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Interview: Brock Lindow – 36 CRAZYFISTS

Interview: 36 Crazyfists – Brock Lindow

Interview and Photos by Greg RaMar

36 Crazyfists recently released their seventh studio album, Time and Trauma, on February 17, 2015. This also marked the first album to be released on the Spinefarm Records label. The band is currently touring with Nonpoint in support of Time and Trauma, and photographer Greg RaMar caught up with vocalist Brock Lindow at the DNA Lounge in San Francisco, California for a chat about the latest album, the band’s history, hockey, living in Alaska, and other good stuff. Listen to the audio or read the words old-school style! It’s fun!

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Have you ever been discriminated against for being a tall frontman?

(Laughs)…I don’t think so. I think mostly, like when I get off stage, people are like “damn you’re really tall!” So if I had a dime every time I’ve heard that, I’d be rich! Richer!

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When you look on the schedule and you see San Francisco is next up, what are some thoughts that come to your head? What do you think about when you think about coming to this city? Are there spots you go to? What’s the vibe here for you?

I think about Bay Area thrash…Skinlab…my brothers. I actually lived 45 miles north of here in seventh grade. I lived in Sebastopol, and so we used to come up here quite a bit. So I love this place. It’s a killer city. Probably one of my favorites.

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One of my early memories of you guys, and which continues to be, is the relationship that you had with Skinlab, since you just brought them up…like every time I think of you, I think of your friendship and brotherhood with them. How did you come to know them and what has that relationship meant to you over the years?

I came to know them when we moved to Portland in 1997. We got the opportunity to open for them and just hit it off. They ended up spending the night at our house and we just became buds right off the bat. We were fans of them, obviously. We were just going to open up the Portland show and then we ended up doing Seattle and Bend, Oregon. We ended up getting two more shows with them. They just said “come on, let’s go.” And back then you could kind of do that a little bit more easily. So yeah. And then in turn as the years went on…like a couple years later we did a demo down here at Trident, I believe, with…shoot…what’s his name? He’s the singer of Vile…death metal guy…anyway, doesn’t matter. We ended up doing a demo with Steev Esquivel, he produced it and got it to RoadRunner, and we basically got those guys to come out to Portland and see us play, and we got signed that evening in 1999. It was a major alignment of the stars with that whole thing, and Esquivel and the help he gave us in the early days, we basically got the foot in the door through him. We’ve been forever indebted to them and love them very much. So the connection to them is long.

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So Steev Esquivel produced that demo EP that got you noticed that night (by Monte Connor – RoadRunner Records A&R)?

Yup. Him and Scott Sargeant, who was also in the band (Skinlab) at the time. So yeah, those two guys. I can’t believe I can’t remember the engineer’s name…because he did like an Unjust record and Skinlab stuff…but anyway. But yeah, that demo is the one that went to RoadRunner and a couple other record companies, like Earache…I hadn’t really thought about that part of it for a while…Yeah, that’s the demo that they produced that got us signed.

Nice.

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What do you call home right now?

I live in Anchorage, Alaska. I moved home in 2003. I lived in Portland from 1997 to 2003.

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What kind of kid was Brock? How would somebody who knew you describe you? Were you the super smart kid? Were you the kid that lit the neighbor’s cat on fire? How would you describe your childhood?

I think I was in between two of the comparisons. I didn’t light anybody’s cat on fire. Athletics were my favorite thing growing up. I was into hockey my whole life, so I played hockey from when I was five years old until I was eighteen pretty competitively. And I still play Thursday night beer leagues when I’m home now. So I think I was really into anything with a ball or a puck, you know? I was really into sports, and music really coexisted with that. I didn’t really get into heavier music until seventh grade. My older sister was really into Cyndi Lauper and Madonna and Duran Duran, so I had that kind of an influence but I was really into Ratt, Twisted Sister, and Quiet Riot. Then I discovered Metallica in seventh grade and the rest is history.

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Is anybody else in your family musical? Do you come from that lineage?

Well, oddly enough, my dad was a drummer in a band when he was in high school. But then he kind of got out of it, and he never really pursued music at all. He was a drummer, so I’d like to think that I did get some of that from him because he did teach me a couple beats here and there when I was really little. But mostly it was kind of my older sister that introduced me to music in general.

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Was your family supportive early on when you decided you wanted to get into music? How did they feel about your getting started, practicing and some of your early shows? Were they a part of that process?

Yeah. My high school bands practiced at our house, so my parents were always super supportive of it. My dad just flew to the Portland show a couple nights ago and saw the show. My mom passed a couple years ago but she was always at the shows back then, so yeah…huge supporters. I wanted to play in the NHL, so they were pulling for that. They put a lot of money into that, so…but you know how hard that is. So I think when they saw there was another dream of mine, a passion, they were like “yeah, go for that!” So they were always really cool.

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When you get started as a band, often times you hear people say “I would drum to this” or “I would play guitar this and I would just try and practice it”, so early on a lot of bands would end up doing covers because that’s the stuff they learned. What was your experience with covers? Did you guys play covers, and what did you used to do?

We absolutely played covers in high school. We were awful. But I had like three different bands in high school. I think my first band was in 1989, and we did mostly…it was kind of a weird thing…we did a lot of Slayer, Metallica, some Testament…like I said Alaska is such a Bay Area thrash place. Probably like a lot of places, but we love those bands. Then when I got to the early nineties I started getting into Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and we covered a lot of Alice In Chains. Layne Staley is probably my favorite guy of all time. Not probably. He is my major influence. Yeah…anything from Metallica to “Chains”…we even did some Iggy Pop, and some of the other punk stuff.

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What was a motivation early on to go from “guy sitting in his room listening to Master of Puppets,” to “I’m going to stand in front of four other guys and sing?” It is very cliché to say…like, you hear guys say “I wanted to get laid” or “I did it for chicks.” But it’s interesting that you come from Alaska because isn’t the ratio of men to women like 50 to 1, or something?

I know it used to be pretty bad. I think it’s better now.

It’s my thought that it might have been that but I don’t want to assume.

No, to be honest, like I said I love Metallica, so…1989…freshmen year I had some friends that were in a band, and their singer was sick. I went to watch them practice and they knew a couple Metallica songs. So I played “Jump In The Fire” and “Seek and Destroy”, and I pretty much joined the band the next day. The singer never came back. And I don’t really remember… there was no weird thing about it, but we started a band together. I used to be super nervous. I’d stand behind the PA speakers at parties, with lyrics on top of them, and just sing looking at them. I couldn’t even look at people. I remember my older sister one day, she’s like “you got to get in the front.” I was like “No way, I’m not going in the front.” Then we played the high school battle of the bands or something in the auditorium, and I remember I was just a wreck. But, I wanted to play Metallica songs.

So the motivation was the energy that the music brought.

Yeah, totally. I mean, I was never a really good musician really. I kind of learned everything by ear. I’m still not a good musician. My timing’s off all the time. The guys laugh all the time, like “Dude, what math class did you end up taking, cuz your 4/4 is awful!” And that’s the easiest way to go. But I just really liked the idea of playing music, and playing other people’s music that we love. I did write one cover called “Guarded Wings”, that was my first song I ever wrote. I wish I had a copy of it because we did record it, but it was on an old four-track way back in the day. Thank God we don’t have it, actually. It’s probably unbearable.

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I just saw in the news, just in the last couple of weeks, that the Hendrix estate – the sister who’s kind of running stuff – is issuing more stuff from Hendrix posthumously. As a musician, what do you think of that and how would you feel about – in the event of your demise – people releasing stuff that you didn’t necessarily approve?

Good question. You know, I don’t really think I have a problem with it. I don’t know if Jimi – I didn’t know Jimi – but I think people that are huge Hendrix fans are stoked that there’s other stuff that they’ve never heard. I get all that. And even though, if it came out and it wasn’t great stuff, you’d have to know that’s the reason it never came out. So take that with a grain of salt, I guess. So for me personally, I don’t know that there is that much out there to be honest, but I wouldn’t be pissed about it. No.

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What are songs that, when you wrote them there was an energy or vibe to it that, based upon your experience in music, you felt like it was going to hit and didn’t? And what’s some stuff that you didn’t think was there and the reaction from the crowd was insane? What are some surprises musically that the band has had?

I think on this new album we wrote this song called “Marrow,” it’s the last song on the record. And I like the song a lot, but I didn’t think much of it to be honest. We put it on at the end, it’s kind of a slower, moody jam. So we put the record out and it’s like not even close to any other song as far as comments go…what people really love. Like today, we asked “do you have the record?”, “what’s your favorite track, blah blah blah?”, “Here’s some links”, trying to get people to keep going with it. But if you look at it, it’s a slam dunk on “Marrow” as people’s favorite song. So that’s cool. I wasn’t expecting it and I think it’s a really great song too, but we don’t play it live or anything because it’s a different style song. And I don’t know if we ever would. It also has a guest singer, a good friend of mine Stephanie (Stephanie Plate). Anyway, that’s probably the biggest surprise, is that song.

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What’s one of your most memorable or best surprises – something that you’ll always carry with you – that happened on stage? What’s a great memory for you?

I have a zillion great memories, but the first time we ever played the Download Festival…not the first time, but the second time we played the Download Festival was the first time we played the Main Stage. There was like 160,000 people that day. It was like as far as you could see that way, that way, that way, and you tell them to put their horns in the air and they all do it. Or you tell them to jump or whatever, and you see it like you’re just putting your hand up… there is nothing like that. I mean, I have said it before and it is damn true…it is better than sex.

We have a song called “Slit Wrist Theory” that was probably the initial song that people gravitated towards in the beginning, especially overseas. We end every set with that over there, and you’ve got all those people singing it. So that in itself, that’s what I’m so proud of. And that’s the beauty of this job, is connecting with people in a way that your lyrics or something you just wrote in your bedroom or your office or whatever, have gravitated towards people like that. It’s pretty impressive.

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Let’s just say we have a crystal ball and can see that there is an eighteen month clock left on this band…this is hypothetical. What do you want to accomplish in that time before the door closes on this band?

South America, we’ve never been (there). And there have been a lot of messages back and forth from people that love the band. I think mostly just travel. We’re going to South Africa for our first time in September. I’ve never been.

Is that a festival gig?

Yeah, we’re playing this festival called Cranked Up, and we get to go on a safari and hold tigers and cool stuff. So I think just travel, really just continuing to see the world and connect with people that dig our band. It’s not a monetary thing. I’ve been in this band for almost twenty one years now. We know how to survive, you know? We don’t have any grand delusions of flying show to show in a chopper. You know what I mean? So, it’s a difficult business but if it’s done correctly and you convey a message of gratitude to your fans, that they’re extremely important, now more so than ever because if they don’t buy a ticket, if they don’t buy a t-shirt – I mean, let alone, a CD – we can’t come. So, I think we’ve been lucky enough to connect with our people in a way that they believe in us enough that they want to support us in some form so we’re allowed to still do this. And we also do other gigs so we can still do this. It’s important and I just want to connect with more people. That’s the eighteen month goal.

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Have you ever, or would you ever, produce? Say the band comes to an end, would you stay in the industry but transition into production or any other part?

Yeah, I have done a little bit of it, just like on a local level back home with some bands and I enjoyed it. That’s really Steve’s department, our guitar player. I mean he’s a tremendous producer. He know his way around a studio pretty good. But I enjoyed doing it too, and I think I’d be better off being a producer for a vocalist, you know what I mean? As opposed to a guitar player or something, or as a whole as much. But I would do it, and I enjoy doing it. So, yeah!

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Tell me about the new record that just dropped in February. It’s on a new label for you? Tell me about the label and the new disc.

The label is Spinefarm and they’re under Universal. We’ve been a bit of a suitcase, to be honest, over the years. We’ve been in a few different places. Spinefarm – I had a prior relationships with a couple of people there from the Roadrunner days – and they were the people I did like there. I just think they’ve done a tremendous job so far with our band. I was even talking to Steve about this today. I think it’s the best ever. We’ve never done this much press. We’ve never had a buzz like this. It’s really cool to be this long into the band and have that. You know? So it’s been a slow, gradual climb. And the band itself, minus my voice these days, is just firing on all cylinders. I mean, we’re having so much fun. And that’s most important. We’re laughing on stage. We weren’t laughing for a while. This became a business. It will burn you down. If you don’t try and take breaks when you need them, and just kind of separate yourself from the daily grind of touring, you can get burnt out. So we did take a break, and we really needed it. It helped us to deliver the album that we had to deliver for ourselves personally. And I mean that by an emotional outlet because, like I said, we were all fairly burnt out in 2011 when we got off the road and started writing. I just think that we kind of needed regular life a bit. I’m a dad and I needed to be around my family. So did the rest of the guys. That “distance makes a heart grow fonder” was really a true statement for our band because people seemed pretty excited when we were getting ready to come back out. Because in the beginning they were like “dude, don’t go away too long. They’ll forget about you.” But I don’t think that’s true for certain bands, certain bands that have a loyal fan base. Even if it’s not that big or not. I think that we’ve been lucky enough to be one of those bands that connected with people enough that they were excited still to support it. So all that being said, we’ve got Spinefarm, we’ve got new management, new booking agents, new publicists. We kind of cleaned house, on the North American side. On the rest of the world we kept the old people because those people have been amazing to us for years. So yeah, I’m feeling really grateful to still be doing this.

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Are the guys from Skinlab going to dip over and hang with you guys tonight?

I know Esquivel has a plus one on the guest list. I don’t know about anybody else, but I know Esqui‘s coming. And that’s good enough for me.

Nice!

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Brock Lindow
Photo by Greg RaMar

I wanted to ask about…I wore this to get a little smile on your face, because you’re like “ah shit, another interview” right? So…What’s the connection with Philly? And then you said early on in the interview, you said the hockey thing, so I’m thinking the Broad Street Bullies, right? Was it the legacy of the team? Why are you a Flyers fan?

Because my dad was. And where we come from everybody has a different team, because we don’t have a pro team, obviously. I guess kind of like you guys.

Because they’re like transplants, right? People brought their team with them when they went there.

Yeah, exactly. I guess you could be a Sharks fan, right?

Fuck the Sharks.

(Laughs)…I like Halloween, and they were Orange and Black! Haha! And my dad said they were the tough guys, so I would gravitate towards that. Everyone loved the Oilers when I was a kid, myself included. I loved Wayne Gretzky and (Mark) Messier and those boys. I like the game, the flyers playing and I’ve just been a huge fan my whole life. And probably my three or four best friends were Eastern Conference fans, and it’s like – Rangers, Devils, Penguins – are my three best friends, and we hate each others’ teams, and we talk shit all year long. And it’s super fun! Except when we don’t make the playoffs, like this year. So yeah, it’s just that rivalry thing. Long time Flyers fan. I’ve been to many games. I love watching hockey. My life revolves around it.

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Well, thank you very much. That was great!

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About Greg Ramar

Photographer – California

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