Being labelled a Christian act can have both positive and negative effects; while it attracts the attention of some Christian music fans, some atheist and / or non-Christian music fans are put off by the label. While some Christian acts use music as a soapbox for converting believers to their cause, others don't. Despite believing in the Christian faith, some aren't as overtly influenced on a musical level. Sometimes it's all too easy to judge a book by its cover, and arrive at the wrong conclusion. Do The Showdown fall under that definition?
Recorded and produced by The Showdown bassist Jeremiah Scott at his home studio - Nashville, Tennessee's Anthem Productions - "Blood In The Gears" was mixed by Steve Blackmon (Living Sacrifice, Project 86) with Troy Glessener at Spectre handling mastering duties. On the track "Graveyard Of Empires", Destroy Destroy Destroy vocalist Chris Bazor makes a guest appearance. Demon Hunter's Ryan Clark, working for Invisible Creature Inc. meanwhile, designed the album's artwork. To promote "Blood In The Gears", a music video was filmed for the track "The Man Named Hell".
"Blood In The Gears'" personnel consists of; vocalist David Bunton, guitarist / vocalist Josh Bunton, bassist Jeremiah Scott, guitarist Patrick Judge (also of Demon Hunter), and drummer Isaac Harris. The Showdown's fourth studio album "Blood In The Gears" was released on August 24th, 2010 through Solid State Records, and is the group's second full-length to be issued through that label following 2008's "Back Breaker". Mono Vs Stereo was The Showdown's previous label, via which they issued: "A Chorus Of Obliteration" (2004), "Temptation Come My Way" (2006), and "Feel Like Hell EP" (2007).
On September 16th at 21:00 GMT, Hit The Lights' Robert Gray telephoned The Showdown guitarist Josh Childers to discuss "Blood In The Gears".
Josh Childers: Hello?
UG: Hello. Is this Josh?
Yes it is.
This is Robert Gray from Ultimate-Guitar.com.
Oh, right on.
How are you Josh?
Fine. How are you doing?
I'm doing ok. Would it be alright if I began the interview?
First of all, could you talk me through how 'Blood In The Gears' came into being? From the start of the album process, to the completion of the finished product?
Yeah. Basically, we were all living in different cities at the time, so I sat down and wrote a few riffs. Mostly though, Patrick - our other guitarist - and Jeremiah - our bassist - just locked themselves in the studio for about two months, and just kept writing riffs for like eight hours a day. I came into town, and we started arranging stuff. We just took whatever riff we thought would work, and would say "Here's a chorus", "Here's a verse" or whatever - kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. We did it that way, put some vocals on top, and then we got into the studio - pretty much like we always have.
So in terms of the songwriting process, you'd say that 'Blood In The Gears' was more of a group effort than past releases?
Oh, definitely. In the past, I've pretty much written everything that's gone on every record, so it was a little scary to let go of control like that. They killed it though and did a great job, so I have more faith in them now (laughs).
(Laughs) As you said, it was "a little scary" and probably quite difficult to surrender that creative control, considering you've always assumed the role of being The Showdown's main songwriter.
Yeah. It's always been pretty much all me. We had another guitarist who wrote a few riffs back in the day - Travis Bailey - but he mostly just played lead stuff. This time around though, Patrick and I split it up more evenly. We both wrote about the same amount of leads, and he did some more of the riff writing for me so I could spend a little more time dealing with the lyrics, the vocal arrangements, and stuff like that. It was a little scary letting it go, but I'm glad that I did in the long run. It took a lot of pressure off me, and I like the way 'Blood In The Gears' turned out.
Has the fact that 'Blood In The Gears' is more of a group effort made the full-length a stronger album? Possibly you contributed the best parts that you wrote, and Patrick contributed the best parts that he wrote, and so on?
Absolutely. For sure. I was able to spend more time concentrating on specific things instead of constantly having to worry about everything on the record, so I could keep on top of my game better and everybody else could. Everybody really pulled their own weight this time around, so it was really nice.
Has the fact that 'Blood In The Gears' features different songwriters affected the sound of the album?
Yeah, kind of, but the dudes that came in that've been doing the writing have been The Showdown fans in the past. Our bassist engineered our first record and produced our third record, and now he's in the band, so he knows what The Showdown sounds like. He knows what we do, and they did bring a little fresh blood. It is different than it would've been beforehand, but as far as the overall tone, to me it's definitely what The Showdown has always wanted to sound like. Having those fresh ears on it really helped.
In an interview, you said that 'Blood In The Gears' is "essentially the same as 'Back Breaker', but bigger". Could you explain what you meant by that statement?
Yeah. We've always been a little bit reactionary; after we put out that first record, we put out 'Temptation Come My Way' which is completely the opposite. We then did Ozzfest and all this touring with death metal bands and stuff like that, and we got tired of not being the heaviest band on the bill anymore, so 'Back Breaker' was just a straight up thrash reaction against that - that was about as in your face as we were capable of being at the time. This time around, we wanted to not react to something we'd done before or something that's gone on outside of us. We just took the formula to where we wanted it to be, which has some of the songwriting of 'Temptation' and a little bit more of the stadium rock and things like that, but is still ballsy and in your face. It's basically everything we've been doing on the last two records, but just honed in fortunately because we've got that fresh blood, and we're able to focus really more intensely on our individual roles - instead of having to focus on everything at once.
How do you feel The Showdown has evolved since writing 'A Chorus Of Obliteration'?
We're a totally different band; when we started writing for our first record, we weren't really musicians at that point. We were trying really hard to play as fast as possible, as many notes as possible, and as many styles of metal as possible - we were just always on ten, basically. 'Temptation' was the exact opposite; we wanted to actually write songs, and we'd already been playing 'A Chorus of Obliteration''s songs forever, so we were kind of tired of that album. And like I said, 'Back Breaker' was a little bit a combination of the first two records. We just wanted to get it back to being more intense, but with more songwriting. This time around, we're finally finding what our sound actually is instead of reacting to outside influences. We've definitely grown up a whole lot, because now we're able to just write without worrying about what it's supposed to sound like.
So 'Blood In The Gears' is probably the most accurate presentation of The Showdown's musical style?
Yeah, hands down. Easily.
Southern rock has been mentioned in connection with 'Blood In The Gears'. In what ways is this album possibly influenced by Southern rock?
'Blood In The Gears' is what we all listen to in the band, and we're all past the point of trying to put a boogie in our breakdown or anything like that. We went over the top with that for a minute there somewhat, but it's a genuine influence for us. We genuinely do love stuff like Lynyrd Skynyrd and bands like Down, and all those bands out of New Orleans, and I do listen to country. It's more of a background thing than anything else. We like dramatic riffs, and we like a little boogie every now and again, but it's not out of a sense of "Ok, let's put some Southern rock here". It's just that we prefer that kind of music over something like As I Lay Dying or Norma Jean, or something like that.
Though you said in an interview that compared to 'Back Breaker', 'Blood In The Gears' has more elements of stadium rock than thrash, what thrash elements are there in your guitar playing on 'Blood In The Gears'?
I didn't write most of the riffs, so I can't speak about them personally - Patrick and Jeremiah wrote the majority of the thrash riffs. We all grew up on Slayer and Exodus, and even some of the crossover stuff like D.R.I. and all that, so it's real natural for us to do little triplets in the chugging and the dramatic riffs. It's just another one of those things that's in our blood.
How would you describe what you specifically wrote for 'Blood In The Gears'?
I was a little more interested in getting into down- tuning; we've always just been a drop-B band for the most part, but I wanted to tune it down. I had been listening to a lot of Behemoth, so the song that ended up being the hidden track was my take on Behemoth, and the song "No Escape" was me really, really trying to fuse thrash and stadium rock, down-tune and keep it modern. I say all this in retrospect, because I wasn't really thinking about all that when I was writing (laughs). I just wanted to hear something a little different; especially the stuff that I wrote sounds different than the rest of 'Blood In The Gears' for sure, and that's because I've been writing Showdown riffs forever now. I wanted to take it to that next level, and I was able to go off into different directions a little bit like I had on the first record.
"In the past, I've pretty much written everything that's gone on every record, so it was a little scary to let go of control like that."
You mentioned Behemoth, and unfortunately, the group's vocalist Adam "Nergal" Darski is battling leukaemia.
Yeah. It's crazy. I don't think anybody really thought... I met that dude in like 2007 at Ozzfest, and he was a super-nice guy. Even knowing that this band is on a Christian label and what they believe and so on, I was able to just sit down and talk to the dude for quite awhile. He was super-gracious, a really, really nice guy. I think with everything that I've heard, everybody has the same impression of him. He's a really, really good dude, and a really hard worker apparently. It's sad. I've seen a lot of people pulling together trying to get the bone-marrow donation thing going down, so it's cool to see the heavy metal world come together and help a brother out.
You mentioned your views and his not being similar. How do you feel about The Showdown being labelled Christian metal? Does that tag piss you off?
We are a hundred percent over that label (laughs). We've been in that world for a long time, and we never claimed to be a Christian band anymore than my mailman is a Christian or not. I don't care whether my mailman believes in God or not; he just delivers my mail, whereas all I do is just deliver entertainment. I'm not an idol, I'm not a hero - I'm not someone to look up to at all. Yeah, I'm a Christian, but again, that affects my work about as much as it would affect my mailman's work. It shows up in our lyrics every once in awhile, but we're definitely not one of those bands who tries to convince everybody that they're going to Hell if they don't believe in God. There are hardcore bands out there who're basically travelling televangelists, and it seems to me like a big circus half the time with the band members trying to make each other feel better about what they believe.
Do you feel that misconception partially comes from the fact that The Showdown is currently signed to Solid State Records?
Yeah, for sure. And beforehand, we were signed to Mono Vs Stereo which is a division of Gotee, one of the bigger Christian labels. We understand that we kind of brought it on ourselves - to address your point - but it's frustrating to get stuck with that tag because you can't really say anything else at that point. Some of the bands that are doing that we just have zero desire to be associated with because they're out there preaching, and people don't need to be preached at is basically our point.
That's a good point, actually. 'Blood In The Gears' is the second Showdown album to be released through Solid State Records. Are you happy with their efforts for The Showdown thus far?
Yes. Solid State's great; all the people there are awesome, and we don't have a problem in the world with our label. We're grateful because they've been behind us from day one, and have given us everything we've needed. I definitely won't trash our label at all. As a label, Solid State are great. It's just the Christian tag irritates us sometimes.
So you can definitely see The Showdown's relationship with Solid State Records continuing then?
Yeah - I don't see any reason why it wouldn't. Unless they get irritated by me continually talking about us not being a Christian band I guess (laughs).
You've spoken about how 'Blood In The Gears'' theme is about the consequences of empire in general. Could you expand upon that, and explain what you mean?
Yeah. 'Blood In The Gears'' theme is really loosely themed on oppression. One of the basic things that I believe about government is that the state exists to further its own power, and that's endemic to it. Whenever they have a monopoly on power, those people are gonna abuse that power. The kind of people that are drawn to situations where you can be a leader and have that much power are not the kind of people that we need in power. You can look at America and say "Yeah, we're the world's richest, most powerful nation and everybody else is just jealous because we're free" and all this, but no, that's not the way it is (laughs). The reason why the Third World hates us is because we're making our money on their backs, but people don't see it. The media is so... and I hate to talk about the media like this because I sound like just one of those guys (laughs), but it's so homogenous. You hear the same things: it's Republican versus Democrat. Well basically, you're switching batter on the same team you wanna hit the ball, that's all. You're not changing anything big. Capitalism has put us to a point where we're making obscene amounts of money, and we're still unhappy. People all over the world are starving. We have every resource that we need to feed everybody in this world and for everybody to be free, and the reason we're not is because power seeks after power. Empires rise but empires will fall, sooner or later.
How would you combat these issues? If someone handed you the keys so to speak - the power - what would you do?
That is a tough question. I don't think there's anything that could be done quickly that wouldn't cause revolt (laughs). Short of the whole thing toppling in on itself, I don't really see a way. You look at a guy like Ron Paul or someone like that, a libertarian guy who has all the right ideas; end the Federal Reserve, stop the expansionist wars, take away all this foreign aid that we're giving to everybody else and these predatory loans, and all this. Just mind our own business and have a free market. That's the closest thing I've seen to a reasonable solution, but with the way the power apparatus is now I don't think there's anything that any one person can do. I think that if we were all just as dedicated as we needed to be it would probably help, but we're not, and I don't really know how to change that. I hate to be that guy who just complains about the way things are and doesn't really have a solution. I genuinely don't know.
Would you say that the topic of terrorism is a great way for politicians to divert attention away from the topics you mentioned?
Absolutely. It's a scare tactic
How would you describe Jeremiah Scott's production for 'Blood In The Gears'?
Jeremiah's pretty hands-off. He'll do a little bit of pre-production as far as songwriting and so on goes, but for the most part, he's real chilled and pretty standard. He makes you get the takes right, but other than that, he doesn't do a whole lot of messing around. He likes to keep things as natural as is possible, but he puts the shine on there where needed. He's pretty easy to work with and relatively cheap, so if there are smaller bands out there looking to get produced, he's definitely your dude. Hang out at his house, drink beers, smoke cigarettes, and play guitar.
Ryan Clark from Demon Hunter returned to handle artwork duties for 'Blood In The Gears'. In terms of the album's artwork, what was The Showdown looking for?
We didn't really know. Ryan came up with the idea. We threw him a couple of different ideas about collages, and maybe getting something illustrated or something like that. He listened to the record, said "I know what I wanna do", and just gave the artwork to us. In the past, everybody in the band has been more hands-on with the artwork than they have with the music. This time though, everybody was so into the music that we let Ryan do his thing, and he did a great job. I feel like the way the album's artwork looks is the way the album's music sounds. I'm real pleased with it.
"Everybody really pulled their own weight this time around, so it was really nice."
Is Jeremiah Scott The Showdown's full-time bassist now? Is he a member of the group?
Yeah. He's the official replacement.
What do you feel Jeremiah adds to The Showdown?
Jeremiah's one of those dudes that gets things done all the time. He doesn't necessarily like to do it, but he ends up being the captain in many cases, making sure we get to where we need to go and taking care of finances and things like that. Apart from that, he's got a really good attitude. He's been trying to do this touring thing full-time for a long time, so he's really stoked to be doing it. He's a really good bassist too; he's a guitarist by trade, and plays in another band called Destroy Destroy Destroy who're like folk / Viking metal. He's already a good guitarist, and he's transferred that over to bass. He's definitely the best bassist we've had, for sure.
Where do you hope 'Blood In The Gears' will take The Showdown?
We're really satisfied with wherever 'Blood In The Gears' does take us. Obviously, we want it to take over the world, and every band wants that from their album. We want to be as big as possible. I would like to be able to say things that need to be heard. I'd like to be able to have a voice and entertain people who want to have fun at shows, and that's really the extent of it - as many people as we can possibly entertain. Life can be hell in a lot of ways, but you can spend forty-five minutes at a show, forget about all that, and just bang your head. Bands that did that for me made a big mark on my life, so I'd like to do that for some other people.
What are The Showdown's touring plans?
Nothing is confirmed right now, but we've got a couple of ideas in the pipeline.
Which tracks from 'Blood In The Gears' do The Showdown intend to incorporate into its live setlist?
We did a pre-release run, and we've been playing "The Man Named Hell", "Bring It Down", and "Heavy Lies The Crown". At some point though, we're probably gonna put "No Escape" in the set I think and maybe "Graveyard Of Empires". We're trying to see what's going over well live.
Are there specific tracks from 'Blood In The Gears' you've noticed that audiences are possibly responding well to thus far?
"The Man Named Hell" seems to be going over really well, and "Heavy Lies The Crown" is going over pretty well too. We've only done a smaller run over the space of a few weeks, so we'll see in the long run. Right now though, especially "The Man Named Hell" seems to be killing live.
Finally, do you have a message for the fans of The Showdown?
Thanks for supporting us. I cannot believe we just put out our fourth record. It's amazing that that many people listen to this band - it blows my mind. So thanks, and keep coming out.
Thanks for the interview Josh.
No, not at all man. Thank you.
All the best.
Interview by Robert Gray
"We got tired of not being the heaviest band on the bill anymore, so 'Back Breaker' was just a straight up thrash reaction against that."