Shutt onstage with his green Paul, August 23, 2010. Photo by John Carrico
Some of the playing is quite economical on
this album. Were you trying to create more
space for the narrative?
Maybe unconsciously. A simpler riff is
easier to sing over and get the story over. So
yeah, I was writing the songs to be more open.
But there are still instrumentals, as well as a lot
of aggressive riffs in those instrumental sections
where the mood or the story called for
something more high energy. I don’t really like
to sing in an aggro fashion, so sometimes the
instrumentals and the guitar playing have to
carry that mood. Plus, sometimes I like to keep
my head down and rock. That really was kind of
the design—short, fast instrumentals and longer,
more involved rock-song structures.
When we started the band, I was 20
years old. So a lot of that [economy] is just
getting better as a musician, getting more
comfortable, and knowing when to go off or
lay back. I’m less interested in getting too
noodly—and I’ve really started to hate listening
to a lot of that stuff anyway.
When it came to composing parts or songs,
were you influenced by artists who don’t
play heavy rock?
Yeah, definitely. You can hear a ZZ
Top influence in there. But there’s even some
homage to the Meters hidden in there. We listen
to all kinds of stuff and it seeps through.
You’re not afraid to upset metal purists
and openly declare the influence of a New
Orleans funk band. What inspires you to
Well, I can’t imagine trying to write a
third record that was a continuation of the first
two. We’ve done that. The first two records
don’t really sound like each other, either. They’re
an evolution too. I’m not rejecting metal. Our
next record could be all death metal. Who
knows? But we tour a lot with bands like Clutch
that are just really good hard-rock bands, and
we relate to that—an approach to rock that’s
really, really heavy, but isn’t quite so aggro.
It definitely feels good to just make
a great rock record. It had started to feel
like I couldn’t remember the last time I’d
heard a kick-ass rock album, and that was
in the back of my mind all the time. There
was a time that bands were good and made
good records without worrying what genre
they were going to fit into or how they
were going to be pigeonholed. The metal
community can be pretty brutal—sitting
around on message boards and criticizing
anything that isn’t metal enough. And you
get tired of all that. I don’t understand why
something can’t just be heavy and different.
Cronise warps back to the ’70s with a B.C. Rich Mockingbird, a sweatband, and an Orange half-stack, August 23, 2010. Photo by John Carrico
When you recorded this album, what other
players were you listening to?
I was playing in a ZZ Top cover band
over that time, and learning Gibbons’ stuff
was a really good education. He’s one of
the only players I feel comfortable trying to
emulate in any way. Most professional players
are beyond my ability, but I really relate to
Gibbons—even though I can’t play anywhere
near as well as him—and don’t mind trying to
steal a few of his moves.
I love Kiss and Ace Frehley’s playing. I
love Jerry Cantrell. Pete Anderson [of Dwight
Yoakam fame] is great. Redd Volkaert is just
awesome too. He plays country stuff down
in Austin all the time, and he’s just amazing.
It’s crazy inspirational to watch that guy play.
You just want to play better, you know? And
there’s that sense of hearing the guitar in a
new way every time you see him—which is
huge when you’re just watching heavy players
all the time. Watching Redd, you just get
a feeling in the gut that you’re seeing a real
guitar player. It kicks you in the ass.
So you relate more to feel or emotional
I absolutely love watching shredders
work, players who can make their guitar do
anything. But I’m not a precision player, so
the studio can be a headache, even when I
like the sound I’m getting. Kyle makes up for
that a little bit. But I definitely appreciate soul
in a guitar player and it’s inspiring to hear
where that takes people.