METAL PULP AND PAPER: Hello JS. So glad to be catching up with you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us at Metal Pulp And Paper. We appreciate it.
JS CLAYDEN: Welcome!
MPAP: It’s great to be finally talking with you. How are you?
JS: Elated and exhausted. Mystery bruises. Full of love.
MPAP: That's good to hear. Now let’s get right down into it; there is some big news that many of your fans from all over the world have been waiting for, Pitchshifter is back in action again, correct?
JS: Yes. We just hit the road for a micro-tour of England. Six back-to-back dates.
MPAP: So, the dust is brushed off, and you guys are going at it full bore, burying the needle, with all pistons firing once again?
JS: HA. No. Those six dates were the sum of it. We came out of cryo-statis to shake the cobwebs off for a week and are now returning to our hovels to repair the damage.
MPAP: That small stretch of live shows in England? How was it?
JS: Amazing. From our perspective, we received a massive outpouring of love for the band from long-standing fans. We really couldn't have asked for anything more. Full shows, lots of love and respect, great gigs, seeing friends and family. The PSI Massive awoke!
MPAP: Also, for those of you at home keeping score, that small tour was to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Pitchshifter's fifth release, www.pitchshifter.com, which was monumental for Pitchshifter. When doing this tour did memories of 1998, when you released it, come flooding in?
JS: Yes. We had a lot of fun writing and recording that album. Playing together with my brother and the Rayner brothers, it was like we'd not skipped a beat in a few decades. Sure, we made mistakes; but we always made mistakes. We're really a punk band when you strip away all the elements. And these shows were punk as fuck. It really was a great affirmation of us as a group. I would like to thank every single person that attended and supported. My respect to you all--you guys were amazing.
MPAP: With the group being together for 30 years now, how deep into your setlist do you go? Do you touch anything from your first three Pitch Shifter albums?
JS: Virus is about as far back as we go. That's my fault. I'm over the grunting stuff. It had its time and place, but we moved on. Somethings you just had to be there for; but there are albums worth of newer material to play. We favored the ".com" album on this run, of course; but we also played some other tunes. I think, in general, you inevitably end up playing your favorite tunes when you get as long in the tooth as we are. Old people just end up doing what they want (like your Granny when she loses her filter and starts telling you put on weight since she last saw you.)
MPAP: Once the dates of the tour began, I’m sure the crowd was welcoming you back with open arms excited to see you all playing live again? How was their reaction?
JS: It was totally amazing. We really couldn't have expected or asked for any more. We felt like long-lost travelers being welcomed back with a town parade.
MPAP: I know we've talked a lot already, but before we go any further, let’s introduce you and your band to everyone just in case they haven’t heard of Pitchshifter before. There might be a few that have been sleeping under a rock the past 30 years or were perhaps just born during the hiatus of the group. So, hello to everyone. We have JS Clayden here from Pitchshifter, who are a British band from Nottingham, England that formed in 1989. There have been quite a few various members over the years exiting the group, but the main two members are the core creative force, and thry are the Clayden brothers. There is Mark, who plays bass, and who was for a brief moment, was the original vocalist on the debut album, and then there is you; JS Clayden, who is now the vocalist after your brothers’ brief stint at it. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we go any further?
JS: Six studio albums. 30 countries on the road. Covers of Metal Hammer, Kerrang, and Rocksound. In an edition of 2000AD. Had our own crop circle once. Stage invasions. Got the power pulled on us a few times. Were banned in Poland for a while. Worked with Jello Biafra of Dead Kennedys and John Stanier form Helmet. Warped Tour, Ozzfest, Fashionably Loud. Most of our own teeth, house-trained, available for children's parties.
MPAP: Pitchshifter’s music style has changed over the years, and in a way you could say it dramatically changed between your third release, Desensitized in 1993, and your fourth release Infotainment in 1996. You shed the industrial metal style to a more melodic and punk-influenced to almost alternative form, to even having a bit of hip-hop layered in the change as well. With each release since the debut Pitch Shifter to Pitchshifter was continually growing and changing, but this was a significant change. What do you think brought on that change between those two albums? Was there something meaningful that happened or something new you were listening to help spark and fuel the change?
JS: I was given more input in songwriting, basically. Once that happened, and I was able to convince the guys that it's OK if I didn't shout my head off all the time, then we were free to explore more avenues. That let us see anything we liked as fair game and the genre mashing began.
MPAP: Did you ever receive negative criticism because of it? Also, if you did, do you think eventually making www.pitchshifter.com was a slap to everyone’s face that doubted or disliked it?
JS: Yes. There are a few hinterland atoll troglodytes that lament the use of non-guttural vocal. I understand that all art is subjective and so I don't bear those folks any grudge; but we moved because we wanted and needed to and so that era of Pitch Shifter transitioned to Pitchshifter and the rest is history.
MPAP: Moving forward, in an interview you mentioned, Pitchshifter had quite the negative experience being on a major label. You said, ‘we wrote 2 good albums and I don’t think they promoted it as well as they should have been.’ What do you think happened? Do you think they were caught off guard by the success, or just never wanted to put in any effort from the beginning?
JS: They just didn't know what to do with us. To be fair, nobody really knew what to do with us. We'd often get put on death metal show line ups because there weren't any other bands that sounded like us. It's the blessing and curse of being at the start of something. On the one hand you're unique and so you stand out. On the other hand, you often don't reap the benefits of the groundwork educating the public on the fact that this type of music is legitimate--bands down the line produce more palatable versions of the scene in future years. That’s just the cycle of human art.
MPAP: Records are almost extinct, and now the streaming websites are the musician’s platform, a platform that doesn’t pay enough. What do you think has happened to the record industry over the years? It’s not like it used to be. There is almost no record industry anymore unless you’re Taylor Swift or Justin Beiber. For the new underground bands, it’s long gone, right?
JS: Ironically, although we use digital platforms for our music, touring and merch, I'm probably too much of a dinosaur now to give viable input on this topic. You need to ask a young kid trying to make it like we were back in the day what their reality is now and then compare the two. We had John Peel and Kerrang. God knows what they do now. (Now, get off my lawn!)
MPAP: Many bands will not make enough to survive on record sales alone. They must go out on tour, and try to sell a bunch of merch as well. Most still struggle, and of course most still must have a regular day job to help support paying the bills, let alone being in a band. In your opinion, if Pitchshifter were to start a brand new today unheard of, do you think you’d be able to make it?
JS: Probably not. But we slept on the floor, skipped meals and lived like paupers for many years during the early days. Our focus wasn't (and still is not) money or fame, and so we were able to get on vapors because the music itself was our goal. I think you can achieve a lot if you’re that dedicated--regardless as to which century you're from (yes, we're from the last century, people.)
MPAP: You haven’t toured for over a decade, what’s different now compared to back then?
JS: More bits of us hurt. That's about it. We can still play as well (or as poorly--lol) as we ever did, IMHO.
MPAP: What do you miss the most about touring that might no longer be there?
JS: The things I miss about touring, after my years in the "normal" world, are the camaraderie, the connection with fans, and the adventure of it all. All of that still exists for the young and the hungry!
Moreover, what is still there that you forgot about and it reared its ugly head going being back out on tour? Lack of sleep. Mystery bruises. It always going faster than you think it will.
MPAP: Were drugs or alcohol ever a part of Pitchshifter's career?
JS: Five males from the crappy part of town in a punk band getting away from their soot-encrusted Uk life. Yeah, we went bonkers at first until we figured it all out.
MPAP: What was it like to release your debut album, Industrial, and then to be able to go out on a small tour with Napalm Death in 1991? Any wild or crazy stories you care to mention that might raise an eyebrow?
JS: The first show that I remember playing in my career was at Wrexam Memorial Hall. It was sold out at 500 punters and I remember being scared to death at seeing that many people. Further, the stage had a catwalk and the vocal mic was set up right at the end of end of it; far, far away from the band. I steeled myself, walked up to the front and decided to abuse the crowd a bit to see what would happen. They loved it and the rest is history. I do remember that a lot of people there refused to speak English to us (political times). My welsh being terrible, we had to mime what we needed. Good times.
MPAP: What about being a part of Ozzfest in 2000? That had to of been memorable?
JS: Ozzfest was insane. I have a million stories about that. Powered scooters, crashing jet-skis, fire-breathers, The Dwarves, playing golf off a tour-bus roof, Shifty Shellshock losing it--an insane, gasoline-soaked endless Groundhog Day of madness.
MPAP: I can only imagine that chaos! So, in 2016 when asked about a longer-term reunion, you emphasized that the current band members live in different cities and countries. Has anything changed since you have some recent shows under your belt? Does everyone have the bug to keep doing this?
JS: We still all live in different cities/countries, and some of us travel a lot for our grown-up jobs. And, so, touring is still challenging just in terms of availability. But I have to say that we all f'in loved this tour. The fans were incredible. There's nothing on the horizon, but, yes, we had an amazing time and we'd be honored not to leave it so long next time if we can all make it and the fans still want it.
MPAP: Do you still leave it up in the air that you have no idea when and if you’ll ever play again?
JS: Roll the dice!
MPAP: On behalf of myself and Metal Pulp And Paper, I’d like to thank you, JS, for doing this interview. We look forward to what Pitchshifter does to finish out the year 2018 and beyond. With you living in Los Angeles, will there be a Pitchshifter tour in the United States anytime soon?
JS: We get requests for such; but it's a long haul to pull the rest of the guys over and our crowd is more rooted in the UK. Who knows--if everything fell into place; never say never.
MPAP: Before we bring this to a close, any last words for all your fans out there all over the world?
JS: My respect to you all. When we were in the thick of it for all of those years, we didn't really have time to reflect on what was happening in the moment. After taking a decade off and returning for a short stint on the road, it really became clear how amazing, loyal, and patient our fans are, and how much we love playing live. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to each and everyone one of you. Having your support and engagement for all of these years is way more than a few punk lads form the wrong side of the tracks could have ever expected. You guys rule.
JS Clayden/ December 6th, 2018/ Interview #131