THE RED CHORD
TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This interview with Guy Kozowyk of The Red Chord was done face to face by Sam Warren on June 29th, 2005.
Guy took a little time after a Sounds of the Underground show to share his thoughts with us and answer some questions. So we sat down in the poorly ventilated Jagermeister blow-up tent and yelled into a piece of shit tape-recorder that barely recorded our voices over the sound of the giant fan next to us.
Allright, I’m here with Guy from Red Chord, how are ya?
Awesome! So you guys have been on the road for a little while and now you’re doing a few of the Sounds of the Underground shows. After that what’s up?
Yeah, we’re doing the first eight shows of the sounds tour, we’ve been out pretty much this whole year. We’ve been touring almost solid since the beginning of February up until about now. The theme of the year is kinda just to play our asses off. We roll out of this and go home for like 10 days or something, and then we go out with Between the Buried and Me and a band called From a Second Story Window. That’s about a four or five week run, and we’ll follow that up with Hellfest. Then we go right into the Everytime I Die and High on Fire tour. Right after that we go into a European tour with Bury Your Dead. That should take us up to about Thanksgiving, and the way things are looking, after that we might be heading for Japan, Australia and Hawaii.
When the hell are you going home!
Haha, well we’re not really! Well, probably not until after New Years or something.
Damn, that’s intense. So I heard you did something like 400+ shows in support of the Fused album, or some crazy number like that right?
Well, actually we just celebrated our 500th career show probably within the last week. When we were signing with Metal Blade last summer, and we were doing our bio’s and all that stuff, we kinda did a show count, and we were like “Holy shit we did like 400 shows!”
Haha I can imagine.
Yeah, it kinda flew by you know? So then we didn’t really do much at the end of last year… we went into the recording and you know, it had been over 400 at that point. We already did something like 80 shows this year. So I think we had figured it out that it was either last week, this week, or next week we would hit 500.
That’s a ton of shows dude. What do you think the average number of shows a band does per album? It can’t be near 500 shows for 2 albums!
It’s kinda hard to say because a lot of times there’ll be a metal band that can get away with doing one or two tours. You got those big bands that are huge to the point that they’ll make their money and make their mark and do their thing. They’re not over-saturated. They don’t have to do all these support runs you know? For the Red Chord, we were on such a small label previously…
Robotic Empire or something like that right?
Yeah that’s the one. And really anything and everything that we could do, it was never too much. We had to get out there and slave ‘em. Every time an opportunity would come up, you know, we didn’t have a booking agent, so either I would book them myself or we’d get an offer here and there. We didn’t want to turn them down because you don’t wanna blow an opportunity.
There were a couple of times where we had windows where we probably could have all jumped on and done it full time and kept going. But there was always something, either one person that wasn’t down, or one guy that couldn’t leave work or the girlfriend. Finally it got to the point where we got the label, we got the record under our belt and we were all heading in the same direction so we decided to take it as far as we possibly could.
Makes sense, and when you formed the band, were you originally planning to create a cross-over band, or did it just sort of happen in the process?
Well, I mean, I guess there was a little bit of chance but at the same time it was kind of intentional. I’ve been jamming with Kevin, the other guitarist, for close to ten years now. When I first started jamming with him in another band, he was playing drums at the time and I was singing, we were like 14 or 15 years old. Five years later when I was in college I was talking to Kevin and we were all kinda serious about getting things going. And when we got the opportunity to work with our original drummer and we found the other guitarist, Gunface, that’s what we call him, we were kinda at the initial stages of The Red Chord. It was like “well, what do you want to do with this band” and we thought “well, we’re all really into death metal, and there’s a lack of really solid death metal bands.” But at the same time, we were really inspired by the actual atmosphere of punk rock and hardcore cuz there was just such energy in it. I was just a hardcore kid that loved going to all the shows, dancing and singing along, and we wanted to bring that into the band as well. At the same time though I was kinda bored with a lot of the hardcore, and if I wasn’t at one of the shows, I didn’t really want to be playing straight up hardcore because it was getting boring you know? So when we started doing this, there really weren’t many bands doing the grind, hardcore, metal, cross-over type stuff. So at one point I was talking to the guys, and was like “well, I think we got some real talent. If I can start putting stuff in motion, and try to turn this into the biggest underground hardcore band, and you guys are all down…” and everyone, of course, was like “yeah allright! Let’s go for this!” You know, when the record first came out, we were like “yeah! We wanna sell 2,000 copies! 5,000 copies! 10,000 copies!”
Haha, exactly how many has Fused sold so far? Do you know the numbers?
Yeah, it’s up to about 28,000 world-wide for the first one.
Yeah, of course none of them are sound-scanned so up until now we didn’t have them selling in HMV’s and Hot Topic’s. Now people are recognizing the actual sales you know? When we used to tell people that we sold 25,000 records, they would be like “yeah right,” but now we got Metal Blade coming out saying “These guys are gonna sell 25,000 plus records.” When you’ve got someone in the corner backing you up like that it builds a great deal of credibility you know? It definitely helps get you to go through with it you know? We’re really fortunate with where we’re at and hopefully we’ll take it for another 500 shows man.
Lets hope so dude, I’ll keep my fingers crossed, haha. So skipping to a more relevant question, how do you like Metal Blade? It’s obviously helped you guys with a publicity boost, because they get their shit everywhere.
The way that we set up our contract and the way that went into this deal with Metal Blade… well, we’re a very self-reliant band in that DIY, ethical, underground hardcore kinda way. But in order to do all the stuff that we need to do, we needed that professionalism that a label like Metal Blade can offer. But the way our deal is set up, I figured in my mind that if we go out and do exactly what we’ve done for the last four or five years, and bust our asses touring, than good things are gonna come our way. That’s kinda my whole outlook you know? If you don’t wanna work than you’re not gonna get anywhere. And with Metal Blade it’s like, well, our CD’s can get in stores, and they just move along with what we’re doing. But it’s still so much more than that because the staff is behind us and the owners and publicists have been pushing it so hard that it makes our jobs so much easier. Now it’s like, I just go out on the road and tour, and do the same shit that I used to do but I know that I’ve got a team backing me. It’s really an amazing feeling and I’m really fortunate to be working with such great people.
Who had the original concept idea for Clients, and what can you tell us about the inspiration behind it?
Ok well, I’m gonna give you some real insight into the origin, and then more information on what it turned into.
Ok, go ahead.
A lot of times, a bunch of bands, will start out with just a song title or something they wanna use, and then everything kinda falls into place. Now, I have to give the Clients name, credit to Black Dahlia Murder. Who told me about one of the guy’s brothers, or something like that, who worked for a retard bus company. And instead of saying “well I gotta pick up the retard,” or “I gotta go pick up the handicap,” they actually were told that they have to say “I have to go pick up the client.” So initially Red Chord was on shaky terms and we were just fuckin around and we didn’t know what the hell was going on with the next record. We had about a song or two written for the record, and I was like “well, what if we call the record Clients.” Meaning, mentally disabled people. And we were like “yeah!” because a lot of Red Chord stuff is very tongue in cheek, with dual meanings to everything. At the same time I was in the process of writing this book with all of these short stories from the place that I work at. I worked behind a food counter of sorts, at this weird pharmacy like place. And because of its location next to this mental house and to the train station which served as a sort of halfway house for a lot of rehabilitating drug addicts, I started getting all of these stories about the actual clientele I was dealing with. So in a lot of ways, it got real serious real fast because I was inspired by the fact that I had a title called “Clients” and it was gonna mean retards. However, now it’s going to mean the actual clientele of a business. So the book idea I’m still kinda working on in between tours, who knows if and when I’ll ever get it done. A lot of the songs started out as the stories from these characters that I met, that were real live people. I would write a song, or a story rather, that was more like a stream of consciousness, essay type thing that would be like 5, 6, 7 pages. I had one story about a guy named Black Santa, I got another one about Antman, I got another story about this guy named Twoline Creek. And all of a sudden it’s like “well what am I gonna write about these songs?” because I have to keep up with the rest of my band writing these crazy things. So it goes from being like a 5 page essay to a much more stripped down piece of writing which lends itself to be much more interpretive.
So you end up getting these uh… vague lines written from different perspectives and stuff, a lot of it having to do with schizophrenia and mental illness and real life people. The stories are a lot of accounting of… well somebody in my band described it as kind of a legacy of the afflicted. You’re dealing with a group of people who are a very under-represented group. You’re dealing with homeless people, schizophrenics, rehabilitated drug addicts, compulsive gamblers and alcoholics. And when you put anyone under a microscope, everyone has these issues more than you’ll ever know. In a lot of ways, everyone is someone else’s client. Everybody’s a pain in the ass, everybody’s a little bit strange and a little fucked-up and… dare I say… a little bit retarded.
Haha I think you can say that.
I know that I am. I got all these weird habits, like from the point when I was a little kid, I have a weird callus right here (points to his ring finger)… how do you hold your pencil? Yeah, well I graduated college and did well and all that stuff, but I still hold my pencil like this (indicates a way of holding a pencil that isn’t quite the norm) and write like I’m some sort of fuckin’ monkey. Because in my brain I can’t comprehend the fact that I can’t write like every other normal person. At any point in time, other than today and I’m kinda flippin out because of it, I always have at least 3 to 4 pens on me. Because I freak out unless I have a pen on me. I have to have my cell phone in one pocket, and the pens have to be in the same pocket as the cell phone, but as long as I can tell that the pens are there, it’s fine. Oh, you know what, I do have a pen on me haha. So I’ll have my cell phone in one pocket, my keys and wallet on the other side. If I were to go on tour in Europe where my cell phone won’t work and my keys are totally irrelevant, in a lot of ways, I will freak the fuck out. I will be anxious and jittery even though I guess I’m normal by some standards, as that I don’t have any learning disabilities. But I still have all these weird little things, I twitch my nose weird sometimes, I look Chinese when I squint my eyes, I don’t know. I just mean that if you put me under a microscope I’ll have the same traits that I’m pickin up.
In that respect I guess we all do.
Exactly, so it’s just like, I’ll deal with someone who… are you familiar with Keno? It’s a Massachusetts lottery game where balls pop up on a screen and you gamble money on which balls will pop up. So as I was saying, I’ll deal with people, while I’m at work, who will drop 400 dollars on Keno, and just blow it. You know blowing the kid’s college fund or something. And they’ll look over at someone who’s got 500 dollars worth of scratch tickets that they just blew their paycheck on, and be like “can you believe this freak throwing out his money?” Because he can’t comprehend the fact that he’s a piece of shit blowing his kid’s college fund just like the guy with the scratch tickets whose a piece of shit blowing his kid’s college fund. People don’t see it, and it’s like, the record originally started out being named Clients after mentally disabled people, and then it went into being this crazy ambitious concept record. So I really like the fact that, depending on where you’re standing, the record has whole many different perspectives. Its like that book “Sound of the Fury” where it was written from the perspective of a mentally challenged person. It was mandatory highschool reason when I was in it, but it was one of those books that you could never tell exactly where the narrator was coming from. The Red Chord has always been about that. On the last album, part of it was written from the perspective of a pigeon that had just been hit by a train and was laying on the tracks looking at other birds. A lot of times you won’t know what perspective one of the songs is coming from, like, I could write a whole song from the perspective of a door knob but the listener might not really realize it. So I hope that people read the lyrics and that people think. That’s the whole thing really, perspective and inspiration, and you put your own thoughts in the process. Sorry for being long-winded.
Haha give me a break, it’s better for you to talk more than less. So, do you have a favorite song from Clients?
Umm… Black Santa. Black Santa is a real guy that I’ve met… he’s incredibly schizophrenic. Him and the character Antman live in the same mental house, and depending on when you talk to them, they’re either the best of friends or the worst of enemies. The main reason that he’s called Black Santa, is incredibly obvious… he’s a black guy that kinda resembles Santa Claus. One day while talking to him… I would always write down crazy stuff that he was saying because he was always all over the place… I was tape recording and he told me that he had no penis. So I said “what do you mean you have no penis? You’ve got a deep voice, facial hair, you look like a guy.” He was like “Well, I’m telling you people, that I have no penis.” So I said “allright, what happened to your penis?” And he said “Penis was from heaven, and it went to hell.” And from there it had quickly gone onto the topic of David and Goliath, and from there it had went to all sorts of religion and stuff like that. This guy is always babbling about 1950’s movie stars and stuff like that. So now, when I actually wrote the song Black Santa, it went from being Black Santa sitting around smoking a silly sweet in total anticipation because he’s supposed to defend the world against the evil Antman. And they were going to have this big battle to the death, kinda like the larger than life superheroes and supervillains. And he’s smokin’ and he’s anxious, and he’s gonna fuck this guy up. This is the war of the worlds, the end all be all, the winner takes all. And as he’s on his way to the big final battle with Antman, he goes off on a schizophrenic episode where he starts talking about his views on life and 1950’s movie stars. Never ends up making it to the battle, totally forgets about what he was doing, and returns to shaking because he forgot his medication. So you can look at it like I’m not trying to poke fun at anyone because I’m just as screwed up as everybody else. But if I didn’t tell the story, I don’t think anyone else would. In a lot of ways, I was really worried about having the music so out of control and awesome. I really look up to what my guys have written so that I’m forced to try and step up and write something really original as well. I didn’t wanna be writing about what’s in my heart, and true to my grave, or my ex-girlfriend, or the “blood of integrity” or shit like that. Conspiracy theory, game plan system project, whatever the hell a lot of these other bands are doing. And another thing we really didn’t wanna get lumped into was the typical death metal, entrails ripped from a virgins face, slittin throats, rapin bitches, porno-grind and shit. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve kinda gotten irritated with the over saturation of bands that haven’t done anything. They just picked up an Atreyu CD or something and made a band. I’m not gonna take anything away from the big bands of the different genres, but a lot of what has come from them hasn’t brought anything new to the table. There’s a lot of second-generation stuff right now and unfortunately where we had so long in between records, and a lot of it was so underground that I was really worried about Red Chord getting lumped into the whole metalcore genre. I hate the term metalcore, I don’t wanna be associated with it. Years ago it was cool to be metalcore, at least in my eyes, because I was really getting into metal and hardcore and there were bands like Converge, Turmoil and Shai Halud who were doing it. It was crazy back then. Now metalcore is starting to sound trite and people are really quick to throw that label on anything. I kinda like the term grind more than anything else, because even though we’re not a grindcore band by traditional standards, I’d rather be a grindcore or grind-metal band or whatever rather than a metalcore band.
Definitely, though you don’t really have to worry about where the Red Chord stands. If anything you’re taking the reigns to create something different and I think the majority of people who hear you guys realize that.
I just hope that if anybody gets anything out of the CD it’s that you should go out, try something different, try something new. I was really influenced by Earth Crisis, because while all of these hardcore bands were rambling about “what’s inside of” ‘em and “true to this” and “true to that”, Earth Crisis came out and was talking about something entirely different. Now I’m not vegan, or anywhere close to straight-edge, but the whole idea of tackling something entirely different, was totally crazy. That of course inspired all these other bands to go vegan, straight-edge or whatever, talking about animal-liberation and blowing up McDonalds but it all gets misconstrued along the way. I hope that people will listen to Clients, or read an interview like this, and think, “well let’s try something different, because there’s enough of the same stuff… there’s enough eye-liner and women’s pants in the world right now.” Just try something different and give it a shot, and I think that if you really try and you really work at it and if you really attempt to bring something new to the table, that you’ll make it. At least hopefully, I’ll keep my fingers crossed, and my hat’s off to anyone who tries to do something different.
I hear you loud and clear.
Oh by the way, one band’s dude, whose lyrics, I think people should definitely check out, is the guy from Everytime I Die. Whether you love ‘em of hate ‘em as a band, I find that a lot of what that dude writes about is incredibly witty and amusing. It’s kinda cool because, with all the predictable stuff out there, people don’t know where he’s coming from or what he’s doing. It’s all about perspective. I really respect them because they’re doing something different you know. There’s too many bands to mention all at once, as to who I respect that is.
What do you think of Between the Buried and Me?
I love Between the Buried and Me. We’re actually doing a tour with them after this and we had this little crew of bands for a while. The term sob crew ended up getting coined by somebody in victory. Because we had The Red Chord, Premonitions of War, Between the Buried and Me, A life Once Lost, Black Dahlia Murder, and a bunch of bands on my label. It was just kinda funny, cuz it was all of these bands that were burnt out for a while and weren’t getting big tour offers. So we were like “fuck it, why not just keep going out together.” So for a while, every tour we did was “The Red Chord with A Life Once Lost” or “The Red Chord with Between the Buried and Me” and so on and so forth. So this summer we’re doing the original “sob crew tour revisited”, it’ll be Between the Buried and Me, The Red Chord and Premonitions of War. I love Between the Buried and Me. I don’t know much about their lyrics, but I absolutely love the band. The new stuff I heard was amazing and I can’t wait to see ‘em.
So you mentioned that you have a record label. Can you tell us a little about it?
I have a label, it’s called Black Market Activities. The label is distributed by Metal Blade Records. A lot of people seem to think that it’s a sub-label of Metal Blade, which it isn’t. It’s owned and operated and run out of my house. I don’t have a set label deal with Metal Blade, they just put my stuff in stores. The advertising comes out of my pocket and so forth.
It’s pretty successful so far isn’t it?
Yeah, it’s going good. It’s been really amazing because I get to work with some of my favorite bands ever. From a Second Story Window has been the biggest success so far, selling about 10,000 records so far. But just watching that band go from playing 12 person shows to packed shows has been amazing. So basically it’s been great to work with From a Second Story Window, Psyopus, Ed Gein, Born From Pain, and Pariah. I’ve got a new Cd coming out at the end of the summer from a band called Animosity. I met those kids about 3 or 4 years ago when we were on tour, and they were these little kids that played with us. They were like 15 or 16, still in high school. And 2 or 3 years later I get a call from the singer being like “I’m 17, we just got out of high-school, we recorded a demo, why don’t you give it a listen.” It’s like The Red Chord meets Carcass or something like that. Very death metal sounding, very brutal. They were just out with Into the Moat and Psyopus earlier this year for like 5 weeks. They’re rolling into a tour with Malevolent Creation and Origin after that. I think that that will be the next big release. You know, fingers crossed, it’s really hard to keep up with it, but I love doing it and it’s been really amazing for me to work with these bands and watch them grow. It’s like reliving the beginning of the Red Chord.
Well dude, I think that’s pretty much it; we covered most of the questions during the conversation. Is there anything else you wanna say to your fans and all of the readers?
Yeah, sorry I’m so long-winded! But seriously, I really appreciate you taking the time to do the interview. We’re really trying to play to everybody that come to see us. Hopefully people won’t get burnt out on us! We wanna hit the metal crowd, hit the hardcore crowd, and hit the grindcore crowd you know. Hopefully I’ll be talking to you again after we’ve done another 500 shows.
Thanks a lot, I’ll see you around dude!
Thanks again, see ya.
Thanks so much to Guy for answering each of the questions in length and for taking the time to do the interview period. Go check out "Clients," it won't disappoint!
Links of interest:
The Red Chord
Black Market Activities
Metal Blade Records