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Still Trying to Piss You Off
An interview with Chad Hanks and Justin Fouler

Interview by Jason Savage - April 2002 

    American Head Charge has been literally touring the planet for what seems  like an eternity. Their seemingly overnight success has landed them several  coveted gigs with many of metal's heavy hitters. Their debut album The Art of War has sold somewhere in the vicinity of 136,000 copies. They started off opening for Fear Factory before being invited to partake in Ozzfest 2001. After a summer filled with many questionable antics such as flag burnings, shotguns being blasted on stage and indecent exposure incidents, they hooked up with Slayer. This lead to a very lucrative outing with Slipknot and System of a Down on the Pledge of Allegiance Tour, which took them across the United States. After a brief stint with Kittie, they headed across the Atlantic to Europe with the POA tour again and then on to Japan for two weeks. They now find themselves co-headlining for Gravity Kills in smaller venues as they prepare to cross the pond next month for a stint at Ozzfest 2002 in the UK and a handful of other dates with Kittie and Rammstein.

I recently sat down at a picnic table outside of Club Raven in Edgerton, Wisconsin with bassist Chad Hanks and keyboardist Justin Fouler. Chad had a very hoarse voice due to his many interviews and meet and greets with fans. Justin agreed to sit in as they competed to be heard over passing Harleys that roared by on the nearby bridge.

Rough Edge: How long have you guys been on the road now?

Justin Fouler: It will be one year on May 4th, which is my birthday and the only reason I remember that date.

Chad Hanks: It's been about a year straight. We did Ozzfest and Pledge of Allegiance, Slayer, POA in Europe, 2 weeks in Japan. It's been never ending.

Rough Edge: What was it like to tour around the world? Did you get any free time to sightsee or has it been strictly business?

Justin: I try to make time to sightsee everywhere we go. I get out. I make sure I live in whatever town we're in. Not a lot of time for it though. I mean, you're in this country for a day. You're in Prague for a day and you don't get to take your day and run around. We ran out and got some absinth and ran back to the "hockey" arena we were playing at with Slipknot. So that's living in cities right? (laughs)

Chad: Yeah, he does get out as do some of the other members of the band and crew. Some get out more than others. I get out here and there and it's cool when I do because I have good memories of wandering around Prague and Paris. I liked walking around London and what not. Usually when we had the time to do that was when we were somewhere for two days. We were in Holland for three days and Paris so there were a couple of spots where you couldn't help but go out.

Justin: Yeah, like strategically planned days off in Amsterdam! (laughs)

Chad: Yes, we purposely planned days off there! (laughs)

Rough Edge: Gee, I wonder why?

Chad: The first time we went through there with the "Knot," we tried to make sure we had the day after off. Actually, the next time we went back through there we had four days in Holland and we were fine. (laughs)

Justin: Actually England now has become pretty similar and it's going to be very cool to go back and see how that's developed.

Chad: And they just made mushrooms illegal like April 1st in Japan. They were legal when we were there, so of course we did them! I don't really like  'em.

Justin: And was just like. OK. Whoa. (laughs)

Chad: They were just amazing. They gotta put a warning on them because they were way more than you're used to! (laughs)

Rough Edge: Touring the world sounds like a logistics nightmare. How does a band go about getting gear and stage sets overseas? Plane or boat? Or even a band like Slipknot with their huge stage production?

Chad: Basically, it's just a shipping company that gets everything from the airport we leave as a band, which was usually New York. They just pull up to the bus, unload the gear and weigh it and ship it to the same place we're going to at the next venue. It's pretty cut and dry. There are more  nightmares dealing with the band. Getting the band to the airport on time and through customs and through immigration and making sure we don't have anything on us that's illegal in that country. 

Justin: Like pornography over international borders we found out is illegal. We didn't know that. 

Chad: I had to sign this thing in Japan that said: I brought porno into the country and if I do it again my hand is gonna get chopped off!

Rough Edge: I thought that country has very young prostitutes?

Justin: Yeah, so did we.

Chad: Yeah. There's some weird shit there but it's really a well put together country. Everything there is just designed better. I mean everything.

Justin: Basically everything everywhere else is designed to work better. I mean, America is so new. 

Chad: In Japan the toilets are ten years ahead of ours. They have cell phones that play MP3s and have full color screens with cameras in them. It's not like it costs so much that only rich people can have them. Every kid there has one.

Rough Edge: It sounds like you can play Play Station while going to the bathroom! Speaking of video games, have you ever played Grand Theft Auto III  (GTA III)?

Chad: Oh yeah, one of the best games ever made!

Rough Edge: What valuable knowledge have you gained touring with so many great bands and a legend such as Ozzy?

Chad: Don't ship giant metal sets all over the country and other countries.

Justin: That's a good lesson to learn!

Chad: Don't weld giant steel sets together and then ship it to countries you're not going to go to! (laughs) That costs a little bit of money!

Justin: Hell, yeah it does!

Chad: You learn stuff everyday from more efficient ways to get around in a venue and get your bearings and know where you're gonna shower and smoke. Tiny things like that up to plotting a tour coinciding with a single dropping on a radio and a video and how that all works together and  interconnects. It's good to be out with bands like Slipknot and you become really good friends with them. Shawn (Crahan) was like: "Alright, don't do this, don't do this, whatever you do, don't fucking do this!"

Rough Edge: All of this exposure for a young band must have given you some great experiences. Share a twisted road tale with us. 

Justin: (laughs). God! We probably got a Top Ten by now!

Chad: I mean, there's people that ... (another Harley roars by) ... want to talk about things like that and there's people that do them and people that see them and like to tell tales of what they saw other people do. If that wasn't vague, I don't know what was. (laughs) I don't know. I've seen the cigarette  smoking vagina. I think that was pretty cool! We've ... ah ... every night is fucking ... the whole thing is. (Chad strains to come up with something here). There might be a couple things here and there that stand out to us, but if you take any normal person from their day job and put them on tour with a band, especially us, for two weeks. God forbid it's in another country that's just on, capital O-N. Everything is just going to be sensory overload. The whole thing is gonna be one giant HOLY SHIT! I don't think we've been out quite long enough to have the Motley Crue, you know, "phone story." 

Rough Edge: So you've read The Dirt?

Chad: Oh yeah (laughs). Great book! But that hasn't happened yet.

Justin: YET!!!

Chad: Things do happen. I think the problem is, by the time things usually happen, no one is really sober enough. (Justin laughs loud at this point) to remember the next day. With the advent of the technology we are now utilizing, such as video cameras, digital cameras, and what not ...

Justin: Yeah, we all got little digital cameras that make movies from the record company for Christmas.

Chad: Now it's all documented actually. Now it's a little better.

Rough Edge: So you're going to have a DVD?

Chad: Hell yeah! The DVD will be coming out. Definitely. We've probably got quite a bit actually. 

Justin: I think everybody in the band really wants to do it so we have something to hang onto you know.

Chad: Yeah, like something different. Like Jane's Addiction's Soul Kiss, but not 15 minutes long. But you know, like an hour or 45 minutes. Not your typical thing, but something very bizarre. Which, I think we can probably come up with.

Rough Edge: Has all of this touring been a strain on your personal lives?

Justin: We kinda don't have one. This is our personal life now!

Chad: I think the only strain is for anyone that has a girlfriend in the band, of which, they've slowly been dropping off it seems like. For people that go out with guys in bands, it's hard because you're not there. I mean, you're not around for a year.

Justin: You're going out with the idea of a person. (laughs)

Chad: You're not really going out with them. I'm sure that's the strain on some people but I don't have that problem anymore. So that's cool. If anything I feel more at home. When we got on the bus just two days ago, I got in the back lounge, lit a cigarette and was watching satellite TV and I felt more comfy than I had in awhile.

Justin: I just took off my shoes and my shirt and just lay back and just was like ... YEAH.

Chad: I'm sure there are other things. A couple people in the band have houses to take care of, car payments and what not. There are always those little things but personally I've pretty much completely cut myself off from anything that had to do with that. I come out on the road and have no  worries about back home.

Justin: For some of the younger ones in the band, our families tend to get a little bent outta shape. Not that we haven't lived out of the house for eight years, but they're still like ...

Rough Edge: You're like 22 aren't you?

Justin: I'm 24. I'll be 25 May 4th.

Chad: Aaron is the youngest.

Rough Edge: I remember last time we spoke, one guy was getting married?

Justin: And Chris is still getting married. That's still going to happen.

Chad: Hey, more for us! Chris is married, hands off! Next guy in the band!

Rough Edge: Speaking of next guy in the band...I read that Wayne Kyle has left the fold. How has this affected you guys and are you at liberty to say what happened? I already met the new guitarist, Bryan Ottoson and he's pretty cool.

Chad: I'll take the liberty to say what happened! (Justin laughs) I don't think I've ever had so much liberty. (Justin laughs again). God bless America! Basically it was a case of Wayne has a certain personality that it took him awhile to be really be comfortable enough around us to let it kind of totally come out. So it took a couple years, but we knew that he was more of a peace loving kind of guy than the "I wanna kill everything" type.

Rough Edge: The Grateful Dead and Phish kind of guy?

Chad: More than like the Ministry kind of guy. It's just, he comes from like a different kind of personal background and his attitude towards things are a lot different than ours. This just really started to come to light since we've been on tour. It got to the point where it was just glaringly obvious. 

Justin: Annoyingly.

Chad: Yeah, he was just headed south and we were all going north! It came down to this is more than just seven people. This is a thing called American Head Charge and its got to perpetuate itself, its got to be strong and it can't have one link in the chain that's blindingly different. So we got our  old friend Bryan who knew Justin for a longtime and Aaron. He was my roommate and my bass tech for awhile. He's a complete fucking disgusting bastard, he's an amazing guitar player and he's a great human being. So, it's nothing but stronger now. Sicker and stronger!

Rough Edge: Have you been writing new songs? If so, what direction are they headed? Same type of sound? Heavier or more melodic? Can we expect a different aspect or pretty much the same thing?

Justin: I don't know. There are a couple of concepts that I like, like shedding your influences and just going off more into what the music is at its most central. There are a lot of parts written, there are a lot of songs written. There's material there but it's hard to say what kind of shape it's in you know? It's kind of a blob right now. There's not even a song that's ... (Chad interjects here as Justin ponders his answer)

Chad: That we can play from beginning to end. There's like chunks of ideas.

Justin: There are a couple of things that may end up there like riffs that we already played. 

Chad: There's riffs recorded on the computer, there's loops all over the place. I can guarantee there are lots of lyrics. It's just a case of us doing things a certain way and it all kind of boils in this big pot until we get ready to start working on it. Then we just dump all of our bags out on the floor and start putting it together. And everything we've been working on individually, in pairs or collectively starts to all take shape really naturally. It's not going to be any great deviation from our sound. We're not going to do a pop punk record.

Justin: Right on! (Laughs)

Chad: I'm very down with the idea of shedding our influences and having more of us an influence. 

Rough Edge: As another Harley goes by. (yet another throaty growl from the road) So with that thought, when can fans expect another American Head Charge album?

Justin: Never expect anything! People will only be disappointed when they expect things. (laughs) 

Rough Edge: Just ask Sw1tched how many times their CD was supposed to come out. After three different release dates, I finally had the chance to buy the damn thing.

Chad: It will be anywhere from a year and a half to two. It won't be anything like a Def Leppard eight year thing or what not. When it's time, it will be done.

Justin: Yeah, it will be in a very timely manner. We're gonna keep on touring and rocking.

Chad: Making friends and kissing babies. (laughs)

Justin: Yeah, that's about the plan.

Rough Edge: Well, that's all I have for you. Thanks again for the very candid interview. I'm sure our readers will truly appreciate it!

Chad: Anytime man!

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Copyright 2002 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 31 Jul 2018 23:38:09 -0400