Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Interview with Aaron Bedard from Bane

It was mentioned a few interviews back when I talked to Jim Connolly, but as far as I’m concerned, Bane is without question the most important hardcore band of our generation. If someone were to ask me what this whole thing is about, Bane is what I would show them.

My first Bane experience was at Michigan Fest in what must have been 1996 or 1997; their live set was absolutely explosive. I had been told by a friend that they shared members with Converge, so  I knew it would be good, but nothing prepared me for the type of mark they would make. After their set I went and bought their first two 7 inches which Dalbec put out on his own Life Recording Company; they had the vinyl but for whatever reason didn’t have the jackets or inserts so those got mailed out to me later.

Shortly after that “Holding This Moment” came out and it seemed like I was seeing them every six months in either Chicago or Detroit, with each show being more cathartic than the last.

Even as their recorded output and touring have slowed somewhat over the years, I always feel the same way I did when I was 18 at the prospect of hearing new material or getting to see them live.

Needless to say it was a pleasure and a gift to be able to pick Bedard’s brain over the course of the last few months as they wrote and recorded their final LP, “Don’t Wait Up”. I know I speak for a lot of people when I say it’s my most anticipated release of the year by a mile.

So you guys announced at TIHC that you'll be spending the Fall writing a new record! First things first, how is it going so far in terms of putting together the new material, how's the energy and chemistry in the practice space?

Yeah we're writing a last record. It’s getting to be time to say goodbye but we were home for 4 months this year and everyone is back living around Boston and we just figured if we want to continue to tour for another year or so we should have something to hopefully get kids psyched. It's been way too long.

The writings going well, we're excited. This is honestly the first time we've been on a steady weekly rehearsal schedule since we wrote “Give Blood” in 2001. We're getting together every week, everyone has to be there and contribute, there's definitely a sense that we want this to be special, that these are indeed the last Bane songs that we're gonna write and it's hard for that not to carry some weight.

I'm definitely psyched on what we're coming up with so far, pretty short and immediate hardcore songs, not unlike the last 2 tracks we recorded (“Non-Negotiable” and “Satan's Son”), nothing too fancy. I like the idea of them being songs that will work real well live, which for me is always the point of recording hardcore music anyway.

But I feel like there's going to be a somber, left field song or two coming down the pike here soon. I'm almost a little afraid of having to face those emotions. I’ve never been very good at saying goodbye.

Correct me if I'm wrong here (I think we all hope I am), but considering that this will be the final Bane record, how are you approaching the lyrical process this time around? Are there topics or things you've wanted to say in the past that will come out this time? Is there a sense that you have to make a "final statement" of any sort?

Lyrics so far have been more of a struggle than I expected...I keep feeling like things I write are things that have already been said a bunch of times before, realizing that I'm just rephrasing certain ideas from old songs. I'm trying really hard to break out of that.

Mainly I just want to do what I sort of always do and be honest and not play it safe since this is it. If this is the last scene I want it to be insane, I want people to leave the theatre like, “whoa... that was fucking crazy.”

Yeah I can't imagine writing the final chapter of something that has basically enveloped almost your whole adult life up to this point, it must be a little bit surreal. As you approach writing, how much are you focused on the here and now of your life and wanting the lyrics to reflect that as opposed to thinking about legacy; sort of a final letter to hardcore and all the people whose lives have been touched by the band over the years?

Yeah it's definitely been a bit daunting trying to attack this last batch of lyrics I need to write…trying not to get buried under the weight of expectations and the fact that this really is going to be IT. If there’s something I wanna say through this band I need to say it now and obviously I want to try and say it well and have it be lasting.

That's never been the most comfortable place for me, looking at the real big picture and needing to be aware that everything I put down is going to add to some legacy that I've never really spent much time worrying about.

I mean as Bane went on and on I realized that like it or not there would be one but I always told myself it would be there to reflect on after the dust settled and we were all looking back.

I’ve always just tried to stay in the now and keep moving and tell myself that the only thing that mattered was being honest and the rest would sort of fall into place. But now writing these it has been a little hard not have that blur a bit with the undeniable fact that this is indeed a very big deal. Literally the biggest and greatest chapter of my entire life is coming to an end and it's definitely working its way into the overall tone of the record.

Have you guys talked at all yet about whether you might go to Jay Maas for recording who has done the last couple sessions or to back Mcternan who did the first few LP's? What has each of those guys brought to the table both in terms of the recording process itself as well as just the vibe while you're working?

Yes, studio time is booked with Jay. We've gone to him for our last 3 projects (the two 7"s, “Non-Negotiable” and then “Satan's Son”).  We feel very comfortable with him. I like the sounds he gets, he's so patient. Most importantly he really seems excited and eager to try to make this record special.

When Brian was making hardcore records he was the best…he made the record that we're most proud of, “Give Blood”, and it would not have come out the way it did if it wasn’t for his tireless effort and focus.  He wanted that record to be special maybe more than any of us did.

With “The Note” it just felt like that urgency had dulled a little bit, felt like he was in a bit of a different place, which is perfectly natural. He had expanded his horizons, had worked with all different types of bands and here we were this fucking hardcore band still screaming and yelling and banging about. I think we might have called that record over and done with maybe just a little bit sooner than we needed to. I think all you need to do is play “Give Blood” side by side with “The Note” to sort of see the difference in total attention that was being paid to every detail.

As you think back over your time in hardcore, what have been the most profound changes you've seen over the years, whether for the better or for the worse?

That’s a question I get asked a lot and it gets harder and harder to answer cuz we've just been around so many years and so many kids and bands and ideas and trends come and go and come and go. If you make me pick the most profound one I'd say the internet has had an overwhelming influence on our scene as a sort of microcosm of a bigger picture.

It's made the world a smaller place, made touring the whole world as a hardcore band a feasible thing, and it’s allowed people to be put under a microscope on the most unbelievable level; for better or worse. Creative people, hysterical people, awful, hateful people. People and things can be so overblown now and it just trickles down and affects every detail from the way we promote records and shows to the way bands can be on top of the world one week and then completely played out the next.

I think it’s helped to make very broad statements on our culture as a whole and how like it or not we are very willing to just fall in line with what is easiest and what is safest.

It’s kind of a depressing rant but it really would be the thing that I have found to be the most striking and shocking through the years with this band. We started at a time where you still made fliers by hand, could love a band even when no one else did, and if you wanted someone to know how you felt about them you had to look in their eyes.

But obviously the internet has brought a lot of cool things to the world too…I like free comic books and flirty text messages.

So in a couple points on "The Note" ("Pot Committed" and "What Keep Us Here") you guys addressed violence in the scene; crews and things of that nature. One of my favorite things about Bane is that you guys have always very clearly spoken out against the sort of machismo that is often involved in hardcore. Given that you guys have played and traveled so widely, I'm curious if you see this as being an issue that kids are finally waking up and realizing or if you see violence at shows and in hardcore culture in general as being an ongoing, continuous problem.
I'd say violence and that certain aspects of aggression and intimidation will always be a problem in our scene. It's never going to be completely erased and has varying degrees of intensity based on where you are from, the size of your scene and what the community at large has sort of allowed or tolerated.

I still think it's important to speak out against it and try to form a counter opinion. This music brings out a lot in people; people who are wired to be angry and aggressive and who like to move in packs are able to find that in our community. Some people’s default setting is simply, attack.

That can be an intimidating thing to a young kid who’s just falling in love with hardcore. It was really scary for me at 15-16 when I first started traveling into Boston for shows and had to be around those sorts of people. When I was coming up we had a small scene and no one thought about fighting each other, beating each other up at shows.

When Bane started I still carried that attitude inside me. I wanted young kids in different places who maybe believed that dealing with violence and intimidation at shows was just something they had to accept to hear a different opinion. We all have a voice in this. Things don’t have to be a certain way just because the loudest, scariest person in the room says so.

I feel almost goofy asking this question, but another one of my favorite things about seeing Bane live and about you in particular is your dancing style, which seems to incorporate like hip hop mixed with lanky white dude mixed with just not giving one single fuck. I'm a father so seeing my boys learn new things or their eyes light up is probably my picture of joy, but I've always felt like when I watch you guys play and I see you cut loose it's one of the most pure expressions of joy I have ever seen. What goes through your mind when you're on stage?
I mean, I'm just dancing around up there. Hardcore music has always brought out a physical response in me, made me wanna move. I was always real psyched to watch  people in bands who clearly got lost in the groove of the music and just went for it.

I feel confused when I watch hardcore bands that have members that are just standing there perfectly calm, not a drop of sweat, just playing the songs, because for me the energy is so much a part of what defines the act of playing hardcore.

I spend no real time thinking about how I'm gonna move or if it looks cool up there, I don’t watch Bane videos or read what people have to say about it. It's frustrating as I get older because my body doesn’t respond the way it used to. My knees will just scream at me mid-set, "NO! I'm not doing that"

I hate having to admit that as a live band we've lost a step. I guess this many years into things it's impossible not to. But, yeah, I'm still having a total blast while we're up there and feel so lucky to still have this outlet where I get to walk on stage, say a bunch of things, scream as loud as I want, dance around and have everyone act like it's normal.

So many of your lyrics over the years have been about expressing gratitude for the people that appreciate the band, holding onto your friends, things like that. How nervous are you that when this chapter of your life is closed, that a lot of the friendships you have forged over the years might fade?

I mean I think friendships fading, people growing apart is such a normal part of life. I no longer have this romantic view of things lasting forever. Bane has had very close friendships with people who have faded away in the years we've been touring. We've been at it a lot of years. People who were having kids when we first started touring now have teenagers, people have gone from being in their early 20's and totally stoked on hardcore and this life to being in their late thirties. It's normal that the things we used to do together, the time they had to give would have changed or faded completely. I have people who live right in my home town, who I thought would always be there, and real life just got in the way.

Time is an evil thing. It takes things from you. So I know when Bane ends there's going to be some friendships that will be affected, some people who I may never see again and have to miss for the rest of my life but I've become pretty good at doing that through all these years.

At the same time I know for a fact that there will be some friendships that will transcend Bane, that will be worth fighting for and continuing with no matter what the situation or how many miles stand between us. 

The reason I write those lyrics and say that shit on stage is because friendship truly is such an important thing to me. There are lyrics on this new record that touch on why more deeply. This isn't about "oh hardcore means singing about unity and friendship so that’s what I need to do", it's about me being a person who has very little family left, someone who has very definite ideas about loyalty and honor and actually does cherish his friends in a very real way.
We did back-ups for the record the other day and I was amazed at how many people were there who I have been close friends with since this band started, friendships that have survived so many years and changes in our lives, so I feel confident that I will continue to have many of them when the band is done. They might just take a bit more effort.

Related to that, I feel like after their bands break up, a lot of people either start new bands, or start a label, a booking agency, something that keeps them connected and contributing to hardcore. I know you are still very much in the moment with writing the record and that you guys are going to tour for another year or so before Bane winds down, but have you given any thought to what might be next for you?   
I'm mean I'm sure I will continue to love, support and be psyched on hardcore. I'll stay connected just from the fact that it’s who I am, and it’s inside of me. I can’t imagine starting another band that I would take as serious as Bane or put the same expectations on that I have of us. Maybe something small and local if it seemed fun and was with people I liked a lot. I have a lot of admiration for what Pat has done post-Have Heart with just staying super active in much smaller bands but still getting to have the same creative outlet, still get to play shows, do weekends in a van with friends, record demos and 7"s. I can’t see myself going like behind the scenes to do a label or booking agency or any of that but that’s just because I have no business sense whatsoever. The only way I look at a dime and think, how can I turn this into a dollar is at the poker table.

I'll figure out what comes next. I'm excited at the prospect of finally having to be faced with that decision in more than the abstract way I’ve been doing it for all these years from the safety of being in a touring band. I'm a bright kid...I'll land on my feet.

So you guys did Europe in November, came home and put the finishing touches on the record and then just laid it down. First things first, how was Europe this time around?

Europe was fun. There were definitely a few rough shows where we started to wonder if kids gave a fuck anymore, but then there were some really surprising nights that went better than normal. That’s pretty much always been the way for Bane. We seriously have no idea what we're gonna get from night to night and as the band goes on longer and longer it becomes even harder to count on certain places.

I always have fun being over there, though. We had our old drummer Nick back behind the drums and that was a blast. He's a very unique drummer who has his own style that always seemed to kick up the energy for us a little bit. We dusted off some old songs we hadn’t played in a long, long time. Songs from the demo like “Lay The Blame” and “Scared”, “Forked Tongue”. I was hoping we might do the Bjork cover but it never happened.

Power Trip were great every night and real cool to hang with. Definitely a good tour.

Secondly, talk about the recording process. You mentioned you guys had a lot of friends come from literally all over the world. How would you describe the energy in the lab?
Recording was a long process this time around. We had more time to get things right than we've ever had before. Jay Maas who recorded it really was just determined to get every little detail right. We were able to take the songs home and listen to them all throughout the process, I kept going back and tweaking vocals here and there, trying to make things stronger. I've never really had that privilege before, to really be honest with myself and force myself to do it better if I knew I could. Usually I’m just like "is that good?" and if Zach doesn’t push me to do another take I never think about it again.

There was definitely a feeling throughout the process that we wanted this to be special, to put our whole hearts into it. We had a song that was being built throughout the entire process called “Calling Hours". When we went into the studio it was barely finished. We just knew it was different sounding than anything we'd written before and that we were going to try to have a bunch of guest vocals intertwined throughout the song. So we called on some of our faves and they were all psyched to do it, but there was so much to coordinate. The lyrics weren’t written, we had to decide what it would be about, most everyone involved is in a pretty busy touring band, we didn't know how we were going to coordinate everything.

It was a much bigger undertaking than I am usually comfortable with, I had to let go of a lot of control, another thing I'm not super good at doing when it comes to the songs. But we worked really hard to come up with a shared vision and then execute it. This literally went on through the entire recording of the record, just taking small baby steps with this one song, watching it evolve and get closer. There were times when I wanted to give up, but the whole attitude in the studio was just to work hard, to push it, so we stuck with it and just the other day we got the finishing touches on the song, the final vocal part was recorded. I compiled all the lyrics everyone contributed into one song and finally could sit back and listen to it as more than this pain-in-the-ass abstract concept we'd been tooling with since November and hear it as a real finished song. I was so psyched that we stuck with it and saw it through, cuz it's definitely one of the things I'm most proud of (and thankful for) in the entirety of this bands history. I’m very excited for kids to hear it.

We'd never done a song like that before, I don’t think we'd ever had a guest vocalist. But there are just all these people we love and admire and who we wanted to be a part of this. But Zach didn’t want it to be the typical, “this is your part- this is your part - this is your part" and to have things be a little more overlapped and conversational. I'm still not exactly sure if his vision was fully served. I think it's hard for that ever to be the case when you involve that many people, but I'm pretty sure he's real happy with how it came out in the end. Andrew Truss was sitting right next to me when I came up for the chorus for my part.

And yeah we had a huge back-up crew, friends came from all over including a very close friend who flew in from Germany on his birthday weekend to be a part of it. A lot of kids who have been riding hard for this band from the very beginning; girlfriends and wives even sang. That kind of friendship and support, looking out at this whole pack of friends screaming these words for us, it was overwhelming.

It's crazy to have the whole thing done now, we'd been working on it non-stop since basically August when we first started getting together to write and then the other day there were texts that said "there's nothing left to do". It was a wild feeling, a little sad, but we're definitely proud of what we did in there and are eager for people to hear it. It’ll be out in early May I think.

Now that the record is pretty much done, how are you all feeling about it? What would you say it adds to the Bane catalog?

I'd say it's very much the final chapter. Everyone will find their own context or meaning or relationship with it, but there's no denying that it's a record about having to say goodbye to this thing that has been everything for me.

Last question....what do you hope the legacy of Bane is, what do you want to be foremost in people's mind when they reflect on everything you guys have accomplished and meant to kids all over the world these last couple decades?

I rambled and rambled through all these questions and there are so few questions that I feel like I can’t answer in some way. But I'm afraid this one is near impossible for me to tackle because I honestly just try so hard not to think about that stuff.  It wasn't easy throughout the writing of “Don't Wait Up” to remove outside expectations or the feeling of "what will this say about us in the long run"? I really tried not to get clouded by anything that had come before, I just kept telling myself, "be in the now and be brave", I'll worry about all that “what did it all mean” shit later when it’s done and in the ground and I’m looking back.

Right now the band is still this living, thriving thing made of people I love who have given so much of their lives for it, it would feel cheap or rushed to step outside that and assess it as if it were anything other than a hardcore band made up of a bunch of stunted hardcore kids who found a place and an outlet and a community that made sense to us and who wanted to be a part of it in a very active way. Is that a legacy? Maybe that's it right there. I'd be more than happy if that could be what they say when people talk about Bane.


  1. great interview. thanks for sharing.

  2. Thanks for the interesting interview, hold on.

  3. My band had the privilege of supporting Bane at a show in London in around 2001. One of the most memorable nights of my life. What a band!

  4. My ears are still ringing years after seeing my nephew's band in Worcester. I have to admit, I didn't quite get the music, but as a musician myself, I understood the passion of both the band and the audience. I have talked to Aaron D. over the years about the band, tours, and the music, and he's always echoed many of the things Aaron Bedard laid down in the interview. It has been an amazing ride for the band, the fans, and the family. Bane... turn up the amps, pour out your hearts and souls, and tear it up as you come full circle...I won't be waiting up. Peace.