Music is a wonderful thing, and we all have our own ways of accessing it. For some, it is on their commute to work or school, and for others, it is in movies, television and even video games. I first listened to The Sword at a friend’s house while he was on his Xbox. He was playing a game called Guitar Hero II, which featured the band’s track “Freya” off Age Of Winters. It would be a few years before I heard their name again.
About a year or so ago, an acquaintance of mine discussed his newest music purchase, the group’s 2010 full-length, Warp Riders. After reading that it was available for a great price, I took to the internet to get my copy. I also got their latest release, Apocryphon. The band quickly became a favorite in my collection and I jumped at the opportunity of talking to singer/guitarist John Cronise about the current tour. While on a short break before heading back out on the road with Clutch, we discussed music festivals, cover songs, and his favorite album of 2013. Check out what he had to say below:
How has the touring been treating you guys in 2013?
It’s been going great so far. We are currently on break now, but we’ll start again with Clutch in the beginning of January.
Glad to hear. Have you guys fallen into any rituals or routines while on tour for Apocryphon?
Not any pre-show rituals, really. We are pretty casual when it comes to things like that. We don’t even warm up. Our drummer Jimmy [Vela] does, but the rest of us strap on our guitars and start playing.
Has there been a favorite song off the new record that you’ve been playing live?
That’s a good question. The title-track, probably. It’s definitely been one of the ones that I have enjoyed playing the most lately.
Have you guys been able to expand on any of the songs live from this album?
We haven’t done that yet. We pretty much play the studio versions. We’ve done that with a couple of our older songs, kind of like stick in a semi-medley sometimes or a half of a cover song in the middle of another one. The new tracks haven’t gotten any special treatment like that yet. It can happen at some point.
Out of curiosity, what songs do you like to throw in the middle of a live performance?
On previous tours, we have thrown in our cover of “Cheap Sunglasses” in the middle of “Freya.” Back in the day, we used to do “Bring It On Home” by Led Zeppelin in the middle of “Freya.” The most recent one we’ve done is the first half of “Working Man” by Rush in the middle of “Ebethron.”
That’s awesome. It gives it a nice mix.
Yeah, it’s great. It kinda adds freshness to the songs we’ve been playing for years.
How do you choose what parts of the cover songs to throw into the live shows?
The process is different each time. For “Cheap Sunglasses,” we used to play the whole song by itself and we recorded it as a bonus track for our last record. Then we thought it’d be cool if we only did the first half and threw it in the middle of a track as like a little teaser.
With “Working Man,” it’s just a really long cut with the middle part really drawn out. For bands to cover tunes like that, it’s difficult making them as interesting as the original band playing them, especially with a long jammy part. It kinda helps to just play the recognizable hooks that kinda keeps it moving a bit more.
What is the process like in creating your sets? Is it different when creating support sets?
When we are doing support sets, we have 45 minutes, and it may be a bit more difficult to choose songs from our five records. On this tour, we have been concentrating on Apocryphon. Half of the show is a selection of tracks from that album and the rest are a couple from the other records. We have songs that we will play live more than the others, so we keep a mental list of the ones that we like to play.
What is it like to tour the States and Europe, and come back and play a show at Emo’s in Austin, Texas?
Oh, it’s awesome. We have had a really good following and some great shows in Austin since we started. It’s only grown over the years, so it’s always a great time to play there.
The Austin music scene is a great one to be involved with too.
Yeah, it’s very diverse. There are tons of bands and musicians out there. Everything under the sun and then some goes on over there.
Do you still keep up with the local scene over there?
A little bit. I’m not quite in tune with it as much since I moved, but I still keep up with a few bands that we have played and toured with. American Sharks, Eagle Claw and Octopus Project, that we’re good friends with, are just a few. Our bass player, Bryan [Richie], is a recording engineer and he’s recorded a lot of the newer, really good bands like Woodgrain that are coming out of Austin.
I recently watched a performance from Hellfest this year. Were you able to see any of the other bands play?
Yup. We were able to see Danzig, which I believe might’ve been on his birthday as well (laughs). He was really stoked and it was just a great show. I believe we also saw Red Fang. It’s kinda hard to remember who else because we played a lot of festivals and they all kinda blurred together. Hellfest was a good one though.
Is there any other festival you haven’t had a chance to play yet that you would like the opportunity to perform?
We’ve never played Coachella, which would be really cool. There’s so many new festivals that I hear about all the time.
I know, it seems there is a new festival every other month.
Yeah, so many I can’t even remember the names to (laughs). We have been really fortunate so far. One that we were able to play last summer was Roskilde, which was one of the cooler ones we’ve played. It’s been going on for decades and very diverse. I prefer those festivals that are all different kinds of music rather than certain genres anyway.
Yeah, some can be incredibly diverse while others can stick to one subgenre and consist of all doom metal bands or something of that nature. As a fan, which kind of festival would you like to go to and just watch the other musicians?
Probably the most fun I have ever had at a festival was the first Orion Festival that took place two years ago. It was the one in Atlantic City that Metallica put on. Even though we performed, I probably watched more bands there than any other festival I have been to. I was able to just walk around, chat with some people, and see some stuff that I wanted to and haven’t seen before.
Continuing on this topic of listening to others play, I was able to look up your top albums of 2013. Do you have a favorite among them that you’ve been listening to a lot lately?
I realized after I made the list that I forgot to put American Sharks on there. Their LP [American Sharks] came out a couple of months ago and it’s amazing. I’ve been so close to them and toured with them so much that I didn’t see the forest for the trees with that one. That album is the record of the year in my opinion.
I actually had the chance to review it a couple months back and thought it was great. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get to the see them when they played in the area back in August.
They are amazing live too. The guitarist and bass player have little combo amps and the drummer has a small set. He’s got like a snare, one cymbal, one hi-hat, one tom and bass. It’s kind of scary to think what they would sound like with full stacks if they sound that ferocious with what they currently have.
Absolutely. Finishing up, do you guys have any future plans after the rest of the Clutch tour in January?
Yeah, we will go on a U.S. headline tour in the second half of February and March. We are trying to get down into Australia and New Zealand in May, which would kind of finish up this album cycle.
The Sword will play at The Capitol Theatre on Jan. 11 in Port Chester, NY. They will also perform at Underground Arts on Jan. 17 in Philadelphia. Apocryphon is now available. For more information, go to swordofdoom.com.