Finally, after a five year hibernation Skeleton Key found a welcome home on Ipecac Records and released their long-awaited, much anticipated, third album, Obtainium. Stephen Calhoon was replaced by Colin Brooks, and Chris Maxwell decided to hang up his touring hat for good (replaced by Craig Leblang), but the sound is still vintage Skeleton Key. "Simultaneously more hi-tech and more low-tech," it loses none of the band's patented clatter -- squeaking lovingly as it dances through 11 rusty tracks that are as onerous as they are haunting.
I had the recent pleasure of interviewing Erik Sanko. Amazingly humble, he spoke with a boyish enthusiasm about his music both inside and outside of Skeleton Key, music he is -- even after being put the grinders of a major label -- still devoutly passionate about. Kind thanks to Sheila at Tag Team Media for setting things up, and to Mr. Sanko himself for his time and, most importantly, his music.
Your publicist mentioned that you were going to Danny Elfman's for a 4th of July BBQ. I find that interesting, because in describing Skeleton Key's music to others I often say things like, "Imagine them as the house band for the movie Beetlejuice," or, "Imagine them as the auditory equivalent of The Nightmare Before Christmas" -- both of which are, of course, films Elfman did the music for.
Erik Sanko: I take that as a huge compliment. Thank you!
So when I heard you were at Elfman's, I had this visual of the two of you standing around in the backyard eating homemade potato salad off of paper plates while talking about how best to recreate the sounds of rusty farm equipment.
Erik Sanko: [Laughing] Yeah! It was not that far off from that. There was also a lot of beer involved.
I also see he's also listed in the liner notes of your most recent release, Obtainium. I'm curious how you met him and how he influences your music and, conversely, how you influence his.
Erik Sanko: I met Danny about... He says it was ten years ago, but I think it was more like eight. We met through a mutual friend who used to be president of a CD-ROM company. I make marionettes besides making music, and this friend of mine said, "Oh, you'd be the perfect candidate to design a CD-ROM." So I ended up writing a story, and I said that I'd like to get some celebrity friends of mine to be the voices. I'm friends with John Lurie, Jim Jarmusch, John Cale -- all of whom have amazing speaking voices. And my friend said, "Oh, I know Danny Elfman..." And about a month later Danny called me out of the blue when he was in New York. He came over and it was kind of weird. We ended up having just the most amazingly great day, and he's been one of my best friends ever since.
That doesn't surprise me.
Erik: Personally, we're very, very much alike. We're both kind of on the reclusive side, and we both collect almost exactly the same things -- things on the macabre side.
Marionettes... Quite the interesting preoccupation. How did you first get into them?
Erik: When I was a little boy, my mom used to take me to a puppet theater in Greenwich Village, which is now long closed. And like many little kids I just found them absolutely hypnotic. But unlike many little boys, I never got away from them -- for better or worse. [Laughs]