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Cancer Bats - Interview

  by Paul Waller

published: 6 / 10 / 2010

Cancer Bats - Interview


Heavy-sounding, but genreless Canadian act Cancer Bats have been touring constantly since the release of their third album earlier this year. Pennyblackmusic speaks to front man Liam Cormier about his group's increasing popularity and refusal to be pigeonholed

Canadian ear bashers Cancer Bats are pretty much living in Europe right now. They are tearing up venue to venue with their heavy genre busting noise supporting Bring Me The Horizon though the UK and then trail blazing into France and beyond. As soon as that tour is put to bed they’ll be back in the UK with the new purveyors of thrash and press darlings Trash Talk for yet another UK trek. Pennyblackmusic caught up with singer Liam Cormier just before they set out for the mainland to discuss how he found himself living this lifestyle and just what would happen if maybe, just maybe the band break it big. PB: What was it for you that was the punk rock catalyst? How did you discover this other world? LC: For me, what got me into listening to punk was skateboarding. That was my kind of big thing. It was on all the skateboard films that we watched and everything like that. The soundtrack was always punk and metal and hardcore so that is how we would find out about bands. At the same time we were also reading skateboard magazines so I would always try to listen to bands that say 'Thrasher' or 'Transworld Skateboarding' was talking about. All these magazines would interview punk bands. PB: Yeah, it was 'Thrasher' that brought Suicidal Tendencies to my attention. LC: Of course, back in the day there would be Misfits logos on half pipes. We would be saying “What is this Crimson Ghost?" (The Crimson Ghost in question the Misfits skull motif as first seen in the 1946 film of the same name-PW). PB: Did you have any sibling record collections to rummage through to expand on your tastes? LC: No, I was definitely on my own as was the rest of the band. Our older siblings were definitely not into cool stuff. m+My older brother was listening to INXS and stuff like that. PBM So you found some like minded comrades and formed the band, and quite quickly found some success. As when most bands reach any level of success, their home town will often turn their backs on them. Has this happened to you guys? LC: I wouldn’t say I feel less of a part of it, I haven’t outgrown it because we have become an internationally known band. In terms of the Southern Ontario hardcore scene. It’s not like we blew up right away but the people we would have a falling out with was more because we started touring with Alexisonfiire. They were our best friends so as soon as we started to go on tour it was just “Let’s tour together”. So within the first year or so of being together we were already touring with them so I think those hardcore purists who only listen to 7” records and demo tapes, well those guys were definitely already over our band by that point. There was never really a falling out as such. It all happened so quickly that we were never really a part of that type of hardcore scene. We were more in with Comeback Kid and Alexisonfire and of course we are going to tour with Rise Against. We were not going to shy away from something just so we could play basement shows. So no there was never a huge outcry when we started to do other things. We never really got caught up in any of that. PB: In this country it would seem that no matter how cliquey the local hardcore/punk or metal scene is Cancer Bats is one of the bands that almost everybody likes. What do you think gives you this crossover appeal? LC: I feel like because of the music we play we transcend a lot of that because we are not a metal band and we are not a hardcore band or a punk band. We are all over the place so by the nature of that (not being involved in a clique genre) we’re able to fit into a lot of places. It’s kind of helped us. So maybe we remain cool purely because we are this odd band out. I know that when people try and classify us they find it incredibly difficult and I like that. PB: Although it’s not a swear word, the word “cancer” has many heavy connotations and people have always had someone they know affected by it. Have you ever come in for criticism or been in a sticky situation for having the band moniker that you have? LC: Early on there were some people who didn’t really get it. They didn’t really know the band or any of us. But now people know that we are not making light of it or being dicks about it. Obviously cancer is a harsh word, but the reality of it is that it’s as common as a cold. It’s a unifying thing. Everybody has known someone affected and everyone has had to deal with it. I think that maybe the severity of the word has been taken away. PBM: To wear a Cancer Bats T-shirt has completely different connotations to wearing say a Mastodon shirt. You have to really be into the band. You know that you are going to get some harsh looks out and about. For those that don’t follow hardcore, metal and punk they don’t know you are not being a dick. LC: Yeah, you’ll get that “Why would you wanna put that on a shirt?” PB: The song that first encouraged me to hunt down your records and buy the aforementioned t-shirts was 'Sorceress'. I loved that there were no metaphors. It was just full on vicious hatred spurted out, no holds barred. Did the “sorceress” you wrote it about ever hear it? LC: No negative feedback no, it’s very specifically about that one person and I already had such a falling out with that girl that I wasn’t really worried at that point. I’ve never had a confrontation with her but we haven’t met in years. I’d like to think that she knows that the song is about her and that’s probably why we have never talked. She must know exactly how I feel about her. PB: She must do. LC: Canada is a small enough place for people that know about our band it would have had to get back to her so she knows. She could read that and know what every event in it is about. I just started writing it with a demo we had for the song and everybody liked just how straight and brutal it was. I liked that idea of just being completely straight and honest. It’s a song about just how everybody thinks and feelings that everybody has. The one thing that is funny though is that it’s not about an ex-girlfriend which everyone thinks it is. Usually people will tell me that they had just broken up with their wife or they have an ex-girlfriend and they know exactly what I am talking about. Well, it’s not about that but I am glad that everyone can relate to it which is cool, so many people have come up to me and said that that song has helped them through a really tough time. One guy told me he just sat in his car and played it just as loud as he could to get through his emotional state. PB: Moving onto your new album, 'Bears, Mayors, Scraps and Bones', have you had any feedback yet from the Beastie Boys either about the cover of 'Sabotage' on it or the parody style video you did to go with it? LC: You know what, we have never had any specific feedback from those guys, I would like to have thought that they have seen it. We have done enough press about it but who knows…. Hopefully they’ll like it. PB: What do Eric Ratz and Kenny Luong bring to the table when you recorded the album. Why on what is album three did you not produce it yourselves? LC: We make a great team with those two guys and they have been involved with everything we have done. I mean they both engineered our first album, 'Birthing the Giant', and that is when we first met them. It just made sense to have them on board. Plus we recorded the new one in the same studio as our second album, 'Hail Destroyer', so we regard that as our day one and all the studio settings were already set up for us. All the gear was just as we left it. So we had this template to try and build upon. PB: Knowing many in-studio producers I am aware of times when bands have brought in 'Hail Destroyer' and told the engineers that they want their record to sound just like that. LC: Eric has now been in the situation where that has happened to him as well. The funny thing is that they’ll be playing thorough the exact same gear and running through the same studio but it won't sound rightand with the guitars especially. It’s funny I think that comes down to our guitarist Scott Middleton’s playing and now especially when we are stepping it up with Jaye Schwarzer's bass playing it’s tricky. You can have everything dialled in the same settings. The same pre-amps, using a Diezel head and running it through the same chain of cabs, you know. But it’s not just the gear it’s how you play. When you get some 90lb kid that’s trying to bang away on a guitar when we have got Scott with his man hands (laughs) it’s just not going to have the same tone. PB: How were Hassle Records when you handed over the completed album? LC: They were stoked which was wicked. They are a great team and they are honestly huge fans of the music, they really believe in us so that’s why they want to put it out. We’re stoked. PB: Have you ever thought that with the continuing success of Cancer Bats you could well find yourself breaking into the mainstream,. As the band was born from within a punk scene, how do you think you would cope if the group went stellar and did a Metallica? LC: …… (Long pause)….. I don’t know, I am very sceptical of that ever happening, I don’t think our band could ever be that commercially successful, not in a regrettable way or a way that would hold us back but now that we are on our third record I can’t see us playing stadiums. For whatever reason though, if that were to happen, like let's say 'Scared to Death' became the biggest thing and on the 'Twilight' soundtrack or something and we became the biggest band. I feel like with the relationship that we have with our fans and the way that we have come up together where we are all very close knit and people know that I am very approachable and we can hang out and that it’s not a big deal. I feel that those people would still be supportive. Enough people know where we are coming from after being together five years that if it were to happen we wouldn’t get a backlash. But you never know, sometimes there are people that get upset when a band that they hold really close to their heart gets big. You don’t want to have to share them with everyone. Look at a band like My Chemical Romance, they got to where they are by being a hard-working punk rock band. I saw them supporting Alkaline Trio in 2003. Those guys had a strong fan base that followed them as they got bigger and bigger. Nobody I know held any bad will towards them. They are just a great band. If it happened to us I would like to think we were forgiven. Our band is still growing in all these different markets that we never expected it to, but it’s growing in size so that we can still grasp it and we are still close to those people that have come along the way with us. I know we are playing bigger venues, but it’s not like we are playing Wembley or something that is out of control where I would think I can no longer get to you guys now. PB: Finally, you are coming back to the UK at the end of October with Trash Talk in support. What can we expect from you this time round? LC: We love playing headline shows because we get to play longer. There are so many songs that we like and we want to play ‘em and we don’t get enough time in a thirty minute support set. We normally just rip through a set but with the longer shows we have a bunch of songs that we know people want to hear, and, yes, we will be playing 'Sorceress'. We play it every day. PB: Thank you.

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Cancer Bats - Interview

Cancer Bats - Interview

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Birthing the Giant (2006)
Brutal-sounding, but compulsive debut album from Toronto-based hardcore act, the Cancer Batsthat, which blends together perfectly old style hardcore with more modern sounding hardcore and metal

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