Exclusive interview for hellfest.fr: WALLS OF JERICHO [Dustin Schoenhofer (drums) and Candace Kucsulain (vocals)]
“It’s an honour to be part of the festival no matter what” – Candace Kucsulain – Sunday 19 June 2016
How has your day been so far?
Dustin: It’s been great. We love coming here.
And what have you been up too?
Dustin: I drank some coffee, got some new Dr Marten’s…
Candace: Yeah, we went to the Dr Marten’s store!
Dustin: Drank some more coffee, then I got some more coffee coming…. (laughter) That’s really it! We’re waiting, doing this press and then we’ll start getting ready for the show.
You could be chilling out with your buddies but it looks that like you’ve spent the last 2 hours in this box doing interviews. Why doing so?
Dustin: We can always hang out with our buddies later…
Candace: We were hanging out with our buddies earlier on. And there’s still more time.
You’re Hellfest regulars. Do you have a specific memory of your previous appearances at Hellfest?
Dustin: I remember that we played the 1st year or something. We played Fury Fest two years prior to that, before it turned into Hellfest. I remember that we showed up and it was pouring rain and I remember that a specific band, a headlining band, cancelled because there was no Internet. And that was crazy to me. You just can’t cancel a show like that! I remember getting to our stage and there were trucks and vehicles in the mud. So they cleared the path. So we’re going to the stage and then there was a French band that played before us. I don’t remember the name. But they said something very disrespectful to the crow, in French. And then people were throwing soil at them…
That must have been Kickback…
Candace: Yeah! (laughter)
Dustin: We were looking at each other: “Are they going to throw mud at us?”
Candace: We didn’t know what they said and what was happening. There was mud everywhere.
Dustin: After that, the crowd was OK. We set up and go on and the crowd is awesome…
Candace: And Amon Amarth was playing across!
Dustin: Yeah! We’re playing, I look over and I can see Amon Amarth across the field! “This is sick! I’m watching Amon Amarth, I’m playing a cool show and nobody is throwing mud at us!” Best show ever ! (laughter)
Candace: What I always remember about Hellfest is the amazing artwork. The fact that they bring all this art culture in the music as well. It’s incredible that they set this up.
Have you had a chance to have a look at the new Warzone area?
Dustin: We haven’t been to the Warzone yet but I just ran into a friend of mine and she said it looked incredible over there. She said: “Where you’re playing at looks fucking awesome”.
Candace: We’ve seen most of everything else apart from that actually. I’m getting excited now.
No regrets that you’re not playing on the Mainstage like you used to a couple of years ago?
Dustin: We’ve played Mainstage twice now. I mean, I like it but I like the more intimate… The big stuff is cool but we don’t have pyro and flashy shit: we’re a hardcore band. So I’d rather play a stage that is more intimate: I’d rather play the Warzone than the Mainstage.
Candace: It’s an honour obviously to play on the Mainstage. But it’s an honour to be part of the festival no matter what.
Candace: A stage is a stage, you know. It doesn’t matter. We’re just happy to be here to play.
Primordial’s Nemtheanga recently told me that he thought that festival culture was killing touring. Do you share is point of view?
Dustin: I don’t agree.
Dustin: The festival culture helps touring. Us playing, just us playing at Hellfest so many times helped us grow and do club shows in France, for sure. I think that festival culture here is now inspiring festival culture in the US and it’s helping everybody. Now, you will book a tour around all the festivals you’re going to play and now bands are doing it all over the US. That’s what needs to happen. I think that festival touring culture is killing touring, not festival culture. When they put together these festival tours that kills everything because you have something like this that travels all over the US… Something like that happened down in Australia and it killed everything, you couldn’t do anything.
Candace: You cannot compete with something like that. Just festivals themselves are great but the only other way it can be killing bands is if bands are only doing festivals. We’re not flying in and out to do festivals: all week long we’ll do club shows in between the festivals. We make a priority to also make club shows.
Your latest record No One Can Save You From Yourself was released a couple of months ago. There was quite a gap between that one and the previous one, The America Dream (2009)… What kept you away from the studio for so long?
Dustin: Business. Personal. A combination of the two. Candace got pregnant…
Candace: I wanted to start a family.
Dustin: And other people in the band had kids, married, all that stuff. We were really burned out in 2009 with all of the business side of what we were dealing with to the point that she said “I want to start a family with my husband blah blah blah”. We just thought that it was a good time to go away. Because we were tired of dealing with everything, with everything that was going on. As an artist you should only be worried about creating art and then perfecting that art. We were so involved in the business side of it that we got tired about everything. We couldn’t be artists anymore. We were so worried about everything else. Now we’re back to… We found a new partner with Napalm Rec. and now we’re just back at being artists again, at being musicians.
Candace: What kept us going is that we didn’t want to stop. I got pregnant just right away after we had this conversation. And from that there was nearly a 2 year gap. I didn’t want to leave after. It was really about M.A.D Tour Booking believing in us and offering us a Persistence Tour again. And we were like: “Yeah, we really want to play if we can make this happen”. We didn’t stop being a band: we just stopped touring. It showed how important it was to surround ourselves with people who actually believed in us and not being with a label that didn’t believe or work hard to help us. As a band, it’s hard to put more energy into something when everyone else who works for you doesn’t give a shit, you know. It’s about people believing in us and us just wanting just to do it for us that kept us going.
Were you someone anxious before starting the writing process. Like “Can we still do it after such a long time”?
Dustin: No, because we never stopped. I mean, people in this band have continually written for other bands they were involved in. Myself and Chris (Rawson – guitar) have gone off and played in other bands, kept touring and kept everything going. So with that you see other worlds besides the small world that you’re in with your own band. That’s all very inspiring. Mike (Hasty – guitar) and Aaron (Ruby –bass) had another band and they wrote together. When you’re writing, you’re like “This is a Walls Of Jericho song” or “This is another song or whatever it’s gonna be”. It was never a question of “Can we” but “When can we” do it.
Among all the songs on that album, there’s one that is really different from, the rest “Probably Will”. What’s the story behind that song?
Candace: Well, on every record we do a mellow song. This is a song I heard many years ago. It’s like a b-side from Concrete Blonde and it’s always been like an anthem of my life. (smiles) I thought it summed up the record very well. You’re always going to have a bully, people who want to talk shit, that are going to have a negative impact on your life and it’s important that you believe in yourself and that you rise above, take the high road and always just believe in yourself to make it happen. It kind of wraps everything up.
Last question. I need the both of you to finish that sentence for me: “This is a story I’ve never told before and I probably shouldn’t but…”
Dustin: I’m going to!
Candace: I think this is a one that the world needs to hear!
Many thanks to Elodie & Charles (HIM Media).