The Sword's J.D. Cronise on weird Austin, Facebook, and the truth
In metal years, the Austin, Texas quartet the Sword are still a young band. With four records under their studded belts, they have produced quite a number of riff-heavy, thunderous, groove-oriented, Sabbath-inspired heavy rock -- including the band's latest and perhaps most ambitious, Apocryphon.
Described by the band as being "metaphysical," Apocryphon explores the ideas of secret writings and teachings. Musically, the record starts where their last effort, 2010's Warp Riders left off. Combining the heavy duty guitars the band is known for with injections of orchestral like synthesized sound that gives the band almost more of a futuristic quality than the retro tag often used in decribing the Sword.
Gimme Noise spoke with lead vocalist and guitarist J.D. Cronise about Apocryphon and what the band was thinking going into the recording of the new record.
Gimme Noise: So where are you guys?
J.D. Cronise: We're currently in Austin. We're in between shows. We just played Corpus Christi last night and we play in Denton tonight.
Is it still weird?
Is Austin still weird?
Oh yeah, it's still weird in a way people who made those bumper stickers probably didn't really anticipate.
How's it been with the record just coming out this week?
We're really stoked on it and getting good reviews. For the most part it's good. One of the things that's kind of funny about the age of Facebook. Whether your fans opinions are good or bad will not hesitate to express them to you immediately. But the vast majority of them are pretty positive.
The record overall is kind of about secret languages, is that something that's going through your mind about contemporary society and the way communication is so direct there really aren't secrecy anymore?
It's more about secret knowledge. Hidden teachings. Things that people have to sort of look beneath the surface to discover. The things that aren't spoonfed to them by the media or the government or advertising. A lot of people take everything they are told for granted and accept it as the truth. A lot of times they need to realize the things they are being told they're being told because they are in the best interest of the people doing the telling. Everything is not always what it seems and they want you to believe. It's about seeking the truth.
Would you think there's new truths that have evolved because there is such a shared communication with everything? For example I saw some photos of Hurricane Sandy that were being passed around and it turned out they weren't really real.
A lot of times Twitter and Facebook are a better source than the news. If there are that many people witnessing and recording it it can be a lot more accurate and up to the minute than CNN.
So is society creating it's own truths or untruths?
There's an element that's definitely trying but than there's the other side of that coin there are those that want to keep it all under control. I think there is kind of a struggle between those two kind of forces.
Back to the record, you are dealing with kind of more ancient forms of communication, religion and that kind of thing. What was the approach you took in the subject matter?
I think in a way it's more of a classic approach. I wasn't so comfortable until now, I was more of a storyteller and using a lot of metaphor and hyperbole and creating these images and narratives for people to play out in their mind when they listen to the music. The new record is more personal lyrically and has image and metaphor but is dealing with more themes applicable to real life than just being a story for the sake of a story.
I was watching the making of Sabbath Paranoid and how Ozzy would ramble on some stream of conciousness things lyrically that created a lot of those songs. Musically I think that approach lends itself to that as ultimately people get in trance with the groove and the lyrics are sort of layered on top of that.
Definitely. Though it always kinds of bothers me when I read a review when the writer will say they don't listen to lyrics -- that they are an afterthought. That always kind of bugs me. I take a lot of time on my lyrics, I'm pretty proud of them. If you aren't following along with the lyric sheet when you are listening to it then you aren't getting the whole picture of the music.
That's sort of an ancient approach with music. People don't always do that anymore as far as sitting with a record. Everything is kind of background music. But you kind of allow for people to get into the stories as much as the music.
There's just tons and tons of music. A lot of it there isn't much thought to the lyrics. They might not be that important. There are a few of us out there that still have something to say in a clever way.
Cool. So you're feeling pretty good with the end result of Apochraphon?
Yeah, we're all really stoked on the record and excited to play the songs live.
Have you played much of these songs live?
Oh yeah, we don't really have like "studio tracks", every song gets worked out live at some point.
You've played in the Twin Cities before. Any memories of your visits here?
It's always a good show. It's a very enthusiastic audience.
Where are some of your favorite places to play, besides here of course?
There's so many great venues. We have such awesome fans.
How do you see yourself fitting in with new metal music? What do you relate yourself to most?
Well, we all listen quite a variety of stuff. Personally some genres in metal. Ya know, it's to be expected. Largely metal is appreciated by nerdy males. And nerdy males like to categorize things and organize them that way. A band can bridge many different genres of metal but then how do you define them? It gets difficult. People call us "stoner," "doom," "retro," "sludge," but sometime they are just missing the point.
So where do you wanna see the band go? Do you have any insane ideas like a movie, I don't know like Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park or something besides making records and touring.
We've had some ambitions about making a graphic novel for our last record. That never happened so it's something that could still happen some day. We're not looking to be huge, famous rock stars or anything. Realistically the kind of music we play is becoming kind of like jazz in our society. It's very niche. It's not really as mainstream as it once was but it still has it's die-hard supporters.
The Sword plays tonight at First Avenue with Gypsyhawk and Eagle Claw 7:30pm, 18+ $15
First Avenue is offering a special 2-4-1 deal if you buy one ticket at the door get one free when you wear your "I VOTED" sticker.
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