Web Exclusive: A conversation with Crime In Stereo’s Alex Dunne

October 22, 2008
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CRIME IN STEREO's winter break looks to be anything but. After a year-plus of nonstop touring with everyone from Comeback Kid and Poison The Well to Against Me! and New Found Glory, the band will head home and begin pre-production work on their new record with producer Mike Sapone (Brand New, Straylight Run) this December. However, fans are being held in check with Bridge Nine Records' recent release of Selective Wreckage, a collection disc featuring rare and previously unreleased material from the band dating back to the sessions for 2006's The Troubled Stateside. Brian Shultz recently spoke with guitarist Alex Dunne about the compilation itself, various EPs in the works, the band's recent almost-breakup and a certain guy “with two bands that are great.”

The only song on here that was recorded this past spring is “Everywhere And All the Time.” Were there other songs from that session that didn't make this album?
No. “Everywhere” came together really quickly. It was actually because of that song that we really decided to do this, because we went in just for fun, and literally wrote and recorded that song in a day. As soon as we did it, we were like, “Wow, we have all these songs sitting around, and we don't know if anyone's ever gonna hear them.” So we just kinda started talking about it and were like, “Hey, let's just put it out.” Initially, we were trying to do a full B-sides record, [but] trying to get all the Blackout! [Records]-era stuff was just a huge production. So we [realized] that we have control over everything that was recorded between [2006's The Troubled] Stateside and [2007's] Is Dead. It felt somewhat cohesive as a project, so we just decided to throw it together and put it out. Honestly, the idea for Selective Wreckage probably came up in June or July, and we had it out at the end of September. It was just a fun thing that we threw together really quick.

Do you think you'll ever be able to release those rare and hard-to-find songs from the Blackout! era?
We would love to. To tell you the truth, we're pretty sure that we own the rights to all the Blackout!-era stuff [including 2003's split EP with Kill Your Idols, 2004's Explosives And The Will To Use Them and 2005's The Contract]. [Label owner Bill Wilson] breached our contract multiple times over, so we're pretty sure we have the rights to all that stuff. But the dude's just a total scumbag, so trying to actually get anything physically done is next to impossible. But one day, when we have some time and energy to put into it, we'll go back and get our whole catalog.

We've already gotten The Contract back. There was the joke about it: There was no actual contract [for that EP]. So the only thing that would really be a pain for us to get is Explosives and the Kill Your Idols split. But again, there was no contract for the split–that was just like a handshake deal. And he breached the contract on Explosives by letting it go out of print. We do own it, but the dude's a total scumbag. So without getting the proper documentation and all that, if we just went and tried to re-release it somewhere, this guy would have a lawsuit in a second. Even though we'd win it, he's just a complete scumbag.

We love making music and putting it out, and it kinda bums us out when we have music that people haven't heard or that people can't hear. We have songs sitting around that people can't hear, so we want to get them out to people, [even] if it is just B-sides and outtakes and stuff that's not up to par with our full-lengths. We think they're all cool songs on [Wreckage], so we wanted to get them out to people. There are some songs on Selective Wreckage that I just absolutely love.

(Blackout! Records owner Bill Wilson responds:The label email address & PO Box have been the same since CIS were on the label. After they left for Nitro (and then Nitro for Bridge 9) nobody from the band or legal team has ever contacted us about ANY business issue, let alone a notification of any supposed breach. Their former attorney can corroborate that the label owns the recordings they made for the label in perpetuity. Why someone carries this much venom in them for years, without actually acting on it, is a mystery to me. Had he come to me through normal channels, rather than post incendiary comments years later- I would have been happy to address their concerns.

If you notice, Dunne goes on to say the deal was “only a handshake”, and although a legally false statement- is still testimony there was a deal but he's choosing to ignore it. If forced to, I'd be happy to play “who's the scumbag?” in front of a judge.

On a final note, a quick search of Amazon or iTunes reveals the catalog is available for people who want to buy it. Doing co-op ads at chain retail for a marginal catalog album is not a wise decision in the current marketplace. The ironic thing is that I bear no ill will, and wish them well and good fortune in their future career. Their last record (which I purchased) was actually pretty good.“)

What rare or unreleased material is there from the early days, besides the 2001 basement demo?
There's “The Return Of…,” which was an outtake from Explosives that ended up on the Love 7-inch, which is just The Contract EP plus that song. I think we have maybe two or three outtakes from Explosives and The Contract that hopefully we'll do something with someday. There's actually a really strange song that we would like to release someday, but I don't know if we ever will. It's the original version of the song “Love,” that's on Selective Wreckage. That song initially was to be on The Contract, but it was with totally different music, but the same lyrics almost. We re-wrote the song musically and kept it [the same] lyrically. So there's almost an alternate version of that song that exists where it's like nearly the same lyrics but totally different music. So that's kinda strange. So now that the real version of “Love” has been released, maybe it would be interesting for people to hear that someday.

Why was the plan to release all those 7-inches scrapped?
The initial plan was to do three LPs and two 7-inches in a year. So we've already done two [LPs]–we did The Troubled Stateside 12-inch [release] and we did Selective Wreckage, obviously. We're going to do our new full-length this winter, to be out at the end of next spring or early next summer. So that's the three full-lengths.

And the two 7-inches will happen; we're just trying to decide exactly what. We think we're gonna do a Live At The BBC 7-inch, just as a quick, cool, limited-edition thing. We recorded a session at John Peel's old studio, at the BBC. The same studio where [Led] Zeppelin and the Clash and the Beatles and everyone have recorded. Actually, three days before we recorded there, Paul McCartney was in there. [We recorded] “XXXX (The First Thousand Years Of Solitude),” “Animal Pharm,” “Small Skeletal” and “Gravity/Grace.” So we think we're gonna do that as a quick fan thing–limited to 500 or 1,000 7-inches or something like that. Press it real quick and put it out.

The other 7-inch will most likely be a split, but we're not sure with who yet. But I guarantee it'll be someone–the few two or three people that were in consideration for doing a split, people will be super psyched [on]. And also, I think we have a split with the Backup Plan coming out, which is really strange.

Everywhere And All The Time – Crime in Stereo

Will that include the last four songs the Backup Plan recorded but never officially released?
Yeah. They just contacted us and it turns out they have [those songs] sitting around, and they were like, “You guys wanna put it out on a split 7-inch with us?” We were like, “Yeah, we'd be really into it.” So we're gonna try and maybe get that going too.

Are they mixing and mastering those songs?
I've never heard the songs before. I didn't even know that there were Backup Plan songs–[like how] the Capital split is never coming out. I don't even know how it happened, actually. Andrew Jones from the Backup Plan just texted me three days ago and went, “Yo, do you want do a split 7-inch?” We all love that band, so we'll try and make it happen.

Like I said, we love making music. If we're anywhere near a recording studio, we'll give you a record. We love writing and working in the studio. If we go into a studio today with nothing written, I guarantee we could come out with a couple of really good songs. So we'll see what happens.

We're starting to work right now on our new full-length. It's really gonna be something else. It's gonna be the best Crime In Stereo record, definitely. So there's a lot written for it, so far.

Brand New are just kind of winding down on their new record–we share a studio with them, so as they're kind of winding down now, the end of finishing their new record, we're gonna start pre-production on ours in December. Probably full-on tracking in January. I think the record's gonna be called In My Head I'm Everyone But Me. I'm really excited for it.

Do you know what label the split with the Backup Plan is coming out on?
No, no. Their initial idea was to put it out on State Of Mind, since that's who was supposed to do the Capital split that never happened. But the reason that the Capital split never happened is that State Of Mind is a complete clusterfuck, so I don't know… If there's a Backup Plan split, I have no idea who it'll be with. But if we do a split with who we think we're gonna do it with, it'll be on Bridge Nine. It'll be really cool. It'll be with a band that people are very into; they've definitely been around for a while. Trust me. It's a band that's actually out of our league. We don't deserve to be doing a 7-inch with them, so we'll see what happens.

Does it involve a certain compound element [band] with hydrogen and oxygen molecules?
No, no, no, no. [Laughs.] It won't be H2O. But…it's someone a billion times cooler. And that's not a knock on H2O.

What exactly happened with the Capital split falling apart?
I don't know, man. The whole thing came about [because] a couple years ago we were on tour with Life Long Tragedy and we got stuck at a friend's house in Fargo, North Dakota. There was a massive flash flood, and our van was underwater. So we and Life Long Tragedy were basically stuck in this apartment together for three days straight. Right when that happened, Capital came out with their first songs and posted them on MySpace. We were listening to them and were like, “Oh my God, this is incredible.” Right then and there we were like, “Yo, let's put out a split 7-inch together and make it a cool hometown bro thing.” So that was the whole plan, just to do this recording really quick and get a local hometown label to put it out. At the time, State Of Mind was really good–they'd just done the This Is Hell EP; they did the Instilled record; they were doing some really cool stuff. So we asked them to do it and they were totally into it. Everything got recorded, and then the label dudes just became super flaky and the label just totally fell apart because nothing happened with it. And I like those songs a lot too, which is another reason why we really wanted to do Selective Wreckage with the Capital split songs on it.

Four Xs – Crime in Stereo

What's the connection between “Four X's” and “For Exes”?
So here's the thing. The song “For Exes” on Troubled Stateside caused a lot of personal problems, personally. At the time of doing that record, [former bassist] Mike [Musilli] and [current vocalist] Kristian [Hallbert] fought incredibly strongly to have that song left off the record. Basically, the entire band wanted “For Exes” left off Troubled Stateside. I loved the song and basically told them I [didn't] care what they said–this song was going on the record. However, it caused a great deal of problems in my personal life because I had a girlfriend at the time who I was with for two-and-a-half years or something like that. The song was about a girl that was not my girlfriend. [Laughs.] Also in the song, it says something very mean about someone that's actually a pretty good friend of ours. [The lyric] was actually unnecessary. It was totally unnecessary for the song; it was gratuitous. And that's why if you look closely, the lyrics in Troubled Stateside do not match what's actually said on the record.

After recording the song, we felt so bad about the line that I couldn't bring myself to actually put it in the liner notes, so a friend made a joke, and was like, “Have it say this, and we'll lift that.” So the lyrics in Troubled Stateside do not match what's said in the song because we wanted to leave what was actually said–we didn't want to print it. So when “For Exes” came out, it basically like fucking sent my life into a whirlwind with these three girls–[the one the song's about, my girlfriend at the time and the girl the line was about].

So the song “Four X's” is about the other song “For Exes” and all the fucking drama and bullshit that it's caused.

Moving onto other songs on Selective Wreckage, I think “Let Me Take You Out” would've made a really fitting intro track for Is Dead.
I really, really, really wanted that song on Is Dead. The problem with Is Dead–we love that record–but it's not exactly what it's really supposed to be. We kind of ran out of time and money in doing that record. There are a few B-sides that were supposed to make the record.

When you're making a record, you're in there working on songs and one day, it's like, “Yo, you have no more money, and therefore you have no more time.” So, what you have done is what you have. So that was kind of what happened with Is Dead. “Let Me Take You Out” was done and recorded already, but because of leaving on “Unfortunate Tourist” and “Orbiter,” and leaving off a couple more energetic tracks that were supposed to make the record, I didn't want [it on] because I didn't want to slow down the record too much. If some of the more energetic tracks had made the record [like] they were supposed [to], then “Let Me Take You Out” would've been on there as well. I love that song. I absolutely adore that song. I really wanted it on the record but left it off so it wouldn't slow down the record too much.

It seems like if you put it right before “XXXX,” it sounds like the flow would've made a lot of sense.
Yeah… I never would've opened the record with it, though. It's definitely too sad… It's not a good way to open a record. We like opening our records with a lot of energy. “Choker” was [actually] not supposed to be the closer for Is Dead. When we wrote the song, “Almost Ghostless/Above The Gathering Oceans” was supposed to be the closer for the record. But when we did the track listing we just never planned [it] out properly.

We love Is Dead and we think it's our best record to date, but it could've been and should've been much more energetic. Because of time and money constraints–things like that–we didn't get to really fully flesh it out like we wanted to. But [with] the new record we're not gonna have those problems, and we're gonna tackle the issues we had with Is Dead and really put out something spectacular. The new record will have the production and songwriting of Is Dead with the energy of Stateside.

“These People Ought to Know Who We Are And Tell Them That We Are Here.” Was the B-side lyric in there a coincidence?
No. That was not a coincidence.

You knew it was gonna end up a B-side?
Yeah. When we tracked it and I wrote it, I knew it was gonna be a B-side. You kind of know. We love making music; we love writing songs, but we'll come up with some stuff that's out of nowhere and have a good time doing it. But when you're doing it, you kind of know, “This isn't gonna make the record.” And I like that song because it's kinda weird. A lot of people [in] Selective Wreckage reviews–it seems like people don't really like that song. [But] we don't really give a shit what people don't like.

How many songs have you written for the new record?
I'd say I probably have somewhere between seven and 10 songs written so far. Probably seven or eight. But you gotta realize, we do most of our work in the studio. We like just coming up with ideas and fleshing them out, and a lot of our best songs started when we begin recording our records. Those songs weren't even written yet. When we started doing The Troubled Stateside, when we started recording that record, “Everything Changes / Nothing Is Ever Truly Lost” and “Bicycles For Afghanistan” hadn't even been written yet. We wrote those during the recording process. On Is Dead, “Small Skeletal” was written during the studio while we were recording. I came up with that riff and came up with the idea for it–I actually ran into the studio one day. [Drummer] Scotty [Giffin] was sitting there and I was like, “Listen! We're gonna have a chorus, and it's gonna go like this,” and I just started bangin' on the drums. We just kinda threw it together like that and worked it out. A lot of our best stuff just kinda happens, so the fact that we're only going in with maybe seven or eight songs is fairly typical because once we get in, we'll really start working. A lot of times we'll go into the studio with like, an outro–something like that. We'll have one verse or an intro or an idea for a bridge that we'll turn into a full song.

Since you're basically the primary songwriter, how do contributions from the rest of the band work?
The band recording and making music is basically the original members: me, Scotty and Kristian. We're the only ones that track. I do all the tracking–instruments and stuff. Nobody else really plays on the record besides Scotty and Kristian. Me and Scotty basically do all the music–Scotty's a great drummer. I come to him with a lot of ideas for beats and stuff like that and he makes it better. With Kristian, I write all the vocal melodies and lyrics but I can't really sing. I'll sing it how I hear it in my head, and he has the uncanny ability to actually do it how I'm hearing it in my head, and make it better. Me and Kris come up with all the melodies and harmonies and all the little vocal things. He takes my ideas and makes them better, and that's basically how it happens. I write… always. I write in my head a lot. Scotty, Kristian and I work well together. They take a lot of my rough ideas and polish them up–add their own little flavor to it.

Have you heard any of the new Brand New record?
I have.

What do you think?
It's gonna be great. They're a great band. They only put out great records. They're doing vocals now, I guess, and that's it. So hopefully they wrap it up in the next couple of months so we can get in there and start working on our new jams.

Crime In Stereo – Small Skeletal (altpress.com exclusive)
from Alternative Press on Vimeo.

You seemed to express slight disapproval about your video for “Small Skeletal” in that blog posting.
Oh, yeah, that video's awful. We didn't really have much say in it. When you're in a band, a lot of dumb shit comes down to time and money. So, we had to do a video, but we were leaving for tour with Poison The Well and we had to leave for tour in four weeks or whatever. So this one director was available and was close by–he was in D.C., and he was cheap. And we read his treatment, and it was awful. I mean, like, as soon as we read it, I was like, “That's the fuckin' worst thing I've ever heard.” But Bridge Nine was like, “Look, we can do a video. We need to get it out. Let's just get it done.” So we were all like, “All right, cool, whatever. We've never done a video, so let's just go and do it and have fun with it.” Aside from the fact that it was really poorly directed and really poorly edited and put together, it's got every music video clich� ever. It's got the car crash; that girlfriend; all the bullshit. Like, every fucking clich�d thing ever. And we, as a band, have always tried to stray away from clich�s–do our own thing and not do the clich� bullshit.

It was an eye-opening experience for us to find out that… When you do a video, and somebody directs your video, it's your name that goes on it. It's not the director's. Nobody looks at it like, “Oh, did you see the new Joseph Pattisall video?” It's like, people look at it and go, “Oh, it's the Crime In Stereo video.” That's your name on things, so if somebody else's shitty artistic vision or whatever… If you're gonna collaborate with people, you gotta make sure that it's really up to par and up to what you as a band want to do. Nobody looks at that and goes, “Oh, the Joseph Pattisall video.” No. It's a Crime In Stereo video, and it doesn't match up with the scene or the ethics or the personality of the band. It's just some really clich�d bullshit. We're better than that, to be honest with you. So if you ever see another Crime In Stereo video, I can guarantee you that it'll be something how we want it to be.

You broke up for a few days this past summer, but didn't really opt to go into detail. Can you elaborate on exactly what happened?
We spent eight weeks out of the country; we went to Australia with Against Me!, and then went straight from that to a tour in England and then came home from that and were supposed to go spend five weeks in Europe with Comeback Kid. It's a really long time to spend away from home. There's a lot of frustrating things involved in being in a band–to be a successful band and really not make any money. We do well as a band. [But] I'm talking bands three times bigger than us–there are some incredibly successful bands out there that are good friends with [us]… Case in point, we were just in San Francisco with all our friends–Set Your Goals came to hang out. So we were like, “Yo, what are you up to?” or whatever. And they're like, “Oh, we're all home looking for jobs.” And it's like, “Wow, you guys are massively successful.” They're way bigger than we are. It's kinda disheartening to see bands that are huge and super successful and really big, and they're struggling to make ends meet. It's really financially difficult.

I'm just finishing up my master's degree, and I have a lot of job offers on the line. I had racked up a fairly significant amount of debt doing Crime In Stereo. I was just kinda looking at it and said like, “Wow, I can get a real job and probably pay off all my debts in the next six months,” and do a lot of the things I wanted to do. Or I could still do Crime In Stereo. If you want to get a job, you can get a job and you can go to school, have a girlfriend, have hobbies and do whatever you want, and you could also do a band. But if you want to be in a full-time touring band, that's the only thing you can do.

There were other issues. But it was really just a crisis of what the hell I want to do with my life. And I guess when it came down to it, I'd rather be doing Crime In Stereo. So, fucking fuck my life, is basically what it comes down to. I am willing to fuck my life for Crime In Stereo. alt

Written by Brian Shultz