Interview with Grant Belcher of Hurtlocker
Chicago, Illinois metal act HURTLOCKER has been through the ringer these past couple years, mainly with having lost their former dummer to a drug-related incident. But they also would soon learn the ugly side of the business when they got little or no PR and touring support from their label Napalm Records after putting out their brillant last full-length offering entitled "Fear In The Handful Of Dust". But they're metalers, not pussies, and they still are more than alive and kicking with a new positive approach to how they will handle things once they complete recording of their new album here in 2007. I expect some great things from these guys, more than just about any upcoming act I've scouted, promoted or made of fun while doing my work here. I sat down for some cool Q&A.with Grant Belcher, Hurtlocker's lead vocalist.
Rocket: Are you a native of Illinois?
Grant: No. Actually, I'm from a small oil town outside of Houston TX. Called Humble. The H is silent. So just say Umble. It's a little town in the burbs, white picket fences and all that shit.
Rocket: Haha. Right on. So when did you first start singing?
Grant: Well, I've been disturbing people with my singing since I was about eight or so. I used to go up into my room turn on this little Peavey amp and use some shitty little microphone and sing along with bands like Skid Row, Sabbath and Elvis. I was never much of a singer so my parents fucking hated it cause I sounded like a wounded cow or something. I remember eventually my Dad got so sick of it he came up and took the amp. Talk about encouragment, huh?
Rocket: Yeah, it's unfortunate how parents don't support their kids more in playing music. Mine were always tolerable with me goofing off in garage bands at backyard parties but indifferent about it as a career for sure. Then my little brother came along to play lead guitar and they really helped him out, even with buying his equipment. He' s nine years younger than me in his mid-twenties now but even as much as they did support him and his incredible talent, he's got things on hold now again after having toured with the good guy punk act Ten Foot Pole a few years back and played on their sixth studio album. Things went south with that band, ultimately, and like your Hurtlocker's situation on 'Fear In A handful Of Dust' with Napalm records, had their album pretty much dropped off at the now defunct Tower Records and they got zero PR support from ther label. So now my bro's been pretty much working a regular nine to five again to keep he and his girlfrend in their own apartment together. It kills me every time when I think about that. And so its really tough to keep it hard charging in this busines. It's almost impossible really, shit happens and you hit a walland sometimes never get the hell back up. Like Dimebag says, you gotta love it so much cause odds are you won't make any money. I find most that aren't artists or performers on some level simply cannot relate to what it's like to be in say your shoes, up on that stage singing in public, with the pressure, you know? Nine out of ten people who listen to music know zero about the mechanics of what's going on behind the scenes.That's been one of my main intents here as an educator for the young metal musicians coming up all around the globe who he rad my words... is to inject a lot of the knowledge that i have about playing at a pro level and then the business aspect of it all. I can guarantee you there is not one other rock journalist in the world who does that. It's maddening. So deep breath for me after that little rant, tell me, who are a few of your biggest vocal influences?
Grant: Influences as far as people I looked up to but never emulated.
Rocket: I love how you needed to make that point. Ha! The sign of a true artist.
Grant: Ozzy, of course, Phil from Pantera, but lately or in the past few years I've really been listening to a lot of Lamb of God, Diecast, Shadows Fall, Slipknot, shit like that I really just dig the way those vocalist use patterns and annunciation. So I guess now and then I'm influenced in that way when we are in recording mode.
Rocket: Did you ever take any vocal lessons?
Grant: Nope, I wanted to and still want to just never got around to it. Like I said 'Im not much of a singer. Just so happens I have a knack for screaming in tune. But wish I could sing a little bit more. Not that if I could it would be something Id do with Hurtlocker but more so just for myself. Hurtlocker has no place for "pretty vocals" and I'm just fine with that. It is what it is. And we are an aggressive band and my vocals fit just fine the way they are.
Rocket: Well, I did. I took one with this crusty sixty year old opera singer with like his hair spray painted black. Haha, It cost me fifty bucks and when he asked me who I wanted to sing like, I said 'Axl Rose'. And the poor guy, appearing almost frightened for a split second then looked at me with the most vacant stare ever. He looked back to the piano and started warming up. Haha. But I learned a helluva lot in that hour and I'm glad I got the education more as a reference now with the work I do as a critic, promoter and basic mentor to upcoming bands in the metal biz. It all comes down to the breathing when you sing. It's that simple really and how you use your diaphragm for vocalizing, tightening your abdonminal muscles and letting out the air or sung notes that way, not singing from your throat or nose. That's really bad for you vocal chords. IIt's the very reason most vocalists never make it, sadly enough. They have the talent but then blow their voice out for good. Unless they catch the warts on their nodes soon enough and they migh get back after surgery, once learning the proper approach. so yeah, that and drink a whole lot of water and no weed smoke. Tell me briefly, how did you initally join up with Hurtlocker?
Grant: I was living in Chicago and looking through singer wanted ads. Tim was playing at that time in a band called Autumnal I think with our original Drummer Tony. I called them up they sent me a tape with a few songs on it . One of them you can actualy hear on our debut, "Already Inside". I put vocals down on it and sent it back. Tim called me and I went out to audition and the rest is history.
Rocket: I know from talking with your guitarist Tim Moe recently that this band is working on a new record that will release closer to summer/07. Where is it being recorded and who is the producer?
Grant: Well ,as of right now we are going to be recording it with Chris Djuricic at Studio One in Racine WI. We recorded all of our demos with Chris as well as the Demo "Reflection of Desperation" the one that got us the deal with Napalm. When we recorded "Fear" we had a nice budget and decided to use a bigger name studio and producer, but this time we thought it would be better to take it back to groud level. Fact is Tim and myself are very comfortable working with Chris, and we always have been so I'm looking forward to see what Chris does with this new album.
Rocket: Going a bit more in depth on the new material, how are things going with that and what can we expect from this next collection of Hurtlocker songs compared to the last album? Are you guys going to try and make it heavier or are you throwin in some ballads to get the chicks more involved like I dunno, fucking Whitesnake or some shit like that? Haha.
Grant: There will be no fucking ballads. At the same time though we are expanding a little bit more than what we did on "Fear" On that album it was just head down balls out juggernaut metal. We want a longer album this time with more intros and break downs, solos, shit like that. Going to be experimenting with some different vocal styles as well. So you can definatly expect to hear some different sounds on this album, but still will be heavy as fuck. It's really all we are good at.
Rocket: Haha. Well, I'll be point blank on it and say that's why I listen to metal. It is called 'heavy' metal at the end of the damn day, right?Ballad's that are real well written are cool every now and then, like when Aerosmith did 'Dream On'... but not like three or four deep in one album. And Aerosmith has been falling super prone this past decade plus to putting out tons of the softer pop-syrup for your pancakes that mommy makes so many of their fans that are more interested in what crazy flamboyant outfit Steven Tyler is going to where next on stage like Elton John rather than the integrity of the music. Honestly, it makes me want to punch the wall. Ha! It sucks. Well, last year was certainly a great one for metal, bro. What album was your personal favorite?
Grant: Right now Id have to say Lamb of God "Sacrement" did that come out last year?
Rocket: Sure did.
Grant: It's really all I'm listening to right now. The sound of that album both production and musicly is just amazing. I really dig the way the vocals sound, its just a great album.
Rocket: Yeah, I agree for the most part on that album's greatness. Machine did a great job on the production. It sounds pretty killer. Though, man, I watched Randy Blythe perform with Lamb of God recently on Conan O'Brien. It totally blew monkey balls! I don't know if he had a cold or just was having an off night like you certainly can but he sounded off pitch even.. not even in the ballpark. and too one note all throughout. But I with all the ribbing I give those guys I think Lamb is is one of the best metal bands around still. They really need to get back to where they were before, pissed off about religion and politics, like Slayer always has done it. I mean, shit, could you imagine Slayer doing an album where it dealt with personal topics? Haha. That'd pretty much be the end of my world! Haha. Alright, I like to have fun with this next one. What's the funniest thing that's ever happend to you while performing on the stage?
Grant: I dont know if it's funny or not but last show we played in Chicago. This chick standing up front bit my stomach. I felt this huge pain and looked down and she had a chunk of my skin in her mouth just fucking gnawing away. I had a bruise the size of a softball for a fucking month. I mean who fucking does that?
Rocket: Ouch! That hurts just imaging the visual on it, dude. And I don't know who would do something so 'out of left field' and where it coud hurt the person they paid to watch perform!. Unbelievable. Psychos. They are among us. Changing gears, there's a ton of killer underground acts coming up in your local scene. Who are some of the acts that you've seen lately that have impressed you?
Grant: I dont get out much to shows anymore to be honest with you and when I do its not usualy metal shows I'd go to. I mean when you do this full time its nice sometimes to listen to other shit and check out different scenes. For me anyways. I'm sure Tim would say the opposite.
Rocket: Interesting but I can understand. Actually, my old roomie took me to go see The White Stripes an Radiohead in the same week a few years back here in Los Angeles> You know, he had the extra tickets because a friend dropped out on him, so he asked me if I wanted to check it out. He said he'd smoke me out too, so I jumped up and said, "Let's Do this!" I didn't give two shits about those bands. I heard of them and remember that one tune on MTV Radiohead did years back. But I wasn't a fan per say like my friend. Now looking back at just how incredible those two acts are live, because it was totally a spiritual thing with Jack and Thom for me, kind of like how The Doors must've been. They blew my mind and they rocked. I'd pay to go see them live again. But of course I won't because I'm too damn busy going to metal shows! Ha! Now I know your band Hurtlocker won't really be out playing shows til the new album is completed but tell me what are some of the venues you'd be interested to play? You know, the ones that you'd give your left nut to be able to nail down and properly spread the Hurtlocker message. I'm talking locally in your area or even nationally, say where I'm at in Los Angeles.
Grant: Metro in Chicago, Kanes Ballroom in Tulsa, Key Club in Los Angeles, man I could go on forever on that list. Tthere are so many jacked up places to play in the states. CBGBS in New York...
Rocket: No, that's no longer around. Ha! They closed that kick ass place down last year with all its great rock history too. Such a shame. Now it'll just be turned into some yuppies new condo. Oh, the way of the world! I need to punch the wall again! Haha.
Grant: And, I liked to also play at House of Blues in Los Angeles.
Rocket: Yeah, that's one of my favorite spots. I think the last show I saw there was Phil Anselmo and Superjoint Ritual... though I have party'd there since. It's a cool place. I of course frequent most of the other notable Sunset clubs like The Viper Room and Whisky A Go Go.
Grant: Anywhere in Philly, NJ and MA. would be cool too.
Rocket: Well, I'm real happy to see that you guys are headed back in a positive and productive direction with all sorts of promising oportunities awaiting this great band. I am really rooting you guys on. I love your music that much. Keep the fight alive. Thanks very much for taking the time out on this with me. Best of luck on the new album's production and with gettng Hurtlocker back on the road again in a big way. Please give a shoutout to your biggest supporters.
Grant: Thanks to all those who have stuck with us through the years. My friends and my family, My x's and my current. Sean Tiernan and the tiernan clan for always taking care of me. Our fans, you know who you are and so do we. And of course my partner in all this shit, Tim Moe. 'Im just a screamer it's the Moe who makes most of this shit possible and he's put up with my loud mouth for years so a big thanks to him. And thanks to you, Rocket, for taking time and caring enough to ask us anything.
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