In Conversation With The Sword Guitarists JD Cronise & Kyle Shutt

By Andrew Bansal

Austin, Texas-based worshippers of the heavy riff The Sword have had a tremendously successful career so far and for a band of their stature they’ve already achieved a lot in their ten-year long career so far. They released their 4th studio album ‘Apocryphon’ late last year via Razor & Tie Records, an album that saw them return to the classic metal roots and come out with some truly old-school stoner tunes. Following that they’ve done a couple of tours, and currently they are on a North American tour as main support to the ever-amazing Clutch. This tour made a stop at the House Of Blues Sunset Strip on November 9th, and before the show I sat down with gutiarist/vocalist JD Cronise and lead guitarist Kyle Shutt to talk about the tour and many other things. Read the conversation below.

You’ve been opening for Clutch for the past couple of weeks on this tour. They’re such a great band. How has it been for you guys?

JD: Yeah! It’s great and I watch all or most of their set almost every night. They’re Clutch, they’re legends!

Kyle: We toured with them about five years ago, and it’s crazy to see how much further we’ve both come in five years. It’s one of the best tours we’ve ever done. It’s great.

Clutch is one band that you wouldn’t get bored of seeing every night, even if you’re on tour with them, right?

Kyle: Yeah, they change it up every night and you never know what they’re going to pull out. Usually if you hang around for soundcheck, may be you’ll hear something they might have up their sleeves that they want to try. They’re one of the new bands that you can watch every night and still be entertained.

Are you guys Clutch fans at all and do you have a favorite Clutch record that you grew up listening to?

JD: Yeah, sort of (laughs). I’d say ‘The Elephant Riders’ is my favorite Clutch record.

Kyle: That’s a good one. I didn’t actually get into them until they played a show at the old Emo’s in Austin. They played two sets on the big stage outside, and inside we played between their sets, so it was kind of like a matinee sort of thing and it was the first time I saw them. That was awesome! I think that was around when ‘Blast Tyrant’ came out. So that was the first record of theirs I got into. I mean, it’s just hit after hit and it’s kind of a cop-out answer to your question, but it really is my favorite.

 Awesome. So, late last year after the release of your album ‘Apocryphon’ you did a North American headline tour and you took out Gypsyhawk and American Sharks as your support bands. Now you’re touring with Clutch and American Sharks is also on this tour. You’re kind of making a habit of doing tours with fun, no-bullshit rock n’ roll bands and I think that’s cool because not every band gets to tour with bands that actually suit their music.

JD: Yeah! I think it’s important for you as a headlining band on a tour to pick your openers carefully and give the audience a show they’re going to enjoy in its entirety, not just put whatever on before you that they’re not going to be into, they’re bored by the time you get on stage.

Kyle: And, we have to watch them every night! So we might as well make sure it’s someone we like.

I agree, but are you guys open to doing those package festival-type tours, specially the ones in the US where you’re roped in with a bunch of bands that sound nothing like you?

JD: If it’s with bands that sounded nothing like us, then yes!

Kyle: It would be cool. Remember Lollapalooza back in the day? It was a wild fest! Something like that would be cool. But these kind of nameless, faceless festivals, they’re not all bad but it’s for a certain type of band and we’re just not that type of band, really. I mean, it would depend on the lineup of the fest.

You’ve done a lot of tours around the world and you’ve already achieved a lot in that sense, but when you started the band and comparing that time to now, what is one place where you never thought you would play, and you played already?

Kyle: Two nights at the Forum with Metallica in 2008 was pretty crazy. That’s where the Lakers used to play, right? That was nuts! That was a lot of fun and a good time. Another Metallica show when they took us to Istanbul, that is one of the craziest places I’ve ever been to in my life.

JD: Yeah! I probably didn’t think we would ever play there.

Kyle: There were 65000 people there or something. I’m glad there’s pictures of it so I can prove it to people (laughs).

Coming to this latest album, I’ve actually not seen you guys play the new songs yet because I had to miss the last tour. Obviously your set list is a mix of old and new songs, so do you feel any big shift at all between these songs and the old ones at all while playing a show?

JD: No, not really! The guitar tunings are all the same as well.

Kyle: Our drummer Jimmy did a good job of coming in and learning all the songs so we could play a variety of things. It’s really fun to play the new stuff but it’s more than a year old at this point. So it’s not really new anymore but it’s still fun.

There’s a lot of bands that have been around for a while and some of them cannot keep up with their old stuff, so they down-tune half a step. What’s your opinion on that?

JD: Well, if that’s what you really need to do, I think it’s fine. The thing about us is, we started in C. So to tune down any lower would really be pushing it just from an overall standpoint.

Kyle: I guess you have to find a key that works the best with what you’ve got and mix it up so it doesn’t all sound the same. We’re kind of guilty of that sometimes.

JD: May be we’d need to go to B at some point but I really wouldn’t want to go any lower than that (laughs).

So, twenty years down the line you’ll be playing in B, right?

JD: Yeah, twenty, or one. We’ll see!

Kyle: (Laughs)

Well, this tour is going to run for a couple of weeks. After this, what are you planning to do?

JD: We go out with Clutch again in January, and then we’re going to do probably another US headlining tour, and then we have some other stuff in the works for Spring time, international stuff which isn’t confirmed yet.

Kyle: All subject to change, of course. Have you noticed how many people are canceling tours this year? It’s crazy! Sorry, it’s kind of off-subject but we’ve been talking about that lately.

I’m glad you brought it up because specially when you’re a support band it sucks even more because you plan everything and it’s not even under your control. Has that ever happened to you guys at all?

JD: Oh yeah, we were supposed to go out with Clutch in late September of this year for like two or three weeks, and that was canceled and postponed until January. I had already flown to Austin to get ready to practice and leave.

Kyle: Even the crew was there, I showed up the morning we were leaving and everybody was like, ‘The tour is canceled!’ And I realized, ‘Oh shit, you’re not kidding.’

Finally, we’re coming towards the end of this year so I’m going to start asking this question to bands. Have you kept up with new music this year, and if yes, what’s your favorite record?

JD: From this year, the new Clutch record is a good one!

Kyle: Yeah, that’s a real good one. American Sharks record came out this year too. The new Carcass album is the number one, hands down. The new Deltron album ‘Event 2’ is rad too. I like that and I’m a big hip-hop fan.

Related: Clutch/The Sword LA gig review and live photos

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