Photos & Interview by Meg Clemmensen
USS have always stood out to me since the moment I discovered them. With their unapologetic personalities, energetic stage presence, and incredible connection with their fans, what's not to love? In this interview, Jay (nicknamed Human Kebab) delved in about their live shows, new single, and why transparency is so important to them.
To start off, for anybody who isn't familiar with your music, could you introduce yourself and let us know what you do in the band?
My name is Human Kebab and I'm one half of USS, also known as Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker. We describe ourselves as a campfire after-party, and I am the DJ turntablist hype man of the group.
Ok, sounds awesome! Your tour kicks off shortly, and by the time readers see this, it'll likely be well underway or done. What are your live shows like, and what can we expect from this tour?
Our live show can be described as an anarchist rally, motivational seminar, and a yoga class, in a nutshell. Ash and I pin ourselves on being high energy, explosive, impulsive, spontaneous, ridiculous, silly, and serious all tied into 90 minutes.
Well, I can't wait to see this show! Since there's only one USA date on this tour, what do you miss about being in Canada when you're not here?
I've never been asked that question before! I mean, anytime we travel the world, we have a sense of yearning for home, but with America being our neighbour just across the border, we have similar values, we speak the same language, and we listen to the same music. There's some differences between our cultures, but I think that America being ten times our population and just an interesting place to explore, you miss your own bed and the comfort of knowing you're back in Canada. At the same time, I might be a little bit biased because I thoroughly enjoy going to the US and I also love traveling, so, to me, if we can get new energy from new people when we play shows in America, or anywhere in the world, for that matter, I think you're only really going to miss the things that make you comfortable when you're at home in your own country.
You're working on new music right now, correct?
Will it sound anything like your most recent single, “Medicine”, or will it be completely different?
We have a song that we just confirmed the final master of last night that's about to come out called “Big Life”. This song is very important to us because of the message of it, and once it comes out and you hear the lyrics, you'll understand what I'm trying to express. I think that Ash and I have come to a point where we've seen it done so much all over the world, and with our music, having five albums now, and “Medicine” being the current single. We're just learning how to really say what is most important to us in our music, and we felt like we've had flashes of it, but we're working towards being much more honest. Especially Ash, being the singer and the lyricist, it's just getting really exciting to watch him be comfortable and just saying how he feels.
Are you able to tell us one lyric from the new song that you're most excited about without spoiling the whole thing?
Well, the chorus goes “26 letters, stitch them all together, now make a big life”. Basically, what that means is that we all use the language and the alphabet and our words to describe these feelings, emotions, and experiences we have in life, but if you can find the right combination for you, you can have the best life possible.
I love that idea! Will we hear anything unreleased on this tour, like this song maybe?
For the first time ever, we will be playing “Medicine” live, and we will be playing “Big Life” live, so that is definitely something that is going to run parallel with this tour. In terms of something unreleased, at the current moment, no, because we already have the entire show laid out. Any time you start a tour, you need a few shows to get into the rhythm of what's working and what's not, and we're usually good at figuring those things out very quickly, but you never know! Maybe we'll throw in a random cover song!
You're filming a new music video soon too, aren't you?
Actually, yes! We're doing a music video this weekend for our song “Big Life”!
What's the theme of it and when do you plan to release it?
It probably won't come out until November. The theme of it is multiple stories all happening in the same place, and it's all these different people trying to figure out how to have their own big life. Those are the characters that we will all play in the video.
I like how you chose to involve a selection of fans in this music video!
It's always fun to do that, because the fans are what draw the entire operation. USS is the fans, so any chance we can get where we can involve them in the creative process is so rewarding for us. These people live and breathe our music, they're the reason why we exist. They get to interact with us and we get to hear their stories, and at the end of the day, Ash and I create the music and go out and live it, but everybody who's a fan is a part of it. It's not really about him and I, it's about everybody.
What was the first one of your songs that you heard on the radio and how did you react?
Our first song that we heard on the radio was back in January 2008. It was our song “Hollowpoint Sniper Hyperbole” from our first EP, Welding The C Drive. 102.1 The Edge in Toronto played it and I'll never forget that moment. I still hear it to this day. We spent our own money, recorded our song, something we believed in, made a record around it, got it onto the radio on a station that Ash and I both grew up listening to, and it just gives you chills thinking about that moment. I remember one point when it was on The Edge and Ash and I were both working at the time and doing various odd jobs because, you know, we're poor musicians living in Toronto. One day we heard it 8 times! I can't believe we did that.
Wow, that's crazy! What's the weirdest fan interaction or gift that you can remember receiving on tour?
I'm always blown away by tattoos. I remember playing Ottawa a few years ago and a gentleman came up to me at the merch booth and he asked me to autograph his biceps and he got it tattooed to him the next day. I find that not only humbling, but fascinating because my deal as Human Kebab was a nomenclature that I created when I was at university, seeking out a band to be in. Then I met Ash and the name stuck. Everything is still the same, and now people are tattooing it to them, and I think it reaffirms our life purpose. Being put on this planet to bring joy to people, and in our case, through music and entertainment.
If you had to choose one word to describe your next record, or whatever music you're currently working on, what word would you use?
Transparency. I say that because Ash and I have reached a crossroads where we've done so much that we have to keep going. We want to go the furthest we can across this planet with this new music. It has to come from the right honest place, because now more than ever, people are trusting honesty in human beings, and if we tell that story and people believe in it, I think that we've done our job and we've proven to ourselves that we're worthy of this life.