by Derric Miller
– Managing Editor –
Hot on the heels of Teenage Casket Company’s new release, Still Standing, lead singer/guitarist Rob Wylde checked in with Hardrock Haven to talk about why they are still standing; new changes to the band; how his real life experiences influenced the songs on the new album; why an ex should never, ever leave a vitriolic voice mail because it might end up on a song; and a lot more. Read everything you need to know about Teenage Casket Company right here, and pick up Still Standing if you haven’t already.
Hardrock Haven: New album is finally out, after an almost seven-year hiatus. A lot can happen in seven years … can you tell us why it such a span of time occurred between Eat Your Heart Outand the new release, Still Standing?
Rob Wylde: Well we put Eat Your Heart Out in 2006 and hit the road, hard! We played about 150 shows in 2006 which is crazy, especially for a band with no record deal/ management and that continued throughout 2007. Between 2004 – 2007 we were just relentless. The band became a 24/7 job that came before everything and everyone else in our lives including day jobs, girlfriends, you name it, and eventually we just kinda hit that proverbial wall. We finished up a tour at the end of 2007 and had no idea where to go next. We’d exhausted the touring thing and had no more money to fund the next album. We were just exhausted mentally and physically so we kinda went on hiatus. Rather than breaking up the band, which seemed on the cards at the time, we decided to just all go and do our own things for a while and regroup as and when the time was right. So we took the whole of 2008 off. Jamie, Laney and Spike started playing in various bands and I moved to the States and formed Sins Of America. We regrouped in 2009 for a short tour which went well, then followed that up with a handful more dates in the UK and that’s when things really went downhill with Jamie. Tensions had been riding high between me and him for a while and things just exploded during those dates. I could go into the gory details about that, but I won’t. Let’s just say things didn’t work out and he left the band in September 2009. A couple of months later we released the “Best Friend Is My Radio” single and played some shows as a three piece before I returned to the States. Things didn’t work out there, so I returned to the UK for good in late 2010. That’s when we picked up the pieces and started doing TCC full time again … we did a couple of tours and played regularly during that period. On Valentine’s Day 2012 we released the “Without You” single and video, then I got to work writing what would become this album.
HRH: I love the line “cuz when I’m on my knees I’ll still stand my ground” on the title track. Can you give a little insight into the writing of this track, “Still Standing,” and why you titled the album after it?
Wylde: I actually had the album title long before I wrote the song. I just thought that it really summed up everything about TCC perfectly and also all the shit we’d been through. We’re still here and we ain’t going away. It was actually the last song I wrote for this album. It’s all about getting up no matter how many times you get knocked down, about fighting for what you want and never giving in. It was also a big fat fuck you to a few people who shall remain nameless.
HRH: You and I have shared some similar stories/laughs about our personal lives, namely, divorce. That just leads to the songs “Make It Through the Night” and “Dead in America,” perhaps even “Takes a Little Time” and “(You Only Love Me) When You Hate Me.” Another great title would be “You’re Only Happy When You’re Unhappy.” Save that for the next album! Anyway … you put yourself out there on “Make It Through the Night,” sort of an intimate look at love gone awry. Can you talk about the writing of that composition, and also, if you want to talk about the “farewell gift” you left in the song “Dead in America” then please do! (I also think “Dead in America” is the heaviest thing TCC has ever recorded.)
Wylde: “Make It Through The Night” is probably my favorite song on the album. Mainly because it’s so personal to me. I wrote that when I was in the depths of hell and in a very, very dark place in my life. I was angry, upset, heartbroken, confused. I also felt like a failure and was just so lost. They always say that’s when you write your best songs and whoever said that certainly wasn’t wrong. I came up with the music first, then the words just kinda poured out of me without really thinking about them. It was as if everything that I’d been feeling and bottling up deep inside of me just found their way onto the paper, and I kinda felt relieved after it was written, as though I was putting all those feelings out there to the world and letting them go. Since the album’s been out, I’ve had a few nice texts and emails from people saying really nice things about that song. A couple of them saying that they’d cried when they first heard it and that really is the best compliment anyone can pay. I think maybe because they have gone through a similar thing at some point in their lives and they can relate it to themselves. I really opened myself up on that one and that’s probably the most honest, sincere, straight from the heart song I’ve ever written and I’m very proud of it.
“Dead In America” was the complete opposite side of the coin. There’s a lot of anger in that song and it’s cool you picked up on that. The voice mail thing after the solo is funny. When everything was going wrong with my ex-wife, she would constantly call me and leave vile messages on my phone. Just the worst, nastiest shit you’ve ever heard in your life, so after a while I started to record them. I have a CD full of them! Anyway, whilst we were recording the track there was a big open space after the solo that was crying out for something to be added and that’s when I thought of the voice mail recordings. I went home and listened through them. We needed something that was about twenty seconds long and most of them were long winded rants apart from the one we used. I brought it into the studio the next day and it literally fit that part to the last second. We didn’t have to edit it or anything, it fit perfectly. So in the end, she was useful for something! I hope she hears it.
HRH: There’s a couple songs that have been on prior releases, “Best Friend is My Radio” and a remake of “Believe in You 2013.” Why did the band decide to include those two prior releases on the new album?
Wylde: Mainly because we only did a small run of physical copies of “Best Friend Is My Radio” when it was released. It’s a firm favorite in the live set and we just wanted to make sure it got the exposure it deserved. “Believe In You” is a bonus track only available on the physical copy of the album. We wanted to encourage people to buy the physical copy which we realize is a dying art these days what with downloads and everything, but hopefully this will be an added incentive for people buy the real thing.
HRH: Anyone with the ability to hear is a Butch Walker fan, or they damn well better be anyway. How did the Butch Walker/Erik Turner penned track “Girl” end up being recorded for Still Standing?
Wylde: I went out to the States in early 2007 to play some solo acoustic shows and whilst I was out there I became friends with Erik. Initially he just emailed me out of the blue saying that he had our album Dial It Up and that he really liked it. I was floored as I’m a huge Warrant fan and was totally stoked that he liked it. I emailed him back to say thanks, then we spoke on the phone a few times. He asked me what we were up to, and at the time, the plan was to record a new album later that year (which didn’t end up happening). He said he had a few songs he’d like to send me, so he sent over about five tracks, one of them being “Girl”. As soon as I heard it I knew it was right for us as it kinda had a TCC vibe going on anyway and sounded like the stuff I was writing at the time. I sent it to the rest of the guys in TCC and they liked the idea too. I hung out with Erik a few times at Warrant shows and told him that we planned to record a version of that song and he was all for it. That’s when he told me that he’d co-written it with Butch Walker around 92/93. I’m not sure whether it was going to be used for a Warrant record or Southgang record but Jesse Harte from Southgang sang on the original demo.
HRH: “Girl” is a perfect fit to the album. How close did you stay to the original or did you put sort of a TCC spin on the track?
Wylde: It was only when we were half way through recording Still Standing that I thought about the song and put it to the guys who thought it was a great idea. We rehearsed it up and recorded it in no time. It’s pretty similar to the original demo. We just altered the key and added a few small parts here and there but it’s still pretty close to the original demo. We figured that having two big powerhouse names on the album couldn’t hurt.
HRH: I know the band uses the word “defiant” to describe the new album but I also think it’s extremely uplifting at times, especially with songs like “First Night of Your Life” and “Kings of the World.” Maybe you aren’t as jaded as you think, Rob!
Wylde: Ha ha I hope not. In all honesty, I’m really comfortable with where I’m at these days. Of course I still get pissed off that we’re not signed to a nice big label and touring the world, which I truly believe we deserve to be, especially when so much shit gets acknowledged and we don’t, but there’s no point wasting time worrying about it because that won’t change anything. You’ve just got to do the absolute best you can, write the best songs, be the best band and work as hard as you can and whatever is or isn’t going to happen is really out of my hands. It used to eat away at me years ago, but I’ve learned to let it go and to just try and have a glass half full mentality. Songs like “First Night Of Your Life” are the result. At the end of the day no one knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, good or bad. You’ve just got to stay positive.
HRH: The band used to be a four piece, and then TCC toured as a trio for a while, and now you have a new guitarist, Dave Kerr, who will be actively touring with the band. Where did Kerr come from and how does his style fit into the TCC overall sound?
Wylde: We’ve known Dave for years as his band Silverjet have been around about the same length of time as TCC. We played many shows together back in the day and when we were thinking of guys to get in the band, he was just the obvious choice. He’s a great guitarist with a great voice, he looks cool and more than any of that, he is just the nicest guy on the planet with a great attitude. He’s breathed so much life back into this band as a live unit and has brought back all the fun of playing live. He’s got his own unique style both as a guitarist and a singer and it meshes so well with what we are doing. He’s just the perfect fit, simple as that. The album was pretty much done when he joined the band but we wanted to get him on there somehow, so he plays lead guitar on “Kings Of The World.” He’s a full time member now and will obviously be playing on everything we do from here on.
HRH: Speaking of tours, now that the new album is ready to fly, do you have any tours in the works?
Wylde: We have a few shows lined up for October including a couple of acoustic shows with Johnny Lima. We also have a few dates lined up for December then we’re gonna really hit it next year. It’s tough to get really good tours these days. Most good ones require you to buy on them which is hard when there’s no record label to pay for it, but that’s certainly what we’ll be looking to do somehow next year. We just need exposure. The songs are there, as has been proven on this album, and the live show is better than ever, so all we need is to just get into people’s faces. America has also been talked about, so we’ll see.
HRH: You know, I got a little nervous when I saw the promo shot of the band … Laney got all mature and cut his long hair, and Spike is now … let’s call it REALLY clean shaven. But the sound is all that matters, and I think anyone who liked the band’s music in the past is going to love Still Standing, and so will those who haven’t heard your music yet. So, is there anything I left out that you’d like to leave with our Hardrock Haven faithful?
Wylde: I’d just like to say thanks so much for your continued support of our band. You’ve been with us since Dial It Up in 2005 and it means the world to us that you’re still digging it more than ever in 2013. To anyone who hasn’t heard the album yet, please give it a go. I know you won’t be disappointed! It’s available to order right here;
www.teenagecasketcompany.co.uk or via ITunes, CD Baby, Amazon.