KEVIN SHARP Talks LOCK UP Album & Lineup Shuffle, Working With MASTODON, 30 Years Of BRUTAL TRUTH
December 14, 2021, a year ago
Grindcore legend Kevin Sharp requires no introduction. Former vocalist of groundbreaking NYC trailblazers Brutal Truth, Sharp has been at the helm of major projects scattered through the metal, punk and hardcore world for three decades.
Ahead of the release of the latest studio effort from grindcore supergroup Lock Up (Sharp, Shane Embury, Tomas Lindberg, Anton Reisenegger, Adam Jarvis), Sharp caught up with BraveWords for a deep dive into the record The Dregs Of Hades, the band reuniting with At The Gates’ Lindberg, his chemistry with Embury, the exit of Nicholas Barker on drums, his relationship with Mastodon, nearing 30 years of Brutal Truth’s debut album and much more!
BraveWords: Thanks so much for the time Kevin. I'm a big fan of your work and love the new Lock Up record.
Kevin Sharp: “You know, it's a very unusual record in very unusual times (laughs).”
BraveWords: Yeah, that's the thing, right? Nobody could really predict the last two years, but the good thing about it, I guess if there are any silver linings, we have seen a lot of output from a lot of artists. You know, there's not much else to do when you're hunkered down but create.
Kevin Sharp: “Yeah, you’ve got no choice. You know, nothing will replace the metal therapy of a live gig. But it is a close, close facsimile of it. I put out a lot of records. I recorded a lot of shit. Easily have like another couple of records from various bands ready to go.”
BraveWords: One of the things I really love about the album is kind of that duality of vocals, the bouncing off between yourself and Tomas. That must have been cool putting together those types of arrangements. There's a song or two on there where it's almost like you guys ping ponging things back and forth. I just think it works so well.
Kevin Sharp: “Yeah I mean, the original idea came up back in, I guess 2017 when we were doing the campaign tour over in Europe and we were in Gothenburg and Tompa came out and did a song with me and we just didn't really have any ideas on the front end. We just kind of freestyled it, you know? It was a cool dynamic then. Shane said later on, what do you think about doing it as a recording? And I was like, Fuck yeah, why not? After X amount of records recorded, you're always looking for new and different ways of doing things or achieving whatever and it seemed like a great idea. And once we got into it, it became a great idea.
“In terms of the process between the two of us ... basically the record was like Anton and Adam worked out a bunch of arrangements. Anton's got like a couple of suitcases of riffs man ... so those two worked out arrangements and Adam would write his parts with a drum program. And then once they had everything pretty firmed up they uploaded it on their Dropbox and me and Tompa just picked and chose which songs to write to. We wanted to get that different style because he writes differently. I write differently. The phrasing, the tone, we wanted contrast and we would pass things back and forth until we had definitive ideas of what we wanted to do. And once all the songs were written and sorted, then we went in and tracked everything, and then we took apart our tracks and decided what would sit well next to each other or with each other. Contrasting, call, answer whatever. And it was a different process altogether there as well.
“But I mean, it was really interesting recording, because most of it was recorded when it was just hardcore shut down. Everybody was just sneaking into studios to record their parts. I remember Tompa’s engineer got sick when he was about to go in and track his. It's just recorded under complete crisis. And now you can hear it. It's frantic, you know? Also, another thing that's freakishly cool about it is how Adam really put the gas pedal down. It sounds urgent. Like he's an asshole lit on fire.”
BraveWords: What are you feeling in terms of feedback on this? Because you really do have kind of, I guess, two eras of this band kind of coming together in terms of vocalists. It feels like kind of a merging of two amazingly cool worlds for Lock Up fans. What is the internal feeling of the album now a few weeks removed from release?
Kevin Sharp: “I try not to project anything because usually I just get hammered like left, right and center in the press. People like to hate. It's the easy thing, you know what I mean? People sit in their basements and just social media, blah blah blah. So you just wait for the bashing. I knew that like with Nick leaving that there'd be a lot of people that would be super upset about that.
“There was really absolutely nothing weird or anything with Nick. He just wanted to do hardcore. If you heard Borstal, it's a world of difference from Lock Up. It took a lot of courage for him to walk away from that Dimmu persona and do something totally different. Completely stoked for him and happy that he's happy. We're happy. We're all good. There's no reason for people to feel weird or anything like that. Is Adam different from Barker? It's apples and apples. It just depends on whether you like honey crisp or whatever, man. I think that this record couldn't have been possible without someone as fucking killer. Adam really showed up to work, man. He did a great job.”
BraveWords: I'm with you there, man. He's unreal. And I'm just curious for yourself, the chemistry with Shane at this point. You know, you've been involved with him in some capacity for so long now and so many different projects. Obviously this and Venomous Concept. It must just be like symbiotic, easy chemistry, working with this guy at this point.
Kevin Sharp: “Absolutely. I know how he writes. I know what he's thinking, I know how he would phrase things. I could see things that he would write, like lyrics, and I know how he would phrase them because he would just become locked down. And to be quite an honest man, there's just certain people that because I've worked with a ton of people, there's just certain people that click and I'm certain that Shane and I could write endless records. It would just be easy enough because it's that easy going. And we wrote a lot, both me and him recorded a bunch, maybe five records during all this bullshit going on. We did a noise record. We did a melodic kind of Venomous Concept punk record. The Lock Up stuff. And I don't know man, it's just like a perfect fit for writing for me.”
BraveWords: I wonder about that too. When you're in the writing mode, are you seeing yourself specifically writing for Venomous Concept or for Lock Up, or is it you write a song and you decide what it’s for after the fact?
Kevin Sharp: “All songs to me are stories. No songs were put pen to paper if it's not something that has an impact or meaning with you. Stories and observations of experiences of this, that and the other. But in terms of whether it comes out and is a Lock Up song or a venomous concept song, it's all sort of the same as you would look at it like dialect or something like that. How you say it or how you tell the story is whether it'll be a Lock Up song or a Venomous Concept song. But they're all stories.”
BraveWords: What do you see as being what you'd like to focus on a little more heavily looking into 2022?
Kevin Sharp: “Well, I'm anxious to continue recording as much as I can. Here's another thought. The older you get, the more you see that time is moving forward. Everyone had some kind of weird reflection, whatever kind of bullshit was dealt to them in this nonsense. But most of the people that I know that are my age are a little bit older, they start thinking about how they're going to spend the time that they have left. Not that I plan on leaving this coil anytime soon, man. But I just realized the time is now. And if 2022 presents a bunch of variants that are going to cockblock me and my other love, which is being on stage, I'm going to just jump right back in and record. Basically I have a studio that I can work in at any time. I've built a studio for Mastodon, the studio that they did their Hushed and Grim record in, West End Sound.
“I have the ability to go and record whenever I want, and I'm just going to keep creating because if I can't gig I have to keep doing it, because it's the only thing that keeps me sane, really. It's been very difficult for everyone that I know that does music, man, because you got to think of someone like Shane. He hadn't been home that long since he was a teenager. You know what I mean? Currently, I'm pushing that as well. My last gig was January 6, 2020. And for me, it's very difficult, because it's just a way to step outside of your head, you know what I mean? Drugs don't do it for me, alcohol as well, but a live gig can take me out of my mind for a minute, and it would give me a break to decompress and step outside of my mind for a minute. So I miss gigs terribly. What are you going to do?”
BraveWords: I was going to ask about Mastodon. I know you're close to those guys and with this record in particular you mentioned the loss of their manager. They really wear their emotions on their sleeves in the writing and on this record in particular, it’s just such a beast. I'm just curious about your thoughts on how this band has progressed because it feels like they're firing on all cylinders as well.
Kevin Sharp: “It’s really weird because I've had a couple of interviews where people have been asking about them. I did a bit on one of their records, ‘Andromeda’, and I started thinking about it. And I mean, one of the things I really like about that band is that they sort of, to a certain degree, remind me of a Brutal Truth in the sense that they record honestly. And they're not bothered with what's expected. They record the record they want to record and it always moves around. It's never the same record twice. And in that sense, it sort of reminds me of the way of the Brutal Truth methodology or whatever you want to call it. But it's a fucking heavy record, but the last one... ‘Andromeda’ was about Troy's wife and her cancer battle and stuff. So I mean, in that sense, it goes back to what I was saying earlier. The best song is a story told that and not someone just sitting there in front of a thesaurus trying to make something sound fucking brutal or sick.”
BraveWords: Researching for this and it struck me that next year will be the 30th anniversary of Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses. You mentioned Brutal Truth, and I'm just curious what you think of that period in your life and your career now with that much hindsight?
Kevin Sharp: “I mean, its normal (to look back). That comes also with aging, you think about the things you've done and the experiences you've had and what were the gifts that were given from my childhood. Also recently Earache just reissued some vinyl from that as well. So yeah, I mean I look at it … we stumbled in as kids, got really lucky. I mean, they were different times. You know, these kinds of bands, there was nothing really before it. There were no booking agents. It was just kind of we all stumbled into it. And then all of a sudden, within the span of two or three years, we were playing like the Palladium in L.A. with 3,500 people and stuff like that. It was weird to go from fixing the van every time it stopped and hoping that you were going to get paid a pizza or something like that, to that. And a lot of people jumped on and took advantage of it. But you know, that was my childhood, that was my reality. Everybody will think about what they did when they were 20 something or whatever. And I think I'm very fortunate. It gave me an opportunity to do something different with my life.
“As old geezers go or whatever you want to say, we all sit around and talk about certain things. And I had a conversation one time with Bill Steer about all this stuff and we were talking about like, I had no idea this was going to happen to me. He said, yeah I thought I was going to do like a record or two and go and do like a couple of European tours and just go home and get a normal job and do what would normally be expected. And at a certain point you just realized that's who you are and that's what you do. And I think I'm really grateful for that record in particular because it gave me enough of a springboard to do something different. But you always look back and you just wonder what would have happened if I had made a left turn at Albuquerque? What if? But it didn't, and here we are. And that's the way lives go.
“Things kind of push them in directions that you just have to be open minded and open eared and open eyed enough to follow your heart and do things that you want to do. Like what we were talking about with the reflection that people normally have right now with the social flames going on right now. You do get one ride and it's important to make as much out of it as possible because you can't tote possessions with you, man. You just have the stories that you lived. I guess, with things like that, I look back on it and it's so long ago. It's almost like you look at it and you're looking at someone else's life because I've lived so many lives since then. I lived really hard. I think that I'm past the expiration date, and I'm super excited to still be productive musically and viable or whatever you want to call it. I think I have value. I don't think I suck yet.”