L.A.’s Electro/Hard Rock foursome 9Electric are touring in support of their recently released album “the Damaged Ones”, and as incredible as it sounds flowing through my earbuds, it sounds 10x greater blasting through my ear holes live. Even though we live near L.A., and the band is from L.A., we had not seen them perform live since 2014. So where did we finally catch up with them? Green Bay, Wisconsin don’tcha know. The following is our interview with lead singer Ron Underwood, a.k.a. “Thunderwood”, where we discuss music, a car crash that we witness as the interview is being recorded, and the antics, stories & mischievous deeds underneath the ink.
Mel: “The Damaged Ones” is f*****g awesome. I have been a 9E fan for some time now. We have seen you guys at the Whisky (Hollywood, CA) many, many times and now here we are in WI, 2,000 miles from the Sunset strip and who the fxck do we bump into?
Thunderwood: This guy. It is pretty cool seeing you guys here. I was double taking as I was loading some stuff in. Like wait…I know these faces.
Mel: We kind of scare people like that.
Mel: We are like the people on the couch…we keep coming back. (referencing the movie Half Baked…the Guy on the couch). Can you tell me a little about your album? I love the album art. Who did it?
Thunderwood: Anthony Davison, and we actually did some stuff with him on our ep, an earlier thing. We really liked it. This stuff is completely different from what he did on the ep which shows his versatility and we really liked it. It’s just moody… it is dark, I feel like you can touch his art. It jumps out at you. I don’t know what it is… but I love it!
Mel: It kind of grabs you by the balls. Kind of like your guys’ music. It blows the skin right off your fxcking bones. It is awesome.
Thunderwood: Whoa! That is extreme. We are really happy with the way the album came out. We did a lot of pre-production. Micah, our drummer, is a pretty awesome producer himself. So we did most of the pre-production, either on the road or in our own studio in LA. Then we said okay, these are the the songs we are going to work on. Then we started working with Kane Churko who has done a bunch of stuff like Five Finger Death Punch, he has worked with Ozzy, he has done In This Moment. A really young guy… just really talented, and he just put that extra little special shine on everything. I am so stoked. He was almost like a fifth member. It was just such a good vibe as soon as we sat down with him.
Mel: That is Awesome.
Mel: I got to tell you I was sincerely bummed because I missed your CD release party in LA on Sunset Strip (held at the Rainbow Bar & Grill) because we were here. So how did it go?
Thunderwood: Ahhh. It was good. It was like a crazy dance party. And somehow it was actually upstairs at the Rainbow, that is where the main party was commencing. Somehow they had double booked the night, so there was this random birthday party happening there. The birthday party people were like “hey this is great!”. It was like we enhanced the birthday party. They shared their cake. It was amazing and everyone had a really really good time. So we made some new fans there too.
Mel: You guys are soooooo active. You guys jump and flip. It almost wears me out to watch you, even from the first song. That makes me old. The rest of the crowd is out there like “hell yeah!” and I am all, “oh I am brittle I am going to break”.
Thunderwood: When I was a kid I saw a few live shows of bands I was a fan of and had their album(s). Then I get to the show and they are just phoning it in. I would have rather popped the CD in and stared at a poster that was moving more than these guys. So I really took it to heart. Then I would see some other bands who were like the polar opposite. I remember seeing Rage Against the Machine one time and it was just so intense. (loud bang) Oh…that was a serious wreck over there. (In the middle of our interview outside by the tour bus, we did witness a crash. It happened right here in the interview. It sort of made us all stop for a minute).
Mel: Yes it was.
Thunderwood: That was a…whew good luck guys. Ahh wow, serious man I just saw stuff fly up in the air. Alright, I hope they are alright. (luckily there were no serious injuries). Ummm… where were we?
Mel: You were explaining why you are like half monkey on stage.
Thunderwood: Oh yeah.
Mel: I mean that in the nicest way.
Thunderwood: So I saw some other bands that really laid it down. I realized that every show that you have the music is just a small element of it. The rest of it is the moment that you share with the people that come there, that paid that ticket price to go see you. They are not just there to hear your music. You can sound like shit. For instance, and not to knock these guys, they are one of the coolest bands on the planet, The Clash. They’re not known as a great sounding live band but they have one of the coolest live shows. You know when you watch the old footage, it was just so inspiring. It is about the moment. It is about the intensity and it is about telling the truth and sharing those moments with people. So I/we just took all those elements and said, okay, there is no excuse to not lay down that kind of intensity if you have that ability to. It is a missed opportunity otherwise.
Mel: So you give what I think is the best part of a band, which is the experience, because like you say, if you just want the music and you want it to sound good you can sit at home, get high, put it in your CD player and listen to it in your underwear. But for the show, you want to feel the sweat. You want to be in the pit and break a bone.
Thunderwood: Yeah, and exactly. The album version of something is like for a different reason. Like a document of time, an idea. It is like a template… this is what we did and this is what we did in the studio. And for a different reason sometimes I’ll visit one song, a version live that I like more for some reason, and I will pop on the album version for a different reason. It is all about what it is for and what it does for you. Whether it is more cerebral or more of a body thing, you just want to rock out. It just depends.
Mel: I like that. It is probably the best explanation I have ever got, and again I was talking about your music being art. Since we are with Tattoo.com, do you have any ink you want to talk about.
Thunderwood: Well this is my first one. I am a Scorpio so I got a Scorpio sign. I had a girlfriend that talked me into it. It was her birthday so I went with her. Then I kind of ran out of ideas so I said “Repeat it bro… you still got the stencil”, so they just fxcking flipped it over and that was that. (He has a Scorpio sign on both shoulders). So a good story, an Amazing story…. Sunset Strip, at the Shamrock Social Club. I can’t remember the guy’s name. Thanks guy who’s name I can’t remember. I did this one live on the air. I was in Pueblo CO. This cool guy named Derek with a big old beard and I were doing a radio interview They just said let’s get you some ink live on the air and this is what they came up with. I was a big fan of Hunter S. Thompson and when he passed away I wanted to get something like this. So it was perfect timing, right after that happened (Hunter’s passing). And I am Ron so I had it personalized to RONZO. Ta da! This one is pretty goofy. I had a tech who was friends with and he is Peruvian, and I wanted some pretty gangster looking tattoos on my knuckles. I’m like, “dude… you know… like the prison style”. He said alright, I know just the place. Then he takes me to East L.A. He is like, “don’t talk to these guys”. You just sit in the chair. So he interpreted everything and I just sat there. The place was called Azteca. They didn’t talk to me, they didn’t look at me, they just started going to work. They were playing AC/DC so I know I am down with these guys. They got all their shirts off. They have like a prison break scene…the guy tatting me has a full on prison break scene, like the lowrider car, and the guard tower, and the guy jumping over the fence, and the guard chasing, and the lowrider car with the getaway honey. That is what was on his body, right. I am like “this is awesome!”. So, they are playing AC/DC and they are not talking to me and they are just kind of giving me these looks like “what is this white boy doing in here?” And I am like, “Oh man I am so scared… this is great!”. He starts tattooing the shit out of my knuckles. He noticed I do not have any tattoos (none of this stuff yet). He is like “What do you do for a living man?” I am like, I am a musician. He is like really? “Are you any good?”. My old band, Opiate for the Masses was doing pretty well at the time. I was like, yeah we just debuted a song on MTV. He is like MTV? Can we get a picture with you? All of sudden everyone speaks English just out of nowhere. Wow… you guys really can speak English. They were taking pictures with me. All giving me their cards. “Send your friends in here”. So yeah, I was off the hook. But Yeah Alhambra Azteca baby.
Mel: Do you have any plans for any new ones?
Thunderwood: Well I have a few more. This one actually I got at a house party in Traverse City one drunken night. Okay… this is the most bizarre thing. It was Traverse City, Michigan. I was on tour with that former band (Opiate for the Masses), actually my current bass player, I was on tour with him. He was in a band from New Jersey called Dry Kill Logic. So we were traveling around the US about 10 years ago with Drowning Pool. We ended up at this show in Traverse City, Michigan. There was like these stripper/soccer moms there who invited us home. We are like, cool they got a pool and they are going to feed us. They had like a full-on strip club set up in their basement, but there was like tricycles in the front yard. It was so bizarre. It was like suburbia, but some secret dark bottom lounge under it. They had a back mirror all across the wall, moving lights… they really did it up. Anyway, they had like a pole… a stripper pole. So I am sitting in this Lazy Boy chair just drinking beers just getting “poop” tattooed on my lip. We could not think of anything else. I was kind of like, I want something gangster on my chest. We could not think of anything more gangster than (the word) Gangsta. They added the bling just for some touch. I did not even tell them to do that… they just understood. It was like some kid down the street that had like the coolest neighbors ever. He was like 18 and hanging out with these soccer moms/strippers, giving tattoos to Rock guys. Such a weird scene.
Mel: This kind of sounds like porn. Just the PG version.
Thunderwood: It was so…well you know I am going to leave other details out from later in the night…it was the most bizarre way to get a tattoo.
Mischievous Mel: So basically you are the kind of person that if some random person said “I am going to ink you”, you would take it.
Thunderwood: It is like the concept of having a live show and having the experience. I think the memory or the story behind it is really the strength of why. It is part of my life. You know what I mean? It is a document.
Mel: Much like music, tattoos tell stories. We want to thank you for your time. Get out and bUy the album “The Damaged Ones” 9E…F**k Yeah!