Despite minor protestations, American Head Charge are one of nu metal’s survivors. Bursting onto the scene at the height of the sub-genre’s popularity in the late 1990s, the sextet have gone through numerous changes, weathered the storms, and finally regrouped to release ‘Tango Umbrella’ in 2016. Not everything has been serene within the band since however, as they reveal below. Eonmusic got the lowdown on their current happenings, and their difficult rebirth. Pushing the envelope; Rob Watkins.
Hi guys, you’re in the midst of a European tour; how have the dates gone so far?
Cameron Heacock: I guess we were a little disappointed with the turn out, but hey, I guess we haven’t been around in a while. But over here, I guess people think we’re a little flaky, because the last two tours were cancelled. Maybe people don’t want to go to the shows because they think we’re not serious or something? But the crowds have been great, and the reaction has been pretty good, and everyone seems to be digging it. The UK is different; we love coming through here, and it’s always been very welcoming to us.
The group has had its fair share of ups and downs; a hiatus from 2009 to 2011 for example, but everything seems to be going well since the release of ‘Tango Umbrella’ in 2016.
Cameron: We had a really strange release, and the support behind it was pretty bleak, and our business hasn’t changed. We’re still heading down a long road, and even though it was unfortunate to do just one shitty US tour, we were going down the wrong road. Then we regrouped with the new business team to have them decide on the tours, bookings and promoting etc. It’s taken a year, but now we’re hoping to get fired up and play a lot more.
With Benji Helberg back on guitar, and a new drummer in Jeremiah Stratton, what difference, musically speaking, to they bring to the band?
Cameron: What do they take away really though! *Laughing*
Jeremiah: OUCH! That really hurts!!
Cameron: No, seriously, a lot of energy. They both bring that, and it’s nice to have somebody behind the drum kit who actually smiles.
Jeremiah: I mean, I’ve always wanted to play with American Head Charge. There were a few tours back in the States where I’d sit in with them. They’re just a band I’ve always wanted to play with, but it didn’t quite work out as I was busy playing with Hed (pe), but when this opportunity arose, I was so stoked; they’re great people, and it’s great music too.
Cameron: And with Benji, he’s such a great player; we have that chemistry. He has a certain feel which except for Anthony [Burke, guitarist who did two stints in the ban, in 2006, and 2012], none of them really had. We just crammed guitar players into that spot, but Benji is a frantic player who has the understanding and feel of how we play, and he has the same influences and all that stuff. So it’s nice to have a guitar player now who thinks the way we do.
How has the band grown as songwriters, and as people since those early days?
Cameron: Have we?! *Laughing* I mean, some of these guys come from book learning, but we come from what I think sounds good! I mean, I’ve had many an argument with Chad [Hanks, bass] about how music is supposed to go, and it’s like, I don’t understand the words that are coming out of your mouth! I mean, if it sounds good, what’s wrong with that?
Benji: After being out of the band and watching the band grow, I can say this from the inside and the outside perspective; the music is not as militant as it was. It’s a little less Industrial, and it has ebbs and flows.
Cameron: But then again, the next record might be the most militant one we’ve ever done! I mean, I don’t know what’s going come out.
Has the move to Napalm records been a good one for you?
Cameron: Yeah, we think so. We needed somebody to give us some guidance, and an official record label who’ll release our record and have faith in it like we do. I guess we needed that for sure, even if we think we didn’t think we did, you know? Having that official stamp on it to let us know what the fuck we’re doing business-wise; and that’s something that we don’t really want to know, but we’ve had to learn as we’ve gone along. We’ll see what happens next time. And of course the business has changed so, so much since we started out; I mean, for sure record companies are taking in a lot less profit, and hence so are the bands. I mean, we never made money.
And the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign; does that reflect how the industry has changed since you started out?
Cameron: Sure. I think that’s a huge positive thing, and again, it’s the same type of business thing that we try and separate ourselves from, mostly. We didn’t get what we could have gotten out of that campaign. We were able to raise a bit more money than we thought we could, and we were able to set up a lot of things according to that budget, and through mismanagement we squandered a lot of it and didn’t use it in the way we should have. But hopefully, we learnt something from it, and now maybe people will take a chance on us, and we can use it better to our advantage for next time.
Despite this, you’re still a fan of the crowdfunding approach?
Cameron: It’s such a great dynamic that you owe the fans a record instead of the label, and it’s not some huge conglomerate that’s funded it. It’s the fans who work hard for their money and have invested in us and that’s changed the whole scope of it. You take it to heart for the people who paid their hard earned cash towards this.
Given these experiences, what advice would you give to a band starting out today?
Karma Singh Cheema : You know, the best thing I’ve heard anybody say - and I’m such a fan of his - but Josh Homme said; "If you expect anything from music, you expect too much" - that pretty much sums it up. I mean, just do it for yourself. When you write music, if you think it sounds good then go with it, and don’t overthink it; put a little soul in it, and find people who believe in it.
What artists initially inspired you?
Karma: Kiss, for sure, and with a few of us being around the same age it was AC/DC and all those classics. With Cameron, he was into surfboards and all that, and he listened to the Beach Boys growing up.
Jeremiah: For me, it was funk and R’N’B. My family business is music; my mom is the singer in The Platters, and my uncle is a music director who worked with Jordin Sparks when she won American Idol. He played with Bootsy Collins and George Clinton, so that’s my family.
Karnma: Wait, what?! This is all news to us dude!
Jeremiah: Yeah, yeah man. I started playing with these guys when I was like eleven years old, but I loved Megadeth and Metallica. When ‘…And Justice For All’ came out, that blew my mind, and I knew then that metal music was what I wanted to do.
Finally, what does the future hold for American Head Charge?
Cameron: We’ll see. Stay tuned! I don’t think we’re nu-metal by any stretch, but when I heard Public Enemy, they were a big influence. When Public Enemy and Anthrax did ‘Bring The Noise’, I was like fourteen, and after meeting Chad and music becoming an interest and after putting that tune up on a pedestal; I don’t think I could write that, but it stirred something in me that I’d like to do something like that at some point.
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