Hailing from San Antonio, Texas, Bitter End are testament to the fact that everything really is bigger in the Lone Star state. Their punishing, 80s-thrash infused riffs have rightly earned them fans all over the globe. With the recent release of their second studio album “Guilty As Charged” on Deathwish, Bitter End have again proved themselves as the rightful kings of metallic hardcore. We caught up with BE’s guitarist Jacob to discuss Angry Birds, country music and hitting rock bottom.
Hey dude, please start out by telling me your name, what you do in Bitter End and what your favourite video game is.
Hello everyone, I am Jacob and play guitar for Bitter End. I don’t really like video games, I tried playing Angry Birds but got so frustrated with it I threw my iPod across the room. Back in the day Bitter End used to have pretty intense Mario Kart tournaments on long drives.
What are the band’s main musical (or other) influences?
Our musical influences are of course the NYHC sound of Agnostic front, Cro-Mags, Breakdown and the like. We are also influenced by heavier 90’s bands like Machine Head, Alice In Chains, and Sepultura.
The band’s debut album “Climate Of Fear” received an overwhelmingly positive response from critics and within the hardcore scene. Could you have anticipated such a welcome reception?
I wouldn’t call it overwhelming, but I am glad people liked our record since we put a lot of work into it. We didn’t anticipate too much, just wanted to right a really solid record.
You guys released the new record “Guilty As Charged” just recently. How did the recording process for this record compare to previous efforts?
The entire process of Guilty As Charged was different than Mind In Chains, Climate of Fear, and the Self Titled EP. Before writing Bitter End went into a period of confusion and soul searching as to what musical direction we wanted for the new full length. During recording we really wanted to capture a kind of dark atmosphere so we dimmed the lights, lit candles, and recorded late into the night trying to get the right mood. This record definitely sounds heavier than our previous recordings. Also, we use a lot of Latin percussion and several guitar layers trying to get a San Antonio meets NYHC sound.
How have you found the response to “Guilty As Charged” from fans or critics so far?
So far it has been mostly positive. Some people prefer Mind In Chains or Climate of Fear while others say GAC is our best release. And then there will be people that never liked us at all. For GAC we wanted to try out some different things and make a record a little more musical but still true to hardcore roots. I am really proud of this record and thing it is our best release.
I think a lot of people generally associate Texas with cheesy pop punk or emo. Having said that, a handful of super-cool bands have come out of your home state including yourselves, Iron Age and Power Trip. Can you tell us a bit about what the scene’s like over there?
I’ve never heard Texas being associated with cheesy pop punk or emo. Are you sure you have the right state? It is typically more associated with country music and Houston and Dallas rap. Texas is a huge state and has some great bands. Power Trip from the Dallas area, Iron Age from Austin, Your Mistake, Will to live, Die Young, Back to Back from Houston, and Hardside from San Antonio to name a few. Last week we played a show in Houston called Fallcore with some of those bands. Texas Hardcore is thriving.
I think for many people Bitter End’s appeal comes from your engagement with relevant political or social issues rather than simply recycling standard hardcore clichés. How do you feel about the political situation in the US at the moment?
I am glad people are looking into our lyrics in detail and I know Daniel works hard on writing great lines for the songs. It should be understood though that Bitter End is not a political band. We may address some political or social issues in a few songs but we are far from being any sort of political activists. Each member has their own separate views and opinions about various political topics. The song Climate of Fear I think is often misinterpreted and I think is the main reason some people might think we are a political band. That song was more about being caught in the middle of a world that seems to be going insane, instead of taking one political side or the other. The Cro-Mags and Sick Of It All had some politically oriented songs but I wouldn’t call them political bands. As far as discussing how I feel about the current U.S political situation, well that is such a broad question it is impossible to answer. We haven’t been invaded, so I feel pretty good.
You guys have done some tours with lineups that hardcore fans down under could only dream of. What’s been your best tour experience so far?
This is a great question but hard to answer because so many of them have been good. Even the tours that seemed terrible at the time always seem fun when looking back on it. The last two times we have been to Europe have been phenomenal. True Colors and New Morality are great bands that helped us out going on tour with us and getting us shows in Europe. Even though I am always jet lagged and exhausted, Europe has been my favorite place to tour. Two summers ago we went across Canada with Have Heart and Cruel Hand and Shipwreck, which was a blast. And of course our first tour ever back in 2005 was with Iron Age when we both just had tapes out. I had just turned 18 and it was a big learning experience, but still a lot of fun.
The worst thing that’s ever happened to Bitter End?
Bitter End has this phrase we like to use called “rock bottom.” Rock Bottom occurs when band morale is at its lowest and nothing seems to be going right. I have personally hit rock bottom more times than the average person but I am having trouble recalling specific instances. I think it s because I have mentally blocked those moments out of my memory. My first experience with rock bottom was on that Iron Age tour. We had a trailer where all the gear and personal bags were kept. After playing a few shows in Canada we were driving through the night on the way back to the border when a car pulls up next to us and starts honking trying to get our attention because our trailer wasn’t closed all the way. When we finally got to the border trying to get back into America, I realised that my bag had fallen out of the trailer. All of my clothes, birth certificate, and papers were in that bag and I was freaking out thinking they wouldn’t let me back into America. Daniel let me have one Bitter End shirt that I had to wear the rest of the tour. Other instances are any time we have broken down or gotten in a wreck. One time driving back from Oklahoma I used a spare tire as a pillow…and then we broke down. We rented a minivan to play a Floorpunch show in Philadelphia. We crammed seven people plus guitar gear and merch and drove 24 hours to the east coast from Texas. I had to sit in the very back seat in the middle holding a guitar in my lap for literally a day. These might not seem that bad but when you add it with a combination of not sleeping, showering, eating, It feels like hell. Before I built up my immune system I would get sick all the time and come back home with lots of weight lost. I also bring my own towels now because while on tour I got skin parasites that itched so bad I couldn’t sleep. Had that for a few months and wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Rock fucking bottom.
What does the band tend to rock in the van while you guys are on the road?
When we are on the road we listen to things that hopefully will keep us awake. If Daniel is driving he will usually put on some contemporary country music or oi. If I’m driving I will usually put on some club bangers and booty jams. I turn that van into a fucking traveling disco. Anything to stay awake.
Having just released a new record, what does the future hold for Bitter End?
Well right now we are gearing up for a tour with Madball and Lionheart that starts in December. After that we are going to California with Alpha & Omega and then doing the Midwest with our friends in Hardside. Over the summer we recorded a song for America’s Hardcore Comp that Triple B records put out called “Disguised.” We are trying to do Europe again this summer.
Now the million dollar question: do you guys have any intention of ever gracing Australian shores?
Yes! We have been talking about going to Australia for a few years now. I know there are talks with people and bands right now trying to get something worked out hopefully for summer 2011. I’m hoping everyday that this happens.
Any last shout outs or comments?
Pick up Guilty As Charged out on Deathwish Inc. and listen to our song “Disguised” on the Triple B comp. Two other bands from Texas, Power Trip and Eightfifteen are also on that comp. Come see us on the Madball and the Alpha & Omega tour. Words cannot express how much I would love to play Australia, hope to see you soon.
Thanks man. Hope to see you on tour down here sometime!