Last Friday (1/29/21) I got to check out the live stream from Housecore bands Scour and Shock Narcotic. Both of these groups are “supergroups” but I’m not going to get into that right now. I will say though that the list of bands that make up the background for each band are some of my favorites so I was kinda excited for this show.
Battlecross is part of a new breed of modern thrash metallers who have earned their stripes through constant touring and attracting new fans along the way. Since their beginnings in 2003, the band has built their brand from the ground up, and never looked back.
They have completed recording their forthcoming album Rise To Power (out August 21, 2015 via Metal Blade Records) and are about to complete their Los Angeles stop on their now completed North American tour supporting Crowbar. Frontman Kyle “Gumby” Gunther, nursing a sore back, talked about the tour after their longest time off of the road in a while.
“The Crowbar dudes are extremely awesome. They’re always out and always doing something there. They invited everyone on the bus a couple of times. We rarely see a headliner that acts like that. They’re really awesome dudes. The show’s been good. No bum nights yet,” he said.
“In the last four years, these past four months is the longest I’ve been at my house. We try to keep a seven or eight month tour schedule every year. We’ve hit that three out of four years.”
Coining the tag “blue collar thrash metal,” Battlecross are notorious for being road dogs, but also are constantly writing new material for future releases.
“They write on the road. It’s pretty much Tony [Asta, guitars] and Hiran [Deraniyagala, guitars] write riffs and Don [Slater, bass] would write a song. Alex [Bent] would put his drums on it and I’ll try not to suck at lyrics,” he said, sarcastically.
He shared his writing process entering Rise To Power, and his approaches towards song topics. “[I write about] just everyday life. I don’t write mystical, stupid ass songs. That’ll never happen. I write songs about everyday life, and a lot of Game of Thrones references are going to be on the next album. I wonder who’s going to call me out on it? I went HARD into Game of Thrones.”
What part of Game of Thrones inspired the writing on Rise To Power? “I love the Starks. Any story with the Starks in it is awesome. I named my dog Aria. Me and the old lady were trying to trick the kid into naming it Aria. He’s like ‘I don’t want that name!’ Yes Caleb [Gunther’s son] – that’s what we’re naming it.”
While that is a small piece of what went into the new album, Gunther shared more about what was running through his mind towards lyrical topics.
“I’ve got uplifting songs, and songs about the government and how it sucks. I’ve also got songs about how people suck – how they’re sheeple. My kid doesn’t take it sometimes very well when I go on tour and takes it out on me. I get that but it still hurts. I took that into consideration for one of the songs. We all leave home and we all leave our loved ones. So that’s what the song ‘Absence’ is about. It’s going to be our first music video. ‘Not Your Slave’ – pretty much self explanatory. I’m not your slave. You’ve got people that are like ‘my view is this’ and ‘my view is that.’ They don’t understand that you have a view as well and you’re entitled to that view. I appreciate everyone’s view but fuck off. I’ve got my own.”
Their homebase of Detroit also becomes an inspiration for them as they watch their surrounding suffer through tough times. “Detroit was once known for working its ass off,” said Gunther. “We defeated the Nazis. Now the state’s left in shambles. Dow Chemical runs the thing and it sucks but whatever. We have a good time at it and we take that work ethic and go forth with it. I grew up in the Michigan that was the best state in the union. I’m not a rich ass kid but we didn’t go without. I would have been the sixth generation to work for General Motors, but then they left all of the jobs to go to different countries.”
The band returned to Audiohammer Studios to work with the production team of Jason Suecof to work on the new album. Being this is their third album, they have found ways to work together without changing too much of the chemistry between them.
“We did it the same way we’ve done all of them. Jason Suecof and Mark Lewis did a bang up job on steering us in the right direction. They didn’t change anything. They were like ‘why don’t you try this?’ That worked out killer,” he said.
“It’s fun watching two people with ADHD try to work together. Sessions are long. Fortunately enough, he had a band cancel after not being able to obtain visas when they had their time booked. He’s like ‘well I have this time open…’ [He] readjusted the pay and went on from there. We got an extra three weeks out of him. That was fucking awesome.”
Being known for their craziness in the studio and some well documented antics involving musicians being thrown in the pool at the studio, Gunther shared his own experiences. “I actually had to go swimming for my phone in the pool. It took two of the biggest bounces I’ve ever seen a phone take into the pool. So it was a cold, rainy night and I was like ‘ah fuck it.’ I went in the pool.”
Battlecross has now reached a pinnacle moment in their careers, and now they have placed various personal challenges on this one after setting the building blocks on their careers from the first two albums.
“I only got to write one song on the first album,” said Gunther, looking back on the Pursuit of Honor. “They wrote that album over six years. That first album was no first album. It’s like ‘are you going to take this one? Sweet…’ We don’t have to write a new one. I was the new guy at the time. Take that and it’s like you wrote songs as a local band because you love to do it and that’s what you’re doing.”
“When we had to do War Of Will, it was like we’ve got to do something because we’ve been around. We knew we were going to [Rockstar] Mayhem [Festival]. We were doing big shit so this has got to be good. There was pressure. Metal Blade – on the first album, they were like ‘alright we’ll take that.’ On the second one, ‘alright we’ll need this…’ And on this one, the pressure was on. Third album – this is pretty much make it or break it, and I hope we make it. I hope we made it. Tour experience, playing with bands and it all came together.”
Battlecross has ventured around the globe but there are still some spots they would like to hit on this upcoming tour run. “I want to go to Australia. I got to go to Germany. I got to go home. That was awesome. That was always a life goal to go to Germany and I’ve been twice. Even my sister was like ‘you motherfucker…’ That was cool.”
Their hard work has been noticed by many people, but Gunther shared one of the compliments coming from an unexpected place. “It’s really cool when Matt [Byrnes, drums] from Hatebreed was like ‘hey we’re gonna hook you guys up for a tour…but you already have a tour! You’re always touring.’ So that’s actually a really big compliment for me from the Hatebreed dudes.”
We get lucky once in a while on tour. I mean *really* lucky. My most favorite memory comes from playing Nova Rock in Austria. This was one of the shows we played on our festival run in 2014 where our backstage laminates let us go anywhere we pleased. That rarely happens, to be honest with you. With festivals, you’re typically only allowed to go back stage at the stage you performed, and even then with limited access. Not Nova Rock. It started off as any festival does. A little bit of confusion, many faces (some familiar, most foreign to us), and a whole slew of music to be heard. We were to perform on one of the side stages to a very receptive crowd, and as pleasing at it was, I couldn’t get a simple yet nagging thought out of my head. As much as I tried, I simply couldn’t contain my excitement: Black Sabbath is here.
Not on the same stage, or anywhere near us, but the fact they were in the vicinity and performing that evening was tantalizing, to say the least. We finished our set, ate our fine catering, and after some rest (and many beers), it was time. Time for me to see good ol’ Geezer Butler in action. Being a bass player, I’ve always held a ton of respect for him, even before I picked up the low-end guitar. As I aforementioned, our passes were the golden ticket this time around. There’s a common misconception that backstage is the absolute best place to be. Sure, you’ll be seen by your peers, maybe get a thumbs up or a high-five from one of the band members on stage, but I wasn’t watching Black Sabbath to be noticed; I was there to watch them perform with the best audio I could from a live show. That only happens at one place, and that place is where the front of house mixing board resides. That’s where the sound gets mixed overall, adjusted, and quite frankly, you get to witness the whole show.
With all that in mind, that’s where I went. The FOH was elevated, so I had no issues seeing the entire stage, the whole show, every effect and they even had large screens to show closeups of the entire band. I couldn’t take my eyes off Geezer Butler. As much as I wanted to watch Ozzy and Tony tear it up, Geezer’s playing is his own. He plays so hard, but his tone is second to none. I didn’t have to fight sweaty dudes or get crammed together to witness all of this, either. I simply had to make sure I stayed out of the way of the gentlemen that were working. Easy to do if you have respect, you know? As it goes, in recent memory, that was the best concert I’ve attended in a long time. I simply had the luxury of performing it as well. Such an occurrence doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, you’re a fool not to take full advantage of it. It goes without saying that I highly doubt I’ll ever have such an experience again, but if I do, you know damn right I’ll make sure to remember every bit of it.