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Exclusive! Today Is The Day Vocalist/Guitarist Steve Austin

By Chris Hawkins, Contributor
Tuesday, February 4, 2003 @ 6:34 PM

Sadness Will Prevail In the Ey

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Today is the Day formed in 1992 gaining recognition throughout the underground for their original blend of Progressive and Experimental elements with Metal. To say Today is the Day is their own unique entity is a vast understatement. As the band progresses, each album takes the listener to an entirely different realm while still containing their signature maniacal, often disturbing passages. The bandís founder and only constant member, lead guitarist/vocalist Steve Austin crafts a myriad of psychedelic evil accented by sometimes beautiful/sometimes painful vocals, sometimes clean/sometimes dirty guitars, and a constant knack for allowing his deepest emotions to be evident throughout. Having recently garnered the honor to take part in several high profile tours, Steve Austin was gracious enough to chat with this scribe about his visions for Today is the Day and music/life/art in general.

KNAC.COM: How was the Relapse Contamination Fest this past weekend in Philly?
AUSTIN: It was pretty fun, pretty cool. I was wondering how it would go. It was sold out both days so that was cool.

KNAC.COM: Tell me about going to Japan.
AUSTIN: That was amazing. We were offered to do the Beast Feast, which was Motorhead, Slayer, Soulfly, Converge, and Killswitch Engage. Overall, it was totally fun. It was a dream come true. I got to play with Slayer, and meet my Metal heroes.

KNAC.COM: What was the crowd reaction like in Japan?
AUSTIN: It was total chaos and insanity, man. I was really surprised. A lot of people had told that it would be a good thing to play there. We had no idea. We came out and people were going berserk. They knew the words to the songs, and it totally blew our minds because we consider our music to be pretty fucked up. We donít expect anybody to understand it or really even like it. It was just so weird. People were flipping out.

KNAC.COM: I always imagined Japan having a more subdued audience.
AUSTIN: Yeah, but not at that thing, though. It seemed like all those people were just amped to go crazy. It was cool watching Slayer play with a crowd like that because it was a truly ďgoing nutsĒ Slayer crowd.

KNAC.COM: How was it hanging out with Lemmy?
AUSTIN: I went on tour with Motorhead about six months ago. It was us, Morbid Angel, and Motorhead. We totally love those guys. I have a world of respect for Motorhead. I think theyíre totally the real thing and totally good guys. They definitely can rage and party more insane than I ever could and theyíre twice as old as me.

KNAC.COM: Thatís amazing. Anytime someone says they feel ďoldĒ I have to remind them that not only is Lemmy older, he parties harder!!
AUSTIN: Heís such a good dude. He treated my bass player great beyond belief. Heíd shoot pool with him everyday, and was constantly telling him these crazy stories of just touring and everything. That was just an awesome tour to be on. I dig King Diamond too, and Mickey Dee, who played drums on all the good King Diamond records plays for MotorheadÖ

KNAC.COM: Yeah, Fatal Portrait!!!
AUSTIN: Yeah! That was definitely wild. Those were definitely crazy times.

KNAC.COM: I suppose it exposed you to a broader audience, too.
AUSTIN: Yeah, and it was the audience that we really want to be exposed to. I think the audience that goes to see those guys play are more like the for real, ďI wanna go rock out and get fucked up and crazyĒ audience instead of the scenester, fuckhead audience that stands around and talks to everybody.

KNAC.COM: Iím a huge Today is the Day fan, but for the people that are less exposed to the band, how would you describe the sound?
AUSTIN: It is definitely hard to try to describe. I feel like the band itself is based around a free-form style of writing. That means that we donít really ever try to write songs based around a directions. Itís more like the songs are written as they are and as they come out. If thereís one song thatís got a billion notes in it and itís super-complicated, then the next song could have one chord in it and be one minute long. We really try to look at music and sounds as more of a soundscape type of thing. Itís an open blackboard and you can draw whatever type of picture you want to on it and just let it go. Itís definitely revolved around a lot of different elements like pain, violence, psychedelia, and hatred.

KNAC.COM: The new album seems to flow like the soundtrack you just described.
AUSTIN: Thank you. That was a strange thing to get into. Weíve made five more conventional albums, under one hour long, not 50 songs. When you look to do the next thing, you look to do something that really steps away from what you did last. The last album we had made was a really fast and really stripped-down version of Today is the Day, In the Eyes of God. I wanted to open it up and try to go for things that werenít so song-based, but more like the whole piece is threaded together. Itís not really about the individual song on it as much as how things go from one thing to the next and the way it all weaves itself together. Plus, nobody had ever made a double CD since theyíve been making 80 minute CDs. Nobody had ever done a 140-minute project, which is the equivalent to three or four vinyl LPs. There was some kind of demon inside me to make me want to do that. It was a massive undertaking. It was a massive amount of work, and a massive amount of pressure. By the time it was done, I was glad because it was something that I did in my life that I wanted to do. Iíll never do it again. There will only be one Today is the Day double album, thankfully, because I couldnít live through another one (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Itís definitely an album to listen to as a whole. The soundtrack vibe is enhanced by all the peaks and valleys.
AUSTIN: Thanks. I think the string augmentation and stuff like that made a great thing with the record. I knew they would be able to contribute some sick stuff because their playing is totally awesome. Their writing is totally different and weird. Every time I hear them play something, it sounds like itís coming from outer space.

KNAC.COM: Can you describe the theme of Sadness Will Prevail?
AUSTIN: I think itís just one of these weird testimonies of isolationism. We all live these isolated lives. We donít even talk on the phone anymore. Everythingís all about email and instant messenger, and every other way of communicating without being human back and forth. I think the idea; the way it was going was during a really nasty winter about three years ago. I was trapped in my apartment. I felt like Jack Nicholson from The Shining ready to kill all my family members. Itís just a trapped, canít get out, stuck, trying to figure out whatís going on feeling. Youíre looking inside of yourself to try and take a human assessment of what you stand for and what you believe. A lot of the songs I guess you could say introspective. One of them is ďDeath Requiem.Ē Thatís a song that I wanted to think about if I was dead, what would be the end result of that. I wrote my own death requiem.

KNAC.COM: Itís a tense song, and the tension constantly builds throughout.
AUSTIN: Thank you. That was one of those that was made up through The Shining period. That was one where people would be like, ďAre you high out of your mind? Why would you want to make a song where the instrumentation is just drums, bass, piano and vocals when your last record sounded like Slayer?Ē To me, I wish everybody that played music would do stuff like that. If you think about it, how many times some band has made some album thatís cool, and then they come back with another one thatís just like it. That kind of makes you happy at first because itís kind of like the first one, but then you start realizing that you can never duplicate feeling. Feeling is feeling.

KNAC.COM: Itís just a copyÖ
AUSTIN: Yeah, itís like hitting your hand with a hammer. You can hit it one time and itís going to hurt one way. You hit it another time; itís going to hurt a different way depending where you hit it or whatever. Youíre never going to do it twice in a row with the same effect. Thatís the difference in styles between our band and some other bands. Some bands are tripped out about not changing at all. They want it exactly the same all the time. If it were me, I would quit playing it because I would be bored of doing the same bullshit all the time.

KNAC.COM: It depends if you want to be a band that has an easy, repeat formula and is easily categorized. There are bands out there that are totally not like that, especially older bands from the Ď70sÖ
AUSTIN: Yeah, thatís when the good shit was going on like King Crimson and Pink Floyd. All the Progressive Rock bands back then werenít afraid or werenít worried about record sales, or what people were going to think. Everythingís like a square dance these days. Itís Mosh Pit Rock now. Everyone is worried about what the reaction to this is going to be and what the reaction to that is going to be. The whole ďgoing for itĒ mentality is lost.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, because they know what formula it will take to sell the record and have ďXĒ number of people in the pit.
AUSTIN: Yep. Itís down to even the record companies breeding that shit, too, and wanting 30-minute albums. Itís amazing if you think about it. Itís almost like there only being so many colors in the spectrum. If youíre going to get a tattoo or youíre going to paint something, you only have so many to choose from. Itís the same thing with the music industry. Itís the same thing with the movie industry. Youíre not going to see subtitles. Youíre not going to see black and white movies. Youíre not going to see shit thatís not popular because the people with the money want to make more money. They look at things that donít necessarily sell as much, which are things that would possibly sell to a crowd thatís a little bit more intellectually inclined, which our country is not. Our country is based on the movie Dumb and Dumber.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, and McDonaldís.
AUSTIN: Yeah, pretty much.

KNAC.COM: ďSadness will PrevailĒ is such a huge opus. How did you tie everything together?
AUSTIN: That was a hard thing to go, again, because I didnít really know where or what to stick things at. When we started feeling out what direction the record would take, there were multiple ideas on the way it would start or the way it would end. In the end, I looked at the first track, ďMaggots and RiotsĒ and the way itís got the vocal delay going and the way the music sounds. That is kind of like the symbolic crest for the beginning of the record because itís talking about love equals pain equals death, and the whole pain in your heart feeling exploding right there in the beginning. Right after that, it gets into the reasons why. The second song is about ďCriminal.Ē ďCriminalĒ is about people who go online and destroy peopleís lives through saying shit on the Internet without any ounce of truth. Itís like now if you have a computer and have an Internet account, you can go online and libel/slag anybody on planet Earth with no retributions. From there, it just keeps going on. Thereís different ideas that keep blasting through, and they kind of connect one up against another.

KNAC.COM: Itís amazing how it all comes together.
AUSTIN: Thank you, man. Iím always embarrassed to look back at a lot of the things weíve done because Iím a big critic of everything we do. I always want it to be more than it ever can be. Half the time Iím never really able to see it the same way that other people do. Itís the same as looking through a box of family photos. Even though you like it, itís kind of painful because it reminds you of that time.

KNAC.COM: One of the most powerful tracks for me was ďThe NailingĒÖ
AUSTIN: Oh, right onÖ

Ē[Our music is] definitely revolved around a lot of different elements like pain, violence, psychedelia, and hatred.Ē
KNAC.COM: The noises and soundsÖ
AUSTIN: Itís a strangely written song. When you just said that, I have no idea how we made that song up because it just seemed like a bunch of abstract ideas put together into one song. It all has a definite meaning, but if someone made me write another song like that I probably wouldnít be able to.

KNAC.COM: What is the sample on ďChristianized MagickĒ from?
AUSTIN: Actually thatís from the West Memphis 3, the Paradise Lost 2 movie. Itís about a guy who mutilated his kids, or possibly did. They have three dudes in jail for that, and the dad of one of those kids, heís freaking out, talking about his wife who died. There was a lot of speculation he had something to do with it, and that was his stance on that.

KNAC.COM: Itís such a wild sample to throw in there.
AUSTIN: It is because it sounds like heís sitting right next to you or youíre standing in a park talking with him.

KNAC.COM: When I first got the CD, Iím listening to it in my car and trying to absorb it when out of nowhere that sample comes.
AUSTIN: Heís pretty fucking insane. If you see the video that goes with that, it gets to comedic intent by the time he gets through saying what heís talking about.

KNAC.COM: Was there a sample from Rosemaryís Baby?
AUSTIN: Yeah, that movieís awesome. Roman Polanski was definitely ahead of his time, and had a definite cool thing going with his idea of horror.

KNAC.COM: Personally, I like the horror movies of that era a lot better: The Omen, The ExorcistÖ
AUSTIN: Yeah, there was a real touch of dark and evil more than a lot of other thingsÖ

KNAC.COM: It wasnít just blood and guts in your faceÖ
AUSTIN: It was definitely a time where things had a more literary aspect besides just flash.

KNAC.COM: This may sound like a strange question, but what in your opinion defines a song?
AUSTIN: Itís some kind of form of human expression to me. I listen to music, but I donít listen to it in a weird way. I get on trips of listening to one thing for a while. Iíll learn songs by other people. For instance, I think I know every word of every song on Johnny Cashís new album. I donít even know why. I think to myself itís so weird I like that. I think thatís the whole thing. If itís a good song, then youíre totally getting something out of it, and youíre able to derive some form of feeling. Music is about communication. Youíre hearing songs, and expressing ideas. If itís good music, hopefully it makes you feel something.

KNAC.COM: One thing Iíve always found to be interesting about Today is the Day is your use of dissonance.
AUSTIN: Again, itís being unafraid to make sounds that sound weird or wrong. A lot of people that are music snobs would sometimes be like, ďYou canít do that.Ē Maybe thatís the idea. There are some parts that we make up out of tune on purpose, notes that go across each other. Obviously unity is a good sound. When you hit notes that match up, and itís parallelÖ

KNAC.COM: But itís a predictable soundÖ
AUSTIN: Right. It sounds good and it sounds powerful. In your body and in your mind when you hear something like that, thatís the reaction you receive from it. Thereís different parts that we play where there are things that I call total unity, where me, Chris, and the drums are hitting the exact same thing at the exact same time. Because of all that being dialed in like that, it has a really powerful feeling that goes through you. A different version of that is if we hit two totally different things that donít go together exactly at the same time. The clang or the sound, the weird overtones that come off of something like that has a reaction to. Itís just like thereís a positive reaction for the in tune notes, thereís a reaction that happens from the out of tune ones. If you could only imagine the feeling of driving down the highway and your tires exploding off your car. Everythingís cool one minute, and then suddenly the sound happens. The second that sound happens, it makes your stomach sick. That moment right thereÖ how would you be able to express that in a song with a guitar? How do you get across the feeling of panic or human arrest? Would it be by hitting a major chord or something in tune? Or would it be by hitting something that was wrong? I think that whole area of art is something that is not even fucked with that much by painters, movies, plays, or music. The people that do mess with it, itís just so beautiful because stuff like that stands out so often. It just comes back to expression.

KNAC.COM: The music that is deemed ďcorrectĒ is subject to rules that are hundreds of years old. By the turn of the century, all those rules started to be broken. What is correct is almost obsolete now.
AUSTIN: Oh absolutely. Did you ever meet somebody you didnít like? Did you notice that even if you try to like them and if you try to figure out different things about them, it just doesnít work? You have that whole negative polarity effect. You try to push the two magnets together and it pushes it apart. That energy of going against and not connecting like that, thatís a hard thing to express musically. You have all these bands, and all these people trying to express aggression by doing different things. They donít understand that the confrontational type of thing where two things donít get along and they go opposite directions of each other, thatís a weird thing to try to get across. Everybody tries to use the same things whether it is minor chords or powerful simple rhythms. Life is not like that, man. If horror or tragedy was going to be happening to you, it would probably not be like some familiar sound. It would be like steel crashing through a wall, smashing a glass case and the fallout from that. It would strike such an insane chord in your heart.

KNAC.COM: Like your analogy of life, the dissonance allows the main melody to be more meaningful because you can look at that odd moment and see how it resolves into something sometimes beautiful in the end.
AUSTIN: Definitely, man. Different things, I look back at them and Iím like, ďthatís so weirdĒ. For instance, from the new record, the song Seth Putnam (from Anal Cunt) sings, ďButterflies,Ē is such a bizarre, freaky piece. I remember when I made that up I was thinking of it being more like a scene in some mythical garden with butterflies and bees flying around. You combine that with what Chris and Marshall were playing, itís like a mountain crumbling down on that scene. Itís like some bizarre creature crushing that scene. I get the most bizarre pictures in my head from that. If someone wanted me to make another song like that, Iíd have no idea.

KNAC.COM: How do you get your guitar tone?
AUSTIN: I donít even know in a way because for the longest time I thought it had to do with the amplifier, but I donít think it does. I think itís the way that I play and the way that I hold my pick. Iíll pay another amplifier and if I dial in the sound the way I normally like it, it ends up sounding a lot like the way I normally play. I know my guitar sound is really distorted and I know thereís a lot of noise going on. To me, those are like side effects of what Iím trying to do. Your guitar sound is like you in a way and how you feel. A lot of times I just feel completely fucked up and completely freaked out of my mind, and when I listen to the sound on my guitar, I want the distortion and the power of it all to sound just as equally crazy, noisy, heavy and loud. Itís a bizarre thing to dial in. Thereís a lot of high/mid type tones a lot of times that will bust through and rip your face off. I think theyíre fun to hear when Iím playing. Some people would be like, ďwhy donít you get your noise under control and make it more metal?Ē For me, the metalís in there, itís just that itís a different thing. For me, itís like an Acid Metal sound.

KNAC.COM: The perfect example is Hendrix. He never worried about noise suppression! He got the most amazing overtones and harmonics too.
AUSTIN: Yeah, itís just all the psycho-acoustics and the overtones that I dig.

KNAC.COM: The new lineup on the disc seems really tight as well.
AUSTIN: Thanks, man. Those guys are awesome. Theyíre totally great to play with, and they work their butt off on their instruments and their playing. I think we all have the same cause in mind. It makes it easy to get along and work on things.

KNAC.COM: How did you guys hook up?
AUSTIN: Well Chris Debari joined Today is the Day in late í99, early 2000. I was looking to get the new lineup together for the next record, and he saw me at a Slayer concert standing in line at the show. He came over and said whatís up. He talked about wanting to come in my studio to record. He came down to record, and I could see that Chris was a really talented guitar player and a really intelligent, smart guy. We became friends and he kept in touch with me. When we needed a bass guitarist, I thought of him. He was into doing it, and heís been in it since January of 2000. The guy thatís on the album, Marshall Kilpatric, he ended up coming to us through the Internet. I had a thing online looking for a drummer. He wrote me and came out here and tried out. We liked Marshall and his playing style, but unfortunately after the album was made and after we did a few tours, he had fallen into financial debt and wanted to get out of playing music for a while. We had a good friend of ours who lived close by named John Gillis that played drums in Anal Cunt who disbanded about a year ago. John had been jamming with me and Chris in a project called Cyclops. It was really, really fast and really, really robotic type music. I knew the minute that Marshall was going to be leaving that weíd be able to get things sorted out with John right away. I asked John if he was into doing it, he said yeah, and within about a month he had all of our material from Sadness will Prevail and the old records too. We toured with John for two months headlining with Bloodlet and Bongzilla in October and November. John did the Beast Feast with us, and heís working on the new album with us right now. We actually will have a new thing out by the end of summer, early fall thatís about a 35 minute long album. Itís a pretty fast album. Itís going to have a lot of other elements besides speed, but I definitely will say this will probably be the fastest Today is the Day record weíve ever made.

KNAC.COM: What was the catalyst for going in this direction?
AUSTIN: His playing style. Heís so capable of being able to play really, really, really lightning fast rhythms. I wanted to try and explore going further with speed that we ever had before. Thereís parts that weíve made up for this new thing that literally, as a human being, you cannot literally count this as it goes by. You have to pre-count it. Itís going by so fast that by the time one line of it goes by, youíre already onto the next one. Itís almost like trying to shoot a bird flying through the air and leading it so that the shotís going to hit the bird and heís going to fly right into it. Itís fucking insane. I want to try to do it. I want to try and push myself and the other two into doing something thatís never been done before with speed. I think that if we do stuff like that, stuff thatís not humanly possible and making it possible, we just might do it.

KNAC.COM: Iím just wondering how you would rehearse that.
AUSTIN: Itís crazy. Thereís one piece that has 11/13/15 going back to back, and on the end of each one thereís a single note bell hit that happens. The speed thatís going off at is so fast that thereís no way you can tap that out with your finger. If itís right, then you know itís right, and if itís not then we can tell itís fucked when we play it. You donít know itís fucked up until itís over with because itís so fast! I would just get bored not doing stuff like that. Thatís what Today is the Day is there for to me. Itís like I feel like Iím sorting out all kinds of different problems and ideas that are going on in my mind. Jamming with the other guys and working on the different songs, it makes me happy that we can play something that has 300 beats per minute. We can somehow not miss a note and yet still not understand how we played it. That to me says weíre voyaging. Weíre trying to explore. Thatís what itís all about.

KNAC.COM: How do you juggle all the time between your projects and your studio?
AUSTIN: Itís hard. Itís a lot of work. It seems like I never get a day off from doing anything. If Iím not in the studio working with clients that are musical projects that I want to be involved with and producing bands, then Iím working with the band or touring. Even though itís not that huge of a family, I have a small family with my wife and kid. We want to be together and hang out. We try to make the best of everything and get together. At the same time, thereís just a lot of working going on that has to be attended to. I love to do it this way. When Iím old and fucked up and donít want to do anything, then I can sit around do nothing and watch the Home Shopping Network. Right now while Iím still young, Iíd rather burn the candle at both ends and get as much done as possible.

KNAC.COM: What do you think of the saying, ďArt must be painfulĒ?
AUSTIN: Yeah. Well, I think life is painful to be honest with you. Life is about a lot of keeping the masses in line. Life is about work. Work is pain. Work is hard. All the other factors involved, thatís what it all bleeds out of. Everybodyís got these different things going on. Some of us pick up paintbrushes, pick up instruments, or pick up pens and write it down or keep track of it. When you look at whatís going on, thereís a lot of pain in this world going on.

KNAC.COM: Is there anything visual on the way from Today is the Day?
AUSTIN: Yeah, I was going to say something about that. Weíve been working on DVD stuff for the last two months. Weíve captured about 600 gigs of Today is the Day video footage going back to í92. Thereís going to be a few different DVD release things going on with us for the next couple of years. Thereís going to be a live at the Knitting Factory show. Thereís going to be a live at the Beast Feast with Slayer show. Thereís going to be a retrospective type DVD thatís going to have cuts going back from the beginning before the band was signed up to the present. Iíd like to put those three things out sometime within the next year to two years. Weíre going to hopefully have them all edited down and ready to be a master within the next few months or so.

KNAC.COM: The visual medium should be really cool.
AUSTIN: Yeah, I think itís one area that really explains the band where if nobody has ever heard it or seen it, I think seeing this it really pulls it all together.

KNAC.COM: Thatís about all Iíve got. Any last words?
AUSTIN: You rule! I really appreciate you wanting to rock. I think thatís great that you guys rock with the KNAC web site. Thatís huge thing. Itís an honor to be on there and talked about.

(Photos from TodayIsTheDay.org)

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