Produced by legendary multi-platinum producer Ross Robinson (At The Drive-In, Slipknot, The Cure, Sepultura, Glassjaw) Searching For Zero is simultaneously the most melodic, yet menacing Cancer Bats release. The record incorporates the crude hardcore punk of their 2006 debut, Birthing The Giant and more metal leanings of 2008’s Hail Destroyer, while pushing the heavy hybrid sounds of 2010’s Mayors Bears Scraps and Bones and 2012’s darker Dead Set On Living to a new plateau. The choruses are hookier, the screams more savage, the riffs more vicious, the songs more powerful. This is Cancer Bats at their pinnacle – their ‘True Zero’.
We caught up with Liam Cormier ahead of their gig at Norwich UEA to get a little more insight into how the album was written and recorded, but began by asking how the current tour has been going.
TCRS: Liam Cormier, welcome to The Classic Rock Show, and welcome to the Norwich UEA.
Liam Cormier: First time attendee to the show, but long time fan of Norwich.
TCRS: You’re here with While She Sleeps as part of a co-headline tour which began over on mainland Europe a few weeks ago. And this will be your third night in the UK, following Birmingham and Manchester. How’s it been going so far?
Liam Cormier: So far so good. I mean the shows have been crazy. Birmingham was packed out. Tons of kids going off. The nice part about this tour is that there is While She Sleeps fans and Cancer Bats fans, as well as Hundredth and Oath Breaker, but everybody is sticking around for like a really good night. Sometimes when you do you know shows people will only kinda around to watch the band that they want to watch then they take off. Whereas this everyone is excited about the whole package and it makes for just such like a party.
TCRS: This will be, for most of the audience that you are playing to tonight, the first time that the audience has heard tracks from your new album, your latest album, “Searching For Zero”, tell us what you have been playing and how, how has that been going down.
Liam Cormier: It’s been going down great. I mean we’ve been playing a lot of stuff off the new record. I mean we definitely wrote this album with like playing it live in mind, so we were pretty excited to try out like as many of the tracks as we could, but obviously we want to still mix it up and play stuff off of all of our albums, just to have a party, you know. So make sure that kids who don’t have the new record as yet can still have a good time. But it’s been rad, obviously people know “Arsenic” and “Satellites” and “True Zero”, we play those three and people sing along. But we’ve been playing like “Devil’s Blood” and “Beelzebub”, and the response of those has been just as good. We’ve been playing “Buds”, people have been just like headbanging super hard so it’s been really cool to see that like the whole record is getting a response and not just a couple songs that we have on the Internet.
TCRS: The album sounds absolutely awesome. You seem to have drawn on energies captured on previous albums.
Liam Cormier: Yeah, I feel like, I mean with this record we definitely had like a chance to really reflect on, you know, what we had done like you said, kinda taking all of our favourite pieces from, you know, all of our past records. But especially looking at, I mean we’re such a live band, I think that’s almost predominantly how we’re known, and we’ve put out records that we obviously try and reflect that. When we’re writing an album, we look at, you know like why do we put these sixteen songs like in our set list every night? Why are these the songs that like kids always ask for? So it’s like using that almost as a jump off point for like where we are going to start writing. Not to try and copy those songs, but to have that like okay this really works when we leave this live, or this like doesn’t work so well, this is more of a studio track. So our goal is to have like the whole album be like you know a live set-list that we can play, so it’s like trying to like incorporate those kind of ideas of flow and like pacing in terms of like how we would even put a record together now.
TCRS: You worked with Ross Robinson, who’s worked with just about everyone who is anybody.
Liam Cormier: Oh. Absolutely, yeah! And then The Cure on top of it, yeah!
TCRS: How was that experience for you guys?
Liam Cormier: It the first time we had ever recorded even outside of Toronto. So for us to go so far down to like Venice Beach, California, instead of an industrial park in Toronto, it was amazing. I mean the best part about the whole experience was that we came to Ross with like a finished record; we’d been jamming it like all the songs were finished, I had finished vocals, everything was ready to go. So then it was his input you know on how to take that the step further. And we look at it like, we could have you know, stayed in Toronto and recorded there but this is I feel like the big difference between like “DSOL” and “Searching For Zero”; it’s having the input of someone like Ross, who has so much experience, who has such just like a passion to like bringing out the like energy of an album of a live band, of like a real band that wants to like, just let forth like aggression. You know what I mean? So to have all that, but then to have someone like Ross who knows how to transfer that on to a record who is, like you said, he’s done Heavy Drive and Blood Brothers, Norma Jean, Glassjaw, so many bands that I love and respect and it’s like, okay he’s going to use all of those tricks with like our band to now like capture it on an album and be super stoked while we’re doing it. It’s just like we couldn’t have asked for a better experience.
TCRS: Was it a pretty compact session with Ross? Everything was mapped out pretty much before you sort of got there?
Liam Cormier: Yeah, I mean we definitely had a lot of ideas about how they wanted to approach the studio with him. One of the things that our friends in Comeback Kid had just finished recording their new album and they told us they had done a different song everyday; so they would do vocals, bass, guitar for like a different song which we really liked that idea of having like every song has its own setup of guitar bass, tones like vibe and we brought that to Ross and he was just like, “Ahhh, that’s of that’s a great idea!” Like even though he’s got all these tricks and he knows all these things to do it like here we’re kinda even shaking things up for him. And then on top of it we had like zero time to do with it. We’ve always recorded in three weeks that’s just like what we know about recording albums and Ross has only ever recorded for like 6 to 8 weeks. So, right off the bat he was just like, “This is awesome! We’re gonna cram everything that I’ve ever done into like half as much time.” But he was really up for like that energy and what that would produce, almost like a franticness where you can’t really over think anything that’s happening. You just kinda have to go with your gut reaction on like basically everything; which we were really up for as well, like, “Oh this is so cool!”. So it meant that we were working like 14 hour days and we never took any days off. We were there for a little under a month, working 14 hours a day, just like crushing it. We’d work from Noon ’til three or four in the morning every single day. And then it would be like, “All right, see you guys in the morning.” And like Ross would go crash and like the rest his ears. We would all pass out and then we would like wake up in the morning, go get coffee, hang out on the balcony, watch people surf, eat our breakfast and then be like laughing and making noise and that would wake Ross up. And then he’d come down be like, “All right”. He’d like walk his dog and then it was just like back into the studio, it was like crushing all day. It was the best vibe ever.
TCRS: And that’s certainly picked up on what’s come out on the album.
Liam Cormier: I think that’s the thing, yeah. That energy and that’s franticness I definitely think translates. And the nice part is that I feel like people seen us play in like you know crazy venues and in these small places and you know wild shows, those are the ones that are like picking up on that energy and being like, “This makes me think of when you played like “The Mole” and like “Bath”. “This makes me think of when you played like in Morecambe and like, “This is like when you played The Barfly in 2008” . You know and like that kind of response from long-time fans that gets me excited cause I’m like, “Okay cool”, like “That was the idea”, like, “You get it”, like “Wicked!” So yeah it’s definitely been a like awesome to get that feedback from people.
TCRS: And 2015 is already mapping out to be…
Liam Cormier: Pretty hectic. Yeah! We’ve got Leeds and Reading that we’re coming back for which we are super excited. The Pit is looking awesome, I’m really excited about that. We’ve known Daniel P Carter for a very long time, so we’re even like super pumped when he got like his own stage and then to like soon after be asked to play it, it’s just like the best thing ever. I think it’s going to be such a good day. We definitely have like a ton of tours that are coming up. Nothing planned for the UK yet other than Leeds and Reading but definitely like more European stuff. We have tons of e-mails every day to come to Australia and how bummed they are that they live far away from us, so we’re trying to figure that out to get to Australia straight as soon as we can. For us we love like just playing like small gnarly bars and that’s what we’ve done all over the world and we’ve been fortunate to play some great shows in Australia but for us it hasn’t been enough. Like coming from Canada we know that there’s more than just five cities. You know we’re used to like, in Canada there is like thirty places that you can play, and it’s not just Toronto, Montréal, Winnipeg, Vancouver, you know, so we kind of sympathize with Australia where most tours only hit like your five major cities and then you have like 12 hours or 24 hours of country in between that have great scenes and have places you can play. So that’s our whole goal is to try, I mean we want to try and do that everywhere but I mean, it’s even like, I know the drives aren’t like that, but the same idea applies in the UK. Like we’ve done twenty six-day tours in the UK and hit like every city you know that’s why we have friends in Newquay, we have kids from Morecambe that I like, “Your show was my first show I ever went to!” And we’re like, yeah, we get that. I didn’t grow up in Toronto you know, I grew up an hour and a half outside of it and I went to like shows in halls and like that’s how I got exposed to punk rock and that’s how I got exposed to hard-core. It’s like, if it wasn’t for those bands making that effort, it’s like I wouldn’t have you know been in this position right now. So it’s like I didn’t want to try and do that as much as we can in these other places.
TCRS: Liam Cormier, thanks for chatting with The Classic Rock Show. We’re looking forward to the show tonight.
Liam Cormier: No worries. Yeah! I’m so excited for tonight. I think it’s gonna be wild!
There are three remaining dates on their current co-headline tour with While She Sleeps:
APR 28th – Newcastle, University
APR 29th – Glasgow, O2 ABC
APR 30th – London, Forum