Interview With Dead Cross: The Raw Materials Version

The October issue (#156) of Decibel is now available and amongst all the goodies about Myrkur, Prong, All Out War, Akercocke and George Romero, there’s a single page, Upfront piece included on Dead Cross, the new band featuring Michael Crain (Retox), Justin Pearson (Retox, the Locust and Three One G Records), Dave Lombardo (Slayer ‘n’ stuff) and Mike Patton (Faith No More ‘n’ lots more stuff). The piece in the magazine is immortalized as a 450-word (or so, I’ve notoriously and consistently handed in 156 issues worth of copy over word count) celebration/promotion of their self-titled debut. What you don’t see is how much source material there was to work with, the awesomeness of that material and how much had to be excised in getting to that final 450 words. The original interview was conducted via email with Pearson, who I’ve interviewed on numerous occasions over the years and found him to never be one to scrimp on offering up assessments and opinions for even the most ordinary and generic of interview queries. So, here you get to read the full complement of questions and answers that led to what made it to print (which, if you don’t have, you can and should get here). Maybe you’ll get an idea of the decisions us hacks have to make about what stays and what goes, how story angles are chosen and developed and whatever else myself and my fellow members of the Gang That Couldn’t Write Straight do in bringing you your monthly dose of metal literature. Note that this interview originally took place back in June and a lot has happened since then in Dead Cross’ world; most obvious is the fact that the band is presently on tour. The interview discusses this then-upcoming tour but makes no mention of plans to get arrested in Texas, to cancel shows due to Mike Patton injuring himself skateboarding or Jello Biafra joining the band onstage. Either way, the remaining dates are below should you wish to attend.

How did all this come together in the first place? Was there a particular intent for Dead Cross when you initially got together?
There never really was intent at all. Oddly enough it was just a series of circumstances that brought us to this juncture. I suppose the map was extremely organic, as it seems to have mapped itself out on its own, and this outcome was never initially thought out.

What’s the story behind Patton coming on board? I think some dick wad music journalist – OK, full disclosure, it was me – mentioned in a review that it’s probably the angriest Mike has sounded in a few years. Did he approach you about wanting to front a more hardcore-sounding outfit or did he have to be talked into it?
I really appreciate when a journalist can reference himself or herself as a “dick wad.” Not only is that great terminology, which isn’t used enough, but the fact that one doesn’t take themselves too seriously says quite a lot about that person. Anyhow, to get to the question here, Patton jumping on board was not as extravagant as one would hope, however the rest of us were psyched that he was into the idea, for sure. The band was already on his radar as he hit us up about doing the record with Ipecac when we were in the studio tracking with Gabe Serbian, who was our initial vocalist. After Gabe let us know he had to part ways with the band, we compiled a list of people we wanted to hit up and Patton was on that list. I’d love to say we threw all the names in a hat and Patton was the winner, which would be a bit more amusing, but out of the people we came up with and who were interested, Patton was close with everyone in the band, and familiar with our collective resumes. Basically, it just seemed natural, correct and easy for him to jump on board. I suppose timing was of the essence, since he was available, but it also seemed to be something that he felt he needed to do. I guess this is speculation, but any right-minded person in this day and age could use something like Dead Cross to get their point across, expel emotions, communicate in an artistic manner, piss off true dick wads, channel raw energy, and ultimately be part of some sort of outlet for modern times.

You notoriously got to perform on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise despite being unknown and not having any material available at the time. Now, Dead Cross’ debut is available on yours and Mike’s labels. Obviously, you’re taking advantage of the opportunities you’ve been able to create for yourselves via hard work over the years. Have you received much stick from the public about the bands’ ‘fast tracking’ from conception to having an album available?
Great question, and certainly a fairly loaded one. Let’s see here… I wonder what you mean by “notoriously.” More so than our actual performances on the boat, I think the article I wrote for Noisey about the cruise was more in line with being notorious. I guess it was fairly upsetting to a handful of metal purists, which I suppose makes complete sense. I got a lot of flack and shit talked about me due to that article from people who take pride in metal and ultimately take themselves a bit too seriously. As far as I can remember, I never really criticized anyone specifically, unless they really deserved it. I just had criticisms for logistical stuff, like paying a bunch of money to go on a cruise to Jamaica not seeming to be very metal. Again, I think I prefaced the article by saying it was my opinion, but that was certainly not welcomed by some. Opinions are like assholes, and we all have one. I mean, that experience in itself was massively absurd; part in what it was, and certainly part in the fact that we, uh, “fast tracked” to even be welcomed aboard. I was psyched that we got to set sail at such an early stage of the band’s existence, but I suppose my article didn’t stress that enough, or at all, by the reaction I got. But the general “fast tracking” concept is something to consider for sure. Even if I was to be a “dick wad” or even just a dick hole, and try to push some angle that I have been touring and recording since I was fifteen, we can address the fact that the two oldest members of the band have been at it quite a bunch of years longer than I have. So, I do think at some point, “fast tracking” can come into play. I mean, if someone expects the original drummer for Slayer to start at ground zero again and play houses and put out a free demo, well, fuck, I guess they are certainly able to feel that way. But I would feel bad for Dave or anyone of a certain “stature,” or whatever you want to call it, having to just start over again, especially with such accomplishments as Dave’s. I mean, I think being in my 40’s seems old. Try being in your 50’s and playing some dick wad’s basement for gas money and a couch to crash on just to tour. I don’t know man, I just roll with it all, and do it with little to no expectations and I’m certainly appreciative of what I get to take part in, even though my article for Noisey didn’t seem that way. I was psyched to go on a cruise. I couldn’t afford to go on a boat like that any other way. Yeah, it’s a bummer that people would rather see Dave play in an awkward cover band thing, doing Judas Priest or AC/DC songs with other metal dudes who I have never heard of over seeing him play in a new thrash band that he is personally psyched on while on that boat. But I also get it, people generally want what they are familiar with, what is digestible, and ultimately what is said to be cool over taking a risk with something that is obscure, and possibly not accepted by any given community. Not to roll out the genre definitions, but as far as I could see it, Gabe Serbian and I on that cruse were punks, aesthetically and ethically speaking. Even though we are well versed in metal, love the genre and even have played in metal bands, we weren’t metal heads. Read the article, the Caddy Shack fake-turd prank was hilarious. Try to argue against that and well, you might look like the turd.

Have there been many expectations and preconceptions from different segments of the music world based solely on who’s in the band?
Of course. Please reference my previous answer. But even now with Patton in the band, we are still getting the “critics” to chime in, as if opinions matter. I mean it’s really rad to have people dig what you do. I wish more people dug a lot of what I’ve done this far in life. But if you set out creating art to please people other than yourself first and foremost, you might not be all that honest in what you are doing. I guess I just think that if people pay attention and have an opinion, good or bad, then you’ve won. If people are indifferent and apathetic to whatever you do, then well, you just fell into that sea of endless garbage. Nonetheless, I love being in a band with Dave and both Mikes. They all rule as musicians and as people. If other people like it, that makes it even better.

Is there a particular significance or story behind the band’s moniker?
I was driving to Los Angeles for rehearsal one morning just after we started. Crain and Lombardo were texting back and forth with me in a group text, but I could not keep up due to the fact that I was driving. There were a bunch of ideas being thrown out there and shot down… buzz, buzz, buzz, over and over, as I occasionally glanced down at my phone as I sat on the 5 freeway. Anyhow, I typically listen to NPR when I drive and there was this piece on a failed humanitarian attempt somewhere and a bunch of people associated with Red Cross were dead due to an illegal U.S drone strike. So, somehow I just thought Dead Cross and texted that in the lengthy group text. When I arrived at the studio, those guys decided on the band name.

Over how long a period was the material on the album written? And how was it written – over the internet, getting in a room together, etc.?
Six of the tracks were written in twelve days time, but only in a few rehearsals that Crain, Lombardo, I were able to fit into our schedules. The cover was also thrown in there as well. That was the live set which made up the first few shows the band had played. We later wrote a few more tracks, rounding things out to an even ten songs. Some of that was tweaked in the studio when we started tracking the album. As for the internet, it didn’t really play a part in things until Patton got on board. Everything was emailed to him and he tracked on his own accord up in the Bay Area.

How was it for everyone working with, and adapting to, various playing and writing styles?
I think everyone was pretty psyched on each other’s contributions. I obviously already dig Crain’s guitar playing, as we are both in Retox. Of course, I love Slayer’s material that Lombardo was on, so things just fit together easily right off the bat. Again, there were little to no expectations on any of our parts aside from the initial concern if we could remember the material for the live set in such a short amount of time. Of course, when we got to the studio, we were able to work on things a bit more and fine tune things where needed. Then, when Patton locked down his vocals, the whole album sort of came to life and there was an added dimension that none of us had expected. The tracks really sounded like actual songs once we got his vocals tracked. And over all, I think we each knew what we all are capable of and what we were getting ourselves into, which was fantastic.

What’s the story behind the image on the album’s cover?
My friend Eric Livingston had shared some of his art with me and it really stuck. The images and subject matter all resonated with us as a band. So, I looped in Three One G’s designer Brandon McMinn, and between the two of them they came up with a rad and punctual layout which even glows in the dark.

How would you compare or characterize the material on Dead Cross from what you’ve done previously?
I wouldn’t, and I hate characterizing things. Everything that I get to take part in is completely different from each other, in my opinion. Don’t ask someone like my mom though, since she thinks it all sounds the same, but to me nothing is the same. I suppose the most relevant thing I could mention is that none of it was really well thought out or pre conceived. So, either it’s a train wreck or completely honest. I hope the latter of the two.

In the process of all this, have you had the chance to stop what you’re doing, look around and think to yourself: “Holy fuck, I’m jamming in a band with the dudes from Slayer, Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantomas, etc. How the hell did this happen and whatever happened to that old lady I helped cross the street in a past life?”
At times I do think stuff like that. And not to downplay it by any means, but I tend to step back and appreciate everything that I can grasp in life. Absurdity, or whatever you want to call those things, is so rad and I appreciate every ounce of it. You know, if I was about to die and a bunch of shit flashed across the screen in my mind, it would consist of the following: ‘Oh man, I’m going to jam with Lombardo and Crain, and I know Crain will lose his shit. I mean the dude has a giant cheesy Slayer tattoo on his arm and then we would be on the heavy metal cruise headed to Jamaica, and then my best friend Gabe would quit like he does a lot of his bands, and then somehow Patton would be stoked on the band and join and I would be a bit confused as to why he thinks the material is so good, then I would wonder a bunch of shit that has still yet to happen, and then….’

I understand there’s a plan to tour once the album is out and about. Was this ever in the cards and, subsequently, have there been discussions about how much time and energy everyone will be able or want to devote to Dead Cross?
It’s all a bit amusing. Initially, Lombardo, Crain, and I were just playing on this really cool girl’s demo that Ross Robinson was producing. Then, we were in an extremely rushed band that was going to play three shows. Then, we were going to do a record and play a handful more shows. Then we had a line-up change. Now, we are about to do a tour and writing new material. So none of this was ever really something I had expected. I tend to have really low expectations or really absurd ones. Both make life interesting.


8/8 – Baltimore, MD – Baltimore Soundstage

8/10 – Philadelphia, PA – Union Transfer

8/11 – Boston, MA – Royale

8/12 – New York, NY – Gramercy Theatre

8/13 – Brooklyn, NY – Warsaw

8/15 – Detroit, MI – St. Andrew’s Hall

8/16 – Chicago, IL – Riot Fest

8/17 – Milwaukee, WI – Turner Hall Ballroom

8/19 – Minneapolis, MN – First Ave.

8/20 – Lawrence, KS – Liberty Hall

8/23 – Denver, CO – Ogden Theatre


Dead Cross is out now on Ipecac.