C’mon kids, pull up a chair and sit down by the fireplace. We’re going to talk to you about a band who were making killer albums of straight-up aggressive hardcore long before every scene kid with a snapback-sized chip on their shoulder had even dreamed of getting an ugly neck tattoo. Let’s talk about Strife.
Along with the likes of Snapcase, Earth Crisis, and Integrity, the mid-90s hardcore blueprint set down by the likes of Strife would go on to influence not only hardcore bands today, but the (then) burgeoning metalcore scene. They’ve been slowly but steadily making a return to the live scene over the last couple of years, but it’s only now that they’re breaking a period of 11 years silence when it comes to putting out a new studio release. With that record, the fittingly-titled Witness A Rebirth, coming out a few weeks back (and getting its UK release through London-based Holy Roar, no less) a few weeks ago, now was the perfect time to catch up with guitarist Andrew Kline to find out just what tempted them back into the studio….
Okay, the most obvious question – why record a new record now? You’ve been touring as a reformed act for a few years, so what provided the spark to get back in a studio?
We have been touring quite a bit over the past few years after getting a lot more active back in 2010. Since then we have toured Europe, Japan, South America, Mexico, as well as some dates in the U.S. We decided that if we were going to remain active and continue playing that we should record some new songs. We wanted songs that not only represented who we are as a band in 2012, but also just some really new songs to play and get excited about.
How did you guys hook up with Holy Roar to put out Witness A Rebirth?
We made a conscious decision to work with smaller labels on this album. We wanted to work with labels that were really connected with the current hardcore scene, and labels that worked with some of the best up and coming bands in hardcore right now. 6131 Records released our album in the US, and were an obvious choice for us. They are one of the best up and coming hardcore labels, and they are based out of LA. I am a big fan of Rotting Out and Alpha Omega, so it is great to be on the same labels as these bands as well. We wanted to license the record in other territories as opposed to just have an American label release it. We were connected to Holy Roar through the guys at 6131, and they seemed like a good fit. So far it has been a great relationship – the album has been selling well internationally and within our own country. I think we will really be able to see how thinks worked out the next time we tour Europe and the UK.
Watch the video to ‘Torn Apart’ by Strife:
Why did you choose Iggor Cavalera [he’s added an extra ‘g’, these days] to drum on the record?
Iggor is one of my all time favorite drummers and one of my best friends…. I was on tour with Cavalera Conspiracy when I was writing the Strife album. I played him some demo material on the bus and he was interested in playing on the record. If Iggor Cavalera wants to play on your record, you do everything in your power to make it happen! And that is exactly what we did. I flew down to Brazil with Nick [Jett], who produced the record, and we tracked all of the drum tracks in Sao Paulo. He is a very solid and hard hitting drummer, and he added a lot to this record. He knew exactly what kind of drumming these songs called for, and he added enough of his signature fills and flair to make it cool without overplaying.
Did you ever consider flying Iggor to California to record the record, rather than going down to Brazil?
It was a thought for sure….but If you had a choice to record a record in your hometown or in Sao Paulo, Brazil, what would you do? I went the adventurous route, and I am definitely happy with that decision.
How was the writing process of Witness A Rebirth different from your previous album?
Writing was a lot different. In the past, we would all rehearse together over and over and work out songs. This time around, the first time I played any of these songs with a live drummer was when we were recording the album. I would write riffs at home on an acoustic guitar and record them into my phone, then take those ideas to my friend’s house and record actual demo versions. We would then tweak and edit those until we had a song we wanted to record.
Do you feel like a “heritage” hardcore band? What do you think Strife have that other, younger bands do not?
I wouldn’t say we are a “heritage” band…I just feel that we play traditional style hardcore. The songs we write are songs that I want to hear as a hardcore fan – straight-forward, aggressive, with a touch of metal, and a ton of sing-a-longs!
How has no longer being Edge affected the band?
Straight Edge was a big part of the band in our early years… it was a movement we all connected with and a philosophy that we all stood behind. But one thing that we always preached was about breaking down the barriers that separate us, and this music is for everyone, regardless of the way you look, the music you listen to, or what you do in your personal life. As time went on, we all went our different ways, and people made the decision to no longer be Straight Edge. This isn’t something that we tried to hide from anyone – we were very clear when we started playing again that we were no longer a Straight Edge band – I think some people were disappointed, or maybe felt let down, but there were also a ton of kids just happy to have us back playing music that we love with a strong or powerful message. A lot of people talk about being “True ‘Til Death” but to me, I would rather have someone be true to themselves, and live the life that they want to live, instead of living to uphold a commitment they made when they were 16 years old. We all respect the Straight Edge lifestyle (and I am still Straight Edge), and we are happy that we played a positive influence in many people’s lives.
In that respect, do you think hardcore can get too hung up on the past sometimes?
I think many people get hung up on a lot of shit that really doesn’t affect them. People need to really concentrate on the stuff that really affects their lives rather than all the trivial bullshit and nonsense of the world.
So has modern hardcore lost its way?
I don’t think so. I think the term hardcore really has a loose meaning as far as sound is concerned. The style has changed and evolved over the years, but there are a ton of bands playing what I consider to be “true” to the hardcore sound. Bands like Soul Search, Terror, Take Offense, Rotting Out, Bitter End, Suburban Scum, Down to Nothing, and many more.
And finally, will that bloody Varsity font ever lose its luster in the world of hardcore?
Never! It is as classic as the open E!
Strife’s new album, Witness A Rebirth is out now on Holy Roar – click here to go order a copy. Maybe if enough people buy it, they might come over for a few UK dates in 2013. Ever think about that, huh?