Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Conversation with Chad Hanks From American Head Charge

 When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

First one? KISS, without a doubt. Although it was initially a visual attraction, within 10 seconds of dropping the needle on “Rock and Roll Over” I was hooked. Second major moment was finding a Ministry cassette of “The Land of Rape and Honey”, apparently right after it was released. I had never heard them before, but had heard rumblings from acquaintances. I popped that tape into my truck’s cassette player, and was FUCKING FLOORED. I had no idea it was possible to combine technology and heaviness like that. I had always thought of keyboards as “New Wave” instruments, and was sure that they’d never co-exist with distorted guitars. I was so, so wrong.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

With me, and I can only speak for myself, it usually begins with either a melody line or a chord progression. Most of the time, I’m actually hearing it in my head, and when I realize that creativity is knocking, I rush to an instrument and get the idea down on my phone. Sometimes it’s just a rhythmic noise that will spark an idea; a generator clacking, a gas pump clicking. Other times, it’s a lyric that I come up with that has some kind of rhythmic cadence to it. It’s all around me and comes in a variety of ways.

Who has influenced you the most?

In no particular order: Chuck D. and The Bomb Squad, Tom Waits, Hunter Thompson, Perry Farrell, William Burroughs, Al Jourgensen, Ace Frehley, Charles Bukowski, Eddie Van Halen, Danny Elfman and Oingo Boingo, and PJ Harvey. I think that covers all of the bases of people that have influenced and informed my music and worldview in general.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

I never look. It just happens, unfortunately less and less as time goes on. My oldest and dearest friend, Charlie Paulson (Goldfinger/Black President) said it best: “Dissatisfaction with the world at large makes him play music. And then it’s not being satisfied with the music that’s being made that makes him play the kind of music he plays.”  There will always be enough vapid bullshit on tap to dissatisfy me for the rest of my life. Hence, I will always have more than enough motivation. 

The band went through a dark, "disbanded" period.  Tell us about that and what brought you back?

Cameron and I both visited rehab again in early 2007. Mine “stuck”, but his unfortunately didn’t. So while Justin (Fowler/keyboards) and I spent the next 18 months writing and demoing at least 2 albums worth of material, Cameron was checked out. He was also 2000 miles away from us, which made it very hard to stay in contact, especially when one party has a completely different life agenda. After 2 years, I pulled the plug. We were tired of waiting. We tried out a few different singers, but nothing ended up panning out. Now we’re at 2010, almost 2011, and I haven’t spoken with Cameron in at least a year and a half. OUT OF NOWHERE, he sends me an email with one of the demos I attached in an email 2 years prior, only this one has vocals on it. As does the next one, as do the next three, etc. Once we knew he had his head on straight again, there was no other thought, for me at least, than “Alright, let’s get back out there”. This is what we do, whether we like it or not.

Tell us what fans can expect from the upcoming tour with Psychostick?

I think we all play very tightly together at this stage in the band’s life. Much, much tighter than in the past. When we fall into that live groove, it’s fucking magic. You can’t touch us. We create an energy now that puts any shtick we could come up with to shame. You’re going hear 6 guys doing what they were put on this planet to do: To take you away from your reality and make you feel unstoppable en masse.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

Let me put it this way; we’ve gotten lost on our way to the stage enough times that I can’t even pick one out. But there are always gems like the woman smoking a cigarette with her vagina backstage in New Jersey, or getting guns pulled on me, twice, while I tried to score dope in a lawless part of Spain that 1 in 9 cabbies won’t take you to. The ratio of events occurring versus events remembered is a bad one. I wasn’t there for a lot of it. I’m sure a lot of fine folks have some great stories though. I mean, that was a different Chad Hanks than the one that’s speaking to you now. I enjoy actually feeling something when I play now. We all do. And while I’d advise against our particular methods of achieving some semblance of normalcy and balance…man, what a fucking ride.

Tell us about the new EP, "Shoot."  What can fans expect?

It started out as “Hey guys, we’ve got twenty-six hours of studio time available on our day off. Let’s record a quick ‘n’ dirty five song EP of these four new tunes and that Patti Smith cover we’re playing on this tour. It’ll be super easy!”

18 months, 6 studios, and five states later…

So yeah, it was an incredible, monu-fucking-mental effort for this thing to see the light of day; and it almost didn’t. Nine months ago “Shoot” was on the verge of being scrapped. That said; res ipsa loquitur. The thing speaks for itself. It’s five disparate songs that we thought we’d throw down on tape and get it out to the fans. We’ve extremely proud of it. It’s got Head Charge written all over it.

 What makes a great song?

That’s a really subjective question. I want to say “if it makes you feel good”, but there’s a lot of shitty songs that make people feel good.

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

Most recently, Sand from “Shoot”. I had a really specific aural vision in my head when I started writing that one, and Justin and I made it a reality. That song on really good headphones, turned up really goddamn loud, will cause sterility. I’m certain of it. As far as prior material, I think “The War Of Art” is a phenomenal record. I know I’m biased, but it’s 12 years old, and I still think it could come out tomorrow and sound absolutely current. I think that’s a strong point of ours; we write good songs. Regardless of taste, we do our job well.

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?

Tom Waits has still got it in spades. “Bad As Me” came out two years ago, the guy’s 63, and he’s a thousand times more effective than a thousand bland rock bands. But honestly, I just don’t like almost anything new that I hear. I really don’t listen to music very much. I can count the times on two hands that I’ve listened to music for enjoyment in my own home in the past 3 years. I’m not very musician-y like that.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

I’m definitely not an audio snob. A high bit-rate MP3 works for me.

Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice.

Way back when? Whiskey. Beer was WAY too slow. 

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

We are so grateful to be able to reconnect with all of our fans that hung in there with us through thick and thin. We’re an independent music machine these days, and you make it directly possible for us to do what we do. Thank you.

Shoot  Tracklist

1. Writhe
2. Set Yourself On Fire
3. Sugars Of Someday
4. Sand
5. Rock N Roll Nigger (Patti Smith cover)

(featuring Psychostick and Blue Felix on select dates)
8/2 – Madison, WI @ The Regent Street Retreat #
8/3 – Wausau, WI @ The Fillmore #
8/4 – Des Moines, IA @ Woolys #
8/7 – Louisville, KY @ Diamond Pub & Billiards # 

8/8 – Cleveland, OH @ Peabody’s ^
8/9 – Kokomo, IN @ Centerstage Bar & Grill *
8/10 – Birch Run, MI @ Dirt Fest ^
8/11 – St. Joseph, MI @ Czar’s 505 *
8/13 – Nashville, TN @ 12th And Porter *
8/16 – Oklahoma City, OK @ Chameleon Room *
8/17 – Houston, TX @ Scout Bar *
8/18 – Dallas, TX @ Trees *
8/20 – Austin, TX @ Dirty Dog *
8/21 – San Antonio, TX @ Tequila Rock Room *
8/23 – Sauget, IL @ Pops %
8/24 – Sandusky, OH @ The Underground ~
8/27 – Trenton, NJ @ Championships %
8/28 – Amityville, NY @ Revolution %
8/29 – Newark, DE @ Mojo Main %
8/30 – White Marsh, MD @ House Of Rock %
8/31 – Albany, NY @ Bogies %
9/1 – Syracuse, NY @ Mac’s Bad Art Bar %
9/3 – Toledo, OH @ Frankie’s %
9/4 – Joliet, IL @ Mojoes %
9/5 – Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave %
9/6 – Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue Mainroom
Additional dates still being confirmed

# = w/ Blue Felix, Dead Horse Trauma
* = w/ Psychostick, Willpowerless
^ = w/ Psychostick, Blue Felix, Dead Horse Trauma
% = w/ Psychostick, Gabriel And The Apocalypse
~ = American Head Charge only


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