Taking a Bloodbath with TOURNIQUET
We had a chance to catch up with the three core members (Ted Kirkpatrick, Luke Easter, Aaron Guerra) of the ever talented metal outfit Tourniquet. Here is how it went down.
JM: So, it has been nine years since the last studio album. What have you all been up to?
Ted: Well, that was the last release on Metal Blade, and it kind of became a big mess. They did a great job, but part of the issue was the fact that we had such a large fan base in the Christian market and for Metal Blade to get on board with a Christian distribution plan became a frustration for them. Moving product for us without Christian distribution just wasn’t adequate, so overall it wasn’t working out, and we just called it a day. I do have to give them a 10+ on every level though — honesty, integrity and everything, they are really great to deal with.
Of course I have released a few solos albums in the past couple years (Ode to a Roadkill, In the Shadow of the Masters, and Ancient Christmas).
Luke: We spent some time looking for a label before deciding to go indie and go through the Kickstarter program which worked well for us. We have not been idle by any means.
Aaron: We’ve played some shows since then, but you slow down and see changes in the industry, and next thing you know the years have gone by. (laughs)
JM: Ted, speaking of the solo albums, how have those gone over? Specifically Ode to a Roadkill, being it was so "out-there" different?
Ted: When it comes to fans of stoner bands (which is a music style, not a drugged-out state of mind), bands like Electric Wizard, Sleep, Sunn O, Sons of Otis, etc., that I have ever heard of, my album is the only Christian offering into the true stoner style. At first, some were shocked by it, thinking “we’ve waiting eight years for this?” But it was a solo project, not Tourniquet.
I just love that sound and probably always will. There are quite a few people, like my friend Bruce Franklin (Trouble), who hear it and immediately just get it. So, it has increased in sales, even recently, so I think people understand more of what it is now. It turned out how I wanted, and I am pleased with it. All three of the releases have been received very well actually.
JM: I know it is early, but how has the new album, Antiseptic Bloodbath, been received so far?
Ted: The response to the new album has been beyond anything we have ever had to our albums. It has been simply an incredible response, and it was on most online sources about a month before it was physically out. All of the responses we have heard so far, and this includes from those who supported it through the Kickstarter program, have been great and positive.
Aaron: Definitely, we all kind felt there was something special about this release, but we’re still overwhelmed by the response of how much people appreciate and dig it.
JM: So, has the album taken the past nine years to record little by little due to the distance between the members (Ted is in Wisconsin, Luke and Aaron are in California), or is it a more recent thing?
Ted: I always have melodies and song ideas floating around in my head, so most of this album has been there for a few years now, I just had to knock it out of my head and get it recorded. So it was about two years ago that I had most of the music written, and Aaron and Luke have two songs they were working on too. There is a lot of material left over for next time too.
JM: It has been 22 years from the first album until now. What would you all consider the major highlight(s)/memory/accomplishments that stand out?
Ted: Wow that is a tough one. For me I think the most exciting thing is the fan base loyalty that would have to be number one. Over the years just seeing the excitement there and now seeing the parents getting the kids into it – posting photos of them and their kids in Tourniquet shirts or whatever. Also, the fact that people understand that we do things a little differently - like having songs about animal welfare and different things not usually heard or other Christian albums. So many of the fans get it at this point – where in the beginning we had to justify it more often. There is so much more awareness now, and so many fans get it.
Luke: Highlights for me would include a lot of things - my first Tourniquet show, my first record, my audition, meeting Steve Taylor for the first time, watching Vinnie Paul tear apart a pool table at a club we played in Dallas – just ton of great memories. The biggest thing to me is just still being relevant and the great fans. We’ve been very, very blessed to get to make music that we like and there is still a market for it – that stands out the most to me.
Aaron: For me, being able to play different countries I have never been to, especially playing Flevo was great and a great crowd response. And the fans are so great - to be able to be at home, as a normal person, and then go out on the road and meet people that appreciate what you’ve done artistically - it is just mind-blowing to be known and appreciated.
JM: You’ve posted special explanations about the new cover artwork. Has there been any negative feedback?
Ted: Well, it is connected to something in my life that is very important, and that is the treatment of animals. Not just the cute little dogs and cats, but any kind. I have connected with other animals, and know that they experience the same things as a dog or cat would. To me, hands down, the most neglected aspect of the Christian life (applied theology) is how we interact and treat God’s creation. And it is equally import – the aspect of Christ on the cross. People ask why the bones are visible, and that shouldn't be misconstrued as being a rotting Christ. It's a depiction of the brutality endured by Jesus with a certain amount of license allowed for artistic expression.
Aaron: I think it is a great bold statement, and I can understand some people being taken back or confused by it, and I can understand that – as long as they don’t judge it for what it isn’t. It symbolizes visually what the song Antiseptic Bloodbath is about, and kind of symbolizes the whole notion of what we must consider – what Jesus did for us. We can’t forget the price he paid, as well as the way we treat animals. It gets people to talk and discus things, so I think it is great.
JM: Twenty-two years, eight full length studio albums, and various other EP, live and compilations later – what has been the most popular, or highest selling release so far?
Ted: I would have to say highest sales is probably Vanishing Lessons - or actually maybe it is Crawl to China.
JM: Really? While Crawl is still one of my favorite releases, it stands out as so different than all the other releases, that it kind of surprises me it would be as popular.
Ted: Yes, it is probably the most different, I agree. But you’d be surprised at the amount of rabid fans of that release. And of course there are those on the other side too. I think now, with things like YouTube and all of the online stuff, it has become more popular than when it first came out. Right before that we had released the Carry the Wounded EP which was so soft, and followed it with the The Collected Works compilation with the two new heavy songs. So after the two heavy songs, people expected the next album to be similar, but Crawl to China was different and that caught a lot of people off guard. It had better sales though because it was the only release on Benson records, and it had great distribution.
Luke: It is very eclectic. We did things differently, like tweaking the guitar tone for every song. We’ve been fortunate in our career, doing a lot of different styles, though always maintained a degree of heaviness, technicality and common themes throughout, yet none of them really sound the same if you play them all back to back, but you can tell it is us. We’ve taken these calculated risks and have been fortunate that people dig it.
JM: What kind of bands do you personally currently listen to these days?
Ted: I still listen to a lot of 70’s stuff, like Robin Trower, Pat Travers who is on our new album, and stuff like that. I hear new stuff, and I like and appreciate some of it, but not to the point of running out and buying it. There is so many styles of music that I like, from Dixieland to stoner rock, classical to classic rock, metal to grindcore.
Luke: A lot of Butch Walker, Bon Jovi, and I am not ashamed, but kind of embarrassed to admit that I think “Call Me Maybe” is one of the best pop songs I have heard in the last year. Bands like Boston, Stryper, Cheap Trick, just anything I feel like listening to at the time. As for newer bands, I think Lzzy Hale (Halestorm) has one of the best voices I have heard in probably the last ten years in terms of hard rock.
Aaron: I tend to stick with the stuff I have always listened to - Led Zeppelin, old ZZ Top, but it reaches out to stuff like Megadeth, as well as bands like The Melvins, Jimmi Hendrix, and so many others.
JM: What is in the near future of Tourniquet? Will it be another nine years before we get another album?
Ted: No, no, no. We’re ready to do some more shows, and get out there and more active again.
Aaron: We want to definitely play more shows - the passion and excitement is not diminishing, I’m anxious to play and get out there.
Luke: The last show we played was in 2009, so we have not been inactive over the last nine years. But in terms of the album, I hope it will raise our profile further, and that maybe some of the fans of the guests who played on it - Karl Sanders (Nile), Marty Friedman (formerly of Megadeth), Pat Travers, Bruce Franklin (Trouble) may lock in and check us out. We hope to stay the course and reach new people along the way.
JM: Any final thoughts?
Ted: I want to mention our producer Neil Kernon who we had never worked with before, but he is a very well known producer. He got us a fantastic sounding album, and the production on this album is hands-down the best production and best sounding album we’ve ever had.
Luke: We do not take it for granted that our fan base has displayed the loyalty they have which gives us the longevity we have. I don’t understand when people do not want to be around the people who give them the ability to do what they love to do. So we are grateful, and want to thank our community of people that make it all happen.
Aaron: I want to thank all the great fans too, it is awesome to put another album out after so long. We are definitely not done recording or playing live, and hopefully this will be the beginning of a new chapter for the band.
Well, due to space limitations this is all we have for you. The conversations continued and contained discussions on everything from more animal treatment issues, organic food, faith and ministry thoughts, and many more rabbit trails that we went down. One thing seemed for sure with them all - they are excited and ready to be more active after being somewhat absent for the past few years.