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Album Review: TBA

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Interview: The Chariot

The Chariot are touring the UK and, with so many stories of brutal past shows, you can almost sense Nottingham Rock City holding it’s breath. Holed up backstage in the semi-darkness, TNR finds Chariot bassist Jon Kinder, who we get introduced to simply as ‘Wolf’ by their enigmatic, cool-as-fuck front man, Josh Scogin. ‘Wolf’ seems somewhat preoccupied with his phone, possibly hacking his way into some secret government database… or texting his better half, but Josh is more than happy to field awkward questions whilst the support band do their damnedest to drown out his answers.

You’ve got a mad touring schedule this time around. How’s it going?
It’s going good. We actually did two full rotations of the US before we came over here so we’ve gone from, like, the 3rd of January, and we had like about three days off, but that’s why we’re in a band – to play shows.

That’s a heck of a schedule. And Australia next?
Yeah, Australia and then we’re gonna try and do Japan and China all back-to-back. We’re really excited.

Are you getting good reactions to the new songs?
Yeah, the kids seem to like it. The critics seem to be on board with this album as well which we’ve never really experienced before. We don’t really write music for them but it’s still kinda nice. I don’t know why but it’s good not to read negative stuff.

Have you got any favourite venues?
It’s difficult to answer that because I usually think of, like, the show. So the venue might be nitty and gritty but the show is so fun, you’ll be like “this place rules,” but if you just walked into it with no people there you’d be like “this place is wack.”

There must be some gigs where the fan-base always show up?
Definitely. Chain Reaction, Anaheim, California is definitely one of those. Atlanta, ‘cos it’s our hometown. Dallas, Texas, The Door – that place is always packed, always fun.

And tonight you appear to be in the same venue as a Viking metal band. Is that a first for you guys?
Josh: Not really. Where’s from? We’ve toured with them before. I guess they’re not Vikings but they dress up and everything.
Wolf (suddenly looks up): That same tour was with , so we’ve been… amongst… that… type. (Laughs)

You saw all the facepaint then?
Yeah, I saw the line and I thought I wish they were here for us!

You released your latest album, Long Live, a few months back – tons of feedback, polyrhythms aplenty. Was it the aim to make it as chaotic as that?
I don’t think it’s ever a pre-planned thing. It just happened as we were writing it. I think we all have A.D.D. or something. We get bored quick. So we move on. We don’t aim to chop it up or put in a pop song or put in a radio jingle. It’s just we have a riff and we play it and like it and then we get bored of it and then we throw in a radio jingle about Atlanta. Just different things to sort of shock the senses to keep us interested and hopefully keep the listener interested. Keep it fresh. No-one wants to hear me scream for 10 tracks. Even after we’ve recorded it we’ll chop songs in half for our live show or throw three different songs together to keep us on out toes.

The vocal aggression is pretty out there. It’s less gruff but more scathing. Was that the extreme effect you were going for – rough some skulls up?
I just kinda go with the music. I have a lot of cool lyrics floating around but, at the end of the day, it’s the music of that individual song that leads me to do what I do. The music speaks for itself and tells me how passionate or aggressive it needs to come. My screaming is a by-product. When I’m in the studio I just go for it. I don’t do punch-ins or anything, I usually just do one or two takes.

What kind of subject matter are you exploring on the album?
A lot of it ended up being like a ‘thank you’ record. It’s our fourth record and a lot of bands don’t make it that far, so it became like a grateful record, a very thankful record. Everyone who’s given us a place to stay, every person who’s taken care of us, everyone who’s come to a show, purchased a CD, whatever. And of course Long Live ties into that because it can be long live [insert name here] or whoever you wanna put at the end of that. We couldn’t do that without these people.

So the names on the album were there for that exact reason, hence the competition you ran?
Well we wanted to name five names that were real people who like our band, but how do you chose between them. So we literally had a small competition and whoever won they would be the ones that would represent. I mean, I wish we could have done a CD with a thousand titles and then we could name everybody.

So that begs the question how important you feel a song-title is and whether it should always marry to the lyrics?
Song-titles are very, very important to me. When I write lyrics that’s its own thing. I don’t necessarily need a title to cobble to that thing. I look at it as “here’s the lyrics – they can tell one story; here’s the title – that can tell another story.” On one of our previous albums, The Fiancée, all the song-titles go together to make a lyrical stanza – “Back To Back” “They Faced Each Other” “They Drew Their Swords” “And Shot Each Other.” It’s not like a pop record is with “here’s the chorus” and “here’s the title.” I really try to make those as important as the lyrics themselves.

You recorded it all live using magnetic analog tape. What was the thinking behind that?
Everything is just more natural that way. When we practice the songs we’re practicing them together, when we do them live we’re doing them all together, so when we do it in tracks it’s very… not natural, y’know? You’re trying to play guitar to this wave file. It’s fine but it’s just a lot easier to throw it all down together. You’re all looking at each other and we’re able to throw it down like that. It’s more natural, more organic, it’s just easier. Why would you practice the song, like, a 1000 times before you go in the studio and then separate everybody? Why did you do that? Now I’ve said that, we’ll probably never do it again. (Wry smile)

It’s actually pretty cool because there are all sorts of little oddities that pop up, like cleans and samples, in the mix. Was everything deliberate or were they things you only discovered afterwards?
Little bit of both. Certain things we wanted to make sure were in there and then other things happened by accident or in the middle of recording, like an idea. We were recording track four, “The City”… the whole ending was completely different when we were recording it and just out of nowhere someone said “I think we can make something better than that ending” and so we went in an fiddled around and within an hour we had a whole ending part. So we ended up tracking the song the next day and about 30/40 friends of ours gathered around a mic and when we got to that part they jumped into it. It’s kind of a one-way train – never look back. Very spontaneous, go with your gut instinct. I can’t even remember how the song used to go.

You talk about it being spontaneous but when you came to do the video for “David De La Hoz” you did it all in one shot. That must have taken a hell of a lot of planning. Hard to do?
It should have been really hard, but it wasn’t like a pre-conceived idea in the sense that we didn’t have a director come in with a budget or anything. We were literally sitting around one day eating and we were like, “well, we’re be recording the song live anyway so we should film it like that” – like “that’s the shot, that’s the one that we used.” So someone said “well it’s gonna be pretty boring watching us play live in one room so why don’t we put the drums in the kitchen?” and then someone said “oooh, well if we’re gonna do that, let’s do this and do this” and so it just ended up becoming it’s own entity. We were aware that at the end we could just hit delete and nobody would see it, so we weren’t worried or stressed or anything if it failed. So we got a friend in with a video camera and we walked him through it. An hour before we shot it we were still making monumental changes – “we should end outside”, “what we gonna do then?”, “well let’s have balloons” and then we changed the start so I say “release the balloons” and people are like “what’s that for?” and the reveal comes later. It was all very spontaneous. Somebody could have said “hit delete” at any time and we’d have done it and walked away. (Laughs) But ‘cos it was live, when we were done we could watch it immediately. It was like “this is awesome.” Even though the dude’s headphones fall off we were like “leave that, we don’t care about that.” It’s all part of it. It’s played by real humans, without robots, without ‘copy/paste’, without ProTools. It’s actually a very good representation of how the record came about and how we get bored and how we play live.

It is one thing I recommend to people, especially when we’re dicking about on YouTube – “You need to see this particular video. One take!”
Thank you. That’s awesome, man.

I’d love to know what kind of music you listened to growing up?
I was blessed with a father who listened to a lot of good music. He listened to a lot of classic rock, loved , . Not too trendy, but quality bands. I actually had a good palette to drive from. Because of that I listened to a lot of ‘performance’ bands – the James Browns, the ’s. Later, I got into some heavier stuff. Some , early . All the kind of bands you have to see live. Really, it just opened all the doors. Just because you recorded a record, doesn’t mean you have to sing those songs verbatim. When I looked to start a band, the roots that come from classic rock, even the motown stuff, the performances, that’s what I wanted to do. If you want to hear the record then go listen to that. It’ll be note for note perfect. That’s what a lot of the metal heads want. That’s not our band. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re trying to create a new moment, a new vibe, then and there.

And so because you are now in your own band where the performance is so key that people recommend you as a band you must catch live, does that make you proud?
Yeah, absolutely. Anytime anybody recommends what you do, it’s going to be humbling and flattering all at the same time.

Josh, thank you for talking to us.
Awesome. Thank you so much.

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