Interview: Jose Eduardo Cruz
Since forming in 2004, hard rock heavyweights Behind Crimson Eyes has clocked up 400+ shows, released 2 EPs, 2 albums, played major festivals and are currently in studio recording their new EP before seeing the year out by playing at Open Arms Festival – Coffs harbour, NSW on 20th November 2010.
Josh Stuart, frontman of Behind Crimson Eyes, takes time out for LIFE MUSIC MEDIA
Over the last couple of years you guys have managed to play most of the national touring festivals. This is the third time Open Arms Festival is being held and the first time you guys are in the line up. Could you tell us what your expectations are of the festival?
Festivals are always a fun thing to be a part of; you get to see great bands and play in front of big crowds. I’m expecting Open Arms Festival to be no different, especially since The Living End and Birds Of Tokyo are headlining! Not to mention every time we have played in Coffs something crazy has gone down!
Coffs Harbour has become a constant touring stop for most bands as they make their way up or down the east coast of Australia. Could you tell us a little about your previous experiences of playing at Coffs Harbour?
Well I can’t go into too much detail in fear of incriminating some of the bands on the tour but one of the times we played at the Plantation Hotel in Coffs we stayed at the back packers up stairs. After a great show a lot of the punters hung around and drank in the bar so we decided to hang out as well. This is when things got a little crazy and then next thing you know a bunch of girls got their boobs out and were getting pictures and getting the bands on the tour to sign them. I think even our “roadie” signed some boobs. I can safely say that this has only ever happened to us once, and that was in Coffs!
The line up for Open Arms Festival is yet again jammed packed with exceptional bands. How do you manage to maintain a level head even when you are privileged enough to play alongside bands such as The Living End?
I guess we have always brought something different to the table, especially compared with The Living End or Birds Of Tokyo. Our shows are a little more chaotic and intense. You never really know what is going to happen. We’ve had everything from Az (our guitarist) having his head split open from a wild bass spin, to me jumping off a 3 meter high speaker stack into the crowd. I think it is these elements that make for an interesting live show, rather than just the CD reproduced.
Open Arms Festival is your last show for the year yes? Will you sneak in a surprise show in December or will your fans have to wait until you begin promotions for the new release?
It is hard to say what is going to happen. We weren’t even expecting to play at the Open Arms Festival, but when the opportunity came up, we jumped at it. So I guess if the right show comes along, at the right time, we will play for sure! But as it stands this will be our last show for the year.
Recently you guys announced that the next BCE release would be in an EP format. Could you explain a little further your decision to release EPs instead of a full length album?
There are a lot of reasons we chose to head down the EP route rather than the tradition full length album. First and foremost we wanted to fund it and release it ourselves, which meant we just couldn’t afford to spend $60-80k up front. There is a certain freedom you get from being totally in control of your music, however there is also a large financial risk, so this was a way to mitigate that risk. Although this was a major factor in our decision it wasn’t the only factor and it definitely wasn’t the one that made the most sense. The current music climate is no longer conducive to the LP format. I believe that it is due to the scale and ease of access to music these days. No longer do you have to find out what is good from friends or the radio and make a trek down to the record store. Now with myspace, facebook, Pandora, iTunes and the Internet in general you have access to almost every song every made instantly. This means that people’s attention spans are far shorter and you have to be constantly providing them with a reason to listen to your music. So we have decided that instead of releasing 1 album every 2 years, we are going to try and release 2-3 EPs per year. I think in the future there will be fewer record labels and more services like iTunes that gives the power back to the artist to distribute their material.
How is the writing/recording process coming along?
It is coming along pretty slowly but the songs are some of the best we have every written. We are getting back to our heavy roots and this first series of EPs is a big concept that is based on the Bible and how semantically “Good” and “Evil” is the same thing, it just depends on what side you are on. So commonly God is viewed as “Good” but from the perspective of the Devil, he is “Evil”. It has been really fun playing both characters while writing and has made for some interesting lyrics. I think people will really be able to identify as this is a theme that is inherent in humanity.
It has been close to two years since two of your members left the band, how have the new inclusions influenced the direction of the band?
In the past there were a lot of internal conflicts and clashes of personality or ideas. It was particularly difficult writing for the self titled release as everyone had very strong opinions of what they wanted to achieve. The result was a very compromised album that didn’t really represent the band but more each individual in a small way. Now everyone is on the same page and all driving in the same direction. It’s great to have that common ground now and all share that one vision.
The destabilizing events that unfolded in the band in 2009 were put down to the trials and tribulations that being in a touring band bring. Have you guys found positive ways to overcome the difficulties that constant touring brings?
A lot of the problems we had were a result of touring and the pressures to deliver bigger and more appealing music. Not only that, but we were dealing with management issues and unfortunately discovered we were in a large amount of debt because of their negligence. It was fairly evident when Kevin and Cameron left they had just had enough of all the bullshit. I think almost everyone at that time wanted to quit because we were in such a bad position emotionally and financially. So we ended up leaving our management, being let out of contract from our label and having two members quit all in the space of 3 months, but I really feel we are in a better place now than ever before. We’ve pulled the reins on touring and decided to only play shows we wanted to and not just for the sake of it or for the money. This has really given us a new lease on life. No longer is touring a burden but a pleasure. We have also self managed for over a year now and the band is in the best financial state it has ever been in. It just feels great to be back in control of our own business and our own destiny.
Is the new material reflective of the new found stability in the band?
It is much more consistent now, whereas in the past we jumped between genres a lot to please everybody. So although it made it interesting, it also made it difficult to write and I think it became confusing to the listener.
Changing the focus to the Australian music scene now. There appears to have been a renaissance in the Australian hardcore scheme over the last couple of years. What in your opinion is driving this change in the Australian music scene?
It is difficult to comment on this. I’ve removed myself from the “scene” and music in general for a long while now. Being involved in it for so long started to turn me into a bitter and jaded old man. I don’t buy into the bureaucracy any more. I don’t care what genre a song is, if it is good then it is good. In the past I think I was a little more narrow minded. With that said, there is no doubt heavy music has become more popular in Australia in recent times. It’s cool to see bands like Parkway Drive, who used to sleep on my floor when they were in Melbourne, doing so well.
Has the fact that you are signed to Roadrunner Records given you the opportunity to have international exposure?
Unfortunately not. We were pushing for a long time to get overseas but nothing ever eventuated. I think we were just about to be released in Japan when all the drama went down and members started leaving. After Roadrunner Japan caught wind they pulled the deal. I’m pretty disappointed we never had the opportunity to tour or release overseas, especially when a lot of bands on a similar level are doing it these days. But we have had some great opportunities locally and I am thankful for that!
There are multiple bands from Australia that have the potential to conquer the international market, but don’t quite get there. What in your opinion is the reason for this?
There are a lot of reasons but I think it will become a more common endeavor as the world becomes more connected. There are less and less boundaries now. We can release worldwide on iTunes and not have to get anyone other than Steve Jobs involved ie. No record company. You can organize a tour in other countries via Skype and email without needing a booking agent. Plenty of bands are becoming successful this way but you still need a unique product at the right time. My idealistic view is, if you write an amazing song, it wont matter who signs you or who is in your music video, it’ll get out there and become successful.
Does BCE have anything in the horizon with respect to international touring?
Again unfortunately not. I’d love to tour in Japan as I’ve heard nothing but great things.
Finally, we want to thank you for taking the time out to chat with us Life Music Media and we wish you the very best for 2011.
Thank you very much! This interview took a while to write but there were some great questions! Thanks.
Behind Crimson Eyes are:
Josh Stuart – Vocals
Aaron Schultz – Guitar / BV’s
Garth Buchanan – Bass
Dan Kerby – Drums
Behind Crimson Eyes on Facebook – www.facebook.com/behindcrimsoneyes