Tuesday, March 27, 2012

crowd control interview

Last year I interviewed Ireland's Crowd Control for issue #5 of my zine, Downsided. Here follows said interview. I still have a few hard copies left of the zine for anyone who wants a copy. Attach enquiries here. Issue #6 (the last) will surface within the next fortnight hopefully. One interview only, with Toronto's Purity Control. I've been sitting on this interview since the end of December so it's time I finished the job.

Anyway, here's the CC conversation. Most of it is with Eddie, the bands bassist. Screamer Andy also answered a few questions.

You guys have been around for a few years now, with a steady collection of releases under your belt, and with an obviously noticeable progression of your sound since the first demo through to the newest LP. Can you you give me a bit of a breakdown of the sound progression? I mean I know the change isn’t polar or anything like that, but there’s certainly a difference. What was the idea when you guys first got together? How did that change? Was there a conscious decision to get HEAVIER or was it a more gradual process?

E - I wasn’t in the band for the demo but I think the lads were going for a straightforward Neanderthal rip-off at the time. By the time of the Mob Rules split Martin was in the band and was writing riffs too. The songs from around then were more mid-tempo and groove heavy where the demo had been faster and fairly brash. It was a gradual process but I think there definitely was a conscious decision to get “heavier”. We tuned down from C to A and spent more time on our tones than we had done before. The newer songs we were writing before the LP suited this tuning much better.

I hear so many favourites channeled through the new LP; obvious early 90’s death metal influences, late 80’s/early 90’s Californian PV styles, plenty of doom and down tempo kind of stuff. Were you trying to recreate any of these sounds on the album? I may be off point, but I hear heaps of Mind Eraser in there aswell, namely with a lot of the tempo progressions, and particularly some of those mosh bits on the B side. Am I wrong?

E - I don’t think we were necessarily trying to recreate anything but there was definitely a specific style of production we wanted on the album. In my head it was that heavy, dirty old death metal sound with sharp Japanese hardcore style guitars cutting through the mix. Totally blown out and overdriven drums and vocals too. If anything I think the LP should’ve sounded more fucked and filthy, but we had to work within pretty strict time constraints.

We all really like Mind Eraser so I’m sure it’s possible there’s an influence identifiable in there somewhere, though I don’t think we were listening to them much around the time we were writing the LP.

As I mentioned, notable with the second half of the LP are some of the more mosh elements. Especially with the HUGE breakdown in “Cokehead” and the pant shitting bit in “Childhood” where it progresses from that really catchy kind of ‘two step’ riff/beat into that deadly tremolo picking riff. Reminds me distinctively of one particular song by Cannibal Corpse in the late 90’s and also the second last song on “Cave”. Do you guys make intentional efforts to write songs that will make kids move when you play live?

E - No,of course not. It’s not like when you’re writing a song you’re unaware that people are more likely to dance to certain bits above others but it never influenced our writing on the conscious level. If anything we were probably overly conscious of not doing this, haha. I think it’s often pretty obvious when bands have put ‘mosh’ bits in their songs for the sake of it. I’d like to think in our songs that these types of parts fit well within their context and aren’t just stock or whatever.

Having said that I don’t even really think of the album as being heavy on the ‘mosh’ side, a lot of the parts that might sound like that remind me more of old death metal and even some UK82. Unemployed skinheads fighting with chains in an industrial estate rather than lads in Your Demise mesh shorts two stepping. Nothing wrong with that, just not what we're going for.

Do the kids move? What’s an average CC show like? Lots of crossed arms? Or do kids get punched in the face?

E - It varies I guess. I’m sure we’ve had equal amounts of each. The best reactions we’ve gotten were probably at the last few gigs where there was a pretty fun atmosphere and a tonne of people were fucking each other around and generally getting wild. It’s always flattering when people move around or whatever but the most fun reactions I found were when people fucked with us a bit. Andy got suplexed five times by a stranger at a gig in Sheffield.

Who writes the stuff? I’ve found that with the majority of the good bands I’ve interviewed over the years, they normally rely on a core of one or two guys, the ‘brains’ if you will, to bang out the majority of the riffs and structures. I find that’s how a band retains a true focus; when it’s maintained by no more than two guys with a similar idea. How does a CC song come together? Who’s the brains?

E -It’s varied over the years but on the LP it was usually Andy or Martin that would come in with a basic song structure and then we’d all work on it in practice. Sometimes the song would stay exactly the same, other times it’d change completely. We never got to practice as frequently as we would've liked so there wasn't much room for 'jamming out', which I guess is a shame.

I could rave on about the LP all day and about the various elements that contribute to it being so good. One thing that’s immediate to me, and has been since I first jammed it, is the reverb on the vocals. Reverb brings to mind a lot of the 80’s Japanese burning spirits scene, and I’ve heard many comparisons of CC to that era of eastern hardcore, you’ve even covered Bastard. How did the reverb come into play? Was that an important factor? I only ask because it’s not hugely apparent on the previous releases (bar the B side of the 7” obviously). Did someone at some point say “turn up that fucking reverb”?

A - I wanted my vocals to reflect depression, isolation, and claustrophobia, and delay/reverb really put that into the sound I think. Also, with the death metal elements, I was looking at early Sepultura, and Ross Bay maniacs Blasphemy for the evil atmosphere.

Your bass tone is another one of those factors. Fuck. What a mess. I’m no musician so I don’t know how you go about achieving such noise, so forgive me if these questions seem a little naive, but how did that tone happen? To me it’s probably the most prominent element of the entire recording. I don’t think I’ve heard anything quite like it. Did you just decide to get down and dirty? Explain the tone to me if you can. Why and how it got so big etc?

E - Haha, I was actually pretty disappointed with the bass tone on the LP. People have asked about it a few times before, but I don’t really know why, I think it sounds a bit tame, at least tamer than it is live.

We wanted the bass to sound as filthy and heavy as possible while still having really strong definition. We cut a lot of the pedal distortion out for the LP so the bass could give a really defined low end to the recordings to compliment the sharp guitars. The best bass sound I’ve gotten was at a gig when I was playing through Andy’s fucked head and like a Metal Zone or some shit. People asked if the head and cab were broken, which was funny. They actually were as it turned out.

As I mentioned, you guys covered Bastard on the previous 7”, as well as Citizen’s Arrest. Both are done tastefully, personally I prefer the Bastard rendition, but I can see CA influence in the overall CC sound much more. Why cover these two bands in particular?

E - We all love them and think more people should listen to them.

Both covers are on the B side of the 7” and both, along with the Crowd Control original “Erosion”, were recorded in the same sessions as the LP. However, the A side tracks of the 7” were recorded at a separate session. Is there a story behind that? There’s such a noticeable step up in sound between the two sessions.

E - We recorded those three songs for a split with the UK band The Hard Way but that fell through. We didn’t want to just let the recordings go to waste so we did a short run of tapes with those 3 and the 3 we did with the LP on them for Life and Death Fest in Dublin last year.

Sam from Abolition who does Disposable Culture Records offered to press the songs onto 7” so we figured it’d be stupid to turn up the offer and went for it.

There’s a running theme in the artwork with the 7” and LP, some sort of dire planetary kind of scene, like a surface picture of Mars or something similar. The 7” also has a pair of figures in what looks like space suits walking up a hill towards the point of view. It probably goes right over my head when it shouldn’t, but what’s the idea with the theme?

A - This again comes back to creating a feeling of cold, dark, isolation. I don't think you can really highlight the absolute pointlessness of day to day existence better than displaying the elements of everyday life against a backdrop of the cosmos. Plus, space is fucking cool.

The first time I heard you guys was on the split 7” with Mob Rules. A lot of hype seemed to surround that band at the time of the release of that record, and because of that I think I kind of almost passed CC over in favour of MR. I still love the MR stuff (their best recorded material to date in my opinion), but these days, the CC side always gets priority. The sounds of both bands were very similar at that point, but you both seemed to have diverged in opposite directions. How did that split come about?

A - It was a pretty simple process. Jamie from SubHem asked if we wanted to a split with MR and we said FUCK YEAH. The rest was history.

Labels like ‘mysterious guy hardcore’ have been thrown around a lot when referencing both CC and MR, and I definitely had a lot of trouble initially getting into contact with you guys. I asked MR a similar question last year and I know you can’t speak for them, but what’s your opinion on such a monicker? Have you consciously made a decision to come across as ‘mysterious’? Did you go out your way to make it hard for people to get into contact?

E - No,of course not. We’re just not very organised and don’t like using Myspace or whatever. If people want to contact us they can e-mail planetearthhardcore@gmail.com, simple as that. The mysterious thing doesn’t make sense really, we’re hardly purposefully trying not to make our music available to buy to seem cool or something, we’re just all really busy with other things and rarely get to discuss band stuff. If we’re hanging out it’s more likely we’re smoking, drinking, acting cool than discussing band shit. It's not ideal being in a band when we're all fuckups, but it's definitely fun.

A relatively stock standard question, but can you please list off the entire CC discography for collector scumbag purposes (just me)? I know of the demo (tape?), split 7” with Mob Rules (colours, if any?), s/t 7” (colours, if any?), and LP. I’ve also heard rumours of limited 7”s with alternate, rejected recordings of the spit tracks. What exists? Any unreleased recordings and if so, can I get em?

E - Everything so far has been on six different colours, you failed to mention three other releases, and you can’t have any of them.

The actual release of the LP; it’s been really drawn out and any fan of the band will know what I am talking about when I say things like ‘overdue’ and ‘too fucking long’. What’s the story? I heard it was pressed in something like September last year, but still hasn’t really seen the proper light of day. I had to virtually steal one from Jamie at Suburban Mayhem Records.

E -Being unorganised and busy isn’t much of a story.


Now for some standard questions from the geographically challenged. Apart from you guys, and maybe two other bands (bands that I’ve only discovered after researching because of CC), I know nothing about the Irish hardcore scene. Is there a scene? Is there a division between the north and south (would that even have a bearing on the situation these days? Sorry if that sounds dumb)?

E - The North and South thing isn’t really relevant, both scenes have plenty interaction. The Dublin hardcore scene isn’t nearly as divided as it was maybe two or three years ago. There used to be a fairly obvious divide between the more modern hardcore scene and the crusty punk scene but the lines are pretty blurred now. I think Dublin’s better for bands now than it has been in a while and looks set to improve for the next while anyway. There’s not a massive amount to cater to my tastes really but the bands are of a high standard and gigs are fun. I think everyone should check out Contort, they’re a new band and are way better than CC. I like Frustration (who Martin plays in) and Fag Enablerz a lot.

Now we spoke of the split with MR, an English band, so there’s obviously somewhat of a connection with the UK in terms of scene, but to what extent? I have never been to that part of the world, so I know nothing about how distance would have an overall bearing on things like that. Is it one big united thing? Or is it vastly different and divided?

A - It really just comes down to the UK being our closest land mass, making touring there relatively easy compared to other places. We've also made a lot of good friends over there, which may have been helped by irish and english culture being pretty similar. I wouldn't really say Ireland and the UK are one big scene, but there are strong ties due to the previously stated geographical/cultural factors.

What music are you keen on in particular at the moment? Doesn’t have to be Irish, doesn’t have to be punk or hardcore.

E - I’ve been a bit obsessed with old power pop for the last year or two and am totally out of touch with new hardcore. Lately I’ve been listening to lots of Exploding Hearts, Koro, Buzzcocks, old Northern Irish punk/powerpop, and old Northern Soul comps. Listen to Protex and Big Star.

Through various conversations I’ve had with you over the last few months I’ve been given the distinct impression that you’re not really sure about what’s happening with CC in general, and I know you’ve got other things to concentrate on in the form of your other band Loose Nut. Any further developments on the subject? More shows? More music? Or is it done for?

E - We’ve yet to all get together and discuss it. We’ve all been really busy with college, work, other bands and the usual shit. Who knows what the summer holds.

Tell me about Loose Nut. I know of a demo, is there anything else at this stage? Will there be?

E - There’s a demo up to download online and there will be a split 7” with the awesome Control from the UK out over the summer. We’re recording for next week. Our bassist Gary is moving to Canada in early May and I think we’re adding a second guitarist so we’ll have some new blood soon. I’m looking forward to us writing and recording new stuff, I think a lot of it will be a good bit different than the demo.

Any last words, thanks etc? I can’t muster up anything more I don’t think.

E - Thanks for the interview. Watch Billy Madison.

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