Playing THE BLAMED Game Again
Say what you want about fans of heavy music, but they are loyal forever. If a pop star takes a leave of absence from recording music for a couple decades and then returns, will they still have an audience? Probably not. Here today, gone tomorrow. If a metal band, a hardcore band, or a punk act do the same, you better believe fans will be pulling concert shirts out of their closets and cheering for their heroes as if not a day has passed. So there was a lot of excitement among Heaven's Metal readers when word spread that 90's hardcore mainstays The Blamed had reformed and were working on their first new material since 2002's Give Us Barrabas.
Currently The Blamed is: Bryan Gray - Guitar (1994-2003, 2012, 2016–present) (ex-Blenderhead, ex-Rocks in Pink Cement, The Satire), Jeff Locke - Guitar/Vocals, Sid Duffour - Bass (2012, 2016–present) (ex-Headnoise, Brick Assassin, The Satire, October Bird Of Death), and Jim Chaffin - Drums (1994-1999, 2012, 2016–present) (Deliverance, The Crucified). After doing a split ep with The Satire, The Blamed bring us The Church is Hurting People and we get a grammar lesson in how a word being a verb vs. an adjective can change the meaning of the whole sentence, or in this case- album title.
What sparked the return of The Blamed? Why now, after almost 2 decades away? SID: We basically had gotten to the point where we had the time and availability to get together.
Jeff: We had talked about doing something again for quite some time. Over the years we concentrated on work and family life, it was just time.
BRYAN: My version of the story is whatever Jim wants to do, I do.
SID: Oh yeah, that too.
JIM: I begged Bryan to do a project because I love jamming with him. I tried his Satire project but didn’t feel natural to me. The Blamed was a obvious solution. Bryan hadn’t been doing punk for quite a bit so at first he was hesitant. He came around to my ways eventually haha. We did a show with the singer from 2minute Minor and O.B.O.D. and we thought we had something, but we decided against it and went a different direction and viola The Church Is Hurting People happened.
What's been the fan reaction to your return? Same fans, or new ones?
BRYAN: I work in live music production and I have seen over the past few years a pretty large resurgence of 90s music, so naturally that involved 90s Tooth and Nail. There seems to be a blend of new fans and old fans Tell me about the recording process for the new album.
SID: Bryan has a recording studio, so it was very convenient for us to track and mix there. But since we all have families, jobs, and all live in different cities and states, it was a definitely a pretty time-consuming endeavor.
Jeff: It definitely took a while and we really wanted to put out something that we felt was good music. We took our time and did our thing. It was a blast. "The Church is Hurting People" is quite the provocative statement for an album title. Where are you going with that theme, and how do you hope the audience will react to it? SID: It's an intentional double-entendre. In one way it can be taken that the church hurts people, but it can also be taken that the church is comprised of people who are hurting. Unfortunately, both points of view can be true and valid, and we're attempting to call attention to that. Once we can face certain truths that are difficult to accept, they can be addressed and remedied. The old idiom is true, that "hurting people hurt people,"and we've noticed that there is a lot of hurt coming and going. As the church, we should really be more aware of how our words, actions, attitudes, judgments, non-actions and behavior can affect other folks in the body of Christ, as well as those who are outside the church, and misrepresent the Savior we are supposed to be a reflection of. So many schisms, pride and politically polarized opinions that just divide and offend people, it's sad. Jesus isn't concerned with all that. We need to love better.
Does TCIHP harken back to any particular eras of your sound, or does it stand on its own 2 feet musically?
BRYAN: I think originally the vision for the guys was to make an old-school Blamed record, nothing like the last version (or second wave) of the band, but as we got into doing the album I decided that I wanted to change that, only a little bit though. Off the subject, but for me the most recent Stavesacre album was a real inspiration, I definitely wanted that to set the bar for The Blamed album, it isn't anywhere close to that record, but it really helped.
Please talk about The Blamed family tree for any readers who are not familiar with it. How many other bands did The Blamed members also play in? BRYAN: The family tree is pretty different on all the releases until the 2nd wave of the band. 21 was the first album and it was me and 2 of the original members plus Jim Chaffin, every now and then you get to play with your heroes, I was playing in Mortal at the time and The Crucified had just broken up. Frail was our response to people being disappointed with 21, and Jim recruited Jeremy Moffet who was an amazing singer, that is our most popular album, Jeremy had just played for a season with Deliverance and post Frail played for Stavesacre. Then Jeremy quit to play in Stavesacre and the band basically went on hiatus, I played in Six Feet Deep for a season. We regrouped and released the Again record with a new lineup with Jim and I, and Jeff Locke (who's in the band again now). Those guys quit and Matt Switaj joined the band for the Forever record, Matt spearheaded the change in direction of the second wave of the band, I was touring with my other band Left Out and we merged the 2 bands, Matt Switaj on vocals and guitar, twins Christopher and Trevor Wiitala on bass and drums, that line up played on the next 3 Blamed releases Germany, Isolated Incident, and Give Us Barabbas and then we kinda stopped.
How has hardcore changed since the 90's?
BRYAN: It doesn't seem to be as rooted in unity as back in the day. Also the style has progressed, I mean shifting from Youth Of Today to Earth Crisis to August Burns Red. At least that has been my experience. As hardcore guys, when metalcore came around, did you claim that as your own, or were those bands just muddying the true hardcore sound? BRYAN: I came from a school when punk and hardcore were the same thing, you listened to Black Flag and Sick Of It All and Slayer, it was hardcore. So metalcore? I actually get confused with the sub genres, if metalcore is Zao? then I love it. If metalcore is Living Sacrifice Reborn? then I love it. If the new wave of hardcore bands with butt rock choruses is considered metalcore then I'm out. I don't think they are muddying the sound, I just think they are writing paychecks and not hardcore songs. I think of Josh Scogin, I am sure there was pressure on him for some of that and he did what he wanted, that was hardcore.
SID: Yeah, I'm with Bryan. I'm of the age and background where "hardcore" was synonymous with punk... then suddenly in the early 90s the term suddenly had to do with that NYC movement, with the music having more breakdowns and "chugga chugga" parts. Not to sound passe or arrogant, but I don't like labels anyway. Is it punk? Is it metal? Is it hardcore? Who cares... if I like it, then I like it.
Was there more of a dividing line between hardcore and metal back in the day?
BRYAN: There was in the late 90s for sure, but even imagery could divide. I remember bands with great line records showing up to play at cornerstone and not being given a fair chance because they looked less hardcore and more metal, especially nu metal. I never liked that, I was glad when bands like As I Lay Dying broke down some of that division back in the day.
Jim has played in both hardcore and metal bands. Is there any real difference to him?
JIM: For me no, there is no difference. They are both aggressive and have tons of energy. The fans were a bit different in how they responded, one banging their head and whipping their hair, the other slam dancing and crowd surfing.
How about the Spirit-filled hardcore label- would you have applied that label to yourselves?
JIM: I used to embrace the Christian label or Spirit-filled Hardcore, thinking it was a testimony in itself. Now I just try and walk by the Spirit and let the music speak for itself. When you approach your fans as individuals and not a niche, they tend to appreciate it more.
SID: Nah, I don't think so. BRYAN: We were never invited to that group, but in '94 and '95 we definitely were too punk rock for the hardcore kids.
When you were on the Grrr Records label, did you live at Jesus People USA? BRYAN: I did, and so did Jeff Locke and John Hansen from the Again record, Matt from the Forever record, and Chris and Trevor from the 2nd wave version of the band. We were all community members in that era. Sid was too, he just wasn't in the band until we both moved out.
Where do you go from here? Do you have plans to do more records? Shows? Is there a great motivation to continue as a band right now? BRYAN: We say "if the phone rings, we'll go play."
SID: Yeah, after we've been doing it so long, it's hard to know how to be a band in 2019. We'd like to play shows if they come along and have the time, and maybe do some more recording in the future.
JIM: We are planning to hit 2020 hard and see how it goes. Play were we can and have fun! The motivation to do another record stems from our friendship. We love hanging and writing together. Right guys?..........
Jeff: We write all the time. It's relaxing and enjoyable. We would play out, no problem. We can't wait to see what happens in the future.
Today the hard music scene is an entirely different business than it was 20 and 30 years ago. If you guys were just starting out now as a new band, would The Blamed enjoy the same musical ride as it did when it did?
SID: Haha, heck no! BRYAN: I work in the industry and I am closely aware of what it takes to be in band today, and we honestly owe a fair amount of our success to being able to be a part of the Tooth And Nail family, I don't take that for granted, for sure. The people that we have the pleasure of interacting with online, they aren't fans, they are members of this same community, it's great.
What made the hardcore scene so special back in the 90's?
BRYAN: It was so much more legit. I hate the idea that "sex sells" has slowly been infiltrating the christian hardcore scene. Now that is easy for me to say as a 47 year old with a dad bod, but for reals, you can put out an amazing record and people will love it and see you and be like "nope!" Also in the 90s people were starving for what Tooth And Nail and us were doing, it was rad, the support was great, the shows were great, it was a great time to go to shows and put out music. I heard someone say "there's no urgency in music nowadays," I think this is true on so many levels.
SID: I think that's exactly it. There's been an emotional stagnancy in music for the last decade or so, and yeah that's of course a blanket statement with a lot of exceptions, but just overall, you know? But I think that's beginning to change. People are starting to get passionate about things again, and I think that's good for hard music.
Welcome back, guys. Love the new album and hope to see you around again sometime. It's been since Purple Door 2002 for me.
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