A few years after the amazing release, 'The War Of Art', American Headcharge has returned. Taking up brilliantly where they left off, 'The Feeding' showcases a complexity and maturity to their sound. Finally released this past February, the first single off the new record, "Loyalty", lets loose soaring vocals and pulse pounding rhythms. Plagued by line up changes and problems with their record label have only left this band more fierce than ever. Metal Update spoke to drummer Chris Emery, during their tour across the US with Otep. Having returned triumphantly from the UK, where most shows sold out, their US tour with Mudvayne came to an unexpected end with the tragic death of guitarist Bryan Ottoson (4/19/05). Metal Update extends our condolences to the fans, friends and family of this talented musician.
Interview with Christopher Emery of American Headcharge on 2-24-05.
Metal Update: How did the recording process during 'The Feeding' differ from 'The War Of Art?'
Christopher Emery: It was more of a group effort. We've had Bryan (guitarist) in the band for a while and he toured with us for the last album. During the time off, he helped with the songwriting process. It was interesting to have a new voice involved with the songwriting. He worked really well together with Chad (bass) and Cameron (vocals), on working on ideas and I think that helped things. There was a lot of time off, a lot of ups and downs. There were times when we'd be working really hard on demos or pre pre-production, if you will, for around a year and a half. During the down time, I think most of us, myself included, went to the studio no matter what and played. It was kind of hard wondering when we were going to get this thing together. The whole label thing was going through too, the change there. It seems like the songs that are on this record, there are a few songs that wouldn't be there if we hadn't taken so long. Some of our most favorite songs on the record happened towards the end of that process. This is less of a studio record, too. With 'The War Of Art', there was a lot more time spent in the studio, in mixing, and we had more money. This is more like a blue-collar record. From pre-production to the studio. We didn't have much time for pre-production; we had to get it together. Time is money; we didn't have a lot of time to do whatever we wanted in the studio. There were a few moments that we had in the studio that we had a little time to try a new thing, but not a whole lot. It was really important when we got into the studio to know exactly what songs we were going to record and how we were going to approach the recording.
MU: Do you feel the time between albums is a factor in how the songs developed?
CE: Yeah. I mean some of us lost our minds, some of us went off the deep end. It was hard, some of us handle it better than others. Getting back together and the whole process made it fresh and exciting again. We didn't know what was going to happen really, but we were hungry again and we had the desire to make this work. There was a point during all the time off, it was like, when it's going to happen is anyone's guess, if we were even going to be on a label. I think the time off makes this record sound how it does.
MU: You've had several lineup changes, the most recent being the addition of another new guitarist. Has it been difficult trying to work with someone new again?
CE: I think that with Karma, he writes more and his writing style fits more with what Cameron does on guitar and what Chad does. Something about it, it's hard to describe. He's been through a lot of the same things we've gone through. He's been a mess before, just like we all have and we understand each other. If we all weren't crazy, I don't think I would feel as normal as I do playing with them. We've all been fucked up. We've all been out of our minds. I think that's why we all have such a mutual respect for each other. I know that if we didn't love each other as much as we do, we probably would have ripped each other's heads off by now.
MU: If you hadn't got on a new label, would you have considered putting an album out yourselves?
CE: I think it most likely would have gone that way. There are different things you think about when putting an album out yourself. How are you going to get distribution, advertising, promotion, etc.? How much are we going to expect we can do on our own? But we did it before and I don't see why we wouldn't have done it again.
MU: Will you tour for an extended period with this album?
CE: We'll tour for as long as we can, as long as it makes sense to.
MU: You are currently out on tour now. Has the time away affected your audience at all?
CE: I've talked to a lot of fans who have said, "It's been so long. I'm glad you came back." A lot of fans have stuck around and given new meaning to the song "Loyalty". I've been seeing a lot of people that, since the time off, have discovered us and have been waiting to see us. We've also got responses from people, who are seeing us for the first time on this tour out with Otep and said they were blown away, so there's a good mix.
MU: What has inspired you to keep playing music?
CE: Just the love of it. I think it's a kind of meditation thing. It takes me outside of myself and I kind of lose track of everything. I feel like the description I've heard of people going out riding their motorcycle. They've described it to me and how they've reacted. I kind of feel that way about drums. It takes me away from my problems. I'm actually a better singer than a drummer. I also used to play keyboards for the band. There are a lot of things that inspire me, like solitude and relationships with people. I'm not really a political minded thinker. I don't really think of world problems or current events as anything inspiring me to write music. If I dwell on that stuff too much, it makes me want to slit my wrists, not write a song. There are a lot of things that have worked for artists for years and I think that's true for us; love, pain, life relationships, drugs, sobriety.
MU: Haven't you been sober for a while?
CE: Yeah, almost a year now, knock on wood.
MU: Isn't that difficult being on the road?
CE: It's actually not that difficult. I'm trying to go on my path and I see people around me everyday doing it. It doesn't make me miss it. It kind of reinforces why I don't want to do it. I get examples of it right before my eyes and I go, "Oh, that's why I don't do it anymore." The morning after, the physical and spiritual, the slow degradation of all my senses. The more I'm away from it, the more alive I feel and the less I really want to go back to it. I don't underestimate its power and I think I have a healthy amount of fear and respect. I don't mock it, I don't scoff and think I've got that shit beat.
MU: Have you ever thought that maybe down the road you might start your own label?
CE: We've all given that thought.
MU: That would give you more creative control.
CE: We already have a lot of creative control. I think it's less about the creative control, I mean we're pretty dead set on having that. I think it's more just other freedoms that would come with all that. You're really responsible for making it work. It would be a lot of hard work, picking the right team and things. At some point we would want to try to pull that off. There are great bands, friends and fans, a great scene in Minneapolis (where the band is based). The smaller labels that come out of there and do well. I mean, look at Seattle. They had so many labels coming out of there at once.
MU: But that could make a scene die really quickly too.
CE: That's true. I'd like to think that if Minneapolis bands thought less about being signed, getting ripped off in some other city, it would not be like that there. Who's the female artist that started her own label and sold a lot of records? I don't remember exactly. All I know is that that was an inspiration to me when I heard that. I mean here she's selling hundreds of thousands of records. She has all these bands signed to her label. The label is a success. How gratifying would that be? When you had a song played on the radio or sold CD's you own the rights to. For artists, it's not always about the money, but that you're doing it on your own. I think a lot of people desire that.
MU: That can be a difficult undertaking.
CE: Yeah, it's how to go about doing it. That's the challenge. It makes me want to call her up and ask how she did it. I should read up on her. I was talking to the guys from Atmosphere, who we're really good friends with, from Minneapolis. We've played shows with them and they're a success. They're doing it all own their own label.
MU: Don't you feel that for a scene to thrive, there needs to be diversity?
CE: That's one thing I like about Minneapolis. There's jazz, blues, hip-hop, metal. The emo sound is coming out in its own way. Kind of like an indie rock thing. I think there is a lot of diversity there.
MU: Do all of the band have very different musical tastes?
CE: I'm pretty eclectic. I listen to Frank Zappa, Weather Report, Miles Davis, and old stuff like The Who. I listen to newer stuff too. I grew up in the eighties and I like a lot of things I heard then too, like Wax Trax and industrial. New Wave stuff and things you weren't hearing on the radio like Siouxie and The Banshees. Then there's the metal that I love out of the eighties too like Obituary, Napalm Death, Death. It's kind of weird how I went through phases with some kind of genre of music. In my twenties, I started to mix it all together more. Then I added more to it. I started to get into Bela Fleck and The Flecktones, Joe Satriani. I started going to blues festivals and jazz festivals. I started to listen to a lot of jazz-fusion and Tribal Tech. But I still listen to all the old stuff too. We all have very wide musical tastes.
MU: I think that your music reflects all of that.
CE: I think it does. Definitely on the level that all artists are thieves. I don't know who said that, might have been Bob Dylan or it might have been some other big musician. But I do believe that artists are thieves. We don't always sound alike and we're not blatant about it but I think subconsciously it comes out in some form or another.
American Head Charge - 'The War of Art'
Opening for Slayer 2001
AMERICAN HEAD CHARGE
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