Earlier this year, Alaskan heavy metal veterans 36 Crazyfists released their newest album entitled “Time and Trauma.” In promotion of the album, the band embarked on an American tour. On May 19th, I caught up with them at Katacombes, one of Montreal’s most “heavy metal” of its heavy metal venues. In their tour bus, I discussed with Brock Lindow, the group’s frontman, about the direction of their new album, the state of the metal scene today, and the fragile balance between life and death.
My interview with Brock was scheduled to be at 5 p.m. and I asked Stefan, the bassist from Montreal metal act Mellevon to help me spot him out. “Brock’s easy to find — he’s the most ‘metal’ looking guy here. He’s got a long beard and lots of tattoos.” I looked to my left, and went up to “the most metal guy” in the area. Sure enough it was Brock, and he kindly lead me into his tour bus, where we could conduct the interview in quiet and privacy. I asked him about what their new album meant to him. Listening to his gruff voice, seeing bottles of Jack Daniels on the floor and having heard their abrasive music prior, I did not expect what was coming to me.
Brock Lindow (BL): The whole album is about the passing of my mom. It’s all about the process of loss and how it affects our daily lives and our band. So, in the first song on the album, “Vanish,” when I say, “We all disappear,” this can apply to anyone, ‘cause absolutely everyone’s felt loss in their lives. If they haven’t, they will. The majority of the album is all about that time spent with my mother and learning about, you know, the fragility of life. It’s about how initially it was really painful and as the years have gone on, the pain turned into a memorial of sorts. For the first couple of years after my mom passed I would still get into the truck and go to call her. I wouldn’t see her much; we were always on the road. The album’s about how we all vanish, we’re all here one day then gone the next.
Kyle Lapointe (KL): Obviously this is something close to you and very touchy subject matter. Would you say that because of this there were different challenges in recording this album as opposed to your previous ones?
BL: We got off the road in 2011 when my mom got ill, and my mom ended up passing that year. Then my bass player, Mickey’s mom passed two months later, and my grandmother actually passed right before my mom. We were dealing with that part of life while trying to keep momentum with the band, writing this album, which turned out to be a four-year process. So, that was definitely different because all the years prior we put a record out every two years.
Also, I’ve always had some material that was weighing heavy on my mind and I’ve enjoyed having a musical outlet to get it off my chest, but I’ve never really had this type of content that was so life-encompassing. It was nice; I got a full year with my mom while she was ill, seeing her and taking her to her chemo appointments. There were some positives in the whole doomy situation.
KL: Is it hard singing those songs onstage though? I could see it being difficult singing those songs onstage, and bringing up those memories.
BL: No, when I perform onstage I try to look at the whole situation as a memorial. I think now I love playing the new songs live and it’s super fulfilling to talk about those things, and it’s also new music for us, which makes it fun. I enjoy focusing on how I’m grateful that I have music to get it off my chest.
KL: So for my next question, I don’t want to say you guys are getting older, but-
BL: Yeah, we’re getting older, man.
KL: Well, I was looking at this study the other day, which concluded that, as people get older, they stop listening to new music. The study said that once most people hit thirty they begin to start just fixating in on what they like to listen to and stop musically exploring. As a musician who’s getting older, do you feel yourself feeling less musically explorative? Do you think that study carries any weight in your life or with your fans?
BL: I think I try to at least listen to whatever’s popular now, but the older we’ve gotten, the more we enjoy the classics. There are a few newer bands I like that my bandmates aren’t that fond of (I won’t name names), but even when I get the choice I still enjoy the classics. I think that’s us totally becoming our fathers, you know? That’s just the nature of the beast. Eventually the response is, “It’s not Pantera, man.” It’s hard to relate to the kids who are eighteen when you’re in your late thirties or forties; that’s happened for every generation. Think of when Elvis got big — they wouldn’t video him waist-down. Thank God we’re not in that primitive state, but still, I have become my father. I listen to some of the new bands that are popular and think, “What? That’s awful.”
KL: Could that be because right now we can see all the crap that’s coming out, but when we look back we only see the music that stood the test of time? When we look to the ’90s now we remember Pantera and Nirvana but don’t remember the “bad” music of the time. We end up becoming more retrospective.
BL: There are way more bands now though too; it’s very overpopulated. Back in the 90’s we had the Chilis, Alice in Chains, the Stone Temple Pilots. If you dug a little deeper you’d see Metallica, and Slayer. Now, hip-hop’s exploded, country’s gone pop and indie’s really big. There’s been a huge commercialization of music and a huge oversaturation.
KL: Music hasn’t gotten any worse though.
BL: That’s true, if anything it’s gotten better in terms of talent and artists who are doing unique stuff. Let’s look at metal for a second. For example in the metalcore genre the founding artists really stick out like Killswitch and Unearth. At the same time though, the genre now has a zillion bands that all sound the same. All these bands just want to have that sound. Not saying they can’t do that, but boy is it unoriginal. The masters of that genre do it right, and as for all the up-and-coming bands, I don’t know man.
KL: Originality needs original influences. Now there’s so much music out there that your top one hundred favorite musicians on your Ipod can all sound pretty similar.
BL: Yeah, you’re right. The music industry’s crumbled on itself a little. Our band tiptoes in a lot of directions. We love Alice in Chains and the grunge era, and Metallica and we love Killswitch Engage. We love Deftones; they’re one of our favorite bands. I don’t think musicians should be scared to experiment and try new things sonically.
KL: Do you have any interesting stories from this tour so far?
BL: Well this tour’s only been five days so far but —
KL: I see the Jack Daniels bottle there. Does that have a story?
BL: No, that’s just a constant. There was one crazy story though. A couple of weeks ago we played in Houston, Texas and the venue was right behind a railroad track. We got done playing and talking to some fans outside, just kinda kickin’ it, and all of a sudden this red little car takes a left over these big rocks and rides onto the train tracks. You could just hear the little car getting nailed by those boulders underneath. All of a sudden she tries to hop out of it and gets high-centered. You could hear her trying to go backwards, forwards. Eight of us worked together to pull this girl out of the car. She was wasted and it was her birthday. I don’t even know why she was driving on her birthday. Anyways, we get her out of the car and a guy gets in to try to move the car. A train is coming.
KL: Holy shit.
BL: We can see the lights way down there. Eight guys pick up this car off the track and then this dude drives it over these massive boulders. It f’d up the bottom of this girl’s car. We got her a cab and then talked about it. Man, she would have died. When that train did come by, that fucking thing was flying. It would have blasted that car right off.
KL: People have told you before that you’ve saved them with your music right? Now you could say you actually physically saved someone’s life too.
BL: Damn straight.
KL: I’m going to end up by asking if you’ve got any words for upcoming musicians who are fans of your band and look up to you guys.
BL: Play something that really speaks to you personally and try not to rip anybody off. Influences are one thing; everyone’s got ‘em, but try to do something unique. Play music for the right reasons and it’ll save your life like it did mine.
KL: What do you mean when you say, “Don’t rip anyone off?”
BL: Don’t blatantly steal riffs, and be your own band. Find something unique in your band and ride it. You want to have something that’s yours. I’m not saying don’t have influences. Just try to do something unique. That’s the beauty of creating something. If you want to rip people off be a tribute band.
KL: Thanks for your time, man.
BL: It’s been a pleasure; thank you too.
Stay tuned for interviews with ToothGrinder and Mellevon.