Interviews

TODAY IS THE DAY/WETNURSE DRUMMER CURRAN REYNOLDS: THE METALSUCKS INTERVIEW

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Today is the Day, 2011: from left to right — Ryan Jones, Steven Austin, and Curran Reynolds. Photo by Karen Novak.

Curran Reynolds is not just a staple of, but a bona fide blessing to, the New York City metal scene. As both the drummer for Wetnurse and the mastermind behind Precious Metal, the city’s “best and longest running weekly event dedicated to heavy music,” the guy is a FORCE, and anyone who loves metal and lives in NYC should be grateful for him.

So. Wetnurse’s follow-up to Invisible City was my pick for Album That Will Fuck Your Face Off in 2011 (and if you’ve never heard Wetnurse before, please please please go listen to the on the second volume of our free NYC Sucks comp), but before that yet-to-be-recorded record ever sees the light of day, Ryenolds and his Wetnurse band mate, bassist Ryan Jones, will appear on another insanely exciting new release: Today is the Day’s Pain is a Warning. This will be Steve Austin’s ninth release for the constantly-pushing-the-envelope outfit, but it will be the first time Reynolds and Jones have recorded with the band — and you can hear the excitement in Reynolds’ voice. He is a huge fan living the dream — he really did get to go and join one of his favorite bands.

As I’m writing this, TITD is about ten days away from completing the album. Immediately thereafter they’re off to do a five-week tour of Europe (get dates here); in typically fuck-nuts TITD fashion, the very first show of that tour will take place at Litla Hraun prison, the only Maximum Security correctional facility in Iceland, which currently holds violent offenders, burglars, and drug traffickers, and Lucifer knows who the hell else. And yet, despite the busy schedule of completing the album/preparing for the tour/praying there isn’t a prison riot, Curran was cool enough to take some time out of his day and answer a few of my questions.

After the jump, read what he had to say about the new Today is a Day album, how he came to join the band, working with Austin and producer Kurt Ballou, and more.

So you were working with Steve in a non-band mate capacity prior to joining Today is the Day, is that right?

Yes. I was a fan of the band since I was eighteen, when I discovered the Willpower album in 1995, and it totally blew my mind. I got to see the band live a few times. I always felt a deep connection to the band musically. As a drummer, I always held Brad Elrod, who played on the first three records, in really high regard. And every drummer who has played in Today is the Day have been totally awesome in his own way. I always felt connected with Steve, as well, as a front man and lyricist. So Today is the Day is always one of those bands that I really held close to me.

I didn’t really meet Steve personally until about 2006. What happened is that I had heard that he was starting his own label, SuperNova, and wanted to release his own music. I was working as a freelance publicist (which I still am). I reached out to him and said “Hey, do you need some help with the stuff you’re doing? If you need some PR help, I would love to be a part of it.” So I went up and met him and stayed over at his house for a couple of days. He hired me at that point to be his publicist. This is around the time he was getting ready to record the Axis of Eden album. I was able to help with that. I helped him get distribution for his label. I hooked him up with [ex-TITD drummer] Derek Roddy, who I knew from the time that I worked at Earache and Derek was in in Hate Eternal. Steve was looking for a drummer to play on Axis of Eden, so I hooked him up with Derek. I helped him get a new booking agent for Today is the Day. And I also went on two U.S. tours with them — not as a drummer, but as a roadie and merch guy — and I was also doing press for them the whole album cycle.

So what happened was, on one of those tours, Steve had a side project, Taipan, that was more of a rock ‘n roll thing that he was doing with a friend of his. Steve had Taipan opening for Today is the Day on one of these tours. The drummer in that band quit the tour for some personal reasons like two days into the tour. I was already out there with them doing merch and stuff, and they needed a drummer. They said, “Hey, do you want to do this?” Since I was already out there with them, I was like, “Definitely I’ll do this.” So I ended up playing drums for Taipan, and I got to play drums with Steve in that way.

Time went by and the band ended up doing four tours of the U.S. and Europe. There was a ton of press. It was a real busy time for them. After that time, Steve put the band on hold, and for about a year that Steve was just focused on family. I didn’t hear much from him during that time because Today is the Day was on hiatus. But then out of the blue he called me up and said, “Hey, I really want to get this going again. It’s time from me to get the band going again.” He asked me to play drums for him. That was a very exciting moment for me, and I accepted. That was about a year ago now, and we’ve been working on stuff since.

And I assume you got Ryan involved?

Yeah, Ryan was my bassist in Wetnurse. Wetnurse had toured and played Nashville, where Steve was living. Wetnurse also opened for Today is the Day when they played New York a couple of times. Steve had seen Ryan perform and saw that he was awesome. Because Ryan and I are in the same band here and shrare practice space here in NY and know each other as friends and musicians, it made a lot of sense to have the both of us in Today is the Day.

Of course, Wetnurse is still ongoing. Was everyone else supportive of the two of you running off and being in this other band?

Yeah, my band mates are super supportive. We’ve been doing Wetnurse for about ten years, so everyone understands that people have lives and different stuff going on. Garett [Bussanick], one of my guitarists in Wetnurse, has his own band, Flourishing. Gene [Fowler, Wetnurse vocalist] and Greg [Kramer, Wetnurse’s other guitar player] have a pretty active band doing stuff. Everyone has their own stuff going on. We’ve been doing this band a long time, so people are cool. For me, it’s a very big thing. I wasn’t out there looking to join another band. I was definitely focused on Wetnurse. I wasn’t looking to do anything else. Since it was Today is the Day, there was no way I could say no, because it’s a band that’s meant a lot to me, and it was a very big deal for me. Everyone was cool with it.

Being such a big fan of the band, and following, like you said, a very prestigious lineage of drummers, did you feel a lot of pressure stepping into those shoes?

Yeah. I have so much respect for those drummers. I’m the seventh drummer to record with Today is the Day. If you add in the other guys who have filled in on tours and stuff… I don’t even know how many it is. It’s a lot. All of them have been super talented, especially the guys who have recorded with Today is the Day. Brad Elrod was a total monster — one of the weirdest, left-of-center drummers I have ever heard. Obviously [Mastodon’s] Brann Dailor is a world class drummer. Derek Roddy is a world class drummer. There is defintiely a lot of pressure there to try and live up to that.

For me, the moment when that feeling of pressure subsided was when I did my first tour with Today is the Day, and that was last Fall where we opened for Unsane while doing a short U.S. thing. A couple of shows into that tour I started to feel like “Okay, this is my band.” I will always try my best to pay tribute to those other drummers, but really what I should be doing is my own thing. I really felt comfortable doing that tour, and we had people come out and see us and say that it was the best that Today is the Day had sounded in a very long time. That felt amazing. Those kinds of comments definitely helped boost the confidence. Especially now that we’ve recorded this new album, and I just finished my drum parts a few days ago. Now that that is done, I definitely feel 100% that it’s my thing.

And Kurt Ballou is producing… how did you find working with him?

It was really cool. He has a really good ear for drums. He gave me a lot of input about drum parts. He would have me play things a couple of times and tell me what he liked best. In some cases he would edit his favorite stuff that I played over the course of several different takes together into one song. So he had a lot of input, and I valued it 100%. He’s a very smart guy and definitely runs a tight ship in the studio. He’s definitely on top of things. It was a thrill.

I’ve been a Converge fan for quite awhile, but it’s funny — when you’re working with someone closely like that, you kind of forget who they are. Within the context of the recording session he was our producer, not the guitarist from Converge. You forget. And then once in a great while you step back and you’re like, “Wow, I’m hanging out here and working closely with the guitarist from Converge!”

Another neat thing about that recording is that Steve had recorded a Converge record in the ’90s. He recorded When Forever Comes Crashing, because Steve is also a producer. It was neat for him, I think, for this whole thing to come full circle.

Speaking of Steve as a producer and working with Kurt — correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the first Today is the Day album that’s had an outside producer, right?

Well, Willpower was recorded in Detroit at White Room, and there was a guy named Al Sutton who was at least the engineer on that record. This was in ’94 that it was recorded. I was obviously not there, so I don’t know how much creative input that Al Sutton had — whether he was an engineer pushing record or if he was more of a producer. I’m not entirely sure.

But hat was 1994, so, at the very least, it’s been a long time since the band has worked with an outside producer.

Yeah, as far as I know, Steve never had anyone else at all involved with the recording of a Today is the Day record.

Do you know how the decision came about to bring in a fresh set of ears on this one?

In Steve’s mind, he considers this to be an entirely new chapter in the evolution of the band. We’ve got a new lineup, a new label — Black Market Activities –and to some degree there is a new sound going on, and so it made a lot of sense to bring somebody else into it. Steve has a ton of respect for Kurt. Like I said, he recorded When Forever Comes Crashing, and Converge and Today is the Day toured together in the ’90s, so there is a lot of history there. I think Kurt is somebody who Steve trusts. Because it is a big deal for him to give up that amount of control. I think Kurt is one of the few people that Steve would have let do this, because he trusts him and knows him from way back. I’m totally excited about it. I think it only helps to have that other set of ears involved. Having just come back from the studio, I’m just so excited about this new stuff. It was sounding amazing when I left.

You said that it was sounding different from other Today is the Day albums. How so?

I would say that this is the most accessible Today is the Day record to date. If you look back at the other albums, there have been instances of melody and hooks and rock on all the Today is the Day releases, that has always existed, but it’s always been balanced out with a lot of weirdness, dissonance, in some cases grindcore…  But on the new one Steve is embracing rock more so than ever before. It is still unmistakably Today is the Day. Steve’s personality is 100% all over this record, and anyone familiar with him will know that this is Today is the Day. To me, this is just like the next logical step in the band’s evolution. Steve is 44, so this step… the sound on this album for  is exactly what I would hope that someone who has been in it for this long would go at this point in his career. If he tried to keep remaking a grindy-er album like Kiss the Pig, if he just kept trying to redo what he’s already done, I think that would not be nearly as cool as what he is doing, which is moving forward and moving towards something a bit more like a timeless rock album that I think even people outside the underground can appreciate.

Everyone knows that Steve is the driving vision behind this band, but do you feel like you got to make your contributions and that your input was welcome?

Yeah, I do. First of all, I want Steve to be the driving force, because he is Today is the Day, and has been the force behind this band for almost twenty years. That is as it should be. That’s what the fans want. I consider myself a supporting player in all of this, and that’s how I want it to be.

But, yeah, man, he is totally open to me and Ryan being equal members. He’s gone through so many rhythm sections that at this point he really likes the idea of a solid, stable lineup of three equal dudes who are all contributing ideas. So in terms of the new album and the music, we did collaborate. We basically hid out in the Wetnurse practice space for a few days and mashed out a few songs. A month later Ryan and I went to Maine and hung out in Steve’s living room for a week and the three of us wrote the rest of the songs. So it is a collaboration, as well as being The Steve Austin Show. [laughs]

Right on. So, like you said, you’re on a new label now — Black Market Activities. Is SuperNova still active?

Yeah, that’s on hold. Steve’s focusing on the band. I don’t know what the future might bring for SuperNova, but for right now, we have a guy who is an awesome label guy, Guy Kozowyk [Black Market Activities proprietor/The Red Chord front man]. So it makes a lot of sense for Steve to focus on being a musician and let Guy focus on the label aspect.

That makes sense. So now you guys are finishing up the album this month, and then you’re heading out on a long European tour…

Yeah, I checked in with those guys at the studio and apparently they’re doing vocals right now. Drums and maybe the guitars are finished.It’ll be all mixed by early next week, and then masted by Alan Douches immediately after. So this process should all be done this month, and then we go to Europe on the first of April. We’ll be there for the entire month. We’re doing the U.K. with a band called Retox that is Justin Pearson and Gabe Serbian from The Locust, and we’re doing the rest of Europe with Soilent Green.

And I’m hoping that you guys are going to tour the States again at some point…

Yeah, for sure. We want to do that. It’s not confirmed yet, but I can say that we’ll definitely do some U.S. touring this year.

So the record should be out in the summer?

Yeah, early summer. I can’t wait for people to hear the music, and I look forward to seeing everyone on tour.

-AR

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