UnRated Magazine


Music ArchivesMusic Archives

Forging The Sword - Interview with Bassist Brian Richie

Appearing at Metro - Chicago, IL December 17, 2006

by Jackie Lee King

The SwordThe Sword is providing a masterful musical renaissance of medieval proportions as it springs forth like a serpent out of a thicket bush. As one of last year's headliners at South By Southwest the Austin based band brings their classic metal sound across the nation (2006). Its warrior journey is in support of their current release Age of Winters. The Sword's sound is forged out of the 70's heavy metal scene that reminisces of Black Sabbath but slices though comparisons. All they had to do was escape from the trappings of Texas.

You are on a triple bill with Lacuna Coil and In Flames, how do you fell about package tours, like Ozzfest (which both bands have toured)?
We try to generally avoid all package tours of any sort because they generally suck. There are varied reasons that we don't like package tours. The main reason with Ozzfest that we have a problem is that you got to pay them to get yourself on the tour and that's utterly ridiculous. Word of mouth alone anymore for Ozzfest is going to generate enough buzz for repeat concert goers. It's not like bands have to sink in a whole lot of money to keep Ozzfest fresh, it's probably something that kids are going to go to, like Warped Tour; the kids are going to go to it every year because it's Warped Tour. And then usually you're playing with a whole lot of bands that you may or may not respect and or like their jams. So you are like, what do I want to do? Do I want to go on a rad headlining tour in a bar or to sit in my van all summer with it on and the air conditioner going because I can't stand being outside.

What does the Sword contribute to the musical landscape?
We're just trying to play good songs and also to play heavy music that people enjoy. We're not really setting out to do anything or one particular goal. We're a band and we've got these songs and we're going to play them really well.

How long have you been playing bass?
I've been playing base for thirteen years. My first song I played on the base was All Apologies by Nirvana or no it was Blister In the Sun by the Violent Femmes; maybe a Rancid song or Longview by Green Day. You know it's like your thirteen and you're in 8 th grade and it's like 'holy shit' Green Day.

What inspires you?
Other Good music; that band Severed Savior out of Oakland, can't stop listening to that record. I like the new Zombi record (Surface to Air). I just got this Bill Bruford (British drummer for bands: Yes, King Crimson and Genesis) solo record from like the late 70's (1978) it think it's called Sounds good to me (Editors Note: Feels good to me). It's pretty awesome, Jazz fusion shit.

How did you get the reputation of the most dangerous band in Austin?
I have no idea. That was one of those things that came about. I think someone may have referred to it once and it was something that stuck. We're really loud, that's dangerous I guess. But we're not dangerous to the audience other than dangerous to the audience's ear drums.

Is it like Man-o-War loud?
I don't know it's somewhere between there and Motorhead I think. I mean it's still discernable, but it's defiantly loud.

Would you wear hearing protection if it was offered to you?
It depends on the room. I'm usually close to where Trivett is, obviously drummer/ bass you kind of wanna play with each other. So my left ear is basically next to his ride cymbal that he hits the bell on like all the time. So depending on the kind of room if it's a really bright (sounding) room I'll wear some earplugs kind of half in / half out just to kind of save myself a little bit, but this whole last tour the rooms were pretty big so I didn't wear anything. There were a couple of nights that I probably should have because man you can just like...my favorite kind of game is like is to try to match the pitch of the ringing in your ears by singing a 'ahhh' to see how long you can hold out. No one else plays the game with me, but I tend to do it to myself sometimes when I'm in the back of the van.

Should everyone wear hearing protection?
I don't think one way or the other. It's kind of like. If you want to wear hearing protection, you know, and then you should go ahead and put some ear plugs in. It's kind of like personal taste you know because sometimes it can actually hurt, you know. And when it's physical pain involved, yeah you should put in some ear plugs, but if you're enjoying it and it's the difference between like getting into it and like hearing too much bass or something like that because your ear plugs are in all the way and they're some cheap foam earplugs and it's all bass heavy and shit. I would say take them out if it helps you get into it.

What's it like trying to break out of a city like Austin, TX that hosts a world renowned festival like South By South West (SXSW)?
It's pretty difficult. There are lots of clubs and then there are lots of bands too. That being said there's seven nights of the week where there's probably three bands playing at each of those venues so it's a fight to get people to come out to your show. And then it's fight just to get people interested in it, because it is Austin and people probably have already gone out twice in the week already to see a band. So it's really tuff. I've spent many a year trying to get bands working in the Austin scene and you can play shows, decent shows but God for some reason you know sometimes it's not really worth the shit. Even when it's like 150 people and then next time only 25 people show up. It's real random.

So why your band?
I have no idea. I can't even guess, because it would just be silly. I have no idea what it is, but somehow every show there's new people and more people become interested and we're kind of keeping going from there. I mean the first show that I played with The Sword went extremely well and it was well attended for The Sword.

Where did The Sword come from?
It' came from JD (Cronise); he conceptualized the band and wrote songs over the course of the last four to five years. When I joined the band I was handed a CD with seven songs, five of which were flushed out for the Age of Winters disc. It's all him, it's all JD. The whole concept and he picked the dudes that he wanted to be involved with it and that was how it went.

So how is the band Dynamic?
We're all super bros. It's interesting. It's like most of the core friends that I hang around with are friends that I've had for a long time, 13 or 14 years and I've only know these guys (The Sword) for 3 or 4 years and I'm surprised at times on how well we all get along. But it's defiantly a really good band. It's one of the best ones that I've ever been in.

So what would your advice be for someone starting a band?
If there's one main person that's generally got some ideas, maybe it's best to follow those ideas. But if things start getting totalitarian that's when it starts to get weird for me. Because I've definitely been in those situations before where I've been the bass player in the backing band of a dude and that shit sucks. You know, getting told 'hey don't play that note there, play just the root note, not the harmony note.' It's like whatever man come on that sounds great when I play the harmony note. But you know with JD it's like he'd say, in a top of the totalitarian thing, 'hey, I don't know, let's try it like this but if not; whatever.' I mean, it's just like were all dudes playing music and we don't really have any alterative motives behind playing music. We all like playing music and we want to play these songs that we have and you know that's about it. We have a good time doing it.

What's it like writing new material?
The songwriting process is quite lengthy with The Sword. We tend to go over things and go over things and like try out different variations of riffs till we kind of find exactly what we want. That's how it's been. In my personal contribution to the music, I just try to fill in the gaps and in the same time staying in line with what Trivett's doing so it still remains powerful and there's no point where I'm holding anyone back or holding the flow of the song back.

Any rituals before that show like, 'oh not changing socks'
No, but we do have socks in the rider. Sometimes if we are lucky we'll get a pack of fresh socks. That's nice. It's one of those things we were thinking about when we were putting together our riders our booking agent was like, no. No one will get you socks, but out of 28 dates three promoters got us socks. So I got to put on some really nice socks.

What is the most interesting thing about The Sword?
The fact that there are no cookie monster vocals. I kind of find that strange now. If it's not overly sampled like out of tune bullshit like some dude going, 'ruru ruru ruru.' It's either that or like five layers of like totally perfect harmony. It sounds kind of gross after a while It's like if you see a live Shania Twain performance and like there are six people singing that like a perfect cord and your like, 'argh, gross!' How processed is that?