The shuffler: J.D. Cronise, singer-guitarist of The Sword. After kicking around with several indie bands in his native Virginia, Cronise ended up in Austin, where, seeking a heavier sound, he put together The Sword. After an electrifying debut, 2006's Age Of Winters, the doom-metal band released the widely anticipated Gods Of The Earth last year.
HRM, "Low Budget"
J.D. Cronise: This is an old band from Richmond, some friends of mine.
The A.V. Club: You're originally from Virginia, right?
JDC: Me and our drummer, Trivett [Wingo], are from Virginia, and we spent some time in Richmond; this song, it's probably pretty obscure and unavailable to everyone, but it was kind of a big influence on us. The guy who played guitar in that band is someone we used to play with, and he was kind of a mentor of mine early on. It's really good, heavy shit.
AVC: How did you guys end up in Austin?
JDC: Separately, actually. I moved there about eight or nine years ago and started playing with a band that had asked me to join, and when Trivett came out a few years afterward, we started playing together again almost immediately.
JDC: This was probably the first Metallica song I ever heard, definitely the first Metallica video I ever saw, when I was 12 or something.
AVC: That's the one with all the clips from Johnny Got His Gun in it?
JDC: Yeah, I always thought it was their most badass video, just standing around what looked like their rehearsal space, looking all dark and tough. Kyle [Shutt, guitarist for The Sword] recently learned the solo for this note-for-note.
AVC: Did you ever think you'd end up on tour with Metallica?
JDC: Well, we're not on tour with them yet. We're finishing up our tour with Clutch first. I don't think it ever even crossed my mind, though—it's pretty insane. But when you get the call that Metallica wants you to go on tour, you just say, "Okay, sir. When do we start?"
Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, "Against The Wind"
JDC: I just recently admitted that I like Bob Seger. I have some friends from Oakland, California who have been telling me, "Oh, you have to check out early Bob Seger, it's really awesome." I didn't believe them for a while, but it's true. I like the later hits, too.
AVC: Not a guilty pleasure, then?
JDC: Nah. I try not to feel guilty about any of the music I like. [Laughs.]
Those Peabodys, "Arrived"
JDC: Another local Austin band—this was actually my previous band, before I started The Sword. When I moved there, I didn't really know anybody, and I met these guys, and they asked me to play guitar. They're a three-piece, and they've been together since high school—they were really the only decent band I saw in Austin when I got there.
AVC: What do they sound like? Would people recognize you in their stuff?
JDC: They're pretty much a straight-up rock 'n' roll band, and they're still playing and still kicking ass, but after a while, I told myself I really needed to do something heavier. They're a great bunch of guys, though.
Dove, "Never A Straight Line"
JDC: Dove is a band from Florida, and it's got a guy who used to be in another band called Floor. They're super-awesome—really heavy, kind of math-y, but really very intense. Floor basically split into Dove and Torche.
AVC: I saw Torche in Dallas when they opened for Boris. They were incredible.
JDC: Yeah, all three bands are just amazing.
AVC: You guys have a pretty distinctive sound, but you obviously listen to a lot of bands in the same sort of style. How much of that influences what you write?
JDC: Oh, we've got all kinds of influences, just like any other band. I think it just goes through this special filter that only exists in my head that makes it sound like The Sword. Whatever goes into my brain comes out in our stuff, slightly altered. But we're always looking for someone we can learn something from.
Clutch, "Child Of The City"
JDC: Here's a Clutch song, speaking of. iTunes is in its oracle mode again. This is a track from their last album, and it's a great one. We're really stoked to be on tour with them; they've been one of my favorite bands for a long time. They're kind of a throwback, one of the few bands who know how to make rock music the way it's supposed to be made.
AVC: Do you notice that oracular quality to iTunes a lot? It seems like a lot of the time, shuffling functions like a mood ring, and seems to reflect what you're thinking or talking about.
JDC: You know, I think the human race is controlled by these various energy fields, and you never know how your psychic emanations might be influencing the hardware of your iPod. Or maybe it's just a total coincidence.
Kool & The Gang, "Get Down On It"
JDC: I love this song. I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, not just rock and metal. I like soul music and funk, anything that's good, really. I consider any music that moves you or motivates you to be soul music, whether or not it's normally considered to be in that genre. All good music has some kind of soul to it. But Kool & The Gang is just a whole different thing, man. I remember being in a thrift store in Richmond, just looking for T-shirts or whatever, and "Celebration" came on the P.A. system. And everybody in the place just stopped what they were doing and started grooving out to it, bobbing their heads. It was awesome. That's rare, to find a band like that who everybody loves and can just lose themselves in. That's soul music, man.
All Night, "Guitars And Wine"
JDC: This is a really good band from North Carolina, where we are right now. I'm not sure if they're still there or what, or even if they're still together; they only put out one record, but it's really great Southern rock, which is something you don't hear much of these days. If you wish Lynyrd Skynyrd was still good, you should definitely check out All Night. They're a little dirtier than that—more booze-soaked, I guess—but it's really good shit.
The Melvins, "Dog Island"
JDC: This is from the new album Nude With Boots. I'm not all that familiar with it yet, but what I've heard so far is really good. The new Big Business/Melvins combo is awesome, of course. I'm a big fan of both bands. They're not one of those bands who ever become huge stars, but they're so influential to so many people. They pretty much invented this style of music—it's not exactly our style of music, but it's one we draw heavily on when we're writing.
AVC: What is it about them that appeals to you?
JDC: I don't know, exactly. They're kind of an anomaly, because they're so stinkin' weird. There are just so many bands that are influenced by them, who talk about how much they're into The Melvins, and yet nobody really sounds like them. When they started out in the '80s, there was just no one around that did these ridiculously slow songs with these crazy nonsense lyrics. And there's still not. They completely have their own identity, and I think that's what influences people and makes them look up to them. They're just so original and unique. Plus, they're a great band—just a good rock band with great players, and their songs always sound so good. Unless they mean for them to sound bad. [Laughs.]
AVC: It's interesting how they're perceived by a lot of metal fans—nobody seems like they can really relate to them, because they're so different from the rest of the metal world, but everybody likes them. Everyone loves the way they sound, but they've never fit in at all.
JDC: I think that's probably by their own design. I think they're really trying to be The Melvins and nothing else. And they're good at it, too.
Michael Jackson, "Rock With You"
JDC: This is a staple of The Sword's iPods. Everybody in the band probably has this one, and a lot of early Michael Jackson, a lot of stuff from Off The Wall and Thriller. Anything from that era is going to be good. And at this time of his life, Michael Jackson was the man.
AVC: Would you like to meet the Michael Jackson of today?
JDC: I would be a little terrified, probably.