Interview: Diecast

DIECAST
interview by mike bushman


Metal, hardcore. Metalcore. Boston has been a breeding ground for progressive heaviness before the words were even tacked onto the genre specializing in brutal guitars and even more brutal outlooks towards loyalty, life and music. Previous early hardcore bands of note from the region seemed to trade musical proficiency for a mentality of focused aggression, meaning what they lacked in skill, they made up for in attitude. But over the last few years, the kids that were weaned on the speed and thrash of 80’s metal started to appreciate the depth and commitment of the hardcore scene. Diecast is a shining example of this environment. A beacon of American metal that still follows the path of loud fast rules. New school with enough hardcore edge that the kids can hang with it, and embracing enough of the 80’s thrash to cramp any Slayer fan’s fist into a devil sign for hours. The general sound the band embraces seems most at home on the East Coast where punk and metal have always taken the less commercial, more streetwise path to creation. And even though the lyrical force behind this band actually came from the rural woods of Connecticut, it was in Boston that Colin Schleifer found a voice in Diecast.

Bushman: Describe the Boston Hardcore scene.

Colin: Boston has a pretty good scene. A lot of good bands have come out of Boston. It goes through phases though. Sometimes it will be on a upswing where there will be a lot clubs that are available to have all ages shows at, which is really great because a lot of bands come out the woodwork and get a lot of big shows. And then there will be downswings, kinda like where we are at right now where there are not many clubs to play at and a lot of all ages clubs are shutting their doors to hardcore shows because of dumb fights or people suing the clubs. It’s difficult to right now to get a show in Boston. If you can get one, it’s probably going to be an 18+ show.

How does Diecast represent there?
Colin: Well, Boston is our home so we always draw a pretty good crowd when we play there. Unfortunately, our crowds are a little on the rougher side than most bands.

Are you one of the bands that lent to the shutting down of some of the clubs due to fights at your shows?
Colin: We’ve never actually had a…. huge problem….

I hear a ‘small problem’ in there?
Colin: I mean we’ve had fights at our shows. When we start playing, we probably have one of the roughest pits in Boston, so stuff is bound to happen every once and awhile.

Why do you think your music can incite that type of behavior?
Colin: It’s tough for me to answer that because I’m not a listener to our music. I know when I listen to a band like Hatebreed I get that. It’s just something about the music that is just intense. It makes you start moving around. Especially if you are into the lyrics.

But there is such a line between ‘moving around’ and beating someone up.
Colin: Yeah, yeah. Some people just go a little bit too crazy. Plus I definitely try to get the crowd as riled up as possible. I don’t tell people to go fight the guy next to you. But I’ve said stuff to get the crowd moving, to get something started.

Hardcore has become a generic label. Break it down for the un-initiated.
Colin: For Diecast, what we try to do is take the elements of hardcore and the elements of metal that we all in the band like the best, and try to combine them and make it into our own thing. When I was growing up, I started going to hardcore shows a lot after I started going to metal shows. I was always into metal since I was very young. The difference between a metal show and a hardcore show, hardcore shows have more energy and crowd participation. The audience is as much as part of the show as the band is. When I was younger and the first time seeing that, it really struck a chord in me. It just made the show a lot more fun because everyone was participating. We just try and involve the audience as much as possible. In terms of how hardcore relates to Diecast, it’s more our attitude about how the show should go and what we think what elements of hardcore translate well with the elements of metal that we put into our music.

It’s been about a year since I last talked to you. What have you learned as a band in that year?
Colin: We’ve learned a lot about touring. We’ve learned a lot about releasing an album and what goes into properly promoting an album. As opposed to some labels that kind of half-ass it. Now Or Never did a great job (with Day Of Reckoning). This was the first release we really didn’t have it half-assed. Not to say our EP was not promoted well, it’s just that when it came out, it was on a very small label, and it was their first release and everything was really DIY. We were very new to everything. We really didn’t understand what goes into promoting a record. So this time around we had a little more experience, and more experienced people working with us. Especially in terms of like interviewing and radio promotion, because our first CD didn’t have any of that.

What have you learned as a person?
Colin: I’ve learned that I really love to tour. And I hate the business side part. I wish I could just play music and not have to worry about lawyers and money and stuff like that. But unfortunately if you are going to do this full time, which is what we would like to do, a lot more aspects come into play as opposed to like a weekend gig.

So is this a full-time endeavor for you?
Colin: Well, Diecast doesn’t exactly pay all my bills yet, but I don’t have a job if that’s what you mean. And I’m not the only one in the band that can say that. We’re pretty much all unemployed.

What has been the most unexpected part of your experience in this band?
Colin: There’s been a lot of things. Like I said before, we didn’t know anything about radio promotion, and when Day Of Reckoning came out, it hit #1 in the college music charts. At the time, I thought that was great but I really didn’t understand that and had to have it explained to me. And people were telling me that means we got the most requested CD in college radio in the whole country. And that was amazing and very unexpected. Some of the bands we’ve gone on tour with this year has been amazing. We got to tour with Napalm Death for a couple of weeks. I’ve been listening to those guys for like 12 years. And I’m only 24 so I’ve been listening to them since I was like 12. So it was really cool to end up on tour with them, not on like equal footing, but like they became colleagues as opposed to just this band I’d been listening to forever. We got to open the Alice Cooper tour and that was cool.

Did you see the VH1 behind the music on Alice Cooper?
Colin: I did actually see that the other day. That was really cool for me to see that actually, because after this tour, I got to meet him and hang out with him some.

He’s totally sober now huh?
Colin: As far as I can see, yeah. The thing about him is he doesn’t like hanging out with people a lot. We didn’t even meet him really until the end of the tour. He’s got like 40 people on his crew. Three Mac trucks and two tour buses and it gets there at like 6 am to set up. He was really nice when we met him. We were playing one of last shows in Clearwater, FL. The whole tour we were wondering if we’d meet him. We met his whole crew, his whole band and his daughter even.

His daughter is on tour?
Colin: His daughter is in the show actually. She’s like the girl in the background that whips things. She dresses in leather. And in this one part she dresses like Britney Spears and Alice Cooper cuts her head off. It’s pretty funny. But after that show, we were all chilling back stage. And this is like a unique experience for us because we actually got dressing rooms and food and all sorts of stuff.

Your rider actually gets filled out.
Colin: It wasn’t even our rider though, it was like the leftovers from the Alice Cooper rider. Which was so much better than any rider we’ve ever had.

(A ‘rider’ being a list of demands for food and drink that big rock stars demand to pamper their overindulgent asses. You wish you could be so cool)

Colin: So we’re sitting there in our dressing room just kinda chilling and stuff, and Alice Cooper just walks in like, ‘Hey guys, what’s up’. And he was real cool and signed all our laminates and we got our pictures taken with him. He bought a bunch of our merchandise too. He liked us so he bought our shirts. Hopefully one of these days Alice on television with his golf hat and a Diecast shirt.

How did this Alice Cooper crowds react to you guys.
Colin: Believe it or not, we got really good response actually. We started the tour on Halloween night in New York at the Roseland Ballroom. I don’t know if you know anything about that club, but it’s huge. Slayer’s played there. Metallica has played there. I think it’s the biggest venue in New York before an Arena. That was our first experience with this huge tour machine thing. It was totally different than any show we had ever played.

How did that feel walking out on stage right before that first chord is struck?
Colin: I’ll be honest with you, that was the first time I’ve ever been nervous on stage. I’ve never been nervous about one show in Diecast history, ever. Even when we played in front of thousands of people, even our first show, I’ve never been nervous. That was the first time I was ever like, “Man, I wonder if I’m gonna get a bottle thrown at me tonight?!” Because all these people are like 40 and 50 and some of them are bikers and stuff and not really our usual crowd. We came out to a Halloween song, and the crowd went crazy and we were like, “Well, that’s a good sign”. We didn’t get that much time, only like 5 or 6 songs. But it was really great. And we did a special cover for the older audience. We did “I Wanna Rock” by Twisted Sister. That actually saved us every night. We got good response on our songs, but every time we played that, the crowd would go nuts. Some of the other bands on tour got shit thrown at them and we never did. Not one thing the whole tour. That was amazing.

What makes you feel ‘Singled Out’?
Colin: When I wrote that song, it’s about me, but it’s also about in general growing up. Being alienated by a group of people. It’s about holding it in. And eventually if you hold that stuff in, it will destroy you or you’ll explode. It’s about what you feel like when you become unsure of yourself because so many people have ridiculed you for so long, that you are not sure of your value as a person. It’s got some basis in my life, but it’s also in general because there are a lot of people that have stuff like that.

Is that the song that gets the most response from the Day of Reckoning album? (Why is that?)
Colin: Yes it is. I know on that song, more than others to make the chorus catchy and memorable. It was kind of an experiment actually. We were the most nervous about that song when we wrote it because it’s a little bit of a departure from anything we had every done. It’s definitely got the most singing it. So we made an effort to make sure that was ‘hook-y’. So it worked out favorably for us and that made us very happy. We weren’t sure of how our older fans might react to that.

On the Day Of Reckoning album, the beginning is some sounds, church bells, someone walking… what does that represent?
Colin: We were trying to come up with a good intro to our CD and we were thinking of kinda of eerie stuff we could do. You know that movie the Blair With Project? That part where they hit the rocks. We wanted to try and take something like that. We thought the sound of rocks hitting each other is kind of creepy. So what happened is our guitarist John had gone back down to the studio and him and the producer Paul came up with this whole thing they recorded in the parking lot of the studio. We were in Miami at the time recording, and he took a palm tree leaf and put it on the ground and the dragging, scraping thing you hear is John’s foot on a palm tree leaf through the sand. The bells, another friend of ours came in with a bunch of percussion equipment and he played some stuff. We had the sound of crickets in there to. We wanted it to sound like someone was dragging a body. At the end of that whole little thing… we kind of masked it out a little bit so you couldn’t hear it clearly, but you hear the drums kind of come up. That was Jason who did this ridiculous drum fill that he did in the studio that we never used for anything, so we decided to use it. Y’know, that’s the first time anyone’s ever asked me about that.

What song feels the most personal to you lyrically of that album?
Colin: There’s a couple that come to mind. ‘Disrepair’ is one. ‘Remember the Fallen’ is one. And ‘Plague’. Those three are the most personal. ‘Disrepair’ is about my mother actually. When I was in high school she got into a really bad car accident. It’s a really long involved story, but to make it short, she almost died. It was a really bad car accident, head on collision. And the other guy, they never found out what happened, but for some reason for the last minute, he swerved into my mother’s lane and hit her car. He actually died instantly in the crash, and she almost died. She came really close. And that was not a good time for me. I was a Senior or Junior in high school. My mom did a lot for me, so it was just tough. And I kind wrote that. At the point I started thinking all that stuff, I didn’t know if she would be alive the next day. So I just kinda jotted some thoughts down. So a couple of years later when Diecast started, I made it into a song.

Did you find you dealt with hard things through writing?
Colin: Oh yeah. I actually have a lot of poetry. Most of it no one reads except me, but every once in awhile I’ll make it into a song for Diecast.

Do you recommend writing to cope with hard issues?
Colin: I think writing is definitely a good way to cope with things. If you don’t have a lot of people to talk to about things. Everyone needs to vent stuff once in awhile, whether it’s to your friend, parents or if you have a psychologist of whatever. Everyone needs to get stuff out. So what I did when I was in high school, well I started playing in bands, but I also wrote a lot of it down. You spill everything out onto the paper, and it’s not so bad. You read back on it later, and you think to yourself, ‘It seemed like the like the end of the world back then, but it worked out.’ It makes you feel better.

And then if you become a rock and roll singer, you have material to work with.
Colin: Exactly.

In “Solace” it sounds like you are rejecting religion. Any religion specifically?
Colin: That song is not meant to influence anybody. That song was not really written to preach or get anybody to see my point of view. I have my own views on religion and creation. I was brought up Catholic. My mother was crazy Irish Catholic. Somewhere along the way, with stuff like my mom getting into her accident and my brother got into a bad accident at one point when I was younger. Stuff like that kind of compounded itself and built up and I slowly lost faith in religion. I’m the kind of person now that I need tangible evidence of stuff before I believe it’s real.

You don’t have anything on ‘faith’?
Colin: I gradually lost my faith in religion. I believe that organized religion serves a practical purpose in society. It gives people, who wouldn’t have hope otherwise, can believe in some higher… whatever. Whether or not it’s really there or not doesn’t really matter. It gives them hope to continue and strive to better themselves or their lives. And that’s a good thing. So I can understand the purpose for religion. Even if I don’t believe in it.

Would you back the statement that Diecast has the sickest drummer in the genre?
Colin: I’d have to say they are probably right. Jason is a sick fuck. I don’t know if he sold his soul to whoever, but he is pretty crazy. He has just been playing for a really long time. He is very strict with his practicing. He takes great pride in the fact that he really doesn’t sound like any other drummer. He takes pride in his craft is what I’d have to say about him. Really, drumming is everything he does. He never went to college or any higher education. He just always wanted to be a drummer. So he put all his effort into that. He’s just an amazing drummer. He definitely has a real talent for it. He’s actually a very unique drummer because he plays metal with a traditional grip. He plays like a jazz drummer. He is the only metal drummer I’ve ever seen that does that. That’s pretty cool. It’s interesting to watch him play because waves his arms around in all kinds of weird ways where most drummers don’t. And his double bass is just like… perfect. He never messes up ever. Very fast. We are trying to get him to put a little drum solo in our set somewhere. He doesn’t want to do it. He’s a very humble person. We’re having trouble because he thinks it’s cheesy to do. But we figure you gotta focus on your strengths as a band, and his drumming is definitely one of them. And also, crowds ask for it all the time. Kids want to see him do that because they know he can. So we are trying to ease him into it.

You made it out to the West coast recently for a tour with Catastrophic. How was that?
Colin: It was ok. It was a tough tour because it was put together kind of late. We really didn’t feel like we were ready to headline. And Catastrophic definitely wasn’t ready, even though they ended up headlining because it was their first tour, but they have the guitarist (Trevor) from Obituary. They are on Metal Blade records. They are really nice guys and they are a great band, but no one knows who they are yet. So it was kind of a weird tour because they were headlining even though we were probably drawing more than them. I think we are at the point right now where we need to get on tour opening for a bigger headliner. Especially out there (West Coast) because we only got to play there twice. Every time we are supposed to play there, something stupid happens. We were supposed to go on a three month tour with Nothingface. That all got botched up like three days before the tour got started. And that was really disappointing for us. That messed up our whole fall. But we ended up going on tour with Alice Cooper instead so that was ok. But that didn’t hit California unfortunately.

Anybody get thrown in jail?
Colin: Y’know, we’ve been pretty lucky with that. There’s been points where some of us should have been thrown in jail.

Who would be most likely in your band to end up in the pokey on tour?
Colin: Probably Kirk. He likes to party. I mean, we all like to party after we are done playing. I am the actually the only one who doesn’t drink or anything, but we all get rowdy sometimes. A couple of hotel rooms have suffered out wraith. Kirk, y’know… he’s just a good party guy. I remember one story, I’m not going to name any names, gotta protect the innocent. We were in Washington DC and we played and were hanging out with Dying Fetus. We had 3 hotel rooms in this place outside DC and we had this huge party. Kirk and a couple members of the other bands left to go for a bar. A couple hours later they came back, you could hear them coming back because they were so fucked up they were making so much noise. And all of a sudden there is this HUGE crash. It was this really really tall restaurant light. One of these things was loose and they decided to knock it down. It’s this really huge pole that ascends into the sky so you can see the sign from the highway. So they pushed on it until it fell into the parking lot. And then threw rocks at the lights. Someone apparently called the police. We never got caught. Sorry Washington DC.

You previously said you didn’t consider your personal political views as part of the lyrical ideal of Diecast, in the face of current events, do see that changing?
Colin: That’s a really good question actually. It’s tough. After September 11 I think everyone was affected one way or another in their lives. I’ll probably at some point write some kind of song about the state of things in the world. But its’ probably going to be more of a song that comes from the was I see things as opposed to in general. I like to relate songs to myself so I can put more of myself into the song. It just comes out better. I’m not going to focus specifically on issues or anything, I’ll just write whatever I feel. Every once in awhile something comes along like, ‘Remember the Fallen’. That’s definitely a politics song. But it’s a political song that relates to people in my family. It’s an issue about politics I felt strongly about because of my personal life. I’m sure something like that will come up after all this stuff. I know a couple of people that lost their lives. I actually knew someone on one of the planes that hit the Trade Center. It’s kind of hard not to write about something like that. That’s too big of a thing to keep inside forever.

What band put you on the path to metal?
Colin: Metallica. The first concert I ever went to was 1986. My older cousin took me to see the Master of Puppets tour for Metallica. That was pretty much it for me. I’ve been a metal head since I was about seven. My cousin was a little older than me and he’d come to visit every so often. In 1984, he brought me a copy of Kill’em All by Metallica. I didn’t know anything about music at this point. I was a music virgin. I was only seven. I didn’t know a damn thing. So my cousin kind of came over and used that as an opportunity to make me into this little metal cousin. So he brought me a 12” vinyl copy of Kill’em All when it was out on Megaforce Records before they signed to Elektra. I still have that thing, it’s worth money. It’s one of the first ones. I loved that record. I thought that was the coolest thing. Then when I went to see them in 1986, it was the most amazing thing. One of those transcending moments. I was totally mesmerized by what was going on onstage. I didn’t even pay attention to Ozzy Osbourne. I was all about Metallica. That was the point at which I knew I wanted to play metal and I wanted to be a musician.

Give the kids who are just discovering Hardcore and Metal a history lesson. What bands should a 13-year hesher wanna be stock his collection with?
Colin: Pantera. Metallica. Anthrax. Slayer. I listen to a lot of classic (well, classic to me) records. There’s nothing wrong on those records. Everything is perfect to me. Madball is a good combination of metal and hardcore. Killing Time would be in there. Blood For Blood, they aren’t really old school but I’d put them in there. If they want a strict hardcore, there’s a couple of bands they should check out like Black Flag and Minor Threat. The really early ones are amazing. Circle Jerks. If you research you’ll find out who they are.

Do you think the world in general is on drugs?
Colin: Now that I’ve seen a lot more of the world, I can say the majority of the people are at least smoking weed. If not drinking and smoking weed. And there’s nothing wrong with that to me. I just don’t do it for myself because I have personal reasons. But I have no problem with people who do that. I have a live and let live philosophy. Have a good time as long as you’re not messing up my good time. And as long as if I care about them, they don’t mess themselves up to badly. Whatever. Do what you are gonna do.

Where did you grow up?
Colin: Redding, Connecticut.

What was life as a teenager like in Redding?
Colin: Redding is a very small town in the middle of the woods. I did just the regular high school kind of stuff. Got myself into trouble a little bit here and there. I always knew I wanted to be a musician. Originally I moved to Boston for college, but I really moved to Boston to be in a band. College was cool, but it was a secondary thing to my music. I don’t think my parents enjoyed that very much.

What’s your most prized piece of rock memorabilia? (Tshirt, ticket stub, drum stick, tour poster, guitar pick, etc.)
Colin: I know what that is definitely. I have a copy of Metallica’s ‘No Life Till Leather’ demo on cassette that came out in like 1982. There were a lot of copies out there that were dubbed copies. Back then they had a lot of tape trading. But I have one of the original printed demos. There’s probably only like two or three hundred of those. That thing is worth a shitload of money. One time on ebay I went on there as a joke and I put it up there and I made the first bid myself. I made it some astronomical thing that no one would ever match. And I got emails about it and people were like, ‘Aw man, I can’t believe its that much money. I would have paid like $700 bucks for it but not like….’ I had bid like $10,000 or something like ridiculous like that. Because I was not going to lose that thing. But I was just curious to see. People out there are definitely looking for that thing.

Being the Diecast is metalcore from Boston, do you feel a certain expectation when you tour places you’ve never been?
Colin: Every once in awhile we’ll place somewhere, and some people might think we are going to sound like Blood for Blood because they’ve been around for awhile. People will be like, ‘Oh, do you sound like Converge or Overcast?’ and I’ll be like, ‘Well, we have elements that sound like all those bands, but we’re not really like any of them.’ One thing about Boston that is really great is there is not a lot of ‘clone’ bands. A lot of the different sounds of the hardcore scene started here. Because there is a lot of different kinds of bands if you think about it. There was Overcast, who had the really good metalcore thing going. Then there’s Converge who has that noisy type metal. And then there’s Blood for Blood with a punk thing with hard, tough guy kind of stuff. And there’s just a lot of different bands like that. A big scene. Not a lot of copy bands. So a lot of times people will ask us if we sound like this or this or this and I’ll be like, ‘Not really. We sound like Diecast.’

How important is image to Diecast?
Colin: We never really made a big deal out it to be perfectly honest. I think if one of us was shaving skunk stripes in our head, we might be like, uh you are a little bit weird. But we wouldn’t kick him out of the band or anything. We’d probably be like, ‘Please stop that.’ Most likely we’d laugh ourselves to death on stage. But we’ve never really made a huge deal about it. We don’t all wear the same clothes on stage or wear masks. We just hoped our music can carry us. And if that doesn’t work…we’ll figure something out. Maybe I’ll go buy a clown mask.

What’s the future plan of action for Diecast?
Colin: Funny you ask that, we were just talking about that tonight at practice. We had a couple of tours we were up for but unfortunately we lost them because we aren’t on a major label. So it’s tough to compete against bands who are trying to get on tours that are on major labels. We were actually up for the Machinehead tour that was starting in a week or two. But we lost it because we couldn’t afford it. Tours like that, you gotta buy on.

Explain.
Colin: Alright, a big tour like Machinehead for instance. You have to pay money that gets used for advertising and promoting the tour. Like all the opening bands for big tours have to pay money. This is something you rarely read about. I didn’t even know about this until we started getting on bigger tours. Especially when you go on tours with bands that are on major labels, they make you pay for the advertising. So obviously what happens, you get a couple bands that bid on the tour. And whoever bids the highest, wins. For a band like us who is on a small independent label, it’s very hard to compete with a band that’s on Hollywood Records or Epic or whatever. So we were kind of hoping no other bands would step up and want that tour, but obviously that’s not happening.

Why should people come see you live?
Colin: We put everything we have into every show that we play. We try and get the crowd involved in the show as much possible. I love it when people come on stage and stage and sing along. Shit, if you know the song, come up on stage. You can probably sing it better than me. That’s fun for me. I like meeting people and hearing their views on my band and my lyrics. And we all jump around like retards the whole show. Some people have told me its fun to watch us just look like idiots. So at the very least you can make fun of us and point.

Let’s end this interview on a warm fuzzy. What are your plans for the Holidays?
Colin: I went home to Connecticut for the week and spent time with my parents and my brother. We just did the traditional Christmas dinner and presents and stuff. I got to spend it with a lot of my friends.