3 Inches Of Blood released their third full-length, Here Waits Thy Doom, to much fanfare and critical acclaim earlier this year via Century Media after starting their career at Roadrunner. Guitarist Shane Clark sat down with the Insider for an in-depth discussion about the economics of being in a touring band and straddling the line between being a fun band celebrating metal while still being taken seriously.
One of the things I wanted to talk about was the artwork. It has to be among the best artwork I’ve ever seen. It’s fucking bad ass. And I really didn’t expect it from you guys, because before your artwork has been cool, but sort of campy. But this is borderline black metal art. Has the tone of the band changed? Are you more serious and less tongue in cheek now?
One of the things we wanted was not to do what was expected of us. We are very much into trying new things and being one of the pack has never interested us. We’ve done it countless times, have that painting done of a barbarian girl in a bikini fighting a bear with wings and lightning and shit all over the place, and we wanted to go the other way and just do a picture of something we created. And it was the influence of obviously the first Black Sabbath record and there is a great album cover by a band called Wishbone Ash called Argus. It’s kind of obscure, but just an album we know and it’s also a picture. And I think a picture is kind of like indirect lyrics in a way, where people can make up exactly what is going on with their own imagination. I find the more I look at our album cover, I‘m like, “what the hell is going on there?”
[This art] looks really cool, and the band has always been about celebrating metal. When people use the words “tongue in cheek” and “parody,” we feel people are kind of missing the point. When you hear “Holy Diver”’s lyrics and you listen to Rainbow, it’s the celebration of metal and speaking and writing about things that are epic and mighty. So with the artwork, we want to try something new, so people will not do the typical ‘ha ha it’s Manowar” kind of thing. We are celebrating metal; we are certainly not wearing fur man-panties and shit. We definitely don’t take ourselves that seriously. But when we do what we do, that celebration of metal and battles and brotherhood-type scenario, everyone comes together and has a great time. It’s escapism. Much like when I read a book or see a movie, I’m forgetting about my shit. I’m forgetting about my life for an hour. Same when you listen to our album we give people a chance to use their own imagination.
This is a similar conversation to one I had last night with Tim Schafer, who created the upcoming game Brutal Legend. You guys are playing a really prominent role in that game already, being in the trailer and on the soundtrack. Tim and I had a very similar conversation where he was saying that the game has that vibe where you could say it’s tongue in cheek and silly but at the same time, it’s very serious and reverential of metal. He said if you look at the best metal, it’s one of the few things you can admit is really silly and funny but also ridiculously awesome.
I’m not saying that we aren’t having a good time, but when you put so much of your life and blood, sweat and tears into something and someone is like “ha ha how do you like being in a joke metal band?” then obviously they missed the point. Everyone has their opinion and that’s fine. When I saw Terminator 2 and Robocop in the theater, I left there just fucking stoked. That kind of vibe. So I can really relate to what Tim is talking about, that “mighty” vibe.
It’s like when there is a dragon fighting a dude with a chrome mountain spewing lava. It’s completely ridiculous but at the same time, it’s awesome.
If you want to boil it down, that’s art. People ask why we are doing what we are doing. There is a place for everything. We don’t have a political, religious or even social agenda. You aren’t going to hear our music and hear about our bad day or hear about what we think about politics or our girlfriend dumped us. It’s the opposite of that, it’s art. It’s fantasy, escapism. That’s the vibe with Brutal Legend too. It’s a video game!
It’s exactly that vibe. Which I think is why you guys are a perfect fit to be the introduction to the game by being on the trailer.
We are really flattered by that, because you know – and I mean this is a small percentage – but some people don’t get it. But Tim gets it, and we were very flattered to be involved. Two of the same vibes getting together.
Some people take metal and themselves too seriously and take themselves too seriously and they want to get involved in a weird “that’s my sub-genre, that’s your sub-genre” debate.
It’s ultimately a popularity contest. It’s pretty much an adolescent thing. Fitting in is very important when you are a teenager. That’s the kind of attitude that carries from being a teenager and misses the growing up that comes with turning into an individual. If I really cared what people thought of me, I wouldn’t be playing in a fantasy-based metal band. When you meet those people on tour, it’s like, “really dude, your attitude is kind of what a 14-year old would say on Blabbermouth”. The kind of person that has time to voice their opinion in a chat room.
I love when someone who doesn’t know me asks what I’m listening to and expects me to say “I love the new Gorgoroth and Behemoth,” and I’ll say something like the new My Morning Jacket is really rad. It totally stops the conversation, and they have no idea how to handle me after that. Because I can speak at length about which tech-hardcore band is my all-time favorite, it’s inconceivable I could like anything else.
That happens to me all the time, because they are like “What’s the most mighty thing you are listening to?” The new Clutch album is the most bluesy fucking boogie-ass thing they’ve ever done. Then they are like, “Uh…” I like good, honest music.
You were saying it might be an adolescent thing – but I’ve always thought it might be an American thing. When I talk to anyone from Europe, the idea of scenes and sub-genres is such a foreign concept to them. In the same breath they’ll say “I love Slayer, NOFX is awesome and Genesis rules”. This whole “my scene” doesn’t exist. I think as Americans, we have – almost self-fulfilling stereotype – a selfish attitude that permeates how we treat everything, including “this is my scene and my scene only.”
Is the scene in Canada like that? Is it very clique-y and niche?
Some places are brutal. Vancouver has a very hipster side. Some bands gain popularity regardless of what kind of music they are playing. It’s about where the cool people are going to hang. I always see people at metal shows that hate metal. That’s where the whole scene is hanging out. But that’s the west coast for you.
I mean it’s tough to match 3IOB up with perfect touring bill. There is no scene around 3 Inches of Blood. Do you feel like you have a chip on your shoulders when you are playing these shows when you play with Shadows Fall and Static-X or on Ozzfest? You’ve played with a lot of different bands, so is it really tough crossing over to new fans?
We come from very working-class families. I always feel we the underdog. But being the underdog is great because you get to experience the yin-yang of the whole thing. There’s a bunch of people that fucking hate what you are doing. And then you’ll convert a few. You’ve got your 20 hardcores in the front that love what you’re doing. So that never really bothers anyone in the band. We are used to being the ingrown toenail, the sore thumb that sticks out. We’ll do a full-on death metal tour and we will be the only one that’s not. We did a real stinker of a tour – the Static-X tour with Shadows Fall. Static X fans are like, meathead-rock. Dance music, stripper rock. Those people stared at us. That “deer-in-the-headlights” kind of thing. But at the same time, that just puts hair on your chest, keeps you humble.
I think all tours are a good idea. It wasn’t one of those tours where you get positive feedback all the time. I think those tours are important to do. You’ll have young kids who never been to a real metal show before. You go to a Static-X show and go “holy fuck man, a concert!” We’re having a chance to introduce people to something different. Going against the grain to gain fans is important, and teaches you work ethic. [Some bands] have a situation where you are just strictly playing for people that just love your stuff from the front of the room to the back of the room without going through certain steps to get there. Those certain steps are important to go through.
If I was 19 or 20 years old and doing this, I probably wouldn’t have this attitude. Going back to the work ethic thing, I worked construction for 11 years before this, so you have to do that. The cliche of paying your dues is a cliche because it’s true.
You definitely have done that. You have had your moments where there has been buzz behind you guys, and there’s moments where it dies down and you fade into the background for a little while. You never had that huge break where you became this huge thing then burnt out quickly and get written off like a short-lived novelty act. People tend to write you off, but you keep plugging away.
We are very career oriented. We don’t want to have that flash in the pan thing. I would rather do the that slow climb and then have a solid fanbase.
Which is what Clutch did. That band will never sell more than 100,000 records and they are completely happy knowing they are going to be spending the rest of their lives saying “We are going to sell out this venue and that venue. We are going to get our 100,000 records sold and make it good. Let’s just build our career around that.”
Clutch is a big influence [in that way]. Another band is the Melvins. I think that in the metal spectrum, Slayer only sells a certain amount of records, but Slayer has fans that will stick with them, and they’ve worked hard for that. That is a good influence. Being career-minded is a very important thing. It’s just having the right people with you who are sincere and not looking to make that instant dollar. The entertainment industry is full of sharks in the water. I can see that there are a lot of amazing bands wallowing in obscurity because they made bad decisions. In that regard, we are very lucky. The planets were aligned a few times along the road. Meeting the right people and having a lot of great people on our side.
It’s a crapshoot. There are people that would shit on their mother’s face to become famous. I’m in Hollywood right now and every time I’m here, I meet people like that. It’s really quite something.
The switch from Roadrunner Records to Century Media was extremely quick and quiet. There wasn’t a big announcement that you guys had left Roadrunner followed by a label search. Just all of a sudden, 3 Inches of Blood had a new label before anyone realized they had left the old one.
We kept that quiet, we didn’t do a press release because for us, it was a good thing. Plain and simple, it’s a business. Roadrunner, with these changing times in the record industry, aren’t making money on underground bands that don’t sell. They have seen a lot of success and money with their more pop more oriented bands, Nickelback is obviously the one, and Theory of a Deadman and some other stuff.
There was some talk about renegotiating our contract. They wanted to make some more money. Just deliberating that within the band, we knew they would drop us if we said no. And we weren’t happy being a low priority on a [big] label. Being on tour and no one [seeing it] in any kind of press is depressing. So we just knew they would drop us. I think it was high fives all around. It was high fives on our side of things and I think it was high fives on Roadrunner when they dropped us.
We were free agents for about a year. We talked to a bunch of labels, and Century Media were the most enthusiastic. They seemed to be the one label that really understood what we were doing. You’d be surprised, there are some very steadfast metal labels out there that didn’t really “get” the vibe of the band. It would have been a situation where they’ll release the album and just see what happens [and ride] our past achievements. But Century Media is much more career-oriented, giving the band a proper push when the album comes out.
Century Media is not necessarily known for a label that has the ability to do a ton of promotional support for their artists. They are definitely a smaller label with really tight budgets working in lean times.
There’s ways where it’s just us doing a lot of things on our own where we don’t need the label’s money. If we are going to spend any money, let’s do it on promo. We don’t need tour support, we’re self-reliant. There’s a DIY thing we have done for many years, and it has carried on with us. I think it’s just important to put the money where it’s needed most and not frivolously spend. We’ll drive a van and trailer and stay in hotels for the rest of our lives because we are saving so much money by not being on a bus. I know some bands who love that lifestyle, and that’s great. But they are owing someone $600,000 at the end of the year. You know how many posters you could have made? And how many ads and whatnot you could have bought with that money? It’s just about being smart and being careful with your lifestyle choices on the road and not spending too much money on the wrong things.
Have you been a lot more hands-on with this record than you were with the Roadrunner albums?
Totally, man. Century Media was like ‘Who are you going to [produce] the record with?” We were like, “Jack Endino”. “Okay, let us know when you’re done.”
Roadrunner, for example, operates a different way. I’m not saying it’s wrong, it’s just different. They were very much like “Okay, let’s hear some mixes. Lets hear the songs you wrote.” They want reassurance that people are going to buy it. Then they have people with opinions going “No man, they need a little more pizazz.” Picture someone behind a desk with a cigar going, “You’re going to the top, kid. Just stick with us, I want to hear some pizazz.” That’s kind of the vibe that was going on. This is 180 degrees different.