Sunday 29 April 2012

The Used // Interview & Live Review

The Used are back; “Vulnerable” the new album was released in March and the Utah four-piece are back in the UK, set to rock venues up and down the country. Est.1987 headed down to Manchester’s HMV Ritz to meet up with Quinn [Allman, guitar], Jeph [Howard, bass] and drummer Dan [Whitesides] to chat music, regrets and doing their job to the fullest.

It’s been a little while since you’ve been over in the UK- how’s the tour going so far and what do you like most about playing shows over here?
QUINN- Yeah, it’s been awesome. All the fans have reacted really well to the new songs, and we’ve played longer sets and played four or five songs off the new record. It’s been great and we’re having a really good time.
JEPH- I love the accents! I guess over here you get more general music fans too.
Q- Yeah, someone can be into “Good Charlotte” and “Children of Bodom” and “The All American Rejects” and “Blink 182” and “The Used” and “Celene Dion”. People are genuinely more driven to the music rather than the trend; where as in the States it’s more what’s the flavour of the week. People are generally really nice over here too.

The new album “Vulnerable” came out in March- do you think that having that vulnerable side makes you a better songwriter?
Q- Yeah, I think so. If you take your personality out of what you’re doing and allow yourself to be vulnerable if you’re creating something, you allow yourself to be free to do whatever you want and not think about other people or is it right, is it wrong. So I think in a way, being vulnerable helps in all kinds of ways, not just creatively but in everyday life.

The video for your single “I Come Alive” is quite graphic. How did you come up with that treatment?
J­- To me it’s about that hate breeds hate. I mean, I don’t know if I’m right. But the little kid gets picked on by everybody including his family and then turns into something that’s so hateful, so negative and so monstrous it’s worse than what’s coming at him. And, it’s like in life that happens all the time; you walk down the street and walk into someone by accident. You don’t mean to, but the guy’s like “hey f**k you!”. And then for the rest of the day you’re like “f**k that dude,” and then bump into someone else and you say “hey f**k you” and it’s like a circle of hate almost.
D- It could be a sort of dream type video though, too.
J- It’s sort of over the top, we wanted it to be that way.
D- Just reading the comments that people have written about it, a lot of people hate it and a lot of people love it. That’s good I think; people are talking about it. Even with the music people say “f**k The Used” or “I only like the first album” or “I don’t like the artwork”, “I don’t like Vulnerable” and it’s like well, you’re on here talking about it so thanks and apparently you heard it.
J- I think the people that hate the video hate it for the wrong reasons. The things that they say about it are all the same things; “this is going to teach kids to kill kids” and they’re missing the point completely. It’s like parents that don’t teach their kids how to live so they learn to live by watching TV and then the parents blame the TV for raising their kids and it’s crazy!   

“Vulnerable” is your fifth album, which when bands get to their fifth album they often find it hard to bring anything new- but that doesn’t seem like the case with you guys. Do you think the fact that you’ve left Warner and were doing your own thing allowed you that freedom, took the pressure off so gave you the inspiration to mix things up a little?
Bert McCracken on stage in Manchester
D- Yeah. I mean we were always 100% in control of our albums but there’s always some ‘suit’ label guy going, “why don’t you change this lyric, how about doing this”. But this time we didn’t have to listen to anybody, we did it exactly how we wanted to do it.
Q- All those label guys just want their name on the record and to be like “I helped write that song” and it’s like no you made it worse.
D- That’s how we get our ideas; Quinn’s non-stop making beats on the bus or writing riffs for hours and hours, so all we have is ideas. This band is the only job that we have so we might as well do it to the fullest.

And you went back to working with John Feldman who you’ve worked with throughout your career; do you feel he’s the one producer that knows The Used’s ethos the best and gets the best from you?
Q- He brings out the good side and he’s got such a good work ethic and really pushes Bert [McCracken, vocals]. He’s like thirty years sober, drinks lots of coffee and is just a work horse. But he sees the band as a whole and he’s a songwriter too…
D- …and he loves The Used.
Q- Yeah, he loves the band and he sees the big picture. He’s not concerned with making a song that’s “cred” worthy even though we might think that’s cool at the moment. But he’ll really open our eyes and be like, “there’s no genre you need to fit in to” so he takes every song we have and helps us to express the full idea of it. Sometime his production is a little over the top, but I think on this record it makes sense; I don’t know who we’re trying to kid, our music is “pop” and he sees that.

"Vulnerable" the new album
The Used as a band has been together for over a decade. If you could go back and change anything, would you and what would it be? Or do you think that everything that has happened has helped you get to this point?
J- I probably wouldn’t have drank so much and try to get Bert not to party and drink so much. I think personally I partied too much.
D- I would party more and harder. I would maybe take it more seriously. I mean I have always taken this seriously and given 100% in whatever I do, but after the show just drinking so much there’s no f*****g point.
Q- I wouldn’t really go changing anything but there’s times when I think back and think, “god I was an idiot”. I wish I could have focussed more on personal things happening in my life, things that weren’t anything happening with the band but I think I just got really caught up in the band and I think a lot of other things got ignored. So now it’s kind of biting me in the ass; things like financially, life at home and relationships. I wouldn’t change it because it’s made me who I am now but I’ve definitely learned a lesson that I’ve ignored a few things; it’s very easy to ignore life when you’re on tour, for sure.
D- But, we’ve proven to ourselves and everyone else that we can still play and write music f****d up! [laughing]

You’re still such a relevant band after all these years which is testament to all the music you’ve written; how does it feel seeing how your music effects fans?
Q- It surprises me that people are still on board and they still like us. I think that Bert is the key element to all of this, because it if weren’t for his lyrics and melodies people wouldn’t give a s**t about the music. So I think we’re blessed to have such a unique individual to front our band. 
D- Yeah, Bert is honestly the key to the band; he writes the words and the melodies that make the world go round.
Q- I guess that’s what keeps it relevant in some ways, because he writes from the heart and he genuinely cares about his lyrics and people get that.
D- I don’t care what anyone says, I think Bert McCracken is pretty cool! [laughing]

 And here's what happened when The Used took to the stage...

Manchester’s iconic and historic Ritz Ballroom was the perfect setting for The Used’s first visit back to the city in a number of years. The Ballroom has recently undergone a little makeover, restoring it to its former glory and it is reborn as HMV Ritz. The grand setting only fuels the crowd’s excitement as they wait in anticipation for the band to begin.

The Used on stage in Manchester 
Eventually, drummer Dan modestly takes the seat behind his vast kit and begins to play. Soon he is joined by bassist Jeph and guitarist Quinn who then treat the audience to a perfect instrumental introduction. After chatting to the three members pre-show, they may believe that front-man Bert is the “key element” to The Used but Bert’s lyrics would be worth much less without the intricate musicianship as showcased here in this extended introduction. Bert then bursts onto the stage and into “Take It Away”. From this moment on, the night has begun and all eyes are fixed on the stage as The Used guide the passionate crowd through hits such as “Listening” and newer songs such as “Kissing It Goodbye”.
Bert is the perfect front-man and draws together everything on stage and the action down in the pit, making every single member of the crowd feel like they are truly part of something here tonight. He isn’t afraid to interact and joke with his fans, at one point taking a beer box from the crowd that has a face drawn on it, putting it over his head and jovially dancing around in it on stage, much to the audience’s amusement. “This one’s for the lovers out there” he shouts before breaking into “I Come Alive”. He then playfully strokes the hair of the security man who is stood in the pit with his back to the stage: the man doesn’t flinch, thus amusing Bert and the crowd further.

Bert joking with the crowd
Effortlessly blending the old and new from their repertoire, The Used storm through the newer “Put Me Out” and fan favourites, “The Taste of Ink” and “All That I’ve Got”. Back to back, these two classic tracks make the perfect duo and propel the audience to a new surge of energy. The entire ballroom floor is bouncing as the raw vigour from the band on stage transfers down to the pit. Bert’s inspiring vocals are made tighter by the impressive guitar break downs and complex melodies perfectly exhibited in the euphoric “I Caught Fire”. “If you’re not having fun I strongly suggest that you get the f**k out of here”, suggests Bert, which only spurs the crowd on more to prove how much fun they are having as the closing “Put Me Out” stirs a frenzy. The Used’s set would not be complete without a glorious encore including “Blood on My Hands” which soars through the entire ballroom. “Pretty Handsome Awkward” Bert commands an imposing wall of death, to which the crowd happily oblige. The night draws to a close with “the greatest song ever written”, as disclosed by Bert: “A Box Full of Sharp Objects” which is delivered to the audience via the opening riff of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. The sets’ climax is electric; Bert spraying water from his mouth and Dan demolishing his drum kit; the perfect end to the evening. 
Tonight was a celebration of over a decade of The Used and their loyal fans; here’s to another ten years!