I get my ideas for things from all sorts of situations. This one came about, partially, after a chat with Chmcl Str8jckt frontman, Kevin Snell.
He told me he’s written two songs about his wife for the new album….one simply being titled “Love”. I told him he was going soft in his old age. He shut me up completely when he told me that one song was about seeing her “experience pleasure” and in the other he gets slaughtered for her.
So Kevin Snell, what the fuck do you sing about?
I think you’re in a different situation than most vocalists, mainly as you didn’t start singing and writing lyrics until you were in your mid 40s… was it hard to get started and find your own niche?
Ha Ha! Yes, I never wrote a lyric until about a year and a half ago when we wrote the songs for our self-titled debut. I did it out of necessity as the few other front men we tried out just couldn’t capture the vibe that Mike and I wanted. I never want to write “I hate you” “Everyone sucks” “I want to crush you”-type stuff. I wanted to tell little dark stories. It was quite hard to get started, really. It helped that I am a voracious reader and always enjoyed literature. The first song I wrote was “Dressed To Kill”…..a fairly generic topic of a creepy guy stalking a stripper. Once I got that one under my belt the flood gates opened and I realized that the material I want to write about is all around me! I have a stack of post-it notes on my desk and I say phrases into my phone regularly….I then come back to these later when I am ready to write. As I write this to you, I see notes that say “Bring the bourbon and act like a man” and “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her Momma 40 whacks” on my desk.
On your 2017 debut, you sing about everything from stalkers to the killer, Dylann Roof. One track though, is very personal. One Last Salute, which is about your battles with alcohol.
Is it easier putting it all out there, via a song, rather than say, sitting down with someone and opening up to them?
I like variety so some of my songs are metaphors for personal issues, as you say about “One Last Salute” and alcohol. On this track from our debut, I pictured myself setting up at the bar for a night of “battle”. The bottles are “soldiers” that I will slay (consume) as my war rages through the night. In the opening verse I set the stage with “my guts in a knot” and the “soldiers cringe as I lift the opening salvo to my face”. We are all bracing for a fight that never ends well. It finally does end, though, with “as the sun is slowly rising, I drink down One Last Salute.” I am paying homage and respect to my worthy opponents, the “dead soldiers everywhere” (empty bottles). Many people understandably think that song is literally about soldiers and war. I actually had to explain it to a women in the military who didn’t appreciate me singing about “dead soldiers”. I do drink quite a bit…..I am careful to keep it in check. I have a very hyper “type A” personality and a drink or 6 is the way I turn off my mind and relax for a change. On the new release there is a track called “Black Vulture” which is another song about the escape that alcohol provides. Black Vulture is actually a vodka that is distilled here in my hometown. It allows for another perfect metaphor…..”this vulture consumes guilt, like others on a carcass, it quells the screaming in the head of this beast that walks among us.” I don’t mind writing personal songs, as I am very open and honest about who and what I am. Probably too open, ha ha!
But, again, I love variety in sound and lyrical content. I like to write songs about “characters” too. From the debut, “Silver Or Lead” is about the late drug lord Pablo Escobar while “Dead Flat Black” is about Jack The Ripper. On the new cd (just a few months from being finished!!) “Ode To Peckinpah (Bloody Sam)” is about American western film director, Sam Peckinpah…..an absolute brilliant madman that was hated by his peers and completely out of control.
There are also the 2 tracks for the new release, as you mentioned, that I wrote about my wife and best friend, Misha. This was new territory! The first track, “Bomb Cyclone” is about her “going off”. Ha ha! Our lives, like everyone else’s, are full of challenges….difficulties at work, sick parents, etc. I wrote “Bomb Cyclone” as a celebration of seeing her experience joy. Shedding the woes of reality for a night and living in the moment! I love to see that pure happiness. “She’s a Bomb Cyclone….no flowers in her hair…but she dances in the flames and lives without a care. She’s a Bomb Cyclone and she’s gonna go off!” The other song, “Love”, is truly new territory for us. Mike and I were hanging out and he played a riff for me. It was beautiful and haunting. He said, “I just wrote this, but I know it’s not Str8jckt material.” I loved it and wanted to use it. I recorded the riff and then programmed around it. Once the song was shaping up I started thinking about lyrics. It’s slower, poignant, dark and beautiful….like love. So I simply thought I will write a song about how much I love Misha. It became a very Helen of Troy-ish song. “A thousand ships were launched….and they’re coming for you…..but they gotta get through me…..and I couldn’t be more happy!” After writing the verses I felt I had written my ultimate love song. I read it a few times and realized “Wow…the ultimate expression of love to me is fighting/dying for the one you cherish”. I realized that is the kind of “crazy” that we who have testosterone are subject too. I suck at listening and empathy…but I’ll fight an army for you! WTF? So I wrote the chorus as a commentary of my verses….”we men are wretched things…..we men are wretched things.” (Though I’m very happy in my wretchedness!)
On the debut “Today The Devil Dies” was an anomaly too. It was about current events at the time. The sentencing of the awful Dylann Roof…..mass murderer and hate monger. I always am shocked when people kill each other over no reason except blind hatred. I had to write my revenge song against him “today the devil is gonna die….so drop the noose and let’s hang ’em high”.
BUT, the bulk of what I write is simply little horror stories! “House Upon The Hill” from the debut isn’t so different than many books I’ve read. A depressed dad kills himself in the house. Each decade a new family moves in and the spirit of the dead man entices the weakest member of each new family to suicide (while narrating the song!). Each of the 4 verses is dedicated to the 4 families that inhabit the house…ending with “cries for daughter break the still, as I grow ever stronger in the House upon the hill.” On the upcoming release we have “Cut Deep”, “Meat Hook” and “Baphomet” that are all along these lines, although “Baphomet” is historical horror (the burning of the Knights Templar, etc).
We’ll end with a quick chat about your next album, which you’ve just finished recording. What subjects have you tackled on the album. And is there anything that you hope will make people sit up and take notice?
Regarding the upcoming release…when I got the life changing call from John Bechdel (Ministry, Fear Factory, Killing Joke) saying that he’d like to produce this next release, we had only 2 songs written. Two songs that didn’t make it onto the debut. I knew I could rework them to make them better. Bechdel was on tour with Ministry when he called me but we set a time to work at his studio for about 2 months later. We had this amazing, mind blowing opportunity…and no material!! Ha ha! Well, in about 2 months we wrote all of the songs you will hear on the new release!
I hope the big “take away” from our next release is that variety and blending of styles is a great part of what makes industrial music so interesting and inviting. Just like on the debut, we want to capture that old school feel that we loved so many years ago, while incorporating elements of rock, metal and punk. What was always exciting to me as an industrial fan was how Thrill Kill infused disco…..Pailhead infused punk…..Revco infused rock…..Godflesh infused metal….Legendary Pink Dots infused jazz!! We will continue to blend the styles that we love into our industrial framework. There will be “purists” that will hate us for this, but we don’t care a bit!
Keep an eye on https://www.facebook.com/chmclstr8jckt/ for details of the new album, which should be out, probably around February or March 2019. Kevin has afforded me a sneak preview of some of the material, and the album is going to slay…