Tag: Mitch James
Not too many bands take the path that Crossfade has taken and still manage to find success. The South Carolina natives exploded onto the scene back in 2004, with their hit single “Cold”. They then further established themselves on the rock radar with the follow up singles “So Far Away” and “Colors”, propelling their self-titled debut to Platinum status. Two years later the band’s sophomore effort “Falling Away” was released to mixed reviews and mediocre sales. From there, Crossfade virtually disappeared, it was rumored that the band had been dropped by their label Columbia Records in a disappointing end to a promising career. Here we are five years later and Ed Sloan and Co. are back with a new label, a new album, and a new lease on life. I recently had a chance to catch up with Ed to get the skinny on the aptly named forthcoming album, so sit back and join me as a rejuvenated rockstar reminds us that “We All Bleed”.
AWAY-TEAM: I’d like to first congratulate you on the new album “We All Bleed”, which is being released on June 21st. The album is a little bit of a departure from your signature sound, and the Crossfade that we’re used to. I noticed that Les had alot more songwriting duties this time around, do you feel like that contributed to your new sound? What ultimately led you in the direction that you took on this album?
ED SLOAN: Well, I think you definitely hit the nail on the head right there with Les. Ya know, he really writes alot of dark music, orchestral music, and that definitely added to the darkness of the record. Plus I think the lyrics are a little bit darker than our typical albums, coming out of a three year touring haze I think made the lyrics come out a bit darker. But definitely alot of Les in there makes the album much darker than usual.
AWAY-TEAM: It’s been quite a while since you’ve toured full-scale, I actually had the pleasure of seeing you play a free show outside the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa back on April 1st. I remember thinking to myself, ‘Is this an April Fool’s joke?’ I mean, there was about two dozen people in attendance, and about a dozen full sets of teeth… (laughs)
ED SLOAN: (laughs) Yeah, you’re right.
AWAY-TEAM: …it was definitely a rough crowd! Anyways, aside from that debacle, which to your credit you guys rocked the shit out of as if it were 30,000 people, then of course you just played Rock on the Range, how has the reception been after being gone for so long?
ED SLOAN: Actually it surprised us all, I mean we’ve seen fans from four years ago when we were last on the road. I’ve seen hundreds of fans that I remember from back then, and a large amount of new fans. It’s been great, all the shows have been great, and everybody’s just super pumped to hear the old stuff, but also with the new stuff it’s almost like they’ve stolen the record already or something. (laughs) It’s been received very well from what we’ve seen so far. After every show we do a signing of course, and there’s been a line out the door for that. It’s almost like we never left!
AWAY-TEAM: That’s gotta make you feel pretty good.
ED SLOAN: Yeah, no doubt it does.
AWAY-TEAM: Your debut album went platinum, your sophomore effort only sold about 200,000 copies, and then not long after that you were dropped from Columbia Records. When you first got the news that you were being dropped, what was your initial reaction? Was it kind of a sense of defeat? Or was it more like ‘Ya know what? Fuck You. I’m gonna take my shit and go kick ass somewhere else’?
ED SLOAN: It was actually our decision to leave Columbia. Everybody thinks we got dropped, but they just gave us some stipulations that we wouldn’t deal with. So we said ‘Screw you!’ and we got out of our contract. It was definitely a ‘Fuck You’ to them because they were just, at that time the industry was going to shit, and their whole staff was going to shit, and we didn’t want to have to deal with it anymore so we were just elated to get out of our contract with them. They wouldn’t do shit for us, all they were doing was working to pimp like Beyonce or whatever the big act was they were working with at the time. That was all they could focus on, they didn’t have the money anymore, or the manpower, so we were glad to get the fuck out of there.
AWAY-TEAM: You were quoted as saying “Music has always been my escape, a friend, but then music became my enemy.” Elaborate on that for me.
ED SLOAN: Well that was after three years of touring, on two records, and being on that record label, and then us leaving them, or them dropping us, however it’s looked at. Coming home it was kind of a shocker, after three years you gotta piece your life back together. You gotta find a new place to live, and you realize it’s gonna be another two or three years to write another album, and find a new label to put it out…knowing that I didn’t wanna stop. It just seemed kinda daunting knowing that what lied ahead of me was two years of writing another record, and finding another label, and all that kind of stuff. So music just kinda became… for a while there music became something that I didn’t enjoy. I couldn’t get to my happy spot when I write music, but that only lasted a year or so and then I snapped out of it. That’s kinda why the album took a little while to get out, but we all got through it together.
AWAY-TEAM: Addiction and personal demons kinda seem to be a common theme on the album, obviously spearheaded by “Dear Cocaine”. I may be a little bold in my assumption, but we all know “art imitates life”, so what was your “rock bottom” moment? What prompted you to break from the doldrums of depression and drugs, and whatever else was bothering you at the time?
ED SLOAN: I think it was, I was just not focusing on music at all. I was just laying around depressed, and not doing much meaningful. You know, I really don’t know how to answer that because “rock bottom” comes the same for everybody, once you hit it it’s, ya know… well I guess it’s not the same for everybody but for me it turned out to be that I just wouldn’t do shit, just laid around and did anything to keep music off my mind, or my future off of my mind, so…
AWAY-TEAM: When did you realize it was time to get up and get back to work?
ED SLOAN: I think as soon as the other guys got in gear. Ya know, they were all taking time off for other reasons; family, getting their lives back together. I think as soon as… I lived at our studio where we recorded all of these albums, and I think it was Les started coming in every day and working his ass of ’til like 6:00, putting in like 18 hour days. Slowly I started hearing some of the stuff he was writing, and it just started to infuse into my soul, and started to wake me up. Finally I said “This is enough. I’m enjoying what I’m hearing.” so I joined in and started writing songs. So I think it was just my bandmates kinda kicking me in the ass, ya know.
AWAY-TEAM: Well we’re glad they did it! So now you’re on Eleven Seven Music, a label which Nikki Sixx presides over. How long did it take you to land a deal with them? And how did it happen? Was it through an A & R guy? Or was it Nikki, being ever the opportunist, realizing there was a band of your caliber out there without a label?
ED SLOAN: Well, actually it was Allen Kovac, who is the CEO and Founder of that label. Literally within like two weeks of everybody knowing that we weren’t with Columbia anymore, he called our manager at the time and said “Hey, I’m interested in signing the boys…” At that time, we were like “We’re not even gonna have a record ready for like a year.” ,which wound up being three years. But Allen Kovac called at least like 6 times a year to find out how the progress was going, and he was very persistent. Then when it was finally done, obviously he heard the whole record and still wanted to sign us, so it was definitely his persistence that made us realize that they were gonna fight for us and it was gonna be a good home for us. So his persistence paid off, for them and for us.
AWAY-TEAM: I know you’ve always produced your own albums, on this album you had a GRAMMY-winning super producer in Ben Grosse doing the mixing duties. Did you guys pick his brain at all, from a kind of student-mentor standpoint?
ED SLOAN: Oh yeah! (laughs) Yeah, he’s a great guy. We were only supposed to be there for like two weeks, and he actually gave us two months. We’d slowly start to ask him… we recorded the album ourselves, so anytime you get to see a master doing his work, we kinda try to suck the brains dry! He was very forthcoming with alot of his tricks and gadgetry that makes his records what they are. So we definitely learned alot from him technically as far as recording.
AWAY-TEAM: Will Hunt was brought on in 2009, many thought he’d end up being your permanent drummer, what happened there? Was he supposed to just be a session drummer? Or was the intention for him to become a permanent fixture? What’s the story behind that?
ED SLOAN: I think in the beginning, all throughout the writing of the album, you know we wrote the album with digital drums, and then we were like “Okay, at some point we’re gonna go into the studio, and at some point we’re gonna go on tour. We have to get a full time drummer.” And that drummer was gonna be in the band, and Will was down with it, but he’d always have side projects. Ya know between Evanescence, Black Label Society, Dark New Day, just all these different bands he plays with so the timing wasn’t right. So he was able to come in and record the album, but because it was shelved for 6-8 months I think Will had to make a decision. Ya know, “I’ve gotta go out and make money. I gotta do what’s right for my family, so we’ll see what happens when the record comes out.” During that time, we started auditioning new drummers knowing that Will probably wasn’t gonna be able to do it, and we found Mark Castillo from Boston who’s in the band now and plays live with us. But it was completely amicable, it was just because the record was taking so long to come out that he had to go do his thing, ya know.
AWAY-TEAM: Right. Mark was brought into the fold last year, and I understand there’s a bit of a funny story as to how he was welcomed into the band. Tell me about that.
ED SLOAN: (laughs) Well he drove 18 hours down from Boston, or 12 hours, whatever it is, and we hung out with him for a couple of days, and played 3 or 4 songs with him, jammed with him as far as auditioning him. And we had him film himself coming down here, and we were like “Look man, if this works out we’d like to have some footage of the trip down.” And when he left, he filmed himself the whole way back. So when we’re in the editing room making the webisode, we’ve got Mark coming down and him playing, then we’ve got Mark driving 18 hours back up to Boston, and then he pulls into his driveway saying “Thank God, I’m finally home!” and then at the end it shows “Welcome to Crossfade Mark Castillo. If you ever try to leave us, we will kill you!” And I believe we said “Hey man, there’s a new webisode out. You may wanna go to your computer and check it out.” Right when he got home he found out he was a member of the band that way, and I think he got kind of a shocker out of that instead of us just calling him to tell him he was in the band. (Scroll down to see the webisode)
AWAY-TEAM: (Laughs) That’s great, I love it! You in particular have listed James Hetfield and Metallica as one of your greatest influences. So based on content, compare your albums with their closest related Metallica album.
ED SLOAN: Our first record, to me anyway, I think is alot like The Black Album, because the messages were real dark, and it’s also got alot of heartfelt songs and lyrics on it. And I think this new album is a little bit more like Master of Puppets, it’s darker and heavier, and still the same type messages that Metallica and Hetfield have always had. But you know how Master of Puppets was a little more layered, a little tighter, a little more musicianship going on. I think this one is comparable to that. I mean I would never compare our stuff to Metallica’s integrity wise, I mean I would but… (laughs)
AWAY-TEAM: Well don’t take offense to this, hear me out on this one. I think this one is closer to a St. Anger, and it’s not just, ya know, I think it’s a shitty album. I think that you can draw some parallels to James just overcoming some of his personal demons, and the change in the signature sound, it just seems to have that parallel.
ED SLOAN: I got ya. I can feel you on that. You know that was definitely a 180 for them, ya know. I don’t think we’ve quite done a 180 on this one, but I do feel you on the similarities of that change. I guess, sonically their change was so crazy, such a 180, that’s the only thing I would differ with on that statement.
AWAY-TEAM: On that same tangent, I think you may have answered this already, but do you worry about rejection from your die hard fans?
ED SLOAN: Not at all actually. Because I don’t think that it’s changed dramatically, I think it’s just been elevated. It’s still Crossfade, it’s still the things that I think attracted people in the first place, I think are on this album. It just may be a little heavier, although we do think that the messages, and the feeling, and the soulfulness and the darkness is still what people associate with Crossfade, at least that’s what I think. Songs that are backdrops to their lives, songs that you can ride around in the car and be pissed the fuck off, and I think that’s the same with this album. Ya know every album you lose fans, you gain fans, but I think we’re gonna have a winner here, so.
AWAY-TEAM: You landed your first deal through an online A&R firm called TAXI, you had actually gotten to the point where you were actually submitted country music on there in the hopes of getting signed. Were those some of the songs that we now know as Crossfade? Or do you have some hidden gems, and a future as a country songwriter?
ED SLOAN: (laughs) Yeah, actually I’ve got 40 or 50 songs that I’ve written that would never be qualified as Crossfade songs. (laughs) I’ve written almost an entire country album, I wouldn’t call it country, it’s more some of it’s pop… well ya know, it’s pop, it’s country, I mean I’ve written everything. During those years I was actually sort of a musical slut, I’d write anything I could just to get the attention of somebody, anybody. So I’ve definitely got a catalog of all kinds of strange music, including country. (laughs)
AWAY-TEAM: Well there’s another case where the persistence paid off huh?
ED SLOAN: Absolutely.
AWAY-TEAM: Well Ed, it’s been an extreme pleasure. Thank you so much for giving me your time. Best of luck with the album. It’s great to see you guys back out there doing what you do best. I look forward to seeing you next time you make your way back through my neck of the woods.
ED SLOAN: Thank You! I appreciate you including us in your thang!
AWAY-TEAM: Well thanks again. Hope to see you soon. Take care.
ED SLOAN: Sounds good. Bye.
Crossfade will be part of the Rock Allegiance Tour with Buckcherry, Papa Roach, P.O.D., Puddle of Mudd, Red, and Drive A which kicks off this August. For all things Crossfade including tour dates and to purchase music click here.
Special thanks to Ed Sloan for so graciously giving me his time, and to Tim Tatulli at ‘Stache Media for making it all happen.