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... ....."Rocking the USA"


 INTERVIEW WITH MEMENTO with Justin Stewart Cotta

Q: So here we are on the OzzFest tour, you get to meet a lot of musicians from different bands?
A: Yeah. That's one of the pleasures of doing OzzFest second stage. It's turning into a little community now. People have gotten used to each other and gotten over their nerves of the first couple of shows. Everyone's settling in and it's like a traveling family, kind of like a circus.
Q: So you're Australian?
A: Yeah.
Q: How long have you been in America?
A: Three years. I actually lived here as a kid for two years from about age 8 to 10. So I went to school here for a couple of years, did the whole thing in Pasadena and Los Angeles.
Q: So you know all the western ropes?
A: Yeah ! to a certain extent.
Q: Were you in a band in Australia?
A: Yeah. Actually, Space, the guitarist and I were in a band called Tower which we did for about three years and we played together on and off for the last, including this, the guitarist and I have been jamming together for like seven years, coming up to eight years.
Q: Where's does the band Vast come into this picture?
A: I came to America to audition with a guitar spot in Vast, which is where I met Steve. He was drumming for Vast. And we got out of that to do this, to get back to singing which I'm frankly more comfortable with. I kind of winged that audition for the guitar spot in Vast. It was all just an adventure. It was all more like you know "Let's go. Why not. Worst case scenario, two weeks in LA. I'll chill out." I'll catch up with some old friends, have a party and come home - having at least tried.
Q: Now, you're the lead Vocalist of the band?
A: Everyone is really equal with their input. It's a real good collaborative bill which is actually one of the reasons we left Vas. As talented as John is, John Crosby, we just felt more comfortable with doing something collaborated. That wasn't really going to happen in that situation.
Q: "Nothing Scared," is your single from the album Beginnings ?
A: Yeah, "Nothing Sacred" is a single. It's been out for about two or three months.
Q: Did you have other songs that you wanted to put on this album?
A: Yeah. There was definitely some leftovers. Three or four songs that we were jousting over as to whether they might be on the album, but in the end, sequencing became an easier way to make decisions. You know certain songs flowed like chapters in a book and certain songs did not. They were good in isolation, but they didn't they didn't tell the story from beginning to end which was what we wanted to do with the album. Not that it's a concept album as such, but it's bordering on one.
Q: Did you have a couple of EPs for this?
A: No. We just went straight into recording ... I mean we had all done recording before that with our projects that we were all involved in, but this is our first collaborative effort and our first step forward.
Q: How long as this band been together?
A: Two years.
Q: I understand that there's a pretty interesting story about how you got noticed by the record company
. A: Yeah. The records companies have been checking us out from time to time and they got a new batch of songs from us . They wanted to see the band on the spot - like the next night. The only venue we got is Dragonfly in LA, which is a great venue, but it was hip hop night and it was an opening and it was like, well it's a stage, it's a good P.A., it a great room, they want to see us at short notice - we'll play. And as you can imagine. We had outfits there from Orange County and LA and we're all going to be paupers. And one of so call Eminem want-a-be gods - no disrespect to Eminem, I think he's a great lyricist - but the guys that followed him and tried to be him are the one's that are annoying. And it was one of those types of characters that might play up on the stage with his little finger up and he was removed by yours truly and then all hell broke loose. But it was the last song, so it was quite a crescendo into this cool thing that you couldn't have planned any better. That was rock. Yeah. I had dislocated ribs and I was still like "fuck that was cool." I felt bad - I hate to get into fights and stuff like that - the guy involved, we ended up having a bourbon a couple of hours later and laughing about it as you do in Australia. Generally, if you fight you become friends. Kind of like the school yard.
Q: So who writes the songs?
A: We all write the lyrics and we all write the music together.
Q: There's such different categories of metal. Have you described what yours is?
A: Yeah. We're not metal. There's brash metal, hardcore metal, all different types of metal and neo metal. We're play not metal. It's a new grade of metal. Q: It's all rock and roll.
A: To be honest, you hit the nail on the head. I mean, we consider ourselves a rock band and whether people think that stays or not as a term, I think there's a certain soul involved with rock. Whether it's blues or Elvis or Zeppelin or Pink Floyd or Hendrix. You know I think there is a through line and that through line is emotion. I think that maybe that's more important than just anger.
Q: I think the worst label in reviewing some bands was "alternative."
A: Right, right.
Q: "alternative to what?"
A: And they slowly became mainstream and they couldn't fall under that title anymore. Weird how it works.
Q: It's almost like they had to work twice as hard, saying "we're got to find a category people can put us in - we're alternative."
A: We just like songs. We like songs. When we jam, we jam. We don't sit down and go how do we construct a really cool rock song. We just get plugged in and cool, do you want to jam along through it. And it just goes on from there. If you think about it too much, I think people can smell it and I wouldn't be comfortable with that.
Q: I know what you mean. A lot of people have this tendency to keep on striving to get this incredible hit to become millionaires. It happens once in while. You never know when it happens. A: I mean, it helps the influences in the band are varied. But I'm a U2 fan, and we can discuss Pink Floyd and Tool. Tool crept up there the last few years. It's like they are up on top. But to have the early U2 stuff as big influence in high school. I think subconsciously is a little bit of what we do and in fact we're not afraid of and we're not afraid to be vulnerable.
Q: Before you got into vocals, were you just playing the guitar?
A: No, I was playing piano. I was solely on the piano. I'm not allowed to play blues, not allowed to ... I was growing up with my grandparents. That's the line there. They'd tease me though. They'd let me listen to Elvis, because my Granddad was an Elvis fan, but I wasn't allowed to play blues on the piano. But I worked it out.
Q: Elvis is probably what got the foot beating...
A: Yeah exactly. It went directly from Elvis. That was kind of a job for me.
Q: What age?
A: From age four to about ten or eleven, I was really sheltered from music I wanted to listen to, but I only heard in pieces. And then I had some time with my Mom for a few years and it was just "bring on the LPs." She had everything man. Talking Heads, Eurythmics, and then all the class 70's stuff we've already talked about, but Annie Lennox and David Bowie made me want to sing like a lot.
Q: And Elvis.
A: And Elvis. I loved those two. I think Annie Lennox is the most underrated female vocalist.
Q: And here is she is coming back and people are saying she still has it.
A: She has the most beautiful soulful voice. And she's hot. Q: What part of Australia are you from?
A: Most recently Sydney, but I lived all over the place down the East Coast. Q: Where's home base now?
Q: That's a good music start.
A: A tough place to move to at first. You don't meet people very easily. In Australia you can walk up to a stranger and end up having a beer and watching the game on TV in the bar and you got brand new friends every night. But LA was a little more ... you know ... me.
Q: Are you doing some writing on the road?
A: Actually we are. We don't sit down like homework and do it like ... Space has been jamming a lot of new riffs on the guitar. Doing a lot of melody ideas. We have three to four completed lyrics that we're happy with it that bounce off of the guitar, riffs that I hear from Space or riffs that I play or whatever. It's coming together. It's coming together nice and slowly. I know you meant to stock up the second album just case you told to record it tomorrow, but if we did that, in fact what we're talking about before, which is what we're trying to avoid which is constructing some. It's kind of cool to just, even being in the front lounge and hear Space noodling in the back lounge and I'll be watching TV, but I'll be thinking of something. In that sense, it's come together real slow but really effectively.
Q: It's nice you still keep your interest on music, because this could be pretty intense this whole Ozzfest tour. You havefor 30-35 minutes, and you have to decide what you're going to squeeze in on stage.
A: Yeah. We're only getting part songs, but we play a ballad at OzzFest. You have to call it a ballad - it's an acoustic song, so technically - and we're playing it at OzzFest and you know what, I think people are respecting us. They're judging the song on its merits. Which I've got to give the crowd credit for too. They do listen to music. They're not just there to watch. There are people out there who actually listen to the music and that's great news.
Q: Your name Memento any story there?
A: Actually, the song "Nothing Sacred" used to be called "Memento." There's lyric in the first verse "the color of my bites, yes they remind me of you" which was just a metaphor for bruises and wounds and those bruises and wounds remind you of a particular person or a particular time that you'd probably rather forget but you still have your little memento, your little keepsake from a weird time. Not necessarily physical. Sometimes physical but not necessarily. We just thought it was a more appropriate name then what we had at the time which was Ether which we all thought was cool - whatever, but luckily it was taken by 80 different bands around the world. So when we came to Memento it was staring us in the face and it was like "Wow, the word memento isn't actually used in the song "Nothing Sacred." Let's just take the title as our band name and just call Memento "Nothing Sacred" because the that's the lyric in the chorus. So it worked out really well.
Q: It has a lot to do with your music as well.
A: Absolutely. Every song is a little piece.
Q: So your on Columbia records. That's great.
A: Their amazing. They've been nothing but good to us.
Q: What's the weirdest thing that's happened on tour so far?
A: I don't know about the weirdest, but the coolest is probably having Dave of Disturbed on stage yesterday watching the band from the side of the stage and Dave singing along to every word of the five songs. He's got the album somewhere - he must - because he knew the words better than I did. That was way cool. In a sense that is weird. It's still weird to me. Just the privilege we have right now is weird to me. So it is a weird experience.
Q: That's great for him to be so supportive. He's very mellow and signing autographs. Out there earlier
A: Yeah. He's giving it back to the fans. I think he's a good example for some of the other front men out there.
Q: You guys have excelled pretty fast. Just a couple of years ...
A: We started touring nationally in the U.S. as Memento on January 11th. I think today's show is about 104 for the year so far. Hopefully we can to do 250 shows this year - or 200.
Q: Have you done Europe?
A: Oh we passed on that with Memento right now. We're just focused on here right now. Like you said, you haven't been to Australia and America's big and there are a lot of places to go. I like it and I think the kind of music that we play is born here. You know what I mean? When you have a rock thing - this is where we are and we moved here for a reason. It wasn't imagined or fame, it's work. Bands were influenced by people that came from here and it's just a cool place to be and to travel. No place looks the same, even when I come back through it the second, third and fourth time. By the time you get back to it, you've forgotten it because you've been all over the country. We're just really focused on being here right now.
Q: Wish you well thank you
A: Thank you.

By Randy Cohen

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Justin Stewart Cotta – Vocals, Piano, Guitar

Space - guitars

Steve Clark – drums
Lats – bass