They haven't trashed hotel rooms or bit the heads off of bats. No one in the band has overdosed or spent months in treatment. But Milwaukee's Spiral Trance still rocks hard. Since the band formed in 1995, it has shared stages with Ratt, Great White and Jason Bonham. They've headlined at the famous Whiskey A Go-Go in Los Angeles, and attracted the attention of major labels.
"It's been a long road," says singer/guitarist Paul Karczewski. "A really long road. But even if the band had broken up on the sidewalk in front of the Whiskey, it would've all been worth it."
Like so many bands, Spiral Trance was born in a suburban basement. Paul and guitarist Bruce Young started jamming in Paul's parents' basement until they could scrape up enough cash to rent a house in West Allis.
The two Whitnall High grads were really into the nineties grunge scene, but they were also big fans of old school hard rock acts like Metallica, Tool and Ozzy Osbourne. They decided to take the two inspirations and create their own thing.
"Everything was so new back then," says Karczewski, nostalgia softening his voice. "The first time I saw our name on a marquee, it was like seeing our name in lights. It's so cool to think about; to see how far we've come."
Over the past seven years, the band has added Anthony Manian on bass and Bill Lyles on drums. They also released a full-length CD, "On Our Terms," as well as a six-song EP, "Shine Box."
Last year, the band was nominated for a L.A. Music Award, and although they didn't win, they were nominated again this year for Artist of the Year and Song of the Year for "From Spirit to Flesh." Karczewski recently had these words tattooed on his right arm. "It's about turning dreams into reality," he says.
OMC: If you could jam with any musician, living or dead, who would it be?
PK: Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath. He invented modern metal as we know it.
OMC: So who or what are some of your musical influences that might surprise us?
PK: I listen to a lot of New Age music. Especially George Winston. I like piano music. In fact, we've just added piano to "From Spirit to Flesh." I'm so happy and surprised this song was nominated for Song of the Year. I was afraid our fans would think we were wimping out.
OMC: Wow. New Age music? What else are you into that doesn't go along with the "rocker dude" image?
PK: I'm really into the outdoors. I like to camp, ride my bike, hike. I also like to drive around for long periods of time. You know: get lost; find my way home. It's good for clearing the head.
OMC: What do you think of the word "headbanger?" As a hard rock musician, do you find it derogatory?
PK: No, but it doesn't describe our kind of heavy metal. It makes people lump all sorts of bands together that shouldn't be lumped together.
OMC: Are you big partyers? It seems to be part of the image
PK: We don't get down on anyone for anything they do, but we're not into the drug thing. We do like to drink as much as the next guy, though. We've had our moments of heavy partying, but it doesn't get you anywhere -- especially without a tour manager or a lot of money. How am I going to bail myself out if I tip over a Coke machine?
OMC: Do you want it all: the big label, MTV videos, throngs of screaming women in halter tops, or are you concerned about "selling out?"
PK: There are varying degrees of selling out. I think that if you work hard enough on your own thing, you have a better chance of calling your own shots down the road. I also think it's important not to turn the reigns over to anyone else too early. We want to be remembered -- whatever that means -- but we don't want to be a one-hit wonder.
OMC: So what are your dreams for the band?
PK: I want to be respected as a decent hard rock musician.
OMC: How is the heavy metal scene in Milwaukee?
PK: There's a lot of great hard rock bands here, especially young guys playing hardcore straight edge. There's not as much competition for shows here as, say L.A. There, the weekly will have 25-30 pages crammed with bands, but in Milwaukee, there are only 3-4 pages. We're pretty lucky here.
Spiral Trance performs at Summerfest on Sat., June 29, at 5 p.m. at the Mountain Dew Rock Stage.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.