Interview with guitarist Scott Crouse | By Dane Prokofiev
Comics and music cross-pollinate each other in Earth Crisis’s eighth studio outing and Candlelight debut, Salvation of Innocents. It’s the age of media convergence, and the Syracuse metalcore veterans have embraced it by giving their music a whole new visual dimension in the form of animal-rights-themed comic book, Liberator. Founding member and guitarist Scott Crouse speaks to New Noise about the reason for the multimedia package, the band’s relaxed relationship with their current label and more.
It’s interesting that you decided to collaborate with a comics-publishing company for this record. Was it something that was planned way in advance, or was it a whim of the moment decision?
I’d say it was a little bit of both. We’ve been trying to do something like a comic book for years—we’ve had the idea for years—and it kind of came together last minute with this last album. Like going into, it wasn’t the plan, but we had the concept for the album. And then I kind of came across Matt Miner, who does Liberator, which is a comic book that’s right up our alley, and so at the last minute, I thought, “Hey! Let’s try to make this thing that we wanted to do for years happen.” It came together really fast; I just sent him an email saying “Hey, this is our idea, what do you think?” And he was like, “Yeah, I’d love to” and next thing you know, I was talking to his publisher, and it all came together in about a week. So you know, it was something that we wanted to do for years, but previously never really thought it was too much of a reality. And then with Matt and his animal rights-based comic book that’s been out for a few years now, it seemed like, “Okay, this is possible now – we can do this.”
Can you briefly describe what Liberator is about?
The basic premise of the book is that the main character is a woman who devoted her life to liberating animals from fur farms, vivisection laboratories and things like that. It’s a 100% animal-rights-based comic book. Matt’s been vegan for years and years and years, and he’s also a fan of comics, and so when it was time for him to do a book, you know, he wanted to try molding these two interests together.
So I guess you are able to relate to the protagonist of the comic book series?
Yeah, absolutely. That was why I thought this might work as a Liberator book. When Karl was telling me about his lyrical concept and story, that was the first thing I thought of – I was like, “Oh, this is going to be a cool comic.”
Matt and I spoke a few times on Twitter, and so I was familiar with his comic book. I thought, “Aw man, I keep seeing this guy’s comic book on Twitter, and the art’s really cool and the stories are really good.” ‘Cos that was the thing; we wanted to make sure that it was professional looking as well. In the past, there have been guys who have done really DIY, low-budget comics that we’ve considered working with, but Liberator was the first professional book that we saw that we thought we’d like to work with.
Do you mean for Earth Crisis fans to consume both the comic and the upcoming album together, or separately?
Yeah, you could definitely do either one. I think you’d have to get one to really understand the other, but I think the way we’ve envisioned it is that it will be cool for the die-hard fans who really like the band to get the comic as well, because then, they can see some visuals to go along with the lyrics. You know, they could read the words and then see them come to life in the comic book. So I think it’d really be for the die-hard Earth Crisis fans that have been with us for years and really get the message and love the band; I think it’s something that they will want to pick up.
I think it’s a cool thing too, for Matt and the band. You kind of cross mediums a little bit; some people that aren’t familiar with Earth Crisis but like Matt’s comic book might be like, “Oh, who’s this band? I gotta check them out,” and I’ve already seen that happen the other way – where fans of Earth Crisis that are vegan and didn’t even realize that there was a comic book out there like that. They’re already kinda excited; they are like, “Wow, thanks for turning us on to this.”
That’s a really good tactic to get fans of either of both mediums interested in the other one that they haven’t experienced yet.
Yeah, I mean people that like hardcore and metal don’t necessarily have their ear to the ground on comic books, and vice-versa. But they’re open to it. I think the two mediums work well together.
You mentioned in the press release that the process for this album was new to you guys, you all did most of it yourselves, there was the absence of pressure having to get things done by a certain time each day etc. But from what I understand, if your band is under a big label—in your case, Candlelight Records—don’t they have deadlines?
They actually didn’t have any deadlines with us at all. They were very cool about it. Actually, it was to the point where I was worried a little bit [Laughs] because we had signed a deal with them, and I had told them—when we signed the deal—that it’s going to be a little while, because we were still getting the songs together. And originally, we told them we were only going to start recording in June , and it was because we weren’t really ready yet. We didn’t think the songs were good enough. We still wanted to write some more. And they were really cool, I think in that year—it has been about a year since we signed the deal—when we actually started recording, I might have only spoken to someone at the label two times; it was to the point where near the end of it, I thought, “Jeez, are these guys interested in this?” [Laughs] But they were just really cool about it and just let us do things at our own pace.
So it’s really different from back when you guys were on other labels, such as Victory Records for example?
You know, honestly, we’ve been pretty fortunate. Nobody has really pressured us too much in the whole process. We decided on our own deadlines that we wanted to stick to, especially back when we were touring non-stop, you know, we wanted to get records done by a certain time and put a record out every two years and stuff like that. But actually, Victory was pretty laidback about time frames as well. They had a rough idea [of when they want the record to be done], but if it went over [the deadline by] a month or two here and there, they were never really too strict about it. I think the strictest label was probably Roadrunner, but still, they weren’t unrealistic.
I actually requested to see the lyrics for Salvation of Innocents in advance and noticed that the Microsoft Word document for “Morbid Glare” has the title of “Ian’s fast song.” Why is that?
[Laughs] Yeah. Like at that time, we didn’t have a title for it, so I probably just sent the lyrics in [with that title]. Basically, that’s what it is. It’s exactly what it says: Ian’s fast song. He wrote that song, and it’s probably one of the fastest songs that Earth Crisis ever wrote, so the working title for it was “Ian’s fast song”. [Laughs]
You also mentioned in the press release that working at such a fast tempo was uncomfortable at times. Why is that the case?
Earth Crisis has always been known as a mid-tempo, groove-based band and that song, for us, it was pretty quick. Like for Dennis, the drumming was a little outside of his comfort zone. And even for me, too, the guitar parts – they were pretty fast. I know there are bands that play faster than that, but for us, that’s just not what we normally do. But we’ve always wanted to try new stuff on every record and push ourselves as musicians as well, so we figured, “Okay, let’s try to make this one a little different from the last couple.”
Most of the lyrics of this new album seem to be told from a first-person perspective of some creature that is being tortured, which I’m guessing to be some animal that is being tortured by humans. Am I right to say so?
Yeah, there are a few of those. Most of the songs are told in the first-person, but they are all told from a different character’s perspective. There is some from the animal’s perspective—I think there are at least two or three—and then there’s some from even the doctor’s perspective, such as the vivisector performing the experiments. And there’s also some from the perspective of the “hero” of the story who liberates the animals; she’s a worker inside the laboratory who has had a change of heart. And then there’s even some from the perspective of protestors outside the building, the laboratory. So we’re trying to tell the story from inside the heads of these different characters that we’ve created for this album.
When I read the lyrics of “The Pallid Surgeon,” I noticed that the takeaway message seem to be that scientific progress is not really progress if human morality doesn’t evolve to the stage whereby humans treat animals as equals. Is that what you were trying to say?
Yeah, I think that anybody who really looks a lot into animal research, what you come to find is that there really is no benefit in using animals for research. The big [divide in the scientific research community] right now is animal research versus computer-based models, and from what I understand; there really are no major breakthroughs in any sort of research done on animal models. They have had just as much success, if not more success, with the computer-based models. So yeah, exactly what you said: what we’re saying is that if you’re going to go ahead and experiment on animals, is there progress being made in that arena? And we don’t think there is from the things that we’ve read and know of. From a moral standpoint, I can’t say that I would ever condone it. And also, from a scientific standpoint, it doesn’t seem to [bring any significant] benefits.
What is the metaphor, “Tentacles of the Altering Eye,” referring to?
This is difficult for me to answer because that’s Karl’s lyric. Karl and myself, and a few of the other guys in the band too, are very interested in conspiracy theories, like the New World Order (NWO) type of stuff; and they usually refer to NWO type of things with octopus metaphors; like there’s tentacles and they’re all reaching out and grabbing different things. I don’t know; I’m kind of thinking it’s a reference to that, but this is my interpretation of it and I could be completely wrong. I don’t really know for sure. [Laughs]
As someone who has led the straightedge, vegan lifestyle for decades, can you share with me some of the pros and cons of such a way of life?
Yeah. The pros are pretty obvious right off the bat; I mean you’re living a pretty clean lifestyle and you don’t experience all the pitfalls and negativity that come with drinking and even eating meat. Ethically, it’s also clean in the sense of knowing what your role is to other people around you. Also, health-wise, it’s a very positive lifestyle, I think.
The only negative aspect I can think of is that socially, you suffer. Drinking and eating meat, these are things that people do socially; this is what everybody does. For example, today, it’s Super Bowl [interview conducted on Feb 2], you know – what is 90% of America gonna do? They’re gonna get together, they’re gonna drink alcohol or they’re going to eat meat – that’s what everybody is going to do today. So you’re isolating yourself from a lot of social activities when you decide to be straightedge and vegan; you’re kinda setting yourself apart from society; which, in my opinion, is really the only downfall. And it’s not a bad downfall. I mean, personally, I prefer it, but I see a lot of other people that are very social people who enjoy the company of other people and who enjoy getting together and doing things; and I see them struggling with it, because yeah, you’re not really fitting in. You’re going out to the party and you’re not drinking alcohol and everyone else there is drinking it. You’re also not eating the food that everyone else is eating. Those are the two major things that really bring people together at parties and things like that, so, that’s really the only thing negative, which I don’t consider negative, because I’m not very social; I don’t really care to hang out with too many people. [Laughs]
Do you have any advice to give to the younger generation of hardcore/metal bands who live and promote a lifestyle of having casual sex, consuming drugs, and alcohol?
I don’t know if I have any advice per se. However, my personal wish is that I’d like to see hardcore transform back into something more than just ego-driven anger; I feel like there are just so many of these bands. When we first started out, and even generations before us, the reason that people were screaming was because they were angry, and they were angry at something. They weren’t just angry about, you know, I wanna be the toughest guy in the neighborhood or I have something to prove to the world, so I’m going to scream. Back then, people were screaming about social, political and personal change; and I don’t see that often in a lot of the bands that are coming out right now. It seems that there’s a trend of just ego-driven anger; it’s the only thing I can really call it, that kind of real trivial bullshit that I feel really doesn’t have any place in hardcore. That’s what separated hardcore from this cheesy mainstream music from day one. It wasn’t necessarily all about the sound; it was about the content of what people were talking about. And I think there’s not much content that I see going on out there that’s worth anything. The lyrics are all, I don’t know man, just real generic – there’s no heart [in them] now. There has to be something more; there has to be substance in your lyrics. There are so many things that you could stand up for, and just standing up for the fact that you’re “badass” isn’t something that I personally find interesting at all. I wish that will change; I’m sure it will, ‘cos hardcore tends to go on pretty drastic cycles, you know, this is the cool thing right now and next year, something else will be cool.
Yeah, hopefully it will take a turn for the better.
Yeah, it will come around. But right now, I just feel that there’s a lot of substance and heart lacking in the hardcore scene.
Pick up a copy of Salvation of Innocents here: