Alexisonfire Interview mit Chris Steele und George Pettit
Southern Ontario underground in late 2001. Can you tell me something about the bands history, how you all got together and stuff?
George: We all knew each other from local secenes. We all played in other bands before ALEXISONFIRE, and we played together with those bands, and knew each other from going to shows in St. Catherines. Then all of our bands kind of simultaniously failed, and then Ratbeard (Chris Steele), Dallas, and our original drummer Jesse started jamming out some songs, and a few years later Jesse flaked and we got Ratbeard here, and thats how me and Ratbeard have become an item.
Ratbeard? How come that?
Chris: I used to have a ratty beard when I was a kid I still do. And when we went on tour I used to grow this really ugly beard, and thats how I got the name.
More nicknames for each other?
George: Yeah! Asshole, jerk off
Chris: Dallas. We call him Alfs Dad
What else besides of nicnames has happened in the band or to yourself since the beginning of all of this? What has changed, what hasnt?
George: Well, I am independantly wealthy now, and Ratbeard
Chris: I am NOT independantly wealthy.
George: Me and Ratbeard are starting a ranch together and buy a bunch of horses. No, thats a joke. Nothing really changed. I think the band got progressively bigger in a lot of places. We have been very successful and lucky in that sort of way, but Do you have a tattoo inside of your hand?
No! Thats just the entrance stamp!
George: Oh, ok. I thought you had a tattoo on the inside of your hand, haha. Well, were was I? Right, yeah, it has changed a little bit in that the shows are getting bigger, we come to Germany and other countries and play shows, we play sold out shows which is kind of nuts, but as far as US changing concerns we are still the same jerks we were when this whole thing started. I mean, we are a little more worldly now, and a little less stupid, but at the same time we are still a bunch of fun loving good-timers.
About your new album Crisis: I read on your page that the album on a whole embodies a much darker theme. AOF attributes this to traveling around the world the last couple of years then coming back home and seeing things without rose coloured glasses. How come?
George: Yeah, that kind of reflects it. We knew what we wanted to do with Crisis, and we made our first record, and with Watch Out we filtered out the mistakes we made there, and we got very concise with the way we made songs when we got in the studio for Crisis.
So was there more of a concept behind it?
George: I think there is some underlying tone throughout the whole album, but I dont think that it is a concept album. There is no real connection between the songs. I think there is a lot more darker subject matter, but thats not a concept. I think maturity has something to do with it. Were getting older, and youre watching the news. We are travelling a lot, and get more worldly, I guess. Its funny when people go like: You guys are becoming more mature. And then we go out and party at night, pour beer on ourselves, or wrestle one another. I think we are still all perpetually 16 years old, but not just fucking goofy about it anymore.
If someone would call your music EMO would that be an insult to you, or do you think that such a thing as EMO does not exist?
George: I dont know. Whatever! They can call us whatever they want to. I am not too concerned wit it. The genre of Emo has kind of become a bit of a legacy. No one wants to admit they are an Emo band. Its kinda looked down upon. I dont know. I dont have a problem when people say that we play in an Emo band. I think in our hearts, I know we arent Emo kids.
Chris: Were RocknRollers.
George: I think there are a lot of things that separate us from Emo, but tell THAT to music critics. When you have the sing-scream-thing going on, theres a lot of people who want to turn their head the minute they know that that is going on. And Id say that the dynamics and the tempo of the songs is not Emo at all also.
And also the combination of lyrics and hymnic melodies is said to be sort of unique and that no other band manages it so good as you do. And I would agree with some people that your guitar melodies are easily recognizable among most other bands. Would you agree on that?
George: I think yes. Definetely with the new record. And I think Dallas has a very distinct voice, and just the way we write songs is what shifts us from the pack a little bit.
What about those people who liked Watch Out more than Crisis?
George: You know, different strokes for different folks. Theres people who say that they like our first record better than any of the other records, and those are people that I like to call crazy.
Watch Out was said to have brought you a sort of scene success. Would you agree on that?
George: Scene success. People over here use that word a lot! I am trying to decide for the whole context of Scene.
Chris: Scene always meant to me like zines, and distro, small hall shows and stuff like that.
George: Yeah, that was what scene was: community. Scene is something that is more local. And I think people over here use the word scene for example that there are bands with hair cuts, and stuff like that. Thas we fit into that whole Victory Records, Trustkill, Vagrant, Ferret Records thing. That whole mide-level of bands, and I dont see much sceny about that. None of those bands are really claming to be where theyre from, I guess. Whereas scene really is a local thing. You go to a show, know the people there, and its a community, and everone kind of works. The independent scene Is harder to function in a major-label-kind-of way. Thats why you set up zines, distros, and it was a community working together to support bands. They didnt have a lot of money. Thats at least how I think about scene. If someone wants to incorporate us with that its cool, but I think we are a little to worldly for that now. I dont keep up with too much of the scene back at home anymore, the St. Catherins scene, I dont know whats going on there. Mostly because we are on the road so much.
But your shows have been said to be a sort of scene experience, extraordinary, amazing and full of passion and power. How does that feel?
George: That is part of my day. I think honestyl I have the best job, the ideal job to be working. I dont think I would be enjoying any job as I enjoy doing this one. Its awesome.
Heres a quote from your band bio: A couple of cartoon-character angels and devils sitting on your shoulders, offering 2 very different interpretations of the same musical message. Can you explain what you mean by that?
George: Fuck, I didnt write that one.
Chris: Who is that from? Christina?
George: You know, weve got these lovely people that work with us. Christina Fernandez, she is our publicist, and she is kinda responsible for bios and press releases and that kind of stuff. And once in a while they, ahm, get a little artistic with the way they like to describe things, so I think youre gonna have to ask the author on that one. But every time I get questions and stuff like that, it makes me think that we should start writing our own shit.
Well, then, in addition to that: How did you come up with the FAQ section on the internet?
George: Well, you get bored of answering the same questions over and over again in interviews like Where did your band name come from? and stuff.
Chris: Ah, I still get those!
George: Yeah, me too!
How often do they ask you that question?
George: Almost all the time! Id say somewhere between 50 to 70% of interviews you get that question.
Chris: And they wanna know if its Alex or Alexis on fire.
George: The question that you get asked in interviews where you already have the answer laid in your head, and I am sure that when you read a bunch of Alexisonfire interviews you get pretty much the same things. You could probably quote line for line from different interviews which is kind of bad, but it just gets like that when you have a heavy press schedule and you have to answer the same question over and over again.
Its always hard to come up with new qustions though
George: Yeah, thats true. Once in a while you get someone who gets a little innovative with the questions, but most of the time it takes you to bring it out of the interviewer when the guys are kind of shy, just reading the question. You gotta make it more conversational. When you only get question, answer, question, answer, then I feel like I am doing a test in high school. Whats the right answer to that?!
One more thing about the FAQ sction: I read that if you get an alexisonfire tattoo I get into all of your shows for free forever? How come???
George: We try and keep up with that as much as possible. I think that you can email Candice and send her a picture of the tattoo and stuff, and then you get guestlisted, and get in.
Chris: I mean kids started to get tattoos from our band, and then you might as well get in for free. If you have a fucking Alexisonfire tattoo on you hand, thats hardcore!
Hows the general contact with the fans? Was it weird at first when people came up to you and complimented you and stuff?
George: Its great. And its still weird. You never get used to it. The whole celebrity thing is really not kind of cool, haha.
How is it at home?
George: Its interesting. We are not Tom Cruise or anything, but you get stopped once in a while, get invited to restaurants and stuff.
Does it annoy you sometimes?
Chris: No, not really. I mean, sometimtes, but then you go like: Wait a minute: why would get on your nerves? It just makes more shy or uncomfortable.
How is coming home from tour then? Do you hang out, take a break from the band
Chris: Depends on how long we have off between tours. Sometimes its just a day, sometimes its nothing and we just go off to the next tour. But if we have like a week off we hang out with family and friends and just chill.
George: You kind of cram as much of home in as you can, you know what I mean? Between family, girlfriend, friends, laundry, vacuuming because when I get back from tour its so dusty because no one has lived in that room for like two months straight because weve been on tour. So when you go home its just crazy. You expect everythings on pause while youre away, but everyone is living their own lives and we are living ours. Waid and Dallas are still living with our parents. I have come to the decision that I am throwing away 530$ a month on rent, and its strange because when you are on tour so much home feels like vacation. This here, waking up in a weird place feels more like home most of the time.
So ts hard to keep up with things happening at home?
George: Yeah! You find out who your friends are real quick. Th friends that you really love are the ones who are gonna keep in touch. And sometimes you just fade in and out of peoples lives because that is part of our jobs.
Chris: But still, if Id be home Id be sitting on my ass all day doing nothing, so Im rather here playing shows.
George: Yeah, right. I mean, it sometimes feels like you are missing out on something, its hard to keep up relationships
Chris: And a lot of weddings, all of my freidns are getting married and having kids. Thats stuff I am missing out on, but I am sure if they dont understand, then fuckem. But most of them do, so no need to worry.
So where would you see yourself in a couple of years? Still doing this?
George: I hope so! Five or ten more years of this would be awesome! I think Id like to get to a point in our career where we can tour only four months out of the year, do a very concise tour of big shows and being able to support ourselves on that, and then we could have some time to do stuff at home as well. Thats what Id think would be ideally amazing to be able to do. But at the same time, life on the road is great. Id probably get anti if Id had to spend six month at home.
When all this big and long touring came into question: did you all sit together and talk if all of you wanted to do that?
George: Everybody knew what they were getting into. At the end of the day, we didnt expect any of this to happen, but at the same time we all accepted it with open arms, and everybody just wanted to rock. You know, when you ask yourself what you want to be when you grow up, you say: Oh! I wanna be a cowboy! I wanna be an astronaut! I wanna be a rocknroller! And then to have that kind of fall into your lap is exciting. Its great. Everybody just wants to do it, and we are all jazzed I think. It s a pretty god job?
Do you have any sort of ceremonies you do before going on stage? Certain T-Shirts you wear or anything? Any rituals?
Chris: We do a chant every time before we play. It changes every day. Our bass player Chris makes them up. Yesterday it was Scopes Laundry. Its just some random phrase that he makes up from on top of his head, and then we chant it. Thats our only ritualistic thing.
How did that come into being?
George: We used to do this thing from Married With Children. I dont know if you have that over here, but it was like an edgy, and shitty family sitcom. And they used to do this thing where they go: Oooooh, Bundy! because they are the Bundy family, and so we would do that for a while and eventually we changed it to whatever Steele thought of at that moment.
How do you feel before going on stage? Psyched? Excited? Or nothing at all?
George: I have had days where I didnt really feel like playing, and then we go up on stage, and it will be the best show ever, and other days I am just fucking excited to get up on stage. It varies from day to day.
And afterwards? Want to do it all over again?
George: I feel exhausted then and tired
Chris: Yeah, me too, but most of the time I just dont even want to quit and just keep on playing, but you cant play forever. And there is always another show tomorrow, which is a good thing!
What about future plans?
George: Were gonna tour on this album probably for another year, and then we take time off around next Christmas, and write a new one. We already have kind of started writing on the road, but it probably takes some more time, and write some more songs.
So you write the songs while being on the road mostly?
Chris: No, thats actually more of an exception. A few songs from Crisis were written on the road, which happens to be around Europe most of the time. Because we have like forever to soundcheck, so instead of soundcheck we just jam. We have started on about probably four songs so far that are new. But they are yet sceletons of songs only. Most of it just comes from being super bored!
George: Yeah, there is a huge amount of time where you just sit there waiting. I mean, you kind of walked into that today with us all sitting behind the computers. I hate to crush the dream for some people, but there is a huge degree of monotony that comes along with playing in a band sometimes where everybody is just sitting around. So its easy: your brain gets going, and you start writing songs.
Is there any other difference between gigs here and in the US or Canada apart from the huge amount of time you have at gigs here in Europe?
George: In the US we dont actually have time to write songs because we are not usually headlining plus we only have a van to stay in over there. So it is more comfortable over here, and shows are a lot better, people feed you really well, nobody has a real chip on their shoulder, and everybody is friendly and helpful.
Are there differences in the crowd?
George: Ill tell you what: last night there was a 15 foot stage that was so high, and before we played the helpers came backstage and said: Hey, do you mind if people stagedive tonight? And we were like: Oh yeah! They are going to scale the 15 foot stage and then jump off! Sure! And we just laughed. And then we get on stage, and these kids are fucking jumping off the stage just killing each other, landing on top of everybody. And honestly, I dont see that happening in the United States for this type of band. Not for an Emo band .hahahaha
For a scene band, it was just crazy, and I think thats something very unike to Europe.
For what kind of bands would people stagedive in the US then?
George: I dont know. The stagedive is kind of going the way of the buffalo I think for the most part. Especially in our scene. Our scene has become more of a stage-barrier-scene, but mostly with small to medium sized hardcore and punk bands that can still play in clubs that dont have stage-barriers you get stagedives. There are really a lot of clubs that get tired of replacing the grill from monitors and stuff, so they set up barriers so no one gets up o stage. Over here it just seems people are more passionate with the bands that they like, and the clubs seem to be very understanding about it. A lot of places wont have it. So everybody is really quick to sue people in the United States, so if somebody gets hurt at a show, they can sue the band, the club, the owner, everyone. And there is a lot of state laws that make it work. But over here it just dont matter. I think someone broke his arm the other night that didnt matter to them.
And what about the habit of only going to shows to meet friends instead of going there for the band in the US?
George: Theres kind of like a lot of half-hearted ship-jumpers that are going to come to shows and hang out for a little while, hang out with their friends, show off whatever clothes they are wearing which is kind of ushered in with this whole Myspace era of music, but in a few years those kind of kids is going to fade away. They will wake up at their parents house and realize there is a real world out there. They will have to pay rent, buy groceries and stuff, and there kinda going to drop out of music. And that is kind of sad because I cant understand that attitude because I love music. And over here it seems people over here live music. Its the same thing with V-Fest, a big European style festival, and it was with bands such as Flaming Lips, Eagles of Death Metal, us, Muse, all these enormous bands. And they sold 5,000 tickets, and they were assuming there was gonna be like 25,000 people. So the whole thing just tanked. And a festival like that in the UK or Europe for example would have pulled at least 20,000, 30,000 or 60,000 people. And there you have the difference: over here, they just live it, want to go out, meet the bands before the show because they might be their favorite band. That thing does not exist in Canada or the US: people dont wait for concert season, they just go to shows all the time. So there is good AND bad.
Thank you a lot for the interview!