Yep, you read that right – earthtone9 have reformed. Andy Parker found himself invited into their not-so-secret rehearsal space for an afternoon of Lo-Def(inition) Discord. WOOO!
By the time an aggravated tourist flew a plane into a skyscraper in New York in 2001, earthtone9 were struggling with the transition from the minor league underground stars to the major league of UK metal. Despite being one of the most significant British metal bands of the past decade, it proved a gap they were unable to bridge. Their 2000 masterpiece, arc’tan’gent - a record which garnered universal critical praise, interest from across the pond, and saw them spend several years on the road - would prove to be their last full-length album.
At the turn of the century, the British music scene had hit troubled times. The aftermath of Britpop saw the “indie” monicker attached to any band that could play instruments as opposed to programming samplers, major record labels begun buying up the true independent labels, and the devolution of raves into the cosy confines of new superclubs and the lure of a strange island called Ibiza. The UK music scene of the 1990s closed as a burnt out confused, thirsty husk.
Many bands struggled to stay afloat with a lack of support from the UK press. Fewer and fewer column inches in Melody Maker and NME were covering the British hard rock and metal scenes, instead opting to put All Saints and Spice Girls on their covers. Kerrang!, the home of rock, had begun their powerful trans-Altantic love affair with the nu-metal explosion, which meant that more covers went to red cap-wearing buffoons than down to earth Midlands lads. This was the reality that ET9 found themselves operating in when the band finally called it quits and announced their dissolution in 2002.
Watch earthtone9‘s perform ‘I Naguel Eye’ at The Lost Weekend:
Since then though, it’s been far from quiet for the former members of ET9, with frontman Karl Middleton in particular keeping his head above the parapet with numerous musical projects, the most recent of which being Blackstorm. With water under the bridge and friendships rekindled, the band recently got together and begun discussing a release of a compilation to celebrate past glories.
In doing so, the band ended up in a dark room surrounded by instruments, and – surprise surprise – discovered they weren’t too shabby. As the drum kit slowly assembles and old friends catch up on what’s been happening since they last met, I sat down with frontman Karl Middleton to look upon what has, what is and what is yet to become for earthtone9.
What the Devil have you all been doing since 2002?
“Life! Dave [Anderson, bass] emigrated, to Australia, came back a few years later with a wife and kid. Si [Hutchby, drums] emigrated to Australia at the same time to some where totally different, lived there for a few years travelled around and came back. Owen [Packard, guitar] setup a PR company, spent a lot of time in New Zealand. Joe [Roberts, guitar] is a qualified plumber and moved to Glasgow, and I’ve kept my toe in the music water and now I am working at [Brighton Institute of Modern Music]. I look after the gear get things fixed, make sure that all the equipment works and sounds killer and is all safe and sound.”
You’re a singer! Are you a confessing to being a closet kit nerd too?
“Not massively, I know what rocks and what’s lame. I don’t play an instrument so that can help in knowing what sounds good to someone listening it.”
So what was the catalyst for getting back together?
“Lots of things really. It fell to bits because we felt like a small part of a big machine, it had gone from being a band doing music we liked and wanted to hear to quite a careerist thing and that muddied the water. Loads of it was great, but in the end it felt like we were doing things because we thought we were supposed to be. It changed from what we wanted it to be and that causes internal friction.
“I’ve always kept in touch with everyone over the years and we all sort of gravitated together.”
earthtone9 photos c/o Andy Parker.
Is this like the beginning, doing something that you love?
“It’s true indulgence, we had got to a point where we missed each other rather than resenting each other. Some of the guys have got kids, some are married, we’ve grown up. We did stuff together that was really significant in our lives. We just missed each other really. We started talking, hanging out and decided to play again. Some of it’s still mint, some of it hasn’t stood the test of time. There’s nobody else I would rather be with than these guys.”
With everyone is spread around the country, is that proving difficult?
“It would be nice to get together more. It costs a lot to get together. Joe has to fly down from Scotland, but it’s worth it! And we make the most of it when we can.”
What’s the plan for this year? Tell us about the compilation you’re releasing.
“There’s no plan. All our albums are as rare as rocking horse shit, they’re out of print, some of them are deleted. We’ve got to the point where people were coming up to us and saying, “I used to love you when I was 16”, to people saying “my older brother used to love you when he was 16”. People are still aware of the name but not so many people will have actually heard it, so we thought, it’s 10 years since arc’tan’gent came out, something we are very proud of. We wanted to take the chance to remind people of what we did and maybe introduce some new people along the way.”
Will there be new material?
“No, it’s the excitement of being together. Feeling that energy again and maybe play to some people, if some old faces turn up, and hopefully some new ones and the feedback is good, then maybe we’ll try something and dip our toes into the water.
“It’s certainly not what we’re about right now. If we wrote some killer tunes we wouldn’t go into that old tour, album, tour, album thing, we’d use the new model of digital releases and maybe play a few club shows.”
Watch the video to ‘Tat Twan Asi’ by earthtone9:
Listening back to arc’tan’gent now, the current metal/hardcore sound is so close to what you were doing between ’98-00. Is there a desire to show the new kids where they come from? Or that you feel perhaps not the Godfathers, but the step-dads of the current generation?
“Maybe. It’s definitely still relevant. We’re out of touch with the underground scene, we’re not where we were 10 years ago hanging out with lots of cool people and seeing what people are doing, but if any of those guys tip their hats to us then we’re pretty honoured by that.”
Is there anything around that you’ve heard that has caught your attention?
“Young bands, to me are like The Ghost Of A Thousand, some people probably think they’re vets by now! Baroness, Zozobra, Doomriders, Black Breath I’ve just discovered and they’re awesome. Anything that has that rock and roll feel to it I love. Saviours are great, if it sounds like a child of Mastodon, that sort of stuff rings my bell, nothing is really new-new, but it’s new to me if it was made after 2002.”
Are there any bands from back in the day that you would love to see again?
“Medulla Nocte I would love to see again. They were way ahead of their time, not necessarily listenable, they had this sort of Grind/Spazz thing going on but it was just amazing. Labrat I would love to see again as well, they were just reckless lunatics. To hear them was amazing and to see them was utter chaos.”
Watch perform ‘Evil Crawling Eye’ at The Lost Weekend:
You got picked to support a lot of major US acts. Did you ever encounter friction with them?
“We took the opportunities we could, but we made some tough choices, some of them for the wrong reasons, some for the right ones. For example supporting Disturbed. They weren’t the band we should have played with, they weren’t what we were about and perhaps neither were there fans, but it was a chance to play the Astoria in London and it was worth it just for that.”
What’s your highlights from Earthtone9?
“As a 20 year old, if somebody said to me, you’re going to be touring with Max Cavelera, or Fear Factory or share a stage with Trent Reznor, I wouldn’t have believed the, but we did! Hanging out with those people and making great friends was amazing.”
earthtone9 will release Inside, Embers Glow… A Collection Of earthone9’s Aural Communiques 1998-2002, a free-to-download compilation of some of the greatest songs in July. As of yet the band have not announced any live shows to co-incide with this release but….well, our lips are sealed at this point…