That certain special ugly: The Red Chord's Guy Kozowyk on (not) navigating into metal niches
Those who dismiss metal regard it as a monochrome boneyard of screams and chromatic slop, but the truth is far more overwhelming. The genre's evolution has spawned intimidating diversity, which has in turn spawned endless arguments about who belongs in which mini-category of what sub-genre. The most sane attitude might be blithe unconcern as to how to categorize yourself. Though fans and writers have labeled Massachusetts band The Red Chord everything from "deathcore" to "metalcore" (and these are hardly the most pedantic combo-terms people apply to heavy music), the members seem content to just call their music a mix of sounds they like. Even on its most polished album, 2009's Fed Through The Teeth Machine, The Red Chord delights in abruptly mutating hybrids. Tastes can get particular and divisive even within the sprawling lineup of the decidedly death-metal-centric Summer Slaughter tour, which comes Aug. 8 to The Rave/Eagles Ballroom. Before embarking on the big package tour, Red Chord vocalist Guy Kozowyk told The A.V. Club about his weirdest and funniest encounters both within and outside of metal.
Multiple causes of death
The A.V. Club: There's a range of styles within Summer Slaughter and within death metal as a whole. When you're on a big bill like that, do you ever think about where you fit in?
Guy Kozowyk: It's not just blasting death metal the whole way through. We're not as over-the-top as Cephalic Carnage, but we're not as straight-ahead as Decapitated or All Shall Perish, and obviously we're not as artistic and trippy as Animals As Leaders or The Faceless. That's a little more polished and musical and proggy. I feel like we're sort of in the middle of all of that. We're not on the crazy extreme end of anything, but we're not really the odd man out as far as any of those genres go. I feel like we're gonna be playing to a pretty open-minded, eclectic audience.
Why are we here?
GK: Before The Red Chord turned into The Red Chord, we were supposed to play a show with Godsmack at a bar, when they were still doing Alice In Chains covers. But I wouldn't say that was as weird as when we got asked to play a show at SUNY-Purchase last year. It was the strangest pairing ever. There was a band called Streetlight Manifesto. They're a ska band on Victory. Indie-rock ska, or whatever. They played a band or two before us, and then it went [New York hardcore act] Murphy's Law, and then Drake, that rap guy. It was right before [Drake] popped. The interactions from band to band were pretty funny—I don't know which guy was Drake, but I think he was watching our set, probably because he was just as confused as to why he was there as we were. That festival was actually called Culture Shock.
Stage banter boundaries
GK: You've gotta pick and choose your battles with what you do stage-banter-wise. On Mayhem Fest, for instance, you're dealing with tens of thousands of people. You can't say anything too witty, because you're gonna go over a lot of people's heads. If you're talking fast or slurred or you're telling some stupid joke and it's longer than a couple words, people are gonna miss it. But the rule of thumb is if you say something and then say it again louder, people will respond to it. They cheer, whatever the hell it is. You can say, like, "Is anybody having a cup of coffee? IS ANYBODY HAVIN' A CUP OF COFFEE!?" and they'll instinctively start cheering for it. Whatever it is you put out there, if you put it out with confidence, they tend to go along with it because you're holding the microphone.
AVC: You've mentioned in other interviews that you've gotten in trouble for joking about your tourmates. Where's is the line drawn on that kind of thing?
GK: The Northeast is a very brutal place, in terms of sarcasm. The way that we show our affection to each other is just by being brutal assholes to each other. Especially dealing with [bands from] the West Coast, it's a much more sensitive vibe, where people get very upset over the same thing that on the East Coast you'd laugh off. If somebody yells at you over here, you yell back, and they're gonna respect you more for it. If somebody yells at you on the West Coast, you're gonna be all offended and mutter under your breath for the rest of your life.
Sympathy for Korn
GK: Our bass player [Greg Weeks] wrote a review for Decibel of [one member of Korn's autobiography], and at a couple of shows on that tour, he got so into the book and thought it was so hilarious that he started doing book readings before the set. He'd set up and be like, "I'm gonna read an excerpt from My Life Is So Hard," or whatever the fuck it was called. It was just funny when they're talking about how they had it hard, and the first tours they ever had to do, they had two RVs, and they had to drive overnight one time. Even on Ozzfest or Warped Tour, bands are doing tours where every night is an overnight ride. Your AC goes out. You got a bunch of guys in their underwear strewn all over, trying to lay in the shade that their trailer is casting. What we do is not only a very unnatural, vagrant-style life, but if you're not coming from that world, then I can see where you're gonna take yourself a whole lot more seriously than we do. Whether we succeed or whatever, there's a positive and humorous angle to look at it.