INTERVIEW: Kill Trend Suicide: Brutal Truth’s glorious history of fucking up

By on 5 May 2010

“One of the cool things that I like about Brutal Truth is we never really do the same thing twice,” drawls Brutal Truth’s bearded frontman Kevin Sharp from a histrionic Skype connection to the vocalist’s unfeasibly bright and sunny Georgia home. “We play extreme music and there’s no formula to it. We do what feels fun, alright, there. Each record looks and sounds entirely different; it’s cool to be afforded the option to move around. A lot of the people who’re into Brutal Truth, they have their favourite periods but are extremely open minded and allow us the opportunity to move around – and that’s cool.”

This is the preamble to the conversation imprinted into the glossy bedsheets of Terrorizer #196, out now (buy it here if you haven’t picked it up yet), in which Kevin recalls the long and bleak winter in snow-locked, rural New England where he and his bandmates worked on their second full-length and final offering for an increasingly less patient Earache, 1994’s ‘Need To Control’. It’s a contentious choice for a ‘classic’ though, more people would swear by the band’s debut, the ferocious ‘Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses’, or their final album prior to the original split in 1998 (reuniting in 2007 and releasing the thunderous ‘Evolution Through Revolution’ in 2009), 1997’s crazy, careening ‘Sounds Of The Animal Kingdom’. ‘Need To Control’ though, was a bold move in its climate with grindcore and death metal orthodoxy being the order of the day and the potential for commercial returns high for those who ticked the boxes and plodded on, it also placed them on the cover of Terrorizer during their tour with Macabre. Everyone has a theory, and all are equally valid, well, most are equally valid, some are more valid than others. Our grindstone cowboy seems particularly proud of their 1996 offering and first for long term collaborators Relapse.

“It’s not like certain bands, like Cannibal Corpse, who have to deliver the same kinda thing. Not saying this, that or the other about those kinda bands, because they’re awesome, but they’re kinda forced to write in a certain aspect. Go ahead, knock yourself out. I happen to like ‘Kill Trend Suicide’ – I think it sounds weird. We recorded that one in a studio that was falling apart and there were moments in time that were completely lost because the studio was exploding constantly. I recorded in my lunch break; I was working in a record store two doors down. So each record sounds totally different. ‘Need To Control’ is dynamically awesome and sonically good, but that was a struggle, it was a struggle. ‘Extreme Conditions…’ was like one of those things like an accident, like a discharge – a moment in time and there were only a handful of bands like it in the extreme scene back then. They all have different mentalities; I rarely have the same thought twice.”

Though ‘Need To Control’ was something of a headfuck for grind purists, a dislocated and uneasy swirl of mechanical riffs, bursts of static, looped riffs and strange noises, for Kevin, the chaos brought everything a lot closer to home. “We just went back to our roots. I grew up punk, y’know, I got into metal through the back door. There was a Germs cover, when I was a kid I was a big fan of The Germs, and it just had all the elements, there was some breathing space, everything wasn’t so structured. Not many people got it when it first came out, people pick and choose what sucks and what doesn’t, and that’s cool, it says that you’re doing something interesting.” Ironically, while more punk in spirit, ‘Need To Control’ was significantly ‘less punk’ in appearance with an understated typeface logo and somewhat inaccessible and alien cover art, certainly a bold statement in the face of its predecessor’s orthodox anarchopunk collage.

“‘Extreme Conditions…’ went down that whole Crass route, everyone did that back in the day. That whole cut’n’paste. It was indicative of that whole scene, y’know. It was exciting, whether it was Destroy, Disrupt, Napalm Death, Extreme Noise Terror – it was all new and interesting and everyone was doing their own thing. Then everyone just went in their own direction, if you look at the ‘classic’ bands, they all followed their own experimentation. Carcass went into the more structured metal thing, Napalm went into their Cocteau Twins, 12” Swans whatever, everyone elaborated into whatever their own personal interests were outside of recording – obviously mine were more just rudimentary punk and crust punk – there’s a Nausea cover on the 12” and stuff. We did a lot of really weird things. If you look at the bands that were around then, there was a lot of the freedom to do whatever the hell they wanted to. People always ask nowadays what I think of contemporary grind bands and they’ve all kinda boxed themselves into a certain stylistic thing, y’know. It’s a shame, because the whole point of grindcore was to elaborate.”

This thoroughly punk rock greenie gobbing on yesterday’s Brutal Truth left them free to spin the wheel and mount the curb. “It opened the gates, you had the artwork for ‘Kill Trend Suicide’ which was my buddy Bill [Yurkiewicz, Exit 13 vocalist] with a gun in his head. It’s weird, over the course of time certain people get into certain things. The ‘Sounds Of The Animal Kingdom’ was just a straight up ‘fuck you’ to everything, it was dirty, people moaned about the production. Get a dick, dude, it was supposed to be dirty. What’s so kind about a middle finger? You do things over the course of time; you see the ape-man tattoos, you heard some guy paid like $400 on eBay for the broken TV that was on the artwork to ‘Kill Trend…’ and it obviously meant something to someone on a deep, impassioned level and that’s cool. I’d rather be someone’s favourite or totally hated than sorta liked, it comes with some baggage – I’ve been a hero and an asshole to most everyone in my life, I’m good with that. You’ve got to be secure in yourself.”

It can’t be a coincidence that the year Brutal Truth freaked out and tossed their blast-quota out the window was just as the hype-levels surrounding death metal (and to a lesser extent grindcore) were tickling the chin like rising water in sinking sub, MTV and major labels circling like hawks, and bands popping up ever week as if pressed from a sprue. “Everyone and their mother,” he sighs. “If you do music professionally, everyone wants to consider themselves before they consider you and the problem that comes with that is that, even on our level which I just call low cut punk rock, do it yourself, people make their living offa you and everybody has their expectations. There’s obviously pressure on that level, booking agents, record label monkeys, radio fuckwits and all that kinda stuff have their nose in your ass and expect you to do whatever. I’m not a fucking pop band and never have been, I could write a fucking pop song for sure, and Vanilla Ice is my fucking hero, but if I wanted to do that I would just create that band. I did jazz records, I did metal records and punk records, that sorta thing, and if wanted a pop record I’d do a pop record. If I wanted expectations I would entertain them, but I want Brutal Truth and I’m sorry Dig didn’t like it, and in hindsight, not a lot of people did.

“Before that record everyone stayed on their own court, everyone stayed on their own home team, nobody really took chances – bands like Death did Death records, bands like Dark Angel did Dark Angel records and now there’re bands all the time who’re free to move around. We just did a tour in Japan with Converge and they’ve always moved around. Maybe not musically, but intent-wise that record had some impact with other bands, telling people not to be so narrow. Hopefully some of the newer grind bands will take something, not sonically, but just the aspect behinds it. Try and take what you do and elaborate on it. Take it outside the box, scratch and sniff.” Considering almost all of what your average rivethead knows about ‘Need To Control’ is how much Earache generally fucked it (“it was like a breech birth, just a nightmare – the head came out last and it came out with flippers and fins”), it’s surprising that it’s taken so long for label boss and grindcore’s pantomime villain (in the productions put on in the West Midlands at least) Digby Pearson to make an appearance. Still, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

“Obviously,” agrees Kevin, “everything has a direct reflection on it. Records are just a reflection of where four dudes are at in that particular point in time, it’s a snapshot. When we recorded that record, it was the place where we recorded ‘Extreme Conditions…’, where we always recorded, it was called Baby Monster, we knew the place well and it had this antique-y board set-up with all this tube shit, it was fucking awesome, totally fucking ‘70s good where the sounds were warm and you could do a lot with it. They were courted by the whole Sony, and there was this jackass from Colombia who really wanted to use Baby Monster and we got pushed out of that one while we were recording. I was doing my vocals at the time and they told us we had to leave. I said, ‘That’s fine, put us in a place that’s compatible’. And they put us in this other studio, while that was a ‘70s mood, this was an ‘80s mood – a real kinda r’n’b kinda thing. I was recording my vocals, and the band next to us, C+C Music Factory, it was like ‘pump up the jams boom-boom-boom’, it was this pop r’n’b shit. It was a completely opposite tonal place where you couldn’t find a guitar – there was no guitar. And we got in to record and after two days said, ‘Dig, man, we just can’t do it here, man, it’s impossible’, and trying to explain to the [Colombia] record label guy why this was impossible was impossible. So we ended up putting this that and the other off, and we ended up doing a three-month tour in Europe, and then dropped into London – made friends with Mitch Dickinson [Unseen Terror] – everything happens for a reason, man.”

Having by his own admission mellowed considerably over the years, Kevin Sharp and his misshapen fruit bowl of grindcore misfits hold no grudges and no-one accountable, what’s done is done, and it’s left some awesome, unlikely and downright fucking weird memories in its wake.

“I’ve got a really funny story about ‘Extreme Conditions…’, Dig was on his budget thing and we were sorta pressed for time. We had two days to mix the record and this was back in the olden glory days when everyone had their mixing duties, when the clock hits x-o’clock this fader went up and this fader went down, and people were cutting tape and pasting it back together. This was pre-digital. Anyway, we were pressed for time and Colin [Richardson, producer] bit into this table, I guess when he was a kid and he was in a bar he got his face smashed and lost some teeth, so he had this bridge going across the front side of his mouth with some fake teeth and nobody knew anything about it. He was just negative energy in motion; he’d touch a stop button and black out some room, that sorta thing. He’d just touch things and they’d break. He was like an engineer’s worst nightmare, we were running around with rubbing alcohol and things to clean up his total mess. But he bit into this table and lost his teeth because he couldn’t go out for some dental glue because we hadn’t time to stop, so this poor guy was talking and we were trying not to laugh, but it was impossible because…” he breaks into cartoonish spluttering. “You’re trying not to laugh at the guy because he’s stretched out of his mind but he’s talking at you with spit flying outta his mouth! That was ‘Extreme Conditions…’.”

About Miranda Yardley

I'm Miranda. Bite me.

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