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The Used’s Bert McCracken: “Everything In My Life Has Led Up To This Moment…”

Andy Biddulph
Andy Biddulph 11 September 2017 at 12.58

Bert tells ALL about his band’s new album ‘The Canyon’.

THERE’S A NEW ALBUM COMING! CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT IT?
Says Bert McCracken [vocals]:
“It’s called ‘The Canyon’, it’s 17 songs in length, it’s an expression of various sounds, a celebration of real rock and roll music.

“This is a record we recorded as close to the heart of the way music should be recorded, everything done on tape and in a more live environment than we’ve ever experienced before, which was a thing that naturally happened.

“It became about a lot of serious, important, ontological questions about existence and mortality and the spaces between. We’ve had quite a lot of time to work on the writing, about three years, so it’s very eclectic and each song kind of shines on its own but it’s a beautiful story told in its entirety, something people can really look forward to.

“It’s a moment of silence for something real in this world that’s so full of things that are not real.”


SO IT’S ABOUT MORTALITY?
“I lost a good friend about a year ago that kind of triggered a lot of things around the record. I think my thought in the past about lyrics directed towards a generality - to involve more people - and I took the opposite approach this time and made it much more specific for me."

“So yeah, the record began to represent this idea... The canyon in my mind is a pretty brutally heavy concept, because what it takes to create a canyon is endless time that humans can barely fathom of water cutting rock like a knife. Like the canyon I grew up near, there’s both sides of pain and pure childlike freedom which I associate with joy.

“But making this record I found the closest I’ve been to peace and joy is where I’m willing to go through the suffering, so it’s involved pain. It’s the duality. It’s ying-yang. It’s simple as that.”


Listen to new song 'Over And Over Again'.


IT SOUNDS CLICHÉD, BUT DOES THIS FEEL LIKE A MORE PERSONAL ALBUM?
“Yeah. We’ve struggled with that word specifically – cliché – and we’ve found that even a platitude as cliché as, ‘be yourself’ can mean be so much more derived and contrived of the most brutally honest art and as you can hear in my voice, this record kind of became the happy accident.

“Everything in my life has led up to this moment. It’s the most important thing I could have possibly done, hardest work I’ve ever had to do metaphysically or spiritually or mentally.

“The reward for me is being able to share that with anyone who’s ever lost someone in their life or had deep thoughts of anything. In this world we live in where everything is so surface level, I feel like a moment of silence for anything we feel is what we kind of need... Not kind of, what we absolutely need.”


YOU RECORDED WITH ROSS ROBINSON, RIGHT?
“A lot of why the stories [about Ross Robinson] are so real and so true beyond the exaggerated effect of the story is that he understands music a completely different way than people are willing to confront.

“It’s like sitting down in front of a painting and staring at it, you think and feel something whether it takes an hour or weeks.

“And Ross Robinson’s approach to songs is exactly that. ‘Why are you here? Why are you making this song? Why do you think people need to hear what you’re saying, or are you trying to say something to yourself?’

“It’s a huge process and the recording process, he kind of takes this psychic surgery or therapeutic approach to lyrics and vocals that is really touching and allows overwhelming honesty to come through.
"

HOW LONG DID THIS ONE TAKE TO RECORD?
“We did pre-production for about three weeks and we recorded drums at Dave Grohl’s studio for about a month.

“Then we did another month and a spare week or two at Valentine Studio, which is kind of this time capsule studio from the sixties where the Bugs Bunny stuff was recorded and a bunch of the rat pack gross, coke addict, wife-beating singers I don’t like, they did stuff there too.

“It was an all-around rock and roll experience. Dave Grohl’s place was really nice and professional. The tape machine was Richard Marx’s tape machine which I thought was pretty awesome and then Valentine’s kind of felt like what it would feel like if we were making a real rock and roll record, which is what we were doing.”


WHAT DOES IT SOUND LIKE?
“It’s a big record. It’s almost an hour and half so it’s a lot to take in, and in a way we’re kind of asking for a bit of attention and a bit of respect for what art is in general.

“But it’s The Used at our finest with Justin Shekoski [guitar] coming into the band three years ago, we’ve really learned how to use the language of music to push deeper into the emotion, so a lot of these songs were exactly the way we wanted them to come out, which sounds raw and real, and yet they sound just like us.

“I think there’s more of an element of rock and roll to this record as well. When I hear some of the stuff I think Tom Petty or Pink Floyd instead of a maybe more post-modern punk rock, hardcore kind of vibe.”


WHAT ELSE HAS JUSTIN BROUGHT TO THE TABLE?
“We had a lot of time to really get to know each other. We’ve become so tight in the last three years. He’s a very different human being, the type of person who inspires the whole room.

“He’s got this lust for living. Since I’ve known him he’s become a pilot and fucking 30 other things. It’s pretty awe-inspiring to be around him and his attention to detail and his knowledge of the actualities of music is refreshing. It’s refreshing to be around that kind of passion and it’s inspired all of us on a kind of whole other level.

“I can’t wait for everyone to hear it. You can really hear what I’m talking about. A lot of the time when we were recording it we kind of compared the process to being as painful as telling your most dreaded, painfully darkest deepest secret to the world bare naked and seeing if anyone laughs at you. [Let’s] see if anyone has enough balls to write shitty comments on YouTube or what the fuck ever.”


IF IT FEELS LIKE YOUR WHOLE LIFE HAS BEEN LEADING UP TO THIS MOMENT, ARE YOU SCARED ABOUT WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
“No, because what I understand about art is this… building and the more if you ingest, the deeper and maybe more convoluted and messy it gets, but I think that’s where it gets strong.

“I love to take a piece of art that’s a challenge for me, that I know is going to inspire me to learn like Justin does or push me to my limit. I like to get tired from entertainment, so I’m not scared.

“I think the future is really bright. As far as material goes, we had four writing sessions so we have about 30 unused songs that have serious potential. I think that’s why there are so many songs on the record - the process of elimination was impossible at times, so 17 is what we have.”


IT MUST BE HARD TO CUT THINGS FROM AN ALBUM WITH SUCH A PERSONAL STORY…
“Exactly. We’re really lucky we have people on our side at Hopeless [Records] who are willing to hear me out and so long as I have a purposefully direct idea.

“You don’t want to miss any parts of the sequence because for people who still listen to records, it’s the sequence – you get the most out of it if you start from the beginning and you listen through to the end.

“It’s a really precious story about a good friend of mine who killed himself and a really serious moment for me where I got to learn how to maybe stay alive until I’m old. That kind of thing is heavy but it’s worth it.”


'The Canyon' is out on October 27 via Hopeless Records.

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