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The Sword

Half januari was het Amerikaanse The Sword in het land. Omdat hun recente album 'Apocryphon' ons beviel, besloten we een kijkje te gaan nemen. We hadden ze immers in het voorprogramma van Ozzy Osbourne in Londen gezien en zij maakten toen een goede beurt. In de VS heeft de band een veel grotere status dan in Europa. Zij toerden o.a. al met Ozzy, Motörhead en Metallica (!). Een interview met hen organiseren vlak voor de show in Antwerpen liep niet van een leien dakje. We hebben er een middagje met collegae journalisten voor uitgetrokken en kwamen ten slotte om zes uur toch aan de beurt. En we hadden mazzel, want we troffen de praatgrage gitarist Kyle Shutt om vlug even alle vragen af te haspelen. Maar hij antwoordde met veel animo!

Door: Vera | Archiveer onder stoner

How are you doing? How is the tour going so far?
Until now we really did well. We have only seen the UK by now, but London was sold out and Bristol was close to sold out. This is our first day in (central) Europe, on the continent.

Before this European tour, you have been on the road in the US for quite a long time (two months). What are significant differences for you in touring the States or Europe?
The shows are in smaller venues here, since we are less well-known than we are in the States, but the crowd is fantastic here! We only make it to come over every one and a half year, so it gets pretty crazy when we finally come over. London was fantastic!

Indeed, the first time I saw you was in London, supporting Ozzy Osbourne at the Roundhouse…
Really? That's great. What a crazy night it was with all those cameras going round… that was fun.

Since we do not have plenty of time, let us focus on the new record. For the first time you left Austin, recording in Baltimore. Can you tell about this adventure of going to 'foreign' areas, with the sole focus on recording?
We are mad hehe. Usually people do not go to Baltimore to have a good time (chuckles).

No? Why not?
It is pretty much a hardcore place, with lots of crime and trouble. It is a pretty rough zone. But obviously we stayed in the comfort zone, doing things that make you feel like you are in your own place. It is not an ordinary environment, normally you would not come up with this choice.

Was it the idea from producer J. Robbins?
Not really. It was a practical, natural decision, just because we wanted to record with J. and that was where the studio was. So, in the summer of 2012 we went there for six weeks. We were going to play with Metallica at Orion Festival in Atlantic City and Baltimore is only an hour away from that. It was really simple for us to go over there, do a small tour in the neighbourhood with Red Fang and finish with the Orion fest. We could record and combine it with some touring in one travel. Really efficient.

So you had never been in Baltimore before?
No, just for a show recently. Six weeks in Baltimore! I will never forget it. It was great to come back home afterwards, after living for six weeks in a hotel in the middle of a big busy downtown… Austin, where we live, is so much more laidback, so it was nice to get back home.

J. Robbins is famous for his work with Clutch. Talking about Clutch and far beyond, the beloved rock/metal history… what can we see as your roots? How did you get into this kind of music?
I am actually from Pflugerville, a small rural town in Texas. I do not know if you have ever seen the TV show Friday Night Lights, but actually it is the place where it is recorded. The only bands that ever came through there were Pantera, ZZ Top and things like that. These were really the only bands I got to see when I was younger. So I really feel like we can be placed in between Pantera and ZZ Top, but we got a funky kind of feel over it. That is what a lot of metal bands forget about. They try to be as fast as they can, but we take a step back and just write heavy songs that people can relate to.

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Previous album 'Warp Riders' was conceptual and based on science fiction. Now you got inspiration from different areas, nevertheless things to think about. Please tell me about your sources of lyrical inspiration this time…
You know, all lyrics are written by John D. Cronise (vocals, guitars – Vera). He was into Gnosticism, early Christianity, theosophy and other esoteric subjects this time. Not all of the lyrics go back to that, but most of them do on 'Apocryphon'. However all the stuff that he writes, we agree with. It is just… a lot of people, surely in the metal scene, focus on Satan and evil. That is fine with me, but we like to give something different to listen to.

But on the other hand, you are all into science-fiction I think…
Yeah! That is in our blood! You want to see my Star Wars tattoo? (laughs and shows it)

Well, tell me about your tattoos?
Oh I got lots of them, but nothing special. Some of them are done when I drank too much (laughs). I started at eighteen, I am twenty-nine now.

'Apocryphon' is rather dense, with strictly composed, even catchy songs. That's a pro. But… is there still room to improvise and experiment on stage?
We try to, but we are still so early in the tour cycle now that we are just doing what we are doing, but a year from now, yes. With every album, when we come to the end of a tour, we try some special things in the show to make it different. I do not know yet what we will do, but we will do something.

You have shot a video clip for 'Veil Of Isis'. What about this experience? Why this song and lyrical contents are interesting to mention in this respect…
We wanted to make a mini movie from it, so we were not in it. We knew the director from the video and the time schedule was so tight that we could not be there. The song itself is about questioning everything you see and maybe not believing everything. It is reflected in the video, because the girl is going through a bunch of experiences before she is actually realizing what life is about and sees the light in an uplifting manner.

'Apocryphon' will be released in different formats, also on cassette! Is there hope for a tape revival or not? How do you feel about that?
I do not think so, but they still make them and they DO sell. They are sold out by now! We always wanted to do one for 'Age Of Winters', but our record label never wanted that. But the new label, Razor & Tie said okay, so we did it. We did not know if it would sell, so we did it for promotion and gave it for free when you buy the album in the first weeks. They are all gone. Everybody seemed to like it.

It is coming back, just like vinyl…
It really is, you know. We always made vinyl, but it seems more than ever, we cannot keep it on the shelf. It is crazy how much people are into it now.

You have been in the entourage of Ozzy, Metallica, Motörhead… which moments in time you will always remember?
There's a lot… (thinks) There are fine memories on every tour, but the one that really excites me is the first tour we did with Metallica in 2008. We did not know if there were going to be more shows. It was initially just two weeks and finally they asked us to play the whole tour and every show was just getting bigger and bigger and bigger. It was also in Europe and we had never been there: Saint Petersburg, Sofia, Riga, Bucharest… The last night was Istanbul and there were 65.000 people there. I will never forget that. That was crazy! We had been in Europe three or four times before with The Sword, but never in Russia and Eastern Europe.

This was the Metallica European Vacation tour 2008. The band was asked again to support Metallica on several legs from touring in 2009, even from the early months to May. After that adventure they started writing their third album 'Warp Riders'.

What are the plans for the near future?
Until the end of January we will be touring in Europe. Then we go to Australia! I am looking forward to that! And there will be some more touring in the States for sure. Our management is working on that now. In Summer we will be in Europe again for the festivals. I heard something about South America. So, this year will be tour after tour after tour… It is great to see that venues are getting bigger every time we come back somewhere. We go for it!

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