Interview conducted by Alex. Published on 1/7/2012.
While you weren't looking, Salt Lake City, Utah band Chelsea Grin became one of the bigger bands in the U.S. extreme metal scene. The band's latest release debuted at #64 on the Billboard 200, and the group was recently confirmed for this summer's Warped Tour. With things currently going their way, it seemed like a good time to talk to them. We spoke with guitarist Jake Harmond two days ago (one day before this happened) to see what's been happening.
So, what do you think about Oceano breaking up?
It's really unfortunate, but when it comes down to Adam [Warren, Oceano vocalist] taking care of his son, there is really no other option for him. 3 of out 6 members in Chelsea Grin (including myself) are fathers, and I know how hard it is to leave on tour for 2 months and come back and your daughter/son looks and acts completely different than when you left. I think they are doing the right thing by just calling it quits without Adam, I feel like he is someone you can't replace and continue to grow as a band.
Chelsea Grin is considered a "deathcore" band. What are your thoughts on the term?
Everyone likes to flap their jaw and voice their own opinion how "embarrassing" it is to be in a band that can be labeled "deathcore," but honestly we have never given a fuck. We write what we think sounds good, and if it so happens to be labeled deathcore, then whatever. I feel like most bands that start as a deathcore band tend to slowly stray away from the genre with each release. We are going to continue to incorporate "deathcore" aspects into our songs, but try and add melodic parts and guitar leads that you generally wouldn't hear from a deathcore band.
What's your biggest grip with the metal/hardcore scene today? What needs to change?
The metal and hardcore scene is just one huge pissing contest. Who is bigger? Who draws more? Who sells the most merch? That may be more a of "behind the scenes" gripe that a lot of fans don't really get to see on an every day basis, but it definitely gets annoying. I understand that at the end of the day, your band is technically a business; but I think the whole scene just needs a reality check. I feel like most dudes in bands tend to forget that being in a touring band was their dream all during middle and high school... don't take it for granted and/or turn into a egomaniac.
Salt Lake City takes a lot of heat sometimes. For years I remember some bands would avoid even playing there, for fear of fights, drama, etc. Tell us about the current scene there.
I'll be honest, Salt Lake City is probably one of the most difficult and frustrating cities to play. To this day, the drama and fighting is still out of hand... I was at the BMTH show that Oli got swung on (swung on, not beat up/hit) and the whole time I was just thinking "This would only happen in SLC."
There is a good amount of kids that aren't interested in the drama, and just want to come to the shows to have a good time, but it doesn't matter because their will always be a select few guys that only want to fight. A few years back, Chelsea Grin opened for an Emmure and Whitechapel 1-off show in SLC, and a huge fight broke out and some security guards thought it would be a good idea to use mace on them. Now, when you are using mace in 350 capacity room, with 300 people in it... bad things happen. Literally everyone ran out of the show, and went out onto the street and it was a fuckin' riot. Security gaurds were getting beat up for macing people, the people that originally were fighting, were still fighting, it was just stupid. I have played a lot of cities, and could never imagine that happening elsewhere.
So how did you guys hook up with Artery Recordings?
Mike Milford at The Artery Foundation contacted us around September of 09' to be our manager, and was talking to us about Artery Recordings, but at the time it was just an idea. We said we weren't really interested and felt we needed to be put on a label that had a good history behind it. Mike agreed, and a few months later we signed with Ferret Music. Not even a month after signing, we got word that Ferret had "merged" with Warner Bros, and that our contract (luckily) was never filed so we technically were still free agents. Mike shot the idea of Artery Recordings at us again, and we decided that being the first flag-ship band on a label with hype is better for us than being the 1 band of 25 on another label, where we could just get put on the backburner.
Do you have anything to do with For The Fallen Dreams signing with Artery?
Haha, well not directly no, but we definitely pushed for it to happen. Mike Milford always asks our opinion on bands that are upcoming to sign, but when we came to us with FTFD, it was an automatic yes. To be able to get a band that already has a strong history, and some experience will be good for the Artery Recordings roster, rather than only signing a bunch of young-gun bands that you aren't sure will gain any hype/sell records.
Emmure or The Acacia Strain?
Not sure if this a question regarding their music, or personalities as people as we have toured with both bands, but either way Emmure is a 100% choice for us. Emmure gets a lot of heat, but they are by far one of the biggest and best sounding live bands I have ever toured with. We hung out with those dudes every day on All-Stars Tour, and felt that we became pretty close as friends.
You guys have been confirmed for this summer's Warped Tour. How did that come about?
We played Warped Tour back in 08' in SLC because of winning some competition, and literally sold every piece of merch we had. As a local band, coming home from a show with money in your hand is insane, so from that point the tour we knew we wanted to do most was Warped. We told Mike Milford to push it as hard as he possibly could, and he landed it for us.
Will you guys be doing Warped in a bus or a van?
Bus. We shared a bus with Iwrestledabearonce on the All-Stars tour last year, and after that decided that if we ever do another festival style tour (Warped, Mayhem, All-Stars, etc etc) we will do it in a bus/bandwagon. Warped is somewhat like a band summer camp, and we want to go on the tour and just have a really good time and be comfortable. If we did it in a van with no air conditioning, I feel like our band would just break up from being so uncomfortable and stressed out all the time. We are going to continue to do Winter, Spring and Fall tours in our van.
When you go on tour, what's the one thing you can't live without (aside from your guitar)?
I say this with complete seriousness: we average spending $375 a week on Taco Bell. Literally every single night after a show, we go to Taco Bell. Each member and crew gets a $5-$6 limit, and we have done this ever since our very first full us tour. We started low with $2 per member budget and have been able to slowly increase the amount as we have gotten bigger, but still haha... every day.
Does a band like Chelsea Grin have groupies? Clue me in. Will there by 17 year-old girls following you around after your Warped Tour sets?
Our fan base seems to be 14-19 years old mostly, so there is definitely an abundance of young girls that tend to follow us around. Albeit, Alex (vocals) gets by far the most attention, but that is fairly normal for most bands, haha.
When Chelsea Grin returns home from a tour, do you have any money to show for it?
This is the first year that we have been able to come home with any money at all, which is nice considering most of us have families to provide for. Like most bands, we aren't making enough to brag about, but just making enough to get by is enough for us. We are still just enjoying what we are doing, and if we get paid for it, then that's even better. We get a reward for our hard work and there is nothing wrong with that.
Why is it so hard for a band whose album debuts in the Billboard 100 to make a living?
It's hard for any band to make a living. Even if you make $100,000 a year, you still have a double life. You have a road life and a home life. It's never easy because you never have enough time to do what you want.
How long before you have to quit Chelsea Grin to get a "real" job?
That's a hard question to answer as we are still a fairly new band, but hopefully a few years, haha.
You're supposed to be releasing an EP later this year. Why an EP, and not a full-length?
We felt that because our first EP had such a great success, there is no reason a second EP couldn't do just as good, if not a lot better. Honestly, we plan on adding a lot of new elements to our new music that we haven't done before, and putting out an EP as somewhat of a "tease" of whats to come is the safest and smartest thing we can do. Not only that, we just want to put out a 5 song "all killer no filler" CD that is strong from the first second to the last.
When the EP was announced, the band said "No dubstep, no acoustic songs, no cover songs, no bullshit." Are you calling out somebody here?
Honestly, it was just an ignorant comment that wasn't intended to be a shot at Whitechapel. We didn't realize that it was pretty much directly calling out their EP, and as soon as we realized that it looked like a dickhead comment, we reached out to the band and apologized. We just wanted our fans to know that we were doing something similar to The Devil Wears Prada did with the Zombie EP; a really strong 5 song CD that just made you want more after it was over.
Tell us about your new clothing line?
Honestly, I am the type of person that just likes to work and do productive shit, and at the point Chelsea Grin is at we have so many people working for us (manager, booking agents, tour managers, etc.) that I just wanted something to work on by myself. Every band dude and their mom has a fucking clothing company now days, but it always has the potential to pop and give me a career opportunity for the rest of my life after Chelsea Grin is done. All the art is "tattoo" inspired, and I recently started working with my good friend Ryan Johnson (the artist who painted the My Damnation album artwork), so the design will actually be paintings, not just a digitally colored scan of a drawing. Ryan is also a tattoo artist, so it's a perfect combination.