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Taki Sassaris of
Eve to Adam; Talking Tours & the Music Industry
"So now you have more content and less backing, and it falls onto the artist to do everything.... Artists now are actually doing 12 jobs just to make money to do the primary thing they wanna do. What happens is that artists should be making more music and writing and creating in the studio. What they end up doing is campaigns to raise money."
By Abbe Davis, Sept.3, 2020
You can always spot a singer who embodies Rock music, from their stage presence to how they talk about their path. There is solid conviction, and their music is an extension of that energy. Taki Sassaris from Eve to Adam has an enigmatic style in his vocal passion, and in the music he writes. He is living Rock music and actually cares about it, not just for himself, for all musicians on the terrain. He has also learned a lot traveling on the path of Rock 'n Roll.
The band, Eve To Adam (aka ETA) is a Modern Hard Rock band formed in New York City in 2001. They have released 6 albums, with three songs in the top 40 on Billboard's Mainstream and Active Rock Chart, including the song, 'Immortal', which broke the Top 15 at Active Rock in 2014 peaking at #13.
Last year Eve to Adam with Curtain Call Records and the production of Elvis Baskette, released Ithaca. The album received Top 20 Billboard Mainstream Rock Hits, “Day Drinking,” an in-your-face Rock anthem, and “No Easy Way Out,” a nod to 80’s Progressive Metal and Hair Band rock. While we were doing this interview, another brand new single, "Calling My Name," was moving up the charts, dedicated to first responders and medical heroes.
In January, ETA was the opening act for Queensryche, also touring with John 5 on The Verdict Tour. Cut short suddenly, ETA was able to tour for a few months with a pandemic at their heels.
The band has had many industry shifts, after a decade of touring, and they've emerged successful. The backbone of the band has been Taki and his brother, drummer Alex Sassaris. Taki fuels the flames of Rock music. He is very aware of how musicians need to get back to creating music without excessively being bogged down by industry demands. Given where we are today, at home waiting for this pandemic to pass, connection to community, fans, and industry becomes even more significant. We got to talk about this in our interview.
AD: Hey Taki, how are you doing? I've enjoyed listening to Ithaca, "Day Drinking" broke Billboard's top 20 last year, right?
TS: Yes, from Billboard it broke Top 20 last year for Mainstream Rock.
AD: Right now I'm sure a lot of people are doing day drinking listening to that.
TS: (laughing) Ya know what? I hope so.
AD: (laughing) It's kinda cool that you guys can go back and promote it like that now, "Hey, stuck in quarantine, go listen to our song, "Day Drinking."
TS: Totally, and now that football season is about to begin....We are out here in Tampa, so we will be doing some Buccaneers tailgating.
AD: There ya go. Put the fun into the dysfunction.
TS: Hell yeah, part of our whole agenda is just trying to bring Rock 'n Roll back to its organic roots, and have it be balanced as far as artistry, passion, performance, but fun as well.
AD: Yes, we want that, too, around here. What went on with Queensryche in January and February, the Verdict Tour, tell me about it?
TS: That was an incredible tour, it was about releasing Ithaca and touring nonstop. It was a big honor to be chosen to be on tour with Queensryche, one of my influences and favorite bands of all times. And obviously, John 5 is a great force and an awesome talent as well. It was a cool, eclectic mix, and I think we brought a lot to the table with our touring package, and we had a great time kicking it off; getting the adrenaline high-intensity. Everyone was very cool. I've toured a lot by now, and sometimes you wish it was one way and the reality was far different. I have nothing but exceptional things to say about the crew, the staff and Queensryche. Very cool, quality human beings, besides being awesome musicians. They looked after us. We had some issues with our bus, we almost died a couple of times on tour.
AD: What? What happened?!
TS: Well, the bus caught fire.
AD: What?? Tell me...Wow, that would be my fear going on those buses. How? Were you sleeping, in the middle of the night, and bam? Accident, or the bus just caught fire?
TS: Yes, I was sleeping, and I had my dog on the bus with me. I take my dog on tour with me.
AD: Holy...no..! Was your dog OK?
TS: Yes, she was OK. What added insult to injury is that I had just survived, fifteen days earlier, I had just opened a Hemp and CBD dispensary in Tampa. When we were just about to open it on Jan 6th, on Jan. 5th a four alarm fire destroyed our business, and the businesses on the sides of ours. They completely burned down.
AD: Tell me you had good insurance.
TS: We did, we're still dealing with it, cause the pandemic slowed everything down to a crawl. So, after that, PTSD and then the bus thing happened and I was like, "Man..." I don't know what the karma was for the year, but it was crazy.
Queensryche couldn't believe we were still on the bus, and that we never missed a show-which was incredible. I think they were inspired by us, because we reminded them of what it was like in the early days, when they were starting out. There was that coalescence of everything, the right kinds of energies in the right pockets, you know what I mean?
AD: Yes. The next night were you on the bus?
TS: We stayed on the bus, we had to keep rolling and had other shows. This was outside of Austin, TX, in San Antonio.
We did like 31 shows in just 6 weeks. From Florida up to Cali, and all the way around. Cross country and up the coast and we cut through the midwest to finish in Orlando. We were literally trailing or meeting the COVID outbreak in America.
AD: You guys got under the radar with the tour.
TS: Yeah, we finished March 1 and began January 15th. It was crazy. We were in San Francisco, and then two days later crisis, then were in Washington and Seattle, and about three days later that whole area had their outbreak. We were playing these sold out venues, 2000 people a night, and this whole thing is going on with this contagion. And none of those measures were put into place, kind of in the dark, ignorant about it. Looking back on it now, we feel blessed that we had the chance to tour this year, since a lot of people couldn't.
AD: So many tours and shows cancelled.
TS: From what I hear from the big groups, AEG, Live Nation, they are saying probably late Spring '21.
We are gearing up for another active year with some big names. It's been tough. For me, I've been nonstop so this is the first chance I get to be home for 7 months. Now I remember why I got into a band. The stress of regular life, it grinds you down.
AD: Ha, yes. What stresses you out the most? What are you doing? Are you breaking it up?
TS: I live in Old Seminole Heights with tons of nature, 1900's types of homes, old oak trees. I moved in here after the dispensary burned down. My dog gets to be outside, I bike at night, so I don't feel as isolated.
AD: How's your dog doing after that fire?
TS: I rescued her from the humane society, she has toured with me and been to 36 states. She's seen a lot and is making up for lost time. She's an interesting character and fits in with the group of hooligans that we are.
AD: You gotta get her a concert shirt.
TS: We made a concert shirt for the tour, the motto was "Dropping Piles and Counting Miles." An outline profile of her silhouette and on the back the tour dates, and next to each one, a pile of poop, everywhere she has marked her territory.
AD: (laughing) Excellent! Well now, you need to get a matching shirt to wear with her.
TS: (laughing) Oh absolutely, I love it! She keeps me grounded on the road and from losing my mind.
AD: Dogs rule. I grew up with dogs, they are great. So let's go, who is in your band now?
TS: Everyone is around except for Damian Bergeron, time and distance was a factor for him. We got blessed with Ronny Gutierrez from Miami, from Cobra and the Lotus. I can't say enough great things about the guy. He has restored my faith in guitar players, cause we had some tough luck, but he has made up for it. An awesome personality and great to hang out with. He is a total pro. On bass it is IIyn Nathaniel, a seasoned touring veteran, and Jeff Raines on drums.
AD: So since Alex, your brother, isn't on drums anymore, what is he doing?
TS: My brother is still in NY, and he stayed there as the head manager of our business, called PINX; a Rock 'n Roll bar and grill that specializes in tacos. It has a cantina portion and corporate catering and a tequila bar, with 2 locations in Manhattan. We have two bars, one in the East Village and one in the lower East Side. I'm very, very proud of him and all of the work that he's done, and he's done a great job.
AD: Does he miss drumming, does he get to play?
TS: He misses it, but he played on Ithaca, he just doesn't tour anymore. He's super busy, and these schedules are relentless. He's pretty content with everything as a founding member who put in 20 years.
AD: That's good to hear. Your band went through a lot over the years, and you guys also went through bass players.
TS: It seems to be congruent with the economics with bands these days, it's sad in that regard.
I've been blessed with these guys since Jan 2018, and with Ronny filling. I hope he isn't going anywhere, because we are planning to get into the studio and make another record with Elvis Baskette.
AD: That has been great. It would then be your third album with him, right?
TS: Yes. Elvis is an interstellar force of music, humanity, and lessons.
AD: Mark Tremonti says the same thing.
TS: Mark is a great human being, he made the connection in 2012 for us. We did 68 shows with Creed in 2012 and I became friends with Mark. One day while we were working out, I heard him play the first Tremonti album that Elvis had done. I was blown away, and we were shopping for a producer at the time to do Locked & Loaded. So I was like, "Dude I really LOVE the sound of this album." Mark made it happen, he made the phone call, connected us. That was a great pay it forward by such a superstar like him.
AD: He's a great guy. That's so cool. Your song, "Hurt Me," it is solid! For "No Easy Way Out," your remake of that song rocks, too. Who writes the band's tunes?
TS: A majority I write, but I collaborate with Elvis and the guys. I like collaboration. You always get that extra something that you don't get if it comes from a singular author. It depends on how it is delivered, but for me, my favorite experience is songs that evolve from a riff and everyone is playing it, and it's in the moment. There's just an electricity that happens, being able to capture that and have it expand into an album.
AD: Right now it's a lot of file sharing, very tricky, huh?
TS: Yeah, although I engage in that, and have had to adapt to that, it's not my primary way. I like interaction and the energy exchange, yet we have been productive during COVID. We are compiling a lot of tracks and are excited about the band and the next offering. Queensryche was even like, "You guys are going into the studio with this group, right?" They could hear us from the beginning of the tour to the end; how we found our footing. We only had 2 shows with Ronny before we hit the tour.
AD: Wow, that's excellent. Years ago, you guys had a heavier sound, you didn't wanna do Pop and you went heavier and now your sound is more of a Hard Rock style, with a sprinkle of some Alternative, true?
TS: Yeah, we are an intersection of 80's Hard Rock, Classic, I call it "New Classic Rock with a bit of Alternative". I grew up in the late 80's, early 90's so it was thrash metal, hair metal, then Soundgarden and Alice In Chains. Over time it is an integration of that, but the foundation is Modern Hard Rock. Different albums will be heavier, we never deviate from the center, Hard Rock.
AD: When you and your brother were playing years ago, with Gaurav Bali and Dave Schultz, you did tunes in Queens, NY. How did you get a producer back then?
TS: I met Desmond Child at UM School of Music in Miami and I was interning at his Music Company, so that is how I made that connection. We ended up with a different direction, he liked more of a Bon Jovi thing, and at the time I was into Tool and other styles; harder stuff. Then we moved to NY in '98 and that's where we cut our teeth, CBGB's. My brother and I moved up pre-9/11 and we lived through 9/11, and then the city changed post 9/11. Now, post-COVID, I don't know where it is headed. I worry about my friends in NYC. A big part of me still lives up there. Being up there, how I developed as an artist, is a big part of how I handle myself now. I'm grateful for that beyond. I wouldn't change anything, maybe Facebook, (laughing). I miss a music community.
AD: It's difficult, I hear you.
TS: Artists need a community, we need representation, musicians are always taken advantage of.
AD: For us it's about promotion because of how isolating it can get.
TS: In DC nobody defends your property, they take advantage, and musicians aren't making enough on content, it's
AD: It's important to get together and create a shift.
TS: Yes, I think that someone needs to spearhead a movement for artists and musicians because, what's happening is how they have eviscerated an industry of people who are talented, yet can't engage in this profession anymore.
AD: The investing a lot should be later on, yet it isn't.
TS: We've been fortunate with venture capital opportunities who invested in our band and the music, yet that isn't easy anymore. We see how technological shifts decrease the revenue you can't recoup. Now it comes down to merchandise.
AD: And now, no ticket sales.
TS: Yes, and more aggressive with merchandise being charged taxes, it's eradicated Metal and Hard Rock. You're down and they put the boot on your neck. We can't breathe, I can't breathe, how will this help anyone?
AD: I hear you, I really do. This is an important thing to think about in Rock music. Let's get back to your path in 2011. ETA opens for Halestorm, and you do Rock on the Range in 2014. You were releasing the Locked and Loaded album, and you had Elvis Baskette produce your album. How did that happen?
TS: It was a dominoes effect, connections. Dave Basset and Eric Bass, for Shinedown sound and he was the anchor on Halestorm, they helped us do "Straightjacket Super Model," my favorite tune. The rest was done with Elvis, it was like the mercury in the thermometer, heated up. Locked & Loaded, 3 for 5 company; it was our breakout album.
AD: I love how you sound on "Forgive." Your vocal is really strong.
TS: Thanks, that's one of my most favorite songs we've done. It's great doing vocals with Elvis.
AD: Yeah, but it's also YOU. You belt it out and it sounds great. Adam Latiff did some great guitar work on that, right?
TS: That was all Gaurav Bali. He left in 2014.
AD: He sounded great. What is one of the best stories about meeting somebody that you respect in Rock?
TS: It was pretty recent, the Fall of 2018 we got to play with Quiet Riot and I got the chance to meet Frankie Banali.
Quiet Riot influenced so many of us with the album, Mental Health, Kevin Dubrow's voice, and it is undervalued. Rock singing is not easy. The mechanics, being in shape, the whole process has to be on auto pilot to belt out an hour and a half of music. If it sounds easy, it's because they are great. So meeting Frankie Banalie was a moment. He's been a cornerstone on my journey in Hard Rock and the Metal world. He was a nice, down to earth, and it made a big impression on me. I'm sad about his passing, it's another big loss to the Hard Rock world.
AD: It is. Let's now talk industry. Is it true Eve to Adam broke a contract with 3 for 5, I mean your advice to prevent this for people out there, is what?
TS: Sometimes you can't avoid it, sometimes you have to take the deal that's on the table, and you hope to renegotiate. Sometimes people promise to do that, and then they get greedy and they don't. What happened was that we delivered on what they wanted, no matter what, we delivered beyond. All we wanted was mechanical royalties on our sales, and a bit of live performance, but they didn't care about us making a living wage.
AD: Is it true that they wouldn't give you your gear back? How did they get away with that?
TS: When you have millions of dollars and five attorneys, that's the way the game is played.
AD: You guys did a fundraiser to get your gear back, right?
TS: Yes. We did it on Indiegog,o and we were able to raise about $16,000 dollars to replace the equipment.
They had our inner ear rig, our Pro Tools and computer, and Pre Amps. A comprehensive live rig to do Ableton
and integrate it on the album and live band playing. We put this great system together and they took the ball and went home. Then guys left in the band.
AD: Then you regroup and by 2016, Odyssey, etc.
TS: Odyssey and Ithaca were two presentations of similar material. I was rebuilding and figuring it out. I worked with Rocktagon on Odyssey; for adding EDM to the tracks. Some people liked it, some people didn't. We tried. You have to offer something new to be noticed in the public's consciousness.
The bottom line, is that everyone has their angle to make money off of the artist. I tell the younger artists today, nothing has changed in the music business. The technological shift has created more artists and access to music and catalogues, but at the end of the day, there's only one entity that's still getting fucked, and it is the artist. It was like that in the 70's and it is still that way today. At least back then if you were screwed by Warner Brothers, they would pay you a million dollars. Now it's like I would give anything to be screwed by Epic for 3 mil dollars. Instead of getting screwed for 30,000 being treated like a cheap hooker, I wanna be more like an escort. (laughing)
So now you have more content and less backing, so it falls onto the artist to do everything. It was a really off-color and ignorant response by the CEO of Spotify to say that "artists are lazy." Artists now are actually doing 12 jobs just to make money to do the primary thing they wanna do. What happens is that artists should be making more music and writing and being in the studio. What they end up doing is campaigns to raise money, selling this, and signing that.
AD: And doing things outside of their comfort zone. Maybe one person or band, is not supposed to be doing that much. The creativity would flow more freely with not being bogged down by all of that.
TS: That's my last point. Artist development. Any of these titan artists we have known through the years, whether it's Bruce Springsteen, Metallica, The Stones, Lady Gaga; no matter the genre, there was a period of development, investment, and time that ended up yielding who we know them as today. Unfortunately for artists now, a lot of that just doesn't exist. The companies are waiting for the finished product, and it's up to you to get to that level; through the hurdle and the obstacle course and the gauntlet. Many people don't make it because it's really, really difficult, especially tensions with bands. The hardest thing to do, is create music while maintaining an atmosphere of respect, comfort and security. Everyone's gotta feel good because everyone's insecure to begin with. It's really hard to do that when you have all these external pressures creating a tremendous amount of stress. The stop watch on a band, if it used to be 8 months back in the day, is now 3 months before someone bolts out the door. That could've been the next Megadeath or Slipknot.
Business people and lawyers created the music business, and they had a love for Art, whether it was Clive Davis, or David Geffen. Those guys were shrewd businessmen, yet they had an education and an appreciation for the finer things in life; a lot of that being Art & Music. They loved traveling with the bands, and they smoked joints with the Eagles, and they hung out with Fleetwood Mac. The problem is, this is a unique balance, an intersection of Art and Commerce, and the balance is off, the recipe is not right. What we have now is 80% Business, and 20% Art, so the people who are in the record companies have no Music experience, have never been in Music. I think it's important if you're selling Music, you should have some connection to the struggle that the artist has gone through. Really, there's nobody left like that, it's all business and profits, it's all numbers. The very things that people who got into music, didn't wanna be a part of.
AD: Exactly, or they would have gone into just the business side of Music.
TS: Right, or they would have become an accountant. I don't see how that's gonna change if the fundamentals don't start over with another formula. I have to give a lot of credit to the people who worked on those albums with Tom Petty, great A&R guides helping to pick songs. Clive Davis with Arista and Columbia, he was picking the songs out. He was very actively involved in the artists, developing Whitney Houston. He knew what he wanted to hear her sing.
AD: They grew up and were around it in a different way, where they immersed themselves in the actual Art form. Now, there's a big wall and divide.
TS: Yeah, now the CEO of Johnson & Johnson is gonna run Universal Music. It's all the same to him, he can sell toothpaste or he can sell Music. Yet it's not the same.
AD: We see this in many industries now. So what is your band's plan going forward? What's ahead in 2021?
TS: We had a stacked year planned for 2020. Our European tour was put on hold, so that will be in 2021. Our plan is to record more, about 3 EP four song releases, and then to tour in 2021 with Queensryche. My dream would also be the Scorpions. We toured with them in '99. It's funny how you end up working with the people you started with. John Kuntz runs Rock Rage and Curtain Call Records. He worked with SFX/Live Nation, and in '99 was the one who came up with the idea of combining with American brands to subsidize. I'm lucky to be with someone who helped my career, and in how he maintains relationships or marketing for what Music is. It's still about the Music. If you don't have the song, I don't care how much social media you do.
AD: It will come down to the listeners.
TS: And the quality of the music and the quality of the recordings. Everything we've done has been independent or us. I went back into the vault of previous songs, and to be able to go, "Wow that still holds up," is good.
AD: Your sound from way back is timely.
TS: I listened to our Auburn Slip the other day and from that to Ithaca, the bedrock of our sound was captured. It still holds up now.
AD: It's also cool to say that, "From Auburn Slip to Ithaca"
TS: (laughing) Yeah. We didn't plan it that way, yet it has been consistent.
AD: It isn't just luck with you. You have the willpower and the stamina in fronting your band. When the music keeps
going long term, I believe that that helps. Obviously you are the backbone and have kept it alive and here it is with Ithaca.
TS: I appreciate you saying that. There have been opportunities for me to walk away but I have never been able to leave it. It's a part of me, and is a very natural process for me. Singing in a rock band... I can't exist without it. I feel like I don't exist without it.
AD: It's like breathing, right? It's been with you for how long? In fact, when did you and your brother start writing music? What ages were you both?
TS: We started when we were 11 and 13. I'm 43 now.
AD: What did you both listen to?
TS: A lot of Hair Metal. (laughing) Thrash and Hair Metal. It was Iron Maiden, Metallica, Poison, LA Guns. I mean, what was on MTV? Def Leppard's Pyromania, one of my favorite albums.
AD: Great album! Who do you wanna thank here?
TS: I wanna thank our fans and the music-buying public. People who understand that buying a t-shirt or a CD, or supporting our band monetarily, those people I wanna thank the most. You're going way above and beyond to help us endure. Without the fans, we wouldn't be here. John Kuntz and Gigi at Curtain Call Records, for caring about Rock and Metal and bands, and for dealing with shit that most people don't wanna deal with anymore. John helped me commit to go back into the grind; and I value my relationship with my manager. I like being able to also help new bands. I like how Curtain Call is passionate about new artists, too. I care about the next generation.
AD: It's critical. That is our cause, too.
TS: I'm sick of how some platforms are negative and all about politics. It should be about the artist, the music, and being in the sanctuary of music.
AD: That's the beauty of it all. I am excited to hear new music from your band. Wishing you the best in 2021.
TS: Check out our newest song, it's climbing now, called "Calling My Name." This song we dedicate to the first responders, and the medical heroes out there, in this terrible crisis that we've all been enduring. No matter what side you're on, those people are out there risking their lives. Thank you to them! Our band also supports the healing of suicidal veterans with Mission 22, or (for chronically or terminally ill children) Dream Come True. Also, to get marijuana to all of the soldiers who need it. We also support law enforcement out there. There are a lot of great, caring cops out there despite the bad apples. The good ones are doing work that they never get credit for.
AD: 100%! So true, especially now, with how heated things are. Thank you so much, for how you care about Music, the industry, and people out there. We send out our supportive vibes to these causes too. Everyone be safe out there!
TS: Thank you.
Abbe Davis is the editor of Tru Rock Revival, and the lead singer of Sordid Fable, a Hard Rock band. When Abbe isn't writing music, she's finding new bands to promote and support internationally. Bandivious is the new project, as is another App in development as a website designer. She and Kreig Marks are the MC's of the Tru Rock Live Show.