From Behind the Black Horizon
CoC chats with Crowbar's Todd Strange
by: Paul Schwarz
Crowbar. A name synonymous with music which is as mind-numbingly slow and heavy as it is good. Crowbar's previous albums, especially their most recent, 1996's _Broken Glass_, have concentrated on churning out sludgecore which, though always excellent, has stuck to riffs which are primarily percussive and vocals which are low and guttural. That's changed quite considerably with Crowbar's latest offering: _Odd Fellows Rest_. The title takes its name from a cemetery where people are buried above ground because of New Orleans', the band's home town, proximity to sea level. This album has seen Crowbar take their music to new levels of brilliance by incorporating tons of atmosphere and a huge amount of melody, especially in Kirk Windstein's vocals. This album also sees them with a new label. Abandoning the, according to the band, very inadequate Pavement Music for the greener pastures of Mayhem/Fierce, combined with the quality and increased accessibility of _Odd Fellows Rest_, could give the band the break they need to hit the next level of success, which this band has for so long deserved. However, Crowbar aren't in this for the money; they're in it for the music, and if their integrity helped make _Odd Fellows Rest_ as good as it is, then we should be thankful they aren't greedy. Here's what bassist Todd Strange had to say about _Odd Fellows Rest_ and all things "Down", too.

CoC: How did the writing process change when you were making _Odd Fellows Rest_? Did it change?

Todd Strange: Yeah, I think it has gotten a little bit more melodic even before [we started this record]. More or less, I just think the new stuff is more from our hearts, more of a reflection of what we all listen to.

CoC: I'd say there is a more melodic approach on songs like "Planets Collide", "December's Spawn" or the end of "Scattered Pieces Lay". Do you think that has been a gradual thing, or do you think it has been a sudden step with this record?

TS: I think it has all been a progression, you know. It has all led up to this. It is just one of those things. It was just time to do something else, something different, but still trying to keep the same Crowbar edge and all that.

CoC: 'Cause you've still got the heavy tracks on there.

TS: Oh yeah. But you notice Kirk's doin' mostly singing on this album; we've gone away from all the real angry, aggressive shouting vocals.

CoC: Do you think having Sammy [Pierre-Duet] from Acid Bath has changed the album's songs, or do you think Crowbar were changing anyway?

TS: Honestly, the album was written; we wrote one song with Sammy, which was "Beyond the Black Horizon", but most of everything else was written before he even got in the band. Pretty much, though, having Sammy in the band has given us a whole new breath of fresh air towards what we wanna do. Now we've got somebody who was a fan of the band for ever and to have him in there... he understands what we're trying to do, what the whole approach to Crowbar is and all that.

CoC: So you think the live arena has changed a bit, then?

TS: Oh yeah, for sure.

CoC: How about the lyrics? Has Kirk changed his writing of the lyrics? The direct style still seems to be there.

TS: Honestly, Kirk writes all the lyrics and it's more or less just things that have happened to him. It's just real stuff that people can relate to; at all times, everyone gets depressed over some chick or something and goes out and gets totally loaded and then regrets it the next two or three days because they're sick.

CoC: So you think that the depression is the inspiration for the music and the lyrics...

TS: Our music definitely leans towards the more negative sides of life. It's kinda what a lot of people hush up; they think "hey, I'm too much of a man to feel that way." But everybody feels it, whether you can come out and say it or you can't. It just happens Kirk can say it.

CoC: I've always felt Crowbar is very direct. Some black metal albums, for example, have pages of lyrics for a single song. Crowbar songs have ten or six lines.

TS: It is much more music oriented.

CoC: You've recently done the Metalfest and a tour?

TS: This is the third show of the tour with Eyehategod and Soilent Green. A kinda New Orleans tour.

CoC: How's it going?

TS: Good.

CoC: How much of the new stuff are you playing live?

TS: About four or five songs a night. We've got six albums now and one hour, so it's kinda hard to play everything everyone wants to hear.

CoC: Would you say you wrote more accessible songs for this record? 'Cause if I was going to play someone any Crowbar record, I'd play them this one.

TS: Well, that's good.

CoC: Because of the melodic approach and especially "Planets Collide". It's easier to get into.

TS: It's one of those songs which kinda sticks in your head after it's finished playing. Which is good, AC/DC has been doing it for years. [Laughs]

CoC: What are your further touring plans?

TS: We're out on this tour for another four weeks. Then home for nine days, then another tour: fourteen shows in fourteen days.

CoC: Are you intending to go to Europe this time?

TS: We hope to. We're gonna try to do it end of November, beginning of December, about five weeks in that time frame.

CoC: Headlining or as support?

TS: We'd love to play with a bigger band, because at this point, the more people we can play to, the better off it is. We might tour with Iron Monkey.

CoC: Do you think this might be the album that will break you to a wider audience?

TS: Sure, I hope so. I mean, after ten years...

CoC: It's been a long time since _Obedience Through Suffering_.

TS: That's a question you always get, I mean, you do an album, you work it, you tour it, and if it doesn't catch on, then it is time to do another album.

CoC: I was surprised _Broken Glass_ didn't get you further...

TS: Well, in the States we were with a crummy record company at the time and it kinda hurt us. That happened with the last few albums. But with Mayhem/Fierce we've finally got people working their asses off for us, which is important.

CoC: Are you still collaborating with Phil and Pepper on the Down project?

TS: Yeah, they started working on some new stuff right before we left 'cause Phillip is gonna be home, I think, until '99. They'll start working on some new stuff for touring or whatever.

CoC: Is it likely to be another full record?

TS: Oh yeah, that's the intention. [Laughs]

CoC: With writing the music for Crowbar, is it a band or a single person's effort?

TS: No, all the music is written in the practice room with everybody there. Nobody comes in and says "hey, I got a song." We write as we go. It usually takes us a week to write a song. Then we'll play it for a while and make changes to it or whatever.

CoC: Do you think the band is going towards a more melodic angle in the future?

TS: As long as we can stay true to ourselves, wake up and look ourselves in the mirror. Believe me, we wouldn't just do one thing to give us popularity. After ten years, I think we'd have done it by now. It's weird, because everybody in the industry knows who Crowbar is, now we just have to get the people who buy the records to know who Crowbar is.

CoC: I think people, your fans, always thought it would be like how Pantera suddenly became popular...

TS: ... And Pantera were playing in clubs for ten years before they even got a record deal here in the States. Hopefully it'll happen. It's one of those things I've learned over the years, I can't count on it. I play music 'cause I enjoy it and if I get popular and make a lot of money doing it, then so be it; and if I don't, at least I can say I made a good effort.

CoC: Do you think the new album appeals to the old fans too?

TS: I definitely think it appeals to a wider audience. I had some guy come up to me at the Metalfest and say "the new album is great, y'all changed it just enough to keep it interesting." I thought that was one of the coolest compliments I got off the album.

(article submitted 1/9/1998)


CHATS
5/25/2000 P Schwarz Crowbar: The Finely Balanced, Multi-Purpose Tool of Metal... That Never Dies
ALBUMS
4/19/2005 J Smit 8.5 Crowbar - Lifesblood for the Downtrodden
8/12/2001 A McKay 8.5 Crowbar - Sludge: History of Crowbar
5/25/2000 P Schwarz 9 Crowbar - Equilibrium
9/1/1998 P Schwarz 9 Crowbar - Odd Fellows Rest
8/12/1995 A Bromley 7 Crowbar - Time Heals Nothing
GIGS
5/25/2000 P Schwarz Crowbar / Eyehategod / Soilent Green God Hating Human Beatings
3/14/1999 M Noll Bolt Thrower / Crowbar / Totenmond Zeus Himself Would've Been Proud
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