Interview: Cruel Hand

Nearing the end of their summer in Europe, Faye was able to chat with Chris Linkovich, vocalist of Cruel Hand, about the release of Lock & Key and their new direction, living in a hardcore bubble, mosh injuries, and lots more, before their headline show in London.

Faye: You’ve been over in Europe for a few weeks now playing a bunch of shows and fests, how’s that been?
Chris: It’s running smooth, I can’t complain. We started off with Fluff Fest, which was pretty fucking big and we ended up headlining the whole thing, it was unreal. Then Into The Pit in Italy, Fredericia Fest in Denmark and then we have Ieperfest in Belgium coming up. It’s been cool, we’ve had to miss a bunch of stuff to come to Europe, like the fucking amazing weather we’re having in Maine, we could be at the beach, but no, we’re here in the rain, but it’s all good.

Faye: I last interviewed you at Have Heart’s second last show, then you played their final show the following day, what are your memories of that show?
Chris: It was awesome, I felt like that was probably our best show. It was the perfect show for us reaction-wise, it sucked that everything was kind of running late, we didn’t really play a full set, but it was Have Heart’s last show, so they had to do their thing too.

Faye: Since then, a couple of other Bridge Nine bands have announced that they’re calling it a day, like Ruiner and Crime in Stereo, what’s happening?
Chris: I don’t know, but someone informed us the other day that they read online that we had got into a fight on stage with each other and we broke up. Apparently, I got into an argument with Cam and then we got into a fight and broke up.
Seger [bass]: We’ve found out a lot of rumours about us on this tour, like someone said Nate was married and is now divorced, and someone else said we all had girlfriends – only one of us has a girlfriend. People are just starting rumours about us.
Chris: People will talk, they can say what they want. It’s funny, though. [laughs] People are out to get us, I guess.

Faye: What have you been up to since October?
Chris: We recorded a record called Lock & Key, that’s just released, but it leaked a long time ago. I personally didn’t care, because that’s more of a label thing, that’s what they’ve got to worry about. Personally, it makes it easier for the band, I think, because people know the songs and stuff. I don’t think it’s made a big difference, either. Since we’ve came over here, we’ve been doing really well selling all the LPs and CDs, we’re out of music – actually, we have some CDs left, but all the 7-inches and LPs are flying off the table. I’m psyched, I’d rather people buy the records and CDs than the t-shirts or whatever, because it means that people are listening to the music and they like it, rather than being a t-shirt band or something.

Faye: Didn’t you do a European tour with Madball, Terror and Death Before Dishonor earlier in the year too?
Chris: Yeah, it was awesome, good times. They were big shows, we would play after The Set Up and I was just stoked to play in front of different people, even to bigger crowds and stuff. It’s good to do those kind of things, I don’t want to do those all the time, but it’s good to get a bigger tour like once or twice in a year. We also played Black N Blue Bowl, Freddy from Madball has a part in that, he asked us to play and we were definitely stoked. It was an honour to play with that line-up, especially in that venue, it’s kind of a historical venue as far as hardcore goes.

Faye: You’ve obviously taken influence from bands like Madball, how does it feel to have them take you under their wing and being able to call them friends?
Chris: It feels awesome, I couldn’t be happier. It’s crazy because these are the bands, especially Madball, that I’ve been listening to since I was a little kid, I was like in 7th grade or something when I started to listen to them and if you were to tell me when I was 13 that when I was 25 I’d be playing the Black N Blue Bowl in New York City with these guys, I don’t know what I’d say. Fuck it, maybe I’d say, ‘Fuck yeah! That’s exactly what I’m going to be doing when I’m 25, because this fucking rules and I want to do that.’ Maybe. I don’t know.

Faye: All of those bands go on about how hardcore is their life, would you say hardcore is your life?
Chris: Yeah, of course. Definitely. That’s when you sort of weed out certain bands or certain bands that are claiming to be hardcore bands, because a lot of these bands are dropping off left and right, and are over it, but you can always count on Madball or Agnostic Front to be there and to be a hardcore band. Hardcore is a real thing.
Faye: Can we count on Cruel Hand?
Chris: Yeah, you can count on Cruel Hand, exactly.

Faye: You released Lock & Key, like you mentioned before, and it’s kind of surprised a lot of people, with its more melodic parts; it seems that people either absolutely love it or aren’t too sure about it, did you expect that divide?
Chris: Yeah, I mean, we knew it was going to ruffle some feathers, for sure, but what’s the point of making music if you’re not going to progress or take chances? We write music for ourselves and if someone out there is listening and they like it, then that’s a plus too, I guess. We just want to write music that we like and we don’t want to get bored of it. That’s why bands break-up, they move on, because they feel like they can’t do anything more with their music and if you put yourself in that box, like ‘this is hardcore’, then what’s the point in even doing it or expressing yourself? We’ve never been like that. Even writing in the studio, like doing some of the cleaner vocals and stuff, I’d do a take and no one had heard what I was going to do at a certain point, and they were even scratching their heads like, “What the fuck are you even doing?” But I wasn’t going to budge on certain things and we had to compromise on certain things, but the stuff that’s on the record, I wasn’t going to budge on. Actually, by the time we were done and we were listening to the record, that’s when some of us were like, “Damn, we should have done more of that!” – instead of doing two or three songs like that. I feel like we did it tastefully, it doesn’t come out of nowhere and if you listen to each record, you can kind of see it coming, anyway. We always dabbled with stuff like that, we’ve always loved bands like Blood For Blood and Death Threat, and they always kind of had parts of music where there was a little melody in their vocals or was a little cleaner than some other bands, like H2O, they’re one of my favourite bands. I can’t sing like that guy, but if I can attempt something like that and do it tastefully, and have it still be Cruel Hand, then I’m going to try it.

Faye: Didn’t Jay Maas [Defeater] produce Lock & Key? Did he push you?
Chris: The studio was funny, just because we were doing stuff with our guitar sounds and everything that he wasn’t 100% on board with and wasn’t comfortable with.
Faye: So, you pushed him?
Chris: I think we pushed him, yeah. [laughs] We pushed him, definitely, and I think he came out a better person. He does some great records and he’s got his way of doing it, and I can understand if you have a way to do it and you know it sounds good, stick to it, but we came in with all these ideas and different ways of doing stuff, so he was kind of shady and on the fence, but then after a little compromise and give and take, we were tracking and he was like, “Wow, this does sound good.” He was bringing up stuff on his computer before Prying Eyes and comparing it to the sounds we’ve got on Lock & Key back-to-back, and it does sound completely different than the last record, but it sounds good in its own way.

Faye: Who does the guest vocals on One Cold Face?
Chris: That’s Mitts from Madball, the guitarist. We were stoked, he wanted to do it – well, he expressed some interest in doing that, he was probably joking around and messing around, but when we were in the studio we told him we had a part for him and if he wanted to do it, and he was like, “Alright, fuck yeah, I’ll do it!” So, we were definitely stoked to have him on the record, for sure. He’s a good guy.

Faye: Your shows are always intense – however, what’s the worst injury you’ve received at a show?
Chris: During Bane, it was a show at Chain Reaction in Anaheim, California, and I busted my head, I’ve got a scar. I busted my head off the ceiling and there was blood everywhere, it was bad. I broke my nose at a Floorpunch show, you can see, it’s like flat on one side. I busted my tooth at an American Nightmare show in Massachusetts in like 10th grade, I told my mom I was skateboarding and I busted my fingers, I’m a wreck. Casualty of the Core – Internal Affairs. If you can’t take a push, stay out of the pit.

Faye: I saw a HardTimes.ca interview with Patrick from End of a Year, and he described the maturity levels of Cruel Hand as “man-children” in kindergarten and Reign Supreme as high school graduates, do you agree?
Chris: Kindergarten? [laughs] I could say all kinds of things about that guy. I don’t know how I feel about that. Sometimes, sure, but I wouldn’t say kindergarten. What makes Reign Supreme high school graduates and us kindergarten? I mean, sure they can be a higher grade than us, but why can’t we be like middle school or something? I’d like to think we’re more middle school than kindergarten. [laughs] I guess, Reign Supreme have all got their own things going on – real life stuff – those guys have degrees and jobs and all kinds of stuff. We just live in our own little hardcore bubble, we all live in a house in Portland together and just tour, we don’t have any degrees, we barely finished high school and we’re just kind of floating along.
Faye: What’s the Cruel Hand household like?
Chris: It’s a beehive, it’s like six guys, one house, one toilet, in the ghetto in Portland and it’s like three floors of just pure mayhem, parties, craziness, it can get kind of grimy, but it’s alright.

Faye: You’re on tour with Bane and Trapped Under Ice in a couple of days as soon as you get back, how do you do it?
Chris: I don’t know. [laughs] We have one day off and that’s in Philly, then we start right away the next day, for four more weeks. Damn it, I’m missing my Maine summer, that’s all I wanted, summer in Maine, but after that tour, we’ll be home for over a month and then we start like a 45-day tour with Backtrack in the US.

Faye: What would you usually be doing in your Maine summer?
Chris: I’d be riding my moped and I’d be at the beach, and I’d be BBQ-ing, and I’d be going to The Asylum on Thursdays and going to the 80s night, and that’s it. Oh, I’d go thrifting as well, go to thrift stores. Actually, I just got a motorcycle too, I’d be working on that.

Faye: You seem to take a lot of pride in coming from Maine, why is that?
Chris: I don’t know why, it’s a beautiful place, it’s a beautiful state, and I feel we’re kind of underdogs being a band from Maine, a lot of bands have come from Maine and haven’t been able to tour and stuff, you’ve got to have pride and embrace where you’re from.

Faye: Change the record, who should we be listening to?
Chris: Fire and Ice, Miles Away have their new record coming out and Backtrack, for sure. Get the new Madball record out in October and Title Fight, everyone’s on that shit, anyway.

Faye: Is there anything else you want to say?
Chris: Pick up Lock & Key, if you get a chance.

Faye Turnbull.

Many thanks to Chris for the interview! Cruel Hand’s new record Lock & Key is out now on Bridge Nine Records and for information on the band, visit: www.myspace.com/cruelhand

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