An Interview With KNUCKLEHEAD

Calgary’s KNUCKLEHEAD were interviewed for Loud Fast Rules a year or so ago…another one of my favourite Canuck punk rock bands…:

On The New Blacklist, their latest full-length, Canadian 5-piece Knucklehead have combined a classic two-guitar attack, catchy, hook-laden choruses and insightful lyrics to come up with some of the most authentic and anthemic street punk-n-roll going. They’ve been hard at it for about 11 years now, and after 7 North American tours, a whack of releases, a few vans and a couple of kids, it seemed like as good a time as any to sit down with the band and reflect on the past, present and future

All right, you guys have been releasing records and touring relentlessly for over 10 years now. After a decade of doing this, what keeps you all motivated and moving? I’m guessing it’s not the money…

I don’t think any of us has ever pocketed a cent made through the band. Three of us (Clay, Kyle and Matt) have known each other for over 15 years now. The thing that keeps this band together is a common love for playing punk rock and the fact that it gives us all an excellent excuse to go out and get loaded on a fairly regular basis with each other. As for touring, there’s nothing better than getting to make new friends in cities all over North America, meeting kids who’ve been listening to your band for years and are finally getting to see you play live, and playing in front of people who have never heard you before.

We’ve been friends for a long time now and that defiantly helps, if people keep buying our records and coming to our shows well keep going, That’s why were having kids now is so Eric can keep Knucklehead going forever.

I read somewhere that If Bad Religion, Youth Brigade and Cocksparrer had a baby, it would be ugly and it would be Knucklehead. I’ve also read that Knucklehead is Calgary’s answer to Social Distortion meets Stiff Little Fingers. So which is it? What’s the Knucklehead sound?

Its a really hard question to answer when people who have never heard you ask what you sound like and those comparisons that you mentioned are usually the ones we repeat because those are the bands we grew up listening too. Although we never try to emulate the sound of those bands their influence just comes out in our music, recently we were called New School Stiff Little Fingers on BBC Radio One (whatever that means) but I think there is a lot more Social Distortion in this CD then any previous release.

Im happy with either of those comparisons. I’ve been listening to each of those bands since I was in high school and they’ve all been strong musical influences. I think in general each of the bands you described above writes tuneful punk rock that you can sing along to. As for us, we tend to mix straightforward anthemic punk rock with good old rock and roll, country and other influences.

Ok, so what are you listening to now? What’s playing in the Knucklehead tour van? What’s turning your crank musically?

I’m going back in time now it seems, I cant get enough Rezillos, Buzzcocks, The Undertones, Eater and of course SLF. As far as newer bands The Briefs, Swingin Utters and the CD I can’t stop listening too is Rumors and Headlines from One Man Army who are sadly no longer together.

I listen to something new every day, however I recently picked up the Vanilla Muffins new best of album and it’s doing it for me. I’ve also been listening to the US Bombs Garibaldi Guard which is an awesome album, Cock Sparrers Shock Troops and Naked Raygun’s Jettison.

Your new CD The New Blacklist is out on Stumble Records and so far the reviews for it are great. How does it compare to some of your other releases in terms of songwriting and musicianship? Do you find it tough to remain relevant and fresh as time goes on?

So far the new album has gone over well. We’re grateful for all the support we’ve received from radio stations, magazines and record stores, not to mention the people who’ve been coming out to the shows and buying the album. As for comparisons with previous releases, Id say the production on this one is head and shoulders above our last two CD releases. Each new album differs from the last. The New Black List is less frantic than Voice Among Us, more varied than Hostage Radio and more thought out than Little Boots. Honestly I’d say this is the best all around recording we’ve ever released. As for staying relevant I think as long as you take more of an interest in the world around you than you do in yourself then you’ll be able to write songs that are relevant to others.

I think this CD is more relevant then any of our previous releases given the state of the world right now and Kyle’s songwriting is above and beyond anything he’s wrote before. The production is way better on this CD, with the previous CDs we had them mastered in town and with TNBL we had it sent to the same place as Little Boots and it turned out way louder then anything before it.

Do you think having gone from being a 3-piece to a 5-piece has something to do with “The New Blacklist” being your best recording to date?

As far as adding a second guitar and having someone who can add some extras on the recording and then play those live is a plus, We just had a lot more time to tweak the songs into what we exactly wanted them to sound like before we hit the studio.

I think adding Eric (drums) and Jimmy (guitar) to the mix have added to the whole process, but I still think the biggest difference on this album was simply taking more time to do it.

When Knucklehead is described, the terms socially conscious or socio-political invariably come up. What does it mean to be a socially conscious band, how important is it to Knucklehead to be politically driven, and (how) are you able to pull that off without coming across as preachy? Can it be political and fun at the same time?

For us it’s important to write songs with more substance than just beer and girls. Don’t get me wrong, we do write the odd song about them and a world without beer and girls sounds like a scary place, but as a band we tend to focus our attention on other topics. As for trying to avoid sounding preachy, we write songs that present an observation on something we think is fucked up rather than a sanctimonious indictment of everyone who doesn’t agree with our views. We also try to keep the melodrama to a minimum. You wont here us singing songs that call for a whole new economic system but you will here us say that we think its fucked up that people in our home town can work full time jobs and not be able to afford to put a roof over their family’s heads. And yes, we keep it fun by avoiding melodrama. We still do sing some songs about beer and other shit that makes the world go round, and most of the other topics we sing about aren’t life or death serious, they’re just observations. Like our song Cosmetic Youth. It’s a criticism of this North American consumer culture that were all guilty of but its written kind of tongue in cheek you know?

When we started playing together we had quite a few songs that were more beer and girls but that gets tired really quickly, we started to see problems in the world on a global scale and started writing about a different subject matter. Of course most subjects that affect a large group of people usually have to do with politics in some way so we could be considered politically driven. Were not calling for a revolution we just want to point out that the world is a pretty fucked up place and if you turn your back on it, it will turn on you.

You just finished up a whirlwind of Ontario, how’d that go? Is touring still fun after all these years? A chore or something you look forward too?

Touring is rad. We just spent a week in Ontario with no greater concern than making sure we get to the right club on-time and making sure that at least one of us stayed sober enough to drive the van at the end of the night. You look forward to hitting the road with the guys in your band because they’re some of your best friends. Play punk rock, hang out with friends all day, how could that not be fun? As for this last tour and how it turned out? It was one of best ever. Every show, except for one town that I won’t mention, had a good turnout and was well received, and we had fun on stage every night. Well be back soon. The only thing well have to do different is stay away from the Jagermiester next time we play the Bovine Sex Club in Toronto.

I have had to give up Jagermiester forever, Aside from that first show the rest kicked ass. I think it would become a chore if we were in a van for months at a time, that’s something that after 12 years I definately do not want to do anymore. The best thing about being in a band is hanging out with your bros in a different place doing nothing but hanging out and working for an hour a day.

Obviously you’re not a straight-edge band! But you do have two songs on the new CD that, both directly and indirectly, seem to be cautionary tales about the dangers of the demon rum…I’m thinking of “Bill Jones Curse” and “Born In A Big City

We all love to booze it up but unfortunately it can be an enjoyment for some and a crippling disease for others and we see that with people we know and some we don’t. We try to have songs about a wide variety of subjects that concern us and people who fuck up their lives on purpose is one of those subjects that unfortunately everyone can relate to first and second hand.

I wrote Bill Jones Curse with particular thought to a couple of friends of ours in Calgary. Unfortunately last month we lost one of them at the age of 28. So ya, Bill Jones Curse is a cautionary tale and also an attempt to offer some support to friends who want to clean themselves up and stick around for a good long while.

Thanks for the interview, anything you’d like to add?

Thanks for taking the time to do the interview. I don’t have anything else to add, you covered a lot. Sorry if I tend to get a little long winded at times. The other guys in the band tell me I can’t tell a joke worth shit cause I dont know the meaning of the word brevity. Cheers.

Thanks a lot check and out our website and our Myspace


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