Todd Forkin - Starkweather

May 12, 2006


Photo Credit: www.candlelightsusa.com

You guys are not very well known from what I've read on the Internet but yet you were the beginnings of metalcore.

I guess so.

How exactly did you guys start a movement without people knowing who the fuck you are?

Have you ever heard interviews with bands where they mentioned bands that influenced them that no one else has ever heard of? We're that band.

How the hell did you guys do that?

I don't know. We're not very cooperative when it comes to selling ourselves. We don't really worry about anything outside of making music like promotion and things like that. Well, we didn't until now anyway. The music is weird enough where the average person I guess isn't really going to like it all that much.

The music is kind of weird but it's a nice kind of weird and I'm glad I got to find out about it.

That's cool. Saying that we helped start metalcore is kind of like saying you helped start a garbage dump or something like that to me because I think metalcore is about the most horrible form of music on the whole earth.

So why do they credit you with starting that? Oh, because you influenced some of those bands.

I guess so. I don't really hear it. I don't hear the influence but it's just weird. When I think of metalcore bands, I think of young guys who have career aspirations as musicians and are willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. Whether that's wearing tight pants with white belts and makeup or whatever it is. We don't really have anything to do with any of that stuff. We just sit in our rehearsal space and write songs and we were surprised to find out that anybody wanted to hear any of this stuff.

You guys formed back in 1989 and you were around for a while and I guess the last record you did was in 1997.

Yeah, something like that. I've lost track of when the last record came out but it's weird. People said that we broke up and that this is a comeback and things like that but we never stopped playing together. We never stopped going to rehearsals. We just lost interest in dealing with people outside of the band. We've had some horrible label experiences and we never really cared about any of that stuff. We knew with the kind of music that we played, we were never going to make a living from it. We just did whatever we wanted and we went away for six years or seven years, whatever it was and that's what we did. We're on a different schedule than the rest of the world I suppose.

People had a love for you and then you disappeared and everyone missed you. I guess everyone is glad you're back.

Yes, it's weird. We don't have a lot of fans I would say but the people that like us used to be really fanatical. Like really, really crazy. I remember playing shows at CBGB's. The last time we played there which I guess was sometime in 2000 or 2001 and there were people that flew in from Salt Lake City and from Japan and from Europe and a whole truckload of guys drove up from Florida to see us. It's weird. What do you say to somebody that does something like that? I didn't even know what to say. I just tried to give them as much free stuff as I could. You can't really thank somebody properly for that. I'm uncomfortable with that whole idea because I lived in Manhattan for a long time and I wouldn't even take the subway downtown to go see bands sometimes.

You're an idol, man. Don't you know it? You're an idol.

It was weird when we went to Europe last summer. We got treated like a real band. Like a legitimate band and we didn't really know how to react. I was used to having to threaten promoters to get paid and stuff like that. We've never made money in 15 years and then we went to Europe and we got paid our guarantee every night and we were fed. We were given a place to stay and we were treated decently. We were like battered women that had people be nice to us for the first time and we didn't know what to expect. I didn't know how to react. I didn't even know what to say. They kept yelling at me because I was trying to give all of our merchandise away to anybody that was nice to me. "You drove an hour and a half to come see us? Here, have a t-shirt."

Over there in Europe, I think they try to take care of people pretty good.

Yeah, it's definitely a different way of looking at things. Some nights we played on bills with bands that were way different than we were and people would sit and watch the whole show. It wouldn't be the crowds changing out after every band.

My mom is from that neck of the woods and they're polite people. They have all these festivals over there and these festivals have 25 fucking bands on the bill and none of them are really the same. It's a whole different mixture of shit that gives people the opportunity to get turned on to other stuff.

Yeah, it's good. You don't have your hardcore crowd and then your metal crowd. It doesn't switch. The people just seem to be a little bit more open to different kinds of music. They listen to a lot of the weird music that the guys in Starkweather listen to that a lot of people over here don't seem to like very much.

Yeah, plus they just like to drink.

Yeah, it didn't occur to us that there's no drinking age over there and especially when we played in France, I think it was a week night but the people had off from school and I think everybody in the whole place was drunk. Like anybody over the age of 12 in the whole town seemed to be drunk. It was strange but it was cool. Another thing that was so weird about being over there is that there wasn't one fight at any of the shows in 12 days. We're used to having total bloodbaths when we play.

People over there are just so different. For one thing they don't have an alcohol problem which I think a lot of that has to do with not being so restrictive about alcohol. That way these kids don't feel like it's something off limits. And another thing is that they're just really laid back people. They're not so violent as people are over here.

Yeah, it's weird. It was really shocking being over there. It took me a little while to let down my guard but by the end of it I was just so relaxed and having so much fun I didn't want to leave. Which is funny for the band that said they never ever wanted to tour.

And here you are touring.

Not in the States though. That's never going to happen.

That's understandable. You guys came out with a record called Croatoan. How did you come up with that particular title? What does that mean exactly?

The singer came up with the title and "Croatoan" was a word that was carved in a tree somewhere on an island off of Virginia. It was basically people that lived on an island and then just disappeared. The only thing that was left was this carving on a tree and then generations later people...I don't even know how to explain it but that's basically it. This group of individuals that lived on this island that just disappeared and no one has any idea of what happened to them. I guess in some ways you can relate that to Starkweather but it's also and I'm not supposed to say this, but it also relates to a short story of the same name and if anybody is interested they can look it up and see what I'm talking about. I don't want to go into that even too much because I don't want to be sued.

There is nothing wrong with getting people to read. They do all these polls and one thing they've found out is that in the States most people don't seem to know how to read.

If they want to look up a short story, the title is Croatoan. They can find out what the other meaning is. They'll have to dig a little bit.

That's good. That will give people a purpose. When you guys put the record together, you got Pierre Remillard to produce it. Why did you settle on him as a producer?

Because the singer Rennie and I, one of our favorite albums on the whole earth is Gorgut's Obscura and he produced that. It just sounded wider and deeper and more interesting than a lot of albums that we've heard. We liked some of the other things that he did like Cryptopsy and stuff like that but it was mainly the Gorguts album. We really liked how it sounded aside from being the greatest guitar playing on the whole earth and at that time another thing that we had in our favor was that the dollar was stronger. The U.S. dollar was stronger than the Canadian dollar so we were able to get a little bit more of hard studio time but we didn't really know if we would click with him or not. It was just a gamble and working with him is amazing. He lives way, way, way out in the woods in Canada. About two hours north of Montreal and about I guess a half an hour down a dirt trail. It's not even a road, it's a trail. We were completely isolated back there and it was an awesome environment to record in and I didn't want one of those super bright clicking, shiny recordings. We definitely wanted something that was a little bit more organic sounding like the old records that we grew up listening to. We were able to get that for the most part from him so it was awesome working with him.

Back when they were doing analog stuff and all that.

Our last album was recorded all analog. That's how we're used to recording. You learn your songs all the way through and you play them that way in the studio. You don't use Pro-Tools to put your crap together.

Yeah, a lot of people feel weird about that Pro-Tools thing.

Yeah, there are a lot of people that say they feel weird about it but end up assembling their songs in the studio rather than recording them. To me that's computing, not making music. That's something that the three original members of the band feel pretty strongly about. It's a nice medium to use to record because it makes mixing easier but learn how to play your songs and record them and then work on things afterwards. Don't record your songs in little pieces and edit them together. That's weird to me maybe because I'm older or something like that. It doesn't make any sense to me at all.

It seems like it's a lot more work than it has to be. I think the way people used to record music was a little bit more fun and it wasn't quite so time consuming.

It's actually easier if you use the computer because say you have a song that has three verses and two choruses and a bridge. You just record one verse, one chorus, and one bridge and you cut and paste the whole thing together. That's what a lot of bands do. That's why a lot of albums sound so static these days because there's no ebb and flow in the timing and the songs don't breathe anymore. For some music that's cool. A band like Meshuggah wouldn't benefit from recording like that but most music I think does. It's really missing these days. The life gets edited right out of the music. You can pitch correct vocals using a program. You can fix bad timing with a program. Fuck that. That's not music to me.

Not only that but you can't reproduce it live.

Exactly. There is nobody who can reproduce what a machine does. There is no machine that can reproduce what a human does. People forget that these days. That's one of the things that I always seem to yell about is relying too much on digital technology for recording. Just sit and sweat it out in the rehearsal space and learn your songs. That's what makes sense to me.

That's what it's all about.

Well, at least you would think so but if you want to be a career musician maybe it's just easier to have the computer do everything.

I guess for some folks.

We're certainly not career-minded in this band as far as music goes. We have other ways of making money and playing music is just a pure thing for us.

You've got some interest in it so that's cool. Why did it take you guys two years to make the record? Did you just decide to take your time with it?

Some of that comes down to the conflicts that we were just talking about between digital and analog recording. We had three original members and two new members. The two newer guys were from the digital era and we were from the analog era. A lot of time was wasted in the studio trying to crunch on the technology and basically a lack of preparation so it took a lot of re-recording, a bunch of mixing, and two mastering jobs to get the thing to sound the way we wanted it to sound. It was the first time we were ever in the studio where it wasn't a lot of fun. We usually love being in the studio. It's pretty much my favorite place to be. We've always loved being there and just watching the songs develop in there. Recording with the two newer members, there wasn't a unified vision of how the thing should be recorded or how it should sound in the final product so it was pretty tense and unpleasant.

Have you worked out your differences since then?

Sure we did. We got rid of them and now our bass player is our drummer's brother. We have two brothers as our rhythm section and I can't think of anything better than that. These guys have been playing music together since they were little kids and we've known Vince for about 13 years and he just fits perfectly. We all view the band the same way and we all want to record the same way. We all look at it the same way and it just makes things much easier.

That's definitely a good way to deal with differences.

Yeah, it was a rough period for the band. It was tough just getting through the whole recording process. I guess we played two shows with the other guys. We just didn't gel. Sometimes things gel and sometimes they don't but this new lineup is really great. The drummer and bass player, Vince and Harry, they're the real musicians in the band. Playing with those guys is sometimes jaw dropping. Just watching these two guys work together and play together and they don't even need to talk to each other half the time. They just know. It's really cool and that's how it should be. If it has to feel like work to me then something's not right and it's no longer work.

I was reading the titles for some of the songs like "Taming The Leeches With Fire" and "Machine Rhythm Confessional". I always love weird titles like that. Who comes up with the song titles?

Rennie comes up with the titles and all of the lyrics and he's a guy that reads a lot. When he wasn't working two jobs, he would read three to five books a week. Just devour books. Everything from classics to crime stuff to medical stuff. You name it he reads it. He's a really bright guy and when he hands us the lyrics I always have to sit with a dictionary and just go through and figure out what the hell he's talking about. It's weird. We never discuss what the lyrics are about. Sometimes he'll allude to things but I'll never ask him "oh Rennie, what's 'Taming Leeches With Fire' about?" I'd rather have my own idea of what it's about and my own visceral reaction to the lyrics. There are times when I know what they're about but for the most part it's just an unspoken thing. Yeah, he's the kook who comes up with all the crazy lyrics and the crazy song titles.

I bet you had to look up "Vespertilian" didn't you?

I did. There's tons and tons of things on there like a mythical drink that you drank to make your problems go away. There are tons of things on there. He's a really talented writer. It's weird being in a band with three guys that you totally look up to. I just feel like it's a privilege playing with them. I did an interview earlier today and I was telling that guy that I can't even imagine playing in a band with anybody else. Once Starkweather is done that's it for me. It just wouldn't be the same. We just get along so well and have such a great time together, it would probably be best to just move on and not play in a band again. I don't think it could be the same.

Not only should people read up on Croatoan but they should also bring out their dictionaries and learn some new terms and their definitions.

Yeah, and he doesn't use it in a pretentious way I don't think. He's not trying to show off or anything like that. It's just the way he likes to write. The way we always worked out our songs was that they were like little movies or something like that and there's a start, middle, and an end and you should be taken on a little journey. That's why for the most part, the music doesn't repeat parts and the lyrics are a narrative that just goes through the whole thing and tell a story. That's just what we like and if other people like it, that's cool. If not, that's cool also.

There's nothing wrong with being educated. You can bet your sweet ass I'm going to be looking up what a "Vespertilian" is.

There are a couple of other things in there. You'll see. It's fun stuff. It would be a little disingenuous of us to pretend that we were some hardcore band or something like that and singing songs about beating people up because that really doesnít have anything to do with our lives at all. He just writes what he knows.

Thatís what you should be writing about. So youíll be opening for the almighty Emperor. How did you get hooked up with that and what were your feelings when you found out about it?

Yes. Theyíre label mates so the label made it happen. How did I feel about it? This is not the answer that anybody wants to hear but itís just another show to me. I donít really care. Itís a shame. There are bands that would probably give a limb to open this show but itíll just be another show. Itíll be interesting. Itís probably going to be one of the most challenging crowds weíve ever played in front of. I think itís going to be like playing in front of a Slayer crowd where all they want to hear is Slayer. Itís going to be interesting but weíre just going to run our whole set together without stopping and weíre going to play five songs. Just run them together and just make little transitions in between each song to run them together to not even give people a chance to say anything between songs. Itís going to be interesting though but maybe itís my hardcore sensibility or something like that but charging people 65 dollars to see a bunch of metalheads is pretty disgusting.

Damn, 65 bucks.

Iíll go pay 65 dollars to go see Bruce Springsteen play for three and a half hours but to see Emperor and Starkweather and Daylight Dies? No, that doesnít make any sense to me. That seems like a 20 dollar show to me but again Emperor I guess are legendary. I guess so. I never really spent much time listening to them. Iím familiar with them and I know their status but 65 bucks is crazy and it sold out very quickly. The tickets are going for hundreds of dollars now. People selling off tickets.

Scalping is something I canít get into because the band isnít making any money off of that. Thatís just going in somebodyís pocket.

Yeah, the whole thing is weird. Weíve encouraged anybody that we know to not come see us. Come and see us for 10 dollars or 15 dollars someplace. I think weíre also going to be playing a couple of stops on the Sounds Of The Underground tour.

That is a cool tour.

Yeah, thatís probably more our scene than playing with church burning Satanists or anything like that.

The Norwegian folks are pretty interesting.

Thatís cool. They have their own worlds that they live in. I donít really understand it and itís just not anything that I spend a lot of time thinking about. Itís just weird. Itís just going to be another 45 minute set for me and then Iíll probably go home as soon as weíre done. Thatís not the popular thing to say either, is it?

No, but at least youíre being honest. I can deal with that.

I would like to play with bands like Ion Dissonance and Cropath. There are lots of bands that Iíd like to play with.

Yeah, I heard some of Ion Dissonanceís stuff. Thatís a cool band.

Yeah, theyíre pretty kooky thatís for sure. I like listening to stuff like that. Itís a little bit challenging to listen to. Then again I like listening to pop music or classical music or jazz. Iíll listen to just about anything. Maybe thatís why we donít sound like a metalcore band.

By day he listens to jazz and by night heís a metalhead.

Yeah, very sophisticated. I should remember that sarcasm doesnít come out so well in the written word.

Thatís the one thing I hate about the Internet. You just canít get those nuances across.

Yeah, itís weird. Thatís all right. What am I going to do if somebody reads the interview and they donít like me? I have a feeling I may not lose any sleep over it.

I donít think I would. Then again what they should go in for is the music.

Yeah, exactly. People seem real interested in dressing up and stuff like that these days. I donít know about that. That doesnít make any sense to me. I remember Rennie and me used to work at a trucking company in South Philadelphia and we worked with a bunch of very straight, normal people and they would always ask us what kind of outfits we wear when we play live. We would always say the same outfits that we wore to work this morning pretty much. I may change my t-shirt. They didnít understand that so we started telling them that we wore sequined jumpsuits and stuff like that.

A la Elvis.

Yeah, they found that much more believable for some reason.

I think most people will believe bullshit before they believe the truth. This is something Iíve come to find out in the past few years.

Yeah, itís painful sometimes. Thatís why I like to stay in the house for the most part. Human contact is overrated. Animals are way better than people, thereís no doubt about that.

Yeah, they love you unconditionally and donít judge you unless you forget to feed them.

Thatís right. Thatís awesome.

For a band that stays home all the time, what kind of touring plans do you have?

None. Our goal is to play as few shows as possible to as many people as possible. Thatís why some of the shows we have coming up are cool but the average age of the band is much older than other bands that are out there doing this. Our drummer has two kids and a wife and we all have regular jobs that we canít leave. The idea of driving around the States in a van with those guys seems frightening. We would end up killing each other after a short period of time and not because we donít like each other. We get along amazingly well but driving around the States having to threaten promoters for gas money just doesnít really fit in with anything I want to do. Weíll play random shows around the East Coast and for some odd reason we have a really big following in Salt Lake City and weíre being flown out there in August to play two shows. I donít understand it. It doesnít make any sense at all to me but weíre going.

Thatís fucking Mormon territory. Really weird shit.

Yeah, there are some crazy people from there apparently.

Apparently and apparently theyíre not Mormons.

No, I would definitely say theyíre not Mormons. Iím reporting back to everybody when I get back because Iím curious. Thatís crazy. Weíll definitely go back to Europe again for another two weeks. Iím not sure when that will happen. Maybe next spring. Iím not sure but weíll definitely go back there in a second because we were treated so nicely and had such a great time. To be honest with you, guys like us werenít going to see Europe without the band, thatís for sure. There was no way any of us were going to make it over there. It was an awesome experience.

One of the cool things about being in a band is you get to see places you might not have had the opportunity to see otherwise.

Yeah, I never really expected it to happen. I didnít believe it until we landed in Amsterdam. Then it was really happening. It just seemed way too far out for me to comprehend. It was cool. We had such a great tour and nobody fought the whole time. We got along really well and we played pretty well. We got to meet a lot of people that weíd been in contact with for years and years through the mail. It was cool but no tours in the States. Too masochistic.

Play as few shows as possible and leave them screaming for more.

There you go. Or at least just play as few shows as possible.

Any other thoughts or comments?

Just thanks for having any interest in talking to us. This is a new thing for us. Having people be interested in talking to us.

Starkweather