BrokenRail‘s Blake Clawson is a charismatic artist who led our conversation with a hint towards fatigue from late night practices. Along with the tease, we discussed focusing on true wants, the struggle to obtain a goal, and chuckled over secret show fails.
Shockewave Magazine: You said you’ve been practicing a lot lately and have been up really late. Do you have something coming up?
Blake Clawson: Next weekend is our last show of 2016, but we’ve got a lot we haven’t released yet for 2017. It includes another national run early on in the year. We’ve got our new album in the works. It’s actually in Vegas right now with Logan Mader. He’s mixing the rest of the album and we are going to add a few songs to it that will all come out very early in the year. So, yeah we’re kind of swamped right now. We’ve got a lot of news we haven’t announced.
How did you develop the sound of your most recent EP?
It’s crazy how a band falls over time. I’m the only original member of BrokenRail and with each new member they bring their own form of sound to the band. Since the beginning, I’ve always wanted to go heavier. The other members were kind of against that. As I pieced together each individual member of the current lineup, and what I believe is the final lineup, everyone wants the same direction. We are going heavier, that’s when we decided to go with the self-titled EP release. Even though it wasn’t our real debut, it was our professional debut. I always felt that it blew away our older material and we wanted to redefine the sound of BrokenRail, cause we are going heavier. We are going more towards, at least musically, the metal side of the genre.
So, the EP is like a transition?
Definitely. We knew with “Walk again” the direction we were headed. Most of this material was all written and recorded in 2013 out in California and we needed to reach our potential in this entire album. We wanted it to have the best sound possible. It’s a struggle for bands that are unsigned. We have to finance 100 percent. The whole markets been down, investments are hard to come by, especially for something like a band. That’s a risky investment. So, this is self-funded, it’s very expensive. We’ve used some of the top producers in rock. Kane Churko did “Walk again” and “Save me.” The Churkos are huge, him and his father. His father is the producer behind Five Finger and Disturbed, In this Moment. It’s incredible what they’re pumping out over there. Our current producer Logan Mader is the former guitarist of Machine Head. He’s produced Butcher Babies, Bullet for my Valentine. It’s unreal the talent we work with on a daily basis and we fund this ourselves. It took a long time to get this album ready. We’ve been silently working towards this goal and now we are ready to release it to the world. We wanted the EP as kind of a teaser and to redefine the sound that’s coming up next.
You have some huge collaborations on this EP. What’s it like for you changing the sound and working with people that are master’s at that sound.
It’s kind of surreal. I’ve never been one that gets starstruck, but every now and then you’ll look back. We’re so in the moment, working all the time, you don’t really have time to step back and look at it from an outsider’s perspective. But, I think it was last week we sat down and were like, “Wow.” We’re hearing some of the new album for the first time. It’s kind of an amazing feeling knowing the people that helped influence your influences and helped shape those people, now your working with those same people and your following in those footsteps. It is an amazing feeling and we couldn’t be prouder of the moment and what we’re creating. We’re actually going to add a few songs to this album. We’re looking forward to it. We’ll be traveling to Vegas and actually recording. That’s going to be huge on our end.
Speaking of influences, what was the defining moment in your lifetime that led you towards rock.
Ooh. This is a fun one for me. Most people are going to say the 70’s and 80’s bands. My parents were much older than the rest. I grew up listening to 50’s and 60’s music, which is actually kind of crazy. It wasn’t till the 90’s when I found rock. I listened to a ton of stuff like early Deftones. What really changed my life was a culmination of KoRn and Limp Bizkit. Limp Bizkit’s Three Dollar Bill was huge to me. I loved the energy and the rage inside of it. Going towards the end of the 90’s, Godsmack and Disturbed released their albums. It was all energy. Then, you’ve got Linkin Park and all that. Those are the bands that really pulled me into this market. Before now, we weren’t writing what we loved. That’s why we are writing a lot of high energy rock now. We are actually going back to our roots and the things that we love to listen to and perform for people.
What was the reason you were off that path for so long?
A band is a committee and you have to make group decisions. It’s not one person. Like I said, when we changed members I believe the vision and the path started to change. At that point we wrote everything in house, so you’re only going to go as far as the song writing of that particular group of people. Some people want to do more laid back. It all depends on their influences and writing styles. That’s what you get, four people’s ideas all into one song and that makes the song. Now, I have four people that I do believe have the same vision, the same path, we are all walking the same direction.
You called out all the bands that took me through rock music and have pretty much trapped me. You’ve also talked about the high energy of the album. Are your shows intense like Limp Bizkit’s?
I’ve only seen them through YouTube and its upsetting. We were actually looking through them the other night. I would love to have been to some of these massive festivals, especially overseas. It’s surreal watching these moments. Limp Bizkit, Metallica, KoRn, Disturbed, all these bands have insane, intense shows. We definitely try energetic-wise, we’re up there, we’re running around the stage. We rehearse that way. I actually have a punching bag I practice singing while I’m hitting. We’re trying to train so we can push ourselves while we’re running around. We try to bring as much intensity to our shows as possible. We even travel with our own lighting system that’s synced to our show. We bring in the full strobe and moving heads even in venues on a smaller level. We can bring that big level lighting to bring in the energy.
That’s a very Rocky Balboa style of training.
(laughing) It works. I forgot where I got it from, but a lot of singers have done this. It pushes your body to learn how to sing on lower oxygen. Not perfect, but the energy is great.
At your shows, are there any moments that stand out to you? Whether it be with a fan or something you or one of your band-mates have done?
Oh man, this is actually kind of a fail moment. I thought it was a fail, but it ended up being a great moment. We were headlining a show in Oklahoma City earlier this year. The stage was really high. We were probably eight feet above the crowd. They already had, for the singer, this platform that’d get about four feet higher in the middle. The owner of the festival was in the crowd of our last song “Walk Again” before the really intense bridge comes in. He kept begging me the whole show to come out into the crowd. I took a running start when the bridge comes to land right in the middle of the crowd. I forgot our lights go completely black there. So, I free-fell probably about 15 or 16 feet. I couldn’t see my landing. I landed perfect, but I guess a little on my heels. I went straight down and landed on my butt. Luckily, in the black I stood up before anyone saw me. The lights came back on and in the middle of everyone. They just went crazy, they thought it was so cool because I was right there for the bridge. It was intense, but it hurt pretty bad.
Would you try it again?
Oh yeah. I would land it the next time. It was just farther than I thought.
Not a lot of people think about the little mishaps like that on tours.
None of them saw it. I was even asking a few people afterwards and they had no idea. They thought it was smooth. They were like, “Man, it was incredible how you did that.” And I was like, “Yep.”
You’ll have to own it now. It’ll have to be your move from here on out. You have another album coming out in 2017. Even though you have your EP, this will be your debut of what you want to be and who you are now.
Yeah, definitely. We hated pulling three great songs off this album, but we felt like it was needed. Restraints kept pushing us back and pushing us back. A lot of people close to us were begging for new music. So, we thought this was a good strategic move to redefine our sound ahead of the album. We didn’t want it to be a complete shock to our fan base. We wanted to get the press out there and let people know the direction we were headed. Even though this material was recorded in 2013, its been modernized. Now, we are recording new songs that were written right now. Some of them in this month. There’s going to be a really good collection of music that we are about to put out.
Who writes your lyrics?
I usually write most of the lyrics. I do take input. Sometimes, I like to do it with the band. I like to be isolated most of the time, but if we’re on a roll with something I’ll sit right there with them and we’ll all talk it out. Sometimes, it’s helpful. Sometimes it’s not (laughing). The entire album was written by me, but some of this new stuff was a collaborative effort, for wording and things like that.
With your EP, is there any one song you hope connects to people in a helpful/get through this way?
The single “Walk Again” was definitely meant for that. It was the strongest song off the EP and for that reason. The whole EP is kind of a three-part process of what people go through and their relationships that fail, whether its business or pleasure. It starts with “Save Me,” the disparity and the begging for release, just when someone is unhappy in their current situation. “Walk Again” was the realization that it was time to stand up for one’s self. It hopefully encourages one to do so. “Memory” was kind of afterwards. It’s the anger after knowing you went through something you didn’t have to for so long. “Memory” is definitely my favorite song on the EP just because of the raw emotion. You can hear the anger. We as musicians are trying to take snapshots of a moment. When we write a song it’s basically just a single moment in life that we are trying to capture the feeling of in one song. I think we did a very good job with the anger side in “Memory.”
“Memory” is my favorite too.
That’s a very large sample of what will be coming in our album. Logan mixed “Memory.” It’s very similar to what is coming out shortly.
I really love that the EP is a transition for the band and it’s also a per track transition through life.
We’ve got a lot coming up. 2017 will hands down be the best year of our lives as a band. We’ve got a lot of announcements, major management bill, and new band member. We are very excited. I can’t wait to get the press release out. It’ll be one press release that drops a lot of info and it’ll be coming very shortly.
BrokenRail’s self-titled EP is a savory taste to a new direction. The album’s three tracks tell a universal story and foreshadow the future of BrokenRail. Blake Clawson is on a path and I’m eager join by discovering the full length sound of this revamped band.