Latest release: Warp Riders (Kemado)

After scoring a US Top 50 album and an international tour with Metallica, you’d think that life couldn’t have been better for The Sword last year. And you’d be right, until you found out that long-serving drummer Trivett Wingo decided to leave the Texas band in the middle of a US tour in November, forcing them to cancel shows and find a replacement. Which they did, with barely a misstep. On the eve of their second visit to Australia in less than a year, guitarist Kyle Shutt spoke to Loud about concept albums and being on the road with the world’s biggest metal band.

Q: It would be fair to say that the The Sword has really had some ups and downs over the last 12 months.
A: Oh yeah. We’ve always been a real tight group. But the last year it just started getting a little crazy. You’re around the same group of people 24 hours a day, and you just start to go a little nuts. It was just our drummer’s time to go. I wish he could’ve gone out a little differently, but it was the best thing for everybody. It just kinda sucks that it was halfway through a tour. The way it happened was a real disappointment, but it needed to happen. And things have been a lot more positive. We just made up all the US dates that we had to cancel, with our new drummer, and that went really well. The energy was new and good again. We’re still out there. The three original members are as commited as hell, so I don’t think there’s any worry about us going anywhere intentionally.

Q: Warp Riders seemed to get almost universal praised. There didn’t seem to be a lot of negative stuff about it at all.
A: Yeah, I was pretty happy. Honestly, it’s the only Sword record that I actually listen to on a regular basis. I put it on every now and then. We were more removed from the production this time around, and literally I didn’t hear it as much as I had with the others before it came out. And plus I was really excited with how it came out and with how it sounded. When it came out in the US, it debuted on the Billboard charts at 42 or something like that. It’s been doing really well, people are digging it, and I can’t wait to hit the road and keep supporting it.

Q: It must have been good for you to see how someone else could bring your vision to life.
A: That’s a good way to put it. The producer we used, Matt Bayles, he also plays keyboards and things in various bands and he added a lot of textural tones that we would have tried to emulate ourselves, but I think that him adding his creative juices to it really helped the record. Like “A Strange Dream” or the first song off the record, with all the atmospheric instrumental stuff… he had a lot to do with that. We learned a lot, and we’re not gonna make another record the same way that we did. We already knew what things we’d like to do differently. But still, it was a huge growing experience for us. A learning process, I guess you could call it.

Q: Is the next album going to follow the same concept as Warp Riders?
A: We’re not gonna revisit the same world again. Probably not for at least another fifteen years or so (laughs). We’ll do the inevitable sequel, but not for a while. I think we just want to make it the best rock record we can, just like we tried with the last one. It just so happened that JD wrote all the songs about the same thing.

Q: The Sword seems to me to be exactly the sort of band that was always able to do a consistent concept album.
A: Heavy metal is general kinda lends itself to that, but even so a lot of times it tends to be a little half-baked. I feel that JD really hit the ball out of the park with the concept and storyline. If you read through the lyrics, the plot is kinda vague, but it does have a grand scope as far as the story’s concerned. And there is an actual story that has been written and we’re just kinda waiting on various ways to release that to the public. We talked about doing a comic book, but that ended up being really expensive (laughs). So we might find some other ways to get the story to the fans.

Q: What was it like when JD (Cronise, vocals/guitar) came in and said this would be the idea for the next album?
A: I had known before the other two in the band, for a while. Whenever we are on tour, JD and I are room mates, so we talk a lot more about shit like that. And we’re also the two primary songwriters. So we, every so often, get together and rap about what we’re reading at the time or go to each other’s house and play a couple of riffs and just write some songs. When the initial email went out to Bryan and Trivett at the time, about the concept, they were kinda wary about it. But when we told them the story — and the story is so awesome that you just can’t help but fall in love with it after you’ve read it — and after they had read his whole synopsis they were 100% behind it.

Q: The cover is perfect too. It really looks like an old pulp novel.
A: Yeah, it looks like that old Santana record (laughs). An Australian guy did that actually. Dan McPharlin is his name. He’s kind of a hermit. We have a real hard time trying to get hold of him. But we’re gonna try to track his ass down whenever we get back over there. We contacted Roger Dean to design something for us, but he didn’t have enough time and we would have to license something. We wanted to have some original. Just because the story was so fantastical, we wanted to have an artist make some pieces based on the story.

Q: So what was it like touring down here with Metallica last year?
A: I’ve been asked that question a hundred thousand times. It’s kinda one of those things where, we would answer it back in the day when we were on tour with Metallica, we would say, “Oh they’re awesome. This is great!” But we really didn’t know how awesome they were until we got off tour with them and we played some shows with Motorhead and Ozzy Osbourne… Not to smack on those guys, I’m not bagging them at all. It’s just that Metallica treats their opening bands so much better than a lot of huge legends do. They’re actually really, really rare as far as bands like that are concerned. And being on tour with Metallica is not only great for your career, it’s also just one of the most eazsy-going, fun times you could have. I wouldn’t exchange any of that for anything.”

Q: What sort of reaction did you get. Did the fans know your music at all?
A: Yeah, here and there. I mean, there were some shows where it was like, the 02 Arena in London has a mall attached to it, so (laughs) everyone just kinda hangs out in the mall before the main band plays. So you’re just playing your show to 1000 Metallica fans that have no idea who you are. But then sometimes you get out there and there’s all The Sword fans in the front row with their Sword t-shirts on and they’re ready for us, and that’s a nice surprise when that happens at those big shows.

Q: Both Kirk from Crowbar and Dave from Monster Magnet said in other interviews with us recently that selling records really doesn’t make bands much money anymore. What are your thoughts about that?
A: You don’t get any money from record sales. Any money that you get from sales just covers your everyday operations as a business. That’s where the money is, just getting out there and selling t-shirts and tickets. You can make money from royalties off the radio or a TV show, but it’s kinda hard to get on that. It’s a rough business. It’s kinda weird because the industry is changing and nobody really know how to… where it’s gonna go, nobody has any idea of how to make it work so people can still make money like they used to. It’s just hard. Someone told me today that the band CAKE just debuted at #1 with their new record, and it only sold 40,000 copies, and that was the lowest-selling #1 record of all time. It’s bad out there.

Q: Do you think there’ll be any point making a concept album in the future when everyone now seems to just buy single songs off iTunes?
A: I really don’t know man. It’s pretty crazy. I’m waiting for the next generation, the kids being born right now, who will have no idea was a CD was or a tape or an LP record. They’re just gonna have these little microchips with 10,000 songs on it, and that’s it.

Q: Who are you looking forward to seeing the most when you’re here with Soundwave?
A: Iron Maiden. I have never seen them. They are one of my favourite bands that I have never had the chance to catch, so I am 100% excited about that.

Q: You’ll be doing shows with Saxon too. That should be pretty cool.
A: I’ve never seen them before. I’ve met them and they are all super nice dudes, so I’m excited to get to do a show with them.

Q: Well, all the best Kyle. See you when you get down here!
A: Thanks man, can’t wait!