By: jeanne.fury Posted in: featured On: Tuesday, November 27th, 2012
In the latest issue of Decibel (#99), I interviewed J.D. Cronise of the Sword about the band’s new album, Apocryphon. All was going in a predictable manner until, toward the end of our chat, Cronise began discussing his distaste for mosh pits and moshing, and how he prefers people to keep their shit together and quit wildin’ out because it’s disrespectful to the non-moshers and disrupts his concentration; and also, you’re ruining the experience for everyone, you jerkface.
Here’s how it started: I asked what was different about the new album. Cronise responded:
“There’s a lot less aggression musically, and that was kind of calculated. It has occurred to me multiple times over the years that we’ve been playing live that when I hear ‘Battery’ by Metallica, my instinct is not to put my head down, run in a circle and shove people around me. That to me seems bizarre and kind of silly. When other people hear songs like that, that is what their instinct is to do. To me, that takes away from a musical performance when there’s accomplished, talented musicians onstage performing songs for you; to engage in this totally unrelated physical activity to me is disrespectful, in a way, to the rest of the audience that doesn’t want to do that, and to the band on stage that are trying to perform for you. We kind of wanted to dial back the thrashiness a little bit in the hopes that people would sit still (laughs) to a degree. Still rock out and bang their heads and enjoy the show, but not take it to such an extreme, adrenalized level where they kind of act like lunatics.”
Right around that time, the thought flashed through my head—is he fucking with me? It wouldn’t be the first time a band tried to get cute. But the tone of his voice implied otherwise. Dude was serious: You shouldn’t have an extreme physical reaction to his songs, because it’s disrespectful. So, I asked him, Does this behavior throw you, the performer, off?
“It can, it can. It kind of depends on the whole mood of the crowd. You know, sometimes that’s just what happens, and it all depends on the show and the audience. Sometimes it works when the audience is going crazy like that. And sometimes it’s a small element of the crowd that’s making the show unpleasant for the majority of the crowd, and in those cases it definitely is distracting and annoying. When you see people at the front of the stage trying to watch you, and they’re getting shoved and getting run into constantly, you can tell they’re annoyed and getting pissed off, and it pisses you off because they’re your fans and they’re trying to watch you.”
Right, but let me just point out the obvious: Different strokes for different folks. What makes me somber may make you rage; what makes you puke may make me party. There is no correct way to react to art, regardless of “the show and the audience.” I needed Cronise to give me an example.
Do you have an instance that sticks out in your mind that is particularly indicative of what you’re talking about?
“Yeah, the most recent one was back in the spring, we were playing in Nashville. And for some reason, a lot of people tend to start moshing at our songs during the slowest songs, which is maybe a little contrary to what I was saying about shying away from the faster material. I don’t know why that is, but we were playing our slowest song; we were playing a slow to mid-tempo song, and a mosh pit started that was obviously pissing off most of the crowd that weren’t involved in it. I kinda lost it onstage. I was like, ‘What the fuck are you doing? This is stupid.’ Berating the moshers a bit. It was totally out of place. That’s where there’s a little bit of a disconnect with me from the fans that are into that sort of thing. I just don’t enjoy music in that way, and I don’t understand it when that’s the response. That one was like, ‘You guys are being fucking idiots right now.’ I don’t remember exactly what I said. Things like that. It’s like, ‘Come on, guys. If you’re gonna mosh, at least wait till we play something fast.’”
Now’s probably a good time to mention that I have cried at Diamanda Galas shows, folk music bolstered a revolution (and has famously caused a riot), and one time I caught my then-tween brother relaxing in a bubble bath with Slayer blasting out of his boombox (for real). Which made me ask:
For Apocryphon, what would be the most appropriate fan reaction in the audience?
“Personally, I love when it’s just a sea of banging heads. That’s what I love to see more than anything. I wish I had a time machine and could go back and stop the first mosh pit from ever happening at a heavy metal show. The age before that happened that was the golden era. When people just got into the metal and were in their own little world, but still engaged with what’s happening on stage. I remember I went to see that band Nile and it was the best metal show I’ve ever been to. No one was moshing. Their music is almost too insane to mosh to. It’s too technical and everyone was just standing there banging their heads. It was a beautiful thing to me. To see people acting like civilized people, but still losing themselves in the music, but in a way that didn’t involve violence.”
Yes, he used the phrase “civilized people.” I think right about here is where Cronise picked up on my skepticism, and he took it upon himself to clarify his initial WTF-inducing statement.
So I take it a Pantera crowd would not exactly thrill you.
“No. But, I mean, if that’s what people want to do, and that’s the kind of show it is, and the majority of the audience is there to do that, who am I to say they shouldn’t do that? Like I say, it’s a matter of the mood of the room and the crowd, and if everybody there came to mosh, then so be it. Then they have the right to do that. But when there’s this division of people that want to do that, and people that don’t, that’s when the energy in the room gets weird.”
How exactly one is supposed to determine whether or not moshing is kosher at any given show is a complete mystery to me. I mean, usually, if you want to mosh, you get in the front and center of a crowd. If you don’t want to mosh, you stand to the side. Not rocket science. Sometimes the lines of demarcation get a little blurry, but if that’s gonna ruin your night out, maybe live music isn’t the best form of recreation for you to partake in.
In conclusion, if you’re going to see Sword anytime soon, please refer to this handy video and behave accordingly.