Interview by Rachel Jablonski
One week after I spoke with bassist Chad Hanks of American Head Charge, the band endured a very sad and unfortunate turn of events. American Head Charge has been on an uphill struggle with many tough life issues for as long as the band has existed. Sadly, the most current struggle involves the unfortunate and shocking death of band mate Bryan Ottoson (guitarist). I did not know Bryan, but I am deeply saddened for his family and friends and send to them my deepest sympathies.
Chad: Hey, I’m sorry. I was just getting up for the second time today. Sorry I’m calling a little bit late.
[It’s 4:30 in the afternoon]
Rachel: You just woke up?
Chad: Yeah, well I did get up earlier, but we were still driving so I just fell back asleep.
Rachel: Oh, sorry.
Chad: No worries, no worries. It’s already late. I should be getting my ass up anyway.
Rachel: Where are you going?
Chad: Uh, today we’re in um… we’re at The Bomb Shelter in Manchester, New Hampshire. Last night we were in D.C. and then tomorrow night we’re in Allentown.
Rachel: Where did you play in D.C.?
Chad: 9:30 club.
Rachel: Oh, I’ve heard that place is cool. I want to go there.
Chad: Yeah, I have a friend from D.C. and he was saying like maybe 15 years ago you would not want to be on that corner. So I guess they cleaned it up pretty well. It was cool. It was definitely a good sightline, it sounded good, and Mudvayne sounded really tight last night. I actually sat and watched probably two-thirds of the show. It was about the first time I’ve actually sat and watched them that long.
Rachel: Cool. How’s the tour going overall then?
Chad: So far it’s been great. We have Bloodsimple on the bill which is cool because they were on the second half of the OTEP tour with us. We know Kyle [bassist of Bloodsimple] from the band Medication when we toured with Coal Chamber so it was cool to see him again. He’s part of an awesome band. I mean we’re really fuckin glad to be on tour with Bloodsimple. I actually enjoy their music which – it’s hard to say, but there are not many new bands that I like at all. [laugh] They’re actually one of the very, very few. I had never heard of Life of Agony before, we’re starting to get to know them, and we know Mudvayne from Pledge of Allegiance, Ozzfest, and such so we’ve been hanging out. We’ve been hanging out with Chad, Ryan and it’s all good. Everybody’s really friendly.
Rachel: Are you playing stuff strictly from The Feeding?
Chad: Nah, we’re mixing it up. Tonight it’s an off date; it’s just us and Bloodsimple, so we’ll probably add four or five other songs to the set. With Mudvayne we’re dong like 35 minutes so it’s pretty quick and to the point. It’s maybe two-thirds new stuff and one-third old stuff. The old stuff we play is like “All Wrapped Up,” “Seamless,” and, actually its four songs, “All Wrapped Up,” “Seamless,” “Violent Reaction,” and “Pushing the Envelope.” The rest of it’s just trying to get the new record out there and play it.
Rachel: What’s the response been like?
Chad: Good. Right off the bat when we first went on tour before the record was out, we did like four dates in the UK, you could kinda tell it was like new song syndrome. You know, you have an audience and their heads are kind of cocked like a Cocker Spaniel. You can just picture that, you know. And they’re kind of checking it out but not showing whether they like it or not yet. And then you go play fuckin songs that they know and they start trying to kill each other. But you can see as the record came out and as it’s been out longer and longer, people are now knowing the songs which is pretty comforting... they’re actually listening. [laugh]
Rachel: Awesome. I know that Cocker Spaniel look you’re talking about. That’s hilarious.
Chad: It’s kinda of like I’m not gonna leave, but I’m just listening.
Rachel: Let’s see well you had, what was it, a four year lapse between records?
Chad: Um, between release dates yeah I would say it was probably about three and a half years.
Rachel: During your off period what was your main focus. I mean what were you doing?
Chad: Drugs. [laugh] That and… well I’m kind of being serious I’m kind of being facetious. We demoed, we wrote a lot of fuckin songs man. It was upwards of forty songs. And we wrote the songs, recorded them, and then sent them to Rick [Rubin]. We might get some notes back two months later and then we’d go back in and rearrange shit and rewrite stuff. Ya know, wait that chorus isn’t right let’s grab the chorus from… we had so many fuckin songs ya know we were stripping songs for other songs. It just got kind of hectic to the point where we didn’t know what the fuck he wanted basically. So it was like two years of doing that. And it started to become anti-creative for lack of a better term. It started to feel like you were banging your head against the wall. The guy worked really well with us the first record, but he was obviously looking for something that we weren’t going to give him this time around. It was a little maddening which we leads me, you know everybody, to just fuckin doing drugs. [laugh] It was just like we were a new band again. People in rehab, people getting divorces, going up to their apartments without leaving for four months, and that kind of shit. It just got kind of depressing for everybody. But we have a fuckin record out, we’re grateful. We’re grateful to be able have a chance to get this second record out and we’re fuckin back.
Rachel: Heck yeah. Well I don’t really like to pry into personal stuff, but you’re so open about the drug thing which is cool because not many people are.
Chad: Yeah, people like to hide that shit. It’s like you know what? Whether it’s for the good or for the bad, it’s such an engrained part of my personality and where I grew up and where I fuckin came from and just the whole deal that it would be ridiculous for me to hide that part. You know, I mean for christ sakes me and Cameron [now known as Martin Cock] met in rehab. So right there you have to answer some questions whether you think it’s appropriate or not because people are going to ask you what you were doing. So, I don’t know.
Rachel: It’s cool to just be honest about it. Well I was going to ask what rehab was like, if it was effective, but…
Chad: Obviously not… [laugh] I mean it was, I was sober for four years. I was drinking lots of coffee, smoking probably three times as many cigarettes as I do right now, but it worked for as long as I wanted it to work for. And other people have had various degrees of success with sobriety and what not. Our drummer Chris is sober right now; he’s been sober for about a year. So, you know, it fuckin works when you want it to. And we’ve all been through enough fuckin treatment centers to know what to do and what not to do. So it’s pretty much up to the individual at that point if they’re going to fall off the deep end or actually going to try and swim so…
Rachel: So what makes you go back?
Chad: Waiting to hear back about demos for our new record [laugh]
Rachel: A lot of stress?
Chad: No, we were just all really frustrated you know. And I understand that Rick was trying to get the best out of us, he was trying to get what he thought was the best, and I think we might have just changed to the point where he was trying to get something, like I said, that he wasn’t going to get. But he has the luxury of being able to sit around for a couple of years and tell somebody to keep writing songs. While in the meantime the checks get smaller and smaller and then eventually disappear and you’re going ok look it’s been two years now I gotta go fuckin work at McDonald’s or whatever. I want to make a fuckin record, how about some direction. So I think that everybody kind of just got frustrated. And the cool thing was that he was nice enough to let us go without a big hassle. He could have just thrown us in the fuckin land of record purgatory where the band sits there and waits for contract options for the next three years. He always said from the beginning if things aren’t working out whether it’s me or you I’m not going to hold you to this. So he kept his word which is really nice because not a lot of people in the fucking industry do that.
Rachel: That’s true. So you’re happy with where you are now?
Chad: Yeah, I’d say so. We’ve got a second chance and that’s more than I can say for most bands. What people go through business wise and personal wise, especially with this many weirdoes in this fuckin band, the odds are you’re going to crash and burn more than you’re going to fuckin pull yourself up by your bootstraps and fuckin start kickin again. And like I said we’re just grateful to have a chance to do this again and we’ve already been touring for like 3 or 4 months now, we’ve been to the UK twice, we have plans to go back over to Europe, back over to the UK, and been up to Canada so I can’t complain.
Rachel: Well that’s great. I’ve been listening to your new disc a lot at work, I’m going to be reviewing it soon, but every time “Dirty” comes on I can’t help but get into it. I think that is one of the strongest tracks on the album. What do you think is the strength of the album?
Chad: I think so too, it’s really accessible. To me it kinda has three different feels to it, loosely speaking. Kinda like an Angel Dust/Faith No More part and then the kinda Queens of the Stone Age part, and then there’s fuckin rip your face off part. And so, and I mean I’m using these pieces very loosely but, a lot of ground is covered. Every listener can think about something they really like about that song. And we’re looking towards maybe doing a video and a single for that song. Because you said the same thing that a lot of people have said, that they like that song and it should be on the fuckin radio.
Rachel: Oh yeah, definitely. It just gets you going.
Chad: Yeah, I mean it’s a really to the point rock song, it’s not fuckin rocket science. But it’s a good rock song so I agree with you absolutely.
Rachel: What do you want people to notice most about your record?
Chad: Compared to like The War of Art it’s a lot more to the point. It’s not so sprawling. I know that the last record was kind of a lot to take in. This record gets the idea across without dragging it along too much. I think the way it is produced makes it sound more like a band. It was weird because I hadn’t listened to The War of Art in so long…
[Call dropped for the second time this interview]
Rachel: We’re having problems here.
Chad: Jesus, yeah sorry about that. God doesn’t want us to talk or something.
Chad: Yeah so I was listening to The War of Art again when Karma [new guitarist] was learning songs when he got in the band. He came to me a couple times and he’s like what are you guys playing here. And I listened to it and the way that it was mixed it was kind of hard to pick out what was guitar, what was keyboard, what was bass. It was just like that Wall of Sound you know and I can see where it would be hard for someone to actually start picking out half steps from these riffs. I was like wow that is kind of fucking hard to understand. [laugh] So after going back and listening to that and then listening to this record it was like wow this sounds like two guitar players. I can pick that out. [laugh] There’s lot of little differences and obviously I like the new one better because it’s the new kid. But I definitely have severe emotional ties to The War of Art because that was the first time we got to make a record.
Rachel: So has Karma had a hard time picking it up then?
Chad: Oh no, no actually he picked up everything really quick because he was our guitar tech so he knew all of the stuff. He was a guitar player in the first place and he was our guitar tech so he knew the songs mentally. All we had to do was be like this is what we’re doing and he’d be like oh that’s easy. And on top of that he’d been hearing our demos with the new shit. So everything was in his head he just had to translate it to his fingers. It wasn’t like he was getting blasted away by this giant pile of stuff he’d never heard before. So it worked out.
Rachel: You go by Mr. C.H. Banks III now. What’s the reason?
Chad: No reason.
Rachel: Just for the hell of it?
Chad: Yeah. I do a lot of shit like that just for the hell of it. I’m not really one for reasons. Why? I felt like it.
Rachel: What’s it like traveling all over with six people in the band? I think I would kill somebody.
Chad: We do pretty well. It is really rats in a cage syndrome. The bus is only so big and you can’t get away from people. So you wake up and you’re like god I don’t want to look at any of these mother fucker's faces right now. [laugh] We had a day off when we were in Jersey. We got there and everybody’s like we’re going to NYC. And I was like I should go; I haven’t hung out in NYC in a couple years. And then I realized I don’t want to hang out with anyone in the band right now. I just want to sit in the room, smoke cigarettes, and watch TV. And if I don’t have to talk to anyone in the band or crew today, that’s fine with me because I’m going to see them every day for the next fuckin 9 months. It gets kind of weird sometimes, but we’re really pretty good at dealing with each other and knowing when to relent if an argument pops up. Like dude this is retarded, we’ve been arguing over a fuckin Pop-Tart for 15 minutes. Because you have such little personal space it becomes really important to you when people infringe on your shit. It becomes blown out of proportion. Everything is magnified you know.
Rachel: Did you get your Pop-Tart stolen?
Chad: No, but I write my name on everything. If I get a sandwich from somewhere, I write my name on the bread because then people won’t eat it.
Rachel: That’s funny. Well is there anything else you want to talk about? That’s about all I got.
Chad: Um, buy the record, come see us. Stop listening to shitty music. That’s about all I’ve got to say.
Rachel: Cool, well good luck to you. And I’ll see you in May in Omaha.
Chad: Cool, come find me.
Rachel: I will. Thanks!
Chad: Thanks for your time Rachel. Have a good night.