Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Interview with Jonathan Nesbitt of CRUCIBLE STEEL by Dave Wolff

Interview with Jonathan Nesbitt of CRUCIBLE STEEL

How long has Crucible Steel been active? Why is it a solo project rather than a full band? How did you choose the name for your musical project?
I started Crucible Steel in January of 2016. I could not find serious musicians to form a band with so I decided to do everything on my own. Since then I have recorded three albums. The first album is self-titled, the second is called Forge The Blade. The third is called Dead Within. You can purchase my music on Amazon and many other sites. I found the name by researching the Viking age. Crucible steel is made by melting cast iron. The Vikings used these crucible steel swords. They were called Ulfberht.

How long have you been a professional musician? What were your tastes back then and how have they expanded since?
I started really learning how to play guitar when I was thirteen, and learned bass and drums while in high school. Since I don't make a living playing music, I can't call myself a professional. But that's the dream I would like to achieve. When I started playing at thirteen, I started with bands like Kiss, Twisted Sister, and Motley Crue. I learned as many of their songs as I could. My playing has greatly expanded because I listen to so much music from different genres. It has helped shape me into the musician I am today.

How many instruments have you learned to play altogether? Is balancing your practice on all of them a task?
I play acoustic and electric guitar, bass and drums. It can be a task to practice everything sometimes. But if you love playing and you’re dedicated, you will find the time to get some practice in with each instrument.

What resonated with you about the songs by Kiss, Twisted Sister, and Motley Crue you learned to play?
I learned songs like Strutter, Cold Gin, Strange Ways, and She from Kiss. I Wanna Rock from Twisted Sister. Shout At The Devil and Looks That Kill from Motley Crue. Obviously all those bands had a big influence on me, so naturally I wanted to learn how to play them. One of my biggest influences is Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath. His playing still influences me today.

How much of an inspiration has Tony Iommi been for you? Has it been his work from any era of Black Sabbath in particular?
The early Sabbath material is probably the biggest inspiration for me, but as far as Tony Iommi goes, he still writes incredible music and is an inspiration today.

Did learning progressions and chops shape your composing? Would you write variations writing your own material?
I would say yes and no. There's always been a Sabbath feel to my music since day one. But I try to incorporate as many influences as I can, to keep the music interesting. And I've never limited myself to just writing death metal music. Even in the beginning, I would write whatever sounded good to me. I've always tried to write something new and original. But sometimes you can write something and listen to it and say, damn that sounds similar to another song. So I try not to do that.

What genres did you gravitate towards after your exposure to rock and classic metal?
I was finding more bands in middle school. Two that definitely shaped my playing were Pantera and Sepultura. I gravitated towards metal, death and thrash. Bands like Morbid Angel, Obituary and Dismember along with Slayer and Megadeth. The rawness and aggression of those bands grabbed my attention.

Cowboys From Hell and Vulgar Display Of Power seemingly increased Pantera’s popularity overnight. Sepultura was among the first bands to incorporate tribal percussion. Did listening those bands inspire you to head in new directions?
I heard Pantera and Sepultura around the same time. Vulgar Display Of Power definitely grabbed my attention. Dimebag set the example for the modern metal guitarist, and no one’s been able to touch him since. When I first heard the Chaos A.D album from Sepultura, I knew I wanted to play metal. That album was crushing and one of my biggest influences. My style is a mix of all of those early influences. I still listen to all that stuff today. My sound evolved but I have the same influences I had as a kid.

Did the increased intensity, faster pace and crunching guitars of thrash metal enhance your songwriting?
In the beginning, my music wasn’t that good. It took a while to build my chops and find my own sound. The first thrash bands I discovered were Slayer, Megadeth and Sepultura. That definitely changed my way of writing. I focused more on the right hand, getting my picking hand precise. It took hard work and dedication to play fast, but I'm glad I took the time. At first it was a challenge, I had to start slow and work my way up. I have a couple thrashy songs on my second Crucible Steel album Forge The Blade that I'm pretty proud of.

How long did you work at fusing rock with thrash metal until you were satisfied?
I'm still not fully satisfied with my playing and probably never will be I'm always trying to learn new styles and techniques. As far as playing fast, I still have plenty of room to improve. I think it has become a natural progression to fuse hard rock and thrash. It all comes down to the players who influence me. From Tony Iommi to Kerry King and so many others. They all come out in my playing at one point or another. I may have a Slayer style song wrote, and end up playing a blues style lead over it. I never know how a song is going to turn out until it's finished.

How many differences did you see in death and black metal? How are they integrated into your songwriting?
Obituary and Cannibal Corpse were the bands that got me into death metal. I was twelve or thirteen. Mayhem and Satyricon were my first taste in black metal when I was fourteen, starting high school. There's a world of difference between those two genres and what I was listening to already. Going from Kiss to Kreator to Emperor was a big change. Having all of those different influences as a player has definitely helped me become a well-rounded musician. I was able to soak up all of those bands and create something of my own. I have a few tracks that incorporate black metal. There's a lot of tremolo picking. And the lyrical content is a bit darker. Other than a few thrash style songs, the majority of Crucible Steel is old school death metal: Obituary, Amon Amarth and Asphyx influence.

Some people believe death and black metal is just noise and screaming. Having listened to it and played it firsthand, do you understand the complexities of those genres? Which bands write and play the most complex material?
Death metal is extremely complex to play. So is black metal. But it's like any genre of music, some of it is quality music, some is not. A lot of people will hear a song or see the imagery, and not realize the talent it took to create the band. It’s hard to appreciate those genres if you don't listen to or play them. Technical death metal bands like Necrophagist have pushed death metal to new boundaries. The new Morbid Angel album was impressive and complex. As far as black metal bands go, I'm a big Watain fan. They have expanded the black metal genre and made it exciting.

Would you consider adding other underground genres (doom, symphonic, grind, Celtic etc) to Crucible Steel’s formula?
I've incorporated some acoustic pieces for Crucible Steel. My third album will have a Danzig style song which is pretty cool. If I don't listen or play a certain genre, it won't be incorporated. I might do some doom style stuff down the road.

Some people say we stop discovering new music after age thirty, and there is little to no originality left in metal. Are you more inclined to agree or disagree?
There's still a lot of originality in metal. You have to look past all the trendy bands. Find the underground bands. Bands that don't sound like the next band. It may take some time but they are out there.

How important do you consider it to forge your own direction when social media and streaming sites have generated an endless amount of new bands? How much more uncharted territory is there these days?
Because of social media, I see more trendy bands than ever before, especially in metal. A lot of these bands have been influenced by maybe three bands and have tried copying their sound and look. So metal in general has been watered down. It's become difficult to find bands that are doing something completely different and new. I tend to stick with the older bands, the guys that got me into music. The uncharted territory has come in the form of experimental music. Experimenting with extended range instruments and mixing genres. There will always be something new happening, it may not always be good, but it will be new.

Do you write music for other projects besides Crucible Steel? How many bands were you involved in previously?
I record music outside of Crucible Steel. I write a lot of bluesy rock instrumentals. I hope to release these songs soon. You can't stay in one genre for too long or you will get burned out. I keep my mind sharp and write different things. I have enough blues rock stuff for two albums at the moment. I'm always busy writing. Hopefully I can get it released soon. Before Crucible Steel I was part of many bands. From classic rock cover bands, to punk and metal and even radio rock. I've done it all at some point or another. Whether I was playing guitar, bass or drums, I've always been part of something.

Discuss how long your first bands were active. How easy or difficult has it been to find musicians to work with? Did those bands release anything that is still available?
I started jamming with kids my age when I was thirteen. By the time I was fourteen we had a garage band. It lasted till the end of high school, then we all parted ways. I'm the only one still actively playing music. Unless you want to play classic rock and country covers, it's extremely hard to find musicians, much less serious musicians. I hope to play the songs live at some point, so I'm hoping to find the players I need to bring my dream to the stage. My previous bands didn't record anything that lasted.

Were all the Crucible Steel full lengths recorded and produced independently? How much creative freedom does working solo give you?
My three albums were all recorded and produced by myself. Apollyon Entertainment has put the first two out and the third should be out soon. I have full creative freedom with Crucible Steel. Every album has been different. I never wanted to put limitations on Crucible Steel. I plan on expanding this project even more and hopefully can have a band in place so I can play these songs live.

What equipment to record, mix and master is at your disposal? Why do you prefer producing your material independently to working in a recording studio?
Everything I recorded for Crucible Steel is in analog format, which is rare these days. I used an Ibanez RG on the first album, a BC Rich Warlock on Forge The Blade, and for Dead Within I used a Jackson Dinky. I've used the same amp, a vintage Peavey 4x12. My effects are all Digitech. And for bass I use a Dean Demonator. I would rather work in a studio, to get a more polished sound and better mix, but I am a musician on a budget. And I enjoy working at my own pace.

Does working on your own schedule contribute to the originality and creativity of the band?
Writing and recording on my own time is a huge plus. I'm not rushed and I can focus on originality and I can definitely focus more.

What analog equipment do you have to record with? If you could record in a studio, which one would you choose locally?
I'm a big fan of the old Tascam recording studios. They really contribute to that old school death metal sound, and the black metal stuff. I don't know of any local studios that I would use. I haven't really shopped around for one.

Are you directly involved with the Apollyon Entertainment label or just releasing Crucible Steel material through it?
I am not involved directly; they heard the first album and wanted to put it out. I've had a great relationship with Apollyon Entertainment ever since. They are hard-working guys and thanks to them, my music has gotten on many platforms.

Do you release Crucible Steel on compact disc or stream your full lengths on social media sites like Bandcamp and Soundcloud? Which method do you prefer?
My music is available through digital download on many sites around the world. Hopefully at some point, if there's a larger interest in Crucible Steel, we could provide physical copies. As long as people are checking the music out, I don't care what format they use to enjoy it.

In what ways do your releases differ? Do your transitions come naturally or do you have specific ideas in mind before working on each full length?
You can hear a lot of different influences on my albums. Each one has something different. Obviously It’s mostly death metal, but you can find influences from black metal and thrash bands. The third album will have a bit of Danzig influence, who I'm a huge fan of. I always have specific ideas for each album. Sometimes they are used, sometimes not. For the most part, the transitions come natural. Sometimes I'll write something that doesn't work for Crucible Steel. I may release those songs at some point.

What characteristics of Danzig were instrumental in influencing parts of the new full length?
Danzig is one of those bands that influenced me since day one. It may not have been obvious in my music, but on Dead Within I have some tracks that you can definitely tell. There's a song called Sound Of Pain I wrote with Danzig in mind. And it's the first track that I'm not doing death metal vocals.

Does your lyrical content also differ from album to album? What subject matter do you usually write about?
My lyrical content changes on every album. There's topics on Viking history, isolation and religious themes. I've also wrote about man's creation, war, and my own thoughts. History plays a big role in my lyrics. It’s hard to relate to fantasy themes so I tend to write about my own life and the adventures of others.

What research on Viking history have you done? What effort do you make to have your lyrics differ from other bands’?
My song Banished Vikings is about Erik the Red, a famous Viking explorer who founded Greenland. I also cover topics of the Crusades, and various Viking beliefs. I've always been into history so it was natural to take interesting topics and turn them into music. Hopefully my lyrics differ from other bands. There are a lot of bands with similar lyrical content. I try to tell the story accurately and transform it into a song.

How does Banished Vikings relate your research of Erik the Red legend?
I talk about his family’s banishment from Norway. They sailed west finding Iceland. History credits Erik the Red for the discovery and settlement of Greenland. So Banished Vikings is about that adventure.

Do you research surfing the internet, watching the History and Discovery channels, reading or all of the above? What yields the most information for you?
I find information using all of those, but I get more knowledge from reading books. The History Channel is also useful. I watch it as much as I can, when they have something interesting on. I like Ancient Aliens and Forged In Fire.

Did you happen to catch any episodes of Ancient Aliens or Forged In Fire that inspired you to write song lyrics?
Forged In Fire is a cool show to learn how steel weapons are made. It hasn't inspired any lyrics. On the other hand, Ancient Aliens has inspired a few Crucible Steel songs such as The Destroyer and Gods Among Us, both off the self-titled first album.

Where are religious themes, particularly relating to the Crusades covered in your lyrics?
I cover the Crusades in a song called Spill Their Blood, which will be on the third Crucible Steel album, Dead Within. Pagan Blood, from the same album is also based on the Crusades. I tackle religion on a song called Seed Of The Serpent, off my first self-titled album.

How would you say your lyrics about the Crusades reflects on that period in history? Did you look toward the same sources to research those events? Are there any books you care to mention?
My lyrics on the Crusades talks briefly on the history and what was going on in the world at that time. It was a dark period and my lyrics reflect that. I would recommend A History Of The Crusades by Steven Runciman and The Origin Of The Idea Of Crusade by Carl Erdmann.

Tell the readers some more about A History Of The Crusades and The Origin Of The Idea Of Crusade. Are those two books as informative as you hoped they would be?
A History Of The Crusades is broken up into three volumes. The first volume focuses on the foundation of Jerusalem. The second is on the Frankish states of Outremer. And the third volume is about the revival of the Frankish kingdom. The Origin Of The Idea Of Crusade talks about the evolution of the Crusades. An interesting point I took from this book is how people will make god appear like them, they will turn god into whatever they want him to be, to fit their lifestyle. Both books were very informative and enjoyable reads.

Have you written lyrics about wars from the last century or so? If you have, which have you written about the most?
I have a song on my second album Forge The Blade called War Of Revenge. It’s loosely based on World War 2 and one of the first songs I wrote for Crucible Steel.

Quote a verse or two from War Of Revenge and explain how the song conveys your thoughts on World War 2.
I left the lyrics open to interpretation. It could be written about any war. During World War 2, many armies took revenge into their own hands. And many times they took it to far, murdering more than opposing forces, but civilians as well. Second verse: “Over and over they come, the rape doesn't stop. Mutilating, torturing their victims. And then shot dead.”

What aspects of your personal life do you write about for Crucible Steel? Are you comfortable capturing them on paper?
I write about the inner demons that most people face. Being isolated from the world. I get more personal on the third album, Dead Within. Songs like Internal Prison, Decompose and Misery. They really reflect on my inner demons and daily struggles. I'm comfortable writing the ideas down. Those lyrics are easiest to write and makes for a good song.

If you could name a song from each of your full lengths that best represent where you were headed with Crucible Steel at the time, what would they be and why?
Banished Vikings off my self-titled album set the tone for Crucible Steel and represents that album the best. End Of Flesh off my second album Forge the Blade is a great thrashy song. It’s one of my favorites. The third album Dead Within has Raven, an old school death metal song.

How soon do you expect the new album Dead Within to be released? How many tracks will be included and in what way is the album an improvement from the previous two?
I hope to see Dead Within out by the end of the summer. It contains ten tracks and different influences. It starts with a Sepultura style instrumental and then goes into old school death metal. The last couple of songs are the ones with a Danzig vibe. I'm not sure if it's an improvement but I write how I feel so it's to the listener to decide if it's an improvement or not.

How do you plan to promote Dead Within once it’s out? How well do you imagine it will be received by your listeners who have been there from the beginning?
Dead Within will be on every streaming site and there will be many online stores where you can purchase the album. We will promote the album for several months and hopefully Crucible Steel can gain some new fans. Every listener is different and not everyone is into old school death metal so this album will be something new for a lot of people. For the older fans there's old school death and thrash.

At which online stores and streaming sites will you be promoting Dead Within? Will people hearing it who don’t normally listen to underground become more open to it?
I'm not sure what sites it will be on yet. I'll know all the details closer to the time of its release. I hope people will be more appreciative of death metal and underground music, and realize the hard work and dedication it takes. And I hope other bands will realize that you can expand on the genre. Don't be afraid to write outside of the box.

Do you think extreme metal has or could become more commercialized since it broke aboveground? How would you like to see it continue without losing what appealed to its fans in the 80s and 90s?
I don’t think it will ever be commercialized. The majority is still underground. Because of social media, more bands are out now more than ever. Most of those bands are playing one style of music. It has become harder to find a band setting new boundaries. I would like to see more bands expand musically; there is so much room left to explore death metal and underground music. My advice is, Don't rely so much on the digital aspect. Write good songs, but keep that raw, aggressive energy that made 80's and 90's death metal so exciting.

-Dave Wolff

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