Slip It In
CoC chats with Andy Williams of Every Time I Die
by: Jackie Smit
What's in a name? You wouldn't be entirely off base by assuming that Buffalo's Every Time I Die have for some time now been acutely aware of the intrinsic meaning behind this particular question. Having plugged away for the better part of a decade to create some of the most invigorating, schizophrenic and patently thrilling hardcore seen from a relative newcomer to the scene in yonks, this quintet has grown accustomed, though still not entirely comfortable with being mistaken for just another insipid lot of mallcore runts. With their latest opus, aptly-titled _The Big Dirty_, they may just set the record straight once and for all however. Bristling with decidedly non-commercial acrimony, it's a hostile piece of work by all accounts, mainlining the best bits of Black Flag and Bad Brains into a thoroughly anarchic, modern romp. Guitarist Andy Williams was on hand to explain how it all came together.

CoC: To my ears there are a number of very major improvements over your previous records on _The Big Dirty_. Now that you've been able to spend some more time with the finished product and you've also toured it a bit, how do you feel about what you've done and how this album betters what you guys were able to do on _Gutter Phenomenon_ in particular?

Andy Williams: I don't know, man. Basically what was going on before with _Gutter Phenomenon_ was that we weren't ready to make a record, and with this one I don't think we could have been more ready. I mean, there were days when we were spending maybe two days on a song -- you know, going in, recording and mixing the whole thing and moving on to the next one, really. And it just felt so goddamn easy by comparison; just the timing of us going into the studio this time round was really the most important factor, I think, in the fact that _The Big Dirty_ is a much better record than _Gutter Phenomenon_.

CoC: Was being unprepared to do _Gutter Phenomenon_ down purely to the fact that you generally as a band tend to have a pretty hectic touring schedule, or is there more to the story?

AW: It was definitely the touring. Dude, we toured off of _Hot Damn_ for something like four years. It was completely ridiculous. Eventually it got to the point where we felt like we really needed to put that record to bed and do something else, and with being on the road for so long, I think we actually forgot how to write. That's basically it. We forgot how to write songs. We were taking months on writing one song for _Gutter Phenomenon_, and the worst part was that so many people were going on at us about how this record had to be good, how it was the most important thing that we had ever done, and how it was the most anticipated and all that shit. That did nothing but make us crazy. I mean, we don't care about shit like that, but when you're just constantly hearing it all the time, then you do start to think that maybe people have a point and that you really have to make sure you're writing good songs.

CoC: So what made you turn a corner this time around?

AW: We focused on making ourselves happy as a number one priority. I mean, personally, when I listen to _Gutter Phenomenon_ now, it's so stale and boring. There are certain peaks, but as a whole the record is just flat. So with _The Big Dirty_, the difference to me is that I still love listening to it, and I'm in the band. <laughs>

CoC: What's your favourite track?

AW: Definitely "Rendevoodoo", just because it's so different to anything we've ever done. A lot of people were saying how we were going to sell out with this album and how we were going to record a pop song to appeal to emo kids, and this was just our way of saying "fuck off" basically.

CoC: It is odd actually, the number of misconceptions that exist about this band, and the consensus appears to be the same whenever you read one of your reviews: Every Time I Die is very unfairly bundled with the rest of the metal core and emo core garbage that's out there. Is that something you have a sense of, being in the band as well?

AW: For sure, and it's definitely not something we want at all. We don't want to lumped in with any metal core bands ever. Most of these guys are all douche-bags. There are a handful of bands out there who deserve the title, but for the most part they suck. I mean, I've always seen us a hardcore band personally. High on Fire, to me, they're a fucking metal band. That's a real metal band, and Matt Pike will put all the bands like Trivium and all the other pretty-boy shit that's considered metal these days to shame, man. He could write a riff on the spot that's better than anything any of those bands could come up with.

CoC: <laughs> Well, your and my thoughts on _Death Is This Communion_ appear to be pretty similar then.

AW: It's fucking awesome. I mean, there are other bands out there who are doing interesting and original stuff, like Saviours from San Francisco, who sound like early Metallica almost, but are so fucking good they just pull it off. They won't ever get the recognition that a lot of these other shitty bands are getting, which is a fucking shame. When it comes to us, the funny thing is that we were one of the first bands to put the word "die" or "dying" into our name, and we've been a band since 1997. Then around 2001 every other fucking band was doing it and we got lumped into all that shit. And so many times we'll go to a club or something and the promoters will say: "Oh yeah, As I Lay Dying is here!" and we're like: "No dude, wrong band." It happens so much, and people look at our name think that we're a band who rips off At the Gates and has singing parts, and that's not the case at all.

CoC: One thing I've noticed is that the bands you've been touring with recently -- Job for a Cowboy, GWAR, Lamb of God etc. -- are all pretty far removed from that whole scene. Is that something you have consciously tried to do?

AW: Yeah, man. I mean, for me the cool thing about our band is that we can tour with just about anyone. But as far as actually categorizing us, I don't know. As I said, if anything we're a hardcore punk band, because the closest link you'll find between us and any other band musically is Black Flag. They did this rock thing with crazy timing and metal riffs and whatever, and we do the same. Mostly everything I listen to is stuff like Bad Brains and Black Flag -- old stuff.

CoC: You used Steve Everts to produce _The Big Dirty_. Tell me a little about how he approaches making an album and how he works in the studio.

AW: Well, how about this: I'll give you the start of our relationship with him. We originally tried to get him to record _Last Night in Town_ [Every Time I Die's debut record], but he was busy with Sepultura at the time. Then we tried to get him to do _Hot Damn_, and he was busy with someone else. We tried again with _Gutter Phenomenon_, and he was busy, and then finally he looked us up and he said that he wanted to do _The Big Dirty_. And then the first thing that came out his mouth when he sat down with us was: "I want to get your balls back!"

CoC: So he was thinking along the same lines that you were at the time?

AW: <laughs> Exactly. It was seriously like having a sixth member in the band. As soon as that dude came on board with us, it was like all our heads were working as one. It's the first time in my life that I have had someone on the outside argue with me about something to do with Every Time I Die that I've actually listened to. He'd be like: "Doing a fifth here sounds cheesy", and I'd respond by telling him to fuck off. Then finally he'd convince me to try things different and it would generally turn out perfectly. He's a guy that I look up to as a person and as a musician himself. I mean, he played bass on the whole record.

CoC: In terms of how he pushes you and what direction he pushes you in -- guys like Eric Rutan, for example, have been known to demand twenty takes of a single riff and generally the musicians working with him will find that their performance is much angrier as a result.

AW: That's exactly how Steve is as well. You'll do the perfect take the third time round. Then he'll say: "No man, you can do better." Twenty seven takes later, then he uses the third take anyway! It's like: "You're an asshole, dude. Why did you let me go through all that?" And his argument is that there's a possibility that you could actually do it better, and generally he's right. At the time it's really hard though. I got so pissed off at him once that I had my fists clenched and I was ready to punch up upside the head. I'm glad I didn't, because what he made me do turned out awesome though.

CoC: What was the song that you had to do the most takes on and that took you the longest to nail down to a point where he was satisfied?

AW: Goddamn, let me think about that for a second. I think that "Depressionista" is the one, because there's a part where Jordan [Buckley, guitar] and I have to slide down the neck at exactly the same time or it would sound weird, and I just couldn't fucking land it. One little slide to a note and I just couldn't fucking nail it. I did about eighty takes of that thing, and I can tell you right now that that my patience level is not adept to that sort of thing. But at the end of the day, looking back at it, I'm glad he did it.

CoC: You sold a pretty respectable number of _The Big Dirty_ in its first week (in excess of 14,000), and having stuck to your guns creatively and still being able to experience that sort of success, does it leave you feeling vindicated and feeling good about what you were able to accomplish?

AW: Yeah and no. It's going to make me sound so bitter, but I'm going to say it anyway. <laughs> There are bands like Chiodos whose record came out on the same day as ours and theirs did 36,000 copies and we did 14,000. For a band like that to do more than us; it feels like for the last ten years we've been paving the way for guys like that, and I hate talking shit, but they're dragging the names of Poison the Well, Underoath, Every Time I Die and every one who's been doing this for a while through the fucking mud because they're shitty people. So it was good to see the record doing well, and to be honest with you I actually expected less just because of how the business is at the moment. Then Chiodos do as much as they did, and it's just like: "Come on, dude!" But you know, there are bands like High on Fire who deserve to sell triple as much as they do. I mean, Matt Pike -- I'm not even close to that guy. He deserves to be remembered forever. I'm not even close to that guy.

CoC: Downloading has become a massive talking point again in the last couple of months, and given that your album was leaked about two and a half months before its release, where do you stand on the issue?

AW: Well, we're never gonna condone it, but the fact is: that sort of shit is going to happen, whether you want it to or not. What matters to us as a band is how many people come out to see us, because we're hardly going to see any of the money from the record sales anyway. What sucks is that it's going to kill the labels. At the same time, as long as people are listening to us and they're coming out to shows -- that's number one.

CoC: I'm not sure if you're familiar with what Radiohead just did with their new album, but the interesting thing about that whole experiment was that if everyone paid just an average of £2 to download it, the band would actually still see more money than they would if it were released through a label. Given the current climate within the industry, do you think that more and more bands in the metal genre will start turning to similarly unconventional channels to get their music out?

AW: For sure. If there's a way that I could do it, I would cut the middleman right out. I wouldn't be on a label at all, if I had the option not to be. Another thing that I get bitter about is that all these people who work for the labels sit in their offices and they think that they know what's going on, in terms of what a band is worth and what a band's potential is. They're not on the ground enough to know what's going on, so for example they'll look at a package tour and look at the total number of people that are coming to the show and automatically assume that you'll draw the same amount when you go out by yourself. Another perfect example is what we're going through right now: the label wanted us to go on a major tour that will last until late in December. They wanted us to do it real bad, but the problem was that if we did it we were going to lose money. So at Christmas time, I wouldn't be able to buy people any presents, and I'm not going to have a particularly good holiday. And they're telling us to go out and do this while they sit back and reap the benefits. We're the ones doing all the work. What comes over the desk is what they see, and they rarely acknowledge anything else. That's the whole big problem with the middleman. They don't care. Ferret, aside from this situation, have actually been great, and they have looked out for our best interests. But there are tons of other labels out there who do this sort of shit all the time.

CoC: I read somewhere that the photo that you've used for the cover to _The Big Dirty_ was taken at an orgy in Switzerland...

AW: <laughs> No, the company's name is Switzerland, and what they did is that they held this huge twenty person orgy and they took a bunch of photos, which is pretty sleazy. I mean, why the fuck is that dude on the front touching the deer's head? If you look closely, he's got his hands on his hips and there's a girl going down on him.

CoC: Given the album artwork, _The Big Dirty_ is quite a tongue-in-cheek title for the record, but listening to the music and reading the lyrics the tone is actually quite serious for the most part. How does it all tie together?

AW: Oh, it's very serious. _The Big Dirty_, I think it's something you can look at in a number of different ways, but where we got it from is from a Canadian movie called "Trailer Park Boys". It's actually based on a TV show, and in the movie these guys go to jail, and when they're there one of the convicts explains to them that there's two things that they can do: "You can go the straight and narrow when you get out of jail, or you can do the big dirty", which is one huge job and afterward you flee to Brazil or someplace. Not that we're going to go anywhere anytime soon, but to us it just signifies that we're sick of taking unnecessary chances. We learned a lot from doing _Gutter Phenomenon_ and we're not going to be put in that position again.

CoC: So what other plans are on the cards for Every Time I Die?

AW: Well, early next year we're meant to do a tour in the States with a band I can't talk about, but they have a black singer and we did one of our records with one of the guys in the band. So that's on the cards, and after that there are a few possibilities, but nothing is set in stone just yet.

CoC: Last question, Andy: while I was preparing for this interview I read a couple of articles where you were described as (a) a great bodyguard and (b) someone you wouldn't want to mess with. Given your fierce some reputation, where do you stand on MMA?

AW: I love it. I'm not a big fan of team sports, because there really aren't all that many teams around anymore. Everyone is just looking for a big payout and it just sucks. There's no legacy in believing in a team anymore. So that's why I like mixed martial arts, because it's about two guys and the responsibility for winning comes down to the individual. Besides, I don't believe in solving problems with violence at all, but there's certain times when it makes it better. <laughs> Sometimes people need a good knock upside the head, and I'm one of the first people to admit that I need it from time to time. If I'm mouthing off like an asshole, tell me to shut the fuck up or I won't know that I have to.

(article submitted 9/12/2007)

9/9/2007 J Smit 8.5 Every Time I Die - The Big Dirty
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