Million Dollar Band:
Sometimes an album by an artist I’ve never heard of comes across my desk that really grabs my attention. One of those albums is Shove n’ Love by New York rockers SickWalt. Over the course of 10 songs, SickWalk combines the very best sounds of Punk, Hard Rock, Rhythm & Blues, and a little bit of classic Country into their own brand of high-energy in-your-face Rock and Roll fury. Shove n’ Love is sure to be in my top albums of 2021 and I have no doubt it will be in yours as well. If you haven’t heard the album, stream it in the background, while you find out all you need to know about frontman “Sick” Walt Novak and the band that shares his namesake.
Metal Express Radio: If I knew absolutely nothing about SickWalt, how would you describe the band’s music to me?
Walt Novak: SickWalt music is a bit Iggy Pop and The Stooges mixed with AC/DC. Up-tempo, positive, high energy raw Rock n Roll!! Man, just typing this makes me want to get on the mic and start rockin! Fuckin Covid…. MUSIC in my bones!!
MER: You’re new album Shove n’ Love was released on February 12, 2021 through Golden Robot /X-Ray Records. What inspired the album’s title?
WN: Well, the title took on a few different connotations. Which we loved and why we decided on it. Because it has a philosophical aspect and then a dirty sexual one as well. Which is perfect and exactly the reason we love it.
First inspiration? The dichotomy of Life. The Yin and Yang. Light and Dark. Good and Bad. Ups and Downs. Push and Pull. Gotta love and appreciate both sides of the spectrum. That is the philosophical side of SickWalt.
And then there’s the fantastic sexual connotation. Shove n’ Love… Sometimes it’s rough sex, and other times it’s loving sex. It feels Rock n Roll. A little dirty. And it’s two words like Rock n Roll. So we loved the title. Encapsulated all different feelings about Rock music and us.
MER: Can you tell us a little about the songs….
“Demand the Stage” – An up-tempo, kickass feel good punk tune. About know-it-all drunks in your face just babbling.
“Die Like Belushi” – Running around the back alleys and speak easys of the East Village of NYC rockin and rollin!
“Song for Johnny” – A great spirited homage to the late great Johnny Cash using his love of trains as to express Life.
“Everybody’s Lucifer” – Why am I always the bad guy for loving women so much?….
“Million Dollar Man” – Is our most attractive single to the broadest spectrum. A very ACDC type show of being a million on the inside.
“Punk Almighty” – is our tribute to the legends before us who stood for something.
“Butcher’s Dog” – Great dirty sex in a closet. Im drooling like a butcher’s dog for you.
“7 of Them” – The song says it all.
“Hey Devil” – Fighting the Fight. Giving ALL of your soul to Rock n’ Roll and sometimes coming up empty.
“Love Alignment” – is a Black Crowes type single about the stars lining up and finding our inner strength.
MER: You filmed the video for “Demand the Stage” on the New York Subway. Were there any regular subway riders looking at you like what the fuck?
WN: Yeah, they looked on with amusement. This is New York City. Goes on all the time. Its not a ‘wtf’ moment, but a ‘lets check this out, are they famous?’ moment. You just go with it, smile, and include them. Its fun. So yeah, we shot from 11pm until 6am. Thinking it would be empty, but like I said, its NYC, and city never sleeps. So we had to adjust. There were a good amount of people coming and going to and from work, some just out and about, and some homeless maniacs that yelled at us and demanded us to ‘get off my train!’
Some in our crew were not NYers, so they were taken aback, but the NYers in the crew, WOMEN INCLUDED, stepped to the front of us, and yelled back, and then the crazies would back down. But there are times to communicate with homeless in a compassionate manner as well. But when you yell louder, they usually cower. Because they are just communicating the only way they know- as a product from a serious abuse in their past.
MER: In the video for “Million Dollar Man”, you are depicted as a delivery driver. Is this what you are currently up to now that live shows are on hiatus?
WN: Ugh man, live shows on hiatus. Tough to take. Its been a crazy year and a half so far. And we’re all not in the clear just yet. So, I have done a TON of different jobs in my life. I’ve never been a delivery driver, but we just needed an occupation that is humbling and diverse among the public. One that can express that you don’t need a million dollars to be a million dollar person. In this era, the delivery system has been taking precedence. The Amazons, Door Dash, Seamless, etc… Plus during Covid, we could only do so much. So this fit the circumstances.
MER: Do you see any live shows on the horizon to promote the new album?
WN: I really wish I did…..
MER: SickWalt formed in 2014 and Shove n’ Love is your first full-length album. Was there a reason for this time lapse or was it simply a case of being content with playing live shows?
WN: No, we created right out of the gate. A 3 song self-titled EP right after Max and I formed after the Bowery Ballroom gig. And then another 5 song EP titled Get Well Soon. (which was same title as my radio show). But then as we were recording Shove n’Love, we hit a lot of bumps. And then Covid. So here we are. We got it out! And its a great record of Rock n’ Roll man! I love it, and very proud of it. A great feel good record.
MER: Shove n’ Love has been released on multiple formats including vinyl. Are you a fan of the vinyl format? If so, what are some of your favorite classic vinyl in your collection?
WN: I love vinyl. I do believe in change. So I embraced all the technologies that developed over the years. But, then, after going all these years with CDs and Digital Streaming, I go back and put a vinyl on, (ON A PROPER SOUND SYSTEM) and it is just beautiful. You are so much more captivated. Its warm and full. Its rich with sound and substance.
Favorite classic vinyl?… Beatles – Abbey Road; Black Sabbath – Vol 4.; Stooges – Fun House; Jane’s Addiction – Nothing’s Shocking; Rolling Stones – Exile on Main Street…
MER: You make a note in your bio that you were a resident at a mental institution. Would you like to share that story?
WN: Ha! Oh boy. Every now and then one can get overwhelmed and fall down. And we need to step away to find the rest we need to get back on the right track. I had a string of mishaps in my life, throw in a little too much partying, and it all came to a head and I blew a gasket. Needed to step away. It was a wild, eye-opening, amazing experience of Psychiatric Institution life.
I was like Jack Nicolson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I would often get the ‘lifer’ mental-patients coming up to me saying- ‘You should run the discussion, you are very smart…’ I was very humble about things and respected where I was. But it was a trip man….
MER: Also in your bio, you mention teaching inmates at Riker’s Island. How did that opportunity come about and what were you teaching?
WN: The band was sitting around thinking about venues to play. And my bassist says – ‘You are Sick Walt man!, you don’t belong playing some small club, you belong playing prisons! Like Johnny Cash!’ And I thought that was a great idea so I looked into it. Saw it was possible and set it up with the State of New York. After a long and thorough background check process, we were cleared and began playing prisons around the State, entertaining inmates. It was surreal and amazing.
I was then made aware of Wayne Kramer’s music program – Jail Guitar Doors. Wayne is the LEGENDARY guitarist for the iconic punk band The MC5. A true hero of mine. And Jail Guitar Doors is a program that teaches music and songwriting in prisons around the country. So the thought of being able to help society WITH Brother Wayne Kramer was a dream come true for me. So I decided to track him down and offer my services.
Quick side story – Wayne was playing a Johnny Thunders LAMF tribute in NYC, so, with my NY connections, I ended up in the Green Room after the show to approach the Rock n Roll legend. And as I walk up to Wayne, there on the left of us, sitting on two chairs, was his legendary red, white, and blue, American flag guitar. I stopped in my tracks and just gawked at that guitar, thinking of what its been thru. And then Wayne was bombarded with fans. And I stood there waiting…. hahaha.
Well, I finally got to Wayne, shook his hand and explained what SickWalt is doing in prisons. He handed me his card and said we’ll talk. Then, 3 months later, Wayne calls me and asks me and the band to lead his teaching at the infamous NYC Correction Facility Rikers Island. And the amazing stories I have from that experience are an entirely separate interview that maybe one day we can discuss. Anyway, I did that for a 18 months until Covid shut out all programs in prisons. But we will see what is in store once this is lifted.
MER: How did you earn the nickname “Sick Walt”
WN: It has been my nickname since high school – Sick Walt. I got the name because of my personality as a kid – high energy, fearless, leader, loud, big-mouth, incendiary, organizer.
So as an American football player in high school (18yrs old), 3 of us storming into the locker room after practice. Covered in sweat and mud, we pass the freshman football locker room. 14-year old skinny adolescent kids that haven’t developed yet. My friend jokingly grabs one of them by the arm and says – “do you know who the fuck this guy is?” And the cowering, naked, just-in-a-towel freshman says- “Oh Yeah! That’s Sick Walt!! EVERYONE knows him!”
Well, we did not expect this answer. I never realized how my actions transcended throughout the entire student body and they NAMED me! So FROM THEN ON, my good friends called me Sick Walt. And then in college, when others heard the name, they felt it totally accurate, and continued to call me Sick Walt.
I’ve always been a very musical person. Love to sing. Have sung in cover bands. But cut to 2013 – I got my friends band on a lineup on the greatest stage in NYC, The Bowery Ballroom. And he says to me – “I think it’s time Sick Walt fronts our band.”
So my – FIRST EVER GIG was singing to about 300 people at Bowery Ballroom. First few bands come on, ho hum… ok,… boring. But then we went on…..And the place went nuts! The crowd rushes the stage and people dancing about, throwing stuff at me. It was an amazing and fantastic reaction.
So, after the show, my friend in the band, dumbfounded, says – “Did you just see what happened out there? We GOTTA make music!” He handed me 15 songs that he wrote, I went home and wrote lyrics to all of them and then we recorded. That is where SICKWALT began.
“Sick” Walt Novak – Vocals
Matt Middleton – Guitar
Eric Arce – Drums
Rob Buckley – Bass