There isn’t a bad word to say about Every Time I Die. Throughout their career, fans, critics and peers alike have unanimously praised the band’s output. With new studio album, ‘From Parts Unknown’ dropping this week via Epitaph, we caught up with the group’s ever-affable frontman Keith Buckley to talk about the record, tweeting and plans for a return to Australia.
A cheeky one before we get onto the album questions, not long until you find out if you’re Kerrang’s ‘Tweeter of the Year’.
That’s the most exciting (laughs).
That’s really where my head is at and pretty much all I focus on anymore is tweeting, so that’s really the accomplishment I’m after (laughs).
I know he made a guest appearance on ‘Kill the Music’, but someone has to dethrone Gerard Way.
Yeah, it’s about time. It’s not a popularity contest, but if it was I’d definitely be losing, but this is more about the content of our Twitter accounts, so hopefully people realise that I am far and away the best one (laughs).
Well, I mean anyone that thinks DMB stands for ‘death metal bands’ gets my vote.
Oh good, thanks. I’m glad you liked that one.
The album itself, it’s a very Every Time I Die sounding album, but one of the good things is there’s always a lot of surprises and new elements. One of the really interesting things was the album art. It’s something a little different for you guys. What was the concept behind that one?
The name of the record definitely came first and that was because we were watching a special about wrestling on tour when we were in Europe, and one of the wrestlers was introduced as being from parts unknown. I thought that was such an ambiguous statement to admit that you have no idea where things are coming from. I liked it because I thought it could apply to more than just the idea of wrestling. I liked that it could apply to something more than the location on Earth. When we started thinking about that, I wanted the art to be psychedelic and inward rather than outward. Joby [Ford], who was in the Bronx, does a lot of design work and I told him that and he came up with a lot of really cool landscapes that looked like they were from completely different planets, and it kind of went from there.
Talking about the psychedelic elements, one thing that is interesting is the concept of the “album experience”. Back in the 70’s was when it was in its heyday, where the package and the songs were the important thing. These days with iTunes that is almost forgotten. How important is it to have that album experience?
I think it’s half of it. I know it’s hard to get other people to relate to your nostalgia, it’s something they have to experience themselves. The bands back then that used to put so much time into their record art and making huge collages, it was just such a good experience to be able to go up to record store and buy it [then] unwrap it like it a present when you’re at home, and try to completely absorb every aspect of it. I think that’s become so lost. I’m absolutely guilty of it, I’ll listen to a record and I’ll have no idea what the songs are even called because I don’t have anything to look at, it’s just playing in the background. Whereas, with music you used to participate in the listening process, now it’s just a passive background [issue], it’s not even an experience, it’s just sort of a noise while you’re there doing other stuff. I think if you give people something to look at and to dive into then they will want to inherently. I think you’ve got to give them some cool art to look at.
Lee from Trash Talk had an interesting status update on Twitter recently where he said it’s good to see kids buying albums, particularly the punk/hardcore community because the “community” aspect is something other genres don’t really have.
I think we kind of took that back, which is really cool. Back in the day, there was nothing more punk than walking into a record store and stealing an album (laughs). That was the “punkest” thing to do – you don’t have enough money, but you needed the music, so you grab it and run, or you peel off the stickers and pop the record out. Nowadays, stealing is so impersonal and it’s so unexciting, and it’s just so lazy at the click of your fingers you’ve stolen something. Stealing music, like I said, was an experience. I think now, the actual experience that punk and hardcore kids want is going and giving back to the people that make the music. I feel like the playing field in hardcore and punk is so even that the bands couldn’t do without the people and the people couldn’t do it without the bands – that’s the only advantage that we have over every other form of music. We’re not making the money that anyone else is, but when you’re in a punk rock or hardcore band, you have a relationship with the people that like your band. They support you and you keep coming back to play small shows for them. It’s great because I think people are not too proud to buy the music anymore if it means getting that band back onto the road and into a little club in their town.
Exactly. Like you said there, the relationships you build with the fans, last year when I caught you in Melbourne at the Corner Hotel, you took the barrier out and stuff like that seems to automatically endear you to see there is no divide – it’s the fans and band interacting together.
It’s hard to get angry at stuff like that [barriers at venues]. I understand it’s a promoter trying to make sure people are safe, but promoters and business men, and those that are trying to ensure there’s money to be made and no money to be lost don’t understand the trust that is at shows. I’ve seen so many more people getting hurt because what are standing between us and the kids and crowd [are] these huge bouncers that have been hired to be strong guys. They have nothing to do with that scene, they have nothing to do with that music and they don’t understand the energy that is in that room at all. So, they’re completely out of place and they mishandle and misread situations, and they end up hurting kids. It’s just like, if you just let us exchange the energy without this huge, hulking, massive man in between us, everything is going be fine – everyone is going to take care of each other, it’s way more peaceful than you can imagine.
Is that much of a concern when you’re playing live the fact that you’re there to play the music but sometimes, you have to worry about the bouncers ruining it for everyone else?
I definitely do. I know that the bouncers ruin it. That’s another thing too – it’s not their fault either. They’re hired, they’re doing the jobs they’re hired to do. But, they shouldn’t be hired, they shouldn’t be there in the first place. Sometimes it’s like, “everybody kick this bouncer’s ass!” It’s not his fault, he’s just doing a job. Everyone is doing a job, but there doesn’t have to be so many jobs going on at once (laughs). We play and 99% of our show is what kids are doing while we’re playing. It’s this huge equation that works out perfectly if you just let it function.
You had a few guest appearances on ‘From Parts Unknown’. I know, for yourself personally, one you guested on previously was the letlive. ‘Renditions’ compilation. I was fortunate to talk to Jason when they were here for Soundwave. He had some complimentary things to say about you, just looking at my quotes here, he described you as his “lyrical superior”, what was it like working on that?
That was great. I’m always very humbled especially because the respect is so mutual. I remember the first time I ever heard letlive. was when we played a show with them in a bar in Minneapolis, and it was like Thanksgiving and it wasn’t the best show but, for me, I just remember them standing out because Jason is such a maniac. You see the energy he has and you know everything he does is so sincere, there a very few people I know that are more genuine frontmen than him. It’s like [Jason] and Josh Scogin from the Chariot as far as I’m concerned. They are two I watch and you just get chills because you know they love what they’re doing. For him to say that about me is very nice, but it definitely doesn’t go to my head. It’s not like, “That’s cool, I get that all the time.” (laughs). It really means something coming from him. It was good to work with him [and] that he trusted me to be on his song.
Talking about Jason and Josh being genuine frontmen. Does that still prevail today? Is there still a strong place for genuine musicians or because there are so many bands, it gets over saturated?
It gets over-saturated. I’m sure it’s very easy to get lost in the mix, but I really think, I know it sounds cliché, but I think the truth will prevail. I feel everyone that is doing it for the wrong reasons their colours show eventually. I can say that because I’ve seen it. I’ve been in this band for 16 years and I’ve seen a guy and I’ve been like, “This guy is bullshit, just wait.” Then their band has some huge exploit, he says something stupid, [or] he does something stupid and it’s like, “this was always going to show itself. It will always manifest itself if you’re not in this for the right reasons.” Whether you get shamed publicly or you come to a realisation that I can’t do this anymore and you quit before you ever really got anywhere. I just feel it’s over-saturated but it will get weeded out.
I was speaking to Andy before last year’s 10th anniversary ‘Hot Damn’ shows. Now that you’ve made such a career out of this for well over a decade, how far do you look into the future? Is it just an album-by-album proposition? Or are you acutely aware of where you might be in five or ten years?
It’s definitely album-by-album. I don’t think there’s a long-term goal, but it’s good because it keeps you very modest and realistic about the moment. It could vanish at any second, but that can go for your job or [even] your life. The fact is, you just have to take it moment by moment, and appreciate what you have. The fact that we are a band after 16 years is fascinating to me. If you were to ask me 10 years, I never even thought this was possible. I have no scope with what we’re keen to do in the next few years. The Internet might provide us with the chance to play a show online, which people in China could watch without us even travelling there. Right now, the idea that we can do this continuously and tour on an album is still fascinating to me.
You can always follow Metallica’s route and go down and play in Antarctica.
If it really got to be something where it’s like, let’s try to think of something crazy – I want to play in front of the pyramids in Egypt or I would love to play in Antarctica, and I want to play in the Hot Springs in Iceland. Just thinking of things that are insane. But, is that really what I’m working towards? Am I really going to start today to make plans to play the pyramids in Egypt? Probably not. But, I’ll put that out there. If that happens, awesome.
Speaking to mates the other day and talking about music and musical tastes, inevitably as you get older, your music tastes change. Do you get to a point where you’re like, “I’m going to peace out and listen to smooth jazz, I don’t want to play hardcore”?
Oh my God, yeah. That’s the thing, I don’t listen to this type of music regularly, to be honest, I really don’t. It’s great when I’m on tour because I get exposed to it and touring is a completely different thing when you get to enter this mode of your life where it’s just getting out every pent up aggression you might secretly hold onto and it becomes this very therapeutic time period. But, then after that’s done, I’m not taking that anger home with me, I’m not taking any of that back to Buffalo. When I’m home, it’s really chilled out. When it’s time to write then yeah, you’ve got to enter a different mindset. For the most part, when I’m off tour, I try to be as relaxed as I can be…which is almost impossible.
The new album is fast paced and has a good energy to it, working with Kurt [Ballou] from Converge, is it almost like [you] have to go an extra step in terms of the heaviness because he just brings that out in you naturally?
I don’t know if we have to become something that we’re not because it’s [Kurt] and we want to impress him. It’s hard to say because [Converge] for me specifically, a very specific show I recall is watching him and his band onstage and going, “This is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” That was it, the decision was made because I was looking at what he was doing. I don’t think we came into his studio [GodCity] with the idea of putting out a Converge type record, but I think we kind of realised the position we were in and how important he was to what we had been doing this whole time [and] we were way more open to his ideas than we probably would’ve been to other people’s ideas. The record was written in-house but we were so open to new ideas from him that it was pretty much like, whatever he said, we’d try it (laughs).
With the album shortly coming out, is Australia on the cards for the rest of 2014 or will it probably be next year?
Very much on the cards for this year. It’s so massive, but as a continent, it’s like, “We absolutely have to get there because it’s always fucking great!” It’s never the one where we go begrudgingly, like, “eh, you’ve got to play it because it’s just part of the thing.” No, it’s first and foremost, “When are we going to Australia? When are going to the UK?”
I remember last time we were speaking to you; you were mentioning how you’d like to play a house show down here. We still need to get you to do one of those.
Absolutely. I’ve never been in anyone’s house that lives in Australia. That’s what’s weird to me. It’s weird to go and spend so much time with so many other people in so many distant places and never see how they live…except for what you get at a show. Maybe you go and check out their local eateries or bars, but I would love to see what someone’s house was like in Australia. I would love to see someone’s house is like in England, it just never happens.
Read our review of ‘From Parts Unknown’ here. [Out June 27 via Epitaph Australia].