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Crossfade Back Stage Pass Interview
SOMA - San Diego, Ca
January 27, 2005
by Debbie Seagle

Always a rock pilgrim on a groove quest, I try to find myself in the neighborhood when something interesting is happening in the world of rock so I can sniff out what’s going on behind the concert stage and share it with all of you.  Our readers should be the best informed on the nuts and bolts of the music business.  If you are an aspiring musician, maybe we can help you to navigate your way to the public consciousness by taking away some of the mystique, and the veil of mystery surrounding “the biz.” 

Today I find myself at the “Winterfresh Snocore Tour,” put on by the good folks at MTV2.  This two month winter lifestyle tour has showcased quite a few heavy bands since its inception, and this year’s line up is no exception.  On the bill are Chevelle, Helmet, Crossfade, Future Leaders of the World, and Strata.  I thought I would drop in on Crossfade, and give you a little glimpse of their action.  With their debut album on a rocket ride on the Billboard charts and their single “Cold” the #1 Record of the Year on Active Rock Radio, I figure these guys have something going on.  I climbed aboard the bus for a talk with lead singer and guitarist Ed Sloan and bassist Mitch James.  Also hanging out in the background (but not talking) was drummer James Branham. 

These guys are a story in themselves.  Talk about your self made men.  They didn’t wait for fame to come to their door selling magazine subscriptions, they stormed its house and took it prisoner!  Building their own recording studio in Ed’s garage and getting themselves hooked up with independent A&R outfit “Taxi,” to get them to the foot of Columbia’s door.  It was just a matter of scaling the building with their music after that – and that’s exactly what happened.  Here’s an excerpt from our meeting and an insight into the band’s beginnings, how they got their name and their process of morphing into a label-ready commodity. 

Debbie Seagle:  Okay, so you guys are from Columbia, South Carolina?

Ed Slone:  Yes.

DS:  When I think of the Carolinas I think of Country music.  What’s the rock culture like there?

Mitch James:  Rock is bigger than country there.  There’s a lot of country there.  Its not really a country place, or as much as you would think it was.  Not as much as Nashville or a lot of the Midwest.  Its more a top 40 than anything else.  Like any other market, top 40 is the king but it’s a fairly good place for rock music. 

DS:  I was readying over your biographies and Mitch, I understand you decided to become a bass player after attending a David Lee Roth concert? 

MJ:  Yeah! 

DS:  Since I’m sure none of our readers have ever heard of anyone having an epiphany at a David Lee Roth concert, you absolutely have to talk about that.

MJ:  Well, it didn’t matter who it was playing, I just saw Billy Sheehan play for the first time and I’d never heard him before.  I think he started doing TV commercials after that so some people actually saw his chops but that night he did a five minute bass solo that just blew everyone away.  Steve Vai was on stage with him, so if that tells you anything, I knew I was going to be a bass player because Steve Vai didn’t impress me as much as Billy Sheehan did. 

DS:  Oh-oh.  As a guitarist I’d have to take issue with that, but we’ll leave that one alone.  So, I’m sure you guys dreamed about being a band when you were kids, like most of us did. 

ES:  Oh yeah.

DS:  How similar or different is Crossfade from the band you imagined you’d be in back in those days?

ES:  I think very similar.  I think the thing that got me into music was Sound Garden and Metallica and I think always in the back of my mind I’ve had kind of their feel and just the way they wrote songs and just the whole aura of those bands.  You know, every song had something to it.  They always had something to say that was really poignant, you know?  I think we’ve always tried to stick to that.  Just write music that reminds of that. 

MJ:  The only difference from when we first started as a band, or when we first realized that we wanted to be musicians and not just guys in a band, I think may have been more apt to play a tune that would make musicians in the crowd perk their ears up and try to be steadfast to not selling out.  We finally realized that its better to have the 98% of people who aren’t musicians in the crowd to like you than the 2% who are. 

DS:  So you said “musicians,” as opposed to “playing in a band.”  What’s the difference there for you?

MJ:  I don’t know if I meant it any different but I think, you know, anyone can start a rock band.  Three chords and you can get up and play something.  I think we were more into what we could impress people with or a really odd time signature that people can really bounce their head with.  You know that’s the kind of stuff, when I listen to a band, I’m like wow, you guys are awesome, as opposed to “God, that’s a great song.”

DS:  What about being a working and touring musician, were there any surprises for you there?  As far as being out there on the road and being backed by a label.

ES:  Just how easy and how fun its been.  We’ve got a really good crew and a really good label that allows us to shelve off anything we’ve got in our minds to do, you know the business aspects of everything.

DS:  So the label’s been good to you?

ES:  Oh yeah, the label’s been great to us and the crew that we’ve got here, we just kind of wonder about and wonder up on stage and play and get off and that’s it and we don’t have to worry about anything else and I think that I never expected that.  I expected it would come after years of touring and getting your crew all built up but its been easy from day one.

DS:  You guys are lucky.  I know a lot of really talented bands that  . . .

ES:  Its not so easy for?

DS:  That didn’t hook up with the right  . . .

MJ:  That’s exactly right.  I mean, we can count our blessings every day.  There’s thousands of bands out there who aren’t signed, who can write just as catchy hooks but never get the connection or never get the two people in line that can get them somewhere.  That happens a lot so we consider ourselves really lucky as a group.

DS:  Definitely, ride it out because it’s a special thing.  I’m always fascinated in the stories about how bands come up with their names.  You started out as a trio called “The Nothing,” right?

ES:  Um-hm.

DS:  And after adding Tony to the band you changed the name to “Sugar Daddy Superstar,” which to me doesn’t sound real . . . heavy.  But then to “Crossfade” after getting signed to Earshot Records.  So lets go through those names.  What’s the meaning of them and what went into choosing them.  Group effort?

ES:  Well, The Nothing, I was a real big fan of that movie The Never Ending Story and The Nothing was in the storm in the story and that’s where that name came from.  We spent weeks and week looking for a name and finally just decided on that.  No real reason in particular. 

MJ:  It sounded kind of dark and foreboding like the music we were playing at the time.

ES:  Um-hm, it was definitely dark and foreboding.  And then six years later we started to play, because of the reception we were getting around town was kind of minimal, because we were such a heavy band and didn’t play out too much, we decided to start playing cover songs to get the funds for making records and also started to write songs that were a little more poppy.  Sometimes we’d play out as The Nothing and play really heavy and sometimes we’d play out as a cover band and a little more of a poppy band and we played as Sugar Daddy Superstar.  Eventually The Nothing got phased out and Sugar Daddy Superstar was the main band because that was what made most of the money and we had that name all the way up to the showcase with Columbia Records and the head of Columbia said he’d love to have us as part of the family but we had to change the name because he hated it.  He literally said he hated it.

DS:  (laughs)  I hate the name? 

ES:  And we said no problem.  So it took us about a month.  We had a list of about 150 names.  We were called “Upshifter” for about four days, thank goodness that changed, and Crossfade, you know it’s a technical term in the recording software we use and it passed all the legal checks so we became “Crossfade.”

Think you have a rock star inside you dying to get out?  Don’t be afraid to do what it takes to make your music and make it work.  Who knows?  Its been known to happen . . .

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