American Head Charge Biography
The brazen and relentless all-out emotion of American Head Charge may be extreme, but it comes from a real commitment to a hard-earned, last-ditch choice: Chad and Martin met by chance (or fate, as they both say) at a treatment/rehab center in Minneapolis where they wrote their first song together, a project required of Chad in order to secure his release. While living in Los Angeles (he grew up in Hollywood), Chad had been in various bands, ranging from glam/metal to Ministry/Killing Joke-influenced industrial metal, and had reached the desperate point of selling all of his gear to feed his various vampire-like vices.
Growing up in Washington, DC, and the San Francisco Bay area, Martin had started early down the same hard road, eventually dropping out of high school while living in Baltimore, where an "intervention" saved his life. That act (performed apparently by the same once-famous rock musician who had also, completely by coincidence, intervened on Chad's behalf) led Martin to that rehab in Minneapolis where he met his future bandmate. Martin had been playing guitar and singing since an early age but never had the confidence to use his talent until he met Chad (whom he thanks in the album's credits for showing him his self-potential). Following their release, bonded and determined, the pair threw their entire lives' energies into working on American Head Charge. Seizing the moment, they raised themselves out of their own personal hells and devoted themselves to creating a band with born of the raging instinct to survive--all the ingredients of a real American success story.
Martin and Chad began to share the group's music and lyric writing, often finishing or adding words to each other's songs almost telepathically. Evolving steadily ("Louder, Faster, Harder"), Martin played keyboards at one point while Chad switched from guitar to bass. Persisting through a shifting series of line-ups over a period of three years, the group built up a huge following in Minneapolis, eventually reaching the point where they could easily pack 1,500 rabid fans into the famous First Avenue (most familiar as the site of the club scenes in Prince's "Purple Rain"). Along the way, American Head Charge had opened for the likes of Type O Negative, Slipknot, and Powerman 5000, but, it was a slot with System Of A Down that got them signed to American Recordings.
Soon, the group was holed-up in the basement of producer Rick Rubin's legendary Laurel Canyon house/studio (or the Houdini Mansion, as it is also known),where they worked countless hours over a period of three months on what would become The War of Art--an album aptly titled to reflect the acts of emotional war feeding each track. Pushing the ultra-violent chugging guitars of David Rogers and Wayne Kile to the limit (they make the word "epic" sound small by comparison), American Head Charge dissect the mix with sudden shifts in texture and atmosphere that belie the first impression of flying-shards-of-metal onslaught. Pure and simple, the force of their devotion comes through on every track. Martin tears his lungs out on nearly every song (though often expertly shifting to a mellow Morrison-like croon or a piercing wail). And some tracks make Black Sabbath sound like Britney Spears by comparison. While The War of Art is as heavy as music gets, the songs hold a wealth of sonic nuance and detail. The full-on attack of the music is made even more powerful by the sudden dynamic shifts, tempo changes, and surprising intrusions of gentle ambience or electronic noise, or just as likely, silence. Produced using a dictionary full of sonic shock tactics that consistently throw you off balance like a hard right turn at 90 miles per hour, each fresh schism serves to drive the emotional energy inherent in the song even deeper into the gut.
"Effigy 23" manages several such changes throughout its course, while maintaining a confident central feel through every change--it's deeply heavy but built on a seductive stop-and-start groove that sucks you in, and is laced with sophisticated touches that create an atmosphere in your brain just as the track suddenly kicks you in the solar plexus. The somber and elegant piano figures and disturbing electronic samples supplied by keyboardists Aaron Zilch and Justin Fouler color the song in shades of tones that are alternately melancholy, then schizophrenic. "Wet the lips/and shut your pretty mouth/use the kiss/tomorrow fails to exist/and still she keeps on looking/of course of course," Martin sings mournfully at first, then abruptly, within the space of a phrase, manages to shift to a near falsetto, then a whisper, then a brutally throat-destroying scream.
"Americunt Evolving Into Useless Psychic Garbage" and "Pushing The Envelope" are pure amphetamine shriek, frenzied harder-than-hardcore workouts, spitting blades of sound in every direction, propelled at insanely manic high speeds by Christopher Emery's militant, harder/faster drums, linked symbiotically to Chad Hank's superfast but precise bass juggernaut. "Just So You Know" sucker-punches you with a weirdly flanged keyboard intro, body slams the listener with an overload of guitars, empties out for a brief drum and bass interlude, where Martin enters--first whisper/crooning, then gradually building to a full-on melodic wail, then switches with the surging tidal waves of guitars to an anthemic chorus big enough to blow the roof off a cathedral. Again, like knives, a short break or two interjects where his voice sounds on the edge of complete insanity.
"Most singers are pretty much leashed to one way of doing things," says Martin. "They stay in the same tonality. I want to always expand, always push myself into someplace new." This statement applies not only to the amazing vocabulary of his voice, but equally to American Head Charge's sound as a whole. Even on the all-out-assault of songs like "Self," their sound is a dizzying ride through a sonic funhouse, where every mirror is cracked and strobe lights flash you into complete disorientation, pummeling and mercilessly violent one second, then stuttering, breaking up into what could only be called short blasts of silence the next before erupting in an utterly massive 1000 guitar overload chorus ("Liar! Liar!"), "Self" feels like an exorcism but is executed with such military precision that it pins you to the wall in submission. "Each of us is very much his own person, but we're really like a disciplined military unit when we play. Total catharsis." says Chad.
True to its ruthless emotional core from beginning to end, The War of Art is a sonic cataclysm/hallucination, honed and precise, yet cutting right into the heart of the fiercely committed performances on every track. Fresh off a tour with Fear Factory, American Head Charge is on-board for Ozzfest 2001. Judging by their fearless and absolute raw emotional violence of their sound and performance, they should tear the place up. They attack their music "leveling everything in sight," as Chad says--with the power of someone fighting for his life or sanity. American Head Charge is in it for the long run, and, judging by the fanatical, near-religious fury with which they throw themselves into their sound, there's absolutely no stopping them.