“Play it again Sam”… Sam Playzon!
“We can overcome all things. Don’t ever give up, or give in”– Samuel P Lauzon
Hailing from historic Bennington, nestled between the Taconic Mountains and the Green Mountains of Southwestern Vermont, Samuel P Lauzon is no stranger to adversity, having endured heart surgery at two years old owing to a congenital heart defect. However, he was also born with a keen ear, a talent that became apparent in his early teens and one which led him on a journey to becoming an inspiring and talented musician.
Born into a musical family with more than your average number of siblings, and strong Christian values, (or as he describes it; growing up “in the poor, gypsy version of The Partridge Family”), Samuel was not left wanting when it came to musical instruments to explore or people to jam with.
Over the past five years, he has been putting out his own flavour of dark, melodic rock on BandLab, in addition to performing numerous live gigs and figuring out how to overcome the anxiety and stress of putting himself under the stage lights in the process.
It’s our pleasure to speak with Samuel about his experiences and progression from the early days of making recordings using his phone, all the way through to his more recent projects. We dive into his recording process, the plethora of hardware and software he’s using today, and follow his journey from first picking up a guitar through to today.
Samuel P Lauzon everybody! Let’s hear what he’s got for us…
Ok, Samuel, I expect most of the Rock community in BandLab will already be somewhat familiar with you and your work… you joined BandLab five years ago right?
Yeah, I have been on Bandlab for 5 years now! It’s so crazy looking back. I can remember not really knowing what to do… One of the first people I came across was KyjunRu (@jessesquee now). He was my first metal/rock friend and helped me with my first friend’s list. I was mostly finding rappers in the beginning. He is such a great guy, definitely worth checking out.
How did you stumble upon Bandlab, and what has your experience been like over the years?
I found Bandlab through a Sweetwater Music advertisement. I remember one of the guys from Sweetwater was talking about collaborating on there, so I went and downloaded the app directly after. I am very introverted and things grow inside me to a point that’s unhealthy. Music allows me to release the build-up of all things stuck inside… good or bad, so it’s kind of an outlet for me.
My experience has been mostly positive! I hated the Chat system. It had some growing pains but it was all mostly positive once I started meeting other rockers. It wasn’t too long before you and I met! People like yourself made it all worth it! In the beginning, I didn’t have any recording gear, so it was phone recordings on the acoustic. I then learned of iRig! And that is what I used for a year or two. Simple as it gets.
We’ll come on to your set-up shortly, but for those not familiar with you, tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve had my fair share of setbacks. I was born with a congenital heart defect in which my heart had a narrowing in the aorta. I had open-heart surgery at 2 years old. The aorta was patched using a vein from my arm and the surgery worked. Obviously, I’m still here and despite that, my early years were amazing! I lived in a small town in the middle of nowhere Winnsboro, Texas, (my parents moved us to Texas when I was 13 – I essentially grew up in Texas, but back in the North East now). I have three sisters and four brothers.
Are there any other musicians in the family besides yourself?
My dad was a Bass player. He was in several successful bands, and two of those could have signed and toured worldwide. He had the same luck we did with bands though and there was always a link or two that couldn’t commit to that lifestyle.
Dad made sure we had every instrument/opportunity to play music, and every instrument you would need to play in a rock band too. He owned a Hammond B3 with a Leslie Cab. We had 2 pianos, several bass guitars, one electric guitar, and a Tama Drum Set.
“Music is my destiny… I was fourteen before I realized it!”– Samuel P Lauzon
Ah, so that explains the statement in your BandLab bio, where you state that you “grew up in the poor, gypsy version of The Partridge Family”?
Well, he ensured we had all these things but didn’t really know how to get anyone interested. My sisters both played classical piano, but initially no takers on drums, bass or guitar.
When I was fourteen I went into the family barn, which was basically a storage building, and I picked up an old red “Tara” guitar. My parents intended for my brother David to use it, but there it sat and I picked it up and tuned it randomly… I could hear pitch which was helpful as far as making melodies. I learned everything by ear, Diary of a Madman, Fade to Black, and on and on. Once I’d picked up that guitar, I didn’t put it down. I walked around the house plucking and trying to figure it all out. I jammed with my dad learning all the old Cream/Clapton stuff… I did my best anyway.
Dad promised me that if I showed real interest, he would buy me better gear as I progressed. I wore that Tara guitar out! That week I went to my buddy Chris’s house and he had an Ibanez plugged into an Ibanez amp. I heard distortion in real life for the first time. He played the intro to Crazy Train and I watched closely. By the time he was out of the shower, I had learned the intro. He couldn’t believe it. That’s when I became hooked on music – I became aware of Metallica and Ozzy, and I learned everything I could. One day I thought, ‘I wish I had a drummer to play with’… I went and got my brother, Joe.
We had a music room my dad set up with drums and I told my brother “play this”, a simple 4/4 kick-snare. Joe, did that and more! He was a natural drummer. That was the day everything changed, and he and I jammed for hours. We were able to because we were homeschooled, and we got better every day. We learned music together. Three years later we were playing For Whom The Bell Tolls live at a talent contest.
We didn’t stop and about 5 years in, my parents told us they had a surprise for us… We came home to a Brand new PA system, a full DW top-of-the-line kit. This was when DW first came on the scene. It was amazing! I looked in the guitar corner and there was a brand new Les Paul Custom Studio DC, complete with a Mesa Triple Rectifier. Hand Made in Petaluma CA. This was the moment things changed for us. Lots of family jamming, my sisters on Keys and my brother Joe on drums. I played guitar and never stopped.
So are you and the family still playing live? Did you form a band?
Yes! I am in a perpetual band with my brother Joe, he’s still drumming and I have played countless live shows. I started in a Punk band, Fiction 52. It was awesome! We were a 3-piece power trio and that was my first real band experience. We actually did really well… all original material, and we took it right up to a promised spot at The Vans Warped Tour. Unfortunately, our bassist quit to go to college before we got to play. It was around 1999, I think) and super disappointing. We worked so hard to get real opportunities and we never got to live that dream. Years later we would make ground again in a Prog/Metal band, Judah. We toured Texas and were a favorite in the Dallas venues.
We loved gigging. Playing live shows was a feeling I can’t quite explain… It was an energy that took over everything. Our first gig was at The Liquid Lounge on Ellum St in Dallas. Generally, you need to have a fanbase of 50-100 people to book this club but they heard our demo and gave us a shot.
We played that gig, and to give you the layout; The Liquid Lounge was connected to Curtain Club. There was a smaller stage at Liquid Lounge and it was second-class to Curtain. Well, we played this gig and I will never forget, people, hearing our sound and flooding in from Curtain Club. We stole the show that night and filled the club where there wasn’t even any standing room. We were drawing so much power that we overloaded the house amps and blew one side! Luckily, they were able to switch it out and we continued.
After that night we were told by the club owner that if we were willing, he wanted us to Headline Curtain club three weeks later. That was how quickly things moved forward for us. It was an amazing thing. The following year we had a manager that booked us with the Band Red at the six flags amphitheater.
You mentioned earlier that you’re quite an introverted guy – how did that impact you, if at all, during these live shows?
It was a major factor in the beginning especially. I would get on the stage and have full-blown anxiety attacks. It was like being loaded. I had a horrible time making myself talk to the audience. I would play a song and completely get lost in the music, like an outer body experience – where after the song was finished, I would feel like I was slammed back into this vessel, standing on a stage not knowing what to say… It felt like an internal tug of war.
Some of the songs we write were super intense. I remember playing our song Jane Doe which was about a woman dying slowly in her car after a fatal accident, and I wrote about what her last moments might have been like… It was hard to sing this song and feel like this woman in her final moments. The song ends “can’t stop till the tragedy brings you in”, with a hard musical stop. I felt lost a lot of the time after finishing a song. All of the songs were super emotional. I wrote them and they all felt personal.
So you learned to overcome the anxiety despite that?
I overcame it through experience. I knew that the anxiety would pass after the first note was played. The hard part was in-between songs. I eventually was able to put on a show. It took about 3 months of regular playing. I never really overcame the feeling of the songs after they ended. I always sort of felt like I was thrown in front of a crowd after each song ended. It was tough but this… music… is what I lived for.
You mentioned a couple of bands earlier that have influenced you from your childhood; Metallica, Ozzy, Cream... Fair to say those are your main influencers? Which other bands have you associated with over the years?
Ozzy and Metallica were my introductions to music. It was Tool that showed me the way forward from there. I also had my Pantera/Slipknot years. Tool were always a top three for me. They were just so awesome… That band blew my mind so hard, back in the 2000s that I could almost cry – knowing I would never be Adam Jones… Now we have bands like Periphery to show me how inadequate my abilities can be. In all honesty, there are too many influences to list, so aside from the ones I’ve already mentioned, here’s just a few; Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Disturbed, Jane’s Addiction, The Used, Monuments, A Perfect Circle, and on, and on…
How would you say those influences feed into the music that you typically create?
My goal back in 1996 was to bring the 80’s back. I failed, but that’s okay. Fast forward to today and I have played everything from HairBand ’80s, Punk, Emo, Christian, Pop, RapMetal, Country, etc.
Now, I typically create intense, progressive music. I love heavy music, it makes me feel like I can dominate all negative circumstances/feelings. I love all things melodic… generally dark and melodic. I reach for the minor notes when I play. To me, they hold the most weight. I am primarily a guitarist at semi-pro standard, but can also play bass and piano at novice level. I have also played cellos and Violas.
Let’s talk about your set-up. You mentioned starting off recording acoustic into your phone before discovering iRig. How has that since developed?
My equipment has been a constant progression. There are two set-ups that I am most proud of; one being a mobile setup and the other being my home studio. The mobile setup consisted of an Apogee Duet run on an iPad Pro using Cubasis2 (now 3). This was my main setup for years until I purchased a MacBook Pro.
When I got the MacBook Pro loaded with CubasePro10.5, I purchased an Antelope Audio Discrete4SC to handle all recoding which is nice because I have 4 inputs now. I can keep 4 dedicated connection Bass, Guitar, Keys, and Vocals.
I am using an Alesis-VI49 MIDI Keyboard, and I have 3 Electric Guitars; ’98 Les Paul DC. STUDIO, Ibanez FREAH7 String, and a Music Man BFR Axis Baritone. I also have a Martin JC16RE Acoustic that I use for all acoustic tracks, two bass guitars; a Rickenbacker 4 string, and a Dingwall NG2.
As far as software I am Using GGD (GetGood Drums) Invasion, and Modern & Massive kits. My favorite/recommended plugins would be the Slate Digital FG Mastering Plugin and Slate J stye Tape. I also use Slate MixRacks for all instruments (EG and COMPS) and Slate Grey Channel for Guitars master bus.
I like some of CubasePro stock plugins like TubeCompressor and I’ve found some free plugins that work well. too. One being The GClip clipper to boost guitars. Sometimes I use Renaissance Bass for the kick drum, it gets buried in a mix. I’m a big fan of NI (Native Instruments) and have the Komplete Suite, which comes with great plugs as well.
Last but not least, I use Adam Audio Monitors for mixing, they’re paired with a Presonus 8’ SubWoofer. It all sounds amazing and has helped me mix with confidence. I know I can rely on the bass frequencies that I am hearing. That’s huge! Especially when you mix something that sounds great, and you listen in your car and say ‘what in the actual hell!?‘.. as your speakers are nearly blowing because there was a frequency the AKG 702’s didn’t catch. Prior to the Adams audio, I Used AKG702’s for everything. It wasn’t terrible but I had trouble dialing in the sound.
There’s some great recommendations there! And, do you start from scratch on every project, or is there a particular structure or format that you stick to?
Depending on what I’m playing I have 4-5 templates set up in Cubase, which makes writing much easier. I only have to EQ to taste most of the time because the templates save my best mixes. All instruments are set up with all my EQs and busses in the templates, so I can open a session and it’s all ready to go; guitar, bass, and drums all plugged EQ’d. That’s a huge time saver.
Let’s get into your recording process – do you want to talk us through a typical session?
I am in love with drums. I generally create a loop to start. Once I write the drums, I will play the loop and just start jamming to it. When I hear something I like, that gets recorded and then I have a million ideas that follow. The more I write the more creative I become, usually. Bass and Drums are a massive part of the process. If I’m writing something more toned down, I may intro with piano. One thing that is constant, no matter what is that Ideas spawn more ideas. If there’s a single note playing with the right feel, that note inspires more notes. That’s how it works for me.
I used to rely on others to make music. I have felt so lost in the past and felt I would never be able to progress forward in music because of that. The truth is, we are the only ones who can hold us back. We can overcome all things. Don’t ever give up, or give in. Bandlab helped me continue to create. The friends I’ve met on here have helped me push past things I thought were impossible.
What do you mean when you say you felt ’so lost in the past’ with regards to making music, and why you felt you had to rely on others to make music, given you’re such a talented musician?
Ok, I’ll try to explain. As I said already, my brother, Joe, and I jammed all the time and I wrote a ton of material. The issue was, I had a hard time completing tracks. I didn’t know how to progress them. I also wasn’t good at writing choruses. So whenever we had a Bass player, that was the missing link! We would finish tracks quickly because the bass could hold the bottom and this allowed me to create other types of textures… I could tell the bass player what to play and I would write Adam Jones sort of textures… Or I could depart from the foundational notes on a track and write cool interludes. Joe and I both noticed that whenever we had that missing link, we were able to finish mater. My dad played bass but his genre was 60’s and 70’s… It just didn’t work. So the last band we were all in had big opportunities but again, we had a bass player that wasn’t able to let go of his job to do full-time music.
So when he left the band, my brother moved and I was alone trying to find musicians in my area to write with. I played with a couple but it was taking ten steps back with most musicians… It was tough until Bandlab happened. It gave me a reason to continue writing. Now I had an audience. Not a large one, but that didn’t bother me.
Once I had a recording setup, I spent hours and hours writing. I had interest but a lot of people didn’t care for my format… Or I should say lack thereof.
I learned how to program drums, and synth bass. It’s all I needed. I soon realized that I was able to write drums and bass. And the more I wrote the more inspiration I found. It was through this process that I realized I didn’t need to rely on anyone at all. I have music running through me. It powers my core and allows me to unload all of the negative things inside. Bandlab in many ways allowed me to see my own capabilities. So now it doesn’t matter if I had a dedicated bassist or drummer. Music lives within me, and I am fully capable of learning these things and continuing forward.
Speaking of the future… what can we expect from you next?
I am always working on something. I love creating. I’m like a shark when it comes to creating, if I stop, I’ll die. I don’t just say that metaphorically. I can feel myself dimming when I’m unable to play for extended periods of time.
How do you spend your time when you’re not making music?
I work all of the time, seven days a week a lot of the time. When I’m not playing music I’m spending time with my wife and family, cooking, hanging with friends, and enjoying the beauty in this world. Snowboarding in the wintertime, hiking in summer, and everything else in between! I love the seasons we experience in the North East. Also, love watching movies and playing with my kids… I’m a movie enthusiast and a night owl so I usually stay up late to ensure I have time for other things too. I also like to study biblical books.
I can totally relate to that… The twilight hours seem to be the most productive time for me! Ok, let’s get into some of your selected tracks… what’ve you got for us, and tell us a little bit about them.
Sparta is an aggressive track inspired by JP BOUVET I heard the drums and immediately felt inspired. to get the aggression out.
In Love With Your Ghost
The second track In Love With Your Ghost is a bit of a love song. There’s a sadness in there, hence the name.
Empty House is another track I wrote which also has a sad feeling. Sort of a feeling of loneliness. I am not alone, but it’s a feeling I relate to very well… Hard to explain.
One final question… As I’d found you via a friend recommending I listen to your music when I joined… which BL artists would you recommend people might want to check out?
There are so many it is hard to list. If they’re on my friend’s list, friend them!! These are some of my friends I suggest; Jessesquee, Artcarcass, Ross Manariti, The Son Reigns, HeidiPaulsson, Bullet Over Broadway, Dan Ripley, Bart, Darren G, Evil Cathedral, Rusty Galjour, Ice Man, VeganZombie, VeganVamp, CP Roscoe, Martin, Tyci McCurdy, Jeremy Abbott, Eddie Lee, mvolz, Idiot Burns, Wal, Chris Falcon, Robbert F Foy.
We thank you for your time, Samuel – really appreciate the insight and stories you’ve shared with us, and for readers who are not already following Samuel’s BandLab profile and would like to, you can find and support him here.