Cornerstone 2000: An Interview With S.S. Bountyhunter

Talking with one of the most unique and extreme acts to ever grace a Cornerstone Festival stage.

This interview was conducted by Nolan Shigley and Tricia Krull at Cornerstone 2000.

After seeing the S.S. Bountyhunter show at Cornerstone 1999, I knew I had a gem of an interview this year. That was the first time I had ever heard or seen the band, but I immediately became a believer.

The theatrics of the show (for example, there was a member of the band whose sole purpose is to play the nunchucks and threaten the crowd) and John’s insane performance was all that I needed to purchase their album. The album was a day in the life of a bounty hunter, which may sound a tad dark for most Cornerstone goers, but there is a theory behind the album and the band.

I was fortunate enough to speak with the John (the head bounty hunter) backstage a couple hours before soundcheck and a few days before it was announced they’d be releasing their second album on Velvet Blue (maybe on account of the hysterics caused by the live show). After this interview, you may become a believer, too.

Nolan: So, there’s more of a new sound to the upcoming album. You mentioned before that you are losing a lot of the surf sound.

John: Yeah, we’ve pretty much put all of the surf stuff aside, as far as that particular guitar sound. But the feel that we use that in, we still work in that field, but we’re getting into deeper moods and music and deeper atmosphere as we create songs that create visual imagery, a certain scene that might take place.

Nolan: But you are keeping the eerier, darker sound correct?

John: Yeah, it is getting more eerie and more dark, not real eerie or dark, just enough.

Tricia: What are your influences in the darker areas?

John: You know, I don’t listen to anybody that’s really dark. I mean I really like Björk, I really like Air, I really like Radiohead, but I don’t want to try to be like them, I want to do my own thing. Those are some of my influences, but other people in the band have different influences. When we put together what we want to do then this is what comes out. We all pretty much have similar goals.

Nolan: What’s the name given to the new album?

John: Serpents for Eggs.

Nolan: How did you guys come up with that?

John: Well, I don’t really want to say until I finish the album because there’s going to be a concept behind it so I want to wait till that is fully developed before saying anything about it.

Nolan: I know there was a concept behind the last album and I remember purchasing it for simply the cover art (a female lying dead from a gun wound). However, I believe a lot of conservative Christians may have been turned off by it. Could you explain the reason behind the artwork?

John: Sure. First off, we’ll start with the name of the band. It’s S.S. Bountyhunter. The S.S. stands for “serum seed,” which is our paraphrase for the Holy Spirit. A serum is an antitoxin. It’s something that cures an illness that you have in your body and the seed is something that is planted inside of us. It’s the serum seed, that the more that it grows, the more that the serum can work against the human illness in our bodies. And that’s what the Holy Spirit is.

The bountyhunter is someone that receives a bounty by either bringing someone into captivity or putting someone to death. And so the S.S. Bountyhunters are bountyhunters that are controlled by the serum seed, the Holy Spirit, and by doing so, the serum seed directs them as to what things either need to be brought under captivity or put to death. And by doing those things, the S.S. bountyhunters receive a bounty.

So the cover illustrates in the background this group of bounty hunters who have obviously hunted down a woman that looks like she would never have any reason to be hunted down for. What that represents are the things that you would never think, things that look innocent, that you would never think that have to be put to death. But, that is the case in a lot of people’s lives, that there are those things you would never guess — because they look so innocent, harmless — that you would never think to ever put them to death. The thought of it would never make any sense at all. So that is what the album cover means.

Nolan: I’m guessing the lyrics go along the same lines as the cover art?

John: Yeah, and the lyrics are basically a testimony of the life of an S.S. Bountyhunter. All the way down to the song “The Arsenal,” which talks about the different weapons that are being used. It’s not using Scripture about the armor of God or anything, because that’s been so overdone. So we decided to do something new with this.

Nolan: Is the new album going to be on vinyl?

John: That’s a good question, because right now we are planning on putting it out independently, but at the same time it would be nice to find a label that would be able to have the same vision that we have. That would be able to believe in us. Of course, we would love the distribution and being able to carry a name and be recognized instead of just a limited, independent release.

Nolan: Tell the label producers to come to one of your shows. They’ll be believers then (and would they). At any rate, you told me last year that the past album took a couple years or so to write and record.

John: Yeah, it took two years to finish the other one and this new one, it’s been three years since we started writing for the new album, but we had to take about nine months off for one of the members to have a baby and get settled in with that. So, we are going to be reestablished after Cornerstone and things are going to be a lot different. We are really going to put more into this and it’s really going to be one of the most important things in our lives.

Nolan: Are you going to have the full crew with you tonight at the show?

John: Yeah, well…

Nolan: Never mind. I don’t want you to give too much away about the show.

John: Yeah, thanks.

Nolan: Last thing, are you guys going to be doing more shows in the near future?

John: Well, after Cornerstone we don’t have anything planned until we reestablish ourselves. We really want to finish the new album.

Nolan: So, this is your tenth year at Cornerstone, but you have brought a different band here before correct?

John: Yeah, I was in a band called Clay. Clay was labeled as a hardcore band and I’ve always been a really creative person, but I was extremely limited on how I could use my creativity. So when that broke up then I really had a vision for S.S. Bountyhunter that I felt like God was really giving me. So I’m so grateful that I can do something now where I can have the freedom to be creative and do things with music that I really want to do. And Josh Plemon and I are pretty much the core of the band and we work together so well. We were actually in Clay together, too. We have history with the classic Christian music scene. Of course, the Crucified and Breakfast With Amy and all the beginners you know and so we have always had similar musical interests and so we just work great together and I love him.

Nolan: Have you ever thought of doing a soundtrack to an independent film or any project of the sort?

John: I would love to. I think we have so many tracks that it would be so appropriate for it.

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