DS Exclusive Interview: Wisdom In Chains talks new album, the state of hardcore today, and more

DS Exclusive Interview: Wisdom In Chains talks new album, the state of hardcore today, and more

Real hard core will always survive no matter what the trends are. It doesn’t mean that all hardcore has to have one sound forever time bound to the 80’s throwback styles with no room for experimentation, but the key element for a true hardcore band will always be a dedication to the spirit of “real life” music and an emphasis on heartfelt songwriting. By “heartfelt” I don’t mean weak in the knees sappy shit (and I love me some Bryan Adams “Summer Of 69” so I’m not a hater of some real pop music), but rather I mean hardcore has to represent the lifestyle, blood, sweat and dedication that as soon as you hear it registers on a “no bullshit” level in your gut as the real thing. Wisdom In Chains are undeniably a band strongly carrying the torch of true hardcore, superb songwriting and meaningful lyrics coupled with serious brutality that is felt rather than formulated. That said, the band is about unity and will uplift you as well as paint a stark picture, so this isn’t just about fighting.

It was a real honor to have such a great band come play The Basement in Kingston, NY where I book rock and punk shows. I sat down with the guys at a local Mexican restaurant called El Danzante (where I take every cool visiting band like DeMilitia or The Resurrection Sorrow who comes to my town). After some serious eating and lots of jokes I turned on the tape recorder and asked the boys about the state of hardcore, what inspires them and “everything they know”.

Check out the full interview here.

MORGAN Y. EVANS: It’s December and 2010 is closing out. How was your year and what are you looking forward to about 2011? People have been receiving your recent material well. The band has been growing bigger.

RICHIE KRUTCH (guitar): What’d we do in 2010?

MAD JOE BLACK: 2010? We had a video.

RK: We had a couple good tours in 2010. Overseas, none here in America. We did the video this year but the record came out in 2009. But yeah, 2010 was alright. Took a lot of work…but 2011 we’re gonna have a 7” come out on Reaper Records in February and probably at the end of next year another full length with I Scream again. A couple tours lined up. We’ve got a tour lined up in March that’s in Europe and probably go back in August. In the States, weekends here and there. The singer’s a pain in the ass. (Looking at Mad Joe). He says no to everything we get offered. What are you gonna do?

MYE: You guys have material written for the next record?

RK: For the full length? Yeah, well…a couple songs. When we were writing for the 7” we had a couple songs and narrowed it down to what we wanted to have on the 7”. The songs we chose not to, we still like them but in a different way. They are full length material. We still have a lot to write. We wanna put at least 20 tracks on it, you know. We gotta write a lot. We’ve got time though.

MYE: Listening to your older stuff to the newer, I feel you can tell it is the same band and is coherent. What things have you wanted to keep or change in each album… or do you just kind of let it happen?

RK: Yeah, we kinda let it happen, I guess. To me every one of these albums coulda came out as the first record, you know…the way we write. Production and budgets get better. The first record we had no budget so it was rough.

MYE: How long did it take to record that?

MJB: A couple days ‘cuz we had no budget. With the new stuff we had a little time in there.

RK: It might appear a little more fancy but it coulda been on the first album if we had a little more time.

MJB: It’s more like a personal preference thing ‘cuz some of us like the first album best, some of us the second and some like this last one.

RK: Nowadays no one likes new stuff.

MYE: I love your newer songs. The production is bigger but it still sounds raw.

RK: We stayed away from a click track and stuff, just because the drummer can’t do that anyway (laughing).

MJB: No Auto tune.

RK: Yeah, we’re gonna have Kanye West production on the next record. None of that.

MYE: The most important thing is an honest performance or good sounds. Just don’t be fake.

SHANNON SPARKY (drums): When we record it we like to make sure we can play it live.

RK: Some stuff right off the bat would be “can we pull it off live?” and if not let’s 86 it. Back up vocals on the new record came out a little whack because we invited too many people to hang out. They were drinking all day. That’s basically what happened. They were excited about doing them but went overboard. But you hear it in new bands where a new band is all production and all gear but no songwriting. You have bands that if you put them on basic gear you wouldn’t even recognize their song. It’s all effected guitars and tuning down to B, which you could never do on a basic guitar. It just sounds like a blur.

MYE: I’m sure you have a lot of friends from doing this over the years or your own regional memories of what got you into it, but what has kept hardcore important enough to you to make it a lifestyle?

MJB: I love being on stage playing shows. I dunno. I like being at shows. Meeting new people. Talking to old friends. Playing a show is still a real rush, so…it hasn’t gotten old yet.

RK: It’s the same. All of us here are older and we’ve all had other bands. We’ve all known each other for at least ten years a piece. At least, you know?!

EVAN ONE (guitar): At this point, what else are we gonna do?

MJB: I also like the challenge of a new crowd, places you’ve never been before. You’ve gotta play and win people over.

MYE: Hardcore is almost like a secret language. You meet people who know some stuff and even yourself…you can always learn something new too.

RK: It is like a little secret society, almost. You don’t know about these bands unless you’re right in it. This is not like other music where you turn on the radio or walk in the mall or grocery store and see it on a magazine cover. If you’re not even in it, you don’t even know it exists. It’s special like that, at least.

MJB: Hardcore has its own history. It’s really cool to be compared to bands or be mentioned in the same sentence as bands that…Wow, that we looked up to. A band that matters to hardcore. Bands that without them, hardcore wouldn’t be what it is today. It’s fun to…uh, well…not fun, but I enjoy that we’ve been in it long enough that people recognize us.

MYE: You’re participating in it and making an impact.

MJB: Yeah. I feel like I did something.

RK: You can pick out the fakes right off the bat. If you don’t know your history…you’re not gonna fool anybody coming around talking about Emmure as a hardcore band. There’s the real thing. If you’re into it and do your homework you find out the roots. It’s not like that with rap or pop music. These guys don’t know. They could care less. People try to argue with me like that but I think it’s the truth. These hip hop guys, they don’t know MC Shy-D, you know? They don’t know none of that stuff, but the hardcore kids, they know the Underdogs and the Youth of Todays and all of that. It’s not lost, yet.

MJB: The struggle is what keeps it pure. If hardcore bands would just get signed to a major label and blow up, there’s no struggle and no need to learn about the history of…

(Note: just then the overhead speaker above our tables starts blasting happy Mexican music and everyone starts laughing).

MYE: The history of …Mexico!

MJB: (laughing) The need to investigate gets lost. All kids think they need to know is that they should do this, this and this and you’ll succeed. There’s no struggle.

MYE: Hardcore bands break up a lot, but usually because they have no money. The good thing is people still remember the real ones even if they had a short lifespan.

RK: A lot of bands do two or three years but kids are still looking for the 7” or whatever. Old demo tapes. People say, “Yo, remember this band or that band?” Young kids. It’s awesome.

EO: Fifteen year old kids who ask us about old shows and it’s cool they know and is like, “Wow”.

RK: ‘Cuz honestly they must’ve been four or five years old when we were playing out with that band (laughing). When we talk to Sick Of It All we’re asking them about “Straight Ahead” and stuff they just did for fun.

MYE: Have you seen Killing Time since they did the reunion?

MJB: Yeah, I saw them once.

MYE: How are things with I Scream records? I like the roster.

RK: I like the roster too. You can always get a hold of the owner. We’ve known him for years. He dealt with some of our old bands. But…you know, if you are a band you always have to be careful and investigate and wonder. That’s just how it is. You can’t just take any labels’ word. It’s decent, we can’t complain.

MJB: As far as labels we’ve dealt with it’s one of the better ones.

RK: They have their agenda and we have ours. If we’re on it, we want it for free (grinning). He wants us to pay for some stuff and he’s trying to make money, that’s understandable. We’re just trying to survive.

MYE: I wanted to ask about EVERYTHING YOU KNOW and what was your headspace like making that record?

MJB: It was different than the last two records. DIE YOUNG and CLASS WAR, it’s hard to explain. I wanted to make an anthem song or something like that. EVERYTHING YOU KNOW, the lyrics kind of came to me. It was organic and kind of flowed with whatever was going on in my life. Just like the other ones, but it felt less forced.

RK: Now it sounds like you’re dissing the first two records! Like they were phony.

EVERYONE: (laughing)

MJB: Writing the lyrics was harder on the first two records. This wasn’t hard at all. Everything felt right. I was a lot less angry.

MYE: Don’t tell hard core kids that!

MJB: No, I don’t care, man. You gotta grow up sometime.

RK: We made up for the lack of anger he had, so the less angry he got the more we got. It all leveled out.

MYE: The PMA and the hostility (laughing).

RK: That record was pretty easy, even music. We wrote stuff on the spot sometimes in the studio and had a better budget so it was a lot of fun. We’d jam out in the studio and we’d call in when we had something.

MYE: I threw an SPCA benefit for a local Ulster County non-kill animal shelter and we used your song “Girls Lie, Cops Lie, Dogs Love” as the theme song for the night.

RK: We had that song and there was no lyrics and I was like, “listen to this crappy song.” Joe was like,”Nah, it’s gonna come out good. Listen to the lyrics.” The lyrics saved the whole thing.

SS: I love that song.

MYE: Yeah, me too. I miss my dog.

RK: It was clever. Some people dis that song, though. The worst review I ever read of any band was for our band and the thing he mentioned was that song. The guy could not believe we put a song like that on the record.

MYE: People have to have a sense of humor.

RK: Yeah. Some people love it and somebody is gonna hate it. We got compared to (hed) p.e. in the review! Body Count meets (hed) p.e.!

MYE: (cracking up) That’s the first thing I think of when I hear you guys.

MJB: (grinning) It said we were trying to paint the Mona Lisa with crayons.

MYE: What is it about being in the band and traveling that changed the way you view things about people or places?

RK: (chuckling) I used to think Europeans were weaklings and cowards. After I went there I realized…they are.

EVERYONE: (laughing)

RK: You know what? They’re more up to date than I ever was. They have more access to actual, real news. Traveling opened my eyes up to lots of political stuff, I’d say.

MJB: And the world seems a lot smaller, too. Once you do it and go a couple different places and make friends on Facebook or hang outside of shows, the world seems small.

RK: We could leave tonight and be staying at a friends’ house in London and we’d recognize the place. It’d almost seem like going to a friend’s house in North Carolina, you know?

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