Go as hard as you can
Catching up with Trash Talk’s Lee Spielman on the heels of the thrash band’s breakthrough year
A flat-billed black hat rested atop Lee Spielman’s signature lengthy brown locks as he approached Dad’s Sandwich Shop, and sat down for his SN&R interview. Spielman spilled everything—including some buffalo-chicken-sandwich juices on my recorder—about his band Trash Talk’s huge 2010: playing Loud Park Festival in Japan with Ozzy Osbourne and Motörhead; receiving huge critical acclaim from Spin, Rolling Stone and Pitchfork; releasing an EP featuring guest vocals by Black Flag/Circle Jerks co-founder Keith Morris. Formed in 2005 in a garage in Citrus Heights, Trash Talk is now in Los Angeles recording its next album. The band heads separate ways during downtime, and hardcore’s most spastic and aggressive frontman admits he likes coming back to his Sacramento roots.
What are your thoughts on the Sacramento music scene?
I think Sacramento is doing really good right now, from the punk scene, hardcore bands, everybody. There’s so many shows going on. There’s so many venues that I’m not going to name because they’re all illegal. I went to a show last night in a basement, and it was packed and everyone was having fun. That shows that there’s still people here who still care, and that’s awesome. I know people that book shows here, and that’s all they really want to do is make sure that something’s happening here.
Your bandmates are scattered throughout California and Texas. Why do you come back to Sac?
I lived other places. I moved to Seattle and I lived in L.A. We lived in Philadelphia for a little while. … I’m just comfortable [in Sacramento]. It’s just my hometown. I know it like the back of my hand; it’s how it is for everybody. You always go back to where you came from.
Tell me about the new album.
[We went] into the studio on January 23 to start recording for a record. It’s not titled yet, and it’ll be out sometime this summer.
Ever think Trash Talk would take you around the world?
No. I started this band because I wanted to play fast, aggressive thrash music. We played our first practice in Citrus Heights in our friend’s mom’s garage. He didn’t have drumsticks; he used wooden spoons. So the first time we went to Europe was a jaw dropper.
Does Trash Talk plan on slowing down any time soon?
No, we’re just picking up right now. We leave for Australia in February, and then we’ll head out to South by Southwest and a full U.S. tour after that. … We’re trying to go to all the countries that we haven’t been to, like South America and Africa.
Do you enjoy life on tour?
I just like meeting people. I like new experiences every day. That’s what’s cool about tour, especially in punk music. It’s a way different scene. It’s not like you just drive up, play and don’t talk to anybody. Everyone’s connected. You hang out with all the kids from the town and you do exactly what they would do.
Why did the band decide to start Trash Talk Collective?
Putting out your own records, there’s no deadlines, there’s no artwork stipulations, there’s no “You have to record here.” It’s the four of us and we make the decisions ourselves. If we want to do something, we can do whatever we want. If we want to go on tour with some band that sounds nothing like us, we can. If we want to play some weird festival, we can.
Which performance is still fresh in your memory?
We played Loud Park Fest in Japan with Motörhead and Ozzy Osbourne; it was in a super arena. We’ve never played an arena show, we’re like a punk/hardcore band, so we’re playing to a stadium full of people and they were all going off. It was a really cool experience to know we can play on that big of a scale.
How do you gather the energy for your set?
The way I see it—and we all talk about this in our band—the only reason you’re out there is to play that 30 minutes. So you wait 23 and a half hours just to play 30 minutes, why not give it your all? You should go as hard as you can in anything you do, but especially something you’re waiting all day to do. I’ve always talked about how I’d go see bands and if they’re not into it themselves, it’s so hard for you to be into it. How can I vibe off something that looks forced?
The mainstream media has taken notice to Trash Talk; how did this all happen?
Someone just caught wind of what we were doing. … Someone just stumbled into the room one day and was like, “Holy fuck. Who are all these kids and why is everyone diving off of everything? What is this?” A lot of people who had no idea about that style of music in the mainstream just had their heads taken off.
Keith Morris: Enough said.
That was a surreal experience. Keith Morris is, like, 55 years old, and he is still a prominent force in the L.A. punk scene. He still goes to shows, still knows about bands, still supports people. When he showed up, he rode his bike there and called us from the pay phone across the street. That alone says it all. He could have fucking drove up in a car and called us on an iPhone. For me, that was like little kid pipe dreams. You’re sitting there with Keith Morris and he was telling us stories about old Black Flag shows and old Circle Jerks shows. Talking about Bad Religion, sitting there hearing, “In 1985, I saw this …” Everyone’s just staring at this dude like is this really happening?
Are you satisfied with your life?
I just don’t want to be another statistic. It’s good to be able to break from the norm and do something completely different. I’m super satisfied. I’m 22, and I’ve seen more in 22 years than a lot of people will ever see, and I’m more than grateful to have the experiences that I’ve had. I feel like I’ve learned more touring than I could have ever learned in a college, just how to treat people and how to survive on your own.