Mikey Classic Faces The Pandemic
The Early Days
Mikey Classic, the lead of the genre-bending Americana-Punk-Doom-Metal band that we all know and love- The Goddamn Gallows. Mikey is careered guitar player of 30 years who has a heart of gold and a voice that will disturb your soul with butterflies of doom. Mikey has spent over 20 years playing music on stages; touring from dive bars to packed corporate festivals from every corner of this country to all over the world. Watching the music industry gradually evolve over the years and dissolve in the matter of one.
He spent the late 1990’s and early 2000’s playing in punk bands between Michigan (his home state) and Portland, Oregon where he moved to in the early 2000’s. Eventually starting the Goddamn Gallows in 2004 with the original line up- Mikey, Courtney Kostrick (Fishgutzzz) and Amanda Kill. Uriah eventually replaced Amanda, cultivating the framework of the line up that most of you have seen on your local stage. They later moved to Los Angeles, California where they lived out of squats, storage units and abandoned buildings until they finally started touring, living out of their vehicles from town to town. I believe that this the tough hides on their back living the rough and tumble way of life is what made their unique and original sound come into fruition. Nurturing a life of sinning, sung in songs of doom.
Back in Mikey’s early days of his music career, booking a tour and playing a show looked much differently than what it did in 2019. An underground musician would draw their own posters with sharpie and staple it to light poles around town rather than a photoshop graphic posted onto social media. To get a venue or record label to listen to their music, it would be done by recording a cassette tape and writing a letter rather than a few clicks and an email. You used to have to go through a record label to get into a studio but today anyone with enough money can get their tracks recorded. This is why Mikey’s generation of musicians will be the last of their kind. It took skill, determination and willingness to sleep on strangers hardwood floors to get where he’s gotten in the music industry-something most of the younger generations will never have to understand.
When I asked Mikey about what the music industry looked like just before the pandemic he responded; “It’s crazy because back in the day when there wasn’t easily accessible music through Spotify, Amazon or Apple Music, you would have to go buy the hard copy of everything. So the money that used to come into the music industry now goes directly to these few corporations that divvy it out at their leisure, whatever they think is fucking right. But I think us as artists- if we band together and fucking grab our torches and pitchforks and go the houses of these assholes that are stealing the money from all of these artists we can hopefully fucking scare them enough to change their policies and start divvying out what should be fair. Those fucking assholes got like 5 houses and 6 boats, where is my boat?!”
In the earlier days of the Gallows, the band would tour 10-11 months out of the year- which for all of you non-touring musicians; that is INSANE! Going months straight of driving long hours, long plane rides, playing shows, sleeping on floors, networking, promoting, and of course partying- with the same few people in the same van is tough work! But that is why we love them, like Jayke Orvis (The Goddamn Gallows current band member) said, "We are like cockroaches. We keep coming back no matter what." The Gallows eventually slowed down and started taking winters off as they grew tired of gambling with their lives on the icy roads through mountain passes.
Eats The Music Industry Alive
The Gallows recently went down to Tulsa, Oklahoma and recorded a pay per view live stream show for their fans. They decided to try and play a few safe and socially distanced outdoor shows in Dallas and Austin after the recording. Mikey said; “It really showed us that people are not ready to even attempt to go out.” Responding to the lack of attendance, when the Gallows usually pack the house. “So we are just going to wait until we are in the clear again. Who knows when that’s gonna be. In retrospect it was kind of reckless on our part but we wanted to test the waters.”
When I asked Mikey about how Covid-19 has affected his solo music career he responded; “I actually needed some time to write some music and get inspiration from like, learning different songs and different styles of playing. So I’m trying to utilize it to work on new music. I’m trying to make it like a blessing in disguise.” Mikey's ability to shift his perspective of how the pandemic has affected his music career and shine light unto the dark is something I and others can learn from. I admire his strife to look ahead and continue to move forward.
In spite of the pandemic Mikey has fallen back to his bartending job at the Chicago venue- Reggies; where he has worked whenever he was not touring for years. He said; “We are lucky enough to have a rooftop bar. We are trying to not be one of the many venues that closes down.” The music industry has suffered great losses in the last 10 months, including venues shutting their doors indefinitely. A part of the discussion between musicians about getting back on the road once it’s safe is how musicians and bookers will have to start from the ground up as most of their networking are with venues that will be shut down by the time they get back on their road.
Venues Lost Forever
Some of the Gallows frequent venues that have shut down include but are not limited to; The Jinx in Savannah, The Rex in Pittsburgh, The Green Room in Flagstaff, Slims in San Francisco, The Uptown in Oakland, Three Kings in Denver, Vaudeville Mews in Des Moines, Cosmic Charlies in Lexington, The Majestic (The Magic Stick) in Detroit, The Bull McCabe's Pub in Somerville, The Mothlight in Asheville, Tony V’s Garage in Everett, The Pin in Spokane, Barracuda in Austin, and The Chameleon Club in Lancaster. The Chameleon Club was where one of the last shows the Gallows played while they were on tour with Weedeater in February. That tour was canceled in the middle of it when the first wave of lockdowns started taking place.
“There’s over 10 venues that I love fucking that got shut down because of this pandemic and because the government won’t help the people in need. They’ll bail out the banks, they’ll bail out the airline companies and all these fucking rich assholes that have money anyways but they won’t bail out the people that actually need it. But at least NIVA (National Independent Venue Association) has www.saveourstages.com who is fighting congress to provide funding for all of these venues that are in dire need of help," Mikey said. Make sure to stop by their website to find out how you can contribute to saving our independent venues- an instrumental entity of the industry.
What many don’t realize are all the moving parts that comprise the music industry and all of the roles that are affected by how the Trump administration handled the nation's response to the virus. The bookers, the sound engineers, the stage riggers, the bar staff, the venue owners, the tour and band managers, the tour drivers, the merch booth sales people, and lastly the musicians. An entire industry put to a halt, that is seemingly collapsing before our very eyes as our hearts break with hands tied.
I asked Mikey, “Do you think our venues would have been saved if we had a different administration?” He responded, “I’d like to think so, but honestly probably not. I’m just happy to get back to hating my government at the usual amount.”
Nevertheless, knowing the Gallows they will persevere and prevail in the face of these trials and tribulations. I assure that Mikey will be back to what he misses most as soon as it’s safe; playing on stage, seeing his friends, and “getting that high you feel when you’re on stage and have the music demons take over your body.” He said, “I miss it so much I definitely would tour in the winter time in snow storms, that I fucking hate doing just cause I miss it so much.”
Make sure to check out the Gallows first Pay Per View show on December 18th for North and South America and December 19th 2020 for Europe. If you are a US resident you can reserve your ticket at The Goddamn Gallows at Mercury Lounge Live and if you are located outside of the US you can PayPal them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to write "PPV" in the notes, and pay €10 for each person viewing. If you can’t make the show but you want to support you can also paypal them a donation. All of their merchandise was stolen from their trailer including 400 vinyl; so any support is greatly appreciated by the band.
To hear about more about Mikey’s early music career, some wild tour stories, and why he and the Gallows no longer work with Farmageddon Records; make sure to check out The Full Interview With Mikey Classic and stay tuned for the upcoming podcast at www.travelinwithbones.com.
The current Goddamn Gallows line up- Fishgutzzz (far left), Uriah Baker (middle), Mikey Classic (far right), Jayke Orvis (front)