Snapcase’s Jon Salemi Reflects on 25 Years of Revolutionary Hardcore

The guitarist looks back on the band's groundbreaking albums and a music scene that was "rich in spirit"

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Snapcase live


When you remember the band’s touring life, what are the achievements that stand out?

In ’93 or ’94, being a large enough band to do our own headlining U.S. tour… We went to Europe in the Spring of ’94 with Sick of It All and we played 56 shows in 58 days. We became such a better band after that. Just from the repetition and from seeing how good Sick of It All was live and how seriously they took every show. If something went wrong, you didn’t even let the crowd know that there was anything going wrong. You completely just powered through it. That and going on the road with Deftones and getting into more rock shows was fun. Getting in front of new kids that didn’t know anything about us: Warped Tours and Deftones… we went on the road with Papa Roach for a while. Those guys were such huge fans of our band. We caught a little bit of flack for it – you’re going out with this radio rock band – but those dudes were as real as it got. They were really awesome. They loved Snapcase, and they loved our genre of hardcore music. It was cool.

What do you remember about touring with Deftones?

I loved – and still do love – Deftones. In 1995, we were on a U.S. tour and we played in Salt Lake City. Bad Brains were playing upstairs, and we had played earlier in the day downstairs at this club in Salt Lake. There was this band called Deftones opening up for Bad Brains, and I’m like ‘Deftones – who the fuck is this band?’ There was this dude outside giving out a two-song sampler EP cassette. I took it and I went in the van and listened to it. The two songs were ‘Bored’ and ‘7 Words.’ I was like, ‘Oh my god, this band is fucking awesome.’

They were so lean and aggressive then.

Yeah! So raw. They were kinda the same age we were, but pretty much the same vein. Then the first Deftones record [Adrenaline] came out, and we of course get it and like it. Then the next one [Around the Fur] comes out, and I was even more in love then. ‘My Own Summer’ and all that shit. Then we got way more into them and met them and so on. We became friends. Then, in ’98, we did that tour with them – with Quicksand, us, and Deftones. That was our first real ‘rock’ experience…

I remember Chino and Abe coming and talking to Daryl and I, and being like, ‘Man, you guys got on this tour, and you made everybody step their game up! We play way harder every night now because you guys are on the tour, and you come out and kick so much ass when you start to play. We can’t go out there and kinda loaf it anymore – because if you do, Snapcase will show the shit out of you.’

Do you have memories of opening for your heroes?

That kinda happened with Sick of It All. It happened with Deftones, but that was more of a respect thing – they were peers, but they were really successful. To go out with them and have them enjoy our band as much as we enjoyed their band was really cool. Just last summer in 2015, we all went to see them, they played at the big amphitheater here.


In the band’s heyday, what was the writing process like? Are you bringing riffs to the table?

Everybody but Daryl brought riffs to the table. Frank is super musician guy. He played piano as a kid, so he can play all the instruments. I’m originally a drummer and became a half-assed guitar player. Tim was a drummer that became a half-assed guitar player. Progression was a lot of Tim and Frank, and not very much me. Bob [Whiteside] was in the band playing bass when we wrote Progression. Bob didn’t really contribute bringing riffs to practice or much stuff like that.

Tim was crazily obsessed during Progression with guitar playing – he’d just learned how to play. A lot of that guitar work – although I played it, a lot of it is Tim’s and the other half would be Frank’s. I’m not saying I didn’t have any contribution on that. On Designs for Automotion, Dustin joined the band and we were like, ‘Oh my god, we got this bass player that is amazing now.’ He can also play guitar. Dustin would bring some stuff in, I would bring stuff in, Frank would bring stuff in, Tim would bring stuff in. It was a real collaboration on Designs. I would bring a riff in but I’d also have a drum beat for it, too. Tim would do the same thing – he’d have a drum beat and a guitar riff. Tim and I did a lot of the rhythm parts. Frank was very much the guy that made the eclectic Snapcase high-pitched guitar noises. Which was really created by a kid [Joe Smith] that played on the seven inch (who) I replaced back in ’91, ’92. He made that first ‘Comatose’ high-pitched guitar harmonic thing. That became kind of a trait. When I joined the band, Daryl’s cousin Scott was playing guitar and he took that role, and when he quit the band and Frank joined, Frank took that role. I was more of a bashing rhythm guitar player. That fit my drumming background. End Transmission was a big collectively-written record as well. And I’m not saying that Progression wasn’t – it was just spearheaded by Tim and Frank. One day Frank came in and he had ‘Caboose’ as a complete song. It was one of those songs that within fifteen minutes, it was like, ‘boom – there’s your song.’

I wrote ‘Coagulate’ in one of the dressing rooms in the Electric Factory on the Papa Roach tour. It’s one of those times that shit just happens. Then there’s a song like ‘Typecast Modulator,’ where I had the verse and chorus, and for six months, we tried to finish the song, and we couldn’t, and we come back to it, and we couldn’t. Finally, Tim finished the song one day, and we’re like, ‘Alright, finally, it’s there.’

snapcase jon salemi

Did you write on the road, or in the practice space?

We’d come up with verse/choruses on our own, bring them to the practice studio, and make songs out of them. We hardly ever, ever did anything on the road except for perform our live show and travel. We would go off the road purposely and write a record. Most of the time it took us like two years in between records. We’d have to build up the steam and momentum because it took so long to make records. But we wanted to make records front to rear, we didn’t want to make like, ten songs and have three good songs on ‘em. We tried to make complete albums.

When we wrote End Transmission, we had like twenty-three songs. We liked all of them – that’s why we did that B-sides thing, the Bright Flashes thing. Those are all the songs that didn’t make the cut on End Transmission. And if you go and read through the liner notes of the songs on End Transmission, it’s a complete story. In the liner notes of End Transmission, there’s songs that aren’t on the record, and those songs are on Bright Flashes. That’s another cool little thing that I don’t think a lot of people ever really picked up on.


Would you personally be interested in writing new music with the band again?

When we were in Montreal this summer, we got in this pretty serious discussion about writing new songs. Everybody was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ In my head, I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it!’ And then I sit down and think about it for a while… We were outside sitting on lawn chairs next to my RV, and I said, ‘If we write new music, I want it to be as good or better than anything that we’ve ever done.’ And then I said, to be fully honest to myself, I know that I don’t have the time that it would take and the commitment in my life right now to write music at that level. So I said, I’m gonna decline on that. Could we put a song together and put a huge effort into one song? Yes we could. Could we write an album in this time, and day and age in our lives, that is as good as what we had done before, or better? I honestly don’t think that any of our lives are set up to do that right now. Although the desire is still totally there, and the want to do it, the reality of the execution of making it happen is about twenty percent. And it would need to be a hundred percent. It’s hard! No bullshit – it’s hard to practice as much as we need to practice to be as good as we wanna be for these type of reunion or whatever kind of shows you wanna call them – our once in awhile shows.


What is your career now?

I’m involved with professional drag racing. I have a company [Resolution Racing Services] that does tuning and consulting for various different teams around the country. I have some specialized services that I do, and I also have a parts business side of it. And together with my wife, and my oldest brother, we campaign a car on a professional, national event level. We tour as well, where my wife actually drives the car.

It’s so funny, today, when I meet people from my profession now… This one time in particular, I came to the racetrack to help this guy out with his car in California, and one of the crew guys, I could tell he was an older hardcore dude, or liked metal. He took the owner aside and he was like, ‘Dude! That’s fuckin’ Jon from Snapcase! What the fuck is he doin’ here workin’ on your racecar!’

That’s interesting, it sounds like there must be a lot of speed and intensity in that kind of work–

It’s the same parallels that we struggled with, and advanced and gained with in the band, that I do in my business now. The racing and the music thing, it’s a very similar deal. Very similar deal… It’s the same type of thing, it’s such a tight-knit scene, and you don’t really know about it unless you’re in the scene.

Thanks to Jon Salemi and Snapcase.

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