Comes With The Fall are one of the few unsigned acts you will see grace this webzine. It takes a truly amazing unsigned band to gain so much attention from my ears which are constantly bombarded with tons of new music each month. I first heard CWTF last March when they opened for Jerry Cantrell in my old home of Houston, TX. This band at first was not what I was expecting and I wasn't sure if I liked what I was hearing or not. The crowd was the same as any hearing a new band for the first time, but by the end of the night both the crowd and I were cheering our asses off for them. It was the song "Strung Out On A Dream" which I stood and watched closely as the melodic love song was played before me. I could just feel the emotion coming from the singer into the audience. It was after that moment that I was a CWTF fan and have been hooked ever since. Later in the set a great cover of Black Sabbath's "Symptom of the Universe" got the crowd even more into it. I know the bands are friends of Jerry Cantrell who even played on a couple songs with them live this night, but his set just failed miserably to that of CWTF. Never have I actually thought an opening band blew away the headliner until this night. I in fact left after only a couple Cantrell songs because it just wasn't as good as CWTF. Before I left I made my way over to the merch booth and this is where I met William DuVall for the first time. He probably doesn't even remember me but hell I met the dude and bought their self-titled album and "The Murder Scene EP" on the spot. I noticed right from the start that this band was not star struck and were human. I then would spend the following months jamming out to two great cds of which I can never get enough of. I tried to get this band some exposure in Mainstream Resistance by reviewing their two cds but they didn't make the final printing due to space constraints. So now with my own zine going here is a band that should be signed. A band that's new album, "The Year Is One" which is reviewed in this very issue, will get them signed without a doubt. I am proud to bring you an interview with Comes With The Fall.
So give me the history of CWTF and where you currently are?
We got together in Atlanta in the summer of 1999. For myriad reasons, that town and that region of the country could not support what we do. So, immediately after recording our first album, we left there and came to LA in February 2000. It was the best move we ever made, absolutely essential to our survival.
For a first time listener how would you describe the sound of CWTF?
I always say it's like Jeff Buckley being molested by Black Sabbath, though I think the Soundgarden comparisons apply as well.
Why are you guys still not signed, have you had any label attention at all?
Certainly since moving to a place like LA, we've seen many sharks sniffing our blood. What we haven't seen is an offer that is worth handing over our independence. At this point we are not even sure if such an offer exists.
How was the recent Jerry Cantrell tour and what was the crowd reaction to CWTF?
The Cantrell tour was great fun. We love to play. That's what we're all about. It represents the biggest part of who we are as people. We function best as a live band. Jerry gave us the greatest opportunity we've had so far to do what CWTF was designed to do night after night in front of a crowd of real rock fans. The response was fantastic. It proved to us that there are plenty of people across this country who are interested in what we're putting down. We sold out of everything we had for sale.
How did you guys first hook up with Mr. Cantrell?
Jerry heard our first album soon after we arrived in LA and really flipped on it. He came up out of the blue and introduced himself to me at the Dragonfly one night. He said that our record and The Refused album "The Shape Of Punk To Come" were the two best things he heard all year. This was an honor to us because we are very big fans of Jerry's work and we absolutely loved that Refused album as well. Our friendship grew from there. He would jump onstage with us every time we played a gig in LA. He even moved into our apartment building. He lived downstairs and would come up and jam with us every day. He started asking me to teach him how to play his favorite songs from our first album. Then I'd ask him to show me something off of "Dirt." It was real cool, a beautiful time. It was such strong validation for us after feeling so misunderstood and ignored back in Atlanta. I'll never forget it.
Explain the details on your two previous releases?
Comes With The Fall recorded our first album in Atlanta during a real crossroads in our lives as musicians. We'd all been playing since childhood and grown up performing in bands that were really great musically, but couldn't sustain us financially. So we were really feeling that pressure that comes when you know that being a musician is the only thing you're cut out to do, but you can't figure out how to reconcile that with the need to pay the bills and survive as an adult. I was somewhat lucky in that I'd had some success as a songwriter prior to hooking up with Bevan (drummer) and Nico (former second guitarist). I co-wrote a song called "I Know" that became a big hit for an R&B/pop singer on Columbia Records named Dionne Farris back in 1995. So I re-invested every penny of that windfall back into my own musical endeavors. I started a band with Bevan and Nico called Madfly in 1996. Prior to that, I'd always been a serious "player's player" in the underground music scene (punk rock, free jazz). I had respect among my peers and critical acclaim, but I knew very little about songwriting, record production, and the mainstream music business. What little exposure I did have to the corporate record industry, both first hand and through my friends on major labels, completely turned my stomach. I've always been more interested in controlling my own destiny as an artist and as a man. I was raised in the Underground. My first bands were punk and thrash bands. Then, as I became a more proficient musician, I got interested in exploring free jazz (John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, James "Blood" Ulmer, etc.). My idols as a kid were people like Greg Ginn from Black Flag, who started SST Records from nothing and made it into the most important underground rock label that's ever been, and Ian MacKaye over at Dischord, who was another great rolemodel. Charles Mingus was yet another hero. These guys didn't play the existing game. They made their own game. They took control of every aspect of the production of their music and succeeded on their own terms. I aspire to be like them. It was with Madfly that I really learned the nuts and bolts of actually doing all of the things that go into making and releasing records for myself, and not just being the guy with the guitar.
Madfly put out two albums between '96 and '98, both on my label, DVL Recordings. The music was a big departure for me. It mixed rock, pop, R&B, even glam. It was sort of like if Zeppelin and Bowie had a baby and it was raised by Prince. It sure pissed off a lot of people from my punk rock/avant garde past but I didn't care. I love all kinds of music. For me it was an opportunity to expand my horizons as a musician. I really needed it. It was also my first time in the producer's chair. I found I took to it rather well.
The second Madfly album was released through a distribution deal between DVL and PolyGram. It was an attempt to broaden our exposure, to sneak into the mainstream through the backdoor while still controlling the means of production. It was a good plan and it almost worked. We were poised to do well commercially. We had some pretty significant airplay on mainstream Rock and Pop radio stations and we sold some records, but something was missing. Some of the music just wasn't what was truly in my heart. In spite of my contempt for the mainstream record business and my desire to do things solely on my own terms, I still felt too much pressure to "make it" and that was somewhat reflected in Madfly's music. I felt torn in two opposing directions between my upbringing in the Underground on the one hand, and my sudden (and unexpected) popular success as a songwriter on the other. I also felt a responsibility to the other guys in the band, all of whom had been struggling as musicians for years and had hitched themselves to my wagon. I felt pressure to give them a "career," even if I had to put on a mask and dilute my true self to get over to a bigger audience. And, of course, once we started getting pop radio airplay, there was pressure from management and other outside forces for us to contort ourselves into something even more mainstream. I liked all of Madfly's music, but I didn't LOVE all of it. It was simply a time of artistic experimentation for me, nothing more. It was like I was in some really cool costume shop just trying on different guises for the sheer hell of it. But then somebody comes up and tells me that I need to wear nothing but the pirate outfit from now until the end of time because that's the only thing the folks watching outside the window will ever want to see me wear. Deep down, I knew I wasn't really put on this earth to wear a costume at all. I felt more pressured and self-conscious than ever. But now I was stuck with the consequences of my own creation, so I tried to make the best of it. What Madfly wanted was a cool underground marketing campaign to Active Rock and College radio stations and the ability to tour and build our fanbase organically. We had a harder, more adventurous side in our music, kind of like the Cult meets Rage Against the Machine. We wanted the world to see that first. Management wanted us to be on Pop radio immediately with no concern for our credibilty over the long haul. They looked at the Goo Goo Dolls and said, "Why can't you just be more like that, William? You're talented enough. You've already written a pop hit. What's the problem? Are you afraid of money? Are you afraid of success?" Of course, nobody was more keenly aware than I was of the kind of money that can roll in from having even a piece of a pop hit. And I've got nothing at all against money. That wasn't the point. We just wanted to be taken seriously. We wanted a shot at a career. Not just the one song everyone gets tired of and then we're never heard from again. But all of the points we raised fell on deaf ears because we were simply in business with the wrong people. Since I was the label, no-one could drop us, but they sure could give us the cold shoulder. Our manager simply didn't have the desire to implement the kind of slow-build campaign we needed, so he just gave up. Our distributor let the album go out of print, even though the term on their license was for 3 years. There was no point in me paying more money to re-press the album when the possibility for a grassroots campaign was shot. College radio wasn't going to touch us now that we'd been on Pop Radio. As far as they were concerned, no matter how cool our music was, or even how much they liked it, we might as well have been the friggin' Backstreet Boys. So with no records in the stores, the commercial airplay drying up, and no chance at underground airplay, there was nowhere for us to go. We were painted into a corner. Even though, in the end, it was completely for the best that Madfly did not succeed, it really took a toll on me spiritually. On top of that, our original bass player had to leave the band for medical reasons and, besides being concerned for him as a friend (he's thankfully doing much better now), we found it extremely difficult to replace him. It was a revolving door for awhile until we finally got Adam in May of '99. But by then, generally speaking, being a musician just wasn't fun anymore. We had lost touch with the desire that made us want to do this in the first place. Then, sometime in late summer '99, a year or so after the second Madfly album, something really incredible happened. The guys and I had a very serious heart-to-heart discussion during which they made it abundantly clear to me that they would rather play music with me in which I get to completely be myself-- my natural, undiluted self -- even if it means NEVER "making it." They had come to realize that when I'm really doing my thing, without any regard for external pressures or expectations, it makes us all play together in a way that is too powerful to ignore. So, even if it means making far less money and living in obscurity forever, they were willing to do it as long as we played what we truly feel, and nothing else. That was such an awesome revelation. What bravery on the part of those guys! I will always be grateful for the courage and belief it took for them to say that to me. It lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. We decided then and there that we would only play music that completely blew us away, no matter what the commercial or financial consequences. We decided to jettison Madfly entirely-- the name, all of our business ties, even the songs we liked-- and start totally from scratch. From there, the floodgates broke wide open.
The entire debut Comes With The Fall album was written and recorded in one six week period between August and October '99. It wasn't even "written" so much as it was channeled. It was like riding a wave, as easy going to sleep and dreaming. This new sound combined everything from all of our pasts prior to meeting one another with the best aspects of everything we had learned from years of playing together. It was a miracle, like being resurrected from the dead. We didn't give a flying fuck what anyone else thought about it. Suddenly we were in love with music again! We haven't looked back since.
The "Murder Scene EP" was something we hastily put together by hand while out on the first leg of Cantrell tour. We'd sold nearly every copy of our first album and knew they'd be long gone before the end of the tour. We needed to keep eating on the road. Hence the "Murder Scene EP." The songs were recorded and mixed in three days right before Christmas 2000. Those versions were never meant for release. They were just rough mixes to hear what we had so far toward a second album.
How does having your self-titled release sell out make you feel? Are there any plans to reprint the album?
Selling out of the first pressing of our debut album so quickly was an amazing thing because we made that first record almost strictly for ourselves. For us, the victory was in its creation. The success came the moment we held copies of the first pressing in our hands. That album was recorded as reaction to the emotionally toxic situation our previous band had become. Once we disassociated ourselves from everything and everyone involved with that band, we were spiritually free, but commercially deader than ever before. There was no network of support in Atlanta for the kind of music Comes With The Fall were playing. We had no idea how we would get this music out to people. We just knew that we had to jump off the cliff and see what would happen. We have every intention of re-pressing the first album at some point, though I can't say when. We love that record. It represents a wonderful time for all of us. However, being a small operation with limited resources, right now we must concentrate all of our efforts on "The Year Is One."
Give me some details on the new album "The Year One."
"The Year Is One" was recorded here in Los Angeles. Four of the songs were recorded during one 3-day session last December at a tiny guest cottage studio behind a house in Hancock Park. The other six were recorded, and all ten songs mixed, during one 4-day session at Royaltone Studios in North Hollywood. Obviously, when you're forced to work that fast, you have to really know what you're doing. The band was very well-rehearsed, lean, mean, and hungry. Nearly every song is a first take. In fact, four of the songs -- "So Cruel," "Since I Laid Eyes On You," "Smashdown," and "Never See Me Cry"-- were each recorded completely live, vocal and all, just like a show. There was no such thing as "scratch" performances because we simply didn't have time. And frankly, I'm generally against that kind of thing anyway. I like us to strive for "keeper" performances while all playing together. It puts a bit more pressure on us but I think that's healthy. It keeps everyone sharp and makes the end result far more spontaneous and exciting. Usually the first take is the best with us. After that, it starts to get boring. This is rock-n-roll, not rocket science. If you can't get it right after one or two passes, then you're barking up the wrong tree. Also, I generally dislike a lot of layering of tracks, particularly on rock-n-roll recordings. I'm all about direct impact. Layering often only takes away from that. The more layers there are, the harder it becomes to hear each instrument. One guitar track with the right tone and placement in the mix is much more powerful to me. You remarked about the lack of distortion in my guitar sound as compared to a lot of the "nu-metal" out there today, a very perceptive observation on your part. This is purposeful because it allows more room for the bass and drums. The heaviness of this band comes from the way we all play together -- the way our tones mesh and the way we step down on a groove together. It has more to do with clarity and being able to hear what each man is doing. The idea is to maximize the sonic space taken up by each instrument to make things really explosive. It has nothing to do with how much I'm screaming or the amount of distortion on my guitar. Heaviness is more a state of mind to us than a sound. Our ballads are some of the heaviest music I've ever heard in my life. I am very old fashioned in my approach to making rock records. We record to 2" tape and mix to 1/2" tape, period. There is no Pro Tools, no DAT, no Auto-tuning, no digital cutting and pasting of any kind, and no "fixing it in the mix." I'm about capturing the excitement of a live performance. If it wasn't played or sung to tape, then it's not on there. The bulk of the engineering was handled by Russ Fowler, a great friend of ours from Atlanta. Russ and I have made four albums together and we have a great rapport. At this point, we read each other so well that very few words are needed. He understands how I like to work and what I like to hear without my having to explain myself. We just get in there and do it.
The sound on this album compared to the first is more angry and aggressive at times. It is not as doomy and depressed as the self-titled album. What made you decide to go for this approach?
Thematically speaking, if our first album was a response to our situation in Atlanta, then "The Year Is One" is a response to living in Los Angeles. This is one beautiful and dangerous town. We are both frightened and exhilarated by it. Perhaps this accounts for whatever differences you may hear in the lyrics or the musical approach between the first album and this one. We live right in the heart of West Hollywood. Living here really holds a mirror up in front of a person. Many of our favorite musicians and movie stars of all time are now our neighbors. We see them all the time at the bar, the gym, the grocery store, or just walking the street. Some have even become acquaintances and friends. It's all very normal and yet very strange at the same time. You are constantly confronted with everything you want and don't have, as well as everything you have and don't want. It's all here: women, money, power, and earthquakes.
Did you produced the new album as well?
Yes. I very much enjoy the process of making records. I love every aspect of it. I find it extremely rewarding. It's what I imagine directing a film would be like. You have a script (or in our case, songs) and a group of actors (or in our case, musicians) who all have fragile egos and are placing their trust in you to come out with something that will make everyone proud. It's my job to figure out the best way to tell the story. Who are we speaking to? What's the best location and backdrop to bring out the performances we need? What is necessary to the movement and flow of the story and what can be left on the cutting room floor? I have to make all of these decisions, navigating all of the tricky psychological terrain of all of the differing personalities involved along the way. And I have to bring the thing in under budget. It's pretty damn challenging. I consider myself a student of the greats that came before me, whether it's Sam Phillips in the 50's with Sun Records (Howlin' Wolf, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, etc.), George Martin with the Beatles, Brian Wilson with the Beach Boys, and all the various writer/producers for Motown in the 60's, Jimmy Page with Led Zeppelin in the 70's, Prince in the 80's, or Brendan O'Brien with Rage Against The Machine and Stone Temple Pilots in the 90's. My hope is that what we are doing now stacks up favorably against any of those records, and will continue to stand up over time. I've recently been asked to produce a recording for an as-yet un-named band currently being formed by Joe Holmes (former Ozzy Osbourne guitarist) and bassist Robert Trujillo (Ozzy, Suicidal Tendencies, Cantrell). I'm very flattered by their invitation. Those guys could certainly get a bigger name producer, but they've obviously heard something in the CWTF albums that they feel is special, something they want for themselves. I take it as further validation.
How was the writing and production process this time around?
FAST, like it always is. I write a lot normally anyway, and this past year there's certainly been no shortage of extraordinary experiences to process. And when it comes to working in the studio, as I think I've already conveyed, I don't like to fool around.
Who influences your guitar playing and what influences your lyrics?
On the guitar-- Hendrix, Greg Ginn (Black Flag), Jimmy Page, Sonic Youth, Peter Townshend, Chris Cornell/Soundgarden, Tom Verlaine (Television), Carlos Santana, Keith Richard, Billy Duffy (the Cult), Stone Temple Pilots, James "Blood" Ulmer, Keith Levene (PiL), Tony Iommi, and The Edge -- just to name a few. Instead of just lyrical influences, I think we should expand this more generally to include songwriting influences as I have a difficult time thinking of lyrics and music as two separate things when I'm writing. My best things tend to drop out of the sky as completed works. They play in my head just like records (that haven't been made yet). Some of my main influences are Lennon/McCartney, Smokey Robinson, PJ Harvey, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Bowie, the Gershwins, Jagger/Richards, Chris Cornell, Gamble&Huff, Hoagy Carmichael, Sam Cooke, Bono/U2, Iggy and the Stooges, Fats Waller, Leiber&Stoller, Marvin Gaye, Otis Blackwell, Brian Wilson, Duke Ellington, Prince, Holland/Dozier/Holland, Chuck Berry, Joni Mitchell, Sting, Astbury/Duffy, and Radiohead. Again, just to name a few.
Do you plan on touring extensively off of this release?
When I saw you guys, you were just a 3 piece and you used to have a second guitarist. What happened to him and are you planning on ever replacing him?
Nico had some personal issues. And road life didn't agree with him. We have no plans to replace him.
Do you feel this album should have what it takes to get you signed and what are you looking for in a label?
We are very wary of major labels and the entire mainstream music industry. We feel no connection with the vast majority of the music they put out and harbor nothing but serious contempt for the way they do business. Their system is wasteful, inefficient, and dishonest. Most of the records they release are left to die on the shelves with no support whatsoever, assuming they see the light of day at all. The label simply writes it off as a tax loss and the band is left high and dry. Too many of the people that work for those corporations are more concerned with charging posh dinners to their expense accounts than with getting serious rock-n-roll to the fans that need it. We see no reason at this point to deal with such people. We can mount a much more effective campaign in the underground. At least we're damn sure going to try. With the help of people like you and the folks that are reading this, we just might succeed.
Tell me about you own label DVL, are there any plans for releases outside of CWTF?
DVL is a label that puts out music for people like myself who don't feel represented in the marketplace by what the major media conglomerates are currently forcing down our throats. I take most of my inspiration from the early rock and punk labels like Sun, SST, Dangerhouse, and Dischord, as well as from jazz musicians like Charles Mingus and Max Roach, who were among the first musicians of any genre to attempt artist-run labels. Right now, as resources and funds are limited, we are mainly concentrating on getting "The Year Is One" out to the public, but once that's accomplished, there's lots of other music I would love to put out. There's a band called Dropsonic from Atlanta that are simply unbelievable, like Led Zeppelin and Radiohead jamming with Sonic Youth. It's reckless, crushing, and utterly visionary. And yet they're just rotting on the vine there, languishing in obscurity. I plan to release a record by them early next year.
Give me some info on your fan club "The Fallen" and your website.
The Fallen club was an idea I had late one night while brainstorming designs for the website. As I said, I write a great deal and this band loves to jam so there's always a surplus of music. We can't possibly fit it all onto the albums but we feel nevertheless that a lot of it is worthwhile. The Fallen provides an outlet for those songs and ideas. Basically, if you email us at email@example.com, you get put on a list to receive links (via email) to download mp3s of all the unreleased music that no-one else gets to hear. And because people have to email us and request to be put on the list, we get to see who the true hardcore CWTF supporters really are. It separates the wheat from the chaff, so to speak. Our website is www.comeswiththefall.com. You can order copies of "The Year Is One" directly from the site. It's safe and secure. We use CCNow, one of the largest, most reputable E-commerce companies, to process our credit card orders. We fill each order ourselves. It's truly DIY at its finest around here.
What can we expect for the future of CWTF?
I see more rock in our future. Every time we set up to play, we put it all on the line. We're a pack of starving wolves and it shows in our music. If you're tired of all the bullshit and want to hear a band that plays for keeps, then the party is over here. Pick up a copy of "The Year Is One." You won't be disappointed. And when we come to your town, be sure to catch the show. If you don't like the way things are, help us change it. It's that simple.