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…and You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead – The Century Of Self (Justice)

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andyouwillknowusbythetrailofdead

…And You Will Know US By The Trail Of Dead
The Century Of Self
Justice

Sometimes the very relationships that are supposed to nurture and inspire us to new heights are the very same that keep you trapped in a quagmire of frustration and resentment. Since the critical pinnacle of ‘Source, Tags and Codes’ in 2002 this has been a fair assessment of the feelings between …Trail of Dead and their ex label Interscope. This push me pull you confrontation ended in 2007 when the band finally cut off their association with Interscope off at the head and embarked into a brave new contractless world, with galvanising effect.
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And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

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Trail Of Deads Conrad Keeley holds court on supporting Nu-metal super groups as art band suicide and going back to noise.

This interview originally appeared on http://www.subba-cultcha.com.

That was the low point, that was the bottom. That tour was the worst point…not the other band, but just the whole set up and that scene.” Conrad Keeley notes, and for a moment he sounds simultaneously broken and enraged.

When AYWKUBTTOD walked onto stage supporting Audioslave at the Brixton Academy, the last time I managed to catch them in the UK, the atmosphere was one of abject disinterest from the crowd and seeming guttural loathing from the band themselves. They played three songs, destroyed two drum kits and departed to muted mumblings as people pondered if wed hear Killing In The Name Of later on that night. Ask Conrad Keeley about whether or not he fell out of love with touring and he pinpoints that tour, and possibly purely for my benefit that show, as the lowest ebb for the art-school Texans. “Its just incredibly hard and depressing playing to other peoples crowds like that, that whole nu-metal scene, when they really just dont care.” He notes.

If the band themselves were losing faith, there hasnt been a flood of support sweeping in from fans and critics alike. With new album So Divided, Trail Of Dead have been discovering that a lot of people do careand they are certainly not afraid to let the world know their feelings. Following up albums many people regard as perfect, such as Worlds Apart and Source Tags & Codes, was never likely to be easy and So Divided is a crossroads album, a sprawling mass of ideas with little focus and moments of clarity diluted amongst a sea of tangents. It would be a difficult album to digest at the best of times, and the reaction has been polarised from high praise to death threats and message boards littered with pleas to disband for fear of tarnishing the legacy that many hold so dear. “This record there were no constraints. It was about an exploration of our own musicality“. Did adverse press following their last tours contribute to this sense of freedom? “Definitely, its fairly liberating, were definitely in a position now where were free of any expectation” decides Conrad, chuckling, ” that said, we wont ever make a record like that again.”

Trail Of Dead are one of that most rare species, a band lauded and courted by the weekly British music press, who have survived and produced what can now genuinely deserve the title “body of work”. In the early days these low slung lone star boys were pursued across the country by journalists baying for every hurled drumstick and every launched cymbal. They were tracked down by one enthusiastic mags dogged reporter to Mexico where the entire party promptly got arrested, whilst all the while column inches piled up fueling the theater of the absurd that surrounds each and every great white hope. Conrad is famously dismissive of the press, but its not lost on him that they have been through that next big thing cover star stage. “I really don’t pay that much attention, you cant believe it all. There are some bands, who buy into it all, and its interesting when it happens to you, but ultimately its all bullshit, people go back to records not reviews.”

Scanning back through Trail of Deads press, album booklets and various musings it seems that there was a natural progression to this point. In his infamous essay, “Death Of The Enlightened Amateur”, Conrad launched attack modern sounds, saying that society had lost its pure tones. Would it fit then that rather than mellowing, or selling-out as its so often called, Trail Of Dead are simply searching for their own pure tones? I ask Conrad if each album is a progression, if theres a destination they are seeking the path to, and if so to get there so you start with a blank slate or do you refer back? Conrad; “I never really listen back to our old records, certainly not when we go into a new one. Only really if we have to teach a new guy the parts. But I wouldnt have too. Its like the fact I have every single sound the Beatles ever put on tape stored in my brain.when you tour though and you play songs again and again, they evolve, and I think its there that the ideas for a new record form. I mean I already have the next record in my head

This tour has seen them accompanied by the divine Forget Cassettes, a band they gave a first tour to way back when, I wonder how they get exposed to new bands these days, do they still go out looking for new music or does so much come their way have they become detached. “We get exposed to a lot of really cool bands, theres always good bands locally, so I dont think you ever stop finding new things, but as far as Forget Cassettes are concerned weve known them for ages.” It follows on from a tour of the States with avant-hardcore experimentalists Blood Brothers. Its a tour that has sparked off something in Conrad that he hopes to carry over into the next record. “That tour gave me a lot of ideas, watching them. Ive already thought about the next record and its going to be more of a noise record definitely.” Something which will no doubt please those who hold a flame for Madonna era guitar sling fests. “The next record will have a lot more focus; I don’t think we’d make a record like that (So Divided) again.”

Focus is the key word now, despite the wave of derision for the So Divided, reviews of the live shows have been centred around how tight the band are, how driven. It would seem that time on the road with Blood Brothers has done them the power of good. Conrad sounds hungry again…maybe even happy. I recount a tale from the dark past in Leeds when he drew flowers for fans and generally held court. “Actually theres been a lot of art shared with fans this tour, thats been cool.” Another aspect of So Divided that seems uncharacteristically sprawling is the artwork. In the past Conrad been a little dictator to his themes and images. “Especially on Worlds Apart every page had a specific image relating to the song or lyric it appeared with. With So Divided its a bit more art for arts sake, the artwork wasnt as intertwined with the music as it has been previously“. So it would seem that Trail Of Dead have turned a corner, theres been something of a wake up call, its all about the future now, the touring, the next record. New beginnings, which is apt as Conrad has just successfully completed his house hunting, plumping for some prime Brooklyn real estate. With stage time approaching thoughts again turn to touring. Is there anywhere you want to play or anywhere youve played that really shocked you, either because of the crowd or the place? “Moscow was amazing; it was amazing that theyd even heard of usId love to play Thailand, because of family. Weve never played Hawaii actually, so we want to play out thereand do some recording there.” Muses Conrad, and with that he has to depart leaving thoughts of an impending luau noise album!

Written by Jonathan

June 29, 2008 at 1:16 am