The Sword Talk "Apocryphon"
Tue, 27 Nov 2012 14:32:32
"You don't really know what a song is supposed to sound like until you've gotten up on stage and played it in front of an audience," says The Sword singer and guitarist John D. Cronise.
Apocryphon, the latest masterpiece from The Sword, was certainly road-tested with various songs debuted on stage before the band recorded with J. Robbins earlier this year. The group's fourth offering stands out as its best to date. All of the hallmarks of their sound remain intact. Those thunderous riffs roar as loudly as ever, and the lyrics are worthy of deep pondering. However, everything's gotten bigger and more brilliant as well.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, The Sword frontman John D. Cronise talks Apocryphon and so much more.
What's your take on Apocryphon as a whole? It doesn't have a concept like Warp Riders, but there is a cohesion to it.
Yeah, I guess that would come from the fact that it was all written around the same space of time. I feel like it touches on a lot of different subjects, but it's definitely a snapshot of that time period and what I was into and reading about.
Was it easier to write since you didn't have a storyline to adhere to? Or was writing the last album easier since you had something to stick to?
Well, that was definitely the idea with Warp Riders, but it ended up being quite a challenge to pick out which parts of the story to write lyrics about. The story itself is rather involved. If I'd tried to cover everything in it, it probably would've ended up being a much longer album. Actually, there are a couple of songs that ended up being bonus tracks on international editions, which didn't make the final album. It was an interesting experiment. I thought it would be cool because I'd have subjects for the songs. In a way, it gave me too much though. It was definitely a fun experience piecing it all together. As far as Apocryphon goes, it was a different kind of challenge trying to come up with new things to write songs about without covering old ground. I don't want to ever repeat myself lyrically or dwell on the same themes too much. It was a matter of trying to think of new things and broaden my writing horizons a little bit.
How entwined are writing riffs and lyrics?
It really depends on the song. That goes on a song-by-song basis. For me, "Seven Sisters" all came at once. The lyrics wrote the riff almost for a lot of it. For a lot of other songs, the music comes first, and the lyrics are written later. On the songs Kyle writes the music for, it's a matter of listening to them and figuring out what to sing. Usually, the music comes first. Occasionally, a lyric will come first, and the music comes from there. Once the songs are written, a lot of times I don't remember how they were written [Laughs]. They just appear. "Seven Sisters" wrote itself very quickly, and the lyrics and music arrived simultaneously.
Where did "Hawks and Serpents" come from?
Kyle wrote the music for that one. It was a matter of trying to fit melody and lyrics over his riffs. It's a different groove for us. I think the style of singing and the delivery are a bit different from things we've done before. Hearing the music, it sounded like this dark biker rock or something. That's where the lyrics came from.
Was the song "Apocryphon" a direct result of all your research into ancient texts?
That was definitely the product of a lot of reading and thought. That was actually an instrumental for most of its life. My intent at first was to have a vocal. I'd written the lyrics for all the other songs, and I was spent in a way. I was out of ideas. Then, it was suggested, "Well, we always have an instrumental on our records. All of the previous albums have one. Maybe we should leave this as an instrumental". We did that for a while. In the back of my mind, I always had this nagging voice that it wasn't supposed to be that way, and it really needed lyrics. I actually wrote the lyrics the night before the vocals were recorded. Usually, everything is written well ahead of time, and it's rehearsed. Hopefully, it's even played live a couple of times. Strangely, that one came right at the eleventh hour.
Has relocating been inspiring creatively?
That was the intent at first [Laughs]. When I moved, we were under the gun to get the writing finished. I had a lot of settling in to do. I wasn't able to kick back and think about lyrics as much as I'd liked because I was dealing with all of the things involved with moving to a new place. There are a lot of things to take care of. I ended up being a lot busier than I intended to be. I'm glad I moved. It's definitely better.
If you were to compare Apocryphon to a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
That's a good question. I've thought about that on previous albums to an extent. For this one, I don't know. "Hawks and Serpents" is a bit Mad Max-inspired. So, there's that. I'd have to think about it. "Dying Earth" is directly inspired by the Jack Vance books of the same name. They haven't been made into a movie, but there's a literary reference there.
How did you first discover Vance's work?
He's one of the seminal science fiction writers. He's very influential. Weirdly, a lot of his stuff is not in print these days. I probably first heard of him when I was much younger. Dying Earth was one of the chief influences on Gary Gygax the creator of Dungeons & Dragons. The magic system and wizards in the game are reminiscent of Jack Vance. That's one of his main modern influences. He wrote all kinds of science fiction and fantasy. A lot of it is very different. Dying Earth is very flowery and baroque in terms of its language. I had to keep a dictionary nearby and use it almost every page for a couple of words. His vocabulary is staggering, and he shows it off with a lot of flourish. He unapologetically throws out weird, arcane terms and phrases from other languages. Then, I've read his straightforward science fiction stories. They're not like that. He's a great author.
What have you been listening to lately?
I tend to listen to more music when we're on the road than I do at home. I just got into this band called Fang Island. I saw them play a few weeks ago, and I was surprised. They're really good. There are three guitarists. It's triumphant guitar rock.
Do you have any super cool memories of hanging with Metallica?
Lots, man! I probably have too many to name. They're really cool dudes. I haven't met a lot of huge famous, influential bands like that. Of the few that I have met, they're easily the most engaged and down-to-earth. Doing something like the Orion festival, they're interested in new music and what's going on now. They're not just stuck in the past. They're not content to simply play their hits. They're interested in what's happening now and the bands that are influenced by them and what they're doing. They're all rad dudes. It's weird being like, "That's Metallica! Wow, they still remember us!"
What's your favorite song from The Sword?