‘I’m a Soppy Romantic’
They’re back! With a five year ‘hiatus’ 36 Crazyfists are rested and as excited as a puppy with a squeaky toy. The new album is a scorcher. But for a while, it looked like there might not be another album, with the departure of two band members and three family deaths in short succession. Time and Trauma is not rainbow-coloured unicorns. It’s soulful, moody, angry, and testament to the fragility of life and the strength of the human spirit. Frontman Brock Lindow gave us a peek into the years since Collisions and Castaways with a frank insight into the pain of his mother’s death, the energy of a new record label, and the weirdness of no-longer-existing!
HMA: So. Another band hits a Twenty-year milestone (I feel old!). Congratulations. Are you doing anything to celebrate?
Brock: Thank you. We did. December 6th was the actual twenty years to the day of our first practice. December 6th 1994 was the first practice so December 6th was last Saturday and we played at home. It was awesome. Fairly emotional for me because it was a lot of fun and people back home in Alaska really always supported our band so it was a really great show.
HMA: I’m guessing you’re quite happy being here in the UK – it must seem quite warm compared to Alaska, which must be freezing this time of year.
Brock: It’s been like unseasonably warm back home because there’s hardly any snow; it’s gonna come but it is late. I mean it snowed before Halloween and then it got super warm and it all melted, and it’s been raining. So it’s not typical. But I did see via Facebook that it looked like it snowed in the last week so it should be a White Christmas I would assume.
HMA: How’s the album promotion going?
Brock: It’s going great. The last record, I don’t remember doing very much at all. We were kind of… the label I was on was pretty stale. Disarray probably: We were with Ferret – and Roadrunner. Roadrunner was always great on this side of the fence. And so was Ferret. But ya know Warner, was it Warner? I think it was Warner Brothers that bought it. But anyway, once Ferret was bought it was done away with.
So just doing any promotion now is awesome. And to do a trip where the label sent me to New York and London, I mean that just shows that we’re with a label that has a little more believable than the last place, so that feels really good.
HMA: What was the issue with Roadrunner out in the states?
Brock: In the beginning – aw, I’ve got nothing bad to say about them: they made my dreams come true! They signed us in ’99. But as the career unfolded there was less belief on the American side than there was over here; obviously, the band was more popular over here. I don’t know if it’s obvious but it was.
HMA: Is there a reason for that do you think?
Brock: That’s the million dollar question. I don’t know. I think for a lot of bands their popularity is dictated by Active Rock Radio in the States, and you guys don’t really have that here. Which I love. Not that I’ve got anything against Active Rock Radio but it definitely makes people think that certain bands are more or less popular. So anyway I guess that’s probably the main reason.
HMA: What made you move to Spinefarm Records?
Brock: Well we didn’t really know what we were gonna do. We had the record done – mixed and mastered – everything; Artwork done, photo-shoots shot; we did one video before we even signed with anybody. But that whole idea was that maybe we were going to do this record on our own. Release it digitally only, or maybe just a small run of physical CD’s and maybe a vinyl. But we didn’t really know. We were free agents so it was kind of a nice place to be. Once we finished all the demo’s, certain people that I knew were like ‘Hey, we’d be glad to hear it’, so I sent it to them and the next thing I knew we had six or seven labels that were interested and I wasn’t really expecting that. Spinefarm was one of them. And I knew the president of Spinefarm because he was the president of Roadrunner back in the day, so I had a relationship with him. And then Tim Brennan who is a good bud, he was at Ferret, so I knew him and they just had the best pitch. They’re starting in the US – they haven’t been there that long and I mean I think there were a couple of key words that were said to me that just made me feel it was a good place to be. They felt like we still have something to prove; they have something to prove, so let’s do it together! They seem hungry. And we definitely felt like we slept real good last night!! Like we feel refreshed, and maybe a new sense of life, in the sense that we have taken some time away from the band and it feels good. It feels like we’re charged back up. The new record has got some serious lyrical matter but it feels also like a sense of closure and of peace, so we’re ready to go to work and I think everybody at Spinefarm is ready to work too, so it just feels exciting!
HMA: The new album is called Time and Trauma. Who came up with the name and what is the meaning behind it?
Brock: I came up with it. That’s my job; I do the lyrics and words and titles. And the record, for the most part, is about the passing of my mum in 2011. The whole thing is about the process of dealing with death and then the process of coming to terms with the fragility of life. Basically documenting the process. So Time and Trauma – the first lyrics I even wrote for the record was ‘I’ve seen the devil in many of my days. Lately, I’ve decorated far too many graves’. Those were the first lyrics I wrote for the entire thing. And so that just kind of set off the whole vibe.
HMA: Powerful words.
Brock: The original title was ‘Lightless’, which is also a song on the record, and I was really excited about it because I finally had a one-word title. They’re usually super-long, drawn out… the band have playfully made fun of me forever for having long titles ya know; Bitterness the star; A Snow Capped Romance; Rest Inside the Flames; The Tide and its Takers…. All these big long names. So I was like ‘Oh, I got one, solid, word’. We started thinking about the art for it and we just couldn’t come up with anything that great. Then one night the guys were like ‘We think Time and Trauma’s better’. And they aren’t usually that vocal. So, I could feel that they weren’t totally sold on Lightless. But I was. I thought it was awesome. But now that I’m thinking about it I’m really glad we didn’t go with it because Lightless is so bleak: as sad and depressing as some of these lyrics are, time does heal. And so in that sense, I feel at peace and I have closure with this. Especially with the finishing of the album – it really was therapy for me. I think Time and Trauma is just better. It has a little bit more of a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ feel to it than Lightless would have.
HMA: So many people suffer in different ways, either the loss of family, or friends, or even the end of relationships. Do you see your lyrics as being helpful to others? Do you have any sage advice for people who may be struggling with their own sickness or loss?
Brock: It’s different for everybody. Everybody grieves in their own way. My sisters, I’ve been saying this a lot today but… My sister said to me at one point when she was (grieving), she said ‘You’re so lucky to have music’. I know that music has always been there for me, and for others, and that’s what we utilise it for; to feel stuff, to get stuff out etc. So when I was writing, after she said it I was like ‘Wow, she’s really right. I really am lucky to have music’. And so any advice I would give to anyone going through it is, you have to at some point, you have to deal with it, with your grief. You can numb yourself with substances as much as you want, you can do whatever it is to keep your mind off of it, but eventually, if you don’t go through it you’ll never get over it, and that’s what I learned. So that’s the only thing I can pass on is what I learned. It’s tough. No-one wants to deal with stuff like that but once you do it definitely gives you some sort of armour that you didn’t have before.
HMA: What do you think fans or new listeners will take from this album?
Brock: Well better late than never – glad you’re checking us out! I think that this record is more of a moody, hard-rock album which is totally what I wanted. I didn’t want to do this metalcore… like our last album. I don’t hate the last album but I don’t see the uniqueness of the band in it. There are certain parts of this band that, on the earlier records, that love us or hate us you knew it was us. And on the last album I really felt like we just, we weren’t challenged enough I think. We wanted to do this heavy record so we just did whatever we thought… it was just kind of spontaneous and that was fun at the time.
I look back on it and think I would never tell someone, if they’d never heard us, to check out that record. I don’t mean I hate the record though. I was into the record when I was writing it – I didn’t just phone it in! This album took so much, so I think it got back to the roots vocally. I didn’t scream just for the sake of ‘let’s make this part heavy and scream on it’. I did the opposite. Some of the heaviest riffs that are on the record I tried to sing over. It’s always easy to scream over those sorts of things so that’s what I love about this album: We didn’t try to consciously do something to get back to the old days but we’ve released one song so far and there’s a huge percentage of people who are like ‘This sounds like Bitterness the Star’ or whatever and I’m like, that’s awesome! Sorta what I wanted. I wanted to get back to what makes the band unique, which, for the most part, is probably the guitar sound and my voice. My singing voice. So I’m really glad that that happened.
HMA: Do you think you feel more comfortable with your writing now because you’ve had this four-year break between touring and writing? Has such a long break allowed you to subconsciously go back to your roots or is it because of the line-up changes bringing new energy to the band?
Brock: Well, having a new drummer, Kyle… I mean it was sad that we lost Thomas (Noonan) cos I’ve played with him for over twenty years; we were in a band before this. But he was so burnt out, and I think we all were really. It was a weird time for the band on the last cycle. And then my mum got sick and passed away. Mick, he had quit the band cos he had a new baby so our old guitar tech filled in for him for two years. Then Mick came back and his mum passed away. And before my mum passed away, two weeks before that, my grandmother passed away so it was a crazy amount of depression I think. I also think that without Steve Holt, our guitar player, we probably wouldn’t be playing anymore because he stayed the course. He started writing this music that he was giving to me every once in a while when I was not totally focused on the band. I was still trying to let the dust settle and I think the band would probably be over if Steve didn’t still believe in his heart and stick with it. That’s really a cool thing too. I haven’t given him enough credit for it but I have been thinking about it since I’ve been here because I’m thinking about it more. It’s fun to talk about the record because I haven’t really got to till the last few days, so I’m learning too about what was unique and special about certain points of the writing.
HMA: You’ve had this album ready to go for quite a while. What’s taking so long for it to be released?
Brock: We finished the album in May. But that’s the nature of the business. I wanted the record to come out in the fall. It had been so long and I was super eager to please the fans that were writing to us with the ‘What the hell is going on with the band – are you done?’ etc. I wanted to get something out to make sure they knew we weren’t. But once we got with Spinefarm and we got talking – we got new management, we got a new booking agent – everybody talked sense into us and we laid out a really great plan which we haven’t had in years, so it just takes time to get all the pieces of the puzzle in the right spot. Now thank god we’re only a couple months or so away, and so it’ll be out soon. But we have had this record and these songs for, I mean really a couple of years as some of them had been done for a while – at least in a demo phase, so I’m going to be relieved when February comes so people can actually hear it.
HMA: Is the international and national release all on the same date?
Brock: It is over this side of the world and then in North America it comes out the day after (Feb 16th/17th). You guys release them on Mondays, we release them on Tuesdays. I don’t know why.
HMA: As you said, the lyrics to your album are rather dark. Like those on Vanish, the opening track; ‘Anger pulling me down: No escape.’ Did you or do you have to be in a dark place in order to write such things or do you have to get yourself into the mood to do it?
Brock: This is the one record in my career that, before, with other records, I had a different bunch of subject matters and I’d write about them and kind of have to think about how that subject would be and then write about it. Whereas this one, I was just living in that so heavily that I didn’t have to search for anything other than finding the process and writing about it and detailing it all in my own vague poetic way. But that song, in particular, Vanish, it’s about, I was thinking about how it’s weird that you know you and I are talking right now but someday you and I will not even be on this earth. We’ll have just disappeared.
And so my thoughts were on how I was on the road so much back then that my connection with my mum was on the phone – all the time. So when I jump in my truck still today, I sometimes think to and then remember: ‘Man, I can’t call her’. But I still have that initial thought and it’s weird: She’s gone; she’s not here. A lot of my friends have passed away; they’re gone. We just disappear. We vanish. I just kind of wrapped my head around that. It’s weird. It’s weird that we’re here one day and we’re not the next. And I don’t mean weird in a way that I’m really bummed out about it. It’s just an interesting thing that happens to us and it’s weird that we’re all here and there are so many unanswered things about the Universe and all that. And hopefully, we’ll figure them out one day when we go to the next spot, wherever it is.
HMA: The next track is 11:24:11. What is that title about?
Brock: That’s the night that my mum passed away. That’s the day. And so I wrote that song…
HMA: I wanted to say how the lyrics for that track were particularly heavy – probably the darkest on the album. ‘So much passion from driving these nails in my lungs. The darkest hour of my life is in ruins. I scrape the walls. Broken flesh from above.’ What made you think of those things when writing this?
Brock: Well it was an interesting mindset, cos I wrote the song on the evening she passed. So the last week or so my mum was not herself anymore and it was pretty awful. It was Thanksgiving night. We’d just sat down for dinner with my wife’s family and I got a call from my sister; she said Mum passed, and it was really weird because the nurses that were around my mum had called my sisters and asked if they wanted to hear the death breath! And I really thought that was strange. But some people do I guess. I thought it was really strange. And they didn’t want to and I sure as hell didn’t want to! I thought it was really odd. I actually haven’t talked about it that much before but I always thought it was very strange. But when I got that call I was SO grateful. I was actually praying for my mum to pass a couple days before that. The last time I saw her she was in such a hallucination state because they’ve got so much morphine going through – so her mind was just mush. I was happy in that sense. Relieved. That’s the word. Obviously, I was totally bummed.
It was Thanksgiving so of course, I was thankful for mum. She was such a huge supporter of the band. All of that was part of this importance of writing about that process, and not only about who she was but what she wanted me to do after she passed. From what she wanted me to do with her ashes to where she wanted us to go have a big party for her in her favourite restaurant – which we did, which was so cool. I mean I had so much subject matter about the topic that I wasn’t really used to that so it was just easy. Easy in the sense that I had the mind for it. It wasn’t easier to find the right words, so-to-speak, but I definitely had the ideas. And as the songs came to me I just kept writing them down.
That song, in particular, had just come to me musically, the day before. But I didn’t start really writing the lyrics to the song until she passed. So I think I had a couple ideas for Time and Trauma, but that was more about just the process of what I was going through. All the trauma and how much time do we have left. I didn’t really start going until I had mostly the music. The music was pretty much done.
HMA: The last line from that stopped me in my tracks the first time I heard it: ‘I’ll cut his fucking head off’. Obviously, you must have written that a while ago and have heard you talk about the song, the meaning is clear. But with the situation over the last couple of years where people have been beheaded in the UK, where children and Muslims were beheaded by ISIS in Iraq and Syria, Journalists and aid-workers beheaded by ISIS, have you looked at that since and thought about how it might be interpreted?
Brock: I’ve never thought about that until you just mentioned it. That association was completely not part of my intent. I mean in that song I’m talking about cancer, that’s what I wanted to cut the fucking head off!!
HMA: Do you think that musicians in a band, especially the frontman of the band, do you think they have a responsibility to the public and fans that listen to your music with what you write? Do you ever feel responsibility?
Brock: Not really because we’ve never really had subject matter that was outside of my own life. I’ve never gone into worldly topics really or politics at all. I’ve never used music for that. I have my own ideas about it of course but my lyrics have always been about things that pertain to my life or the bands life. I think we have a responsibility to be responsible. Absolutely. But since my band doesn’t have a stance with those kinds of things lyrically it’s just never been a part of my thought process.
HMA: What’s your favourite track on the album?
Brock: Maybe the last track on the record: ‘Marrow’. I’m a soppy romantic and that song is about how much I needed my wife through this entire time and that song is about her. And just what a strong, awesome person she is. It’s not so much about the death of my mum… it’s got a little bit better, it’s got a little lighter vibe to it. Even though it’s got its moments but yeah, that song is one of my favourites.
HMA: ‘Also Am I’ is the first single release – what was your reason for choosing that as the first single?
Brock: That was a collective effort as I don’t know if I would have chosen it, but I’m glad we did because the response was really great. I think just because it shows off the different facets of the band and everybody thought it was a return to the roots of the band which I thought was great. So it was a collective effort between me and the band and Spinefarm.
HMA: Do you have much say in the artwork or is it something that’s organised by the label?
Brock: No, that’s totally the band. I mean my buddy Mike D (Mike D’Antonio of Killswitch Engage) did it. But it was all through conversations between him and me. He’s done tee-shirt designs for us before. He owns a company called DarkicoN designs (https://www.facebook.com/DarkicoN.design) – killer stuff – and I can’t wait for everybody to see the whole layout: I mean it’s super cool. We’re doing something on our Instagram page right now that every day, until the entire record’s done, you get 20 seconds of a song and a piece of the album cover, so when it all shows up it’ll be complete.
The Also Am I cover was originally going to be the album cover. Or at least one part of it was – the angel was. As more pictures started coming from Mike they just got cooler and the angel was the first image and I was loving it – it looks like a faceless angel; kinda like a ‘Lord of the Rings’ Wraith, one of the dark riders… And of course, I love Lord of the Rings… there’s a recurring theme with the cross as well. Yeah, I’m really excited about the artwork. It looked really cool. It’ll look really good on vinyl, in a bigger format.
HMA: What’s your favourite vinyl cover?
Brock: Anything from Judas Priest. They always have great record covers. Maybe Sad Wings of Destiny. Or Defenders of the Faith. No. Screaming for Vengeance. Let’s go with that. That’s a cool album cover on vinyl. It’s just so metal it’s awesome.
HMA: I have to say, your album cover for A Snow Capped Romance, I absolutely love it but I can’t say why.
Brock: Do you know the band Demonhunter? That heart on A Snow Capped Romance, and the next one with the heart on fire for Rest Inside the Flames, the singer from Demonhunter did those for us. He’s a really great artist. (Ryan Clark – and his brother Don have won Grammy awards for their album artwork www.invisiblecreature.com)
HMA: How important is the art to you? How important is the visual side of it?
Brock: Yeah it’s a big part of it. I wish I was more of an artist in that sense because I’m always conveying ideas so someone else can do it, and it never really comes out the way you want it to. Although sometimes it’s better. It is with this one. But it’s very important. I mean there are certain albums you can see and be like ‘man that’s a killer album cover’. So yeah it’s extremely important.
HMA: There have been a lot of positive comments regarding the live performances of the tracks from this album. What other tracks from this album will you be playing live? Are there any that you specifically wouldn’t try live?
Brock: Maybe Marrow. Maybe that wouldn’t be a live track. Mostly because my friend Stephanie sang on it and I’m not for trying to pull off that middle part! I think we’d play pretty much any other song live. We’re trying not to play too many of them before the album comes out because I know what it’s like when you go to see a band live and they’re playing something you’ve never heard before; you wanna hear the things you know. So I get that. But we’ve been playing Time and Trauma and Sorrow Sings and Also Am I for a good year at least and they seem to go over great. It’s also just letting people know you’re coming back with something. But as the record comes out I think 11:24:11 is a pretty good energetic song so I think it’ll be good to play live. But we’re gonna have to wait for songs like that, songs that you don’t gravitate towards immediately, at least I don’t think you would, we’re gonna have to wait for the record to come out and people to hear it.
HMA: For me, that was the stand out track. That was absolutely the one that made me really tune in to the album. I wanna dance around to that.
Brock: Well that’s cool. That’s one of my favourite songs on the record so I’m hoping that we do get to play it more.
HMA: So when you’re on tour in the UK and Europe next year, are you playing any festivals?
Brock: I don’t know about the festivals yet; we’re still trying to get that mapped out. But I know on Monday they announce the tour, which we start here in London in February. We’re here when the album comes out. We’re actually in London for a show the day after. The other reason for that is it’s always been the best place for us, so we decided we’ve got to start it here. So that’s what we’re doing!
36 Crazyfists release Time and Trauma on February 16th worldwide and February 17th in the US.
They have gig dates booked for the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France and the US from Feb through to May. Check the band’s site for dates and tickets:
Interview by Sable – Copyright 2014 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.