Steel Nation (PA) 2009 Interview
-Letâ€™s get this one out of the way. How did you get started into hardcore, metal, crossover, thrash, etc? Your influences are plain to see, but perhaps they differ from how you got into the styles. Donâ€™t be afraid to say something like Limp Bizkit, we wonâ€™t judge. Each member can provide his own answer, or the band can answer collectively. Alex: Just from kids I skated with I guess... Rancid, Misfits, Slayer, etc. Ethan: From hanging out with my older sister and her friends, they were into bands like Sick Of It All and I just started going to shows with them. -Steel Nation. The Steelers. You boys are obviously proud of the area you represent. What do you love about your hometown? What, on the other hand, is in need of improvement around your way? Ethan: None of us are actually from Pittsburgh. I grew up about an hour south in West Virginia but I would always be up in Pittsburgh for shows. Right now only me and Neil are living in Pittsburgh. Alex and Steve are still in the Harrisburg area. I just like Pittsburgh, its nice and laid back. -On that note, all Iâ€™ve been hearing over the years is how the fall of natural resource industries in PA has severely affected both the local economy, peopleâ€™s quality of life, and environment. The lyrics on your A389 Records 7â€ The New Nation reveal you to be a band that is, at the very least, politically aware of the dire state we are living in. How close to home is the pain? Steve: All of those lyrics were written by our old singer Pat, so they're not really what our band is about anymore, but it is true that things are getting tougher. My father, who just turned 58 and was hoping to retire in 2 years was recently forced to take a 10 percent pay-cut just so the trucking company he works for can stay afloat. This company is also going to be laying off 3,000 employees so his job is not safe. It's tough to see a man who's worked hard his entire life get dicked around when he's trying to cash in his chips and relax, finally. It's tough knowing that the people he can blame for it are those that are able to survive any sort of economic crunch, unlike most working men. -How do you spend your days? Alex: Working and thinking about the Steelers, and stuff like that. Steve: Alex and I spend most of our days making burritos at a local burrito restaurant. You know, drinking, smoking, same old shit. Ethan: Working at a hockey store, playing ice hockey, video games, going to the gym... just hanging out when I am not working. -Do you follow mainstream politics much? What are your opinions on Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton â€œrunningâ€ the country now? Does the government run the country like the claim to? Or do you feel corporate lobbies and Wall Street have hijacked the country and its economy long ago? Feel free to state your positions on this or any related issues that interest you. Alex: I don't follow it at all. A lot of people just have to put themselves and their families first, they have to put their heads down and work and don't have time for politics. Ethan: I really don't care too much about following any of that. I don't really feel like there is much that I can do about it so I just focus more on myself. I didn't really care too much who won the election, I think either candidate would have been better than Bush. -Hardcore intended to be anti-mainstream, and to promote ideals that went against the common beliefs. While this element seems to have sadly taken a backseat to fashion and imagery, some bands still do bring some awareness-raising to the table. Do you intend for Steel Nation to provoke reflection or discussion on lifestyle and social/political responsibility? Steve: Steel Nation's lyrics are about the day-to-day challenge of living your life and trying to do the best you can with what you've got. Dealing with the pain and suffering that life can throw your way from losing important people in your life to when you can't seem to catch a fucking break. -Are conspiracies at all of interest to you? If so, which ones? Please describe in detail if any. Steve: It seems like the Steelers get lots of horseshit calls when they play the Patriots. Look it up. -How did your relationship with Baltimoreâ€™s A389 Records come about? Do you often fight about songwriting direction? For example, does he say â€œOK guys, I want to be the next Victory Records, so I want you to be the next Integrity. Write more Frank 3 Gun solos.â€ Surely you have heard Domâ€™s recent bands Slumlords and Pulling teeth, but have you ever rocked out to his material in Day of Mourning? Your thoughts on Domâ€™s bands? Donâ€™t be afraid to rip him a new asshole if you donâ€™t like one of his bands. Alex: We played at the Sidebar in Baltimore with Shattered Realm and Dom [owner, A389 Records] saw us for the first time. So did Pete and Nick from Double or Nothing Records. We sent Dom the finished product basically, I think he wanted us to master it but that was it. I'm not sure he even knew what it would really sound like, I mean we had a demo at the time but that was it. And that's cool. He never gave us a hard time about anything really, even though we're idiots. Ethan: That show was a big deal for us, it seemed like it was the first time anyone really paid attention to our set and was into it. As far as song writing goes, we never really fight about anything or don't try and go for a certain sound. I'd like to think that our band represents everything that influences us in life. Day of Mourning was a pretty cool band, I never listened to them much but I knew about them. -Since the excessively metal-influenced 90â€™s ended, hardcore seems to have reverted to the 80â€™s, with punk and old-school hardcore a more common influence than Nike Dunks. Why do you think this drastic shift took place when it did? What bands and elements of the 90â€™s scene do you remember fondly, and which are you happy to be gone? How about hardcore since 2000? Any particular or life-altering experiences, shows, or impressions? Ethan: I think everything just goes in cycles... In a few years it will be something new and all the bands will sound different. I don't think that anything caused the shift, it is just one of those things that happens. I just miss better bands being around in the 90s, it seemed like every time I saw bands they could actually play and had their shit together. I think these days, bands are just doing too much before they are ready. It has been awhile since I've been to any kind of show that I would consider life-altering... seeing All Out War and Ringworm at Peabody's in Cleveland in 2003 or so was pretty rad. -On that note, itâ€™s plain to see that Steel Nation loves riffs, and double-bass drumming. This was extremely taboo in hardcore merely a few years ago. Even Integrity and Ringworm, bands you guys obviously are gaga for, were barely talked about until the Holy Terror sound experienced a revival of sorts in recent years and the Integrity skull has begun to rival the Misfitsâ€™ one on the B9 board. Thatâ€™s saying something. So how do you want Steel Nation to be perceived? What exactly are you going for? I mean, your sound is really as metal as it gets for a hardcore band. Alex: I really hope people don't just think we are some "Holy Terror" band. We really don't have anything to do with that. Also, we really don't sound much like Integrity...our old singer was into that a little I guess, he was an Integrity dude, of some kind, and since he was the "frontman" it kind of reflected on the rest of us. None of us really gave a shit what anyone thought but it started to get annoying that we were getting described that way by everyone...because it's dismissive. People have a preconceived notion of a band because of what one or two posers said they sound like. And for some reason that's enough for some people. Steve: It's obvious that we all love most things Ringworm, Integrity, etc. and it's somewhat apparent, but we also love that NYHC groove which I think we tend to go to more on the newer shit that we're writing. -Being obvious fans of Ringworm, are you at all supporters of Godbelow? What are your memories of the band, if any? I mention them because Ringworm released a split CD with them 8 years ago, which was one of the better splits the scene was lucky to hear, and because Godbelow are reuniting shortly for a show and maybe more. Alex: Killer split, love all the songs. Ethan: I remember when that split came out, Godbelow was one of those bands I knew about and thought was cool but didn't really listen to all that much until the past year or so. -On the topic of splits, describe how the relationship with Crucified came about, and what is behind your new split 7â€ with them. Any tour plans to support the release? Alex: we recorded 2 songs in March with our old singer and that basically led to the end of that phase of the band. It was originally intended to be for a split with Shattered Realm, but then we kicked out our singer and it sort of fell apart. Eventually we took those 2 tracks and recorded new vocals over them when we thought we were ready. We met crucified and played with them in California this past Spring, after that they hooked up with Double or Nothing Records this summer and that was that. Ethan: If all goes as planned we should be recording our LP in late March or so and be touring around the summer. -How has member loss affected your band since its formation? Was losing your former singer a big blow or has it brought better things? Steve: I think better things lay ahead for us. The dual vocals allow us to keep things interesting and do more complex stuff that can make the music more dynamic. Now that we're down to a four-piece, we've all really come together with the band. It's always been the four of us from day one, and even before that in some cases. Ethan: These days everyone seems to be on the same page and things work out much easier. -Being from PA, I need to ask about my favourite hardcore band from the BFL crew, Mushmouth/Out To Win. What are your earliest memories of them? Any show experiences, rumors or controversies you used to hear about the self-professed â€œMost Hatedâ€ ? How influential were they on Steel Nation and in your town? Are you looking forward to their upcoming reunion show? Ethan: I really didn't get to see Mushmouth till I moved out to the Philly area for college. They were always a band I was listening to going through high-school, they for sure had an impact on how I looked at hardcore. Hopefully I will be able to make it out to their reunion show. The best Mushmouth/Out To Win show I remember seeing was some place near Allentown, it was them, Strength for a Reason and Knuckledust. -On December 27th, you are performing a show at what is quickly turning into one of the â€œMust Fly To Seeâ€ shows of the year, Shockwaveâ€™s reunion show, with support from Shai Hulud, Borrowed Time, Wisdom in Chains, and Steel Nation. How did you get tapped for this show? With people travelling from all around the world to be hardcore tourists for the day in PA, what are you expecting from the show and overall experience to come? Ethan: I've known Eric for a few years now and when he was booking the show he just asked if we'd want to play it. We are all super pumped to be able to play the show. It is going to be a good time getting to play with friendsâ€™ bands, see bands we like and friends from all over. I'm really just excited to see Borrowed Time, they are probably the best band in hardcore right now as far as I am concerned. -Two of the bands with some of the heaviest riffs of the 90â€™s were xDisciplex AD and Shockwave, not coincidentally, both from PA. How much of an impact did they have on you musically and ideologically? How were Shockwave able to maintain such mystery, even until today? Have you seen the new Quiggle band, Jesus Wept? How are they? Ethan: I don't really know how much musically or ideologically those bands have effected us. xDisciplex AD was a band I listened to from time to time. I got to see them a few times and they were always good. We got to play a show with Jesus Wept at a weirdo church somewhere out by Lancaster, PA. The show sucked but they played well. -You describe yourselves as â€œBluesâ€ among other, heavier styles. Where does this come from? Are we talking real blues, or blues-influenced metal like Entombedâ€™s Wolverine Blues and To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak The Truth? Elaborate. Alex: "Heavy metal is just a bunch of ripped-off blues riffs." -When we interviewed Dan Mills of Cold World and discussed Turmoil, he both professed his love for the band, and also discussed just how unpopular they are in their hometown. Are you fans of Turmoil? Why do you think they have remained so unappreciated over the years? Ethan: Turmoil was pretty cool, I listen to them from time to time. Certainly an awesome live band but other than that I don't know a whole lot about their popularity. I feel like they were appreciated when they were a more active band. I got to see their first show back in Philly, it was wild. I think they'd be more appreciated these days if they were just more active. -Your most memorable shows attended in Philly, and in WV? Ethan: I saw a lot of good shows while I was living in Philly. Seeing All Out War at Club HP ruled. As far as WV goes, Indecision and Kill Your Idols at 123 Pleasant Street and the first time one of my old bands played with Run Devil Run at the same venue. -Best comedy or comedians? Ethan: As far as comedians go, right Kat Williams stand ups are funny. I was lucky enough to see Mitch Hedberg before he died. Arrested Development was probably one of the best shows to be on TV in a long time. -Favorite restaurants or places to eat where youâ€™re from? Ethan: There are a lot of Thai restaurants in Pittsburgh that are good. Thai Place up the street from my house is nice and close. I used to go to the place called the Green Mango a lot until I asked out one of the waitresses there, that ended up not going so well so I kinda have avoided that place since hahah. -Awesome story about Green Mango, care to elaborate? Me and my friends Travis, Colin and Jake from Deathright went to eat there one afternoon the waitress we had was way hot. After we got done eating I went up to her and asked her if she would want to go out sometime. She gave me her number then we went out to dinner a few days later. I had tickets to game 5 of the Rangers Pens series so I figured it would be a smooth move to take her to that. She seemed into it till the day of the game when right before I was going to pick her up she "got sick" and had to go to the doctors hahah. Never heard from her again. It's been awhile since I've been back to eat there hahah. -Are you guys big readers? What is on your place these days? If not readers, how about TV shows or movies? Alex: Oz, Rescue Me, Cormac McCarthy and Gears of War 2. Steve: I'm currently reading Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon which is a mindbender. Pittsburgh Sports and Arrested Development reruns. Come on! Ethan: Testees and NHL games. -Name the people, labels, bands, and anyone else who has helped Steel Nation along the way and deserve mention in this definitive interview. Nick and Pete from Double or Nothing, Dom A389, and all the other people who've helped us out on the way and didn't write us off while we were working out our problems.