The Sword’s career has moved in leaps and bounds since the release of their second album Gods of the Earth in 2008. Several tours with Metallica helped to spread their name across a lot of musical boundaries and last year’s Apocryphon cracked the Billboard Top 20 in the US. On the eve of their second Soundwave Festival appearance, Loud caught up with frontman JD Cronise and discussed the more personal direction of Apocryphon, what it’s like touring with one of the world’s biggest bands and new drummer Jimmy Vella.
Apocryphon is something more of a personal record than Warp Riders, isn’t it?
Yes, and I’ve been saying that in interviews since we started doing them for this record, but we’re on our first week-long break from our tour right now and after a month of playing the songs live, it’s even more so. I realise now how much more of a personal record this one is than the previous ones. In a weird way it’s a lot easier to play the songs from this record because it’s not… not that there aren’t plenty of songs from our other records I don’t love to play live, or whatever, but when you’re onstage performing music that is a little bit more personal – from the heart, if you will – it’s definitely a different experience than just getting up there and kind of telling stories that are not really relatable to your own life. It’s definitely different.
Do you find it cathartic to be singing songs about your life, rather than of some imaginary person?
Absolutely. It’s definitely more rewarding, I would say, in a way, playing those. You can just put more of yourself into them. It’s you being the sound. When there’s a little bit more of your soul in the song, that comes out in the performance.
It must have been a different experience for you in other ways too, because you have a new drummer now. Previously you’d had the same line-up for three records, so what was it like going out with Jimmy?
It was great man. It wouldn’t have even been noticable. He might as well have been our drummer all along. There was no adjustment or anything. We’d already been playing with him for about a year on the last record when Trivett left, but when we went in [the studio] it was just a breeze. He’s no rookie. He’s been around. He’s been in bands and recorded plenty of times. It was painless. He knew exactly what he wanted to do and killed it and he did an awesome job. I think he really blew away J. (Robbins), the engineer/producer, just how quickly he got stuff and got through takes and showed us all just what an amazing drummer he is.
Warp Riders did extremely well for you so it would have been important that you were able to go in and not have any issues when following it up.
Absolutely. And not wanting to slight Trivett’s playing at all, I think Warp Riders was definitely his best record with us. His playing on that record went to another level from the first two records. I think he learned how to adapt, how to really play the drums to really serve the songs a lot better on that record. So Jimmy had some big shoes to fill, and I think he did a really good job.
I spoke to Kyle (Shutt – guitar) about this when The Sword was out in Australia for Soundwave last time: You get a lot of Sabbath comparisons, but people know who you are now. When you first started out, did people see the name The Sword and think you were a totally different type of band than what you are?
That’s possible. I think maybe people thought we were a little bit more extreme, maybe. But we’re just a hard rock, rock n roll band.
Do you ever get tired of being compared to Black Sabbath?
Obviously, we all love Black Sabbath. Black Sabbath was definitely a starting point for influences for this band, along with a few others. That’s kinda how I feel is the best way to start a band. Come up with a group of other bands that you’re trying to sound like in the beginning so you at least have some direction, and then if you’re doing it right sooner or later you’ll develop your own voice and your own sound incoporating those influences. But it helps to have some templates in mind when you’re starting a band, but you have to develop your own sound and not just stick to that template, otherwise you’re just going to be a clone. At this point, I get it. I get the Black Sabbath comparisons, and it’s funny because we’ve gotten those comparisons ever since the first record, but this one probably sounds technically more like Black Sabbath than any of our previous ones! But that being said, there’s an entire genre of music devoted to bands that sound like Black Sabbath! It’s not anything new or anomolous that we’re influenced by them. There’s hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of bands that try to do nothing more than sound exactly like Black Sabbath. They’re a great band, and I don’t think it’s a bad thing to be compared to them.
You were here for Soundwave 2011. What was that experience like? You weren’t really well known at the time and you were on pretty early in the day – I think you were one of the first bands on – but you seemed to get a really awesome reaction from what I saw in Sydney, anyway.
We had a fantastic time. It was great and we can’t wait to come back.
You get to play with Slayer again, which I know is a big influence, but is there anyone else on the show that you’re hoping to see while you’re here?
Oh let’s see, who else is on it? …Red Fang, of course. They’re our buddies and an awesome band and we definitely wanna hang out with them. We still haven’t found out about our Sidewave shows, hopefully it will be with Red Fang but we’re not keeping our hopes too high because you never know. I think I’ve seen most of the bands I like that are on the festival before. Metallica I’ve seen a couple times. It’s gonna be great, really looking forward to it.
You’ve been out with Metallica a few times. They’re really choosy about who they take on tour with them, so what’s it like? I’ve heard a lot of great things about how well they look after the bands that tour with them.
Yeah. It’s fantastic. We haven’t done shows with every old school, legendary heavy metal band, but we have played shows with a few of them, and they are far and away, from top to bottom, the coolest. Metallica themselves, their crew, the entire operation. It couldn’t have been cooler for us. They asked us how much money do we need to do this tour. It wasn’t a matter of, This is our offer. Take it or leave it. [It was] “We want you on the bill, what do you need to make this happen?” I don’t know of any bands that do that. Especially the older heavy metal bands. They’re kinda cut-throat. A lot of them are kinda checked out when it comes to the current music scene and they just don’t care! They have their hits, they have their fans who’ve got their tickets regardless and whoever goes on before them is completely irrelevant to them. But Metallica actually cared. They care that people enjoy the show from beginning to end and they care about what’s going on in the music scene now. That’s a rare and awesome thing.
Speaking of new music, is there any new bands or new music that’s taking your fancy at the moment?
Yeah, let’s see. I just got some CDs. I just saw a concert by a Swedish duo called First Aid Kit. They were amazing. That was one of the best shows I’ve ever been to. I just got the new Graveyard, they’re great, another amazing band out of Sweden. The new Soundgarden record is pretty good. That’s a band I’d love to tour with at some point. That would be awesome. Live they’re still sick. The new Coheed & Cambria is pretty good. There’s this band Howlin’ Rain. They put out this record this year called The Russian Wilds. They’re from Oakland, San Francisco area, I think it was executive produced by Rick Rubin. Amazing, amazing record.
How do you see the music scene from your point of view? A lot of people seem to think it’s on a downward spiral.
Well there’s no shortage of bands, that’s for sure. I think it’s more the music industry that’s a little bit in question, rather than the scene itself. Things are just kinda in a state of flux as technology grows and people try to figure out how they’re going to deal with it. All I can say is that somehow, we are still doing pretty good even though things are kinda grim in the music industry. I consider us very lucky. It’s rough out there. I definitely would not want to be starting this band now. I’m glad we started it when we did.
Thanks JD. Is there anything final you’d like to say to Aussie readers before you go?
We love it there. Pretty much whenever we’re asked where is our favourite place to play, we say Australia. I’m not trying to kiss Australian ass. That’s the truth. It was awesome!
The Sword plays the sold out Soundwave Festival in February and March.
You can also catch them with DragonForce on the following dates-
25/2- Billboard, Melbourne- Over 18s only- Tickets from Moshtix, Ticketek and the venue
28/2- The Metro, Sydney- Licensed All Ages- Tickets from Ticketek