It’s fair to say that things haven’t been easy for American Head Charge.
Over the years, the group has battled with their own personal demons as well as having to cope with the tragic death of their guitarist Bryan Ottoson in 2005. With numerous changes both within the band’s line-up and a new record label with each album, it is no surprise that the Nu Metal outfit decided to call it a day in the summer of 2009.
However, as the band put it, stranger things have happened and following a two-year hiatus and a successful Indiegogo campaign, American Head Charge returned like a phoenix rising from the flames. Having been over ten years since their last full-length album The Feeding, last year American Head Charge released a brand new long player titled Tango Umbrella via Napalm Records.
Now with a revised touring line-up, featuring powerhouse drummer Jeremiah Stratton of Hed PE and old friend and bandmate Benji Helberg returning on guitar – AHC has taken to the road across Europe.
National Rock Review recently caught up with American Head Charge backstage at the O2 Academy Newcastle to talk about their latest album, their side project Run With The Hunted, and the band’s return to the forefront.
NRR: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us today, we really appreciate it.
All: Thank you, man.
NRR: So you are currently out on tour across Europe in support of your current album Tango Umbrella, which was released last year via Napalm Records. I was just wondering how have the shows been going so far?
Karma: They’ve been going good, the UK is better for us. The UK shows have been kind of like getting cranked up. You know we’ve got some new guys out with us, Mike and Mr Jeremiah over here – so you know we are getting a little tighter, and we are getting more accustomed to playing with each other on stage and stuff like that. But the fans are great here in the UK, it kind of sets a tone for us that makes it a whole lot easier I think to get into it, you know.
NRR: Back in 2009 it looked like we had seen the last of you guys. However, like a phoenix from the flames, you are back out on the road and you are making new music. What do you think it was that caused a change of heart within the band?
Karma: There’s just like a lot of personal demons and people struggling with their own dark kind of …just their demons. I think all of us in our own ways, you start to lose track of what’s important. If you have enough time to think about things and you miss it – you start adjusting those demons and start kind of correcting those things. You start removing those barriers to get you where you really want to be, what actually makes you happy. I think that’s probably the long and short of it. We missed this enough to where we were able to kind of check those personal things enough to where we could do this again. So that’s probably about the long and short of us being able to come back together.
Note: Cameron enters the room and Karma explains the question to him.
Karma: They are asking about why in 2009 they thought they saw the end of us and why do you think that we came back and why we were gone? It’s the question we’ve heard many a time.
Cameron: I don’t know, for me, I thought I could live life without making music and then I realised that that wasn’t the case. I just started writing music again …You know this band has been kind of worked over so many times business wise that it becomes kind of disheartening wanting to go in the studio and make another record.
With the Indiegogo thing we had kind of all of these fans going – no we really like you guys, it’s like here’s some money. That changed the whole dynamic in terms of not owing to the label as much as you owe the fans a record. I like the fact that we were able to take that middleman out of it and then later we ended up going back to that middleman.
I just kind of have to I think in order for me to …feel like I’m happy at all – I have to make music. Like this break, because of our business thing, we’ve been off the road for I think the longest the band has ever been off the road and still been a band. It’s been hard for me, for sure but it’s cool to be out and see people come out especially in the UK.
NRR: You just mentioned there about the Indiegogo campaign. Obviously, a lot of bands these days use crowdfunding – would you ever go down that path again and utilise that method?
Cameron: Yeah, I mean it was kind out of necessity, I don’t think we thought it would be a fun thing, we just had to as we really didn’t have any other avenue to release a record. It’s cool to be able to go from that angle and go to a label and be like look, they already paid for it, all you have to do is like help us with some of the bigger broader international strokes of business and stuff. Which I’m not really going to get into my opinion on whether or not Napalm has done that but, we are not really businessmen I think – that’s hurt us in a lot of ways. We’ve had to kind of figure the business side of it out more so than we ever had to before.
Karma: Yeah, I think in a way too, we did a little bit of preparing on that last Indiegogo too because we took a chunk of that – we took about five grand of it and we invested in a rig, to where we have the technology now to record records. We probably still need a little bit – we probably need like some microphones and stuff like that. We invested that last Indiegogo, it’s the one thing that we have attacked is that we have our own Pro Tools rig that’s fully ready to do our own record. We don’t need to go to a studio, we don’t need to pay anybody this time. Last time we got a really, really good deal and I think that even though we had made this investment I would love to see if they would take the same money for us to go back there, because we had a great experience at Third Sky Studios in Richmond, Kentucky. Technically Richmond, but it’s outside of Lexington, but that was a great experience.
Richard Easterling – he was the engineer on the record and he was just a godsend, his bedside manner was like perfect (laughing). You know we are not the easiest band to deal with.
Cameron: Richard took me aside towards the latter days …we were there for two months. Most of the band had left and it was just me and Karma still and he brought me aside at one point and goes ‘this has been the strangest recording experience that I’ve ever been part of’.
Cameron: And he’s been part of a fair amount of them – we are strange. For any possible engineers listening to us, you probably don’t want to work with us.
Cameron: We’re interesting live, we’re interesting in the studio.
Karma: I’m going to try and get Richard on the phone.
Cameron: See if he has anything to say about it.
Karma: I haven’t talked to Richard in forever.
Note: Karma tries to call Richard Easterling, but we reach his voice mail and leave him a message instead.
NRR: You’ve got a new album titled Tango Umbrella, it’s your first full studio album in 10 years. How does it feel to be making music again?
Karma: It’s dyn-a-mite.
Karma: I’m looking forward to trying it again, personally. Like this is it, like Cameron touched on, it’s been tough being in this band, and a lot of it doesn’t have anything to do with music and it doesn’t have anything to do with us. We make it harder on ourselves a little bit, but it’s really it’s just the logistics and the business. All we really want to do is just make music and we really want to be able to …we’re not even looking for a bunch of money, we just want to get out and be able to like feed ourselves and get out and play these records whilst we are still young and we can do it and we’re getting older. So I’d just like to see us do one more record. I’d like to see us not be molested by the fucking business and time constraints and stupid shit like that, and just underlying non-creative, doesn’t have anything to do with the whole goal kind of shit that we have to – like the fog that we have to get through. I’d like to see us just be able to go in there and do what we do and enjoy it, and be done when we’re done and be like, ok we’re done – now you guys can fuck it all up.
Jeremiah: I feel like we are at an AA meeting.
Cameron: I feel like we make good records and we make good music and then it’s just like it gets somehow lost. There are all of these people – there’s like a fog of people and the band are the last ones with like their hand out expecting to get money. Normally we are like ok ….the other 30 people who had really nothing to do with making the record, they end up getting paid first and by the end, they put their money in their pocket, and they go like this to us.
NRR: You are not the only band to ever tell me that, it seems pretty much standard.
Karma: Well right before you guys came in we were talking about Amy Winehouse. We were talking about how she used the original Motown guys and he [Benji] was talking about Berry Gordy.
Benji: When you tour Motown in Detroit, you go in there – I don’t know if you’ve ever been in there or not, but you see the time clock on the wall, it’s the original one, it’s like from a factory. These guys are responsible for probably making – I think they are – they’ve made the most Number 1 hits or top ten singles in the history of music. These guys were making 80 cents an hour and that’s how they got paid and that was it. Now all of these guys are older and dying and getting sick and they don’t have any healthcare, they don’t have any insurance, they are just getting fucked off by whoever and this is probably the greatest band in the history of the world as far the music – you know the starts of Motown and what not. Nobody knows that all everybody knows is Berry Gordy – I mean he’s a mogul, but what made that mogul. These guys that are all punching timeclocks for 80 cents an hour, everyone in the world can whistle or hum, or sing or clap and they know their tunes and they are all sitting in shitty hospitals, barely alive and it’s pathetic.
Cameron: It used to be in like olden times or whatever – and by no means am I comparing Headcharge to like Mozart – I’m talking about olden times, by no means am I comparing the two but like it used to be that musicians were on a level of like ….Music to me is one of the greatest things in the world and it used to be that somebody with a lot of money would take them aside and be like just do what you do and here’s some money so you have enough to eat. It’s not like – like he was saying – it’s not like we are trying to get rich, certainly nobody is living out of their means – some people are selling used tires to finance their life. I don’t really know what my point of saying this is but ….I wish we lived in olden times?
Karma: I wish it was just like a little less greed and a little more appreciation for what is really going on. You don’t have to have a bigger yacht, you really don’t.
Benji: If you take it to the modern day though, with the internet and everything. There’s so much music out there now, so its kind of like anybody can make a song now. You just get a grid on a computer and write your name in it and hit play and it’s going to make something for ya.
Karma: From the words of Sound City from the words of Trent Reznor, and he said it best I thought when they were talking about all of the technology that’s out – and he said ‘but do we really have any better music’. Is there more great music because we have all of this technology and there isn’t, there’s probably less than we’ve had, it doesn’t really matter. You can do this and you can have all of these tools, but are you making better records?
NRR: With four albums behind you and such a big gap between the records, are you finding that you are welcoming a new generation of fans to the shows?
Cameron: I hope so – I think so. It’s weird to think that that you transcend generations or somehow make that bridge to a younger group, but I think we are all maybe 8 or 9 years old at heart, so it can’t be that hard …
Jeremiah: I’m a solid 7.
Karma: We have the mentality of a 2-year-old but … we’re 42.
Cameron: I’d like to think we do, I don’t really know how to gauge that. I like to think that there are parents going you guys have got to listen to this band like my parents didn’t do very much, but I know that parents do to some degree somewhere.
Benji: That was my thought the other day of like when we are old and in old folks homes there’s gonna be people listening to Slayer, Pantera and Headcharge or whatever.
Karma: I hope to god that that is a thing that happens.
Benji: It has to.
Karma: Like in 2050 they are going to be like, put on that old Reign In Blood.
NRR: I was going to ask you about the track “Drowning Under Everything”. I know you just released a new video for that. So I was just wondering could you tell us a little bit about that song and the inspiration behind the video?
Cameron: A lot of the like visual stuff was kind of – some of it was me and some of it was me and Paul [von Stoetzel] brainstorming. What was cool about shooting that video was Paul was really like – we’ve done a few videos in the past, you know sometimes you get in there and the director is really like, they have tunnel vision as to what they want to do. It was cool working with Paul because …he really wanted to know – he really went to us for like the ideas of it, but he kept it really free-flowing. We would have ideas on set and he was cool about it. As much as was possible with the small budget we had and the amount of time we had. Let’s see if we can ring him too.
Note: Karma calls director Paul von Stoetzel, but gets his voicemail.
Cameron: I guess to put it short, the song and I guess the feel about it is, I was just overwhelmed with the band and just life in general. You know its just that swimming in desperation, drowning under everything, ignore the expectation – it’s just like about being a band I guess and just about being a human I think, it can get pretty overwhelming.
NRR: What’re the plans going forward, I mean now that you are on the road and you are writing again. Are the creative juices flowing, do you think there is going to be some more new material along the way?
Cameron: For sure, the three of us have another band that we started with the bass player from Slipknot Paul – may he rest in peace, that’s never seen the light of day. We recorded it between The War of Art and The Feeding in Minneapolis and hopefully, that will see the light of day at some point. That’s a different project, but certainly, there’s more Headcharge, for sure. Whatever form or whatever label that will end up being on whose to say but I know that I think there will be at least another couple of records.
Karma: Run With The Hunted is the name of the other project. Formerly known as FOR.
Benji: The Fossils of Ransom.
Karma: It’s now Run With The Hunted. We usually take our shirts off when we say that, but we won’t do it because of time constraints.
Cameron: I have a drawing on my back, it will probably be on the first record.
Benji: The first flash drive (laughing).
Cameron: The drawing means Run With The Hunted I guess.
Benji: In about a thousand different ways it doesn’t stop saying Run With The Hunted.
Cameron: It’s infinitely running with the hunted.
NRR: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat to us today, we really appreciate it.
Tango Umbrella by American Head Charge is out now via Napalm Records.
American Head Charge
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