The Sword

Texan metallers The Sword are introducing traditional metal to a contemporary audience. The band’s honest, accessible and innovative style has positioned the group highly. While in town for Soundwave 2013, sat down with the band over a few beers at the Corner Hotel to discuss the festival, touring life and bad European food.

How was the Melbourne sidewave with Dragonforce?

Kyle Shutt: It was great. It was good to play in an indoor club that is not is in the 120 degree Australian heat. It was really good. We just played a completely different set, so it was good for people who get to see both shows, but maybe a little weird for somebody who that’s the only show they saw.

Obviously you were here for Soundwave 2011, I was speaking to Erlend from Kvelertak recently and he had his interesting and funny stories from when they played Soundwave last year, what stuck out for you the first time you played?

KS: Just how awesome Australia is. That was our second trip here, but we got to see a lot more of it than the first time. I love it here, I want to move here (laughs).

JD Cronise: There were a lot of bands on it, like Social Distortion, I had never seen before.

KS: The Slayer set I got to see on the first show, I’ll never forget that.

These festivals with so many bands – ones you wouldn’t get a chance to tour with or see normally – you might have your own celebrity moments. And I was going to say Metallica, but you’ve already toured with them and played with them.

KS: Yeah, we’re old friends at this point (laughs). It’s funny, a lot of the bands are star struck when they show up. They threw a big barbeque for everyone the first night and it was real of nice of them to come out and break the ice. That was cool.

What’s it like being a touring band, being away from home for extended periods of time?

JDC: Everyone at home thinks, “oh, you get to go to Australia.” And, it’s not like it is not fun, but we’re not out like hugging koala bears and taking pictures of Ayres Rock [either] (laughs). We get to see some things, but it is not like we’re on vacation.

Bryan Richie: You are on a plane from here to there. [You’re at] Some hotel here for a couple of hours or you leave immediately after you play and you’ve got to hustle off the stage to catch a plane.

On that, you said you don’t get to do a lot of touristy stuff that other people may think you do, but what would you like to do that you haven’t done yet?

BR: I wanted to hug that Goddamn Koala (laughs).

KS: Is it Queensland the only state where you can apparently touch one? I remember the first year, one of the guys invited all the Soundwave bands out there for free. It was hard to get out there and jet lag kicked in by the time everyone was leaving, so I didn’t go. I always regretted that.

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What cities, if any, does Melbourne resemble from a touring perspective?

KS: It is like a mix of a few places we’ve been to – in the best way possible. It is great. Expensive (laughs).

Just one that, when you say it is expensive, a lot of people make that remark when they come to Australia. How is it handling the finances when you come down here?

BR: Penny pinch…

KS: I try not to think about it. It is like funny money to me. I’m like, “it’s fine, just spend it on the things you want to do.”

BR: I’m a little on that other end of that. I’m like, “I don’t want to spend $15 Goddamn dollars on this. This is fucking six bucks back home!” But I’m only like that when I’m a little angry or jet lagged. Usually it’s fine.

Even the food situation, what’s it like when it comes time to eat on the road? Any places that are harder than others?

BR: Europe food sucks (laughs). They have no concept of: “hey, do you want to just go somewhere and get food?” Restaurants are seemingly few and far between. They are not just everywhere. There is no late night food. The UK has chip shops and maybe you find a kebab.

KS: …but you can’t live off that.

BR: The thing is, when you’re in a band on tour in Europe, that is what you do end up with – kebabs and stuff like that. By the end of it you’re like, “fuck dude, I think I gained ten pounds on tour.” (laughs).

JDC: Europe don’t realise how much easier they can make things on themselves (laughs).

What is the impression of Australian audiences?

KS: Awesome. We’ve only ever played five cities, but they’ve been great.

BR: It takes a certain kind of human to get out there and brave the heat all day, they [Australian audiences] really like to rock. We’re happy to play for them.

Because I think the Big Day Out in Sydney last month was 47 degrees. For you guys on stage, I don’t know what it is like, but I’m guessing it is like 10 degrees hotter?

JDC: I don’t know what is worse? Being in the midst of a bunch of humans or being on stage?

BR: One you’re getting breathed on with all that hot air [in the crowd]. In Brisbane, I was just getting cooked by the sun on my side of the stage. You’re sweating off every bit of sunscreen into your eyes and it says no burn, but that motherfucker burns (laughs).

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Jimmy, you’ve been in the band for a few years now, but how has it been fitting in with the guys?

Santiago “Jimmy” Vela III: Pretty damn easy. I’ve known Bryan half my life. We came to that realisation recently. We are all easy going dudes, it has been really easy being in the band and the whole situation. Also, with the playing, these guys have been playing for a lot longer than I have, so it wasn’t difficult at all.

You’ve got a lot of influences that are reflected in your sound. Black Sabbath, I don’t think I’m going out on a limb here, are one. I know they have got a new album coming out, I’m guessing by this year, what are your hoping from this forthcoming release?

KS: Brad Wilk on the drums?

BR: Crazy.

JDC: He is a killer drummer.

KS: That ‘Heaven and Hell’ record was great, it was slow, it was like old man metal.

JDC: I read some preview of the new Black Sabbath record and all the songs are like nine minutes. They’re all like crazy long.

Because it is almost like a two part distinction. What are you expecting from the release? But on the other side, ideally what are you hoping from it?

BR: Classic sounding in a sense.

KS: I’m not making any judgments, I’m going to try and listen to it with a completely blank pallet.

JDC: I read some quote by Geezer Butler where he said, the old material with Ozzy was doomy, but it had hope. There was always a positive side to it. But, with this one, [it’s like] “we all know we’re fucked.” (laughs).

KS: That’s amazing.

When you see a band like that, who have been around for decades, you guys have been around for about 10 years, which is a massive achievement for a band considering the fact people see bands, but don’t realise the bulk don’t last past the first album. How much can you envisage doing this for as long as someone like Black Sabbath?

KS: As long as we keep writing good songs. If we start writing shitty songs then we’d have to say we’d bow out. There is no reason to keep it up for the sake of it. If you’re making a shitty album then you have to go on tour and play shitty songs.

On the topic of songs, is there a go-to song you enjoy playing live the most?

KS: I really like playing ‘The Hidden Masters’.

BR: ‘The Veil of Isis’, I like paying that one a lot.

KS: There was this guy in Little Rock – “what’s the best in the world?” And I was like, “I don’t know?” [He responded] “Veil of Isis”. [Laughs]. He thought it was really funny for some reason.

Have you guys had much to do with Corey Taylor from Stone Sour?

JDC: No. I saw him at the barbeque the other day [though].

BR: I told him where the shitter was once. I pointed him in the right direction. (laughs).

The only reason I brought it up is I’ve been watching the Soundwave TV and there was an interview with him and I remember he mentioned in the interview make sure everyone knows Corey Taylor likes the Sword.

KS: Crazy, no idea. Wow.

JV: I was standing right next to him and Lars [Ulrich] the other day, but I didn’t say anything.

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I know before we were talking about the barbeque, but do you still get those moments where you’re standing and having a beer and you’re like, “is that him?”

BR: The last one I had was when we were in San Francisco and we were there, and it was us, our friend’s band that is opening up the tour we were on, Lars Ulrich and Jello Biafra. And, Jello Biafra is just punishing Lars so hard. That was the last time where I had that moment and I’m sitting going, “this is happening right now. This is pretty funny.”

KS: It wouldn’t be happening if we hadn’t been in town that day.

BR: We are not the dudes that are like, “hey dude, can I get a picture?” We are just not those dudes. We have one picture with Metallica and it is the professional picture. It is not to say we don’t love them, but we respect them enough not to do that. I’m not trying to make myself cooler based on someone else’s image.

JV: We could’ve totally run up on Anthrax the other next door to their dressing room and been like, “dude, picture time.”

KS: We know them. Frank Bello is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I had never met Joey Belladonna before so that was cool.

What is the best thing about touring?

BR: Being on stage.

KS: Getting to that point, wading through everything and then getting to play the show.

JV: You get that gratification from people who are super stoked to see you play a couple of songs. Every now and then you’ll meet someone, like a fan, who waited outside just to say hi and they’re from Singapore or somewhere like that. Those are the little pay offs.

Bryan, you were touching on it a moment ago that you are not one of those bands that are like, “oh, we need to get a photo.” It is funny, when you think of music, people think of egos and I’m sure a lot of people do, but the one thing that has really humbled me is when I do interviews with bands, how down to earth they are. It might be a generalisation, but I find metal musicians because they don’t have their music videos play on commercial TV, they are in it more for the right reasons.

BR: I’d say that would be a correct statement.

JDC: I think there have been a lot of bands too that have been humbled. [Ones] That were like playing stadiums in the 90’s and now are playing clubs. I think you check your ego pretty quick.

What has been the biggest learning curve? Because particularly early on with management and labels you can lose your feet pretty quickly.

KS: Yeah, it is a cliché, but you just learn from your mistakes. Or, learn from other peoples you hear about. I think the biggest learning curve for us was probably when Metallica took us on tour. Not for the first leg because that was just regular stadium style stages, but when they took us on tour with the round when we had to literally change our whole operation, we were like, “fuck! We need a bus…and a crew I guess?!” That was a big one. I likened it to if being in a band was like being in a video game. Initially, in the first level you are just playing garages and then the second level is like the punk clubs, and the third level is the theatres, and Metallica is like the last, the boss level. There is like a tonne of propane under you. Coloured flames and lasers [too]. That was crazy. You felt like a pro wrestler at times coming out because you are playing those huge arenas and then you come out from side coming out into the ring in the middle (laughs).

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Another one I like to ask musicians is what were the albums back when you were younger that made you want to be in a band?

KS: The Green Day video for ‘Basket Case’.

JV: Nirvana and Soundgarden.

KS: Back when MTV was the shit. But then in about ’98 it started to get weird and it was never the same after that. I don’t know about MTV here, but in the States it was a phenomenon for the youth.

Now, ironically enough it plays everything but music.

BR: Everything but (laughs). I remember being sick of ‘Black Hole Sun’ because of how much they played it. I listen to it now and I’m like, “this song is great.”

JV: There was one Australian channel that was playing old music videos.

KS: Yeah, we were in Brisbane and they had some TV station playing videos from any year, all mixed up, it was amazing – we have nothing like that in States.

JV: I think it was Rage…

What’s the plan for tonight?

BR: We’re going to see Red Fang play with Kyuss Lives!

Sounds good. Thanks guys, really appreciate it.

Apocryphon’ is out now via Shock.

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