METAL PULP AND PAPER: Hello Bill, Thomas, and Jason? Thank you all for taking the time to answer some questions for Metal Pulp And Paper. We appreciate it. And our sincerest apologies go to Tim Pantzlaff; we're so sorry we were unable to transcribe the phone conversations that we had together to be able to be included in this interview. It was an honor to be able to talk with you and listen to your stories about Crawl.
So, how is everyone?
BILL: I am very well, thanks for your interest in Crawl and your time to do this.
THOMAS: Hey I am doing well, thanks to you and Metal Pulp and Paper. I am always happy to talk to a fellow metal enthusiast.
JASON: Hello, I am doing really well. Thanks for still having interest in Crawl after all these years and for the interview. Much appreciated!
MPAP: That's great everyone is doing well. So, let us go back a few years. Let's go back to the year 1995 when an industrial metal band from Green Bay, Wisconsin would ascent from the embers of a group called Bleed. All in all it was basically just a group changing their name and moving forward. The blugeoning and brutal music that Crawl would go on to create after that would only last for so long, and unfortunately, in between their first and second full-length releases, there would be a lineup change, and the band would soon dissolve. So, let's go back to the very beginning. Tell us how this band came all together?
THOMAS DANZ: Bleed/Crawl was grown out of bands I was playing with in junior high school and high school. The first incarnation of Bleed/Crawl was a band called Holocaust I started with Tim Panzlaff and a guitarist named Jeff, and I believe Jeremy Brown, who later went on to Vacuum Scam. We had a few drummers during this time. We eventually got Ron Heemstra from Dusk. He was a friend of mine from junior high school. He and I were in our first real band together called Outrage. Ron kept telling me about this great guitarist, Jason DeJardin, so Jeff was out, and Jason was in. That was when Nothing Sacred was born, well I think we were Ultra Violence for a week or so. We started off playing covers like Metallica, Slayer, Flotsam And Jetsam, and Prong. We recorded several original demos together before we finally perfected our sound on that first Bleed EP.
MPAP: And Thomas, you would be the first to exit Crawl in 1996. What happened, why did you decide to leave?
THOMAS: It’s the normal stuff that breaks up bands… success, or lack thereof, ego, money, or lack thereof, and so on. Jason and I wrote some great stuff together, including Construct – Destroy – Rebuild, but that’s a whole other story. What one of us was lacking, the other made up for. Having a writing partner does not come along every day, so I knew we had something special in this band. However, traveling and being together so much, our personal relationships became strained. The magic started to disappear. After a fight between Jason and I following a performance at Milwaukee’s Metal Fest, I knew I was done. Tim called the next day to try to smooth things over, but Jason and I never really spoke after that day.
MPAP: What about you Bill, you would also exit as well shortly thearafter?
BILL KABACINSKI: At the time I met a girl I worked with and moved out of state with her. I was younger and wanted to try something different, although the decision was not an easy one to leave my friends and the band.
MPAP: Jason, you would continue on with Crawl for another year, bringing in a new bassist and even adding someone on percussions, and during that time recorded Construct - Destroy - Rebuild. It still seemed promising for Crawl to continue on, so why did you think the group finally had to come to an end?
JASON: Things were looking good for a while, but it was not meant to be. There were a number of factors that led to the demise of Crawl. Extreme metal in the 90s crested around 1994-5, and the audiences were just not there anymore. It was disappointing because so much work went into getting to where we were and then the whole scene fragmented. It didn’t help that we really didn’t stick with the same particular style for longer than a year at a time. It was hard to categorize us both musically, as well as visually. We really didn’t look like your typical metal band other than some of us had long hair. I always felt we had the talent, but the parts never really fit right as a complete 'product'. In 1997 we just became disillusioned by the whole thing and decided it was time to for us to pack it up and move on with our lives.
MPAP: This question is for Bill and Thomas. Was it difficult for each of you to leave Crawl and then see Jason continue on without you?
BILL: Yes, it was. I loved playing live shows, it was definitely my favorite part of being in the band. I was happy to see the guys continue on. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
THOMAS: Since I had so much to do with those songs from Construct - Destroy - Rebuild, it did hurt hearing Jason sing them. To this day I don’t think I have listened to the whole album.
MPAP: Before we talk about Earth, Crawl’s first studio release, found on Pavement Recordings, released April 18th, 1995; let’s go back to the end of Bleed. What was the reason for the group’s name change? I mean Bleed had already established themselves as a dominant Industrial metal band in the local Green Bay metal scene, so why the need to start things over while still having the same lineup?
JASON: We would have stuck with the name Bleed, but another non-metal band in Los Angeles had the name already, and had an album or two out. If I recall, we could have bought the naming rights from them, but it was far more cash than we could produce, so we ended up changing the name to Crawl. Here's a bit of extra info, Bleed and Crawl were lifted from one of our favorite bands Entombed and their song titles.
THOMAS: As I recall, some other signed band from LA had the name, so we had to change it. I was listening to a lot of Entombed, so we became Crawl.
MPAP: The songs you recorded by Bleed obviously meant something, because most of the songs that were recorded on Womb carried over to be re-recorded for Earth. What was the reason for this? Why not set yourselves completely apart from Bleed and stay away from the previously recorded material?
BILL: In my opinion, we liked the music with Bleed, just wanted a name change. We planned on that Bleed release just to be an EP, and then we would eventually release a full-length CD.
JASON: We wanted people to be aware that we were still the same band by including the five songs from the Womb EP. Because our sound was constantly evolving, we felt if we wrote ten new songs for Earth, our fans might not recognize us as the same band anymore. It also ensured that Earth would get released while the iron was hot, so to speak.
THOMAS: We were shopping the EP to labels. We were really happy with those songs, so, when Olympic Recordings picked us up, we wanted to re-record them for our first release.
MPAP: Now Let's go into more detail about that important release that's called Earth. Some diehard fans might even say it’s an archetypal release. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Earth?
JASON: Mechanized bludgeoning is my first thought! It was defiantly the heaviest thing we put out which is a good thing. Tom’s singing on the first song "Skinned" and parts of "Servant" were what I wanted the whole album’s vocals to be like. Because we re-recorded the five older songs, we had to stick with the full-on John Tardy for the rest of the album. I was happy with the recording overall, and felt it was a solid debut that we could build on with our next release. All hail the Roland R-70!
BILL: I enjoy the samples, the industrial grind of it all. I dig the groove of "Machine’s Way," but I love the drive of "Skinned." I was happy with the direction of the band.
THOMAS: First word I think of is Womb.
MPAP: Continuing with what comes to your mind, what else do you want to say to the readers about it?
JASON: Give it a listen if you haven’t already, it has some fun moments for sure. Not many bands were doing this style back in the day, so I feel proud to have been part of this particular genre. On the flipside, Earth is a bit too syncopated at points for my taste, but that is part of its charm. I am musically a bigger fan of Construct - Destroy - Rebuild, but Tom’s vocals are far superior on Earth then mine are on Construct.
BILL: We always appreciated the support from our fans, always grateful. Green Bay had a fun metal scene back in the days of Kutska’s Hall and The Orpheum downtown. Back when people would come to shows and get into the music. Some of the old videos we have, have some cool footage I am thankful to have.
THOMAS: I was really into one name titles at the time, and Earth was in the same mindset of Womb. The song "Womb" is really about the how the earth gives birth to everything. We enter the grave as one thing and end up something else. "Your rot breeds new life, the earth gives only life – Womb." I know heavy stuff. I was a frustrated poet, I thought of myself as the heavy metal Jim Morrison.
MPAP: What would best describe what someone would hear when listening to Earth for the first time?
BILL: Metal industrial groove. Volume Up.
JASON: It’s like Godflesh, Obituary and Napalm Death got into a triple head on collision in the dead of winter. Throw in a little Voivod with some machinery and backing orchestrations and you have Earth.
THOMAS: It is a dark ride from beginning to end. With the movie samples, heavy guitars and dark lyrics, it grabs you from beginning to end… and I am not sure where it leaves you. It is lyrically very dark and introspective, but written from a very honest place. I think some of my best work.
MPAP: What song, or songs, do you feel best capture the mood, the feel of Earth?
BILL: My personal favorites are "Machines Way," "Skinned." and "I Believe." The kind of hooks I live for is like the one, one minute and nineteen seconds into "Machine’s Way," I find that change rather agreeable.
JASON: I like "Skinned," "Machines Way," and "Grey" the most. "Skinned" was the last song to be written for the album and it is the most streamlined of them all. "Machines Ways" chorus groove was a rare animal back in the day for a death industrial metal band. The crowd would always joyously bust out into violent dance for that one. "Grey" is fun because of the orchestrations, I think it was the oldest of the songs on Earth. Random item. I really dislike the sample from Kalifornia at the end of "Skinned." If you didn’t realize what was being described before the final line, it just sounds questionable. There was a good old-fashioned arm-wrestling match to decide if the sample was going to be kept. I lost, and the sample stayed put. Random item #2. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre sample that ends with '…get on with it.' between "Womb" and "I Believe," accidentally lined up perfectly on the Womb EP, so we ported it over to Earth.
THOMAS: I think they are all connected, Earth is really Womb part two. I don’t think I could pick my favorite song. Listen to the whole album!
MPAP: I agree. Just listen to the whole album. So, like mentioned earlier, some of the Womb songs carried over onto Earth, but along with those songs, there were some new songs recorded called; "Skinned," "Servant," "Release," “Machines Way," and "I Believe." What was the vibe like when writing these songs for the new album?
JASON: We were more comfortable with the style at that point, so I felt they were better songs. I don’t recall the vibe at the time, but after listening to the entirety of Earth for the first time in years, I would say the vibe was more desperate. If we had written five additional new songs, along with those five mentioned songs, Earth would have been a very different album.
THOMAS: I was experimenting with some new vocal sounds, and we were getting more industrial. We never really wanted to be put in a musical 'box'. "Skinned" and "Servant" were written last for the album. It was us moving away from our death metal roots to something else. This band was always about growth and experimenting with new sounds.
MPAP: Where was the inspiration coming from when writing these new five songs?
THOMAS: I am a huge movie fan, so mostly movies. None of these songs are based in reality, thankfully, but they were in part influenced by some bad relationships too. Really high-level inspirations I think, remember 22 years is long time… Julie from Hellraiser I am sure had something to do with "Skinned." "Servant" was like a Rivers Edge vibe. "Release" …I will leave that one to the imagination of the listener. "Machines Way" I am sure came from a Stephen King book I never read, along with touring and playing to a drum machine track all the time. "I Believe" I was working 3rd shift someplace, hard to keep a great job when I needed time off for the band. I was taking the trash to the dumpster and wrote those lyrics after looking up at the night sky …no idea why, just exploring my spiritual beliefs, I guess. I am not sure that song sorted them out for me.
BILL: Silence of the Lambs, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Kalifornia were some cinematic influences that we were enjoying at the time.
JASON: Back when we were young men, there was plenty of motivation in everyday life. A general distaste for humanity and it’s virus like nature kept up the aggression from our end. We always smoked a fair amount of pot, so that usually helps the creative process. I can’t speak for the other guys, but having no money and having no real prospects other than music always motivated me to write new songs. I personally always had to keep moving forward regardless of the changes that came with it.
MPAP: Out of curiosity, because they are good songs just as well, why didn’t "Arson," and "Images Dead" from Womb make the cut onto the Earth release like all the other songs from it did?
THOMAS: "Arson" we had released for a local compilation album called Tailgate Party, so I guess we thought it was played out for our fan base. "Images Dead" was a re-write from our prior demo tape. Basically it was a Death rip-off and had nowhere else to go as a song.
JASON: A good question. "Images Dead" was a holdover from our 1992 demo, so we chose to not record it in a 3rd form. "Arson" was a fine song, but it was also released on various artist CD back in Green Bay called Tailgate Vol.1 I think. Often when we found ourselves at our favorite dive bar Speakeasy (r.i.p.) back home, people would play this song and sing along with alternate lyrics. I could not take another few years of that if we had re-recorded it, so we killed it off as well. Or did we? Random item #3. "Long Way Down" on Construct- Destroy - Rebuild is actually a revamped "Arson". What can I say, I am an avid recycler.
MPAP: Artwork, pictures, lyrics, liner notes, all seem to be a thing of the past. The compact disc and jeweled plastic case has become almost a relic thanks to the birth of MP3s. So, tell us about the cover artwork to Earth and what was inside the small CD gatefold that someone might find interesting?
JASON: To start off with, Earth’s CD layout was saved improperly to a SyQuest 44 removable drive way back when it was initially designed. I forget the specifics, but the botched file made the color portions of the layout way too dark and/or purplish. The cover that I worked on with the graphic designer, also named Jason, was far brighter and looked great compared to the finished product. At any rate the front cover is actually a small section taken from the Womb EP and framed with the Crawl logo above it. The three-panel gate fold has separate pictures to represent different aspects of nature; water, forest, and thirdly, parched earth. It was meant as a warning against future environmental disaster.
MPAP: Now that you've pointed that out, I totally see what you're talking about. I would have never known in a million years if you hadn't pointed this out. That is definitely interesting.
THOMAS: My Dad took the inside photo under the lyrics. That was a statue I drove by all the time. We would see it coming back after being on a long band road trip, and it became something special to us. I never credited my Dad on the album for the photo. I have always regretted that.
MPAP: Let's go back to Bleed for a moment again. When Womb was released in 1993, it was said you were heavily influenced by such Industrial metal heavy hitters like Godflesh, and Pitch Shifter. Some people even thought you had copied Fear Factory’s Soul Of A New Machine sound, which had been previously released in late 1992. How did this make you feel knowing that some listeners thought you had copied a bands sound?
JASON: A fine point to bring up. We had been listening to Godflesh and Pitchshifter for a couple of years before we parted ways with our original drummer Ron. We bought a Roland R-70 and a Korg O1Wfd to replace him, and started playing our new style of metal in the Summer of 1992. We were all pretty bummed when Soul Of A New Machine came out in September 1992, because we had never even heard of Fear Factory. We thought we had some pretty competent songs on our hands at the time, and we did, but FF clearly got the jump on the style. There are certainly musical similarities between the two bands at this period of time. I can’t help but think though that our later material on Earth was tainted by having listened to FF. Our second album 'Construct' shared far less common ground with FF.
BILL: I remember hearing this comparison, I just thought it was because we were using a drum machine. We wrote our own songs without copying anyone, period.
THOMAS: Great question. I will respond with a quote Jason had recently given in an interview; "The Bleed EP was a big change musically from the demo as it was what I dubbed at the time 'Industrial Strength Grind'. It was in fact Death Metal with Industrial aspects such as sequenced machinery noises and orchestral backing. Ron had been replaced by the Roland R-70/Korg O1V combination and we had totally shed our thrash roots. Our timing was unfortunately about 3 weeks too late though. While the Womb CD's were being pressed, Fear Factory's Soul Of A New Machine came out, and a bunch of people thought we had lifted their sound. The only things we were guilty of, was being huge Godflesh/Pitchshifter fans. And being from Green Bay instead of Los Angeles vastly limited our exposure.' I am not sure I could sum that up any better.
MPAP: Continuing on with some more history of Crawl, and now fast-forwarding to April 18th, 1995, to be exact, Earth was released. Shortly after that Fear Factory released Demanufacture on June 12th. Was there any planning, or any knowledge of them releasing new material to make sure Earth came out before Demanufacture, so you wouldn’t have to hear the negative criticism again?
THOMAS: Not that I am aware of… we heard the comparisons, but we just did our thing. I never really listened to them that much. I think we were inspired by the same bands. I think I met them at Metal Fest in ‘95, again so long ago, the topic never came up, and why would it; they had a tour bus and were on a real tour, and we were in a van with a trailer, they win.
BILL: To my knowledge there was not any planning of any sort. Hell, we were just happy to have our CD coming out.
JASON: There was no conscience effort to release Earth before a new FF album. That just happened to be the time we finished up the process of recording, mixing and designing the CD release.
MPAP: Let’s shift gears now and talk about after Earth had been released. What’s the first thing that happened? I’m sure a tour followed, correct?
THOMAS: I remember when Earth came out and the label sent one advance copy to the band, so I went out and bought it at the local record store. To this day that is the one copy I have. We sold our Bleed EP ata shows because we owned the rights to it and had plenty of copies, it paid for gas.
BILL: We got hooked up with a tour agent and played some shows. I don’t remember the first band we toured with for that album, sad I know.
JASON: The CD came out and we were like, 'WTF happened to the cover?' After that let down we were just super happy to have a CD out with a placard at Best Buy. We did a little bit of touring that summer in support of the album. A mini Southwest tour with Thought Industry followed by a month-long full US tour with Acumen (Acumen Nation). Really minimal in the grand scheme of things. Our record label and booking agent were not all that well connected, nor were we the easiest band to find an audience for, so we made a very small impact overall.
MPAP: What were some of the best parts of being out on the road during that time in 1995? Any highlights that stick out the most that you can share?
THOMAS: No money, no food, and no air conditioning, that is what I remember most. In all seriousness, it was good and bad, I loved playing; still do. I waited all day to play the show and the fans made it all worth it. I remember being at a record store somewhere in Texas and the guy played some of Korn’s album for me… it was the first time I thought what we were doing had an expiration date.
MPAP: That's kind of sad because you could almost see the end of something great that was just beginning.
JASON: We had quite a bit of fun and equal amounts of irritation during our travels across the US. No sleep, too much beer, sink baths, truck stop showers, no A/C in the van, just enough cash for gas, chain link surrounded stages, The 5th Column, murders behind the venue, Lemmy at Coney Island High, bunk mushrooms in the mountains of AZ, Crank in the San Fernando Valley, fuel pump replacement in Denver at a Burger King parking lot on my Birthday, side-swiped by a cop car while doing 75mph in Detroit, a flaming Acumen Dodge van outside of Houston, again while doing 75mph, razor wire parking encloser, and a fuck ton of needles at the 'Pipeline' in Newark NJ. Welcome to van touring! I have many fond memories of those band tours back in 1996-7.
MPAP: Wow, that's sounds like at some points some serious scary shit!
BILL: Good question for the other guys; however, I do remember when that van engine caught on fire and the only thing we had to throw on the fire was a milk shake. Thank goodness for small fires.
MPAP: Holy shit, this was great! This was so cool to get to talk to each of you. You don't know how many times I've listened to Earth, and now I'm here talking with you all. So, on behalf of myself and Metal Pulp And Paper, I’d like to thank you, Bill, Thomas, and Jason, for all for doing this interview. It really means a lot.
JASON: Thank you once again for the interest in Crawl and for the interview!
THOMAS: Thanks, it’s truly an honor to talk to you.
MPAP: One last question before we bring this interview to a close. If the band Crawl was somehow resurrected for just a reunion one-off show only, what would you want to say to that?
THOMAS: Sign me up!
BILL: I would do that without question. I have my gear ready to go.
JASON: That is an interesting prospect. Our friends in the band Dusk have gotten back together for the first time in 20 years and I am really excited for them. We would have to get our shit together quick though as we are obviously not young men. No one wants to see fat old men play metal, do they? I have not talked with Tom or Tim since the late 90s, so we have no real connection, but you can never say never!
MPAP: Finally, any last words for all the Bleed and Crawl fans out there?
BILL: Thank you for all the past support and glad you were there to experience it all with us. Man, I love the metal.
JASON: Thanks to metal fans for listening to our stuff! It always makes me happy when I talk with people that either own our stuff or at least remember seeing some of our shows back in the day. Musicians often write music regardless of who will listen to it, but it is always a joy when it finds and appreciative audience. Thanks so much for listening and for reading. Keep those metal horns flying!
THOMAS: It is so amazing that something we created over 20 years ago is still remembered and has an impact on people’s lives. Thank you for your support over the years.
MPAP: Once again, apologies to Tim. Well on behalf of myself and Metal Pulp And Paper, it was so great to be able to do this interview with you all. It means a lot. We are looking forward to what the future might bring for Crawl.
Jason Dejardin: Guitars
Tim Pantzlaff: Guitars
Thomas Danz: Vocals
Bill Kabacinski: Bass
Crawl / August 23rd, 2019/ Interview #155