Anyone listening Bloodsimple’s Red Harvest for the first time and expecting a run of the mill heavy metal record is about to be hit with a bombshell. With the release of their sophomore effort this Long Island, NY based quintet, which formed out of the ashes of metalcore pioneers Vision of Disorder, has crafted their most musically ambitious album to date. From eerie spoken-word narrative [“Ride With Me”] to moody atmospheric ballads [“Truth( Thicker Than Water)”], Red Harvest showcases a new found depth and experimental side to Bloodsimple’s cutthroat aggression. Frontman Tim Williams sat down with PureGrainAudio to talk about Bloodsimple’s new album, Vision of Disorder’s legacy, and how he’s managed to survive over a decade in the music business.
This album is definitely a progression for the band from your debut, can you walk us through what you were trying to achieve creatively with it? Was there a goal in mind?
Tim: The goal was just to outdo the first record. We were all big fans of the first record but we were just over it and ready to do something better. The guideline for us was just to keep it heavy, but switch it up and not make it run of the mill heavy. We wanted to make a more organic kind of heavy and that was the mindset that we had when we started writing the songs.
If you look back over the history of your career, every record has sounded different than its predecessor….
Tim: Personally as a vocalist I need switch it up, I can’t just do the same shit. I record an album, have my fun out there on the road and then move on to something new. Bloodsimple is a more conscious effort, where as with V.O.D we just did whatever the hell we felt like because we were all young and nuts. I like to keep people interested and I want to keep them coming back for more.
This album was once again produced by Machine, who has worked on your last few records, what is it about his production style that keeps bringing you back?
Tim: Machine; the bottom line for me is his vocal abilities. We’ve worked together so many times that we know each other inside out. We always joke around that he’s my coach and I’m an athlete, because he just knows my voice and where it sounds good. He always seems to know the picture I’m trying to paint. He gets so into the music when you are recording with him that he almost becomes another member of the band. When I work with him I know that I have nothing to worry about and that says a lot about his work. Everyone knows that Machine is a talented producer and he was local to all of us. The last thing we wanted to do was go back to Vancouver to record again.
In some of the tracks, notably “Ride With Me”, “Whiskey Bent & Hellbound” and “Red Harvest”, you’ve taken a narrative kind of spoken word approach to your lyrics which is a different approach from what fans been used to….
Tim: “Ride With Me” was already a jammed out song and I just knew that I wanted to do a narrative over it. So I wrote this short story, kinda serial killer type theme, and I showed it to Machine and he thought the idea was brilliant, but he had this vision of how it should sound. I had the idea but he just brought it to a whole new level. It’s funny because a lot of people are talking about this spoken word/narrative parts on the record and it wouldn’t have been nearly as good without Machine; he just brought it out of me and made it sound sick. That was the riskiest part of the record for me, because nobody is doing that. Sure Rollins did it, but for us and what we do, there is a chance that it could have blown up in our face and everyone hated it. People seem to really dig it and I think that’s a huge accomplishment for us.
The song kind of reminds me of Pantera’s “Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills”….
Tim: Yea’, I wouldn’t say I drew inspiration from that song, but I definitely love that song. I think I came at it from a Morrison meets Rollins perception, kinda like the lonely soul out on the road. When me and Machine get into the studio we get in deep and we just created these characters and I tried to act them out and make everything come alive. Those two songs are just about a desperate wanderer, lost out on the highway and maybe he’s killing people or maybe not, but he’s just fucked up in the head. That was one of the fictional characters that we created in the recording sessions that I thought were cool.
Care to explain the significance of the title and why you chose to name the album after one of the songs?
Tim: I’ll give you the brief explanation, but there are a couple slight misconceptions that this is a concept record, but it isn’t and it never was intended to be. We wanted to write a heavy record that was different from everything else that was out there and that was our goal. We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel because that’s impossible, but just a little left of center that’s heavy, but totally different from everything else that’s out there. We wanted to do something that people might not expect from us, but at the same time we didn’t want to lose all the fans we gained on the first record, which is a fine line to walk. When it came to title the record, we had a working title which was “Numina Infuscata”, the last song on the record was the title for the longest time and we feel the dark music represented what we wanted to do. We were working on what would become the song “Red Harvest” and the verse was done, but I could not get a good chorus going. We were all bummed because the song was amazing, but without a chorus it sucked. Mike Kennedy was one the computer and stumbled on this novel called “Red Harvest” that had this definition of the word “blood-simple” that we thought was dead on the money. The definition was, “Being surrounded by murder until murder becomes in your own mind a viable solution to practically any problem. Life becomes cheap, killing begets more killing.” When I heard that I thought, “Holy shit! If this doesn’t represent the album then I don’t know what does.” Right away I took some of those words and plugged them into the chorus and it just worked like a charm. Then all the sudden that track became the title track and it just came out of nowhere, which when those moments happen in the studio we all knew it was a sign. Mike and I both read the book and it was a cool book that we felt represented the band musically and lyrically.
This record definitely takes a few chances artistically. How hard is it to take chances with your music in a music industry that is spiraling downward?
Tim: Personally, I’ve been doing this for so long that I just don’t care. If I don’t like the music, I’m not putting it out. I don’t mind taking chances; hell I’ve got six records behind me and have had a longer run that most people and we’re still relevant, so I don’t mind taking chances. I think every band should take risks, why play it safe? Anything that will get you recognition and get you noticed you should do. The competition is so fierce and everyone wants to be in a band now, it’s made it so that only the good will survive or stand the test of time. In order to do that you need to take risks and be original and have good music.
One of the big trends in metal now is combining metal and hardcore, but you were in Vision of Disorder and doing that back when rap-metal was the huge trend. What is it like now looking at all the bands becoming successful with a style you were doing ten years ago?
Tim: I look at that and think, “That’s life.” If I influenced a shitload of bands then I think that’s great. To me that is almost better than fame. Guys in bands come up to me all the time and say all kinds of nice shit and to me that’s my reward. I don’t need to “make it”, I’ve always just done music for what it was and the lifestyle that it brings. I’ve met some phenomenal people in my career and it would be stupid for me to say, “I started that shit.” That’s all bullshit and I think that we’re very lucky that people even think we might have trail blazed. I also think that has helped Bloodsimple along the way.
I did an interview with Dez from Devildriver and he said that real success is going into a CD shop ten years from now and seeing a huge catalogue of albums under your band’s card.
Tim: Longevity is way better than any flash in the pan and I think that Dez is living proof. I can’t say enough about that guy. I’ve known him for over ten years now and he’s always been cool with me. Our original bands came from different ends of the spectrum and ended up sharing stages together and somehow we’ve both managed to stay relevant in this insane, roller coaster of a business.
You’ve been fairly vocal in the past about how shady the record business is. What is your current take on artists like Radiohead and Saul Williams, offering their music for free and then letting fans make a donation if they want to pay for it?
Tim: Anything I say about Radiohead doesn’t matter cause they are a phenomenal band that can do whatever the hell they want. Of course they can afford to give away their music for free because they’re all rich! This day and age, the music business is so insane that nobody knows what’s going on from one day to the next. Whatever way a band can re-invent them self and somehow spearhead some kind of trend, I think that’s good. I think it might hurt some bands, but the music is gonna get out there one way or another and it doesn’t bother me. Radiohead giving away their music for free has no impact on my life. I don’t think it’s a horrible idea, I just think that artists need to get what they deserve. For eons, in all parts of the entertainment industry the artist has always been last to get paid. I think in this day and age artists have a little bit more control of what they can do with their music and a million more avenues to get their music out there. I think for far too long the control has been in the suits hands and they determine where artists are going to end up in year; treating bands like stock. The only thing people like us can do is keep your music fresh and keep creating art. If you keep writing good music sooner or later something is gonna happen.
In 2006 Vision of Disorder did a couple reunion shows and there was a talk of a DVD release. What is the status of that release and would you ever reunite for a full tour?
Tim: I don’t think we’d ever do a full tour, but we will probably do some major cities here and there. We’re lucky that people even want to see that band anymore, so we’re not going to milk it. We’ll look at cities that we think would be cool to play, maybe head to Japan or something, but we’re going to keep it limited. As far as the DVD, it’s just been a bitch because Mike and I are in Bloodsimple and tied to Warner Bros., so the paper work is at our lawyers but it’s taken a while to clear all the red tape. It looks like there is an end in sight, so we’re hoping to have it out possibly this summer, even though it was supposed to be out last summer.
Have you seen Vision of Disorder’s fan base grow now that the internet has made the material readily accessible to a wider audience?
Tim: It’s been a long time, but supposedly there are more Vision of Disorder fans out there now than there ever was. I think it’s pretty funny, but at the same time I haven’t seen any hardcore significant proof of that. I do hear a lot about Vision of Disorder and for that I’m thankful. To me, the best part of our career was the first five songs of “Imprint”, but again that’s another story. [chuckles]
To wrap things up what do you think that Red Harvest brings to the table musically for someone who hasn’t heard it?
Tim: A hard hitting, very different, organic sounding record. That’s what I tell everyone who asks me that question, because I think it sums it up. If someone out there likes heavy music and is looking for something that has a punch and a bite, with some serious fucking dynamics, then this record is for you. [ END ]