Sunday, 19 November 2017
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Interview: AMERICAN HEAD CHARGE

Antihero Magazine’s Mark Dean had the recent opportunity to catch up with American Head Charge when the band made a stop in Manchester, UK.

American Head ChargeANTIHERO: American Head Charge is finally back in the UK again after a few false starts maybe and times that you were meant to come over and it didn’t work out for different reasons.

Karma Cheema: Yeah, it kind of sucked too because we got a bad rap for that and the second time was not us. We had taken a real big shock because of the management we had, let’s call it the business side of things, and it took us a year to get out of that contract and whatever. Let’s say it took us a year to change over our business. I’m not supposed to talk about the fact that we won in court….

ANTIHERO:  Yeah, it’s one of those things that you feel you need to talk about, and get off your chest.

Karma Cheema:  Fuck that motherfucker. It took us a year to get out of his fucking claws and so that’s why we’ve been off for so long and that’s why we had, we almost had another tour booked to Europe that we had to cancel and we were like, he was threatening, they were threatening to book it just to make us look like assholes to be honest. That’s what they kept trying to do. They kept trying to book tours and keep us in their claws. It was fucking bullshit man and…

ANTIHERO: So, what do you feel then, you have something extra to try to prove to the UK? Albeit not your fault.

Karma Cheema: Yeah, we do, you know, we feel like we…you know honestly, the first tour was our fault, we still struggle with our demons, you know, and…Yeah, so that first tour we feel bad about it because we cherish our UK fans. These are our best fans, easily, hands down, UK, and we don’t want to disappoint them by any means and we’re excited to be back here and hopefully, hopefully not too many have sat at home pissed off at us, they come out and give us another try.

ANTIHERO:  And sometimes, again, fans don’t understand what’s going on behind the scenes and just say, “oh, those guys cancelled again.” They’re not fully aware of, as you say, the business side of things.

Karma Cheema:  Right. Yeah, we definitely are happy to be back here and hopefully these guys will come out to the show and let us redeem ourselves a little bit, you know?

ANTIHERO:  So Bristol last night, the first UK date of this tour, how was that?

Karma Cheema: It was good.

ANTIHERO: Everything you expected and more?

Karma Cheema: I would say that. I could say that, probably, myself. I thought they were great. Manchester is my personal, probably my personal favorite. Prefer it to London. So, I’m excited to play here.

ANTIHERO:  Did you guys have the opportunity to walk around the town, check it out? Do the tourist-sightseeing thing?

Karma Cheema: Yeah, we’re going to eat some curry in a little bit, we want to go get some curry, man.

ANTIHERO:  Benji’s back in the band. You’ve got a new-found enthusiasm.

Karma Cheema: Benji’s back. Benji’s back and we’re so excited.

ANTIHERO:  Your band line-up has varied over the years. Do you find that has impacted on the band or not? Has it had a negative effect on the band? Rather than having the same guys throughout?

Karma Cheema:  I should probably let Cameron answer, but I’ll answer from a fan because I can also answer this from an outside point of view. The band is, when it comes down to the brass taxes, the band is Cameron and Chad. So, it hasn’t really affected it in a lot of ways because that is the source of creativity, the American Head Charge monster. So, that’s my opinion.

Well, we put some foundation down but I think it continues to grow. I think Cameron answered a similar question. I think the question was like, “what does Benji and the drummer bring to it and, you know, there’s something that him playing guitar, like achieves or kind of puts into place that it’s kind of this revolving door of that one guitar player not really figured out. It’s nice to have, like, somebody who, I don’t know, it’s just whatever and they’re playing and he’s playing that…

ANTIHERO:  The chemistry as well. It’s a personal chemistry as well as a musical one.

Karma Cheema:  Absolutely, yeah.

Cameron Heacock:  Personal, as well as musical, and I think the history of living life and all of the experiences we’ve had is unifying.

Karma Cheema: We’ve been jamming basically, there’s been a revolving guitar playing on stage left and besides the little flash of Anthony that we got, which he falls into that family kind of familiarity, understanding kind of thing we have. Besides that, we put jamming guitar players into that spot and now having Benji back it’s like, you know, I’m not looking over there to see if he’s got his shit together. You know? It’s like, you just kind of know that he knows what he’s doing over there.

American Head ChargeANTIHERO: A few years ago, you used an Indiegogo campaign. I just wondered what the pros and cons of that were over going with a record label.

Cameron Heacock: To me, the coolest thing, I mean there’s a lot of really cool aspects of it, but I like being responsible or feeling like you know the fans and it’s not through a label having all the control and power.

Karma Cheema: We’re accountable basically. We’re accountable to the fans instead of being accountable to some fucking guys who don’t even give a shit about you.

ANTIHERO: It’s more about personal connection with those sorts of schemes as well.

Karma Cheema: Yeah, being accountable to the most important part of what we’re able to do, you know?

Benji Helberg: It’s like the difference between walking into an office setting or a rock ‘n’ roll club.

Cameron Heacock: It feels good to take that middle man out of there, you know what I mean? Because it’s like, it is, and there are so many middle men between us and our fans, you know what I mean?

ANTIHERO: And the more elements of the chain that you cut out, the better it is for the band because there’s more of a connection to your fans.

ANTIHERO: Live, you’re a brutally heavy machine but how do you guys relax and unwind? Have you got sort of more mellow musical tastes that you listen to when you’re not doing what you’re doing?

Cameron Heacock: I rarely listen to like heavy, heavy music. I listen to a lot of weird stuff. I think that like prettier stuff kind of draws my ear more than, but I like unusual stuff that I think is beautiful at the same time. I mean it doesn’t have to sound pretty for me to think it’s pretty, kind of thing.

Karma Cheema: Yeah, I think we go all over the map. Mine’s probably Junior Brown and Wayne “The Train” Hancock.

ANTIHERO:  What about hobbies, interests? I mean, when you’re not on the road, how do you unwind?

Cameron Heacock: I surf.

Karma Cheema: I hang out with my dog pretty much as much as I possibly can. She’s the light of my life. I have a Jack Russell, little Presley. Her name’s Presley and she’s a Russian Jack Russell.

ANTIHERO: Okay, personal tragedy is something that obviously you guys have been directly affected with in the band. For fans, they turn to music in times of difficulty and dark. What do musicians turn to? What do you, you know, when you’re at your low, you’re going through a rough period?

Benji Helberg: To each other, probably, in music I guess.

Karma Cheema: I would say more of my writing comes from, probably, stems from that kind of shit that I, maybe that nobody will ever hear, but that I have personally…

Benji Helberg: It doesn’t seem like you sit down when you’re in a super good mood and start writing, usually. Usually it stems from…

Karma Cheema: Some pain.

Benji Helberg: Yeah, yeah, like good comedians. They’re always usually the most painful, like…

Cameron Heacock: Depressed.

Benji Helberg: And you would never think of them as that.

ANTIHERO: What would’ve been your first introduction to music?

Jeremiah Stratton: First introduction into music came from my family doing Motown and funk and R&B, that’s where I started out.

Karma Cheema: The Platters?

Jeremiah Stratton: Yeah, my mom, she sings in the Platters, still tours all around. My uncle does a funk band, Steve Sallis.

ANTIHERO: So, music was always in the family from a young age?

Jeremiah Stratton: Yeah, but when I heard metal music it, that’s when I fell in love.

Karma Cheema: Yeah, my family was also musicians in the big band era, like jazz, The New Yorkers.

Cameron Heacock: It’s sad that nobody cares about seeing live music anymore. Or it seems like it anyway. And everybody wants to see that one dude that can press, like, a number of buttons.

Benji Helberg: I think mine was ABBA, Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers, The Oakridge Boys and Debbie Burn.

About Mark Dean

I’m a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal – my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time.

Photo: Mark Dean with Jeff Kendrick of Devildriver – Photography by Olga Kuzmenko

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