Diecast Members Discuss Past, Present, and Future After Gig At Mill Street Brews
As Boston-based metalcore veterans Diecast embarked on their current tour (sponsored by none other than Metal Underground), I was dispatched to cover the inaugural gig at Mill Street Brews in Southbridge, Massachusetts (report here). Following the band's set, I sat down with guitarist Jon Kita, frontman Paul Stoddard, and bassist Eddie Barton for a casual chat. For half an hour, we discussed all things Diecast throughout their fifteen-year history and beyond, including a taste of new music to come. No topic was off-limits, and we even explored an intriguing new moshing concept involving a piñata, which I expect to see in a Metal Underground Pit Stories column any day now. The conversation lasted until we were kicked out as the venue shut down for the night. The full transcript follows:
Mike Smith (OverkillExposure): What has Diecast been up to in 2012 so far?
Jon Kita: We’re still writing, and continuing to flesh out the new record. We’ve worked out time for this summer, and we’ll be recording in August.
Paul Stoddard: Finally, a new record! Finally! [Laughs]
Mike: And it’s been about six years since “Internal Revolution…”
Paul: At LEAST seven decades. [Laughter] That’s what it feels like!
Jon: Yeah, was it 2006 or 2007? We can’t even remember; that’s the problem. We should know! It’s been too long.
Mike: And I guess the pertinent question is, why so long?
Eddie Barton: There were so many things, I think, happening within the band that needed to be figured out. Between member changes and all that kind of shit, the band needed to home in on what it wanted to do.
Paul: Yeah, and even questioning our identity and where we were supposed to go. “Internal Revolution” was such a different kind of quest for us. It tested a lot of things. We had a lot of brutal stuff, but also songs like “The Coldest Rain,” which we weren’t even sure would be accepted. And yet to this day, we get requests at every show for that song. It’s funny.
Jon: And surprising!
Eddie: It all comes back to doing what you want to do. That’s what this record is about.
Mike: I say this a lot, but a good song is a good song – no matter what the fashion police say.
Paul: Yes! People get caught up in all that stuff and don’t actually make good music.
Eddie: It’s trying to cater to somebody else. Fuck that! You do what you want to do, make the music you want, and that’s what’s going to happen here.
Jon: Dude, I was in Salem on Halloween, and a kid with a Suicide Silence shirt came up and said, “Nice costume,” and so on. So we started talking about music, and when he found out I was in Diecast, he said, “I like ‘The Coldest Rain.’” It was so out of left field, I couldn’t believe it! And I asked him, “You really like that song? You’re not just fucking with me?” And he said, “Yeah, it spoke to me!” So you never know these things. You sometimes have to step out of the box in order to find out that people dig other kinds of stuff.
Eddie: It’s not really stepping out of the box, man – it’s just going with what you want to do!
Jon: True, true.
Eddie: It’s going with what your heart tells you, and when you go with that, people identify with it.
Paul: I think what Jon means by stepping out of the box is going against what people might expect. When I originally wrote that song, I brought it to the guys – out of respect, because I want to show them anything I write – and never thought there was a chance in hell that they’d do it. But when I first showed it to you, Jon, you remember…?
Jon: “Dude, that’s sick!”
Paul: They were just… “Wow.” They didn’t know how to respond. And later, we were at a point where we weren’t really going to use it, and we showed it to our producer Paul Trust, and he was like, “Why didn’t you show me this earlier? This needs to happen. Whatever part it plays on the record, even if it’s just a hidden track or something, this needs to be realized.” And that’s the bottom line.
Eddie: You didn’t cater to anybody and you did what you wanted to do. That’s what music is about.
Jon: That’s when the greatest stuff comes out.
Eddie: Exactly. I think that’s what this record will be. For a while, we were trying to cater to certain things, or trying to do the radio thing, or whatever, but now, this record is what WE want to do. It’s Diecast.
Jon: Another strange thing is that when we were on Century Media Records, they never said, “This is what we’re expecting of you; this is what we want of you.” They kind of gave us free reign. So because we were able to test the waters all the way across, it got kind of hard. We started questioning, “What exactly should we be?” because we’d get different responses across the board to our music.
Mike: Too much freedom can be intimidating.
Jon: Exactly. When somebody tells you, “This is what we’re expecting of you,” it’s a little bit easier, but when they allow you to go with it and do what you want to do… I mean, it’s interesting, and it feels good to hear different things from different people, but it’s an unknown quantity. You don’t know what people exactly want, so it makes you question what you’re going for. Now, I think we’ve finally gotten back to being happy just writing music in the band. I think we’re on to something.
Mike: Hopefully it strikes people as genuine when a band tries different things from an honest standpoint, no matter how radical the evolution sounds. Diecast “now” sounds quite different from Diecast “way back then…”
Paul: We take pride in that. Yeah, there are bands that do very similar records year in and year out, and get away with it. Bands like Hatebreed, sort of the fathers of this style. And Slayer! They can do it, because that’s what you want to hear from them.
Jon: People expect that of them.
Paul: And they do it amazingly well! But for us, it’s always about a clean slate, because it’s about creating great music.
Eddie: It makes US feel good. You have to grow with your music.
Paul: Right. If I put out the same record every time, I’d be so frigging bored, and that’s not what I want to do. How can I NOT grow? It’s inevitable. You’re influenced every day by new music you hear. How can you not take new things in, and grow and change? It’s inevitable.
Mike: It seems some people have tricked themselves into viewing that as a bad thing.
Paul: Right. They call it “selling out.”
Eddie: It’s so not, man. People have got that the wrong way.
Paul: I’ll tell you what, man – I’M not driving around in a Maserati, going “OH MAN, MY BILLS ARE PAID!” [Laughter] That’s not the way it works. I enjoy playing music, singing, and writing great songs. That’s all I strive for. Whatever that takes – whether it’s a piano ballad or a brutal, kickass song…
Jon: Or a breakdown with sleigh bells. [Laughter] Another thing too is that we try to keep in touch with all of the fans. There isn’t a show unless people show up. So we want to be honest with them too, and ask them what they want to hear, and that kind of thing. If we don’t “put butts in the seats,” we don’t have a crowd to play to, so we want to make them happy while being honest with ourselves at the same time. It’s give-and-take between us and the fans, where people tell us what they want, as opposed to just us going with what we’re comfortable with. It makes everything a little more honest. We’re not trying to be anything that we’re not, but we’re trying to be honest with the people who are nice enough to continue to come back. [Laughs]
Mike: Well, the setlist tonight was fairly diverse. You hit most of the bases with material from everything except “Undo The Wicked.”
Paul: We didn’t do anything off “Perpetual War,” either. We did do “Singled Out,” [“Day Of Reckoning”] though. Chances are, to be honest, if we played stuff from “Perpetual War,” not a lot of people would know it. Even though I love it. I think it’s a great record.
Jon: There have been times where people have wanted to hear “Undo The Wicked” or “Final Word” or something like that, and we’ve played it for them, and they just kind of stood there and watched it, and then went, [Slowly clapping] “All right, cool.” [Laughs] I mean, that record came out in ’98. Fourteen years ago. So not too many people are requesting that stuff. And the last thing you want is to show up to hear a band, wanting to hear specific songs, and all of a sudden, they’re playing a diverse “Jazz Odyssey.” [Laughter] That’s not what you’re there for!
Eddie: And if the band isn’t playing something that THEY feel good about, then the crowd won’t dig it either.
Jon: They’re going to sit through it.
Eddie: Exactly. You’ve got to be true to yourself AND true to the crowd.
Paul: [Slams fist on table] And that’s why we need to do a rock opera! [Laughter]
Mike: Now on the subject of playing live, the set took a minor detour tonight. What happened there?
Jon: I broke a string, went to my backup guitar and plugged it in, and there was nothing.
Paul: Busch League, Jonny! Busch League! [Laughter]
Eddie: My wireless went out tonight, and I had to go hardwire. That shit fucked up.
Mike: Regardless, I’d like to compliment you for keeping the whole train rolling during the delay.
Jon: Dude! That was all Jack! Our buddy from Desiccation, who’s filling in for us on second guitar. He was like, “I’ll just play “Cowboys From Hell.” [Laughter] Well played, sir.
Mike: Apparently, some people wanted you to keep playing it…
Eddie: Keep going, exactly!
Paul: I actually covered that song for a UFC fight. Somebody was doing the music for it, and asked me to sing that, so I learned it! I don’t remember it now, but I did learn it at one point!
Mike: I’m forgetting the title of the new song you busted out about halfway through the set…
All: [In unison] “Falling!”
Paul: [To Jon] We didn’t play “Gods” tonight, did we?
Jon: Nah, we didn’t. Poor Matt, our buddy – I felt bad. He asked, “You guys playing ‘Gods Of War’ tonight?” I was like, “Hell yeah, dude.” And then I broke a string. [Laughter]
Paul: YOU BLEW IT!
Jon: I blew it. Right before the solo in “Medieval,” too!
Mike: “Falling” is some of the best Diecast I’ve heard. It seems to hit all the bases and incorporate influences from every era of the band. What can people expect from the new record, overall?
Paul: I think this record’s gonna be heavier.
Jon: Heavier, definitely, yeah.
Paul: We’ll still have that same kind of dynamic that was on “Internal Revolution,” where there’s a lot of melodic stuff and a lot of heavy stuff, but this is leaning a little more towards the heavy. And that’s what we wanted, y’know? For me, “Internal Revolution…” I’m gonna be buried with that record. That to me is my…
Eddie: My baby. Mah baybah! [Laughs]
Paul: It is! Oh my God, I love that record. I’ll love it for the rest of my life. And I hope we beat it! That would be amazing. This new one will have a lot of things like it, but it’s definitely its own entity, and heavier too.
Mike: I’m detecting a bit of an intense thrash metal vibe.
Eddie: It’s got a push. It’s got a push, yeah.
Paul: Diecast is known for its intense breakdowns in the past. And we did some on the last record, but it didn’t really capture what Jon’s done in the past with the band. And on the new one, there are at least three or four songs with probably the best breakdowns Diecast has ever had.
Jon: Even some of the heavier stuff on “Internal Revolution” kind of got overlooked, because people went, “Ah, it’s all melodic,” and everything.
Paul: Because of the production!
Mike: Well, “Fade Away” has those old school, Judas Priest-style riffs and is more of a straight up metal song – nothing wrong with that – than a hardcore song. And that reminds me that musically, bands like Diecast are serving two masters, which is what the metalcore genre used to be about when it originated here.
Jon: Yeah, I remember when Converge, Cave In, and Overcast were considered “metalcore.” Know what I mean?
Mike: Right. It was an exciting time back then, when that stuff kind of broke up the status quo, and the Fred Dursts of the world went scattering.
Jon: That’s when all of that music was called “nu-metal.” It got lumped into nu-metal, and then it was like, “Eh, let’s just come up with another word for it!”
Mike: Even Wikipedia labeled Diecast’s early work as “nu-metal!”
Jon: DID IT? Wow.
Mike: Yeah, maybe because it had a lot of groove – I don’t know.
Jon: I guess because there was singing in it, people were like, “Ah, God! Celine Dion.” [Laughter] Or something like that.
Paul: “Undo The Wicked” couldn’t be further from nu-metal!
Jon: Yeah, dude. There was always something going on between metal and hardcore; in Boston around that time, it just got closer than it ever had before.
Mike: Which felt pretty natural. As opposed to what it’s sort of become, which is a genre unto itself, with defining traits and generic-sounding bands. Coming from that original scene, how do you guys react to what they call “metalcore” today?
Jon: I think back then, it was a natural progression, like you said. And I’m not going to lie; we caught a LOT of shit for singing in our songs. People would hear it and just cross their arms. Like “This just took a wrong turn.”
Paul: But how many bands have we seen who talked smack about Diecast and hated us for being melodic – and now THEY’RE doing it? [Laughs]
Eddie: Yeah, right? What the fuck.
Jon: And to each his own, y’know? People evolve in their own ways, but it is kind of funny to see how so many bands were so angry, so disillusioned, by the fact that we put singing in our music.
Paul: We were ruining it!
Jon: We were ruining it. Legitimately, they said, “How could you do that?”
Eddie: And then they go on and do it.
Jon: And again, to each his own – people evolve – but it is funny to hear them be that angry about it, and then go ahead and do it themselves.
Mike: Well, how about it then – are there any bands out there now, younger bands maybe, who’ve caught your attention?
Eddie: I’ve had a few beers, and I’m gonna be quite honest about this. [Laughter] I see a lot of bands doing kind of the same thing, man. They’re playing great music, good stuff. But they’re all just standing there. Like, [Strikes a boring air-guitar pose] “This is how I play, this is what I do…” And they don’t put on a show! You go to a show to see a SHOW, know what I mean?
Jon: Right. There’s an element of showmanship you expect when you go to a concert. They want your hands in the air, and you want to see them work for that.
Eddie: Yeah! I want to go and see someone fuckin’ throw his guitar around his neck, or something. No one’s really doing that nowadays!
Jon: And there’s give-and-take between the performance and the playing. It’s gotta be there. You need the actual chops, but you also need to put on a show. That’s what people are missing.
Eddie: [Exasperated] Yeah, man, that’s why people GO OUT TO A SHOW! Oh my God!
Paul: Nah, I want to go to a show so I can listen to someone press “Play” on the CD.
Eddie: Yeah, “I want to go so I can stand.” [Laughs]
Jon: If somebody wanted to hear the music exactly how it is on the CD, they’d listen to it in their car or download it. But at a show, you want the live element. You want a little bit of danger.
Eddie: It’s not about playing so fuckin’ synchronized and all that. Just go and fuckin’ have fun and play!
Jon: [Snaps fingers] Speaking of, what do you think about this? Blindfolds handed out, piñata in the crowd. [Laughter]
Mike: Ouch! You’d need paramedics hanging right outside the door!
Jon: Yeah, giving drunks a bat to destroy something in the pit. Bad idea! [Laughs]
Paul: I don’t see ANY lawsuits coming from that at all!
Jon: “He handed me a bat, sir.”
Mike: On a related note, the Boston police recently cracked down on moshing.
Jon: Can you believe that?
Mike: What’s Diecast’s official take on that situation?
Paul: I would like to officially say: “BOO.”
Jon: If you were to look at a typical crowd reaction now, versus a typical crowd reaction ten or fifteen years ago, right now it’s tame compared to the circus…
Eddie: Fuck yeah.
Jon: … Compared to the fuckin’ fights that happened back then. I’m surprised that only now, they’ve finally gone, “Oh wait, something’s wrong.” [Laughter] When people would come out of the pit with all their teeth in their hand, just praying there was something the dentist could do the following day, that was the peak of “Wow, maybe we should crack down on this.” Because guess what? Times have changed.
Eddie: My buddy Paul came out of a Diecast show…
Jon: Yeah, he got hit HARD, dude!
Eddie: He got smacked in the face, his lip was bleeding, and he was like, “YES!” [Laughter]
Jon: He was so happy!
Eddie: He said, “That was fucking amazing!” While dripping blood all over his face.
Jon: It was a different mentality back then. If you were on the side of the pit, you were assuming that something might happen. You were conscious of that. Now it’s like, you’re in there, and all of a sudden you get hit, and you’re like “Oh my God, these animals!” [Laughter]
Eddie: You don’t want to get hit, don’t go to a fuckin’ metal show!
Jon: And everybody’s got a lawyer now, too. Before, it was genuinely scary at times. Even if you were onstage and performing for people, there was this feeling that the whole thing was out of your control! In the beginning, our old singer Colin [Schleifer] – and now Paul – could say stuff from the stage, but it wasn’t necessarily going to translate. I mean, if something nuts was happening in that pit, the bottom line was that THEY were in control. There was a scary element about it. I might’ve been onstage, but I could’ve lost my life just as easily as anybody out in the crowd.
Mike: In terms of pit activity – and this touches on another classic division between metal and hardcore – what do you prefer to see: pushing and shoving, or karate?
Eddie: I want to see energy! That’s what I want to see. I’m not all about people hurting each other, but I like energy. If people are having fun, I’m having fun, y’know? I don’t want people knocking their fuckin’ eye sockets out, though.
Jon: Right. People didn’t come here to get injured. The bottom line is, if you look out there and people are genuinely enjoying themselves… Even back in the day, man, they cared about one another. If somebody fell, you picked him up. That kind of thing. You weren’t necessarily out there to hurt people.
Eddie: Yeah, that’s what it’s about. In mosh pits, you hit somebody, you pick him up.
Paul: It happens!
Eddie: But I’ve been to a couple of shows where I saw someone hit, and no one did a fucking thing. One was in New York, and I don’t want to name the band, but it was a pretty big name band, and people were getting hit in the pit, and no one was really doing anything about picking anybody up. It was very “Noo Yawk, hey, how ya doin’, fuck you,” kind of stuff. And that’s not what it’s supposed to be about.
Mike: When that bond within the scene starts to fray, you know there’s a problem.
Jon: Another thing was, around ten years ago, so many people went to shows when it didn’t matter who was playing. You went to hang out with your friends and support the scene. Not to say that nobody does that now, although a lot of people don’t, but it feels like now, they do it to be seen, as opposed to supporting the scene.
Eddie: “Look at me, look at me! Look at my tattoos.”
Jon: Right. “Look, my jeans are tighter than your jeans!” [Laughter] “Someone tagged me in this photo where my plugs are even bigger than yours!” Like I said, to each his own, but back then, it did seem like people came out to support other bands because their friends were in bands, and because they legitimately enjoyed it. I think it’s lost a step or two. I think you have to be in specific bands to even HAVE a serious following any longer. If you’re a darling of the moment, with a lot of Facebook friends and “likes” and that kind of thing, you ride it high for a little bit before it starts to go down. Before, it didn’t matter. We didn’t have that connection between everybody. Not everybody was connected by Facebook and Myspace and stuff.
Mike: Yeah, I think all the networking sites are a double-edged sword. The younger generation can take it all for granted and assume, “This is our ride,” which may result in less ass-busting.
Jon: Yeah, people can find out about you more easily, but younger kids might assume it’s always been like that. Instant gratification. Before, you couldn’t tag all your friends on Facebook. You had to pass out flyers. The online networking does help, though! I’m sure there are good bands that people wouldn’t have heard of if they hadn’t used it.
Mike: Getting back fully to the present, what’s the short-term plan for upcoming live shows after this tour?
Jon: We have some dates in August…
Eddie: There was some talk about a Canada run, and some other things, but it’s more about getting the record done.
Paul: So we have something to shop, and get it a little more solidified.
Eddie: It’s just been too long. We need to get it done. So that’s where it’s kind of at right now.
Jon: We’re actually in the process of putting together a Kickstarter campaign for it. It’s been helping out a lot of bands, and we figured it was about that time. It’s difficult to get it out there, but it’s been too long and we know that we have to, so we’re looking for a little bit of help. So far, people have been really into it, and we’re very grateful for that.
Paul: And we’re going to make sure that we reward people the best way we can.
Jon: Yes, with really good incentive programs. If anybody knows us, they know that we go above and beyond, so with those programs – five dollars, ten dollars, whatever it is – people will get more than they give. I guarantee that.
Paul: I’ll tell you right now: one guarantee is that anyone who donates is going to get a “Thank you” on the new record.
Eddie: Every single person.
Jon: Totally. Credit where credit is due.
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