EXCLUSIVE REPORT: WHAT’S UP WITH HE IS LEGEND?
It once was a source of humor for me that I might’ve never heard the great He Is Legend if not for a longtime friend’s occasional visits to a Christian goods shop. It was there that said bud — a thick, bruiser-type death-metallist ironically nicknamed “Bubbles” — picked up I Am Hollywood and later, with no regard for my protests and allergies to Solid State bands, blared it into my face. I was won over instantly. He Is Legend had everything — licks, hooks, and muscle. Major skillz!
But as I went from HiL doubter to HiL evangelist, it seemed less funny that these were the circumstances of my acquaintance with such superlative jamz. This is the band, I reasoned, that deserved the Rolling Stone covers and the marquee MTV performances then reserved for shrill pap-peddlers with cute bass players and wacky hats; it seemed unconscionable that the eminently marketable He Is Legend was light years off my radar. I mean, come the fuck on.
Alas, my hopes for He Is Legend were dealt another blow in 2006 when their thudding, misshapen sophomore album Suck Out The Poison helped to conspire against even a medium-sized breakthrough. That year, my puzzlement turned to frustration as the band’s nearby tour stop nearly slipped by without my knowledge; after a barely-attended but face-fuckingly awesome headline set, I was left to rage and wonder: Who is responsible for promoting this hunky, mega-talented band? And to what extent are they brain-damaged?
Comfort came in 2009 with He Is Legend’s second masterpiece, It Hates You, their first for Tragic Hero Records. But again, traction seemed to elude He Is Legend, and rumors of imminent break-up followed the announcement of singer Schuylar Croom’s temporary gig fronting Maylene & The Sons of Disaster — mere months after It Hates You came out. Was there a falling out among HiL guys? Were they no longer into it? Would It Hates You be left to sink without a trace? What the motherfuck?
But here’s the thing: No matter how vital, success and solvency remain secondary to He Is Legend’s awesomeness. In this sense, the band is prisoner of their own rare genius. And in my crusade to ensure that they continue to share it no matter the cost, my allies are HiL fans like Bubbles, other would-be lovers of awesome shit, and, most recently, HiL manager Zach Neil, who graciously took time to take me behind the scenes of He Is Legend’s amazing creative output, past industry woes, current status, and tenuous future.
The last piece of He Is Legend news I heard was in September 2009 when Lambgoat reported that the band was on “indefinite hiatus.” Can you confirm that?
To my knowledge as their manager, the band is not on indefinite hiatus. They are on a break and haven’t made any formal announcement that they are breaking up. In fact, they recently performed a secret show in North Carolina — just an impromptu get-together and the band performed together. I can say that there are no hard feelings between any of the band members, and I wouldn’t rule out them coming back together to do some shows or tours or maybe make another album. I think the band just worked really hard for a lot of years and needed some time off. When they are feeling [like] themselves again and ready to do it, I imagine that they probably will.
You might be able to understand why their lack of activity would surprise fans in light of the creative excellence of It Hates You.
Was it a personality issue?
No, it’s that a terrible industry took advantage of the band. I came on later in the band’s career, during the beginning of the process of It Hates You. They were really really mistreated by their former record label; they were taken advantage of by all the people that they had entrusted themselves to. The band was financially imperiled — never made any money, never were paid royalties, never taken care of. There certainly was no lack of love for music or for each other. It was simply the economics of the situation.
Here you have probably one of the greatest, most talented rock bands to come out of the music community for a long time. They gave it their best effort [on tour in support of It Hates You] which was 100-120 days on the road. It just was not a good situation for them. And they certainly sold a lot of records when they were with Solid State, but they have absolutely no money and no means to make enough money to support themselves on the road. They weren’t making the money that they should’ve been making, and they weren’t getting the support from the record label that they should’ve been getting.
Those things combined just caused them to take a step back and have some real life time — work jobs, spend time with family and friends, and get some clarity in their minds. But I know that all the guys in the band are highly dedicated to music and have passion for it. I do feel very confident that they’ll be back. I’ve been seeing some signs that things are moving. Most of them are active writing, recording, and playing music. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of them.
That secret show is definitely a good sign. As a fan of good music, I feel that it’s criminal that they are where they are. Some much bigger bands have half the potential of He Is Legend.
Absolutely. I think that it’s a shame that the upside-down, greedy music industry put the band into this position. It’s unfortunate that a lot of bands these days lack experience and knowledge of the industry [and are] lead into terrible, one-sided contracts where they’re just not getting taken care of. The up side to that is that He Is Legend is no longer in those agreements and under those contracts, so the band will have some opportunity to do some more productive things for themselves in the future.
It Hates You came out July 21, 2009. They started touring in advance of that as third or fourth band on a bill, right? That surprised me.
Yes, the Drop Dead, Gorgeous tour. They started off playing third of four, or third of five in June. Over the course of the tour, they ended up being asked to co-headline the tour. I think by the end of the tour, in my opinion anyway, most of the attendance was for He Is Legend. In my opinion as their manager, they should’ve been headlining the tour. It’s just politics of music, man. [laughs]
He Is Legend is a real band. These guys are dedicated to what they do as musicians. They are not at all interested in the business side or the interviews. Especially Schuylar, they’re more inclined to duck an interview or to keep a quiet approach. They’re really heartfelt in the music they create. That was the thing that [made] me want to work with the band in the first place, how genuine the band really is. To me, managing He Is Legend is the closest that I would get to working with, like, Nirvana. The attitude in the band is so pure and creative. They are no-bullshit guys and really good to work with in that regard. Really a breath of fresh air.
Every single day I’m excited to get that phone call that it’s time for us to hit the road again. I would encourage fans and show promoters and anybody that’s interested in seeing this band: Keep reaching out. Start sending us offers. Let’s get these guys off the couch and back on the road.
Do you agree that fans might’ve been shocked when as early as September 2009, a few short months after It Hates You‘s release, Schuylar was off doing a tour as a temporary singer for Maylene & The Sons of Disaster.
Well, right after the Drop Dead, Gorgeous tour, the band decided that they were going to take a break. To be honest, they really didn’t even want to do that last tour. They did it because that’s just the kind of guys they are. They needed to do that for their record label and for their team, to be able to generate sales and make the money back for their label that they spent [making It Hates You]. They’re honorable gentlemen. They did something that they didn’t want to do [in order to make] it right with Tragic Hero Records.
But the opinion in the band was that, because of the financial pressure and [other issues], they needed a rest. But Schuylar is a road warrior. He loves touring. Playing is his life. He’d been really friendly with the guys in Maylene, so when the Maylene’s singer was unable to make some tour dates, the band asked Schuylar to fill in and he was happy to do it. It was some friends asking “Hey, would you come do the tour with us?” Anyone who got to experience those shows saw something great. He did a fantastic job fronting Maylene. I think the fans were really happily surprised with how it went down.
Was there another tour in there besides the Drop Dead, Gorgeous run?
Nothing to speak of. They did some North Carolina shows, a short run to Florida, and up to a couple shows in New York. But the Drop Dead, Gorgeous tour was the bulk of it. I think it was like 70 shows or something; it was a long tour. It was the entire summer basically.
See, my perception of the It Hates You promotional cycle was that there wasn’t nearly enough action around the record. It felt to me like the band had unleashed this monster album and then came up short of getting it out there.
You are 100% right. The promotion of the album wasn’t up to snuff. And that responsibility falls to the label. As much as I believe that the Tragic Hero love the band and believed in them, they just don’t have the resources that a band like He Is Legend needed to really get promoted properly. To me, It Hates You is one of the top ten rock records of the last decade. People who haven’t experienced it, when they do they are blown away. They never knew about the band or didn’t get the proper spin. And people like yourself know how great of an album it is. It’s still great. If a rock label was so inclined, one should license that record and re-release it. It’s a timeless record. You could put it out again today or in ten years and it’d have the same effect.
Up to this point, He Is Legend is a story of great band, great guys, raw deal — from record labels, from management, from booking agencies, across the board. I can’t point the finger at any one person. It’s just overall bad. When I came in, I tried my best to rectify that as much as I could. I caught the band when they were in dire need of a break [from music]. I still get show offers on a weekly basis. I look forward to the time when I’ll get a call from the guys saying that they’re ready to hit the road. I think that day is gonna come.
That cheers me up. Coming into this conversation, I felt like He Is Legend was at death’s door, another casualty of mishandling and negligence.
I believe in the band. When I took the band on, I was excited. I remember telling my wife, “Holy shit. I can’t believe I’m managing this band.” This is a great band and I’m so happy to be a part of what’s going on. I’m not going to let them give up without a fight. It’s inevitable they will return.
In the name of everything holy, make some noise for He Is Legend on their Facebook, in comments below, or screaming naked in the streets for fuck’s sake. And buy their stuff here. Check out bassist Matt Williams’ Unholy Tongues record here.