The following interview with guitarist Chris Rawson of Walls of Jericho took place at the Opera house in Toronto on May 21, 2006. They were supporting Bullet for My Valentine and Roses are Red on the Trustkill Takeover tour. Walls of Jericho had just completed recording of their latest album With Devils Amongst Us All which was not yet released at the time of interview. Chris talks about the album as well as their previous All Hail the Dead, what they did on their four year break, and the business side of the music industry.
My first question is… the tour just started a few days ago, how’s it been going, what are your expectations of it, etc?
Chris: It’s been going alright. I really didn’t know what to expect from it because I’m really not that familiar with Bullet For My Valentine. I thought some of the venues were too big, this one looks like it’ll be fine for the amount of kids that are waiting in line to get into this place. So I’m pretty excited about this show.
What’s your attitude towards gigging, and how that changed over the years over the albums?
Chris: I’d say it’s changed. In the beginning it was more, like when I first started playing shows even in other bands not including this band, I was supper young, 16, 17, 18. I had no – like zero – responsibilities at all. It was like “all right lets go!” We’ll save up all our money for however long, and we’re driving all the way to wherever. And play for free and then drive back, and be broke and skip out of work and skip out of school. And now it’s more of we do this so much that… it’s weird, we used to be able to call someone and say “do you want to play a show on Friday” and we’d be like “cool, let’s get everyone and go.” And now it’s such a big ordeal of getting everybody on the same page, not only the band but you have to get the label. Like this tour is a Trustkill tour, so it’s not like, hey let’s go play with our friends. There’s so many other people involved in the so-called ‘industry’ of music.
Chris: Which is lame. So there’s things you want to do, but sometimes it’s difficult to get them done, so that kind of bums me out.
You had a line up change a little while ago with your drummer, has that changed at all… did it slow down the band or how you approach anything?
Chris: Slow down as in how?
Did it slow down the writing process? Did it slow down booking tours?
Chris: Actually it didn’t slow down at all because with our old drummer, the second he was out we were on the phone with our new drummer and he was in. So the only thing that slowed us down was we had to teach our new drummer the old songs. But at that point we were at the process of starting to write a new record, so he came in just at the right time for writing a new record. We didn’t write any new songs with our old drummer so everything was fresh with him. It all just fell together too perfectly, so you know it’s good for us.
That’s awesome! Alright, you had a four year break between your last two albums, what did you in between?
Chris: Actually me and Aaron our bass player, we did this band that was set up to not tour. We basically had so much pressure in this band… well in the beginning…. I’m sorry if I’m a rambler!
It’s all good!
Chris: Okay in the beginning we’d do this band and, and it started off “alright we’re doing it for fun, it’s cool” and the next thing you know you’re signed to a label, and you’re doing this tour, and they’re sending you through all this crap. It just builds up and builds up and then you have the pressure of having other people, I don’t want to say influence, but kinda say. When there’s a label backing you and they’re putting money into your band, you kind of, not that you have to do what they say, but they are definitely investing in your band. So by you going “we’re not doing this” you’re not only letting your band down or the people that come to see your band down, you’re letting down the people who put thousands of dollars into your band. So when you’re on a good personal friendship with those people, it’s hard to let people down like that. So we put together a band purposely to not let anybody down. We’re like we’re gonna hang out, we’re gonna play some mosh songs….
Chris: We’re not gonna get drunk though! It was all for our friends just to play at home, have a good time. Shit was really dumbed down and simple. We pretty much just did that and everybody went back to work.
Chris: Actually I can tell you what everyone else was doing if you’re interested?
Chris: Mike ran a studio, or still runs a studio. So he was just recording bands constantly.
Where was the studio?
Chris: In Detroit. Candace was piercing that whole time, and Aaron actually tattoos so he was tattooing the whole time we were off.
That’s awesome! All hail the Dead then, what are your expectations of it, what are you hoping it will accomplish for you.
Chris: I don’t know, it’s pretty much done now. We’re waiting for our new record to come out. It’s pretty much accomplished what it’s going to accomplish.
Chris: It did a good job of hopefully setting up our next record.
Is that a different expectation from your last albums? What were you hoping the other albums would do compared to what this one will do for you?
Chris: Well All Hail the Dead was more of… because we took such a long break, and we didn’t tour for like two years, and we weren’t really technically a band. When we did All Hail the Dead we felt like we had to re-prove ourselves to the kids who once supported us. It wasn’t really a “we’re gonna come out and fuckin’ conquer the world,” it was more of we have to prove to people now we still can do what we did four years ago. And to me it seemed like it worked. It did better than Bound Feed the Gagged did so it worked out good for me. I’m having a good time!
Awesome! Is this album, the new record, a true representation of the band? Is there anything you would do differently, if you could go back to the studio now would you change anything?
Chris: Yeah I would change a bunch of stuff actually. The problem with our band, not that it’s technically a problem, but there’s a lot of bands out there where say two guys in the band run the band. And then three guys just go “oh you want that on a shirt, cool whatever” and “here’s the riff, just play it.” There’s singers in bands that literally have zero input, and some guitar player writes all the words and tells them exactly what to do. And for that guy in the band, he’s probably really happy. Because “this is my vision” you know, people have a vision. And the problem with our band is everybody has their own vision. And it’s all along the same lines, but one guy will stray to the left and another guy to the right, and somebody will want it right down the middle. And everything’s a compromise, but it seems to work out for us. We all butt heads and literally fight and argue over stuff. It gets pretty shitty sometimes, we kinda talk to each other shitty. Somebody will be like “I got this idea! It’s gonna be the fuckin’ best part you ever heard in your life!” And then he’ll play it and two guys will be like “that’s the biggest pile of shit I ever fuckin’ heard!” We’re that brutal with each other, so we have to deal with that. For this last record I think it took us like six months to write probably, or seven. Something like that. So we had six months of showing up and seeing each other going “that’s fuckin’ bullshit,” “that part’s all right,” “that sucks,” until we end up with the songs we end up with.
Cool. Having said that then, is that writing process different at all from the previous two albums or is it the same thing?
Chris: The last one was pretty much the same. This one was probably more difficult than any other record we did. Because we knew actually before we wrote a note, because of how well All Hail The Dead had done it got us in certain positions; like we’re doing Ozzfest this summer. So we had all these people going “all right, you’re doing Ozzfest, this is the day it starts, your record has to come out by this day, here’s the fuckin’ deadline… GO!” Everything is set up business-wise this time around, where before it was “when do you want it out?” “I don’t know, let’s put it out on Tuesday” and then it would come out. This time it’s very back to the thing of there’s people investing in our band, all of a sudden you just feel pressure to get 13 songs by this day. “Oh my god we’re not even done, we’re going to the studio next week!” So this record I definitely felt more pressure than I ever felt before. And it sucks because to me it shouldn’t have to be there, you’re just playing music.
Do you find… does the pressure compromise any of the music?
Chris: I’d say deadlines compromise it because you get rushed sometimes. I feel like every record is the best we could do at that time, but when you have a deadline it just sucks because you have to let stuff slide sometimes. Like on this record we finished writing two songs in the studio. We went in to the studio and it was the first time we were working with a producer and we straight up told him “yeah we got some ideas, they’re not even fuckin’ done yet though.” So we took time and wrote songs in the studio, I’ve never done that before. And you just have that deadline coming all the time, it’s shit and it sucks!
Alright final question then, what are the future plans?
Chris: I don’t know, I guess keep playing. We got Ozzfest, we got a record coming out in the summer….
What’s the date?
Chris: We don’t have a date. See that’s another thing, the whole business side of music is bullshit. Anybody involved in that side of the business is shady, they will rip you off. Anybody outside of you form a band when a you’re a kid and you’re like “oh we’re gonna play with” whoever the local heroes are. Like for me that was my dream when I was 17, I got this band I want to play with Coldest Life, so that was my deal. Then we played with Coldest Life, all the dudes were cool we’d hang out, everyone was friends. And then there’s a label, there’s a manager, there’s a booking agent, and there’s all these people that have say in something that to me they didn’t create. They have no stake in anything other than money really, which is bullshit. They look at it as “if you go do this, and this takes off you’re gonna be huge,” all they see is they’re gonna make a shit ton of money. And literally people propose stuff to us and we’re like, if we do that and it fails, everyone who likes us now will fuckin’ hate us. And then we have zero and you just go to some other band and go “yo we got this idea! It didn’t work for these guys but it might work for you!” And that’s literally the whole entire business, fucking bullshit! People should just play music because it’s fun. Fuck all the other shit!