Now Hear This: Saliva

ByGary Graff

May 8, 2001 -- WHO:Saliva

MEMBERS:Jose (pronounced "Josie") Sappington, vocals, guitar; Chris Dabaldo, guitar; Wayne Swinny, guitar; Dave Novotny, bass; Todd Poole, drums.

FORMED:September 1996 in Memphis, Tenn.

WHAT'S IN A NAME?:Sappington says it means exactly what you think it does. "I thought it was a great rock and roll name — gross to parents, gross or cool to kids, and it's a good, three-syllable word. And I love that the press made fun of it right off the bat; that gave us the chance to let the music do the talking."

COMPARISONS:Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden, 311, Rage Against the Machine, Crazy Town, Kid Rock

DID YA KNOW?:Saliva was the national runner-up in a 1997 Grammy Showcase competition sponsored by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.


You guys all played in Memphis bands for a long time before Saliva formed. How did you hook up?

Swinny: I was in a studio with my band before this, doing some demos. Jose came in trying to get some special deal with the producer and took this acoustic guitar and played either nine or 10 songs that just blew me out of the water. I couldn't believe what came out of this guy; he looks real aggressive and kind of scary, almost, but when I saw him sit down with an acoustic and play beautiful, melodic stuff with great hooks and melodies and great vocals, that's what did it for me. I knew with him a band would be able to be as hard as it wanted to be but still be musically sound. A few weeks later we were in a practice room together, writing some songs.

You were national runners-up in the Grammy Showcase competition shortly after you formed. Was it how you played the game or were you bummed not to win?

Sappington: Yeah, we kind of went home with our tail tucked between our legs. We didn't want to come in second; we wanted to win the whole motherfucker. That's just the kind of people we are. But it was a great opportunity for a young band that had never done anything like that together. We had never been to New York. So we got to see the sights and everything, and to be there out of 6,000 bands that were in the contest. Save Ferris, the ska band, won; it was that time when No Doubt was really selling a lot of records and that was the thing on MTV. I wasn't really impressed by them, but they won. It was cool. It was a friendly competition; we hung out with them and everything.

What does it mean to be musicians from Memphis?

Sappington: Being from there is like being from Liverpool. We've had all that shit shoved down our throats for our whole lives. … I love and respect blues to the fullest; it's definitely where rock and roll comes from, there's no question about that. And we're definitely into R&B and the gospel and rockabilly, no doubt about that. Muddy Waters is a big influence of mine. Little Richard is an influence, definitely. Country music was a big influence early on. And it's all down here.

How did rap became part of Saliva's sound?

Sappington: I grew up in a black neighborhood when I was a kid. I just grew up around black kids, always listening to rap, all the way back to Whodini days, early LL Cool J and Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, Doug E. Fresh, Public Enemy, all that old-school shit. From early on I was just inundated. I was a heavy metal kid, born and bred, but at the same time I was listening to NWA and Chuck D, stuff like that. It could not help but influence my music, but it's like a spice. I never considered what we do a rap-metal thing or anything, but it's definitely an honest part of us.

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