“Skeletonwitch Interview”: Black & Thrashy in a VanCity Alley

Source: @theseekwill
Source: @theseekwill

Minutes after the Skeletonwitch Decibel Tour set I was afforded the chance to speak with guitarist and mainstay “Scunty D” (Scott Hedrick) as well as new recruit Adam Clemans (vocals) to gain some clarity on the role one’s environment dictates on influencing an individual, the current life aquatic, and after 11 years with one official vocalist, the band’s decision to no longer chance fate.

Vancouver Weekly: How did you feel about the set tonight?

Adam Clemans: I thought it went great, the energy was good

Scott Hedrick: I want to hold this” (referring to my backup iphone)

VW: Yes, touch it.

SH: Is this an old school iPhone?

VW: You know it.

SH: “Daaaamn, you’re one behind brotha”

VW: One behind on my recording device (yes), I have other means of communiqué.

SH: I’m watching the level go like I am recording an album, like Check, check, check, check.

VW: Levels are good.

SH: So what’s up Kris? What’s going on?

VW: Oh, this is an interview on me, all of a sudden? Not a lot, you know, I’ve had a long day… So I was asked by Prosthetic Records to check up on you and see how the tour is going? What’s your feel?

AC: Its going really well man, definitely stoked on the over-all positivity. It’s been good

VW: So how long have you been with the band now?

AC: About four months? Five months or something like that

SH: Like, we knew that Adam was gonna be with the band a long time before anyone else did, of course. So, we were like “don’t really say anything because we are going to announce that you are the new singer when we announce the Decibel tour”. I’m sure that was weird?

AC: Yeah,

SH: Cause you’re like, “Oh cool, I’m joining this band and I can’t really tell anyone”

AC: I can’t tell anyone for four months.

VW: Well, that happens in life. You know, we’re all human and not to be deceiving. You are going put your markers on things, and if you have someone that has a self admitted substance abuse issue…You’re going to look at possible replacements, it’s just a human quality. Now I am not asking you guys to substantiate that.

SH: Oh, yeah yeah (uncomfortable laugh)

VW: At this point I shut the recording down and said “look, I am a fan first, I’m not here to start controversy, or take it to an uncomfortable place. So if you want to change the subject, by all means”. Scott insisted that it was okay, Adam felt the same.

SH: You mentioned the words “substance abuse”, or the fact that you even used the words “substance abuse”. You know the person who is not in this band anymore made a statement. Obviously we chose not to respond for a myriad of reasons so…

VW: Okay.

SH: Ah, so. I’ll leave it at that.

VW: Okay.

SH: Cause what you are talking about is one thing, you are obviously just going off of one thing you heard, and I would rather just leave things where there are and just move on and move forward. Because I just feel like that would be the best thing to do. I am not gonna demonize somebody is what I am saying

VW: So what that tells me as a casual observer, and I know shit, obviously. It’s that if you can “handle your high”, and not make it somebody else’s problem… cause I mean, everyone is more lenient if someone else’s decisions are not made to affect them.

SH: All I am saying is that there is not a “substance” problem. There is not an outside, physical chemical or drug or anything that made this happen. That’s all I am saying.

VW: That is what he said… I mean, that’s basically the focus that he put on it in the article.

SH: He said what he said, and I am not going to make a statement on it…Other than saying, a bunch of beers didn’t make this change happen.

VW: Of course not, but if you handle your high nobody gives a shit it is not until you make it somebody else’s problem. So there is something else beyond that. But we’ll leave it at that.

SH: Sure, sure I mean, feel free to interview him and add it to the interview if you want to?

VW: Yeah, yeah sure. Apparently he is available. I mean, he has a lot of free time all of a sudden.

** laughter**

SH: I’ll give you his number…

VW: Yeah?

I was fortunate enough to get an advanced copy of the new track “Well of Despair”. How did you feel the new track went tonight?

AC: I thought it went great, crowd was super into it.

VW: They were, well they were into the whole set. You guys are heavy as fuck live.

AC: You got to! You gotta come out swinging

VW: What do you feel like the new vocalist is going to add to the band?

SH: A lot, a lot. I mean, for one, lyrically he brings a lot more to the table I think than we have had in the past just because…I mean, you’ll find this out through other interviews and as we release more songs…

VW: No! I wanna find it out during this interview.

SH: I mean, we are not gonna sit here and listen to the songs during the interview.

VW: I am not allowed back in, so I have a lot of time (Commodore Ballroom is pretty stringent with the in/out policy, but were goodly enough to let me back in).

SH: Lyrically he brings a lot to the table and expands upon…You know? If we were just a “black thrash band”, it would be easy to get caught in a horror, gore, evil, dead kinda lyrics. And you know, I think we were stuck a little bit that way. So I think (that) people’s expectations will be shattered when they hear it. I am putting words in Adam’s mouth here, but it’s hard to say nice things about yourself you know?

VW: At least it is only words.

SH: Ill say nice things about you, lyrically he brings a ton to the table. You know, when we are writing there is a lot more back and forth about where the vocals would go than there was with Chance.

AC: Right.

VW: Was it a little more collaborative at least in the early years with Chance? And then that dwindled or?

SH: No, Nate and I would write the music, and then send it to him and then that was it. I mean we would get together and there would be a few dynamic changes, but it was basically like “here is the song” put lyrics on it. Whereas here with Adam it’s like “here is what I am writing Adam, let’s go back and forth on this.

VW: Was that standard formula then?

SH: In the past, yes. Now, not as much. I feel like I have been involving Adam much earlier on in the process. Adam is more open to collaboration and he can take constructive criticism. And I can too. (We) can be like “this part sucks dude”.

AC: And my mind works a million miles an hour, so being able to balance ideas off of him has been awesome

SH: I mean, Adam is a very very, very big fan of music and has a really diverse knowledge of music which is something he brings to the table. I mean, even though you are younger you knowledge is pretty fucking substantial. Which is awesome, and you know, we talk like “there’s a aesthetic and a theme and a vibe and a feeling to the lyrics over the whole EP, because we were able to work so closely together, you know, we were able to do it that way instead of just “here’s a bunch of songs that we wrote for an EP”

VW: Well its gotta give you that sense of unity you know? Like if you feel like you are working with somebody it’s gonna grow a bond…

SH: Absolutely

VW: So they say you are a little more eclectic that the vocalist prior? What are you listening to now? Regardless of genre, what can’t you take outta your ear buds?

AC: Dude, I am really all over the place when it comes to music…

VW: Don’t be bashful!

AC: Dude, I listen to everything from The Cure or Sisters of Mercy; to death metal like Suffocation and stuff like that.

VW: We all listen to Suffocation, but outside of that?

AC: I am all over the place when it comes to music.

VW: We have The Cure coming here in a couple months.

AC: I know, we have them coming to Minnesota too, but it’s sold out.

VW: Is that where you are from then? Minnesota?

AC: It sold out in like 14 hours.

SH: Where are they playing?

AC: The XL Energy Center

VW: It sold out here amazingly quickly too. I literally had the thought “ah you can’t sell out a massive outdoor park like that”. Sure enough, it sold out in like, seconds.

AC: Oh of course

VW: Yeah, no problem, no problem. I found out the other day that The Underachievers are gonna be here the same day, so either way there is gonna be a big show, but at the same time? 

SH: Obviously you gotta go to The Cure

AC/VW: For sure, yeah.

AC: Totally

VW: Well, we’ll strike that digression from the record. So what’s your favourite marine mammal?

SH: Marine mammal? Myself when I am swimming in the ocean.

VW: Oh, that’s sexy.

AC: Marine mammal? I don’t even know…A manatee

VW: A manatee? Like, the sea potato? Ohhh

AC: Yup. What’s wrong with a manatee? They’re sea-cows. They’re real slothy. They’re gentle

AC: I believe whales are mammals aren’t they?

VW: Yes, they are.

AC: What about Whale Sharks? Which is like the largest Shark that exists, I love those things man, they’re sweet.

VW: Provided they have the blowhole we can accept your answer. Are they gills or are they **shhhh* (motions for air coming out of a blowhole).

AC: I don’t know man, Guy; I haven’t watched Shark Week in awhile.

VW: Well, if it’s on Shark Week then its gills and not a mammal. You fucked up.

SH: You fucked that one up

AC: I did, I just shit the bed on that one

VW: You had a good one. You had me won over.

AC: I still stand by my first answer

VW: Sure, I mean, that’s a sexy answer….

***Pause as a skateboarder rolls past us***

VW: Shit, what was my follow-up question? I got distracted by shirtless dude.

AC: I got distracted by “The Dwarves Are Young and Good Looking” album cover

VW: How do you feel about marine life in Captivity?

AC: I mean, like I would go to the zoo and enjoy myself but when it boils down to it, it’s not the best thing in the world.

SH: They are out of their element.

VW: What about the rehab element of it?

SH: Well, as you probably know, and it’s probably why the question came up. All of us in the band are big big animal lovers. We all have rescue pets.

AC: I also love eating animals too though

SH: It’s true.

VW: What do you think that Ohio for you (Scott) and Minneapolis for you (Adam) has done to provide inspiration?

SH: Inevitably every external factor in your life is going to influence what you do artistically. Whether its relationships, or books you read, movies you watch, music you listen to, the dirt you walk on. It all factors into it. So mentally even if it’s not necessarily a “here’s an Ohio riff” I am just shaped by who I am, and where I grew up so, it’s an innate thing that may not be discernible. But it’s there and beyond that, I don’t know how to explain it.

VW: So nothing traceable? Like “I didn’t realize that this was an Ohioism until I left”?

SH: No, I mean. There is an Ohio work ethic to what we do. A mid-west, blue-collar thing to what we do. A work ethic that formed us…you know? A little bit artistically. Like, I’ll sit down and force myself to try and create a song. Over and over and over, and force myself to try and be creative. But like I said, everything around you informs what you do. But our Ohio work ethic is a big part of the mid-west.

VW: That’s a solid answer.

SH: Or like, I’m like one of those guys that gets all frustrated and mad at guys that are just all dilly-dallying around and not on their shit. To a fault.

VW: Yeah, but there is a difference between actually working on something and putting a lot of time in on it. The difference between people that spend half an hour and are productive as fuck and those that spend three hours telling you about how much work they have to do.

Minneapolis?

AC: Definitely, a lot of what he said. But the punk rock scene is just massive out there. For like the last twenty or thirty years it has just been insane. You go to a show any day of the week and it’s gonna be amazing. So punk-rock in Minneapolis was a big thing for me.

Just like that DIY thing.

SH: You asked me many questions ago “what Adam brings to the table”. He brings this really intense, rough…Not rough around the edges, but just intensity in his stage presence. Which in my mind comes from a lot of punk and hardcore. Well more punk than hardcore, but you bring a lot of this seriousness, rawness and intensity in my mind. It’s like, “dude, this guy could get on stage with Tragedy and it would be the sweetest thing ever”.

VW: I made sure to be hyper-cognizant of the new track and got a copy of it on video, so I’ll get a copy of it and send it off to Prosthetic Records if you want it? But I noticed that even when you were not on the mic, you were still emoting that aggressiveness with your movements and facial expressions?

AC: Awesome, I don’t even know what I am doing.

VW: Anything else?

SH: Nah, just a thank you to anyone who checks us out. If they’ve supported us we appreciate it very much. We don’t take it for granted.

VW: Well of Despair, what do you think you have to grow off of that?

AC: It’s just the first step in the process of being with these guys

VW: How long did it take you to put it all together?

SH: I don’t know. I mean, I wrote that one, it was after we were pretty sure that you were going to be in the band that we wrote it, so it wasn’t like it was sitting around. But I don’t know. I was like, “this dude rules, and I think he is gonna be the guy. He’s the guy. So I wrote that and sent it to him. And he was like “what do you want me to do”? And “What do you think about this”? It went back and forth and was like “two thumbs up, let’s do this”. But it wasn’t very long.

SH: I think that a lot of people will notice an aesthetic change, because we have a new singer, obviously. But like the art work, the touring we do, the amount of touring that we do, the bands that we tour with. I think there is gonna be a discernable change in the “Mock 2” if you will? I think it is refreshing because, honestly, it was refreshing. I think that it was necessary on so many levels personally and professionally that this happened. So, for us it’s so fucking exciting. We are happy and stoked again to be doing this. Because admittedly the last year or so that we were still touring with Chance and stuff really became grueling. You know, the energy was so negative and there was so much bad shit going on that it really was so grueling. It made something that you love, you know? Really become awful.

VW: 11 years is a long time though, right?

SH: Yeah, but I mean, I didn’t care about that for a lot of the time, it was just the last couple years that were rough. It wasn’t the amount of time. But now it’s like “oh my god, this is the most fun thing in the world again. It’s invigorating.

VW: You remember why you do it in the first place.

SH: Exactly, and I didn’t even realize that I had lost sight of it, but I had. And l didn’t realize it until I took a step back.

VW: It’s tough to look outside of something when it’s familiar. I mean, you truly love the individual, it doesn’t mean that, and I am putting words in your mouth at this point. But you don’t wish them ill, you care about them, but it’s just not right for you anymore.

SH: And you are correct about that, I don’t wish ill towards Chance or towards anybody. You know, I would rather focus on my own shit. You know, look forward and be positive. You know, rather than let some baggage drag me down. Certain situations, when something is unstable, or unbalanced, like a relationship or a planet…

AC: Like a relationship or a planet?

VW: You know microcosm / macrocosm…

SH: It needs stability to a good degree; because it is just gonna get worse and worse and worse and worse. It just becomes unattainable for all

VW: It starts eating itself. Like the snake eating its tail.

You have already answered this last question, but I have to delve into this…but umm. Is there any door open for Chance?

SH: For? Joining the band again?

VW: Yeah

SH: Oh, absolutely not.

VW: Absolutely not?

SH: A thousand percent “not”

VW: You already answered that question.

SH: I can’t stand that question

 

Let that be a lesson to all of you young burgeoning journalists out there. Don’t piss the band off until the very last question.