This interview was initially supposed to take place in early March. If that had happened, the spurs of Seth Sentry’s recent triumphs in America couldn’t have jabbed themselves into the flank of our conversation, and considering the candour and total jubilation with which the artist speaks of the experience, that would have been a black eye indeed. Thankfully he’s practically just stepped off of the plane when we sit down at Beat HQ, and is super animated about the last few weeks as well as his upcoming tour.
“The first show [in the States] that we did was this massive corporate-y Doritos sponsored, Pepsi sponsored event, and it was this big competition,” Sentry says. “They picked three artists from around the world [to compete] and we had to do one song each – after Public Enemy had already played,” he adds drily. “We were drawn first. That was the first gig I’d ever done out of Australia.” The prize was a support slot with LL Cool J, and a performance on Jimmy Kimmel’s show. “We had a bunch of other shows which seemed less... not less exciting,” he laughs, “but less stressful. I was less nervous about ‘em, because I had this Jimmy Kimmel thing at the end so I was like, fuck, it’s just leading up to that.”
Sentry almost made an idiot of himself when he was meeting the man; the performance stage is in a separate studio to Kimmel’s, so he didn’t click straight away who this particular man was, advancing to greet him. “Because I’d just done Dear Science and I was all rattled and [thinking] ‘fucking weird’, this guy came up to me and was like ‘Hey, congratulations man, well done.’ I said ‘Yeah, cool,’ shook his hand. I just thought he was a stage guy or something. Then I looked up and was like 'oh, shit.' The other stage hand came up and was like ‘Did he tell you not to fuck up?’ [Because] it’s all live, it’s pretty intense. The chicks there kind of give you the Wayne’s World countdown: ‘Five! Four! Three... Go! Don’t fuck up!’ Don’t swear, as well.”
There was a lot of internet chatter about Sentry changing the lyrics of the two tracks he performed – Dear Science and Float Away, both from his 2012 debut LP This Was Tomorrow – to eliminate the swears. “Couldn’t say ‘piss weak’. Couldn’t say ‘weed’. It’s America though,” he says. “Even [in] the late night movies they edit out all the swear words. In Die Hard he says ‘yippie-ki-yay mother clucker.’ All the actors do word replacement, like ‘suck my butt’ and shit. For real. Which sounds way more offensive to me,” he laughs.
A few viewers also proclaimed that Sentry was miming, which the artist says isn’t true. He’s not too hung up on these detractors though. “I was pretty happy with how it looked,” he says. “They gave me in-ear monitors, which is the first time I’ve used them. It’s weird, it’s a funny feeling. It helped so much with pitch and stuff, I think I’m going to start rocking them, forever.”
While in Texas for the competition showcase, Sentry and DJ Sizzle (his turntables man) got about and sampled the cultural wares, putting up some great photos on Facebook and Twitter. One depicted the two boys chowing down a barrel of seafood that was emptied onto the tablecloth of a restaurant. “It’s a particular restaurant that does that, it’s not like every restaurant you go to in Texas, like a McDonald’s, they bring out a...” Sentry mimes the delivery of a heaving platter of Mickeys and winks, “'There ya go, scumbag.'” But the adage that everything’s bigger in Texas was more often true than not. “The ribs! We got ribs at one place and it was like the fucking Flintstones, you know what they whack on the Flintstones’ car?”
For Sentry, Facebook isn’t just a place to post pictures. He starts conversations with fans, replies to questions and genuinely interacts. It’s a wonderfully sincere effort. “Yeah, but [fans] put effort into buying my album, showing interest, they actually go on YouTube and ask the questions, you know what I mean? I’m just giving back what they’ve put in. That’s why I really like going on my Facebook, it’s a nice place to be. There’re some other dudes, even in this country, that have got Facebook pages that are just horrible places to be. There’s so much racism and homophobia that’s just rampant there, and everyone’s fighting and shit.” Still, he doesn’t treat his fans with undue delicacy. Shortly after Sentry posted a status about his excitement in playing his first ever underage show in Melbourne, a fan questioned whether the artist had forgotten his One Night Stand gig a few months before. ‘Pretty sure that wasn’t underage & wasn’t in Melbourne’, Sentry replied. “That’s just ‘cause I’m a smartass though,” he laughs. “I handle it as if, to me, we’re just hanging out in this gathering, and if someone says something whack I’m going to hit him up.”
The YouTube questions that Sentry refers to are part of a little series of clips he’s got going, in which he reads out queries from fans and then responds, explaining his angle. The audio is accompanied by walk-throughs of video games; Sentry is a total gaming geek. “This is the thing, right, that people don’t realise. They think ‘Oh yeah, yeah, he likes video games, like he’s a fan of video games.’ I’m really fucking good at video games, and I want to just prove that to people,” he says with a smirk. “I’ve wasted so many years doing that shit, I may as well have something to show for it.” Sentry didn’t bring back any gaming paraphernalia from the States, but he did pick up a couple of new bobble-heads. “[I got] Doctor Doom and Deadpool, they’re comic book characters from Marvel. I don’t even know why I collect them; they don’t bobble, they just sit in their box on my shelf, above my windowsill. Some of them you can get [in Australia] but, you know. Just doing anything in New York makes it cool.”
As aforementioned, the Melbourne leg of Sentry’s upcoming tour will include an under 18s show. At first he didn’t think there was a market for such a thing but through interaction over the Net, he’s realised he most certainly boasts a fan base within the demographic. “We’ve done all-ages gigs in Adelaide, and there’s fucking kids. Like proper kids. Which is awesome,” he attests. “People send me footage of their kids singing along to Float Away, with the swear words in it and shit. I went to an under 18s Living End show, it was the first gig I ever went to.” My first gig, as I don’t mind admitting, was Hanson. “I used to think they had the hottest drummer,” Sentry responds. “Me and my mates were like ‘Whoa, this chick is banging!’ And then it was a dude. This is pre-internet, so the avenues for looking at hot chicks were very limited.”
It turns out that Sentry’s own drumming skills are rather inferior to Zac Hanson’s, despite what the clever cutting in the Dear Science clip may have led you to believe. Same goes for the other instruments his alter-egos are playing, too. “Can play bass, not very well. Can play guitar, not very well. Harmonica, I don’t think anyone can play well, can they?” Chris Wilson can. “Yeah, he can. It’s a cunt of an instrument, there’s no frets, you don’t know where the fuck you are. And I feel like a lot of the time, people think they can play harmonica but they’re just sliding around until they get to the note. I can play piano, I skipped a book in piano. [My teacher said] ‘Yeah, you’re not going to need this book.’ I was like ‘Yes, see ya later Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.’”
The Dear Science clip is based on a YouTube video which is definitely worth looking at, by the way, if you haven’t already (it’s had 23 million views): ‘this drummer is at the wrong gig’, uploaded in June 2010. Sentry shows it to me with glee.
The under 18s gig will be at Ding Dong Lounge on Saturday May 18, but the big boy show will be on Friday May 17 at The Forum. Sentry’s never played there. “No, fuck no! It’s a big venue, man. Nerve-wracking. It’s a fucking cool venue. I saw Aesop Rock there – he’s my favourite rapper. He was with Kimya Dawson, unfortunately. I’d never heard paint dry until then.”
BY ZOE RADAS
SETH SENTRY plays the Forum Theatre on Friday May 17, and an under 18s show on Saturday May 18 at Ding Dong lounge. This Was Tomorrow is out now.