The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
JD Cronise The Sword - Interview
The Rockpit interviews

The Sword have risen prominently in the 10 or so years that they have been around and deservedly so with a catalogue of albums that have enthralled fans worldwide and a live show that is explosive and fun. The band may be labelled as a stoner rock/metal band during that time but their new album "High Country" which is due for release on August 21st, is set to challenge that label and the fans expectations of the bands sound. We speak to J.D. about the new songs, the new sound and a little about some of his influences.



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Andrew: How's things with the band at the moment?

J.D.: Good!

Andrew: You have a new album which is just about to come out, "High Country" and we were listening to a preview of it just now. This is quite a different album for you guys, what can you tell me about it?

J.D.: Well we recorded it down in Austin this past spring with this guy Adrian Quesada who is an Austin producer. We took a little time off after the last album and this is the result.

Andrew: Was there anything in particular that you wanted to set out and achieve with this album? Because as I said, this is maybe a slight departure from your previous work.

J.D.: We just wanted to make a good record, that's always the goal. This one is probably a little bit of a shift but in a way it's something that I think if people listen closely to all of our records, there's always been that kind of classic rock influence and I think it's gotten stronger on every record. This one may have been more of a tipping point for that I guess but I think it kinda reflects more on where we are, we're older, wiser, have more diverse tastes than 10 years ago when we started the band. Ultimately we like to be known as a band that had really good songs, not just some stoner metal band from Austin, Texas. That's not really good enough for us.

Andrew: Yeah it's quite diverse and a lot of different stuff on here and as you mentioned, a very classic sort of sounding album. Sonically speaking it's also quite different production-wise, the guitars are more upfront and everything is maybe a bit more clearer. Did you focus more on the production side of things this time around?

J.D.: We had a producer and an engineer work on it. It's interesting you say that, I would actually say that maybe the guitars are not quite as upfront. I think our third record and our last one were pretty much walls of guitars and this one we really tried to dilute that a little bit and put in some more elements and give it a bit more texture and fill out that space with some percussion and vocals and synthesizers and stuff rather than just make everything just guitars, guitars, guitars. So it has a little bit more depth to it I think.

Andrew: OK I don't know what it was then, so maybe it was the tuning of the guitars that was different?

J.D.: Yeah it is different actually, we started tuning to a higher pitched tuning. We used to tune to C standard which if you know anything about music, that's a good deal lower than what most standard guitars are tuned. And personally as a songwriter I got to a point with that tuning where I just felt that I don't like the sound of it anymore, it just hits my ear wrong. It almost feels more like a gimmick, I felt like I needed to get away from that because I was starting to rely on it, like a gimmick or something. I just want to let the songs speak rather than being this overwhelming guitar presence of these super low tuned guitars. Sometimes I felt like that sort of thing can take away from the song content itself.

Andrew: What were the main inspirations when you sat down and wrote these songs this time around?

J.D.: Really a lot more of the stuff that I listen to. It's a lot bluesier, a lot more classic rock vibe of blues and even some folk and psychedelic rock and a lot of it was just inspired by nature, the world outside my door pretty much. That was a lot to do with our taking time off and getting away from everything.

Andrew: I guess the title of the album represents that pretty well, "High Country" which represents nature.

J.D.: Yeah I live in the mountains and mountains to me are sacred places, places that you go to seek wisdom and commune with the natural world.

Andrew: Obviously you will be touring on the back of this album so have you started any tours yet or planning any tours for this year?

J.D.: Yeah we're about to leave for Europe in a couple of weeks and then we're doing the States for the rest of 2015, hope to get down to Australia next year hopefully early in the year.

Andrew: We would love to see you down here! The first time I saw you guys was about 5 years ago when you guys opened for Metallica on their tour. How was that for you opening for them?

J.D.: Oh it was amazing! We were lucky to get to see a window into that kind of world that fewer and fewer people get to see these days as there are fewer and fewer huge bands like that, so we were very lucky.

Andrew: And the last time you were here was I think Soundwave a few years ago?

J.D.: Yeah that's right.

Andrew: So how do you find the Australian crowds?

J.D.: They're great! Next time we come we're hoping to do a headlining tour because that's what we really want to do. We've done Soundwave twice and we've done the Metallica thing and all that's great but those really aren't our shows. Festivals are cool for people to check your band out that maybe haven't seen you before but at the end of the day we want to get down there and play for our fans, at night inside with good sound! The way shows are meant to be!

Andrew: Haha exactly! Personally I prefer a club show, intimate and smaller crowd, better vibe.

J.D.: Yeah festivals can be fun and everything but the sound usually is kind of iffy on stage because you're outdoors and that sort of thing. I just think rock n' roll at the very least is meant to be played at night time and preferably indoors with a good sound system. But it's all good.

Andrew: I guess playing during the day time probably kills the vibe a little as well.

J.D.: It can be cool, it all depends if the weather is nice. It's fun but nothing beats a proper rock show.

Andrew: Yeah definitely. So how do you put a setlist together? Do you focus on newer material? Is that something that people can expect on this tour?

J.D.: Yeah probably on this upcoming tour. Pretty much consistently through-out our career we've played lots of stuff from every album, we've almost through default tried to give equal attention to every record live and I think we're kinda at a phase where we're going to move out of that a little bit. Which is probably a bit disappointing to some fans but for us, our drummer Jimmy, this is his second album with us and so at this point we'll probably start concentrating more on stuff that he's played on in new material. But we'll always play songs from our old records live because they're fun and people want to hear them but yeah, it will probably be a bit more newer stuff.

Andrew: You just mentioned that your drummer is now on his second album with you now so how has everything been working out with him so far?

J.D.: It's great, no issues there.

Andrew: OK cool. So going back into your history, how did you start getting into music and what made you decide to want to be in a band?

J.D.: I don't know, at some point I just reached that age in adolescence where suddenly rock music and things like that, that older kids were into, was a little more interesting than cartoons and action figures. I probably first started listening to Guns N' Roses and Led Zeppelin and stuff that kids in the late 80's listened to and then of course got into Nirvana and all that kind of stuff. I grew up in a time in the early 90's period when everyone was buying a guitar and learning how to write songs and starting bands so I just caught that bug early on I guess.

Andrew: Was there anyone in particular that influenced you the most.

J.D.: Hearing Led Zeppelin was probably what actually made me want to start learning how to play guitar. All roads lead to Led Zeppelin.

Andrew: Yeah I can definitely hear the Led Zeppelin influence on The Sword and a big influence on a lot of bands as well.

J.D.: Well they're Led Zeppelin, they're the greatest band of all time!

Andrew: Haha well that brings me to my question then. If you could be a fly on the wall for the recording of any classic album in history, what album do you think that would be?

J.D.: Oh man that's a good question, the recording of any classic album. What album do I think sounds really awesome? Probably some ZZ Top album, maybe "Tejas" or something. ZZ Top are masters of mystery, of maintaining their mystique and things like that even though there is a lot of information about them but I've never seen any in-studio footage of Billy Gibbons or anything like that so that woud be pretty cool to go back in time in a time machine and see them lay it down back in the 70's.

Andrew: Is that something that you try and do as well? Keep a certain mystique about the band or are you prett open about what you guys do?

J.D.: We definitely do try to keep a little bit. I mean in this age of social media, if you don't participate a little bit sometimes people might forget that you even exist so I think it's a little bit of a necessary evil for us but I personally am not that active on it. I like my bands, the bands I like, to kind of maintain a little bit of mystery about them so I think fans appreciate that. Personally I don't want to know every little thing about artists that I like, I want to know relevant things about their music and stuff like that but I don't need to know their every thought and opinion on every subject under the sun so I choose not to give mine on that.

Andrew: Yeah fair enough and I totally understand. I mean the whole mystique on a lot of music today has been blown out exaggeratedly because of the internet I guess so its just one of those things.

J.D.: I think it's funny that bands like Ghost and another band from Sweden, Goat - I don't know if you heard of them - who also wear masks which I think is an interesting way to combat that, being completely faceless and not even letting people see you what you look like.

Andrew: One extreme to another I guess! One more question for you which we try to ask and get different kinds of answers. For you personally, what is the meaning of life?

J.D.: That's a good question, I'm still looking for that one. I think it has something to do with human connections but I'm not entirely sure yet, I'll get back to you on that one haha!

Andrew: Haha no problem! Well the new album sounds fantastic and I think the fans will be quite surprised, in a good way, when it finally comes out. So thanks for your time today, it's been a pleasure!

J.D.: Oh thank you man, I appreciate it.

Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on August 5th 2015