Interview: Cruel Hand

Cruel HandDuring Have Heart’s second to last show, on what some referred to as Edge Day Eve, Faye caught up with Cam (guitar) and Chris (vocals) of fellow Bridge Nine band, Cruel Hand, across the Atlantic in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

They got talking about playing Have Heart’s final show, the new album, violence in hardcore, fairweather fans, stage diving into bushes, and a whole lot more.

Faye: You were last over in the UK last December with Have Heart and Carpathian, what have you been up to since then?
Cam: We went to Central America, that was cool. We did a full US tour with Have Heart and a bunch of other bands, on parts of that, that was in the summer. We did a couple of weeks with The Acacia Strain on the east coast and we did the final Internal Affairs shows on the east coast, and we did a weekend with Bane. We did two weeks with Madball in Canada – this isn’t really in order. I think that’s it, a lot of stuff.

Faye: You were originally on the bill for tonight’s Have Heart show at Anchors Up!, but are now on the line-up for tomorrow’s final Have Heart show, how did that come about?
Cam: I don’t know, Pat [Flynn, Have Heart vocalist] was just like, “Hey, you guys want to come play the bigger venue at the real final show?” and we were like, “Yeah, sure.”
Chris: It couldn’t work out, too.
Cam: Oh, yeah, our drummer couldn’t play today, that was why too, I forgot about that.

Faye: Are you flattered to be playing such a historic show? Do you consider it to be a historic show?
Chris: Yeah, I mean, it definitely is, but we’ve known them for a long time, so we don’t really look at them like that, I guess. It’s just like, these are our friends and this is their last show. We know it’s going to be an amazing show and I guess it is going to be a historic event in the history books, but I never really looked at it like that, but we’re stoked to be playing either way.

Faye: So, tomorrow’s final Have Heart show is on Edge Day, I believe you two are both straight edge, but Cruel Hand isn’t a straight edge band, do you think it’s weird you’re playing?
Chris: Yeah, I thought it was kind of weird that we’re playing, because we’re not a straight edge band, but Have Heart always include everybody, it’s never really been about all that ‘in-your-face straight edge’ so it’s whatever.
Cam: Yeah, I don’t read too much into it. I’m seeing it more as Have Heart’s last show and all our friend’s bands are playing it. It is Edge Day and it’s important to a lot of people, but, to me, it’s more about their last show.

Faye: Do you think it’s awesome that people are flying from all over the world for it?
Cam: Yeah, that’s great, it’s cool. I think we all saw that coming, but they just did a world tour and they played in every place you could play, but they’ve still got all these kids wanting to see them one last time, so that says something right there. I think it’s great.

Faye: Is there any another band you really wish you could have played or attended their last show?
Chris: I could say some bands, but a band’s last show is never really their last show, there’s always another show.

Faye: Do you believe that Have Heart’s last show tomorrow really will be their last show?
Cam: No. [laughs]
Chris: Yeah, I don’t know. The only hardcore band I really believe will never play again is American Nightmare. Normally, band’s last shows are never really their last show, there’s always another show somewhere at some point, even 10-years down the line, so…
Cam: I’ll believe it when I don’t see it, that they’re not getting back together. I definitely believe Pat when he says he doesn’t want to come back and do it, but I could totally see a good friend of his come up to him like, “Hey, this is a really great cause, a benefit thing and it’d help us so much if you guys could play.” and Pat’s a dude that wants to help people, especially for good causes, so if something came down the line like that and they did it, it wouldn’t really surprise me, but I hope they don’t come back, it’s cooler like that.
Chris: If they do it, they probably wouldn’t do it with the exact line-up. I think Pat would be down for it, but I think some of the other guys might be a little hesitant to jump on something like that, but I think Pat, somewhere down the line, would want to help a benefit or something, who wouldn’t want to do that?

Faye: A lot of modern hardcore bands don’t really seem to last more than a few years, why do you think that is? How do you see the future of Cruel Hand or do you just go with the flow?
Chris: Yeah, this has never been a hobby or something to do while in college like a lot of these bands are, especially in Boston, everyone’s in college, so they start a band and a couple of years later they graduate, and it’s over, and for me, this band has never had an expiration date, it’s always been like we can do whatever we can do, take those opportunities and just do it, so there’s no box around us. We’re in it to win it. [laughs]
Cam: Yeah, we’re too excited to keep writing shit to think about it. As an overall picture, it’s just go with the flow, our future is unwritten.
Chris: A lot of those times when those bands stop, it’s because they don’t want to think outside the box with their genre of music or style they’re playing, they’re elitist about it and they want it to stay like that, like the same simple style but, for us, we write music for ourselves.

Faye: Is Cruel Hand a full-time thing for you? Or do you have other jobs on the side?
Cam: It’s as full-time as it gets for dudes in our age range for a band that’s getting paid, but our drummer has a job that he goes home to, you’ve got something going on as well, haven’t you?
Chris: Yeah, I picked up some job off Craigslist, just part time stuff, but we hadn’t worked for a couple of years, we were living for the band, I was selling off my belongings, I didn’t really have much stuff at home, my life was the band and van, and I’m fine with that.

Faye: Boston’s clearly got a good scene, but what’s the scene like back at home in Portland, Maine?
Cam: It’s pretty shot, it’s really weird because it used to be really great, I guess, even before I was around and going to shows, but there’s just like our friends, the band and then there’s like a big group of our friends who know what’s up and want to have shows, but there’s not very many shows, it’s hard to find a venue, but sometimes you’ll see a kid in town wearing a hardcore shirt and you’ve got to think, “Why aren’t I friends with that kid?” because the way that it’s always been is that you’re in Maine and you listen to hardcore, you’re friends with everybody. We’d like to build it back up, so when you do see a kid like that, it’s kind of like a shining light of hope because it’s like, maybe if we had a show, there’d be a bunch of kids, but we played Portland on the last Have Heart tour, it was one of the first dates and that show was great, there was a lot of kids there, lots of kids I had never seen before.
Chris: You have to spread them out, play every four to six months or something, and you can have a good turnout, but we’ve had basement shows a couple of times a month, in the past, and kids get bored or something up there, I don’t know, I can’t tell what’s going on. I can’t read the kids. But there’s always been a close connection with the guys from Maine and the guys in Massachusetts, it’s kind of like the closest scene for the Maine dudes, because there’s not really a big thing doing on up there right now, there’s not really a bit scene, so coming down here and driving two hours is nothing for us, if there’s a show here, we’re here.
Cam: Yeah, as long as I can remember, and I’m sure you as well, is just that coming down here is just the same as going to a show in Maine, if there’s a show, you just go, and Boston kids will come up too. It’s two different places, definitely, but there’s a lot of unity, I guess, between the two places.
Chris: Yep, it feels like, especially in this venue, it’s more of our home base, we can play here every couple of months, but in Maine you can’t really do that, there’s not a lot going on.

Faye: Your music is pretty aggressive-sounding, is violence a prominent thing at Cruel Hand shows? Or does it depend on the area?
Chris: I guess it depends on the area, but I guess, recently, we’ve seen stints of that, but we’re not about that, we just want to have fun and have a good time. People just need to chill out, I guess, cool off, I don’t know why kids are fighting, do you know? [laughs]
Cam: I don’t know, there’s a different between going to a show and moshing hard and having fun, and then going there with whatever chip on your shoulder and being overly rude at a show. For us, we don’t want to see people fighting, do your thing, we’re not going to tell you what to do, stage diving, moshing, whatever, but as long everyone’s cool at the end of the night, then that’s great.
Chris: People just need to treat people the way they want to be treated, that’s just common sense, it’s shit their mom should have told them when they were growing up. It’s like if you want to walk around, look someone in the face and punch them out, is that what you would want? Do you want someone to do that to you? And that’s when the fight happens because, obviously, someone’s not going to take that and then the fight happens, it’s insane, it’s crazy, it’s stupid.

Faye: Would you say there’s more violence in America or in Europe?
Chris: Definitely, America. [laughs]
Cam: Yeah, definitely, for sure, but I wouldn’t say there’s a particular area, things happen in different areas no matter where you live. If you get mad at something it’s not because you live in a certain place. In Europe, I can’t really remember something crazy like that. I think when we play in Europe, kids are there for the show and they’re excited to see the band, that’s what’s important to them, which is how it should be. Europe is pretty peaceful, I guess.

Faye: Do you find many females at Cruel Hand shows?
Chris: I’ve seen a few.
Cam: That was our thing in our early days of touring, there would always be a couple of girls that would be super into the band and that was kind of our joke for a second, our friends would be like, “Can I get a t-shirt like my girlfriend?” It’d be like why do girls like Cruel Hand so much? What is it about us that makes them like us? We’re not dissing or anything like that, but we thought that was kind of funny. Obviously, the ratio of boys to girls at a hardcore show the boys outweigh, but I think we have a few girls that like the music and like the band, I think.
Chris: We’re not like a Have Heart band [laughs] with girls going absolutely insane, but I don’t think there are more girls at our shows than any other band that’s at our level.

Faye: What’s something that pisses you off in hardcore at the moment?
Chris: I don’t know, just kids that are around for a few years and they’re gone, fairweather fans, kids who are all about the band for a second and then they’re on the next trend or some shit, and then forget about you. We did some touring that wasn’t your typical hardcore touring over the summer, so we were playing to different crowds and stuff like that, crowds that weren’t necessarily just hardcore kids and playing in front of kids who were there to see a band and see some music, and were just stoked on the music. A lot of the time, it’s really fun to play those kind of shows, you’re not playing in front of snobby hardcore kids who’re there one day and they won’t be there the next. Playing with The Acacia Strain, you weren’t there with some hardcore kid with his arms crossed and scratching his head at you, there was just some guy in the front head-banging and stoked to be there.

Faye: You released Prying Eyes last October, have you been writing or recording for your next album?
Cam: That was our plan, we got on the Have Heart tour and then we aren’t on tour until January, taking a little break, so it’s kind of our plan. We’re just writing, we’re not exactly sure what it’s going to turn into, but we have one-half of a song so far, but we haven’t done a lot, so we’re just going to see what we can come up with. We have a lot of ideas and riffs and stuff, so it’s putting it together is what we need to do.

Faye: Do you think it’ll be more Prying Eyes or Without A Pulse or something completely different?
Cam: Prying Eyes evolved, because there’s the natural progression of the music.
Chris: We’ve always been about the natural progression.
Cam: You can’t put out the same record again, you don’t have to change your sound or change your band, but you grow as musicians.
Chris: If that rubs people the wrong way, so be it.

Faye: Yeah, how do you feel about older fans not-so much digging the Prying Eyes sound?
Chris: I kind of scratch my head. I don’t know, if that’s their opinion, but I always thought the evidence was in the music. During Without The Pulse, my voice was completely blown out, we did that record in like a day-and-a-half in a garage – actually, both records were done in a garage, but it was just crazy. It was five songs from the demo tape and five new songs we kind of just threw together, and just rushed this fucking thing and everything was just… I don’t know. It just doesn’t stand out to Prying Eyes, to me, I don’t think so. With Prying Eyes, we took a lot of time to write the songs and just kind of perfect everything – lyrically and sonically, and just go into the studio and just critique ourselves and make it the best we could do, so it’s kind of weird when people say Without The Pulse is their favourite, but that’s their opinion, whatever.

Faye: Are you familiar with the site Last.fm? I read a comment from someone on your page that said, “If they made music that wasn’t solely for people to hardcore dance to, I’d like them more.” How does that make you feel?
Cam: I mean, I really don’t care, people will always say things and most of the time I’m not listening, I really don’t care. I think you’re entitled to your opinion, but I don’t have to listen or really give a shit, you know? If that’s what you got from it, then great, whatever. But I’ve said that about other bands, people like different things and see things differently, so it’s not worth getting mad over or paying attention to.
Chris: At the end of the day, we’re a hardcore band.
Cam: Yeah, we’re not trying to change the game.
Chris: We’re not trying to reinvented the wheel… Yet. We’ve been playing it pretty safe, who knows, the next record could reinvent the whole thing. [laughs]

Faye: You seem to go to a lot of shows, even if you’re not playing, do you think that’s important for musicians and why so?
Cam: Yes, people think that just because they’re in a band that they don’t have to go to every show, you don’t have to go to every show, I mean, I only go see bands I like, but I like a lot of bands, so go see them. We’ve been home for a couple of weeks and we saw Obituary a couple of weeks ago, we saw Iron Age last night in Boston.
Chris: It’s important, I don’t know about other genres of music, but hardcore, to me, has always been about helping each other out and bands helping bands, a community, and that’s what it is. You can’t just be in a band and expect everyone to come out and support you, you have to support each other and that’s what hardcore is, you can’t just be lame and jaded, and expect people to praise your fucking band, you’ve got to get involved.

Faye: When did you get into hardcore?
Chris: I got into hardcore when I was like 12-year-old, like sixth grade. It was 1996 or something like that and that was it for me, it just stuck, I was down for it.
Cam: Early 2000s, like 2003, not as long as him, but I guess in the grand scheme of things, it’s not very long and I think hardcore has a lot to do with the longevity. People who have been around a lot longer have seen a lot and seen bands come and go, and you gain a lot of knowledge from being around forever. It’s like everything in life, you respect older people, wherever you’re going and, in hardcore, I think it’s the same kind of thing. You learn a lot from older people.

Faye: So, did you enjoy touring with older bands like H2O?
Cam: Oh, yeah, that tour with H2O and Madball, we just loved that because they’re older dudes and they’re telling us stories, both of those bands have been great to us.
Chris: They’re just real dudes, they’re the real deal. Hardcore is obviously more than a genre of music, it’s a lifestyle, but how’s that proven and where’s the authenticity of that, when there’s kids there for one or two years and they’re gone? That’s not a lifestyle, that’s a trend or a fad. Then you have these guys, there’s not that many people like that, who live it and have proven it to be a real thing, a real lifestyle, and you have to respect that. It blows my mind when you have kids who won’t go out and see their band, even if you don’t like it, you have to respect it, because they’re proving hardcore to be more than just a genre of music., you have to respect them, you have to support them. They’re proving it to be a fucking lifestyle.
Cam: Especially with those two bands.

Faye: Yeah, I find that it’s the New York hardcore bands that seem to last.
Chris: Yeah, because they actually live it, that’s their lives, it’s not a hobby, it’s not something they do on the weekends, it’s their lives. Even if they weren’t in the band, they’d still be living it and that’s it.

Faye: You’ve got that New York hardcore sound, but you don’t fake the lifestyle and pretend to be from the streets, how do you feel about those who do?
Chris: It’s fantasy, it’ll catch up to them sooner or later, that’s just some fantasy and then they’ll feel like retards and they’ll stop, then they’ll disappear.
Cam: Reality will get to you.
Chris: As long as it’s real to you, who’s there to tell you to stop? Why would you want to stop and why would you take any criticism to heart if it’s real? And those bands don’t last.
Cam: If you’re doing it from the heart, that’s being hardcore.

Faye: I interviewed H2O in August, and they said some really nice things about you, and that you like stage-diving into bushes, what’s that about?!
Chris: There were some bushes outside the venue.
Cam: It was like the second or third show on that tour and we hadn’t really introduced ourselves and met and, that night, there were bushes outside the venue and we were just stage-diving into them and flipping off, and they thought that was hilarious and then after that, it was great, hanging out with them, telling us stories, being super cool with us. I love H2O. Every time they can, they hook us up with a show, so we play down in New York City with them, just like one-off shows, opportunities to hang out with them and stuff.

Faye: There were Internet rumours that you were supposed to be supporting Madball on their UK tour in December, is there any truth to that?
Cam: Oh, yes, it’s been moved to February or March, with Madball and Terror. We’re doing it, but it’s not all together yet, but it’s happening. It was supposed to be happening in January, but it got moved back and now, in January, we’re going out with Trapped Under Ice for a couple of weeks.

Faye: Change the record, who should we be listening to?
Cam: Backtrack from Long Island, they’re kind of an up-and-coming band, they just did a 7”, they’re on tour right now, so they’re not here, they’re having kind of a hard time right now, but that’s touring when you’re starting out. Title Fight, they’re little brothers of Cold World, they’re playing a different style and they’re doing it really well. They’ve been playing for like eight years and they’re finally catching on, so Title Fight, definitely. Foundation, our friends from Atlanta, they’re playing tomorrow, they were on the second half of Have Heart’s final US tour and they were killing it, they’re just great. We talking new bands? ‘Cause if not, Bane. [laughs]
Chris: Bane, Madball, Metallica, Slayer.
Cam: Violation from the west coast, they’re not really doing much right now.
Chris: End of a Year.
Cam: Iron Age is killing it right now.

Faye: I think that’s it, do you have any final words?
Cam: I’m excited to stage dive tomorrow for the last Have Heart show, it’s going to be a really great time and a really sad time, all at once, but it’ll be fun.
Chris: We’re going to stage dive like it’s 2001, everybody look out, because I’m going to set it off, for real. I’m going to be the MVP, I’m unstoppable.
Cam: We don’t like to toot our own horns, but Maine is known for our stage diving, so watch out.

Faye Turnbull.

Many thanks to Cam and Chris, for more information on Cruel Hand and tour dates, visit: www.myspace.com/cruelhand

Photo credit: Josi Hoffmann

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