which is, of course, the most cliche thing to say, but it’s true! I’m also finally looking to put a band together to record, play some shows and maybe even do a tour. I’m not rushing anything, though. Working at my own pace without any expectations is pretty comforting.

As well as Skinny Genes, you of course play guitar for Houseboat. What’s going on with Houseboat these days? Are there any plans for a follow-up to The Thorns of Life?

I play bass in House Boat, Dave! Yes, there’s a new House Boat LP in the works. We were planning to record in the Spring but this Euro tour opportunity came up. We’re planning to do it later in the year instead.

Although it is only early days in Skinny Genes, would you say that you prefer writing songs alone, or as part of a band, with the other members of Houseboat?

I like both, but they’re really not that different. Songs in House Boat (and Steinways before that) are 95-100% complete before the rest of the band hears them. The only difference is having four opinions versus one. Both have their merits and annoyances (Chris Grivet).

The Thorns Of Life cover art

What is the New York/New Jersey pop-punk scene like these days? We can look back at a few years ago and say it was pretty great, with bands like Unlovables, The Ergs!, For Science, and of course Steinways. But do you think there is still as much going on these days?

There’s a scene for sure but I’m pretty removed from it these days. That’s not really a comment on the scene, just me being an old, boring fart. There are definitely shows going on and new bands popping up all of the time, so it still exists but maybe not in the same way it did a few years ago, as far as traditional pop punk. Things are much more varied as far as themes and sounds, if that makes sense. My favorite new local band is Now People, featuring Zach from Liarbirds, Danny from Modern Machines/Used Kids and, of course, Mikey Erg. They sound nothing like any of their previous bands but it’s still super-good. Iron Chic rules, as well.

Lets end with some more personal questions: Azeem, why are you called Ace?

Well, my birth name is Ace and somehow I got stuck with the nickname Azeem, so, I dunno, you figure it out!

How did you get into punk rock?

As with most folks my age, Nirvana was my awakening, which led to alternative rock and thrash metal. The difference between me and most of my peers is that Dookie did not have much of an impact on me. Dun-dun-dunnnn! I got into the EpiFat stuff super-hard and Green Day didn’t really do it for me. A year later, I started checking out the Ramones and was into it. An older high school friend of mine made me a mixtape with a bunch of Lookout bands; Queers, Hi-Fives, Riverdales, Op Ivy and that stuff sounded really awesome. When my best friend bought Screeching Weasel’s “Boogada,” it was all over. It was the greatest music I had ever heard and completely changed my life, for better or worse. I became obsessed with anything and everything Lookout and pop punk. (For the record, Insomniac is the best Green Day album, by far.) When Mutant Pop came around, I abandoned ship and got into indie rock, 90’s emo and 80’s hardcore. That era of pop punk was important to, and had a huge impact on a lot of my friends, but it really soured me. The Ergs! and Copyrights pulled me back into pop punk and I’m stoked that they did. So many awesome bands and records have come out in the last 10 years. My tastes are all over the place these days. Like, I unashamedly love Justin Timberlake, am planning on getting a Converge tattoo and would pay a ridiculous amount of money to see The Smiths reunite.

Finally, how did you get involved with The Steinways?

I became friends with all of them through a girl that I was dating. I met her at the first Steinways show, which a band I was playing in at the time also played. Funny thing is, I thought they were terrible, haha. It was about a year or so later that they asked me to join on bass and I suggested I play guitar instead. I had yet to play guitar in a band and thought, “This shit is so simple, might as well.” I mean, I was reluctant because, seriously, the band wasn’t very good at the time. Michelle switched to bass, Grath started writing really good songs and I got really into it, but, best of all, it was fun. Another funny thing is that, at the time, I was the least acquainted with Grath and we’ve now been playing music together for a decade. That’s fucking weird, man.


Check out the bands:


Skinny Genes:


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