Musicscan: Stephen, please tell me a little bit about what happened with you and the band during the last two years?
Cave In: In the past two years, we shifted record labels, we parted ways with a lot of business people who were working for and around us and we, in turn, became really happy with being in the band once again. That is a short way of summing up the last two years.
Musicscan: Why the split with RCA? Did they drop you because of sales?
Cave In: Ultimately it was RCA not being particularly pleased with the songs that we were working on and what was to be our second record with them. It was a sort of danger attached to our musical freedom that set off the alarms in their brains. It became a mutual parting of ways between us and the label because I am not sure that they really wanted to try to fight with us in terms of whatever they wanted to see with another record. We certainly weren’t willing to compromise our musicality.
Musicscan: To some extent this sounds a little surprising because in the interviews for “Antenna” you claimed in every interview that you had total creative freedom and that you could artistically do whatever you wished. Are there different people working around you now?
Cave In: What happened was that when we began working on a new record, the inner structure of the label was very different compared to the time when we signed with the label and even compared to the time when we delivered “Antenna.” There was a rapid succession of changes which had a lot to do with the merger between BMG and Jive, which brought in a new president all together and prior to that our A&R guy left the label shortly before the record got released. These two things were pretty big blows in terms of really shaking up the structure that we were initially attracted to.
Musicscan: It seems like you attempted to compromise as much as possible as far as marketing, promotion and advertising of the record was concerned.
Cave In: I think we were trying to be somewhat tasteful, but it is a little difficult when you have a big such a big machine working to promote your product because ultimately things happen that are beyond your sight. We would have friends telling us that they were riding around in downtown Boston and these kids were part of the street team promoting our record and they would see boxes just smeared all over the street. Stuff like that is sickening and kind of wasteful. It seems like big labels always go that route in general. There is just that mass quantity of everything from promotion and advertising to the way things get worked over the radio sometimes. I don’t think we ever felt comfortable with that. I think we tried but the idea of the music in our band being forced upon people in this way was a little unnerving. We just took a chance and we went into this whole process with the understanding that it was going to be more of a business in terms of the people we were working with and who were manufacturing and distributing our music. However, we feel a lot better with smaller, more intimate circles of work being done for our music at this point.
Musicscan: Did you have other offers than Hydra Head or was it simply a logical step to go back to Hydra Head? Were there any hard feelings when you left for RCA?
Cave In: There was small interest from other labels, but I think people were a bit confused at the time that we were at odds with our label and I think part of the confusion may have been that people were under the impression that we are breaking up. Maybe that had to do with the fact that we weren’t really approached by labels, but we didn’t really seek it out either. We weren’t actively trying to pursue other options. At the time we got out of our contract, the least thing that we felt like doing was trying to exercise some kind of game to raise the interest level of people and companies. We felt a little jaded by that whole process at the point were we separated from RCA.
Musicscan: Were there any hard feelings when you left Hydra Head?
Cave In: I don’t think there were any hard feelings upon leaving the label to work with other people, but Hydra Head’s involvement extended to certain degrees while we were on RCA. There were times when the people that we were working with including people at the label and also people that we had hired for business purposes were sort of difficult to work with the people at Hydra Head. I think that was probably more distasteful to them than us actually leaving the label. The way they were treated at times while putting out “Tides Of Tomorrow” for instance and also during some of the design work for “Antenna” record in particular.
Musicscan: When I listened to “Perfect Pitch Black” the other day, I felt like you as a band have come full circle? I hear everything from “Beyond Hypothermia” to “Antenna” on this record. How do you feel about it?
Cave In: There is a sense of completion which would mean that being at the end of the circle where it started years ago. The cover artwork is predominately grey-colored and the record feels like a tomb or a gravestone of some kind in an era of our band that we are done with. It feels like a finger nail that gets stuck. It eventually greys out and withers away and that it grows back. I guess I look at it as a completion of sorts and a means of putting closure to our band that we are very happy to move on from.
Musicscan: How did the writing and recording process work with this record?
Cave In: We wrote most of it during a really harsh winter. We basically went back in our old rehearsal space, which was grungier and nastier than we imagined. We had done a lot of touring and had just left it as is. However, the change compared to writing our last record was a welcome in a lot of ways. In retrospect, the music itself is very angry and harsh at times and a bit pissed off, but we generally had a lot of fun being creative again. It was just what we wished for after all the touring we had done on the “Antenna” record. We were just left alone to our own devices and made some music that we were very happy with making. So that is what I remember. It is also the first Cave In record that was written and recorded entirely under the influence of drugs. So that inevitably changes the sound and the sentiment of it as well. It got us lose and it helped us to just enjoy the idea of trying to make music again.
Musicscan: So would you say you could have written the same songs without the drugs or were they a vital aspect to the music?
Cave In: I think at the point that we were at when we were writing these songs. We weren’t even sure if the record that we had started working on was ever going to see the light of day, because in a lot of ways it was a departure from what “Antenna” was. We knew what was happening at the label and we knew that we would be battling what would ultimately be totally changed infrastructure at this place that we were signed to by contract. It was just really hard to attempt to put your heart into some creative work that you aren’t even sure if it would ever persevere amongst the other consequences that were around us to complete it, so just doing some drugs here and there made it a little more laughable. Instead of being angry, frustrated and crushed by it all the time, it was nice to just laugh about something and just do what you have to do to be happy, which for us has always entailed being creative.
Musicscan: Aren’t you concerned that people might not believe in the record as now you are sort of going back or at least you incorporate some of your earlier elements and influences?
Cave In: We have already been criticized, but we have always been criticized with every record that we put out in some shape or form. It is nothing new to us. We have much more callous skin now from all kinds of other things that we had to deal with in the past three years. Hearing commentary like “what do they think they are doing, do they want to make another “Until Your Heart Stops”. Whatever. Whatever someone could attempt to say that is fine. Our skin is much thicker than that and we know that there are plenty of people who embrace the fact that we take chances and these are the kind of friends that we have that give us the strength to want to share our musical adventures.
Musicscan: In how far has the massive criticism from fans of the first record affected you in retrospect? Of course, most musicians claim that the simply do the music for themselves and that only they ultimately have to like it, but that is obviously not the whole truth.
Cave In: Yes, you are right. The most massive criticism that we have taken to heart was that people who would really want to hear some of our old material should be honoured with that. We were very defensive about that for a long time and I think that had a lot to do with us wanting to escape pigeonhole of being a metal-hardcore band, which we ultimately did. I think at this point we are known to be a little more on the eclectic side than being a heavy-metal band or a straight up rock band.
Musicscan: Do you have a certain audience in mind when you create a record?
Cave In: To be honest, our minds have to be blown first. It has got to be something that satisfies the craving of our own eardrums before we can consider the craving of someone else’s ears. To be honest, our minds have to be blown first. It has got to be something that satisfies the craving of our own eardrums before we can consider the craving of someone else’s ears. That’s always been a healthy way for us to be creative, and it’s still pretty easy to honor that. At this point I’m more interested in making records that I have yet to own, records that I don’t have in my own collection that I would like to fill in that niche that needs to be completed.
Musicscan: Can you still associate with the whole punk/DIY scene? In how far do you still feel at home in that scene?
Cave In: Probably more than ever right now, after going through what we went through and making decisions or being part of certain things with our band in the past three years that didn’t exactly feel legitimate for us or for what our history is as a band – whether that’s playing really strange bills just to appeal to the radio department of our label or whatever. I think the DIY/way of doing music and being a part of music is completely important right now because what’s happening is, maybe I’m a little out of touch, but it seems like it is a lot easier for bands to get away with not plowing through the shit to get rewards. What I’m seeing more and more is bands just popping up on glossy magazine covers after only playing together for three or four months. There’s a band that we toured with briefly about two years ago that had just signed to a really respectable popular label after only playing together for less than a year. I don’t know why that happens. And from my impression of these kids they were young, inexperienced and didn’t seem like they had really gone through a lot of the bullshit that a lot of bands that I know and love have endured to receive those kind of rewards. I’m seeing less and less of that and I feel like in the DIY/punk world hard work is what gets rewards. It’s not necessarily luck, it’s not necessarily the way you look, it’s not necessarily sounding like a popular selling band at this point in time it is hard work. And I just would like to see more of that. I think the four of us have more than enough capacity to really work as hard as we can at this point. And the fact that it’s for ourselves and for our label, which is being run by friends who really understand who we are as a band, makes it much, much more appealing for us to do.
Musicscan: Can you guys still off the band right now or do you have to take on jobs when you’re back home or not on the road?
Cave In: Some of us have taken on jobs. And I think that has a lot to do with the fact that we have taken so long to complete this record and also to figure out what the inner structuring of our band should be. I feel like the past two years have been very introspective in a lot of ways, both personally and on a business level. Only now are we regaining the courage to want to attempt this again at amore intense level. I don’t think any of us want to bring it to the intensity or attempt the intensity that we had tried to go with when our band was on RCA, but we’re totally calling the shots now and all the work we’re going to do is to benefit ourselves and our fans, and there’s now bizarre corporate overhead overseeing that. Now that those shadows of what was in the three years that we were on a major label have sort of shrunken into the past, the appeal of being in a band again, being in Cave In again is much happier.
Musicscan: You mentioned intensity. What sort of intensity are you referring to? Is it personal, or just the daily routine, which has got to be pretty exhausting?
Cave In: What I meant was just the intensity of how much work we actually want to put into doing this band. I mean we could tour a month out of the year. We could tour five months out of the year. We could release a record every five years. We could release a record every two years or one year. That’s the sort of intensity I speak of. As time moves on a bit and we become re-accustomed to doing the band for ourselves once again, the idea of approaching playing music with a bit more intensity than we have in the past two years is more inviting.
Musicscan: When was that point where you said the band is probably going to end?
Cave In: That pretty much was right around the time when RCA wasn’t too keen on us going into the studio to do another record. They wanted to hear thirty more songs. They just wanted us to keep writing and writing and writing. We’d already done that with “Antenna.” We had just written and written and written, which is why “ Tides of Tomorrow” ended up coming out. That was partially because of an abundance of songs that had been written for our record. The time when “Antenna” was supposed to come out was largely delayed because of that excessive writing process. We just didn’t want to do that game any more. That was more exhausting than anything. You write stuff and you have it laying around. You have that moment to snapshoot the songs into a recording, and we just didn’t want to make another record that would lose that. That was when we started to sense that things were just going to take a long time. And I think our energy for doing that had been sapped already, and to feel that we were going to be forced into it once again was really disheartening. The bloodline for our band is our creativity. It is almost like the capillaries of our creativity were just being set into the mouths of leeches or something. For what little we had at that point, we didn’t want to see it dwindle into oblivion.
Musicscan: Do you think your relationship to music has changed through that experience?
Cave In: For me it has. I’m more interested in lyrics writing and I’ve made conscious efforts to be a better lyricist. The time away that I’ve had from playing in Cave In and playing with the same three people has allowed me to develop my taste a bit more and it’s given me the chance to play with other musicians. If you think about all the great jazz musicians, they’re always being incestuous with each other musically and playing on each other’s records. That’s a really important thing to do if you want to step up your musical abilities. All of us have done that to an extent. So I would say our musicianship has improved a lot as individuals and I’d say even as a band. We got together about a month ago and did some work with a new drummer and we also played a couple of shows. We wrote some new songs and it was really exciting. The writing process was much more pleasant this time around.