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July 5, 2002
2002 Cornerstone Festival
by Trae Cadenhead
On Friday, day three of Cornerstone, Tourniquet arrived. Lead vocalist Luke Easter agreed to do an interview. We found some shade and began.
Cadenhead: I just started listening to Tourniquet about three years ago with the Crawl to China CD. Since I’m nineteen, I obviously wasn’t into the whole metal thing when I first started listening to music. After I heard Crawl to China, I got Microscopic View and then started going back to the older CD’s. So for younger people who might be interested, let’s talk about the history of Tourniquet. How long has Tourniquet been around?
Easter: Since 1990 when we released Stop the Bleeding on Intense Records.
Cadenhead: How did the band begin?
Easter: Ted Kirkpatrick, Gary Lenaire, and Guy Ritter started demoing some songs. They passed them around and Frontline picked them up and the rest is history.
Cadenhead: Since then what kind of changes have come about?
Easter: Obviously we’ve had personnel changes. The only original member from 1990 is Ted. I’ve been with the band since ’93. Aaron’s been with us since ’94. Being in a band is like a job. It’s like any other job and you’re not always going to work with the same people. In a Christian band it’s a little bit more so because hopefully you’re being true to what God would have you do. Just because you’re doing something today doesn’t mean that’s what He will have you doing a year from now. For a whole lot of reasons we’ve had people come through the band and keep moving. It hasn’t always been pleasant, but it’s what needed to happen. We’ve had a solid lineup of Ted, Aaron, and I since ’96.
Cadenhead: Six years is really a good stint.
Easter: In band time that’s huge. We get along really well. We work well together live and in the studio. Just about two years ago we added Steve Andino on bass. He hasn’t played anything in the studio with us yet, but he adds a lot to the live show and we like having him and we plan on keeping him around.
Cadenhead: Who writes the songs.
Easter: Ted writes most of the songs. I write some of them. The last two albums Aaron and I have written three on each. We’ll do at least three, maybe more, for the next album.
Cadenhead: What influences your songwriting lyrically?
Easter: I can’t speak for Ted. For me, a lot of it is an issue that will capture my attention or just a personal experience will affect me in such a way that I can write something about it. I’m not one of those prolific people that have like nine hundred songs sitting around in a notebook somewhere. I have to work at it. I don’t know how good I am at it, but I’m fortunate enough to have a platform that when I do want to say something I’m able to make my statement.
Cadenhead: Whenever you play songs in concert from the older era is it kind of difficult to get into character for that? I know Guy Ritter had a totally different voice.
Easter: I don’t try to copy what Guy did. Obviously there are certain things in the songs that people want to hear and I try to give them that, but at the same time I try to put my spin on it. Guy was in the band for about two and a half years. I’ve been in the band for nine years. They’re my songs now. I hate to put it like that, that’s going to sound cocky, but I’ve been doing them longer than he has and I think I’m more comfortable with them than he ever got a chance to be. Whether or not I sound like Guy or whether Aaron’s playing sounds like Gary’s I really don’t think has any relevance. We are Tourniquet. Tourniquet is the three of us now; four of us counting Steve, and this is how we do the songs. We really don’t get any complaints and we’re happy with it. Live doesn’t sound like a record anyway. Live is live. So, we don’t worry about it too much. We just go for it.
Cadenhead: Who do you feel is the main audience that your songs are pointed toward?
Easter: I don’t really think in those terms when we’re making a record. We want everyone to hear us, really. Just judging by our mail and stuff, there’s a lot of church kids that don’t relate to the “safe” youth group type bands. There are a lot of kids that want a little more depth artistically to the music that they listen to. We get a lot of secular people who just respect our musicianship and just how heavy we can be. People that like interesting, thought provoking music that isn’t quite what you’d call normal generally seem to like Tourniquet, regardless of age or walk of life or anything. We get a wide cross section of people.
Cadenhead: A lot of your songs have strong thoughts on certain issues. Is there a certain issue that you and the band are particularly passionate about right now?
Easter: Obviously current events. Everything post 9/11 has made us more aware. Speaking for myself, I’m very aware of how apathetic we’ve become as a nation as far as being passionate and being proud of who we are as Americans and our place in the world. I think we’ve become way too politically correct and we’re already starting to forget about September 11th and fall back into those patterns. Speaking for myself, that’s something that I’m really aware of right now. I guess passionate is a word for it, but it’s not like I’m running around trying to convert people to be more patriotic. I’ve been guilty of it myself of being really apathetic and not really caring. The last ten or fifteen years it’s just been really easy to let yourself get really cynical.
It’s been relatively peaceful for us and we’ve seen a lot of corruption. It’s been really easy to just sit back and say, “Well this stinks” and blame everyone for everything. The bottom line is that if we would sit back for a second and rethink things and remember where we came from and what people went through to make this nation possible but take it for granted and started enforcing laws and living up to the legacy that’s been left us by the ones that fought, I think you’d see a lot of things change. For me that’s something that I think about a lot right now.
Cadenhead: Changing gears, the Microscopic View album seemed to be getting back to some of the sounds of Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance. Was that an intentional decision or did it just happen naturally?
Easter: It wasn’t a conscious thing to say let’s do a Pathogenic type of record. Stop the Bleeding was heavy. Psycho Surgery was heavier. Pathogenic was just ridiculously, brutal heavy and when I got in the band it wanted to take a little bit different direction. There’s just some things vocally that I can do that weren’t possible when Guy Ritter was singing and they wanted to explore that a little bit. Vanishing Lessons was the result of that. We followed that up with Carry the Wounded, which to some extent was an extension of Vanishing Lessons.
From that we did Crawl to China. It’s not like we sit down and go, “okay we’re going to make a commercial record this time and we’re going to make an acoustic record next time.” With Microscopic we basically said, “It’s time. Let’s make a really heavy record.” Whether it was anything like Pathogenic or not never entered into it. This is the kind of stuff we’re coming up with and this is where our heads are at and let’s just make a really heavy record.
Cadenhead: Crawl to China took a rather dramatic turn from the direction the band had been going.
Easter: People say that, but I don’t see it. I know it’s different, but I don’t think it’s any less heavy. Texturally it’s a lot different from the other records. On Microscopic, there’s one or two rhythm guitar sounds and one main lead guitar sound so the record is very cohesive sonically whereas Crawl to China has different guitar sounds on every song. Even within some of the songs there are more guitar sounds. We just wanted to stretch out a little bit. A song like “Enveloped in Python” is no less heavy than a song like “Vanishing Lessons” or “Phantom Limb.” I think “Enveloped in Python” would have fit on an album like Pathogenic right alongside something like “Phantom Limb.” I think the fact that we had a ballad like “If I Was There” made a lot of people think we were selling out.
There seems to be a misconception that because we were with a Nashville label at the time that we were pressured to make that record and I’ll just set the record straight: Tourniquet is not corporate like that. Tourniquet makes the records Tourniquet wants to make and we’ve worked very hard to get to a place in our career that our label trusts us to know what our fans want and to make the record that best represents Tourniquet at the time. I think Crawl to China is a really good album. I’m very proud of it and yeah it does have a lot of different sounds, but it’s still heavy. It’s like the rest of our records. It’s got dynamic. It starts off jazzy, then it’s kind of pop-rockish, then it’s heavy with “Enveloped in Python,” then it gets reflective with “If I Was There.” You’ve got punk on there with “Tire Kicking.” You’ve got ‘80s metal with “Proprioception.” It’s all over the map just like the rest of our records. We make the records we want to make and we make no apologies for Crawl to China.
Cadenhead: Which album would you recommend to someone who has never heard Tourniquet?
Easter: All of them. Collected Works. It’s a good cross section of everything. It’s a good representation of everything we had been up to that point and at the same time provides a glimpse at where we’ve gone since and where we’re still heading.
Cadenhead: Which of the Tourniquet records is your favorite?
Easter: That’s like asking somebody what’s their favorite kid. Of the first three that I wasn’t on, Pathogenic. Of the ones that I’ve done I can’t pick a favorite. I love them all for different reasons and I love them all just as much.
Cadenhead: At this point what’s the overall goal for Tourniquet’s future?
Easter: Keep making records and keep being open to where God leads us and what He has for us to do and say and just be faithful to that. Everything else is gravy. I could say that we’d like to play Ozzfest and be on the cover of Rolling Stone and change the world. But rock and roll doesn’t change the world and people don’t change the world. God changes the world. We’ve been successful because we’ve kept our goals realistic and we’ve done our best to be good stewards of what God has provided us with. We’ve done our best to do and say what He would have us do and say. We’ve seen a lot of bands come and go over the last twelve years, but for whatever reason people are still interested in what we have to say. We don’t take that for granted. Until God makes it absolutely clear that our time is done, we’re just going to keep doing it the best we can.
Cadenhead: Why hasn’t the band been traveling as much lately?
Easter: Touring is expensive and we all have wives and obligations. I think if we were all ten years younger and single, we’d probably do like we used to do and rent a van or RV and leave home for six or eight weeks. It’s a two-edged thing. If you want to stay visible you have to tour, but if you want to tour you need to make money. Unless you’re touring on a big bill, you don’t make a lot of money. It’s a vicious cycle. We have chosen to play fewer dates and be more selective in playing more visible dates and it seems to work for us. We haven’t been playing as much this last year, but we have been preparing the new record. It’s taken us a little longer than we had anticipated, but that’s been our focus. I think you’ll probably see us out more in the next year or so once the new record comes out.
Cadenhead: When is the new album going to be released?
Easter: We’re going to start working on it in the fall and we’re shooting for a spring release.
Cadenhead: What can be expected from the new album?
Easter: Really heavy stuff. Just the little bits and pieces that Ted has told me about, it’s going to be the most complicated drumming you’ve ever heard on a Tourniquet record. There are riffs that I have no idea how Ted can play them, let alone how he’s going to teach them to Aaron. More of the same, but like every other Tourniquet record it will be different. But it will be the same and familiar but surprising all at the same time.
Trae: How has your music been accepted in the secular market with your contract with Metal Blade?
Easter: We’ve been fortunate even before we were signed outright to Metal Blade. We’ve always had pretty good acceptance in the secular marketplace. Psycho Surgery and Pathogenic were both licensed to Metal Blade through Frontline and they sold reasonably well. They sold well enough that when we started talking to Metal Blade about signing outright they were more than willing to form that relationship. It’s like everything else. Some people love it, some people hate it. We get good reviews in the secular market; we get bad reviews in the secular market. Same thing in the Christian market. We find that they respect us because they see that this is real to us. It’s not a gimmick.
Easter: Do you think you find more acceptance in the Christian market or in the secular market?
Easter: The secular market.
Cadenhead: Is there still a lot of opposition in the church?
Easter: It depends. Some people are still just adamant that there’s no way we can be Christian. “Look at that album cover, listen to that riff.” Grow up. “Besprinkled” from Microscopic talks about how Bach was fired from his job as a church composer because they thought that his stuff was too minor. They didn’t like the fact that it was [in a] minor key and it sounded kind of dark and foreboding. Therefore it couldn’t really be to the glory of God, so they sacked him. Here we are a couple hundred years later and he’s revered as one of the great classical composers. Not that we’re in that league by any means, but people are applying the same criteria in certain circles that they did in Bach’s time and it’s arbitrary and random. They don’t bother looking below the surface and they write us off.
Cadenhead: Is there anything you would like to add?
Easter: I’d just like to
thank everyone for sticking with us and believing in us and liking us enough
to provide us with the opportunity to keep doing what we do.