Inside the world of American Headcharge!
The never-ending barrage of nu-metal has been blessed with another band that is slowly making its way to the top of the heap to kick the shit out of weaklings like Disturbed and Linkin Park. American Head Charge is that psycho-freaked group among the masses that will surely stand out. Their on and off pummeling is scattered with sonic interludes that offer a sound unique to radio-friendly metal and MTV garbage. They’ve toured with the OZZfest this past summer, opened the Pledge Of Allegiance Tour with Slipknot and System of a Down, and are currently on the road with metal gods Slayer. So what’s it like opening for possibly the greatest thrash metal band of all time? Hear that and more as we sit down with Chad Hanks, co-founder and bassist of the massively violent but sometimes hated (by ignorant fools) American Head Charge.
So what’s it like touring with Slayer?
So far, it’s pretty fucking good. We heard horror stories about people opening up for Slayer. System Of A Down’s first big tour was with Slayer. Alice In Chains got booed off the stage their first tour with them.
How has the response been for AHC?
Really good except for two cities where there were groups of people going out of their way to let us know how much they thought we sucked. But everywhere else we’ve gone we’ve been received fairly well.
Has the same thing happened with Chimaira?
Yeah, people like them. They haven’t run into opposition as much. Our techs bring out keyboards on either side of the stage, so the old-school metal fans immediately don’t like what they see. And then we come out and we’re total freaks, all painted up and weird looking. With Chimaira, they’re a lot more hardcore, and they kind of just dress down. In the visual arena, our appearance fucks us sometimes to the people who look at that and feel they can make an assumption about a band based on looks.
So have you gotten to meet the guys in Slayer? I know they like to keep to themselves a lot of the time.
Oh yeah, we’ve been hanging out with them a lot lately. We didn’t talk to them the first three days of the tour. We saw them walking around and would say hey. But the third day, Dino, the A&R for American came up to us with Tom (Araya, lead singer of Slayer) to talk about the stage setup and other shit. The next night System was in town so they came down and we all hung out backstage and on our busses all night. That kind of broke the ice and from then we hang out with them all the time. God hates it when you don’t burn down with Tom, so we’ve been doing that regularly with him. Kerry is kind of quiet, Jeff is really cool, and we’ve just gotten to be ourselves hanging out with them.
Did they give you any pointers on touring?
Not really, but they did tell us they felt bad for us because of all of their hardcore, skinhead nazi fuckers who tend to take things a little too seriously when they’re at a concert.
Right on. I’ve seen that too often. Can you give our readers a quick history of the band?
Here’s the Reader’s Digest version that I’ve condensed for just this thing. I moved from LA to Minneapolis in 1995 to go to a treatment center. Martin (lead singer of AHC) was my roommate there and we got to become good friends. We finally got out and about six months later we pulled the band together. We’ve gone from four to five to six to seven, changed a few members, and just got the groove going. There wasn’t much of a scene up there at the time and we kind of got that moving to where we were drawing fifteen hundred people whenever we played in our area. The big kicker was when we opened for System Of A Down and Shavo got us hooked up with Rick Rubin five months later to produce the album.
What was it that Rick was able to bring to the table while recording?
I think mostly clarity. We would walk in with these songs and they’d branch out in a certain way. So he’d toy with it, rearrange it so it sounded more cohesive and just really trimmed the songs to how we wanted. We were like, ‘Why didn’t we think of that?’ But that’s what he’s there for, and we’re very grateful to have been able to work with someone of his caliber right away.
Did you encounter any problems?
Not at all. We agreed on pretty much everything. The only debates we had weren’t even really debates, just more discussions on what we wanted out of this song or that one. But as far as vocals went, Rick was there the first three weeks off tracking and then we pretty much handled everything else by ourselves. We’d tweak it or add samples, pretty much whatever we wanted to do with it.
The video for the single “All Wrapped Up” has been banned by practically everyone. Do you plan on making any changes so you might be able to put it out there where it could be accessible?
You can’t make any changes to it. American wanted to take out all the scenes with us covered in blood, plus all the scenes with Michael Rooker. It would have been a boring fucking video, just us standing around in a soundstage. So we said fuck it, here it is, and they pretty much shelved it.
What about overseas?
We haven’t gotten it over there yet, but we expect the same thing from the media. We’re going to take copies over to give away at shows so kids can have it somewhere besides their computers. It won’t be a label thing where they’re promoting it, they’re scared shitless of it. So it’ll be our thing if we do it.
Is it intimidating being on a major label?
Everything that has happened has been because of the September 11th thing. We’re not giving out AHC Deathsquad stickers anymore, no more upside down flags, but we haven’t gotten them so pissed at us that they want to pull or anything like that. They’re a big record company and they’re supposed to be looking at us through a microscope, so we understand that and it’s cool.
Since we mentioned it, how have the events of September 11th affected your live show, your band, and yourself?
The only thing we stopped doing was burning the flag. That was purely out of safety reasons. I don’t want some overzealous redneck taking a shot at me out in the parking lot because he thinks we burned a part of him. I just don’t care that much. If it means less trouble like that, it was exactly what we needed to do.
How do you feel you separate yourselves from the nu-metal genre?
To be honest, I hate most of the shit that’s out there today. I just went to the record store and picked up Nine Inch Nails, Oysterhead, Tenacious D, Skinny Puppy. I don’t know, there just isn’t anyone out there who really impresses me. And the ones that do are doing really well, like Slipknot, System, Mudvayne, and Tool.
So would you say Linkin Park and Disturbed are pretty much in the shit pile?
Yeah, I met them all they’re good guys but I just don’t see the music as real. I grew up with the guitar player from Goldfinger, Charlie. I’ve known him forever and love him like a brother but I hate his band. He didn’t really like them either, but sometimes you can like the people, yet their music is complete shit. And that’s seems to be the case more often in today’s metal world. I’d like to believe we’re doing something a little different, not completely out there, but something that people can’t just look at and tag. I want them to really have to listen and go beyond what’s in their head the first time they hear “A Violent Reaction”. The whole album isn’t like that, and I think that’s where we differ from someone like Disturbed, whose album kind of follows a certain path that you can expect to hear from them.
With the album having been out for three months and you having over half a year touring, when you look back is it what you were hoping for as far as expectations went?
I think it’s all gone really well. Considering the fact the record is a lot to take in, I understand it. We’re not going to sell half a million in a week. The album has a lot of grower in it, so you can go back and hear it a month, six months, a year later and find something out about it that totally weren’t expecting. I love being able to pick up an album I’ve had forever and not really like and all of a sudden I find what’s the album is portraying and it makes it a whole other musical experience.
Will the tour with Slipknot be the first time for you in Europe?
It’s not my first trip to Europe, but it’ll be our first as a band. Some of the other guys have been, but none of us have ever gone over there to tour.
Any expectations there?
I expect to be in Amsterdam, stoned, a few times. I expect to be in Germany drinking warm beer, and we all expect border problems, but that’s the world today. We’re not going over with a rock star attitude. We just want to have the best time we can with the all the guys. It’s going to be a huge group so we’ll be able to have a blast pretty much everywhere we go.
That’s the way to do it. Do you have anything you want to add, for the readers, fans, anyone who might read the interview?
Thanks to all the people who bought the record already, and if you’re tired of the same bullshit that you hear everyday on the radio, then check us out. We’ll be glad to take your money.
+ Rick Hinkson