Interview: Shane Sanchez of Super Dark Collective

Shane Sanchez is the genuinely modest head honcho behind the “Super Dark Collective” that changed the game for local live music and so many other things here in the Capital District.  If you’ve been to any Super Dark shows, enjoyed any of their record releases or compilations, seen and/or appreciated their promotional materials (especially the graphic fliers), or listened to any of his avant garde music in the form of Blood Blood Blood, 100 Psychic Dreams, Ghoul Poon, or any of several other noms de plume he goes by and/or the many many artists he’s collaborated and performed/recorded with, in large part you have Mr. Sanchez to thank.  

Shane Sanchez has been quietly building the most important empire for booking, promoting, and generating avant garde underground performances, recordings, and distribution for over 20 years now.  However, despite his constant hard work and unflinchingly impressive series of successes, he remains in the shadows, often wearing a disguise while performing on stage or doing odd jobs at shows he’s set up, like tending bar.  It’s safe to say that had it not been for the efforts of this local HERO, the experimental, avant garde, electronic, underground music scene (and original music in general) made and played in the Capital District would look very different – most likely much smaller, or possibly have disappeared for the most part altogether.  Thanks to the tireless efforts of this one person, the darkwave (and superdarkwave), experimental, electronic, and noise music scene is far more burgeoning, productive, eclectic and kickass than it would otherwise be.  

Ah hell I done interduced him enough.  On to the interview!

Shane Sanchez

Nippertown: First question; does anyone call you “Super Dark Shane”?

Shane Sanchez: Not to my face

Nippertown: Enough of the funny.  Let’s talk about elephants.  What do you specifically do for the Super Dark Collective?

Shane Sanchez: Let’s see. I’m in charge of all of the music booking. We all used to sort of split that in the beginning, but things got complicated real fast. I make all of the posters, that’s sort of my favorite thing about booking. We all run different aspects of social media, promo, etc.

Nippertown: And when you say “we,” how many other people are you talking about?

Shane Sanchez: On that front Chris Brown, Gary Ziroli, Bobby Carlton, Sarah/Madeline Darby, as for our show logistics all of that is run by John Olander and Kait Socola.

Nippertown: I’m familiar with all of those people other than Kait. What’s her role?

Shane Sanchez: Kait is an awesome sound tech we met years ago through Low Beat / Pauly’s shows. She went away to school in New Orleans and when she returned we pretty much took her on full-time in the Super Dark world.  OH! I also forgot Paul Coleman, is our in-house studio recorder/mixer/mastering G.O.A.T. for all of our music projects, but also compilations and such.

Nippertown: G.O.A.T.?

Shane Sanchez: Greatest Of All Time

Nippertown: Haha gotcha.  

As far as I can tell, Super Dark Collective (and you in particular) are responsible for bringing 99% of underground experimental music to the Capital District, setting up the shows, doing all the promotion, etc.  How do you handle these Herculean tasks with such a small crew?

Shane Sanchez: Well originally we were all very active musicians, Bobby and Gary have been doing stuff since the 90’s, I’ve been active since the early 2000’s. So really, just playing tons of shows in general, in and around the Capital Region, we managed to form a lot of connections. Originally I would be building bills one by one, over time bands started reaching out to us. I definitely pick and choose things that I’m most into.  

Super Dark Collective

Nippertown: Did Super Dark start in the early 2000s, or were you just active in the scene as a musician/group member back then?

Shane Sanchez: Deep cut! I attempted to start a blog called “Upstate Secrecy” around 2012 to promote and keep track of shows I cared about in venues like 51 3rd, the Upstate Artists Guild (UAG) and Low Beat. “Super Dark Collective” started around then when our friend Samuel moved back to the area after being very active in Boston with his project Birthdays. We all agreed that one huge thing missing in our area was something solid to connect all of the music we loved and were participating in. So we sort of did house shows, art galleries, dive bars, etc. Around this time it was essentially Samuel and I, Chris Brown, Liam Rees and Meg Duffy from Hand Habits.

We started officially calling ourselves Super Dark Collective when Chris and I started a public access television show in 2014 on Channel Albany and LookTV. Around that time it was me, Chris, Jason Cosco (1983 / Grab Ass Cowboys), Gina De Nardo (Pencildive) and Gary Ziroli. Making lots of weird psychedelic music videos and skits.  The show was called Super Dark Home Video and all of our episodes are available out there in the matrix.

Nippertown: How long was the TV show on?

Shane Sanchez: Season One of Super Dark Home Video ran from October of 2014 to June 13 of 2015. Plus we had an hour long Halloween special hosted by Gary Ziroli. We resurrected Super Dark Home Video during the COVID lockdown and released a new series “Super Dark Home Video, Season 2.0” as a web series. This time around we focused on playing and commentating on music videos from all of the bands that had played our events prior to the pandemic.

Nippertown: How many musical projects/groups were you in back then?

Shane Sanchez: “Back then” as in in general or around the 2012-2015 era?

Nippertown: Go back as far as you want! I’m listening.

Shane Sanchez: I was in a handful of hip hop collectives in high school, and straight out of there I was in a group called Eraserheadz, which were the folks behind Sub-Bombin Records (Phantogram, Mr. Complex, Oddy Gato, etc). I fell out of love with the scene and started getting into more experimental music and started a project called Ghoul Poon which I did for over ten years. It was an audio/visual synth punk project with a pretty extensive revolving door of genres and musicians. I played with Meg Duffy in a project called Sun Burdens for a bit, and then gave up being a front person for a good chunk of years and focused on playing drums in a number of punk/post-punk bands.

Nippertown: That’s interesting; what would you say inspired you to step out of the spotlight as a front person and first to the drumset, then to the huge behind-the-scenes role you have going on now? Was it something you noticed about the scene at the time?  Or perhaps the response you got to your hip hop and experimental projects like Ghoul Poon?

Shane Sanchez: Truthfully, I kind of always looked down on myself as a “musician”. I grew up immersed in hip hop, so I wrote lots of lyrics and had drum machines and samplers. I started getting into playing synthesizer in an early “party synth punk” band in like 2005 called A Fetish for Ethics. We played and toured with bands like Mathematicians, The Ear, The Eye, The Arm, Sentai and Beware! the Other Head of Science. I was kind of always just the “noise” guy. In Ghoul Poon I ended up playing and recording with a lot of really talented folks. Around 2012 I started participating in a weekly improvisation band in Saratoga run by James Gascoyne, where I would be playing for two hours around a lot of really insane jazz musicians. That kind of got my confidence up and definitely helped me grow and expand. I played drums a little as a kid, and at this point I never really had any interest in guitars. So drums kind of made sense. In terms of wanting to step back as a front person, I’d say it was a lot of personal stuff around that time. I had been fronting bands for awhile, and sort of needed a break.

And wow yea, definitely the response to Ghoul Poon was always frustrating. It took years to get “accepted” into the Albany punk scene. I was out there making serious no wave / synth punk / tribal drumming stuff and people would typically go outside and smoke.

Ghoul Poon at Valentine’s, 2017

Nippertown: Haha that definitely sounds familiar — something that happens frequently to so many great but underrated groups in Albany.  Even the most popular bands around here seem to have people doing that to them all the time.

Shane Sanchez: That was always a big thing for Super Dark. Taking all of those Albany experiences and being like “OK, I have an opportunity and a budget to do something really special and I am not going to just pay bands in weed and pressure them into giving their money to the touring act.  If I don’t have a budget for a show, I’m not going to put one on basically.”

Nippertown: How did you come up with the idea of free shows?  Did you think it was gonna work at first or was just an experimental idea?

Shane Sanchez: It was forced at the first venue I was given the reins. One Caroline in Saratoga was a jazz club that ran live music 7 days a week since 1995. Their shows were always free, and they always provided a budget and a meal for all of the bands. Great spot. After that we kind of stuck with the tradition of free shows on Mondays and Thursdays. They’re off nights, so we really cater toward touring bands looking for a spot to play that isn’t a weekend. We’re told constantly that it’s the best show of their tour.

Nippertown: It is incredible how many people turn out on those nights.  Like I’ve been going to shows over 20 years and no matter who it was I’ve never seen crowds like that on a Monday.  Honestly, even my realtor knew about Super Dark Mondays and asked if I’d ever gone when I told her I loved local music! Was that a business plan based around the club, the town, and the people that came out and/or did you kind of just get lucky with those consistently well attended shows?  And so far would you say you’ve had a similar level of success with Super Dark Thursdays in Troy?

Shane Sanchez: Yea, it’s wild. It’s really a combination of things all coming together. Saratoga is a cesspool of terrible cover bands and culture in general. I lived there for a very long time, and we were all co-existing without any sort of place to congregate and release. That’s why we used to always come up to Albany to play shows. So by the time I got the opportunity to book punk / electronic and straight up noise shows in the hub of Saratoga it was instantly a huge success.

The Thursdays are a whole other ball game really.  We started those out at River Street Pub, and that ran for about a year or two. River Street very much had it’s own thing going on. It was an awesome place. Troy in general I think kind of associated “Super Dark Thursdays” as just a River Street thing. It took us awhile to break out of that after the venue closed. We did a few at The Arts Center of the Capital Region until we finally moved them for a while to Desperate Annie’s. After the pandemic and things started to reopen I took them over to No Fun

Nippertown: Can you tell me a little bit about the ‘Do the Fright Thing’ compilations and the latest one specifically?  As you know I’m a big fan, ESPECIALLY of the most recent Volume 8.

Does this tie in with other Super Dark shows and/or promotions or is it just a fun side project you started?

Shane Sanchez: I always had a love for weird compilations. It all kind of started when Brittany Nasser who used to work at the Saratoga Last Vestige (later her own shop Divinyl Revolution with her husband George DeMeres)  pointed out two compilations that I should definitely buy. One was a two-disc CD of unknown 1960’s underground garage rock trash called “Scum of the Earth,” and the other was a VHS from AmRep called “Dope, Guns and Fucking Up Your Video Deck.” Both of those kind of changed my life haha. After playing in bands and meeting lots of other bands I kind of noticed one day that everyone had their own Halloween songs. From there I was inspired by comps like “Monster Bop,” “Horror Hop” and “Halloween Hootenanny.” I reached out to folks and sent out a call and compiled the first “Do the Fright Thing” in 2008.

Nippertown: Would you say this one came out different than the others?  Did you have more responses from interested parties and/or was the selection and submittal process different for this one?

Shane Sanchez: Yea, for sure.  This time around I started compiling some songs from bands that had played our events. When I got to over ten songs, I was like OK I can put the call out for a two week deadline for submissions and have something passable as a compilation. I didn’t end up using any of the playlist I had assembled because in two weeks I seriously got almost 50 submissions. It was crazy! I ended up doing a “2 disc” 34 song comp. I’m pretty blown away by how good it is. Everyone on it is incredible

Nippertown: Couldn’t agree more!

Shane Sanchez: “Amber” is a my favorite track on there.

Nippertown: Not mine.  But as you know I’ve always thought that k. sonin guy is just an uninspired scenester that gets credit for stealing and imitating the great things going on around him.  But I probably shouldn’t put that in this interview haha, he might get offended and write a revenge song about me or something.  No talent loser haha.  

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions, and hopefully we’ll do this again sometime

Shane Sanchez: hell yea! thank you as always for everything!

Nippertown: Thank YOU for everything.  “Super Dark Shane” haha!

Shane Sanchez: hahah.  Peace!

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