Mind Eraser are my favorite modern hardcore-grind band going today. (Sadly, Gonkulator were disqualified
from the running). It’s easy to slap together fast, blast-beat hardcore, and it’s even easier for it
to suck, but Mind Eraser clearly put in the time and effort to make something great; they operate at a
level where the product they provide is deliberately crafted and powerfully visceral. They’ve been
around seven years, with only two LPs and a few select EPs to their name – how’s that for quality control?
And yet, no one forgets about this band in today’s rapid-turnover market; rather, their reputation only
grows as leaders of all things heavy, brutal and grinding. They’ve been doing it all themselves, or with
the help of friends, and their music just keeps getting better. Now someone find me a copy of that
“bootleg” single I’ve been hearing about.
I know you guys play and have played in various other bands and keep pretty busy,
but Mind Eraser seems to be, collectively, the members’ most notable and heralded band.
Did it start off as a side project, or was Mind Eraser serious from the very start? Did you
expect the band to last as long as it has?
Chris (guitar): Started as a side project for me and Justin. It was a pretty inconspicuous beginning. Just
the two of us trying to do songs on a four-track that were like half way between Infest and
Citizen’s Arrest. If you’ve ever heard our demo you know we failed miserably, but that was the
starting point. I honestly had no expectations because very little thought went into it, and if you
ever saw us in the first year of existence, it’s safe to say it was not very serious. I guess It’s been
seven years this fall which is pretty long.
Justin (vocals): I’ve definitely sold more t-shirts with other bands I’ve been in but Mind Eraser is the one that
has had the longest lifespan. Back when we started I never would have believed I’d be doing it seven
years later but during that time I’ve never had the hankering to hang it up. I think we have done
a good job with not burning ourselves out by being too active.
When did you decide to become “serious” about Mind Eraser, and why? It seems like
Mind Eraser has always had a pretty solid level of support and praise from, uh, “the scene”;
was that a factor?
Chris: I guess maybe when Glacial Reign came out the lineup sort of firmed up and we sort of
developed our own parameters for our sound a little more. So that’d be like 2006. Its never been
that serious at least compared to some bands. We don’t play out of state that much, we don’t
make that much merchandise. The scene and all really hasn’t been a major factor. I feel everyone
in our sort of extended family have been pretty fortunate where there’s always a decent amount
of people keen to what we’re doing. I don’t think it’s usually something that effects the way we
conduct the bands, but we do put our time into all this, and it’s appreciated when folks notice.
Justin: From the start I wanted to play shows just because I had such a good time singing in
a band, unfortunately I may have been the only one who enjoyed me singing in a band. Believe it
or not (I still find it hard to believe), but around the time our first LP came out we felt as though
we were onto something and we got inspired to work harder on song writing and getting better
as a band. Also, I think having a stable line-up makes life so much easier as far as practicing and
wanting to get tighter.
I’m sure a lot of people have wondered why you don’t tour more often. Is it just your
regular jobs, or what?
Justin: It’s not so much that. I just don’t see the point of a band like us going out on the “circuit”
for half the year. I’m fairly satisfied with the niche we have carved out for ourselves.
Chris: We don’t tour much really because most of us work regular jobs, and honestly I don’t think
touring would be that financially viable for a band like us. we do good enough when we go on the
road and sometimes we come back with a decent chunk of change, but we don’t have our own van,
and we don’t have a ton of spare cash to front for merch and records. It’s kind of a big deal to
even take two weeks off of a regular 9-to-5 job too. If we did a lot of touring it would also kind
of impede on the time we divy up into our other projects. For the most part I think we all like staying
home and just making new records and new projects. Maybe I’m a polygamist at heart.
Would you say that everyone in Mind Eraser has the same vision for the band’s sound
and style? I guess what I’m trying to say is, are there multiple directions being pulled
within the band which lead to the final output, or is it more of a streamlined thing where
everyone is always on the same page when it comes to writing a new song?
Chris: I write the majority of the riffs, but there’s definitely some additional shaping by the rest
of the band, and power of veto generally on their part. I think everyone has their own
perspective on it, but especially at this point we all sort of know the sound, and the boundaries
of it. The first couple records there wasn’t really anyone in the writing process except me and Justin,
but on Conscious/Unconscious, Prodigal Son, and the upcoming Brutal Supremacy stuff,
the other guys would make changes and suggestions as needed. Brendan actually wrote three
of the songs we did for Brutal Supremacy and he’s contributed a few riffs in the past too. There’s
been times when I know I’m not really getting through with what I want the song to be like when
I’m going through it with the other dudes, and usually in the end I figure maybe that’s not going
to work for this band. Usually when they say to change something they’re right.
Justin: I would say we have about as similar a vision as four people could have. I think when we
first started I may have wanted to be a little more metal, but eventually we added all those
Is Mind Eraser’s sound still changing, or will the listener pretty much know what to expect
with any upcoming records?
Chris: My goal at the get go was that each record would sort of have a distinct flavor but they’d all
sound like one band. So I mean, they all sound similar to a degree but i try not to be repeating myself.
The new Brutal Supremacy stuff is kind of a continuation of the last 7″, but pushed a bit further
I think. When I listen to stuff we did even a couple years ago there’s parts I hear that I wouldn’t
write now or I’d play a different way just based on where I’m at now and what my listening habits are
for other music so I guess there’s still change… I don’t ever wanna be in a band that’s just running in
place so I hope it’s never too easy to guess what you’ll get.
What is Brutal Supremacy?
Chris: Brutal Supremacy is a 2×7″ with one side each featuring Mind Eraser, Iron Lung, Scapegoat,
and Hatred Surge. It’s coming out this year (finally) on Painkiller. The idea being these are all friends
and acquaintances that mutually respect each other and shooting for the same end in different ways.
You’ve released most of your records on Painkiller, which I know at least one Mind Eraser
member personally owns and operates. How important is that to you, the complete control over
your music, not just in writing, but in how it is distributed and presented to the world? Was
this an intentional decision, or more just a product of circumstance?
Chris: Well the first two LPs are Painkiller, the 12″ EP is on Clean Plate, the 7″ EP is on Youngblood,
the split with Slang is on 540, and the Brutal Supremacy comp will be on Painkiller, so we’re
batting .500. In the beginning it was pretty much, “no one else is going to release this”. I already
had a label, it was just easier to do it “in-house”.
After Glacial Reign and some touring and shit, there was interest from outside parties and
I the band was going to do these two EPs back to back (Conscious/Unconscious and
Prodigal Son). I’d already released a couple things on Painkiller that year in other bands, and I felt
it wouldn’t really be right if I had all these things featuring myself come out on the label at one
time. So we just sort of ended up asking the people that I thought were trustworthy and that wouldn’t
be hard to deal with, hence Youngblood and Clean Plate. It’s good to know and trust the people who
are putting out records for your band. I’ve been ordering records from Youngblood since I was like 16
and got into hardcore, and you know over the years I’ve got to know Sean well enough where I know
he’s not skeevy. He’s been doing his label since like ’96 and always just done records of bands he likes,
never tried to make it into one of these assembly line labels that seem more like businesses. I respect that
in a big way. It started off with me and Justin joking “you know we should do a record on Youngblood”
since we don’t fit the profile at all, and then it was just like “fuck it, let’s do it”. Similar thing with
Clean Plate I guess. We recorded the first 2 lps with Will, and me and Justin had been to his studio to
record plenty of other stuff, and over time got to know him fairly well, a very likable and trustworthy guy
who had been doing records for a similarly long time. I think it helps both people not having an
assembly line mentality about the records they put out, because the releases actually get the same
attention to detail they would have if we did them on Painkiller. The split with Slang is really new,
Timmy who does 540 asked us to go with them on tour for a week and a half, and so we did this
new release, which is not normally our style but I think it came out cool. We don’t do a lot of records
and releases so I don’t wanna have strangers handling them. I keep a fairly tight reign on the
visual aspect of the band, and since 2007 I’ve recorded all our stuff too, so whatever, I’m a control
freak. The thing everyone has to accept is that you can’t really control the way people process
or interpret your music and so a lot of the time you spend trying to exercise control really ends up
being for yourself, more than others.
Justin: I know from experience that a good way to fuck up your band is to hand over too much control
to outside parties. Even if they have a vested interest, I feel it changes the dynamic of the
band entirely. We handle the business side ourselves and when we don’t we put it in the hands of
competent friends we know we can trust. Avoiding those type of headaches makes being in a band
so much more enjoyable.
Would you be interested in working with a stranger if there was a promise of a much larger
recording budget or promotion? Could that ever be a factor?
Chris: A couple offers have come down the pipe. Not a lot but maybe two or three that would be “larger
budget and promotion”. Honestly I’ve never had a moment where I was like “if only we had more
money we could…” or “if only we had a bigger push behind this record we would…” so none of the
offers have been that appealing. I don’t want to be thrown into one of these assembly lines because
I think it actually takes something away from the band that you can never get back. I’m not saying
I’d never do it with any band, but I don’t think I would with this one. Honestly I don’t think it would
actually help us much. Most people do this to get money for tour support and recording. We don’t
tour almost ever, never for more than a week if we do, and we have our own means of recording so
we don’t need expensive studio time. Some people make this decision to expand their fanbase but I
mean we’re pretty limited as far as that goes. Even if we increased the people into us by a couple
hundred, there’d be just as many who wouldn’t be interested now that we were on some large indie
label. Honestly I’m pretty content with the number of people that come to see us when we play out,
I don’t usually sit down after and go “man if we could just get like 50 more in here next time…”
Justin: Like I mentioned before, I don’t really care too much about promotion but I can’t help but
find the promise of a studio budget enticing. It’s not that I want some slicked out recording with fake
sounding guitars and drums tracks looking like math homework all lined up perfectly on a grid, but it could
be fun to have the money to work with someone who I think makes really great sounding records.
I hear a lot of different influences in Mind Eraser, running a pretty wide scope through hardcore
and metal’s various sub-genres. The only omission I’ve really considered is the lack of
any black metal influence. Am I missing it?
Chris: Yea and no. There are certain bands that are important to me. I take after the 80’s definition
of black metal more than what they call black metal now. Bathory, Mercyful Fate, Venom, Sodom…
those bands have all had a major effect on me, and song writing and presentation, as well as just…
those are all bands I really love that made great records and have had an effect on me on a spiritual
level. I don’t care for most modern black metal, it’s just not for me. Brendan, our drummer, is pretty
immersed in present-day black metal and he’s played me some cool stuff that’s really moving, but I
consider myself a total outsider. I feel like its been a bit trendy in hardcore of late to name-check
black metal bands… I don’t really care for this either. Most of the ones I like are early 90’s bands
that came from death and thrash anyway.
Justin: I agree for the most part. I love all the bands Chris mentioned along with all the classic recordings
by Darkthrone, Mayhem, etc., but I’m not really much of a black lord to be honest.
What would you recommend as an under-the-radar or under-appreciated ’90s metal
record that I could pick up an original for say, under $25? One that you consider to be
incredibly high quality for the cost. Does anything that cheap even exist in today’s market?
Chris: I don’t want to come off like a know-it-all. I got into underground music through hardcore
and punk. Eventually in my 20’s I started listening to metal, I’d say it’s about an even split 50/50 now,
but you know, it was a later addition to my diet. Okay but… the short answer to your question. I think
for like well-known bands, the first Paradise Lost LP is so good but like never really discussed; Justin
pushed me to buy that one. Total $10 LP that you’ll spin again and again. Also the final Saint Vitus
album Die Healing is shockingly good. It just got pressed on vinyl for the first time so that kind
of doesn’t fit your question, but it totally tears just like their more “classic releases”. Ummm… less
known. My pet project for the last couple years was obtaining every release on the Seraphic Decay
label, and there’s a lot of pricier joints on there like the first Mortician 7″, the Abhorence 7″,
Demigod/Necropsy split LP, Death Yell 7″, but there’s some totally overlooked cheapies that are
fkn’ great. Messiah Paratroops 7″ has a stupid name but is a totally awesome Finnish death thrash
ripper. There’s still stock copies that turn up sometimes for like $5 and it’s a total repeat player. The
Monastery 7″ on Seraphic is totally never talked about and it’s one of the best on the label. It’s a side
project of Sinister and Entombed members but it’s really a bit more raw and punky, almost like they’re
trying to do a band like Master. The songs are all really short, like one-and-a-half or two minutes.
The Belial Wisdom In Darkness 12″ just got reissued, but my favorite is the Gods Of The Pit Pt. II
7″ they did right after you can still get pretty cheap on the Moribund label. Gods of the Pit Pt. I
was actually a killer demo release too, the only ripoff design Mind Eraser has ever done was a shirt
with the art from Gods of the Pit Pt. I on it. There’s a lot of demo only stuff out there that’s
totally killer too, obviously; same as punk and hardcore. “Under-rated” is all pretty relative. Relative to
Left Hand Path, Clandestine is pretty under-rated, and like a $10 record. the ’90s are a crazy time
for metal because there were some of the best years in the first half, and some of the absolute worst
in the second half. Consider that majorly influential releases in death, doom, and black metal all came
out in the first half of the ’90s. Records that are still being emulated in some cases by hundreds of bands.
Justin: I’m not a record collector so I’ll leave this one for Chris to answer, however if you see the
Crypt Of Kerberos Cyclone Of Insanity single you should pick that up before every single good
’90s death metal record balloons in price. Matter of fact, maybe they already have…
You guys usually play fast. Are there any doom/drone/stoner-metal bands or
musicians that have really affected how you play or write music for Mind Eraser?
Chris: For sure. Tom Warrior and me are similar guys I think. We have big ideas and limited skills. I’ve
learned a lot from Celtic Frost and Hellhammer. It’s an obvious pick, but it’s a big one. I think Dave
Chandler from Saint Vitus is kind of the same way. So probably those are the big ones that have
rubbed off on my playing. There’s a lot of stuff… the first couple years of Mind Eraser I felt
was like Justin going “check out this band; you’ll like them” to me, and it would be you know… Trouble
or Cathedral or Winter. Bands I listen to all the time now. This question’s kind of funny, some
people in the past have said we don’t have enough fast stuff.
Justin: There may have been a tiny bit of it on the first record but we didn’t really start adding doom
elements until the second LP Glacial Reign. All the releases from then on have it in my
opinion, especially Conscious/Unconscious.
I think you balance it pretty well, honestly. Do you think about that when making a record,
that you want the balance between fast/slow to be somewhat even?
Justin: I feel as though we have been pretty spontaneous as far as song writing goes. We did sort
of have a game plan for what we wanted to do on Conscious/Unconscious before Chris started
writing the riffs but I would say that’s the one exception.
Chris: No, there’s no science to it really. I mean if I feel like we need a slow one after a few fast ones
we just kinda do it.
Suppose you were hanging out with someone who said “death metal is corny and wimpy”.
What would you play for them or what would you say to change their mind? Of course, it’s purely
hypothetical that you would ever find yourself in such lousy company, but humor me, if you don’t mind.
Chris: I guess maybe it would depend on the person, but there’s no big secrets. First two Autopsy
LPs are a pretty surefire starting point. Nihilist demos, the first Unleashed album, Grave Into the
Grave, pretty much any Bolt Thrower… I guess I would base recommendations off this person’s
other tastes. I guess some people would go obscure, but it’s the same for hardcore. If you want
someone to understand why it’s cool you just play them Victim In Pain. If they don’t connect,
it’s probably a lost cause.
Justin: Demigod Unholy Domain. If they find that “wimpy” then they are more man than I’ll ever be.
You’re offered access to the full musical archives of either SST or Earache – which do you choose?
Chris: You know… that’s funny. Earache is kind of the new SST. At one time so relevant, and now
just a total garbage dump. I guess at least Earache still kind of releases new bands that fit
their established profile. That said, I’d go with SST by a long shot. Who knows what weird shit’s
kicking around there? ‘Flag outtakes would make it worth it for sure. For most of Earache’s artists,
everything they’ve done is known. Theoretically you could walk into the SST Fortress and find an
unheard Black Flag session or Saint Vitus outtakes or something; you’re not going to walk into
Earache HQ and find anything like that. Maybe if you’re lucky some Pitchshifter remixes.
Justin: This is the hardest question you’ve asked all interview long!