40 Grit – Heads – Interview

40 Grit

Heads (Metal Blade)
An interview with guitarist Chris Anderson
by Scott Hefflon

How did 40 Grit get together, and how’d you land your debut, Heads, on Metal Blade?
We started in ’97 and did some demos and some shows. Our first show was the Exodus reunion thing, and later we played some shows with Testament and Stuck Mojo…

All just from demos?
Pretty much. That’s when we first started talking with our manager, who also manages Exodus and Skinlab. We played Milwaukee Metalfest in ’98, and last summer we toured Europe with S.O.D.. We did the West coast in the Fall with S.O.D., Skinlab and Crowbar, and between the tours, we made demos and shopped them around. Metal Blade showed a lot of interest, so we worked out a deal with them and recorded the album.

Isn’t it kinda rare to do all the stuff you did while still unsigned?
Yeah. A lot of my friends aren’t signed and they don’t do half the stuff we’ve done, but there are plenty of unsigned bands who do just as much. In fact, when we were on tour in Europe with S.O.D., we followed around our friends, Influence, and they weren’t signed at the time. They just signed to Maverick.

You’re from the Bay Area, so while your band and Exodus don’t seem a likely pairing, geographically it all comes together. What bands from your area had an impact on you?
When I was a kid, I used to go see Exodus, Testament and Vio-lence. I wasn’t really a Forbidden fan, but I saw their shows. And while Primus isn’t really a metal band, they used to play with Testament almost every weekend. So the all-ages scene was pretty happening – I was 14 or 15 at the time – and that pretty much inspired me, along with bands like Slayer and Metallica. And later, when Machine Head came out, it helped the scene out some more.

When I listen to your music, I hear Machine Head and Disturbed. Disturbed aren’t from your area, are they?
I think they’re from Chicago. Actually, what’s funny is when Disturbed gets played on the radio around here, people think it’s us.

I also picked up on some early Alice in Chains influence.
We love Alice in Chains. Dirt is one of my all-time favorite albums. But I listen to a lot of stuff: Korn, Stabbing Westward, Pink Floyd… Honestly, I’d say I’m way more influenced by Pink Floyd than Machine Head. And I’d say I’m more influenced by Sepultura than Machine Head. I love Machine Head, but other things influence our sound more than them.

You’re playing some shows with Pissing Razors, right?
Yeah, in Texas. We haven’t really toured aside from L.A. to Seattle. We’ve played Europe and some U.S. Festivals, but no real U.S. tour…

Tell me about arranging the songs. You have a lot of dynamics: loud and soft, singing and screaming, mellow and harsh.
Mike (Bennett, drummer) and I do most of the writing and arranging. Basically, we don’t really plan stuff, we just jam, and then we keep working on it until it comes together. With a lot of our older material, stuff that’s not on the album, people’d say we lost them. And I can kinda see now that some of the songs went nowhere. On the newer stuff, we change it around without making the songs six minutes long. We keep working on and rearranging the songs until we’re happy with them. If it doesn’t feel right, I don’t consider it a very good song.

Who writes the vocal melodies?
I do some and James (Santiago, vocalist) does some that really amaze me.

Obviously, he can sing, but some of the vocals are really percussive, kind of like Meshuggah.
Yeah, we really like Meshuggah. A lot of people probably wouldn’t hear it in our music, but we all love the band. Some mp3 website said we were for fans of Meshuggah and Down, and while I like both bands, that’s not really how I see us.

So how does Pink Floyd influence you?
Pink Floyd, to me, is one of the heaviest bands out there. Some of the guitar riffs on The Wall are heavy-ass riffs! But mainly, I love their spacey shit. We try to do stuff like that in our music – some cool grooves and stuff. Roger Waters is god to me. On road trips, that’s what we listen to. Those albums also really help to pass the time…

It’s always confused me why fans’d want “their” bands to only listen to metal…
Our drummer loves Sublime. I can listen to some of his parts and hear Sublime. I just don’t wanna sound like Sublime… We play with a few friends’ bands who sound just like Sublime, and they bring a cool crowd – lots of chicks – I just don’t want to sound like them.

Were you guys in other bands prior to this?
We were all in other bands – except the bass player – and we thought it’d be cool to get a side band together. We were all just local bands with demos and stuff…

So why’d you pick the name 40 Grit?
That’s what we used to call the dregs of a 40 oz., the stuff that’s all warm and nasty. We’d say, “Ugh, 40 grit.” Now that it’s our band name, we don’t want people to say “Ugh, 40 Grit.” Technically, it’s a sandpaper calibration.

I should know this cuz I have a useless degree in architecture…
Well, I used to work in a machine shop…

Really? Do you still?
No, I got carpal tunnel so I had to quit. But now we all paint. Everyone in the band works painting houses with the guys from Skinlab and members of a couple other bands. It’s cool cuz we can go out on tour and come back to a job. Our boss has come to our shows, but he still doesn’t take shit from us. Deep inside, I think he wants to be a rock star, but he lives it vicariously through us.

Seeing as you’re on Metal Blade and Skinlab’s on Century Media, do you guys sit around bitching how labels are fucking you over, or are you competitive as far as what your labels are doing for you?
I think Century Media’s doing good things for Skinlab, and Metal Blade’s been really good to us… Honestly, I really didn’t want to be on Century Media or Nuclear Blast, and luckily Metal Blade was really into what we were doing.

Metal Blade has a reputation for, ya know, King Diamond, Armored Saint, and Manowar, so signing to them is like “Wow, a nü metal band on Metal Blade? Who’da thunk?”
Yeah, so I think it worked really well for both of us. We get all the attention this way. If we were on Roadrunner, we’d get stuck at the bottom of the list. Machine Head’s good friends of ours, so I hear all the dirt…

With Metal Blade, I think you have the opportunity to build it up over the course of a few records, a few years…
Yeah. A friend’s band just signed to a major, and if they don’t sell 70,000 records in 10 months, they’re dropped. That doesn’t sound like fun to me. It doesn’t matter how much money they give me or where I get to record, we’re in it for the long haul…
(2828 Cochran St. #302 Simi Valley, CA 93065)