My opinion of Ted Cookerly, vocalist of EDL (Everyday Life), is that he’s a very intelligent guy. He knows enough about this industry to run his own record company or manage twelve other bands at once. He also likes to talk. The interview started with me asking my first question, then him talking for over an hour about various stuff. Our conversation took place right when KMG was purchasing Frontline, EDL’s label.
As we sat out under the heat lamps at a hip coffeehouse in Newport Beach, California, Cookerly recalled catch phrases from the “metal years.” He laughed out loud: “God’s mosh pit”? I haven’t heard that one in years! Remember that “rock the flock” and “jam for the lamb” stuff? Some local magazine actually said some of that stuff about EDL. I couldn’t believe it! I guess everything is basically metal in one form or another.”
Tollbooth: What does the future hold for EDL?
Cookerly: Did you ever play that Kevin Bacon game, where everything goes back to Kevin Bacon in six turns or less? Well, in Christian alternative, everything goes back to Frontline Music in six turns or less. The company just got bought out by a Nashville interest (KMG) and they are totally behind EDL. The next album is going to be huge compared to anything else that we’ve done before. We’re in a unique place.
Tollbooth: Where do you see rap-core going as a style?
Cookerly: Aside from the
fact that POD was doing respectable sales without a label, running that
first album out of their garage and doing the best they could, there wasn’t
a real rap-core scene. EDL came along with national distribution and we
kind of started something. People ask me all the time why we didn’t sign
with Tooth and Nail, but Brandon [Ebel, President] was never really interested.
The feeling was that rap-core was just a fad and when he couldn’t have
POD he decided to not carry any rap-core bands. Now all of a
sudden he’s gone off and signed Blindside, which is OK if you want a band that will never play Orange County. Metro One just signed Spoken and Sublime signed Silage and now Silvertone is bidding seriously for POD, which would be totally great for them.
We’re in a fourth generation Christian music scene now: it was Crucified for ’91, ’92 was Focused, and ’93 was like, whatever. ’94 was Plankeye, ‘95 & ‘96 was the Supertones--we’ve gone a whole revolution of extremes in Christian music. It’s pretty odd. I think that no one really knows where it’s going because Christian music tends to wait to see what the rest of the industry will do first and then follow their lead. I always thought that Prodigal Sons were a band that got caught in that cycle. When they first came out people said, “You can’t have Christian techno, you can’t have Christian raves,” and then they were gone. They ended up getting more interest in the secular market than in the Christian Market and by the time we noticed them, they’d burned themselves out and they were done. Even with Michael Black working for them, a good budget, respectable music, and a killer live show, they couldn’t break out. To answer your question, then, I have no idea where rap-core is going.
Tollbooth: Do you feel that rap-core is more alternative or more metal?
Cookerly: It’s so foundational and so alternative and nobody sees that. There’s no more metal anymore, it’s just “heavy,” like Stavesacre . It’s just sung over, rapped over, or screamed over….maybe it has horns in it or not. I keep wondering what to do with the new record. We’re about to get a big push from our new record label that will make this next record seem like the first one we’ve ever done.
Tollbooth: Are you confident in your new label arrangement?
Cookerly: EDL is very industry-minded.When we look at a contract, we know what we’re looking at. So I called them on something and I pinned them down on where we stood. I said, “I know you picked up Frontline because of the substantial back-catalog. There are some great records in there, so it makes sense, but what are you going to do with EDL’s third record?” They assured me that they loved our band and they were serious about the third record and even about re-signing us directly after our contract is up.
Tollbooth: Will you re-sign with KMG if they do something great with their first EDL project?
Cookerly: That’s hard to say. When we first signed, six months later our label was inept. But we kept playing and touring anyway. We sat through five different offers before we signed with Frontline in the beginning, even though most young bands jump at the first one to come along. It’s so depressing to see so many young bands get signed too young and break up after the first or second record. If the punk industry were smart, more bands like Ghoti Hook would be signed and funded to the max.
Tollbooth: What about the violence at your shows? Do you attract a largely male, testosterone-driven audience?
Cookerly: Well, it’s not unusual to see broken arms and legs at one of our shows--it’s our normal vibe anyway. But on the next record we’re going to try to aim at more of a female-friendly vibe too. I get a ton of letters from twelve and thirteen year-old girls who come to our shows. Something we sing about speaks to them. It’s so rad.
Tollbooth: What about a new tour?
Cookerly: Since we’re basically
independent, the thought of being on the road in the snow somewhere in
Illinois with a busted van and knowing that we’ve got to fix it and we’ve
got to get ourselves back home is too much. Right now we are able to functionally
play local shows and turn a nice profit. With the next record, we’re looking
forward to putting on the “really big show,” with more props and lights;
really make it like worth your seven dollars. I think we’ve been doing
that anyway but I’d like to make it better visually and more
Tollbooth: Explain the lyrics to “Pushing.” What’s that about?
Cookerly: There’s a band
that Carl and I are really into called Siv, a New York hardcore band. They
had a song, “Soundtrack for Violence,” I think. It was saying, “Don’t come
to my show, don’t get in my face, if you came to start something or throw
fists, go home.” While we were driving in the car one day, Carl says to
me, “This rap-core industry doesn’t have a fight song,” so we decided to
write one. It’s sort of our mission statement: you mess us, you mess with
our God, forget it, we don’t have to put up with it; leave. Since the
song just hit #1 on the Pure Rock Report, we’re taking a lot of flack for it. I’m just glad we finally beat Tourniquet because “Crawl to China” has been on there forever! Our song gives people a chance to take some pride. To say, “ those are my friends, this is my music, this is my God, and if you don’t like, too bad. If it’s prideful I’d have to say it’s just prideful but I just think it’s really cool that we’re giving the crowd a unity kind of thing. Of course,
there’s the whole “turn the other cheek thing” and there’s not a lot I can do about it. I mean what about “Jesus saw what a mockery was going on in his Father’s temple and went over and knocked stuff over? Scripturally, I think it can go a lot of ways, but we want it to be known that we’re very proud of the Lord we serve and our fans.”
Tollbooth: Is it fair to say that EDL is an angry band or an issues band?
Cookerly: By the time the first record came out, we’d pretty much played out all of the anger and angst. The record company said the same thing too, so we tried to expand on American Standard. With the next record, I think you’ll see, again, another step towards defining what rap-core really is.
The hostilities and the emotions change day to day and show to show. Depending on how I’m feeling or how Carl is playing, the end result of what may have happened five minutes or a week from the point of which it’s being portrayed, I think this new record is much more intelligent. The last record was all about angst the “forget you, I’ve got my own agenda” thing. American Standard is more about the unity thing and, “Hey, we care.” In working with Mike Knott, we took a chance to sit back and define just what a rap-core song really is.
Tollbooth - Would you say that American Standard was more of an industry record than Disgruntled was?
Cookerly - Respectfully, American Standard was dumbed down. Not the band, they actually stepped up a little, but lyrically, I dumbed down a notch. There are songs like “Ten Little Indians.”, That chorus is absurd. That is one of the most redundant things I’ve ever heard in my life. If I had heard another band do that, I’d have been disgusted. When I was writing it for the album, it made sense.
One of the luxuries of the record company is that they can give us that freedom to wait until we write an album’s worth of really great stuff. When they can say, “You’ve got four good songs here, why don’t you wait until you’ve got six or seven more and if it takes another six months, that’s ok.” It really helps to be able to hone in on who you are. I think that’s why a lot of Alarma artists transcended the ‘sophomore jinx’ because they were given the chance to define themselves.
Tollbooth - Do you find more inspiration from Christian or secular music?
Cookerly - I am a Christian music fan, though I probably buy one Christian CD for every six I purchase. That’s just my own choice. The last Christian CD I bought was Dear Ephesus. What an incredible record! But I’m afraid nobody will get it. It should sell around thirty thousand units but it will probably be lucky to do four thousand. It’s so high-bred and ahead of the time that by their second or third record people will probably go back and buy the first one because they’ll “get it” later.
Tollbooth - Where do you think Christian music is going?
Cookerly - Back in the day, in ’88 and ’89, when we first played with the Supertones, we would still go to Fishbone and Untouchables shows. Ska started a long time ago and just recently caught on with the industry. People went from metal and heavy into early grunge which was sort of a cool-down period. Then came three-chord punk which was almost poppy and good time then came ska which is all about fun. Heavy is coming back. The underground thing seems to be back into heavy bands again.
Tollbooth - Explain the song “Ten Little Indians” for me, what’s your message there?
If you’re a new Christian
and you’re excited about it and you want to share your faith and this guy
says to you “what religion are you?” and you say, “I’m a Christian,” and
he says, “Ok, I’m a native American and your ancestors killed my family”
and they’re learning this in seventh grade. Our Christian forefathers participated
in a full-on genocide of peoples and it is absurd to me that my family
and anyone’s family who can trace their ancestry to colonial America are
straight murderers and I had to get that off my chest. There needs
to be this level of repentance. America had to apologize for slavery. I can’t do anything about it now, but if I could, I would have. We need to move on, yes, but it has to begin with the shaking of hands.
Tollbooth - What do you hope to accomplish with that song?
Cookerly I suspect we might release it as a single. Not to see if it can chart high, but just to stir people up out there and make them upset that it’s even being played on the radio. If that happens, the song is doing its job. Like the Disgruntled cover. Every time you pull it out you should say, “I don’t like what I’m looking at,” and the reason it’s disturbing is the reason I’m drawn to it.
Tollbooth - Is there anything out of bounds for an EDL song?
Cookerly - There are a lot of different avenues that we could go with the new record, but we might not.
Tollbooth - Is EDL planning to stick around a few years then?
Cookerly - We’re not going
anywhere, we really aren’t. We didn’t come into this with the idea that
we were going to bang out a few albums and then go back to college and
try to make a real career for ourselves. This is a love which is easy to
say, but like last Friday night, we were supposed to play an industry show
in Orange County and our bass player, 22 years old, had a heart attack.
Then the next morning has another one. So, you can say to yourself, “the
band that sticks together stays together,” but what are you supposed to
do when God plays a trump card you never expected? You don’t expect the
most aggressive alternative pop-core band ever to turn around and say;
“Our bassist had a
heart attack.” But that’s one of the curves that comes along when you sign that legally binding record contract that says you will put out those five albums no matter what it takes.
Tollbooth - Are there certain bands that you feel are foundational for you and EDL?
Cookerly - The Crucified
were the godfathers of Christian rock for us.The Altar Boys, Nobody Special,
Crashdog, The Crucified, those guys were foundational to what’s going on
now. Back when Christian music first started it was about issues. The lyrics
in Rez Band and Undercover and Steve Taylor were about issues and then
we got into this whole “Jesus is Lord and it’s cool to be saved” stuff,
which is cool, but, so what? We’ve got youth pastors saying, “Hey, don’t
scream so much, don’t sing about sexual abuse, and just sing about how
Jesus is the King of Kings and I could recommend your band to my group.”
And that’s ok, he’s looking out for his kids, that’s cool. But at the same time, there is a girl in that youth group who has been abused, who maybe has been raped, and we need to talk about that. We’re constantly graded as a band by how often we use the name “Jesus” in our lyrics or if we thank God in the credits or not. But, hey, Snoop Doggy Dog thanks God on his record, so is he a good role model and we’re not?
Tollbooth -Do you see EDL
as more of a “Christian band” or are you more focused
in the mainstream?
Cookerly - It still surprises me that our records sell in the Christian market. We really don’t write our music for Christians but for the non-Christian audience. We have to maintain a level of competition with other bands in Orange County that people in Indiana wouldn’t understand, but we do. I’m always thankful that when we play Creation Fest the kids know our lyrics, but I feel that we have no business being there.
Tollbooth - When you say that you write for a secular audience, what do you mean? Your records are only available in Christian bookstores.
Cookerly - What we try to
do is bring on a message that has a legitimacy that all audiences can identify
with. Even if they don’t give a rip about our Christianity, we can connect
with people. Like the Aquabats are a Mormon ska band that I respect because
they refrained from doing a radio show about sex like “Love Line” because
it went against their beliefs. Like, we have strippers at our shows when
we play with secular bands that come up to us and say that they understand
our songs and that we connected with them. That’s not kudos to us that
we’re writing stuff that’s so general, it’s kudos to the fact that, by
the grace of God, I can write a lyric that is universal and make a connection.
I’m not selling out but there are certain ways of being focused in what
you do. Some people will understand and some will not.