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:: Spotlight :: Stimulator - Seductive sounds

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Sassy singer-songwriter Susan Hyatt and guitarist-producer Geoff Tyson joined forces to create the Los Angeles-based band Stimulator. With punk rock and pop influences from the 70s and 80s, Stimulator has achieved one of the really good indie records I’ve heard this year. The good thing about them is that they’ve modernised those influences with the understanding of today’s technology. Lots of attitude marks their self-titled debut album. They have all the ingredients in being sharp and melodic, and, yes, it is stimulating. The band has even been likened to Garbage and Blondie. Susan’s sex appeal and catchy vocals are a big plus for Stimulator and I had the pleasure of having a phone chat with her to discuss some of the issues that matter to her most.

Q.Tell us about the beginnings of your career and the band?

A.I was in London for a while and in a band called Pillbox. I went there in 1995. It was a grunge pop band (three-piece) and played everywhere around there. We opened up for bands like Lush and Elastica. I then became a VJ and interviewed many different bands. After that, in 2002, I came to Los Angeles for a holiday. There, I met Geoff (Tyson) at a restaurant and we clicked immediately in the aim of working together. It was time to let go completely of Pillbox and we started Stimulator. Growing up, my favourite music was British – all about bands like ZTC and the punk/new wave music. In 1995, however, nobody was into that. It was swinging 60s again – Oasis, Blur, Verve, etc. I’m not into that although I like Liam Gallagher’s punk rock vocal style. The return to the USA was due to being disillusioned with the music industry in the UK and I was tired of British men.

Q.In listening to the Stimulator album, it seems obvious that something really clicks musically between you and Geoff…

A.Geoff has always worked as a producer. He has his recording set-up at home and he is a multi-instrumentalist. Geoff is such an excellent musician that he did it on this record. We write all the songs together and then he produces it. It’s a bit like how The Eurythmics worked.

Q.What’s it like for the band being independent? I hear that you’re very much a do-it-yourself person anyway…

A.Yes, very much so. It’s difficult without a major label to get any sort of commercial radio play. We charted on the Top 200 college music charts and other indie charts, but it’s all about Clear Channel these days. In regards to the downloading issue and the panic of the music industry, the majors have collapsed to an extent, leaving it beneficial for indie labels. Now, with the Internet, indie artists can go and find a fanbase and do it all themselves. You need a financial means to make it happen. I believe that I know what I’m doing. I established indie labels in the UK and know the requirements.

Q.Obviously, playing live is so important for you…

A.We’ve done lots of live performances over the past few months. Doing the Warped tour in July in California is of great benefit. The exposure is massive. Generally, live performances are the key to getting yourselves out there. It’s important to make a great record, though, and you try to get awareness of it. Eventually, people will come and see you. I’m all about live. If I had it my way, it would be a full production with costume changes and different themes.

Q.Tell us about your stage outfits? I believe they are outrageous at times…

A.I do change my outfits. I make all the clothes that I wear. Since I don’t sew, I have to somehow hold the dresses together – usually by paper or safety pins.

Q.What is your inspiration for writing songs?

A.I am a constant writer. I suppose it’s my relationships – friends or boyfriends, or everything that’s going around the world, although I stay out of the political scene. I don’t think I want to get into that area. I am a feminist, but I don’t want people to put me into categories, ie either you’re a lesbian or a whore. It’s an unfortunate perception.

Q.Your song “On Top Of The World” came second in the Best Rock Song category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest. What was the prize?

A.It was $US100 – a very big prize. The good news with that, however, was that because of that contest, we got selected for the Warped tour. The person who organises the Warped tour gets to pick from all those who entered (about 100o artists), and he picked us.

Q.Who are your favourite musicians of the past, and what would you like to say about the type of artists that are successful today?

A.Apart from XTC, I liked The Clash and The Sex Pistols. The Clash, in particular, was so intelligent. Today’s Pop Idol artists have nothing to say. They want to be a star for no reason. I’m not interested in paying attention to someone whose entire career is just based on his or her own ego. It’s boring and depressing. I loved artists like David Bowie and Marc Bolan (of T-Rex). They were interesting characters.

Q.Is the music scene improving for female artists or is it still difficult to prove yourselves?

A.It’s still definitely sexist. The only girls that are on the radio who do alternative rock music are The Distillers and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Women are not getting involved enough in rock. They are pop/R&B singers.

Q.Earlier, you mentioned about the difficulties with the music scene and your disappointment with major labels. Can you elaborate on this?

A.The disappointment is that the No.1 criterion for record companies is how old you are. They don’t care about your musical talent or record. You have to be sixteen. It’s insane. I was talking to a certain record industry executive recently and he asked how old we were. I said that our ages range from 28-32. He said, “Oh, I can’t sign you. My marketing department would never allow it.” It’s the most disappointing thing ever. Do you think people would buy a record and return it once they found out the artists isn’t 22 or something. To be honest, you have to have experience to be a good songwriter. When I was 22 I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say in songwriting terms. It was mostly bulls**t. It’s so ridiculous how people are hung up on that, especially when a woman’s sexual peak starts at 30. Kylie Minogue hardly looks past it at her age.

Q.What visions do you have for Stimulator?

A.We are planning to tour as many territories as we can with this first album because we’re very proud of this record. That’s our immediate plan – to create awareness of it. We want to make as many fans as possible. We then want to work on our second album and to keep creating good music. I have a personal ambition of making a musical – something like a “Sex In The City” meets “Purple Rain”.

Q.You’ve been described as bizarre…

A.I’m a very driven and motivated person and have little tolerance for those who are incompetent in their field.

Q.The website http://www.stimulatorband.com looks very good. What are your plans for it?

A.It’s extremely important for us. We’re always working out how to make it better. It’s our commercial for people to come and get interested in the record. We’ll be looking to make it more interactive, to have a journal (especially when on tour), and to have more pictures.

Q.One of the pleasant surprises found on the album is the excellent rendition of “Magic”, one of Olivia Newton-John’s biggest hits…

A.Yes, we recorded it for the soundtrack to “Ella Enchanted”, a film I believe is being released in Australia later this year. It’s so nostalgic and I’ve always loved Olivia’s music and persona. We hope to have the song licensed in Australia.

‘Stimulator’ can be purchased through the band’s official website

See the band perform at the International Pop Overthrow Festival in Los Angeles on July 19.

For more information, visit

www.stimulatorband.com