Just Trying to Piss You Off
AMERICAN HEAD CHARGE
An interview with Chad Hanks and Justin Fowler

Interview by Jason Savage - November 2001 


    For those of you living in a cave, American Head Charge is one of metal's newest rising stars. Blending elements of metal, hardcore and industrial stylings, they have taken the world by storm riding a tidal wave of huge tours. After a practice run with Fear Factory, Dry Kill Logic and Sw1tched, they added to their fanbase on last summer's Ozzfest Tour. More recently, they had the chance to expose themselves (literally) to Slipknot's "maggots," on their Pledge of Allegiance Tour. The machine has continued to roll as they try to win over the ever fickle "Slaytanic Wehrmacht" aka Slayer fans. Their "War of Art" CD has commanded rave reviews while their stage show has stirred up controversy in the form of shotgun blasts, exposure, fighting, and flag burning.

    I recently had the honor of interviewing bassist Chad Hanks, keyboardist Justin Fowler (or Fouler as I've also seen it spelled) with a cameo by vocalist Martin Cock. My brother Ryan and I arrived at the Rave in Milwaukee well before the scheduled 6 p.m. interview. We were supposed to meet their tour manager, George, by AHC's tour bus but that didn't work out quite as planned. We did however, meet a cool Slayer fan from South Bend, IN, who had been following them throughout the midwest. He had some interesting tales about their shows in Chicago and Detroit. He was kind enough to get us into the venue and past security where he hooked us up with Dave from AHC's roadcrew. We were then taken down into the depths of the dark and gloomy Rave underground to AHC's small and cold dressing room. Dave told us to have a seat and said Chad should be down soon because he just went up to the bus to do an interview. This, I informed him, was with me but somehow our wires got crossed. We sat and rapped with Chad's girlfriend and her friend from Detroit who had only gotten three hours of sleep after making the long drive from last night's show. Several minutes later, Chad arrived as well as Justin. After offering us a beer, Heineken or Newcastle. From that point on, I knew this was going to be a pretty candid interview. We passed an interesting glass caterpillar bowl between the four of us as Chad asked why I hadn't started rolling tape yet since our conversation was pretty interesting, so I obliged and the interview began ...

Rough Edge: Let's get the formalities put to rest ... when, where and how did AHC come about?

Chad Hanks: Hit history ... 

Justin Fowler: Do I know the history? I know the history ... Once there was a removed West Coast boy in LA (laughs) who found escape in scary drugs and had to be shipped away to a treatment center in Minnesota. Meanwhile, somewhere else across the country was a displaced "other one" who was all screwed up and had to be exported to Minneapolis for treatment and somewhere in there they met and started making music together. They knew other members on the outside through various halfway houses or like ... Martin was going to music school or engineering. 

Rough Edge: So how old were you guys when you met?

Justin Fowler: Go Chad. I'm stoned. 

Chad Hanks: We all met ... aw, fuck ... seven years ago.

Martin Cock: I was seventeen

Chad Hanks: I was twenty three, he was seventeen. I met him (Justin) five years ago? Four years ago? We're all like varying ages ... we go like twenty three to thirty.

Justin Fowler: Twenty two.

Chad Hanks: No...

Justin Fowler: Aaron's twenty two.

Chad Hanks: No, he turned twenty three a couple days ago.

Rough Edge: So you were old enough to go to high school during the 80's?

Chad Hanks: Oh yeah.

Rough Edge: You were there when the first real metal came out.

Chad Hanks: Yeah, yeah, but you know, I was like in a really bad glam phase. You know, I was fucking living in LA, I was playing guitar ... what do you want? I was thirteen, fourteen. My first concert was Van Halen on the "Diver Down" tour.

Rough Edge: I'll never get to see Van Halen

Justin Fowler: Nope

Chad Hanks: It was awesome dude, that was one of the best shows. It made me go like ... literally I walked outta there going ... I was like ... You CAN do that? I had no idea. A kid that had never been to a concert, I was like eleven years old. HOLY SHIT! Just ears ringing for two days ... wow! I was the  shit at school too!

Rough Edge: You guys like to be pretty controversial at shows. I read a lot of press you know ... bottles are getting thrown, shooting shotguns, fights.

Chad Hanks: It's all scare tactics.

Rough Edge: Do you think that stuff is part of your appeal or is it a marketing tool?

Chad Hanks: No, no. I mean everything has its reason. I was into KISS, their stage show and it was the first live picture of a band that I knew was cognizant of a band. KISS Alive II. That's what's in here (pointing to head). Somewhere deep down inside, I compare every show to the inside of that album cover. The things going on were good. These are the works of four guys playing music. It was kinda weird on Ozzfest. It was always looking like the antics and things that happened at Ozzfest were overshadowing the music that was played. But the record wasn't out so people needed something to gauge us by. Once they actually listened to the record they realized that we were just doing a bunch of weird shit all over the place. It's all just to get their attention.

Justin Fowler: What are you going to do at like eleven in the morning that's gonna like ... if you don't have a record or a song that people already know to make sure people go "God, I'm glad I showed up at fucking nine in the morning to see this show. I'm glad I was standing in line at eight o'clock to get here for this."

Chad Hanks: We got a lot of e-mails saying that: "I didn't know who you were, we got there early to get make sure we got a good stage spot for Mudvayne or whatever and we figured you suck or blah blah blah but you guys were fucking awesome and we never heard you before and we'll buy your record the day it comes out."

Justin Fowler: You know what else that's really fun for me onstage that's kinda developed? To play with people's expectations about what they are "supposed" to see when they go to a show. You know what I mean?

Rough Edge: That's what sets you apart. That's what sets a lot of bands apart.

Chad Hanks: Who says you can't topple this or break that?

Justin Fowler: But on the same token, sometimes I'll just stand there because I don't wanna move! It's just challenging people's expectations.

Rough Edge: Here's a tougher one ... What was the deal with burning the flag?

Chad Hanks: That was totally to piss people off! Besides the fact about what happened in New York and the terrorist bullshit, besides that, there were people that were very upset. There were people in the crowd that were like: FUCK YOU! There were these skinhead guys in California that were livid that we did that.

Justin Fowler: They ended up trying to beat up the people that were slamming around to what we were playing in the mosh pit. They ended up going out there and throwing punches at people who were getting into the music. It was pretty fucked up!

Chad Hanks: But you know what? It worked ... people got pissed off. Job well done, Chad (as he pats himself on the back). That was the whole reason. There was nothing behind it. 

Rough Edge: Have you done it since September 11th?

Chad Hanks: No, we haven't actually.

Rough Edge: That would be dangerous!

Chad Hanks: Yeah and to be honest that was my main concern ... our safety. Doing that and having some overzealous patriot decide he wants to shank us or fucking take a shot at us in a parking lot somewhere. That piece of cloth is not worth the risk to me or anybody in my band. That's the main reason because I still have the same beliefs. I was the last one rallying for it. Everyone else was like,  no. We got a booking agent, management, lawyers, label, everybody ... DON'T DO IT! Because before, what happened, everybody was like "just stir shit up, get out there and do your thing." But after that...

Rough Edge: There's a lot of politics. We don't even get to see most of the politics like you guys do. I'm starting to a little bit on the writing end of it. There's a lot of evil people in this business. 

Chad Hanks: Yeah, on the latter.

Rough Edge: I have another question about the September thing but maybe I'll just steer clear of it.

Chad Hanks: No man, ask away.

Rough Edge: This is just more of how you view U.S. policy. Do you agree or disagree with the way that we're handling the situation? Eye for an eye?

Chad Hanks: We don't. Well you know, people that do things like that should definitely, if they get caught, be punished.

Justin Fowler: They should be held accountable for their actions. I don't have enough information to even make some kind of comment on it.

Chad Hanks: I hope they find the guy and get it over with. I think that no matter what happens, I don't know how much this is really going to affect me personally. I'm so far removed from what is going on. Not to sound shallow or callous or uncaring of what happened but, what are you going to do? To me it's something on TV. I don't know anyone or have anyone close to me that it had a personal affect on. It's hard to really feel what some of the people living in or around New York are feeling.

Justin Fowler: We were in Amarillo about a week after the 11th and these kids down there. That was one of the most awesome shows. There were like crazy girls, it was just insane to play with Drowning Pool. You know, in Texas playing with Drowning Pool. I was talking to kids after the show and they were telling me how scared they were because they have a nuclear weapons facility there or something like that? And they were a target. They were scared out of their minds.

Chad Hanks: I remember the day it happened. We were on the bus and we woke up on the way to Tulsa.

Justin Fowler: Tulsa ... see I don't remember because we didn't play (laughs) 

Chad Hanks: It got cancelled.

Justin Fowler: We were supposed to play with Mudvayne.

Rough Edge: I've never been to Oklahoma.

Chad Hanks: Don't worry, you're not missing shit. My mom's relatives are from there.

Rough Edge: Here's another controversial one but not aimed at the band.

Justin Fowler: Are you aiming questions at the band?

Rough Edge: Someone has to ask the tough questions and I want to be the guy. I can do it without offending anybody. Heavy metal pretty much as whole has been blamed for murders and suicides. Like Ozzy went to court, Judas Priest subliminal messages ...

Chad Hanks: Slayer is in a lawsuit right now.

Rough Edge: Manson, Korn and Rammstein were blamed for Columbine. Do you think there is a direct link between heavy metal music and violence? Do you think it causes it?

Chad Hanks: To be honest, I think a violent kid is more apt to be listening to heavy music than he is to like 98 Degrees. I mean, let's be honest, I don't think there's any blame. I don't think you can blame a band for shit at all. People that are listening to music that are causing these kind of weird problems are listening to heavy music. They aren't TRL fans. From what I've gathered, they're heavy metal kids. I really haven't dealt with the psychological factors of why that would be, but it's a fact. I don't think you can blame a band or a TV show. I've never heard of a TV show or a movie, being brought to court or a producer, director or screenwriter because some kid saw something in a movie and reenacted it.

Justin Fowler: We're gonna have to indict people. We have to get the people from "12 Monkees," we're gonna have to get them. That whole Terry Gilliam group.

Rough Edge: If you could change one date or event in world history, what would that be and why?

Chad Hanks: Nothing. Everything is supposed to happen.

Justin Fowler: Yeah, I wouldn't do anything. It's not so much a fate thing ...

Chad Hanks: Events are the way they were supposed to happen.

Justin Fowler: What didn't will and we shouldn't even worry about it.

Chad Hanks: You could go back and change an event but you don't know the ramifications of what changing it would do to the entire world in the next thousand years.

Justin Fowler: THAT'S A PARADOX!! (laughs)

Chad Hanks: You know, it could destroy everything.

Justin Fowler: You wouldn't want to change something that would cause you to cease to exist. It's almost a semantic point but I'm more in favor of just seeing what I can do.

Rough Edge: I thought you'd say something like: I wish I would've never married my ex-wife or something?

Chad Hanks: Well luckily none of us have been married.

Justin Fowler: World history, huh? (laughs) None of us are slated to marry? Is that what you said?

Chad Hanks: No, stupid. Stupid, slated, same thing. No we've got one on deck.

Justin Fowler: (laughing) (with impeccable timing, Chad's girlfriend opens the door and says he has  five minutes left.)

Justin Fowler: GET OUT!!! GET OUT!! OH GET OUT!! I got a six pack and nothin' to do!

Rough Edge: What new bands do you like on the scene today and what CDs are you playing on the tour bus?

Chad Hanks: Tenacious D. You'll actually be hearing that right before we go on. We play "Explosivo." Tenacious D....I don't know...music these days is not good. Slipknot, Mudvayne...

Justin Fowler: I DO like Mudvayne.

Chad Hanks: I like Mudvayne A LOT!

Justin Fowler: Very good. They're very good.

Chad Hanks: Slayer's new album is good. System's new record is amazing. That is a record right there. I actually had someone ask me for a Top 10 list in an interview. I submitted one and I must say I was hard pressed to come up with one. What I put was ten records I listen to. Two of them came out last year, there rest were like ten years ago. Pretty much new music is bland. There's no Ministry, there's no Jane's Addiction, or Public Enemy. There's no Tool - Tool's not even Tool. 

Justin Fowler: Tool's not even Tool!

Chad Hanks: There's no more career bands that do like three or four fucking awesome records and step it up every time.

Justin Fowler: You know what's a good CD? I don't know if you're into Electronic music at all? 

Rough Edge: I don't know a whole lot about it.

Justin Fowler: There's this one really cool CD I got called Ogre....That's O-H-G-R. It's cool.

Rough Edge: I read a really good review for it (Click here to read a really good review for it). Name your Top Five albums of all time.

Chad Hanks: Oh shit ... KISS "Alive II"

Justin Fowler: I knew it!

Rough Edge: I knew there would be a KISS album.

Chad Hanks: Van Halen, "Fair Warning." Ministry, "Land of Rape and Honey" ... no ...

Justin Fowler: How about their first record?

Chad Hanks: No. Ministry, "The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste." I might have to add another KISS record there. "Rock n'Roll Over" ... and ah ...?

Justin Fowler: That Night Ranger record with "Sister Christian" on it? (laughs)

Chad Hanks: Yeah that one (laughs). Bob Seger "Night Moves!" No, just kidding. Public Enemy ... probably "It Takes a Nation of Millions." Awesome fuckin' record! The production was chaos. I mean sirens and loops. Fuckin' great! I'm telling you man, listen to that shit. (Chad's girlfriend pokes her head in again and asks when we'd be done because she wants some time with him). I'm working!

Rough Edge: I get him for only a half hour in my whole lifetime! laughs)

Chad Hanks: Yeah (laughs)

Justin Fowler: (laughs)

Rough Edge: I promise only one more question. What else do you guys like to do when you aren't doing anything that has to do with music? Do you have hobbies? Does the band go out bowling together or something? Do you have a team?

Chad Hanks: Well let's see. Dave likes to hunt.

Justin Fowler: We all shoot guns.

Chad Hanks: We all like to shoot guns. I think we all enjoy it huh? Some of us more avidly than others. (To Martin): You like to surf. It takes quite a good balance.

Martin Cock: I surf, snowboard, skate ... all that shit.

Justin Fowler: Mostly the reason that I wanna do music is because that's kinda all I really do.

Chad Hanks: Reading...

Rough Edge: What books or what movies do you like to watch?

Justin Fowler: Masturbation. Pornography.

Chad Hanks: Yeah, pornography.

Rough Edge: You're in a band, you don't have to masturbate.

Chad Hanks/Justin Fowler: (in unison) Pornography makes the world go round!

Chad Hanks: Books. Thompson. Bukowski. Bret Easton Ellis, he had a couple good ones. "American Psycho," he did that. Dean Koontz. Stephen King I've been reading forever. For movies we like weird and twisted ones ...

Rough Edge: "Taxi Driver"?

Chad Hanks: "Taxi Driver" was great. "Blue Velvet," anything David Lynch does is usually pretty fuckin' awesome ...

Justin Fowler: "Red Dawn"

Rough Edge: Swayze!

Martin Cock: WOLVERINES!!!!

Justin Fowler: (laughs)

Chad Hanks: "Wolfen"

Justin Fowler: Anything that has Bruce Campbell in it!

Chad Hanks: Bruce Campbell yeah.. "Army of Darkness," "Evil Dead 1 and 2." Awesome. 

Ryan Savage: "That's just pillow talk baby!"

(everybody laughing)

Chad Hanks: "Black Sheep"

Justin Fowler: That was a fuckin' awesome movie!

Rough Edge: Thanks guys. I really appreciate your time tonight.

Chad Hanks: Hey man, if you can get back down here after the show, feel free to join the party!


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Copyright 2001 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 23 Aug 2016 22:57:11 -0400
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