Exit Interview: A Final Chat with Early Graves

In the late 2000s, Early Graves were set to take over the extreme music underground with their blend of hardcore and thrash, a sound that was both a perfect stylistic fit for the times and also a timeless tribute to fast, heavy music. Then tragedy struck, and vocalist Makh Daniels was killed in a van accident while the band was on tour. Overnight, they went from a carefree group of dudes playing heavy tunes to dealing with the horrible reality of witnessing a friend’s death.

However, somehow, despite it all, the band pushed on, releasing a 2012 record to follow up their first two, though doing so was unimaginably hard without Daniels. Now, after decades of making music together, the band are finally calling it quits, and they’re doing so on the Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest: Los Angeles stage, with one final, epic show. We absolutely could not let this opportunity pass us by without talking about their legacy, what they are leaving behind, and what they are moving towards.

We caught up with Chris Brock and John Stratchan to reminisce before they play their final show for screaming, nostalgic, slightly inebriated fans.

What made you all decide to play your final show at Metal & Beer Fest: Los Angeles?
John Stratchan: I’d spoken to Albert in about 2019, and I told him that we were pretty much gonna call it a day with Early Graves, and that we were doing a European tour, and then we wanted to do, like, an East Coast run and then some West Coast shows and cap it all off at the end of the year with a Decibel fest, and he was into it. Then, COVID screwed everything up royally, and we figured we might as well just go out on top and have a really good final show with some bands we like.

What made you all finally decide to call it quits?
Stratchan: Well, we all have different ideas about what we want to do. And this is a band that is always always operated as all of us or none of us, and we’ve tried to do it otherwise, and it just doesn’t work. We had a lineup that kind of fractured at some point, and when we all started to get close again, it was like, “Alright, we’re gonna do this. We’re going to do this tour,” but now, it feels like it’s time to move on to new things.

Y’all have definitely faced some challenges as a band, but you’ve still made some killer albums. What are you all most proud of about your musical career?
Chris Brock: Shit, I’m proud that that we were able to put out a third record after some serious challenges, and that we were able to come back from all that. That’s a big point of pride for me, coming back from our singer passing away and putting out a third record. I would say just getting another album out was the best thing we’ve done, and definitely something to be proud of.

It was also amazing to get to play the shows we played after the album was released. All of a sudden, we were playing shows with bands like Nasum, Cannibal Corpse, and Napalm Death. Getting to play with your heroes was very cool. Looking back, I wish were able to get on the same page again and make another album, and it seems crazy that it’s been eight or nine years since we released an album, but you get older, and time really starts to fly.

Stratchan: I would just add on that getting out there and doing the record Red Horse was an act of not allowing tragedy to completely ruin our lives. It was hard, and it was super painful, but it was one of those things where you either back away and crawl in a hole and never come out, or you make an album and keep going, and I feel like it was a big deal in this case, because, in most cases, [the tragedy] would have ruined bands. When something happens like that, and you see you friend pass away in real time, it’s enough to collapse someone’s brain. so, for us to get things together and push on was hard, and I think that speaks volumes, more so than just the album itself.

It sounds like even though this is a bittersweet thing, it’s mainly coming about because all the tragedies and hardships fractured the band, and now, you feel like it’s time for the next chapter.
Stratchan: Most of us are getting old. I’m almost 40, and we’re all getting to that time in our lives where everybody’s got kids or wives, everybody’s got domesticated; even though we’d still love to do the band, it’s all or nothing, and a couple members feel like they can’t keep moving forward with it, and I respect that.

Brock: But to clarify though, don’t make it sound like we’re domesticated and not doing anything. [laughs] We definitely have some new stuff in the works; it’s not like we just had kids and got married, and that’s it. We’re all great friends and have been forever; it’s just at some point, there’s weird Juju about it, and it’s time to move on, but it’s not time to move on from music. There’s still plenty of shit to do.

That was gonna be my next question: what else do you all have in the works, either collectively or separately, that we should be on the lookout for?
Our bassist [Matt O’Brien]  and drummer [Dan Sneddon] have a band together called No Lights. It’s kind of post-punk stuff. The drummer is also in Kowloon Walled City, and they just released a new record a couple of months ago. Then a couple of us are starting a not-quite-titled project that was most of our focus for 2019, and then 2020 put a pause on that, but now going back at it. It’s really aggressive music, kind of similar to Early Graves. I’m really looking forward to getting that one off the ground.

Are there any final words you want to share about your last performance, or your time overall as a band?
Stratchan: For me, just thank you to anyone that ever gave a fuck about us. It’s been one of the biggest pleasures in my life to be in this band and put out stuff that people may have connected to. Thank you to everyone who has ever supported the band, and thank you for reading this.

Brock: He nailed it; also thank you to Makh. I met him in 2006, and we forged a friendship, and after his tragic passing, I was left with the band and a lot of wonderful memories.

Catch Early Graves final show at Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest: Los Angeles on December 10-11, 2021—featuring special classic album-sets from Converge (Jane Doe) and Cave In, (Until Your Heart Stops) as well as appearances from DeadguySacred ReichRepulsionGhoul and tons more Full daily lineups and ticket options including “Metal & Beer VIP Sampling Experience/Early Entry,” “Metal & Beer” ticket and the “Just Metal” ticket, which starts at just $25 with the DECIBEL unlock code, are below!

Purchase Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest: Los Angeles Two-Day tickets
Purchase Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest: Los Angeles December 10 tickets
Purchase Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest: Los Angeles December 11 tickets

Converge (performing Jane Doe in its entirety)
Sacred Reich
Early Graves (final show)
Night Demon
Ripped to Shreds

Cave In (performing Until Your Heart Stops in its entirety)
Crypt Sermon