Mitch James of Crossfade
The past few years haven’t been an easy ride for Crossfade. After releasing two albums on Columbia Records – their hugely successful debut self-titled release in 2006 and the follow up titled Falling Away – the band was unceremoniously dropped in 2008. It sent them into a downward spiral for awhile but their saving grace turned out to be their music. Left a little bitter by the experience the band didn’t really know what the future held for them but their love for music and their friendship brought them together to start writing new music together once again.
Eleven Seven Music soon showed interest in the band and signed them. The writing process for their debut release on Eleven Seven Music would take the band down exciting new paths resulting in their latest album We All Bleed, released on June 21, 2011. With the first single “Killing Me Inside” rocking the way for the rest of the new songs, the band wrote a much darker and heavier album than we’ve heard from them in the past, much due to their experiences over the last few years. The songs are rich in layers and textures and the lyrics are honest and in your face. Crossfade has a message and We All Bleed delivers it loud and clear.
TWRY recently caught up with bassist Mitch James to catch up on everything the bands been up to, the writing process, and their new album.
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette
Let’s talk about the release of We All Bleed; it’s been a long time coming for you guys. Can you tell me how it feels to finally be on the verge of the release date after all that you’ve been through leading up to this day?
It’s really hard to describe it without describing how horrible the last three and a half years have been. We were working on music but nobody’s head was really in it so we needed some time apart. We had spent so much so much time on the road leading up to that. Everything took a lot longer than we thought. But now that the release date is around the corner, we’re just so stoked; it’s hard to even put into words our excitement.
The band was dropped by Columbia Records and there was a period where things seemed to be up in the air as far as what the future would hold for you. What was it that brought you all back together and made you decide to move forward?
We’re best friends anyway so living in Columbia, SC we would always hang out together regardless. We’d talk music and even if we weren’t actually recording we’d always make time to hang out and talk about the future. We always knew it was going to happen but no one decided to jerk the chain until Les (Hall) got into writing mode. He was writing so much stuff and things started snowballing and building from there. We pretty much finished recording everything but the drums for the album before we even got signed with Eleven Seven. We went in afterwards and did some production and some work in the studio but we had a lot of the work already done when they signed us.
In watching recent webisodes with the band, it’s interesting to see the different ways that members of the band are describing what the new album feels like to them. Ed has called the album as a whole a journey and Les has described it as a resurrection. What’s your take on that?
I think it’s a resurrection as well. I totally agree with both of them. We were gone so long and had so much to offer musically. To come back now and pour our hearts into this album and see it come alive and be able to play our new music for people is the best feeling in the whole world.
In listening to the album from start to finish, it’s definitely darker and heavier than what we’ve heard from you in the past. Do you feel like it’s a new direction for Crossfade or is that just more of a product of what you’ve been through in the last few years?
I think it’s definitely a product of our environment and a lot of it has to do with Les being a full time member of the band and all the orchestration he did. That adds a lot to it. It’s definitely the sound we were looking for. We weren’t trying to write hit songs for the radio, we didn’t have that mentality for the last record either and it failed us a bit but I don’t think it was necessarily the music that caused that. Label problems had a lot to do with why the last label didn’t catch on.
One of my favorite songs on the album is “Prove You Wrong”. I can’t help but think that this song is a message to certain industry folk; can you tell me about the song in your own words?
It’s definitely a straightforward song. It’s about people that don’t necessarily agree with you or just don’t have the same morals as you. It’s about people in our past who said we were going to fail and proving them wrong.
The first single “Killing Me Inside” is another one of my favorites. It’s got so many layers and a lot of depth. Les has described it as being about vivid dreams and waking up and feeling like a different person. What’s your take?
Les and Ed wrote that song and that’s how I feel about the song too, as you described, with depth and layers. It’s one of my favorites as well. It’s got so many things going on it yet it’s still accessible to the radio ear.
Let’s talk about the title track “We All Bleed”, what made you decide to name the album that as well?
It was the first song that was written for the record. It was written about something in particular and it just seemed like an appropriate title to portray the darkness and the depth of the album.
Do you think there’s a theme that ties all the songs together on the album?
They all have a lot of dark messages in them but they usually end with positive messages so it’s a worldly kind of outlook showing messages of both good and bad. We try to hit on a lot of the emotions we went through and they just happened to be dark and sad sometimes but that doesn’t mean that we’re dark and sad people. That’s the way we express ourselves and get it out of our systems.
I know that Les contributed a lot to the writing process on this album. How big of an impact was that on the overall sound of the album this time around and how would you compare this album to your previous two releases?
Ed and I wrote and recorded the first two records. We did what we knew and we recorded on our own and had it remixed. We were a pretty straightforward band; we just liked to write things that were a little different from normal rock songs. When Les came along he had a lot more knowledge musically and sonically to take it all to the next level.
Your latest drummer Mark Castillo was in a pretty heavy band before joining Crossfade (Bury Your Dead), what has he brought to the table for you guys?
He was just an incredible drummer right off the bat. These drums on the new album are just miles ahead of drums on any of our previous work, as the music got bigger and better so did the drums. He’s just an amazing fit, he’s fast and he’s agile and he learns songs quickly. He’s showcased now, we love to watch him do drum solos and make him showboat a little bit.
So you might keep him around for a little while because I know that position has been a bit of a trouble spot for you.
He’s number four and we’re going to try to hold on to him!
You’ve mentioned the band being in a better place now and that you all “got your heads right” – can you expand on what you meant by that?
We left on bad terms with the label and the last six months of that tour was just brutal and we felt alone so when we got home we just had a really bad taste in our mouths for the music industry as a whole. That’s really the reason that it took so long for us to come back. We’re proud of this record and we have a new label that’s supporting us 100 percent so that makes it a lot easier to be happy to be back out and be happy. We spent a lot of time owning our past and planning ahead and making smart business decisions not just music decisions.
It’s so important to have that backing from the label so you can focus on the music rather than the business side of things.
The record industry is such a different animal now. We have to be proactive and do a lot of things ourselves or it won’t get done but its fun and we’re enjoying it. I’m more of a businessman than I thought!
You employed The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on a few songs on this album, how did that fall into place and how do you recreate that in a live atmosphere?
Well Les plays keyboards onstage so he will be able to play that live along with everything else he has to do. As far as the collaboration, I’m not sure exactly how it fell into place, Les has a lot of friends but their participation really opened up some of those songs and it sounds amazing.
Your participation in “The Rock Allegiance Tour” alongside Buckcherry, Papa Roach, Puddle of Mudd, P.O.D., Red, and Drive A was just announced a few days ago. How do you feel about that package and who are you most looking forward to playing with on the bill? (Check out the tour dates here)
Everybody on that tour we’ve played shows with or toured with before so it will feel like family. Being able to play for five thousand people a night as opposed to five hundred is an amazing feeling. Hopefully it gives us the opportunity to start to be noticed and feel our way back. Hopefully we can make some new fans and sell some albums each night – and the catering is always awesome!
We live in a society now where people want instant gratification. I really want to get your name and your music back out there because your new album is amazing and you deserve it! What do you hope people take away from your new album when they listen to it for the first time?
We really want resurgence. In the past we had a loyal following that came out to our shows and told us they loved our music; I want them to come out again. I hope they like our new sound. We want to be able to do this for a living again. We want to make our way to the top. We realize that we’re starting over from the bottom just like a new band. We know that the 14 year olds who bought our albums eight years ago might have families and kids now and not go to rock shows. We need to establish a whole new fan base.
The one great thing about rock fans is they’re pretty loyal and good about passing the torch on to the next generation.
That’s certainly our hope!
Stream the album now on AOL
*Crossfade photos used courtesy of photographer Kii Arens