SWITCHED – interview by mike bushman
I saw Switched live a year ago at the Whiskey in Hollywood. They were touring with No One and Spineshank and held their own against the more seasoned headliners along with the sold out crowd they attracted. While they felt like a band getting some of their first touring scars, they also had their shit together so they escaped any harsh criticism for a band who I never heard previous. Time passes and advance EPs keep showing up courtesy of the Virgin Records promotional machine. Then an advance of the full length. I spin it a few times and get the same impression as when I saw them live. A band who sticks to what they know they do well, still wearing their influences plainly but not suffering necessarily because of it. Their CD is produced large, and should rock those who dont wince at the term nu-metal. I wince at the term, but Im supposed to hate all labels, and then use as many as I can to give you a description. Hell, Im still trying to explain to people what emo is. (like I know). Switched is metal. Loud, with that down low crunch guitar. Loud (vocals and guitars) against quiet with lots of build-ups and teardowns with (sometimes) predictable, but passioned execution. And since they dont have an album out yet, they are nu. I mean new.
So Switched is out of Cleveland?
Ben: I dont know. I never go outside. I work all day. Its pretty darn cold.
Are you in the Rock and Roll hall of fame yet?
Ben: No, Ive never been there.
Really? That doesnt say much for their bid on tourism that was supposed to bring.
Ben: Yeah, I dont do much of anything though. Hang out and smoke weed. Play music.
Is that all there is to do in Cleveland is smoke weed and play music?
Ben: Yeah, that s bout it man.
Did you ever see the intro to the Drew Carey show when they sing, Cleveland Rocks… Cleveland Rocks.?
Ben: Yeah, I ve seen that.
Um, does it?
Ben: Ahhhh. No.
You dont think so?
Ben: Its all right. I dont think anywhere rocks really.
Are the local musicians pissed? (It says in their press kit Maybe its something in the water of the mighty Lake Erie, but something has really been pissing off local musicians in Cleveland).
Ben: Some of them. Most of them are pretty cool. I know pretty much all of them because I record a lot of bands. I produce a lot of bands locally. Ringworm. I did Chimairas first record before they got signed. A bunch of different stuff with a lot of different bands.
In your press kit it says the local musicians are pissed.
Were they referring to just you?
Ben: I dont know man. Maybe its just us. Its fucking cold all the time and shit.
Does that make you pissed when its cold all the time?
Ben: Yeah it does. When it s cold it sucks.
The inside of my soul… from – Inside. I dont understand that. (even though you say it about a dozen times. Please explain.)
Ben: I think, shit when did I write that one, about 5 years ago. I was just pissed at my girlfriend. That s pretty much all its about.
That was a venting song?
Ben: Yeah, a venting melody song.
Do you use music a lot to work through problems you might have?
Ben: Yeah, I think I do. But I dont do it with the intent to do that.
A lot of your songs sound like you are either addressing someone in particular, or something about yourself. Very first person.
Ben: I think its because the studio is right in my house. So Ill just go out and just get pissed off, or be in a shitty mood and then Ill come here and just write songs and then be in a good mood. You dont notice it happening, but you write about things happening in your life.
Do you find when you have such a specific target for your lyrics, do you ever find yourself explaining, or being confronted by the people you write about?
Ben: Sometimes. Like the new songs, my girlfriend is like, I keep thinking these songs are about me and Im like, Not necessarily. I wrote this one tune that was about some chick that I cheated on her with, and then I was like, I cant write these words. Its self-incrimination.
So do you find you have to watch what you say because the people around you know your lyrics are so personal?
Ben: It hasnt gotten to that point really, but I could understand the possibility. I think would I would do to get out of it… In art you write songs you write lyrics. Nothing says your art has to be real. You could say Im writing a story, like a movie. This is what I envisioned. It might not necessarily have happened to anybody. Im sure a lot of people write songs like that.
And especially as you are getting more and more known and picking up a bigger fan base.
Ben: Im like We are?…. (picking up a bigger fan base).
I mean, you are on Virgin Records now.
Well, I guess the album is not officially out yet, so you probably havent felt the full on push. So heres a good question, what has Virgin Records done for you as an unsigned band?
Ben: They helped us get this and another interview. And took some pictures.
…And thats about it?
Ben: Thats all thats really come about.
They must have had something to do with you guys going out on that Spineshank / No One tour.
Ben: I dont know if they had something to do with that, or our booking agent or our managers, or our managers spoke to Spineshank…I dont know.
Please dont take this the wrong way, but I would think someone would have a little more idea of how their career is being controlled.
Ben: You try to but it never works. I always joke around with my brother about how our lawyer will be like, Im calling you guys to see what you guys think. And Im like, Does it really fucking matter what we think. Yknow what Im saying? Its like well tell you what we think and then whats gonna happen is gonna be something totally different than what we said.
Really? So thats your outlook going into a situation as now as an unsigned band just about to release an album on a major label.
Ben: Sometimes it works good. You got to look at it two ways. First of all, you got all these peoples opinions and shit and you might want to be like Whatever. Fuck you. But in the same sense, its what they get paid to do. Thats their job. Someone works at Virgin in promotions, thats their job to come there and make these guys do whatever to sell more records. And sometimes you gotta listen to them and go ok, you might have a point. Thats what he does for a living. We definitely know what we want its just hard to get.
So back to Switched music, another noticeable Switched approach is the many guitar parts. Stops and starts and breakdowns are mostly centered around the guitar.
Ben: Me and Brad pretty much do the writing. Weve been writing songs for like 10 years together. We kinda focus on that a lot. He likes to do a lot of stops and shit in there. Our newer stuff is trying to get out of that a little bit. We like to do different stuff. Weve been trying to take those out to make the songs flow a little more. If its a high paced song, wed like to keep it that way the whole time.
Have you heard your style of metal referred to as nu-metal?
Ben: Yeah. I don t know if I totally buy into it.
Nobody likes to be labeled, but everybody understands you fit under some label somewhere.
Ben: At this point in time, they call Incubus nu-metal to sometimes.
If someone asked me the definition, I guess its supposed to be a sort of Deftones/Machinehead/dash of Slipknot traumatized rock sort of sound, that has gotten popular in the last 3 years or so, thus its nu. Does that sound like kind of where you would fit if someone has never heard you?
Ben: Yeah, I guess you could say we were nu-metal. Id be like, Thats fine. Im not really worried what people think or say about us. I just like to write songs.
Where on the originality scale would you place Switched?
Ben: On a scale of 1 to 10? Probably a 5.
Ben: First of all, no one is really original. Originality really doesnt exist. Everything is stolen from something, or a collection of a lot of things. No one ever starts at a 7. And Im not really trying to be original. Thats not what Im looking to do. Im just trying to do good. I just kinda write what comes out, and if its original its original, and if it aint, it aint. Its somewhat original to a certain extent because we take a more of an old school approach to writing songs I guess. Theres a lot of melody line and a lot of harmony and stuff like that. A lot of people are starting to do more of. A lot of our melody lines, the newer stuff is very almost like almost Duran Duran pop kind of melody lines. Really big and huge hooks, but to like heavy music. Thats what I like to do. I like to listen to heavy bands. And I like to listen to shit with good melody. Why not put them together?
What needs to change?
Ben: I need to get some more equipment. Thats my favorite thing to do in the world. To have a studio and buy equipment and never talk to anyone ever again.
So when youre not playing, writing or performing music, you are working other peoples music?
Ben: I probably work on other peoples music 80 to 20 over my own.
Favorite 80s band?
Ben: Duran Duran. Or the Police. But they are kind of 70s.
Favorite video game?
Ben: NFL2K for Dreamcast. I play that about 10 times a day.
Favorite CD right now?
Ben: Probably Steely Dan. It rocks dude. Get all stoned and listen to that record.
Favorite CD when you were 14?
Ben: Probably Pantera. I dont know which one was out then. Or Overkill. One of those metal bands.
Favorite Switched song?
Ben: IIII Walls or Religion. Something about those songs I just love. I can just listen to them. They just flow really good.
Messages to the masses? Words for the kids?
Ben: Dont do drugs.