In-depth Interview With Earth Crisis Guitarist Scott Crouse

By Andrew Bansal

Longstanding New York-based hardcore/metal band Earth Crisis are ready to release their seventh studio album ‘Salvation Of Innocents’ on Tuesday March 18th, their first release on Candlelight Records. Always lyrically themed on topics surrounding animal and environmental injustice, Earth Crisis not only delivers on the musical front but also gives the listener food for thought. A few weeks ago, I spoke to guitarist Scott Crouse in detail about the making of this new album, the production, the comic book tie-in, touring plans, genre labels, lyrics and lots more. Check out the conversation below.

Scott, it’s good to have you on Metal Assault. I’m going to mainly talk to you about the new Earth Crisis album ‘Salvation Of Innocents’ which is coming out on March 18th on Candlelight. In your opinion, how does it musically compare to the previous six albums that you’ve done?

I think it’s an evolution. I mean, I know that’s a clichéd thing to say for a band that’s been around for as long as we have (laughs), but I think it is. I think there are a lot of bands that are pretty content once they find their sound and they just roll with it. We’ve always kind of been fans of bands that tend to push the envelope a little bit with every album but are still able to maintain their core sound. That’s what we always try to do, so I think this album varies slightly from the last two that we’ve done, but it’s along those lines but we’ve added a few elements and kind of sped it up a little bit. Tempo-wise it’s a little bit quicker than a lot of our albums have been in the past.

Right, I listened to the album and I think I agree with you. It’s not too different, but it’s more a case of you doing a slightly better job at whatever you did in the past.

Oh, thanks man. Yeah, that’s the goal. We look back on past albums and think about where we missed the mark, and things we were going for but couldn’t pull it off. We’re always critiquing ourselves and trying to better ourselves.

Earth Crisis made a comeback in ’07 and then you put out albums in ’09 and 2011. But this one has seemingly taken longer. It’s been almost 3 years since the last one.

Yeah, we’re not really like a full-time band. We do may be two weeks of touring in every country, at most. We don’t tour like most bands do. So we’re not really on that touring cycle schedule that most bands are on, and bands that have to get a new release out every two years. So we just kind of felt that we should put a record out when it’s time to put a record out, when we have enough songs and we feel like it’s a solid album. So we took three years with this one, and everybody has kids and things like that going on now, so things definitely take a little bit longer than they used to, for sure.

That’s understandable. So, you’ve produced the album yourself this time. What was that like?

It was really cool. I’ve been recording on a demo level and some friends’ releases here and there for years and years. After we did the Gomorrah’s Season Ends album, I was actually asked to work at the studio where we recorded it, so I’ve been around that world for quite some time. But I just never really felt confident enough to take on our own stuff. I always felt like, ‘Well, if we have the budget let somebody else handle it.’ I was nervous to do it myself. But for this record, I finally got to a point where I felt like I could handle most of it (laughs). And we did it. We were lucky enough to have Zeuss mix it, so he kind of took our chaos and organized it to make it sound really good.

Yeah I was about to say, he mixed your album and he’s worked with a lot of great bands. I think what he does is, he maintains the aggression but makes it more concise and clean, but not over-polished.

Yeah, totally. It’s cool because he’s not content with just having everything that sounds the same either. He wants to branch out and try different things as well. When we talked about this record, I told him, “We did ‘Neutralize The Threat’ together, let’s make this one sound different.” We wanted to make it sound good but different, so we purposely had the guitars a little bit raw and we didn’t want it to sound overly processed, and just have it sound like a really good guitar going through a cabinet and mic’d up, nothing too much, just a raw, clean recording. And I think he really did a good job doing that.

Do you think metal albums are too clean these days?

Sure yeah, I think a lot of it is. Nowadays the way everything is done with recording, it’s very easy to make things clean. Now you have to actually try to make things sound a little bit more raw and organic because just the way things are with everybody recording with Pro Tools and computers. It’s really easy to make a drum sound perfect, and I think that’s a big thing. Back in the day, like on an old Slayer album, Dave Lombardo is a great drummer but he was not perfect on the album. You could hear little things. The double bass was slightly off here and there, and that’s just human. But now it’s really easy to fix all that stuff and make it perfect, and everybody is doing it. There’s a fine line between maintaining the aggression of your band on a recording, having it sound clean and powerful, but you don’t want to be too robotic as it kind of sucks the life out of it.

Right, exactly. Coming back to your new album, you also have a comic book which is tied into it, called ‘Liberator’. Tell me about that.

Yeah, we’ve wanted to do it for years. For every album we revisit the idea to see if it’s possible but we it never was, because to my surprise it’s a very expensive thing. A comic book costs a lot of money to get made and I had no idea about that, specially the kind of work that goes into a comic book. I knew it was a lengthy process because of all the art but I didn’t really understand it until we started looking into it. It just never was an option, financially. We just never could make it work. But this time around we were lucky enough to have a friend who has been doing a comic book for a few years now that’s been picked up by a publisher. He has access to good, solid artists so it looks really professional. It’s not a DIY situation. It’s a real comic book with real artists. So I just kind of reached out to him and told him that it would tie in to our thing perfectly because his comic book is right up the alley with the lyrical content of our album. His book has a couple of characters that are like heroes that go around liberating animals from farms and laboratories. That’s what our album is about lyrically. It’s about a vivisection lab. So we brought up the idea to him and he said he’d love to do it. Within the course of two weeks we worked it all out and it happened. It was probably one of the easiest things we ever made happen. It was great! So we’re excited. He’s going to be doing some in-stores and we’ll go along with him and hang out. It’s going to be fun.

That’s exciting, man. Is this comic book coming out with the deluxe edition of the album or how is it being released?

Cost-wise it would have been really expensive to try to get a comic and the album in a store like Best Buy or something. They don’t really sell comics, so in order for them to carry the comic it would have just been really expensive, but fortunately we found a lot of other places like Amoeba in LA which sell comics and music. So in places like that, you can buy them together but other than that, if you’re not around one of those places you’ll have to order them separately. But still, I think it’s a cool thing and we should see a lot of crossover. Guys who’re into comic books might like the music to go along with it and vice versa.

That’s the idea! So, in terms of shows what do you have coming up?

There’s some stuff that I’m not able to announce yet because the shows won’t allow me to (laughs), but we have some festival things coming up in Canada. We’re doing a Breast Cancer Benefit festival in Charlotte, North Carolina called Breast Fest, and then we have plans to do some West Coast shows later in the year and a European run with Corrosion Of Conformity is coming up too. So things are lining up.

That’s cool. Talking of your genre description, I don’t really care for all that but a lot of people have to put labels on bands. You’ve been described as metalcore for the longest time. Do you even think that you’re band is symbolizing that term anymore?

I agree with you, I’m not a big fan of putting everything in a compartment. At one point I think it made sense because there was hardcore music, pop music, there was metal and those are very distinct genres of music. But when you start getting into the sub-genres like deathcore and metalcore and the millions of little off-shoots, I feel like it gets out of hand. I guess we’ve been called metalcore for so long that it’s never really bothered us. I’m numb to it now but we don’t agree with it. I don’t know what you would call us. I guess we are sort of a hybrid between the hardcore and the metal scene. I definitely think we tend to lean more towards the metal side than the hardcore side, specially in the later years .The last three records have been definitely leaning towards metal. There’s still some hardcore influence there, of course, but I think we fit in more with a band like Carcass than we do with bands like Youth Of Today or Gorilla Biscuits or something (laughs). So it’s tough, I don’t like the sub-genre label thing too much but at the end of the day it doesn’t really hurt me either when people call us metalcore.

I have just one more question for you. Your lyrical themes are centered on animal injustice and things like that, which I relate to and take seriously as well. In your opinion, where are we going in terms of that and what do you think about the future of animals, specially endangered species?

It’s a tough thing because on some levels I look at the progress that’s been made since the 1990s. When I got into this in 1990, I became a vegetarian and started really paying attention to this stuff. I look at the progress made as far as diet goes and a lot of things, even just things like the anti-fur and anti animal-testing campaigns.  There’s more products out there for somebody that wants to avoid hurting animals and hurting the environment. There’s more natural food products, there’s more meat and dairy substitutes. There’s more non-animal tested products than ever now. I think that’s great and there’s a lot more awareness. When I started, I told somebody that the razor they use is tested on animals, showed them a video of how it’s done and they were blown away, but I think the average person now might have an idea. But then like you said, the endangered species continue to keep climbing because humanity has always looked at itself first and sees it as, “Okay, we’re here, we can do whatever we want. We take dominance over the rest of the world”, unfortunately. I think that outlook has to change in order for the world to change. We have to look at ourselves as not above other creatures but try to work in harmony with them. We can still have our homes and our cars but we can do this stuff at a responsible level where we’re not destroying the habitat of other creatures. Until we start nurturing life and not take it away, I think we’re going to be in trouble.

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