Interview with Tony Asta and Kyle Gunther of Battlecross

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Battlecross Band photo 2014

On a wet and windy evening in Glasgow we interviewed the charming Tony Asta of metalcore band Battlecross. As we chatted on the tour bus the band’s lead vocalist Kyle Gunther arrived and joined the interview. The atmosphere is chilled out, and it feels like we’re catching up with old friends over a beer rather than interviewing an awesome metal band, but let’s get on with it…

Hello!

Hi. my name is Tony Asta, I’m the guitar player for Battlecross. We are from Detroit, Michigan.

How’s it going?
Super, glad to be here.

So you’re from Detroit, like 8 Mile?
Yes, absolutely 8 Mile. I actually live on 8 and Mound is where we rehearse.

The only time I have seen 8 Mile is in the film ‘8 Mile’ and in that TV show, Hard core pawn. Is it as scary as it looks on TV?
No, not unless you cross the street! No it’s all good you just mind your own business and everything is cool. I’ve seen Hard core pawn. It’s got a catchy name. I have actually never been to the shop and seen it though.

Probably a good thing! So how’s the tour going?
Pretty good! Honestly it’s pretty fucking badass. Just coming out and nobody really knowing who we are and doing our best, putting our music out there and just having a good time. I think that we are winning over some fans, because by the end of our set, we have a load of crowd participation and some good cheers. So it is good to know that when we walk into a situation where 99% of people have no idea who we are, the crowd at least walk away knowing our names. So, it’s pretty awesome, yeah.

And have the responses been really good so far?
Yeah. I think so. We haven’t been really killing it on merch sales but I think Ireland was probably our best show so far. But I, you know, just trying to stay positive and just very happy that we are here.

Have you ever been to the UK before?
Never. We’ve never been to the UK – never been to Europe. Actually we have never been outside of US and Canada.

Wow, so it’s a big jump!
Oh yeah, big jump, yeah.

So how did you end up on this line-up?
You know what, I’m not really sure, but we are absolutely thrilled to be out with Killswitch Engage, Trivium and Miss May I. We knew Killswitch and Trivium from a few years back. We did a tour together in the US and got to know those guys pretty well. So it’s cool like coming back around and being able to go on tour with them again. It’s like old pals together again.

And have you guys been hanging out and chilling out together?
Yeah here and there. Like out at the bars and stuff, but, nothing really too intimate yet, so.

What would you call intimate?
Just like hanging out on the bus more and stuff like that, so, but it’s really cool, so I can’t complain. I’m just happy to be here.

That’s a good attitude to have. What’s the plans for after the tour?
When we get home we are going out with Protest The Hero for five weeks in the US. Then we got New England Metal and Hardcore Fest, it’s gonna be sweet. Then we are going out with Killswitch some more in May and I don’t know how long that could be. It could be just a few days, it could be two weeks. I’m not really sure yet. And then we will be back in Europe for Download and Grasspop, Nova Rock, what’s the other two?

Kyle Gunther: They’re not even announced yet.
Tony Asta: I can’t, they’re not announced yet.

Oh, so still to be confirmed.
Tony Asta: Yeah to be announced, so we’ll see.

Have you heard much about Download?
Tony Asta: I’ve heard it’s awesome. I heard that it’s fucking badass to apart of, yeah.

Yeah. I’ve gone every year for the last 11 years and it’s pretty awesome.
Tony Asta: Damn, so see you there.

Yeah definitely, there is nothing quite like Download. What you stage you playing? Do you know?
TA: No I have no idea.
KG: We have no idea what stage we doing or anything.

Not Friday the 13th then?
TA: No.
KG: Might be.
TA: That will be sweet.

That would be an evil date.
TA: Honestly I am not really sure. All I know it is in June, so.
KG: Yeah. That’s a good start. That’s in June, and it will rain.

It will rain. Be warned it will rain. It will absolutely rain. So bring waterproofs or a swimsuit!
TA: Okay. We’ll wear a bathing suit.
KG: It’s that cold at home, there’s snow.
TA: It could always be worse.

So tell me about your latest album, ‘War Of Will’?
TA: Well, we released it last year. The European version has a bonus track on it. It’s our cover of ‘Fucking Hostile’ by Pantera. It’s the last track. It’s pretty sweet. I hope you can check it out. We also have, ‘Pursuit of Honour’, our first album, available too.

They’re very epic titles. Is that deliberate?
TA: Ah, I don’t know.

Kyle is sitting grinning quietly. [laughter]
TA: I don’t know man, it’s more like…
KG: Go epic or go home.
TA: Yeah. It’s not like, “We’re going to be fucking legendary” you know.

So it’s not a concept?
TA: No, we come up with the titles after the album is recorded. The way we work is, okay we got these sweet songs, now we’ve got some lyrics, now we got to get a title…
KG: I was like, “What are we gonna do!?”
TA: Yeah we’ve been in that situation definitely. We’ve thought “What are we going to name this album?” but it’s never really like we have a subject and a theme. That seems ass backwards to me. music comes first in my opinion.

So why did you decide to do a Pantera cover?
TA: Why Pantera? ‘Cause Pantera is one of the greatest fucking bands on the face of the planet.
KG: Was…
TA: Still are.
KG: Yes Dime’s going to come up and return.
TA: Dimebag will rise again! Their music is still there, so it still exists, it’s still relevant. And they’re one of the bands that are amongst the bands we all share in common. We have a wide range of influences between the five of us and that was the one band that we all just agreed that we all loved, so. And actually the guy who played drums on that was our old drummer Mike Kreger.

I was going to ask about drummers, cos you’ve had a few?
TA: Yeah, I know. Right now Shannon Lucas is out with us. He’s phenomenal drummer, great friend, great guy. And everything is working out really well, you know. We are just jamming together. And he’s actually on the album, ‘War of Will’. That was a favour he did for us, cause we were in a pinch. So it’s awesome to go out, be on tour with the guy you know the line up from the albums. But yeah man, we’re just jamming.

Are you going to get a permanent drummer?
TA: Yeah we would love to.

But you just can’t keep them?
TA: Yeah well it’s just one of those things, timing and. ..
KG: It’s kind of like, that, you know, I mean. I put it as you start having sex with a chick you don’t want to put a label on it, you know you don’t wanna make it weird.
[Laughter].
TA: Right now we’re just feeling it out.

You are a non-committal band!
KG: I just don’t want to muck this up
Right. Don’t muck it up by jumping the gun.
KG: Yeah, don’t put a label on it, we’re just fuck buddies right now.
[Laughter].
Wow. Well said.

That was a good description. I like that. So does he just drum for you?
KG: Arh. Well…

Oh. Drumming with benefits. [Laughter].
KG: He’s good at cuddling.

Have you got to see much of the UK so far?
TA: A little bit. Just kind of the local area around the venues.
KG: You get the five square blocks around the venue and that’s it.
TA: One really cool place we went to was, I can’t remember exactly where it was, but it was called Satan’s Hollow. I can’t remember what city it was in…Manchester? That was unreal to be hanging out there.

It’s an interesting name.
TA: Yeah it’s pretty cool if you are ever in the area, go!

Funny I was reading this thing about funny place names and there is a place in Oxford that used to be called Gropecunt Lane.
TA: Wow!

Which is where all the hookers used to hang out. And now it is called Magpie Lane and this is like years ago, back a hundred years ago it used to be called Gropecunt Lane.
TA: Wow.
KG: Like the French Canadians they have weird place names, like ‘The Electric Butt Cheeks’. There’s actually a place called that!
[Laughter].
KG: You know, Quebec tries to be all over the top with their names, so it’s kind of funny.

So really your album names are tame then?
KG: Yeah.
TA: I guess.

If you call the next album Gropecunt Lane, I’m taking that. [Laughter]
TA: Yeah we could get really fucked up, but we don’t want to.
KG: Yeah.

So what can we expect from the show tonight?
TA: Just fucking in your face Metal, just energy and straight-up thrash, hair whip, lots of hair, lots of beard.
KG: Lots of beard and lots of hair.
TA: And just use putting it out there; who we are. No big distractions,. We are the first band on, so, we are just happy to be on this line-up and be able to play in front of all these people. For anyone coming to see us, we are just in your face. You know Metal. That’s it.

It’s interesting that you are all about the music and just playing, when you are on tour with someone like Trivium who are all about smoke, snow and pyro.
TA: Well I got to hand it to those guys. I mean they have been together for a long time and it probably gets to the point where they wanna try something new. They’ve been on the road, they’ve been touring, they’ve been all over the world, I don’t know how many times. So it gets to that point if you’re going to see them again, why not make something different. So I can totally understand that.
KG: Plus they’ve got the production budget.

Yeah. Money probably helps.
KG: Money does help. We got none.

Well, you’ve got a pretty sweet tour bus.
KG: Yeah.
TA: Yeah, with our boys Miss May I and the crew.
KG: We can’t afford this on our own.

You’re kicking me.
TA: Sorry.

It’s all right, don’t worry.
TA: *looks down* What the hell is that?

It’s my massive, massive boot.
TA: Christ.

Don’t worry, I won’t stamp on your little converses with my boots.
TA: Yeah.

I need them because I’m short.
KG: Chicks don’t have a chance.
[Laughter].
TA: I like the design on that little demon or whatever it is.

They’re still covered in mud from Download last year. [Laughter].
TA: Damn.

Yeah that says how hardcore the mud is at Download.
TA: Fuck yeah!
[Laughter].
TA: I’m definitely wearing my boots.
KG: Yeah right.

You’ll be on the stage so it won’t be so bad. Actually, here’s a tip, if it’s shit weather, which it usually is, if you’re playing in a tented stage when it’s pissing down with rain outside, you’ll get everyone coming to see you play.
KG: Yeah.
TA: No shit! Awesome. Because they wanna take cover.

Yeah. The main stage gets abandoned and everyone goes to the indoor stages.
TA: Wow.
KG: I think we’ll probably be in a small tent.
TA: We’re probably in a small tent. We’re not that cool yet so, we’ll be in a tent.
KG: Yeah.

Are you excited about the line up?
KG: I told my ma. I was like “Ma, I’m playing with Aerosmith”. She was like, “Oh my God!”

They’ve been going for a while.
TA: Well at least they’re still getting up there.
KG: Steve Tyler’s older, older than your Grandpa, so.

Yeah. You got to respect them. Then there’s Motley Crue, who are just like, “We are never going to tour again. We’ve had enough”.
KG: Yeah fuck off.
TA: Yeah, “We’ve made our money. Let’s go”.
KG: Yeah. Yep *mimes the v sign*
TA: Did you just do the fuck off sign?
KG: Yes I did..
TA: Question? Does this mean fuck you or fuck off here?
KG: Yes it does.

Yes.
TA: Does it really?

Yeah.
TA: ‘Cause we always do this like, peace man.
KG: Yeah that how we usually say goodbye to each other, like peace up.

Well we do that in Scotland as well, except it’s “fuck off bawbags”.
TA: Aargh. Well it’s like a joke.

There’s a nice Scottish word bawbags.
TA: Ball bags?

Bawbags. Like B A W.
TA: Oh bawbags.
KG: Are we in Scotland now?

You’re in Scotland now yeah..
KG: Okay. I just woke up here.
[Laughter].
TA: He, he woke up about 4 o’clock.
KG: Yeah I did.

You wake up and roll on stage then.
KG: I woke up at seven, couldn’t go back to sleep. Watched some movies then, you know, it’s 2 o’clock and I’m like “fuck”.
[Phone Pings]
Ping. You gotta get up and go on stage and play a show.
TA: Yeah.

Tell me the band that influence you guys that would be a surprise. Everyone has got some guilty influence that they listened to.
TA: Aerosmith.

No! That’s not guilty. Aerosmith still have cred.
TA: I don’t know embarrassing?

There’s got to be somebody that influences you?
TA: Well, me and Hiran (Deraniyagala, Battlecross gutarist) and a few others like Michael Jackson but I wouldn’t say he was an influence on music.

Except if he can make that amount of money I suppose. [Laughter].
TA: It depends on your drive, I mean, it’s not really your inspiration but, I don’t know.

So what inspires you then?
TA: To fucking rock and spread the word. Yeah.
“You just want to rock”?
TA: I wanna rock.

In the words of Twisted Sister.
TA: Yeah, hell yes.
[Laughter].
TA: Of course we want to be successful at it but when you sit down and write a song, it’s not like , “Oh gonna write a fucking hit”, you know what I mean?

A lot of bands do that though. Nickelback always talk about the fact that they got a set formula for their songs. And that works for them.
TA: Yeah.
KG: Its like, guitar, woahh, first chorus, breakdown.
TA: No discredit to them, but I mean it just makes the music predictable. People stick with what they’re used to and comfortable with.
KG: I’d say Motley Crue are an influence, Vince Neil. He wasn’t the best singer, but ooh he could shake his ass.

Lars Ulrich’s a bit like that as well…
TA: Okay man, what the fuck?

What?
TA: I’m just kidding. I know what you are saying but Lars is sweet.

I saw them, with them a few years ago at Download, when Lars didn’t bother turning up, and they just bought in lots of extra drummers. So they had Dave Lambardo playing with them and Joey from Slipknot playing with them.
TA: Oh Wow. I’d like to hear that! I can’t think of any embarrassing influences honestly. I mean like, when we are riding on the road, jammed with Huey Lewis and the News.
KG: Oh Yeah.
TA: But you know…
KG: [Singing] “If this is it, Please let me know. If this ain’t love. You better let me go”.

So that’s going to be the cover song for the next album maybe?
TA: Yeah maybe.
That will be the bonus cover track? [Laughter].
KG: Huey Lewis was one of the only bands I was able to listen to when I was a kid.
Why?
KG: I was not allowed to listen to music.

Oh no! But Huey Lewis was acceptable?
KG: Yes, Huey Lewis.
TA: Huey Lewis all the way.
KG: Yeah or Gospel hymns.

Wow, that’s a bit different. So why did you go towards Metal then? Were you rebelling?
KG: No I just liked it. It was my shit. “Ah yes! Finally something that doesn’t suck!” When I grew up, I had two older sisters, so I was fed Hair Metal.
TA: Oh yeah, totally. Bon Jovi man.
KG: Skid Row. Skid Row all the way, my sister was like “Oh my God, that’s the best one”
[Laughter].
TA: Oh by the way, the lead singer of Miss May I, when he’s talking on the microphone he sounds like Sebastian Bach.
KG: If you close your eyes.
If you close your eyes you think it’s him.

Okay I’ll do that when they are on.
TA: You’ll think it’s Sebastian Bach.
KG: It’s insane. Like you pointed out the other day, I was like “woah”.

[Laugher]. Have you told him that?
KG: No.
TA: No we haven’t.
KG: I might do it, it’s just like remembering to say to him, “You sound like Sebastian Bach. By-the-way!”

He might like it?
TA: He might, hope so. Sebastian Bach rules man.

So one final message for everyone out there then. What would be your last parting thought?
TA: I don’t know, let’s see. A message, how about just to shout, I’ll tell the fans, thank you guys for checking us out, giving us a chance. You know, checking us out online, coming out to our show, buying a T-shirt, checking out our CD. I hope that you can relate to us and our music. And thanks for giving us a chance and looking this way. Amen.

Amen brother. A nice gospel music ending.

To check out the review of Battlecross’s performance in Glasgow, along with Miss May I, Trivium and Killswitch Engage, you can have a read of the review on the following link. As discussed, Battlecross will return to the UK in June for the 2014 Download Festival at Donington Park.