Exclusive interview – hellfest.fr: CHELSEA GRIN [Alex Koehler (vocals)]
“We’re actually a bunch of easy going guys. A little bit socially awkward, I guess. We’re like a bunch of nerds who like to write heavy music!”
Alex Koehler – Le Petit Bain, Paris – February 11, 2017
How has the tour been so far?
It’s actually been really great. It’s been better than I anticipated, so it’s cool.
What were your expectations then?
I mean not necessarily bad. It’s just that we’ve been touring out here in Europe for a while and we’ve been trying to finally break the clasp like being called like a big band out here. This tour has done it so far for us, I guess. Yeah, it’s been really good.
Is there some extra pressure with tonight’s show as Betraying The Martyrs are the local boys tonight?
Not really. If anything, we’ll use that as some more motivation to kick extra ass, you know? (laughter)
This is quite a long tour. Like 5 weeks to endure in cold winter. How do you personally adapt to such conditions?
We’re pretty used to tour here that time of year so we’re definitely used to it. The best thing for me as a vocalist is to try to go to bed early so I can get a bunch of vocal rest. That’s pretty much my routine.
Touring Europe versus the States is pretty much different for you?
Yeah, definitely! It’s definitely a different kind of vibe but not in a bad way. Really don’t know how to describe it. In some places in Europe, they really watch and enjoy the show rather than go absolutely crazy whereas in a lot of places in the States, they kind of go apeshit, you know? It’s just different.
Are you less in a comfort zone when you play in Europe?
Yeah. The funniest thing is for people to understand me, especially when I have the mic, it sometimes sounds like “wowowowowow”, you know what I mean? So they don’t always get what I say when I speak English to them. But I guess people get it for the most part. At least, the most important parts! (laughs)
Are playing a festival and a club show two completely different things for you?
With a festival setting, there’s a lot of people who haven’t seen you before so you can get new followers. With a club tour, most of the people who are there have heard of you before and are really ready to get into it, you know?
Self-Inflicted’s been out for quite a while now (July 2016). Fully satisfied with it today?
I think that Self-Inflicted kind of got us really cracking out here, especially because it’s really heavy, really straight forward. When we wrote the album, we wrote it to be like very live-orientated, you know what I mean? Like we wrote it “With this part, the crowd is gonna go like that – then the crowd’s gonna bounce and then mosh, etc.” And it’s a hell of a lot of fun to play! (laughter)
It looks like with this album, you’re back to some old-school heaviness, right?
We did a lot of experimentation with out last couple of records. And this record is more about going back to our roots, per say. And trying to raise the heaviest shit we can.
What that a wish or a need to do so?
A little bit of both. Like I’ve always loved writing the most heavy music. And I felt like our fans really wanted that as well. So it’s kind of both, I guess, you know.
You moved to Rise Records as well. That was the right move at the right moment?
Signing with Rise Records was great because they treated us so well and they’ve never been a record label that pressured us to write a specific type of music, you know what I mean? When we signed to Rise Records, it was never like “Hey, you need to write this kind of music”. They’ve always given us creative freedom. So far, it’s been great and they’ve really treated us like family so we’ve loved it.
Are you making a living from your music?
Yeah, yeah… I mean, we’re not millionaires as by any means but we make enough to play the bills.
But if you hadn’t sounded in being a musician, what would you have done job-wise?
Oh, man… That’s a good question. I’ve really been doing this band since I was in high school so I’ve done it for so long. It’s been kind of a second nature so I really don’t know what I would have done if I weren’t doing this music… Probably something lame! (laughter)
How did you get such a name for your band?
It’s just one of those moments where a little light bulb clicks above your head, you know? We used to be called Ahaziah when I was a lot younger. But it wasn’t a serious thing. We then started to write better music and to become a more serious band. We wanted to change our name and Chelsea Grin was one of those ones, you know “That’s the one!”. When you hear it, you just know, you know?
So you have no interest in the English soccer team whatsoever?
I mean… Pablo (Viveros – drums) does a lot. Personally, I’m a big Batman fan and the fact that the Joker has a Chelsea Grin as well in kind of my main influence in that.
You’re from Salt Lake City. Is there a very active scene over there?
Yeah, the scene in Salt Lake City is very good. I guess it’s kind of surprising considering that a lot of people call it the “Mormon state”.
How come you got attracted to heavy music in the first place?
I don’t know. It’s just one of those things when I was young. Like I heard it and it was really intense. That was the kind of music that really caught my attention and I loved it a lot. I wanted to write music like that too. One of the main things was when I head Mitch Lucker (former Suicide Silence singer – died in 2012) for the first time. It was actually the first time I heard a vocalist to do very high highs and very low lows, you know? First time I heard that: I was blown away. It was like “This is the shit I wanna do!” (laughter)
What are the human qualities to be part of Chelsea Grin?
Oh, man… We don’t really have a lot of requirements. We’re actually a bunch of easy going guys. A little bit socially awkward, I guess. We’re like a bunch of nerds who like to write heavy music! (laughs)
You were barely adults when your very first EP (Chelsea Grin, 2008) got out. A few year later, are you still comfortable with its contents, music and lyric-wise?
Yeah, yeah… I’ve never regretted anything I’ve written. I feel like in this day and age you get judged a little bit more like… For example, our first EP was a lot about mutilation and, I guess, women and all that stuff but, at the time, I only wrote those lyrics because my favourite bands were writing those kinds of lyrics, you know what I mean? With our new album, and with our last couple of albums even, I’ve written more about real-life experiences and just really personal shit, you know what I mean? So it’s been more… I think there’s much more emotion behind it.
You’re to play Hellfest in a couple of months. Which bands are definitely not to be missed?
One of the sickest bands I’ve ever seen is Linkin Park. They’re killer. They’re so good. As for heavier bands, Behemoth is always a pleasure to see. And Slayer as well.
Is there a song written by someone else you wish you had written yourself?
One of my favourite song is “My Plague” by Slipknot.
As a conclusion, could you finish that sentence for me: “I have never told that story before an I probably shouldn’t but….”
“That involves a lot of semen!” (laughter)
Many thanks to Jeroen (TM) and Marco (Avocado Booking)