Mon 6th March 2006
Yeah, we all know Gareth loves Cave In. But how can anyone brought up on Pink Floyd and (old, good) Metallica fail to? Something of an oddity, the band re-invent themselves to a certian degree with every release. Ask an untrained ear to listen to something like 'Juggernaught,' and 'Youth Overrided' and it's unlikely they'd guess they were from the same band. Sat here now, it's moments like this that remind me why I chose to take on the unpaid job of writing for 9Hz, a post for which I held precisely zero experience before starting. I'm fine until tour manager Tomas strolls over and asks if I'm ready and takes me through to the dressing room where a surprisingly beardy Stephen (Brodsky, guitar and vocals) and Adam (McGrath, guitar) are sat scribbling notes and reading respectively. Then the nerves kick in. I tell the guys it's my first interview and Stephen tells me not to worry. He even helps me out with the dictaphone. Aw. Anyway, on with the talk.
9Hz: How's the tour going?
Stephen: It's almost done, we're in the home stretch, playing the UK and having a really good time. The shows have been awesome and a little bit crazy which is always interesting.
9Hz: It's the last few days isn't it? Then off home to sunny Boston.
S: Hopefully it'll be sunny. It's nice here, which is kind of a surprise.
9Hz: It's still freezing....
S: It is cold, but usually in the winter it's pretty rainy.
9Hz: Any random or funny moment on this tour?
S: (Laughs) Uh, yeah. Too many to list. There was one night we were really wasted and were coming up with all these different sort of ideas and concepts, one of them being a rock band or a tribute band to all different sorts of things. The joke behind it is the vocalist is dyslexic, so all the words are sang out of order but still in the same melodies and some of the band names are mis-pronounced in silly ways...
Adam: 'Slack Babbath'
9Hz: Um, there's already a tribute band called Slack Babbath.
Adam looks a little crestfallen at this revelation. Before any awkard silences can kick in, Pelican start soundchecking in the main room. It's very loud, and Stephen suggests a change of location. We head for the smaller room, not before checking out Pelican on the way past the stage. Adam stays behind so it's just me and Stephen for the rest of the interview.
9Hz: What made you want to play music?
S: Er... Slash. (laughs)
9Hz: I never got in to Guns and Roses.
S: How come?
9Hz: I was always a Metallica fan.
S: I love Metallica too. It started with Guns and Roses, but then Metallica pretty much set the bar for amazing musicianship. They were so heavy, but the songs were so memorable.
9Hz: Lars is still crap though.
S: (Mis-hearing the comment) The last record? (Laughs)
9Hz: What was the first instrument you played?
(It gets extremely loud next door at this point)
S: I started off playing guitar, but never really figured it out so I would just make up songs on the keyboard that I could play with 2 fingers. Then I took guitar lessons. No, actually, I did take saxophone lessons when I was in 4th grade and I learnt the WWF theme song. Then I quit after that.
9Hz: It was probably a good place to quit. When, as a band, did you first realise you were on to something good?
S: Er... I really wanted to feel like I could have a band that was musically part of the hardcore scene, but at the same time had a bit of an edge to it but had a bit more of an interesting blending of musical things that had never been done before. I wanted to stick with it for that reason, because I thought the scene was a really thriving thing around where I grew up.
9Hz: Did you ever think it was going to take you around the world?
S: I didn't think it was unreasonable because I would read a lot of record reviews in zines like 'Heart Attack' and 'Maximum Rock and Roll' and all the bands that were sending in records to be reviewed were from all over the world. Not even just in the States, it was everywhere, a worldwide thing so I thought there were other bands out there and there's other scenes to play. You know, these guys gotta play to somebody and when they're making records they've got to sell them to somebody. It seemed like a bigger universe in it's own right.
9Hz: Is the food in Europe really that bad?
S: In Europe?
9Hz: Yeah, a lot of American bands complain about it.
S: I mean, its.. (long pause)
9Hz: Don't feel you need to be tactful here.
S: No, honestly I don't really mind adventuring into different places for different food options even if it's not the sort of thing you can just go round the corner and get back at home. Otherwise you stick to the same neighbourhood and you're eating in the same places all the time. I guess what I'm saying is if I had to eat in certain countries for consistent periods of time, I might not be so friendly about it.
9Hz: How is writing going with Ben on board?
S: Well we've only done 2 songs ('Shape Shifter' and 'Dead Already') so far, but there's just a lot of excitement to do more. I mean the level of just wanting to commit to writing a project straight on with this new line-up is just really intense in a good way simply because we can establish a time and then go ahead and do it.
9Hz: So no new album any time soon?
S: We're hoping to write and recording something in the summer.
The tape skips here. Thankfully, the question is written down.
9Hz: You were quoted in an interview around the 'Antenna' period as saying that you tried to jam out a metal song again and were having trouble with it. What do you think has changed to make it possible for you to write heavier material again?
S: I think re-learning some of our older songs was a big influence on our attitude about playing. Which I think is the base of it before the actual ability or desire to want to inject that further into our music. We felt like it was OK to be really happy and proud of our past and that sort of set the foundation for changing our attitude a little bit in terms of how we approach stuff from here on.
The tape skips again, and it's on an off-the-cuff question. Toss. I was asking Stephen about Caleb (Schofield, bass) being given more to do vocal wise.
S: It's great, because he's got such a demolishing voice. I think in general, everyones own musical personalities have developed greatly in individual ways and the fact that we all still feel very devoted to doing the band, it's like 4 new people in a lot of ways, musically. I don't think any of us want to feel like we're making the same records twice.
9Hz: I was browsing through cavein.net trying to find the link to that interview and read through a lot of the news items. A few of them were pretty negative...
S: Like what?
I kick myself fo forgetting to write down the articles so we skip to the next question. Rookie mistake. Won't happen again.
9Hz: One of the old items on there is a link to a video produced by PETA. How did that come about? Is it something the one of you or the band as a whole feel strongly about?
S: Adam's a vegetarian as well as Ben, those guys have been dedicated to that for quite a while now. I did my time, but it had to end with some chicken sandwiches.
9Hz: It's usually bacon sandwiches that crack people. First thing Sunday morning, the smell of bacon wafting through the house... (drools slightly)
S: I didn't go straight to bacon, I had to take the poultry route first. (laughs)
9Hz: How do you write songs for Cave In, The Octave Museum and your solo work? Is it a case of writing something and assigning it to a band?
S: I definately try and keep the players in mind when doing certain things with a certain song. In some ways, a song that would be an obvious choice for one might turn out to be the better and more challenging choice for another. Those kinds of choices don't have a high success rate but they're always interesting.
9Hz: Any examples of where you've tried that and it's worked out really well?
S: Uh... (pause) ..well.... (another, slightly longer pause) ..no. I'm only thiking of bad ones. (laughs)
9Hz: Do you find it difficult to come up with themes for songs? Some of the lyrics are very oblique in places. Are you trying to get a message across or is it just about the feel and complementing the song?
S: I used to just kind of only care about words sounding good in their place in the song and in terms of what it all meant being strung together wasn't all that important. But I realised there's people like Bob Dylan, once you get into stuff like that pretty deeply you can't just write a song that doesn't mean anything.
9Hz: What's your view on the current metal scene at the moment? As far as I see, it seems to be in a bit of a rut right now with a lot of haircut bands and an over-reliance on image.
S: I don't think a lot of it's really heavy metal, you know?
9Hz: You think it's kind of a different scene?
S: I would think so. The little I've heard from that sort world of music doesn't really sound like metal to me. I actually want to get more into black metal. There was stuff being played to me the other day that was kind of blowing my mind, and I love the idea of solo dudes making entire black metal records by themselves in some creepy, dimly lit house in the woods of some Scandinavian country, (laughs). I liked some of the stuff I heard where the guitar was playing... not slowly, but the drums were totally bombastic, and the riffs on the guitar were slower and almost like sitting very peacefully on top of the crazy drumming. I never though of black metal to be of that category, speaking musically, so I really like that stuff. It sounds newer.
9Hz: Have you heard the new 'Opeth' album?
S: No, though I like the stuff I've heard of them.
9Hz: Is there any secret to 'The Cave In Sound'?
S: We all enjoy playing with each other, I guess. It's not really a secret though.
9Hz: Is there any musical equipment you couldn't live without? Like if I gave you a decent guitar and amp, what would you take from your rig?
S: (Slightly mis-understanding the question) I guess I'd take my cords.
9Hz: (Slightly mis-understanding the answer) Your chords?
S: Yeah, my cords. So I could plug everything in.
9Hz: Right. I meant if that kind of stuff was there already, along with the amp and guitar?
S: Gotcha. Well I'd like to think I'm not attached to any of my pedals very much. Maybe a tuner. (laughs)
9Hz: What's the first ever live gig you went to?
S: Well let's see. I went and saw U2 when I was in 6th grade on the Zoo TV tour. I remember on our way there I was driving with my cousin and his mom and there was crazy traffic and there was really close to being an accident on the highway, this guy was driving erraticly and he kind of pulled over off the highway really quickly and we were nearly sideswiped. I remember she (I assume his aunt) was crying and everything smelt like burned rubber from the wheels skidding on the pavement. And then years later I was told that the smell of crack is kind of like burned rubber. And I always think of that time I almost died in the car on the way to see U2. So it helped me avoid experimenting with things I shouldn't be experimenting with. (laughs)
9Hz: I'm sure I smelled something very similar in your dressing room....
S: Oh no you didn't. (laughs)
9Hz: Last one; recommend a band or album to 9hz readers that they might not have listened to otherwise.
S: When I was over here last summer with a band called New Idea Society, we played a show with this band called 'Bilge Pump'. Have you heard of them?
9Hz: Nope. (it turns out they're playing Sheffield on 12th March, a week after the interview took place. Myspace has it's uses after all.)
S: Well they're from.... somewhere in the UK. I don't know much about them at all other than... they're fucking awesome.
Almost all the way through without swearing once. So close Stephen, so close. My mum's going to read this you know. We shake hands and he bounds down the stairs with far too much energy for a man who's been on tour for the best part of 5 weeks. "I broke him in for you." he tells Pelican who are now helping themselves to a decent sized table of food. Nerves gone, I'm ready for Pelican. But that's another article.