EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH WALLS OF JERICHO GUITARIST CHRIS RAWSON
Walls of Jericho were the last band Axl and Vince expected to be impressed by on the Rockstar Mayhem Festival; it’s no secret that MetalSucks has not exactly been WOJ-friendly in the past (see Sammy O’Hagar’s not-so-glowing review of the band’s new album, The American Dream, here).
And yet, there’s no denying that they completely won over the crowd at the fest’s Long Island tour stop; due in no small part to the incredible energy of vocalist Candace Kucsulain, Walls of Jericho actually attracted an increasingly large audience during the course of their set, and had, far and away, the biggest pit of any second stage band for the entire day. It’s difficult to imagine that they didn’t gain a lot of new fans with that performance.
Later in the night, Axl and Vince got to sit down with guitarist Chris Rawson and pick his brain about the tour, the band’s new album, the evolving sound of Metallica, and even American economics. Read the full transcript after the jump.
So how’s it going?
How’s the tour going?
The tour has been amazing.
You guys had a huge crowd out there. It was definitely the biggest pit of the day.
I wouldn’t know. I always hope for a huge pit. As long as people are into it, it makes me more excited.
It seems like most of the bands on the second stage say they’re here to win over the crowd, and you guys definitely seem to be doing that.
Hopefully, that’s what we set out to do.
As a performer, do you approach having such a large audience differently than you would a small club show?
I do, definitely. You have to. My problem [with larger shows] is that I don’t like the barrier and the gap between the stage [and the crowd]. If we’re playing our show or whatever and it’s a small club show, it’s more interactive with the crowd. There is no barrier between what we do and what the audience does. We invite everybody up on stage. A lot of clubs get mad at us for that because I’ll start grabbing kids by their hands and forcing them to stage dive and shit. Whereas with a show like this, you’re just entertaining people for the most part; you hope they get into it and move around a little. Our show today was a good show, but sometimes the show doesn’t go as well. You could have everyone’s attention, a couple of thousand people, but if they’re not moving it feels like a job.
How do you get through a show like that? Do you just pray for it to be over?
Yeah, kind of. Sometimes I’ll look at the set list and be like, “Fuck, we’re only halfway through this. We gotta figure something out.” Normally I end up telling Candace to tell [the crowd] to do something. I’ll be like “Yo, you gotta get them to do something because we’re fucking dying.”
Have there been any cities on this tour that have completely sucked or any that were completely awesome?
None have really sucked. There have been some really awesome ones, but honestly, I don’t remember which ones. I don’t remember the shows by the city so much, which kind of sucks. Like, every day is the exact same. Every day is the parking lot for us.
After awhile you’re just like, “Man, that one show in the parking lot was awesome,” and then you’ll remember it by like the catering or where your signings were at, that kind of thing.
Have you guys done the Walls of Jericho barbecue yet?
No, we’re getting ready to do that. Our drummer [Dustin Schoenhofer] is actually sort of a chef. He went to school for it, but now he plays drums. So he’s super excited and wrote up all the shit he’s going to cook and stuff. I think he’s going a little over budget. I don’t want to have to pay a shit ton of money to feed everybody, but whatever.
So you guys have had a big year already. You put out an acoustic EP, Redemption, and now you’ve put out a new full-length, The American Dream. For a hardcore band, an acoustic EP isn’t something you see a lot.
On all of our records, there has always been a mellow track. When we play our own show, no matter what, there will be kids who yell to play those mellow songs even though it’s one per record. We’ve only played one live once. There are always people who want it and there are always people who are like “I hate that shit. I wish you guys would only play the brutal stuff.” That’s a part of us. We don’t just listen to hardcore or just listen to metal. If you’re somebody who does listen to just one form of music, it’s like you’re so closed minded that you’re missing out on a lot of stuff that’ll expand your palette. I’ve been inspired by stuff that people would just laugh at.
I love John Mayer and Motown. My mom loves Motown, and when I was a kid and started getting into hardcore and metal, that was all I listened to. I was like “Fuck this shit. I hate everything that’s not heavy.” I was 15 years old and if a band started to expand their sound or go somewhere different I was like, “Fuck them man. They’re selling out. What are they doing?” I remember when Metallica put out the Black Album. I heard “Enter Sandman” and was like, “Fuck this.” I was mad. I was so bummed out… I was like, “Why is [James Hetfield] singing like that? It’s not fast. What the hell are they doing?” As you get older you realize that Metallica is influenced by more than just metal. Part of what makes them unique and makes them what they are is that they are able to be influenced by other shit and not just metal. If they were just influenced by metal, they would sound like every other band. They don’t. They have their own sound because they were influenced by bands like Queen.
There are chords on our new record that I straight stole from John Mayer, and you’ll never be able to pick them out. There’s so much distortion on it and stuff, and I’m playing his chord and I’m like, “Man, this is the coolest fucking chord ever,” and then I’ll put it in a breakdown. There is shit like that that some other random kid could pick up on that and just be like “Oh this is cool. This dude came up with this weird shit,” not knowing that I really fucking stole it from John Mayer. Music should be… you should just have an open mind to everything.
So do you guys approach every album saying that you want to do something different? Is there a conscious vision going into the album or is it more like whatever happens happens?
I think individually there are probably some separate visions. But then when we get together you have to compromise on a lot of stuff. I mean, every record we’ve ever done has been made with a goal that I have in mind, but it always falls short of that goal. Not that I’m disappointed in the record, I’m always real happy in the end. I’m like, “Yeah man this is heavier.” I want a record, for the most part, to be heavy and aggressive, except for when we did that acoustic one.
I want it to be like dark, but I also want our records to be catchy – but not in a singy kind of radio friendly way. I want the vocal patterns to be catchy or the riff to be catchy. I want you to be able to hear the riff in your head and get that shit stuck with you. Just like Slayer. Everyone can walk around and be like [hums “Raining Blood”], everybody knows that shit because it’s catchy. It’s evil and it’s dark and it’s aggressive, but it’s catchy.
So back to the new album: it’s called The American Dream. So it would seem like you guys were maybe going someplace a little incendiary.
The whole idea of The American Dream came up from a conversation we had in the studio. We were working on lyrics for [the title track]. Most of the songs were done, and I went home from the studio and came back and was talking about how bad it sucks that a couple of our friends are being laid off from their jobs. They have kids and stuff. Our whole area, in the Detroit area with the auto industry, everyone from Detroit to Ohio to parts of Canada is based off of Ford, GM, and Chrysler. When that shit was all bumping in the 80s, everybody was living the dream. Everybody was buying houses and everybody was doing all this shit. Obviously everybody knows the economy is down now. A lot of people are getting laid off. People I know, their homes are being foreclosed on, and it’s because they went from $30 an hour working at some union factory and getting used to that lifestyle and having a house that goes with that income. Then you lose your job, and good luck finding a job to supplement that income. So a lot of our friends were forced to leave and move. So Detroit and our whole area are dying so fast. Everyone is just moving away and for you to survive, you have to uproot your whole family and bounce. The original idea for that was just to try and write a song about how our city is fucking dying and the only way to get out of it is to just uproot your life and leave the past behind you.
So do you see a solution or you just think that’s it, it’s done, and people have to pack up and leave?
I don’t know what the solution should be. We called the song “The American Dream”, and Candace came up with the line “Fuck the American dream” in the song, and as soon as we heard it, we were all like “It’s memorable and people are going to read into it in so many different ways.” We’re not really a political band by any means. It’s more just that we’re witnessing our families go through hard ass shit and get spread out all over the country. I don’t even know what the solution would be. I don’t know. I’m not political enough to even know what you need to do to jump-start the economy to help people pay for their homes and shit. Where we live, there’s a lot of abandoned houses, even in the good neighborhoods. Before, if you went into Detroit, it would be house, house, crack house, house, house, burned out house, house, house, house… it was real bad. Now you go into the suburbs and it’s like houses for sale on every block almost. There’s probably every couple of blocks an abandoned house because people just have to pack up their shit and leave. Banks are taking over all the homes and foreclosing on them. It’s fucked up.
Yeah. So what’s next for you guys after the tour?
After this we have three weeks off, which we’re stoked about. Then we go to Europe for about a month, I think. We go to Europe with The Red Chord, Evergreen Terrace, All Shall Perish, Animosity, Stick to Your Guns… it’s a big tour. It should be cool.
-AR & VN