Breaking the ice with 36 Crazyfists
By Dave Schwartz
I guess the House of Blues in Hollywood is like most clubs. During the afternoon with no bodies to fill all the nooks and crannies, it seems cavernous. Itís dark and filled with the distant sound of roadies earning a paycheck. I arrive a little before five oíclock and make my way over to the stage. There is always someone tinkering with the sound or lighting and that it would be the best place to find the band 36 Crazyfists. I find the soundman at the stage helping to set up another band on the bill that night, God Forbid. "Iím looking for 36 Crazy fists," I shout up to the stage. Too busy to be concerned with my needs, he simply motions toward the bar upstairs and turns back to his work.
Although the club is not yet open to the public, the bar is doing a brisk business. With most huddled around small tables and a few sitting at the rail, these people are all ordinary enough given my location. Nonetheless I still have to find the band. As I continue scanning the room, I notice a small group of guys sitting beneath one of the monitors intently watching game seven of the Philadelphia Flyers / Tampa Bay Lightning series. How predictable is this? Theyíre from a state where hockey means the world. What are my chances?
I approach the group without ever gaining their attention. "Hi Iím looking for 36 Crazyfists," I announce. Jeff, the tour manager, is sitting in the chair closest to the TV. He is an imposing man, somewhat small in stature, but armed with a full-size attitude. His squinty eyes peer out from beneath a black bandana. Quickly he replies as the band hardly takes their eyes off the television screen, "Yeah, thatís us. What can I do for you?"
"Iím Dave, your five oíclock interview."
Jeffís eyes keep darting away, his thoughts more fixated on the
game. Then with an apologetic tone and a sense of urgency in his
voice, Jeff quickly responds, "Yeah, ah listen, is there anyway we
can do this interview between the first and second periods? This
is playoff hockey and itís more important than life." Before I
have a chance to reply, Jeffís attention immediately refocuses
back on the game.
I guess my timing couldnít have been better. The game was just going to first intermission as I rescue a Heineken from the bartender. I make my way back to the table where all but vocalist Brock Lindow offer excuses and then depart for better company.
"Sorry for the delay," Lindow murmurs. "But this is playoff hockey!"
I laugh as I dig through my bag to find my notebook. Donít worry, I reassure him, this will be quick.
Lindow leans back into his seat somewhat more relaxed, yet continuing to glance up at the screen not wanting to miss a moment of the telecast. I didnít blame him. Finally I get my hands on my notes, my tape is recording and I open with perhaps my most important question of the afternoon.
So here we are in the middle of hockey playoffs and you're out on tour. What the hell is wrong with you?
Lindow diverts his attention from the TV, stares at me for a moment and laughs, "Yeah, I know. This happens every year. The damn playoffs start and weíve got to go on tour. The crazy thing is weíre Flyers fans and weíve only missed one game. So weíve been fortunate."
Flyers fans, I ask? Not the Edmonton Oilers or another team closer to home?
"I liked the Oilers as a kid growing up," Lindow explains. "But Iíve been a Flyers fan almost my whole life."
Finally I have Lindowís full attention. I guess it helps to ask questions that stray from the typical "Tell me about Alaska" and "Let me ask about your bandmate who died 10 years ago" crap that seems to fill most of the interviews I read while doing research on this band. I was astonished how little diversity there was from interview to interview, so much so that I decided to ask at least one anti-question.
I know that you do a lot of these interviews throughout the tour; this being the last night of the American leg Iím sure that youíve had a chance to rehearse all the standard answers. Since your music is obviously the most important topic we have to talk about, Iíve got to ask, are you sick and tired of answering questions about Alaska yet?
"Definitely not," Lindow smiles. "Itís my favorite place I the world and Iím just trying to spread awareness. I love Alaska very dearly. The questions come in because most people have never been there and donít know a lot about the place. I think so highly of home that I never mind talking about it."
Lindowís reply is sincere and heartfelt. I admire his sense of loyalty to his origins. We all have a place littered with fond memories called home and I must admit that Alaska is far more interesting to talk about than Milwaukee. Yet, at the same time we had a new album to talk about.
In listening to 36CFs two releases there is an obvious contrast between the first record, "Bitterness the Star," and the latest one, "A Snow Capped Romance." I am curious where Lindow thought that contrast came from.
"I think the biggest difference is that the first record was a mix of old and new songs" he explains. "On this record we had a chance to start completely fresh. Because we were more focused the songs blend better into each other as you listen to the record. Hopefully we also became better musicians over the years too. You know, smarter songwriters and stuff like that. I think itís about growth and that we get a chance to play every night and that makes us better musicians."
Another change found on the latest album is in the lyrics. I know that Lindow had strived to clean up the lyrical content of the new songs, so I ask if the censorship is self-motivated or more of a result of recent changes with the FCC and concerns about radio airplay.
"No, definitely not due to the FCC. I donít listen to that at all. For me this record is a much more positive thing for me and I have never really ever written in that way ever. I always wrote about things that bothered me. Thatís how I utilize music I think. I just wanted to challenge myself. I think itís easy to express yourself with profanity and I have a foul mouth in regular life so itís not like Iím against it. I just didnít want to do it on this record. I wanted to see if I could express myself a little more intelligent."
Since he shares that he has always written about topics which are personal to him, I explain to Lindow that my favorite two songs on the new effort are "The Heart and the Shape" and "Bloodwork" and I ask what they were about.
"'Bloodwork' is about the fact that I am potassium deficient. Itís a struggle that I deal with everyday. Iím not suppose to drink alcohol, yet I do and so I kind of shoot myself in the foot quite often with my health issues. The song is about my health and itís kind of a ĎKeep your head up soní song. 'The Heart and the Shape' is a departure from all of the Ďwoe is meí type songs that we had on 'Bitterness the Star.' I was trying to be accountable for the mistakes that I have made in my life. Itís about being proactive toward these mistakes and turning things around."
Along with the great music, the artwork on "A Snow Capped Romance" really caught my attention. Itís an image of a frozen heart that is beginning to thaw. I ask Lindow where the idea originated.
"Do you know the band Demon Hunter?" Lindow asks. "The brothers in that band also have a company out of Seattle. They do a lot of great stuff and when we became friends with those guys we asked if they would do our stuff. We gave them the theme behind the record and they came up with the image."
Itís interesting how so many bands have taken control of the many production aspects of putting out a record. If they arenít doing the artwork themselves, itís easy to find a friend with a little creative blood and a computer.
While researching for this interview, I found a huge discussion on the Internet devoted to Lindowís vocal style. Iíll be honest with you, I donít get the debate. I listened to the record a dozen times and, although his voice is outstanding and in my opinion a perfect fit to the music, it isnít unique. I ask Lindow what he thinks.
"It Crazy fists' strike me as unusual either. I guess thatís because itís me. Before we put out the record and our music was introduced to the masses, I had never thought about my voice being weird. But I think the discussion is good. Whether the fans like it or not it is still a topic for people to discuss."
I can see that the game is about to start the second period and I know that Lindow would rather be spending time watching with family and friends. I began to pack my equipment and ask for a prediction.
"Game seven and I need my Flyers to win tonight. They are losing at the moment, 1-0 after the first. We have two big periods coming up here that Iím not going to miss!"
With that we say our good byes. Lindowís sister has just arrived and the other members of the band are beginning to gather. The Flyers go on to lose the game, but it doesn't affect 36 Crazyfists' performance. The band kicks some major ass and Lindow is all over the stage.
Later, I find Jeff, the tour manager, selling merchandise with a lovely young lady who is doing every thing she can to breathe life back into an old wife-beater T-shirt that has long ago worn perilously thin. As I thank him for the interview and we make small talk, I am happy to see that the air conditioning in the club has come on. I find myself momentarily distracted from the conversation, my eyes continually wondering away from Jeff. Eventually I catch myself and I begin to laugh. What was that description I used-- fixated? And I believe his comment is, "More important than life?" I think I can relate!
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