Friday, March 16, 2012

An EXCLUSIVE Interview with THE USED!

The Return Of

with Jeph Howard

By Stephen SPAZ Schnee

     In this day and age, a decade is a long time for a band to stay together. While some bands have managed to ride out the highs and lows of being a part of the machinations of the music industry, many bands barely make it past album #2. Even fewer are able to maintain their popularity if they make it to album #3 and beyond. While their music may still be relevant, their audience has moved on, leaving only the hardcore fans to pick up the slack.

     Fortunately for Orem, Utah’s The Used, they’ve managed to not only stay together (bar a change of drummers in 2007), they’ve continually exceeded their audiences expectations and have matured and grown into one of the most viable Alt-Rock bands of their generation. They have outlived any trendy musical genre they were erroneously associated with while rewriting their own rulebook.
     Initially, the band were signed with Reprise/Warner Brothers Records but when that relationship came to a natural, albeit bumpy, end in 2010, instead of sulking and licking their wounds, The Used started their own label, Anger Music Group, and forged ahead. With distribution through Hopeless Records/EMI, The Used finished recording the follow-up to their 2009 release Artwork and named the album Vulnerable.
     Judging by the two tracks released from the new full length, “I Come Alive” and “Hands & Faces”, Vulnerable looks to be their most varied and experimental album yet. While still remaining hard and heavy, the band takes their sound to new and exciting places without losing any of their personality. It is both classic and modern, touching and touched. The Used are still very much grounded yet they soar to new levels. Vulnerable is just as the title suggests, but it also has a will to survive and has plenty of bite.
     Stephen SPAZ Schnee was able to catch up with bassist Jeph Howard to talk about the album and all things new and Used…

SPAZ: Your fifth album, Vulnerable, is just about to hit the streets. How are you feeling about the album and everything leading up to its release?
JEPH HOWARD: More excited and nervous than we have ever been about anything in our lives.

SPAZ: You’ve already offered up two songs online for fans and new listeners alike (“Hands & Faces” and “I Come Alive”), both of which show two different musical approaches to your sound. Can we expect to hear even more experimentation on Vulnerable?
JEPH: Oh, yes, lots more. Get ready for a new side of The Used.

SPAZ: It’s been three years since your last album was released. What took so long between Artwork and Vulnerable?
JEPH: Anything you can imagine. Replaced management, moved to our own label, new families, tons of writing, three different recording sessions, all six+ months apart.

SPAZ: What prompted you to start your own label, Anger Music Group instead of signing with an established label?
JEPH: We were with Warner Brothers for 10 years. Things started great and ended roughly. Some people thought they knew more about what and who we were more than we did. Also, it felt like they stopped caring about us before Artwork was recorded, so when it was released, (there was) little to no love. It happens, but we just needed to take control.

SPAZ: Did you approach songwriting any differently on the new album? And does each track take shape in the same fashion, or do you have different ways of approaching your writing?
JEPH: This record was a little different. Most songs were written over a year ago but they were not right yet so, Bert wanted to try a different approach by starting over with a piano first. We ended up rewriting and writing a bunch of new sounding awesome songs.

SPAZ: Coming from Orem, Utah, far from the limelight of big cities like L.A. and NYC, do you think that your songwriting perspective resonates deeper with your fans?
JEPH: I believe it does. We are just normal average people doing extraordinary things. We can relate to our fans because we are the from the same blood line.

SPAZ: In the past, you’ve released plenty of non-album tracks for fans and collectors. Do you have a lot of tracks left over from the Vulnerable sessions that didn’t make the album?
JEPH: Oh, yes… about five. Some more than others I really wanted to end up on the record.

SPAZ: Critics have tried to pigeon-hole the band into a few different categories including Emo, Screamo, Punk-Pop, Hard Rock, etc., yet you’ve outlived many of these trendy labels. Which specific genre, if any, do you think The Used belong to?
JEPH: That's easy: we are 
ZeitgeistElectroPopColaRockFizzFunkSplashScreamyDreamySnowSmoothJazzcore! Ha Ha! Actually, we are just a "rock band".

SPAZ: The band has been together for over a decade now. What do you attribute your longevity too?
JEPH: The songs and being real people. No gimmicks, no tricks. It's just us: four average people with normal problems, who just happen to write songs that deal with being a real person. Our fans are real just like us.

SPAZ: You’ve embraced the digital world with exclusive downloads over the past few years. Even with the threat of piracy, do you feel that the internet has helped the band in the long run?
JEPH: What the fuck is the Internet?

SPAZ: What’s next for The Used?
JEPH: Playing or new songs live. Lots and lots of touring. We should be coming to a town near you this year.

SPAZ: What is currently spinning on your CD, DVD and record players?
JEPH: DVD: Maiko Haaaaaan CD: Fela Kuti’s Zombie.

Bonus FAN Questions:

LISA MANLEY: What has been your most memorable gig to date?
JEPH: Santiago, Chile…. Nuts!. Five thousand kids show up five hours before we play (we were the only band) and chant The Used for hours. Crazy show!

KRISTINA SAKOWICZ: Does having your own label allow you more freedom, musically?
JEPH: We could always do what we want in the end. But now, we can really do anything and not have "parents" that know nothing about our band’s future making comments about our decisions.

Thanks to Jeph Howard
Special thanks to Jacki Feldstein, Lisa Manley, Kristina Sakowicz and Natalie Schaffer.




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