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Interview with A Textbook Tragedy guitarist & vocalist Kai Turmann

When a man the size of Kai Turmann asks, “Do you want to do it in my van?” you say, “Yes.” And that’s where we agreed to conduct the following interview. With no room we decided to man it out on Bathurst Street across from Sneeky Dee’s. We talked about A Textbook Tragedy’s latest release, their music video, their intense sound and upcoming releases. All this…



When a man the size of Kai Turmann asks, “Do you want to do it in my van?” you say, “Yes.” And that’s where we agreed to conduct the following interview. With no room we decided to man it out on Bathurst Street across from Sneeky Dee’s. We talked about A Textbook Tragedy’s latest release, their music video, their intense sound and upcoming releases. All this before I was fortunate enough to check out the rough cuts of the soon to be released EP, which I am completely stoked on. Check it out!

Let me start off by saying thank you. Thank you for not sounding like every other hardcore band out there!
Kai: Nice dude! Thanks!

You’re welcome!
Kai: Thank you for acknowledging that.

[laughs] So what’s the writing process like for you personally?
Kai: For me personally, or like for the band or….

Just you.
Kai: Just me? The writing process for me; it’s like we all kinda, me, Adam and Nick, Adam the other guitar player, and Nick the drummer, we all like are the guys who write the riffs, Nick writes guitar riffs cause he’s a sick guitar player too and for me like, I write most of the lyrics. On the last two records I wrote all the lyrics and we just did an EP and I wrote four of the five songs then Chris wrote one song lyrically, which was awesome, it turned out great. So for me like in the past I’ve taken songs and just made stories out of them. Maybe I didn’t feel inspired enough to write about my own life, you know what I mean? I just write like zombie stories and shit but on the new EP we just did which is like gonna out in a couple months or something like that, I don’t know when. It’s kind of like 5 tracks just to show kids what we’re up to, you know what I mean?

Kai: Like a transition between Intimidator and the next record. On that I wrote about touring, I wrote about shit that was like, real to my life which I like so its always changing but, I don’t know man, the writing process is; usually I sit on my laptop and listen to the song over and over again until it’s like flowing and once I get it flowing it’s like easy, you know what I mean? It might take me like 5 hours to get that first line and that first line will branch off and in an hour I’m done the song so, you know, it just depends. But I’ve been pretty fast, like the EP, I wrote those songs so fast and I think lyrically it’s the best songs we’ve written and I call out bands and I do all sorts of crazy shit. Letting the, I don’t know, letting all my anger out from the last 6 years of touring like, even anger towards like the Canadian music industry, stuff like that. Shit that bugs me like being away on tour and like hating it at times and loving it at times, you know? Yeah.

Cool. How do you manage to be intense, heavy and technical in every song?
Kai: I think, honestly, Nick, our drummer would never let us have a moment where he felt it was filler. I find, I think we all as a band find like every band that we love, no matter what it is, no matter how amazing the band is almost every record they have has like a filler song. Where it’s like “Why is this on here? Why don’t you just not put it on?” For us, it’s just we want to make sure that every record we put out is like, or every song we do, it doesn’t fill like filler ever. It’s just, it’s supposed to be there, it’s supposed to be that way for a reason so like, it just comes out. I think also, like, we put a lot of thought into how harsh it sounds like vocally and how like “This part should be a low scream and this part should be a high yell or high scream.” I think when you really like take everything into consideration, you can make a heavy part sound beautiful or you can make a heavy part sound like, absolutely brutal, you know? Just by changing the way you scream or like the way you make the chord dissonant so we just put a lot of thought into it I think. I don’t know man, I’m stoked that you think that though man. [laughs]

You’re welcome then! [both laugh] On Monday, you guys are headlining a Tribute to Salad Fingers. Why does David Firth’s character deserve a tribute? Not to say that he doesn’t deserve it, just your opinion on it.
Kai: Well, it’s not really like [laughs] it’s just we took the show, we wanted to do a Toronto headliner show ‘cause like it seems always, [tonight] is 19+, you can fit two hundred people in there and most of them are like industry people like, we just wanted to play an all ages show and let anyone from the surrounding areas who wouldn’t be able to come see us, come see us, you know ‘cause there’s gonna be a few kids from like Barrie or Newmarket that are coming out to see us. The Salad Fingers thing? I don’t know man; I don’t know anything about Salad Fingers so I almost feel weird about having our name on the tribute to him. For this like, maybe they should find bands that like Salad Fingers, you know what I mean? I’m sure it’s awesome [laughs] I never got into it man, I don’t know, does he deserve a tribute? Probably, but not by our band but we’ll just play a cool set and hopefully that won’t matter, that we aren’t Salad Fingers fans man.

Hopefully it’ll make him happy.
Kai: [laughing] Yeah that’d be cool man.

Yeah, so you’re new album dropped earlier this month, on the 4th to be exact, what has the response been like thus far?
Kai: Oh, Intimidator? It came out actually a year ago in Canada, Intimidator.

[pauses] really? I read March… wait, you’re right! It did say 2008 now that I think about it, I just, I’ll blame it on all the drugs in high school.
Kai: That’s cool. [both laugh] Well, it came out basically like, Intimidator received well. I think that we, it came out in Canada a year ago and it came out in the UK, we did a UK tour recently, it just came out there so it received well and we’re stoked, we’re a lot more stoked on what we’re working on, you know, Like future songs, future albums. The new EP, like I keep talking about, is gonna be out hopefully by like June, I guess. It’s so much better and so much, I think our songs, we’re kind of focusing on having, just writing songs that’ll be awesome live and fun live and they have to be obviously equally as good on record but if we can write a record full of songs that we can play live and everyone’s gonna go crazy then that’s cool right?

Can you give us a little bit of a teaser on the upcoming album? Like names of songs or name of the album?
Kai: We don’t know that it’s gonna be called yet, we’ve been tossing around some ideas, so I can’t even say what it’s gonna be called. The only song we’ve titled, there’s five songs and the only song with a name is called “Lincoln City” and we’re playing that tonight. That’s a song that our singer wrote the lyrics too, it’s the first song he’s written lyrics to, which is cool. He’s got, our singer’s had a lot of like, he’s got a lot more personal hardships in his life then I’ve had. When I write about personal shit its all about like, you know, my opinions on things and he can, on that song, “Lincoln City”, That we’re gonna play tonight, he wrote about like losing someone close to him. It’s a little more like personal. I think kids like to hear some seer songs, you know like, I think when you hear a song about like losing someone or like, you know, someone, that kind of, that style of song writing then everyone can relate to it. ‘Cause everyone’s gone through something like that, you know, so I think it’ll add a new dynamic to the band. I think one thing we’ve been lacking is kids can’t connect to our lyrics. They’re gonna watch an amazing band like The Holly Springs Disaster, everyone loves the words, they sing every word, and I think that’s what we’re achieving, trying to achieve right now. With future releases we want to keep the intensity and keep it musically like, the way it is, but try and connect with kids on that lyrical level, ‘cause that’s something that’s important too.

So having Chris in the band has been a great addition?
Kai: Yeah! It’s great! Chris is crazy and he’s, sometimes I fucking hate him ‘cause, not actually [both laugh] I very temporarily hate him, for the crazy things he can do and say but like, I think a frontman is supposed to be kind of crazy, you know what I mean? Like, I look at all our favourite bands and I look at like, crazy Mike Froh over there from Holly Springs, he’s a crazy dude, right? And that’s what they’re supposed to be! I mean, when we were a four-piece, I guess I can be crazy, but I was playing guitar and I couldn’t really connect with the crowd and Chris, he can connect with the crowd and get kids pumped up and that’s cool man, we love it. It’s way better as a five-piece, yeah man.

Awesome! You’re video “Dude, I’m On Alesse”, is a wicked video….
Kai: Thanks man!

It appears that the victims in the video are being chased by shadows, are you guys Doctor Who fans at all?
Kai: That’s interesting, no, I know Doctor Who, I’ve never studied it or watch a ton of it, you know what I mean, but like, that’s interesting. We didn’t really know, the reason we did that is because Much Music won’t play like anything with like blood or guns or knives so we were hoping that we’d get a little bit of play on Much Music, which we did, I mean, it’s heavy so it’s not going to get played much but I think the idea is just kinda stalker. Stalker idea and we all love horror movies so we couldn’t do a horror movie like the way we wanted to do it with the gore and stuff but I think it’s effective with like Bill, our bass player, like running through the halls and getting dragged so it’s kinda cool. Like just playing off he shadows we filmed it in this like crazy mental institution, there was like claw marks on the walls, and just crazy shit!

Oh yeah?
Kai: It was fun to film, definitely creepy. Like at night time the halls are empty and there’s like 5000 rooms in there man. It’s like you’d walk down the hall and you’d get like lost, it’s like “Where am I?” and you hear noises, it’s cool man. We were all on edge man; it’s an edgy music video.

Yeah, I don’t know if I could do that personally.
Kai: Yeah, totally!

Dude from The Februarys: Hey sorry to interrupt; do any of you guys want beer?
Kai: I’m gonna grab one in the van, don’t worry.

Dude from The Februarys: Alright!
[laughing] I’ll grab one after man! Thanks!

Kai: Thanks dude!

[laughs] Who’s that?
Kai: Oh, that’s our friend he’s in a band called The Februarys, yeah.

Kai: Yeah, they’re on Wind Up, kind of a Pop band, cool guys.

Alright, so back to your album, The Intimidator, the cover art, is that a picture of “the intimidator”?
Kai: Our friend Cody did all the art work; he did the art for like Living With Lions and some Daggermouth, a bunch of cool bands out of Vancouver. When we approached him to do the artwork we kinda let him do his own thing so he did like, what he thought would be intimidating things and an intimidating shape. All the panels and the artwork are like kinda things that could tie-in, like, cool, abstract things that could be really intimidating. We love what he did, it’s something that, he’s into a lot of cartoony stuff, his career is kind of, his art career and this is first really serious, um, album cover so he did a really great job. We’re happy with it, it’s cool.

Yeah, I love the grills and the Edward Scissorhands hands.
Kai: The grills! Dude, those rims that are on the cover are actually Adam’s rims. Our douche bag guitar player Adam has those rims on his truck at home, and we make fun of him everyday for having rims and we put them on our album cover. The next time you look at it you’ll see these rims, these truck rims and that’s his tires, it’s fuckin’ awesome.

So after this tour finishes up, what do you have planned?
Kai: We’re gonna go home, we want to get the new EP, lie, those 5 songs, really tight live, like, we want to get them out, we want to get kids hearing them. I think we’re gonna, I’ll toss out a few ideas, I think we’re gonna try and come back out here in a couple months, nothing’s solidified right now, just looking at the offers we have right now, we want to do the States soon and here’s Bill right here.

Hey man! Want to say a word to the fans?
Kai: Fart.

Bill: Fart! [everyone laughs]

Kai: So yeah, I mean, I think our next six months, we want to come back out here at least once, we’ll probably do just a western Canadian Tour. We’ll probably do, at least western US, like California and back, we’re working on that, and we’ll probably go back to the UK ‘cause we said the UK. So we’ll probably, I think, when is it? It’s March so probably September, October so six or seven months from now we’ll probably go back to the UK. So that’s it, it’s hard man, we’re trying to like, there’s a fine line, you get to a point where, you can look at a band that’s like a little bit bigger then us. Even like Misery Signals, we just did a tour of the UK with them, like that band’s constantly booked, and constantly on the road, we’re sort of like, we’re not quite there so we’ll go on tour and we’ll go home for like a month then we’ll figure out when our next tour is so it’s not like, consistent but we’re still touring like half the year, which is cool. I don’t know man, I think I wouldn’t want to tour like ten or eleven months of the year unless we were like a little bit bigger to, you know, you gotta be able to be at a certain level so you can be stoked every night. On this tour it’s been great and we’re obviously like, The Holly Springs Disaster draws huge and our last few tours, like the Cancer Bats tour in the UK with Architects and Misery Signals, when we do those tours we stay stoked ‘cause like when you can play to at least 300 – 400 kids a night, it’s amazing right? It feels good, when we first started we played to ten kids a night and it was hard to tour six months of the year playing to ten kids. We didn’t do it for too long, luckily we got a really, we’ve been lucky to gain fans on every tour it’s just like, it’s a struggle to build up a fan base. Until you have, until you’re playing to 300 kids a night or more, it’s like, it’s hard to stay really stoked on tour, when you’re missing people at home. You’re like “I could be at home instead of playing to like 50 kids.” You know? But we’re stoked right now, we’re at a really good place and I think 2009 and 2010 will be our best stuff that we’ve done, we’ll put out a new record, we’ll put out the new EP so all that stuff will be cool, yeah man!  [ END ]

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