Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Damned Things - interview w/ Joe Trohman and 'Ironiclast' review

Fans of Every Time I Die, Fall Out Boy, Anthrax, or just generally just fucking great rock'n'roll take note....there's a new supergroup in town. Consisting of Joe Trohman (Guitar) and Andy Hurley (Drums) of Fall Out Boy, Scott Ian (Guitar) and Rob Caggiano (Guitar) of Anthrax and Keith Buckley (Vocals) of Every Time I Die fame, The Damned Things have just been over playing a couple of shows in the UK and will be releasing their debut album Ironiclast on December 14th through Island Records. I caught up with Joe while he was over here:

Hey Joe, how’s your time been over here man? You got in Saturday right?
Yeah well we supposed to be getting in at 6.30am but our flight got delayed – there was an elderly gentleman who needed a wheelchair and oxygen tank and they had to bring the plane all the way back. We still got in at like 7.30 in the morning, got to the hotel, couple of hours sleep, and headed to the venue. We were gonna have a few hours to soundcheck but Josh’s basses got misplaced by BA, some shit in my pedal board got lifted, Scott and Rob’s rental gear was on the fucking fritz, there were just so many technical problems we ended up having like 15 minutes to play a couple of things and then we just played the show kinda based off memory! But I had fun at the shows, the shows were fucking rad. To be honest, I’m just glad that everyone who came out didn’t feel like their time was wasted – I really want people to be happy with who they came to see.

Had you had much practice time before leaving the States?
This is the first time we’d played together since Download! It’d been like 4 months, pretty fucking nuts.

You’re all from different music backgrounds – when you hit the stage, does it all come together pretty naturally?
It does, we work really well together on stage. It helps that we’re all very used to playing with other people and playing under pressure, but we’re also friends – like, Scott’s a guy I looked upto growing up, but he’s also one of my best friends. I’ll annoy that dude, and that dude will annoy me because we’re friends. Keith, Andy and Rob are my friends. Like, before and after the show I want to hang out with these dudes. I think that’s where chemistry comes from, if you like the people you’re on stage with. It also helps to be proficient musicians. I always have low expectations of myself like, “fuck, we’re playing these shows without rehearsal”. But we get up there and yeah we might forget a few parts here and there but it comes off pretty great, and then we can go and hang out with everyone that came to the shows and everyone seems to have enjoyed it. There’s even some people who came with skepticism in their eyes but really had a good time and that’s fucking awesome man. We’re just barely pro enough to be able to pull it off without rehearsing for 4 months [laughs]

I was at the show and it all seemed pretty polished. But if you do fuck up, are there ways to just gloss over it?
Ah thanks man, that’s awesome – that’s very cool to hear. I’m glad, I feel like at the end of the day, 9 out of 10 times you can see the mistakes you make over everyone else. I’m personally so self-conscious, I mean if I make one little mistake or anything I think about it really hard. But you know, one thing I’ve learned as a musician is the best thing to do is to be late – it’s way cooler to play behind the beat then it is to play ahead of the beat. You play ahead of the beat, it’s like – fucking nervous white guy [laughs]. So if you forget the part and get into it a little late it doesn’t sound bad. There’s like, a way to fuck up professionally. We all know how to fuck up and make it look alright.

Were there any nerves about playing to a crowd who won’t have heard most of the tracks?
For sure, have you heard the record?

I got it a few days ago, I mean it’s only Monday so only had the weekend to sink in.
So you were at least familiar, but most of the people there were only familiar with MAYBE two or three songs. And they may have had their arms folded at the time but afterwards you hear everyone like clapping and yelling and it’s like, cool man, they clearly dug that.

Well I’m sure you can appreciate, having played London before, that’s generally our aesthetic – crossed arms, chin scratching…
It’s the same as New York and LA man! Fans keep their arms crossed like ‘impress me, fucking impress me’. You live in a big city and not matter what you’ve seen and what you haven’t seen, you act like you’ve seen it all. I’m from Chicago and go between Chicago and New York. I mean, Chicago’s definitely a different vibe – very laid back and a lot friendlier. New York’s great, I love it and have been spending a lot of time there but it’s similar to London in the way that there’s a lot of fucking bands, and its harder to get people to come out and see you.

You said a lot of people approached the gig with a lot of skepticism – do you not think they may have just been unsure what to expect? Especially as Fall Out Boy fans before they might’ve been thinking ‘shit, I hope this isn’t a disappointment'?
Really good question. That’s something I’ve learned about people who say they have no expectations – it’s the same as someone saying they have low expectations. Unless you’re really that unfamiliar with music, and you don’t know about Anthrax, FOB and ETID and you’re showing up with literally no expectations – no expectations normally means shitty expectations.

Have you heard much feedback from FOB fans on forums/Twitter etc? How are they responding to The Damned Things?
FOB fans are generally awesome man, they’re very supportive. There are some - and you’re gonna get into this when you’re dealing with a band that was bigger than the sum of their parts - who you’re not even sure are into the music, but they’re just like into someone’s face, or into someone’s vibe that makes them horny or whatever. That being said, the FOB fans who genuinely dig the music have been very supportive and very cool. I hung out with some of them who came up to the London show for a while, and a very long time FOB fan from London who’s a very good acquaintance came out and brought me a little weed cos she knows I’m always kinda hurting when I I first hit the road [laughs], so yeah they’re mostly really cool. There are some who aren’t so cool about it but it makes me wonder whether they’re actually into music. Some just say ‘this isn’t for me, I’d rather have FOB’.

What about the Anthrax and Every Time I Die fans?
Anthrax have some of the most true music fans, like guys who’ve been going to shows for ever and just wanna see good rock music. Guys who listen to Zeppelin, who saw Thin Lizzy with Phil Lynott! Dudes like that who are just into rock n’ roll, and I love talking to old school Anthrax fans – some of the nicest, coolest, genuine music fans. And this isn’t taking away from FOB fans, they’re fucking awesome. With ETID fans you get a similar thing where you get a lot of younger people who are trying to figure out what they’re into and some of them are maybe more into aesthetic than they’re into just listening to songs, and I get it – I was into that too - but you get older and you realize aesthetic doesn’t matter.

Do you have a favorite track on Ironiclast?
It’s changed a lot…I think like Black Heart and Little Darling – I love all the overdubs and all the little nuances of that song, it’s a really vibey darker tune. I love the chorus on it too, just the whole thing!

The first track I heard from it was A Great Reckoning – dude, that is probably the sickest riff I’ve heard all year.
Thank you, I wrote that riff!

Very nice! What does the immediate future hold now, are you gonna be touring?
Yeah, well be touring all through next year, support mostly.

If it sounds like a laugh hanging out and jamming tracks with, not just your friends, but in some cases also your idols...then this sense of fun certainly translates onto the record. The themes may not typically be lighthearted and jovial (song titles like Grave Robber, Black Heart and Bad Blood hardly scream 'feel good hit of the summer'), but there's an almost tangible sense of the enjoyment and excitment that would've resulted from busting out the kind of gargantuan riffs in the likes of A Great Reckoning and Black Heart.

We've Got A Situation Here is the track that most of those familiar with the band would've heard - used as the taster track ahead of Ironiclast - and serves as the perfect introduction to what this new beast is all about. Guitars duel and then harmonise before Buckley's unmistakable vocal crashes in, driving a powerful, riff-backed verse. A clearly FOB-influenced, highly melodic and instantly contagious chorus ensues, before a guitar solo tears its way through the tune. Just when the song sounds like it may have finished and a chance presents itself to catch your breath, a lick not too dissimilar to that from ETID's We'rewolf swells and crashes with enough force to knock that breath straight back out of you, while Buckley wails 'for the love of god / put your sights on my heart'.

Grave Robber is the heaviest song on the album - a chugging, palm muted beast of a riff again kicking things off in style, while regular tempo variations and Hurley's double bass pedal ensure that the track never loses momentum. Comfortably the standout track from last Saturday when the band played London's Garage, this is the formula that works best for the band as a collective. Friday Night (Going Down In Flames) is the album's party track - an ode to the weekend, as the title suggests. 'All I want is another good time/it's Friday night/and Sunday's saints have gone away'. Another tune propelled by, you guessed it, a huge riff and also featuring some particularly exemplary solo work.

Discussing the make-up of the band in their intro video, Scott Ian responds to the question of 'what the fuck, 3 guitar players, what kind of band is that?' with simply 'it's a fucking rad band is what it is'. Well, Scott's right, and the instrumentation thoughout the album is generally phenomenal. Add the tones of Buckley - arguably Rock music's greatest current vocalist - and the formula was always destined to work. As with the vast majority of full lengths there are a couple of weaker tracks (read the title track Ironiclast and Blues Having The Blues), but all in all it's a brilliantly fun, remarkably coherent debut.    

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